Healing Us-vs-Them Thinking, Part 2

April 2023

Dear People of Bethlehem,

As we enter the Easter season, Bethlehem is at a Crossroads. We have important conversations to have and decisions to make. I’ve been here as your pastor for about a year-and-a-half now; over that time, I’ve been very forthcoming about my vision for how churches can move forward in today’s world: namely, that we need to revitalize our basic Christian message. This task greatly depends on fresh ways of reading and interpreting the Bible as the basis for the Gospel message. If we can’t agree on how to interpret the Bible, then we’re probably also going to disagree on how to move forward with a revitalized messaging.

That’s where we seem to be right now: a bit stuck on agreeing how to interpret the Bible. We began that conversation at the March Church Council meeting; we agreed to continue at the April Council meeting (April 12). I’d also like to propose a more in-depth conversation on Sunday mornings at the Bible Study, beginning April 16. We will use a video-based seven-part series on “How ELCA Lutherans Interpret the Bible,” led by Pastor Mark Powell, who is a Professor of New Testament at Trinity Seminary, Columbus, OH (one of the ELCA seminaries).

In the meantime, we have the journey of Holy Week to look forward to – the sober remembrance of our Lord’s Passion. Through it all, we will continue the Lenten theme that the Gospel is fundamentally about God healing our core sin of Us-vs-Them thinking and its deadly consequences. Jesus lets himself become our scapegoat as the Lamb of God on Good Friday, and his heavenly Father raises him early on the first day of the week – the first day of a New Creation! At the heart of that New Creation is God sending Christ,

that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. (Eph 2:15-16)

One new humanity. Peace. Reconciliation. Ending hostility. This is the Good News we embrace and celebrate as we face a crossroads together. Let us pray that we enter into important conversations and face crucial decisions over the coming weeks in the Spirit of God healing our Us-vs-Them thinking.

Join us for worship during this most Holy Week of our Christian time (April 2-9) and the seven weeks of celebrating Easter which follow.

Peace, Pastor Paul

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