Bishop Hagmaier: A Call for Prayer and Lament

On Monday, June 1, the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, called for day of prayer and lament over the immense loss of life due to COVID-19 and for the unrest and division in our nation after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Bishop Constanze Hagmaier wrote and shared her reflections on Facebook live. You can watch her video on the left, or read her transcript below.

Dear Beloved,
“It is finished!”… bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30b)
“(and) Jesus breathed his last.” (Mark 15:37b)

“I can’t breathe!”
These were George Floyd’s last words.
“I can’t breathe!”
Two words.
Two last words.
Nonstop bouncing around my heart and mind like a racket ball on the loose.
But they are so much more than last words to me.
They are the cry of all creation as Paul says in Romans 8:22: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
And just like Jesus’ last words, George Floyd’s last words hold the breath of ALL creation in them.
There it is “groaning in pain”.
Breath.
Breath of all that is alive.
Heavy.
Heavy with generational trauma.
Labored.
Labored under crushing oppression.
Forced.
Forced into overlooked margins.
Laden.
Laden with uncontrollable resentment.
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
“I can’t breathe.”

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split, and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” Matthew 27:51-53.
Jesus died and immediately creation aroused from its slumber.
Curtains tore.
Earth shook.
Rocks split.
Tombs broke open.
People arose.
Walking dead.
Appearing to many.

“I can’t breathe.”
The moment George Floyd died; marginalized creation aroused from its forced slumber.
Curtains tore.
Earth shook.
Rocks split.
Buildings burned.
Windows busted.
Angry shouts filled the laden air.

George Floyd.
“I can’t breathe.”
A voice that has been silenced forever.
Nevertheless, a voice representing the voices that are yet alive.
But while alive have been silenced throughout the ages.
Indeed, they still breathe, but for how long and at what cost?
They are barely alive and breathing in the small marginalized spaces I allow them to occupy in this world that isn’t mine to begin with.

“Then the LORD God formed … (Adam) from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)

George Floyd.
Ahmaud Arbery.
105,000 Covid19 victims.
Officer Jason Moszer.
All the unnamed dead, who are someone’s beloved child.
They no longer can breathe.

But you, dear Church, you, beloved, still can.
We can still breathe.
Yesterday, we gathered as the church to celebrate that very fact.
The fact that we can still breathe.
Yesterday we celebrated the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit so that we not only breathe, but were also given a concrete purpose.
We are through the gift of God’s very own spirit called to breathe on His good creation that groans so that it may come alive.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17
We may have been knocked out of breath by, what I like to call, the “Costco of Troubles”, but dear church, we can still breathe.
There is no better time than NOW to breathe.
And not just breathe, dear Church, but breathe to fill the creation that groans under the pressure of trauma and oppression with God’s very own life-giving breath.

Now, dear Church is the time to sing a new song.
From Psalm 96
“Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, bless His name;
proclaim His salvation day after day.
… Declare among the nations: “The LORD reigns!”
The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved;
He will judge the peoples with equity.
Let the heavens be glad
and the earth rejoice;
let the sea resound,
and all that fills it.
Let the fields exult,
and all that is in them.
Then all the trees of the forest
will sing for joy before the LORD,
for He is coming—
He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in His faithfulness.”

Let us not be afraid, dear Church.
Let us remember that we are dust and that to dust we shall return.
But as we breathe in this in between dust space, called life, remember that God’s very own breath dwells in you for the sake of your neighbor that has no room to breathe and so desperately gasps for air.
May all that has breath in abundance share with those who have barely any room left to breathe.
Dear Church, let us be God’s breath of new life, grace and justice now.
Amen.

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