Wednesday Words – Finger Pointing
August 21, 2019
Pastor Paul Cannon

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

-Isaiah 59:9b-10

This upcoming Confirmation year we will be teaching our 6th-8th grade students about Luther’s Small Catechism. Even though this book was originally published in 1529, I can’t help but think that maybe it was written for 2019, because when I read it, it still feels as relevant as ever – and in some ways maybe more so.

It’s Luther’s explanation of the 8th Commandment (You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor …. in case you didn’t have it memorized!) that is ringing in my ears this morning. It says we are not to tell lies, betray, slander or destroy the reputations of our neighbors.

But more than that, Luther says we ought to “come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.” I can’t say that I always do that. Come to think of it, I fail at this standard daily

When framed in that way, the 8th Commandment is pretty convicting isn’t it? We live in a finger-pointing society – a practice Isaiah cautions against – and it’s rare to hear an admission of guilt or honest self-reflection anymore. But as God’s people, we are always be called to point the finger inward, which is something we did at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee this year.

A little over two weeks ago, I found myself headed up to Milwaukee for the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly (think of it like the Bethany annual meeting, multiplied by a thousand). Together, the assembly conducted the business of the church: we re-elected the Bishop and elected a new secretary, we passed resolutions and memorials, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women and 10th year of the ordination of LGBTQI+ people.

After reflecting on the week, what I’m most proud of, is our church’s willingness to point the finger at itself, confess its own sins, and seek reconciliation moving forward. As a church, we issued an apology to people of African descent for the church’s role in slavery and racism. We created a commemoration day for the Emmanuel AME shootings four years ago, where an ELCA Lutheran killed nine members of a historically black church. We declared the church to be a sanctuary body, meaning that we will strive to find ways to walk with our immigrant neighbors. We issued statements on sexism and inter-religious commitment.

We didn’t just say we were against something and we didn’t point fingers (unless it was at ourselves). We didn’t blame a political party or ideology for the ills of society. We committed to taking action and doing something about it.