CHICAGO (ELCA) – As the 4 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) gathers for Sunday worship Aug. 17 and shares in the reading of Psalm 133, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of this church, said the Psalm “reminds us of the goodness and blessing of a life lived in unity with one another.” In an Aug. 15 letter to the church, Eaton wrote that Psalm 133 generally is “an encouraging Psalm, at a time such as this, when the world seems anything but unified, these words may feel more jarring than inspiring. This is especially so now as news from Iraq continues to worsen.

About 150,000 people have “recently fled their homes in the wake of attacks from Islamic state militants and their allies. While reports indicate that the immediate threat to many of these precious lives was abated by the delivery of food and water aid, an estimated 300 people, many of them children, still perished from exposure, dehydration and starvation. Reports of attacks, atrocities and human-rights abuses, often targeted at religious minorities and other vulnerable groups cause, our hearts to cry out in lamentation rather than in the hope that this week’s Psalm celebrates,” she wrote.

The continued violence in part of Iraq “has put at grave risk the already tenuous security situation of the entire country and diminishes the ability of Iraq’s new government to lead with a strong vision of national solidarity and peace,” said the presiding bishop.

“Our hearts are heavy with sorrow and concern as we further mourn the violence that has come to typify the news we hear from Iraq. Many of us served or have family or friends who served as U.S. military or security personnel in Iraq or are Iraqis ourselves and are now a part of U.S. communities. The proximity of Iraq in our experience as American Christians heightens our awareness of the continued suffering and increases the depth of our distress and grief.”

In what “seems like an endless stream of bad news, the Holy Spirit leads us to ponder these words of the Psalmist: ‘How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity,'” Eaton wrote.
“Perhaps this Psalm, in this week when the world seems splintered and on the brink of rupture, speaks to us with special encouragement and whispers an enduring word of hope,” she wrote. “Our hearts may cry out in mourning, but God fills us with a desire to follow the words of the Psalmist as we pray for peace and unity. Indeed, how very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.”

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