By Sue Sprang

SYNOD – Here is Part 9 of the series observing the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in the Lutheran Church by raising up the women clergy of our synod. In this installment, some of our pastors share scripture passages that inspire and sustain them. 

QUESTION: Do you have any “go to” scripture passages? Please share why, if you wish.

Pastor Jessica Rivera-Walker: “All of Romans 8 because I think that Paul distills the gospel so well. If we need to be reminded of anything it is that ‘nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.’” 

Pastor Joan Oleson“’Fear not for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine.’ (Isaiah 43:1b)This was my confirmation verse.  It brings comfort, peace, and joy.  Wherever I find myself in life, whatever the circumstances, I know that I have been named and claimed as God’s own.”

Pastor Megan Crouch: “I have a lot of ‘go to’ scripture passages. I guess a few of my personal favorites would be John 14:6 – ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the father except through me’ – because it reminds me that Jesus is the way to God, and life isn’t about figuring out how to be saved; life is about realizing we have been saved, and responding to that gift. It reminds me of what Jesus has done, and helps keep me humble. 

“Another would be Isaiah 9:2: ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light…’ That is because it reminds me that though there will be times of darkness, God will always help us find light… and that belief in God isn’t the naive hope of people who have never known suffering… it is the resilient faith of people who have suffered, who have walked in darkness, and who still see and believe that there is light and love in the world God has made – and that is what helps me take the next step even in the darkest of times.” 

Pastor Kjersten Sullivan: “Each phase of ministry seems to have a scripture passage that ends up shaping the narrative. In my last call, it was the story of the exile, Moses reluctantly leading grumbling Israelites through the desert. He doesn’t really want to lead them, they don’t really think he knows where he’s going – but they muddle along together, for God has given them to each other. At Trinity [my current call], the verse that has stuck with me is Esther 4:14: ‘perhaps you have been called… for such a time as this.’”

Pastor Pauline (Polly) Standley: “So many passages, so little time.  In scripture I return again and again to John 20:21.  Jesus said to them again ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ But I also rely on Martin Luther’s sacristy prayer; particularly the section: ‘Lord God, Thou hast appointed me in the church as bishop and pastor (at least the pastor part for me), Thou seest how unfit I am to attend to such a great office, and if it had not been for Thy help, I would long since have ruined everything, therefore I call upon Thee.’”

Pastor Miriam Bunge: “Exodus 15:20-21 is special to me: ‘Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing…’ I’m sure you can surmise why these verses are important to me.  In fact, 40 years ago, during my first year at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, one of my classmates, David, gave me a tambourine as we were studying this part of the Bible.

“Psalm 121:1-2 will always be special to me. I struggled through a time when I was very sick. I decided to memorize these two verses.  When the days got really hard, I would say these verses to myself. I reminded myself that my help comes from the Lord, the Lord who made all of heaven and earth!  Now, I pass these two powerful verses along to people in pain and struggling, to give them comfort, courage and hope.

“A scripture passage that has been and is becoming more and more important to me is Micah 6:8. I use the acronym ‘JKH’ for this verse, which stand for:  Justice, Kindness, Humbly.  The Lutheran Study Bible contains very helpful notes on this verse. ‘Justice” (mishpat in Hebrew) is about fairness and equality; ‘kindness’ (chesed in Hebrew) describes merciful actions such as loyalty and integrity; and ‘walking humbly’ is set in contrast with the rapid strides of the powerful.’ Racial justice for people of color has been and continues to be a passion of mine. God, through the prophet Micah, could be speaking these words to us today, as we continue to be plagued by racial injustice. God is calling, especially those of us who are white, to ‘do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.’

“Luke 1:28-31 is another favorite Scripture verse of mine. Here was young Mary, a virgin, told that she would be the Mother of Jesus! This must have been both frightening and exciting for Mary. The angel gives her the words she needs to hear: ‘Do not be afraid.’  Our lives are good and our lives are hard.  There are many times in our lives when we are afraid, sometimes in response to a very difficult experience and sometimes even in response to a very good experience. When I am afraid, I think of the angel Gabriel’s’ words to Mary. Implied in those words is the reality that God is with Mary and us, our Emmanuel!

“A favorite Scripture passage I enjoy preaching on is a text for Reformation Sunday, Romans 3:19-28. I am especially drawn to verses 23-24 – grace, God’s unconditional love in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, giving us the gifts of forgiveness and salvation.  What a gift for us from God through Jesus Christ!  ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton wrote this about grace in the 2018-2019 publication of ‘Stories of Faith in Action’:  ‘Grace – God’s love freely given – is for everyone.’ I like the simplicity and the profundity of that statement. As we are gifted with God’s grace, we then are called to be servants of God’s grace. May we live in and out of God’s grace!”

Pastor Marilyn Robinson: “’Go to’ scripture passages for me are 1 John 1: 5-7, Romans 12:1-2, Philippians 1:6; 8-11,Psalm 91: 1-4, Romans 8: 12-13; 26-27, John 12:32, and John 1:12-14.

 “But Psalm 27:13 speaks most strongly to me: ‘[What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living!’ (Amplified Bible) The Berean Bible translation of this same verse is: ‘Still. I am certain to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.’

“There’s no need to quote the verses that precede verse 13. The current State of the Union and the State of the Church are overtaken with ‘adversaries, and witnesses breathing out cruelty and violence. The flesh-eating host abound:’ human trafficking, watching the life leave the body of George Floyd via someone’s’ I-Phone, gender violence, racial hatred, poverty, sexual abuse and sex trafficking of our kids, the continuous lust for power, the lack of compassion for our neighbor, rebellion within and without, appropriation and acculturation of lands and peoples, children sacrificed for the good of the order, incarceration of African-descent men, women, boys, and girls.

“The immensity of these conditions, can leave anyone in a constant state of angst and despair. The onset of this 21st century COVID-19 has amplified these conditions. The impact of this unyielding and indiscriminate disease is heartbreaking. What is even more malicious is its frightening yoking with the heartless human dis-ease that inhibits compassion, reason, and solidarity of that which is common to humankind. Love of self and the lust for economic and social power is predominant, usurping our love of neighbor.

It is quite frightening when we recognize the freedom that we have to continue in and let sin dominate our life. To be hurt, for example – real or perceived – is painful, creating a reflex response that can be irrational, unforgiving, and unrelenting. The time within this darkness leaves one longing for help, for freedom, for deliverance. 

“At one time, the onset of darkness created a deep terror and fear within me, creating a surreal reality. It was overwhelming. I needed to see beyond fear and believe that God was real and very present help. Belief in God grew within and God’s love became preeminent in my heart. God is faithful! Reading this particular verse in Psalms 27 evoked a spirit of praise and an anguished cry out to God. Upon first glance, I felt fresh and new – time and faith are verifying this ‘newness.’ Seeing God in the world begins with regard, considering, and envisioning God at work firstly in Marilyn. 

“We see the goodness of God in the ways that worked in Christ – for all of God’s creation finds its ultimate expression in the cross of Christ, the forgiveness of sin, and the hope of eternal life in the Resurrection. The Holy Spirit challenges us: she reminds us of what we are free from and what we are free for (Martin Luther). When we love in that deeply intimate way that God always loves us, then we will see lives changed, neighborhoods empowered, nations transformed, policies and polity begin a surprising transformation. 

“God never leaves us alone. God’s goodness gives us hope and keeps us alive. We live in God’s goodness so that everyone can know what the living God is doing in the world.”