I’m in the process of researching for my senior thesis and so I’ve taken many trips to the library and borrowed many books. One book I stumbled upon is entitled “Slavery and the Churches in Early America.” In this book, the author tracks the church’s stance on slavery from 1619 to 1819 (acknowledging different denominations and their different stances). And I’ve got to say, it is a really disheartening read. The church’s stance essentially ranged from apathetic to approval. Only the Quakers really took a stance against slavery at this point in history. The book hits home with its final sentence, “Self-proclaimed and widely recognized as the nation’s “conscience,” the churches appeared to be saying that drinking whiskey or enjoying sex without marriage was more scandalous than holding people as slaves.”
Wow. Like wow. Talk about a huge stain on our history of the church. And it’s far from our only one. Reading this book, I couldn’t help but wonder what book will be written about the Christian church 100 years from now. Will that book finish with the sentence “Self-proclaimed and widely recognized as the nation’s “conscience,” the churches appeared to be saying that loving someone of the same gender was more scandalous than allowing people to freeze on the streets”? Or “than bombing citizens in foreign nations”? Or anything else that the church sits by and lets happen today?
This week, our campus was visited by some hate-preaching Christians. I didn’t see them myself, but from what I could gather from other’s accounts, they were your run-of-the-mill hate-proclaiming crazies. But they bore our name as Christians. When we encounter these hate-preaching Christians, it’s really easy to shrug it off and say, “Well that’s not who we are. We’re real Christians.” Which is a cop-out. Because for some people, this type of Christian is the only type of Christian they’re interacting with. Mainly because those types of Christians tend to be the loudest. But why is that? Isn’t love more radical than hate? Why can’t our voices be louder? Aren’t there more of us? If we are God’s hands and feet and we show God’s love through our actions, shouldn’t our actions speak louder than their words?
We can’t cop-out and shrug those Christians off as “not Christian.” Because they bear our name and whether we like it or not they’re staining our history. Instead, we need to bust out the Tide and make our loving voices louder.
A glimpse at the musings of the LCM Food and Faith small group:
Bread is fascinating. I know it seems like a mundane and perhaps boring food, but stay with me here. It takes simple ingredients, at its core just consisting of ground up grain and water, and transforms them into a delicious and completely altered form. Through the complexity of chemistry the inedible becomes not only edible, but incredibly valuable. We value bread so much that we have given the driving force of our world (money) a nickname that comes from bread (dough). Bread has started revolutions in its absence (French Revolution anyone?) Even more importantly, it is the basis of almost every culture’s diet. If we went on an international culinary bread tour, we could eat baguettes from France, focaccia from Italy, soda bread in Ireland, naan and roti from India, dark rye bread in Russia, tortillas in Mexico, pandesal in the Philippines, bannock from North America, or mantou in China (“Bread”, 2010). Bread feeds the world, and gives us all common ground. It is something that both feeds our bodies and soul as well as brings us into community.
To me bread is more than my morning toast; it represents the core of my faith. Simply eating requires me to rely on God’s abundant gifts. Gifts of nature, talent, and time that are shared not only with me but with my friends and families, bringing us together over the sharing of a meal. It is rather humbling eating something that has been made for some 30,000 years, something that was shared on the communion table. The simple gift of bread becomes a platform for community, a moment to share in faith and to sustain us as we live out our beliefs.
At the same time, bread can be a challenge to our beliefs. It provides an interesting lens to look at the global food crisis. As a culture, we value and romanticize the bread that is homemade and local; bread that reminds us of Tuscan villages or of Mom hand kneading dough. Some say this romanticized notion of bread is what could fix our food system, if only we could all go back to making bread and other foods locally and in a healthy way. At the same time, this is not economically viable for less wealthy nations. Citizens of small poor communities cannot afford to spend all of their time growing and harvesting grain and manipulating it into bread, so they utilize mass production and preservatives. It is simply not viable nor sustainable for their communities. So here we are, with an interesting question. What is better: eating in an environmentally friendly way that is not viable and even detrimental to small impoverished communities, or feeding the world processed and preservative-rich white bread that is cheap and plentiful while possibly hurting our bodies? We have a rather murky situation, one that also brings interesting questions to a Christian community. How can we share God’s gifts while protecting his creations? I certainly don’t have an answer. All I know is that a still have a lot to learn from bread.
This rant brought to you by:
A big, warm HOLA from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I’ve been exploring and digging through the layers of this beautiful city for six weeks now… Holy moly. This is (apparently) about the time that homesickness sets in during a semester abroad. I definitely miss my family and friends like crazy, but Skype and Facebook have made staying connected fairly simple.
This past week, however, I noticed that I was feeling a different kind of homesickness. I’ve officially named it, “Community sickness.” For all 21 years of my life, I’ve had an amazing spiritual community present in my life. Communities that pushed me to ask and answer challenging questions, supported me through difficult life experiences, celebrated my successes, and helped me create my morals and values. Thanks to these communities–LCM in particular– I now notice the absence of curiosity, integrity, hospitality, service, and justice.
I was CRAVING to share my spiritual experiences/”God Sightings”/life-giving moments with a community, so I sent a frantic e-mail to three Pastors that have supported me through my faith journey, asking for connections in Buenos Aires. They all responded within 24 hours with words of wisdom, names, and places that would help me fill this void. I also reached out to my program coordinator here in BA, and she gave me the address to a Methodist church close to my home-stay.
I decided to check it out and figured I could hide in the back and sneak out if I felt uncomfortable. Like a good little Lutheran, I arrived 15 minutes early to claim my pew. Besides the choir practicing, I was the first one there…so much for blending in the background! I sat down and an energetic Argentine man (the Pastor) came running toward me, greeted me with a, “Bienvenida!” and a kiss on the cheek. He asked where I was from and then asked what church I went to in the US. His response when I told him I was Lutheran literally brought me to tears: Ahhh, sí! Somos familia! Ahh, yes! We are family!
Everyone who came in greeted me with a kiss on the cheek or a friendly wave, and the congregation ended up being around 40 people. I’m pretty sure God was hugging me for the next hour and a half… I felt so comfortable, and I couldn’t stop smiling/crying. The congregation was a beautiful hodgepodge of varied ages, colors, languages, and social classes…
Lady who sings louder than anyone else and somehow makes tone-deafness sound beautiful: check.
Old man who sings lower than anyone else and makes it his personal responsibility to set the pace of the hymn: check.
80 year-old organist who plays at his own speed and doesn’t notice that he’s two measures behind the congregation: check.
Young girl constantly giggling and bouncing from pew to pew, unable to pay attention: check.
I was able to understand (for the most part) the sermon, and I’m pretty sure it was written for me. Or maybe I understood what I wanted to…? In a nutshell, it was about asking important questions, accepting when the answers aren’t always there, and searching for ways to strengthen your faith in times of trial.
When it was time for communion, everyone gathered around the altar at once. It was so powerful for me to hear the Words of Institution in Spanish and to share the meal with beautiful strangers. The pan de vida was passed out to everyone, and after we all received our bread, the Pastor exclaimed, Comimos! We eat! The same happened with the wine and, Bebimos! We drink. I’ve never been a part of such an intimate communion… it was beautiful.
Still standing in front of the altar, we were asked to share our prayer requests with the congregation and our prayers were then held up by the entire group. Again, a very unique and intimate experience.
After the service, I was approached by various members of the congregation inviting me to a Friday night group for students, concerts, and other events around the city. A stellar representation of hospitality 🙂 I left la iglesia feeling re-energized and full of life. I practically skipped home, smiling the whole time.
Maybe I was so moved by this experience because not once did I feel like an outsider. I was greeted immediately as I walked in, and felt the presence and beauty of the Spirit through hymns, prayers, and hospitality. As I was leaving, an older woman yelled, Chau, mi amor! Hasta luego! Goodbye, my love! See you later! Maybe I felt so connected to this community because it echoes the values of LCM and embodies the spirit of who we strive to be.
It’s kind of cool to feel this void, acknowledge it, and respond to it. I’ve learned that I need community. I know what a strong community looks and feels like because I’ve been surrounded by them for 21 years, and for that, I am incredibly thankful. As the semester continues, I encourage all of us to reach out to the girl trying to hide in the back pew. Continue to push your boundaries in hopes of creating a community that fosters curiosity and leaves people skipping home, wanting to share the good news.
Paz y Amor,
“How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?”
Habakkuk is an interesting guy, I’ll tell ya that. Pastor Kate introduced the two of us this past Wednesday at pause. Now you see, I thought he was going to be like Isaiah with lots of questions and curious to seek more and more of God, but let’s all be real here: he was calling God out. How long did he have to wait? How long was he going to ask questions? How long was he going to have to keep spreading the good word of the Lord if he didn’t even have the answers himself?
Sometimes I feel like Habbakuk and I should’ve been best friends (I mean, if we had lived at the same time). Of course I’ve had my “Oh, so that’s who God is” moments, but like any other college student, well, any other person living on Earth in today’s world, I’ve witnessed and asked God this question. “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” Now, you see God and I have always had a pretty good relationship. He’s led me to find camp and all that comes with it, to know that there’s a pretty special guy waiting out there for me, and more about how to live my life as a follower of Christ. When I started the school year, I was pretty excited. But of course, like anyone, there were some burdens that came with that. I haven’t had time to tell a lot of people about what’s been happening, but I felt called to recently and thought this could be the place to start.
My mom was diagnosed with colon cancer back in May and to be honest, I haven’t thought about it too much, which is probably why I just haven’t been able to tell people yet. At first, it came with all of the hard questions like “What stage are you in?” and “How much cancer is actually in your body?” And although it wasn’t fair, I thought about the worst. And I never really asked God why the whole thing was happening. Over the course of the summer and up until now my mom has been handling the chemo relatively fine, but she occasionally has low counts in her body. That means if anyone gets her sick, she could be in serious trouble. She also tells me she is tired and never has enough energy to complete a lot of the things she’d like to. Part of me wants to just say, “God, I know everything is okay and You’re dealing with it” but the other half wants to say “Really? After all this time and You’re going to put my mother of all people through this?” It really hurts my heart to be conflicted in such a way that goes against God and what I believe in (in a sense), but sometimes I just am so upset with God and I don’t get my questions answered. How do I continue to love and be loved with a situation that is bigger than myself or anyone else to handle?
On top of that, my great-grandma passed away just last week and I’ve recently lost someone who was a great friend to me. Now, I’m not trying to be like Habbakuk in the sense of being a complainer (sorry buddy), but how does God put up with things like this? I know He didn’t purposefully want this to happen, but how can He just sit around and expect me to deal with all of it?
I found peace in the same answer He gave to Habbakuk:
“Look at the nations and watch—
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.”
And now every time I think about my mom or every other crazy thing happening around me, I will simply remember this: For I am going to do something in your days that you would not even believe even if you were told. That, my friends, is why I am Christian and Lutheran and why I believe my God will come to heal and change and love all things.
In a rush I was leaving the grocery store excited to get home and cook a delicious dinner. Walking out the door there’s always cars driving in front of the entrance. They’re supposed to wait for the pedestrians to walk but you never know if they will wait or go. In hesitation I paused on the sidewalk next to an elderly lady. She turned to me and said sometimes you just have to go and pray. These three little words stuck in my head, “go and pray.” Hearing prayer spoken about in a public place by a complete stranger caught me off guard but the unnatural environment got me thinking.
I began to think about how God works in mysterious ways and how He is always there. God has been very present in my life in the past couple years and I know that it is because of Him that I am where I am today.
Two years ago, I was a freshman in college, in a relationship, with a great guy or so I thought. I thought for sure we would have a wonderful future together. I thought for once in my life I had everything figured out. God had apparently had a different plan in mind. This relationship fell apart so fast and so painfully I never saw it coming. My heart was broken, I was angry with God. I didn’t understand how He could do this to me. How or why He would allow me give my heart to another individual who would hurt my heart or my trust so drastically.
Over the course of the next year I struggled to get over this guy. I met new guys but I struggled with trusting them. I didn’t know if I could ever trust another guy again. Lost and confused I turned to the one guy who I was always taught would never leave me. The one guy who would forever love me and pick me up if I stumbled. God. I prayed. I prayed and asked why. I prayed and asked for closure. I prayed about it all. Talking to Him it felt as if a warm blanket covered me so to say everything would be alright. This year I grew so much closer in my relationship with God because I knew He would never desert me. I discovered how important He is to me in my life. By this realization, the me full of sunshine began to return.
These two years, yet painful and full of struggles, lead me to trust in Him and His timing. Focusing my energy on Him I was able to see that I had a wonderful guy in my life. A friend I had met when freshman year. God had placed this gentleman in my life but I was too distracted in the wrong person to even consider him. This gentleman had always been there and now that the time was right God put him right in front of me. He makes me laugh like I had never before and makes me smile so big my cheeks hurt every time we see each other. I feel so blessed to now have this amazing guy in my life and every time he makes me smile I see the hands of God working.
It’s wonderful to see God working in this world whether it be a stranger on the street who reminds you to pray, who’s words mean more than she could ever know, or Him working on a broken heart teaching it that its ok to love again. I am so blessed and thankful that I was brought up to know and love God, and turn to Him for help when I get lost. So now I’ll leave you with these words “go and pray,” so that you may be inspired to find God in the world. Find Him in the heartaches and find Him in the joy.
“go and pray”
My older brother Frank is set to marry his fiance Nicole in just over a month, and I couldn’t be happier for him. With all the wedding planning abuzz and everything that goes along with it (suit shopping, decorations, bachelor parties, wedding showers, etc…), it is easy to forget what the most important part of marriage is. It’s not about what kind of cake is served at the wedding reception. It’s not about how much the bride’s dress cost. Marriage is a lifelong commitment between two individuals to stay together for better or for worse. In the church, marriage is a commitment from one person to another to grow together in relationship with God and each other. There is nothing more beautiful in the world than when two people unite under Holy Matrimony.
My parents recently celebrated their 25th anniversary, and have shown me what it means to remain faithful to each other and to God throughout this period of time. They had their struggles (as any family of three boys would), but love always triumphed. They have both made sacrifices to make their marriage work, and shown each other how committed they are to one another through these sacrifices. Marriage is never easy, but if two people love each other as my parents do it is easy to overcome any obstacle that may arise. Too often people get married for the wrong reasons, and their marriage suffers as a result. I cannot personally testify to what makes a marriage weak or strong, but I do know that with a Christ centered marriage, love and grace will always abound.
When I am standing at the front of the church beside my brother Frank, I will be beaming with joy. Joy for the wonderful times I have shared and will share with Frank and Nicole. Joy for the promise that the two of them are making and the lifelong growth of their relationship. Joy for the love that God has bestowed in each of them. And joy that my brother Tony will be watching down from heaven, smiling. I know that Frank and Nicole will have challenges and arguments, but their faith and love for each other will carry them through it.
I did not expect the thrill that came along with the first Pause event of the school year; food, music, friends, and new faces. I could tell I wasn’t the only one who felt that way because I could see all the excitement in all the other leaders as well. This year will have a lot of ups, and a lot of downs, but as long as people know that the LCM community will be there for support this year will be great. It’s awesome to see our group come together and I’m excited to see our hard work pay off this year.
As long as people feel welcomed like I was when I first started coming to events at Grace, I will be very happy. Throughout the whole first semester at the U, I was not involved with any religious group. It wasn’t until my second semester that I saw that there needed to be change in my life and that being closer to God was the fix. I thought I could do it on my own, but eventually I came to see I was walking down a path that I didn’t really want to walk down.
At first I thought LCM was pretty cool and I enjoyed going to all of their events. Not until becoming a leader and getting a behind the scenes look did I really understand how awesome our group really is. The work that everyone puts in and the teamwork that goes on is quite inspiring. This year is about to be a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to grow in my faith along with all of my friends here at LCM!
Welcome back to the returning students, but especially welcome, freshmen! I’m sure you have all been incredibly busy with moving in, meeting your roommate, buying textbooks, and seeing what it means to be a student at the University of Minnesota. And worrying about classes and meals and living on your own… and… and…
Now take a deep breath. I know how crazy things are at the beginning of the year, but trust me- things will settle down. As they do, you may realize you have to schedule times for taking care of yourself mentally by studying and going to class, physically by going to the new rec center or for a run, and emotionally by hanging out with friends.
Around December of last year, I realized that I hadn’t been scheduling time to take care of myself spiritually. I felt slightly disconnected from friends and stressed about school. My friend invited me to come to pause with her one Wednesday night, so I went. I was immediately welcomed by several strangers who are now my good friends. I was able to relax.
Lutheran Campus Ministry is a place of welcome. If you don’t believe me, come see for yourself. We will gather to worship at pause almost every Wednesday night at 9pm, beginning September 4th. I hope to see you there!
Just because I go to pause doesn’t mean my life is completely stress-free. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I recite the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference
I take a deep breath and I keep going, knowing that I will always be welcomed and supported by everyone in Lutheran Campus Ministry and Grace.