I am a planner. I love having a schedule planned out in advance, and knowing exactly what is going on. Last year I had an internship lined up by mid November for the summer, and loved knowing that I had a plan for the summer. Now here I am, a year later, ready to be done with classes and frequently thinking ahead to next summer and the excitement and uncertainty it is bringing. If only I knew where I would be working, I could start figuring out where I’ll be living once my lease is up, and I could begin planning my life, right? It’s so much easier to think about being done with classes and starting “real life” when there’s a stressful week with many tests and homeworks. There’s just plenty to worry about, and I really start to get stressed out. It’s times like this that I think about this passage:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? … Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For … indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
It’s hard to know exactly how to apply it to my life, but I tried to teach it to my 6th and 7th grade pre-confirmation class this weekend. I don’t know if they got as much out of it as I did, but I was reminded to stay focused on today. If I’m constantly planning my next step, I’m never going to take the time to enjoy the fantastic opportunities and experiences I have right in front of me now. I like to think that once I’m done with college, I will spend more time to enjoy the little things in life, but I’m realizing more and more (especially after a busy summer internship) that it’s something that I have to work harder to achieve, and it’s definitely a goal for the rest of the year: to enjoy the random conversations I have with my roommates, to go out to coffee with an old friend, and to not be constantly thinking about what there is to get done next.
Last Thursday, I attended a lecture given by Mary S Poplin (not Poppins, sad, I know) about finding purpose. First off, what an interesting lady! Mary worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, did research on inter-city schools, and taught as a professor while finding God and her purpose along the way. Suffice it to say, she has had quite the journey and had some solid advice on finding one’s purpose.
I think it was Pastor Kate who once told me that purpose lies at the intersection of what you’re good at and where you’re needed. (Although she probably said it much more elegantly.) Mary had a very similar view. She told us to examine the gifts God has given us and to examine our passions. What stood out to me, though, was her advice on how to find our passion. She told us to ask what grieves us the most. For example, Mary was grieved by public education systems that left impoverished kids behind. This drove her to work in education.
How cool is that? Instead of being overwhelmed by what grieves us, we can turn it around to find our passions. Those feelings of hopelessness can be a sign to find where we are needed and what we are passionate about. So now, what grieves you most?
-Meghan with an H
having grown weary of the commentary on why the church is dying, and what it’s doing wrong, i revisited the question of “who” is the church in a sermon preached at grace university lutheran church on october 21. please read the text for the day from Mark to ground this reflection, and be generous with the reality that a sermon always preaches different than it reads.
For any of you who are on Facebook, you know what happens when something controversial, and public – say like a presidential debate – takes place. Your feed blows up with comments, quotes, people posting links to pictures or pundits that help us laugh, process, and in many cases feel better about our own side.
Now imagine my feed after a recently released study by the Pew Forum on Religious Life. It’s blowing up!
Here’s what it said: The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.
In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).
And so my facebook feed, for the last two weeks, has been blowing up with commentary, mostly from “experts,” who work with young adults or who have successful young adult ministries, telling the church what it is doing wrong. And for some reason, it’s driving me batty. I’ve reached my saturation point, I fear, with all the talk of how the church is dying. It feels a little bit like the Children’s story about Chicken Little, who gets hit on the head with an acorn and pronounces to every animal he meets, “the sky is falling, the sky is falling.”
When this band of animals finally reaches the king, the king picks the acorn out of chicken little’s tuft of hair, and says, “You see, Chicken Little, it was only an acorn and not a piece of the sky. The sky could never fall. Only rain falls from the sky.”
The ones fretting about and foaming about and furiously fixing the state of the church might learn a little bit from this whole exchange. I don’t think the sky is falling. Our God is not a God who would set about killing something that has been so instrumental in doing God’s work in this world. The church is God’s hands and feet and beating heart – the church is god’s body in this world – we are what God has – so let’s start acting like it.
Our god is a God of new things. This is the God that told the Israelites, when they wanted to make him a temple, that “I don’t need a place. I understand that’s what you’re used to, but I am with you everywhere.” This is a god that is found in his people. And when Christ came, he expanded that definition even more, saying that God’s people aren’t limited to a race or to a tribe, but instead that God’s promises exist for all people, and in that promise all are made one. And the early church called this new gathering of God’s people the church.
Every 500 years or so, the church goes through a tremendous upheaval. Cultures collide, and it really might feel like the sky is falling, like the church is in danger of extinction – but it’s not. I have a friend who, in response to this cacophony of commentary, wrote that the church isn’t dying, it’s pregnant. We’re about to give birth to something new, with all of the discomfort and anxiety and expectation and fear and hope that accompanies pregnancy. And I think that’s so exciting…
Because what this newness means is a whole lot of letting go. It means for sure that we have to let go of re-creating the church of the 1950’s, or the 1960’s, when buildings were popping up everywhere and the suburbs were growing and highways were connecting our country and our churches were exploding with people. We have to let go of church as the place where you go because you’re supposed to, and because that’s what people expect of you. We have to let go of church as the place that grants you power in a political, or social, or cultural way. That version of the church, for all of its good, bad and ugly, is passing away.
And together, with God, we are giving birth to something new. I think our scripture today might have something to say to that.
Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.”
The images of Christian life that we receive from scripture, the instructions Jesus gives to his disciples, over and over and over again – especially in Mark – is that we are called to the margins of our culture, where people are isolated, lost, alone. We are called to the mourning, the sick, the poor. We are called into service and sacrifice. And when we move into Acts, we find that the church isn’t located in buildings made for thousands of people. The church is comprised of small gatherings, meeting in homes, to be in community with one another, breaking bread, reading scripture, praising God, collecting offerings for the orphan and widow, and then going out to be in relationship with, to serve, the orphan and widow.
This is the church, and this is our call. This is our opportunity to be god’s hands and feet and beating heart. Now I’m not arguing for some throwback to the first century – I honestly think that’s a little naïve. Instead I think we’re being called by God, and led by the Holy Spirit, into something new, messy as it may be. And I think this break from cultural familiarity, this break from social expectation, this emerging counter-cultural nature of Christianity gives us a new and incredible freedom.
We gather to worship, pray, eat and serve. We gather to learn from scripture what it means to be disciples, to support one another as we shed cultural notions of what success looks like, and practice living lives of service, sacrifice and commitment to something beyond ourselves. We gather to know and to be known, to love and be loved; by God, yes, but also by the community that Christ calls together. And as we share in Holy Communion, we are gathered together, and then sent out to be God’s hands and feet and beating heart in this world. That’s not death friends, that’s abundant life.
So whether you’re a proud card carrying lifer in the Lutheran church, or whether you’re just checking out this church thing for the first time; know that there change a foot. But also know that this change doesn’t mean death. God loves God’s people. God loves each one of you so much, and in Christ promises that you are forgiven, healed, and then set free to live abundantly, to seek out community, to extend the reach of this church beyond the boundaries of our culture and tribe, beyond numbers in Pew Research forum surveys, beyond any limitations we might put on God or the church. You are set free to be midwives, with God, in the birthing of this new chapter of what it means to God’s people.
Last weekend, I, and about ten other students piled into cars and headed to Wisconsin for a day away from campus. I am currently in the midst of midterms, projects, and assignments which all seem to be due at the exact same time! I was concerned that spending an entire day away from campus was a bad idea, especially with my list of homework continuously growing.
As we drove deeper and deeper into Wisconsin, farther and farther away from campus, my regret continued to grow. We finally reached the pastors’ “farm” in Beldenville, WI. It was so beautiful to be out in the country on a fall day. I was surprised at how calming it was to be away from the hustle and bustle of campus back in Minneapolis.
We enjoyed a day of resting and reconnecting with each other, ourselves, and God. I especially enjoyed exploring the “farm” and observing all of the gorgeous fall colors. I also got to have a one-on-one conversation with a new member of our LCM community. It was really fun getting to know her, and it almost seemed as if I was reconnecting with an old friend! We ended our day with homemade apple crisp which was delicious!
I found myself having such a great time that I did not want to leave and return to “real life”. However my homework was calling and it was time to return to campus. Obviously, school is important, after all, that is what we are here for! But looking back, I can see that a day away to rest and reconnect was exactly what I needed during this busy time of the school year!
This week I was lucky enough to experience something I don’t often get to appreciate on a day that I couldn’t have planned more perfectly! I was going through my normal morning routine when I noticed the sun rising outside. Just the steps of it glowing behind already lit-up buildings, to breaking its first burst of light, to being fully present outside my window made me realize that no matter what was going to happen that day, it would be good.
I had a packed day ahead of me, and I was unsure of how it was going to turn out. I was volunteering in a nearby high school for my education class and it was my first day. A, I was scared only because I didn’t know what to expect, and B, I was just plain excited. It ended up being a great start to my semester of volunteering! I got to help students out and observe a Spanish classroom with tips from the teacher. I loved it.
After that I was back on campus for my dance/movement therapy class only to find myself creating movement that correlated with how I felt for the day and also connecting with others’ movement in conjunction with a significant story from their life. I was constantly feeling this pull to other people and I just couldn’t get enough of it.
That night, I couldn’t have asked for a better ending. I attended a session on the marriage amendment and how to have meaningful and real conversations about it and possibly voting no. It taught me so much about the GLBT community and the real life connections people had with these people that were so connected by their love that nothing could separate them. After this session we had pause, and I just felt my day come together completely.
The reading at worship just happened to be when Paul writes to the Corinthians about the importance of community. For the body has many members… you know it. The part that stuck out to me though, was verse 26. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. It got me thinking about every little thing I had done that day, and who I had done it with. Nothing would’ve been so successful and perfect about my day if I didn’t have the communities I shared it with. So as we hear Paul’s words, I think it’s safe to say community affects us a lot every single day. Think about those you love and keep close to you, those who accept you, and those who are simply blessed about your simple presence in their life. Now go out and do that for someone else, and God’s kingdom can grow even bigger than it already is.
Some events on campus lately have really stirred my thoughts on freedom of speech. From hateful and degrading words being yelled across the mall at students, to an event specifically mocking a religion — yes it is freedom of speech, but in my opinion, it is just plain bullying.
Just because something can be done, does not mean it should. And if an action is purely to try and get a reaction out of someone — it probably is not something that should be done at all.
I believe it is a basic human right to feel loved, to feel accepted just as you are, to feel welcome.
I believe it is a basic human right to not be publicly humiliated, to not be specifically targeted.
Freedom of speech comes with a great responsibility. A responsibility to use your words in a productive way. To share your opinions, and to allow others to share their opinions too. To respect the opinions and beliefs of others. To educate yourself, and to approach topics from a place of genuine curiosity, not from intentional mockery or hate. To have open, honest discussions with people from all different walks of life.
My heart absolutely breaks every time I hear about these events that are intentionally making members of our beautifully diverse community feel singled out or unwelcome. Events where the sole purpose is to see what kind of reaction you can get — instead of events that liven and enrich our community.
I hope and pray for the day that we can have a world-wide community that believes all have the right to feel loved, to feel accepted just as they are, to feel welcome. A community that believes no one should be publicly humiliated nor specifically targeted.
You may say I’m a dreamer … but I’m not the only one
Please see our blog post for the first round of blessings, and for background on where these blessings came from: http://umnlutheran.wordpress.com/2012/09/12/where-there-is-hatred-let-us-sow-love/
And now the blessings….from students on Northrup Mall, to/for people who are targets of hate (and who were particularly being targeted by a hate-full Christian preacher):
- All who find yourself on the margins of our society and church, know that God loves you, mo matter who you are, where you come from, what has happened to you, or what you have done. God made you the way you are, and He loves you just as you are. You are loved.
- God loves you! God called you out by name and claimed you as his child. PS. YOU ARE AWESOME!!!
- Prayers for all the people targeted by brother jed today and foever. God loves everyone just the way he or she is.
- God’s unconditional love shines down on everyone – especially you. Keep your faith. YOU ARE LOVED.
- You Are Loved
- Be with those who feel distant or scorned today. Help them to seek comfort in your arms, Lord.
- To the GLBT folks out there. Keep fighting the right fight!
- You are wonderful. You are purposed. You are loved. You are you. Stay You!!!
- There are many different faces, shapes, and sizes; but love has no boundaries.
- You are loved. Never forget that. You are loved and important.
- I would like to bless the GLBTQ community, and pray that they know not all “Christians” are hateful and angry.
- God loves you no matter what. God loves you just as you are. He is always with you. Take heart and know that you are loved. Always and forever.
- You are worthy.
- You are a child of God – Jesus loves you!
- Don’t forget that you are love. you are loved.
- God loves us all just as we are.
- God bless all who need it. Women, GLBTQ persons, poor, the hungry, the sick. Let them know THEY ARE LOVED.
- You are loved. No matter what. You are brave and strong. God loves us all.
- I pray that you always have hope in God.
- You are so very loved and cherished. Your entire self, no ifs ands or buts. Continue to be a beautiful light in this world.
- You are not alone, but deeply and wonderfully loved. No matter what you do or say or look like. You are loved.
- You are God’s and that means you are always LOVED. No matter what.
- You are a beautiful child of God.
- God is with you. And he loves you always.
- The God i know loves and cares for you. You may come as you are, a beautiful child of God, and meet my God (if you haven’t already) in prayer. God Bless.
- Be hopeful. Be happy. Be proud. Be you. Because you are loved.
- God loves everyone. No exceptions.
- I pray that members of the GLBT community may feel God’s love and the love of those around them who accept them as they are.
- God’s grace is for all people. God chose you! You are loved.
- God loves you.
- You are perfect! God made you!
- I pray for anyone that has been labeled a “heathen” that they may know that there is a place where they are loved – that Jesus loved all – no exceptions.
- You are special. You are loved. You are perfect. God’s love is infinite.
- “Just the way you are” -bruno mars
- love to all
- You are a miracle, and were born from love.
- May your heart remain forever loved.
- I pray that everyone knows that God loves them, no matter what.
- Stay Strong. Not everyone is like him. LOVE!
- I don’t know if God(S) exist, but if it does, i think it would love all of its creation. You are worthy and deserving of love and respect. Never ever forget this.
- You are BEAUTIFUL!
- God loves you. Screw anyone who says that he doesn’t, because they’d be wrong.
- Bless everyone called evil today.
- Long life, pleasant dreams, and all the love you can stand.
- Peace and love to you…
- Forever be beautiful. Forever be be you. Be yourself!
- You are amazing!
- Don’t believe them. You are AMAZING!
- Hashem loves ALL children! White, black, man, woman, gay, straight…
- I hope discrimination and hatred towards all groups will end someday.
- May you never doubt the presence of those who love you.
- Love is all you need!
- love is love and belongs to everyone!
- I pray blessings upon my self.
- No one deserves hate for whatever reason, God bless you for being in this position and stay strong.
- A blessing to all people, regardless of faith, sexuality, race, gender and other superficial factors that some choose to divide us with.
- I love and respect you.
- I hope you learn that hatred is not because of religion.
- You are beautiful and strong. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
- Peace to the Queer community. I’m proud to be a part of it.
- I pray that all people, gay, straight and anyone share the same love and same rights.
- You are beautiful people and you deserve to choose how you live no matter who you are! We love you! -Kelly and Jennifer
- God bless! Don’t worry about what anyone says! Love, Samantha
- You are beautiful. I accept you.
- Smile! Jesus loves you!
- God has loved, is loving, and will always love the whole world.
- God loves everyone even when they don’t love him. God knows everyone even when they don’t know him. God bless us ALL. Amen.
- You are equal. You are amazing. That’s it.
- We can’t stop hate, but we can spread love. And I love you all!
- Jesus loves gay people and all of us should too! I LOVE MY GLBT FRIENDS!
- Not everyone is a hater!
- I pray that everyone knows that God loves them, no matter what!
- God loves everyone. No exceptions.
- Jesus loves you as you are.
- No one deserves hate. Let’s love!
- My thoughts and love go out to all the women here!
And blessings for Brother Jed:
- I will never be convinced that you would love me, a gay Lutheran, but that is okay, because I love you and I pray for God to ever hold you and keep you. Blessings to you.
- I pray that the negativity leave your soul. God Bless.
i am the lord of the dance said he, and i’ll lead you all wherever you may be, and i’ll lead you all in the Dance said he.
This week was a long week for all of us. We’ve been stretching and growing and we were getting tired. We also had the complicated nature of Brother Jed’s visit to campus, where hate was preached and vitriol spread. Our students stood faithfully each day, with signs saying “God loves you,” and “Where there is hatred let us sow love,” and “Do you believe in a God of love? So do we.” And this was exhausting, whether in the sunshine or in the rain, we consistently heard the language of our religion being twisted and turned into something ugly.
And then Friday came, and with it BLOCK PARTY 2012. We listed to phenomenal music, welcomed exhausted dental students, people whose children were in the hospital, plenty of students we’d never met. A unicyclist clapped hands with two Muslims on either side of him, students who had just met, and others who had known each other for four years threw their heads back as we sang about being the change we wished to see in the end. As the crowd thinned towards the end, and Agape’s performance started to feel like a house concert of sorts, with the remnant of 30 or so that remained, and then we started dancing. We jumped around and waved our hands and felt the catharsis of the love of God being breathed through music and laughter and a shared understanding that ours was a God of love.
The work of witnessing to a God of love, to Dancing, to living that Love out in our lives is hard, and sometimes exhausting work. But it is also the root of our joy. It’s why we dance. It’s why we laugh. It’s how we can love abundantly and often. It’s why we return to the lord of the Dance.