Lent: The season of letting go

Written by Sarah Baker

“So, what are you giving up for Lent?”

As someone who has been a Christian her whole and has spent a lot of time hanging out at church, I’ve heard this question a lot. My answer has always been the same: “I don’t know, how about you?” Over the years, I’ve heard many different answers, most recently “beer” and “social media”. For my mom, and I swear 90% of the female Lutheran population, it’s always been “chocolate”.

My go-to answer of “I don’t know” is quite the cop-out. I’ve never really understood the point of giving something up for 40 days. Nobody has ever really explained to me why not eating chocolate for over a month would be beneficial to my spiritual life. If I was going to “give something up” for Lent, why did it have to be something tangible, like beer, social media, and chocolate? What if, instead, I gave up something that wasn’t physical, but something immaterial?

Immaterial things are harder to give up. You can’t just stop buying “self-deprecating humor” for 40 days like you would do for beer. You can’t just delete your “fear of failure” like you can delete Instagram and Twitter off your phone. “Caring what other people think of you” is a lot harder to stop doing than to stop eating dark chocolate Reese’s.

IMG_7517

IMG_7854

Sarah captured a couple of heaven-on-earth moments in nature at Holden Village (TOP) and in Houston, TX at the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering (BOTTOM).

But those are the exact things we should be giving up. And not just for 40 days—for life.

Over the past week, my friends and I have all been trying to find something we each need to “let go of” in our lives. While we were talking, the season of Lent came into my mind. Everyone has something that she’s been holding on to—something that could vastly improve her life if she just let it go.

I think giving up the immaterial habits, negative behaviors, and flawed thinking is exactly what Jesus would want us to do during the season of Lent. Ecclesiastes 3:6 says that there is a time for everything and a season for every activity, specifically “a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away”.

In my opinion, Lent is a time to “give up” and “throw away” our deleterious qualities and to “search” for and “keep” the things that give us life. While this could mean giving up our love (and in some cases, lust, @Mom) for chocolate, we should also consider giving up some other things. In my case, that would be my fear of starting something new or the idea that I should let other people’s opinions affect my choices. For my friends, that would be letting go of a negative self-image or deciding to stop harboring a feeling of guilt.

It’s hard to give up this kind of stuff. It’s super easy to say “yeah, I’m done feeling like that” but it’s quite difficult to actually follow through. That’s where Jesus comes in.  Colossians 3:2 says, “set your mind on things above, not on earthly things”. Jesus doesn’t care about your appearance, about your lack of self-confidence, or about your past mistakes. He knows that none of these things matter in Heaven. These traits are earthly; they will not matter in the afterlife. So why not practice for eternity right now?

By focusing on the fact that there is life after death, the season of Lent has so much more meaning. What if, instead of giving up our material luxuries, we try to let go of the stuff that’s holding us back from experiencing the eternal life here and now? Sure, giving up chocolate for 40 days might reduce your acne and improve your diet. But let’s say that instead, you decided to let go of the thing that was preventing you from living your life the way God intended. Just figuratively throw it into the Mississippi River and watch it float away. And don’t let it dog-paddle its way back 40 days later.

Give it up, let it go, and set your mind on Eternity-mode. Happy Lent!

Leap of Faith

Written by Mara Bowman

On a college campus, it’s easy to hear the word “leader,” and instantly think “resumé builder.” [We’re all trying to get that job post-grad.] But stepping into a leadership role in a faith community brought a new light to the idea of being servant hearted for me, and made me rethink the ways I live out my faith on and off campus. It provided me space to grow as an individual, while fostering growth in a community I care about.

IMG_5801

Here’s a picture of Mara playing violin during a mini jam session on the LCM fall retreat.

Within Lutheran Campus Ministry, specifically, becoming a servant leader has been a way for me to become more in tune with the community. I found myself building relationships more intentionally. I was challenged to think, “What about LCM is worth sharing with the UMN campus? Why does what we do matter? What should we be doing differently?”

Servant leaders have different opportunities to shape the community related to outreach, worship planning, and other events. Serving as a leader helped me to feel like an active member of the church, and allowed me to see how this experience will continue to impact and form my relationship with the church in my life beyond college.

Being a servant leader with LCM is not only about becoming a better person, it’s recognizing that our community is enriched when we all chip in our time and our talents. It’s recognizing that when you love a community deeply your unique qualities are needed to enrich it, whether by participating in outreach, cleaning dishes, serving soup, or planning worship. The body of Christ is made up of many members, all of which are essential to our wonderful LCM community. Being a servant leader deeply enriched my experience within LCM, by helping me to grow in my faith and with the people around me. I encourage you to take the leap of faith and share what it is about this community that brings you energy and joy.

2019-20 Servant Leader applications are available here. Email your completed form to Pastor Kate by Monday, March 25, 2019.

Wide Welcome

Written by Pastor Kate

Dear Students,

At LCM-TC, we pride ourselves on a wide welcome. If you come to pause, we almost always read our Gathering Litany, which includes acknowledging the body of Christ as “conservatives and liberals, city kids and country kids, introverts and extroverts…engineers and english majors, questioning and certain, poor and rich.”

We’ve recently completed a student driven process that makes explicit our welcome to the GLBTQIA+ community on campus and beyond, a community that has historically been marginalized and hurt by the Christian tradition and Christian communities. Our servant leaders and board of directors have adopted the following welcome statement:

We welcome all who are seeking God’s love and grace. We welcome all because God welcomes all, regardless of race or culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or relationship status. We welcome all without regard to addictions, physical or mental health, imprisonment, socio-economic circumstances, or anything that too often divides us. Our unity is in Christ.

It’s true. All of it. We’re so proud of this statement. And we’re so hopeful about what it means to simply be on the journey towards unity in Christ, a unity that celebrates difference and seeks to be shaped by the uniqueness, beauty and experiences of people who join together in Christian community.

We also acknowledge that we are on a journey towards understanding what it means to be an inclusive and welcoming community in a culture that is increasingly polarized and divided, one that can feel hostile towards difference. Lines of race, class, and geography are becoming difficult to transgress, especially as they take shape in our common political life.

So we need you, all of you, with your uniqueness, beauty, and experiences, to help us discover who God is calling us to be in this time and place. We need your diverse opinions and experiences to help us shape what it means to be an inclusive and welcoming community.

Over the next months, through the summer, and into next Fall, we’ll be intentionally integrating the substance of our welcome statement into our leadership training, event planning, and even into the Gathering Litany – something that has remained unchanged for at least five years. Email me (pastorkate@umnlutheran.org) if you’re interested in being a part of this process…

hartkeCMU

But before you do any of this, please come to God and Gender tomorrow night, where you can hear theologian and author Austen Hartke tell his story about growing up as a bisexual, transgender person of faith, and bring your questions for a time of compassionate and respectful discussion.

Peace to you today…

Compelled to Inclusivity

Written by Olivia Olson

We’ve all experienced that awful feeling of rejection and loneliness before – whether it was during elementary school gym class and you were picked last for the team, being dumped, ignored, or ghosted by someone we care about, or get rejected from that job we really wanted.  It makes us feel really crummy inside – that we aren’t good enough, talented enough, or good-looking enough. Unfortunately, this happens in so many situations, and happens frequently enough, that it can really wear on people without us even noticing unless we are personally affected. Sometimes, we even hurt others without realizing it through what we simply fail to do. It’s so easy for us to go about our daily lives, living in our own bubble, without reaching outside of that bubble to welcome others in and include them in our already created communities and lives. I am guilty of this, and I’ve found that it’s not as easy to shake that habit as I want it to be.

IMG_2382 (1)

Here’s a picture of Olivia serving at a nearby food shelf with fellow LCMer, Jordan.

But, as a Christian, I am continually reminded about the importance of including others and welcoming them for who they are, as well as challenged on a daily basis to follow through with this calling. It seems so insignificant to do something as simple as welcome someone into a community, but the impact it has on someone’s life and self-positivity can be enormous. Far too often, people are rejected by family members, community, or the larger public for beliefs and identities they hold or ways they live. Oftentimes, the church has not been a good role model in these situations, for even though the very basis of our faith is to love everyone, we still end up putting stipulations on that love and acceptance and reject people and turn them away. But that’s the thing – the foundations of Christianity are love and inclusivity, as we are called to be God’s hands and feet and beating heart in this crazy world today.

I am so blessed to be a part of the LCM community, for each week I see and experience the love and welcome that this community is filled with. It’s a powerful motivator for me to take this sense of welcoming and bring it with me into each day and share it with those that I meet, and to reach out to others instead of living in my own personal bubble.

There is so much uncertainty and loneliness in our lives today, so to be able to be a light to others and show them that they are loved and always welcome seems to me the least we can do. Yes, it requires vulnerability to reach out to someone, especially if we don’t know them very well, and that definitely freaks me out. But God welcomes all of us freely into community with God and one another as humans, and that reminder and reassurance gives me a push to reach out more even when I don’t quite feel like it.  Because honestly? It’s not about me and my comfort zone, but the power of what this small action could be to someone hungering for community.

Everyday Agape

Written by Emily Hackerson

I have never been a huge fan of Valentine’s day. I never quite understood why there had to one day set aside to say “I love you.” Shouldn’t we be saying “I love you” everyday?Growing up Christian, I was always told to love my neighbor, this is difficult to do especially when your neighbor might not be of the same political mindset, same college or major, or even like the same football team and so on. It is situations like these that call for agape.

IMG_1337

Here’s a picture of Emily and her roommate/fellow LCMer, Grace, helping share agape love with students at the U of M during the spring activities fair.

Agape, in a simple definition is unconditional love. This is the love we are called to give ALL of our neighbors. This is different from eros and philos, which are the romantic and friendship type loves respectively. So, while I may not “love” my neighbor like a Valentine, I think it’s important to love them as human beings, or whichever of God’s creatures they are (I strongly believe animals are our neighbors as well, and my roommate Grace would want me to include bacteria and microbes).

I have felt this love within this campus ministry through the relationships I have made with fellow students. We all come from vastly different corners of this large University, but everyone is welcome and everyone is loved and valued. This love is agape love.

This love is recognizing a face from worship the previous week when you are on the bus from St. Paul and simply smiling and waving. A familiar face on a campus of over 50,000 people is invaluable. So, while the commercialized pink and red of Valentine’s day may not be my favorite, maybe this day is an opportunity to show your community you love them, not with chocolate boxes but with giving them your best self.

This can be difficult as students because we are constantly stressed and potentially running on very little sleep. In my experience however, people respond to positivity much better than negativity, including myself. I would use my stress to excuse being grumpy, but this only made me grumpier. Something as simple as holding an elevator or door for someone made me feel better. I know we hear these stories about doing something for someone creates a ripple effect and that feels cliché, but clichés exist for a reason. So, whether you’re a democrat or republican, STEM of humanities student, Vikings fan or Packers fan (skol) you are loved, not just by your Valentine but by your community.

The Tug of Agape (Love)

Written by Mara Bowman

One of the greatest tragedies on Valentine’s Day this year will be the discontinued candy hearts that will be missing from millions of grocery store shelves and classroom parties. If you didn’t already hear, consider LCM blogs your latest and greatest source of news. As I think about all the traditions that surround this holiday, everything about its calculated romance, commercialism, and glamour leaves a lot to be desired. Everything about it can feel…transactional.

While romantic love might be more on our minds in the context of the holiday, other types of love could use some attention. One that has particularly resonated me throughout this past year, is a form of love called agape. [And to prove that it resonated and guided my last year, I got a tattoo of it, no joke]. Agape does not resurrect for me, the whimsy of this holiday that come in the form of puns on valentine’s cards. [Although, don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a good pun.] It sounds simple, but it isn’t. Agape calls us to dig deeper than that—agape calls us to love in ways that are unexpected and challenging.

So what is agape love? To say it simply, it is sacrificial, selfless, unconditional, loving without expectation of return. [Here’s a great video that I find beautifully encompasses what agape is if you’re curious about it!] So much of our lives is about transactional relationships that this concept can feel foreign. This highest form of love is demonstrated in the gift of God’s son, Jesus, who endured pain and suffering, through an act of love. I struggled to compare that heart-wrenching, sacrificial love to the flowery image of love we see in hallmark cards and exchanging of chocolates.

maratattoo

Here’s a picture of Mara’s tattoo, the word “agape” written in Greek on her foot.

When I thought about replicating the kind of love God expresses to us, I was confused at the feelings of brokenness or hurt that developed from it. I wondered, how do we feel fulfilled and whole, in a world where we are called to love everyone—no exceptions? It began to feel to me that when I was practicing this expectation-less love, I was left feeling empty. I began to have doubts about this sacrificial form that agape takes, I craved the transaction where I could receive the equal of what I had given.

Even though practicing agape was hard, I found that in that vulnerability I began living more fully into who God is calling me to be. Agape gets rid of the transactional relationships that fill our lives; we begin to love those around us because that love is an expression of God among us.

God’s purest form of love was shown when Jesus died on the cross, and this great act of sacrifice made newness of life possible. Martin Luther King Jr. described agape as a love which heals communities, the idea that loving selflessly leads to reparation of our relationships, of the hurt in the world. The idea that the highest form of love, this ultimate gift, a sacrifice that was made with no expectations for humanity, Jesus is not only resurrected but brings the promise of newness of life for all people. This newness arises when we give up our expectations for how others will love us in return.

While I don’t think the agape we live out in the world is quite so gruesome as this, we are invited to love others without expectation of return. We love simply because it brings the broken and jagged edges of the world together when we do so. We express agape because it is the breath of God among us; in the extension of a hand to a stranger, in the heartache of loving a family member despite a broken relationship. We love, because God first loved us.

May you feel the warmth, tug, challenge, and hope of agape this Valentine’s Day.

Remember to pause

Written by Kelly Mork

Every semester coming back to school after a long break, I find myself battling mixed emotions. I’m excited to see people again, I’m worried classes will be hard, I’m nervous I won’t be able to do it all, I’m ready to learn new things, and the list goes on. Yet each beginning, even as I’m running on high breathing, we reach the first night of Pause. And everything is okay.

Do you ever get that overwhelming sense of comfort? Of realizing “this is what I needed” even if you didn’t know beforehand? Pause, our weekly worship gathering on Wednesday nights, is just that. A literal pause. A chance to stop in the middle of the week and take a step back from life, campus chaos, work, classes, and all the other stressors to allow yourself to BE.

(Video above taken during the sending song at pause on Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018)

There’s something about walking in to a dark, cozy sanctuary filled with candles, music, and people your own age that is so welcoming and comfortable (especially when you’re greeted with hot cocoa in negative temps). As we said our gathering litany, sang songs of joy and light, and settled into this community, you could sense the tension easing, the chatter of reconnecting slowing, and the smiles of contentment growing. It’s a new beginning.

Our first week back started in the season of Epiphany, that one after Christmas where the wise ones travel to meet baby Jesus. But what about the star that led them there? As the wise ones followed a star to find Him, we too set our own intentions in “stars” for the coming year. As we gathered at the cross, we lit candles and chose a word for our stars. Some included: rest, patience, joy, time, and other concepts to guide us through the semester and year as a reminder of something larger than ourselves and this campus.

As we begin this new semester, it’s easy to fall into routine and become overwhelmed. But finding your light and remembering to pause, whether in worship or on your own, is a chance to disconnect from the commotion and dig deeper into creation, community, and yourself.

Pause Gathering Litany:

There are a variety of gifts,

but there is one Spirit.

There are a variety of services,

but the same Lord.

There are a variety of activities,

but the same God.

Engineers and English majors,

questioning and certain,

poor and rich;

God arranged the members of the body;

God chose each one of us.

God loves each one of us.

Conservative and liberal,

city kid and country kid,

introvert and extrovert;

All are a part of the Body.

Just as it is one and has many members,

so it is with Christ.

In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,

and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

We gather now;

to worship in word and song

to question and pray

to belong and to become

to join in God’s work of reconciliation and renewal of all creation

Amen.

Overwhelmed with Great Joy

Written by Sarah Baker

“Epiphany—isn’t that the thing right after Christmas?” Well yes, anonymous roommate (…Alyssa), that’s one definition of it. More accurately, it’s the liturgical season that celebrates how many, many years ago, the Magi followed a star to find Jesus—God incarnate (Matthew 2:1-12). Upon reaching Jesus, they presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told what the latter two of those things are, but I can’t remember for the life of me. Fortunately, that’s not the most important part of the Epiphany story, nor the part that stands out the most to me. The part that really strikes me is described immediately before the verse that mentions gold and those two hard-to-spell words:

Matthew 2:10 says, “When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.”

Overwhelmed. Now that’s a word with lots of negative connotation. Synonyms include: crushed, defeated, overpowered…the list of scary words goes on. When I think of being overwhelmed, I picture drowning in homework and thesis research. I think about the fact that I don’t have any concrete plans for a year from now; how I don’t even know where I want to live, if I want an “adult” job, or if I want to travel the world. But to do that, I’d need money, and wait, I don’t have any of that. I can feel my heart palpitating just thinking about it. Talk about feeling overwhelmed.

Basically, the noun that I immediately associate with ‘overwhelmed’ is ‘stress’. But in the early verses of Matthew 2, the Magi are “overwhelmed with joy”. Overwhelmed…with joy. Now THAT sounds amazing—to be stunned at the sight of the star pausing in the sky. To be overcome with emotion, that in just a few moments, the Savior of the world would be seen. To be utterly and completely amazed in the moment when they knelt at the side of Jesus and felt his love and power.

Those italicized words? All synonyms of ‘overwhelmed’—but the good kind—the ones that make you smile and give you heart palpitations of excitement.

img_7733

Sarah takes a moment to take in God’s overwhelmingly abundant creation last summer.

Depending the season of life that you’re in right now, it might be easy to get overwhelmed with worry and stress. But in this season of Epiphany, remember that there are all kinds of joy in the world to get amazed by: nature, relationships and community, new knowledge, music… Even the little things can incite great happiness—from the beauty of icicles hanging in the Washington Avenue bridge to the way your friends laugh at your imitation of Cartman from South Park.

So, in this season of Epiphany, reach for the things in your life that have the ability to overwhelm you with joy.  Let yourself be surrounded by light and be a source of joy for other people. And when you feel yourself slipping under the waves in the sea of stress, think of the Magi and their focus on the star that guided them to Jesus. Follow your own source of light, be thankful for the journey, and you too will be “overwhelmed with great joy”.

A Risk Worth Taking

Written by James Dahlvang

Last weekend, the student leaders at LCM drove up to Stanchfield, MN for a retreat at ARC Retreat Center. One of the activities Pastor Kate had for us was to map our faith, defining moments when we felt God actively in our lives. For me, one of those moments was my huddle.

Huddles are LCM’s small groups in the spring semester. 5-7 people gather every week and discuss an idea centered around a specific topic.

jamesserving1

James serving at a nearby food pantry alongside fellow huddle member, Jacob

Each week digs a little deeper and we finish each topic with an activity—like a service project or gathering with another huddle. Ranging from basic theology to deep, unanswered questions about faith and with service mixed in, huddles provide something for everyone.

Personally, I was apprehensive about huddles. I had one foot in and one out of LCM. But my huddle was different. The first couple meetings were a little awkward. People were feeling each other’s personalities out, and it was hard to dive deep. Eventually, I made a connection within my huddle and we’re still good friends to this day. My huddle, on top of quenching my theological thirst, had also given me close community—something I never expected.

This weekend, Pastor Kate noted that wilderness is something a lot of college students can relate to, and I agree with that. We’re dropped in the middle of the Twin Cities, surrounded by people from the suburbs, from the country, and from all over the world. For many of us, this is the first time we are on our own. Without my huddle, it would’ve been easy to get stuck in the wilderness. But having that small group to tether to, knowing for one hour a week I’d be surrounded by people who deeply cared for me and wanted to know answers to the same questions I had; that made my huddle a mountaintop moment.

I hope you consider joining a huddle. Whether it’s for community, service, questioning, or exploring faith, huddles will have something for you. And, if you’re feeling apprehensive like I did, know that huddles are definitely worth the risk.

Peace be with you, and have a great spring semester!

Huddle Up!

Written by Pastor Kate

What’s a Huddle?  

“Huddles” are a kitschy name for a small group of students who meet together weekly to get to know others, to grow in your faith, and to put that faith in action. Last Spring, we experimented with these small groups meeting on East Bank, West Bank and the St. Paul campus all throughout the day. Here are some comments from students who joined “Huddles” last year:

  • “…huddles helped me realize that while I am good at having a conversation with basically anyone, it is still very challenging for me to open up about myself to create a much deeper connection with another person – this is an area where I want to grow.” – Connor
  • “Huddles provide fulfillment and energy by adapting to the interests of its members – for example, our members are all interested in social justice…huddles helped connect our new knowledge of social justice issues with our understanding of God’s call for us to love and serve others.” – Julia
  • I’ve seen a lot of growth in my faith through our huddles…Our huddle leader has really challenged us as a group, and it’s been amazing to share stories of my faith with other kids facing the same challenges I do every day.” – James

These small groups are a great way to develop new and meaningful relationships, discover how God is at work in your life, discuss the questions you have and together, put your faith in action. We hope you join us this semester!

Sign up now (but for sure by January 24, 2019) by clicking here.