Category Archives: Uncategorized

Imago Dei

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No! Just no!!!!

Today the President of the United States said: “these aren’t people. They are animals” referring to immigrants.

I am so angered and sickened by this, I don’t even know what to say about it except.. it is absolutely despicable, horrific, and downright evil. History has shown us the evils of how this kind of dehumanizing moved nations toward slavery and genocide. This is sinful and it is outright evil. And the scary part is how a person in such power making such horrific claims can influence many on how they view and treat others.

No! No! No!

We have GOT to call this out for what it is and be a part of ending it!!!

To be silent is to be complicit.

And as a Christian and a person of faith, a huge part of our faith is to claim the imago dei in ALL humankind: to see that ALL humanity was created good and in God’s image… was beautifully and wonderfully made in the image of God. To deny this is un-Christian.

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Unto Us a Child is Born!

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For unto us a child is born!

The first Christmas story tells of a young, poor couple who fearfully flee their country in order to save their child’s life. It tells of a refugee mother and father desperately seeking for a place to give birth to their son, only to be turned away from the inn and to get stuck in a dirty, stinky barn, surrounded by animals and manure.

And yet, in the midst of this messy Christmas story, hope, peace, joy, and love broke forth into the world.

In the messiness of life, God still shows up in and through the least expected people and places. May we open our eyes and hearts to see and experience our God incarnate around us.

Reformation 500

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500 years ago today, a monk named Martin Luther publicly protested systemic injustice within the Church. That day, he nailed 95 theses protesting the selling of indulgences – which particularly oppressed the poor and those most vulnerable – to the church doors of the Wittenberg Castle. This act eventually led to reform within the Church (with a capital C).

On this 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I both celebrate and confess/grieve.

I celebrate the resistance and reforms of past and present reformers that have and continue to free people from injustice and move our Church and society forward.

At the same time, I confess and grieve the divisions and violence that have taken place within the Church since the Reformation. Something we tend to forget is that Luther did not intend to create new Church denominations… He was resisting oppressive Church systems and only sought to reform the Church. (Yet, he – too – was definitely not perfect, made a lot of mistakes, and had a lot of his own horrific prejudices. So I grieve these, today, as well.)

The Reformation 500 reminds us that the Church was being reformed 500 years ago and is always being reformed, and it reminds us of our call – as Christians – to join the past and present reformers of the Church and society in this holy resistance and reformation work.

One thing I have loved about the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is the strengthening of the Lutheran and Catholic collaboration efforts (which have been going on for many years). Today, I celebrate the commitment our churches are making toward healing past divisions and hurts and toward a more ecumenical united Church.

Tonight at Holy Name Roman Catholic Cathedral in Chicago the ELCA Metro-Chicago Synod Bishop and the Chicago Roman Catholic Archbishop will be co-leading an ecumenical prayer service to commemorate the Reformation together and to renew a covenant between the Chicago Catholic and ELCA churches that was originally signed in 1989.

While I am sad to be missing this powerful prayer service tonight, I am grateful I get to celebrate and renew my commitment to joining so many others in this continuous re-forming of the Church and society with friends/colleagues on our annual new pastor’s retreat.

(And yes, I think these t’s and German & Abbey beer are perfect for the occasion!)

#reformation500 #reformedandalwaysbeingreformed

Poverty is NOT a state of mind!

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In response to Ben Carson


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No! Just no! Poverty is NOT a state of mind!!!

A child or youth’s poverty is NOT a state of mind! A single parent’s poverty is not a state of mind! A family of 5’s poverty is not a state of mind! A senior’s poverty is NOT a state of mind!

Yes, maybe some people who have “everything taken from them” and are “on the street” somehow are able to get themselves off it. But that is not the norm for just anyone living in poverty… How can anyone get off the street with just “the right mindset!?” (At some point, you have to have access to some resources.) How can you even have the “right mindset” when you are starving… And how on earth are the 45 million people living in poverty in the U.S. (one of the wealthiest countries in the world) supposed to just get out of it when there aren’t enough jobs out there (or ones that pay a living wage)? When there isn’t enough affordable housing? When quality education is only accessible for children with a certain income? When higher education is so expensive that most grads graduate up to their necks in debt? When Medicaid, food stamps, and other services are being cut? When mental health agencies, immigration/refugee resettlement organizations, after school programs, and other crucial service organizations are underfunded? And oh… the list goes on…

No! Poverty is NOT a state of mind! And while we are trying to tell ourselves that to make ourselves feel better, children are going to bed hungry.

I stand with you.

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I know that no words can heal the hurt and ease the deep fears of so many I dearly care for today. I know I can’t say that everything is going to be okay.

However, I do want to say to my Latinx, Syrian, black, immigrant, refugee, LGBTQIA, those who are victims of sexual assault, people of color, diversely abled, and Muslim siblings, friends, acquaintances, youth, parishioners and all who woke up this morning with such pain and fear for your future:

I see you. I hear you. I love you. You matter.

My heart aches with you.

I stand with you. You are not alone.

I will fight stronger and harder against Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, ableism, sexism, fascism, and all other forms of hate with you.

Please know that I am here for you if you need to talk, process, and grieve with or if you would like me to refer you to a support group, counselor, or other form of support.

Whatever you do: take extra care of yourself, your family, your friends, and your neighbors. Talk with others. Hold someone’s hand. Listen to and sit with others in their pain. Reach out to those today who are in extra need of a friend. Cry. Lament. Pray. Walk. Meditate.

Let us join together because we cannot work to overcome hate alone. We must do this together. We are BETTER together.

And may we hold fast to the words of St. Francis of Assisi:

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”

#BlacklivesMatter! #altonsterling #philandocastille

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I have no words right now after hearing about the shooting of ‪#‎philandocastille‬ at a routine traffic stop (only a day after watching the horrific shooting of #altonsterling.)

I only have heart ache for his family, girlfriend, and that sweet four year old girl who saw it all happen and comforted her mother as they sat in the back of the police car.

I only have pain and fear for my black brothers and sisters, as this keeps happening to people who look like them (while not to people who look like me.)

I only have anger at a system that is so broken and racialized that black and brown bodies are being disregarded, dehumanized, and brutalized.

I only have repentance for my own white privilege that continues to benefit from this racialized system.

I only have grief that while I will never have to fear being pulled over or shot because I “look suspicious,” make a quick move, wear a hoodie, take a shortcut through an alley, hold a toy gun, this is the fear so many of my black and brown sisters/brothers/siblings live with every day.

After breaking down in tears this morning, all I can say right now is that ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬.

#Blacklivesmatter.
#Blacklivesmatter.
#Blacklivesmatter.

#Blacklivesmatter to God.
#Blacklivesmatter to God.
#Blacklivesmatter to God.

To all my black and brown brothers, sisters, siblings, youth, children, friends:

I see you. You matter.
I hear you. Your voice matters.
I cry with you. Your tears matter.
I am angry with you. Your feelings and anger matter.

#Blacklivesmatter!

Let’s Make America Great… For ALL!

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Voted.

And as I did, I was reminded of the brave people who stood up and spoke up – often risking so much – in order to make voting possible for me, my fellow American women, and all others who have once been denied this right.

Yes, we have come a long way. But this is because of the many incredibly courageous people who have and continue to work for equality and justice in this country.

AND we still have a long way to go. And this is why exercising our right to vote is so important.

However, voting is not the only step we must take in working for equality and justice. It is the people who stand up against injustice and hate and fight for equality who have and will continue to move this country forward.

So yes, let’s make America great. But not just for some people. Let’s make America great for ALL people (no matter their skin color or native language, country or neighborhood of origin, sexual orientation or gender identity, economic status or religion.)

Let’s work to make this country great for all people first by educating ourselves on and voting for the issues and leaders who would best work toward equality and justice for all. But then let’s continue doing this difficult and risky justice work by joining together and with those who’ve paved the way for us in standing up/speaking out until ALL are treated equal.

“Why Bad Things Happen To Good People” – Sermon on Mark 9:1-13

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At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’” – Luke 13:1-9

At the end of my senior year of college, the compassionate and kind-hearted 15 year old sister of my college boyfriend was killed in a car accident. I will never forget some of the things people said to us after she passed away.

“God just wanted another angel.” “God’s timing is just not our timing.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “Just remember, even though you can’t understand it now, this is all part of God’s plan.” “God only tests us to make us stronger.” “God is in control.” “God never gives us more than we can handle.”

While these family friends meant well, some of the things they said not only made us feel additional pain and anger, inadequacy for not being able to “handle” this tragedy the way we were expected to, and misunderstood and alone during one of the most difficult times of our lives, but they also reinforced some incredibly dangerous ideas about God’s character and God’s relationship with humankind.

I didn’t want to have anything to do with the God these friends spoke of. To be quite honest, I had to work very hard to refrain from screaming back at them: “That’s bull… you know what!” Really? – I kept thinking. This was in God’s plan? God gave this tragedy to us… to test us!? And God wanted another angel, huh? I wanted to ask. Well then, why didn’t God take someone who had lived a long and wonderful life, not a girl who only got to live 15 short years?

And if everything happens for a reason: what about the horrific violent acts that occur across our country and our world? Are those part of God’s plan, too? – I wanted to ask them.

… As Proverbs 25:20 says: “Like vinegar on a wound 
is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.”

A few years after I graduated from college, I found out my college boyfriend and I were not the only ones whose friends sang songs to heavy hearts. When my colleague’s mom was battling cancer, one of his mom’s friends told her she was not praying hard enough… That if she prayed more often and had more faith that God would heal her, she would be healed of her cancer. She prayed frequently but she never healed and she eventually passed away. My colleague told me that even though his mom was one of the most faithful people he knew, sometimes she felt like her cancer was a result of her just not being faithful enough.

While incredibly hurtful and unhealthy, the way this friend responded to her cancer and the way friends responded when my college boyfriend’s sister passed away are very common human responses to tragedy. We want to seek answers to why there is suffering in our world. To make sense of the things that just don’t make sense. Because there has to be a reason for the senselessness in this world, doesn’t there? There has to be a cause for the effect. There has to be someone or something we can blame for human suffering… when our friend’s younger sister dies in a car accident or our friend is diagnosed with cancer. When our brother goes through a painful divorce or we see homelessness and unemployment rates begin to skyrocket. When an earthquake kills thousands or a terrorist attack shakes up our sense of security.

Because if we find a reason – if we find a cause for the tragedy – we think we will then be able to quickly fix the pain of those who are hurting.  And we think that we – ourselves – will be able to avoid the tragedies that we see others face and that we fear might one day hit us. We think that we will be able to avoid these tragedies if we just find their root cause.  If we just refrain from committing those sins, if we just pray more than that person prayed, if we just work harder than those people do, or if we just avoid those people and those places altogether.

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This is similar to what the Galileans who spoke with Jesus in our passage in Luke were struggling with. They – too – were seeking answers to why certain tragedies had recently occurred. They wanted to know why the Roman governor Pilate had slaughtered a group of fellow Galilean Jews while they were making sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem and then mixed the dead’s blood with the sacrificial blood. These Galileans who were talking with Jesus wanted to know why a tower near the pool of Siloam unexpectedly collapsed and killed the 18 people who were at the tower. These tragedies must have happened for a reason… because everything happens for a reason. And that reason must have been that those slaughtered in the Temple and those 18 killed by the collapsing tower sinned something terrible… They must have really ticked off God – because – as most first century religious folks believed – tragedy was a punishment from God and suffering was a form of God’s testing.

But as the Galileans begin speculating, Jesus asks them: “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you!”

No, these tragedies have nothing to do with the character or actions of the victims. No, God does not punish or test people for their sins with state sanctioned violence or natural disasters. No, God does not punish or test people with illness, the sudden death of a loved one, the loss of a job, homelessness, war, or any other tragedy that leaves us wondering, “why God?” God isn’t the wrathful, short-tempered vengeful God many confuse God to be. And you – Jesus seems to be saying to the Galileans around him – are not standing here now avoiding tragedy because you are any better or more faithful than these victims are.

No, I tell you!

The way the world works isn’t that bad things just happen to bad people and good things just happen to good people… as much as we may wish this to be so. Because many times good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. Tragedy just hits, and it can hit any of us. And it isn’t God doing this to our neighbors or to us. It just happens. It’s part of being human in this good and yet fallen world where we are both sinner and saint. Where we are both created good and in God’s image and yet we all fall short of the glory of God. It is the unexplainable mystery of being predestined and having free will: where – as humans, we are both chosen and called by God and yet we also get to choose what paths in life we are to take and we get to choose how we are to live. And it’s the crappy part of free will because with free will – with human choice – comes the bad, the evil, the suffering, the tragedies. However, we must also remember that with free will – with choice – comes the very very good, as well. We cannot have creativity, kindness, acts of compassion, hope, joy, peace, love, or even faith without it.

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Jesus then tells the Galileans a parable.

“A man has a fig tree in a garden,” Jesus says. “But when the man sees the fig tree, he realizes it is not producing any fruit. He finds his gardener and says: ‘Look at this fig tree! It is not doing what it is supposed to be doing. For three years it’s been sitting here, and it is still not producing any fruit. It’s just sitting in my garden wasting soil, wasting space, doing nothing. There is no point to it being here, so cut it down!’ But the gardener says: ‘Don’t give up on it just yet. Give the fig tree another year. I will take care of it and tend to it regularly. I will dig around it and place manure on it, so it will bear fruit. In a year, check it out, and if it still doesn’t bear fruit by then, you may cut it down.’”

You see, Jesus is reiterating to the Galileans through this parable that God isn’t an unloving tyrant. Even if God’s people are not bearing fruit, God doesn’t just immediately cut us down and throw us away like the owner of the garden wanted to do with his fig tree. Instead, like the gardener, God is our loving advocate. God cares for us and tends to us. God sees our potential, holds onto hope that we will be fruit bearers, and doesn’t give up on us.

Therefore – Jesus seems to be urging the Galileans – since God is not the punishing and testing God they assumed God to be, rather than focusing on finding reasons for why bad things happen, the Galileans should instead focus on their own lives: on being bearers of fruit for the sake of the kingdom of God.

Repent, he urges. Turn around. Turn from your old ways and turn toward God. Choose God’s way.

But there is urgency in this parable, as well. “Let’s see what happens in a year,” the gardener says. “Let’s see if the fig tree bears fruit a year from now.”

Jesus knows that life is precious. Heck, the recent tragedies that took place in the Temple and at the tower – and not to mention, Jesus’ impending journey toward the cross – remind him of this fact. And the same goes for us. When we hear of the tragedies and suffering around us, we are often reminded of our own mortality.

From dust we came and to dust we shall return.

Tragedies often remind us just how fragile and precious life can be. Yes, bad things happen – to good people even – and can happen to anyone of us – at any time.

This realization can be extremely scary.

And yet, we can allow our fears to overcome us or we can instead embrace this reality and place our focus on being bearers of fruit. We can continue our old ways, or we can turn from them and turn toward God. We have been chosen and we have a choice. And we can choose to allow our fear of our mortality and life’s fragility to keep us from actually living and loving, or we can choose to embrace our mortality and the fact that life is fragile and we can let this realization inspire us to live and to love fully.

To be present in the moment. To take advantage of the precious time we do have with our loved ones. To sit with, cry alongside, and listen to those who are suffering and – rather than sing songs to their heavy hearts – we can acknowledge that their suffering just flat out sucks. To not just take up space in the world, but rather to use our gifts to make a difference in the lives of those around us. To make our precious time here count.

Why do bad things happen to good people? – we ask. It’s the great unexplainable mystery. We don’t know why. They just happen. But what we do know is that we have a compassionate God who knows our pain more than anyone else does. Who weeps over tragedy, suffering, and injustice in this world and never leaves us to grieve or to suffer alone. And who loves us so much that God does not give up on us, but instead continues to tend to us, to care for us, and to believe in us.

So may we choose to turn toward this loving God. May we choose to be bearers of fruit: and to live and to love.

Amen.

 

Guest Post at RevGalBlogPals: “The Pastoral is Political Valentine’s Day Edition”

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I’m blogging over at Revgalblogpals about a few things to consider this Valentine’s Day:

While Valentine’s Day is a fun holiday for many, it can also be painful, stressful, and lonely for others….

Valentine’s Day leaves a large carbon footprint and creates a demand for unethical goods…”

To read the article, click here.

“We Need the Cross” – Homily for Good Friday

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Well, it’s Good Friday, and if I am honest with you, sometimes I wish we could go from celebrating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday directly to celebrating Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday… and skipping everything in between.

But isn’t this true for many of us? Isn’t it common for us to want to avoid and skip over the cross: to avoid the suffering and injustice that is constantly taking over the lives of those around us?

And yet, as followers of Jesus, we are called to be resurrection people, living lives here and now that proclaim the promise of new life to both our neighbors and ourselves.  And to avoid and skip over the pain and suffering of those around us and even within our own lives is to choose to not accept and proclaim new, everlasting life.  For we know that we cannot have and experience the resurrection without first experiencing what comes before it.

And so those joyful shouts of “Hosannas” we shouted as we waved our palm branches this past Sunday have now become angry shouts of “Crucify!”

But this is life, isn’t it? There have and will be times in our lives when we think we are just about out of the wilderness; just about ready to see and experience new life… But just as we begin waving our palm branches and shouting “Hosanna! Salvation has come!” – things unexpectedly take a downhill turn. Those we trust the most may turn on us and betray us, the crowds around us might spit on us and mock us, and what looks like our escape from captivity sometimes ends up being the very thing that captures us and leads us on our own painful journey on a dirty and bumpy road through Jerusalem.

But it is in these times when we need the cross the most. It is in these times when we realize that we – indeed – need a God who was not only resurrected, but who also walked a similar path. That we need a God who knows what it’s like to experience broken relationships, grieve the loss of loved ones, watch those closest to him look directly in the face of injustice, and be betrayed by friends and ridiculed by crowds. And when things get really dark, we need a God who knows what it is like to feel completely and utterly alone and abandoned – even by his own Father, even by God – to the point where he cried out in his final moments of anguish and pain: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When we skip over and avoid the cross, we miss out on a God who is with us in the flesh, walking alongside us as we walk what may sometimes be a long, lonely road.

But to skip out on the cross also causes us to miss out on a radical and bold Jesus we are all called to follow. For, it was Jesus’ loud, subversive voice that challenged injustice and proclaimed on behalf of the “least of these” that got him into trouble in the first place and led him to be silenced on the cross.

But – although those who nailed Jesus there did so to suppress him, after Jesus breathed his last breath, the temple curtain tore in two, the earth shook, and the rocks split.

Death did not have the final say that dark night.

And after a few days, we will realize that Jesus’ voice was shouting and proclaiming louder than ever before as his broken and bloody body hung silently and still on the cross.

Brothers and sisters, we need the cross.

So as we gather together this evening, let us follow Jesus toward it – remembering – as we do – that he is right alongside us as we take every step.  Because when we do follow him, we might be overwhelmed at how much we really do need this loud, radical, and personal Jesus of the cross that we too often miss – the One who will soon lead us past the cross and onto the empty tomb.