Tag Archives: justice

Guest Post at Bold Cafe: “A God Who Shows Up”

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Today I’m writing over at Bold Cafe: Women of the ELCA.
“This first Christmas was not a magical holiday homecoming story full of family turkey dinners, carol singing and football games. It did not involve decorating trees, baking cookies and opening wrapped gifts.
Rather, the first Christmas is a refugee story.
And it tells of a young, poor, homeless asylum seeking couple who fearfully flee their country and become residents in a foreign land in order to save their child’s life.
And yet, this story is also a story of hope. It is in the midst of this violent and fearful event when God shows up in the flesh: not as a king who has worldly power, and not as one who is distant and does not understand the plight of the marginalized. Rather, God shows up as one of the marginalized. God shows up in the flesh in a dirty stable, as a vulnerable baby, to a terrified young homeless couple on the margins of society.”
You can read the full article here.

Guest Post at RevGalBlogPals: “The Pastoral Is Political: Be Alert this Advent

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Today I’m writing over at RevGalBlogPals.

“Jesus says: ‘Be alert at all times.’

In other words: wake up and stay woke. And when you see the suffering and injustice of this world, look for the ways God is calling you to proclaim justice and peace and to offer God’s love to those in need. And then rise up and act.

This can be daunting when our news feed constantly updates us on one horrific tragedy after another. The world’s needs just seem too great.

Yet, Jesus does not end here.

‘Hold onto the hope of my return,’ he says, ‘so that your hearts are not weighed down with worries of this life.’ Raise your heads so that you might also see signs of the Kingdom of God that are already present and sprouting up like leaves on a fig tree. Look for signs that God is with us now and that the reign of God is near.

You see, it is necessary for us to find hope as we look for the signs of how God’s Kingdom is already present in this world. No, we must not ignore or downplay the injustice and suffering around us. However, in times such as these, we will not be able to rise up if we only focus our eyes on what is terrible.

So this Advent, may we slow down and choose to be alert. 

You can read the full article here.

“A Place at the Table” – Sermon on Mark 10:46-52

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They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.” – Mark 10:46-52

Jesus, his disciples, and a large crowd that had been following Jesus are in Jericho. And they are about to leave town and continue their important journey toward Jerusalem. As they are getting ready to leave, they pass by a man named Bartimaeus, who is sitting alongside the road. He is a beggar, and he is blind. And when he hears that it’s Jesus of Nazareth who is passing by him, he begins to shout out: “Jesus, son of David! Have mercy on me!”

Now many in the crowd sternly order him to be silent. And it’s no wonder they do. This man is marginalized in many capacities. He is blind, which many at that time believed was due to his sin and his lack of faithfulness. And he is poor – and most likely experiencing homelessness. And therefore, he is deemed one of the lowest of the lows, an outsider who doesn’t deserve to participate in the life of the community and must be pushed to the complete outskirts of society.

So who does this man think he is, shouting out in a public place at a respected Rabbi and his close disciples: his devout and faithful students? He needs to be put in his place. He needs to be silenced.

*****

In the past several weeks we have seen many examples of people attempting to silence and erase others around us – particularly those on the margins. At the end of September, we saw Dr. Christine Blasey Ford bravely share her incredibly painful and traumatic story of being sexually assaulted as a teenager, only to have her story be brushed aside. And, instead of fully respecting and listening to her story, many – including those in powerful positions in this country – have questioned her integrity and her honesty, have mocked her, and at times have even called her a liar.

And this silencing of Dr. Ford shines light on the incredibly deep-rooted problem we have in this country of not believing and of silencing sexual assault and rape survivors (particularly those who are women and non-binary persons.)

This week, we are also watching the migrant families desperately caravaning on foot across Mexico toward our border, seeking a place where they will be freed from oppression and violence. Seeking safety for themselves and for their children. And yet, while this is a horrific humanitarian crisis, these asylum seekers are being demonized. They are constantly being depicted in the media and by many of our national leaders as a mob that is full of “very bad people” and that is invading our country and therefore needs to be silenced and stopped.

And last Sunday we got wind that the Dept. of Health and Human Services is attempting to change the legal definition of gender, determining gender only on biological traits that are identifiable at or before birth, which would erase trans and non-binary persons and will take away many of their civil rights.

And – as Rev. M Barclay, the first transperson who is openly non-binary to be ordained as deacon in the United Methodist Church – stated: “The spiritual trauma of being perpetually told who we are isn’t real, that others shouldn’t believe us or support us, and that our well-being isn’t of collective significance is doing so much damage.”

*****

As the crowds surrounding Jesus tried to silence the poor, blind man named Bartimaeus, so too are the crowds in our midst today trying to silence and erase those around us who are already on the margins and are most vulnerable.

And I think it can be easy to want to silence those around us who’s experiences and insights are different than our own or whose views make us uncomfortable and are difficult to understand… It’s often our tendency to silence those who’s stories and insights call for change, because that change often affects us. When change that requires inclusion of all persons takes place, it means that those of us who already have places at the table must make some changes within ourselves, too.

Because when we make room at the table for those who have been excluded, it means our space at the table gets a little smaller and we may feel a little more cramped and a little less comfortable than we did before. And when we offer platforms for those who have been silenced to speak their voice, that means the time we get to speak lessens and it means that there are other insights that we need to listen to, sometimes ones that will challenge our own perspectives and actions.

And this kind of change can be hard because it means we will likely need to give something up: whether it’s our pride, our comfort, our social status… our need to always be right, our constant use of space in the world, our positions of power.

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And I wonder if this was the case for Jesus’ disciples and the crowds surrounding him when they sought to silence Bartimaeus. I wonder if they sought to silence him in order to maintain their insider status and their positions of power.

I wonder if they feared that if they gave these things up, they would be valued and loved less. But even though Jesus loves and values his disciples and those in the crowds, he is not going to put up with their silencing, dehumanizing, and excluding of one of God’s beloved children. And he is not going to allow them to continue to hold onto their societal power and privilege that uplifts them while pushes others to the margins.

Because for Jesus: there are no hierarchies. There are no outsiders or last and least. For Jesus, ALL are beloved children of God, beautifully and wonderfully made in God’s image. ALL deserve to be listened to, treated with dignity, and are worthy of equality and justice. For Jesus, there are no walls or borders that keep people – particularly those most vulnerable – out. And ALL are welcome at Jesus’s table.

We saw Jesus calling his disciples out when they sought to maintain a hierarchical status last week in our passage in Mark. When James and John ask Jesus to grant them seats next to him in his glory, which basically is asking for high societal status and power for all eternity, Jesus tells them that whoever wishes to be first must be last. And whoever wishes to be greatest must humble themselves and serve others instead. “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve,” he explains, “And to give his life as a ransom for many.”

And Jesus continues to proclaim who he is and who he calls his disciples to be in our passage this morning. Instead of brushing Bartimaeus aside, continuing on his journey, and allowing him to be silenced, Jesus stops in his tracks, stands still and tells his disciples to call Bartimaeus to him.

And when Bartimaeus comes to him, Jesus does something that is surprising and so different from the cultural norms of his day. Jesus asks what he can do for Bartimaeus.

I think Jesus’ question here is so surprising because so often we feel we know what is best for others… even when we don’t identify with those individuals or know what it’s like to be in their shoes…

And we often tend to speak on their behalf, without having their voices centered at the table, even if we don’t know what it’s like to be them: even if we don’t know what it’s like to be blind, to be poor, to be experiencing homelessness. Even if we don’t know what it’s like to be a youth today, to be a person of color or an immigrant in our country, to be a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Or to be whatever blank we can fill in…

So often we try to determine what life is like for others and what is best for them without even listening to their stories, experiences, perspectives, & what they say they need.

I think a good example of this took place earlier this week on Megyn Kelly’s talk show. She invited a panel to come on her show to discuss whether or not it is racist for white people to wear black face when they dress up for Halloween. Megyn’s argument was that it wasn’t racist because she said when she was a kid, it seemed to be okay.

But Amber Ruffin, comedian and one of the writers of the Late Night Show with Seth Myers pointed out that there was a big problem with what took place on Megyn’s show. Amber immediately noticed that all the people on the panel who were sitting around the table were white.

“How are you going to have a bunch of white people sit together and figure out what’s racist?” Amber asked. “White people don’t get to decide what’s racist. If I punch you, I don’t decide if it hurts or not. You do.”

And this scenario is so common. We tend to do this often. Whether it’s a bunch of men talking about what women need or experience or a bunch of people who have never experienced mental illness talking about those who do, and the list goes on.

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But this kind of silencing and exclusion from the table is unacceptable to Jesus. And in our passage this morning, he shows us another way.

He asks Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?”

You see, Jesus does not insist that he understands Bartimaeus’ experiences or knows what he needs and what is best for him. Rather, Jesus asks Bartimaeus to share his story and to state what he needs.

Jesus offers Bartimaeus – a person who had been ostracized and silenced for so long – the same kind of dignity all persons should have: the ability to speak for himself. Jesus makes room for Bartimaeus at the table and offers him a platform to share his story and his perspective. Jesus makes room for him to demand justice and equality that he has been denied. Jesus listens to him, believes him, and acknowledges his suffering. And then Jesus praises Bartimaeus for his persistence and resistance. “Your faith has made you well.”

And when Bartimaeus asks Jesus to restore his sight, and thus release him from the systemic oppression he had been experiencing because of his blindness, Jesus offers him healing and freedom and invites Bartimaeus to follow him on his way.

*****

Brothers, sisters, siblings: this story is good news. In our passage today, Jesus reminds this poor, blind man who he is and who’s he is. And Jesus reminds us of this, as well.

You see, Jesus loves us, and claims us as his own: beloved and sacred children of God: Each with our own stories and insights that deserve to be heard and held with care and love. And he calls all of us to follow him on his way of making space for and offering compassionate arms, listening ears, and believing hearts to those who have otherwise been silenced. And THIS, my friends, is where we will experience freedom and healing.

And for those who have been silenced or pushed to the margins: there is good news here, too. Because no matter how much the crowds may try to take away your dignity and worth: Jesus affirms it and marks you with his unconditional love.

Because you are beloved. You are beautifully and wonderfully made in God’s image. You are a cherished child of God. You deserve to be listened to and to be believed, and your story is sacred. And no crowd or individual that says otherwise can take that away from you.

When Bartimaeus called out to Jesus, “have mercy on me,” Jesus stopped in his tracks and with compassion he invited Bartimaeus to share his story and what he needed, asking: “What can I do for you?” And through his listening ear and loving care, Jesus offered Bartimaeus freedom and healing.

And he offers this to you, as well.

Amen.

 

ELCA Youth Gathering 2018: E.C.T. Youth Group Posts and Media Coverage

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Want to read up on the ELCA youth Gathering 2018 in Houston?  Below are links to all of the E.C.T. (Edgewater Congregations Together) Youth Group daily blog posts during the trip, a link to the ELCA Youth Gathering youtube channel with videos of speakers, worship, etc. from the youth Gathering, and some media coverage of the Youth Gathering.

ELCA Youth Gathering Youtube Channel (with videos of speakers, worship, recaps, etc.)

E.C.T. blog posts from the ELCA Youth Gathering and Multicultural Youth Leadership 2018: 

Day 1 of the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event

Day 2 of the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event

Day 3 of the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event

Day 4: Final Day of the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event & First Day of the ELCA Youth Gathering

Day 5: ELCA Youth Gathering Synod Day #familiesbelongtogether

Day 6: Service Learning Day at the ELCA Youth Gathering

Day 7: Interactive Learning Day at the ELCA Youth Gathering

Day 8: ELCA Youth Gathering Closing Worship & Exploring Houston

Sermon I Preached Sunday, July 8 (following the ELCA Youth Gathering):

“This Changes Everything” – Sermon on Mark 6:1-13

Media Coverage of the ELCA Youth Gathering:

Coverage of the Families Belong Together Rally and Action Led by our E.C.T. Youth & a Few Other Chicago Youth:

Christian Teenagers in Houston Protest Immigrant Family Separation – Houston Chronicle

Protesting Christian Youth Ask, Who Would Jesus Detain – Houston Chronicle

General Coverage of the ELCA Youth Gathering:

30,000 Teens in Houston For Lutheran Youth Conference – Fox 26 News (Houston)

Lutheran Youth Gathering with Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and Youth Gathering Director Molly Beck-Dean – Fox 26 News (Houston)

30,000 Youth to Descend on Houston for Lutheran Gathering – Houston Chronicle

Lutheran Youth Gathering Helps Teens Relate to Harvey, Maria Disasters – Houston Chronicle

Teens Tackle Human Trafficking in Houston – Houston Public Media

Day 6: Service Learning Day at the ELCA Youth Gathering

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Yesterday was our service learning day for the ELCA Youth Gathering. So we got up (suuuper early), put our orange t-shirts on, and had our grocery bought breakfast.

But despite how early it was, we still managed to have a lot of fun!

Then we hopped on the train and headed to the NRG Center to catch our service learning bus. The train was a sea of orange!

We arrived at our service learning destination with one other church from the Metro-Chicago synod: Independence Heights Park, which is located in the national register of historic places Independence Heights, the first black municipality in Texas. We first heard about the history of the community.

Then we got to work. We repainted murals around the park.

Some of the kids attending the summer camp program at the park joined us.

When we finished our murals, we hung out and played games with the kids at the camp.

Our youth group did a fantastic job with the children! One girl, Nevaeh, had tried to make a basketball shot before but could never make it in the hoop. Our youth encouraged her and showed her what she needed to do. At one point, she said she could not do it. But our youth encouraged her, and she ended up making 15-20 baskets! Our group saw God in these children’s and encounters with them and realized that encouragement of others goes a very long way!

At the end of our service day, we headed back to the NRG Arena to have some fun at the community life center.

At dinner time, we had to walk a little ways so we could have some good Texan barbecue at Pappa’s BBQ.

Then we headed back to the NRG Stadium for our mass gathering.

The theme for this day was God’s Grace Changes Everything.

We first heard from Elizabeth Peter, who said: “No matter how you’ve been excluded, god brings you into the fold and says you matter. And there is no limit to God’s grace.”

Then we heard a powerful message from Michaela Shelley, who told her story about her own struggles and how she experienced God’s grace grace in and through them.

She said: “God’s grace isn’t just about forgiveness. It’s also about how God leads us into the person we will be. No matter how many times you may curse God, God will always love you and you will always matter. This is grace.”

We heard another powerful message from the Rev. Will Starkweather about his struggles with anxiety and depression. He said: “Our God is in business of makings beautiful people and things out of broken people and things. We are all recovering from something. There’s grace for that.

Whatever you’re carrying, you are what you: a beloved child of God.”

Finally we heard from the Rev. Nadia Bolz Weber, who explained:

“If your life really sucks right now, just know this is not your ultimate life long reality

Grace is way in which god is great heavenly composter making beautiful things out of feasies

Nobody ever becomes their ideal self. An ideal self is a lie. The truth is an ideal self doesn’t exist. The self God loves is your actual authentic self. The word for this is grace. God doesn’t wait for you to get a little better at or a little skinnier than or a little whatever before loving you. You are magnificently imperfect. And God loves this authentic you. God’s voice calls us worthy.”

She ended having the entire gathering of 30,000 youth and adults publicly renounce the Accuser… we publicly renounced ableism, heteronormativity, sexism, White Supremacy, perfectionism, and the lies we tell ourselves and hear from others.

What a powerful day! We look forward to sleeping in a bit tomorrow!

Day 5: ELCA Youth Gathering Synod Day – #familiesbelongtogether

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Today was a full day at the ELCA Youth Gathering!We started the morning by taking the train to the NRG Center.Once we arrived, we grabbed some food and hung out in the Interactive Center.And guess who I got to chat with for a while: Kalleb Miller (former E.C.T. Youth who is at the ELCA Youth Gathering as a representative for his college Valparaiso). It’s such a gift to be able to see youth grow into the people they are as young adults!Several of our youth took this time to prepare for the rally and march they would lead later that day in response to the family separations and family detentions.Since today was Synod Day, we gathered with the ELCA Metro-Chicago Synod for worship, fun bonding activities, and small group discussions.There, the ELCA Metro-Chicago Synod Bishop Wayne Miller preached about the woman at the well, who was isolated and shunned and yet Jesus appeared to her and showed up for her. This woman was a witness to his radical love.But this woman was not the kind of witness who just sees something take place but doesn’t do anything in response. Bishop Miller explained that being the kind of witnesses of Christ’s love that we are called to is not that easy.

He said: “We don’t remember the woman because of what she saw or heard. We remember her because of what she did.”Bishop Miller explained that the kind of witnesses we are called to be are those who don’t just see and hear things. Rather, we are called to be witnesses who respond to the injustices we see in the world and who speak out and take a stand.When we take the risks of being witnesses working for justice for all people, change can happen.The theme for Synod Day is “We Belong Together,” which seems like no coincidence, given that the National Families Belong Together day of action is June 30. So immediately after the synod day worship, our E.C.T. Youth and a few other youth invited the synod to be witnesses of God’s radical love and justice by speaking out and taking a stand against the separation of families and detainment of families at the border. We belong together! Families Belong together and in community (not in detention centers!)First, Ngbarazere and a youth from another church asked the synod to call their legislators and then to participate in a few action stations (put on a yellow Families Belong Together wristband and share one with someone they meet that day, decorate cards for children in detention centers, sign letters to legislators, and participate in a social media campaign.)Following the action stations, the group gathered together for a picture with Bishop Miller…And then we prayed with our feet by going on a short march, which was led by the processional cross.We ended in front of a statue of a family being reunited.Several of our E.C.T. youth spoke and/or led chants and songs during the rally, including Melanie, Xanath, Jenny, Maku, Johnny, and Ngbarazere.And Melanie and Xanath were interviewed by Telemundo and Houston Chronicle.

Houston Press also picked up the story and published:

1. Slideshow with 40 pictures featuring ECT and other Chicago area Youth found here.

2. This article quoting two ECT youth (who were key leaders/speakers/chanters/singers in the rally and march) found here.

These youth did an incredible job and truly were bold witnesses proclaiming the good news of God’s love for ALL people! This is what it means to be the Church: the body of Christ.

I am sooo incredibly proud of all our youth for showing up and bearing witness, leading us in what Jesus said is the greatest commandment- loving God and loving our neighbor – and showing us what it means to live out our call to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God! In times such as these, it is these youth who inspire me, teach me, and give me hope that we will indeed have a better world!God’s Love Changes Everything! This Changes Everything!

After the rally, we ate, chilled a bit in the interactive center, and then headed to our mass gathering with 30,000 ELCA youth and leaders in the NRG Stadium.The theme for the night was God’s Love Changes Everything. We heard from Rev. Aaron Fuller, ELCA pastor and command chaplain, who said:”Life is hard, but we shouldn’t have to do it alone. It is because of the people who have shown me love, that I experience God’s love…

We all know that people in our world need us to walk alongside them. They don’t need us to try to fix their problems. They just need us to love them.We love people so they will know their lives are a gift, so they know that their lives matter, and so they know that they are not alone.God’s love moves us past our fears and prejudices.”We were reminded by Deacon Erin Power that in times like these, people (including us) need to hear over and over and over again: “you belong here.”

And we heard from Marlon Hall that:

“You were born to make an indelible mark on the world that no one else can make. You do this by the love of God.God’s loves can grow up from the ashes of our burnt expectations.”We were also led in some incredible worship.placeholder://After our mass gathering, we took the train home and ended our night checking in with each other about our day.And of course there was some fun during free time at the hotel:We are looking to forward to what tomorrow brings us!

Day 4: Final Day of the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event & First Day of the ELCA Youth Gathering

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Today was our last day at the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event.

After breakfast, we packed our bags and headed to our closing worship.

There, Pastor Yehiel Curry from Shekinah Chapel in Chicago led us in a Libation Ceremony.

The theme for MYLE today was “ONE in Christ,” based on:

“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it] 17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.” – Ephesians 12:14-19

So Pastor Curry PREACHED about our oneness in Christ and reminded us that Christ brings down the walls of hostility that divide us.

“It is not black families alone affected by mass incarceration; we are affected by mass incarceration. Why? Because we are one in Christ.

The Virgin Islands, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Houston: ‘they’ didn’t have a hurricane; we had a hurricane. Why? Because we are one in Christ.

It is not just immigrant families being separated; we are being separated. Why?

Because we are one in Christ.”

He explained that if we want to create change, we need to start within us.

“When you change your heart, you can change your mind. When you change your mind, you can change your community. When you change your community, you can change your city. When you change your city, you can change your state. When you can change your state, you can change your nation. When you can change your nation, you can change your world.

When you can say this is my brother, this is my sister, this is my family: THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING! We are ONE in Christ.”

Pastor Curry explained that it is when we immerse ourselves with others who may look, speak, talk, and act differently than we do and get to know them, that we will begin to realize that we are more alike than we are different.

He saw this taking place at the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event this week.

Pastor Curry said last night he saw black, white, Latinx, and Asian youth dancing together. And when we can dance together, share music and fellowship and call each other a siblings, THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING!

We ended MYLE with a blessing to go out into the world and proclaim Jesus’ peace and justice for ALL people.

The rest of the afternoon was spent getting ready to head to the ELCA Youth Gathering main event.

At 2:00pm, we finally arrived at our hotel. And as we waited for our rooms, some of us swam and others watched some World Cup games.

We grabbed dinner nearby.

And then, since our hotel is in the Medical Center, we hopped on the metro rail as headed to the NRG Stadium for our first mass gathering.

With 30,000 youth and pastors/adult leaders gathering in one place, we had to do a lot of waiting… but we found lots of ways to bond while doing so!

Our first mass gathering was excellent!

We began with some fun music:

We were greeted by ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton:

And throughout the night, we heard the ELCA Youth Gathering theme: “This Changes Everything.” We also heard this evening’s sub-theme: “God’s Call Changes Everything” through multiple call stories.

We worshipped together:

And then we heard a powerful message from Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. (He is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned. Under his leadership, EJI has won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, exonerating innocent death row prisoners, confronting abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill and aiding children prosecuted as adults.)

Bryan explained that our call is to change the world.

He explained that there are four things we need to do to change the world:

1. God calls us to get closer to the margins. There is power in proximity. We need to get close to those who are being excluded and suffering. This is how we can change the world.

2. When we see injustice we need to speak out and talk about/address our history of racial injustice.

3. We need to stay hopeful. This can be difficult because hope requires us to believe things we cannot see. Hopelessness is the enemy of justice. It holds us back from doing what we can to make change.

4. We have to be willing to do things that are uncomfortable and difficult in order to pursue justice.

He concluded: “I believe with this room full of 1000s of young people who are willing to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, we WILL change the world.”

We concluded the gathering with more worship.

There is something s powerful about singing “This Little Light of Mine, I’m gonna Let it Shine” with 30,000 young people.)

We ended the evening with a lot of walking and waiting. But we found ways to make it fun!

We look forward to our first full day at the ELCA Youth Gathering tomorrow!

Day 2 of the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event

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Our second day of the Multicultural Youth Leadership was packed with fun, worship, service, and learning.

After breakfast, we started out with “Jumpstart,” where the worship group “Ase” from Shekinah Chapel – an ELCA church in Chicago – led us in some incredible music to get us ready for our service learning project. (They rocked the house!)

And our very own Hope and Ngbarazere, helped lead us in dance!

Oh, and so did Jordan!

After Jumpstart, we hopped on a bus with a few other church groups to head to our service learning site.

Our group was assigned to work with the Prestige Learning Institute, which offers ESL classes and other skills classes to new immigrants and refugees in the immediate community. We ended up weeding and planting a community vegetable garden in the backyard of the home of one of the teachers at the institute. Refugee families from the institute will be able to work in the garden once a week and have free and fresh vegetables. Additionally, this garden will serve as a wonderful space for community building.

When we arrived, we were overwhelmed at how much weeding and work was to be done.

However, we got to work!

And made some new friends while doing so.

And despite the heat and the rain, we worked together and created a beautiful community vegetable garden! Shannon and her husband were so grateful for how much all of our hands could get done in one afternoon!

God’s work, Our hands!

After our work project and a little down time, we heard a really important story from Nomar, one of the MYLE volunteers who helped us with our service learning project today. Nomar is a college student in Puerto Rico, and he told us a little about what it’s been like as a Puerto Rican after the devastating Hurricane Maria.

Very little attention and media coverage has been paid to the stories of Puerto Ricans. So please listen to his story here:

Part 1:

Part 2:

After talking with Nomar, we did a little youth group bonding over dinner in the University of Houston dining hall.

Then we headed to the U of Houston’s Cullen Performance Hall for another night of amazing worship.

Today’s sub-theme at the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event was: One mission, many gifts (1Corinthians 12:4-11).

Rev. Patrick Gahagan reminded us:

“YOU are a gift because of who you are, not because of what you do. YOU are a gift, not because of what you do, but because you ARE.”

At the end of worship, we heard from the pastors and leaders of the Latin American and Caribbean congregations that are attending MYLE. They presented a beautiful dance:

After worship, youth met with their small groups and then we gathered together to celebrate Graciela’s birthday!

Then we headed back to the Cullen Performance Center for an awesome talent show. Although there wasn’t enough time for them to perform in front of the entire group, Steve and Ngbarazere did a private performance for our youth group:

Go Darth Vader! (Steve wrote this song on his own! We are so proud of you!)

Finally, we ended the night checking in with each other about our day. We were so grateful to have Kalleb (college student, MYLE volunteer, and former E.C.T. Youth Group member) join us!

What a wonderful and blessed day!

Listen to some of the day’s highlights from Maku and Xanath:

Day 1 of the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event

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Meet the 13 Edgewater Congregations Together youth, 2 young adult leaders, and pastor who are going to the Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE).

MYLE is a pre-event to the triennial ELCA Youth Gathering, which “empowers multicultural youth groups, youth of color, and youth whose primary language is other than English to claim their story as God’s story” and to grow as leaders who serve and work for justice when they return to their home communities.

As described on the Youth Gathering website, at MYLE:

Culture is explored. Participants will experience an inclusive community that seeks to build understanding and appreciation of the various cultures and ethnicities that are a part of this church.

Leaders are formed. Youth and adults will learn about the issues in their communities and how to effect change.

Identity is claimed. Participants will be encouraged to uncover their story and live out their God-given calling in the world.

Faith is deepened. Youth and adults will explore the intersection of faith and life and how our faith calls us to act justly in the world.

Friends are made. Participants will connect with peers who are looking to build relationships and have a good time.

This year, the ELCA Youth Gathering and MYLE are taking place in Houston. So today our group started the day at 3:00am in order to catch our 6:10am flight.

Despite how sleepy we were, we still had a lot of fun bonding over new experiences (no matter how scary some of them were.)

Here, John and Maku talk about their first time flying (or first time flying since they can remember.)

And here’s the infamous first response video to the flight taking off…

We definitely had some fun times on our flights to Dallas and to Houston!

And then it became official! We finally arrived!

Once we landed, we took a shuttle to the University of Houston, which will be where we spend our time for the duration of MYLE.

And guess who greeted us and showed us around when we did:

(Kalleb, right, one of E.C.T.’s original youth group members and now incoming junior at Valparaiso University! He is serving as a volunteer for MYLE and the Youth Gathering.)

The theme for MYLE this year is “ONE,” based on Ephesians 2:14-19, which ends by staying: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.”

Each day has a sub-theme, and today’s sub-theme is: “One body, many parts” based on 1 Corinthians 12:14-26. Each one of us matters, is important, has so much to offer the world, and is needed by God JUST THE WAY WE ARE!

Here, young adult leader (and former E.C.T. youth) Ngbarazere and youth Lillian and Hope explain some of the highlights of the day:

There were so many powerful moments during worship:

Following worship, youth broke out into small groups (which consists of youth from many different churches and locations.) They will meet with these small groups throughout the rest of our time at MYLE.

And of course, we had to end the evening with a little fun!

We can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us!

Guest Post at Conversations on the Fringe: “What is Very Biblical About Separating Families At Our Border?”

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“So let’s talk about that Bible verse that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions quoted to justify the separation of families at the border…

Many Christians throughout history and across the world actually uphold the theological belief that Jesus is Lord. In Ancient Palestine, this notion of Christ’s Lordship was a radical and political statement. To claim Jesus’ Lordship was to challenge the Roman Empire (and the oppressive “laws of the government”). To profess that Jesus is Lord was to state that Caesar was NOT Lord. In other words, Jesus is Lord over all human authority figures and governmental systems. To claim that Jesus is Lord was basically saying: “I will submit to Jesus and not to any human authority or governmental system that does not uphold Jesus’ law.”

And as Paul urged his readers in Romans 13 (just a few verses after the ones Sessions quoted): “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”

… Separating children from their families is NOT “very biblical.” (Actually, it’s not biblical at all). Rather, it is downright cruel and pure evil!

… Jesus must be weeping as he watches our national leaders and other Christians continue to use the Bible to justify such cruelty and hate!”

#familiesbelongtogether

#keepfamiliestogether

#endfamilyseparation

You can read the rest here.