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Archive for May, 2011

This morning I was proud to sponsor a new member into the family of Divinity Lutheran Church.  I love the days when I see my church family open our arms wide and welcome a new brother or sister in Christ.  Whether it is through baptism or reaffirmation of faith, I love standing beside someone who is taking a pivotal moment in their faith journey and lifting my voice with them in praise.  It reminds me of the sacredness that comes with being an active part of one communal body.  This experience comes on the cusp of my return from my first Via de Cristo weekend in southern Ohio, another experience which allowed me to live in the grace that is a communal body of God. 

Before I embarked on my weekend, like many pilgrims, I had no idea what was in store for me.  I had seen members of my home church return home with an almost reverent glow about them.  When I would ask them what made their experience so memorable, I was typically met with the response, “It is not something you can explain, it is something that you experience.”  While the practical aspect of my personality did find those comments a little too cloak-and-dagger-mysterious for my liking, I now know what they meant. 

The best way for me to describe Via de Cristo is with one word – freedom.  It is the freedom to talk and worship in a safe, loving, supportive environment about what has shaped our faith, what guides or faith, and what stunts our faith.  It is the freedom to gather with other Christians who are also in a journey of self-discovery.  It is the freedom to uncover how God continues to speak to each of us individually on discerning where our independent journey is leading us, and how it connects to the collective journey of the church.  It is the freedom to bask in Christ’s love with people who celebrate that you and your brothers and sisters are entrenched in that love.  For many people, Via de Cristo is like standing on a mountain top, seeing for the first time how God’s grace and love surrounds every essence our being. 

I’ll admit that for me, Via de Cristo wasn’t a “mountain top” experience.  My “mountain top” experience came the day after I was officially entranced as a candidate into the ordination process of the ELCA Northeaster Ohio Synod.  I was entranced on a Tuesday, and the next evening I gave a meditation for a Wednesday Lenten service on the topic of God’s recognition of our gifts.  I’ll never forget standing at the pulpit, smiling from ear to ear, as the Holy Spirit reaffirmed in my heart what I had written on paper.  At that moment, I had fully embraced that not only did I recognize how God was calling me to serve the communal body, but that the same body was also embracing that calling.  It was magical, and that moment on my mountain is what has given me the confidence to embrace opportunities like Via de Cristo.  Had God not brought me to the top of my mountain, I wouldn’t have been ready to give myself over to the experience of VDC, an experience that has truthfully enhanced my life.

This morning, as I introduced the member I am so thrilled to sponsor, I saw a new person begin the climb to the top of her mountain.  I don’t know if she will one day reach the top on a VDC weekend, or at a Lenten service, or perhaps an afternoon walking outside as the sun warms her cheek.  It is her mountain to climb, and our job as a community is to demonstrate the freedom that comes with living a life that embraces God’s love for us.  It is our job to offer climbing tools that will make her journey easier – prayer, fellowship, friendship, honesty, confidentiality and compassion.  It is our job to show her the freedom of taking risks by serving as a safety-net of support if she stumbles.  And by uplifting new climbers, we too can return to the top of the mountain, and renew the freedom within ourselves.

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“Do not mirror evil” – Walter Wink

This past weekend I attended a seminar with Dr. Jon Pahl entitled “Sex and Salvation.”  What struck me the most about the three days I studied with him was the message of non-violence he promoted.  He articulated that the best way for us to uphold our beliefs on salvation is to practice peace in every component in our lives – from how we speak to our spouses, to how we address others in public, and how we read our scripture.  I was moved, and couldn’t help but wonder if the conflicts we experience when addressing LGBT issues came from a place of spiritual infidelity.  If we are truly being faithful to Christ’s lessons of loving God and loving others, then it should be easy for us to promote peace in all aspects of our lives, both through our prayer and our actions.

I was rolling this idea around in my mind when I turned on the news and learned about the death of Osama Bin Laden.  I honestly don’t know how I feel about the situation.  At first, there’s a part of me that feels a great sense of peace in knowing that the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 finally have a finite end to their horror.  There’s a part of me that feels proud that our country has not stopped seeking answers and retribution for the innocent loss of our fellow countrymen.  But there is a baser part of me that can’t help but be appalled at the spectacle the media is making over this murder.

I’ll never forget 9/11.  I was in high-school, and my choir director had heard about the first plane crash and had turned on the news in class.  I watched as the second plane flew into the tower.  I remember being so overwhelmed with grief that I became physically numb and dizzy and had to sit down. School was evacuated, and that evening I sat with my family in a vigil at Divinity Lutheran Church, trying to wrap my head around the reason for this terrible loss.  I remember feeling nauseous with watching the following news reports where I saw Al-Qaeda operatives celebrating in the streets over our serious and profound loss.  In the years to come, I remember seeing the discrimination of American Muslims within our own society, the social fear of cultures of non-Arian descent, and the continued separation of “us” and “them.”  Through it all I felt, and continue to feel, a strong affection for those who had to fight against their fear and live Christ’s message of peace, acceptance and non-violence. 

It is because of that affection I will not celebrate in the street that a heinous man is dead.  I will not rejoice in the loss of a human life, no matter how despicable, degrading, and unjust his life was.  I will not lower myself to his level and lose my fidelity to Jesus and the ideals that help the families of Bin Laden’s victims heal.  I will not mirror evil.

I write these things with nothing but the highest regard for my nation, and for the military and government officials who have to make the decisions I could never make.  I am proud, so very proud, to live in a nation that will stop at nothing to protect my life and the life of the American people.  I have a cousin who is a police officer, and my maternal grandfather served this nation faithfully in the military and Cleveland Strike Force.  It is because of my affection for my family and our military that I will not shout “USA!” upon seeing the tortured face of Bin Laden.  No matter how we feel about the loss of his life, one of our own had to pull the trigger.  One of our own buried him at sea.  One of our own has gone through an experience that no person should have to experience to protect the lives of our nation. 

That is not something I take lightly, and in my gratitude for safety and freedom, I will continue to live a life promoting non-violence.  It is out of respect to our military that I will grieve with them in the experiences they have faced for the greater good.  When I lift my voice in prayer tonight, it will not be in thanksgiving for the death of a dictator, but in thanksgiving that through Christ’s salvation we find eternal peace.

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