Justice for All

I am participating in this month’s synchroblog (a blog where numerous bloggers blog on the same topic) which can be found at http://synchroblog.wordpress.com. This month’s synchroblog topic is “Gay Marriage.” I respectfully post knowing that we all are not going to agree, but this is how I feel and is not necessarily the views of my place of employment.

I just returned from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) National Youth Gathering which was held in Detroit, Michigan. 30,000 Youth and adults converged on the city of Detroit as we heard their stories and served their community. We also heard wonderful speakers that helped us learn what it means to proclaim justice, build bridges and offer hope to all of God’s people.

The seven youth along with all of the youth gathered continually gave me hope for the future. They want to make a difference. They want to show God’s love to all of God’s people. They want to proclaim justice. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, justice is defined as “the quality of being just, impartial, or fair.”
So, my friends, what is fair? To them, fair is showing equality to all of God’s people even those that our different than us.

As I look at our society, I cannot help but think about how we all could use a lesson in marriage and relationships. Statistics show that the divorce rate is high. And many members of society are getting married way to young. Yet so many think it is wrong for two men or two women to get married. If these two can provide a stable home and show love to a child, do they too not deserve the same rights as a married heterosexual couple? I have a friend who is in a committed same sex relationship and has a son with her spouse. All I have ever seen is them show love to their child.

I realize that we all come down on both sides of this issue. Yet, my friends, Jesus was the one who was continually showing love to all of God’s people. Jesus was never afraid to turn the world upside down and sit and break bread with tax collectors and sinners. In a post I wrote in May of 2013 here after Minnesota passed the Freedom to marry act, I shared these words: “I don’t know what Jesus will say when we all get to heaven, but what I do know is Jesus always chose love. Jesus was always the one crossing the line onto the other side. Yet I know there are people hurting tonight because of this decision…people who don’t understand. I keep coming back to Jesus’ words that night in the upper room…’that they all may be one.’ Jesus spoke these words to his disciples that last night in the upper room even though they were far from being one themselves.” (To read that post, click here: That They All May Be One)
The truth is that we are not always going to agree with each other. Yet Jesus calls us to cling to the promise that we all may be one…trusting in this One who calls us to put our differences aside and calls us to proclaim justice to all of God’s people. In all actuality, I find myself clinging to the promises of our youth who are continually ready and willing to rise up together, to proclaim justice, offer hope and build bridges with all of God’s people.
 Their actions remind me that the church is not dead, but rather is a living breathing church that is ready to shower the world with God’s love putting aside their differences and fighting for what is right. They are always ready to proclaim justice and build bridges with God’s people despite their differences. Thanks be to God for a generation that isn’t afraid to stand together and live out the words that Jesus said in the upper room that night “that we all may be one.” And as one community in Christ, we are called to “Rise up together.”

Read other synchrobloggers here: (You will find varying opinions on this topic. Be kind!)

* Justin Steckbauer: Gay Marriage, LGBTQ Issues, and the Christian Worldview
* Leah Sophia: Marriage Equality Again
* Tony Ijeh: Thoughts on Gay Marriage
* Tim Nichols: Imago Dei: Loving the Different
* Carlos Shelton: About Gay Marriage
* Wesley Rostoll: Some Things to Consider Regarding Gay Marriage

* KW Leslie: Same Sex Marriage

Forgive Us Our Sins As We Forgive Those…

I am participating in this month’s synchroblog (a blog where numerous bloggers blog on the same topic) which can be found at http://synchroblog.wordpress.com. This month’s synchroblog topic is posing this question: “What would it look like for the Church as a whole when abusive leaders are held accountable and then are reconciled? How do we do that in such a way as to let victims be heard and redemption be the end goal. What does redemption and/or reconciliation look like in real life? What does grace look like in these situations?”

“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial but rescue us from the evil one. If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”–Matthew 6:9-15

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Or in another version, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” How often do we go through the motions of reciting these words from the Lord’s Prayer without truly thinking about what they mean? How can we forgive those who have hurt us…especially if those we need to forgive are those who are leaders in our lives and who we have trusted?

I have been extremely lucky in my life to have leaders who have been wonderful leaders. Yet that is not always the case. In fact, several years ago, the synod I was serving in had an unfortunate situation happen. A member of the synod staff had been embezzling money from the organization. I’ll admit that many of us were hurt and had (still have) a hard time forgiving this man. However I am reminded of a story where neighbors of this man and his wife invited them over for supper. What a powerful witness of forgiveness and grace! The neighbors wanted him and his wife to know that it was about the act and not them as human beings.

The truth is that we are all created as saints and sinners. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Yet God promises that God will forgive us of our sins if we confess our sins. I am reminded of these words from 1 John 1:9-10; “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

As I think about all who have been hurt and experienced brokenness by a leader in the church, I find them (actually all of us;sinners)being convicted in the words we hear in verse ten. The Message translation captures 1 John 1:9-10 so well. “If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins–make a clean breast of them–he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God—make a liar out of him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.”

The reality is that all of us including leaders in the church are sinful beings. We all make mistakes. Forgiveness and grace are marvelous gifts, yet I don’t believe God is telling us to forget the sin. In fact, I think God calls all of us to seek the help, counsel and forgiveness that we need. This is shown to us through this wonderful humble servant leader God’s son Jesus Christ. Jesus was not afraid to sit with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus wasn’t afraid to pick up basin and towel and wash the feet of all God’s people even those who would later deny him and betray him. Jesus’ example of humble servanthood is the ultimate example of God’s grace. And by the humble example of Jesus, we all especially leaders in the church are called to embody a life of humble servanthood too.

“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”–2 Corinthians 5:17 (NRSV)

 “Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people–free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!!”–Ephesians 1:7 (The Message)

**Please note these are my own views and are not necessarily the views of my church.

Read other SynchoBlog posts here:

  • Justin Steckbauer – The Servant Leader: A Radical Concept
  • Mary – Can I Get A Doctor?
  • Glenn Hager – The Man Of God Myth
  • Lisa – Forgive
  • Jeremy Myers – Reconciling Mark Driscoll
  • Peggy Brown – Abi and November’s Synchroblog: Spiritual Abuse and Redemption
  • Edwin Pastor FedEx Aldrich – Shooting Stars: Of Scandal, Abuse, Restoration, and Systematic Failures
  • Liz Dyer – Sorry

    Breaking the Silence

    Mental Illness Awareness week is being observed during this week. My friend LS told me about a synchroblog (a blog where numerous bloggers blog on the same topic) which can be found at http://synchroblog.wordpress.com. This month’s synchroblog topic is Mental Illness Awareness so they are asking bloggers to share how they and their families have been affected by mental illness. So for my Day 7 of the #write31days challenge, I have decided to do just that.

    “I think I am going to have a nervous breakdown” I cannot begin to tell you how these ten words grate on my nerves. For me it is like fingernails on a chalkboard. I want to turn to the person who ignorantly has said them and reply with “No, you don’t want to. I can tell you all about what it is like.” You see, my mom had a nervous breakdown right after my younger sister was born. (She is three years younger than me) So I haven’t known anything different.  I would say that at least once a year, Mom ended up in the hospital. I remember spending a lot of time with other family members.

    Growing up, my sister and I were pretty hush-hush about Mom’s illness. We saw and knew the stigma that came with it. Our parents divorced my sophomore year of high school. It was the first time we really saw our Dad cry. I will never forget the words he spoke to us that day, “It isn’t that I don’t love your Mom anymore. It’s that I cannot handle this illness.” Even after hearing those words and in the midst of the divorce, we kept pretty quiet about Mom’s illness. In fact, it wasn’t until after I graduated high school and went to work at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp that I finally opened up about Mom’s illness. What a freeing moment that was! And now I find it is so very important for me to share our story…to help break the stigma and educate about mental illness.

    A few years ago, I had found a writing group at the local library and was so very excited to find an outlet for writing outside my job. (I work at a church and preach about once a month or so!) I write everything from poetry to short stories. Often times those poems and stories are my prayers to God so Mom often is featured or a topic of my poems. I will never forget one night when I went to the writing group and was sharing a poem I had written to Mom and to God about the illness. An individual at the group verbally jumped at me and began asking why I was writing about Mom, if she knew etc. I left that group that night in tears. Looking back now, I understand that this dear soul probably had had her own journey with mental illness and my words reopened a wound that this individual didn’t want to open up. I never saw that individual again, but my prayer is that maybe my words at least brought some healing or wholeness to her life.

    I share this story knowing that we need to be more open about sharing our stories of mental illness. Mental illness and depression affect more people than we care to admit. The truth is we don’t do a very good job of sharing our stories, yet that is why I have become more open and vocal about our story. Yes, there have been times when Mom couldn’t be the Mom we wanted or needed her to be because of the illness. But she has always been there for us. She is one of the most faith-filled women I have ever known. She has taught me more about life and living than anyone else that I can think of. And I say that having seen her at her lowest lows and her highest highs.

    I will admit that there have been times when I wished that this illness wasn’t a part of my story or my family’s story. However it is because of our story that I have been able to bless others with our story. The Holy Spirit has this incredible way of appearing at the right times and places! And it is also because of our story, that I now know that it is an important part of who I am, who my family is and especially who my Mom is! To be honest, Mom has NEVER let her illness get in the way of who God has created her to be.

    And so as I close, I am pausing to say a prayer for all those who daily struggle with mental illness and their families especially for my mom. Will you join me in praying for them as well?

    This post is also part of an October synchoblog. Below is a list of other Synchroblog participants: