Tuesday, October 28, 2014

All Saints (& Sinners)

I've been reading Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber, an ELCA pastor in Denver, CO.

Nadia is an awesome pastor, and person of faith who has taken the long journey away and back to Jesus.  I love how her story takes us, who have grown up in the church and never strayed,  behind the scenes to how the people God loves live in our world.  She takes us into a Wiccan ceremony, "drug house",  AA meetings and into the mind of someone who looked at Christianity and said "yuck!"

This is indeed where Jesus invites us to go too.  Into the lives of people who are different from us, and yet so much loved by our God.  So many of us are afraid.  I'll admit it, I'm afraid of being in places I've never been before and talking with people who are different from me.  While I have had a lot of experiences typical Iowans don't have, like living in Africa and being in an interracial relationship, there are many places of socio-economic difference that I have not experienced.  Nadia's book is a personal challenge to me to be a pastor after Jesus' own example - eating and drinking with sinners, to bring healing and new life.  God help us all to follow Him!

As we prepare to celebrate All Saint's Day this weekend and remember the whole company of those people who have left us to enter God's heavenly realm, lets not sugar-coat their lives.  They were all saints, and all sinners - just like us.  All were beautiful children of God, with brokenness as well.  If we were not broken, we would not need Jesus to save us, heal us, make us whole.   Praise Jesus, the Great Physician, who heals all of us, taking sinners and making saints.

For another great blog about Nadia's work read the Biker Bishop here

Monday, October 6, 2014

Do not be an "Indian" for Halloween

Halloween is coming, and after that Thanksgiving.  But first Columbus Day.

What do all of these have in common?  Unfortunately each has a lot of terrible mis-representations of history and mis-appropriation of Native American culture.

Columbus Day in a nutshell:

 Columbus came to the islands south of Florida. (400 years after Lief Erickson was the first European to set foot in the Americas)   Found a gentle and kind people living there and made them slaves starting a 400+ year history of abuse of Native American peoples.   He personally whipped, chained and set dogs on native people before taking 300+ back in his ships to sell in Spain.  This is not a holiday or a person we should be celebrating.  Instead we should mourn for the sins that European-Americans have committed against Native American people.

Thanksgiving in a nutshell:

Europeans come to America, claim land that already is occupied.  Nearly starving their first winter they are then are fed by native peoples.  Once they are strong again, the Europeans go back to killing native peoples and taking their land.    The Thanksgiving dinner is a celebration of a moment of peace in the midst of a history that is violent.   While I don't suggest canceling Thanksgiving.  I do suggest that we remember the whole story, good and bad.   And while we give thanks for all that God has given us, we also ask for forgiveness for racism.

Halloween - what does it have in common with these other two?  Well, all to often in all three we see kids (and adults) dressing in native costumes.  DON'T dress like an Indian!  Don't have a "Pow-Wow".  Its very disrespectful to this group of people who have already been trampled and hurt enough.  Headdresses have a very specific meaning in native culture.  Only people who have earned them, can wear feathers.  When we dress our kids in fake feather headdresses and they do little dances it is making fun of people.

This LOOKS cute and harmless.  But what it is teaching kids is that the native culture is something we can play with, it is not serious, native peoples can be used without regard to their feelings.
Native peoples have proud traditions and beliefs.  They don't want to be made fun of, they don't want people to dress up like them.  They don't want their traditional clothing that is special and meaningful mocked by children begging for candy.  Just don't do it.  Be a fireman, cop or Batman instead.

Don't want to just believe me?  heres a great article written by a native american woman on the topic.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Was Jesus a friend to all sinners?

This past weekend we talked about Mark 2: 13+ where Jesus comes and calls Levi to follow and then goes to Levi's house where Jesus eats with Levi's friends.  Jesus annoys the Pharisees by doing this - they ask, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?"  

Some suggest that Jesus didn't really just hang out with "sinners".   Perhaps he was only hanging out with those who had decided to change or were in some way in the midst of changing their lives because of the invitation to the gospel.  The Pharisees were wrong, these were not sinners but repentant sinners.

My belief is the opposite.  That Jesus did really just go hang out with "unsavory" people.  That he did not put conditions on he presence with them but simply wanted to be in relationship with people.   They did not have to acknowledge they were wrong, or ask for forgiveness or change.  Jesus was with them as they were.  This does not mean that Jesus approved of everything that every person did.  Rather, it means that Jesus prioritized relationships over conduct.  In other words, it is more important to just get to know people as they are, then to worry if they are doing something wrong that you should help them change.

This is really the key to Calvary UMC and my call as your pastor.  When we proclaim our mission, "Accepting all through the Unconditional Love of God",  we proclaim that caring for people and being in relationship with each other is more important than defining actions as right/wrong.

This image is one I fell in love with on the web. I can't find who made it, so if you are a good google digger please help me find the artist who did this.  I love it because it translates the image of Jesus eating with Levi and his friends into today's world.  How else would it look for Jesus to eat with sinners?  Scandalous, yes, but thats who Jesus was -- God help us to find ourselves in pictures like this.

Here's another guy's perspective on this topic, a very well written and well researched piece.