I suck at waiting for things. I want gifts opened (whether I’m giving or receiving) as soon as possible. The joy of anticipation is often lost on me. I can certainly blame some of that on my ADHD - the moment is where I want to be. So Advent is a bit of a struggle for me; I get the idea of waiting and anticipating the Messiah, but I am not at all actually good at living in that anticipation. I keep finding myself peeking ahead to Christmas and the payoff: God among us.
The reality of a God amongst his people is hardly something I can separate from my understanding of faith as a midwest, cradle-Lutheran, church nerd. A consequence of that understanding is that, without effort, I struggle to process the idea of being a person without God; the concept of an absent God is practically foreign to me which makes Advent a weird thing to fully hop in to.
When I struggle to connect to a traditional understanding of something, I try to find a method that works for me. This allows me to still participate in the communal life of the church.
In order to find something to anticipate and wait for during Advent, I’ve shifted my focus the last few years. I don’t try to find a longing and waiting for God to enter the world amongst his people. Instead, I focus on my longing on the church.
Not as Savior or Messiah
As agent of justice.
As distributor of love.
As giver of mercy and grace.
To then place my waiting on the church requires me to remember the words from Isaiah’s fourth chapter:
3A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
These verses are the words that frame our understanding of Advent. They aren’t words of patience or passivity; they are words of action. The prophet does not call us to tell of a future that we’ll someday inherit and Jesus will be pretty stoked. We are called to change the world and the church now. To be actually doing something in the interim - not saying “someday this church might be.”
In Advent, I hear the prophets calling us to disrupt the the world, the church, and ourselves - to give in to the chaos Christ calls and drags us into - rather than buying into promises of privilege and security. The church I hear Jesus describe (taking care of the hungry, thirsty, stranger, prisoner - focusing on the least among us) requires an intentional effort. A church in our image worries about making itself feel better, safer and more comfortable; it creates itself if we don’t intentionally avoid it.
Disrupting the world means not being afraid of losing my privilege or angering people by pointing out how systems that benefit me harm others. To me, this is the truest way to demonstrate trust and hope in God: that by giving my benefit so others might be closer to justice and equality, God will continue to provide.
So I wait. But I don’t wait simply hoping the world changes; I have to engage in an active anticipation, seeking to help create the world and church Christ calls us to. Actively working towards a world and church that values the experience of all people isn’t a small task. But Jesus never said it would be.
Ray Gentry @raygentrythe4th is a guitar playing Worship Director from South Dakota and an ELCA Lutheran.
I don’t know about you, but I have family members who voted for Trump.
Actually, I don’t know this for sure, because we don’t talk about politics. We have learned, over the years, that politics, religion — any subject that could cause a fight — is pretty much off limits.
I love my family. Some of them I had not seen in over a decade until two months ago when my sister got married. She invited everyone, on both sides of the family, and pretty much everyone who was healthy enough to travel showed up.
The Rev. Sara Shisler Goff @revshiz priest, writer, artist, activist, human being. co-founder of @theslateproject. Works at listeninghearts.org.
"For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline"--2 Timothy 1:7
The night before his crucifixion and death, Jesus sat around a table and broke bread with his disciples. During the course of the meal, Jesus gets up, takes the towel wrapped around his waist and begins to wash the feet of all those gathered including even Judas who will betray him. Jesus' actions the night before his death always catch me dead in my tracks because despite knowing that Judas will betray him, Jesus still chooses to reach out, wash Judas' feet and love him in the midst of it all.
This morning, I woke up with the stark reality that the world is not the world I hoped we were moving towards. In fact, today I have to be honest I am grieving; grieving for my friends of color, for my LGBTQ friends, for my Muslim and Jewish friends, and for all those who woke up this morning full of fear; a fear that I more than anything want to take away. For now it seems that all I can do is promise to take the log out of my own eye and then show that log to my white privileged friends.
I live in one of the reddest states in this country (which means that there is work yet to be done). And yet yesterday I went to the polls to vote for the candidate that I could put my trust in. I went to be a voice not an echo. I went for all those I love who deserve to walk around in this world not crippled with fear for themselves and those they love. I went for the women in my life who have taught me what it means to truly "love my neighbors as I love myself." I went for my mom, my sister, my friend's daughters and all the women in my life.
"Holy Fire," by Charis Psallo.
And yet today, I realize that my vote wasn't enough because I didn't do enough. Everything is and will be okay for me. But that reality is not what my POC, LGBTQ, Muslim, and Jewish friends woke up to this morning. The most important thing for us to do right now is simply to sit down, shut up and listen (and I mean truly listen--listen without excuses, agendas, or comebacks) Listen to the people voicing experiences as a person of color, a person with a different sexual orientation or a person on the margins of society.
Today, more than ever, I am filled with a holy fire; a holy fire that calls me to live out "diakonia" (a Greek word for service) for all God's people. I heard that call from the very moment I saw how others treated my own mother because of the stigma associated with her bipolar disorder. I heard that call when I sat on our front porch step the night my sister asked me why her LGBTQ friend was being bullied for who he is. That holy fire has been lit in my heart and soul for ALL those on the margins. And that holy fire calls me to live out these words from Micah 6:8 "to do justice. Love kindness/mercy. And walk humbly with our God."
But I am still full of many questions and concerns. As the body of Christ, we are called to love all! As the body of Christ, we are called to see those outcasts who are on the outside of our gates like Lazarus! As the body of Christ, we are called to advocated for those who are different than us. As the body of Christ, we are called to sit down and shut up when those on the margins of society are speaking! The truth is, that as the body of Christ, our work is just beginning. So from today forward, I'm choosing to pull up a chair, sit down and LISTEN whenever my friends--who are people of color, LGBTQ, Muslim or Jewish--speak because now more than ever, we need to hear what they have to say.
Tara Ulrich (@diakonia78) is a single ELCA Lutheran girl called to the ministry of Word and Service who loves the prairies of ND! Jesus-Follower/Author/Sister/Friend. She blogs at prayingontheprairie.blogspot.com
I’m not into bully pulpits. I’ve been preaching for over a decade, and I am not interested in cramming my own views down a (mostly) silent gathering’s collective throat.
And. I am absolutely interested in proclaiming the unapologetic views of a certain radical Savior from first-century Palestine — especially from a pulpit.
However, since waxing political in Christian worship is, in my opinion, crass — whether it’s a church in my late grandfather’s Catholic denomination claiming in its newsletter that to vote Democrat is to be doomed to hell, or “Christian Left” organizations pushing the idea that voting for Democrats is voting for “salvation” — my pulpit today will be this @Medium. (Ha.)
When I say “voting biblical values,” it’s unfortunately likely to be caught up in a specific, conservative, evangelical/fundamentalist Christian way. So.
Voting biblical values isn’t an exclusive trait of the “Religious Right” (who, after betting everything on moral “purity,” has now hitched itself with the polar opposite of any decent measure of morality). One hopes their pious charade has seen its last rodeo, but I digress.
Voting biblical values means more than abortion and marriage equality.
Voting biblical values means recognizing that those in power — regardless of political persuasion — must be held accountable and challenged by those us who are trying to follow Jesus.
Voting biblical values means taking the biblical narrative and its focus seriously — and not simply mixing and matching verses to create some sort of pious political parsing.
So. This means that the current Democratic president’s increase in drone strikes and the current Democratic presidential nominee’s hawkish views must be scrutinized.
I don’t need to go through the extensive litany for the Republican candidate. My friend Matt Gierke did, however, and it’s absolutely instructive.
Others have whispered of echoes of 1930s Germany. And while that might be extreme, one thing is for sure — the Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in sacrificing everything in order to attempt a failed assassination, would not have been on the side of fear (as a Bonhoeffer biographer and, apparently, born-again Christian charlatan has insanely argued).
Regardless, I don’t speak out against the GOP nominee bcause of my own political views (which are many and various). I speak up about the nature of our political experiment on the eve of the 2016 election because of a different political view. A biblical one.
I can’t help it — as a person caught up in the real, radical, and raw movement started by Jesus, the Holy Bible is one of my guides. In the words of the late, great Marcus Borg:
Inhospitality is a grave sin, bringing God’s judgment and wrath.•
God’s people are called to remember their former slavery in Egypt, and, thus, to not oppress the immigrant among them — and, in fact, to treat immigrants as nothing less than citizens. §
According to the second creation story, God commands human beings to take care and responsibility in being stewards of that creation.∞
The “fear of the Lord” is intimately connected with both a quest for true justice concerning those on the margins — and civil disobedience.ª
The arrogant will be humbled; the proud will be ashamed; the rich will be sent away empty; the powerful will be torn down from their thrones. †
Weapons of violence will be transformed into tools of peace.º
Women are made in the image of God, just like men. ¶
The wide spectrum of gender and its diverse norms are radically welcomed and holy in God’s sight. Μ
The holy and divine work of God (through Jesus) is good news to the poor; release to the captives; and liberation to the oppressed. Π
What will be truly judged is our actions towards the “least of these” — how we treat those in our midst who are hungry, thirsty, naked, a stranger, sick, or in prison is how we treat Jesus himself. Ω
The cries of those who have been cheated, oppressed, and have labored in vain under rich overlords “have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” ∫
As Jon Stewart recently said after sharing his public Twitter feud with the GOP nominee, “vote wisely, my friends.”
As Jesus said repeatedly to his followers who often laughably missed the point: “Let this sink into your ears…” œ
Will we, as Christians, listen?
• Genesis 19:1–29; Ezekiel 16:49; Matthew 10:15; Luke 10:12
§ Leviticus 19:33
∞ Genesis 2:15
ª Exodus 1:15–21
† Luke 1:46–55
º Isaiah 2:4
¶ Genesis 1:27
µ Isaiah 56:4–5; Acts 8:26–40
π Luke 4:16–19
Ω Matthew 25:31–46
∫ James 5:1–4
œ Luke 9:43
Jason Chesnut @crazypastor | jesus-follower | anti-racist | feminist | aspiring theologian | ordained (not online) pastor | founded @ANKOSfilms | restless creative | #BlackLivesMatter
Something happened on Thursday night, October 27, 2016. The #SlateSpeak community showed up - much like they always do - glad to be in community and ready to dive into another great conversation. As I prepared for my role as facilitator of the conversation, it became very clear to me that the hour long twitter chat would be an exercise in creating a virtual safe space. The topic of the night was shame, something we rarely talk about yet something most people experience at some point in their life. I realize that the goal was not just to get people talking; it was to nurture an atmosphere that invited people to lay down their burdens and experience relief from the all encompassing, suffocating, life-taking culture of shame that pervades our lives.
We explored the following questions during our hour long chat:
The responses blew me away. People shared deeply personal experiences and the conversation moved at a rapid pace. It was hard keeping up with everything that was shared. I felt like that floodgates had been opened and experiences of pain, heartbreak and trauma came pouring out. We could have just shared stories throughout the night and it would have only touched the tip of the iceberg.
Shame has been something I’ve wondered about for a long time. Thanks to Dr. Brené Brown, a shame researcher out of the University of Houston, conversations about the impact of shame are taking place in public spheres. She has not only written about her research, but has also presented on the topic on various platforms. I believe that Dr. Brown is changing our culture in that she’s naming a problem, explaining why it’s devastating, letting people know that they are not alone and providing a solution. While I’m glad that this work is being done, it hurts my heart that communities of faith still seem to be off limits. They seem to be places this topic is not explored in ways that holistic healing and transformation. I wonder if its because there is a correlation between many people’s shame and issues around sex, sexuality, and sexual abuse - all things that are taboo within many faith traditions. What ends up happening is that many of us lead divided lives, which continues the cycle of secrecy and shame. Instead of our faith traditions providing healing, they become another place where we wear masks that keep us bound by fear and keep us away from liberation.
So what’s the solution? Well, I believe that shame loses its power when it is moved out of the darkness. The author Glennon Doyle Melton often talks about the power we give shame and other life-taking ways of being. When we shine a light on the dark places in our lives, they lose their power. Faith communities have a responsibility to be bearers of Good News; of all that is life giving and eradicates anything that would seek to thwart God’s promise of abundant life. This means that we have to deconstruct our biblical hermeneutics and theological positioning if it does anything to perpetuate a culture of shame. We have not practice confession and repentance of the ways that we have tried to silence voices and experiences that speak of things that bring discomfort. We have to create traditions of lamentation that welcome people in to share of their deepest pain and struggle. We also have to model vulnerability so that we create open doors for people to lean into their own vulnerability, which can open hearts, minds and spirits up to the possibility of holistic healing.
I believe that a major role of leaders today is to speak up and out against anything that is life taking and death dealing. I believe that shame is one of those things and if we want people to live full lives and experience liberation, we have to be willing to take the first step to cast out the evil that is shame.
Rozella Haydée White is the Houston City Director for Mission Year and the founder and principal consultant of RHW Consulting. Rozella’s primary goal in life is to accompany people as they figure out how to live a meaningful life by embracing the fullness of who they are. She is desperately seeking justice, mercy, humility and love. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.