A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

#YesAllWomen (and men) don’t want to live in fear May 31, 2014

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I have been reading the tweets and blog posts all week from the #yesallwomen on Twitter and Facebook. Honestly, I did not jump in with any tweets or blogs of own until today. Why? It’s not because I am ambivalent or because I don’t think that I have faced discrimination. I am not ambivalent and I, too, was raised in the culture of both subtle and overt gender inequality and misogyny (as have all women, hence the hashtag). It struck me today that it was partially out of fear that I haven’t added my voice to this conversation. Fear. I was afraid of being labeled “one of those feminists.” I was afraid that to name some of the ways this affects me is to give it more power. I was afraid that my place of privilege as a white, heterosexual woman would be hurtful to my sisters who were LBGT or of another race. Let me say now that I understand that being born a white woman in America is akin to winning the lottery in other parts of the world. I have more resources, power and autonomy than most women in other countries will ever possess. I am beyond lucky and blessed-that is my privilege. When I realized that fear was keeping me from speaking out, I kicked myself for I am not a person who operates out of fear in my life. I have this privilege and I should use it to both reveal the brokenness in the world and the true presence of God and not allow fear to weigh into my decision making.

This social media conversation surfaced in me all the ways that fear does dictate my life and the lives of women. I am afraid to send my 17 year old daughter off to college. I’m not afraid that she will flunk out, I’m not afraid of the finances (well, maybe a little), I’m not afraid she won’t make friends. I am afraid of the statistics of sexual assault on our college campuses. I am afraid that what my daughter will really learn is that men are to be feared and not trusted. I’m afraid of these things because its what all women on a college campus learn. Don’t go out at night, don’t be alone, don’t walk down that street, don’t drink something that you didn’t watch be poured, don’t wear that dress, don’t be too nice to that guy, don’t touch that guy, don’t be too pretty, don’t be too smart. I wish I could say that all of that changes after college, but it never does.

It becomes subconscious the way the fear controls how women move in the world. Just today, I was at Target in the check out line, when a man came up behind me in line. He stood very close (too close) to me and was muttering something and looking at me intently. Yes, this might freak a man out as well, but I had in the matter of seconds four exit strategies in mind, what to do if he followed me, got my phone and keys out, and made note that I had spotted a police officer in the parking lot on my way in. Now, I am willing to bet that most men would not have thought that completely through all while buying granola bars. But women have been trained to do this as part of our daily routine. We don’t even realize we are doing it most of the time. We always have a worst case scenario running through our brains. When we see a man, we immediately do a risk assessment. How sad and heartbreaking is that?

This is why I am also afraid for my son. I am afraid that no matter how his dad and I have raised him to respect women, to see each woman as a beloved child of God (just as he is), to see women as equal partners in life, work and friendships, that he will be seen by women as a risk to be assessed. (My husband admits to crossing the street if he is approaching a woman who is by herself so as not to cause her any alarm.)

The #yesallwomen conversation brings to light what has been in the dark far too long. It gives space and voice to the reality that God didn’t create us for division and fear. God created men and women in God’s image to reveal the kingdom of God in the world, to reveal true Shalom peace and to treat each other with full respect and equality. God created us to speak truth and to hear truth from one another. God, our father and our mother, created us for unity and to affirm and celebrate our God given differences. So, I guess I am “one of those feminists” who believes that God is in this struggle, that this is not just about me and women but is about us all. What effects me, effects my husband, my daughter, my son, my best friend, her husband and children, my partners in ministry, my local and global neighbor.

Jesus prays in John 17: 11 and 21 that we may all be one. We are all one in this conversation and this is why I will not let fear determine my voice, my ministry or my life. What will you add, both my sisters and brothers, to this conversation? Don’t be afraid; we are all one in Christ.

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What if there’s not enough Jesus for everyone? John 10:1-10, Easter 4 May 11, 2014 May 11, 2014

What are you afraid of in your life? Are you afraid of not having enough money next month? Not having enough time to get important things done? Are you just afraid of not being enough? Good enough, smart enough, relevant enough? We inhabit a culture that tells us daily that there is not enough to go around. Every piece of advertising on all of our media sources bombard us approximately 8-9 hours a day with the premise that we are lacking something. We need this wrinkle cream, we need this car, pair of shoes, this procedure, this piece of technology. We don’t have enough, or just need a little bit more, or scarier yet, we could run out of what we need or want.
And it’s not just in advertising. Watch the news and on a global level you can witness countries jockeying for resources-oil, water, weapons, and sadly even people. We see the mentality of “us versus them”. Either we have enough or we don’t. It’s enough to make you scared, scared for your family, scared for your future and your present. This fear seeps into our subconscious and invades every aspect of our lives together. We ask the question everyday as almost a reflex: “What about me?” This question has the potential to rule every decision we make and every relationship we have.
This fear and questioning invades our lives together as church, too. We ask when we come to worship or to a ministry meeting: “what about me?” Is this for me? Is it for adults only? Is it for youth and children only? Is it for the pastors (you know, the experts) only? If something is for me, then it must not be for someone else. Or conversely, if an activity, a song or a sermon is for someone else, then there must not be room for me. We tend to operate in what I call (maybe I heard it somewhere) a “theology of scarcity.” There is only so much to go around. Only so much love, only so much grace, only so much forgiveness, only so much community, and only so much Jesus. If we’re not careful, all of those things might get used up and then what?
This theology of scarcity is not new. This has been part of the human condition since the garden of Eden where the first two human beings decided that they needed to be sure to have their fair share of knowledge and power with God. But God doesn’t let us sit in this idea of scarcity. In the gospel of John, we read over and over how God creates “more than enough” out of not enough. God’s love for the world spills over and comes to dwell with us in the flesh, full of physical life in Jesus. Provided more wine at a wedding when only plain old water remained. Five loaves and two fish fed 5,000 people. Healing a man born blind so that he could belong again because there was room for one more in the community.
There is enough to go around. In these ten verses of John 10, Jesus attempts one more time after healing the man born in blindness to proclaim that all are cared for, no one is out, there is always room for one more in God’s heart, community and kingdom. Jesus uses terms like being the gate and being the shepherd. These are not meant to say that there is a narrow way and only some will make it. Those images are to say that Jesus will make a way for us. Jesus tells the disciples and us that he will call us over and over until we DO hear the voice of love, acceptance and inclusion. Jesus says it all in verse 10: “I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
Jesus uses the plural pronoun “they.” Not just some or you as an individual but “they”- the entire community- or as John 3:16 reminds us the whole broken world. And not just any old life as the world proclaims it of not enough or either/or thinking but abundant life. Abundance is overflowing, more than we know what to do with, enough for all, room for all. It’s the opposite of either/or it’s “and. ”
At synod assembly this weekend it was easy to see how there is room for more in our church and in our neighborhoods. We have mission starts all over the country and world that don’t take away from already existing ministries but expand the love of God to a new group of people. We have see partnerships between denominations that strengthen the ministries in both church bodies. This year our theme was Gifted to Grow and we celebrated all of the ways that we as the Rocky Mountain Synod grew in God’s love, in God’s mission and in relationship with one another. The theme for the coming year is Life Together. Together. Not as a homogeneous lump but together in diversity: latino communities, urban, suburban, rural, bi-lingual, established, developing, small, medium and large, and all of the ways that we are one body of Christ with many different gifts. It is marvelous to witness and humbling to know that we participate in these relationships in direct and indirect ways.
Here at LCM this summer we too are focusing on “together.” Growing in Faith Together will be a time between worship services-our two very diverse expressions of worship to our loving and unifying God-for us to think about living into a theology of abundance. There will be something for you-yes you. You who love Bible study, you who love to paint or draw, you who love to sit and discuss life with a dear friend over a cup of coffee, you who love hymns, you who love praise music, you who love to serve, you who love justice, you who are young, you who are….well not so young. We have this Holy Spirit filled moment this summer to explore what it means to live into this abundant life that Jesus offers unconditionally for all, including those brothers and sisters whom we have yet to meet and welcome into our midst.
I know that I can get sucked into the lie of scarcity that the world sells us at the speed of light. I know that I have to work to remember that the more room I make in my life for loving and serving my neighbor, the more God provides that space. I know that I can forget that God brings life from what looks like certain death and I know that I forget that the tomb is empty and so life is pregnant with possibility and hope. This is why we gather as the people of God to tell each other the story week after week. We tell the story of freedom from fear of scarcity in bread and wine and in belonging to a God who loves us unconditionally in water and word. We gather to be that memory of abundance of the love and mercy of God for one another- not just for one another for this neighborhood, for this city, for this state, for this world. We have a message for our neighborhood that is unique and can’t come from anywhere but God’s people: the good news that in Jesus we have abundant life here, now and always, God says we are enough as we are and that God gathers all of her children in love no matter what. Let’s claim and proclaim that message loud and clear.
We are people of abundance; people of the risen Christ; people of love; people of the kingdom and community of God. Even when we still wonder “Is there enough for me?” God answers with a loving “Yes!” There is enough life, abundant life, in Jesus Christ for you and for us all! Thanks be to the God of abundance. Amen.