Author Archives: Rev. Emily Heitzman

About Rev. Emily Heitzman

Follower of Jesus and Pastor with Youth and Families at three congregations in Chicago.

Guest Post at RevGalBlogPals: “The Pastoral Is Political: Holy Anger”

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Today I’m guest blogging at RevGalBlogPals: “The Pastoral Is Political: Holy Anger.”

“Let’s talk about that dirty “A” word the Church so often dislikes…

In the Church, we try to avoid “anger” like that mask-less person on the train who will just not stop coughing…

The irony is: this concept that anger and rage are somehow “bad” – which is often upheld in many Christian circles – is actually far from biblical.  Throughout the books of wisdom, prophets, psalms, Gospels, and epistles, God’s faithful people – as well as God, Godself – express anger and rage in multiples ways, shapes, and forms – particularly at injustice and when people are being marginalized and excluded. Even Jesus gets ticked off when he finds money changers in the Temple who were exploiting and excluding those who are most vulnerable. This enrages him. And he does not exactly express his rage with ‘kindness, gentleness, and self-control.’” 

You can read the rest here.

Guest Post at RevGalBlogPals: “The Pastoral is Political: Affirming Spaces for LGBTQIA+ Youth”

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Today I am guest blogging over at RevGalBlogPals. You can read the whole article here.

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“I will never forget an encounter I had several years ago with someone who claimed to be an LGBT ally.  When he misgendered a high schooler we both knew, I reminded him that this youth’s pronouns are they/them.  He dismissively responded: “Well, I just don’t understand that.”  Then he misgendered the youth again. 

Misgendering and deadnaming someone is disrespectful and incredibly harmful.  As the Trevor Project reported: “Transgender and nonbinary youth attempt suicide less when respect is given to their pronouns and they are allowed to officially change their legal documents.”

Respecting a person’s pronouns and affirmed names can literally save lives.  

And the thing is, when we “just don’t understand,” that lack of understanding is a big indicator that we have a lot more work to do.

In the church (and in every community we are a part of), we must do better for our young people and for all our LGBTQIA+ siblings.  

Rainbows and inclusive welcome statements are important ways to signal to LGBTQIA+ youth and people of all ages that the spaces they will be entering are safe and welcoming.  However, we must be doing everything we can to ensure that these spaces are – in fact – safe for everyone who enters those doors.  We need to be continuously educating ourselves and others.  We should be asking ourselves how our spaces uplift heteronormativity and cisnormativity and thus who is being harmed and excluded.  Then we must work toward change.”

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“What We Can Become” – Good Shepherd Sunday Sermon on John 10:1-10

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Artwork by Jen Bloomer https://radicistudios.com/store

“’Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.’”

Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So again Jesus said to them, “’Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.'” 


Today is Good Shepherd Sunday.

And my guess is that the metaphor of Jesus being our Good Shepherd is not a new concept for many of us.  It’s one of the most popular images of Jesus that has been depicted in pictures, paintings, movies, and even popular songs.

 And yet, I think as people who live in a large metropolitan city in the United States in 2020, it may be a little difficult for us to really understand what it means for Jesus to be our shepherd.

You see, while the images we mostly see of Jesus surrounded by cute fluffy sheep or holding sweet baby lambs on his shoulders are picturesque and seem to suggest the shepherd’s life was easy and pleasant, the life of a shepherd in First Century Palestine was anything but that.

One of the most important tasks of shepherds during that time was to provide their sheep with basic needs: food, water, a place for rest, and healthcare.

But this could be tricky at times.  The terrain in ancient Palestine was predominantly rugged and rocky, and depending upon the time of year, green pastures for the sheep to graze in could be scarce. So the shepherd would have to move their sheep from pasture to pasture, finding enough food, water, and resting space for the sheep each day.

The other most important task of a shepherd was to protect and keep the sheep safe.  Nighttime would be incredibly dangerous for the sheep. And so shepherds would take their sheep into a sheepfold – or a pen – for protection during the night.

A sheepfold out in the country would either be a natural cave, or it would consist of rocks piled up to form a circular or rectangular wall.  And there would be a small opening for the sheep to enter and exit the cave or the rock wall structure.  Since there was no door or gate, the shepherd would lie down across the small opening of the sheepfold at night, staying alert in order to protect the sheep from dangerous animals.

In these cases, the shepherd literally served as the gate. 

“Very truly, I tell you,” Jesus says in our Gospel this morning. “I am the gate for the sheep. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”

But watch out for bandits and thieves who climb over the wall of the sheepfold, Jesus warns. They choose not to enter through the gate, the place that seeks to protect and benefit all the sheep.  Instead, thieves and bandits choose loopholes and act selfishly.  They steal and destroy, as they make decisions that benefit only themselves,  while putting the health and wellbeing of others at risk.

But I – Jesus says, came to bring abundant life to all.

Now, night was not the only time that was dangerous for the sheep. When shepherds took the sheep out during the daytime to find pasture, not only would they have to protect sheep from hazardous weather and predators, but they also had to keep track of all their sheep, who were often prone to wandering off and getting lost.  And this could be tough when some of the larger flocks could consist of up to 50 sheep.

After each long day, the shepherd would call the sheep, and they would follow him back to the sheepfold for the night.  He would stand at the gate, checking to see if all of the sheep were accounted for.

If he was a good shepherd, and one of the sheep was missing, he would know which one it was.  He would call out for the lost sheep over and over again until the sheep heard him.  She would know his voice and follow him back to the fold.  As the sheep entered the sheepfold, the shepherd would inspect each one of them for injuries and would tend to them.  And he would call each one of them by name.

*****

Shepherds cared so much for each of their sheep, that they did whatever they could – even risking their own lives – to ensure every single sheep was provided for and was loved.  Although the risks were great, shepherds accompanied their sheep as they had to journey through dangerous terrain, and while this journey was difficult, scary, and sometimes even painful, they never left their sheep alone.

I think this is the kind of Shepherd we need as we struggle through this uncertain Pandemic.

You see, Jesus does not only show up for us in the times that are good and comfortable and then leave us alone in times that are uncertain and hard.  Rather, as the good shepherd, he meets us right here in the midst of the scary and painful Pandemic wilderness we have found ourselves lost in.  And he accompanies us in every step that we take as we try to navigate our way through it all.

In our distress, Jesus hears our cries and tends to us in our pain.  He knows us and understands what we are going through.  And when we find ourselves lost, he calls out to us by name – over and over again, until we hear his voice and find our way back to him.

He grieves with us over our losses – no matter how big or little they might be.  He sits with us in our distress, anxiety, and fear and offers us comfort and peace.  He does not leave us abandoned or alone.

Jesus has come to bring us – all of us – abundant life. 

And so in these times, this means that he gives us permission to find something that is life-giving and good for our souls daily and to not feel guilty about it.  He does not judge us for sitting around in our pajamas for an entire day, or not being as productive as our friends or colleagues, or for just having a bad day (or 20 of them).  He understands that we are all trying to figure out how we are to survive and find healing through this collective trauma that the world is in the midst of right now.

*****

And this also means that Jesus calls us to be his vessels in the world, offering abundant life to our neighbors who have been denied it – both as we continue to shelter in place – as we are able – and as we figure out how to move forward after the shelter in place order is lifted. 

Last week, author and activist Rev. Jim Wallis interviewed Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota, Peggy Flanagan.  During the interview, Gov. Flanagan made an important point for us – as a society – to remember.

She explained: “I have heard some people who have said that covid-19 is the great equalizer because anyone can contract the virus.  But to be honest, I can’t think of a statement that is further from the truth. What this pandemic has done has truly laid bare the racial and social inequities that plague our country and our state.

And so… as we hear folks say, “Oh, we want to return to normal; wanna get back to normal” – normal wasn’t working.  Normal wasn’t working for communities of color, for Native Americans, for folks in rural communities, for people in poverty.  So I hope that we do not get back to normal.  My hope is that we truly can figure out a way to center those who are most deeply impacted as we look to solutions to rebuild and to recover.”

*****

Jesus – our Good Shepherd – loves all of his sheep and he gives special care to those who are suffering the most.  And he calls his followers to do the same.

The words we hear him saying at the very end of John’s Gospel are not only words directed at Peter, but they words that are directed as us, as well: “Do you love me?” Jesus asks.  “Then Feed my lambs.”

“Do you love me?  Then Take care of my sheep.”

“Do you love me? Then feed my sheep.”

There are so many ways we can take care of Jesus’ flock – esp. those most at-risk – as we shelter in place right now:

Buying groceries for a neighbor who is immunocompromised, making face masks for our neighbors who need them, calling or sending cards to those who are grieving the loss of a loved one or who are feeling extra isolated right now. Decorating our windows with positive messages, calling or writing our legislators urging them to make equitable decisions, donating our resources to those in need.

And – while we prepare for what comes out of this time of sheltering in place, as Jen Bloomer said in her beautiful piece of artwork:

“May we grow back, not to what was, but instead towards what we can become.”

Amen.

Guest Post at RevGalBlogPals: “The Pastoral is Political: Hope in a Pandemic”

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Today I’m blogging over at Revgalblogpals.  You can find the full article here.


 

In this incredibly painful, scary, and uncertain time, many of us feel hopeless and helpless.  Like Mary, all we feel we can do is fall at Jesus’ feet and weep.  All we feel we can pray is: “If only you had been here!”  All we feel we can ask is: “Why?”

What strikes me is how Jesus does not condemn Mary for her questioning of and accusations toward him.  He does not try to “fix” things for her nor does he offer her a cliché Christian saying like “Everything happens for a reason” or “Just trust God.”  He does not downplay her feelings, make her feel guilty for having and expressing them, or tell her to look on the bright side.  Jesus does not even offer her an answer to her question “why”.

What Jesus does do is show up. 

He shows up to and for her, he sits with her as she grieves, and he quietly listens to her.  Deeply disturbed by her pain and sadness, Jesus has compassion for her.  And he weeps with her.

In doing so, he is saying to her:

Your feelings are valid.

You are loved.

You are beloved.

I see you, and I hear you.

I hold your grief in my heart.

You are not alone.

This is good news.  This is the message of hope that Mary needed in her time of grief.  And this is the message of hope that many of us need as we experience grief during this pandemic.

In the midst of the wilderness, God shows up. 

God shows up to us.  God shows up for us.  And God shows up through us. 

So may we not only receive this message of God’s love and hope, but may we offer it to our neighbors – especially those most vulnerable and need the extra care right now.

We need each other more than ever in these times.




Guest Post at RevGalBlogPals: The Pastoral Is Political: End White Supremacy in the White House

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Today I am writing over at RevGalBlogPals:
“White Supremacy is in the White House. It runs deep and wide. And it must be shut down, dismantled, uprooted, and removed.
Many of us have been saying this for years. However, those who are spouting out and implementing white supremacist ideas and policies in the White House continue to be defended, and their policies “justified” by other national and religious leaders. Even after the emails were leaked last week, the White House is still backing Stephen Miller.
So let’s be loud and clear: it is incredibly dangerous and absolutely inexcusable for national or religious leaders to defend, downplay, or remain silent when our president and his advisors hold and enforce these white nationalist beliefs and policies. And it is incredibly dangerous and absolutely inexcusable for us to do so, as well…
This is not a partisan issue. This is not about a political party or a particular politician. This is about the evil and harmful sins of racism and white supremacy.
Because to be silent about such things is to be complicit.”
You can read the rest of the article here.

Atatiana Jefferson: Say Her Name!

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On Saturday night, Atatiana Jefferson was playing video games with her nephew inside her own home in Forth Worth, TX.

When a neighbor saw that a door to her home was open for several hours, he called a police non-emergency number to ensure his neighbor’s safety.

When the police officer showed up to the home, he peered inside the window and saw Atatiana, told her to put her hands up and shot within seconds.

On Saturday night, Atatiana Jefferson was shot and killed while playing video games with her nephew in her own home by someone who should have been there to ensure her safety.

After Atatiana’s neighbor found out what had happened after he called the non-emergency number, he said: “If you don’t feel safe with the police department, then who do you feel safe with?”

I am devastated! I am infuriated!

And I hope you are, too!

Folks, we have a deeply racialized criminal justice system.

This is why we need to find ways to respond to concerns other than calling the police on our black and brown siblings. This is why we must persistently and fearlessly work to expose, call out, and dismantle our deeply racist criminal justice system. This is why we must continue to proclaim that Black Lives Matter over and over again… until black lives actually do matter in our country.

Black Lives Matter! Black Lives Matter! Black Lives Matter!

#AtatianaJefferson #SayHerName #BlackLivesMatter

“Who Is My Neighbor?” – Sermon on Luke 10:25-37: The Good Samaritan

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Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” – Luke 10:25-37

The last week of June, 43 children ages 3 through 12 from Ebenezer, Unity, and Immanuel Lutheran Churches – as well as several children from the neighborhood – gathered with many of our youth and adults for Vacation Bible School. The curriculum was developed by ELCA World Hunger, and the theme for the week was: Who is My Neighbor?

Throughout the week, we sang songs in different languages and we prayed together. We learned the parable of the Good Samaritan and we heard a few other parables about how God calls us to care for others. We made crafts and we definitely had a lot of fun getting each other wet with water balloons.

Each day, we heard stories about many of our neighbors here in Chicago and in several countries across the world who are experiencing homelessness or hunger for a variety of reasons. We learned how ELCA World Hunger is currently partnering with some of our global neighbors to work to end hunger, we ate snacks that are often eaten in these countries, and we talked about some ways we can personally share God’s love with our local neighbors.

And then the children put all of this into practice. Three of the four days, they participated in service-learning projects to learn about and offer their love and support to some of our neighbors in need.   And every day, this group of children – who were a wide range of ages, who have different abilities and needs, who attend multiple churches and schools, and whose families come from different countries of origin: welcomed one another, built community together, and offered care for each other.

Who is My Neighbor?

*****

We hear this question in our Gospel this morning.

Jesus is traveling toward Jerusalem when – on his way – he is approached by a lawyer. This lawyer – who probably did not like all the messages he was hearing from Jesus – tries to test him. “Teacher,” the lawyer says. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Well,” Jesus says, “You’re the lawyer. What is written in the law? “

The lawyer – who knows his stuff – answers from Leviticus and Deuteronomy: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

“You have given the right answer,” Jesus says. “Do this, and you will have life.”

But – wanting to justify himself, the lawyer pushes a little farther: “And who exactly is my neighbor?” he asks.

It’s easy for us to point our fingers at the lawyer and look down on him for being the testy and exclusive character in the story. And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, I think we can often get testy with Jesus, asking him this very same question, as well. Who exactly is my neighbor? Who do I really need to love and care for?

Because behind this question is another stronger question: “Who isn’t my neighbor?” Who are the people I can ignore when I see their suffering? Who are the people I can exclude? Who are the ones who don’t belong in our community, but rather belong behind walls… Who are the ones we can justify deporting, separating from their families, or putting into cages? There certainly has to be some kind of boundary somewhere. So where can we draw the line?”

Jesus – of course – answers the lawyer’s question by telling a story – what we know to be the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Many of us have probably heard this story numerous times. It is one of the most well-known stories of the bible. And for most of us – it can seem like a pretty reasonable story. There is a man who is attacked by robbers while traveling on the road toward Jericho. He is beaten and left on the side of the road half-dead. Two men walk by and ignore him. But the third one stops and helps him. Jesus tells us to be like that third man. End of story. Go and do likewise.

But for Jesus’ audience, this was quite a shocking story – which, of course, was Jesus’ intention. He had a way of shocking folks through his parables that constantly flipped their social order upside down.

You see, it would have been one thing for Jesus to tell a story where the priest, the Levite, or even a devout man of the Jewish faith was the helper and hero. The Jewish faith was full of commands to help the wounded and save those who were dying. Of all people, the religious leaders would have been expected to do something to help a dying man on the side of the road, especially one who is a fellow Jewish man.

So for Jesus’ audience, it would have been a bit unsettling to hear these two just walked on by.

Although, it would have also been understandable.

You see, Jesus’ audience also knew quite well what the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was like. It was an incredibly dangerous road, full of windy turns that made it easy for robbers to hide from a traveler’s view. And it was actually known as the “Way of Blood” because of the amount of blood shed by robbers. It would have been incredibly risky for anyone – Levite, priest, or layperson alike – to stop and help a person on the side of the road. The robbers could be hiding somewhere on the windy path, waiting for another person to attack. And who knows the reasons this person was lying on the side of the road in the first place. This guy could be faking it, and setting someone up for an ambush. Most people would be terrified in this situation. So it could be understandable for anyone to want to immediately run to the other side of the road and move as quickly as they could to get to their final destination.

And in addition to all of this, whoever chose to help this dying man would have to stop whatever they were doing and use their own resources – if they had any – and go out of their way to get this person to a safe place where they could get the care they needed. And this would NOT have been easy. It’s not like they could quickly run down to Clark St. to get to the closest ATM or use their cell phone to call an ambulance or an uber.

So you see, it would have been quite a lot to ask – for a devout man of the faith or even a religious leader to help another Jewish man in this circumstance.

However, at this point in Jesus’ ministry it would not have been too surprising to hear him call on the faithful to take these kinds of risks anyway in order to help out their dying brother in the faith.

But this is not how the story goes. We all know that Jesus is too radical for telling a parable that ends this simply.

Now, let’s just pretend that Jesus told a story about a Samaritan man who was beaten up and left on the side of the road, and it was a devout person of the Jewish faith who helped him out… This would have definitely been more surprising because while Samaritans and Jews shared historical roots, they split centuries before over political, religious, and ethnic differences. And this centuries-old hostility toward one another was deeply engrained. They despised each other. They considered each other enemies.

And so it would have been quite a big deal for a devout Jewish man to help his enemy, who was considered ceremonially unclean, religiously heretical, ethnically inferior, and a social outcast!

But it would still not be completely over-the-top. This version of the story would just make the religious leader or the devout person of faith a very compassionate hero. But he would still get to remain the superior one, who only now has just saved someone who is his inferior: the less-human Samaritan. And this hero – and everyone who follows his example and goes and does likewise – can still continue to pat themselves on their backs for their good works and hold onto what is often referred to as savior-complexes.

But Jesus does not even tell this version of the story.

Because Jesus – our only savior – has no room for savior-complexes.

And so instead of making the Levite, or the priest, or another devout person of the faith the hero, Jesus makes the most shocking person of all – the hero: the Samaritan man.

And this Samaritan man does not only stop to help the dying Jewish man on the side of the road. He sees him and all of his humanity. He notices his wounds – which in Greek is the word traumata, or trauma. And so he recognizes that this man not only has physical wounds, but he has also been traumatized.

And in seeing all of this, the Samaritan man has deep compassion for the Jewish man on the side of the road. So he takes a dangerous risk, walks over to this man, and gives him first aid treatment.

 But he does not stop there. He puts the injured man on his animal, and travels however long it takes to get to the closest inn. And then the Samaritan man stays with him at the inn for the entire night so he does not have to be alone after such a traumatic event. And the Samaritan makes sure this man is not only physically ok, but he also makes sure that he is emotionally and psychologically ok. And then the next morning he pays the innkeeper whatever is needed to ensure this man is cared for.

*****

So who is my neighbor?

Or, as the lawyer in our Gospel this morning was really asking:

Who isn’t my neighbor?

Well, Jesus’ answer is plain and simple. EVERYONE is our neighbor. Even that person we consider to be our enemy. And especially those whom our society deems as less-than.

You see according to Jesus, we can draw no lines. There are no borders in the kingdom of God. The doors to this kingdom are wide open FOR ALL – no matter if one has documentation or not.

In this kingdom, Jesus calls us to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, and tear down all walls that divide.

For, to love God is to love our neighbor, as we love ourselves. And thus, we can no longer justify any actions that are contrary to God’s love.

And by making the Samaritan the hero in his story, Jesus flips the social order upside down.

You see, to call someone our neighbor is to place them on equal footing. To see their full humanity. In Jesus’ perspective: to be neighbors is to look at one another and make the statement that neither of us is better than the other and that we both deserve to be treated as human beings… It is to recognize that each of us is a beloved child of God, created in God’s image, beautifully and wonderfully just the way we are.

*****

On the last day of Vacation Bible School, I asked a few of the kids to share with their parents and guardians what they learned throughout the week. Some explained that God loves all of us and wants each of us to love and care for our neighbors. Others talked about how God wants us to see how our neighbors are already sharing God’s love with us and with others. One child explained that our neighbors are not just people we know and live next to. Our neighbors are people who even live across the world. Another child explained that our neighbors are people who may speak, look, dress, worship, and act differently than we do, and that is something that makes our neighborhoods and our world beautiful.

One of the things we talked about during the week was that we build up our neighborhood together by loving our neighbors. And throughout the week – in addition to welcoming and loving one another – the kids literally built a neighborhood out of cardboard. On the last day, we brought the final product up to the sanctuary and the children presented it to the adult volunteers and their parents and guardians. And if you looked closely at this large cardboard neighborhood, you could see tall skyscrapers and apartment buildings, the Thorndale redline, a fountain, a haunted house, trees, homes, shelters, animals and people.

But there was one element in the neighborhood that I will never forget that was created by a 6 year old boy. It was a man who is falling off a bridge and another person who is below him ready to help him in his time of need. When asked to explain why he included this, the boy said that he wanted to create a helper, just like the Good Samaritan. Because this is what we are all supposed to do. We are supposed to be the helpers.

Just this morning, when I opened my email, I saw that I had received a message from this boy’s mom. Included in it was a picture of him with a big smile on his face as he held a large sign over his head that read: “Luke 10:25-37: We should be the helpers.” He was holding this sign as he marched downtown with 10,000 other Chicagoans yesterday to call for an end to the criminalization, detention, and deportation of our immigrant neighbors.

“Who is My neighbor?” Maybe the better question to ask is: Who is being my neighbor?

I think the children and youth in our neighborhood have set a good example for us. So may we go, and do likewise.

Bi and Proud! #Stonewall50

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This weekend, as we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots – where the American LGBTQIA+ rights movement was birthed- I was also reminded of where I was one year ago today.

One year ago today, I was in Houston with several incredible Edgewater Congregations Together youth, 2 young adults, and one of my fantastic colleagues for the ELCA Youth Gathering and Multicultural Youth Leadership Event. And I was discerning whether or not I would come out publicly about my bisexuality.

Throughout the week, these youth and young adults created safe spaces for one another to share their struggles, fears, and joys, and they embraced and celebrated each other’s differences.

On the second to last day of our trip (which was the last full day of the Youth Gathering), our youth visited a booth hosted by the ELCA Reconciling Works.

One of these young adults asked my colleague to explain to him what all the LGBTQIA+ flags stood for. After my colleague started explaining, this young adult said: “Wait! All our youth need to hear this!” So he gathered the youth and my colleague began again. The youth were attentive and interested. They asked great questions and shared some stories about how they wanted to better understand and support their friends who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Then they grabbed rainbow tattoos and put them on their arms and took pictures. And that night they gave a standing ovation to the bisexual woman and the 11 year old trans youth who spoke on stage at the main gathering.

This weekend, I celebrated #Pride for the first time since coming out publicly about my bisexuality. And on Saturday I ran the Proud to Run Rainbow Half Marathon as a way to celebrate how God created me just the way I am.

Yesterday after church, several of my youth and young adults – including one youth who was at the Youth Gathering in Houston last summer – joined me in continuing our worship by praying with our feet and proclaiming the good news of God’s love for ALL as we marched in the Pride Parade! It was so incredibly special to march alongside them on this important Pride weekend.

And I have these youth and young adults (as well as those who led the Stonewall riots and all others who have gone before us to work for LGBTQIA+ rights and inclusion) to thank for all of this!

For it was through the loving and fully welcoming space that my youth and young adults created that day and week at the Youth Gathering that led me to come out to them about my bisexuality on our last night together in Houston and to eventually come out publicly last fall. And it was the continuous support I’ve received from them and from my other youth and young adults since coming out publicly that has led me to feel proud of who I am.

We have come a long way in the last 50 years since Stonewall, and yet we still have a long way to go.

So may we choose to follow the lead of these young people and all those who have gone before us to stand up and fight for equality for ALL!

For God is love! Love is love! We are all created by God with love, and we are all loved by God!

💗💜💙

❤️🧡💛💚💙💜💗🖤

#Stonewall50 #Pride

Choose Love! #Pride

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On Wednesday night, one of my youth presented me with this collage. (I share this with her permission.) She made this collage for a project she did in her “race and sexuality” session in her high school history class. (Thank you, Senn High School!)

This is really special to me for so many reasons. Earlier this spring this youth asked if she could interview me for this project. She genuinely wanted to learn more about my story and my experiences coming out about my bisexuality. She wanted to know what it is like to be bisexual, how it is important to me and my identity, how my bisexuality enables me to see and experience the world in new (and non-binary) ways, and what my fears, struggles, and joys have been of coming out as bisexual in this society today. She wanted to show me her support.

This was beautiful and incredibly powerful: not only because she genuinely wanted to better understand who I am and learn my story… but also because she (along with several of my high school youth and a few young adults) was one of the first people I came out to (besides my husband and a few family members and friends). I came out to these youth and young adults while spending a week with them at the ELCA Multicultural Youth Leadership Event and Youth Gathering in Houston last summer – only after they created such a safe space throughout the week for all of the youth (and adults) to be themselves. Throughout the week, they supported one another in their struggles, and not only accepted one another’s differences, but they celebrated them.

I am so blessed that these young people allow me to be in their lives and choose to be a part of mine. And I am incredibly proud of who they are!

This world is better because of them.

May we choose to follow their lead! May we choose love!

And to my LGBTQIA+ siblings who are not out for whatever reason: just know that you are wonderful. You are loved and beloved. You are valid. You are not alone. And there are people out there making this a safer place for us all. ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜💕🖤

#proudpastor #pride #chooselove

Guest Post at RevGalBlogPals: “The Pastoral Is Political: Free Pastor Betty Rendón!”

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Today I am writing over at RevGalBlogPals:

“I was filled with anger and was absolutely horrified to hear about the abusive treatment that Pastor Betty and her family received when ICE arrested and detained them! I cannot even comprehend the amount of trauma this has and is causing the family, including Pastor Betty’s 5 year-old granddaughter. She needs her grandparents. Her mother needs her parents. Pastor Betty and Carlos need their daughter and grandchild.

Families belong together.

Just because something is our “law” does not make it right and just. Just because something is enforced by our legal system does not mean it should be. (All we need to do is look at our country’s history of enforcing laws that implemented genocide, slavery, segregation, and unequal treatment of women and minorities to remember this clear fact.)

And as Christians, when we see laws that oppress and marginalize others, we must call them out and work to dismantle and reform them.”

You can read the rest of the article here to learn more about what happened and how you can support Pastor Betty and her family.