CLC Blog

Taking Action

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17

In my June 14 sermon I named a number of things that we might do as Jesus followers to work on behalf of justice and racial equality. They included listening to the cries and laments of our black and brown siblings, learning about white culture, supremacy and institutional racism and then discerning the work that God is calling you into.

So I have been listening. I attended a zoom seminar put on by the European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice, an association of the ELCA that began in 2008. The mission of the EDLARC is: To be a visible and nameable anti-racist witness for a cross cultural church.  It’s motto is: Awaken Hearts. Confront Injustice. Inspire Transformation. (To find out more about EDLARC, go to its Facebook page)

Near the end of the seminar, Shari Seifert (one of the facilitators) invited us to take action in 3 ways:

  • Attend the Emanuel Nine Commemoration on June 17 (which I did)
  • Read the book, Dear Church, by the Rev. Lenny Duncan (which I pledge to do)…I heard Lenny speak about a year ago at Luther Seminary. He is a black, gay, ELCA pastor who has some things to tell all of us in the ELCA, the whitest denomination in the U.S.
  • And be on the watch for “Right to Comfort” and challenge it. Now this is one thing I needed to learn more about. “Right to Comfort” is an interesting little term. It refers to the belief that the dominant culture deserves to be protected from the harsh realities of racism. Shari said in her remarks that it’s the urging of white people to “use softer words”, not to be so inflammatory when engaging in the hard work of dismantling racism. I think that an example of “right to comfort” might be when we hear the phrase “I don’t see color”. It makes us feel superior, “I couldn’t possibly be racist” because I only see “people”. White privilege is so firmly embedded in our way of life that it is only we who are white that have the “privilege” of not seeing color. The different ways that our black and brown siblings are viewed and treated are most definitely because of their color and we need to uncomfortable with that.

Dear Friends, I’m trying to learn and listen every day. This is not going to be for a few more weeks and then it’s back to business as usual (indeed, we will never be “back to normal”. Too much has changed in this country and world). I’m praying that God will help me discern what my “call to action” is…I suspect it might have something to do with teaching, preaching and writing about what I’m learning.  But whatever I do, I yearn for transformational change for all of us as individuals, as a church, as a denomination, as a state, as a country.

And I pray that whatever I do or say is in the name of our Lord Jesus and that it honors our heavenly Father.

Peace to all of you. Be well. Stay safe. Pastor Kisten

in Truth

Good News or Happy News?

Jeremiah 20: 7O Lord, you have enticed me,
  and I was enticed;
 you have overpowered me,
  and you have prevailed.
 I have become a laughingstock all day long;
  everyone mocks me.
8For whenever I speak, I must cry out,
  I must shout, “Violence and destruction!”
 For the word of the Lord has become for me
  a reproach and derision all day long.

Jeremiah doesn't hold anything back. He just lets God know what he's thinking. He doesn't like what he's called to do. He doesn't have happy news to share. 

Like Jeremiah, we're called to share good news. It's not the same as happy news. We're not called to "put lipstick on a pig," or "look at the bright side," or to any cliches, really. We're here share God's good news with the world.

Sometimes, good news sounds bad at first. As we look around and see continued protests, unrest, and division, maybe we too are called to proclaim "Violence and Destruction." It's not an end to itself, but a way to achieve justice.

Things can't stay the way they are or go back to the way they were. We need racial justice. We need equality and a fair shake for the poor. The American Dream must be achievable for everyone, not just the select few.

Until then, we're all called to be Jeremiah's. And we best be honest with God and the world as we walk this difficult, holy path.

in Prayer

We vs. I

Psalm 86: 7In the time of my trouble I will | call upon you,
  for you will | answer me.
8Among the gods there is none like | you, O Lord,
  nor anything | like your works. 
9All the nations you have made will come and worship | you, O Lord,
  and glori- | fy your name.
10For you are great; you do | wondrous things;
  and you a- | lone are God.

Sometimes when I'm reading a Psalm like Psalm 86 I change the singular words like "my" and "me" to the plural "our" and "us." "In the time of our trouble we will call upon you, for you will answer us." In our culture that tends to think of everything in terms of the individual, it's really helpful to sometimes make it about all of us.

When we talk about anti-racism training and becoming aware of the systems of oppression around us, we're talking about changing the "us." True, for this to happen, we have to change the "me." We have to engage this work as individuals and make commitments to it.

But more importantly, we need to engage it as "us." The systems of oppression are far more than individuals. They have been built by generations of people. To change and demolish them, we will need the combined will of many people of good-will channeling the Holy Spirit, crying out for God's mercy and justice.

For God does wondrous things. As we listen to people of color, we pray that God does the wonders of helping us hear. As we try to learn, we pray for the wonders of God to help us grow. As we seek action, we pray for the power of God to give us persistence and courage.

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