Earlier this week, I sat on a gymnasium bleacher next to Nekisha, a black woman whose inner and outer beauty radiated as she shared her life and faith with me. Very intentionally, she attends a church in the suburbs whose membership is predominately white. And she wondered with me why it is so hard to break through the unspoken, but clear rules of personal engagement, especially in Minnesota, and especially in the church—a community of people who are called to welcome the stranger, extend themselves in love, and walk the extra mile. Why aren’t more people demonstrating the love of Jesus by going out of their way to create space for others in their lives?
I have heard the “it-only-goes-skin-deep” critique of Minnesota Nice culture before, frequently from people who have lived in other parts of the country or world, and have come to live here. It’s real. I have seen this kind of behavior exhibited in myself: conserving time and energy for my family, my work, or my existing relationships. And yet Jesus keeps calling me to step outside those boundaries I have fashioned for myself. If only I would listen!
Nekisha was the nudge of the Holy Spirit I needed, as she asked a simple and important question that pressed my boundaries and spanned the intersections of culture, class, and race, and how I use my time and space. What if I—a white, Scandinavian Lutheran who lives in Minnesota—consciously, deliberately, and intentionally created time and space for real relationships outside of my normal patterns?
What if I believed with my whole being that “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”? The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King puts it bluntly another way: “If today’s Church does not capture the sacrificial spirit of the early Church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning…” (Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 1963).
I believe the Church has a significant role to play in shaping conversations like these, and that faith is active in love. As we continue on our journey toward becoming a beloved community at ECLC and in all the places where we engage with others in the world, I invite you to consider how your culture, education, and experiences have shaped your perspectives.
- How does your understanding of who you are influence how you engage other people on a daily basis? How does your understanding of who God is influence how you engage other people on a daily basis?
- If God is a God who speaks and acts from the margins to the margins, how can you stay open to what God might be doing, even if it doesn’t fit your preconceptions or experience?
- What are you willing to sacrifice for the sake of the common good?
Gracious God, you call us out of captivity into the freedom of your beloved community. As we pass through the wilderness spaces of our lives, grant us ears to hear you, eyes to see you, and hearts to ache for you, that we might not turn away from the brothers and sisters who help us remember who we are. Amen. - Adapted from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals
God’s peace, Pastor Stephanie
Bonus exercise: Read “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and join the conversation during the Forum on Sunday, Jan. 21st at 9:45 am.