Monday, January 28, 2019

What Is God Up to?

We celebrated Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in worship yesterday. Some of us attended an interfaith event held in Westborough last week, a day of inspiration, service, and connection. 300 people, kids, and adults came together to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King, and to consider how we can keep his dream of a just an equitable society alive.
In worship, we read Paul's Letter to the Galatians 3:23-29. Paul writes about distinctions of society at his time and how they no longer apply: we are all one, and we are all free. 
How do we live into that, today, with a society that has become even more diverse since the days of Dr. King? It is no longer only "black and white." There are differences in religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, intellectual and physical ability, income, education, age, political affiliation...  More and more boxes that we place each other in, and judge each other from. 
How do we overcome them? 
One big step, I think, is to realize that these boxes exist in our heads and nowhere else. And they exist in our heads because they were placed there, not because we were born with them. Nobody is born with any kind of bias. Bias is taught and learned. So is fear of those who are different. When you put babies of different racial backgrounds together they will interact without any reservation. Do the same exercise with older kids who have not been exposed to people of other races, and they will be curious. As they grow older still they will become skeptical, even fearful or hostile. Because they hear statements of prejudice and bias, and they internalize them. 
We can't go back and change the way we were raised. But we can try to overcome the boxes that were put in our heads. 
And we can learn from and with our kids. 

One of the questions I asked during my sermon yesterday (quoting Rev. Jeffrey Jones) was, "What is God up to?" Because I fully believe that I am not in control of this congregation, or anything for that matter. None of us are. Do we have influence? Yes. Responsibility? Absolutely. Power? To varying degrees. But we are not in control. God is in control. Instead of praying, "God, please do this or that," we might pray, "God, what are you up to? And how do I get on board?" 
What does God want for this world? How does God want us to treat each other, and our planet? How can we play a role in God's plan?

We won't know unless we ask. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Being a United States Citizen

I am sharing a personal pledge that I want to make publicly so I can be held accountable. This is my personal opinion and does not represent Trinity Church. 
I am now a citizen of the United States of America. (Also, still, of Germany.)
It is humbling to recognize the circumstances of privilege I came under: I was living in safety and freedom. I chose to search for a job in the U.S. and moved here after I found one. I could move back to Germany any time I want to, and I travel there to visit regularly.

So I think of the many who came here under very different circumstances: Fleeing persecution, discrimination, war and poverty - most likely never to return to the place they call home.

This is my pledge to you, all immigrants, documented and undocumented, and all refugees: As a citizen, I will use my voice and my vote to fight for your rights and your safety. I will never forget your plight and your pain. And I will do everything in my power to educate about basic human rights.

This is also my pledge to other marginalized groups who face discrimination every day: People of color, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, people of non-Christian faiths, people with criminal records, and all others: I will fight for you, too.

Life has been easy for me. I‘ve been very fortunate and blessed but I don‘t deserve this any more than you do. I am not worth more than you are. I admire you and you will always have an ally in me! So help me God.

Monday, January 7, 2019

A New Year

At the end of each year, I like to read through my journal and do a personal "year in review." It's always surprising how much I forget, and how I still get upset about things that I thought I had learned to handle better. It's also an opportunity to give thanks: for time spent with people I love, for experiences I enjoyed, for relaxation and excitement, and for lessons learned. 
And then I look ahead at the new year and all the potential it holds. I don't usually make new year's resolutions but I do think about what I want to focus my time and energy on, what I want to work on, what I want to let go of. 
And I realize time and time again that what shapes my life the most is not what happens to me, but how I respond. So many circumstances are beyond our control: health, decisions made at our workplace, how other people treat us. The only thing we can control is how we respond: With anger, despair, withdrawal...
Or with compassion, openness, courage.
We can accept the things that are beyond our control, and change what only we can: our own attitude.
This year, 2019, I choose an attitude of gratitude, of calm, and of compassion.
Ask me again next year how it went! With God's grace, I believe I will be one step closer to becoming the person God created me to be. Thankfully, God has more patience than I do.
Here's to a peaceful 2019!