PASTOR DAVE'S BLOG

Pastor Dave's Blog

The Rev. Dave Buerstetta started serving as one of the pastors at Woodridge United Methodist Church in 1995 and is currently our Koinonia Pastor. Learn more here.

You can follow Dave on Twitter @davebuer or read his personal blog here.

It is now December, which means...

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OP12er @ 12:46 PM

I'm back!

I look forward to seeing all of you in worship this Sunday, December 3rd at 9:00 and 10:30 a.m.

 

Beauty and Pain in Pine Ridge

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OA8er @ 8:44 AM

If you chose to be in worship this past Sunday, you already know you had a group of tremendous teenagers representing you in mission on the Pine Ridge Reservation last week. If you missed our presentation, do yourself a favor: find one or two of our students and ask them about their experiences. I promise you will be glad you did.

In the meantime, here is an edited version of a glimpse into two of our evening activities (originally posted on our private trip blog). 

 

Monday night we drove to a ranch off the reservation where the husband and wife who live there created a 38 foot cross out of scrap metal found on their ranch. Which, I admit, I thought sounded rather, well, dumb. 

But I was wrong. 

Turns out the cross is on a hill with a gorgeous view. And the cross has a rough beauty that really surprised me. Here's all of us at its foot:

 

The couple also has a small shop on their ranch to sell other art they created from scrap metal.

Being there was more moving than I ever could have imagined. I've rarely been more glad to be wrong.  

 

Tuesday night we had the privilege of meeting Jerome High Horse. He came to the school where we are staying to speak about his experiences growing up on Pine Ridge, leaving it for education and a career as a civil engineer, and returning here in his retirement to directly help his people. Who are also our people. 

He reminds me quite a bit of Robert White Mountain, our friend from Standing Rock. Jerome, like Robert, is a kind, gentle soul, who is also a fierce advocate for his people. He is a great storyteller. And he tells the truth, which means sharing some of the people's pain. After his talk, our group said they were moved and impressed.  

 

 

I gave Jerome my contact info and I already have an email from him. I sense, again similar to Robert, we may have begun a new friendship. I certainly hope so.

 

Finally, I want to say this in as many places and spaces as possible: Our mission trips would literally be impossible without the incredible dedication of our volunteer adult leaders. They give up vacation days, family time, and comfort because they love God and love our students so much. I'm eternally grateful to all of them. THANK YOU Kathy Falout, Heather Kostov, Glenn Nelson, and Kevin Read!! You are awesome!

Church, they serve on your behalf, so please extend your heartfelt thanks whenever you see them next.

 

Mission trip to Pine Ridge Reservation

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OA11er @ 11:40 AM

This weekend, 20 youth and 6 adults will travel to Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota for a week of service. Painting, home repair, and providing children a VBS-like experience are some of the ways we will meet and serve with the community there.

Please pray for our group to be good and effective servants as the hands, feet, and ears of Jesus so that we might work hard with, and listen well to, the people of Pine Ridge. 

So that you may pray for us by name, our students are: Erik, Karl, Margot, Andy, Brandon, Mylene, Rachel, Sarah, Gavin, Gillian, Jake, Lia, Marisa, Madi, Ian, Ryan, Amanda, Kayleigh, Jaidyn, and Krista

Our leaders are: Alma, Kathy, Heather, Glenn, Kevin, and me, Dave

Please also pray for the people of Pine Ridge, where about 97% of the population lives below the federal poverty line. In the entire Western Hemisphere, only Haiti has a shorter life expectancy than Pine Ridge. Pray that we will honor and learn from a people who have weathered so much. 

 

Fun with Trinity Sunday

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OP5er @ 5:59 PM

This past Sunday, June 11th, was Trinity Sunday. While many complex and profound words have been written about the idea of God as Trinity, it seems to me that, at its core, it is a fairly simple -- though still profound -- idea: God, as God is in God's self, is relational, communal. Because humanity is made in God's image, we are ultimately relational too. 

Bruce Sanguin put it like this in his book, If Darwin Prayed:

The Trinitarian intuition is that Ultimate Reality constitutes a community and not an individual being… A healthy self comes into being in and through relationships… Quantum science shows everything exists in relation to everything else…the universe is radically relational. Greeks used a playful word for the communitarian nature of Trinity: perichoresis, meaning “to dance around.” Each member of the Trinity is encircling the others in ecstatic dance. Celebrating Trinity is celebrating that the entire universe, including humans, emerges out of a relational matrix.

Or, as I put it on Sunday, we are created for community because we are created by community. 

I also tried to have a little fun with images of Trinity in popular culture, such as these:

 

 

Sometimes good sermon material gets left on the proverbial cutting room floor. This week was no exception, but I did tell those present about this video and encouraged them to find it. Too often in Christianity's history, we've used doctrine of Trinity as club with which to beat each other up. Or as a fence to mark our territory and declare one another anathema.

I think the video below does a good job of poking fun at that tendency while also managing to teach a thing or two. At the very least, it made me laugh. I hope you enjoy it too. Let me know what you think in the comments! 

Dave said...

Posted on OP12er @ 11:41 AM -
Thank you very much for the kind words, Nancy. I'm glad I'm not the only one who found the video funny and entertaining.

Nancy E said...

Posted on OP2er @ 1:30 PM -
Dave - You always find a good way to encourage us to think outside of one's "normal" so we may try to understand one another. The Irish Twins presentation was a blast. Thank you for sharing.
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Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OP5er @ 5:56 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQLfgaUoQCw

It is 2016, going on 2017

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OP12er @ 12:16 PM

I am often asked about that weird word in my title. Koinonia is a Greek word used in the New Testament. I’m not a Greek language scholar, but those that are write that koinonia means community. The way the term is used in the New Testament (e.g. Acts 2:42-47) suggests community that is formed through worship, fellowship, and living together justly. It seems to fit as my title, as my main areas of responsibility are youth ministry, outreach and justice projects, and worship.

Of course each of those areas also have a full committee working on them. I encourage reading their reports in order to gain a fuller sense of all happened in 2016. I will not try to duplicate their excellent efforts here. Instead I will focus on an event that brought all three areas together in a vital, beautiful, inspiring, Spirit-filled way — creating community, or, if I may dare to say it, creating koinonia.

With input from Youth Council and our youth themselves, we decided to go to Birmingham, Alabama for our summer youth mission trip. Immediately, our leadership team knew we needed to spend as much time as we could learning about the civil rights movement before our trip and as much time as we could visiting the movement’s special sites once we were in Alabama. Studying The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” was a key component of our preparations.

But first we read the letter to Dr. King which prompted his now-famous epistle. Most of our group was surprised and disappointed to learn that two Methodist bishops were among the eight signatories of the letter accusing Dr. King of being an outside agitator who had no business being in Birmingham. With the context set, we dove into the letter itself.

I am fond of quoting the portion of King’s letter that reads, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

While that first sentence is oft-quoted, the final two sentences seem to me even more vital. For they remind us that no matter how independent we think we may become, each of us is dependent upon others. We need each other and so we need to look out for each other, help each other, speak up for each other. Reading through Dr. King’s letter together transported us back those 60 years, evoked questions and concerns, and helped us consider our present time: In what ways is our society better? How can we better live into the ideals of the letter? What is the role of the Christian community in this? What is WUMC’s role?

The letter and all it provoked made us uncomfortable. Which is probably why it is so powerful and still relevant.

Jane provided another milestone in our preparations. Thanks to her connections, the mission trip group was blessed with an evening with two leaders in the civil rights movement: the Rev. Dr. Stanley L. Davis, Jr. and the Rev. Dr. B. Herbert Martin, Sr. The duo shared stories of their experiences, suggested some sites to be sure to visit in Birmingham, and encouraged us to be faithful witnesses of God’s love for all people. Then Dr. Martin offered a closing thought that transfixed us and became our prayer for our time in Alabama:

“Hate no one no matter how they have wronged you. Live humbly no matter how wealthy and privileged you become. Think positively no matter how hard life gets. Give much even if you have been given little. Forgive all, especially yourself. Never stop praying for the best for everyone. Always forgive. Forgiveness upsets, interrupts, and distorts the plan of Satan to defeat you. Always be forgiving. Love is of God and God is love. Love is bigger than the past, our pain, our anger, fear, our scars, and yes, bigger than this whole world with devils filled. There is somebody bigger than you and I. Behold the universe — the only thing bigger than you — walk there, live there in. Do not worry about thinking outside the box — there is no box!!! There is no fence! There is no border! Live free in God.”

Thanks to the Cash family, each member of the mission trip had those beautiful words laminated on a card along with Dr. King’s words that I quoted above. Our trip included meaningful work with community organizations, fun conversations on the road, vehicle mishaps, moving worship, laughs, tears, and lots of pictures. The attending youth were fantastic: Sarah, Erik, Karl, Ellie, Olivia, Patrick, Andy, Brandon, Rachel, Gavin, Marisa, Madi, Meaghan, Cassie, Amanda, and Kayleigh: THANK YOU! You are why we do this!

I can never say this too much: our mission trips would literally be impossible without the dedication of and sacrifices made by our volunteer adult leaders. THANK YOU Lorie, Alma, Glenn, and Kevin!

As amazing as all that was, our time at the Civil Rights Museum was, at least for me, the most moving experience of any of my 20 mission trips. God’s Holy Spirit is in that place. God’s Spirit is at work in the people who are continuing the story of Exodus, the prophets, and Jesus by working tirelessly for all people to be truly free. I want to be part of that story.

So that is on my mind as I consider plans taking shape and ways we might show better hospitality in our church and our community in 2017. For some time now, our lighted sign reads, “We stand with Standing Rock.” I hope we will further our lines in God’s ongoing story of freedom by renewing and increasing our connection to the Standing Rock reservation, and finding ways to support their efforts to protect their water supply against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Our young people return to South Dakota in June 2017 for mission in Martin, South Dakota.

We look forward to confirming into full membership 15 young people in May, should the whole Confirmation class choose that path. Regardless of the final outcome, the families in that class are already deepening their connections with each other, with the congregation, and with the community — and, ultimately, that is why we have the program.

One way I hope we will expand koinonia in 2017 is through fuller participation with Northern Illinois Justice For Our Neighbors. If even some of the president-elect’s campaign promises are fulfilled, our neighbors who are recent immigrants could be extremely vulnerable. We can help JFON care for them. That is a way to love our neighbors we have left largely unexplored. I hope we begin to correct that in 2017.

To paraphrase the great Maya Angelou: As we work for justice for all God’s children, whatever challenges and roadblocks 2017 brings, I know that with God’s Spirit, like a song, still WUMC will rise.

Finally, on behalf of my spouse and kids, Joann, Joshua, and Jacqueline, and my mom, Esther, thank you so much for the outpouring of love, care, and support this community offered us when my dad died in July. The depth of that love and support is what truly makes WUMC the best place to be on Sunday…and any other day. It is an ongoing privilege and pleasure to be one of your pastors.

[This post originally appeared in the 2016 Church Conference Report]

Making a night, making history

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OA8er @ 8:37 AM

In a recent note to the families involved in our youth ministries, I wrote this about Church Conference: 

"Church Conference is the United Methodist term for what other denominations might call its Annual Business Meeting, or what a corporation might call its Annual Shareholders meeting, or what a leading tech company might call its Keynote Event.

That is, Church Conference is where we do business such as electing church officers, consider the successes and challenges of the past year, and cast the vision for who we want to be in the new year."

 

Prognosticator that I am, all three of those things happened at Church Conference last night (Wednesday, December 7th). Lots of good ideas were shared, but two moments far outshine all the rest:

The District Superintendent’s dinner with the youth and our newly adopted Hospitality Statement.

I don’t know how often this happens at other churches, but I know that in the last 20 years at WUMC, the District Superintendent has never shared a meal with our youth. That changed last night. The interaction between the youth and Rev. Dick Wisdom, Superintendent of the Aurora District, was so fun to watch and participate in. Our young people prepared ten questions for Rev. Wisdom, and he responded to all of them with grace, humility, and, well, wisdom.

But what really made the night was a little later when Rev. Wisdom declared that the questions from our youth were the highlight of his year. I couldn’t be prouder of our amazing teens!

What were those questions that so moved our DS? Glad you asked…

  1. Do you have children? If so, how old are they?
  2. Were you in youth group in High School? What was it like? Did it influence your vocation? Did you go on mission trips?
  3. What does a District Superintendent do?
  4. What did you do before becoming DS? Before you were a pastor?
  5. What made you want to be DS?
  6. Why did you assign Pastor Danita to WUMC (not complaining)? How did you come to decide this was a good fit?
  7. Is swearing considered a sin?
  8. One of my best friends is Muslim.  What can I do, as a Christian/Methodist, to make sure that she doesn't feel scared or bullied? What if I am too scared to stand up for her?
  9. What do you think of UMC's "democratic" nature? Is democracy the best way to run a church of Christ? In democracy, majority rules, but is the majority always right? What do we do when the majority is wrong?
  10. Is the UMC too influenced by the political process in our country? Does it interfere with us responding to God's will?

The other highlight was the historic moment when our congregation unanimously adopted the Hospitality Statement. Our Administrative Council worked on the statement for months, approving it at our November meeting and thus bringing it to Church Conference for a vote. While almost everyone who visits WUMC says they received a warm welcome, this statement marks the first time our congregation has officially declared that all people are welcome here.

Take a look at all three parts:

We are an open and loving United Methodist Community who are:

Welcoming to all;

Uniting in service toward greater social justice for all;

Moving forward with understanding and acceptance of all peoples;

Creating disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

We invite others to join as we live our Christian faith together.

***

Our purpose is to offer a safe place and community to all races, cultures, religions, genders, sexual identities, ethnicities, age groups and other beliefs.

***

We expect everybody:

  • To accept imperfection in one another;
  • To respect that we are all on unique and valuable spiritual journeys;
  • To recognize that we are all worthy of God’s love;
  • To acknowledge there is no room for hate.

 

See, I wasn’t kidding when I said in my November 27th sermon that you would want to be in attendance for this!

Jesus’s words, actions, and love show us that there is no “other,” there is only us. Now the same can be officially said about Woodridge United Methodist Church.

All that is left is to live up to our words. I hope you will be part of that effort.

Dave said...

Posted on OP4er @ 3:37 PM -
Thank you, Nancy. Rev. Wisdom just kept saying how impressed he was with our young people. He even took a copy of the questions because, he said, he knows some adults that need to answer them.
We are trying our best to be agents of grace.
Thanks for your continuing support.

Nancy E said...

Posted on OP4er @ 3:20 PM -
Thank you, Pastor Dave, for sharing this information.
I am so proud of Woodridge United Methodist Church for adopting the hospitality statement.
Also proud of WUMC Youth for the questions presented to their Church's District Superintendent.
I've known Dick Wisdom for many years and was excited to read he chose to spend time to share with the youth before the Church Conference.
Yes, churches are an organization and there is a business aspect which has to be accomplished to keep the process moving.
I am glad to hear Woodridge United Methodist Church continues to keep God's message of Grace in the forefront & forethought of this process.
Amen!



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What's next for us?

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OP1er @ 1:11 PM

"Today and everyday, I will fight hatred with love and kindness."

It has been, and continues to be, a very difficult week for some of us. Each day since the election, reports of violent words and actions against women, blacks, Muslims, and LGBT folks are filling our timelines -- including dozens of reports of it happening in schools; happening to children.

I find myself in an unusual position: largely at a loss for words. Words are kinda my thing, it is disconcerting to have them fail me in this time when so many are feeling, well, all the feels: shock, fear, anger, disbelief, victory, emboldened, attacked, or even hopeful. We need wise words to help us organize our thoughts and feelings and to galvanize us into action. So I'm relying on the wise words of others.

Like that quote at the top of the page. Know who said that? One of our high school students tweeted it on Wednesday this week.

"Love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself. Love your enemy and pray for them." I keep going back to that too.

None of us know what the next four years might bring. We don't even know what tomorrow will bring. All we have for certain is today. So today we offer love and kindness. If campaign promises of massive deportation, stripping of rights for women and the LGBT community, and banning entire religions come to fruition, it will be up to us as a community of faith in Jesus the Christ to respond with love, kindness, and protection.

If campaign tactics of empowering and employing white supremacists (or white nationalists or "alt-right" or whatever else they are calling themselves today) continue, it will be up to us as a community of faith in Jesus the Christ to respond with love, kindness, and protection.

Right now, our building has a beautiful sanctuary. Our building may need to become a literal sanctuary. Are we prepared for that?

Here's another wise tweet from one of our students: "It is easy to hate, it takes strength to be gentle and kind. It is through love that we will get through this, be kind to one another today."

How might we do that? By saying to any and all, but most especially to the marginalized and the demonized, that this is a safe space. We are here for you. We love you.

Or, as one of my friends put it:

"If you wear a hijab, I'll sit with you on the train.

If you're trans, I'll go to the bathroom with you.

If you're a person of color, I'll stand with you if the police stop you.

If you're a person with disabilities, I'll hand you my megaphone.

If you're an immigrant, I'll help you find resources.

If you're a survivor, I'll believe you.

If you're a refugee, I'll make sure you're welcome.

If you're a veteran, I'll take up your fight.

If you're LGBT, I won't let anyone tell you you're broken.

If you're a woman, I'll make sure you get home ok.

If you need a hug, I've got an infinite supply.

If you need me, I'll be with you. All I ask is that you be with me, too."

That seems to me like the to-do list we all need.

Why does this matter so much? Let me share one last quote from this week. This one from a young adult who grew up in our congregation:

"From the moment I saw your video that accepted lgbt youth into the church without judgement, I knew I was accepted in my church. And that meant more to me than I could ever explain."

Friends, we now know what's next. We now know what we have to do and who we have to be: agents of God's love, kindness, and protection.

Lament

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OA10er @ 10:11 AM

Divorce. Disease. Death. The uncomfortable truth is that our congregation, our communities, and our country is hurting. From more than just those three 'd' words, of course. But those are the ones I've encountered most in recent weeks and months. Too often, we feel the need to present ourselves as doing fine -- even in church. Maybe especially in church. I know because I do it too. In my head, I know that our sanctuary should be just that: a place of refuge from the parts of our lives that expect us to be -- need us to be, demand us to be -- 'ok' all the time. I know I want our place in the world at 2700 75th Street to be a place where it is ok not to be ok. However, I also know just how hard it is to admit to ourselves and others that we're not ok. For myriad reasons, internal and external, we want and need to appear tough, solid, stoic, strong, above it all.

Yet we follow God in the Way of Jesus. That means we follow a God who willingly became vulnerable and intimately entered the world. Baby Jesus? Vulnerable. Born to an unwed, teenage mother? Vulnerable. Part of a family that became refugees in a foreign country in order to flee violent authorities? Vulnerable. Lived in a country occupied and controlled by a foreign military power? Vulnerable. Openly protested his own people's cultural practices that further oppressed the poor? Vulnerable. Arrested, beaten, and executed on trumped up charges? Vulnerable.

But following God in the Way of Jesus means we follow a God who lived in an open, vulnerable manner that allowed others around him to be vulnerable as well -- which often led to their healing. Isn't that what we're after too? Healing the hurt in our selves and in our sisters and brothers?

Our scriptures are full of people crying out to God for help, for healing, for wholeness. Let those authors provide your voice, if need be. Especially good for this are the psalms of personal lament such as Psalm 13, Psalm 35, and Psalm 86. Or try the psalms of communal lament such as Psalm 44, Psalm 74, or Psalm 80.

This Sunday, our prayer time will not feature a responsive litany. Instead we will engage in directed silence, lament, and celebration. To paraphrase biblical scholar, Walter Brueggemann, we will seek to be honest about the ways the world disorients us and how we might find a new orientation in the grace and love of God.

So whatever it is that makes you not ok today: your own struggles, or issues with which those close to you are dealing, or broader societal problems like systemic racism, violence such as (this week's examples) Terence Crutcher and Keith Scott, or desecration of sacred land in Standing Rock Reservation, or global challenges like getting education for all girls...bring it all so that in our honesty we may lay it at the altar.

Conversely, bring too all that helps you celebrate today: good news of a diagnosis, a new job for a friend, birth of a healthy baby, relevant ministries helping someone out of poverty or homelessness, globally the number people living in extreme poverty has dropped below 10% (down from 44% just 25 years ago)...bring all that to so that we can be reminded that "though the arc of the universe may be long, it bends toward justice."

This Sunday let's start a new trend together, let's be honest about it when we're not ok. And let's make sure Woodridge UMC is a safe place to not be ok.

Nancy E said...

Posted on OP3er @ 2:34 PM -
Thank you Pastor Dave. Thanks also to Pastor Danita, and Woodridge United Methodist Church for their support of
Pastor Dave's emotional plea imploring us to release that which weighs us down.
All who are reading this post, I join you in prayer for healing, rest, and peace for those of us who are dealing with health issues, who are heartbroken, and weary.
I join you in celebration of the Good News of God's relationship with each of us.
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We need Peace-Makers

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on OA9er @ 9:21 AM

Orlando.

Philando Castile.

Alton Sterling.

Dallas.

Yes, let us pray for peace in the midst of the daily deadly violence that surrounds us.

But prayer must never be our only response. We are lovers and followers of Jesus the Liberating King, the Prince of Peace, the Christ. We must seek and find ways to be peace-makers, not just peace-prayers.

There is nothing redemptive about violence! We can be -- and should be -- furious about police killing innocent civilians AND civilians killing police.

Our hearts break with every child of God gunned down.

Change always and only can start with each and every one of us.

 

Here are some links for official statements and resources from The United Methodist Church:

Responding to Violence

What the church says about violence

Talking about race in congregations

 

Read. Pray. Mourn. And come to worship this Sunday ready to talk about ways forward.

Our faith in Jesus demands this of us.

 

UPDATE: A Message from our Bishop, Sally Dyck:

"How long, O Lord, how long?" How do we even absorb the devastation of this violence at the hands of the police? These shootings reveal in the most egregious way the origins and outcomes of our national sin of racism. We must all do something from both our positions/voices of privilege and positions/voices of vulnerability. We must pray but we must do more than pray. We must teach and preach about the sin of racism, but we must do more than teach and preach. We must advocate for changes like the FAIR COPS Ordinance (supported at NIC annual conference) but we must do more than that. We must all work to find a way forward to change the racism in our communities which erupt in such violent and lethal actions on the part of those who are suppose to protect and serve us. Please keep us at NIC informed of any prayer vigils and actions. And may God protect each one of you and your loved ones who are so very vulnerable in the blink of an eye!

Nancy E said...

Posted on OP6er @ 5:14 PM -
When words fail me as my heart breaks for the innocents involved through these tragedies, I echo Pastor Dave's words:
There is nothing redemptive about violence. nothing.
We must take this time to:
Read.
Pray.
Mourn.
And come to worship this Sunday ready to talk about ways forward.
Our faith in Jesus demands this of us.
Amen, amen....it shall be so.
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