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.

Beauty and Pain in Pine Ridge

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on July 07, 2017 @ 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 June 22, 2017 @ 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 June 15, 2017 @ 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 June 22, 2017 @ 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 June 16, 2017 @ 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 June 15, 2017 @ 5:56 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQLfgaUoQCw

It is 2016, going on 2017

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on December 23, 2016 @ 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 December 09, 2016 @ 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 December 09, 2016 @ 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 December 09, 2016 @ 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 November 11, 2016 @ 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 September 23, 2016 @ 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 September 23, 2016 @ 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 July 08, 2016 @ 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 July 08, 2016 @ 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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Please pray for the Mission Trip

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on June 17, 2016 @ 7:56 AM

Saturday, 16 youth and 5 adults head to Birmingham, Alabama for a week of service.

Please pray for all our participants as we seek to be the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus there -- and as we seek to learn more about the pivotal role Birmingham played in shaping our country, especially striving for civil rights for all.

We are:

Sarah, Erik, Karl, Ellie, Olivia, Patrick, Andy, Brandon, Rachel, Gavin, Marisa, Madi, Meaghan, Cassie, Amanda, Kayleigh, Lorie, Alma, Glenn, Kevin, and me.

Pray for us during the week and plan to be in worship on Sunday, June 26th as we share our experiences with you.

 

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There is still no Other

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on October 11, 2013 @ 7:02 AM

This week at Wednesday Night Live (our weekly gathering for youth) we watched a video. Of course, in and of itself, that's hardly newsworthy. We often use some kind of media to get a conversation going. But I don't know that we've ever been able to use an award winning short film before. Once I became aware of the film (thanks, Fred Clark!) I knew we had to show it to our students.

This piece of art is so good it was named "Best Short Film About/For Youth" at a film festival. It is so good it warrants reaching a larger audience. So I hope you'll take five minutes - yes, it's just five minutes long - and see what it provokes in you. However, an important TRIGGER WARNING: the film is a disturbing portrayal of bullying. It's heartbreaking. But then that's the point.

It seems to me that this film reminds us that there are many forces in our culture trying to separate us; trying to pit us against each other; trying to create an "Other" who can be shunned, beaten, sacrificed. To me this film is a reminder of both the power and the danger present in our desire to name some people as "Them" whom "We" rally against.

This bleak short film reminds me of Dr. King's brilliant words on solidarity from his Letter from Birmingham Jail: "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." I am convinced that in order for the church to be the church we must stand with those whom society would push out, marginalize, demean, demonize, scapegoat.

But the tragic, ugly truth is that far too often the church leads the charge to label some as Other and thus outside of God's grace. As if it is up to us to decide. As if it is even possible to be outside of God's grace. Yet often we can't seem to keep ourselves from making such proclamations - and using scripture to justify those proclamations. Which is another reason Deacon Beth's current series of posts is so important. She does an excellent job of breaking down the oft-called clobber verses used to Other the GLBTQ community. Be sure to read her posts too.

Jesus said (according to the gospel accounts) the life of faith is loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. The parable of the Good Samaritan demonstrates just how crazy radical Jesus is: everybody is our neighbor. Even those we think of as enemy. And even those who think we are the enemy. We're all neighbors. What affects one, affects all. There is no Them; there is only Us.

My hope and prayer is that we who long to follow God in the Way of Jesus will continue to strive to live this way, breaking down all the walls used to "Other" people. If we can, then perhaps someday films like this one will no longer need to be made. Wouldn't that be glorious?

Here's the film, Gay Goth Scene. Leave a comment with your reactions.

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Striving for eyes that see

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on October 04, 2013 @ 12:12 PM

My September 29th sermon was, at heart, an attempt to humanize people who receive SNAP benefits - people who are all too often demonized, blamed for needing help, called names like "lazy" or "grifters." I was trying to demonstrate that the people who receive SNAP benefits are simply that: people. The just happen to be people who need a little help.

My sermon was an attempt to help us learn from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. That is, it was an attempt to help us see the poor and hungry people who are on our doorstep. Something the rich man in the parable was unable to do until it was too late - for both men.

So I offered a bunch of statistics hoping to demonstrate that SNAP recipients could be any of us. SNAP recipients are white, black, and hispanic. Urban, suburban, and rural. Children, adults, and elderly. Married with children, single adults, and single parents. SNAP recipients work at all kinds of jobs, including our military.

However, after worship one member said better in two sentences what I spent twenty minutes trying to get across.

"Pastor, I wanted to stand up in the middle of your sermon and say, 'It's me! You're talking about me! I'm working five jobs and still need help feeding my kids.'"

Yes, I talk and write and preach and post about hunger and poverty - a lot. I do so because both the biblical witness and United Methodist tradition convince me that is the best way to live the faith of Jesus Christ in the world.

But I also do so because experiences like this one on Sunday convince me again and again that in Christ there is no "them", no "other." There is only "us." And we're all on this journey of faith together. We all need each other. What affects one, affects us all.

That's not a bug, it is a feature. Thanks be to God for that!

The Power of 1000 Days

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on September 27, 2013 @ 3:25 PM

The church.

Christians.

Followers of God in the Way of Jesus.

Living the life of faith.

Being the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus in the world.

If you've spent any time around me (or, you know, this blog or my other blog or my twitter feed or my facebook timeline), I would hope it is clear that I believe those are five ways of saying the same thing. More importantly, I hope it comes through that I strive to live that belief.

And yet sometimes I know I need to step back and let other voices be heard. Today seems like one of those days. (Of course, I'm preaching this Sunday so my voice isn't exactly being muffled.) We've talked a lot in church and online about hunger, about poverty, about food assistance for those in need. And with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus as this week's text, we're going to talk more about them Sunday.

But for today, I hope you'll take just one minute and fifty seconds of your day to watch the video below. Fighting hunger matters. Providing nutrition - especially for women and children - makes a real difference in the world. I know that's a corny, overused phrase. I don't care. I'm saying it anyway. Watch the video and I bet you will too.

Watched the video and want to read more? Here you go.

Watched the video and want some good, original music that supports this effort? Here you go.

Be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus. Share this voice.

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Mourning, and yet...

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on September 20, 2013 @ 1:00 PM

It has been rough week.

It's been a week of mourning.

It has been a week of mourning with Miriam, all the Cabanas family and friends, and our congregation over Ernie's sudden death. Just a few days ago Miriam and Ernie hugged me on their way out of church after our worship service, all smiles and energy. They are one of the sweetest, most affectionate couples I've ever known. I can't help but be lifted up and encouraged by the love they share and the manner in which they share it. I will greatly miss Ernie's hopeful smile and jubilant approach toward life.

It has been a week of mourning with the nation over yet another mass shooting, this time at the Washington Navy Yard in D.C. Mourning our society's lack of good understanding of - and care for - those who suffer from mental illness. Mourning our inability - as a nation, as a congregation, even as individuals - to even so much as have a conversation about the role guns play in our society and in these deaths that keep mounting up.

It has been a week of mourning with the region over yet another shooting in a Chicago park. No deaths reported, but 13 people were injured, including a 3 year old boy shot in the jaw who is in critical condition.

Enough! How will we as individuals, as families, as a congregation respond to this scourge in our streets? When will enough people, enough children, be shot to make us stand up and say, Enough! Our fascination with guns is literally killing us!

It has been a week of mourning for the continued and continuing assassination of the character of those in our midst who need help. Who, despite all their efforts, can't feed their children or themselves. They are not "lazy" or "greedy" or "desiring dependency". They are people. People like me. People like you. They just happen to be people who need a little help putting food on their table. The honest truth is we all need help sometimes and we all need each other. We're all dependent upon the work, the blood, the sweat of others. Yet we demonize hungry and poor people for being hungry and poor.

Even more baffling, yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives, voted 217-210 to cut SNAP by $39 billion over the next ten years, thereby declaring they want even more people - nearly 4 million more people - to be hungry and they want 210,000 children to be without school lunches. As Rev. David Beckmann says, picking on the poorest among us is unacceptable, especially for a country that prides itself on a strong moral grounding.

It has been a rough week. It has been a week of mourning. I am angry and I am sad.

And yet...

And yet, I love and strive to serve the God who declares that spite and hate and violence and despair and even death do not have the last word in the world. Rather that last word belongs to God as revealed in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, and that word is grace. That word is love. That word is life. And it is offered to all.

And yet, I serve a congregation at which this past Sunday our Lead Pastor, the Rev. Dr. James Galbreath, declared from the pulpit as the sermon that Woodridge UMC's altar is for all. All three of our congregation's clergy are united in this: Pastor Jim, Deacon Beth, and me. All three of us have signed the Altar for All statement "committing to fulfill our vow to ministry by marrying or blessing couples regardless of their sexual orientation or gender expression." And this gives me hope in the midst of my sadness and anger.

Further, we presented our position in what I believe was an honest and faithful way - from a pastoral standpoint rather than a dogmatic one and acknowledging that not every member of our church agrees with us. We are open for conversation.  And that gives me hope in the midst of sadness and anger.

You can sign the Altar for All statement too. There is provision for clergy and laity. Or you can continue to be in conversation with us about this.  And this gives me hope in the midst of sadness and anger.

I am convinced that God as revealed in Jesus is the God of "and yet..."

So that's where I want to be too; in the midst of the "and yet..."

Time to Go Orange!

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on September 13, 2013 @ 4:20 PM

GoOrange_v2150

Sorry to disappoint, but this post has no connection to Syracuse University, college football, or the Bears.

Instead we're talking hunger.  And $40 Billion.

I spoke about going orange in my sermon on Sunday. It's easy enough to change a Twitter or Facebook profile to support the cause. It's easy enough to read about ways to join the campaign:

It's easy enough (though infuriating) to read about the devastating effects of the $40 billion cuts to SNAP currently proposed in the U.S. House. (Thanks, Bread for the World!)

Finally it's even fairly easy to make your voice known. Here are some ways to do it from Doug Schenkelberg, who does advocacy and outreach for Greater Chicago Food Depository:

sample alert:

This week, the House of Representatives will vote on a Farm Bill proposal that will cut $40 billion from SNAP. The cut would translate into about 1.5 billion lost meals for hungry families every year for the next 10 years. This is on top of the looming benefit reductions that will impact all SNAP participants starting in November 2013.

The combined cuts would increase hunger in America and is not the way to balance our nation’s budget.

We must send a strong message to Congress. Join the National Call in Day on Tuesday, September 17 and help us flood the phone lines by urging your Representative to oppose the bill and mobilizing your local supporters to do the same!

Calling Congress is easy. Here’s how:

Call the advocacy hotline at 800-826-3688 (toll free number provided by Bread for the World)

Once you are connected to your Representative, state that you are a constituent and give your name and the town you are calling from. Be sure to give the name of the food bank or local agency you are affiliated with.

Let them know you are calling about the Farm Bill and deliver this important message:

As your constituent I am asking you to vote against the House Farm Bill proposal to cut $40 billion from SNAP. This bill will be devastating to struggling Americans, and charity cannot fill the gap. I understand the need to reduce the deficit, but increasing hunger is not the way to do it. Please oppose this bill.

Sample tweets

· Oppose $40 billion in cuts to SNAP. Call your US Representative today. 800-826-3688

· Tell your Congress not to cut 4-6 million people from SNAP. Tell them to vote No. 800-826-3688

The truth is making calls to Congress always makes me a little nervous. I have to force myself to do it. But I'm always glad after I do. Join me, won't you?

What will you do to help hungry people this week?

A thesis and a hoped-for dialogue

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on August 30, 2013 @ 1:34 PM

Last week, while preparing for a new season of youth ministry, I read the Tribune's front page article about the prevalence of heroin use in the Chicago area, including DuPage & Will counties. Since the beginning of 2012, there has been an average of one heroin overdose death per week. It is a disturbing read, as it should be.  

But I also thought it was yet another example of why we need to be able to have deep conversations at church about things that matter. It seems to me our young people need to know they are cared about - cared about by God and by people (and really, all of us need that, regardless of age). When we know that we are cared for and cared about, our conversations about things that matter (drug abuse, for instance) come out of a place of love, not judgement. 

So my ongoing thesis remains: we offer youth ministries in hopes of teaching students they are beloved children of God, that our congregation is a safe place they can belong, and that they are called to a life of serving God by loving neighbors. 

That's what were all about at WNL. And I think that's a fair description of all our ministry at WUMC.

This summer we've confronted some serious topics: racism, gun violence, privilege, . We've had, I'd like to think, conversations about things that matter. Except in worship those "conversations" are almost exclusively monologues. Let's change that. Let's make our journey together through the life of faith a real dialogue.

Use the comment section here to share your thoughts on how our congregation can engage each other and our community in conversation - and actions - about issues that matter most.

As we enter the long Labor Day weekend, I offer you these links to help get this chat going. Not because they say everything exactly right, but because they've influenced me these last few weeks and give us a common starting point.  

Power Play. A sermon by Rev. Dr. Amy Butler.

What do I tell my son about Trayvon Martin? Reflection by Bill Mefford, Director of Civil and Human Rights for the UMC's General Board of Church & Society. 

An Oral History on the March on Washington from Smithsonian Magazine.

Fighting hunger world-wide from One. 

Confronting the awful reality of gun violence in our streets.

A big win in the fight for justice for sex trafficking victims! Tribune article highlighting our colleagues at Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE).

Take action! UMC's Board of Church & Society justice campaigns.  

Standing Rock time!

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on June 21, 2013 @ 12:20 PM

57 people are about to leave Woodridge for McLaughlin, South Dakota. Most of us are a jumble of nerves and excitment right now. Even if you are not going on the trip, you can still participate:

You can follow our brand new trip blog. Given the limited internet and cell phone access there, I don't know how much we'll be able to post, but we intend to try!

And you can pray. Please pray for us this week. Pray for our travels, pray for our work there, and most importantly pray for the people of Standing Rock. Pray that we will be good friends to and with them. Pray that hunger, poverty, injustice and suffering on the reservation will end. Pray that this mission trip will honor God by honoring all those we meet.

What power do we have?

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on June 07, 2013 @ 2:25 PM

Last Sunday, special guest speaker, the Rev. Karl Sokol offered a challenging message to we who would follow Jesus. He said that in his work with people who are not Christians they are often surprised to find that we who self-identify as Christian don't always believe our own story. Sokol challenged us to stop doing that and start realizing there is power in our story; power available to us from the Holy Spirit through Jesus the Christ. "You will do greater things than I," Jesus told his disciples (John 14:12).

Let me be honest with you. I know that verse and I want to believe as Karl does. But most days I have a hard time believing that you or I can tap into that power that Jesus displayed. Most days I have a hard time believing you or I can heal people like Jesus did. I think I have a hard time believing that because I haven't ever experienced or witnessed such power. 

I suspect that could be hard for some of you to read coming from a pastor. If so, I hope you'll forgive my honesty. I'm not saying I think that verse from John is impossible. Nor am I saying that no one has ever wielded such power. I'm simply saying I've never experienced myself or seen it in anyone else and that makes me skeptical. 

It also makes me cry out like the father from Mark 9:4, "Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!"

Furthermore, I suspect I am not alone in feeling this way. If that is the case, then I hope there may be comfort for some in admitting my honest doubt.

In my sermon this Sunday I will explore this juxtaposition of un/belief even more. But I will also try to challenge all of us (myself first among us) to action. Perhaps we can learn from our sisters and brothers in addiction recovery and "fake it until we make it." For I do believe that feelings and belief can be created by action. The feelings don't have to exist first, contrary to conventional wisdom.

I am convinced of this, however: whatever power we have is best expressed together. We human beings are created for community. We best live out God's call on our lives through compassion for and with others. Especially with those in need, whatever that need may be: having enough to eat, access to safe drinking water, protection from abuse, medicine for diseases, education, recovery from addiction, rescue from slavery, and so much more.

With. There is much power in that preposition, don't you think? 

Hunger and food aid reform remain newsworthy

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on May 24, 2013 @ 12:13 PM

Today, Friday, May 24, the Senate considers an amendment to the Senate Farm Bill from Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) that establishes improvements to U.S. international food aid program. Exactly the kinds of improvements we wrote our Offering of Letters about!

So today we have a great opportunity to once again raise our voices on behalf of hungry and poor people all over the world by contacted Senator Kirk and Senator Durbin and telling them we need them to vote 'yes' on this amendment. Call 800-326-4941 today, and tell your U.S. senators,

Vote “yes” on the Coons-Johanns food aid reform amendment.

As promised, here are a few reactions to the documentary on hunger in America that more than thirty WUMC'ers saw recently.

"It takes the viewer "inside the numbers" to illustrate through the lives of specific people the meaning of the big picture statistics on hunger and poverty."

"Our kids felt bad that some people have to live like [they showed in the film] and they compared it to how we've struggled at times. It helped them appreciate the work they've done at PADS, Feed My Starving Children, and the Northern IL Food Bank."

"We need better checks on the system to eliminate abuses of the system. We need a holistic approach to helping people in need - with child care, dealing with emotional issues, getting better educated in order to qualify for better jobs..."

"The best way to end hunger is to end poverty. The best anti-poverty program is a job. But not just any job. As the film points out, people need jobs that pay a living wage."

"I've connected regularly with people forced to decide whether to to use their meager dollars to buy heat and light, or food, or medicine--one of the three... even here in Dupage County."

The film reminds me we have to "keep showing people that they can make a difference in the lives around them, following what Jesus himself did.  Keep trying to be trustworthy and faithful, in the most practical terms.  Keep trying to claim the hope of the Kingdom!" 

As a reminder, the film is still available On Demand and through iTunes. Do your self a favor and rent it today! Then join the discussion. 

Congratulations Confirmands!!

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on May 17, 2013 @ 4:01 PM

We had a terrific showing at this week's screening of the powerful documentary on hunger in America, A Place at the Table. More on the film next week - including thoughts from those in attendance. Just one quote to whet your appetite... Remember Rosie, the girl from Colorado who often goes to school hungry? (If not, scroll down and watch video of part of her story.) We heard more from her in the film. She's tough and determined. "My dream is to be an honor roll student," she said. "And I want my kids to never be hungry."

But for now...I hope you'll join us in worship this Sunday as we celebrate Pentecost and Confirmation. It's been an incredible 9 months with this class of 19 terrific young people.

Big thanks to our fantastic Confirmation teacher, Martine! 

Congratulations to Allie, Olivia, Patrick, Mylene, Jay, Bradley, Meg, Declan, Marisa, Cassie, Alexis, Lindsay, Taylor, Kyle, Joseph, Kayleigh, Rachel, Matthew and Matthew! 

Plan to be in worship this week so you can congratulate them on their public declaration of faith and on becoming members of Woodridge UMC.

 

Making US food aid more Methodist

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on May 10, 2013 @ 3:17 PM

When we collected our Offering o f Letters (OL) on April 28th, I shared that writing to support food aid reform put us on the cutting edge; that we were helping Bread for the World try out a new focus for OLs.  Food aid reforms in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget proposal help up to 4 million more hungry people get the food they need at no additional cost simply by tweaking the rules governing US food aid, making them more efficient. The reforms also have the long-term benefit of making local farmers and markets more sustainable by allowing aid providers to purchase locally-grown food.

You responded with 120 letters to our Senators – a record for our congregation!

This week the Chicago Tribune stepped up next to us out on that leading edge.

Two editorials in Thursday’s edition – one is a combined effort by John Kerry (secretary of the Department of State), Tom Vilsack (secretary of the Department of Agriculture), and Rajiv Shah (administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development), the other from the Trib editorial board – support the arguments we made that April morning and provide further information and examples .

How cool is that?

I really hope you’ll take a few minutes to read both articles in full, but here’s a taste from each.

Kerry et al. provide examples of the increased efficiency:

“The current program limits our ability to use the appropriate tool for each humanitarian situation — tools we know will help people faster and at a lower cost. This year, 155,000 fewer children in Somalia will receive support because we do not have enough flexibility to use cash to address the ongoing emergency in areas where our food aid cannot go. In eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, we will not be able to reach 34,000 vulnerable children. Each one of these children is three to four times more likely to die than a well-nourished child.

Buying food locally can speed the arrival of aid by as many as 14 weeks — precious time when every day can mean the difference between life and death. It can also cost much less — as much as 50 percent for grains.” [read the rest]

 

The Trib board points out the political realities:

“In the Obama proposal, more than half of U.S. food aid still would be earmarked for the purchase and transport of U.S. commodities, and shippers would receive a government subsidy. There is no sound financial reason for either subsidy, except as a concession to politics. The farm lobby is powerful. A who's who of farm and food organizations already have petitioned the president to keep the status quo for the sake of "stimulating" farm and transportation industries at home.

So here's a test for Congress, particularly for farm-state Republicans and Democrats. The federal government, thanks to sequestration, is finally seeing some serious belt-tightening. Aid programs such as Food for Peace aren't immune from the pressure on spending. They, like all government programs, have to prove they can be done with maximum efficiency.

So, members, take your pick: This reform can feed millions more people at the same cost to taxpayers, feed the same number of people at significantly lower cost, or find some comfortable mix of both goals. But members of Congress who block this reform will expose themselves as wasteful spenders (emphasis mine).”

 

To sum up:

“Food aid can help to lift developing nations out of poverty, promote political stability and economic growth. It must be structured efficiently to achieve its objective. As is, the Food for Peace program doesn't work well, except for the benefit of a privileged few. Reforming food aid would enable America to do justice to a large taxpayer outlay — and to save lives.

Read the whole editorial.

“Make our food aid more efficient and sustainable.” In a way, we’re asking the federal government to take a page from our United Methodist playbook. Our relief efforts already follow these sustainable practices. (Here’s one example.) It’s time for our government to become a little more Methodist. J

Remember, it’s not too late to join our OL! You can still write a letter. All information and instructions are available on our OL page.

Finally, make plans to join the public screening of A Place at the Table, the superb documentary on hunger in America. (“Rosie’s story” below is one piece of the film.) WUMC youth and leaders will be at AMC Showplace 16 in Naperville on Wednesday, May 15. Showtime 7:30pm. Tickets available online. Hope to see you at the movies!

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Successful OL not done yet!

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on May 03, 2013 @ 2:17 PM

Last Sunday, our congregation partnered with Bread for the World in taking an Offering of Letters. Rosie's story (see above video) was a key component of our presentation and perhaps part of the reason the OL produced 110 names on the petition to the President and 120 letters to our Senators. The 120 letters is a WUMC record! (It was the first year that an OL included a petition to the President.) Thank you!

I am, naturally, thrilled by this response and very proud of our people for their advocacy for and with hungry and poor people in America and around the world. It seems to me, such advocacy is an important expression of our faith in Jesus.

But this Offering of Letters isn't done yet. First of all, if you weren't able to participate in the OL last week, it's not too late. You can sign the Petition to the President online. The sample letter to Senators is below. Use that as a guide in writing to your Senators. Or, if you're in the area, paper copies of the petition and the letters will be available in WUMC's Narthex (a churchy word for lobby) on Sunday.

The final action item (if you'll forgive the corporate-speak) of this OL happens May 15. That video above of Rosie's story is an excerpt from A Place at the Table, an excellent documentary on hunger in America. The film is currently available on iTunes and On Demand. But on the 15th it is showing at AMC Showplace 16 in Naperville at 7:30pm. In addition to watching the movie, we'll also present our petitions and letters to local Bread for the World organizers.

The petition and the letters were an unqualified success. I hope you'll join us for film as well. Tickets are only available in advance online. Please contact Pastor Dave by May 8 to secure your ticket.

Here's the sample letter to Senators regarding food aid reform:

Dear Senator ______,

I urge you to publicly support the U.S. food aid reforms that President Obama proposed in his budget request. With these common-sense reforms, our food aid program will work harder for U.S. taxpayers, and two to four million more people in need will receive life-saving help at no additional cost.

In recent years, a number of trusted sources have shown that despite the best of intentions, current laws governing U.S. food aid make it slow to reach people in need and wasteful of taxpayer dollars. The President’s proposal would provide the U.S. with the greater flexibility to respond to hunger needs around the world.

As a person of faith, I want to see hungry people fed, and I also want to see our nation’s resources utilized as effectively and efficiently as possible. Please support—in every way possible—the President’s proposed food aid reforms.

Sincerely,

Your Name

Your Address

A hope and a prayer

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on April 19, 2013 @ 2:04 PM

How often this week have you heard someone say, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of ______"? Boston, Iraq, Texas, Iran, Illinois...there's no shortage of people dealing with violence, disaster, pain, and tragedy. There never is.

Has the "thoughts and prayers" sentiment gone the way of "how are you"? Tossed off with little intent; a perfunctory response to bad news? I know I'm guilty of that sometimes.

I aim to change that today. Now.

Here then is an actual prayer for actual people in actual need from The UMC's fantastic General Board of Discipleship. As the best prayers often are, this is meant to be said in community.

We come together hoping for healing and rest.

Healing can be hard when the world seems harsh and cruel.

We come seeking peace after the blast, even among the shrapnel of images imbedded in our collective minds.

Peace can be hard when the world roars in chaos and pain.

We come to a God who knows what it is to have nails in flesh and bone. We come to a God who knows our pain.

We come to you, O God, because you know how to change death into life and chaos into beauty. Anoint this hour with your peace as we worship in your name.

 

Sometimes the evil in the world isn't as noisy and news-worthy as a bomb. Sometimes it is persistent, pervasive, assumed to simply be part of the way the world is. But no one should be hungry. We can and should and must act to end hunger. Bread for the World can help us do that. So next week, April 28, we will again take up an Offering of Letters asking President Obama and our Senators (Mark Kirk and Dick Durbin) to protect programs that help hungry and poor people.

See the video below for two inspiring OL stories.

More from Bread: How is this year's Offering of Letters different than in the past? The 2013 Offering of Letters includes signing a petition to the president as well as writing letters to Congress. Now is the time for a bold, unified plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad. If you haven't done so already, take a moment now and sign the petition. You can also download copies of the petition and invite friends to sign it and mail it to us.

Join us at Woodridge UMC on April 28 to learn more, to sign the petition, and to write letters.

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'Behind all those big words are human beings'

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on April 05, 2013 @ 2:52 PM

How about a bevy of links for your weekend? These are all what I deem "Well said!"

-I probably say this a lot, but this is why we fight...for justice that is. The title for this post comes from the inspiring video above. How are we doing on the current Millenium Development Goals?

-Are you the parent of a tween? The aunt of one? Or an uncle/cousin/relative/friend/teacher/pastor/acquaintance  of a tween? Basically if you are alive and know anyone else who is currently a child, you totally need to read this:

People will actually vote for who they think is the least attractive in the comments, and whichever girl's name is written the most will be awarded a big fat X drawn across her face.

Do you want me to repeat that last part?

Of course you don't, but I'm going to anyway.

Whichever girl's name is written the most will be awarded with a big fat X drawn across her face. [read the rest] (H/T Todd Query)

-Worlds collide when my friends Adam Ericksen (a UMC'er) and Tripp Hudgins (an American Baptist) have a fantastic 8 part blogalogue regarding Rob Bell's new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About GodThe fun begins here.

-United Methodist uber-blogger, Morgan Guyton, is back at it after a Lenten break. He's whip smart and engages with a wide range of topics.

-Our friends at CAASE and End Demand IL just launched a new campaign: The Ugly Truth.

"The Ugly Truth" is a multi-media communications campaign that was created by The Voices and Faces Project, an End Demand Illinois partner, to challenge myths about prostitution and remind the public of the harm endured by those in the sex trade. We've created our campaign to reach millions of Illinois citizens, calling them to better understand - and work to end - sexual exploitation.

Check it and add your voice to their campaign. 

Your turn! What are you reading and writing and doing for justice?

Experiencing Good Friday and Holy Saturday

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on March 30, 2013 @ 11:34 AM

It seems to me that our words sometimes (often?) get in the way.

Here then is a fantastic video about Good Friday that uses no words. Created by SparkHouse for their line of Sunday School curriculum called Holy Moly. It is meant to be shown to and with children. But I think you'll find it speaks powerfully to all ages. I know it moves me. (Disclosure: I've done some paid consulting work for other SparkHouse projects, but not Holy Moly.)

Once you've watched that, you may need some time in silence. That is what Holy Saturday is for: experiencing the silence of the tomb. It was real for Jesus; it is real for us. The United Methodist Worship blog offers this incredible resource for silence on Holy Saturday.

Perhaps, like me, after you watch the video below and pray through the silence of the Holy Saturday litany, you'll find yourself longing for more. Longing for conversation about these days leading up to Easter, ideas about Jesus' death that do not turn God into a monster who somehow requires the death of "his" own child.

If so, I highly recommend spending some time with the conversation Tony Jones is curating at Why A Crucifixion?

It is in allowing ourselves to experience the events of Friday and Saturday that we become truly ready to know the exhuberant joy of resurrection on Easter morning.

Peace be with you all.

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Make a difference on World Water Day

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on March 22, 2013 @ 1:09 PM

Today, March 22, is World Water Day. So what? As the video above says, water changes everything.

I first learned of World Water Day two years ago. Some of what I wrote then still applies:

I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t even notice just how available water is to me. Among the kitchen sink, the water dispenser in our fridge and our bathrooms, I probably can’t get more than 20 feet away from a water source!

Comparing my water privilege to these stats from around the world is, in a word, sobering:

  • About 800 million people in the world lack access to reliable, safe drinking water.
  • 90% of the 30,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and unhygienic living conditions are children under five years old. Every 20 seconds a child dies from water-related illness.
  • The integrated approach of providing water, sanitation and hygiene reduces the number of deaths caused by diarrheal diseases by an average of 65%. (WHO)

Fortunately, there are many organizations doing really good work helping developing countries find and access safe waterWater.orgCharity: WaterNational Geographic (which has an eye-opening tool to calculate your water footprint, yikes!), World Health OrganizationBlood:Water Mission, and WaterAid.

And, the United Methodist Church through The United Methodist Committee on Relief's Water Collaboration. (UMCOR is the humanitarian arm of the UMC.)

As far as I can tell, partnering with any one of those organizations is a great and important way to make a difference in the world water crisis (though I haven't done extensive research into all of them).

For we who follow God in the Way of Jesus - for self-professed Christians - taking up this cause is not optional. How can we claim to love and serve the one we identify as Living Water if we aren't doing all we can to help sisters and brothers around the world have the water they need to simply live.

world water day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How are you celebrating World Water Day?

Hospitality

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on March 15, 2013 @ 3:49 PM

For me, striving to live the life of faith always comes down to “love God and love your neighbor.” That’s why I always say it in any parting blessing I offer. It is the essence of following God in the Way of Jesus (as I understand it based on scripture, tradition, reason, and experience).

While on retreat last weekend with the 19 amazing teenagers who comprise our current Confirmation class and their parents, we talked a lot about that statement. Jesus called it the greatest commandment. I was reminded that my usual formulation of that greatest commandment - “love God and love your neighbor” - is really shorthand for “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” It occurred to me that my shorthand version presumes knowledge of and familiarity with the full version - a presumption that is inherently unfair to those without such knowledge and familiarity! I wonder how many people over the years I’ve cheated out of a deeper resonance with God’s call on their lives by continually using what amount to code words?

This reminds me that it is really easy for we who are comfortable and familiar with the language, traditions, and practices of the church to fall into the trap of thinking everyone is just as comfortable and familiar as we. Yet even a moment’s reflection upon this reveals the obvious truth: everyone really isn’t comfortable and familiar in church.

So what are we to do?

Fortunately, scripture and tradition are full of wise words on hospitality. Here are a few:

  • “The Bible is full of stories of sojourners, strangers without homes, whom God called people to protect. The ethic of welcoming the sojourner was woven into the very fabric of Israel. It was more than an ethic, it was a command of God. ‘Do not mistreat or oppress a stranger; you know how it feels to be a stranger, because you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.’ (Exodus 23:9)" - The United Methodist Church Book of Resolutions
  • “Let love continue among you. Don’t forget to extend your hospitality to all - even to strangers - for as you know, some have unknowingly shown kindness to heavenly messengers in this way.” -Hebrews 13:1-2, The Voice version.
  • "You must treat the outsider as one of your native-born people - as full citizen - and you are to love them in the same way you love yourself; for remember, you were once strangers living in Egypt." - Leviticus 19:34, The Voice version.
  • The United Methodist Church “encourages churches to embrace a lifestyle that welcomes all people intentionally.” - umc.org article, Want to Practice Radical Hospitality?
  • "If this is God’s world and if the rule of love is at work, then our mandate is not to draw into a cocoon of safety; rather, it is to be out and alive in the world in concrete acts and policies whereby the fearful anxiety among us is dispatched and adversaries can be turned to allies and to friends." –Walter Brueggemann in Mandate to Difference via Carl Gregg
  • Finally, this from Henri Nouwen in Reaching Out via Cheesewearing Theology and Slacktivist:

If there is any concept worth restoring to its original depth and evocative potential, it is the concept of hospitality. It is one of the richest biblical terms that can deepen and broaden our insight in our relationships to our fellow human beings… Hospitality means primarily the creation of a free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place.

Making a slogan about this is the easy part. hospitality pic

But if we are to live up to our calling to love God with our whole being and love our neighbors as ourselves, we must continually seek to be aware of how our language and practices are viewed by those who are not comfortable and familiar with them. We seek this awareness not because our language and practices are wrong or bad, but because God whom we love and serve is the author of hospitality. We seek this awareness in order to make “space where the stranger can enter and become a friend.”

I know that I fail at this, likely often. I hope that forgiveness is offered for those times. What stories of hospitality (or lack there of) can you share?

This is a few years old now, but Church Marketing Sucks has a terrific series on hospitality.

Women and girls

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on March 08, 2013 @ 1:27 PM

"There's nothing like having a daughter for turning you into a feminist," remarked a parishioner after a sermon I gave sometime ago. While I remember neither the specific statement I made nor exactly when this exchange occurred, I vividly remember thinking, "I really hope I was a feminist before we had a daughter. Maybe I haven't been as strong and vocal an advocate for and with women as I thought?"

"Girls are the secret weapon in the war on poverty. But only if they're protected and educated." - Mercy Corps' A Girl Can

However, on this International Women's Day (March 8) it is all too tragically clear that simply having a daughter - or a sister or an aunt or a wife or a friend or a cousin or a mother - is not enough to transform people into feminists*:

UMW DVstats

Via United Methodist Women.

"Women ages fifteen to forty-five are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined." - Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Hoping and praying that those awful, sobering, gut-wrenching, heart-rending statistics change is a good first step, but it isn't enough.

I definitely haven't paid enough attention over the years to the excellent work and advocacy being done by UM Women: Fighting domestic violence, partnering with civic leaders, and providing a plethora of resources and events. We can join these already-in-progress efforts.

"Girls who stay in school during adolescence marry later and are less likely to be subjected to forced sex." - Mercy Corps' A Girl Can

How else can we support equality on this International Women's Day? Again, no wheel-inventing necessary, simply learn from and move with others leading the way:

  • The ONE Campaign offers 5 ideas, all of which you can do from your computer (or, you know, other devices).
  • Wold Chicago is hosting a great event today. My mom and my wife are attending it. Hopefully I can get them to share about the event in a future post. (Full disclosure: World Chicago's Executive Director, Peggy Parfenoff, is a long-time family friend.)
  • Read A Girl Can from Mercy Corps. Their pictures, stats, and video will enrage you, inspire you, and move you to action.

"A girl who can read teaches her mother to read, tells her brothers about women's rights, and makes school a priority for her own children." - Mercy Corps' A Girl Can

In the spirit of ONE's idea #5: Looking back on my formative years, before I knew terms like feminist, advocate, empowerment, equality, or gendered roles, I knew that our family didn't always fit the usual mode. Sure, Mom cooked most of the meals. But Dad did the laundry and we all helped clean the house.

Mom and Dad had the same level of education and both worked similar full-time, outside-of-the-home jobs.

Dad painstakingly worked to keep all the landscaping immaculate. He knew every flower, plant, tree, and (horrors!) weed. Mom was the one with the collection of sports trophies for softball, basketball and bowling. The Sports Illustrated subscription came to her. It was a big accomplishment the day when teenaged Dave finally beat Mom at ping-pong for the first time. Teaching me to throw, catch and hit a baseball? Mom did that. Learning proper form and release shooting hoops? That came from Mom. Scoring bowling by hand? Reading a box score in the newspaper? Correctly marking each play on the baseball score card? Mom, Mom, and Mom again.

Thank you, Mom (and Dad) for teaching me strength, partnership, and equality simply by being who you are. I love you. I hope Joann and I can pass on those lessons to both our son and our daughter.

Your turn! How are you celebrating International Women's Day?

 

*Yes, I realize that is a loaded term for some, a term to avoid. However, I truly don't understand that at all. If women are people too, then what could possibly be bad about "advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men"?? I'm not being glib here, I truly don't see the problem or issue or controversy.

Victory! What's next?

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on March 01, 2013 @ 4:45 PM

Thursday was a really good day.

After months and even years of delay, the U.S. House of Representatives FINALLY passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) - and with it the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA)!

The General Board of Church & Society of The United Methodist Church reminded us what The United Methodist Church says about Family Violence and Abuse:

We recognize that family violence and abuse in all its forms—verbal, psychological, physical, sexual—is detrimental to the covenant of the human community. - UMC Social Principles 161.G

The bill had already passed the Senate and President Obama has said he will sign it right away. Most of the news I saw about this focused on how the main bill protects all women, including native Americans, undocumented immigrants and LGBT women. As Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), herself a rape victim, sharply put it with a paraphrase of 19th century escaped slave and civil rights advocate, Sojourner Truth, "Ain't they women?"

Yes. Yes, they are.

But the VAWA also included the TVPRA as an amendment. TVPA expired over two years ago; we finally have it back! What’s that mean? I’ll let two of our best anti-trafficking partners - Polaris Project and International Justice Mission - tell you.

From Polaris Project:

This bill sets important funding benchmarks, encourages distribution of the National Human Trafficking Hotline number by federal agencies, establishes grant programs for state agencies to assist child victims of sex trafficking, strengthens the ability to prosecute those who fraudulently hire individuals in foreign labor contracts, and more. [read the rest]

IJM adds that the 2013 version of the TVPRA has new provisions as well:

  • Gives the State Department authority to partner with overseas governments to stop child trafficking in targeted areas. It’s much more specific and measurable than previous programs
  • An emergency response provision helps the State Department quickly deploy teams of experts into crisis areas—like the situation in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake—where disorder and poverty can leave children or other vulnerable poor especially susceptible to trafficking.
  • New tools to help prosecute traffickers and people who exploit the poor.
  • Continued support for existing programs that support survivors of trafficking both in the U.S. and overseas. [read the rest]

After this victory, as President Bartlett used to ask, What’s next?
Time to talk hunger again, that's what.

Our friends at Bread for the World ask, How is it possible that people in this country continue to go hungry, despite our abundance of food?

As an answer to that question, they are partners with a new film from Magnolia Pictures and its accompanying social action campaign. “March 1st marks the premiere of A Place at the Table, a new eye-opening documentary that answers the question through the lives of three people. Their stories reveal the depth of the hunger crisis in America and the factors that drive it.

Watch the trailer below. But be careful, the trailer does its job - you will want to see the whole movie. Good thing then A Place at the Table is available right now On Demand and through iTunes. You can also find A Place at the Table on Facebook and Twitter.

Watch the film and leave a comment with your reactions here!

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Observing Lent

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on February 22, 2013 @ 3:48 PM

The basics of the season of Lent are pretty well known:

  • 40 days, not counting Sundays, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday.
  • The 40 days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan.
  • ‘Lent’ comes from the Anglo Saxon word ‘lencten’, which means 'spring.'

At our Ash Wednesday service just over a week ago, we ushered in the season with this:

We invite you to observe a Holy Lent by self-examination and repentance; by prayer,  fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word.

How is that going for you so far?

During Evening Worship last week we shared some pretty funny stories about ways we’d failed to “observe a Holy Lent.” All of us gathered that night wanted a Lenten discipline that meaningfully connected us with Jesus. But it seemed at least some of us weren’t certain how to do that or were in need of a fresh idea or two. Perhaps that’s the case for you, too.

Therefore I offer this collection of ideas for observing a Holy Lent. Join us! It’s not too late to start a new discipline. Pick something from this list or use it to inspire your own idea. Consider sharing your discipline with others, not in order to brag (which Jesus warned us about in Matthew 6), but in order to encourage others in their discipline. For, as that Troy Smith look-a-like known as Chuck Knows Church says, “It’s about enhancing the discipline of the whole body for conversion from sin and death to love and life in Jesus Christ.” I’m convinced we do that better together.

Ways to Observe a Holy Lent:

  1. Participate in our Lent Study: “Methodist Mysteries!” Mondays at 7pm or Thursdays at 10am.
  2. Take a photo a day following Rethink Church’s daily theme and accompanying devotion. Be sure to check out all the pictures others are posting too. (Here are my entries, if you're interested.)
  3. *Try an electronic fast. Give up TV, Guitar Hero, texting, tweeeting, e-mail and all things electronic for one day every week. (or everyday of Lent!) Use the time to read & pray.
  4. Start a prayer rhythm. Say a prayer every time you brush your teeth, hear an ambulance, or check your e-mail. Before you text someone, pray for them.
  5. Read one chapter in the Bible each day. (Matthew's a good book to start with. Psalms, too.)
  6. Forgive someone who doesn't deserve it (maybe even yourself.)
  7. Give up soft drinks, fast food, tea or coffee. Give the money you save to help folks in Haiti or others in crisis.
  8. Create a daily quiet time. Spend 30 minutes a day in silence and prayer.
  9. Cultivate a life of gratitude. Write someone a thank you letter each week and be aware of how many people have helped you along the way.
  10. Be kind to someone each day.
  11. Pray for others you see as you walk to and from classes or drive to and from work.
  12. Volunteer one hour or more each week with a local shelter, tutoring program, nursing home, prison ministry, Habitat for Humanity project, etc.
  13. **Start a giveaway box and add at least three items of clothes you have not worn in the last year.
  14. Use your money to back up your beliefs. Talk to your financial adviser about socially responsible investments.
  15. Spend 5 minutes in nature where you can only see things that are God-made.
  16. Do you say grace when you consume energy (food) at the table?  Next time you fill up your car with gas,say a prayer for God’s sustaining hand.
  17. Invite someone new into your home to share a homemade meal.
  18. Drink tap instead of bottled water.
  19. Take a walk and clean up trash along the way.  Take someone with you so one of you can collect recyclables.
  20. Visit your local farmer’s market and start buying your vegetables there. You’ll support your local economy and reduces the number of miles your food travels from farm to plate.

* Ideas 3-12 from Rev. Penny Ford via The Upper Room.
**Ideas 13-20 from Nancy Sleeth via Sojourners. See even more of her ideas here.

May God bless our Lenten season so that we will be a blessing to others.

said...

Posted on March 16, 2013 @ 2:07 PM -
why is forgiving yourself always harder than someone else for many people

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'Break the Chain...Women Are Not Possessions'

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on February 14, 2013 @ 6:40 PM

It’s noon on Valentine’s Day. It’s time to dance and break the chains!

If I could be, I would be downtown dancing with Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE) or War Chest Boutique: Naperville to join in with 1 Billion Rising. Since I can’t be with them, I contemplated recording a little dance on my own…but thought better of it. I’m not afraid to look like an idiot (which I would), I’ve been in youth ministry for two decades now. Looking like an idiot is part of the job description. No, I thought better of it because I want you to keep reading, not run away in horror never to return. I thought better of it because I don’t want to even give the appearance of making light of this effort.

UPDATE: Check out pictures from CAASE’s rising in Daley Plaza. A friend who works downtown declared, “They made quite the ruckus today!”

 

CAASE 1B rising

 

 

Where does the 1 billion come from in 1 Billion Rising? 1 in 3 women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That's 1 billion women.

It is long, long, long past time for all of us to stop treating women as possessions, as nothing more than bodies to be used, abused, and discarded.

It is long, long, long past time for Congress to reauthorize both the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The delay in these actions is unconscionable and shameful.

Yes, it’s true, the culture in which the bible was written treated women as property, as little more than baby-making machines (more sons, please). But that was two and three and four thousand years ago. Don’t we know better by now?

I urge you to contact your Congress persons right now, today about these acts. Our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our wives, our grandmothers, our friends are fully human and must be treated as such.

The church as far too often led the way in treating women terribly. We’re not just talking ancient history here either. Still today, far too many churches tell women their only place is in the home completing domestic chores. Far too many churches still tell women their only important role the only role they are allowed is that of wife and mother. Still today, far too many churches tell women it is sinful to leave their abusive husband. All of that must stop!

Sure, the United Methodist Church's official position treats women well. And as far as I can tell, our congregation is doing right by women. Though if I'm wrong about that, please, please, please let me know! Still, as Edmund Burke taught us, "all that is required for evil to prevail is for good [people] to do [or say] nothing." We will not be silent until all our women and girls are treated with respect and humanity.

Instead of me dancing like a goof, I offer you this incredible video from 1 Billion Rising. Watch it then do a little dance and make a little noise to end violence against women and human trafficking.

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Finding home, living forever

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on February 08, 2013 @ 9:43 AM

Do you want to your faith to matter? Matter both to you and to the world? Do you want your life to be full, meaningful, deep, resonant, beautiful, everlasting?

I asked this in my Jan. 27 sermon. I said that to answer those questions in the affirmative means making Jesus’ way our home. What is Jesus’ way? He declared it himself in his first public speech according to Luke's Gospel. Reading from Isaiah 61 (though interpreting it to best reflect the Way he embodied), Jesus said:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed to free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. - Luke 4:18-19

Want your faith to matter and your life to be everlasting? Then make this way of Jesus your home. Take Jesus mission statement, his thesis, this synopsis of his life’s purpose and work, take this and make it your mission statement, your thesis. Make it your life’s purpose.

That day I shared a poem written in response to that scripture. I often find I'm too dense to get most poetry, but this is too beautiful not to share.

A Prophet’s Blessing by Jan L. Richardson
This blessing finds its way behind the bars.

This blessing works its way beneath the chains.

This blessing knows its way through a broken heart.

This blessing makes a way where there is none.

Where there is no light, this blessing.

Where there is no hope, this blessing.

Where there is no peace, this blessing.

Where there is nothing left, this blessing.

In the presence of hate.

In the absence of love.

In the torment of pain.

In the grip of fear.

To the one in need.

To the one in the cell.

To the one in the dark.

To the one in despair.

Let this blessing come as bread.

Let this blessing come as release.

Let this blessing come as sight.

Let this blessing come as freedom.

Let this blessing come.

-------------------------------

May this blessing, this way of abundant, meaningful, everlasting life - this home - spring forth into life in and through me, in and through you, in and through us.

Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on February 01, 2013 @ 4:24 PM

As I write on Thursday afternoon, word breaks of yet another shooting at a school. This time a 14 year old has been shot at a middle school in Atlanta, Georgia. According to police, the suspect is in custody and the wounded student is “alert.” Both suspect and victim are students at the middle school.

This shooting occurred:

  • 7 weeks after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, Newtown, CT which left 28 dead.
  • 3 weeks after a 16 year old shot two students with a shotgun at Taft High School, Taft, CA.
  • 16 days after a student shot an administrator and himself at Stevens Institute of Business and Arts in downtown St. Louis.
  • 9 days after three people were shot at Lone Star Community College near Houston, TX.
  • 2 days after King Prep High School student, Hadiya Pendleton was shot to death in a park in Chicago.
  • 1 day after a gunman shot and killed a school bus driver and abducted a Kindergarten student in Midland City, Alabama.

And those are just the school-related shootings.

To say that all this breaks my heart sounds far too trite, and yet other, better words fail to present themselves. I am sad and I am angry. It seems clear this is not how God intends for us to treat one another. It seems clear that our culture is addicted to violence and in love with guns. It seems clear that I am part of the problem. From the shows I watch to the movies I enjoy to the books I read to the comics I buy, violence is too often a common denominator.

Yet what can we do? After all, Deacon Beth sharply reminded us earlier this month as she considered King Herod’s actions after the birth of Jesus, the slaughtering of innocents is not a new phenomenon. What can we do? Are we resigned to this fate? Beth concluded her post with a brilliant response: “May we choose, as followers of Christ, not to buy guns for an illusory feeling of ‘protection.’ And may we fight, fight, fight for sanity in our gun laws.”

Now a new way to enter that fight for sanity presents itself.

We - as individuals, as families, as a congregation - can emulate The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society and United Methodist Women by joining our voices with Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence. Over 40 denominations and faith-based organizations have joined, including Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs.

This coalition wrote a letter to President Obama and Congress, which reads in part:

Gun violence is taking an unacceptable toll on our society, in mass killings and in the constant day-to-day of senseless death. While we continue to pray for the families and friends of those who have perished, we must also support our prayers with action.We support immediate legislative action to accomplish the following:

  1. Every person who buys a gun should pass a criminal background check;

  2. High capacity weapons and ammunition magazines should not be available to civilians; and

  3. Gun trafficking should be a federal crime.

Adding our voice to this movement will not, by itself, stop all gun violence. A diversity of other actions are needed too. Actions born of our faith that the one we call Lord and Savior is also Prince of Peace. But this is a good step in the right direction. It is something we can do. Join the Faiths United coalition here.

To learn more:

Being ambassadors

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on January 25, 2013 @ 1:22 PM

Those who went to Standing Rock last year Robert White Mountain called 'ambassadors.' We added many more to that title on Sunday.

Our congregation's relationship with Robert and the Lakota people grew last weekend. It grew as we listened with ears to hear, including hard truths. Our relationship grew as we dreamed together a better future for the people of Standing Rock - and furthered plans to bring those dreams to life. Our relationship grew when we honored Robert with a significant gift. We raised $1450 for Robert and his work!

Thanks be to God for Robert, his family, his message, and your generosity!

 

If you heard Robert speak last week, what did you hear that surprised you? What moved you? What do you want to hear more about?

Leave your responses in the comments section below.

If you missed Sunday's guest speaker (or if you literally couldn't hear him - he is very soft spoken!), take some time to watch the video below. It is Sunday's Evening Worship in it's entirety, most of which is Robert responding to questions from me and those assembled.

A few highlights:

“My biggest dream would be to end the [Indian] Wars, and help us heal.”

“What if Columbus had seen the Indian’s friendliness as a strength instead of a weakness? How would that have changed history? What if he’d thought, ‘I can learn something from these guys and they can learn from me.’?"

“Ending the War would show America and the world that we’re finally going to do something to help the Native people.”

If you stay with the video to the end, you're rewarded by hearing Robert's prayer song. It's simply beautiful.

There are still a few spots available for the 2013 Summer Mission Trip to Standing Rock Reservation. Among many other things, those who go will get to spend more time with Robert! Better sign up soon.

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Robert White Mountain Day?

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on January 18, 2013 @ 5:55 PM

Is this what Pittsburgh feels like? This Sunday presents an intriguing confluence of three streams.   From the broader culture flows Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Human Relations Day sluices from The Untied Methodist Church. And emanating from our own congregation, Sunday is Robert White Mountain Day.

Ok, so we didn’t really declare it a capital “D” day. Still, it seems apt. As I hope you’ve heard and read by now, Robert White Mountain is our special guest speaker at all three worship gatherings (9:00am, 10:30am, & 5:00pm). Plus, he’s staying after both morning services for a Q&A session. There’s an open lunch at Suparossa with him and his family. Evening Worship is already designed as a conversation, so that’s another opportunity to talk with and learn from Robert. Finally, like the good Methodists we are, more eating. Evening Worship always ends with a meal and this week is no different.

Worship, conversation, and sharing meals. Sounds like a great way to spend a day. :-)

While I don’t know what Robert will say specifically, I believe the day will honor Human Relations Day and Dr. King’s legacy.

What’s Human Relations Day? According to Safiyah Fosua, writing for The General Board of Discipleship, “Martin Luther King, Jr., Day has become Human Relations Day on the United Methodist Special Days Calendar. This allows us to step back from the historical person, Martin Luther King, Jr., just enough to embrace the sweeping worldwide reforms initiated by Dr. King and others during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.”

So maybe we aren’t in Pittsburgh after all. Fosua continues, “[Human Relations Day] also calls us to remember two things: that one person can make a tremendous difference and that when we venture forth in the name of God's justice, we will not have to stand alone for very long.”

I may have met Robert briefly last summer on our mission trip, but I know that description certainly fits him. And us. Together we are seeking God’s justice for the people of Standing Rock Reservation.

I can’t wait to hear what Robert has to say, what questions you ask, and what conversations that interaction sparks.

Leave a question for Robert here.

Learn more about our 2013 Summer Mission Trip to Standing Rock Reservation here.

'a people robbed and plundered...trapped in holes and hidden'

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on January 11, 2013 @ 2:34 PM

I must admit that the list of national observance days and months is overwhelming and often tedious if not down right ridiculous. For instance, January sports National Fresh Squeezed Juice Week and National Handwriting Analysis Week. This month is National Get Organized Month, Oatmeal Month, and National Polka Music Month, among many others. (Ok, my father-in-law would have loved that last one!)

I sincerely hope that today is not one of those days. Today, January 11, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day and January is also National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

Here at WUMC we’ve been talking about human trafficking - and working to end it - for several years. We’ve partnered with organizations both international and local. We’ve looked at both sex slavery and labor slavery. We’ve hosted speakers, founded projects, screened films, and shared many inspiring, informative links. But in all this time I’ve been disappointed by the small number of projects and stories regarding modern day slavery by the United Methodist Church.

The main exception to that lack has come from the United Methodist Women. And they didn’t disappoint today either. Check this out from their website:

"A major myth about human trafficking is that most trafficked persons are taken against their will...snatched off the street, thrown into a van. Or that they are runaways or drug users, exhausted of options, of money, and of hope.

Most, at the beginning, are leaving home to pursue a good job abroad. Then they find they have been sold, they owe tens of thousands of dollars and will have to buy themselves back.

Remember that for every victim of sex trafficking worldwide there are nine forced labor and/or domestic servitude cases.”

Then UMW offered words of trafficked women, imploring readers to “imagine what that journey must be like.” Take a moment to read their stories.

UMW also shares good information. Here’s a taste:

"Why does human trafficking happen?
Our current global economic system continues to reward wealth and exploit the poor. Sexual trafficking is connected to the feminization of poverty. Seventy percent of the world’s poor are women and girls, most of whom live in developing countries with limited options available to them. Women comprise 56 percent of the 12.3 million trafficked adults and children according to the Trafficking in Persons Report."

Why do we care so much about this?

In his first public declaration, Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me...He sent me to tell those who are held captive that they can now be set free... He sent me to liberate those held down by oppression.” (Luke 4:18)

Clearly, the victims of modern-day slavery/human trafficking need to hear the good news that God is with them. They need to hear the good news that God’s dream for their lives is for them to be free.

There is always more to learn and more ways to engage this issue. Two of the best anti-trafficking efforts locally are the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation and the Salvation Army PROMISE program's Anne's House.

Anne's House continues to be the only local long-term trauma based residential program for victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

Today, CAASE released their latest research into those who buy sex in Illinois.

It is a disturbing read. But important. Here's why:

"CAASE believes that this research can inform more effective ways for law enforcement and communities to address the demand for prostitution. 'If we want to adequately and effectively reduce the demand for paid sex, and thus reduce violence against prostituted people, we need to first understand what motivates men to purchase sex,' said Rachel Durchslag, Executive Director of CAASE. 'Lara Janson’s report highlights, through johns’ own words, how specific law enforcement responses to prostitution do deter men from purchasing sex.'” 

 

The words of Isaiah often inspire our work for justice. The title of this post comes from some of those words:

But this is a people robbed and plundered, all of them are trapped in holes and hidden in prisons; they have become a prey with no one to rescue, a spoil with no one to say, “Restore!” Who among you will give heed to this, who will attend and listen for the time to come? —Isaiah 42:22-23 (NRSV)

We hope you’ll join us as we continue on this journey. We hope you’ll join us in this modern-day abolitionist movement.

Looking back, planning ahead

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on January 03, 2013 @ 2:07 PM

As this is just the first week of the new year I can still get away with offering a retrospective on 2012, right? Hope so, 'cause that's what I'm gonna do...

Sure, some of you already read this in the Charge Conference report. But I'm guessing at least of a few of you missed that document. Plus, this version includes links - and that's always fun! Let's take a look back at 2012 and see what 2013 might entail.

Koinonia is a Greek word from the New Testament that means “community,” and particularly community formed through outreach, fellowship and worship. It was chosen as my title (in 2003) because it describes well the ministry I am called to lead. I seek to serve Christ through our youth ministries, our charity and justice work, our education ministries and our worship gatherings.

I couldn’t have predicted it one year ago, but “Switch it Up” would be an appropriate summary of 2012. We made some changes to our programs and ministries, some minor and some...not so minor.

Worship. Even before 2012 began, we started experimenting with an alternative evening worship service. Set in a different space, using a different liturgical approach we’re striving to help people connect with God and with each other in ways our traditional setting cannot. Our worship band leads the music. Seating is casually arranged in a style approaching “coffeeshopness.” The message strives to be dialogical. No amplification of speakers’ voices attempts to break down the barrier between clergy and laity, giving fuller expression to that most Protestant of beliefs, the priesthood of all believers. Big thanks to Karen & Dave Miller and Chris McConnell for all they’ve done to support this new worship effort!

Evening Worship has evolved into a monthly gathering with a meal. We are not reaching as many young adults as we’d hoped with this service, so there remains work to do in 2013.

Outreach. In the area of justice education, we continued to be part of the fight against modern-day slavery/human trafficking. In February we showed the music-themed documentary, Call + Response. Unfortunately, the IL Rescue & Restore Coalition disbanded due to lost funding. But in the spring we added a new partner in this ongoing fight: Women At Risk, International (WAR) and their local representative, WAR Chest Boutique in downtown Naperville. First, they worshiped with us, telling their story and selling goods made by women in their safe houses. Then in September a group of 20 attended the WAR night at the Naperville Independent Film Festival. We look forward to expanding our relationship with WAR in 2013.

We love the UMC’s Change the World Day. This year we focused on environmental stewardship by partnering with the Woodridge Rotary’s Recycling Event. Working with groups already doing Kingdom work (even if they wouldn’t call it that) helps us better connect with our community and with what the Holy Spirit is doing in our midst.

Similarly, we continued to partner with Bread for the World, raising our voice for the voiceless, advocating lawmakers to form a circle of protection around poor and hungry people and the programs that serve them. Our April Offering of Letters produced 100 letters, a new WUMC record. I’m proud that our tradition of doing the OL in worship continues. Doing so demonstrates the importance and impact of speaking up for justice.

Big thanks to Deb Wordinger and all the members of the Outreach Committee for their tremendous help with these events for all you do to keep us focused on God’s Kingdom of justice!

Looking to 2013, I hope we will find ways to renew our support of Anne’s House, Chicago’s only long-term, therapeutic care facility for girls rescued from sex slavery and sexual exploitation.

Youth. In January we participated in the NIC Ski Camp for the first time. Our small group had a ton of fun, with a couple teens skiing for the first time. Perhaps a new winter tradition was born!

I know a new tradition was born this fall when we participated in Bridge Community’s Sleep Out Saturday for the first time. Our youth (and adults) were incredibly moved by the rally, the simulation game and the experience of solidarity with homeless people expressed in sleeping outside in the November cold. Sharing their reflections in worship the next morning demonstrated the power of the experience. SOS replaced our fall retreat this year, and seems poised to do so for years to come.

This year we are utilizing a new format for our Confirmation program. After meeting twice a week to worship, study, reflect, serve and pray, we hope all 19 in the program decide to follow Jesus and join WUMC in May 2013.

Our annual youth mission trip began like any other. We traveled to tiny McLaughlin, South Dakota on the Standing Rock Reservation of the Lakota people. There we served people in need by cleaning, repairing and painting homes as well as providing, planning and leading Kid’s Club for children. We’ve done all this before. But something was different this year. God was at work in and through and with us. Something in us changed as we heard the stories of the Lakota people. Our nightly reflections were deeper, more probing. We longed to relieve more of their suffering. We desire to rectify, in whatever small ways we can, the evil and injustice done to the tribe in the distant - and not so distant - past. We want to return. We want to bring not just youth, but the whole congregation.

And that’s just what we will do. June 22-29, we’ll return to Standing Rock Reservation with as many as 65 people of all ages. We return to continue to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus Christ with and for the people of Standing Rock.
 
None of our youth ministries would be possible without the tremendous loving dedication of our volunteer leaders. THANK YOU to all who help make ministry with students possible! Christine Darfler, Kevin Read, Martine & Glenn Nelson, Kathy Falout, Barb Sprague, and many more. Thank you.

Much thanks to Pastor Jim and Deacon Beth for being so supportive of me and the ministry I strive to lead. Our congregation relies heavily upon the skill and support of our office staff. So big thanks also to Tracey Collins and Amy Lietz. Our whole staff works together well and makes our tasks a delight. I really appreciate all of you!

With the ever-present help of God’s Holy Spirit, in 2013 we will continue to strive to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. It is an ongoing pleasure and a privilege to be one of your pastors.

Plotting Goodness,
Pastor Dave

Thanks, Bread!

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on December 26, 2012 @ 10:50 AM

I know there much more important issues to cover: protecting SNAP and other programs vital to caring for poor and hungry people in any fiscal cliff deal; raising our voices to destigmatize mental health care; drowning out the NRA's insanity with petitions, letters, posts, conversations, and every other way we can; continuing to care for the people of Newtown, CT; and so much more...

In spite of all that, I hope you'll forgive me for a little shameless self-promotion.

I was thrilled and honored when Bread for the World contacted me this fall saying they wanted to write about me in the "From the Field" section of their November/December newsletter. That section highlights a member's work for and with Bread. As many of you know, I love Bread. I think it is a terrific organization doing vital work with and for hungry and poor people nationally and globally.

I know there are plenty of other people doing just as much and more than I, so it was humbling to be chosen. They wrote a very kind piece. Take a look:

Pastor Dave Buerstetta did not always make the connection between his Christian faith and advocating for hungry people. "I had kind of a conversion experience in seminary," he says. "I met the Jesus who cares, the one who breaks down the barriers, who helps people who need help."

"That is the Jesus that I'm in love with. That's how I knew to live the life that I was called to."

An ordained American Baptist minister, Dave Buerstetta serves as a pastor at the Woodridge United Methodist Church, in Naperville, Ill., where he lives with his wife, Joann, and two children. At Woodridge, Pastor Dave focuses on youth ministry, outreach, and social justice. He is a thoroughly 21st century minister, maintaining a popular blog and using social media to share his homilies and fight hunger, poverty, and human trafficking.

Despite ministering to a solidly middle-class congregation, Pastor Dave has seen the hidden hunger that exists in most communities. "Even here they have a lot of need," he says, relating the story of a family who volunteered at a local food pantry for years and now needs help. Unfortunately, the stigma of hunger and poverty drove that family to seek help outside of the community instead of turning to the pantry at which they had assisted for so many years.

That stigma is a barrier that people of faith need to erase, according to Pastor Dave. He points to the new documentary "The Line" as an important resource for understanding that hunger can happen to any of us. “It puts the lie to any notion that people who are struggling are lazy,” he says. ("The Line" can be viewed at www.bread.org.)

In Pastor Dave’s experience, the faces behind the statistics give him power as he advocates as "the hands, the feet, and the voice" for hungry people. He recounts the feedback that he received from a legislative aide for Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) "She said that it’s not enough to tell a moral story. In the current climate, we have to tell stories of people we know in congregations who are receiving assistance. It's not just millions ... it's Mr. and Mrs. Smith who can’t feed their daughter."

Since getting more involved with Bread after the 2008 National Gathering, Pastor Dave he has become a seasoned advocate, lobbying in person and on the phone and making the Offering of Letters a major focus in the worship service. He also maintains a one-person Offering of Tweets, sending messages to Congress and informing the world about social justice issues through his Twitter account.

Pastor Dave has seen the positive effect of his lobbying efforts and of the Offering of Letters. When visiting Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) with three other Bread members, she told them that they had received hundreds of letters from Bread and that the letters had make a difference. She also told them that she was cosponsoring a bill to strengthen poverty-focused development assistance.

"It's experiences like that that help me see the value of lobbying," says Pastor Dave.

Photo credit: Patti Cash
That's me in between Ushers Jay and Tim, saying a prayer of dedication of our Offering of Letters on April 29, 2012. Photo credit: Patti Cash

Thank you, Bread for the World. It is a joy working with you.

How about you? What ways are you connecting with and caring for hungry and poor people this holiday season?

Grief and hope

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on December 21, 2012 @ 10:24 PM

Our son recently turned 7 years old. He's in first grade.

It's been a rough week.

Oh, not for him nor his little sister. They're fine and are excited for Christmas.

But the unspeakable horror of the Newtown shooting hit Joann and me very hard.  (Though, obviously, our sadness is in no way comparable to those families directly affected.) We cried, we seethed, we cried, we hugged our kids, we cried, we prayed, and we cried some more.

Lots of people have written and said lots words in the week since the shooting. Some of it asinine and reprehensible (looking at you Dobson, Hukabee, and Westboro "Baptist" "Church." And now you too, NRA. All of you make me scream obscenities and break things.). Some of it beautiful and inspiring. As usual, Fred Clark at Slacktivist has a terrific links round up.

I haven't really been able to craft much that is coherent beyond this: We love and worship and strive to serve the God of hope. I trust in God's promise to be present for those who mourn. I hear God calling me (and us) to mourn with them. I trust and pray that God's light will continue to shine even in the deepest darkness.

Since I seem to have no words for the grief, the anger, and, yes, even the glimmer of hope that I feel on this longest of nights, I will let music from my favorite band speak for me. After all, isn't that what art is for?

Make it through this night and light will shine just a wee bit longer tomorrow.

Peace be with you all.

'justice and righteousness in the land'

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on December 07, 2012 @ 1:24 PM

In our Advent study of the Rev. Mike Slaughter's book, Christmas is Not Your Birthday, we're seeking a realistic picture of that first Christmas so long ago. The hope is that such a picture will help deflate the pressure for a perfect Christmas celebration that so many of us feel. For far too many of us, the Christmas season is mostly marked - not by peace, joy, and happiness - but by stress, shopping, stress, eating, drinking, stress, debt, and stress.

How might we change that?

As Slaughter writes, "The power of Immanuel [God-with-us, a biblical name for Jesus] is the power to create change in the world through God's action in your life."

What kind of change? God's Kingdom here "on earth as it is in heaven," as we pray each week. Or, using the words of the prophet Jeremiah instead, "bringing justice and righteousness in the land."

Slaughter suggests and I agree: replace some shopping, some eating & drinking with some justice-seeking and chances are you'll stress less about the next party. You'll be better connected to and with God's work in the world. In other words, you'll be better connected to and with the story of Christmas - and with Immanuel himself.

There is so much injustice in the world, pick an area that most moves you to respond: poverty, hunger, homelessness, human trafficking, AIDS, domestic violence, LGBT rights, bullying, suicide, fair trade goods, malaria, clean water, climate crises...it's a long list. Links there to lots of organizations (though by no means exhaustive) doing great work and waiting to partner with you.

Through UMCOR, the United Methodist Church is addressing all those issues.

Check out their Rethink Christmas List.

Or consider radical hospitality to AIDS victims. "How often do we people of faith pass judgment on others undeservedly? HIV and AIDS are terrifying not only because of the physical symptoms, but because of the isolation that they cause through brutal stigma. The church is uniquely positioned to combat stigma through unconditional love. What if we lived up to that possibility?" [read the rest]

Or support disaster response in New Jersey or Japan or Haiti.

Or, or, or...

What moves you? What will you do to bring justice and righteousness in the land this Advent and Christmas?

Help your brain, body and spirit

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on November 16, 2012 @ 1:50 PM

As the end of the year approaches, WUMC is, like many organizations, in the midst of our stewardship campaign. That campaign will determine the level of support for our ministries in 2013.

There is much biblical support for giving to such a campaign. If you've been around most any church for most any length of time, you've likely heard many of those examples. "God loves a cheerful giver." (2Cor 9:7) and "it is better to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35) spring to mind.

Our congregation is involved in many ministries for which we give thanks. The continuation of those ministries is another excellent reason to give to the campaign. 

But how about we get a little more mundane for a moment? How about considering the benefits of giving on the giver? Inspired by an article (which, inexplicably, isn't online) in the December issue of Men's Health, we can say with confidence that giving to help others affects our brain, our body, and our spirit.

First, your brain: "Recent neuropsychological research shows that donating to charity activates neural activity in areas of the brain that are linked to reward processing – the same areas that are activated by pleasures like eating and sex." [read the rest]

From the not-online Men's Health article: "Giving to charity can activate the parts of your brain associated with social attachment, a National Institutes of Health study reveals."

Next, your body: From the International Journal of Psychophysiology, "People who offer social support to others had lower blood pressure and stress levels."

Giving can help to you to be healthier. And with those lower levels of stress and blood pressure, maybe even help you to live longer!

Finally, your spirit: "New research by one Harvard scholar implies that happiness can be found by spending money on others" (emphasis mine).

"Michael Norton, assistant professor of business administration in the marketing unit at the Harvard Business School (HBS), conducted a series of studies with his colleagues Elizabeth Dunn and Lara Aknin at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Together they showed that people are happier when they spend money on others versus on themselves." [read the rest]

I don't know about you, but I find this fascinating...and more than a little fun. So stimulate your brain, be healthier, and feel good. Consider these the good, selfish reasons for giving! :-)

 

Helping Sandy Survivors

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on November 08, 2012 @ 4:32 PM

I love UMCOR. It is without a doubt one of my favorite things about the United Methodist Church.

While the election naturally grabbed most of our attention this week (you can read my election reaction on my personal blog, if you're so inclined), recovery from the damage done by Hurricane Sandy continues. As always, UMCOR is there.

"Through UMCOR, United Methodists extend relief and recovery to people in need in the United States, Africa, Asia, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe. Our work with affected communities helps them build capacity to meet the needs generated by an emergency."

That is from the Disaster Relief project at 10 Fold. (Yep, two years after 10/10/10, 10 Fold is still going strong. Check it out, just a few clicks sends donations to worthy projects. You can donate your own money there as well.) That was written well before Sandy. So was this:

"When a disaster strikes a community in the US, local churches provide the first response. This basic understanding—that disaster response is local—is the foundation for all of UMCOR’s US disaster training programs and emergency response. We are, first and foremost, a resource for the local response. UMCOR provides training, expertise, and networking to help communities recover."

The stories of wreckage are hard to read. But worth reading anyway.

"He looked up and down his streets, where his neighbors' piles of ruined belongings were growing next to his own. 'It's unfathomable, the damage,' he said. 'You can't get your mind around the enormity of it.'"

The best part of UMCOR is that 100% of donations go to relief. Adminsitrative costs are covered by other means. I doubt there is another relief agency that can say the same.

Back in July, several members of the church went to the Midwest Distribution Center in Chatham, Illinois which provides UMCOR with supplies such as health kits and cleaning buckets.

Ways we can respond:

  • This Sunday we will see a presentation on what is happening at the Midwest Distribution Center and we will have a special collection to be split between Hurricane Sandy relief and the preparedness efforts at the Midwest Distribution Center where they are raising money to build an additional warehouse.
  • Donate through UMCOR.
  • Learn how to create a Relief-Supply bucket.
  • Pray "without ceasing."

 

 

 

 

"I'm not just sitting back waiting for somebody to hand me something"

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on November 02, 2012 @ 12:40 AM

Thanks to all who watched The Line last week! It was great having a full room!

There was plenty of discussion going on in small groups afterwards, too.

After the small group discussion time, I asked for people willing to share some of what they discussed regarding three questions:

  1. What in the film surprised you? What did you learn from the film?
  2. What connections among the four stories did you notice?
  3. What creative ideas do you have about how to respond to poverty?

A sampling of responses (paraphrased to the best of my memory):

  • "I didn't know there was a connection between violence and poverty."
  • "I noticed how much all [four] people hated being poor... Hated that they needed help."
  • "I tried to imagine working 365 days a year and still not making enough to support myself. It gave me renewed compassion for a relative struggling with prolonged unemployment."
  • "It made me realize how close to the edge just about all of us are. An accident, an illness, loss of a job...those stories could be about us."
  • "Watching this reminded me that we serve the poor because that is how we live the Kingdom of God 'on earth as it is in heaven.' Serving the poor is what it means to follow Jesus."
  • "I want our Confirmation Class to find a local project to support so we can help poor people here in Woodridge."
  • I can't watch that and think that any of them feel entitled to federal assistance. I can't call any of them 'irresponsible.' None of them wants to be in a position of needing help."
  • "I noticed it wasn't their fault they were poor. Their situation wasn't about choices they made. Rather, it was due to circumstances outside their control."
  • "We don't have to reinvent the wheel in order to help people. For instance, right here in Woodridge the West Suburban Community Pantry doesn't just give food. They also have many programs that help: ESL classes, free child car seats, access to affordable health care, and they help clients register for SNAP."
  • "James' story, especially when he said he called his brother and sister to tell them, 'I'm Ok.'...that made me cry."

Were you there? What else was said that we should share?

If you weren't there last week, did you watch the movie? It is such a compelling film. The title of this post is a quote from Sheila, one of the four people featured in the film. You really need to experience these stories.
Once you've seen it, how would you respond to the three questions above?


Leave a comment to join the conversation!

Being the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus

Posted by Dave Buerstetta on October 25, 2012 @ 4:48 PM

“If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”

It was just a few weeks ago that we read in worship those words from James' epistle.

This week Fred Clark wrote:

Why do the hungry suffer? For lack of food. Why do the oppressed and enslaved suffer? For want of liberation.

These are not, primarily, metaphysical puzzles for us to ponder. Such puzzles are also significant, but they mustn’t ever be confused for the most important, most urgent, or most obvious response to human suffering. Human suffering is cause for action — for individual and institutional and structural steps to relieve it and to prevent it. [read the rest]

"Supply bodily needs." "steps to relieve and prevent suffering." These are other ways of naming what we frequently call being the hands, feet and voice of Jesus in the world.

Over the next few weeks we here in Illinois have an opportunity - and I would say a responsibility - to live our faith, to embody our beliefs, to supply needs, to relieve and prevent suffering, to be the hands, feet and voice of Jesus in the world as we advocate with and for hungry and poor people.

This work is not new. The reasons for doing it are many.

Here's what you and I can do right now, today:

1. Sign this Change.org petition to Senator Durbin to protect SNAP, WIC and tax credits for the working poor* in his work as part of the Gang of Eight**.

2. Make a pledge to support WUMC's participation in Sleep Out Saturday. We're raising awareness and raising money to fight homelessness in DuPage County.

3. Share a story. Do you or someone you know receive federal assistance, especially from SNAP? We heard again last week from Sen. Durbin’s office that he wants stories to support and personalize the importance of protecting these programs. We just looking for basic info (name, age, gender, church, community, family status, employment, etc.) and a sentence or two on how the benefits are used and why they’re important. Only first names will be shared if you prefer. Local Bread for the World advocates will deliver these stories to Sen. Durbin’s Chicago Loop office on Thursday, Nov. 1.

Here's what you and I can do this Sunday, October 28:

4. Watch The Line in Fellowship Hall after second worship service and participate in the discussion. We are trying to model for our young people (and all of us really) that the church is a place to have real conversations about complex issues that matter. Can't make it to WUMC on Sunday? Watch it now and find someone to talk with about it.

Here's what you and I can do on Tuesday, October 30:

5. Participate in the state-wide Call-In Day to Sen. Durbin

  • Number to call: 1-800-826-3688. This number forwards to the Capitol Switchboard. Just ask the operator for “Sen. Durbin’s office.”
  • Sample message to deliver: “Thank you for being a champion for the needs of hungry and poor people in our community, in your work within the Gang of Eight (senators working on a bipartisan deficit-reduction plan). Continue to push the Gang of Eight to protect programs for hungry and poor people, especially SNAP and WIC for our neighbors here and foreign assistance for our neighbors abroad.”

Here's what you and I can do on Saturday, Nov. 3:

6. Participate in Sleep Out Saturday at WUMC. Bring your sleeping bag, your blankets, and a desire to learn, share and grow.

Here's what you and I can do anytime:

7. Pray

8. Learn more as we read, watch, listen, and converse.

9. Share all this with your networks.

Together we will be the hands, the feet, and the voice of Jesus in a hurting world.

What did I forget? What would you add?

 
*Why is this the responsible thing to do? Read The Myth of the Exploding Safety Net.
 
**Sen. Durbin is a member of the "Gang of Eight" bipartisan senators working to craft a framework that could pass the U.S. House and Senate and receive the President's signature-­‐-­‐no easy feat, given the highly partisan climate in Congress and the conflicting views for how to best move our country forward. But most members of Congress do not want our nation to go over the "fiscal cliff" of simultaneous funding cuts and tax increases, which will happen soon if Congress does nothing. Yet despite this anxiety, the Gang of Eight is currently the only working group in Congress that could potentially reach a deal on a framework that can become law.
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