Monthly Archives: May 2012

THE IN-BETWEENS OF CALL by Jealaine Marple, WTS, 2011, Dubuque, Iowa

In our Baptism we are sealed with the cross of Christ forever and given the most important vocation of our lives: child of God.  As we grow, become educated, and gain life experience, we discover, thanks to the Holy Spirit, that we are destined for several, if not many, roles in life.  We should think about these as a vocation as well.  Perhaps we are called to be a spouse or partner, maybe a parent, an aunt or uncle, a sibling, a grandparent, a friend, a confidant.  This list could go on and on and on.  The most important thing for us to remember is that no vocation is more important  than the other.  

When we are doing what God created us to do we are living into the fullness of life that God has created and planned for us.  The same can be said for our vocations that provide a service for others beyond our families.  Perhaps it is a societal “normal” job of Monday thru Friday, 8-5; maybe it is shift work. It may be working out of the home or in the home.  

 But what happens when one vocation seems to supersede another?  What happens when what God has created you to be (mother, father, spouse, partner, sister, etc…) interferes, intersects, interrupts  what  you feel God has called you to be beyond your immediate relationships?  What happens when we find ourselves in the “in between?”  

This is a common, although not always voiced, struggle in which many in the church find themselves.  We get those “heart tugs” of God calling us, beckoning us to serve God and people beyond our present lives.  Yet, we get the tugs of family (however that may be defined by you) also tugging at our hearts.  Perhaps it is the tug to become a parent again, or for the first time.  Maybe it is the tug to become a spouse or partner.  Or it may even be the tug to become a caretaker for an aging parent, grandparent, or older adult in one’s life.  It is situations like these, when we try and balance our various calls to vocations by God, that we may find ourselves in the “in between.”  

 If we answer God’s call to whatever God has in store for us, we may feel we do so at the risk of damaging the relationships in which we now exist.  For example, let’s say someone is offered a higher position at a company they love as well as a hefty pay raise.  However, accepting this new position means hours on the weekend which equals time away from friends and family.  Or perhaps a couple wants to add a child or children to their family.  However, by doing this, one partner or the other would have to leave their profession.  These conundrums may even lead to “wilderness” periods,  those times when we may feel further away from God than usual; further away from God than we thought possible.  There is no clear cut answer.  There is no magic formula for how to navigate the “in between.”

 In order to persevere through the “in-between,”  you may want to do the following: 1) pray.  This seems like an elementary suggestion, but even if your discernment and in between period has turned into a wilderness period, continue your prayer life.  Even if you’re mad at God, it’s okay.  Continue to talk and more importantly, continue to listen; 2) Engage the wisdom of others.  This person could be a pastor, diaconal minister, a spiritual director, or dear trusted friend.  While the correct decision will ultimately be stirred up by the Holy Spirit, it can help to have companions on the journey.  These companions can pray for you too; 3)  Dare to trust in God. Remember your Baptismal identity: Child of God.  God will not leave you, abandon or forsake you.  You are washed in the promises of God’s grace.  We are justified by grace through faith.  We are not justified through titles, positions, accolades, achievements, or salary.  At the end of the day, only God’s grace can justify us.  God’s grace, unlike everything else in our lives, will never fail us.  Lastly, remember that the “in-between” doesn’t last forever.  God will show you a way through the “in-between” and God will accompany you the entire time as you navigate your “in-betweens.”

TWO MEN TO CHAIR FELLOWSHIP OF WARTBURG SPOUSES by Mary Wiggins, M.Div. Junior

For the 2012-2013 school year at Wartburg Theological Seminary, the Fellowship of Wartburg Spouses will be co-chaired by two awesome fellas. That’s right fellas. Maybe it’s a sign of the times that for the first time two men will chair a group that years ago was comprised of mostly wives of male students, or just a sign that at Wartburg Theological Seminary both men and women are willing to step up and help represent the interests of male and female students and their spouses. Mike HarriSon and Will Van Kley were elected this Spring to co-chair the Fellowship of Wartburg Spouses, a group that has been around for quite some time and continues to be vital on campus. Mike is the husband of Master of Divinity Student Martha HarriSon and father to Michael, Christopher, Jackie, and Joey. Will is the husband of Master of Divinity Student Ann Van Kley and father to Lydia, Charlotte, and Nicholas. Congratulations, Mike and Will. We all know you will do great!

SINGLE CHURCH: A CONVERSATION ABOUT SINGLENESS IN CHURCH AND SOCIETY by Jenn Collins, WTS, 2012

A confession:  The article I wrote for the fall edition of The Persistent Voice titled, Issues of Justice, Family, and the Single Person was written out of that traditional Lutheran category that gets the better of us from time to time, angfechtungen!  A senior in seminary knows that the journey from internship back to “life together” is an odd journey filled not only with the grief of losing people that you served and that sustained you for a year, but also homework, and call paperwork, and resumed relationships, and the like.  Contextual theologian that I am, I wanted to ask the question, what does this journey look like in my own embodiment as a single person?

Something else was happening out in society while I was over in my corner of the church contemplating all of this.  The Pew Research Center came out with a study on marriage trends at the end of 2011.[1]  The study results were published under the headline, Barely Half of U.S. Adults are Married—Record Low.  The study gathered results in four categories: Married, Never Married, Divorced or Separated, Widowed.  The study reports, “In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are.”[2]  The study also shows that the median age for entering into marriage is on the rise with women on average marrying at 26.5 years of age and men marrying at 28.7.[3]

This study made it in the headlines of major news outlets once it broke.  Kari Haus wrote an article for MSNBC.com, Where is Mr. or Mrs. Right? Matrimony Suffers Slump—Report Shows.[4]  NPR jumped in the conversation too with a report titled, When it Comes to Marriage, May Say Don’t.[5]

Café, on on-line publication of the ELCA had an article written by the Rev. Kelly K. Faulstich in February of 2012 titled, Not Better, Not Worse, Different. Not Harder, Not Easier, Different.[6]  The Café article beautifully articulated the source of my angst.  Faulstich writes about “singleness” in scripture (Moses goes up the mountain, Jesus goes to pray).  She writes about the freedom of choice a single person has over even the smallest decisions in their lives.  She ends by recognizing what is true of us in our baptism: “We are complete.”[7]

In January of this year I took time to gather my own thoughts on the subject of singleness in the church.  I dug into scripture, looking at the way that the two creation stories address the relationship between men and women.  I read back in history of monasticism studying the companionship of Jerome and Paula.  I studied Luther’s view on marriage and read through blogs that talked about singleness in more evangelical communities.  I studied the marriage rite in Evangelical Lutheran Worship and read the work of professor and social scientist, Bella Depaulo.[8]

Here is what I came to find regarding my initial angst:  It is about vocational dignity.  The LWF Chicago Statement on Worship and Culture so eloquently reminds us that our baptisms, experienced within a community, verify our “dignity” and our “vocations in Christ.”[9]  I found the exercise of this study to be powerful in my own understanding of singleness and marriage—not only the ritual moment—but also marriage, the vocation.  Never before had I considered my own singleness to be part of my current vocation.  Singleness and marriage are two vocations among many given to the baptized. 

 I appreciate how the rite of marriage found in the ELW points to the commitment the couple makes one to another, the faithfulness of God, and the support of the assembly.   Even in my singleness, I experience the community of the church similarly: there is support of my vocation, the faithfulness of God is likewise for me, and the support of the assembly is graciously given. 

FREEDOM TO LOVE AS GOD LOVES by Lynn Robinson, WTS, 2012

 As a sixth grader I stood in front of the 12th stop in the cycle of the Stations of the Cross. It was a time to reflect and commemorate the death and life of Christ standing at each station. As a sixth grader I was already experiencing the joys and sorrows, the anguish and grief of life: abandonment, abuse, hunger and thirst.  I felt compelled to stop and look at Jesus hanging on the cross: nails in hands and feet and crown of thorns.

 God so loved the world that God sent God’s only Son. I thought, “God, if this is true, if you are real and are who they say you are, and if you possess such love, then I want to know it. God I want to know that I am included in that love.” And as I prayed I felt a strong inward response saying, “I am real and you will know me. I love you and you will tell others about me.”

 Crowds followed: the despised ones, those kicked around by the nations, laborers enslaved because of the demands of the ruling class. Looking around in the world today, the crowds could be made up of those who are marginalized, oppressed, hated, homeless, victims of genocide, victims of racism and classism, a woman who might soon be beaten to death in her home, the hungry, the poor, the grieving families who’ve suffered loss of loved ones in the name of country, in the name of  self-preservation; those in the wilderness between Mexico and the United States; those standing their ground; those on the ground; the politically correct, the high, middle and low on the economic ladder. Can it be said that all want to see Jesus?

 But Jesus said, “Time’s up.” The time had come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. The continuous, unlimited power to draw us through this present world and on into eternity comes from Jesus laying down his life for us. No one could take it from him.

 In spite of the conditions of the world and the crowds’ context, the death of Jesus, the true light which enlightens everyone, has come into the world. The ones who believe need not walk in the power of the world, living in darkness. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overtake it. In the death of Christ the believing ones can have communion and fellowship with God in Christ and be children of light for themselves and for the world.

 In the language of liberation theology: the inexplicable, reprehensible, oppressive spirit of racism, classism and gender inequality is no longer empowered to determine voice, identity or station of persons. God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Living according to the world’s expectations, the world’s vision and the world’s way of doing things destroys life. We are called to be countercultural. Loving the world as God loves the world, in Christ reconciling the world in love, is a reckless counterculture love. It is eternal.

 Christ, lifted and crucified will never stop drawing us in because God in Christ has reconciled all to God’s self. It is finished. It is complete. Walking in darkness means our vision is restricted to that darkness.  We serve God in Christ when we follow after Jesus in love.  God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.

 There will be many occasions where conditions in the world trouble the soul but the believing ones continue to walk in the light of liberty and freedom.  In the world there is the darkness of isolation, abandonment, marginalization and compartmentalization, mistreatment and misunderstanding, and yet none of these conditions inhibit the love of God in Christ or relationship with God in Christ. Because of the death and resurrection of Christ there is freedom to love one another just as God in Christ has loved us.

 

 

WOMAN IN THE MASK by Mary Wiggins, M.Div. Junior

I wonder who is the woman in the mask staring back at me
The one I know so much about but whom I have never met
She is the person I am not but who want to be
But I can’t until I pay this debt
So strong, so brave, so proud

Staring back at me covered in a blue cage
A veil that hides, all the things my society longs for
I can’t even tell if she is happy, sad, or full of rage
There is no need to search for it anymore
She shows me pieces of whom she really is behind the mask

The woman in the mask’s young life is full of accomplishment
Incomparable to what I have done
But this never fills me with resentment
Just queries by the ton
More and more questions about the woman in the mask

The woman in the mask mystifies me
The woman in the mirror even more so

 
Note: This poem was inspired by the cover of a book called, Zoya’s Story. I read it for a Women’s Studies class as an undergraduate. It is an autobiography by a woman from Afghanistan. The book was very impactful for me. A link to the image that inspired this poem- http://www.amazon.com/Zoyas-Story-Afghan-Struggle-Freedom/dp/0060097825