Monthly Archives: December 2013

A LETTER TO MALCOLM IN PRISON AT THE DEATH OF MANDELA, By WTS Prof. Norma Cook Everist

Dear Malcolm,

I received your letter and wanted to respond now, after hearing of the passing of Nelson Mandela. You have been in prison so many years, Malcolm. You know I have kept your letters and the total fills many file folders. I’ve shared parts of your letters with students at Wartburg over the years and they have written to you. I know you have kept their letters, except for when you were moved to a different prison on a moment’s notice. Your recent words ring true, “Please don’t despair. We are linked in Spirit so at times words understood need not be spoken.”

Yes, I see from the change of return address that you have been moved once again, and this time even further from your family, 4 ½ hours from Detroit: “It seems like the closer I get to the door and the more good I try to do the worse things get for me.” Malcolm, I remind you of what you have done through the years while in prison. You counsel younger men coming in, you lead Bible study, proclaiming and teaching the Word, you help men with family problems and make sure they have what they need. I have often thought of you as my Apostle Paul in prison.  I rejoiced with you that in the past year you were able to become a leader in a program that helps men find new lives of peace and purpose once they leave prison. And, yes, I can just see you intervening on behalf of the young man to right the wrong done to him. I’m glad you were successful with the prison administration. And I agree that they may have been fearful of you having that much influence and that may have resulted in your being transferred.

I hear your words, Malcolm: “I am tired, Norma. I’m not about to quit, but I am tired.” Don’t quit, Malcolm. Even though I live so far away now in Dubuque, I am encouraged by your words, “I still seek opportunities to do what I do and be who I am. I am able to teach some classes and assist men with getting their lives together.” Take courage, Malcolm.  Know that you are not alone, even though prison walls and distance separate us. You say that my words comfort you, Malcolm, but it is yours that strengthen me as you write, “My trust is in the God of Justice and grace and love and compassion and hope. It is because of this compassion that we are not consumed.”

Nelson Mandela fought apartheid in South Africa and was imprisoned for it, coming out 27 years later to continue the struggle and then become president of his country.  He is said to have been the greatest leader of the second half of the 20th century. It would be easy to not see the man behind the icon. Those 27 years in prison took so much from him during the prime of his life.  You, more than I, Malcolm, know that.  The world watched as he came out of prison, not knowing what he would look like, not seeing even a picture, not knowing which direction he would turn and lead. And then we saw: towards “Truth and Reconciliation” which kept that country from being torn apart in violence and civil war after apartheid was finally ended.  And you, Malcolm, have participated in your own “truth and reconciliation” initiatives in prison.

President Obama described Mandela as, “one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth. He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages. Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa and moved all of us. His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better.”

Malcolm, we know that South Africa continues to face its own struggles and that the United States is not a post-racial society, not when with “The New Jim Crow” such a large percentage of black men are incarcerated. And the gap between rich and poor grows. Mandela worked to free and reconcile oppressed and oppressor. We aren’t there yet, are we Malcolm? But, here we are, over 40 years after our families, one white and one black, lived around the block from each other in Detroit. Nothing can separate us in Christ Jesus. You closed your letter with, “Give my love to the rest of the family. Take care of yourself and make sure you get some rest.”  I will. And, Malcolm, I received the picture your mom sent of you, Greg and her when they visited you last month.  I’m glad they could make it that far. You look good. The years in prison can’t take that away. Keep on keeping on. God’s strength.

Norma

PATIENCE By Nat Bothwell, 2nd Year MDiv

Patience lives in the unsettled places.
In our in between-ness,
patience waits.
With a word of promise
patience speaks,
and for a moment,
the hunger for something not yet
is tempered
in a savored “now.”
Patience retrieves our forward thrown hearts –
wrestling them away
from the shores of memories
yet unmade.
Until there is surrender
in the unsettledness of “now” –
Until there is acceptance
in the between-ness of “here,”
patience holds… and hopes, and helps.
Patience endures,
through the churning shadows of our anxiousness,
to the warmth of a whispered truth.
Patience enfolds us – always,
in the embrace of loving stillness;
and with a nod,
says “soon enough.”

ADVENT[URE] By Michelle Kanzaki, Final year MDiv

Journal Entry 12/05/13

A friend of mine was working with the youth from her church and one of the questions she asked was…give me one word to describe the season of Advent. There was much silence as they pondered this question, there was giggling, and whispering when after what seemed like an eternity, one youth spoke up and said… “Adventure?!” Adventure! This indeed is a profound statement describing this season of waiting and anticipation. For me, the word adventure does not stir up thoughts of quiet, silence, or meditation. Oh, but how it stirs up thoughts of anticipation, joy, and exhilaration. Adventure stirs thoughts of pondering, preparation, and the unexpected. A profound description of Advent indeed.

In the King James Bible the word Adventure is only used twice. Once in Deuteronomy 28: 56 which says: The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter. The writers of Deuteronomy are offering to the Israelite the blessings and curses that lie ahead as they live in the law provided by God through Moses. The Israeli people know the choice is theirs to obey or not obey the “law.” They know there will be harsh and difficult consequences with disobedience and many blessings with obedience. The law takes us on a treacherous path because, human beings cannot keep the law. An adventure that leads to death.

Again in Acts 19:31 adventure is used in this way: “And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.” Paul if he adventured into the theater would be on a path leading to his death. This adventure falls in to the first definition of adventure as it is found in Merriam Webster: “An undertaking usually involving danger and risk.” Imagine the adventure Mary and Joseph felt as they travelled to Bethlehem…Mary and Joseph just about to become parents for the first time and both trusting in what the Angel of God told them. Yes indeed, an adventure filled with danger and risk.

On the other hand, Merriam Webster defines adventure as: an exciting remarkable experience. Yes, this is indeed an Advent adventure that results in an innocent babe who is the incarnate son of God. The one for whom we wait, becomes a new adventure in God. The adventure begins as we wait for his birth. Yet, the adventure does not stop at Jesus birth. The adventure continues as he grows into a man. The adventure carries on in a whole new way as Jesus does his ministry to heal the sick, feed the hungry, welcome the outsider, suffer, die and be buried! But the story doesn’t even end there—the adventure continues in Christ resurrection! It is at the cross and resurrection, through the power of the Holy Spirit, you and I are made righteous with God through the Grace of Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes this is the adventure I am looking forward to reliving once again during this season of Advent. The adventure to truly hear, learn, and participate in the revelation of God’s self throughout all the days to come. May the adventure of Advent begin!!!

TWO POEMS By Kirsten Curtis, Final Year M.Div.

Reflections from “American Genocide” class, Fall, 2013

WHERE WERE YOU GOD WHEN THIS ALL TOOK PLACE?
WHERE WERE YOU GOD FOR THIS HUMAN RACE?

HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN TO YOUR HOLY ONES?
HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN TO ANYONE?

i am so small
compared to it all

and IT is so BIG
TOO BIG for me

i am so infuriated with the whole
feeling inadequate, ignorant, out of control

a fire has been lit deep in my gut
burning and churning – stuck in a rut
tossing and turning – wallowing in muck
physically, emotionally, spiritually stuck

What do i do now?
How do i cope?
Who do i turn to?
How do i know?

Tears of anger get me through
But who am I angry at
Surely not YOU?!?!?!?!

WHERE WERE YOU GOD WHEN THIS ALL TOOK PLACE?
WHERE WERE YOU GOD FOR THIS HUMAN RACE?

—————————————————————————

I love you God
but I am so mad
at this human race
that at times goes plain mad.

What were they thinking?
It’s obvious they were not!
Blinded by what they had not.

Wretched sin took hold
Did not let go!
It has a tight grip.
Death takes its toll.

Millions and millions lost their lives
Why?

For money
For land
For power and control
So one could feel superior
And force the other to feel low

What were they thinking?
It’s obvious they were not!
Blinded by what they had not.

What do we do now?
We tell their story.

The first Americans were here before you and me
They were robbed of their lives, their land, and their trees.

They were forced off their land, sequestered and shamed,
Dehumanized, Demonized, Degraded, Demeaned
Viewed through the lens of total depravity.

What were they thinking?
It’s obvious they were not!
Blinded by what they had not.

God help me please
To tell others
To promote justice and peace
No more covers
Exposing it all
For all to see
For it needs to be known
Before we can grow
And begin to become whole.

Only you God can help
Help us go forth
Help us and guide us
Like your light in the North.

WHAT IF HISTORY WEREN’T WRITTEN BY THE VICTORIOUS? By Wade Brinkopf, final year M.Div.

Between the years of 1860 and 1890 CE the United States of America embarked on a campaign of western expansion; ‘manifest destiny;’ colonization of a land already inhabited by the indigenous peoples of North America. “By conservative estimates, the population of the United states prior to European contact was greater than 12 million. Four centuries later, the count was reduced by 95% to 237 thousand.[1] In the years surrounding 587 BCE the Babylonian empire marched on the city of Jerusalem. With their people slaughtered, the city laid to waste, and the temple completely destroyed the people were cast into exile beyond the borders of their homeland; into the ways and places of the Babylonians. In the deep emotions of Psalm 109 we can still hear their voices lamenting in the synagogues and on the streets. In what way can we hear the voice of the first nation peoples in similar ways? In the book “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” Dee Brown brings to life the voices of the first nation peoples. Their leaders words are spoken into a new existence as one by one, their homes are destroyed, their people are slaughtered, and their homeland is taken away. Their voices are a song of lamentation woven intricately together with the voice of an exile!

Psalm 109; Prayer for Vindication and Vengeance;[2] 1 Do not be silent, O God of my praise. 2 For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. 3 They beset me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. 4 In return for my love they accuse me, even while I make prayer for them.* 5 So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love. Whose voice was first sounded on this land? The voice of the red people who had but bows and arrows. … What has been done in my country I did not want, did not ask for it; white people going through my country.… When the white man comes to my country he leaves a trail of blood behind him.… I have two mountains in that country – the Black Hills and the Big Horn Mountain. I want the Great Father to make no roads through             them. I have told these things three times; now I have come here to tell them the fourth time.

MAHPIUA LUTA (Red Cloud) of the Oglala Sioux

6 They say,* ‘Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser stand on his right. 7 When he is tried, let him be found guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin. 8 May his days be few; may another seize his position. 9 May his children be orphans, and his wife a widow. 10 May his children wander about and beg; may they be driven out of* the ruins they inhabit. I was living peacefully there with my family under the shade of the trees, doing just what General Crook had told me I must do and trying to follow his advice. I want to    know now who it was ordered me arrested. I was praying to the light and to the darkness, to God and to the sun, to let me live quietly there with my family. I don’t know what the reason was that people should speak badly of me.

GOYATHLAY (Geronimo)

11 May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil. 12 May there be no one to do him a kindness, nor anyone to pity his orphaned children. 13 May his posterity be cut off; may his name be blotted out in the second generation. 14 May the iniquity of his father* be remembered before the Lord, and do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out. The earth and myself are of one mind. The measure of the land and the measure of our bodies are the same. Say to us if you can say it, that you were sent by the Creative Power to talk to us. Perhaps you think the Creator sent you here to dispose of us as you see fit. If  I thought you were sent by the Creator I might be induced to think you had a right to dispose of me. Do not misunderstand me, but understand me fully with reference to my affection for the land. I never said the land was mine to do with as I chose. The one who has the right to dispose of it is the one who has created it. I claim a right to live on my   land, and accord you the privilege to live on yours.

            HEINMOT  TOOYALAKET (Chief Joseph) of the Nez Perces

15 Let them be before the Lord continually, and may his* memory be cut off from the earth. 16 For he did not remember to show kindness, but pursued the poor and needy and the broken-hearted to their death. This war did not spring up here in our land; this war was brought upon us by the children of the Great Father who came to take our land from us without price, and who, in our land, do a great many evil things. The Great Father and his children are to blame    for this trouble.… It has been our wish to live here in our country peaceably, and do such things as may be for the welfare and good of our people, but the Great Father has filled it with soldiers who think only of our death.

            SINTE-GALESHKA (Spotted Tail) of the Brule Sioux

17 He loved to curse; let curses come on him. He did not like blessing; may it be far from him. 18 He clothed himself with cursing as his coat, may it soak into his body like water, like oil into his bones. 19 May it be like a garment that he wraps around himself, like a belt that he wears every day.’ 20 May that be the reward of my accusers from the Lord, of those who speak evil against my life. 21 But you, O Lord my Lord, act on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me. There was no hope on earth, and God seemed to have forgotten us. Some said they saw the Son of God; others did not see Him. If he had come, He would do some great things as He had done before. We doubted it because we had seen neither Him nor His works. The people did not know; they did not care. They snatched at the hope. They screamed like crazy men to Him for mercy. They caught at the promise they heard He had Made.

            RED CLOUD

22 For I am poor and needy, and my heart is pierced within me. 23 I am gone like a shadow at evening; I am shaken off like a locust. 24 My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt. 25 I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they shake their heads. You have driven me from the East to this place, and I have been here two thousand years   or more.… My friends, if you took me away from this land it would be very hard for me. I  wish to die in this land. I wish to be an old man here.… I have not wished to give even a            part of it to the Great Father. Though he were to give me a million dollars I would not give him this land.… When people want to slaughter cattle they drive them along until  they get them to a corral, and then they slaughter them. So it is with us.… My children have been exterminated; my brother has been killed.

            STANDING BEAR of the Ponca’s

26 Help me, O Lord my God! Save me according to your steadfast love. 27 Let them know that this is your hand; you, O Lord, have done it. 28 Let them curse, but you will bless. Let my assailants be put to shame;* may your servant be glad. 29 May my accusers be clothed with dishonour; may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a mantle. 30 With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord; I will praise him in the midst of the throng. 31 For he stands at the right hand of the needy, to save them from those who would condemn them to death. I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A peoples’ dream died there. It was a beautiful dream … the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.

BLACK ELK, on the massacre at Wounded Knee.

SENSING MISERY By Terese TouVelle and Teri Wagner, M.A. in Diaconal Ministry Students

How does one recognize misery? These are our images of misery.

  • When the blankets in a nursing home resident’s room smells like urine and there is feces on the wall.
  • The couple crying over their new born who will not survive the night.
  • The cancer patient who knows she will not live long enough to attend her daughter’s wedding.
  • The elderly person who has no dentures because they lay broken on the floor and there is no money to replace them.
  • The old man who talks about his war years because they were his glory days when he felt alive.
  • A husband who must decide to remove life support from his wife of 62 years.
  • The wife of a stroke victim who hasn’t heard her husband speak her name in twelve years.
  • The prisoner who is admitted to the hospital to die but his family never shows up.
  • The teen who attempted suicide because he believes he is worthless.
  • The family surrounding the bed of their dying mother.
  • The oncology nurse who is tired of losing patients.
  • The young, gay man who is beaten up by classmates.
  • The daughter whose mother no longer remembers her name
  • The woman whose husband tells her that it is her fault that he beats her.
  • The doctor who must tell a family that he has done all he can.
  • Seeing and hearing your child whipped.
  • The woman who trusted police because they were supposed to protect and serve and then was treated horribly.
  • The child whose only meal today will be what is served at school.
  • Having barely enough money for bus fare and getting to the clinic to find they have closed.
  • The sound of too many empty liquor bottles rattling together in a garbage can.
  • A mother whose autistic child won’t let her hold him.
  • A married couple sharing a house filled with angry silence.
  • A woman who can’t take enough showers to wash away the touch of a rapist.
  • The single mother who works two jobs but still can’t afford to buy her children a birthday present.
  • The fifty-year-old man who wonders how he will provide for his family now that the mill has closed.
  • The millions of people who wonder if there really is a God.

MORE THAN SEX AND HAMBURGERS By Carina Schiltz, 2nd year M. Div.

Some thoughts on identity and inclusion, precipitated by a disturbing fast-food commercial

I was just settling in on a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon to watch college football on television. Some young men. A pig skin. Serious rivalry.

I did not expect theology or anthropology to come sniffing around. I was just ready to see some athletes play ball. Wisconsin vs. Illinois. I didn’t really care who won—I’m from Minnesota, after all. I was just excited that it wasn’t the NFL. I didn’t think there would be as many beer, truck, or fast food commercials.  I thought I’d be safe. This was going to be about athleticism, the discipline of teams working together, the excitement of a full stadium of screaming people. They don’t advertise during Big 10 games, right?

WRONG.

Confession: I don’t own a TV. When I go home to visit my family, I usually indulge in some “screen time.” Not having a TV has its perks. But, then again, I also feel like I live under a rock sometimes. I can’t keep up with the shows people talk about, certain games, or mainstream (also known as “lamestream”) media portrayals of the “news.”

It was a good game. I was pretty into it. But then a commercial came on. Usually we mute commercials and don’t watch them, for obvious reasons (like, we want to keep our brain cells. . . .) But this time, we did not mute the TV. My mom and I were transfixed. We could not believe what we were seeing. Let me describe it for you.

There is a young woman sitting at a game in a football jersey. She is holding a gigantic hamburger. As she attempts to take a bite, some ketchup gets on her jersey. Hmm. . . . What does she do in this predicament?

Well, that’s a no-brainer. SHE TAKES THE JERSEY OFF. Oh, yeah, and the rest of her clothes, too.

Instantly there is wind blowing through her long hair, she is suddenly clad (semi-clad? Even that’s too generous) in a short black skirt, some sort of half-top, she has an ice cube in her hand which she runs along her neck and chest. There are close-ups of certain parts of her body, and somehow, there’s still a burger involved in all this?

I looked at my mom in disbelief. What is this?

Yup. Using sex to sell hamburgers. The extreme objectification of a woman’s body, coupled with the sale of beef that probably comes from somewhere in Latin America where multinational corporations (read: corporations from the U.S.) cut down the Amazon rain forest to make more grazing land for our beef addiction, thus contributing more greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere.

Uh. . . . I just wanted to watch some football. What happened here?

Who else in the world saw this commercial? What if young boys did? What if old women did? What if young women did, and they think they have to look like that? What if my grandpa saw this? What if my boyfriend saw this? Is this ok? Is THIS ok with our society? Do people take this seriously?

And then I realize: this is “normal.” Unfortunately. And it says a lot about what our society thinks about people.

No one saw that commercial and thought, “Wow, that is someone for whom Jesus Christ lived, died, and was raised.” No one was inspired to serve God or serve neighbor by this commercial. No one learned that they are loved by God. No no no. People see it and think: Sex. Food. Please tell me if I’m wrong.

There are some powerful (and dangerously subtle) messages out there about our identity: things telling us who we are, what we should like, what we should consume, how we should be. In our society, the message of the gospel is often drowned out by the message of consumerism, success, and accumulation of wealth/beauty/power.

No one looks good in these commercials. Human beings are dumbed down. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. Just observe commercials sometime. Think about the doctrine of justification, and then watch a commercial and hold those two things in tension.

As a young woman who does not own a TV, I often escape commercials, but this one smacked me full force in the face. How do I talk about God to a society that views human beings as such dispensable creatures? As means to an end? How do I tell people that God is redeeming this sinful world? That they have incredible worth in Jesus Christ? And how do I show people that I, as a young woman, do not have to live up to society’s expectations of beauty, etc., to show that I’m worth it? I’m worth it because Christ makes me worth it.

Lately when I’ve been looking at society, I hear “Include me” screaming from everywhere. “Include me” is what I hear from that commercial. Maybe if I buy this or look like this, or go there, people will think I’m desirable. People will want to know me. This product will drive away all my loneliness and despair. This says nothing about the God that loves and forgives the things we’ve done and left undone.

“Include me”—that’s what I hear when a 7-year-old girl tells me she has no friends and that she is made fun of every day in school.

“Include me”—that’s what I hear when a group of high schoolers talk about having friends who cut themselves and they have held the razors for their friends in hopes that the cutting will stop.

“Include me”—that’s what I hear when one of my college roommates confesses she’s felt estranged from herself for awhile.

“Include me”—yes, even that is what I hear from this commercial that shocked me out of watching a college football game.

As an optimistic seminarian, I think, “Hey! Let’s include them IN THE CHURCH!” But then, as a pessimistic seminarian, I think, “Yeah, right. Is the church even aware that people are screaming out for inclusion? And anyway, the church has already hurt them in some way. The church has already excluded them.”

Why is the church a place where people do not feel included? Shouldn’t it be the place where we can come with all our brokenness and shame, and even bear it to one another? Shouldn’t it be the place where we are welcomed and forgiven, reflecting the reality of God’s love for the world? Shouldn’t it be the place of ultimate inclusivity? Do we not trust that nothing is outside of God’s saving love and grace? Then why do we not live like this?

How do I encounter these people screaming out for inclusion? What if I met that commercial’s actress on the street? Maybe she’d say something like this: “How will you speak about God to me? How will you speak about God with me? And will you listen to me? Will you listen when your language doesn’t match mine? Or when your experiences don’t match mine? What does the God of which you speak have to do with me? Will you make the effort to get to know me on my terms? Show me. Tell me. But not without listening to me and knowing me. Maybe you shouldn’t judge me for being in that commercial. Include me.”

Whoa.

I’ve just been convicted by a fictional character from a commercial.

I didn’t think a commercial would lead me to think about inclusion. I hated the commercial. I was extremely offended by it. But it led me to a deeper issue facing humanity.

This is about more than just language, verbal and non-verbal. It’s about being and being with. It’s about the “who”: who God is and who people are.

This commercial is about so much more than sex and hamburgers.

What began as a rant I will end with a prayer.

God, please help us trust that you are reconciling all things: the brokenness, the hurt, the loneliness. May your church have the wisdom and courage to include, and to participate in your redeeming work. Help us see people and include them. Give us the words to share your love, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.