My prayer today

Empathy – the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions : the ability to share someone else’s feelings.

empathy

I have read through posts and tweets where people have called for the “whiners” to stop crying because their candidate lost. People have called to end the protests because it just shows that they are sore losers.

What? Seriously? There is that much lack of empathy from people and especially those who claim to follow Jesus?

The thing is that this goes beyond partisan politics. For many it goes beyond not liking Trumps policies (which most of us know very little of anyway). This goes beyond lying or not liking someone’s personality. Many are hurt, offended, and afraid, and they feel the system is unjust. Many are afraid for their friends and family who are Muslim, Immigrants, LGBTQ, and people of color. The only choice for many is to protest, and I think that is a healthy thing. To call for this to end is like asking someone who feels they have been oppressed to shut up and take it. You may not agree, you may see the world differently, but I will assure you they feel very strongly that they have been treated unjustly and if you refuse to listen you are contributing to the division and violence.

I have read stories and talked to people who are very afraid, and deeply hurt by the racist comments that have been made. The more I listen, the heavier my heart becomes. I will be honest, it has not gotten easier with each passing day, it has gotten much more difficult.

My prayer is not to end the protest, but to do so without violence and for all of us to listen to the cries of those who feel marginalized,  oppressed, are afraid. My prayer is not to bring unity, but to allow those who have been hurt by the violent rhetoric to be heard, only then can we begin the long healing process.

My prayer is for those who voted for Trump to actually listen to those have feel so deeply hurt by the rhetoric. My prayer is that those who feel they have “won,” will not gloat or cause more division by telling others to “get over it,” but will learn to extend empathy – to share in others’ experiences and emotions.

And if your thinking that those who didn’t vote for Trump are only causing more division by protesting, then you haven’t listened well enough.

It’s easy to sit in our own bubble and to read only those articles with which we agree with or talk with those who agree with us. This is true on both sides. If you claim to be a Christian, then at the very least you have the duty to intentionally reach out, to listen, and to extend empathy to those who are hurting and struggling. 

As is true of all other things, when you are starring into the eyes of someone who his hurting and you hear with your own ears the very reason why, it is almost impossible to tell them to just get over it or stop whining. When you take the time to listen to their story, I’m willing to bet that extending empathy will be the natural thing.

My prayer for our world, our country, and most especially those who claim to be Christians is to learn to extend empathy to one another and particularly those who are hurting today.

Dear One Church,

Dear One Church,

These past several months have been the most exhausting and divisive  season that some of us have witnessed.

Since the news came of our new president, I understand that some feel excited and hopeful, but we are a progressive, inclusive church, and I know many of you are struggling.

There is now a call for unity, but how can I call for unity when I have sat with and heard from people who have been deeply hurt?

Some are trying to bypass the hurt, pain, frustration, and anger by focusing on the good. I think people mean well, but I don’t think they fully understand. How can I bypass the very real feelings of myself and others by telling people to “get over it?” I cannot.

I try not to let despair win, but I have been on the verge of crying or have cried much these last several days. My heart is so heavy. Not only is our nation divided on politics, but we as Christians are divided – oh so divided!

So what do we do about it?

I am not sure.

I don’t know what the future will hold. I don’t know how hard it will be. I don’t know what this will mean for so many things I believe in and work for. I wish I had a simple answer, I do not.

I struggle to get along with people who see the world so differently than I. I struggle to get along with Christians who seem to be working for things so radically different than I. I think if I am honest, I struggle to love.

Ouch, that last one stings a little.

How do I love those who are so different than I?

Let me be clear, love does not require us to agree, but it does require us to be kind, patient, and open. How many times have I said something unkind? How many times have I posted something on facebook before taking the time to reflect and I regretted it later? How many times have I been in an argument and realized that the more I argued, the more closed off I became? Too many times.

If your like me, you find it all to easy to speak your mind, your opinions, and your thoughts and feel fully justified in doing so. Yet, how often do people on the other side feel the exact same way?

If you are struggling, I invite you to a special contemplative service at One Church this Sunday November 13th. We will not ask you to agree. We will not tell you to get over it. We will not tell you it is wrong to feel what you feel.

Instead, we will provide a safe place to come with whatever feelings you have as we stand together, pray together, and worship together.

If you are not struggling, I invite you to stand with those who are. I invite you to share in our hurt, pain, confusion, and anger. To me, this seems to be the loving, Christlike thing to do.

And then, we will break bread together.

When you don’t know what to do, I cannot think of a better thing than to be reminded that Jesus sat in the midst of pain, suffering, confusion, and loneliness.  Somehow this reminds us that God is in the midst of our own pain, our own confusion, our own anger, and our own loneliness.

We have much healing to do, for ourselves, for our country, and for the world. Healing begins by sharing together in the pain and struggle, and somehow we believe we will find God in the midst of all this.

My heart is with you,

Your Pastor,

Aaron Strietzel

contemplative-service

 

 

 

The morning after.

On the morning after the 2016 elections  I do not know what the future will hold, what America will look like, and how this will shape the world my kids will grow up in.

This past Sunday I gave a sermon at One Church where I shared that faith means trust – trusting that God is in some way working in and through every situation.

How is God working in this?

I do not know.

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I know millions of people are fearful, anxious, uncertain and shocked. I know millions of others are hopeful because their candidate has now been elected to be the next president. I also know that millions of people from both sides are making broad generalizations that only divide us more. I refuse to be a part of the latter.

I have friends and family that did not vote for the person I did and see the world so different. I choose to love them anyways. I do not accuse them of being bigots, racist, homophobic, xenophobic or other.  Most of them are good people. Making broad accusations only contributes to the division and I refuse to be a part of that.

That being said, love does not mean I just accept their views or remain silent. Remaining silent is not an option. Apathy is not an option. Despair is not an option.

Some of the people I have come to most admire, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa , Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and others did not succumb to despair, but through hope gave themselves to a vision of a more just and compassionate world.

These people inspire me because they overcame many difficulties and endured much suffering. They spoke out against injustice and and stood in solidarity with the oppressed. For this, they sacrificed much.

This is our calling. This is our vocation.

To continue to work through whatever difficulties or obstacles may arise. To continue to believe that compassion is stronger than hate. To continue to believe that tomorrow can be better than today. To continue to extend grace to all.

I believe that inclusion, equality, compassion, and justice are more important than ever before.

We make these decisions in small ways every day. When we listen to others. When we make sure everyone is included. When we decide to forgive even though it is difficult. We make this decision by making sure we don’t feed the division in unhealthy ways. We make this decision by what we post on social media. We make this decision by how we raise our kids and what we teach them. We make this decision by what kind of church/religious expression we are a part of. We make this decision when we buy food, clothes, houses, and cars.

Yes, our president influences our nation in tremendous ways, but we each make decisions daily on what kind of people we will be. I think we have far more power than we realize. Let’s continue to take a stand against injustice. Let’s continue to take a stand for equality, inclusivity, and compassion. Let’s do this together, stand with each other, and encourage each other, because all the small things really do matter.

We cannot lose hope. We cannot give up.

What if Gandhi decided it was to hard? What if Mother Teresa decided it was just to difficult? What if MLK gave up? What if Rosa Parks did not refuse to move?

If you feel weary or tired you are not alone. Every one of those above felt confused at some part of their life. Every one of them felt exhausted at some point. Every one of them felt like giving up, probably many times. What they all have in common is that they refused to give up. They refused to stop fighting. They refused to let hate win.