Welcoming the Stranger

It’s not often that I quote the 19th chapter of Leviticus, but here goes:

When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. THe alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. — Leviticus 19:33-34

It’s not often that I’m awake before 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning, but the Decolonize Lutheranism conference is livestreaming from Chicago (thanks, LSTC!). I’m just glad they didn’t start till 9 a.m. CST.

#decolonizelutheran is a movement committed to welcoming all, to reclaiming what is truly Lutheran and Christian about our church (not solely by northern European cultural identity markers), and looking to marginalized peoples and communities to lead our church into the 21st century.

So I’m watching friends I’ve known and those I haven’t met yet on the livestream, drinking coffee, and tweeting and journaling about the conference and discussion questions.

Question: When you have been a stranger, what did it feel like to be welcomed? What did it feel like to be rejected?

I moved to Alaska in 2000, to my first call as an associate pastor. And my church was pretty welcoming. But where I really felt welcomed was when I finally made my way to Mad Myrna’s, our local gay bar in Anchorage, where the line dancers and two-steppers met on Wednesday nights. And it was the women there who really welcomed me, made sure that I knew about concerts coming up, how to find the local LGBTQ publications, how to get on the Grrlzlist (a weekly email of women’s events in the state). They didn’t just welcome me, they connected me. And that is when I particularly felt not so alone. Like I was going to be a part of a community, where I could be my whole self (when in church, I had to work hard to be more Lutheran, less queer).

Now, to be fair, it’s not always easy to be Lutheran or Christian in the queer community either. It’s hard work to be our whole selves and be vulnerable and to welcome something that has hurt us or that seems really new and scary and different from what we’ve known. (Because I’m pretty new and scary 😉 ) It’s hard work getting out of our comfort zone.

What did it feel like to be rejected?

That moment when she said “Maybe you could do something other than work with children and families.”

That moment when they said “Maybe she could just read the lessons in church, rather than preach.”

That moment when she said “I just want to be alone. It’s not you, it’s me.”

That moment when the Hmong and Sudanese Lutheran families provided food at our Synod Assembly dinner, and he noticed the Hmong jello dish and compared it to a “Lutheran” potluck. Friends, this IS a Lutheran dinner.

Rejection sucks. And we hurt each other sometimes (maybe too often) unawares.

Let’s open our eyes, our ears, our hearts. The Spirit is doing a new thing.

Mary Oliver, my favorite poet/theologian, reminds us to “keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.”

And Joey Comeau tells us that “Having all the answers just means you’ve been asking the boring questions.”

#decolonizelutheranism. Welcome.

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