Thursday, October 21, 2010

Article on judging

Hi world - I am passing on the most recent issue of Cafe, including a reflection written by my friend Rachel. The topic is judgment. In the lead article, Emily Williams Guffey talks about why we are so quick to judge others. I especially like her line "you don't know the whole story." In Rachel's reflection, she connects self-judgment and judgment of others and also draws the corollary: compassion toward self leads also to compassion for others. Amen!

With the high school group, we've been talking a lot about self-confidence related to bullying lately. We've agreed that bullies have surprisingly low self-confidence. They judge because they feel judged. To be truly kind and compassionate requires great self-confidence.

Last night we used an exercise called agree/disagree to talk about confidence. It goes like this: one wall of the room is agree, the other side is disagree. I ask a question and we line up on the continuum of the room depending on how much we agree or disagree. Then each person shares why they are standing in that particular spot.

One question last night was: when you remember how much God loves you, does your confidence increase? Many of the kids joined me on the strongly agree side, but quite a few of them were in the middle: not too sure. This is partly because some of them are at a point of really questioning their faith. I also think its because the overwhelming message they get is that they can craft an identity apart from relationships - especially apart from relationship to God.

I just saw the movie About a Boy and really loved it because, well, it's adorable, clever and uplifting. But also because it shows in a real world way just how important community is for creating an abiding sense of non-judging identity. My faith in God compels me to take that a step further: God is the source of community and relationship. Self-confidence is really God-confidence.

Enjoy the cafe articles.

Friday, October 15, 2010

It Gets Better

Two weeks ago I mentioned the 'It Gets Better' project in a sermon. Many people have asked either for the sermon or the link to the project, so here are both. The project keeps growing and some amazing testimonies of hope for gay teenagers have been posted. One of the most recent is Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson. Thanks -

Pastor Sarah Scherschligt, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Gaithersburg MD
Oct 3, 2010 /Proper22/19th Sunday after Pentecost
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4, Psalm 37, 2 Timothy 1:1–14, Luke 17:5-10

In the past month, at least 4 teenagers have committed suicide nationwide, in part, it’s believed, because of bullying. All 4 teenagers were teased and harassed for being (or acting), “gay.” The response to this rash of suicides has been widespread and varied.

One response that has gone viral thanks to YouTube is the “It Gets Better” project. This project invites gay and lesbian adults to tell their stories to teens who are struggling with their sexuality, and with the teasing, loss of self-esteem, with the depression that often accompanies that struggle. The project’s message is simple: It gets better.

The gay men who started the project share the difficulties they went through with their families, their church and their peers at school as they grew up. And they paint the vision of their life now - fulfilled, happy, in community, and beloved by their families - in order to give hope to those who can’t imagine the future. Their point is basic: it gets better.


I know that in this congregation we hold a variety of opinions about homosexuality, it is an issue many of us think isn’t appropriate for talking about in church. I get that, I really do. But all week I just kept thinking, what if that were one of our kids…wouldn’t we be heartbroken that they didn’t know – that we didn’t tell them, we love you, and it gets better.

Of course, gay teenagers aren’t the only one who are bullied. According to our high schoolers, fat students, Asian students, women students, nerdy students, students who lack self-confidence in any way, all are potential targets for bullying. High school can be a terribly difficult time of self-discovery, no matter what your particular difference is, and sadly, for many of our kids, differences aren’t tolerated. For too many struggling high schoolers, the future looks bleak. When the future looks bleak, we all need people to remind us that there is a different vision – a bright vision of a different kind of future.


“It gets better.” It’s is a phrase that, at its heart, is about vision. That message inspires a person to look forward a few steps from the difficulty she is currently in to the blessedness that can be hers in the future.

If you are on the financial brink, it gets better. If you are a social outcast, it gets better. If your relationship is a struggle, it gets better. If you are hurting with the pain of a grief you don’t think you can bear, it gets better…

It’s a message not only for our children who suffer, but for everyone stuck in a tough rut. It gets better.

It’s the message we read in our Psalm: “Take delight in the lord who shall give you your heart’s desire.” It’s the message to the church that was in turmoil that we just read in 2 Timonthy: “But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.”

It’s the risen Christ’s message to a hurting world. Because Jesus lives we know, it gets better.


At the Gaithersburg Days a few weeks ago, Gaithersburg HELP, our local food pantry, had a booth. One woman came to the booth and reported that she had been a client of Gaithersburg HELP in the past. The food she received from the pantry helped her get her kids through high school and she was grateful. She now longer needed the help because over time, it had gotten better.

Her message, her story is a blessing to all those who feel ashamed for being so poor they can’t buy food. Hers is an important one to lift up to those in poverty: it gets better.


But as people who follow Jesus, we aren’t called simply to tell a suffering world that it gets better.

God wasn’t content to tell us the vision, God also came into our lives in the most intimate of ways, through the person of Jesus Christ, and made the vision reality. And because we are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and because we have tasted that grace, we do the same.

We don’t see the plight of those who are hungry, tell them it gets better, and walk on by. No – because we believe that hope and a new day are on their way, we participate in its dawning.

Increase our faith! Begged the disciples.

Do what I’ve promised you will increase your faith! Says Jesus back to them.

As some wise person once said,

The way to become a hopeful person is to do hopeful things.


If you want to show hungry people in our community that it gets better, then sign up for the walk for the homeless and do that hopeful thing; if you want to show a teenager for whom school might feel like a battleground that life gets better, sign up to help with a youth ministry event and get to know them; if you want to show a fellow mom that they aren’t alone, come to the new group forming next Sunday. If you want to turn your heart toward those who are suffering, take home our prayer list and pray to God.

And if you are someone for whom there is no vision left, for whom life has gotten too hard, please please know that you are not alone and that God’s promises of healing and salvation are for you. For we exist here to hold out the vision that God has given to us through Jesus Christ, that the moments that feel like the end are not the end, that Jesus takes on our suffering, that the end is a future of glory with God; and that you have a God who will work miracles in your life to show you that it does get better.

It gets better. Do you believe it? …… Do you trust it? ……And can you show it?

It gets better – thanks be to Jesus Christ – Amen!


Luke 17:5-10

5The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" 6The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.
7Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'? 8Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'? 9Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"

Ten for Ten. Ten reasons it's great to be a pastor, in celebration of my 10 year anniversary of ordination.

I'm in there somewhere. I was ordained at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington DC on November 10, 2007, ten years ago today. ...