Friday, September 29, 2006

Kitchen table witness

This morning, I sat around the table with a phenomenal group of students who are speaking together with Pastor Ray Legania about African Descent Spirituality and we tuned in to the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

He spoke of an instance in the beginning of the movement when he was awakened by a threatening and abusive phone call, one of many he received. But on this night, however, Martin had had enough. Here's how Coretta tells the story:

After the call, he got up from bed and made himself some coffee. He began to worry about his family, and all of the burdens that came with our movement weighed heavily on his soul. With his head in his hands, Martin bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud to God: "Lord, I am taking a stand for what I believe is right. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I have nothing left. I have come to the point where I can't face it alone.
Later he told me, "At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced before. It seemed as though I could hear a voice saying: 'Stand up for righteousness; stand up for truth; and God will be at our side forever.'" When Martin stood up from the table, he was imbued with a new sense of confidence, and he was ready to face anything.

--Coretta Scott King from "Standing in the Need of Prayer" as published by The Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster.

I am struck by Rev. King's immense courage but in this moment, even that was stripped away. "I have nothing left," he cried. And in that moment of desperation, God spoke. How did God speak to Martin? I don't know for sure but the point is -
God is still speaking.

God speaks audibly, God speaks through the Spirit. God speaks through ten friends telling us the same thing. Sometimes, God speaks in the stillness with only a whisper. Sometimes, it's as if God is silent but maybe that's because we're in process, held in the palm of God's hand. God is still speaking.

Where is God calling you? When you're at your kitchen table, surrounded by loved ones with a feast or sitting alone at midnight with nothing left, God is there. God is still speaking.

Listening with you,
Pastor Joy

Monday, September 25, 2006

Me, a leader in the church?

It’s September, the beginning of the harvest season, time to make a fresh start, a time for remembering all that has been and dreaming of the future. During this beautiful month, we are so glad that you are considering God’s call to the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

“Me, a leader in the church?” My call from God to be a pastor came very gradually, step by step, day by day, throughout the seminary process. In the beginning, I didn’t know if I was called to be a pastor—all I knew for sure was that I was called to come to LSTC. This was the community where I wanted to continue to develop my spiritual and intellectual life. This was the place where I was challenged through classes, through real-life challenges in a real community, through practicing ministry. This is the place where my understanding of the Lutheran faith, the faith in which I was raised, was deepened and clarified. This is the place where I took advantage of the ACTS consortium of seminaries and took a wide range of classes in various areas of interest. I learned from faiths and perspectives that are not my own. I developed friendships to last a lifetime and had difficult experiences that prepared me well for the challenges of ministry. I loved daily worship, singing in the choirs, the global community gathered here, the Hyde Park neighborhood and the city of Chicago.

This is why I am so thrilled to be back at LSTC, as the new Director of Vocation and Recruitment, because it’s a joy for me to share the good news of this community of learning and leadership with you. After five years as a pastor in both congregational and campus ministry settings in Wisconsin, my family has moved back to the city of Chicago and I have accepted this new call to welcome people to LSTC.

Our LSTC Admissions Office, my colleague Dorothy Dominiak (Director of Admissions and Financial Aid) and myself would love to have you come and visit LSTC. Get an idea of its professors and students, classes and worship, surrounding neighborhood and broader city setting. We want you to come and have a few days to ponder God’s call for your future, to discern whether this is the place God is beckoning you. We’ve designed a weekend for you to come together with others asking these same questions: “Is God calling me? Is God calling me here?”

Seminary Sampler is a long weekend, Saturday through Monday, October 28-30, 2006 in which you’ll have time to have conversations, hear stories of God’s call, think about your life path and how you’ve been brought to this place. You’ll hear the nuts and bolts of admissions and financial aid processes. You’ll get to interact with LSTC administrators and students, share a meal in their homes, visit their congregations, tour the seminary, housing and Hyde Park. If you’re able to stay for Monday, you’ll visit classes, attend daily worship and be treated to lunch with the faculty. Of course, you’re welcome to visit LSTC anytime, but this is a weekend created especially for you.

We hope to see you there!

May God bless and guide you,
Pastor Joy


“I am blessed, I am blessed… I am blessed to be a witness.”

Ben Harper sings these words in one of my favorite songs – and this is my job at LSTC.
I am blessed to be able to experience the gifted people who make up LSTC, the gifted people who are thinking of coming here and the wider church that keeps raising up leaders. Then, I get to tell the story of what I’ve seen – I am blessed to be a witness, that word that has such an expansive meaning. See it, hear it, share the good news.

Blessed to be,
Pastor Joy