My own periods of waiting, including those times when I was unemployed, taught me so much about myself, about the world, about meaning, and about the divine.
Author Archives: Martin Elfert
Is seminary the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet? Is it where God is calling you to be? Or is that place somewhere else for you?
As hard as it may be, it is our calling as married people to do this work: to love our partners as they are now, to help them to become the joyous and purposeful people whom God wants them to be
(RNS) The last thing that you’re going to want to do is write your will. It could well feel like giving up. So write your will now while you’re healthy.
Now, the ineffability of mystery doesn’t stop us from attempting to share it with others: we have a deep need to tell our stories. And so, we reach for superlatives (it was awesome, amazing — maybe even terrifying) and metaphors and similes (his face shone, it was like she was on fire). But, ultimately, our words cannot exhaust the immensity of what we have experienced.
Rape culture is absolutely a social problem and a legal problem. But it is also a problem of faith. God who is feminine, God who is a victim, God who stands with the least of these, God who hangs on the cross. This is the God who demands that we bring rape to an end.
I guess I’m telling you my story of joy and of endings, Wondering, because it illustrates one of the hardest and most important lessons of life: you can’t walk down every road there is. Sometimes — maybe even most of the time — the choices that we face are not as clear as picking between something good and something bad. Rather, a lot of our choices are between two or more good, but different things.
Jesus tells one parable after another about transgressing boundaries, about nurturing a kingdom in which we listen to and love our neighbors, irrespective of the categories which have been imposed upon them or which they have chosen for themselves. Our calling is to do the same.
Dear Facebook Friend:
I’m so glad that you asked.
Maybe what that Pew survey means is that a name such as “atheist” might be the beginning of a conversation rather than the end of one.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of attending an afternoon workshop with a life coach and transgendered educator by the name of Renata Razza. Razza’s focus that afternoon was on what effective and meaningful ministry with GLBTQ people looks like. He gave my colleagues and me a big bucket of tools from which I draw on to this day. None of those tools were more valuable than a simple but profound piece of advice.
“People,” Razza told us, “are who they say they are.”
In other words, if someone tells you that he is a man, then that’s who he is. If someone tells you that she is a lesbian, then that’s who she is. It is neither helpful nor respectful to start cross-examining such a person to determine if he satisfies your criteria for maleness or if she meets your test for lesbianism. Naming is a vital act for human beings. And honoring the names which people choose for themselves is a profound and empowering act of empathy and of compassion.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that Razza’s words had big implications beyond ministry with GLBTQ folks. Walking with another person during a time of joy or change or learning or loss is made immensely easier when we err on the side of agreeing that such person is who she says she is. Now, that’s not to say that I never dispute the name which someone has chosen for themselves — to the contrary, I will gently but firmly challenge a label such as “unlovable” — but it is to say that we do well when our bias is towards respecting someone’s name or names. If a person says that she is an introvert or a conservative or a feminist or a Christian (or maybe even all of those things), then that’s who she is.
At St. John’s Cathedral in Spokane, where I serve as a pastor, there are two young people in the youth group who both identify as atheists and who pray to God with an inspiring passion and conviction. I guess I could argue with those youth. I could tell them that they aren’t really atheists. I could insist that, just like me, they are Christians who reject the often anti-intellectual, selfish and bigoted narrative of mainstream Christianity in favor of the generous love of the Gospel.
But I don’t do that. I want to respect the name that these two young people have chosen for themselves. I want to be in genuine conversation with them. They say that they are atheists. And, therefore, that’s who they are.
Jesus tells one parable after another about transgressing boundaries, about nurturing a kingdom in which we listen to and love our neighbors, irrespective of the categories which have been imposed upon them or which they have chosen for themselves. Our calling is to do the same. So, let’s not fret too much when we meet an atheist who believes in God. Instead, let’s take such a meeting as invitation into a place of generous curiosity about that person and about her story.
We may be surprised by just how much a prayerful atheist has to teach us.
Do you have a question about ethical decision making, living a faithful life or theology? Leave a comment below or send your question for Martin Elfert to email@example.com.