Seeing Jesus in the LGBTQ Community

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

- Matthew 5:11-12 (NRSV)

When you look at the faces of your LGBTQ friends, do you see the light of Christ shining through them? I do. When I see a queer couple holding hands in public, or a Pride Parade on the news, I see nothing but love and acceptance — the very things that Jesus tried to teach us. Yet, like Jesus, we are persecuted for the love we share.

I recently attended my local LGBTQ Pride Festival; however, this time was special because I was able to bring my parents. They had never gone to a Pride event before and were nervous that as a straight couple they wouldn’t be welcome. Of course, they were welcomed with open arms! We walked around the booths of churches, stores, clinics, and other love-affirming companies, checking out the diversity of people and handmade items that passed us. It truly felt like a place where anyone could go and feel at home. It was the kind of hospitality that we read in our scriptures, perhaps similar to the way Mary and Joseph felt when they were accepted into the stable where Jesus was born.

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Seeing Jesus in the Movement for Racial Justice

Racism has echoed throughout history, dating back to when the bible itself was written. Paul addressed this when the church was divided between Jews and Gentiles, and the Jews tried to force non-Jewish (Gentile) believers to perform Jewish rituals. Rather than Paul telling Christians to ignore the discrimination against Gentiles, he proclaimed, “there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all, and richly blesses all who call on him” (Romans 10:12). People alone do not determine our value, God does. We are all created in his image. There is no separation or distinction between the value of one race or ethnicity over another. We’ve been taught to love thy neighbor as we love ourselves, but how we choose to love in the midst of chaos is a crucial piece of bringing peace and unity into our world.

Fifty years after the Civil Rights movement, trending conversations, such as #BlackLivesMatter and police brutality, are vigorous attempts to change the public’s perception of poor race relations. While sparking conversation appears to be the best way to help, most times it seems to only reveal frustration for those who don’t understand, or don’t care to, causing more pain for those affected. You’d think by now we would have learned how to adequately treat each other, but we haven’t. The biggest question to ask is how do we promote racial equality amongst those so heavily against it?

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Seeing Jesus in the Movement for Gender Equality

Photo courtesy of Sky News from the March4Women.

Differences — perhaps the most divisive part of our lives, as people, is the fact that we are all different. What does it mean to be different? Humankind has consistently struggled with this. From individuals to whole societies, differences mark us at every level of our lives. Gender is just one of the labels we use to differentiate one another; and yet, there are some differences which are not so important.

In his myriad travels and stories he tells, Jesus reminds us time and again that many differences we uphold or condemn are not so important. From the story of the Good Samaritan to the people with whom he associates, such as the “sinful woman” who anoints his feet in the gospel of Luke, Jesus deliberately crossed social boundaries to show how little our all-important differences matter in the eyes of God.

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Fall Newsletter Scripture Reflection

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways.”

- 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NRSV)

In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, he ends his correspondence by asking that the Lord grant them peace. Paul is not only talking about the inner peace one may feel when they believe that all is right between themselves and God, but he specifically asks God to grant them peace at all times and in all ways. But just how many ways can there be peace among the Thessalonians? There is of course peace within themselves and peace within the community, but Paul is talking about more than just quiet in this passage. There is a deeper and more meaningful peace which Paul is proclaiming here, and this peace can only come directly from God. The scope of this peace is important. “Peace in all ways” is not just passive agreement; it is intentional action towards harmonizing with God, loving our enemies, understanding the parts of ourselves that we may not like, and properly stewarding the resources which God has granted us.

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Youth Peace Travel Team: changes underway

“See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.” (Isaiah 42:9)

The Brethren movement began in a context rife with conflict. Since those first sisters and brothers entered the Eder River for baptism, the peace witness of Jesus in the New Testament has been an important pillar of our faith.

One of the ways the denomination has expressed its commitment to peace education for youth and young adults over the last 30 years has been through the Youth Peace Travel Team.The members of the Youth Peace Travel Team travel to camps across the denomination, teaching about peace, justice, and reconciliation. The goal of the team's work was to talk with other young people about the Christian message and the Brethren tradition of peacemaking. For the past 28 years, this has been happening in Bible study sessions, campfires, over meals in the dining hall, on the recreation field, and many other camp and denominational youth program settings.

The first Youth Peace Travel Team was initiated out of a creative vision of several Church of the Brethren programs in the summer of 1991. Between 1991 and 2016, a team of three or four young adults has been fielded every summer. Yet for the last three years, the number of program applicants has dwindled. For two of those years, one young adult took on the work of peace education as the Youth Peace Advocate. The other year, there was neither a team nor an individual to fill the position.

Because this way of doing peace education seems to be becoming less effective, the sponsors have decided to end this program and seek more effective ways to encourage peace education. The sponsors include the Church of the Brethren's Youth/Young Adult Ministry office and Office of Peacebuilding and Policy, On Earth Peace, Bethany Theological Seminary, and the Outdoor Ministries Association.

The sponsors are committed to the Church of the Brethren’s call to build peace and form disciples of Jesus as peacemakers. Young adults who are interested in peace work should apply to be an intern throughMinistry Summer Service (MSS) or On Earth Peace (OEP). MSS will continue to partner with camps to provide interns prepared to do peace education, and the program will make an increased effort to provide interns with peace making formation as a part of orientation. On Earth Peace offers a variety of paid internships for young adults throughout the year.

While it causes sadness to end the Youth Peace Travel Team program, we entrust ourselves, our young people, and our peace witness to God, who is surely doing a new thing – even if we cannot perceive it yet!

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