O God of wisdom, your light blesses creation throughout this land of sky-tinted waters. As our elected representatives gather to conduct the people’s business of this day, bring to our imaginations every sacred part and person of this state—north to south, east to west, metro and greater Minnesota—all illumined by your light. Let the North Star of truth be revealed in the work of these leaders and their staff today.Continue reading “Prayer for the Minnesota House of Representatives”
I almost never watch broadcast or cable TV, so I’m missing out on a slew of political advertisements. (Pity me!) It’s to be expected this time of year, but folks in our community who live in the suburbs especially are suffering from candidate attack ads on repeat. This is the consequence of an election finance system with almost no guardrails and plenty of incentive to tell lies loudly and often enough for smears to stick. It also corrodes our trust in the democratic process, by which people—all equally made in God’s image—ought to freely, fairly, and truthfully decide how we are governed.
Our systems of democracy are the basis of a free and open society. If we allow people to damage or destroy them, we risk being pulled around by a fear-based agenda rather than building a beloved community that includes everyone. God has not given us a spirit of fear, Scripture says, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Standing together against fear and division, supporting efforts to build up the common good, we can continue building a multiracial democracy that reflects divine creativity and works for everyone who calls Minnesota home.
I can’t turn off your TV for you, or do an exorcism to cleanse it, but I’ve learned at least one way to stop getting political mailers and phone calls. Those who vote early show up in election databases as having already voted, so campaigns don’t spend resources trying to reach you when they see that. You might consider voting early to turn down the volume on partisan messaging that’s flooding us right now. Whenever you vote, I ask you to choose faith over fear, and to remember Jesus’ call to love neighbors, strangers, and even enemies.
Even being on vacation over the last week, I watched with concern the news about developing strikes among educators and school districts in the Twin Cities. Now we are in the fourth day of the Minneapolis teachers strike, with no sign yet of a breakthrough in negotiations. (Here’s a helpful news summary of the issues at stake.) I’m mindful of teachers I know, and of Minneapolis families with children at Edina Morningside Church who are adapting—yet again—to make sure kids are safely cared for throughout the workday.Continue reading “Caring for All in Education and Labor Disputes”
Tomorrow this country marks as a federal holiday—for the first time—the celebration of Juneteenth, commemorating the anniversary of when the final enslaved Americans in Galveston, Texas heard the news of their freedom, almost two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. These people—God’s people—were always free in their divine creation, but sinful systems of slavery had denied that freedom for generations. Juneteenth, which we observe today, marks a moment when human chains fell away to recognize what has always been true: God’s desire of freedom and fulfillment for every creature. Of course, there’s a great deal more transformation to come until people of every race, gender, orientation, identity and class are able to experience the loving freedom that God intends for all lives, but this Juneteenth milestone belongs alongside other epic liberation moments of spiritual history. The exodus of enslaved Hebrews from Egypt, the return from Babylonian exile, the overthrow of Rome’s deadly crucifixion in Christ’s resurrection—and also the enactment of freedom in every enslaving part of this country—are true highlights of human history, when we see more clearly the arrival of God’s reign come and God’s will done, on earth as in heaven.
Cover image: YWCA of St. Paul, Minnesota.
Tuesday’s verdict in the Derek Chauvin case was a momentous one, even though it was just one court decision in one case. As I said to Conie while we watched the verdict being read, the powerful validation I felt seemed strange, considering that the jury was affirming what seemed obvious to anyone who watched the video of George Floyd’s murder. Yet in the midst of a legal system that treats police with such deference, this decision was cause for relief.Continue reading “On the Conviction of Derek Chauvin”
As Christians we believe that every body equally reveals the image of God, yet this week’s violence in Atlanta has magnified further what has been growing worse over the past year—racial hatred against people of Asian descent. Where the Christian church has been complicit with European colonizers, our own ancestors of faith perpetuated such violence (and sowed seeds for White supremacy now). The Congregational denomination (which included our predecessor Edina and Morningside churches, and later became part of the United Church of Christ) actively partnered with American military and corporate interests to invade Hawai’i and overthrow its monarchy in an effort to establish plantations and missionary churches. The UCC has confessed our guilt in this and started to make amends, but that incident is just one reminder that White supremacy runs deep, even in our sacred communities.Continue reading “Lamenting anti-Asian Violence”
On this weekend when we celebrate Independence Day, I’m reflecting on the “dual loyalty” of being a Christian in America (or any other nation). How are we to hold together both a national spirit which sings “God Bless America”, and also the conviction of our faith that sings “O God of all the nations” (in the hymn “This Is My Song”, #591 in the New Century Hymnal)? It feels all the more challenging when we remember how much distance there is between our nation’s noble ideals, and the actual sinful practices of racism, sexism, and ethnic hatred that are an overwhelming part of America’s history. How can Christians praise the God of all nations, and recognize the failings in our own, while still feeling proud to be Americans?Continue reading “Patriotism and Faith”
Today I had the gift of worshipping at Javen’s church, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul. I’m grateful for eyes to see there the upside-down realm of God, among us right now. In truth, it’s American society that feels like The Upside-Down, given #ICEraids, entrenched politicians, social alienation, climate disasters and God knows what else. Yet today brought a glimpse of what God intends human community to look like, oriented to praise God and serve neighbor rather than to worship power or glorify wealth.Continue reading “Truly Good Worship”
In recent days, I’ve been continually more disturbed by the conditions our government is creating for migrant families fleeing for safety from Central America, crossing Mexico and and seeking asylum at the southern border of the United States. The nation’s immigration and asylum systems are stretched beyond capacity by this humanitarian crisis, and our government’s response has been to try to deter those seeking safety with further hardships at the border: rightful requests for asylum denied, months-long lines in Mexico, squalid holding conditions, inadequate access to legal aid in native languages, parents separated from infants, forced relocation for thousands of “unaccompanied” minors, and children facing judicial hearings without any legal help whatsoever. Being under orders to perpetuate this sinful abuse has sickened the souls of those charged to protect the border on behalf of the American people, exposing terrible racism and prejudice in some who wear the uniforms of our government.Continue reading “Pastoral Statement on the Immigration Crisis”
Good morning. I am the Rev. Oby Ballinger. I serve as pastor of Edina Morningside Community Church, a congregation of the United Church of Christ in Edina. In my ministry I have seen the grief and loss caused when a driver’s license is taken away. Without a license, one person has to settle for the minimum wage job that’s within walking distance. Another has lost the freedom to attend worship or get groceries independently. Children become chaperones as their parents talk about the loss of dignity that comes without a license. None of these people are new to Minnesota, but theirs is the experience of any immigrant who was here when drivers’ licenses were taken away, causing untold grief, job-loss, and harm to human decency.Continue reading “MN House Testimony”