If You Want to Change the World . . . Don’t Make Your Bed

Admiral Willam H. McRaven gave the 2014 University of Texas  commencement address. Admiral McRaven inspired the graduates – and many who have who have heard the since-viral address – to change the world by following lessons he learned in Navy Seal training. The speech became so popular that it spawned a book.

Most of Admiral McRaven’s advice  is indeed inspirational and certainly worthy of the respect the speech, and the admiral, have garnered.

It is only his first instruction that I cannot follow or endorse.

I am not a morning person. Admiral McRaven puts great stock in starting the day by making one’s bed.

Not me. I know I’m not alone.

As a public service to other non-morning people, I gave the beginning of Admiral McRaven’s address a quick edit. I hope you night owls will find it just as inspirational. My corrections are in italics:

If you want to change the world, start off by making your  staying in bed. If you don’t make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day hit the snooze alarm at least one more time. It will give you a small sense of pride and will encourage you to do give the snooze alarm another task push and another and another. By the end of the day that one task completed extra sleep will have turned into energy for many tasks completed, especially late at night.

Making your Staying in bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right sleep in, you’ll never be able to do the big things right stay awake after lunch.

And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is unmade. That you left unmade. And an unmade bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better because you will sleep in again and not waste time pointlessly making your bed that you would just unmake again at night.

(Also, the cat[s] will appreciate not being displaced.)

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Nassar Survivor’s Wake-up Call to the Church

A couple of days ago I read a Huffington Post article about the first woman who had the courage to step forward and publicly accuse US Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar of abuse.

Rachel Denhollander, one of 150 survivors who testified at Dr. Nassar’s trial, is quoted in the article saying, “Church is one of the least safe places to acknowledge abuse . . . It is with deep regret that I say the church is one of the worst places to go for help.”

Denhollander describes the shame-provoking assumption among congregants and leaders in her church that she had done something to open herself to abuse, as well as the implication that she should have forgiven her abuser more quickly.

Ashley Easter, an advocate for abuse survivors is also quoted in the article:

Many churches hold poor interpretations of Scripture that imply the victim is somehow at fault for dressing or acting a certain way ‘immodestly,’ that speaking up about abuse is ‘gossip’ or ‘slander,’ and that forgiveness is moving on without demanding justice for the victims. These stances are a stark contrast from Jesus’ ministry to the marginalized.

We have to do better.

First, we who are the church must confess that we have often missed the mark in the past. Not only have we held women complicit in their own victimization, we have been too focused on reconciliation and rushing survivors to forgiveness that will make us more comfortable, rather than acknowledging and sitting with the pain of women who have been victimized.

We must apologize to women who have been re-victimized by the very churches they have counted on for help and support.

It is essential that we acknowledge the ways patriarchal systems of “male headship” within churches and families have given men license to mistreat women.

Finally, we must care for survivors of abuse the way Jesus responded to marginalized individuals he encountered (see especially the Samaritan woman at the well) – with empathy and unconditional love.

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Strength in Weakness

This line from the State of the Union Address has me thinking this morning:

“Weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means of our defense.”

Those words remind me why Christianity – faithfully following Christ – is so counter-cultural.

That line is not particularly “Trumpian.” It could have been spoken by any Democrat or Republican president in my lifetime. It seems to make perfect sense, not just on a national defense level but in the “real life” world in which we dwell.

BUT, to take just one example from the twelfth chapter of  Second Corinthians:

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Could you imagine any president saying that in a State of the Union Speech?

Neither can I.

I don’t imagine Strength in Weakness would be a popular political platform, nor would it be a successful subject for a self-help book.

It’s diametrically opposed to the idea of self-help.

“What do you mean I can’t help myself?”

It’s also not the kind of message church-growth types suggest. Don’t people want to come to church and hear how God wants them to have Your Best Life Now, or to be successful with “God’s Ten Steps to Prosperity” or something?

The Theology of the Cross is a tough sell. It rejects everything that looks to the world like success, and redirects us to a savior lifted up for our sake.

Jesus on the Cross embodies power in weakness. There can be no more powerful illustration of God’s love for the world.

To follow Christ is to follow him to the cross. It is the only way to the empty tomb.

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A Few Moments at the Manger – A Christmas Eve Sermon/Monologue


a few moments at the manger(A podcast of this sermon is available here.)

Worship Assistant: A few days ago, one of Pastor Dave’s Facebook Friends posted a clip from a 1980 television special called “Mr. Krueger’s Christmas.” In the program, Mr. Krueger, played by Jimmy Stewart, imagines himself visiting the baby Jesus. That inspired Pastor Dave to rewrite today’s sermon. The new title is, “A Few Moments at the Manger.”

(Pastor Dave approaches the manger. He leans down.)

Hello. I’m Pastor Dave.

Just Dave.


But you already knew my name, didn’t you?

I’m sorry, but I don’t have a gift like those other three dudes on their way. That’s not what’s really important, right?

You’re the gift.


 It blows me away to see you like this. You’re a baby!

I know that’s obvious.

What I mean is, you’re like every other infant. No radiant beams streaming from your face. No halo. You’re helpless. And defenseless. You have to depend on those two imperfect parents sleeping over there for everything. You have to depend on them to eat. And for protection – and you’re going to need that! You have to depend on them to be held and hugged, and to be changed.

Not that I like to think of my Savior having his diapers changed. But you’re not going to do it yourself, are you?

I guess what surprises me about your being like other infants is that sometimes we think of you like some kind of a Super Baby. You should see some of the pictures people have painted of you – you look like a little man in a manger.

But you’re a baby.

(Pause. Kneel.)

And you’re God.

Infinity wrapped in a beautiful little package. Everything was created through you. You had everything. You’ve given it all up, all that power and privilege, to be here with us.

You must love us so much! To become one of us. To save us. To show us how much we are loved.

And you didn’t wait. You didn’t wait for us to earn your love or to deserve you coming into our world. You just gave yourself to us, and to the world.

Thank you.

Thank you for being here.

Thank you for being (Hand on heart) here.

You’ve always been here.

When I was just a baby myself, you were there in my baptism. You gave me your word you’d always be with me.

You’ve been with me through the worst times of my life. You were there when I fell in love and married Karen. When I held my baby for the first time, you were there. And you were there when I adopted my son.

You’ve been with me through the most challenging times. Even 30 years ago when my dad died and I didn’t believe in you, you were there in my family and friends and even in that pastor I gave such a hard time. He forgave me, and you did too. There is nothing I could have done to cause you to break your promise to me.

You didn’t leave me alone when I rejected you. I even denied you existed, but you kept showing up in other people and in situations that I know now were more than coincidences.

I gave up on you, but you never gave up on me.

Thank you.

You were there just a few years ago when my mom died. I knew you then. I knew you wouldn’t let go of her, that your promises to her and to me are not limited to this life.

And earlier this year, when I was so sick, you walked with me no matter how frustrated and even angry I got about not being able to do the things I wanted to do, not being able to do what I thought I needed to do. You never left my side, and even carried me through some of that. When the doctors made it clear what a close call I had, I knew no matter what I was safe in your arms.

Safe in your arms . . .

Look at your arms now! They are so tiny, so pudgy. But you’ll grow. You’ll grow into a boy and then into a man, a man who will feed thousands with a little bread and a few fish. A man who will give hope and healing to hurting people. A man who will even raise some folks from death.

Then you’ll defeat death and save the whole world.

That’s so hard to believe looking at you now.

But that’s what you came for. To save us. To forgive us.

To forgive me.

Even though you know more about me than my name. You know everything I’ve done, everything I’ve thought and said. You know those things I’m not proud of, the things I wish I could take back. You know I’ve been cynical and selfish, that I’ve been an insensitive jerk sometimes.

It’s hard for me to  even be here with you knowing all that. I’m embarrassed.

But knowing you love me anyway, knowing you forgive me . . . it’s more than I deserve.

I can never repay what you’ve done for me.

But you know that, too. And yet here you are, doing it anyway.


 I better go. The shepherds will be here soon.

Thank you.

I love you.

Welcome to our world.

Welcome to your world.

(Stand and face the congregation.)

 Friends, during this Christmastime in the midst of everything else that is going on, I invite you to spend a few moments  of your own at the manger . Maybe not as literally as I have, but take some time to consider, to ponder, what the birth of this child means for you. Christmas is not just an event that happened 2000 years ago. It is not confined to December 24 or 25. God in human flesh, God with us, is a reality every moment of every day. Christmas means we are never alone, we are never unloved, we are never unforgiven. And there is nothing we can do to mess that up. The angel said to the shepherds that a Savior has been born for you – this child is for you.

And if you are like I was, if you don’t believe any of this is true, even if you don’t believe Jesus ever existed . . . I invite you to also spend a few moments at the manger pondering this question – “What if it’s true?”

What if it’s true that God loves you so much that God became one of us. What if it’s true that the infinity of love in the universe was contained in a baby in a manger, and what if all that love is for you?

What if it’s true?


(Sermon preached December 24, 2017 at Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church of Millersville.)

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“Fear Not” – The Angels’ Prescription for the (White) American Church

Angel of the Revelation

“Angel of the Revelation” by William Blake

This time of year we sing “Joy to the World.” But if we’re honest, we’ll acknowledge that too often what we bring to the world is fear.

The Washington Post published a prescient article this week by Charles Mathewes, a professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia.  “White Christianity Is in Big Trouble. And It’s Its Own Biggest Threat” echoes some of the stuff I’ve written in this blog about the “We’ve met the enemy and he is us” state of American Christianity.

We Christians  complain a lot about perceived external threats to faith, like Starbucks coffee cups and taking prayer out of schools and Sunday morning sports leagues. But until we address the self-inflicted popular perception of Christians as judgmental hypocrites who hate LGBT folks, Muslims, and anyone who doesn’t meet our standards (sorry, “God’s standards” as we interpret them), Christianity is going to continue to be not just increasingly ignored but actively shunned by growing numbers of our neighbors – particularly those who are younger.

An organization or group known for what or who it opposes rather than what it supports might bolster the passion and parochialism of its members, but ultimately will further isolate those adherents behind a wall of spite.

Mr. Mathewes begins his essay by writing about the Alabama Senate Election, and the votes of White Evangelicals in that election (overwhelmingly for Roy Moore). But that is not the crux of the essay. Don’t get caught up in the politics. Christianity’s identity crisis may be reflected in political rhetoric and activity, but those are symptoms, not the disease.

The key is later in the essay when Mr. Mathewes accurately identifies the root cause of the negativity that describes too much of Christian faith in our country. He pinpoints the underlying emotion behind the intolerance, judgment, and hate that defines Christianity and Christians for so many outside the faith even though Jesus said it is love that will identify his disciples.


Mr. Mathewes writes:

But when it comes to keeping us away from the core truths of our faith, I suspect this one error is key: Christians today seem governed by fear. . . . And fear moves us away from the core of Christianity — love. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love,” says the first epistle of John.

We fear what we do not know.

We fear who we do not know.

As we hunker down in our bunkers of self-satisfied religiosity, it is inevitable that we Christians begin to feel not empathy for, but rather fear of, those “others” we become convinced threaten our privileged position. We barricade ourselves from interaction with those who are different, and we fill in the blanks of our ignorance with fear-filled assumptions about their nefarious motives.

  • Same gender couples who wish to get married want to destroy marriage.
  • Muslims and others who wish to express faiths other than Christianity want to abolish the worship of Jesus.
  • People of color who remind us that Black Lives Matter have an anti-white and especially anti-police agenda.
  • Those from non-European cultures who desire to acknowledge and maintain even some of their heritage want to destroy the American Way of Life.
  • And so on.

“Why can’t they just be more like us,” we say about . . . everyone who is different than us.

But as we cower in our safe segregated sanctuaries of the status quo we must ask . . .

Who would want to be like us?

We exhaust ourselves and alienate others trying to maintain – or go back to – a mythical monoculture that has always been nothing but an illusion maintained by ignoring those outside its boundaries.

What are we afraid of? That we will have to share resources and power we have always gained and kept in proportions greater than our numbers? That we might be confronted with the unpleasant consequences of majority-favoring systems on those left out and left behind? That our opinions might be challenged and we might find out that we have been – gasp! – wrong about some things?

Are we ultimately afraid that Christianity cannot compete on a level playing field of theologies and non-theology?

We harm not just our own credibility but the claims of our faith when we proclaim that Christianity is the Truth, and then we act as if our faith is as fragile as a dead, dry autumn leaf.

As we gather in our churches on this Christmas, perhaps we should pay special attention to the angel who visited the shepherds.

When that angel appeared, those shepherds were terrified. Who wouldn’t be? Biblical angels are not the cute little cherubs with chubby cheeks and dainty wings, but rather God’s warrior-messengers. To have one of those daunting dudes show up in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere, accompanied by God’s light show (“The glory of the Lord”) would do more than startle even the bravest among us.

The first words that angel spoke to the shepherds were these:

“Don’t be afraid.”

“I’m not here to smite you.” The angel didn’t say that, but I would imagine that was the underlying message addressing the shepherds’ anxiety about the angel’s intent.

Then the angel said, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for people who believe and do the right stuff.”

That’s not exactly right, is it?

Let’s try again.

“I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people.”

Why do we Christians spend so much of our time, energy, and resources in ways that cause others to fear rather than to rejoice?

Is it because too many of us are afraid ourselves?

But . . .

“Do not be afraid.”

The angel’s words are for you and me.

At the end of the Christmas story in Luke 2, the shepherds are no longer afraid. They have traveled to Bethlehem and seen the Miracle in the Manger.

On their way back, they can’t keep what they’ve experienced to themselves. They get out into the world, among people different than themselves.

They just can’t help but share that “good news of great joy.”

The Good News about Christmas provokes the shepherds to make a journey from fear to joy.

Too often we manage to get that backwards.

Mr. Mathewes can have the last word:

If we are Christians, we must believe that we are safer in God’s hands than in our own. We should take no care for the morrow, but preach compassion and mercy to all, without distinction. If we do that, they’ll know we are Christians by our love — rather than our fear.

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The Celebration of Christ’s Birth Asks for Divorce

broken-heart-paintingDear Secular Christmas,

It’s time for a divorce.

Time for Secular Christmas and The Celebration of Christ’s Birth to make a clean break.

We have tried so hard to make this marriage work. But this is no longer a partnership.

I can’t help but feel I am in your shadow. I don’t know who I am anymore. Other people certainly don’t.

They no longer think of us, they think of you. It’s all about Secular Christmas. The Celebration of Christ’s birth is nothing more than an afterthought, an opening act for the featured performer.

We have tried. We’ve gotten folks to spout catchy slogans like “Jesus is the Reason for the Season,” and “Keep Christ in Christmas,” but then those same people relegate me to a manger scene obscured by the glittery glut of garish decoration and an hour of church to endure on Christmas Eve.

The baby in the manger has been overshadowed – and then some – by You Know Who.

Ho ho ho.

He has come between us. I do appreciate those pictures of Him kneeling at the manger, but those ultimately cheesy portraits are really just an acknowledgment that He’s been inserted into a story in which He doesn’t belong.

It’s not your fault. It’s not even His fault. It’s what people have done to Him. They’ve made presents more important than giving, made gifts under the tree more important than the gift in the manger.

Let’s not quarrel over property. I’ll move out. You can have December 25. In fact, you can have all of December. And November. All the time after Halloween. No one thinks of me during those ever-extended months of preparation for your celebration.

Speaking of preparation, I’ll take Advent with me. Poor Advent is even more neglected than I am. The first Sunday in Advent used to be the beginning of our season, a celebration of hope.

Now your season gets going on Black Friday, an avaricious orgy counter to everything in my story about a single mother’s poor family in an occupied country.

I can move to July. No one knows what day or month Jesus was born, anyway. The end of December was a former pagan celebration. That seems an appropriate place for you to stay.

It think I’ll be happy in the summer. Lots of churches have “Christmas in July” services already. There are no holidays between Memorial Day and Labor Day*. So if I move to the end of July I’ll have plenty of room.

You can keep all the “Christmas traditions” that have nothing to do with me even though people have retroactively tacked on spiritual meanings for Christmas trees and presents and so on. Those explanations are really just rationalizations for materialism, not just inappropriate but the very opposite of what I’m about.

You can have Him, too. I do love him, especially the generosity and joy for which He originally stood. But because of what people have done to Him, He belongs more with you than with me.

You can certainly have that nasty little spy, The Elf on the Shelf. You can have him and his subversive message that Christmas really is about getting stuff if you’re good, not God giving us a Savior even though we’re not.

I am sorry our marriage didn’t work out. I’d say, “It’s not you, it’s me,” but really, it’s not either of us.

It’s funny, you know. People talk about “The War on Christmas” like it’s people who don’t believe my story who are the problem.

The Celebration of Chirst’s Birth

*An alert reader pointed out that Independence Day falls between Labor Day and Memorial Day. I am embarrassed by that omission, but even more embarrassed that the alert reader is Canadian. The point is still valid – the end of July or beginning of August would work nicely as a place for The Celebration of Christ’s Birth to move. The Unexpected Pastor regrets the error!

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#thechurchtoo – A Sermon in Response to #metoo

Sermon preached on October 23, 2017 at Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church of Millersville. You can find a video version of the sermon here, or a podcast here. Karen, my wife, helped with editing and ideas.

In Galatians, as Paul describes our new life in Christ, he writes, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

We are all ONE, the body of Christ, women and men. Men are not superior in any way to women. Women are completely created in God’s image, no less than men.

Why am I reminding you of these things that should be basics of our faith and life?

Because I have been reminded that many women– including women in our church family – have experienced mistreatment simply because they are women.

If you are on any kind of social media, you probably have seen many, many tweets and posts recently that say, “#metoo.” Most contain statements like this, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”  Many women shared not just “me too” but their stories of harassment and abuse. Famous women, ordinary women united in breaking the wall of secrecy and silence that allows such behavior to continue.

Why have women been silent? Because they have not been taken seriously. They have not been heard. They have not been believed. They have been blamed.

When women have spoken up, they have been told, “That wasn’t harassment, that was a compliment,” or, “That can’t be true. He’s such a good guy.” Or asked,  “What did you do to encourage him?” or “You don’t want to ruin his life, do you?”  Or, “Why are you so uptight,” Or, “What were you wearing,”Or, “Why were you there in the first place?”

Women have not spoken up because we  blamed women for their mistreatment. We enabled the mistreatment to continue by not assigning responsibility to the perpetrators.

This is an issue for the church. The church has a history of not taking women seriously when they speak up about harassment and abuse. If the church – the people of God – does not listen to women and speak out about abuse and harrasement, then where can women turn? What does our silence say about God?

I read a blog post this week called “silence speaks” on breadandpomegranates.com. It was written by a Christian woman who addressed the church’s silence about the mistreatment of her and other women:

That silence says:
“I don’t believe that happens in [my country]”
“I don’t believe that happens in Churches”
“I don’t believe that happens in my church”

Your silence says:
“I don’t see the outpouring of grief, pain and trauma before me”
“I don’t believe the church has the capability of offering hope, liberation and comfort in that space of pain”
“You can’t bring your pain here”

Shouldn’t the church be a place where we can bring our pain?

She goes on to write, “Can I go a step further and say that by not acknowledging the disclosures, of sexual assault and harassment, during the #metoo campaign, that [the church is] furthering the silencing that these survivors experience.  [The church is] reinforcing the message that this is something unacceptable to talk about.  It is only by making this something that is talked about in all places of society that we can take steps to eradicate it.”

So I will talk about it. If not in church, then where?

Many young people who don’t come to church say they stay away because we don’t deal with real-world stuff. They are often right. If our faith doesn’t address real-world pain as expressed in “#metoo,” then what good is our faith? It is nothing more than an eternity insurance policy.

I want to say to women who have posted or tweeted #metoo and those who shared their stories, women like my wife Karen, who shared the story of being raped at age 20, an abomination that no one believed, not even her family – I want to say to every brave woman who posted #metoo . . .

I hear you. I see you. I believe you.

It is not your fault and I will not remain silent.  But I will listen and learn.

I want to say to every woman who has not been able to post #metoo or did not want to for whatever reason – you are brave, too. You don’t owe anyone your #metoo or your story – no one should feel pressured to share. I respect your silence.  To carry on carrying your pain takes courage. And even though we don’t know your story, even though you have not chosen or been able to share it out loud or in print . . .

God hears you. God sees you. God believes you. It is not your fault.

And I am sorry. I am sorry that the church has been a place where women have been marginalized and minimized. Where for many years – and even in the present in some churches – women were not able to preach or to teach or to serve in leadership positions.

I am sorry for the church’s legacy of teaching that women have to be subservient to men, again still taught in too many churches, that men are supposed to be the boss in families and in the world. I am sorry for the church’s misuse of the great reversal to tell women it’s a blessing to be in an abusive relationship, to carry their cross and to stay. That is not Biblical – it is the interpretation of a church run by – you guessed it – men.

I am deeply sorry that women have been harassed and abused by pastors and priests and other leaders in the church.

I am sorry that we the church  have not done a better job of teaching Christian men – from the time they are boys – to respect women as people.

Men, women don’t need our protection. They need us to listen and take them seriously. We are not called to be concerned because they are, as we hear too often, “our wives and mothers and daughters.” We are called to be care because women are fully people not defined by their relationship with men.

I am sorry that the church has often taught that the only real value and “full life” a woman can have is in the role of wife and mother.

Men, we don’t like to think of ourselves as perpetrators of abuse and harassement. I would guess that an honest look back at many of our lives might reveal something else – have we never even unintentionally made a woman feel uncomfortable by staring or touching? Have we been guilty of, as someone wrote, “the glance that lingers too long and in the wrong place, treating women not as creations of God but objects to be ogled?”

But it is not just that we should not be perpetrators, we must not be perpetuators. We must not perpetuate a culture that allows men to harass and abuse women without consequence. Men, we are called to speak up and speak out against attitudes and even jokes that demean and perpetuate stereotypes about women. Our silence tells other men that their misogynistic attitudes and behavior toward women are okay.

Particularly as Christians, we cannot excuse vile talk and behavior as “Just the way guys are.” It is not the way guys – especially not Christian guys – are called to be. Such attitudes are learned.  I saw a t-shirt online the other day. It said “Boys will be Boys.” But it crossed out the second, “Boys” and replaced it with, “Decent Humans.” Boys will be decent humans, but only if we teach them. Decent humans – Christian humans – respect others and accept that no means no and yes cannot be assumed.

The church must have a conversation about consent. I read an essay this week that shook me up. It was written by a Christian man who looked back on his life and realized he had been guilty of things women were posting about. He wrote that one reason he thought that behavior was okay was that he had never heard consent addressed in church – not in worship, not in Sunday School, not in Youth Group. The stories told by women this week involve a lack of consent, men who talked to and touched women in ways both dramatic and subtle when the woman had not given them permission.

We need to teach our children, girls and boys,  from the time they are young that their bodies are beautiful creations of God. Their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who moved in when they were baptized. Bodies are not evil or unclean, they are part of who we are – the complete package of mind, body, and spirit. At the root of our faith is God in human flesh, Jesus Christ.

We need to teach our children personal control and boundaries regarding their bodies. That doesn’t just mean teaching our children the things they should not do with their bodies, but also that they have the right to say who touches their bodies.  We need to teach them about consent. Our children must be empowered to say “no” even to adults who would touch them without their consent. The need to learn to respect someone else’s “no,” and that touch requires a “yes.”

We teach this best by example. By asking children’s permission before anyone but a parent lays even a loving hand on them. Children should never be forced to hug or kiss someone they do not feel comfortable relating to in that way, including relatives and close friends. To force them to, “Just give grandpa a kiss” teaches them they do not control their bodies and it is not okay to say “no,” and that “yes” can be assumed.

You may have noticed that I try to remember to ask every child who comes up to communion for a blessing if it is okay if I bless them. If they say no, I will not make the sign of the cross on their head. To do so without permission gives them the idea that in the church, their bodies are not their own.

We know that can be a dangerous lesson.

This is not just important for children. When I first came to Christ Lutheran, one thing I heard was that I did not hug enough. Sure, some pastors are huggers! But I always go by what my mother taught me, the southern belle that she was – a man never even shakes hands with, much less hugs, a woman who does not initiate the handshake or hug.

As I’ve grown, I’ve learned why this is more important than just manners and that it doesn’t apply only to women. There are people, primarily women, who stay out of churches because that is where people hug them or even kiss them or otherwise touch them without their permission. They may have a history of abuse and find even this well-meaning physical contact to be a reminder of what happened to them. Or they may be like many who simply do not like to be touched.

We may think we are just being nice by hugging someone – but let’s be a church that practices consent. Let’s ask one another first. If someone felt they needed a hug one week, we still need to make sure it is something they are comfortable with this week.

Most of all, let’s be a church that is clear about the full personhood of both men and women. Let’s be a church that not only acknowledges the ways we have fallen short as God’s people in the past, but who commit to move forward to create a different future.

The Good News is that God does not leave us where we are. There is forgiveness and a new beginning for those who have messed this up. There is forgiveness and new beginning for the church.


 Let’s be a church that says to women – and not just women but men and non-gender conforming folks – who have been abused or harassed because of their gender:

We hear you. We see you. We believe you. It’s not your fault.


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