Monday is Juneteenth.
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. It stated, "that all persons held as slaves are, and henceforward shall be free."
Enslaved people were people of color - specifically, Black African Americans.
The world didn't know about the internet, TikTok, Twitter, or fast-moving mass media. Telegraphs were used by the elite, but they were still relatively new. Morse Code was adopted in 1865. Alexander Graham Bell didn't patent the telephone until 1876. And even if they could communicate with enslaved people, they did not have access to education, which meant they couldn't read or write.
On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and publicly announced General Order No. 3 to all enslavers and enslaved people.
Freedom was no longer an objective written document. Freedom had become real because someone went to enslaved people, declared their freedom from slavery, and encouraged people who had never experienced freedom to take a risk and, for the first time, live as a free person.
I think of the Apostle Paul, who asked: how will they know about Jesus if they have never heard about him from somebody else? "How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!" (Romans 10:14-15). While General Granger had beautiful feet and brought the message of freedom to Galveston's enslaved people, each of us has been given beautiful feet to bring the message of Jesus' freedom to the world stuck in the slavery of sin.
Jesus has died. Jesus is risen. Jesus will come again. We are free because of what Jesus has done. That freedom is written on every page of scripture. We are free from sin, death, and the devil's power.
Where are the people you know living in the slavery of sin? Where is the work of the law of God crushing people's hearts and spirits with guilt and shame? And like General Granger, how will you go to them and say, "You are loved. You have value. You really are free from your sin."
You may not know what freedom from sin is or what it means… but like the enslaved people who heard the sweet news on June 19, 1865, take a risk and maybe, for the first time, go live like you are eternally loved and completely accepted. Why? Because that's exactly what Jesus gives you through his death on the cross.
Slavery. Freedom. That is the plot line of life. Confession and Absolution. Sin and Grace. Baptism and Communion. Human Pain and Healing.
That sounds a whole lot like Jesus to me. And that’s something worth celebrating.
You can learn more about how to love God, love people, and live like Jesus on Juneteenth at these links.
Our Daily Bread - Juneteenth: Faith and Freedom (video)
Rasool Berry - For Christians, Juneteenth Is a Time of Jubilee
Erin Perkins - Juneteenth and the Gospel
Joe Carter - 9 Things You Should Know About Juneteenth
Lutherans for Racial Justice
Karen Savella Stallard - What Is Juneteenth? How Christians Can Engage with Black History
Melody Copenny - How Juneteenth Helps You See God
More resources can be found at oslc.com/justice.
On June 28, 1969, police raided Stonewall Inn, a Gay Bar and Dance Club in Greenwich Village.
Over 30 years later, to recognize the Stonewall Riots and the subsequent activism for equal social acceptance and legal protections for people identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT), President Bill Clinton designated June as "Gay and Lesbian Pride Month."
For the last two decades, Pride Month has evolved into a month of learning, community festivals and parades, flag demonstrations, and actively supporting people who identify as LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and other gender identities and sexual orientations).
I was going to share 5, but 3 of them were probably not all that helpful.
1. Many Christians (perhaps even most) find it intimidating to talk about gender and sexuality.
Unlike biology class which teaches facts, the intersection of gender, sexuality, and faith is personal. That's why an individual or small group conversation is the best place to begin.
If you want to explore faith, gender, and sexuality, let's find a time to get together.
2. Assumptions and misinformation get people fired up.
Earlier this week, I learned that an outtake from a popular Christian mini-series caught the corner of a crew member's equipment with a small pride flag. Tens of thousands became jurors in the court of popular opinion embedded in the social media world.
A Few Thoughts
I've spent the last two decades listening, learning, failing, processing, and praying about how best to talk about Pride Month in a Jesus-like way. To be honest, I've been afraid to talk about it beyond a small circle of trusted friends because I know the risk of being misunderstood, judged, and losing friends - even my job. Know that I am on a journey (we all are). And to be honest, I'm still listening, learning, failing, processing, and praying. The journey (I hope) will never end.
I invite you to join me following Jesus with both grace and truth (John 1:14-15).
1. The foundations of Pride matters… a lot.
From what I understand, Pride Month brings together three separate and related conversations.
Human Rights. According to the United Nations, human rights are rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status (including gender identity and sexual orientation). Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. (un.org)
Sexual Ethics. According to the University of Tennessee researchers Katie Scott and Clint Graves, generalized Western sexual ethics say that sexual activity between human beings is permissible as long as it is consensual.
Marriage. The legal definition and practice of marriage in the United States include same-gender marriages.
Based on the Jesus stories found in Christian scriptures, particularly the Gospels; Jesus' teaching about human rights, sexual ethics, and marriage; along with his character and conduct, I am led to believe that Jesus is the very best human rights advocate, sexual ethics philosopher, and marriage advocate to have ever lived. After all, God is love, and we know this love in the person and work of Jesus (1 John 3:16-20).
Knowing this, I ask myself, "Who would I go to for direction and advice? Uncle Sam or Jesus? Western thought or Jesus? The UN or Jesus?".
As a Jesus follower, I go to Jesus first. If Uncle Sam, western thought, or the UN aligns with Jesus' teaching and way, then I apply it. If not, I continue to learn about it and live with the fact that not everyone and everything will agree with Jesus. When there isn't clarity, I continue to ask questions to listen, learn, process, and pray.
I'd love to learn with you, listen to your thoughts, and discuss these three topics. You can set up a time to meet here.
2. Integrity is a booming voice in a highly fake world.
A healthy church aligns what it does with what it says (integrity). Otherwise, people become hypocrites - two-faced. I don't believe Jesus wants me to be a hypocrite. I'm just not that hip with it. ← If you know, you know. 🙂
What does that practically mean?
I will generously love, cherish, welcome, foster a culture of care and belonging, share meals with, stand alongside, support, defend, and listen (a lot) to my family, friends, and neighbors who identify as LGBTQIA+. I will do that with love and joy because Jesus says to love my neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37). These are my brothers, sisters, and neighbors who are worthy of love.
I will also choose to stand with both the sinners and the saints. Jesus is the one who chooses love over hate, welcome over rejection, and support over abandonment. When Jesus was on earth, He stood by the religious leaders and those who rejected religion; Pharisees and Teachers of the Law and his disciples; Samaritans and Jews; the straight man, eunuch, and sex worker; the righteous and the unrighteous. Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a sinner like me!
Through the cross, Jesus invited sinners (all of us) back into a relationship with God. Jesus tells a story about while I was still a long way off, God ran out to me and hugged me, gave me his robe to wear, clobbered me and kissed me, welcomed me home, and threw me a party with all my friends and family - all because I was back with God.
I will also not redefine human rights, sexual ethics, or marriage apart from Jesus. Here's what I mean.
Jesus unconditionally loves people while not redefining human rights, marriage, gender, or sexuality. Instead, Jesus ups the ante to a point that nobody can live up to what God expects when it comes to these three essential parts of the human experience.
Jesus talks about gender, sexuality, and marriage (Matthew 19:4-6) and doesn't redefine it. Instead, Jesus echoes what was already given by God (Genesis 2:24-25) and translates it into a person.
Jesus is the one who came to live, die, and rise again so that gender identity is no longer a power play between me and God and between me and others. There is equality when it comes to who I am and that the way I am fully loved and accepted by Jesus. The love I receive is equitably experienced and is not based on my gender, but solely because He chooses to love me in ways I understand and in ways I will never understand (Galatians 3:28).
Jesus, according to the gospel accounts is a single cis-male who demonstrates a sexual ethic that honors human sexuality by remaining celibate while at the same time encouraging sexual freedom within the safe boundaries of a consensual, committed, and culturally-recognized marriage.
Jesus is the one who demonstrates the essence of marriage as he vows an eternity of love to me and signs it with His blood that flows from the cross and then lives in me by His Spirit (Ephesians 5:31-32).
Jesus unconditionally loves people who don't agree with him. I do, too. At the same time, the gospel writers do not suggest that Jesus redefined or described marriage as anything other than a distinct deep friendship of one male and one female humbly giving everything to each other; entrusting their bodies, hearts, and life to each other - just like Jesus did for me. This is one of the many ways the profound mystery of Jesus' saving work on the cross is expressed through my human experience.
Jesus' point is that when it comes to human rights, sexual ethics, and marriage - you can both love people like God loves people and apply God's way of human rights, sexual ethics, and marriage to the present time and culture. There is application with no redefinition.
Which means, Jesus isn't fake - He had integrity. And I strive to do the same today.
Integrity is a booming voice in a highly fake world.
So, friends - I need Jesus, and so do you. Let's follow Jesus together. That's how I will love all people - including my LGBTQIA+ friends and neighbors this month while not redefining the gifts of human rights, sexual ethics, and marriage… because I want to be a person with integrity.
What do you think? Let me know. Let's find a time to meet up here, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nothing would bring me more joy than for you to talk about this blog post. When doing so, please be mindful of the 8th commandment which says: Do not bear false testimony about or against your neighbor. What does this mean? We fear and love God so that we do not lie about our neighbor, betray them, slander them, or hurt or harm them or their reputation, but rather defend them, speak well of them, and explain everything in the kindest way (Luther's Small Catechism, Explanation of the Eighth Commandment). Thanks!
Like many people, I graduated high school.
It is common for students to begin planning for what’s after high school by considering being gainfully employed; enlisting in the military; or enrolling in trade school, college, or university.
The reality is that what people choose to do after high school graduation continues to rapidly change.
Let’s be honest - it had been shifting for years before the pandemic, and everything about post-high school life is different today. Nothing is really the same - and nothing is returning to the way it was.
The employment field and workforce are altogether different from hybrid and remote work. Enlisting has its own unique set of pros and cons. Tradespeople are desperately needed and are often under-resourced and ignored. And there seem to be more ways to pursue a college degree than species of fish in the Puget Sound.
This is why I was so intrigued when the conversation I had a few weeks ago implied that college was a better or preferred choice over being gainfully employed or enlisting.
Here are 3 reasons it might be so easy for us to assume college education is a student’s next step after graduation and what to do about it.
1. Your friend group all went to college after high school.
Birds of a feather flock together.
It’s human nature. If everyone around you chose to enroll after high school, that has become your norm. It’s the unspoken standard that you expect from others. And, when people do not align with your idea of “normal,” they are the opposite - abnormal. Afterall, there is safety in numbers.
The challenge is that we can unknowingly make unhelpful (and inappropriate) judgments about people based on their decisions and how they align with our idea of “normal.”
Does that mean you’re wrong? No. It just means that your expectation about life after high school has been shaped by the people around you. It’s not good or bad - but it is something to be mindful of when others share their life decisions with you.
2. You went to college after high school.
Perhaps you went to college right after high school. It might have been the best experience of your life. Your expertise and degree have served you well.
It’s easy to assume if it was the right choice for you, it’s the right choice for others, too.
We must acknowledge that each person is unique - made in the image of God with specific gifts, talents, and skills. Therefore, while I do not believe that each person is specifically “called” to a pigeonhole and if they aren’t there, they are “outside of God’s will,” - I do believe that each person is called to use what God has given them to love people, care for creation, and be a blessing to the world.
So, while that may have looked like college to you - for others, it might look like experiencing boot camp, fixing sprockets on a Navy ship, welcoming you at your favorite restaurant, baking bread, butchering meat, caring for children, or advocating for human rights.
While it is normal to be shaped by our experiences, it is important to be mindful that God led you to use your gifts, talents, and skills by way of a college classroom. At the same time, your experience does not mean God is leading everybody down that same path.
3. You didn’t go to college right after high school and wish you did.
Regret is a powerful negative emotion.
Perhaps you think your life would have been different if you had enrolled or completed college. You would have met another partner or spouse. You would have made more money. You would have had other opportunities.
And because you regret not enrolling or completing college, you don’t want other people to repeat your past action.
Regret is closely related to guilt and shame, which have the incredible potential to control and manipulate other people.
If you are experiencing guilt, shame, or regret over a past choice, such as not going to college right after high school and wishing you did, there are excellent resources for you to own it, call it what it is, and work through it.
The bottom line is this: the prison of regret has an open door for you to pull other people in with you or run out the door leaving it behind while remembering your experience in captivity.
What would it look like if heading out to boot camp, securing full-time employment, or focusing on trade were equally celebrated as enrolling at a college or university?
I think there would be a lot of lifting graduates up and celebrating them for who they are, what they’ve accomplished, and what they wish to do - whatever that might be at this moment in time.
Let’s be honest - how many of us really knew what we wanted to do when we were 18 years old? Some of us are still trying to figure that out at 30, 40, 50, and 60 years old.
What I’m trying to say is that it is OK to not have our life’s plan mapped out two decades into life. It is OK to just take the next step and do something and move forward.
Sometimes honor and respect looks like celebrating people when we don’t necessarily align with their choices. Celebration and agreement are not mutually exclusive.
When I found myself in a conversation where I felt the student was being judged by another adult for choosing to work full-time and not pursue college classes, I said, “That’s awesome! I’m proud of you. Where do you work so that I can visit you sometime?”.
That kind of response takes the Apostle Paul’s encouragement to sound like Jesus when we find ourselves stuck in making assumptions about other people, letting our pride compare other people to ourselves, and in the prison of our regret, guilt, and shame. Paul writes in Philippians 2:3: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but consider others better than yourselves in humility. Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.
Perhaps the best response to all of our grads who are gainfully employed, enlisting, enrolling, or already enrolled is this: we celebrate you for who you are and who you are becoming! We love you! Tell me more about what’s next for you. When can I see you next to encourage you in your next chapter of God’s crazy awesome story called life?
Meet Pastor Tim
Tim Bayer has served as Our Savior's Lead Pastor since September 2019. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Concordia University - Irvine, a National Leadership Facilitator and Resource, and a Community Mental Health First Aid Instructor.