Doing nothing is no longer an option

Pastoral Messages | July 23, 2019

Last Friday afternoon, sixteen vehicles, filled with 117 people, pulled into the St. Paul parking lot after a week of serving and learning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I had the joy of watching parents and grandparents greet their teenagers as they unloaded duffle bags and sleeping bags.

At the conclusion of these summer trips, we have a tradition of inviting kids and their families to step inside once everyone arrives back at church to share a few stories from their week. They’re asked to talk a bit about new people they met, where they served throughout the week, or something that surprised them along the way. And I got to eavesdrop on a few conversations happening around the room.

One teenager told her mom about Albert, the homeowner of a property we worked at. Albert and his wife both are in failing health, with minimal financial resources, and unable to care for a dilapidated garage behind their house. So our St. Paul crew helped safely deconstruct the structure so Albert and Penny would no longer face the danger of eviction or hefty fines from the city.

Another student talked to his parents about spending a morning at a local nursing home. Playing BINGO doesn’t sound particularly consequential, except that this young man was struck by hearing the stories of veterans and realized that the simple act of listening was an incredible gift to these elderly residents.

It wasn’t just the daily service projects that made an impact on each of us. One young woman talked about an evening we spent at a local park where Latin musicians performed at the band shell and our predominantly Caucasian group was the racial minority. She had quickly noticed what it felt like to feel like a bit of an outsider and wondered how she might be more welcoming to others in her daily life.

Throughout the trip, the entirety of our group had these sorts of experiences. Seeing a person’s need and using our individual, God-given talents to offer hope. Or noticing systems in place that encourage racism or poverty and wondering how we can work against such inequities.

For each of us, such a trip made these stories personal. Racism or violence or prejudice isn’t just some sort of evil that happens somewhere in our world. We witnessed it happening to the people right in front of us. And being silent or oblivious simply wasn’t possible.

Our trip centered around a quote from Austin Channing Brown’s enlightening book I’m Still Here, where the author’s friend said these words, “Doing nothing is no longer an option for me.”

Our work in Milwaukee was an incredible experience, but hopefully it was just the beginning. Our up-close and personal experiences of hardship and hunger and systemic racism tell us there’s much more work to be done. When we see the need of a neighbor. When we hear racist statements made that must be challenged. When we acknowledge that privilege and power can be used for good or for harm.

Whether in Milwaukee or the Quad Cities. Whether you are 15 or 85. God has called us to great and important work. And doing nothing is no longer an option for us.

-Pastor Katy Warren

6 Comments on “Doing nothing is no longer an option”

  • Anke Maass

    July 25, 2019 at 8:01 pm

    So planning on next year if the dates workout!!!
    Thx for sharing. And very true doing nothing is no longer an option

  • Sandy Townsend

    July 25, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    Thank you. We all need to become more courageous and speak up against the injustices that happen daily in this country.

  • Bonnie Fox

    July 25, 2019 at 4:08 pm

    So wish I could have had these experiences in my earlier days. This morning waiting in line at the DMV, the18 year old next to me in line stated she was “afraid” to use the renewal services at the library. I had a perfect opportunity to continue this conversation and perhaps make a difference.
    Instead, all I said was “the librarians would be happy to help.”

    • Karen Rohlf

      July 25, 2019 at 7:12 pm

      Our 3 grandchildren had a great experience and want to go again. It was so positive irregardless of the heat and “bumps” that always occur. So delighted for them to participate and thank you!

    • Stella Herzig

      July 25, 2019 at 9:32 pm

      Librarians ARE happy to help. Thank you for stating that! (Speaking as a librarian )

  • Audrey Keeney

    July 25, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    Thanks, Katie, for sharing the experiences of this important week and that we must continue to move forward.

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Malachi 3:1-4

The Coming Messenger 3 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.[a] 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Hebrews 2:14-18

14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters[a] in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Luke 2:22-40

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple 22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;[a] this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.[b] 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon[c] came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon[d] took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant[e] in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon[f] blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 36 There was also a prophet, Anna[g] the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child[h] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. The Return to Nazareth 39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.