D.J. Chatelaine

Week 6: Freedom and Liberation in Love

by D.J. Chatelaine

Growing up a part of Trinity Lutheran Church in Owatonna, Good Friday arrived each year with a reenactment of Jesus’ ministry, from Baptism to crucifixion, during an outdoor theatrical production put on by talented church volunteers. I vividly remember being shy and somewhat afraid of “Jesus.” Maybe it was because I knew what was to come--brutal trial and crucifixion--and wanted so badly for that one moment to turn out differently, much like anytime you revisit a book or movie whose plot you know by heart. In the trial before Pontius Pilate, the crowd, which had just praised Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna!” now yelled, “Crucify him! Crucify him! We want Barabbas! Crucify him!” I would remain silent, hoping that it would somehow prevent the inevitable, familiar ending from occurring. But every year, Jesus would be nailed to the cross. Feeling weighed down by his death and seeing many people crying or holding back tears, I wondered what could be done to prevent this from happening again--what could we do to be better? Could my actions make a difference? What if we all loved each other as ourselves and treated each other as God’s children? Could we somehow invent time travel to keep Jesus from standing trial under Pilate and send him to a place far away from Jerusalem on that “Good” Friday?

As I came to understand through the years, nothing we do can change this outcome. Jesus sacrificed himself so that we may be free from sin, free from the worries of the world, free from being trapped in a society that tells us we’re not good enough, we’re not valued as much as the other more important, more popular, more successful, more famous people. This act of love is radical and transformative. This is God’s Grace. This Grace through Jesus’ ministry, death, and resurrection points to liberation and freedom. It points to lifting up the voiceless, the oppressed, the poor, the othered, the kid left alone at the lunch table, the classmate afraid to speak up, the one left out from the cool kids club or team or any social clique. And it frees us from selfishness and sin, making our relationships with God and the neighbor central to our lives.

This love is what Jesus stressed in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), this love for the neighbor is what Jesus lived when he welcomed the othered of his society into his ministry, this is what Jesus did by overturning the tables at the Temple and refusing to submit to Cesar, the ultimate authority in the Roman world. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength’...love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Jesus went to the cross and died as the ultimate act of love. We’re all in this crazy thing called life together, so we might as well live out this commandment to fully accept Jesus’ loving act. Freedom and liberation in our individual lives happens when we look out for our neighbor. And when we turn away from our neighbor, God’s Grace holds us close, ready to teach us to forgive and learn to love more deeply and fully, as God loves us.

TIME TO CHAT.

Who is your neighbor? How do you love your neighbor? How do you feel when you look out for someone else? How does standing up for what’s right relate to loving your neighbor? How does doing so make both you and your neighbor feel? Is there a feeling of freedom in this action?

CHALLENGE.

We’re part of a broken world, with a society built to flourish on injustice and inequality. Think of one action you can take this week to help take a step towards realizing those promises of freedom and liberation. Maybe it’s as simple as conserving energy by turning off a light when you’re not using it or reusing a grocery bag. Maybe it’s talking to or looking out for the peer excluded in class, at lunch, at recess, at work. Maybe it’s doing a random act of kindness. Maybe it’s catching up with that friend you haven’t spoken with in a while. Maybe it’s writing a letter to your representatives. Or maybe it’s being curious and asking questions about why we live the way we do.

Week 4: Love in Darkness

by D.J.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been a fan of darkness. I can vividly remember pitch black nights spent alone in my childhood bedroom, where I imagined I was someplace else--usually warm, sunny and with the ones I loved. I learned to fall asleep as fast as I could, so that the light and promise of a new day would come sooner. In the darkness, my greatest fears confronted me--losing my parents & sisters, not being cool enough to fit in at school, not being good enough or smart enough or attractive enough or liked enough. My mind would race through these many scenarios of hopelessness and unworthiness, pretty ridiculous looking back now, knowing that the people who loved me more than anything in the world and always reflected that love were only a bedroom away. Darkness came with a sense of uneasiness, uncertainty and worry.

Coincidentally or not, “Beware of Darkness” is one of my favorite songs, written by George Harrison. Darkness, to George, is associated with false voices, greed, people who wrong you, pain, self-doubt.This song, like many cultural references, paints darkness as a bad thing. I’d have to agree with that idea, from many life experiences beyond being afraid of the dark as a little kid: pneumonia that left me hospitalized, the deaths of close family members, rejection, toxic friendships and relationships, crises of self-confidence, feelings of loneliness, bullying, injuries and frustration. Yet at the same time, I repeatedly find myself searching for hope amidst the darkness. Hope of a better future. Hope of little pain. Hope of healing and forgiveness. Hope of reconciliation. Hope for a world where all are loved as God’s children. Hope for the light of a new day to get back up and get after it again.

Pain, darkness and suffering are things no one really likes. In fact, we go to great lengths to avoid the three at all costs, fearing their return to our lives. What if, in this Lenten season, where we witness darkness turn to light, marked by the lengthening of days and the reminder of Jesus’ resurrection, instead of fearing darkness, we hope for and look to that new light to arrive in our lives? I’m not saying to go ahead and embrace darkness and all its toils and troubles, but instead, recognize that like the seasons, it’s a natural part of life. By bewaring darkness, or “being aware” of it, we can recognize life for what it is and bring the light of God’s love to those places where all other lights seem to go out.

TIME TO CHAT.

How does darkness make you feel? Are you like me and uneasy, or are you attracted to those hours? It’s difficult to talk about dark places or thoughts or feelings in our lives. Are you one who internalizes and self-processes these things or do you have a friend, family member, mentor, loved one or someone else you share these thoughts, feelings and experiences with? What are some things you do to bring light or joy or even laughter to dark places/moments in your life?

CHALLENGE.

Check-in with yourself to notice how you feel when the lights go off at the end of the day. Are you looking forward to tomorrow? Are you afraid of the dark or what’s to come? Or are you so exhausted that your mind is able to shut off right away? The next morning, check in as a family how everyone felt the night before.

GDYG Ski Retreat

Welch Village Ski Retreat for high schoolers and their families!

Saturday, February 2nd from 3pm-11pm.

We will depart church at 3pm on February 2nd and return that night around 11pm, giving us six hours of ski time! Welch Village has a variety of ski trails, ranging in difficulty from beginner to expert, so there’s something for everyone, whether you’ve skied before or not. They also have a special rate on Saturday nights for groups of 15 or more, so invite your friends. Hope you can join us!

Cost is $60 with rental or $40 if you have your own equipment. This includes lift tickets (6 hours of skiiing/snowboarding!!) & transportation to and from Welch Village. Either pack a dinner or bring money for food. Email D.J. at djc@gloria-dei.com if you need scholarship assistance.

Registration and sign up is CLOSED for this event. If you didn’t get the chance, look for an opportunity next winter!

Grades 9-12.