Last night I spent a good hour and a half on the verge of tears. I walked into the Superdome and felt the electric energy of 33,000 youth all excited to listen and praise and dance and share in what it meant to be the physical manifestation of Christ in one place in the city of New Orleans.
I am lucky to know two of last night's speakers personally, the Rev. Yehiel Curry and the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, and both of them had poignant things to say to our youth (and adults!) who were gathered together.
Rev. Curry is a classmate of mine at LSTC and shared a word of welcome with everyone in the dome. He reminded us of the rich history of Gumbo-a dish of welcome. Gumbo, made of all sorts of meat, veggies and spices looks an awful lot like a giant dome shaped bowl of the Gumbo of God, we were reminded. And he went on to speak to those people who were definitely-abled, republican, democrat, disinterested in politics, black, white, brown haired, blonde haired, black haired, gay, straight, male, female, open minded...reminding us all that we were an important part of God's Gumbo, and without us the entire gathering, and I would say the entire Church, would be lacking.
And then Nadia came on stage, sharing with us that she grew up in a church where "they didn't want her flavor in the gumbo," something that I have experienced too. She was turned off to the church and was perfectly fine with walking down a path of destruction, knowing she would die before she was 30. Fast forward to 2012, and Nadia told us that she did not deserve to speak to us, and that the parents who had doubts were probably right...there's no way a tattooed, recovering alcoholic, who had 20 years before gotten a tattoo in the living room of a junkie, should be able to talk to 33,000 high schoolers. But, in her words, "that's the God we are dealing with, people." Because we are dealing with a God of transformation and new life!
Our God is a radical God, one who transforms us and blesses us so that we can boldly proclaim the good news of Christ to all people. And we, the crazy Lutherans, can be proud to roll up our sleeves here in NOLA and do God's work with our hands as Citizens With the Saints!