Whatever The Hardship, Keep Rising Up!

CrossOver reflection for Week 26 • Beginning June 2, 2019
We Make the Road by Walking, Chapter 39

Rev. Kathleen Weber

Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the creator of the ends of the earth. (God) doesn’t grow tired or weary. (God’s) understanding is beyond human reach, giving power to the tired and reviving the exhausted.

… those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will fly up on wings like eagles; they will run and not be tired; they will walk and not be weary.

Isaiah 40:28-31 CEB

What does it look like to rise up whatever the hardship? Who embodies strength in the midst of adversity?

UTOPIA Seattle (United Territories of Pacific Islanders Alliance)is a LGBTQ, people of color-led, grassroots organization born out of the struggles, challenges, strength, and resilience of the Queer and Trans Pacific Islander (QTPI – “Q-T-pie”) community in South King County (Washington State). Their mission is to provide sacred spaces to strengthen the minds and bodies of QTPIs through community organizing, community care, civic engagement and cultural stewardship. UTOPIA was founded and is led by women of color, identifying as transgender and/or fa’afafine. Fa’afafine is a third cultural gender identity native to Samoa. This gender identity extends beyond a binary notion of gender (e.g., man or woman), similar to other cultures within and beyond the Pacific Islands (In Hawaiian, Mahu; in some indigenous cultures, two spirit; and in India, hijira). I suggest this short clip “The Meaning of Mahu” from the PBS Independent Lens film, “A Place in the Middle” to better understand this third gender.

I recently went to UTOPIA’s annual fundraising luau. Before this event, I knew nothing of the organization or the fa’afafine community. It was an incredible evening—full of food, music, dance, and speakers. We heard personal stories of overcoming all sorts of difficulty—domestic violence, transphobia, physical violence, and isolation—as well as personal stories of community, family and faith support. The entire evening was an expression of power, beauty, love, culture, community, and resiliency—a true “rising up.” The event inspired and strengthened me to continue the important work of resisting homophobia, transphobia, and racism in the church and to seek radical solidarity with others in the creation of God’s beloved community.

In this week’s reading, Whatever The Hardship, Keep Rising Up!, McClaren suggests that throughout Christian history, moments of hardship have always offered the movement an opportunity. An opportunity to practice interdependence, grow in our trust of God, and of course, love more fully and more deeply. He writes, “If we don’t give up at that breaking point when we feel we’ve reached the end of our own resources, we find a new aliveness, the life of the risen Christ rising within us.” This echoes a sentiment delivered by the prophet Isaiah, “(God) doesn’t grow tired or weary. (God’s) understanding is beyond human reach, giving power to the tired and reviving the exhausted…those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

As we face the different challenges in our life—whether grief, isolation, fear of the unknown, coming out, marginalization or oppression—we can continually turn to our God, the Wellspring of hope, strength, and resilience. We can also turn to community for support and celebration. We would do well to remember this as we continue to discern what’s next for us as the Greater Northwest Area. It is time to call upon all the resources of our faith—scripture, song, prayer, community—to guide us and strengthen us as we continue to face an unknown future in this CrossOver year.

What stories of resilience do you turn to for inspiration and strengthen? What ritual, scripture, song, poem, or picture gives you hope in the midst of difficult times?

Rev. Kathleen Weber serves as Superintendent for the Crest to Coast Missional District in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Comments (4)

  • Actually, I didn’t express that last part well. Sorry. I think that Jesus provides a very clear model and path to follow – clear as a bell but of course darn hard to achieve, but that there are at least a couple of ways – as Tom points out – a religion might interpret what Christianity means and how to best follow. I’ll follow the love your neighbor interpretation. Very simple.

  • Tom, your post made me smile when I got to the “hands in UMC coffers” part because then I knew you weren’t serious about adding to the conversation, but just making an attack.

    I think there are good reasons to split and that you are right that there are at least a couple very different ways of looking at following Jesus. I’ll gladly follow the love your neighbor path if it comes to that.

    Peace on your own journey.

  • I really do not understand what all the fuss is about. The Western Jurisdiction has already disaffiliated from the UMC and declared that it will operate as a “One Church Plan “ conference. This actually happened in 2017 when the Western Jurisdiction leadership chose to dismiss
    their ordination and installation vows to remain committed to the UMC doctrine and Book of Discipline. The 2016 BOD, which has been in effect since 1/1/2017 and remains in effect until 1/1/2020, clearly states that Christian marriage is between one man and one woman and that no self avowed practicing homosexual shall be ordained as a minister nor serve the UMC in any official capacity. The 2016 BOD also states that homosexuality is incompatible with the Christian teachings.
    So you see, the post modern progressivists have already abandoned the UMC and formed their own denomination. They just haven’t removed their hands from the UMC coffers.

    My God stated clearly that He created them Male and Female. He further stated His unchanging commands regarding sexual conduct both in Leviticus ch 18 and Paul echoes God’s words in
    Romans 1:26-29. Since Jesus is God, Jesus did say those things. So called
    sexual identities are therefore certainly not from God.
    It is nothing short of a pipe dream to think that we Traditional Methodists will abandon the foundations of our faith to align ourselves with post modern social activities bowing to a designer god who is “growing up in light of cultural trends.

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