Mixed Race, Tortillas, and #DecolonizeLutheranism

I am mixed race.  My mother’s roots reside in England and my father’s roots are from Mexico.  While my last name is Serrano, I did not inherit my father’s dark hair or features, except the lines that surround  my eyes, a testimony to indegenious peoples, or so my father claims.

While being so white, and benefiting from white privilege in so many ways, I straddle two worlds. I grew up in San Ysidro, California, a thoroughly Mexican community.  I still remember living with my grandmother who always had different women making tortillas  in the kitchen.  These kind ladies were always willing to share one with me.  I even admit that when they were not looking I might have stolen a couple for consumption outside on the back patio (Sorry Señoras!).

I straddle two worlds because I have never really felt part of one culture or ethnicity.  I was never really seen as Mexican-American by people in my community. The kids at school called us Los Guerros. And, later on, when I went to a predominately white school, I didn’t feel like I belonged either. It was an entirely different culture.

One author writes about the experience of straddling two worlds.  Virgilio Elizondo writes, “Being a Jew in Galilee was very much like being a Mexican-American in Texas. As the Jews in Galilee were too Jewish to be accepted by the gentile population and too contaminated with pagan ways to be accepted by the pure-minded Jews of Jerusalem, so have the Mexican-Americans in the southwest been rejected by two groups.”

Jesus understands fully what it means to stand in two worlds. Elizondo writes, “The fact that Jesus had been conceived by the Holy Spirit means that the people did not know how he had been conceived. According to human standards, he was of doubtful origins, and thus by reason of his very birth he entered into solidarity with the masses whose origins are questioned by those in power.”

By the very nature of the incarnation Jesus understands what it means to be in two worlds. He is able to fully identify with the Galileans. Jesus understands what it means for me (a White-Mexican) to be a person who doesn’t fully feel at home in any culture by the nature of my birth.

It’s interesting that I ended up being Lutheran. There is something by the nature of theology that draws me ever so closely into the primacy of God’s grace. And yet, once again, I sometimes find myself straddling two worlds.

One the one side is the beautiful Lutheran theology that I have come to love. On the other side is the culture from which Lutheran theology  has is roots.

Recently there has been a movement within Lutheranism that has sought to show that one doesn’t have to be of Scandinavian or German decent to be Lutheran. So there have been Memes that say, “You might be a Lutheran if…”

This is not lutefisk.

I think these memes should be listened to. I think people should reflect on their own understanding of what it means to be a Lutheran and show that the primary language of Lutheransim need only be theology not the culture from which it came.

Lutherans, stop and listen to those who are involved in #decolonizelutheranism. They have something valuable to say.

Also check these two people out who have written in this…

Jeremy Serrano This is What a Lutheran Looks Like

Tuhina Rasche DecolonizeLutheranism

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Grandma, Blessing, and My Children

One of my earliest memories of spirituality practiced comes from my Grandma Mary.  Before my family would leave for a trip she would bless my brother and I in Spanish.

When she said the blessing she would first trace a small cross on my forehead, my mouth, and then give me the sign of the cross that Catholics normal do to themselves; forehead, chest and each shoulder. I would then have to kiss the hand that she was blessing me with. I remember my parents blessing me as well as my aunts and uncles.

So, here’s the blessing.

Por la Senal de la Santa Cruz de nuestro enimigos libranos Senor, Dios nuestro. En el nombre del Padre, y del Hijo, y  del Spiritu Santu.

Here it is in English

By the sign of the holy cross deliver us from our enemies Lord, our God. In the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Blessing is a tradition that I have done with my children.

When I put my children to bed I trace the cross on their forehead and say, “Remember that you are beloved child of God.”  I then ask my children to bless me.  My youngest usually traces two crosses on my forehead and says says, “You are a beloved daddy of God.” My old traces one cross and says, “I love you daddy.”  These are blessings I carry with me to bed.

Andy Root writes about prayer, “Prayer forces us to see others as persons; it unleashes the metal claw of individualism to see personhood.” I would say that this goes for blessing as well.

Blessing forces me to see my children not as objects but as subjects. It forces me to recognize their personhood.  During the day when have I sinned against my children, I must apologize to them before I can bless them. I must acknowledge that I acted out of line. I have to acknowledge that the sacred space between us has been violated. I have to acknowledge it and restore it before I bless them.  And, then, we are able to share that sacred space again in a blessing.

Even if you are not spiritual or religious, it might be a good idea to bless your children. Tell them that they matter each night, not only to you, but to the divine, and the universe.





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Mexican Repatriation

The more you know…

Campaigns of mass deportations took place of many Mexicans and Mexican Americans during the 1930s.

After 1931, government agencies undertook well planned deportation campaigns, feeling it was more economical to deport people than have them drain relief sources indefinitely. Coordinators for such initiatives used a variety of approaches. Locally, relief agencies might offer to subsidize the return home for those willing to accept repatriation (or they might threaten others with deportation if they resided in the country illegally; if agreed, officials organized train convoys and escorted the repatriates to the border. Church groups, associations such as the Red Cross, Mexican-American mutual aid societies, and pro-repatriation committees having as the object the humane expulsion of Mexican nationals under their own campaigns, underwrote the cost of the trek to Mexico.

Castillo and De Leon, North To Aztlan (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1996), pg 87.

Unfortunately, what this quotes does not tell you is that legal residents of this country were “repatriated” due to the color of their skin. Some think that up to 60% of those who were deported where American citizens.

Here is a more info to read.

America’s forgotten History of Mexican-American ‘Repatriation’

Here is a scene from a movie I love called Mi Familia/My Family that describes what happened.


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CWOB: Reimaging and Revisting

A few years ago I posted a few blogs about Communion with out Baptism (CWOB).  In those posts I took a stance against it. You can read earlier posts in the categories section on the right hand side.

I have been rethinking this position lately. Epistemological humility should be paramount to the pastor/theologian. So, I have decided to reevaluate previously held positions and ask some questions.

Questions I have to answer.

  1. Have the sacraments always been viewed in the same way? We do have two thousand years of history of theological development that has come from the church.
  2. Once Lutheran theology developed it’s understanding of the sacraments, does that mean it can’t be further analyzed and readjusted according to culture, context, and history?  When I think of the atonement and how much we have moved from certain models to the current ones, it makes me think that this could be the case for the sacraments.
  3. Could the church, being led by the Spirit, be moved to re-imagine the connections between the sacraments?
  4. Can all of these questions be answered that is faithful to the witness of the scriptures?

So there…

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Sermon Mark 12:28-44

Mark 12:28-44

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.”’

David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?” And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

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New Year’s Resolution: Old Fashioned

I thought tonight would be a good night to start my resolution of learning to make cocktails.

When I originally posted my intent of this resolution there was much discussion over how to make an Old Fashioned. So I decided to go with that one first! I have to thank Stacey Cullen for this recipe and instructions! Here are her instructions.

1 sugar cube
2 dashes Angostura orange bitters
2 ounces quality bourbon (I used Rye Whiskey. A suggestion from my friend Zac Stengel)
1 expressed strip of orange rind

Place your sugar cube in your glass, and dash your bitters onto the cube. Muddle until well combined. Pour bourbon on top of muddled sugar and bitters. Add one large ice cube, and give it a stir. Express your orange rind over the surface of the drink, run the rind around the rim of the glass, and place the rind in the drink for aromatics.



I thought it was pretty nice tasting!

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Cuts, Band Aides, and Rehearsing Pain

A couple of days ago my oldest son cut his back while playing outside.  It seemed deep enough to warrant the cut being cleaned out and a band aide.  Now, my son doesn’t deal too well with the thought of pain.  He freaks out if he knows pain might be coming.  He asked if it would hurt when I cleaned it. I told him that it was only water but that it might hurt a little.  He started to freak out and kept on saying, “This is going to hurt. This is going to hurt.”  This seemed like an opportune time for some wisdom.  I said to him, “Don’t feel the pain before it happens. Maybe instead of telling yourself how much this is going to hurt, you should tell yourself that you can do this.”  He started repeating, “I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.”  After we had finished he told me that it didn’t hurt at all.  Funny how that goes. He built up the pain in his head for no reason.

How many times do we feel the pain before it happens?

It’s not just physical pain, but emotional pain as well.  Have you ever just kept on telling yourself something bad is going to happen in a relationship? Have you ever preemptively pushed someone away because you believed they were going to hurt you? Or, pushed someone away because you believed you were going to hurt them? Have you ever avoided potential conflict because you rehearsed how bad it could go?  Have you ever not enjoyed a moment because you didn’t want to be disappointed later? Are you always waiting for the other shoe to drop?

I believe this is a way of feeling pain before it happens.

Brené Brown in her book, Daring Greatly, writes, ““We’re trying to beat vulnerability to the punch. We don’t want to be blindsided by hurt. We don’t want to be caught off guard, so we literally practice being devastated or never move from self-elected disappointment.”

So, while I try to pass wisdom to my children, I have to remember to listen myself.

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I am unable to sing some hymns.

Yesterday we sung Amazing Grace during communion. I’ve sung that song hundreds of times: weddings, funerals, church services, and in my own head. And Today I was reminded of something that I wish was not true.

There are some hymns I am unable sing.

It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I am physically unable to. I get choked up, tears well up in my eyes, my voice goes silent. I can’t sing the hymns. They resonate too deeply in my soul. They speak too much for me and my experiences of joy, pain, and hope.

So, I thought I’d share verses from two hymns that get me every time.

1. Amazing Grace

“Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.”

2. When Peace Like a River

“And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.”

Do you have any songs you are unable to sing?

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C.P.E., Starbucks, and the need for control

While interning as a hospice chaplain (C.P.E.), one of the requirements for ordination, I also worked at Starbucks to earn a little money. This made for some interesting days and nights. Often I would go straight from the bed of a dying person to having to handle customers that were less than ideal.

One day I was visiting a younger man who was dying of cancer. He was declining in health and was scared. He thought an emergency room could help him, but through conversations with his doctor and nurses, I learned that only medication could be adjusted, nothing could in fact be done. I had to tell him that the reason for his decline was because he was dying. It was one of the hardest conversations I have ever had with someone. When I left his room I went straight to Starbucks to start my shift.

Most people that came into my store were great people. I developed relationships with some of them. It was especially great to get to know the parents, kids, grandparents, that all came into the same store.

When I had left my young cancer patient I went to work making coffee. There was a man who came in and was particularly agitated because we did not have vanilla powder at the bar. As usual, I would apologize, explained that we had some on order, and that it should be here the next time he came in. This, however, was not good enough for him. Well, considering the day I had, I had no sympathy left in me. It soon did not become about the vanilla powder at all, but about having power over another. I remained professional but unwilling to cower. He ended up calling the regional manager about this “incident.” I had nothing to fear because I did nothing wrong.

It’s interesting how having to sit with people who are dying and then hearing people complain about vanilla powder puts life into perspective. Both my cancer patient and my customer both wanted to have control over their lives. And both had no control whatsoever.

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Sermon: The Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-34)

Sisters and brothers today in our gospel reading we have the mother of all parables. Today’s parable is probably the most widely known, I would bet that most people here could probably recite, at least part it, from memory.

So, to recap, there is a sower that has see fall on four different types of soil. The common understanding, from what I can tell, is that the sower is supposed to be God, the seed is supposed to be faith, and the soil is supposed to be humanity. Are we all on the same page here?

Sower, God. Seeds, faith. Soil, us.

4 Types of Soil

First, there are seeds that fall along the path. Poor seeds never had a chance. Compact dirt that people are constantly walking on doesn’t even make the see have a chance to make into the ground. Even if they did make it into the ground, that dirt is not good for growing anything. Birds quickly came and ate them up.

Some might describe this as people who are hard hearted to the gospel. Faith, the seed, has nothing to hold on to. The Faith has no soil, no community, nothing to help cultivate it.

That is the problem with the path, it get’s trampled by others. It doesn’t even have a chance. I’ve known some people who didn’t have a chance. I’ve known people who were like the path were the seed fell and birds came and quickly ate it up. Jesus says that with this kind of soil Satan comes and snatches it away.

The second one, the second place that the seed falls is on rocky ground. It at least has the opportunity to grow. It at least knows what the soil feel like, even though it’s shallow. This is like a flower growing in the crack on the cement. This is a plant springing forth from cracks in the rocks. They can grow, but, inevitably, they are doomed. The plant grows a little bit, but eventually it hits the rock and can’t grow anymore. The crop can only get so far. Jesus says that these are the people who initially receive the gospel with joy, but when bad stuff comes along, well, their faith quickly whither and dies. I’ve known people who have been like this type of soil.

Well, we move onto the third soil. It looks good, but you don’t know it’s bad because it has had thorns sown with it. It looks like good soils and yet it’s not. The plant grows and blooms and eventually moves forward, but the thorns grow too. The thorns slowly begin to choke the life out of the crops that the sower scattered. Eventually the crop dies because the thorns have killed them. Jesus says that these are the people who care too much what the “world” can offer, allure of wealth desire for stuff. It can chokes the life out of them. I have definitely known people like this soil.

But then, we get to the fourth! The fourth is the good soil, and it produces more than could ever be imagined. It produces more than expected; 30, 60 100 times more than expected. This type of soil produces so much crop that it seems to make up for all the soil that didn’t produce. Interesting.

Thoughts on the Soil

When I reflect on the different types of soil, I think that I’ve known people who were all types. I have known people who were both bad and good soil. I have known folks who were no ready for the gospel or just had other things going on. The reason I know this, is because I have been each type of soil. In my life I can see moments where I can identify myself with each soil Jesus is describing.

It seems to me that the soil is the problem here folks, not the seed, not the sower, but the soil. So, what can be done about the soil. What is the prescription for making the soil better? Well, if you look at the scripture today, it’s not more seed and it’s not more of the sower sowing. No, actually, in this parable, it seems to only give a description of the soil, not a prescription for becoming better soil. Let me say that again. This parable gives a description of the soil, not a prescription for becoming better soil. I am unable to give you a prescription for becoming better soil. I can’t give you any ways that you cannot be like the path, the rocky ground, or the thorny ground, because the parable doesn’t give any advice on how to do it.

It makes me think, since we are not given a prescription for becoming better soil, maybe this parable is not about the soil at all? Maybe in describing the soil, it’s only mean to be a description of our reality? Let me say this again. Maybe the focal point of this parable is not the soil.

The Sower

 If it’s not about the soil than maybe it’s actually a parable about the sower. I didn’t grow up on a farm and have only been to a couple in my life. Farmers know their land intimately. They know what good soil and what bad soil look like. They know when to plant and when to harvest. They have the rhythms of the season down.

But honestly, the sower in this parable seems to be a little off. The sower sows seed everywhere. I can’t imagine any good farmer going out and just scattering seed haphazardly on everything that the farmer sees. I can’t image a good farmer scattering seeds on a path, or in rocky ground, or even among thorns. It’s the farmer’s business to scatter the see where it will grow.

But, really, that’s not this farmer. The farmer is so extravagant, so reckless, so foolish, as to scatter the seed everywhere. Even in places where he knows it won’t grow. He doesn’t judge the ground. He doesn’t decide if it’s useful, he just scatters the seed. He doesn’t see if the ground is worthy. He just does it.

And that, my friends, is what God is like. God loves humanity so much, all of humanity so much, that he did not send his only son to die for a few, but for all. God is so foolish as imagine that God would sow seed where it would never grow and because God loves us so much, God sows it anyway. That is grace. That is unmerited favor. And to us it looks reckless and foolish and we can’t totally understand that kind of grace. But, there it is.

I believe the sower is the point of this parable. The sower is the one we have to look at. We could spend the rest of our lives meditating and being grateful for the extravagant love that the sower has for us. We could spend the rest of our lives trying to comprehend what God’s grace is to all of humanity. The kind of love that God has for us frees from having to judge others. We are free from putting ourselves in the position of God, determining who is a good and faithful Christian and who is not.

Sisters and brothers we spend so much time judging the soil. We spend so much time judging other people and why they are the way they are. We love to talk about the soil. We love to think that we are the good soil and everyone else is something else. This actually is not the way of Jesus. Luther wrote in his explanation of the third article of the Apostles creed, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” We can’t judge soils friends.

Maybe the world needs a God who is so caught up in scattering seeds of faith that it almost looks foolish. Maybe what the world needs is a God who is so extravagant in God’s love for us that this God would do something so foolish as to die for us. I Corinthians says, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.” Maybe what we need is a little less judgment and a little more grace.

Brothers and sister you are free. You are free to love yourselves and others. You are free to look to the sower who sows liberally, who sows generously, who sows foolishly. Be of good cheer, God has overcome the world with God’s grace through Jesus Christ. There is nothing that you can do about it. Amen.



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