All posts by Rev. Faith Totushek

I currently pastor Grace United Methodist Church in St Cloud Minnesota as well as pastor a small home church called WayFinders. I grew up in the Assemblies of God faith stream, married a Presbyterian, and served in the Evangelical Covenant Church for 10 years. I graduated from Bethel Seminary in St Paul, MN. I am a Gottman Seven Principles Program Educator helping couples enhance their marriages and families and created a six week marriage class. I have also helped plant a Hispanic Church in my community. I've also worked with women coming our of abusive relationships or those in major life transitions. My favorite verse in the Bible is: Romans 8:11, If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your human bodies also, through his Spirit that lives in you.

The Union of Heaven and Earth

Each time we recite the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew chapter 6:9-13 we pray these words, “your kingdom come, you will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” 

We thoughtlessly recite this prayer without paying a whole lot of attention to just how astounding these words really are.  That’s what I want us to dive into today in this blog post. 

The Beginning

In the beginning God created a beautiful world where he would dwell with his people.  Then he created human beings and put them in the world that he created.  The Biblical authors called this world a garden because garden best describes what life is like in the presence of God.  It is a flourishing world within which God’s people partner with God in doing the will of God.  God’s people partner with him as image bearers—tending the garden, reigning in union with God and bringing life and filling the earth with people. 

It was a place and a people who were fully in union with God—a Temple so to speak that was filled with God’s presence. 

Broken Union

When the snake appeared in the garden he was spouting the “wisdom” of the world offering a temptation to be one’s own master apart of God.  And this union between God and the people he created was broken.  They sought to establish a world without God and without the wisdom of God.  And there were drastic effects.  The people God had created were exiled and left the flourishing space filled with the presence of God.  And as the people created their own world apart of God, heaven (God’s space) and earth (human space) separated.  The result was war, injustice, greed, exploitation, murder and a world that no longer flourished.

A Plan to Reunite

God set about implementing a plan to reunite his people with himself and create a space within which heaven (God’s space) and earth (human space) could once again be joined.  He began with a people birthed through a man and woman named Abraham and Sarah who were promised a new land—a new garden that would flourish once again under the reign of God.  Their descendants were enslaved in Egypt but God delivered them and brought them to this new promised land that would be flowing with milk and honey. (another image of flourishing) 

God gave his people a Tabernacle which would be the space where heaven (God’s space) and earth (human space) met. God gave them a law, the Torah, so that his people would begin to seek justice and live together in peace.  A law that would help them flourish in the promised land.  And when the people gathered in the Temple, they experienced the presence of God.  They were present when God’s Spirit filled the Temple. 

When Jesus came, he came through a woman, a human.  Mary’s conception perfectly images the joining of heaven and earth in the person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus as fully human and fully God is the new Temple, tabernacling (dwelling) with God’s people.  The Apostle John tells us that the Word became flesh and tabernacled (dwelt) with us.  God put on human flesh and moved into the neighborhood as some translations say. 

Jesus said he was the Temple when he said,

“Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body.” (John 2:19-21)

Jesus lived fully a life of union with God, going about bringing a bit of heaven to earth wherever he went.  Those he touched experienced the flourishing life of God and were healed, delivered, restored and renewed.  And the shalom of God–the kingdom of God broke into the present through Jesus Christ.

Pentecost

In Acts one and two, we read about how after Christ’s death and resurrection, he ascended into heaven and poured out the Holy Spirit on all flesh.  As they received the Spirit, flames rested on them just as the Spirit had filled the Tabernacle in the days of old.  Instead of a Temple made of bricks and stones, this new Temple made up of people who contained the Holy Spirit were the living stones that the Letter of 1Peter speaks about.  Jesus as the Capstone brings this people together like a new building that contains God’s presence. 

It is now God’s people who are bearing the presence and power of God wherever they go in the world.  And just as Jesus offered life and was a minister of life, so God’s people are doing the same things that Jesus did while on the earth.  As the “body” of Christ, Jesus continues his work through the hands and feet of those who have been united with Christ by the Holy Spirit.

We live in a day and a time within which many in this world are not flourishing.  We have disease, poverty, war, violence, exploitation and injustice.  At times even the church has unknowingly joined that injustice.  I feel that because we don’t have this understanding, we only think about heaven as a place we go when we die.  But as God’s people, we are a people who in union with Christ by the Holy Spirit have the capacity to bring heaven to earth when we too become healers, life givers, people of justice—those who lift the lame and set them on their feet–physically and metaphorically.  As image bearers and containers of the life of God, we have the opportunity to bring little pockets of the kingdom in our own communities and neighborhoods. 

We individually and corporately contain the power and presence of God.

I long for the body of Christ to grasp this and instead of waiting for the end of the world and a journey to heaven, we would realize that we carry heaven through our union with Christ by the filling of the Holy Spirit.  And wherever there is justice, wherever there is life, wherever there is wholeness, wherever there is shalom—there is the kingdom of heaven.  I wonder if our emphasis on going to heaven when we die but ignoring the injustices and sufferings of this sin-sick world are preventing others from receiving Christ as their own savior.  We currently seem so much more like people of the Empire than we do people of the kingdom of God.  I believe that if the world would see the body of Christ as she is called, they would embrace Christ for themselves.  

This is my prayer: that we as God’s people will grasp this truth once again.  Let us pray…

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen

 

Some of the above ideas are from The Bible Project

The Pathway of Violence Versus the Way of Jesus

I recently read an article in the NYTimes about a little boy who was separated from his father at the border and placed with a foster family and I wondered about how he would process this experience in the future.  His foster mom said he cried and wailed at night for the first week and slept with a drawing of his family.  He is experiencing the punitive emotional violence of our current anti-immigrant climate.  Further some estimate that up to 2000 of the children have been separated from their parents in effort to punish families who are seeking refuge through the asylum system.  (Intercept)

How did we get here?  How did we become a people who can view every immigrant at the border as a potential criminal or someone coming to take advantage of us?  And where will this end?  

There is a trajectory that leads to more and more violence.

First, I think this kind of behavior begins with fear.  We fear something such as a loss of safety, or loss of identity or loss of stability.  The current immigration and refugee fears are fueled by concerns that muslim refugees will take over our culture and our governments to implement Sharia Law.  Or that there will be so many people of color that white people will become a minority.  This fear is real fueled by pundits across the nation.   Continue reading The Pathway of Violence Versus the Way of Jesus

Overview: Refugees, Asylees, and TPS

I have been listening carefully to the immigration debates and discussions in this country and have come to the realization that most everyday people do not have a clear grasp of how our immigration system works and how it affects those migrating to the US.  While not an expert, I have taken a 40 hour class on Immigration Law and can explain some of the rudimentary elements of our system.

First, when we hear about immigration on the news, the various categories of immigration are lumped together and important distinctions between a refugee, and asylee, and TPS are seldom made, making it confusing for people to grasp the implications for our country.  I wish to lay out some simplified definitions and answer some of the questions I often hear everyday folks ask.  Know that immigration includes many different categories and these are only three.  (Home Land Security Chart on differences between refugees and asylee)

What is a Refugee? 

A refugee is someone who leaves their country because of war or conflict and can show that he or she has a credible fear of persecution, on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion in their country of origin.  A refugee often leaves his or her own country and travels to a refugee camp where they reside until at which time either their country of origin is safe once again or they are assigned a country that will take them in and help them resettle. Continue reading Overview: Refugees, Asylees, and TPS

#ChurchToo, Good Shepherds and Beloved Community

Shortly after the #MeToo movement, another movement surfaced, #ChurchToo.  #ChurchToo is about sexual harassment and abuse within the body of Christ.  I am so grieved about the #ChurchToo movement as it hit’s at the vision for beloved community in Christ.  And I have begun to ask the question, how do we live out the beloved community in Christ between men and women working together for the sake of the Kingdom of God?  I have a couple of thoughts but first I want to lay out some Biblical support.

Ezekiel 34 tells the story of evil shepherds and good shepherds.  Essentially, the evil shepherds have been feeding on the sheep instead of feeding the sheep.  While the sheep are bleeding, hungry and suffering on the mountains, the evil shepherds are getting fat.  And the Prophet asks the question, who will care for and bind up the wounds of the sheep?  The answer is, the good shepherd.  The good shepherd is, of course Jesus, the coming one who will bind up the wounds of the sheep, and tend to them in the sheepfold where they will flourish. 

The prophet is helping God’s people to understand that the task of leaders and shepherds is the task of tending and caring for the sheep.  I think the #ChurchToo movement is surfacing this issue in the church today so that we might become more whole as leaders and so that our communities might flourish.  As those who long for the beloved community, we must be aware of the human lust for power, ego issues and self-gratification when in ministry.  I want to lay out some principles that could help us move closer toward a healthy and safe community within which men and women are respected, and the sheep are fed.  Continue reading #ChurchToo, Good Shepherds and Beloved Community

Re-thinking Romans 13

Romans 13:1-8 is a passage that has been used in ways that are unjust.  It has been used to justify the divine right of kings, to justify slavery, to justify apartheid and segregation.  This text has been used in support of the Just War Theory.  It’s still used in the church to justify oppressive policing and discounting of immigrant’s basic human rights.  If people would just obey the law, the logic goes, then they will be left alone.  But is that what this passage means?  Is Paul saying that that all laws are good? Is he saying that all people are treated equally under the law? Is he saying that laws should be obeyed without question?  These things are often read into the passage making these verses something like a sword to keep oppressed people in their place.  I don’t believe that was Paul’s intent.

Just because a particular action is legal does not mean it is just.  As God’s people it’s imperative that we carefully discern and think through texts like these so that we might walk well in the way of Jesus.  How shall we view this set of scriptures? Continue reading Re-thinking Romans 13

Philoxenia: Love of the Stranger

What is Philoxenia? When I first heard this word, I wondered if I had just stumbled upon a new kind of flower, Philoxenia… sort of like a Xenia or phlox or a Xenia crossed with a phlox to create a whole new flower.  It’s not a flower, it is the Greek word for Hospitality.  It literally means Philo or Love; Xenia or Stranger; put together it means LOVE OF STRANGER. 

Hospitality then is the act of making strangers feel loved, as if they belong, welcome—like family.  Hospitality is another thread that is woven throughout the entire Bible. 

Growing up in the church, hospitality was more about making sure the coffee was on and the donuts and cookies were placed out on the serving table.  We had a hospitality committee, usually made up of women, who made sure there were plenty of good things to eat and coffee to drink—cool-aid for the children and decaf for the senior folks.  And we would gather in the fellowship hall after the morning service to share in a time of “fellowship”.  Because what else would one do in a fellowship hall?  I loved this time because it meant that I could play just a bit longer with my friends before we all went home for Sunday dinner.  Continue reading Philoxenia: Love of the Stranger

Why Every Bible-Believing Christian Should Support DACA

How might we find our way Biblically around DACA?  If the Bible is our compass and guide, what might we find that would give us direction as believers on various immigration issues such as DACA? And what insights can we gain to discern about the construction of walls? As one following the legislation currently being debated, lawmakers are considering tying the building of a wall between Mexico and the US to DACA legislation. As a means of self-disclosure, I favor a comprehensive immigration reform to create a better, more humane immigration system in this country.

What is DACA?

DACA recipients are the DREAMERS who long to be welcome and have a future within the country they grew up. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. What that means is that if a person came as a child, deportation action could be deferred.  Those who came to this country as children did not have the ability to choose but came with their parents.  Many young people who came as children grew up in this country and it is the only country they have ever known.  According to a Supreme Court decision in the 1980’s, the court determined that it was in the best interests of this nation that unauthorized children should be allowed to receive a public education.  We have approximately 790,000 unauthorized immigrants who have received DACA status.  DACA was to be renewable every two years provided the conditions were met. Continue reading Why Every Bible-Believing Christian Should Support DACA