By Sonja Braash
During Social Justice Storytelling in the fall, Sonja Braasch inspired us with her reflections on acts of service she has been involved in, and how they connected to her faith. We share her words here. Her reflections begin with:
“In the past, I have had the pleasure to be involved in the annual Thanksgiving dinners for those without homes, working on making trails safer at Carkeek Park and singing Christmas carols at the local assisted-living facilities. This year, I assisted with setting up food and tables, and distributing sleeping bags at Edible Hope for Thanksgiving. To me faith is taking action!
Faith means God is calling you into a relationship with God and your neighbor. It is also being open to engaging in these relationships in our own way, as an expression of hope.”
When I think of service these words come to my mind:
1) Justice – Fostering a culture that promotes unity and reconciliation, striving to care wisely for people, resources, and earth. Standing in solidarity with the most vulnerable and working to resolve the causes of oppression and promote fairness for all.
2) Dignity – Valuing, encouraging, and celebrating the gifts of our neighbors and one another. Respecting the worth of every individual. Recognizing each interaction as a sacred encounter. Further, I would describe dignity as providing care, attention, tenderness, generosity, and appreciation, and responding to desires to be heard, treated fairly, recognized, and understood. Feelings of safety, self-worth, and self-respect give people hope.
3) Compassion – Reaching out to others in need. Nurturing the spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being of one another through our healing presence.
4) Integrity – Speaking truthfully and courageously with respect and generosity.
The Bible teaches and preaches how to treat your neighbors, so when we serve our neighbors, we do service to God. God does not need our good works, Luther said, “but our neighbors do.” I noticed while serving people who are homeless during Thanksgiving meals that many people’s body language softened and expressions brightened when they were shown kindness.
How does service feel connected to my faith? Service to me is a way to live out my Christian faith to love and serve my neighbors. So, what does it mean to live out my faith? In my calling the Bible is clear. “Faith bears fruit in love.” (Galatians 5:6). “Let us love not merely with words or speech but with action in truth.” (1 John 3:18) St. Paul identifies the Christian faith as a gift (or grace), thus indicating that it is not something we can create in ourselves by our own activity. Rather the gift of faith makes us active for God and his kingdom, heading to many good works. Faith speaks the language of the heart. Doing service, I grow in my faith. In the hymn, “We are Called.” the refrain goes like this: “We are called to act with justice. We are called to love tenderly; we are called to serve one another, to walk humbly with God.” What is your calling?