As the heat of an election year intensified, I found myself paralyzed. When I opened my mouth to speak, it seemed to close immediately. I typed my ideas and thoughts only to have them erased soon by the backspace key. I felt muted and confused amidst the noise of the debates, rallies, articles, and social media posts that seemed to flood everyday life.
But in late February, I began to find my voice when I was surrounded by a choir of individuals in whose song I could find harmony. For two days, members of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast, Northern Texas—Northern Louisiana, and Southwestern Texas Synods joined together at the Texas Lutheran Legislative Event. The theme this year guiding our thoughts, questions, and prayers was “Who is my Neighbor?”
Texas Impact, a statewide religious grassroots network, coordinated the event and presented sessions and updates on major public policy changes and arising issues in Texas. Topics included water quality, gun laws, religious freedom, health, welfare, immigration, payday lending, and more. Dialogue and prayer guided the petitions of the 2016 Lutheran Legislative Agenda that was presented to many offices at the Capitol at the conclusion of the event.
I was saddened to learn of the all too many social injustices affecting many of my neighbors in Texas. I was angered to hear the rationales and beliefs of some of my neighbors serving in leadership positions. I was encouraged by the work of our neighbors in Washington DC, who lead ELCA Advocacy and work for change in public policy based on the experience of Lutheran ministries across the world. But above all, I was reminded that each and every precious child of God is my neighbor.
As neighbors, we live in community with one another, guided by the Holy Spirit, yet broken by sin and selfishness. But as disciples of Jesus and in response to God’s grace, we are called to advocate for welcoming the stranger, for peace, for justice, for love, and for so much more. As a church and in communion with our neighbors, through advocacy our voices can lift up the values that guide us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
Amidst the mess and the noise, my voice again rises, strengthened by our baptismal covenant to strive for justice and peace in all the Earth and for every neighbor.