Friday, December 11, 2009

Why I am a guadalupano luterano

As a straight, white, male Lutheran pastor, I admit that I really like the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe. I first got to learn about her in detail while on internship at Trinity, a congregation that was very intentional about the cultural heritage of all its members. Much of my appreciation of the Guadalupe traditions was shaped by the preaching and teaching of my supervisor, Pastor Heidi Neumark. (To the left is a fantastic mural at Trinity, showing Martin Luther, the Virgin of Guadalupe, and Frederick Douglass standing together--a sign of so much beautiful unity).

The Guadalupe story has a reputation for being a significant part of the spiritual lives of many Roman Catholic people, but when you start to think about it, it is a very Lutheran story. Martin Luther pushed to have the Bible written in German—the language of the people—instead of the Latin that only highly educated folks could begin to understand. The Virgin appears to Juan Diego speaking his native language, not the Spanish of the conquistadors. It’s a sign of divine presence not just with the wealthy and the elite, but even among the poorest of the poor.

Juan Diego becomes an unlikely messenger when he brings a message to the bishop. The cleric dismisses Juan Diego as uneducated peasant until he returns with a tilma full of roses, and an image of the Virgin. He is as unlikely a messenger as the shepherds running to Bethlehem.

The Virgin that Juan Diego sees is pregnant—a sign of hope and expectation. It’s an Advent sign for us as we keep watching for Jesus.

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