“I’m a Lutheran” is a monthly profile featuring ELCA members around the world. The profiles showcase ELCA members in all their diversity, connecting one another through individual faith stories as Lutherans. Sentence prompts are provided to each person featured. If you’d like to nominate someone for “I’m a Lutheran,” email megan.brandsrud@elca.org.

Journey Lutheran Church, Onalaska, Wis., and Common Ground Campus Ministry

Junior psychology major at the University of Wisconsin—La Crosse

I believe every single person I meet has a soul that has been saved by our creator. I believe we as a church and as a community of faith are called to hold this same ideal and embrace all children of God regardless of any differences that may divide us. I believe we are all made new in Christ.

One thing I wish the church knew about young adults is it’s not that we don’t want to be religious. In my experience we are actually a very spiritual group. We are just extremely skeptical when told to just accept things at their face value. We are aware of the terrible atrocities that have been committed in the name of religion. What we need is to see that the church isn’t simply a tool to make people look like upstanding citizens, but that it’s actually a mechanism for bringing about change and achieving the love that Jesus promised.

I struggle with separating God from pain and sin. I think it’s easy to look at the world we live in today and see violence and hatred. It’s sometimes hard to find God in this. I must remember to find God in myself and use my resources to change the things that I have the power to change.

Participating in the ELCA webcast on ecumenical witness was an amazing and life-changing experience. It’s easy to silence your voice when you think you’re the only one who is having thoughts like your own. To hear scholars who have exceptionally more authority to talk about these subjects agree with the things I was saying made me think that perhaps these ideas can make a change. The ecumenical and interreligious work that is being done through this church is absolutely inspiring. It gives me hope that we can continue to have these conversations and, in doing so, we will come to understand, tolerate, accept and love each other just a little bit more.

People are surprised that I am the godparent to a Catholic child. There is a strong belief that Lutherans and Catholics are so opposed that the divide can never be crossed. However, we all have a lot more in common than we might think.

As a student, I stay centered by coming back to prayer when I’m feeling most overwhelmed. In prayer I’m better able to see all the events in my life that have led me to that particular moment, and I can see more clearly the ways in which God has walked with me along that journey. This is always a source of comfort for me.

I pray that my children grow up in a world where they see the people of God leading their lives the way Christ led his. I pray that they see the church as a tool to help those in need of food, shelter, love and acceptance.

My favorite church memory is from every few years during Holy Week when my church does a Seder meal in observance of Maundy Thursday. I just loved going to that meal because it was a time when I really felt connected to the process and the tradition. I felt like I could more fully understand what was happening in this moment for the people of the time. It was a truly spiritual experience.

Attending the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly was humbling and exciting. There is a lot of rhetoric around organized religion that says they are strictly self-serving entities. What I saw at the assembly was a church that is committed to effecting change for and providing aid to those people who I think Jesus himself would have communed with had he been active today. This is the kind of church I can stand behind. Our church is engaged in God’s work on every inch of this planet and the effects touch all of us.

I share my faith by being very open about it. My faith impacts a lot of the things that I choose to be passionate about. My passion for those topics leads me into many conversations about why I have such strong convictions about them. This gives me the perfect stage to explain why my belief that every single person is saved and deserves to be treated as such is at the forefront of all my work in social justice.

If I could change anything, I would eliminate divides, such as race, without eliminating culture and tradition. Culture and tradition are beautiful and need to be celebrated. Differences are what make this life interesting and vibrant. Divides are ugly. Separation or segregation are the most hateful things we can experience. To embrace difference is to embrace humanity and that is stunning.

An issue I’m fighting for is gaining equality for all minority and marginalized populations in our society. The church plays a huge role in the general opinion that society at large has about different groups of people. The church has the power to change the sentiments that are expressed toward other religious groups, people of different races and ethnicities, of different genders and of different sexual orientations. Everyone is welcome in God’s kingdom. If we truly believe that, then we must extend this grace to all people.

I think the future of the church is in outreach to those in need. We can no longer sit in our pews and expect that our church will continue to reach people. We have to put action behind our words. We have to fix the things in our communities that we can. By doing this, we are doing what Christians were meant to do. We are spreading the love of Christ.

My favorite piece of Scripture is Philippians 4:13—I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. This verse has helped me to be brave in situations when I’m particularly scared or nervous. It has centered my heart before taking on opportunities that I would never have had the confidence to even entertain otherwise.

I’m a Lutheran because I believe I’m living my life in response to an awesome and unfathomable gift that I did nothing to earn but that has saved me from everything. If I can share that gift with even one person, then it will have felt worthwhile.

Megan Brandsrud
Brandsrud is an associate editor of Living Lutheran.

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