This year’s Lutheran Student Movement National Gathering in Memphis, Tennessee was incredible. We had the most number of students participate since the movement restarted five years ago. There were so many wonderful parts. I loved the intentionally inclusive worship liturgies, and the time for small group discussion. I got to lead a workshop called “Words and The Word” where the group discussed how to use poetry as a means for learning about and understand the Bible. I was also given the opportunity to preach on our theme at closing worship. I talked about Noah’s Ark, and how important giving every animal a space on the boat was crucial in saving the Earth. But my favorite part of the Gathering was visiting the National Museum for Civil Rights at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. The museum was tough to get through emotionally but it was worth it because the exhibits shed so much light on the life of the Civil Rights movement. Gathering in Memphis, under the theme “A Place at the Table,” helped renew my sense of God’s call to social justice and radical love for all people. I am excited to continue that justice work with LSM as the representative for Region Five again this year!

Below is an excerpt from the closing worship sermon. You can find the entire sermon at

Genesis 7: 2 and 3 tells us that God told Noah to get seven pairs of all the clean animals, seven pairs of the all unclean animals, and seven pairs of all the birds. That is 14 woodpeckers on a wooden boat, but God knew that and said take them anyway.

This is what making a place at the table is all about. It’s about working hard to answer the call God gives to us, the same call God gave Noah so long ago. Take all the creatures, those society has deemed clean and those they have deemed unclean. The woodpecker needed to be on the boat because God said so, but also because leaving an animal behind would upset entire ecosystems and communities. The people on the boat simply needed to recognize the needs of who was with them.

The answer is really simple. If you don’t want the woodpecker to destroy the wooden boat, bring extra wood. Bring the leftover lumber from ark’s construction. Bring a couple trees if you have to. The woodpeckers and the termites would’ve left the boat alone if they had been given a space of their own. I would argue that Noah probably did that since we know the ark didn’t sink and the story has a happy ending. But that’s not the point. That point is to use the image to ask ourselves when we need to be like Noah and make a place for others….because God said so, but also because leaving people behind upsets entire ecosystems and communities.

In Peace,
Claire Embil, Sophomore