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God is Love (But I Can’t Stand Much More of This)

It was great to get away and it’s good to return home, and while I was gone Schitt’s Creek won all the Emmys, Breonna’s neighbor’s property was judged to be worth more than her life, RBG laid in state in the Capital Rotunda and a new Supreme Court Justice was nominated.

Just another week in 2020.

I’ve stopped believing that “everything’s going to be okay because Jesus.” I believe that we are called to make an effort (i.e. Peace doesn’t just happen. Jesus commands that we take some responsibilitity whether than means actively seeking justice or carving out some additional prayer time.)

The problem is that we vilify each other.  (I’ll address Amy Coney Barrett tomorrow.)  We peg each other.  We make (false) assumptions about each other.  We confuse real listening with waiting for our turn to talk. I read the above Letter to the Editor over the weekend from my University’s Alumni Review and found myself angrily exegeting it.  The writer was responding to the recent decision by the UNC Board of Trustees to remove the names off of four campus buildings because they had been named for men with racist histories.   My comments on the letter:
  • He doesn’t believe there is racial injustice in the US anymore?  OMG. Where do I begin? (Let’s compare the death of Brionna Taylor to the death of Justine Ruszczyk.)
  • Nobody’s asking him to apologize for being White.  
  • Nobody’s asking him to “bow down to Black Lives Matter or any other group.”  BLM is not the LORD.  It’s a movement to express that people with Black skin deserve what people with White skin deserve.  No more.  No less.
  •  It’s “spineless” to remove names from buildings.  Actually it’s brave to take a stand – especially when it confronts tradition.

I can’t continue living this way: constantly feeling torn up about the state of our Union.  Like you, I watch political ads that tell half-truths or overt lies.  I see and hear mockery between candidates.

Overhead in the past week by real people I know with my own ears:

  • “He told his mother that she would never see her grandchildren again if she voted for Trump. And I don’t think he’s exaggerating.”
  • “How can you call yourself a Christian if you vote for Biden?”

Who is a Real Christian and who is a Christian Nationalist and who is a True American and who is an Evangelical and who is a Racist and who is really Pro-Life? 

Is there a way to love each other without selling our souls?  (This is a real question.)

Wise people offer this advice:

  • When we thoroughly disagree with someone, ask What are you seeing that I’m not seeing?”  (Thanks MAMD.)
  • Listen to personal stories.  (Especially crucial to hear the stories of people who are not White, Straight, or descended from people who’ve been in the US for more than a generation.  If you don’t know anyone in those demographics then Step One is to befriend someone who is not like you.)
  • Aim to open your opponent’s mind, not change it.  More here.  (Note: I tried to find a comparable article by a Fox News reporter and need your help finding one because I’d really like to link it here too.)

We are headed for some serious pain this Election Day and beyond – no matter who prevails.  Praying for peace is a good idea.  Working for justice is also required by God, according to Scripture.

It’s occurred to me that this season could be our Babylonian Exile.  I’m often shocked that God hasn’t blown us to smithereens and started all over again.  We have thoroughly defied every divine commandment.  Maybe that’s something we can all agree on.

God is love.  And I’m praying we experience and imitate that love more and more and more everyday.  There’s healing power in loving even our enemies.  Dammit.


Happy Easter


What Would Make You Say, “I’d Like to be Part of This”?

Christmas Eve services are behind us and at least one of two things happened inCome Back Soon church on the First Sunday after Christmas yesterday:

  • Congregations celebrated one of the High Holy Days of Associate/Guest Pastors.  (Translation:  lots of people were on vacation including the regular preaching pastor and subsequently “the numbers were low.”)
  • The sanctuary was packed full of people so moved by Lessons & Carols that they couldn’t possibly stay away yesterday. (Translation: a miracle happened.)

Although some church regulars resent Christmas Eve Christians, maybe we should thank them, love them, and learn from them.  I especially wish we could interview them.

My first question:  “What would make you want to be a part of this church thing?

My unscientific research from talking with assorted family, friends, and strangers tells me that we sometimes forget that guests (i.e. people with no church experience, no family in town, no connections of any kind to a particular congregation) are among us even/especially on Christmas Eve.  Their suggestions:

  • Please don’t sing every verse of every song.  There might be six verses of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” but singing every one of them makes our eyes glaze over.
  • Basing the Christmas message on scholarly ideas that nobody cares about but the preacher = a missed opportunity. (Most people didn’t come to hear a research report about the fact that Jesus was probably born in the springtime or that Mary could have been as young as 13 years old, or that the shepherds could have been watching other animals along with the sheep in those fields.) 
  • While lots of people go for the music, the message and prayers are also crucial for offering hope, comfort, and peace.  Christmas Eve is a great time to offer a taste of The Good News of Jesus.
  • We’d like to know what else happens around here, but not in a way that sounds like a commercial (i.e. give us $.)

And speaking of “what else happens around here” this is one of the features of community that make people want to belong to that community.

People want to be moved and what seems to move us include these things:

  • The community serves people in need who may or may not be a part of that church.  I know a congregation filled with families – most of them straight – but they want to be a part of a church that reaches out to homeless LBGTQ kids.  They want their children to grow up in a community that cares about these kids.
  • Relationships are real.  It’s clear that people care about each other.  When somebody asks “How are you?” they expect to hear more than “Fine.”  It’s safe to share tough things (I lost my job. My daughter’s in rehab.  The cancer’s back.  I’m really lonely.) People look you in the eye.  (Note:  this is not the same as being pounced on as a potential member.)
  • Messages preached in worship, discussed in classes, prayed about in gatherings, and lived out in practice are heartfelt, applicable to daily life, and deep.

We hear a lot about “the new atheists” and others who have no interest in being part of a spiritual community.  But there are thousands of people who are indeed looking for a spiritual connection.  This is a good week to ponder how we will do Christmas Eve 2016.  Imagine welcoming people who have never crossed the threshold before.