Word of the Week

God-Is-LoveThroughout my life, on my best days and worst days alike, there has been one abiding truth that I've always known and clung to: God is love.

Nothing that can separate us from this love. No height, nor depth, no nothing! And the love of God is not just for a select few. It is for all people.

Then, if we've experienced this love, it is our job to share it with others without discrimination. We are called to love as God loves.

No matter where a person is born, no matter the color of their skin, no matter the language they speak, no matter if we call them an enemy or a friend, we are to love.

Though none of us lives into this calling with perfection, it's what I believe the pastoral life is all about. We are asked to model love in healthy ways as God has loved us.

But this living "God is love" is not always easy. Here's one example:

Recently, I entered conversation with a church to be their interim pastor. As I got to know the search committee selected to represent the congregation, I observed their love for God, each other, and their church. I was very interested in how my calling could be lived out in this place. I gladly accepted their offer to serve among them when it came.

However, it became clear from the first moments of my work, that the interim time in this church broke open issues deep below the surface that no one saw coming. A storm erupted among some members of the church.

But, thanks to the loving community around me, I didn't panic. I preached my first sermon about love in fact. I knew that my showing up could speak volumes about giving God's love a chance. I awaited how the story would unfold with hope.

But then, this week, it became clear that:

1. I was/ would not be given as chance to minister because I am a woman.

2. I was/ would not be given a chance to minister because it is my personal belief that all are welcome in God family, even those who are gay.

It is my abiding belief that love can not be forced upon a person or a group of people. It's either accepted or its not. And, church shouldn't be a place where newcomers feel either emotionally or physically unsafe. Love shouldn't hurt. So, sadly, I knew I needed to leave this context much sooner than I hoped.

So my friends who long for the coming of God's kingdom on earth, this is what this experience has reminded me of all over again: we've got a lot of work to do. A lot. 

Christians should be known by our love, not our exclusion. No one should be unwelcome in church. No one.

Jesus loves little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow black and white they are precious in his sight. Jesus love all the children of the world! 

All are welcome in the family of God. It's such great news that we've got to share. 

And we must share it. People need to hear it. People are longing to hear it. People's lives could be changed if they knew. And I want to be part of ministry is a beacon of love for all people. All people. 

Here's the message, I'll keep preaching the rest of my days. Let us love God and love one another.

As the old hymn goes, they'll know we are Christians by our love.

We must keep a open chair for the stranger or for any who find their way to our congregations. Always. 

So, I'm wondering, would someone visiting your church know that God is love? And if they wouldn't, what are you and I going to do to be the change?

Today, I'm glad to share the words of a fellow member of the RevGalBlog, Amy Hanson a ELCA (Lutheran) seminarian. She allowed me to repost this part of her Pentecost sermon from 2013 posted originally on her blog, Diary of a Contemplative. Amy suggests that when the Spirit comes it is not as much about the institutional church . . . 

I think that we all sometimes operate under the mistaken assumption that when the Holy Spirit enters into our lives and starts remaking us, it is going to feel good.

The Holy Spirit not only forms and reforms us as a church, it also forms and reforms us as individuals.  I am not sure where we get the idea that the Holy Spirit is a gentle dove that is guiding our way, because the Holy Spirit that we hear about in today’s reading is downright terrifying.

Flames and noise and confusion.

But this Spirit…she speaks truth.  The truth is often painful to hear and might not be what we want.

Just as the Holy Spirit gathers together an improbable collection of people in today’s text to form the body of Christ, she continues to do so even today.

What if Pentecost is less about the establishment of the institutional church and more about being broken open and baptized by a fire of truth over and over again?

. . . I want to share a story with you about how I experienced the Holy Spirit this week.  In the heartbreakingly truthful way that she often works upon us.  I spent most of last Monday at the capital building as we awaited the results of the vote for marriage equality in our state.

I was with friends, surrounded by at least a thousand others chanting and singing. You could feel the spirit move as we implored our senators to “be on the right side of history” and “make the right choice” and generally we all got caught up in the joy and excitement.

I went outside to get some fresh air and that is where the Holy Spirit really got me.

In the midst of a sea of orange t-shirts and rainbow flags was a lone middle-aged man wearing a polo shirt and khakis sitting on the steps holding a pink “Vote No” sign.  It was clear that he was fearful and uncomfortable.

I really wanted to dislike this guy because he was invested in the idea that people like me and so many of those whom I love should not be allowed to marry.  Instead of hatred, I only felt compassion.

This man was trying to be faithful in the best way that he knew how, just as I was attempting to do the same thing.  And believe me, I am not a good enough person to pull this off on my own.  The Holy Spirit is behind this one.  It would have felt good to be angry with this guy, even to hate him, and instead, my eyes met his and I felt my heart-break.  Even though I didn’t want to claim this guy as a fellow worker in the Kingdom of God, an integral part of the Body of Christ, he’s most certainly a part of it, and it’s not my job to decide whether he is in or out and not something I can do on my own.  THIS is what the Holy Spirit will do to you.

This very Spirit is God coming into the world and smashing apart every human judgment and every disagreement and every possible flimsy construction we have for understanding who God is.

The church that was created on Pentecost is not a building and not a denomination and not a place you go on Sundays, but a body of wildly diverse people who are continually being made and remade in the image of God.  And we need each other.  That is what we celebrate with Pentecost.