For those to whom love is a stranger

Today I think it’s true, the more I see the world, the more I love my cats, oh and Max the dog too.  They live unconditional (well with cats, mostly) love whether I come home late or early, whether I’m having a good or a bad hair day, whether I’m a Sr. Pastor or soon-to-be-retired outta work ragamuffin, whether the sermon was good or one to please be forgotten, whether I’ve locked my keys in my truck (I now have a magnetized keyholder somewhere safe when that happens), or whether I’ve given them more treats than necessary or maybe even forgotten a treat time or two.  They, yes even the usually speak-to-the-paw cats, greet and speak and purr and roll over for belly rubs and want to hang out regardless of how I am, whether my parents and sister are staying with us or we are holed up by ourselves.  In fact, my sister who is NOT a big dog loving person is somehow Max’s favorite and all he wants to do is be with her, against her, paw on her lap or arm, and sit smiling and staring at her with magnificent adoration.  How can you not love that?!!?  I think she secretly does, maybe.

Another shooting.  Another hate crime at a grill and bar and dance club which, while serving all people, is known as a safe place to gather for the LGBTQ+ community and their allies, i.e., friends and family who are accepting and often advocates in a world yet filled with hate, anger, and clearly violence against those who are defined as “different”.  Five people died, 18 injured, and once again a big mirror being held up reflecting our nation who has not decided that all people are beloved children of God.  Yes, even the hate-filled who decide they are judge, jury, and executioner.  Because finally hating the hate-filled isn’t a solution.  “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”  Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have learned that I must acknowledge my feelings first, be aware of the hard knot in the pit of my stomach, the constriction of my throat, and the unbidden trembling in my feet wondering how to move in front of our addiction to AR-15’s which are NOT hunting rifles.  Wondering how to move in front of a nation which still all-too-easily accepts that deciding who is different gives us a right to angry rhetoric, outwardly focused verbal abuse against a “group” whose names we don’t know, but who we have decided deserve our judgment and, in this case, destruction at another human’s gun violence.  Please do NOT believe that hateful and violent words do not give invitation and encouragement to violent acts.  The choice to remain in that ignorance simply doesn’t fly anymore.  If you or your child have ever been verbally or social media bullied or have done verbal or social media bullying, you tell me the truth, you don’t believe that affected you, or your child?  Of course it does. Our. Words. Matter.  Our words ARE action – they can either destroy or build up; advocate for those demonized, or abdicate responsibility through our apathy.

When I am willing to acknowledge my feelings first, I then have a choice.  I can shrink back in fear and shake my head at how horribly wrong the world has become, or I can stand with courage in my faith and knowledge that God’s love NEVER calls forth hatred and violence against those we have judged as unworthy.  I am including an invitation from St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Lenexa, for those of us who choose, to stand with courage beside and in support for those who are most hurt by this latest hate crime.  Whether you choose to attend or not, please pray for families, friends, and those once again across our nation who live in fear of violence and hate because of whom they love.

“All are invited, Sunday, Nov. 27, 7:00 p.m., St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 7740 Lackman Road, Lenexa, Kansas, to a Sunday Evening of Love and Light:  A Queer-Led Service of Lament and Reclaiming Joy in the Wake of the Club Q Shooting.  The tragedy in Colorado Springs serves as a reminder that there are places where LGBTQ+ people are not safe and are not welcome.  Too often the church has been one of those places.  On Sunday night, we will come together and grieve the violence against the LGBTQ+ people and will turn toward the light of God’s unconditional love in a space where we celebrate the worth, dignity, and gifts of EVERY person as a child of God.  There will be music, Scripture, testimony, and candlelight prayer.  The service will be entirely led by LGBTQ+ people, geared toward LGBTQ+ people, and it will NOT be live-streamed.  Allies are welcome.” -Pastor Lora Andrews

I can decide there is nothing I can do.  I can decide Ringo, and Oscar, and Max are way easier to hang around and that we can stay home, behind locked doors and ignore the reality of the pain others are experiencing in the world.  OR, I can choose to know that my faith in Jesus makes a difference.  That when Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves, Jesus meant it, for real, in concrete action.  I invite you to choose how to live out those commandments from Jesus in your understanding, I pray not only for yourself but in witness to those around us, so that “those to whom love is a stranger, will find in us most generous friends.” – United Methodist Book of Worship

(Link to video)