love

Love for Country, Love for Our Neighbors, Love for Ourselves

By Rev. Mindi

This video is going viral on Facebook, thanks to the Ad Council and the campaign #WeAreAmerica. I love what this video is about in general, but there is an underlying message that I think is even more important: our identity--all of who we are--is something incredibly special. And while the title of the video is "Love Has No Labels," the narrative states that, "We know that labels don't devalue us, they help define us, keeping us dialed into our cultures and our beliefs in who we are as Americans."

Perhaps, as Christians, there is something we can learn from this video, as we work to include the great diversity of our communities that we minister with and to. Because our identity is holy and sacred.

A Letter to My Children for Father's Day

Dear Christopher and Michele,

I wanted to take the opportunity presented by this Father’s Day to share a few things with the two of you.  Both of you have either told me that my Father’s day gift is being made or what it is you want to get me on this day, but I wanted you to know what it is I hope for.

I hope you both know how much you are loved.  The two of you are my life’s deepest joy.  I held you moments after you were born, when your arms and legs weren’t much bigger than my fingers.  Then you fit into my hands, but you made a journey into my heart and there I still hold you both.   Though you are adults now, you are still my children. My love for you began even before you were born and it has only deepened over the years.  My parental role and responsibilities have changed as you have become adults, but my great desire to see you thrive in life and my willingness to help you in that pursuit has not lessened in the least.  Your life is your own, but remember you are never alone as you seek to live it.

I hope I have taught you well that it is important to work for a world that is just and fair for all people.   I hope you have learned that prejudices and stereo-types are products of fear and ignorance and they should have no place in a society that believes in “justice and liberty for all.”  It does not matter the color of someone’s skin, the language of their tongue, the religion of their heart, and it doesn’t matter whom they choose to love.  Human beings are on a journey together and we need to have respect for the diversity that this world has to offer.  I hope I have taught you this in a way that leads you to stand opposed to the forces in this world that would have us fear those who are different.

I hope you know that the violence that is part of our nation, especially gun violence with the death of 93 people every day, is not the way things are supposed to be and we don’t have to simply accept it.  In a democracy we all have a voice and an ability to make things better than they are today.  Never accept that the way things are is the way things have to be.  Those who never want to enact changes and accept things the way they are are wrong.  You have a voice.  You have a vote.  Use them.  You have the power to unite with groups and organizations which are working for a better world.  Join them.   You have heard me quote Dr. King many times in sermons.  Among all the things he taught us was the fact that change can happen.  It takes time and persistence, but it can happen.  Work, my children, for a better world.

I hope you realize how deeply appreciative I am of the role you both played in helping me through a very difficult time in my life.  When I doubted if I could make it another day, you were there to help keep me going.  You were my energy when I had none.  You were my laughter when I was crying.  You were my reasoned thought when I could barely think at all.  I never thought I would have to be held up through the good will and efforts of my children, but I was and I will be forever grateful.  Life has turned for me and every day is not now a chore to get through, but a gift waiting to be experienced.  That you two are part of each day is a wonderful example of the Grace that I think is behind all of life.

Finally, I hope you know that more than any present you could give me for Father’s Day is the gift of seeing you passionate about the things that matter – life, love, justice, kindness and peace. Strive for these things and other things will take care of themselves.

I love you both and wish God’s deepest blessings upon your lives. 

Dad

But I Say to You

By Rev. Joseph Pusateri

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:27-28, NRSV).

I have been hearing a horrifying thing a lot lately.

Since the rise of Donald Trump’s popularity in the GOP primary race, a significant number of people have been saying in the media (and to me personally): “He’s saying what we are thinking, but afraid to say because of political correctness.”  Now what is horrifying to me is that I had no idea there were so many people with outright hatred and contempt for Mexicans, Muslims, African Americans, the Chinese, Democrats, Republican rivals and whoever else has inspired Mr. Trump’s wrath.  Now, I treasure political diversity in our community.  I think it is a gift that we have conservative, liberal and independent people in our congregations and neighborhoods.  I have no desire to tell people how to vote and I think that to do so—especially as a minister—is distasteful and inappropriate.  But it is nothing short of sinful for anyone—especially a disciple of the crucified Jesus—to remain silent about a disturbing phenomenon in this country in the 21st century.

I can think of no plainer way to say it: Jesus commands us to love God and each other, especially those we consider our enemies.  Period, amen.  Whether you believe that larger or smaller government, far-reaching or less intrusive foreign policy, progressive, regressive, flat, low, high or no taxes are better for a self-governing democratic republic as the United States of America strives to be, wonderful.  That is your right and I encourage you to exercise it and engage in a robust and civil debate on how we shape a more perfect union.  But bigotry, xenophobia, religious, gender, racial, orientation or ability-based discrimination is uncivil, sinful, demonic, wrong, evil, un-American and un-Christian.  Even for the Christian who believes only she/he and people exactly like them are going to heaven, and that everyone else is going to hell, is not justified by a single word Jesus ever speaks in scripture to treat anyone on the planet with anything other than love, even to the point of giving one’s life.  Which is, by the way, exactly what Jesus did for people—even those (and especially those) who hated him. 

This is why I do not like so-called political correctness: it hides who the bigots are.  If there are lots of people who hate immigrants, women or people of other races, by God I think we should know who they are.  It gives us a more accurate picture of reality and the work we need to do to repair deep wounds in the social body.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus goes through a litany of “You have heard it said… But I say to you,” phrases, which inform us of the high moral standard Jesus expects us to abide by if we are to be faithful.  He says, “You have heard it said that you should not murder.  I say to you, don’t even have hatred in your heart.”  In other words, of course we shouldn’t murder people, but if we are all wanting to kill each other and simply not doing so in order to be compliant to the law, so what?  What God is after is your heart.  Don’t hate people.  At all.  That’s what God wants.  And if you don’t hate anyone, not murdering people takes care of itself.  The same goes with lust.  Let’s not wear out our arms patting ourselves on the back for not committing adultery.  Big deal.  The point of God’s intention for faithful, human behavior is to not have lust.  When lust is absent, adultery does not happen as a by-product.  

What has been called “political correctness,” or the rules about what you can/should say or not say about other people is like what Jesus calls the law.  But if we want a civil and prosperous society, the rules about speech (like adherence to the letter of the law) are not the point.  We shouldn’t have bigotry in our hearts.  Imagine Jesus saying, “You have heard it said ‘do not say the n-word.’  But I say to you, love black people like you love your own family.”  The horrifying perversion of this is what we are seeing right now.  People who have been resenting the politically correct instruction not to slur Muslims, immigrants and minorities are celebrating the right to hate openly.  That would be like the people Jesus was preaching to only hearing the first part of the teaching on murder:  “What did you say Jesus?  The old murder law is out?  Great!  Because I can’t wait to kill some people.”

We have a lot of work to do.  Whether Mr. Trump becomes the president or not, the lid has been torn off and what was festering underneath is not pretty.  To be fair, I love Trump supporters.  I really do.  I love them because they are human beings, my neighbors, and God’s kids.  I think most of their grievances are legitimate and deserve to be heard.  But because we have stifled sane, civil dialogue across boundary lines, this horrifying spectacle is the result.  I am pleading with those of you who follow Jesus, to help lead this community, nation and world to a place where the law of love might bind us together.

Love As Truth

By Brian Carr

First, some scripture:

“Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action” ( 1 John 3:18).

 This verse has spoken to me significantly over the last few months of my life. It is profound in that it moves my heart in ways that I don’t always understand.

 It is truth; and as children of God, truth speaks to us.

This verse helped me to realize that I had been leading a superficial life as a Christian. I was loving people on the surface in order to make myself feel better. I would dishonestly say that I loved everyone, that I had a place in my heart for all of creation.

 But that love stopped at thoughts and at words. It never formed as something greater than the words “I love you.”

 This is my problem. This is our problem.

 Far too often we think that love can be love simply if we think it is love. Thought is certainly a good place to start, but it’s the worst place to end.

 The dictionary is the only place where love should be described by words. I could try to describe love for you, telling you that it is compassionate, unconditional, generous, forgiving, righteous and just. But where has that gotten you and I?

 If I say that I love you, yet I never do anything for you, is that really love?

 Christ loved with his actions. Christ loved to the point where his life was sacrificed for us. Christ served humanity. Christ serves humanity. Christ truly loves.

 So where does this leave us?

 It should leave us with conviction. It should leave us with a challenge. We are called to love the entirety of humanity. Humanity calls out to be loved, and we must answer that call with enthusiastic action. It is not enough to answer the call by saying that we love humanity. We must show this love.

 I am not suggesting that you save the world. I am not asking you to be the hero for all of humanity. Good can come from the smallest expressions of love. Start with a smile. Hold a door open for someone. Offer to pay for a stranger’s meal. Talk to someone who has no one to talk to. Do something for someone. It’s that simple.

 Now ask yourself, how many people have you truly loved?

 How many people have you failed to love?