Radical Inclusion in the Darkest Valleys

Several weeks ago, my church had a series on the Lord’s Prayer, picking apart all the elements of the well known prescription of appealing to God.  Near the end of the series was also a deep dive into Psalm 23, with a call to radically inclusive communion in a world that means you harm.

God is my shepherd; I shall not want.

You restore my soul and lead me in just paths.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I fear no evil, for you are with me;

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

And my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell your house 

my whole life long.

This sermon challenge came after the enemy showed up at our doorstep.  Like a homophobic Theses “nailed” to the 150-year old oak doors in black ink read the screed:

“God destroyed the earth once over gays. He’ll do it again.  BLASPHEMERS”

When I read those words, etched into the ancient wood of the house of my worship… I wept.  I gritted my teeth.  I wanted revenge.  I wanted to cut off an ear or two like Peter.

The vandal’s words were an act of violence. They were an assault.  They were a terrorist act, designed to instill fear and chaos.  What was after these words?  In a city, in a nation, emboldened by once-latent hate… am I safe here? I have chosen to raise my children inside this old church’s walls, assuming the cultural contract of free religious expression is as sacred as the rituals and customs themselves.

But will they be free and protected forever?  It pains me to think that this person believes he is preaching some sort of twisted gospel, winning souls for his fearful, angry god.  He and I are reading from the same Book but coming to different conclusions.  For him, the way is about who wins in the end and who loses everything. I want to know who we save from despair and how we can live together, making Heaven here now, and relieve Hell from those that are stuck in their hate.

Back to the challenge of the 23rd Psalm. The United Church of Christ promotes radical inclusion.  All are welcome here, no matter who you are, and where you are.  How does that play out in me when I am threatened by those that wish the UCC and what it stands for did not exist?  Practicing what we preach: It’s one thing to claim a value; it’s quite another to turn the other cheek and let them strike you a second time.

I’m reminded by those calmer and more grounded than me: Love will win in the end.  That’s the only Revelations I need. To that person that vandalized my sesquicentennial church with an $0.85 cent sharpie – twice in 7 days! – I say this, through gritted teeth:

Come to this table with me.  All things are made ready. Drink Christ’s blood and eat of His body. ALL are welcome, even you.

Happy Pride, everyone.  I’m not going anywhere.

Evangelicalism in the Trump Era

I grew up in the Evangelical Christian world. Its various tenets that were most vaulted were:

  1. Missions (spreading the Gospel to other nations)
  2. Marriage sanctity and nuclear family (one man / one woman, having children)
  3. Christian education (curriculum designed for Christian families to be apart from non-Christian public education)
  4. American patriotism (gun rights, strict Constitutional interpretation, nationalism, pledge of allegiance, etc.)
  5. Republican political activism

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Halloween streaming, 2019

[stextbox id=’info’ caption=’Authors note’]This post was written last year during October and was never released. If I’m going to be late, better to wait until Halloween 2020, right?[/stextbox]

Well, it’s that time again: time to watch an obscene number of scary movies and shows in celebration of the month of Halloween.

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