Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Future Is Today

“The Spirit of God is upon us because God has anointed us to bring good news to the poor; sent us to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of God’s favor.” - Luke 4: 18-19

This is one of my most favorite scripture passages. Known as the “programmatic statement” for the Gospel of Luke, this passage sets the stage for Jesus’ ministry about to unfold. It is a manifesto, a mission statement, a prospectus, perhaps, that outlines Jesus’ call to ministry, a ministry of justice, healing and liberation. It is the passage which drew me to Christianity and the passage whispered to me at the moment of my ordination.

Many of you know that I did not grow up as a practicing Christian. In fact, I was the insolent child who used to argue with my “Bible-believing” friends at school, proving to them that their religion was just a bunch of hypocritical hooey. It wasn’t until I was in college when I first heard this passage that I really became interested (beyond school yard scraps) in finding out more about this Jesus thing. If this is what Christianity was about – justice, healing and liberation – then I wanted nothing more to follow this man Jesus. Years later, as I found myself waiting in line for ordination, I told my friends who were to anoint me to hold me down if I tried to bolt…because I thought I just might. Yet, it was these very words, whispered into my ear to that stilled my soul and allowed me to be ordained in good conscience. Throughout my life, Jesus’ programmatic statement has oriented, centered and strengthened me as I sought to be faithful to the gospel message.

Many scholars are quick to point out that this particular section of Isaiah which Jesus chooses to read is not just the summary of Jesus’ ministry but is also the programmatic statement for God’s vision of peace and justice, what some refer to as God’s kingdom, or reign or commonwealth. It is a vision of a time when God’s rule of justice and peace will govern the people instead of the broken systems of nations and states that seek their own security and welfare above all else.

A state of the union address, so to speak, for God’s Commonwealth, this statement lays out a clear social, political, economic, and religious agenda that does not originate with Jesus but is rooted in Scripture and the ongoing history of God’s relationship with humanity. From age to age the prophets have spoken of just such a vision.

It is a vision about seeking justice in a world plagued by economic inequality, prejudice and discrimination. It is a vision about healing people, not from what the world thinks they need to be cured of, but rather from all things that keep them from being whole: addiction or depression, illness, isolation or marginalization. It is a vision of liberation, freeing people from that which enslaves them whether that be unjust regimes, economic systems, abuse or violence, both physical and emotional.

It is a vision that was well known to the people sitting in the synagogue that day in Nazareth. But when Jesus read that passage there was something distinctly different about his interpretation. At the end of the reading, Jesus declares, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Once distant promises of prophets, these words now become a present day reality through Jesus’ bold pronouncement.

Jesus proclaims that the words of the prophet are not about some distant future, nor even about the near millennium. The jubilee year, the good news for the poor, the release of captives, the healing, the liberation of the oppressed: these are proclaimed now.

The future is today, says Jesus. The Commonwealth of God is here in your midst! Not tomorrow, not next week, next month or next year, the future is today!

Sometimes when we read these words, we want to add a caveat to them, to contextualize them in a way that makes them seem safer, easier to credit. We can’t possibly believe that Jesus really meant that the future is today, that the Commonwealth of God has already come. Why that wouldn’t make sense would it?

Look around. Certainly there is still poverty, dis-ease, captivity and oppression, the greater part of the prophecy’s promise lies unfulfilled, doesn’t it? If the Commonwealth has come, what good has it done? All we need to do is open our newspapers to find evidence to the contrary. Poverty continues to plague us. Just today 24,000 people have died from poverty related disease. War still rages; just today, in the time before we have come to worship at least 17 civilians died in Iraq and 25 in the Gaza Strip. The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to ravage the world with 15,000 new infections just today.

And these are only the world news headlines. We know that countless others suffer from oppression of all sorts that goes unnoticed or unreported; economic, social, political, even religious oppression continues to exist. For many of us we know the personal struggles of friends and families who give testimony to the fact that God’s Commonwealth has not yet come.

We know that within our own denomination, besides the continued ban on gay and lesbian pastors, weddings and funding for those who “promote the acceptance of homosexuality”, more and more people are being denied membership based solely on their sexual orientation. Cases have popped up in Florida and Illinois as pastors continue to exclude and oppress GLBT persons based on bad theology. This does not seem like the Commonwealth of God as described in Scripture! In fact, after listing off these statistics, it is enough to make one completely give up on the truth of that vision.

In the face of so much evidence to the contrary, many interpret Jesus’ proclamation, not as if "today" were the actual day of freedom, but rather just the day when the anointed proclaimer of that future appears. Many are willing to accept this interpretation, even putting off fulfillment to some second-coming, when we are all whisked away to heaven to dwell in the Commonwealth of the Sky. While perhaps not as satisfying, this interpretation works.

Just this weekend I was talking to my brother about political advocacy and change in the world. I was desperately trying to convince him that change is possible and that even in the face of so much that is wrong in the world, there still exists the capacity for something better. Despite my soap box and talk of God’s desire or vision for the world, my brother was just not buying it at all. So, I began to give him the example of my work with the Reconciling Ministries Network and the United Methodist Church. I thought surely he could see the value of struggling for change. I was ready for a homophobic response, questioning my work or attacking my advocacy for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks. But that was not the response I received.

At first he seemed puzzled. He said, “Wait, I thought you were Methodist?”

“Yes, I am”

“But doesn’t the Methodist Church hate gay people?” my brother was never one for subtleties.

“Well, yes…”

“So, you are working for an institution that believes the exact opposite of what you believe? Don’t you feel weird working to strengthen a church that you think is so wrong? How can you have a gay church in a denomination that doesn’t seem to want you?”


I think it was the first time in our relationship that he ever silenced me. Trying to recover from so deep a wound, I tried to fashion a similar argument to the sweet bye and bye, pie in the sky, kingdom come notion.

“Well, B, it’s not like the fulfillment is today…we have to keep working for change…one day we will have equality…”

But suddenly in the midst of back-peddling and justifying myself, that argument of patience and waiting didn’t seem like enough. Although I understand fully that institutional change is a slow, gradual process, it suddenly didn’t seem like a good enough reason for my brother or for me.

Sometimes in the midst of struggle it is easy to forget why we do what we do.

I had not been drawn into this church and this movement for equality because I thought this grand programmatic statement of Jesus’ was some future utopia. I did not steel myself to bear the weight of the bishop’s heavy hand because I was waiting for him to relent on his or the Church’s anti-gay policies. I became and have stayed a Christian, particularly a United Methodist, because I actually believed these words of Jesus as proclaiming a new, reality that is already at work in the world…a reality of which I want to be a part. I was drawn to a future that is today.

Rev. John Stendhl once said, “To believe the proclaimer, to hear authority in Jesus’ claim, means believing that this proposed future is at hand. The present leans into it and it has begun. Such proclamation is not an abstracted statement of fact, but a reality declared to reshape reality now.”

A reality declared to reshape reality now.

Here in Luke we read of the initiation of this new reality, this new rule of love, as Jesus is anointed. But the story doesn’t end there. Each and everyday the future becomes real as we participate in it. We are called to live our lives as if the Commonwealth is complete so that by our witness, we are the ones who reshape reality now.

The early Christian communities knew this. They lived their lives completely under the new reality of God’s Commonwealth, holding all property in common, treating each other with equality, dignity and respect, forgiving one another, refusing to participate in state sponsored violence, ministering to the poor and outcast, abolishing social hierarchies that marginalized, proclaiming there was now no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. They lived their lives as if the Commonwealth was indeed fulfilled as Jesus proclaimed and in doing so they made it real.

We are called to do no less. In form and action, our community here at Cambridge Welcoming Ministries, is a sacrament of God’s Commonwealth, not just a sign pointing to or proclaiming this future vision of peace and justice, but a concrete instantiation of it that makes God’s Commonwealth real through our lives and our ministry. Despite the oppressive and exclusionary policies and practices of our denomination, our very presence points to a reality already here in our midst where all are welcome, where GLBT persons are affirmed, valued and honored, where justice is lived out and love made known. By our very being we live into the new reality Jesus announced at his anointing in the temple. For it is not just Jesus who God anoints to make real this vision; it is each and every one of us.

Remember Paul’s bold words in 1 Corinthians: "God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are." This is our call in the world, to make real God’s vision through our lives, witness and actions.

By being the Church together in this place we imagine and enact the shape of a future given to us by God. We believe in such a way that we are re-knit as a body, members of one another, in a Commonwealth of peace and justice, not just for us but for all.

“The Spirit of God is upon us because God has anointed us to bring good news to the poor; sent us to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of God’s favor.”

These words have been fulfilled in us. The future is today.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wesley and Schism

“The thing which I was greatly afraid of all this time, and which I resolved to use every possible method of preventing, was, a narrowness of spirit, a party zeal, a being straitened in our own bowels; that miserable bigotry which makes many so unready to believe that there is any work of God but among themselves.” – John Wesley, In a Plain Account of the People Called Methodist

The drum beat of another approaching General Conference can now be heard gradually growing louder and faster within our denomination. Every four years the United Methodist Church gathers as the General Conference to discern, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, the future direction of our denomination. It is here that we craft and re-evaluate our theology, practices and polity.

As part of the march toward this Conference the different caucuses related to our denomination have begun to float possible policy statements. Our own New England Annual Conference already passed last June a series of proposals that would repeal all of the negative language and prohibitions toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons currently in our Book of Discipline. In the midst of resolutions and legislative proposals, UMAction, a group funded by the political think tank, the Institute for Religion and Democracy, has put forth once again their proposal for “amicable separation.”

In their document, Move Forward in Mission: A Statement on the Future of the United Methodist Church, UMAction asserts that our denomination is “returning to Scriptural faithfulness” as evidenced in its consistent official stance toward homosexuality as “not compatible with Christian teaching.” Despite the continued, wide-spread debate around issues of sexuality and theology in our denomination, this document asserts that the Church has spoken once and for all on this matter.

Draped in the guise of a call to unity in which they implore, “all faithful United Methodists to stay in the UMC and work…for continuing renewal and reform,” UMAction’s underlying goal of schism is made plain in the following paragraph:

“We recommend allowing a gracious exit for those who cannot or will not accept the essential beliefs on which the UMC is founded. The UMC should adopt a fair plan to permit their voluntary, peaceful departure, taking with them their local church property (if the congregation votes to leave) and pension rights. Their beliefs are strong and sincere. They have a Constitutional right to believe and worship as they choose, but they do not have the right to divide a Christian Church by undermining its basic beliefs. Some of the unfaithful are now talking about leaving; the UMC should aid their departure.”

In a classic move of Orwellian double-speak, UMAction seeks to frame their own call to divide the Church, removing members of the Body of Christ with whom they do not agree, as a “faithful” response to avoid schism. Characterizing those who disagree with them as “unfaithful” they seek to place the blame of schism on the shoulders of those most committed to the institution of the United Methodist Church.

Rather than being “unfaithful,” I believe that it those of us who remain in a denomination that continues to violate the sacred worth and integrity of our friends, families and selves, that have so far demonstrated the most faithfulness to the Gospel and to this particular instantiation of the Body of Christ we know as the United Methodist Church. Even in the face of discrimination, prejudice and pain, it is this remnant that has remained faithful to the denomination, seeking to find a way to live together as the Church despite our differing theological opinions.

As we look forward to a General Conference that will no doubt be haunted by the specter of schism, I think it is helpful for us to listen to the words of Wesley regarding the schism of the Church. In his own lifetime Wesley struggled with the threat of division of those in the Methodist movement who sought to separate themselves from the Church of England. Wesley understood the threat and danger of schism for the Body of Christ then and his words remain instructive to us today as we contemplate the future of United Methodism.

Wesley believed schism was sinful because it both detracted the Church from the essential work of the Gospel, reaching out to all people with the Good News of Christ, and also bred hostility and ill-will between sisters and brothers in the faith. Throughout his life he vehemently argued for the unity of the Church.

In Reasons Against Separation from the Church of England, Wesley makes an impassioned plea to remain with the Anglican Church writing:

“If we continue in the Church, not by chance, or for want of thought, but upon solid and well-weighed reasons, then we should never speak contemptuously of the Church, or anything pertaining to it…Rather…we should all use every rational and scriptural means, to bring others to the same temper and behaviour. I say, "all;" for if some of us are thus minded, and others of an opposite spirit and behaviour, this will breed a real schism among ourselves. It will of course divide us into two parties; each of which will be liable to perpetual jealousies, suspicions, and animosities against the other. Therefore, on this account likewise, it is expedient, in the highest degree, that we should be tender of the Church to which we belong.”

For Wesley the mission of the Church was of primary importance. The divisions and differences of opinion among members was a distraction and in the end mattered not if all were of the same heart and mind in seeking Jesus Christ.

In A Farther Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion, Wesley writes:

If you say, ‘Because you hold opinions which I cannot believe are true:’ I answer, Believe them true or false; I will not quarrel with you about any opinion. Only see that your heart be right toward God, that you know and love the Lord Jesus Christ; that you love your neighbour, and walk as your Master walked; and I desire no more. I am sick of opinions: I am weary to hear them. My soul loathes this frothy food. Give me solid and substantial religion; give me an humble, gentle lover of God and man; a man full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy; a man laying himself out in the work of faith, the patience of hope, the labour of love. Let my soul be with these Christians, wheresoever they are, and whatsoever opinion they are of. 'Whosoever’ thus ‘doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.’”

I have to wonder if Wesley were alive today what he would make of the lifting up of sexuality as an “essential” tenet of the Good News of Jesus Christ, particularly in light of Jesus’ silence on the matter of homosexuality. Surely, Wesley, like many of us, would realize that the differences we hold over the matter of homosexuality are not reason enough to split the Church.

Far from being “unfaithful” schismatics, I believe that those of us who seek to reform the United Methodist understanding of sexuality stand in line with the larger, grand vision of the Gospel of seeking love and justice, a message Wesley preached and we are called to live.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Tyranny of Hope

When most of think about Martin Luther King Jr., we think first of his famous, “I have a dream…” speech delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963. Each of us have surely heard sound bites from that speech, snippets of his words broadcast to inspire us with hope and honor his memory. Growing up we spent one day a year learning about D. King and the hope he had for our nation. Each year, no matter what grade I was in or which teacher I had, I always heard the following words:

“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."²

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.”

Despite Dr. King’s prolific writing and numerous speeches given over years of work in the civil rights movement, it is this speech that stands out…and more often than not, this particular section of the speech. While there is no doubt that it is a fine example of the beauty of rhetoric, I am led to wonder why these words. Our nation seemed eager in the wake of his death and the cooling of a decade of violence to remember this particular part of his life and ministry. Why? What is it about the dream and the hope that captured the imagination of our nation?

While it is true that the nature of dreams and future hopes reveals the reality that the work of the civil rights movement is still not complete…not for those of us oppressed by race or class or ability or age or sexual orientation or gender identity or for any other reason… but sometimes I have to wonder if Dr. King’s legacy is only safe when viewed from a distance. Hope allows us to rest in the dream of a new reality without being upset or jostled by any sense of urgency to get there. Like a dream, it offers us a distant vision without the grueling pain of change to make it a reality. Perhaps we are more comfortable with future dreams than present day action.

If we were to hear the entirety of that speech, we would see that for Dr. King this dream and this hope were never meant to be a future utopia. It was a present reality pressing upon the people to take action now.

“We have…come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.”

Why do we remember the dreams of tomorrow over the urgency of today?

The tyranny of hope is that it wraps complacency and apathy in the virtues of patience and tolerance. We must confess that throughout history, it has often been the Church who has used visions of God’s future Commonwealth to stall the hope of liberation for millions of oppressed and enslaved people. We must ask ourselves why in this country slave owners promoted the conversion of their slaves to Christianity? Visions of heaven were used to mask the oppression on earth.

But this is not the true hope of our faith tradition. Millions of people in our own country soon came to recognize that truth and see through the hopeless shams of their masters and pastors to the true hope of liberation that can never be kept bound by the confines of polite religiosity.

Christian hope is not a static, empty, inactive virtue or value. Rather than a polite excuse to accept the status quo for dreams of the sweet by and by, hope is a catalyst for change that gives us the courage to act boldly in the world with the conviction that we are participating in the inevitable, unstoppable vision of God of peace and justice. Throughout history the saints of our faith have been steeled by this hope and spurred into action to claim the promise given to us all by God of a world filled with justice and peace.

Hope is only made real in action when it becomes embodied in the choices we make each and every day about how we will live our lives. Hope is not a value, virtue or ideal. Hope is a concrete way of orienting ourselves and our actions in the world and it happens one day at a time, one moment at a time, one choice at a time.

If we hope, we must surely act.

I invite you and your family, in celebration and honor of Dr. King and the movement for peace and justice, to take the "Family Pledge of Non-Violence" written by the Institute for Peace and Justice. You can link to it, here.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Editorials of Note

In the wake of last week's vote to proceed with the anti-gay marriage amendment in Massachusetts, several columns of note have surfaced. While a defeat is always disappointing, there is much in which to find hope.

A Shameful Reversal of Rights
Why Defense of Gays Matters
This Battle's Worth a Fight
The AntiGay Obsession

I invite you to read these listed here and add your own links to other columns in the comment section.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Last year on November 9th, after a long autumn of organizing and struggle, after a day of witnessing that began before dawn, and after the narrow but final vote to recess the Constitutional Convention, I confess, I celebrated like never before. Walking across the Common I was heady with victory. After months of work with MassEquality, legislative allies and supportive clergy, I believed them when they said, “The fight for marriage equality is over!” And so, I went to dinner, celebrated and rested on the laurels of a purported triumph.

Over the next few days confirmation of the victory appeared in headlines and emails declaring, “The War on Marriage Is Over,” “It is finished,” and “Romney Doesn’t Have a Prayer.” Even after it looked as though the Vote On Marriage was mounting unprecedented support, still the leaders of our movement assured us this was nothing to worry about.

Yet, just a few days ago, after a two month onslaught of letters and calls to the State House in opposition to equal marriage, after dozens of rallies and demonstrations by anti-gay activists, and after a controversial ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court stating that the legislature has a moral duty to vote on the merits of the issue, marriage equality supporters stood outside the State House wondering how we never saw this coming.

Even as the votes were being counted, many of us could not believe our eyes. This was not supposed to happen. We were supposed to adjourn. This was supposed to be a matter of mere procedure. The vote was never to take place. We trusted our legislative allies who assured us that they would adjourn and the measure would be killed once and for all. The heaviness of the defeat that weighed on us all felt even more burdensome under the pain of a betrayed trust. This time instead of leaving the State House buoyed by joy, we left feeling vulnerable and abandoned by those we trusted most.

It is easy to find ourselves disappointed by the broken promises of others, isn’t it? Mary Poppins calls them cookie crumb promises, easily made and easily broken. While most of us never make these promises intent to disappoint, the fact of the matter is that human nature is finite and fragile. Despite our best intentions sometimes we just cannot keep the promises we make.

Henry Nouwen, priest and theologian, struggled his entire life with these feelings of disappointment in the promises of others. As a closeted Catholic priest he yearned for an intimacy and honesty in his relationships he could never truly have. As he struggled with his own disappointment, hopelessness and depression, he came to understand that all human love, no matter how great or well intended always comes up short. While there are those who love us in the world, the truth is that the people who love us do not always love us well. The people that care most about us often are the very ones who wound us the deepest. Our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, our teachers, mentors and even our churches, despite their love and desire to care for us, hurt us. Nouwen understood that the only place we can find the one true, deep authentic love is in and from the Divine. It is the first Love, the one true Love, the Divine Love we know in and through God.

Nouwen saw this love bestowed on all of humanity as related in the story we read today from scripture of Jesus’ baptism. Jesus’ baptism is indeed one of the dramatic, moving stories of our gospels. The text tells us the heavens parted, a dove descended and a beautiful voice rang out declaring, “You are the Beloved, the one with whom I am well pleased.” If we can let our minds wander into the mythic realm for just a moment and imagine that happening before our eyes, we find ourselves awed at such a public and grandiose declaration of love from one to the other. If you feel comfortable, close your eyes, for just a moment and imagine what it might have felt like.

If we linger in the world of imagination just a bit longer, we can even begin to sense what it might have felt like to be the object of that declaration ourselves. We can imagine what it must have felt like for the Spirit to descend and envelop us, to be embraced with warmth and love, and to hear our names declared Beloved by the Divine. Imagine. Just imagine.

For Nouwen, and for us as United Methodists, we believe that this mark of belovedness was
not just reserved for Jesus. All of us have been chosen by God as the Beloved and we recognize
and remember that through our ritual of baptism. Although we confess that with or without
baptism we are each known as the Beloved by God, it is this symbol of baptism which helps us
rehearse that identity, because we know how easy it is to forget who weare in the world.
Baptism is the outward sign and symbol of God’s grace poured out upon us as we are
incorporated into Christ’s Body as the Beloved. From eternity to eternity we have already
been redeemed by God, for it was God who knit us, knew us, named us in our mothers’ womb.
Baptism rehearses that reality for us as it marks us, names us and claims us, just like the Spirit
did that day to Jesus at the Jordan, proclaiming that we too are indeed God’s beloved children.

For many of us, our baptism happened when we were but infants leaving us with only the constructed memories of stories families tell. And so, to remember and rehearse our identity as God’s Beloved, periodically in the Church we reaffirm our baptism. Some of us do this weekly as mark ourselves with water from the font, others of us do it when we recommit ourselves in covenant with the Divine, and still others of us do it in a formal rite of reaffirmation, like the one we are invited to later in this service. We do this because we understand how easy it is to forget who we are. The world wears on our Divine identity making us believe we are less than in so many ways…we don’t have the right things, we don’t do the right things, we don’t please the right people. All of us at one time or another have felt the world chip away at our Belovedness. And, so, in remembrance of who God created us to be, we remember and reaffirm our baptism.

The love we claim in baptism is unfailing not just because it bestows upon us an external,
objective love and grace from the Divine, but also, and perhaps, even more importantly,
because it instills within us a deep understanding of who we are, an identity that root us
and grounds us, an identity that nurtures and encourages us, an identity that strengthens
and steels us, unleashing a power we knew not we possessed.
Jesus knew that he was the beloved child of God through his baptism and it was this knowledge
on which he hung his entire life and ministry.
Jesus’ identity as the Beloved was that which
sustained and strengthened him throughout his life. It is this fundamental identity that gave
Jesus the courage to engage in his prophetic and radical ministry that we read about in the
Gospels, a ministry and message that was so threatening to those in power that
they sought to silence it.
Just as Jesus drew strength and courage from God’s love, so also can we. It is this same unfailing,
unconditional love from God that sustains us through all the broken promises and struggles of
our lives, renewing our energies when we think we can go no further. It is from this deep well of
passion that we draw our strength to continue with God along the path Jesus laid out for us to
bring forth God’s reign of peace and justice despite the many barriers to that reality.
When we open ourselves to the presence of the Holy Spirit, moving and dwelling in and through
our lives, we like Jesus, will feel that Spirit of Love grow in us, declaring us as the Beloved,
the ones with whom God is well pleased and from that conviction we will draw strength
for our journeys.
Take a moment, and know the word of God. Know God’s word to us, not with our heads, but
with our hearts, our souls, our guts, that we are the beloved children of God. Think about it.

We are the Beloved with whom God is well pleased.

You are the Beloved with whom God is well pleased.
God tells us "Do not fear. I have redeemed you. I have called you by name and you are mine.
Because you are precious in my sight and honored and I love you I will give anything in exchange
for you. Even before you were formed in my womb, I loved you. I had your name written on
the palm of my hand. You are my beloved child and with you I am well pleased.
I want us to be able to know that word that comes to us from eternity to all eternity telling us
that we are all the beloved children of God, because once we know that word and believe in
that word we can be freed to love ourselves and each other. We can be freed to see the truth
of our identity as children of God and draw strength and courage from that Divine Love.
God's love for us grounds our whole being in this world. When we act from and live from this
center our lives are enriched and whatever happens in the world, good or bad, does not deter
us from knowing that we are beloved by God first and foremost. The pain of life does not go
away but becomes a way for us to live out our belovedness. Yes, we will have pain, yes we will
feel rejected and hurt, yes we will be sad and face depression, isolation and loneliness, but we
will face all of these things with the knowledge that we are the beloved children of God.

When we seek perfect love from an imperfect world we will always be disappointed. All the loves of this world are partial, limited and painful, yet when we are grounded in God's great love for us we become free to live as the beloved, and love as the beloved. When we claim our belovedness, when we begin to live our belovedness, when we come to believe in our belovedness, we become as free as Jesus to love, minister to and care for the broken world around us.

Leaving the State House Tuesday, hope seemed elusive. Yet, as I approached the Park Street T stop, I saw a circle of lights flickering in the evening darkness. At first I thought it was a celebration rally for our marriage opponents, but the mood was too somber for that. The circle was small, a paltry number compared to the hundreds on both sides who had spent the day at the State House advocating for and against marriage. But despite their small numbers their candles cut through the darkness with a silent brightness.

Their signs were hard to read from afar but as I drew nearer I saw the numbers, 3000, 650,000 and I knew at once why they were there. It was a vigil for the 3000th US soldier to die in Iraq and for the countless Iraqis who fell victim to the war. Those who had gathered were the parents of soldiers and veterans of wars gone by. As they held pictures of loved ones lost and messages of peace, their faces shone with courage and hope. Even in the midst of a seemingly endless war, with no sign of retreat, these parents and veterans vigiled with a hope still alive that peace might one day be a reality. Despite the ever growing number of casualties and the insensitivity of the government to halt the violence, this small group stood amidst the hustle bustle of evening commuters and offered a vision of peace and hope in the darkness of the night.

I stopped and joined the small circle. Surveying the small crowd, I realized that ours is the same struggle and the same hope. Together we work for justice in all parts of our world and together we draw from the same well of strength and sustenance. It is the Divine love showered upon us and awakened in each of us that allows us to confront the injustices and horrors of the world. It is our identity as the Beloved in which our courage is rooted and from which we draw our strength.

Take heart, find courage, and journey on with the strength God has given you, for “You are the Beloved, the one with whom God is well pleased.”