We just unpacked our collection of Harry Potter books. They are considered valuables in our household, with our nine-year-old making her way through Chamber of Secrets as we speak.
It’s hard to believe that the first Harry Potter book was published twenty years ago today. J.K. Rowling blessed us with this magical world that teaches us much about our lives and our world. Plenty of people will write wonderful things about the insights Harry and friends have given, but one overarching theme keeps coming to my mind. It also happens to be the overarching theme of the Bible- Love wins. Love always wins. Love conquers all, even death.
This is a word that we so desperately need to hear. J.K. Rowling created a world much likes our today, where some used the coercive power of fear to control and wield power. Voldemort used fear to the extent that most were afraid to even speak his name. Harry though, had no fear is saying his name. Dumbledore has none either. At the end of The Sorcerer’s Stone, Dumbledore offers these wise words, “Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”
The theme of fear and death verses life and love is the central theme throughout the story. Harry spends his life learning what it means to truly embrace others. He spends his life doing what Jesus calls his followers to do, losing his so-called life so that he may find true life. Harry shows us what it looks like when one seeks justice above all else, no matter the cost. He shows us what it means to care for others, no matter the cost. He shows us what it means to seek life, no matter the cost. We learn through his actions what it means to live for others, and the true gifts we find in living for others.
In the end, it is indeed life and love that has the final word. Even when it would have been far easier to choose fear and death, love still wins. Dumbledore offers Harry (and us) this piece of wisdom; “do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and above all, those who live without love.”
Thank you J.K. Rowling for reminding us of the Gospel truth- love wins.
It is early in the morning, the sun rising over the neighborhoods of Tecate, Mexico. Tecate sits about 25 miles due east of Tijuana, and straddles the border between Mexico and the United States.From certain places in town you can see both sides of the border. I’m s driving a van full of kids, eager and nervous for their first day of building a home for a family. As we pulled into the dirt street, a man in silk pajamas suddenly appeared in front of the van. This is unusual to say the least. He is waving his arms, motioning us forward. What is he doing? Then it dawned on me. He is showing us where to park. He is offering a gracious gift of hospitality. For the next three days he did the same thing. A parking attendant in silk pajamas.
Build Lives, Not Walls
We arrived at the site where we would be building a home and begin looking for the tools. AMOR Ministries provides certain tools that are delivered to the work site ahead of time. We couldn’t find them anywhere. Someone suggested that perhaps they were at another house in the neighborhood. A few of us begin walking down the street yelling “martillos.” We thought this was the Spanish word for tools, but it turns out it means hammers. This begins to become apparent when people emerged from their homes holding hammers, offering them to us for our use. The use of hammers for a group and a neighbor in need. They are offering a gracious gift of hospitality. I think about how many of my neighbors in my neighborhood would be so willing to offer such a gift to me if I walked up and down my street yelling “hammers.”
Build Lives, Not Walls
It is the end of the day and the sun is beginning to go down. It gets cold in the desert climate of Tecate, Mexico around sunset in the spring. A man is sitting outside his clapboard home around a fire. The fire is his kitchen for the evening. His makeshift refrigerator is a bucket filled with ice. On the menu for the evening is fish, fish moving from the bucket to the old grill over the fire. I’m fascinated by his resourcefulness. He waves me over and I draw nearer to take a closer look. We exchange a glance and with a quick wave, he invites me for dinner. I’m a complete stranger to him and he is a complete stranger to me. Except that we aren’t really strangers.We are neighbors.A human made border doesn’t change that fact. We are children of God who have been given the gift to break bread together. My neighbor offering a gracious gift of hospitality.
Build Lives, Not Walls
I’m grateful these new friends took an interest in building my life. I’m thankful that building walls was not on their agenda.Grace abounds.
You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.–Exodus 22:21
He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. Deuteronomy 10:18
” and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
As a nation and as people of faith, we find ourselves in lament, remembering the Psalmists who shared laments many years ago. The tragic act of terror that took place in the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston shakes us to our core. From the location in a historic church to the racism exhibited by the suspect this tragedy touches on our worst fears as a nation. A house of worship and prayer is not safe, most especially from the sin of racism and our addiction to violence. We grieve for the nine families who have lost loved ones and for a faith community.
There are so many questions, many of which will not be answered. Why in the world does the Confederate battle flag still hang over the statehouse in South Carolina? Why did a father purchase a handgun for his 21 year old son who struggled with pill addiction and possessed an overtly racist worldview? How can we have so little concern and respect for human life and the dignity of all people?
People often ask where God is in moments of tragedy. I believe that God’s heart is the first to break. God’s lament is stronger than any lament we can offer and God’s tears run like a raging river compared to ours. God is also in the healing that will come to families and loved ones through the prayers, the hands, and the feet of God’s people who show care and concern. I also believe that God is in the hard questions that we must ask ourselves. Our collective failure to explore these difficult questions continues to lead us towards the systemic sins that ails our culture still today. We must look in the mirror as a collective and confront the ills of racism and our addiction to violence, most especially gun violence.
The Christian faith is rooted in the life of the most courageous human ever to have walked the earth, Jesus. Jesus spoke prophetic words and did prophetic deeds that challenged the status quo. I believe Jesus would have us confront the sins of racism and violence so that we as a culture might repent and collectively seek a better path.
Our faith is not a faith rooted in death, but rooted in life; the fullness of life for all people. We are people who believe strongly that it is the love of God that is the center of all things. Sisters and brothers may we find the courage to speak and live as people of hope and life so that all may experience God’s justice and God’s peace.
In my work as a pastor, many of the pastoral questions I am asked center around, one way or another, how God interacts with the world. I find these moments to be this incredible intersection of providing both comfort and challenge.
This morning, Kelly Gissendaner is still alive, having her execution delayed late last night due to the drug that would be used to put her death being a bit cloudy.This is the second time her execution has been delayed because of some strange event, last week being delayed by an impending winter storm. Continue reading “One More Chance (The Moral Arc of the Universe)”