“Loving On Each Other” as a Poor Substitute for Real Love

“We just need to love on each other”

I’ve learned that this phrase, used even by a well-meaning person, typically means that we are going to do nothing to improve the individual or collective well-being. Often it is served up with a side dish of judgement, while having an excuse for not leaving one’s comfort zone.

Kentucky Blugegraa

By accounts, yesterday’s tragic school shooting in Kentucky was the 11th school shooting in the United States for 2018. Let that sink in for a moment. We’ve had eleven school shootings in the first 23 days of the calendar year.

The governor of Kentucky released a statement encouraging folks to “love on each other” during this time.” He might as well just have said “we are going to do nothing while I continue to accept large donations from the NRA.” I will give him credit for adding to the standard thoughts and prayers line by calling upon folks “to love on each other” during this time. He sounds like the misguided youth pastor at the local fundamentalist church.

Let me be clear- love is the focus of my ministry- God’s inclusive love for all people. I believe love is at the center of the lives of all who seek to follow Jesus. In no way do I want to diminish the important role love and the sharing of love plays in our lives and in the lives of the church.

My experience is that when someone uses the phrase, “we just need to love on each other” it rarely has much to do with God’s love. It’s a phrase we use to absolve ourselves from acting. It produces the kind of love that is a poor substitute for real love. You can’t claim that Jesus is your source and example of love and then do nothing about the gun violence in our communities.

Real love will create a deep sense of mourning for the loss of life due to senseless gun violence.

Real love asks us to examine what influences us to have such a fear-based world view in which our youth feel they need to bring a gun to school.

Real love calls us to acknowledge the sinful epidemic of gun violence in our land

Real love asks us to examine our own lives and habits.

Real love calls us to do something because one precious life lost to gun violence is one too many.

Real love is more powerful than the NRA and its influence.

Real love moves us to enforce and enact sensible gun laws because life is more important than our right to bear arms at any cost.

The President Who Would Not Welcome Jesus

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


These words have stood through time on the to remind us that all are welcome in the United States. We are, for the most part, people from somewhere else who’ve made this our home. We are a nation of immigrants, a melting pot of culture. These truths make us who we are when we are at our best.

The current President does not embody us at our best, he embodies us at our worst. He intentionally seeks dark places where fear takes over. The President deals in fear, fear rooted in racism and classism.

As a citizen, his words trouble me on many levels. As a Christian, I find them to be in direct conflict with any teaching or ethic of Jesus. That this President continues to be lifted as a “Christian” example by several Christian leaders is incomprehensible and disgusting to me. It’s proof that a few will go to great lengths to use religion to curry favor and gain power (Yes, I am talking about you Franklin Graham).

If the President’s racism and classism had its way, he would not welcome Jesus into this nation. Jesus was a poor, dark-skinned person from the Middle East. Sounds to me like the kind of person the President loathes. The truth of the Gospel that all are created by God and all are loved by God is a great threat to the President’s worldview. It’s past time for those who believe in the power of God’s inclusive love to speak up. I know I have too often been silent. No more.

This isn’t about Republicans or Democrats, it’s about human decency. It’s about speaking for the dignity of God’s beloved. It’s about creating a nation that embodies the very words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. We are better than this.

Killing Baby Jesus

Today’s post is a guest post by Michael McCluskey. Michael always makes me think deeper about my own faith and  is one of my favorite conversation partners. He is a junior at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and a member of Sandy Springs Christian Church in Atlanta.

Every year as we Disciples celebrate the Advent season, I recall a conversation I once overheard from a congregant as she asked our senior minister why we practice communion, the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, during a season where Jesus is but a small child. She didn’t like that we were celebrating the death of the baby as we anticipated his birth. How could we kill an innocent baby?

Baby Jesus

Her concern made sense to me – why should we celebrate death in this joyful season of life? But we forget. We fall victim to our own blissful ignorance of the holiday season. We seek refuge during this season from all the strife and suffering in our lives – the Advent season is our break from the regularly scheduled pain of being a person in the world. We do all we can to preserve the innocence of the season as we cling to the innocence of Baby Jesus. Why would we celebrate the death of the baby? Why would we tarnish the joy of the Advent season?

We are quick to forget why we anticipate the Christ child. The Christ child who we know to be the Liberator, the Peace-maker, the Lamb. Immanuel came as a baby in a manger, but we know that the trough is not all this child is destined for. We know that this child, helpless and innocent lying in the manger, the son of refugees, the brown-skinned Palestinian Jew – he is our Savior. He was anointed to bring the kingdom of heaven to all the nations. This innocent child came to speak truth to power and defend the weak, the poor, and the unloved – those as weak and innocent as that baby lying in the manger.

This congregant wanted to shelter the Christ child from the pain of the world. She did not want to pervert his innocence with the cold light of truth that suffering and death exists in our world. She wanted to hold him in her arms so nothing could ever harm him. She wanted to turn away from the world and give this child the very best she could, just as any mother would. But she forgot that this child was destined for so much more. When we turn away from the cross during the season of Advent to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace, that title becomes a platitude – frivolous and devoid of life. When we turn away from the sacrifice, Immanuel becomes a baby to a poor family lying in a manger because there was no room in the inn.

Friends, this is no ordinary babe.

This child grew up and became a man. He turned the tables and disrupted familiar injustice. He boldly loved those whom society had forgotten. He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy and ushered in an era of peace-making where one day the Lamb might lie down the with Wolf. He stuck his hand over the hole of the asp and, while it bit him, he did this knowing that one day a child would be able to do the same and would not be harmed. He shouldered the ridicule of the complacent pious knowing that one day they too would be enlightened by the truth of God’s grace – that all are loved no matter what. He carried his cross up that hill knowing that he did so for the salvation of all of humankind – so that no longer would they have to do the same.

In this Christmas season, may we not be so quick to forget that the Christ child is to lead the calf, the young lion, and the fatling all together in harmonious peace. We are called to be peace-makers in our own lives – to seek justice for the broken and to love the abandoned and forgotten. We are called to hold children that are not our own in the same way that the woman wanted to hold baby Jesus. As the snow falls outside the window pane and a tree stands tall, adorned with Christmons and crowned with a golden star, we are called to look into the eyes of the stranger and offer them bread and cup no matter who they are. In this season of life, we remember not the death, but the triumphant resurrection of a babe lying in a manger.

Harry Potter

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.HP Post

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.  

Build Lives, Not Walls

It is early in the morning, the sun rising over the neighborhoods of Tecate, Mexico. mex-for-blogTecate 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


Lament and Challenge in Charleston

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.

One More Chance (The Moral Arc of the Universe)

One More ChanceIn 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)”