Barrier-breaking Love

My column for The Elgin Review May 15, 2019

I ran into a friend in the produce department of the HyVee near our Omaha home last week. It had been over a year since we’ve seen each other. She updated me on her kids, her husband’s health and their newest adventure. I filled her in on my new ministries and our pending move to the parsonage in Neligh and the apartment for Mike in Lincoln until he retires late next year. We talked about church. She told me she has been struggling with being part of a church for the past year or more.

My friend’s professional life involves answering a crisis hot-line.

“I’ve taken so many calls of people contemplating suicide this year. People are so divided and there’s so much hate out there. Folks are having a hard time, and, in the past month there have been even more after the United Methodist Church made their anti LGBTQ decision at their General Synod. Gay kids call and say, ‘even my church hates me. I might as well just end my life and get it over with.’”

I wonder how many of us who are actively involved in the church think about the decisions we make around faith and about the way we practice our religion and talk about God as matters of life and death? Surely it must grieve God that the body charged with sharing God’s abundant and unending love with the whole world has somehow managed to twist that message into its’ opposite, that only certain people are “in” that only the properly pious are privy to God’s grace.

If it grieves my friend to listen to teenagers who feel their lives are worthless, how must it grieve their Creator to hear that the life they’ve been given doesn’t feel worth living?

A long time ago, Paul, the apostle of Jesus, wrote in a letter to a church in Galatia, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 NRSV).

God’s message to the world in Jesus was a message of barrier-breaking love. God’s message to the world in Jesus was that the things that separate us from each other are the things that separate us from God.

I pray the day will come when no one ever again hears of a decision made by the church and feels less loved as a result.

I pray the day will come when all God’s children of every stripe, orientation and hue know how precious we are to our creator. I pray the day will come when every hurting, doubting, lonely human in need of community will find their way into a radically inclusive, love abounding, grace overflowing family of faith.

Whoever you are, wherever you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome at Park Congregational United Church of Christ.