Orlando – A hopeful lament

The undisturbed surface of the communion wine forms concentric circles when hit by a single tear. The symbol for the blood of Jesus Christ himself – blood that was given in an act of radical love for the everlasting unity between us and God – trembles with shock on this Sunday morning. It wasn’t the only tear.

Making sense of the senseless?
We are at a Metropolitan Community Church. A congregation with a specific outreach to the LGBT community. Most people in the room identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
The younger ones in the church, those who believed that winning the right to marry ended a decades old gay civil right movement, are shocked into helpless rage and sickening grief. Their tears flow bitterly and with the sudden fear of a child that understands for the first time that it is not loved by everyone.
Then, there are the older and old congregants who have been through so much more than the young ones can imagine. Seasoned warriors who have been thrown into jail for dancing with someone of the same sex. Who, during the AIDS crisis, had to take care of the bodies of their dear friends themselves because even hospitals would turn them away. They shed tears, too. These tears however are strangely different. There is a certain resignation in them, almost a routine. Witnessing another vicious crime against their siblings opens old wounds, triggers old memories and reminds them what being victimized feels like. It is a familiar feeling to all of them. They begin to warn the younger ones once again: “That is why we tell you: Always be aware of who is around you.” What sounded like unnecessary paranoia from days long past becomes sudden truth and the best piece of advice they can give.

More than victims
How does a whole congregation of LGBT people react to the hate crime in Orlando? How do people who fiercely believe in God’s love and forgiveness for every single human being reconcile their beliefs with the feelings they surely have for the man who murdered their siblings?
LGBT Christians always dance on the line between the worlds. As a part of the LGBT community they are misunderstood for supporting a system that is seemingly against them. As a part of the Body of Christ they are confronted with hatred and cast out of many major denominations. So how do they position themselves on a Sunday like this?
“Lord,” they pray in the old words of Francis of Assisi. “Make us an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. Lord, grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console. To be understood as to understand. To be loved as to love. Amen.”
Standing in the blood of their siblings they ask for forgiveness for the shooter and beg God to show them how to love more radically, more inclusively. No, these people are not victims. If anything, they are Warriors of Love.

Proud and unbroken
As we drive home we pass a huge flag outside a restaurant. Today we find it on half-mast. The eyes of my wife fill with tears. She feels recognized in her pain and helplessness. She feels that the country mourns with our community. She knows that her country is despite everything not a homophobic country. She realizes that there is no room for fear and despair but instead for unashamed pride. She grabs my hand. Her voice is full of love when she says:
“I’d rather be shot for holding your hand than not holding your hand at all.”

“Go!” – When God calls

God’s call is not something you hear. It’s something you feel. It tears right through the noise of everyday life and it breaks you open with such force that you can neither deny it nor hide from it. Did you know? God breaks people. Because it is only through a broken, open heart that God can enter. Only when we are lying on the ground, whimpering and shaking in pain, only then are we truly ready to listen because only then has He torn away all barriers and burnt away all doubts. God’s call is painful. But it is also the sweetest pain because it finds you exactly where God loves you the most: in your human frailty.

Frailty is weakness? How can it be weakness if God allowed himself to be frail? A tortured and broken body dying the death of simple thieves. Yes, Jesus was fully God, just like He was fully human. He could have shortened or stopped His suffering at any moment. It is in your frailty where God loves you the most because it was in His own frailty that He loved us all more than His mortal life. So embrace your brokenness. Don’t try to fix it, don’t try to hide it. Embrace it and love it just like God loves it.

And right there between the scattered pieces of your heart, hear His call.
“Go”, He says. “Go and share me.” Be the good you want to see in the world. Share God’s love that He gives you in such abundance. Heal the ones who so desperately believe in their unbrokenness. Never ever be afraid. Why should you? In your most fragile moments He will be there and He will love you.

Now, go.

In the words of a fundamental Christian: “I am so sorry!”

The sun is shining on this warm Sunday afternoon in Texas. We are sitting on the porch. Me, my wife Lisa and the old men watch the barn swallows and admire the irises. And as always we share communion. Not everybody has the privilege or the ability to visit a church whenever they feel the need. These two gentlemen don’t. They have a hard time leaving their houses as it is. Nevertheless, communion is important to them. My wife says a short prayer. My eyes are closed, my face warmed by the sun. It’s a good day in good company. Then the older of the two men, let’s call him Jack, a veteran in a wheelchair and with a cowboy hat prays out loud, too. First I smile at his words and then, one by one, they begin to choke me until I feel tears in my eyes.

“All I can say, Lord, is that I am yours. All those years I tried so very hard to be righteous but all I did was exclude and hurt people. That is not love. It is not what you want. I am yours, Lord and I am so very sorry.”

For years my wife and others have visited one of these men and brought him communion because he couldn’t make it to church anymore. And for a long time Jack, who lives just across the street has watched that, not sure what was going on. Grown up and highly active in one of the rather fundamentalist churches, he was suspicious. What were those gay people doing? How could they pretend to be Christian when the bible clearly says that they are an abomination?

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