Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Daily Office Reflection: Perfect Love

Psalms 72, 119:73-96; Leviticus 19:1-18; 1 Thess 5:12-28; Matthew 6:19-24

I went to bed last night quite disheartened. The result of the voting in North Carolina on an amendment that is hatefully discriminatory has made me quite saddened. Awakening this morning, that mood has not changed much, for I live in a state that will be voting on a similarly biased amendment this coming November. 

Reading our Daily Office lessons this morning a number of things have struck me. Upon opening my Office book and finding (remembering) that we are suffering through Leviticus, I groaned. But the verses provided today highlight how abusive scripture-dipping can be (this is the art of pulling verses out of context from holy writ that can bolster one side of an argument). In Leviticus today we hear that it is an abomination to eat food on the third day after it has been offered up as sacrifice: an abomination subject to severe punishment - being cast out from the people. We also hear that the edges of all our harvested lands must be left for the poor and the foreigners. We hear that we shall not curse or revile our neighbors, we shall not defame them, or render unjust judgments, treating all alike, rich and poor. We are not to profit from war, or bear grudges, but are to love our neighbors as ourselves. How often are these passages weighed against the other passages so often used from Leviticus?

In the letter to the Thessalonians today, we hear how we are to act toward and amongst each other: in a loving and caring way, patient and kind. And our snippet from Matthew warns about the perils of having wealth, and the importance of having an inner-purity that shines out of us, infecting those we meet with the love we know that God has for each one of us. 

And today, in Holy Women, Holy Men, we celebrate the life and ministry of Gregory of Nazianzus, a 4th Century theologian and bishop who led a life that defended the basic truths of our faith from those who would have stripped it of the beauty that lies within. A fight he did not always cherish, and that had personal costs - and yet a path he was willing to follow.

A part of me understands completely why people walk away from "church." I understand why people can look with suspicion at those of us who wear a collar or profess themselves servants of our loving God. Scripture and religion have been used throughout the ages for wrongful purposes, like the result in the North Carolina amendment vote, and the one brewing here in Minnesota exemplifies. Walking away is understandable.

But as a people of faith, with the understanding that there are no simple answers to all of these questions, walking away is not an option. Standing up for the truth of God's abiding love for all of us, refusing to allow voices of abusive intolerance to be the only "religious" voices heard, is the harder road we are called to travel. Ensuring that God's perfect love, a seed of which lies within all of us, is understood, and talked about, and broadcast is part of our mission as Christ's Body in the world today.

Prayer helps gird up our wounded souls. Active, personal engagement is another salve for damaged hearts. Remembering to love those who are being discriminated against by these awful amendments, reaching out to them and letting them know that they are one of God's beloved, is yet another method of healing. Being a voice that counters the hate, although exhausting at times, is also an absolute necessity.

We need to keep those hurt and wounded and angry hearts and souls in our prayers today, and tomorrow, and the next. 

The simple answer is to move away from the hate state to a place where love and equality are enshrined in law. But that is a capitulation to discrimination. We are a better people than that. We are called to be better, and to teach, and to love.

Copyright 2012, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved
Photo: Matt & Brett's Blessing of their Civil Marriage.

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