John says, “God is Love.”

John says, “God is love.”

This isn’t John’s attempt to describe God as loving. If he wanted to do that he would’ve said, “God is loving” or “faithful in love.” This isn’t love as sentimentality. If he wanted to say that he would have said, “God loves you.” But he didn’t say that. He said, “God is love.”

Since God is Jesus, Jesus must be love too. And Jesus’ love moves beyond sentimentality to sacrifice. It’s an all-embracing scandalous unrestricted love that leaves the politically powerful and religious elite disturbed and perturbed. Contrary to their commitment to fear-based systems of exclusion, God’s love welcomes *all.* God’s hospitality is greater than our hostility.

God is love.

There has never been a time when God hasn’t been love.

There will never be a time when God will not be love.

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Pain given a voice transforms into endurance. Pain not given a voice transforms into violence. It is possible that much of the violence we experience in our society comes from our unwillingness or inability to listen when the pain is first experienced.

Voice. Choice. Security. Support. This makes healing possible.

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A Fourth of July Ritual

Every Independence Day since Ian was 10 he and I read both the Declaration of Independance and Frederick Douglas’ full speech, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” (He’s read a good deal on Douglas). Today will be different since he’s on a middle school retreat. He and I agreed to text some excerpts and read it in full Friday. It’s been a meaningful ritual for us, especially as Christians. Here’s some excerpts that always grab us:

“Citizens, your fathers made good that resolution. They succeeded; and to-day you reap the fruits of their success. The freedom gained is yours; and you, therefore, may properly celebrate this anniversary. The 4th of July is the first great fact in your nation’s history —the very ring—bolt in the chain of your yet undeveloped destiny.

Pride and patriotism, not less than gratitude, prompt you to celebrate and to hold it in perpetual remembrance. I have said that the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost. . . .

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too, great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory. . . .

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us? Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! . . . I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us.”

The full speech can be found here.

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James’ Faith & Works

What James’ “faith and works” discourse might read like in the USA context:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have the “right” position on a civil or moral issue in the name of faith, but does not have works? Can such conviction save or sanctify him? So, if a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed, because I voted with you in mind,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way, your conviction, if it does not have works, that is to say a tangible actionable boots-on-the-ground witness, is dead by itself. But someone will say, “You have conviction, and I have works.”

Show me your conviction without works, without your personal, tangible, actionable, boots-on-the-ground witness, and I will show you my conviction by my works—I’ll show you the receipts.”

‭‭~ James‬ ‭2:14-18‬ ‭Contextualized

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World Refugee Day

This is a prayer written for the Williamsburg Christian Church family in remembrance of World Refugee Day.

El Roi, the God who sees, you are the God of the displaced and oppressed, and as El Roi, you see them. Help us to see them.

Lord, open the eyes of my heart.

Remind us of who we are, once displaced by our sin, but now welcomed into Your life where we have found a true home.

Lord, help me remember.

Remind us of who we are, once strangers to You, now adopted into Your royal family and called Your children.

Lord, help us remember.

In a world where suffering and violence remains, we see our neighbors made in your image running for their lives. 

Lord, help me see.

Help us see them leaving their homes and all they have known because of the suffering and violence that pursues them. 

Lord, help us see.

Help us see them forcibly displaced where once citizens of their homeland they are now global immigrants and strangers seeking refuge. 

Lord, help us see.

Help us to see them as they are, beloved neighbors made in your image, displaced and oppressed by suffering and violence and in desperate need of welcome, of hospitality and hope, compassion and care.

Lord, help us see so that our seeing will lead to doing.

As you guided your people of old by a pillar cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, guide these, your people of today who cry out to you, El Roi, the God who sees. Be for them what you have always been, a Father to orphans, Liberator of the oppressed, Redeemer of Widows, and Homemaker for the displaced.

Lord, teach us, convict us, and lead us that we may join you in the seeing, join you in the provision, join you in the liberation, join you in the redemption and join you in the homemaking. 

We praise you oh God for liberating us to follow in the steps of the crucified, risen and ascended Lord Jesus. We praise you for forming us into a royal priesthood of peacemakers summoned to love our neighbors and work for the good of our temporary home in anticipation of the new heaven and new earth when you, our Liberating King, will once and for all usher in our eternal home where suffering and violence will be no more, and where all displacement ceases to exist.

In the name of Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever, amen.

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