Coming Out as Inclusive.

UCC Open and AffirmingThanks to Army Chaplain Jonathan R. Fisher for making this valuable point in his blog.

Being “Open” to others (and their otherness) is simply not enough. “Open” by itself is a passive state. As Christians, whether we are in the pastorate or the laity, we are called to do more than merely be “Open.” Our faith calls us to action, meaning that we must not only be Open, but also Affirming. We cannot simply welcome those who come through our doors, but must also reach out to them beyond the doors of the sanctuaries we’ve defined for ourselves. We must affirm others for who and what they are, right where they are.

Affirmation is not about accepting someone when they come into my territory, but rather about valuing and loving others right where they are even if they never step outside the limits of the space they have set for themselves.

Affirmation is a declaration that everyone is a child of God, and therefore a valuable, wonderful person loved by God for exactly who they are right now; and that we are called to do the same.

Being “Open” AND “Affirming” is not an easy thing to do, because it calls us to accept that we don’t have all the answers, and never will; and that we therefore must be willing to accept and value the presence of God in others, no matter how it is expressed, and no matter how challenging we may find those expressions to be.

I’ll end with this quote from Fred Rogers, from his book “The World According to Mr. Rogers”…

“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has–or ever will have–something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.”

 

jonathanrfisher

It would seem that a post about this would be completely unnecessary in the pluralistic world of the Army Chaplain Corps. It would seem that the directive to perform one’s own faith and provide for all the others would make such a statement redundant.

Only it’s not.

Somehow, this needs be said.

So, I am going to say it: I am a chaplain for ALL my Soldiers. All of them. The gay ones. The straight ones. The fat ones. The skinny ones. The conservative ones. The liberal ones. The religious ones. The non religious ones. The connected to church and the far away. The reason driven and the faith-based. The agnostic and the Christian. The pagan, the Muslim, the Hindu, the Buddhist, the whatever-you-happen-to-believe right now. Everyone I can think to mention and everyone else.

All means all.

This last summer, the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of…

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The Nature of Love

shutterstock_124493413It seemed appropriate on this, Valentines Day, to reflect on the nature of Love.

In Christian Scripture, the Apostle Paul’s First Epistle to Corinthians (chapter 13) is known as the “Love Chapter.” I quote it in full here…

1If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

The thing I observe about Paul’s eloquent prose is that it talks about how Love is at the core of the Christian message.  Without it, says Paul, Christianity is nothing, and our words meaningless.

In fact, in reflecting upon the Gospels I do not recall a single instance where Jesus limits the ways in which we are encouraged (or allowed) to love others.  Instead, like Paul, Jesus focuses us on the importance and centrality of Love, often being an example to us of how to love others, and how our love for the other must be grounded in our Love of God.

I remember the first time I saw a young couple passionately kissing, when I was an early teen, I think.  It was a new thing for me – an unfamiliar sight, something I was not comfortable with, something that unnerved me more than a little bit.  I remember thinking “Ewwww!”  … I’m sure most of us have had similar experiences!

Continue reading “The Nature of Love”