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Loving One Another

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18, 1 John 4:11 and Blessed Are the Queer by Helen Rose

Good morning to you wonderful people on this the fourth Sunday after Pentecost and Pride Sunday. We welcome you from wherever you are hearing this message today, you who I know and you whom I have yet to meet in person, you who have joined us since we started gathering together, separately in this streaming format, you are not alone, you are found, you are welcome here.

Let us begin this time by turning our hearts and minds toward whatever message is meant for each of us today, as we pray this prayer from Psalm 19:14. God, Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, wherever they are, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

This is the place between. That’s where we are. At that spot, where it’s not entirely clear where we are headed, but entirely clear that even if we wanted to, we can’t go back. It’s as if the road on which we were traveling was washed away in a storm, leaving no path and just some newly visible wreckage left behind- the wreckage of small businesses that they will never open again. The wreckage of evictions and coming foreclosures, the wreckage of the emotional trauma of all of this. And even those still mostly left untouched by the financial pain are now feeling the mental anguish of limited contact with friends, grandchildren, cousins and that thing we do every summer. Festivals and camps, reunions in person in the places so loved, packed ballparks and choral concerts, crowded county fairs and food sharing parties, symphonies with an audience and full trains stuffed with passengers on the way to somewhere beautiful- whatever it is, it probably won’t happen this year. We had become accustomed to counting on tomorrow looking something like today. And now here we are.

Our Coordinating Council appointed a Return Task Force a while ago to thoughtfully research ways we can worship and gather in our building when guidelines and recommendations support it. The group is being detail oriented, cautious and is preparing us for a variety of scenarios. Whenever our meetings have gone off into the weeds or we have felt frustrated by all that we don’t know, Stan has reminded us of this: this is just the interim, the interval, the in between. To be sure there are things in our life together that will likely never return to what was before all of this and we know some of that is sad and some of that is good, but this formation we are in right now is the place between. In the middle of what will never be again and on the way to what is yet to be…

And this is not forever. It is only the place between.

And here life has shown us how small we are, revealed all of our fragilities- in healthcare, our supply chain, our planetary system, our own sense of control. We have removed structures of support and lived with the illusion that our individual efforts or luck will prevail. Now here we are.

In the hardest ways imaginable, we have been forced to remember what it is that we love and treasure the most - what it is that remains steadfast in our hearts in a time like this. And a lot of what I have heard from you is that we love and miss the most, all of the “us’s” in our life, all that is beyond our individual selves- we love the “us” is our friends and our faith communities, our chosen and given family, we love our groups that share our commitments to the same kind of fun and the same kind of life. We love all of the places where there is an “us.”

And even while there is a way in which what is presented to us in the media makes it seems as if we are invested in disagreeing and being divided, the truth is we are bound together more than ever. Whether we like it or not, all of the “us’s” beyond our little us, are tied together on this path washed away, in this place in between.

In an essay called How We Broke the World by Thomas L. Friedman, he writes “As the world gets more deeply intertwined, everyone’s behavior- the values that each of us bring to this interdependent world- matter more than ever. And therefore, so does “the Golden Rule.” It’s never been more important. Do unto others as you wish them to do unto you, because more people in more places in more ways on more days can now do unto you and you unto them like never before.”

Without the illusion that our individual efforts or luck will get us where we need to go, we now see that it is love that will get us through. It is a time to double down on loving one another, even those we do not know and do not understand. It is a season to increase our efforts at loving this precious planet into a new phase of stewardship. It is a period to take a risk on loving those whose lives and experiences up until now seemed so separate from ours.

And maybe in some ways this is already happening? Maybe we are already seeing what it looks like when more of us are “Living, breathing, sacred, Reflections of Divine Love?” Because even with all of the pain of this moment, even here, in this spot where it’s not entirely clear, where we are headed, but entirely clear that even if we wanted to, we can’t go back, even here, while it has been hard, maybe now we see, that whether we like it or not, all of the “us’s” beyond our little us, are tied together in this place between? Because something is happening in some places that seems like the work of love- it seems like the presence of a steadfast love is pushing through in this time.. And here’s the other thing: Even in a time when the ways we have broken the world are breaking us, there is hope. Because there have been some surprises here in this place between!

Like the celebration we did for Whit Bradley while he was still alive and could still hear how much his life meant to his children and grandchildren, his nieces and nephews, cousins and family near and far. We might not have done that before. And like the surprising news that defying all expectations the Supreme Court ruled that the federal civil-rights law does in fact prohibit employers from discriminating against workers on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is a decision that for the first time in our nation’s history, extends workplace protections at the federal level to LGBTQ employees nationwide. In some ways this is miraculous. Here’s another surprise. A long sought for change happened really fast when the state of Colorado passed Senate Bill 217 ending qualified immunity for law enforcement, banning chokeholds and more. Even in a time like this, even in this place between where it has been hard and maddeningly uncertain, with a timeline that has no end in sight beyond seasons and even into other years. This has also been a time where loving one another has brought surprises. In some ways we have leapt forward together.

Maybe there is something generative about the place in between? Maybe it is clearer how to love one another for real in a way that really makes life better? Maybe we are able to see for sure what matters in our lives held in common? Maybe this time has given us space to cultivate more of a cultural and political imagination? Maybe the place between is the best place to dream?

In the words from a poem by Jan Richardson called Blessing for the Place Between, she writes, “When you come to the place between. When you have left what you held most dear. When you are traveling toward the life you know not. When you arrive at the hardest ground. May it become for you a place to rest. May it become for you a place to dream. May the pain that has pressed itself into you give way to vision, to knowing. May the morning make of it an altar, a path, a place to begin again.”

Beloved of God, let us love one another, because love is from God and love is breaking through. In this place between, let us double down on love and let us dare to dream. Let us have hope that even the hardest ground can become an altar to a new path. And there will be surprises- wonderful things, goodness that has already arrived. So when it’s hard, remember this, right now is not forever. This is only the place between.

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