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When I was ordained, I asked the presiding minister to preach on Colossians 1:15-23, because this text pointed me to the sovereignty of God in Jesus Christ. The vision of the cosmic Christ, “in whom all things hold together” (v. 17), comforts me greatly whenever the church is in distress (which is rather quite often). In this election season, with all the acrimony, inflammatory comments, polarization, and shocking pronunciations about rape and sexuality, it’s been easy for me to lose sight of Jesus at the center of all that is, holding us all.
Consequently I expected that I would head into election night with a fair amount of angst. But I didn’t. That’s not to say I wasn’t glued to the television set. It’s just that I lived with it all differently, because, in the days before the election, I was privileged to witness God’s passionate, faithful love lived out in the extraordinary lives of ordinary saints. Their courage and care shined forth with luminosity. Witnessing their lives not only sustained me but also inspired me—far outshining the Empire State building with its glowing red and blue columns.
A young gay man stood in the pulpit two days before election day, feeling the weight of the impending vote on the proposed marriage amendment in MN. Like all those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, this vote was profoundly personal. Yes, it was also political. But the political and personal are not ultimately separable, at least not in instances like this. His very being was implicated in the vote. He had spent months working with Minnesota United for All Families, even talking with church members about the amendment. He entered into dialogue—respectful, open communication—with people who worshipped with him week in and week out, some of whom were going to vote against his right to someday commit himself in marraige to someone he loved.
When I saw him step up to the pulpit to lead worship, I was aware of this backstory, not all of it, not even the details of it, but enough to know that he was choosing vulnerability in that moment. And in doing so, he was exemplifying tremendous courage, the kind of courage that enables us to choose compassion and love and honesty and truth in the face of those who, intentionally or unintentionally, do not see us fully. When he preached, he opened the biblical text in ways I had never heard before, pointing out the injustice (captivity and bondage actually) embedded in a story that was all about justice, freedom, and healing. He never made it about himself, but, like all good sermons, it lived in him and therefore through him. He never made it about the vote, though he could have. He provided space for the Spirit of God to convict, convert, and transform. And that took courage, profound trust in Christ, and loving commitment to a group of flawed disciples whose choices would be deeply hurtful to him.
Then on election day, I heard from a friend—a pastor—that one of the members of her church had decided to act with such care, kindness, commitment, and generosity that I’m still in awe. My friend’s sister took a number of foster children into her home this past year. The church had heard the stories of struggle and joy that resulted. They had prayed for these kids, some of whom had been horribly neglected and abused. They also heard that my friend’s sister became pregnant—a bit of miracle in its own right. This completely unexpected expansion of their family pushed up the timeline for their foster kids to be placed with biological, adoptive, or other foster families. Then my friend’s sister was placed on bed rest, and some of those placements fell through. A working dad, a bedridden mom, and a handful of kids, some with high needs requiring multiple kinds of special care: my friend was carrying the weight of this all, no doubt exacerbated by the fact that she lived states away from her sister, unable to help as she would like. But God provided. A church member, someone who had run an in-home daycare, offered to get on a plane and go support this family—a family she didn’t know yet to whom she was inextricably connected. She’s there now with them—caring for the physical, emotional, spiritual needs of people who were, on one level, effectively strangers. And through her, generosity and self-giving are writ large.
In Christ all things hold together. We hold together. And sometimes we actually get glimpses of that reality, glimpses that inspire us and move us and remind of the work of God breaking into our midst. This week I’m celebrating the glimpses that I received—the courage and care of these two people (and my friend’s sister) through whom God’s peace, love, and joy shine forth.