Thank You Angels

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I am grateful for the opportunity to be a local Ambassador of an amazing organization called “Ainsley’s Angels of America.” I am also an ordained minister. I have been a student of the Bible and a minister for over 30 years. I have a Masters of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry Degree. So, when I speak about Angels, I like to believe I have a certain level of credibility and authority to do so.

Faith was born when Abraham met some strangers by the Oaks of Mamre. Although Abraham was unaware that these strangers were actually Angels sent by God, Abraham and Sarah welcomed them into their home with an extravagant hospitality. They graciously included the strangers, treating them as if they were family. And in doing so, they became part of the Divine plan. Abraham and Sarah became educated to what God was up to in the world, and they joined God in that mission. They themselves became messengers of God. Abraham and Sarah became Angels who changed the world.

So, here are three things I know about Angels:

  • Angels are messengers sent by God. They are holy gifts to the world.
  • Angels first appear in our lives as strangers, and when we include them and love them as family, something miraculous happens.
  • Angels educate us on the importance on inclusion. When we include others in our lives, we become a part of what God is up to in this world. When we include others, we discover that we are the ones being included in something divine. We ourselves become Angels on a mission to change the world.

Therefore, I do not use the word Angels casually or haphazardly, but I use it with careful theological justification and authority when I say:

“Athlete Riders, thank you for being Angels.”

“Angel Runners, thank you for being Angels.”

“Guardian Angels, thank you for being Angels.”

“Sponsors who give to support our mission, thank you for being Angels.”

“All volunteers who made the Arkangel 5k possible this past weekend, thank you for being Angels.

If you think you have it takes to be an Angel, please register today at www.AinlseysAngels.org.

Join us on a mission of selfless inclusive love, and together, we shall change the world.

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It’s Not Complicated: Don’t Be Terrible

love it or leave it

People asked the prophet, “What is the one thing the Lord requires?” He responded: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Is that all? Really?

People asked Jesus, “What is the one thing, the one commandment that is above all other commandments?” He responded: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

Seriously? That’s it?

Micah and Jesus say: “Yes!”

Could it be that they understood when we make life more complicated than justice, kindness, humility and love, then terrible things tend happen?

When we make it more complicated than kindness, then we might excuse racist chants of “send her back.”

When we make it more complicated than justice, then we may ignore the harm done to the brown children of asylum-seekers who have been separated from their parents.

When we make it more complicated than humility, then we could overlook and perpetuate racial privilege.

When we make it more complicated than love, then we might defend hate, bigotry and discrimination.

When we make it more complicated that the main things that the prophet and Jesus said that it was all about, then we may be apathetic and silent when the President imitates the Ku Klux Klan by saying: “Love it or leave it.”

So, let’s stop making it so complicated.

Let’s be just. Let’s be kind. Let’s be humble. And let’s love all our neighbors.

And then, maybe, we will stop being so terrible.

Time to Get the Hell Out

 

get the hell outIt is time to get going. It is time to move. We need to get the hell out of this country now.

It is difficult to leave behind what we have always known, but we need to do it, and we need to do it now. It is time to go. It is time to get the hell out of here.

We need to get the hell that is racism out of this country now.

We need to get the hell that is sexism out of this country now.

We need to get the hell that is selfishness and greed out of this country now.

We need to get the hell that is xenophobia, Islamophobia, and homophobia out of this country now.

We need to get the hell that is hate out of this country now.

We need to get the hell that is demagoguery out of this country now.

We need to get the hell that is White Christian Nationalism out of this country now.

We need to get the hell that is denial, silence and apathy out of this country now.

We need to protest it out, pray it out, preach it out, run it out, vote it out, or impeach it out. We need to love the hell out of this country. We need to love every anti-Christ part of it out. Now is the time for good people to get going, to start moving, to work together, to get the hell out of this country now.

Go Back to Where You Came From

go back to where you came from

Go back to where you came from.

Go back to that time before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Go back to the time of Jim Crow when discrimination and segregation was the law. Go back to that place where people of color were terrorized with cross-burnings, church-burnings and lynchings.

Go back to where you came from.

Go back to that time before women had the right to healthcare, the right to vote and the right to work outside the home.

Go back to where you came from.

Go back to that time in history when human beings were sold and treated as property. Go back to that place where human beings were chained, shackled and whipped.

Go back to where you came from.

Go back to that time when indigenous Americans were considered to be soul-less creatures who could be hunted, killed and displaced like animals. Go back to that time women like Pocahontas were kidnapped and raped by colonizers without remorse.

Go back to where you came from.

Go back to that time when the state controlled religion in order to control people. Go back to that place where Christianity was used to support slavery, genocide, the castrations of gay people, and the hanging of women suspected to be witches.

Go back to where you came from.

Go back to that time when Christians terrorized anyone who did not fall in line with their understanding of God and the world. Go back to that place where they put free-thinking women like Jan Hus and Joan of Arc on a stake and set them on fire.

Go back to where you came from.

Go back to that time before Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love our neighbors as ourselves. Go back to that time before the prophet Micah proclaimed that the one thing God requires is to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.

Please, go back to where you came from. Because this is 2019. It is not 1919, 1819, 1619 or any other dark time in human history.

Losing Our Way

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Someone recently accused me of “losing my way.” This was an obvious response to my supportive posts on social media of the LGBTQ+ community and to my leading our church to venture out beyond its building to sing hymns at a local brewery.

Here is my reply to this accusation:

“Thank you! Losing my way has been long and difficult, but I continue to work on it!”

Shouldn’t that be our life-long commitment as followers of Jesus? To lose our way to follow Jesus’ way.

  • We are losing our way of fearing the stranger, to follow Jesus’ way of welcome and inclusion
  • We are losing our way of pushing those who are different to the margins, to follow Jesus’ way of restoring them back into community
  • We are losing our way of focusing inward, to follow Jesus’ way of focusing outward
  • We are losing our way of staying in a place of sanctuary, to follow Jesus’ way of leaving our comfort zones
  • We are losing our way of judgment, to follow Jesus’ way of grace

I have heard many people say that our nation has “lost its way.”

Here is my response to that:

“I only wished it were so.”

But maybe we are working on it.

There have been movements throughout our history that have challenged our country to lose its way “in order to form a more perfect union.” These include the Abolitionist Movement, the Women’s Suffrage Movement, the Labor Movement, the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-War Movement. The good news is that there many Christian movements afoot today. And like our past movements, they are challenging our country to lose its way to follow the way of Jesus.

  • To lose its way of greed and materialism, to follow Jesus’ way of generosity
  • To lose its way of dishonesty and deceit, to follow Jesus’ way of truth
  • To lose its way of violence and domination, to follow Jesus’ way of servanthood
  • To lose its way of militarism and perpetual war, to follow Jesus’ way of peace
  • To lose its way of putting itself first, to follow Jesus’ way that began with “For God so loved the world”
  • To lose its way of bigotry, to follow Jesus’ way of valuing every human as one made in the image of God
  • To lose its way of harming children, to follow Jesus’ way of treating children as the greatest among us
  • To lose its way of suppressing the rights of women, to follow Jesus’ way of empowering women
  • To lose its way of abandoning the needs of the sick, the hungry, the foreigner and the imprisoned, to follow Jesus’ way of loving them as our very selves
  • To lose its way of inequality, to finally follow Jesus’ way of liberty and justice for all

May the followers of Jesus continue to proclaim the way of Jesus to our nation, so one day, the whole world will make the accusation: “America has lost its way.”

And we can reply:

“Thank you! Losing our way has been long and difficult, but we continue to work on it!”

Pride and Pastors

 

sorry

Pride is especially painful for me as a pastor, as I realize that pastors are one of the main reasons that people who identify as LGBTQ need Pride. Throughout my ministry, I have witnessed more hate from pastors directed towards people who identify as LGBTQ than from any other group of people.

I cannot begin to count how many pastors I have heard say: “It was Adam and Eve; not Adam and Steve,” and use the word “abomination” to describe persons who are LGBTQ.

I once attended a convention of pastors that voted to excommunicate an entire church from their denomination for baptizing persons who were LGBTQ.

I have attended meetings with pastors who said they believed the biggest threat to Christianity and to America were LGBTQ people.

I have attended other meetings with pastors who said that they must “fight like hell” for their rights to discriminate against LGBTQ people.

I have welcomed new LGBTQ persons into the church who were told by their pastor that they were not longer welcome in their church.

I have officiated funerals for LGBTQ persons after their pastor refused to be a part of their funeral.

I have officiated weddings for LGBTQ people whose pastors would not even consider attending the ceremony.

And here’s what may be the most painful part: From the year I graduated from seminary and became a pastor in 1992, until 2013, for fear of upsetting or losing church members, I was egregiously silent. Today, I realize my silence has made me complicit in the harm that has been directed towards the LGBTQ community. Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel has warned us: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Now, there were a few times during my first 20 years of ministry when I spoke up in defense of the LGBTQ community in informal conversations, briefly in a sermon or a Bible study, and in some posts on social media; however, during that time I never “spelled it out” in “black and white” in a manner that was fully visible to the public.

So, to all of my LGBTQ friends, I sincerely apologize.

Please know that I remain committed to be a vocal ally of the LGBTQ community for the rest of my life, because I believe (here it is in black and white) that GOD LOVES ALL OF GOD’S CHILDREN, AND TO CELEBRATE DIVERSITY IS TO CELEBRATE DIVINITY!

 

For more on this subject see: Issues of Homosexuality and the Church