Sunday, December 7, 2014

Advent from the Underside: Symbols of Compassion

A rosary ? Why, yes. Despite my deep Protestant roots, literally centuries deep, decades of chaplain training have made certain I always have a few in the glove box in the car. 

 What exactly does a Menorah look like? Let me google it on my phone and we can look at a picture together.... Half an hour or so and several sheets of construction paper later- an almost perfect representation if the Wikipedia pic. 

The hope of divine compassion real in human life. Light overcoming darkness. The comfort of familiar ritual- centuries proved. Human suffering knows no bounds, cares not for doctrine or belief. It seeks only the blessing of relief, the strength beyond strength of hope amid overwhelming grief, suffering and unrelenting pain. 

At a shelter for the homeless, unmedicated mentally ill: Advent from the underside. Come Emmanuel, come soon.  

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

It's About the Women: Advent from the Underside

Advent from the Underside is about the woman. It is about the birthing room’s gushing waters and blood, the point of God’s entry into the life of flesh and blood made holy. The groaning pain of childbirth, sanctified, all of creation pushing, crying, towards new life and hope. It is about the women,  the sister-mothers, aid, comfort, joy, the witnesses of the spirit, birthing Life among us. Emmanuel.  
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

Romans 8:22 (NIV)
Poem for Advent 2011


Ancestral midwives kneel in shadows

bringing aid and comfort
witness giving
to the pains and crying out and pushing,

...prepare the way,
For birthing
in a gushing
mess with cries of gratitude and joy,

As water holy turned
to blood in breaking open paths and sacks
that spill out life
and milk and bread
from deepest springs of hope ferocious.

Beyond the burning ropes
and rapes
and silence, neglect and jailings all of them passed over
stories buried
never heard of more nor seen nor named for eons
but now we care and picture them and her with them and us.

And tell how even Sister-Mother-Midwife Allah
gave a tree bent down to shake
to give her fruit
and water in a rivulet
to bathe her tears and terrors.

And now we know that tales of her alone with no one near
are told from fear of what might be
with women’s arms around her.

To this very day they warn “You dare not, Women,
think of that. She’s not like you for were she that

God would never come through you.”

But sister, mother, holy one, around you waiting now as then
we sisters, mothers, holy ones are here with you to aid and comfort
wait with you and witness to
the work and spirit in you ready here and now is God.

And when we breath with you and help you with the birth
we bring it all
to life among us
all a’groaning to be saved and free
and all in all, Good Women,
in you, with you, for you all
in God’s good healing time.


Featured image: "Mary and the Midwives." " by artist Janet McKenzie. commissioned by Barbara Marian.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Inducto: Advent From the Underside

Advent comes from the Latin word, adventus, meaning coming. It is the season for the Church year when people of faith wait in expectation and hope to celebrate God to entering fully into our human existence. A Coming into the depths of human experience and existence  of God who chose to be born to a poor, pregnant-out-of-wedlock,  teenage girl on the margins of society rather than into the life of a properly married couple living a well-to-do life that included attending a respectable religious institution.  At the heart of this world changing, every-life changing event was a young family displaced by world events, struggling far away from the support of family and familiarity of home. A young family cast so low in the society of those days that their baby was born in a stable among the animals and cold. God chose to be born into a family from the underside of society and culture and religious institutions, to an uncertain young couple where, perhaps, even actual paternity of the baby born on the night we celebrate as Christmas lay as a shadow between the proud, overwhelmed, joyous new parents even as the wondrous events we still celebrate today were unfolding around them.

“And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25: 40)

“Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own;  but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly  call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

Several Advents ago, I was praying with Paul’s letter to his beloved friends in the church at Philippi for some months preceding. Somewhere in the small and subtle movements of life and faith, it came to seem important  that I prepare for the birth of God into human life and living in some way that took me beyond the grace and beauty, the joy of family and friends, the blessed Advent celebrations of my local congregation.  Grown into adult life, Jesus, fully-man and fully-God, told us we can come to know him by caring for the “least of these,” for our sisters and brothers on the underside of society.  It seemed well that Advent to heed Paul’s example of growth in faith and intimacy with Christ pressing forward beyond my own familiar comforts and customs “towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

From this, I came to prepare  that Advent for the birth of God among us through season of praying and coming to know the commonality of our human lives and our shared need for deliverance with those on the underside of our society--Advent from the Underside.  If Jesus would be born in these days and this place, he would be born to some among these people. How could I come to know him in the intimacy of love and trust, faith and joy that can only be known in the experience of the fullness of our need of him? What would he teach me about loving him and others as he loves us all? Advent from the Underside.  

Thursday, November 27, 2014


“Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

So today, I am grateful for all that I have, for family and amazing friends, for my work which calls me to join those huddled at the foot of the cross and to the garden where Christ speaks our names, and, for a life time’s graces of stewarding hounds and horses and kitty’s of many sorts.

Today, I am grateful for all those I have lost, for the graces of the journeys of grieving them, and, for that which was mine but is no longer and for gifted strengths that lay beyond.

Today, I am grateful that my strength is not mine but is in Christ who offers new life and hope beyond all that I am and all that I have. Amen.

And, well, I have to be grateful this Thanksgiving morning that Foxhound Kelly is happily occupied scrubbing the very last molecule for peanut butter out of the empty jar.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Celebrating the birth of God among us in the year that the number of homeless children in the United States has surged in recent years to an all-time high, amounting to one child in every 30

According to the Washington Post: “The number of homeless children in the United States has surged in recent years to an all-time high, amounting to one child in every 30, according to a comprehensive state-by-state report that blames the nation’s high poverty rate, the lack of affordable housing and the effects of pervasive domestic violence….

“Child homelessness increased by 8 percent nationally from 2012 to 2013, according to the report, which warned of potentially devastating effects on children’s educational, emotional and social development, as well as on their parents’ health, employment prospects and parenting abilities….

“The report by National Center on Family Homelessness —part of the private, nonprofit American Institutes for Research — says remedies for child homelessness should include an expansion of affordable housing, education and employment opportunities for homeless parents, and specialized services for the many mothers rendered homeless because of domestic violence.”
All of which leaves me wondering and at prayer:  How shall we celebrate Christmas as a family this year?

 Perhaps, better for prayerful consideration: What do we want to teach our children this Christmas about who this baby Jesus really is?  What do we want to teach our children about how everyone of us can come to know him a bit better?  How can we help them come to know Jesus, resurrected, alive and well and walking among us?  What do we want our Christian lives of faith to say to our nation that, this Christmas, lies deep in error, pining? What do we want our Christian lives of faith to say to say about the birth of God, a year when child homelessness has raised 8%?  

How about this: This Advent, as we prepare for the birth of God’s Son among us, let’s ask our children and families to set a %, 8% would be a good jumping off point for the discussion, to set aside a % of the resources we spend on gifts and family celebrations to donate directly to homeless children and/or to organizations trying to remedy child homelessness through: expansion of affordable housing, education and employment opportunities for homeless parents, and specialized services for the many mothers rendered homeless because of domestic violence?

Isiah 9:6-7: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.”


Sunday, November 16, 2014

We Commit Togeather to be the Church in Service to the World

Commitment Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest, Lake Forest, IL.

How will we run the race that is before us?
Together as the Church of love and service to the world.


Tiny Houses for Homeless Persons

Read about how Madison, WI and several other communities are creatively providing housing for homeless persons here. And vsit the website of inovative home builders and activests Occupy Madson here

Be inspired.
Build homes for those who don't have them.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Prayer for the Leadership of all the Churches

I was talking with a friend about the very public troubles his denomination is having—public to the level of the NYT. And, here is what I heard myself hoping for him and his family and all those he loves in his church, and for the leadership of his church: “I hope the people who are really driving all of this behind the scenes are those who love Jesus and your church the most. They are the hope of your children and your grandchildren.” And, they are the hope of witnessing Jesus to the world.

 Then there was some very internal trouble in my denomination where opinions have been hot and heavy. And, I found myself praying that my church, the PCUSA, and for all churches which are going through so much change and turmoil at this time, that those who are really driving things behind the scenes are those who love Jesus and your church the most. They are the hope of our children and our grandchildren.  And, they are the hope of Christ’s witness of grace, blessing and forgiveness to all the hurting, longing, suffering, lonely hearts throughout the world. Amen.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Perhaps There Were Two Services of Ordination?

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” (Jeremiah 1:5a)

“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
“And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,           you did it to me.’”(Matthew 25: 34-36, 40)

God calls each of us across the lifespan through hundreds of thousands of movements and experiences, joys and struggles, in the places and, most importantly, in the people that mark our lives.
None can hear and respond to God’s calling without being changes and inspired, challenges and formed, confronted and encouraged.

Such is the media through which the Holy Spirit speaks, the holy mingling of God’s grace with the stuff of our everyday living; the alchemy God’s Calling, the mystery of our truest knowing our own deepest gladness meeting the greatest hungers of our world.

In putting together my service of ordination, I prayed to keep my heart open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. And, I kept central in my thought my work among the longing, anxious, grieving hearts who come to the hospital, where I am Chaplain specializing in mental health and perinatal bereavement, to find health, hope and healing for their living.   

The service, celebrated on All Saints Day, was dedicated to the glory of God’s Calling in all our lives, and to my parents, William and Frances Symonds, raised among the Saints Eternal over three decades. By God’s good grace, the service somehow wove together a the President of a Lutheran (ELCA) congregation—the most holy man I know; my Jesuit Spiritual Director of 15 years; dear noble friends, a Buddhist Bhikkhuni and Bhante; a reformation hearted Mormon Bishop friend and coworker; Presbyterians of every sort and station; all leaning upon the good and solid bones of traditional Reformed worship and the great and classic hymns of the Church.

As I was driving to my beautiful and blessed service of ordination my mobile rang. Could I come see a woman whose baby died a while back?  On that same drive, a text message from a friend, could I recommend a therapist for a family member? The following day, a phone call from an old friend I haven’t seen in years who I had invited to the service, could I recommend an inpatient treatment facility?

Then on Tuesday, there was a beautiful email from a friend that had traveled with his wife from Chicago to attend my ordination service. Attached was a script of a one-man play wrote, and performed on Monday, about the real-life journey in faith and prayer, healing and friendship of the past 28 months of his beloved wife’s journey with stage-4 cancer. The play celebrates the fact that she is now cancer free; it celebrates in his gratitude to God and the rich tapestry of blessed prayers from friends representing more religions than the Parliament of Word Religions that he credits for her healing. The conclusion of the play, my friend wrote, was inspired by my blessed and beautiful service.

We are all members of God’s family. I am left wondering, if there were not two beautiful and blessed celebrations of my ordination last week: one in the Church which ordained me to Ministry of Word and Sacrament, Teaching Elder and one in the world where the mystery of my truest knowing and my own deepest gladness kept meeting up with the greatest hungers of our world.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Dementia: In Life and In Death We Belong to God

One of the beautiful ordination gifts from my magnificent sisters and brothers in Christ at Presbyterian Church of Barrington was a copy of John Swinton’s Dementia: Living in the Memories of God.  Perhaps the adjective “beautiful” strikes some as odd or gratuitous in relationship to a book on dementia, perhaps some have wondered if it wasn’t all together a bit of an odd gift to begin with for such a joyous occasion.

Swinton is an ordained minister in the Church of Scotland and a RN with decades of experience in mental health nursing, also an ambitious researcher and a prolific author.  He was a keynote at the University of Chicago Conference on Medicine and Religion when I presented there several years ago. About 5 minutes into his presentation I developed a deep and enduring intellectual crush.

When I did my second Clinical Pastoral Care (CPE) internship at the Colorado State Psychiatric Hospital, back in the “bad ol’ days” before dedicated memory care units, those who suffered most with the indignities of dementia in its most combative and assaultive forms were consigned until death to the Geriatric Forensic Ward.   My learning struggles that summer would bring me to know, deep in the marrow of my bones, the existential fallacy of Descartes.  We, who are created in the image of God, are so much more than our thoughts. Swinton reminds every one of us of abiding holy truth of our species: though we may forget—our family, our friends, our surroundings, to feed ourselves, even to know ourselves—God never forgets us.

Swinton asks us, among many things, to consider (I’d say in prayer and discernment) the final line of the tender and grief riddled poem Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his Nazi prison cell: “Whoever I am, Thou knowest, “God, I am Thine.” When we forget all that we know of ourselves and our world we are never forgotten. We are always known by the One who gave us life. As Presbyterians we affirm this deep and transcendent truth of our living in the Brief Statement of Faith: “In life and in death we belong to God.” And, so I am grateful to proclaim and affirm with my sisters and brothers at PCB the final lines of that same Brief Statement of Faith, as we join togeather: “With believers in every time and place, we rejoice that nothing in life or in death can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sounds from the Deep Silence

This antique singing bowl from Tibet was an Ordination gift. One that brings great grace to my ministry with persons with serious menatal illness. When I was a little girl, a part of the baptismal liturgy used these words to consecrate the water used in the Sacrament, “Almighty God, please set apart this water from a common to a holy use such that by your good grace….”

Yesterday, in our group therapy room gathered broken hearts and minds, seeking healing’s grace.  There I played the tone and healing vibration of your beautiful bowl.  Struck once, twice, three times; the last fading slowly into the deep silence that existed before the creation of the world. With it our space and our hearts and minds were set apart from our common to God’s holy use. Words of strength, words of life and the triumphing of human hearts and minds over the forces of grief, despair and death were slowly, tenderly and tentatively shared.    Struck once, twice, three times; the last fading slowly into the deep silence that existed before the creation of the world, our space, our time, our hearts and minds called back into our common uses, renewed and healed  to  some new and holy purposes…  listening, longing for the fading, lingering tone that echoes in the deep and holy silence of the Still Small Voice that whispers to us all. Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ordaination in the PCUSA a Great Interfaith Celebration

God is in all things.

God calls us across the lifespan through hundreds of thousands of movements and experinces, joys ans struggles, in the places and, most importantly, with the people that mark our lives.

There was a bagpiper and  Buddhists, a  Jesuit, a Moderator and Stated Clerk. Teaching and Ruling Elders from four Presbyteries. If you know me, you wouldn't be surprised.

The Table was set, Jesus invites us --to share bread and wine, to discern the graceful presence of the Risen Lord in times of consolation and desolation ("thank you" Ignatius Loyola), to hear the Spirit's voice in "Scotland the Brave" and in the ancient sacred chants of Sri Lankan Buddhism, nestled in between the notes of a most beautiful rendition of “Precious Lord,” in the faithful prayer of my friend and colleague, a former Mormon Bishop, who every day witnesses for grace and hope in the midst of old outdated structures, and, in the coming together of people of deep and traditional faith with those who seek and doubt and object…. All to celebrate what God has done, is doing and will continue to do among us all. As Ignatius said, “God is in ALL things.” With all thanksgiving and gratitude to God. Amen.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Seeing the Reflection of my Enemies that Lies Within

Our enemies tend to be some complex projection of our own aversions. “The last thing any of us want to hear is that we might have any responsibility for creating our own enemies. After all it wasn’t our car that drove over the newly sodded lawn.  And, we’re not the ones that spread malicious gossip about a loved one, nor are we the one who seemed to take great pleasure in stealing a colleague’s client.  But, we are ever to get rid of our enemies, or at least render them powerless over us, we will have to own up to our part in creating the enmity” (Robert Thurman, Love Your Enemies, p.16).

“Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus.* ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life? ’26He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there? ’27He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself. ’28And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’

29 “But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour? ’30Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii,* gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend. ”36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? ’37He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise’” (Luke, 10:25-37).
Dear Jesus, give me the courage to see, even dimly, the reflection the of my enemies that lies buried deeply within  myself. Grant me, then,, the grace to  be moved to deep pity for our shared plight; in your kind mercy, bandage and both of our wounds so that we may give our whole hearts and minds, souls and all our strength to loving you. Amen

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

In weakness we are strong

“The basic obstacle, however, to overcoming our anger towards our enemies is our thought that, unless we have the strength of anger, they will trample us. Anger, to this way of thinking is protective. It gives strength to resist. Without it we are weak.” (Robert Thurman, Love Your Enemies, p. 10).

“….but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (St Paul, 2 Cor. 12:9).

Today, I pray the Holy Spirit to help me to become more and more awaere of how much I am caught up in the illusion that my anger is protective and makes me strong. I ask that Christ show me the grace of the strength of His weakness so that I increase in love. Amen.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Loving Your Enemy as Yourself

Lent starts tomorrow. A truly meaningful Lenten spiritual practice is often hard for me to settle into. The whole point is not to torture myself like I did the year at seminary when I gave up beef and, by holy week almost attacked the... check cashier at the local grocery simply because he was having a hamburger for lunch. The whole point,  is to engage in a daily practice that turns my heart and mind toward God even more closely, drawing me more deeply into the relationship. Not one that sends me over the counter, through the bulletproof glass to snatch a half-eaten burger.

This summer our denomination, (the PCUSA) will vote on changing our rules to allow clergy, at their discretion, to preform same sex marriages; this only the most visible of the many seismic shifts that we will be living into as a church and a society for the foreseeable future. Everyday, I go to work as a hospital chaplain. Healthcare is one of the places in our society where the sweeping changes that are effecting us all is being figured out, worked through and live out in real lives and real time, everyday.

All this change is stressful. Produces anxiety. And, anxiety and stress, as we all know from uncomfortable experience, comes out backward and sideways when we least expect it if we spend too much time and more energy than we really have trying to stuff them down, down, down, deep inside, pretending that we aren’t being effected.

This Lent, I want, to paraphrase what I think is a popular misquote of Gandhi, ask God’s help in trying to become some small part of the change… Jesus asked us to live lives that incarnate the unimaginable grace of the Resurrection, doing what seems to impossible, “love our enemies.” To do this, we must sacrifice the hubristic protections of our anger and fear, out cherished notions of what is right and good and just and, even  what is“Jesusy.”

For my Lenten Practice, I'll be reading, Love Your Enemies:How To Break the Anger Habit and Be a Whole Lot Happier, by Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman. Thurman, Columbia University's, Je Tsongkhapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies observes that Jesus’ work helping people draw closer to God spanned only three short years while Buddha’s teaching career spanned three decades. Over all those years, Buddha had time to figure out how to help the ever-resistant human mind and heart to align themselves and our living more closely with the impossibility of loving the enemy before us and within us.  

My prayer this Lent will be to prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit's help in loving my enemies as myself; even those I find coyly hidden deeply with myself.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Reminder from yesterday: People often think, “I’ve put that (traumatic event/loss) behind me.” Or, “I  saw a counselor (or talked with my pastor) about that at the time.” All the while they are wondering why certain present time events or encounters keep bother them or bring up the long ago pain or struggle. What folks don’t take  into consideration is that: they have changes, their lives have changed. The meanings they constructed in the past (on their own, with a pastor or therapist)  may no longer fit.

We often need to go back later and form new meaning from old, long past struggles. It is simply a part of our human condition. If you think about it, look how long the followers of Jesus have been trying to live into the meaning of his death and resurrection…

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The reign of the Kingdom of God is most often most powerfully proclaimed by those who are least aware of it. Jesus knew that so when he, “sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mark 12:41-44).

And when I was sitting in my group room earlier today a widow told this story: “I used to frequent this little food pantry once a week. Somehow they had so much bread, much more than they could give away before it would mold. They would give it to me and I’d drive it around and donate it to other food pantries. I only quit when my car  broke and I couldn’t afford to get if fixed. I miss that and I wonder if someone else started  driving the bread.”

Monday, February 17, 2014

Here is what I learned today:  Church matters. It matters, I think, enough or even more to the folks who are not in the pews than it does to us pew sitters.  What should matter for  us churchy folk is  the mirror of cultural perception. All those Spiritual But Not Religious, Lapsed Whatevers,  Grew Up In A Tradition But Quit Goings, still care about what we believe, what we say about the Bible and their lives. They are sitting home and watching the Discovery Chanel, the National Geographic Chanel, the History Chanel and they are filtering what they are hearing through the lens of whatever they remember from as much Sunday School as they got. They are filtering it through the who they year the Christian church is on the news and they believe what they are told, at the same level of faith development that they had when they were 6 or 7 or 12 years old.

All these things do not make sense to them and how they have experienced life and who they are and who they fear they are…. So they are not in our churches. They look to google and drink, sex and sports and drugs and whatever else they  can find to distract or numb or forget or avoid.

I learned this because something deep inside me, the Holy Spirit me thinks, got me responding to a question in my morning group with a brief overview of how the cannon was developed —they had no idea that there was an oral tradition and that the Bible as we came together as the result of men sitting around deciding what parts of the tradition to include and exclude— and the realities of “Biblical Authority” –they’d never considered that folks who claim it to support their position have picked over and left out all kinds of Biblical injunctions that they’ve decided no longer have hold over their lives.

And because there were gay folk in the room, I gave a brief overview of how the Bible once was used in this country to unreflectively enforce slavery and to subjugate women (issues I am aware upon which we still need to work). I told them briefly about the overwhelming medical evidence supporting the truth that same gender sexual orientation is as natural as heterosexual orientation.

To my amazement, the folks in the group were on the edge of their seats. They were finding the words of grace for which they’d been longing. Even the souls, who, by the everyday beliefs and practices and configurations we live in most of our churches, we’d consider the most reprobate, couldn’t get enough of this unexpected grace.  “I like what you’re selling,” is a compliment from a reformed gangbanger with several stints as guest of the state, especially one committed to trying to turn his life around.

These folks who are not in our pews need to be, not for us so we don’t die. Are we not to follow Christ’s command to be proclaiming the salvation of humankind? And isn’t the salvation of God’s compassionate live for their very lives, exactly what they are looking for.  

It matters then for more than just us churchy folk, what we say we believe and how we live what we believe and how we treat one another and the least among us.  Was not the marker of the earliest followers the proclamation from those who were not among their numbers, “See how they live one another?” And, do we not love Jesus loving our neighbors, especially those who are the least? In these we exhibit the Kingdom of heaven to the world.