Sacrificial Love Wins

Note: Originally published for Church of the Epiphany-Tempe at

In 1969 in New York City at the end of June, the New York City Police planned to raid an establishment called The Stonewall Inn. The Inn, which was a bar and gathering place for LGBTQ+ persons that were excluded from the larger LGBTQ+ community such as ‘drags,’ ‘queens,’ and young and homeless LGBTQ+ persons (generally between 16 and 25 years old). It served as a place in which those who were excluded even from the larger LGBTQ+ community could gather and have a safe space. The police in New York were cracking down on establishments that served the community because most of them operated without liquor licenses out of necessity. (The state would not grant a license to establishments that served the LGBTQ+ community.) While most of the raids that took place in that month resulted in the closure of many establishments, the night at the Stonewall Inn went differently. It was a night in which the crowd decided they were, as Fannie Lou Hamer stated in 1964, sick and tired of being sick and tired. The LGBTQ+ community was tired of hiding in the shadows and being thought of as less than by the larger community. On the night of the raid, the regulars at The Stonewall Inn decided to fight back against the police and how power was being used against their community. They decided that the best thing they could do was to create a skirmish in the streets, to protest the ways that they were being treated under the law, and to seek freedom and justice in the land that they called home. The riot that resulted from their fight, which lasted 6 days in the Village, sparked the modern day LGBTQ+ rights movement. It was the starting point of a long road towards equality under the law for LGBTQ+ persons in America. 

In an article written by Dick Leitsch, the founder of the Mattachine Society of New York and a gay journalist, the experience of the Stonewall Riot was described. He points out why it was different there – the clientele of the Stonewall were those that experienced exclusion not only by the larger society but also by the LGBTQ+ community itself. The article is helpful in understanding that the moment that sparked the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement was sparked not by those that were included in the more “respectable” enclaves of the LGBTQ+ community. Instead, it was people who were on the margins of the margins. They sparked a movement, and many of them were persons of color. In fact, credit is given to a trans woman, Marsha P. Johnson for throwing the first brick or shot glass that sparked the riot.  The riots at The Stonewall Inn were a flash point in the LGBTQ+ community. It was a moment in which queer people decided that they were not going to take the abuse anymore, and the people that helped spark that movement were people of color who knew a lot more about discrimination and abuse than European American (i.e. white) queer people. 

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

1 John 4:7-8 NRSV

The month of June is celebrated as Pride month around the world and across our country. One of the slogans that is so often repeated and was used in the campaigns to fight for the right to marry in the United States was “Love Wins.” It is a powerful statement, and as Christians, we would certainly agree that love is infinitely more powerful than hate. We would make the claim that we are called to become love in echoes of what St. Athanasius wrote in his reflections in the 3rd century. In those reflections, Athanasius offered, “God became human so that we might become gods.” If we turn to the First Letter of John, we will find “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8 NRSV) Thus, we can say that God became human in order that humanity might become love. The argument that love wins is an ancient theological claim in the Christian tradition, and it is one that offers us hope in the present moment of Pride month and in the moment of the African-American community’s struggle for dignity for itself and others. 

If love wins, and if the nature of God is love, and if God became human so that we might become love, the current situation in our country demands of us love. It demands of us a love that is sacrificial and that is ready and willing to do the work that is necessary for creating a new future filled with new possibilities that are defined by the principle of love. We are in a moment in our country in which we are being invited to expand the notion of freedom for all whom live within the borders of our country, and we are in a moment in which we are being invited to do the work within our communities to create that new future. 

For us to say that love wins and to embody the love of God in our lives is going to require courage not simply on the part of organizations and leaders but also each individual person doing his or her work as it relates to who they are. The embodiment of love is going to shift depending on our individual situations and the community to which we belong. For example, the work required of European American persons is going to look differently than the work of a person that comes from the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities. A straight person that is European American  will need to explore sacrificial love differently than a gay or lesbian or bi or trans person of color. An LGBTQ+ European American will need to understand sacrificial love not simply from their own experience of discrimination but also by understanding the privilege or advantage received by virtue of the color of their skin. 

The work of entering into sacrificial love is going to be varied across the spectrum of humanity, but it will also be the same in that it should always be practiced in such a way that community is built, that relationships are forged, and that humanity is able to grow closer together. We are called to walk in love, and as Christians, we would append to that “as Christ loved us and gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 376) Love wins in the ways that we love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls, and love wins when we love the neighbor as an extension of the self. Love wins when we more fully understand that love is always concerned about others, about the neighbor. 

In the effort to create a new future in our nation, our openness to receiving love from our neighbors is equally as important as giving that love away in the next moment. In receiving love from another, we are entering into relationship, and we share the gift of love beyond the self as an outpouring of that relationship. In this movement of love, God calls us to look at the movement of the Holy Trinity and to do our best to mimic that perfect relationship of love shared between Father, Son, and Spirit. 

At this moment in time and experience of the United States, it may be that our movement of love is to open ourselves to relationship in an effort to work towards the dismantling of systemic racism and bias in our country. It may look like people doing the work that is necessary within their own communities around questions of diversity and inclusion; it may look like creating communities of reconciliation in which we learn to speak our experiences in love and learn how to receive the experience of another without it taking away from my own.

Perhaps, the most important question each individual can ask of the self right now is, “How do I enter into sacrificial love?” It is a question about becoming a herald of the gospel in the world, and it is a question that invites each person deeper and deeper into relationship with the neighbor. It is a question that has the full possibility of leading us into becoming that which speaks us into being: Love.

Bodies of Color; One Body

Note: Originally published for Church of the Epiphany-Tempe on 28 May 2020 at

If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

1 Corinthians 12:24b-26 NRSV

Bodies have been in the news a lot this week. On Sunday, The New York Times used the whole of its front page to publish the names of the 100,000 dead bodies from the plague ravaging humanity right now. It painted a picture of what is happening in our nation and in the world, and it served as a stark reminder that the plague has diminished the body of humanity globally. It was a reminder that to love in the moment of a plague is to restrict ourselves for the good of the whole, as I intimated in my post a few weeks ago. While it is not possible to know the spectrum of humanity that was included in those names, we can be certain that those names reflected nearly every community of persons in the United States. We saw, in the names published on that front page, a picture of the diminishment of the body.

As the week continued, we heard another story about a body that gave up its life. This story, however, was horrific in a different sort of way. It was horrific because the death of George Floyd was caused by the action of a person who is supposed to protect. It was a death of a body that has long been viewed with derision, scorn, suspicion, and fear. It was the death of a body that has, for so very long, been thought of as outside the body of humanity that comprises the fabric of humanity within the borders of the United States. The history of how bodies of color are viewed in our country is much too long for me to even begin to cover in a simple blog post. (The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander does an admirable job of unpacking much of this.) That said, if we are being honest about our shared history in the United States, I think we can name that this view of bodies of color goes back to the pre-beginnings of our country, and rather sadly, it has become a part of the DNA of the country that continues to be passed down from generation to generation. If we want to point to a concrete example, we might recall the 3/5 compromise that counted 3 out of every 5 slaves as people. It is a horrific moment in our history as a nation in which our collective humanity was discounted. 

When I was in school and learned about this particular compromise (which I believe would have been in 5th or 6th grade), I remember it being taught as something that was done only to slaves. We could not name that the diminishment of humanity in that compromise was a diminishment to the whole of humanity. It was not simply the slaves that were deprived of their full personhood; it was the whole nation that was deprived of its full personhood. In 1 Corinthians 12, St. Paul is admonishing the church in Corinth for the way that it fails to understand that every member of the body is vital. When one part is diminished, the whole body is diminished. He says, so very clearly, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (1 Cor 12:26 NRSV) It was the case in the church in Corinth, in the 3/5 Compromise in the United States, in the deaths of 100,000 people from this plague, and in the death of George Floyd as a police officer kneeled on his neck. 

The ways that we treat members of the body say something about who we understand our neighbor to be, which is to understand who we are called to love as an extension of the self. If we stop at the horror that comes from viewing the video of George Floyd’s last moments of life, we have not moved to the place of co-passioning that the Gospel calls us towards. If we do not see bodies of color as vital members of the whole body, we have failed to recognize those bodies as neighbors, and we have failed to understand that the suffering of those bodies of color is a suffering that is experienced by the whole of humanity, the whole of the body. 

The move to take the suffering of bodies of color into the experience of the whole is to begin an attempt at putting whiteness within a rightfully ordered place within the whole of the body. I am not suggesting that the experience of persons of color be overlooked or washed out in order to avoid the difficult conversations that need to happen in America. Instead, I am attempting to suggest that the experience of the whole body must be viewed from the perspective of those walking around as people of color. For this to happen, it is important that the stories of people of color be listened to so intently and with so much love that we cannot help but co-passion with those communities that have suffered so greatly.  It is an attempt to clothe those stories with greater honor and to shift our view. It is hard work that demands loving patience and a commitment to vulnerability in very public ways. 

Cristo Negro de Esquipulas, Santa Cruz, Costa Rica

The Gospel calls us towards this co-passioning with Christ, and it might be most helpful for us to see Christ not as a Palestinian man with olive skin but as a man with skin so like the midnight sky with twinkling stars for eyes and a bright, beautiful crescent moon smile. It might be most helpful for us to see the Christ as that man as we walk that troubled road to Jerusalem. It might be most helpful for us to see that man hanging from that tree with an emaciated body dripping with disdain.

But the Gospel does not allow us to stop there. It does not allow us to stop in this moment of horror in which it is so easy for us to co-opt the Cross as an idealogical weapon, as a servant of the needs of the ego. (Williams, Resurrection, p. 72) Instead the Gospel moves us into this strange land of creativity, of surprise, of new beginnings. Here, we may need to stretch our imagination to see the Risen Christ with a body the color of the midnight sky, glowing with God’s glory, that invites us into the mystery of resurrection – into that new creation that is filled with faithfulness, with hopefulness, and with love. It is not simply to flip the dichotomy but to see the colors of humanity as equally beautiful within the glory of the resurrection. It is an invitation for us to reorder humanity into that one body that relies on the beauty and the giftedness of every single member and to live more and more fully into becoming that which God made us for: love.

In glory of this resurrected body that is glowing with the beauty of midnight, we enter into the co-passion of the body. We enter into the beauty of being made whole and incorporating the stories of the members into cohesiveness that begins to speak the truth in love and begins the challenging work of reconciliation within the body. The stranger that we greet on Easter is the very stranger that leads us into receiving that holy breath of God, which we call the Holy Spirit, on Pentecost. It is the Cristo Negro that leads us into a strange new landscape of naming new possibilities and thus the beginning of the creation of a new future. It is the Cristo Negro that leads us into the life of confession – of sin and of faith – as a matter of discipleship that transforms community. (Williams, Resurrection, p. 79)

The strangeness of Easter begins in the Gospel and continues to unfold into the present moment. We are invited into that strangeness to know the Cristo Negro as Savior and to receive that holy breath of God as a gift to be shared.

In Christ,



  1. Cristo Negro de de Esquipulas, Santa Cruz, Costa Rica.,_Santa_Cruz,_Costa_Rica.jpgaccessed 28 May 2020
  2. 3/5 Compromise. accessed 28 May 2020.
  3. “Let America Be America Again By Langston Hughes – Poems | Poets.Org”. Poets.Org, Last modified 2020.
  4. Williams, Rowan. Resurrection. London, 2003.

Rogation, Creation, and a Pandemic

In one week’s time, the Church will celebrate the Feast of the Ascension on May 22. It is a feast day that happens every year and is considered one of the principle feasts of the church year. On the Sunday prior to the feast of the Ascension, the church recognizes another type of celebration called Rogation Sunday. 

Rogation days originated in the 5th century in France when a bishop called for days of fasting and prayer to ward off a disaster. As the practice took root in the church, they took on different perspectives. In England, the rogation days are most associated with the season of planting in the spring. The vicar of the parish would process around the fields of the parish (used here more like we would think about counties) while reciting psalms and litanies. In the United States, rogation days are associated with agriculture, fishing, rural life, and the care of creation.1 It is on this last point that I would like to spend a little time with you, and I hope to connect the care of creation to the ways that we will continue to care for each other in the practices of our common life as a community of faith. 

I will confess that the project that I have set myself is too big for me to adequately address all of the facets of these topics in a blog post; thus, I am hoping to begin a conversation that we can continue to host in our community as we grow into a new future that is already here, as I intimated in last week’s post. 

Perhaps the starting point is for us to explore the doctrine of creation. In classical Christian theology, the Church has long held that creation came forth from God. Out of God’s being, God calls creation forth in and through God’s uttering, what Rowan Williams helpfully describes as “making external ‘outering’.”2 In the same essay, Williams states that God is not creating in such a way that power X is exercised over object Y. Prior to creation being, there was nothing outside of God. In the external outering that God makes, creation is formed, and we have continued to speak of that outering through the creation stories as found in the Book of Genesis. (I hasten to add that there are multiple tellings of that story within Genesis. You can find the stories in Genesis 1:1-2:4 and Genesis 2:5-25.) The utterance of God summons creation into existence, into being.3 We, as part of that creation, share in the experience of creatureliness. We understand that there is a finite boundary between the self and another – whether that other is God, another human being, or creation itself. While I exist in creation and am defined by the creation in which I live, I recognize that my own identity flows out of my understanding of my position as creature. I am not the one that utters creation into being but am part of that which is being uttered.4

In my position as a creature, I seek identity for the self, and the great myth in the United States is that I am able to define that identity outside of the perspective of the other. It is here that we have come up with the notion of personal liberty and personal responsibility. As a culture, we have failed to recognize that my identity is shaped by those with whom I am in relationship, and it extends ever outward to also include the corner of creation in which I find myself. I am shaped by the landscapes that surround me just as much as I shape those landscapes. Thus, the care of creation is not a partisan act that places me on one side of the proverbial aisle or the other. Instead, the care of creation is what will shape my own identity as a creature. As I care for creation (or not), I will find that my own identity shifts because of the ways that I practice relationship and hospitality, which we may call stewardship, with the whole of God’s creation. The very stewardship that I practice with creation becomes defining in how I practice stewardship of relationship with others that I meet and vice versa. 

I might accept that faithful stewardship of creation is part and parcel of what it means to love my neighbor as an extension of the self. If I understand creation to be part of the subject that helps me to form my own sense of identity, then it becomes increasingly difficult for me to think of creation (or another human being) as anything other than a vital and necessary extension of my own identity that continues to be constructed by the very people, animals, plants, and landscapes that inform my life. The modality of living in this way invites me to understand that I am called neither to dependence nor to independence; instead, I am called to seek interdependence in and through the relationships that I hold dear. 

The interdependence of our relational capacity is key to what it means to be human being. The story of creation tells a story of Adam and Eve receiving their identities from each other. In the second creation narrative, Adam says, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” (Genesis 2:23a) Like Adam, we first begin to understand our own identities because of the human relationships we hold dear, but eventually, we also become aware of the ways in which the landscapes in which I have lived shaped the very identity that I may now hold dear. I begin to understand that the need to care for creation is a need to care for the self, for the identity that I have. In a recent article in ABC Religion & Ethics, Luke Bretherton writes, “COVID-19 points to the need to move beyond attempts to balance individual freedom with collective need. It demands a more synthetic approach. The true, good or flourishing life cannot be reduced to individual happiness. We are not atoms bouncing against each other but mutually vulnerable, interdependent creatures whose flourishing depends on being embedded in just and loving forms of common life.”5  The synthetic approach that Bretherton points out is the work of moving towards interdependence in which the other is no longer perceived as a threat but as a gift to be received and cherished. And of course, the other has to include the ways that I receive and cherish the gift of creation. The interdependence is precisely what allows me to know flourishing, to know the abundant life of which Christ speaks in the Gospel according to John.6 It is abundant because I become aware of the multitude of gifts offered to me in the mundanity of the daily routine.

And perhaps it is here that we should turn our attention to the change of the daily routine that humanity has recently experienced. We went from being social beings that relied upon person to person interaction to a routine that asked us first to stay home in an effort to protect the lives of those whom we love – our friends, our family, our community, and even strangers in our midst. The act of caring for creation, of practicing stewardship in my relationship with the landscape in which I live, is now an act of relationship with human beings that I cherish. The steps that I take, no matter how tenuous or carefully thought out, are fraught with risk and may lead to disaster no matter my intention. I am asked to think carefully about those things which are necessary not simply to protect my own life but also the life of others. And of course, if I understand the other as an extension of the self, I can quickly understand that by protecting the life of the other I am taking steps to protect my own life and my own identity. I am moving towards that place of interdependence in which I begin to recognize that the boundaries that exist between myself and another are the invitations to see the other as a gift to be loved and cherished. When I don a face mask while in public spaces (i.e. grocery stores, pharmacies, etc), I am taking a step to love the common life that I share with everyone else living in this corner of God’s creation. In taking steps to protect the other, I am protecting the self, and I, along with my neighbors, am able to experience something of that abundant life. 

For our parish, the abundant life and seeking to protect our common life is going to include abstaining from in-person worship for longer. While we all hunger for being able to gather and to partake of the Holy Eucharist, we are being invited to seek communion through the distance that we share as an act of solidarity with an important part of who I am: the neighbor and the stranger. Our parish has a task force that will be creating a plan for when we are able to gather for in-person worship at some point in the future, but we also are asked to understand that we need to encounter the question, “How do I faithfully steward the gift of relationship that I share with these individuals at Church of the Epiphany?” It is a question that invites us to seek the common good for our community, and it is a question that places the needs of the most vulnerable among us as the highest priority for our consideration. We know that we will not be having in-person worship at any point in the immediate future, but we also know that this is part of what it looks like for us to love the other as a part of the self. It is a recognition that “we have to act in deeply ambiguous circumstances, unable to predict the outcome of our actions, while what we do may well make things worse and that doing a good thing can cause great harm.”7


  1. Rogation Days. (2013, March 7). Retrieved May 14, 2020, from 
  2. Williams, R. (2000). On Christian Theology. Hoboken, NJ, United States: Wiley. p.72.
  3. Ibid. p. 68.
  4. Ibid., p. 71
  5. COVID-19 presents a moral crisis, not just a medical one. (2020, March 31). Retrieved May 14, 2020, from
  6. John 10:10 NRSV
  7. Tragedy and triage in a time of pandemic. (2020, April 7). Retrieved May 14, 2020, from