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.

Unfettered Gun Ownership: A Sin of our Times

Photo credit: Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

Last Sunday, I made a short journey to the town of Hillsboro, TX to serve as a supply priest for a small congregation of faithful Episcopalians. It also happened to be the First Sunday of Lent. It also happened to be the first Sunday after the latest incident of mass murder in the United States.

As I did not know the congregation that I was serving on Sunday, I chose to preach a sermon that addressed the question of guns and violence by way of metaphor. I wanted, no, I needed to say something about the issue of guns in the United States on this particular Sunday. I needed to say something about it because I have come to the conclusion that absolute freedoms around gun ownership and the failure to regulate types of weapons available for private purchase and ownership are sins of our time.

Yes, you read that correctly. I believe that unfettered, unregulated  gun ownership is a sin. Continue reading

On Being a ‘Church of Reason’


The heat of the summer was continuing to up the ante yesterday as members of The Episcopal Church in Parker County began arriving for the launch team meeting.  The invitation to sit indoors with each other was welcomed as the temperature outside approached 100 F. In Texas, the heat of the summer is always a valid excuse for not doing something outside, and yesterday, it made for a perfect reason for us to be gathered together as we continue to build community one stitch at a time.

During our time together, we sat to consider some rather deep questions.  As we divided into two small groups, we considered questions like, “When you hear the phrase ‘Love your neighbor,’ what does it mean to you?” and “What does it mean to you to be made in God’s image?” and “What do you love most about your life?”  Each question was a question that invited us to think about our experience, our walk on this earth.  Each question also invited us to consider the action of God in our lives.

In the Anglican tradition, reason plays a rather large role in defining who we are as faithful disciples worshiping Father, Son, and Spirit.  To be a church of reason does not simply mean that we use our reason to make decisions in our lives.  We acknowledge that almost all people do that almost all the time.  The author and theologian Padraig O’Tuama wrote something similar to this in his book In the Shelter. (An incredible journey of narrative, theology, and poetry.) To have the ability to reason is to be human. We, as a species, tend to do what we believe is reasonable at the time. It does not always mean that our actions are just or that they are blessed by God’s presence; it does mean that we are using our God-given giftedness as a species to make decisions – good, bad, and ugly – in the business of getting on with our daily lives.

We can go about defining reason in any number of ways, but it seems that best way to understand reason is through experience. As creatures, we create ways of thinking that are specific to our experiences, shared and personal. The experience of our lives informs how we come to different conclusions and guides us in taking the next step. The experience of each person’s life informs us, guides us, and invites us. The experience that I have in life may not be exactly like any other person’s, but I can share my experience with others. I can look back over the arch of my life to take note of how God has been active in my life, and I can take the incredibly risky step of sharing my life experiences with others.  In opening up to others by sharing my life experience, by sharing when and where I have felt God’s presence, I enter into a state of vulnerability with others.

When I take the time to name the moments in my own life when I have experienced God’s active presence in my life, I am placing myself in a vulnerable place, and I am learning how to look for God’s presence.  In the act of naming these moments in my own life, I am sharing my experience of God, and I am learning how to listen for the moments when God has been active in another’s life. I begin to learn how to listen for those moments in the stories that others share with me, and I begin to be influenced not only by my own experience but also by the experiences of those that are in community with me. I begin to take on a posture of receptivity that is honed through the continued practice of listening for the movement of the Spirit in my life and in the life of my neighbors.

To be a church of reason is to be a church that looks for these moments in our shared lives of faith. It is to be a church that is willing to listen to the stories of those outside the church as we discern where God is moving in the context around us. It is to be a church that is learning how to help others name for themselves the moments that God has been present in their own lives. To be a church of reason is to be a church of experience, of openness, and of receptivity. Welcome to the Church as an institution of reason.

On Being a ‘Traditional Church’


It is well known that The Episcopal Church is one that follows a liturgical form of worship.  We hold up our tradition as one of the things that we love about our church because it connects with who we are as a tribe of Christians. We gather on Sunday mornings to worship together in the Holy Eucharist (also commonly referred to as Communion or the Mass), and we open the Book of Common Prayer to page 355 (or p. 328 if you prefer the traditional language) to enter into our Sunday morning worship.  No matter who you talk to in The Episcopal Church, if they have been in the church for any amount of time, they will know the form of worship that is used on almost every Sunday morning in almost any Episcopal parish throughout the church.  Even if a person is out of the country they could find an Anglican parish and enter into a worship service that is familiar.  The liturgy of the church is one of the chief ways that the traditional side of The Episcopal Church is embodied by everyday Christians seeking to encounter the Divine through common worship.

Just as any other Episcopalian out there, I love the traditional side of our church.  It is the side of the church that has kept me in the church for my entire life. I can go to worship on any given Sunday morning and encounter the divine through the same service week in and week out.  I know exactly what to expect when I walk in the familiar red doors of an Episcopal church, and I know that I will be able to worship God in a way that is familiar, that is embedded in the muscle memory of my body from years and years of practice.

The beauty that I find in the traditional side of our church is not simply the repetitive nature of our liturgy on Sunday mornings.  It is also that I can bring myself – no matter what state I am in – into that worship without having to cover up my current emotional state.  During the thick of the Hurricane Katrina response, I found myself going to church relatively often.  Though I was working 14-18 hour days for the Red Cross, I found a way to make my way to church because I needed words to help me fill the space that I did not have the vocabulary for.  I needed the words of the Book of Common Prayer to help me pray through my emotions. I needed the words of our liturgy to help bring my anger and my frustration before God.  I needed the liturgy to carry me forward in a time that otherwise would have completely consumed me.

The tradition of our church is one that runs deep through time having been handed down over centuries.  The creeds in our prayer book have been recited by Christians down through the ages since at least about the third century.  The shape of our liturgy is informed by a document dating back to the second century, and we continue in this ancient form of worship because we believe that the way in which we pray shapes the way in which we live.  It shapes the ways that we encounter others out in the world.  The traditions of our church help us to remain connected in the togetherness of Christian community across our church in the contemporary era and across the church catholic throughout the ages.  The traditional side of our church helps us to remember the ways in which we have sinned and the way that God redeems us through the gift of grace.  The tradition that I inherit helps me to navigate the path of faith as I walk it alongside others that worship next to and with me through the prayers of common worship.  The tradition helps us to experience the togetherness that invites us as a community and as individuals to discover the revelatory power of the Spirit in the here and now.

The tradition of The Episcopal Church is not simply found in the vestments that are worn during worship services or whether or not we use incense in a service or if we are low-church or high-church.  It is found in the antiquity of the prayers we pray each and every week; it is found in the connectedness of the Body of Christ praying similar prayers across the globe on Sunday morning; it is found in the knowledge that the saints that have gone before us prayed the same prayers in their own time and in their own languages.  The togetherness of the Church, the tradition of the Church is found in this reality – the Body of Christ coming together to pray the words of ancient prayers that transport us to the heavenly realm made real here on earth through the mystery of the Holy Eucharist.  Welcome to a traditional church.