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.

Silencing Another: The Violence of Word

In the on-goings of daily life, it is easy to get wrapped up into one’s self – to lose the ability to see how or when you have impacted another person’s life in a way that is far less than good.  It is ever so easy to find yourself in a place of doing a certain sort of violence to other persons without actually inflicting a single physical blow to another person, and yet, the person that is impacted has become the victim of this sort of violence.  It is the sort of violence that can easily go unnoticed, get swept under the rug, or simply blamed on the victim for being too sensitive or not being able or willing to speak up in the moment as a sort of self-corrective to the violence that is being inserted into the immediate reality.  It is the sort of violence that is created by simply using words while failing to pay attention to the impact those words have on another.  It is the sort of violence that enters into a room when a single person dominates others through interruption or by sucking up all the oxygen in the room thereby eliminating any chance of other persons to actually have a voice, to offer a creative thought, to give a new shape to the discourse (if one can call such a situation a discourse).  In this kind of situation, we find that the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” is without any meaning because it runs counter to our experience as human beings.

dreamstime_s_44570897The ultimate sadness of this sort of violence (and any violence, for that matter) is that it is equally as harmful to the perpetrator.  Even when they are not able to see the impact that they are having in a moment, the person is damaged by the violence they have created in a given situation.  They have limited the ability to have authentic relationship, to engage in the gifts of others, and to learn more about the hopes and desires of people around them.  The perpetrator is cut off, stranded, isolated on the shores of the island of arrogance.  Though the perpetrator is not necessarily forgotten, he or she is left out of the constructive reality of community.  He or she is left to continue blundering about in the world without any cause to rethink how they walk their life while others simply hope to minimize contact in order to avoid the stinging violence that comes with it.

Of course, the question is how can a person find redemption if the person is completely unaware of the violence that he or she is creating in given circumstances?  Is it possible for the person to be saved from the downward spiral of the vicious cycle?  Is the ultimate fate for the person the lost shores of the island of arrogance?  Or, is there another destination towards which the person can aspire?

Perhaps the good news is that all of us have persons in our lives that care so deeply for us that they muster up the courage to give it to us straight.  They find the courage to call us out for our own baggage, our own missteps, and grant us the grace of being confronted with our own fallen condition in order that we might be able to seek forgiveness and reconciliation.  The key to breaking the cycle, however, is to focus on creating the opportunity for that reconciliation in order that all persons might be transformed through the experience.  It is remembering that the focus is not on a punitive justice that simply mirrors the tragic realities of our society in the modern age.  It is remembering that God offers something much more transformative if we can open our ears long enough to hear it.  It is remembering that the purest victim of violence, Jesus Christ, goes to the cross in order to subvert violence, to offer us redemption through the violence that is inflicted upon him, and to invite us into a new way of being by following, as closely as is humanly possible, in his footsteps.

In his book Resurrection Rowan Williams writes,

“What is at issue is simply the transaction that leads to exclusion, to the severance of any relation of reciprocity.  It may be unconscious, it may be deliberate and willfully damaging, it may appear unavoidable; but as soon as such a transaction has occurred, God is with the powerless, the excluded.”1

It is in this moment, the moment of the transaction that leads to exclusion, that damage is done to every person involved – both perpetrator and victim.  The exclusion wreaks havoc on all parties as dignity is stripped away from the persons, and it is the moment to which the perpetrator must return in order to find the healing power of God’s love.  Williams continues by saying,

“And our hope is that he (God) is to be found as we return to our victims seeking reconciliation, seeking to find in renewed encounter with them the merciful and transforming judgement of Jesus, the ‘absolute’ victim.”2

Our hope is that by returning to the moment of our sin, to the persons that were impacted by that sin that we are able to find the judgement of Christ – a judgement that does not seek to condemn but to transform the reality of how we enter into relationships in our daily walks with each other.  Our hope is that we will be reminded, when we gaze upon the Cross, of our ability to slip so easily into the vicious cycle of violence.  Our hope is that we will remember that Christ went to that Cross in order that we might see the self more honestly and grow from those unadulterated glances in the mirror of God’s love.

Though being confronted with the ways that we fall (again and again) is never comfortable, it can always be healing if we seek the healing that Christ offers to us through the ministry of reconciliation.  Each time a friend has had the courage to speak truth to me, though it stings when I receive these particular truths, I am always thankful that someone cared that deeply for me.  I am always thankful when I am able to grow in my self-awareness, and I am always thankful when I am given the opportunity and the courage to say, “I am sorry.  Can you forgive me?”

  1.  Rowan Williams, Resurrection: Interpreting the Easter Gospel (United Kingdom: Darton,Longman & Todd, 2002), p.10.
  2. Ibid.

Daring to Cross Stormy Seas

Today’s gospel reading is something of a haunting passage to be reading in a week that is darkened by the senseless violence of a single man that held such hatred for African-Americans that he felt it necessary to go into a church, sit for an hour with a group of faithful disciples, and then to kill them with the precision of a firearm. And we think that we are beyond the conversation of racism and prejudice in America….perhaps not.

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

The gospel reading this morning starts with the disciples and Jesus journeying to the other side of the sea. For Mark’s first-century readers, they would have picked up on the clue that Jesus was going from Jewish territory and into Gentile territory. Jesus was, simply by going to the other side, breaking huge cultural norms and taking the good news of the gospel beyond the grey clouds of the storms of the first century. Instead of simply remaining in his own territory and consorting with the “proper” folks in the Jewish lands, he dares to go into a territory that has a different culture and is inhabited by people that are looked down upon. The storm in Mark’s narrative this morning is a metaphor for many different storms that were present during Jesus’ time, and Mark is using it as a way of illustrating how Jesus intended break through those storms in order to take the love of God out to all of God’s children. The story is not simply a story about the power and authority that Jesus has over creation, as exemplified in the calming of the waters but also is about God’s action in human history to reconcile humanity back to God. It is a story that is meant to propel us into the wild world in order to share that same love with other people. It is a story about the reconciliation of God to God’s people, and it is a story about our own attempts to be reconciled to each other. Continue reading