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Layman's Walk

My Home Away from Home

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It’s that time of year again. Two weeks on campus at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. As much as I will miss my loving wife and lively children over this period, I do love my time here.

As a “Distributed Learning” student (read: my classes are online most of the time), it’s very easy to listen to a recorded lecture, join an online video chat, or simply just do the assignments and move on to the next “thing,” whether that be work, family time, or another commitment.

But what I really miss out on is a sense of community. I find this to be a crucial thing. This is especially true given the nature of what I am pursuing. A typical person would easily look at what I am doing and call it foolish. And maybe it is, in the view of the world. But when I’m here with my cohort, my classmates, and friends, I’m reminded that there is a not only a great network of support, but many other people who are entertaining God’s call to ministry, to justice, and leadership.

These next two weeks will be a blessing. Being in a strong faith community and having the opportunity to explore Christianity through the lens of academia and leadership through the lens of Christianity is, frankly, awesome.

I wish more people could see the folks here. It is such a refreshing view of Christianity as compared to what is seen when some “Christian” is on the news or some “evangelical” is condemning a group of people, or even how Christians are portrayed in TV and movies.

This is a group of very imperfect people. We are no different than any other person. We swear, we get angry, we disagree. We oversleep, get cranky, saw things we regret. We also thoroughly enjoy life, as anyone else does. And a great number of us enjoy our pints down at the local pub (2 for 1 every day).

The only thing that is different is that we have a need, sometimes referred to as a “calling,” to share God’s love with the world. And its not a discriminating love, it’s not a condemning love, it’s not a “holier than thou” love,. It’s not saying “we’re better than you” or “you need to do this checklist, to be ‘saved’ (whatever that means).”

It’s a call to seek justice for those who have been denied it. It’s a call to love those who have been cast aside and shunned. It’s a call to help those who need it–not because they “deserve” it, but because they, too, are humans, children of God, just like we are. It’s a call to do what we can to bring God’s kingdom to our world in our time. It’s a call to love, and to encourage others to do the same.

These next two weeks will be inspiring as well as educational. I can’t wait to get started.


Layman's Walk

God is Love–and YOU are loved. Yes! YOU and ME too!!

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“Love makes the world go ’round.”

“All you need is love.”

“God is love.”

Stop and consider that for a moment:  God is Love.  This is the message in today’s reading from First John, and, in this person’s opinion, is one of the most powerful and beautiful statements in all of scripture.

“God is love.”

Only three words, but they contain so much.  Truly this must mean that if God “is” love, then all that God does is motivated by love–it is all done out of love.  From the creation of the universe to the giving of the Law to the sending of the Prophets to sending God’s own son, Jesus, to the works of God that occur in all the corners of the world today:  it is all done out of love because God IS love.

This also means that all things that are done in hate, spite, malice, jealousy, and fear are NOT of God, even when human beings claim that they are.  First Corinthians tells us that, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”  This tells us that anything contrary to this is neither love nor of God, because God is love.

What does this say about us as human beings?  In Genesis, we are told that humanity exists in the “image of God,” meaning that in some way, we resemble God.  If God is love, this means that humans resemble love.

And when we think about this, it makes sense.  It would be an impossible challenge to find a human who did not love at least one other person–even the most despicable among us in all of history loved at least one other person.  This highlights the duality of humanity–we are both good and evil, sinner and saint.  We are all screwed-up, yet, we are all capable of love.  Even in our human judgment that casts some as worse than others, we are all the same in God’s eyes:  flawed, failing, and in desperate need of love.

And if we are all capable of Love and we know that God is Love, that tells us something significant–that while not all people may consciously know God, be consciously seeking God, or even consciously believe in God, we are all still of God and made in God’s image–whether we believe it, like it, or care.  We still have the nature and spirit of God in us–because we LOVE.

If all people are created in love, capable of love, and undeserving of God’s love because of our nature (yet still recipients of it) it leads to another truth:  ALL are loved by God (because God is love).  If that is the case, how can a loving God (who is love) destroy or “damn” that which God created?

Surely, I claim correctly that Jesus is “The Way” and the only way to life–that none come to God except through him.  This is both right and completely true. Yet just as Adam caused the fall of all humanity and the separation of humanity from God, Jesus reconciled humanity–all of humanity–to God.

If we say, “So-and-so did something so disgusting and horrible!  How can that person be reconciled to God?”  If we say that and believe someone cannot be reconciled to God, then we diminish the power and righteousness of Christ’s sacrifice and death–and in doing so, we diminish God’s power and creativity.

(Yes, in our mortality–and morality, for that matter–it is appropriate to condemn and punish those who commit heinous crimes.  I am in no way defending them or advocating a light sentence for them in our world.  That is crucial to the continuation of our society.  I am only saying that I cannot “play god” with others in assuming I know how God will treat them ultimately at the end.  God promises to make me new and perfect–I can only justify that if God can correct the flaws in me, God can correct the flaws in all people–no matter how severe.)

It is also easy to look at scripture and see that “all who believe in Him will be saved,” and then say, “Well, so-and-so did not believe in Jesus when they died, so they must be clearly damned to hell.”  But this is also foolish!  Scripture also says that “every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”  If all people (tongues) will confess this–if all will eventually acknowledge Christ as Lord–is this not sufficient to meet the requirements of the prior?  Especially since this same scripture claims that “God is Love?”  Would God not desire to save all that God created?

Who among us–even after death–when faced with the almighty God, would deny Jesus–would deny God?  Where does this notion of belief in this life become the deciding factor?  It is easy to deny God in our world where God remains unseen, but how would one react when face-to-face?  Does it not make sense that a God that “is love” would do all that is necessary to save all of the creation that God created in love, for love?  Would that logically include a reconciliation when standing face-to-face with God?  Of course it does!!

Be happy, friends.  God is Love!  And as such, we are all called to show this same love to ALL whom we meet–regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or any other way in which we as humans like to classify ourselves.  We are ALL God’s children!  And a God who is Love will not abandon God’s children.  Have faith!  Love others!  And if you lack faith, keep loving others!

Love is all you need.

God is love.