We live in difficult times. We are bombarded with bad news on too regular a basis. Last week in particular was one of those weeks. Last week I simply got overwhelmed with the pain, violence, and hurting of our nation. I found myself grieving and feeling helpless and hopeless in the face of our racism, gun violence, and mental illness. I have valued so many reflections (both grief and anger-filled) by friends and colleagues across the United Church of Christ. This is an anxious time. This is a time that challenges us to consider how we can make some sort of difference... I attended my home church on Sunday in New Haven seeking solace, community, understanding, and the need to somehow make sense of it all. My pastor, Rev. Shelly Stackhouse, reflected with both the children and then the adults from Sunday's lectionary text about the questions the lawyer asks Jesus who testified: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And then the lawyer asks Jesus: "And who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:25-37)
As a congregation we were invited into conversations with our pew neighbors about what we heard in that text and what it suggested to each of us about being a neighbor to one another. When it came time for prayer requests, a man (who had been worshiping with us for over a year) rose and testified that after 15 months homeless and living on the streets he had finally found an affordable place to live. He was so overwhelmed with gratefulness that our church and pastor had helped him in this lengthy process, had received him warmly, and had helped him turn his life around. His words testified to the power that we do have to make a difference - person by person, neighbor to neighbor, relationship to relationship. This man's testimony spoke to the power of the human spirit and the power of community to heal and make a difference and to bring hope. My yearning for you who read these words: if we do love God with all the love we can muster, if we do indeed love ourselves, then we can love others and make a difference. It is up to each of us to try... Go out in peace.
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