Tuesday, February 25, 2014
This Thanksgiving, my mother set a table for 38 people including 4 generations and many religious identities: United Methodists, Disciples of Christ, Baptists, Reform Jews, Conservative Jews, Humanist Jews, Hindus, a Buddhist from all over the country and world. Everyone had a seat at one table stretching the room from end to end. My parents built this room for the express purpose of extending hospitality and they call it the "great hall" because it is great to have this many people in one space. This is the room where the Christmas tree stands, where birthdays and milestones are celebrated, where a disco ball hangs each New Year's Eve and many an adult has abandoned all shame and donned a Halloween costume. It truly is a great space, made greater this year by a new festival celebrated in its walls: Hanukkah.
I also hold hope for a wonderful opportunity that is happening tomorrow, Wednesday, February 26 at 6pm at Belmont UMC. Bishop Talbert is coming to speak about Biblical Obedience - as in love, really love everybody, really everybody. He will speak about radical love and hospitality, as he has done throughout his ministry, even if that means bucking the system and breaking the rules. I hold on to the hope his words and presence brings because I also hold suffering.
The United Methodist denomination is struggling with who is lovable and worthy of God's love, who is included and excluded, who has rights and who does not have rights. This debate brings up that hot passion of anger in me especially when I see this article posted on Facebook and "liked." The president of Uganda just signed a law that makes homosexuality a punishable crime and he based this decision on very bad science. He used strong words of judgement and condemnation that challenges my hopefulness. I fear for the people of Uganda and am saddened by this support of bigotry.
Recently, I've read that hope is not an emotion, it's a practice and a behavior. Brené Brown writes in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, that hope is a behavior that comes out of the perseverance through adversity. The UMC has known adversity before. They've known division and in-fighting. The church once debated over the biblical validity of slavery and women's rights and segregation. We persevered and we have hope. In many parts of the world, Jews and Muslims are enemies. Here in Nashville, we have hope for peace and reconciliation. UM bishops and pastors are breaking the rules and loving radically.
In the words of Wendell Berry, "be joyful, though you have considered all the facts." Today, I will be joyful and hopeful.