Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Thanksgivingkkah (long overdue post)

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.

So much hope, yet such a long road to go

This morning, I hold in balance hope and suffering. I just read this article my husband left open on my web browser this morning that makes me beam with pride for my local Jewish community. Featured in the main image is a cousin of my husband who is showing her Muslim sister radical love and hospitality. Our neighboring community of Murfreesboro is struggling with showing mere tolerance for the Muslim community trying to worship there and even recognizing their very American right to do so freely. The Jewish community of Obahai Shalom, a reform congregation led by Rabbi Schiftan, recognized this injustice and acted with compassion and neighborly love. In an effort to show solidarity as minority communities, the two are talking to one another, listening to one another, visiting one another and loving one another. What I see when I read this article is loving kindness and it fills me with hope.

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.