I’ve done it in the car. I’ve done it in a restaurant and on a boat. I’ve done it in the bedroom. I’ve even done it in the sanctuary of a church! Today, I saw someone else do it while hiking the snowy alpine trails of Mt. Hood.
I heard the young couple before I rounded the bend with its cluster of shrublike trees. I recognized the sound of people enjoying a private conversation. As the couple came into view, I witnessed a shared kiss — a peck really — between the two women.
This should be unremarkable and certainly not blogworthy. People kiss everyday. People, especially young people, kiss in public places and I don’t give it a thought. But I was disturbed by this experience. The kiss itself didn’t bother me but the look on the young woman’s face when she saw me has stuck with me. On her face I saw the surprise of being witnessed. Her expression revealed concern, maybe even fear of my response. I smiled what I hope was a reassuring smile and nodded my head as I continued on my way.
Driving away from the trailhead, I played her expression and response through my mind. I felt angry at a culture that would make someone fear kissing the one she loved. I felt ashamed at my own Christian faith that too often implies the love of these two young women is sinful or repulsive. Love is never repulsive. Love is never something to be discouraged but something that should be encouraged. Love is the language of the divine.
In my passionate musing about the encounter, the divine spirit renewed my resolve to lead my rural, eastern Oregon congregation to officially and publicly become open and affirming of people “of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.” (1) The love represented by this couple’s kiss is sacred and should be celebrated.
I smiled. Once again I met God on the sacred mountain.
I’m sitting at the kitchen table in the parsonage having just finished my lunch. The tears stream from my face as I listen to the reports from Connecticut. The faces of our own children, fresh in my mind from the Winter Concert last night, flash through my mind. What if? What if it were my child or your child or my yet to be conceived grandchild? I wonder. Then I attempt to shove that awful thought deep inside but it just comes out in tears.
This is an unspeakable tragedy. We are biologically hard-wired to protect and care for our young. The reality, however, is that we cannot always do so. When something like this happens we feel shock at the event and we feel empathy and compassion for all those involved. Sometimes we feel anger at the perpetrator.
Now is the time for each of us to pause and to pray. When you feel the gift of tears and shock at such a heinous act, pause and pray. Ask for God’s peace for those involved. Ask for God’s peace for yourself. Rail against God that it happened if that is how you feel. God loves you and knows your feelings.
I am convinced that God is weeping and sobbing with us over this tragedy. We serve the One who loves extravagantly, the One who came as a baby, and the One who overcomes even death. Though this shooting is NOT the will of God, our love for one another is a sign that even evil cannot destroy good. The God we know has those teachers and those babies wrapped in God’s loving arms even now. The love of God in Jesus Christ will always win.
And because the realm of God on earth is not yet complete, because it still unfolds in this broken, fragmented world, hug your child a little closer today. Smile at the stranger. Forgive that which we may not have forgiven yesterday. For when we do these small kindnesses — and bigger kindnesses — we are participating in God’s unfolding realm. Be Christ’s love. With God’s help love will overcome even death in an elementary school.
God of Life,
We ache. We are outraged and angry. Who shoots school children?!!?? We know that those killed are in your arms now. We know that you sob with those who are mourning. We know that you never will this kind of thing to happen. Heal all those directly and indirectly effected by the tragedy today. We pray for the souls lost including the perpetrator. In your wisdom and grace touch us and help us to do your will in each and every moment. Help us to be your love. Amen.