Two weeks ago was Coming Out Sunday in the United Church of Christ, and I didn’t want to completely miss the opportunity for us to celebrate our having become an Open and Affirming Congregation in 2003, a process led here by Committee Chair Josephine McNeill. There are now 1863 ONA congregations in the UCC—we are Number 336, I think. And very close in timing to the Congregational Church in Needham where I gave their kick-off sermon for their Open and Affirming process in 2001.
In the United States we have gone from the barbarity committed upon Matthew Shepherd, beaten, tortured, and left to die near Laramie, Wyoming, on the night of October 6, 1998, to Marriage Equality in the United States in 2015—. You could call that a huge distance to cover in a short 17 years, maybe. But really, it had been too long, much too long for reason to have finally prevailed.
Well, after all, reason had to prevail over the Bible, so it was a tough slog for twenty centuries. But, I should rather say, reason had to prevail over biblicism, reason had to prevail over the fetishizing of isolated scraps of scripture to support socially and irrationally determined taboos. It helped a lot that President Obama publically modelled the natural process of “catching up” that comes with learning from experience and relationships about things deeper than prejudice.
Then this week there comes onto the stage two strangely opposed Christians on this very subject—Pope Francis has announced his support for same-sex Civil Unions although he is head of a church that opposes recognizing gay people at all, and Amy Coney Barratt could be headed into the Supreme Court with her religiously based anti-gay stance (as well as a religiously based anti-reproductive rights stance) that violate the tenets of impartiality and blind justice.
So, today I want to direct our attention back to the Bible and see where we might reliably turn for guidance about sexuality, every sexuality, all sexualities—because there actually is good news from the Bible on the subject of sexuality. Paul Ricoeur, the French philosopher and theologian, once sagely and with only a little irony, extolled sexuality as “the domain of all the difficulties, all the spiritual gropings, the dangers and dilemmas, the failure and the joy” in human life! (1964). And yet all told, together with its dangers and dilemmas and its failures and joys, to think about sex is to think about love, and to think about love means reading the Book of Love, and I mean the Bible in which it is proclaimed in nearly every chapter that God is love.
Personally, I do believe, sex is nature’s way of leading us to God. While for some that journey may be instantaneous, for others it can take a lifetime, or even—tragically—take one’s life for failing to find God. Sharon Olds, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet put it this way once:
How do they do it, the ones who make love without love? They are beautiful as dancers, gliding over each other like ice-skaters over the ice. How do they come to the God, to the still waters, and not love the one who came there with them? In their religion, they love the priest instead of the God. They are like great runners: they know they are alone with the road surface, the cold, the wind, The fit of their shoes, their over-all cardiovascular health. They commingle with factors, like the partner in bed, and not the truth.
Basically, we are all just babies—the body craves touch and everybody needs to be held and dandled. But something tells us that sexuality is about more than sexuality, that the pleasure of it, great as that is even when mixed with dangers and dilemmas, leads us into a mutuality and a reciprocity and an intimacy which makes life not just three- but four-dimensional. Many are the people who have not succeeded in reaching this state, only to occupy a desolate solitude of a lifelong duration. Take the movies of any era, like my own, which chronicle the lonely path—Carnal Knowledge, Alfie, Midnight Cowboy—each a contemporary version of the Don Juan legend of a living, and a literal, death.
This emotional poverty only ends when a person finds he or she is not just obeying a natural reflex anymore but is speaking a language without words, articulating through gesture and touch and response the message contained in the same gestures and touches and responses of another person. This emotional poverty only ends when we decide to stay with it, to stay with someone long enough for a personal contact to occur and, when permanent, be long enough for a human relationship to be perfected. But for love to really succeed, for sex to succeed, requires faithfulness, fidelity.
And so we have to come back eventually to the Bible where the principal divine attribute is faithfulness, fidelity—it is what Yahweh proffers to Israel and what Yahweh expects of Israel, a relationship that, in several places in the Old Testament, is actually described in terms of a sexual relationship, so closely is God and sex and faithfulness correlated. When applied to human sexual loving, fidelity will leave us breathlessly saying, “Ain’t love divine!”
As a minister, I was for marriage equality, among other reasons, because I said the church should not stand in the way of any two people who want to promise fidelity and a sexually exclusive relationship to each other. Given the misogynistic track record of heterosexual men, which I learned about in locker rooms, casual conversation, through the lore of American masculinity, and, say, John Updike’s novels, I didn’t see where marriage equality and gay rights would fare any worse.
On the contrary, GLBT couples seeking legalization and blessing of their unions implicitly uphold a model that heterosexual culture could only benefit from. But I just wished that Americans could relax a little and take life in the way the French do when they say, “Chacun a ses sexes”—or, to each according to their sexual inclination (today we would say, orientation).
At the same time, we also have to acknowledge how the human enterprise has been engrossed since nature graduated from asexual to sexual reproduction in mastering the daily consequences of our sexual lives, namely, controlling fertility, avoiding disease, and evading the detection of our utter heedlessness of persons—who is to say when these are tragic, or comic! And whose personal histories were ever free of sexually caused calamities?? The biology of sexual desire is so over-determined and overpowering that it has taken all kinds of religious and societal and familial and even totally invented prohibitions to prevent the runaway horses of our stage-coach from rushing over the cliffs! Fortunately, we survive most of our sexuality’s dangers and dilemmas and find love itself.
All of which belongs under the umbrella of individual privacy, until the day—the great day— when two individuals want to make public their personal covenant, and that’s called marriage. At that point begins real freedom, the real journey of two companions who daily break bread at their conjugal table as they seek together to solve the perplexities of their own personalities as well as of their marriage. We say in the church, let no one put asunder what God has joined together (Mark 10:9), for hereinafter God opens the path to discovery and true freedom.
This whole time we’ve been speaking about a mystery, something much more appropriate for myth, and poetry, song and chant—we must never forget that and we must remember to turn to the poets. And yet a politics follows from this mystery which should be go like this: all couples must be admitted to love’s devotions notwithstanding the obstacles of prejudice and fear and hate and biblicism—I celebrate the LGBTQ community and wish you God’s blessing, in the name of our Creator and Redeemer and the Holy Spirit.
My prayer for you, and all of us today, is that you may find it true that love like this is possible, a love that never gives up, that cares more for the other than for self, that doesn’t want what it doesn’t have, that doesn’t take what isn’t given, that never forces itself on the other. May you share a love that doesn’t fly off the handle or keeps score or revel in anyone’s abasement. May you find a love which looks for the best and keeps going to the end.
So finally I share with you this morning a view of Eliot’s fresh new Rainbow Flag that will be displayed on the façade of your church as a sign of God’s blessing, as soon as equipment and the correct man and woman power become available!
Elizabeth L. Windsor, DMin October 18, 2020 The 20th t Sunday after the Day of Pentecost Micah 6: 6-8 Philippians 4: 4-8
I spent this past week preparing for today’s worship service, knowing that in-person early voting would begin yesterday in Massachusetts. I knew what scriptures, hymn and litany I wanted to use. But I began my preparation for the sermon by researching of all things, etiquette.
There is a well-known trope that “religion and politics should not be discussed in polite company.” I searched Emily Post and Miss Manners as well as several Victorian writings on etiquette to discover why. The most succinct explanation I found comes from a blog called The Modern Man. The author Jean-Marc writes, “People maintain that religion and politics are topics that should never enter polite, civilized conversation. People often feel so strongly about these areas that things can become heated very quickly, sometimes descending into unpleasantness.”
Well, that seems reasonable – polite people don’t want to make things unpleasant for others, and most polite Christian people don’t either. After all, as church historian Dr. Diana Butler Bass writes in a recent piece, “I suspect we can’t talk about religion and politics because we equate “faith” and “public life” with triumphal partisanship, with yelling more than reason and prayer, and, of course, with winning and losing. When it comes to religion and politics, conventional labels have come to mean less than how certain spiritual themes shape the [body politic]: irony, humility, lament, charity, forgiveness, generosity, neighborliness, hope, hospitality, justice, and compassion.”
And it is not just in public that Christians shy away from discussion politics and religion; we do the same in our churches. “No politics from the pulpit” is something preachers are often told, this one included. But is politics – the way societies organize themselves and live together – off limits for the Church in a democracy?
The late New Testament scholar and theologian, Marcus Borg was convinced that Christians who follow the Bible MUST be engaged in the politics of the world in which we live, “Taking the Bible seriously should mean taking politics seriously. The major voices in the Bible from beginning to end are passionate advocates of a different kind of world here on earth and here and now . . . In a democracy, politics in the broad sense does include how we vote . . . [We] are called to take seriously God’s dream for a more just and nonviolent world.”
Neither the Bible nor the Church tells us for whom to vote, and I am not advocating that they should. But our tradition and the Bible give us very clear criteria Christians should apply when making our decisions to vote for or against either a person or a ballot initiative. We heard some of those criteria in the Scripture read this morning. In the passage from Micah, the prophet makes his case against corrupt political and religious leaders who exploit the people of God. He tells these publicly pious self-serving leaders that all the sacrifices of the Temple will not make their practices holy or acceptable to God. Instead, Micah reminds the leaders that God requires only three things from them: “Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God.”
Paul’s letter to the Philippians is written from jail. A political prisoner, Paul believes he is about to be put to death for treason (and he eventually will be). Yet, in this letter, Paul instructs the church to continue living as disciples of Jesus with these powerful and hopeful words: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
It may seem naïve to apply these teachings to our political life right now. “Truth” doesn’t seem to matter much. “Justice” is only for some people. “Mercy” is in short supply. “Humility” seems beyond our reach, and there doesn’t seem to be much that is “worthy of praise.” We are overwhelmed by all that has gone wrong and it is hard to find enough space to “think about these things.”
It is easy to feel discouraged and wonder if our votes will even be counted. But as I watch the lines of folks waiting to vote around the country on the news, I am reminded of something the Rev. Dr. William Barber III said to Chris Hayes’ on the “Why Is This Happening?” podcast in July of 2019. As we prepare to vote, I take courage from Rev. Barber’s prophetic words – you can hear the echo of Paul’s words: “You have to make one decision. Do I stand here and die? Do I shrink back? Or do I believe that some things are so precious, some things that are so loving, some things are just and true that even if it means fighting with my last breath, I’m going to fight for them and I’m going to win, because I am either going to do one of two things. I am going to win or I am going to sow the seeds of the victory to come.”
As Christians, our votes are our testimony to our belief in the Beloved Community and the Peaceable Kingdom revealed in Scripture. Dr. Butler Bass insists “[politics and religion] are things we must talk about. And if we don’t talk about them, it will be the moral death of us.”
So this election season, I invite you to ponder these scriptures as you think about how you will cast your vote. Talk with neighbors, family and friends via phone, text or Zoom or Facebook or Twitter about your faith and what it means to you in choosing for whom and for what you will vote.
Pray for our nation. If you are looking for prayers to help you pray, you can find them on the Eliot website and our Face book page. I can also send them to you daily via email.
Dr. Butler Bass concludes a recent column with these words: “Do pray. Offer public prayers, prophetic ones, private ones. Polite ones, challenging ones, angry ones. Ones that bless, others that call down justice. Every single prayer is welcome. All are needed. And don’t worry about [religion] being political. It always is.” Amen.
My text is from 2 Samuel 12:1-14, and from John 12 where Jesus says, “The truth shall make you free.”
The historical baseline for this sermon on Indigenous Peoples’ Day weekend is King Philip’s War, so-called, considered the bloodiest war in US history, on a per capita basis, between the English colonists against Metacomet and his nation in 1675-76 in this very region.
1. START. David wanted Bathsheba, killed her husband, and took her. The first son died, but the second one, Solomon, became king himself and built up legendary wealth.
A great parable this is for American history.
What King David saw in Bathsheba, the colonial settlers saw in the vast continent spread out before them—namely, freedom without responsibility, emancipation from social constraints, realization of the male prerogative—there was rich soil for an abundant harvest of whatever you want so badly.
That’s what settlers saw as the frontier moved forward, past the Massachusetts woods, past the Connecticut River, the Hudson River, the Delaware and the Ohio Rivers, past the great Mississippi River and beyond. The pioneers were the foot soldiers before there was law and order, who broke and invaded the ground and “settled” the West, that is, to make it fit for European habitation.
It’s breathtaking, the sweep of the pecuniary harvest at a time when “law and order” was employed to control everybody but speculators who went about realizing our wildest dreams of lucre and pleasure.
After 400 years, and through the advancing frontier, today the theme of “law and order” we are hearing so much about from certain quarters is being invoked by people in power, again and true to type, who actually don’t want it applied to themselves. The refrain of “law and order” goes back a long way in human civilization because of the universal need to keep violence in check that was used to secure food, shelter, family—and fortunes.
Other than love, there’s nothing more personal than violence and, therefore, nothing more fundamentally threatening to us. Everyone wants to live out our lives in health and tranquility and keep the wolf from the door—that’s how cities grew and walls were built around them, and how nations and empires came to be, including our empire which has 800 military bases in 70 countries around the world.
The American situation today was born from the collision of the colonists with a wild continent both stimulating and fearful to them, a land whose natural assets required law and order to be imposed on everyone but me. The “Indians,” which is what the colonists called the occupants of this “empty” continent, were the only obstacles to those riches.
The Massachusetts Bay Colony (Boston) founded in 1630, in order to remove impediments to clearing the forests and their occupants, used our own laws and courts against the Wampanoag nation, who were being educated through the schools created for them, including a special program for them at newborn Harvard College. The Boston colonists were the first to earn the expression that the White man speaks with forked tongue, by manipulating English “law and order” in the service of extirpating the subhuman population.
An important part of the story, however, is that while the “Indians” inspired fear, they also inspired a certain envy in the newcomers, especially in the male subconscious as they could not help but witness the liberty with which the Indian communed in nature, because they perceived the spirit of the hunter and the physical grace that came with that.
The “savagery” of the savages was paradoxically both repellent and attractive for its promise of freedom in the wilderness life which the colonists wanted on our orderly terms—legal, cultural, religious—a contradiction in terms that has us working at cross purposes with ourselves all these years.
One particular tactic of the colonists was to convert the native Americans to Christianity—to set about saving their souls from damnation and civilizing them in order to make them subservient to colonial needs. Thereby, the colonists established a psychic homestead in native heads which ultimately proved fatal to the Indian populations because it drove a wedge between the different tribes and the different families of those tribes.
Our John Eliot was part of this colonizing of the mind—his mission began right nearby, preaching a Calvinist deity to believers in Father Wisdom and Mother Earth.
A variation on this story took place on Cape Cod and the Islands where that branch of the Wampanoags were evangelized by a more “ecumenical” variety of Christian missionary (who came from Plimoth colony, not Boston) and so, when it finally came to the bloody war in 1675, they took the side of the English against the mainland Wampanoags.
The literature on this subject is now vast, and the conclusion is impossible to miss—John Eliot operated, albeit humanely, out of the same aggrandizing assumptions as his iron age society facing a stone age people; nevertheless, those assumptions fated a brief experiment in coexistence to succumb in short order to the logic of conquest.
2. STOP. King David committed murder for the sake of his adulterous affair with Bathsheba. But his violence against a man and a woman and against his God came in for a reckoning through the ministrations of the prophet Nathan who cleverly made Yahweh’s righteous expectations plain to David. A moral law straight from the spirit world brought David to face his own sin—inconvenient, but liberating—without truth there can be no order.
Who was there to bring a reckoning to the colonists as we converted, harassed, attacked, and extirpated the native peoples? The colonists had no prophet Nathan to our King David, except Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams (she kicked out of Boston and Williams expelled from his Salem church), both of whom exiled to the region he renamed Rhode Island and Providence where they defended and took the side of the Indians.
The colonists had no authority beyond their sponsors in far-off England to account to, except experience itself. At one point in the war, actually, a day of fasting and prayer was declared by the clergy when everybody came to the realization that they had become the brutes that they thought they were sent by God to fight. In the midst of the war, that they had discovered they were no different—the preachers cried out how they had become like their enemies and deserved the judgment of God.
The prophet Nathan in effect came, but nothing changed, and in the short and brutal one and a half years from 1675-1676, the Indians had been driven out, leaving barely a trace of their former civilization and way with Nature. 3.THINK. How do we take in this history, and what do we do with it, standing here a mile from Nonantum, 350 years later? (Newton is a contraction of Nonantum.) What is to be “done?”
The history can’t be changed, but we can change ourselves. The first step is always confession. You can’t do that often enough, though many like to say, once is enough.
Samuel Sewall, one of the “hanging judges” in the Salem witch trials, stood in the midst of the Sunday morning congregation of Old South Church once a year thereafter to repeat publicly his role in condemning the accused in Salem to death.
To what would we be confessing? That our society is captive to a frontier mentality, to which you can directly trace our fights over climate change, gun control, Wall St. regulations, women’s rights, reproductive rights, gay rights.
Having compared the President to Samson last week, which showed the unreliability of flexing your own muscles, I will resist the temptation to compare him with King David. However, we could wish that a visit from some prophet today would levy the heat of Yahweh’s righteousness upon the President’s soul that would result in his saying, as David did, “I have sinned before the Lord.”
Instead, I want to draw a different parallel, because we are King David’s heirs, and Solomon’s heirs, who sit upon riches made on a genocidal policy. To confess means to say publicly we know the truth, and so saying we are able to be held accountable, to repent and without which no one is able to reform.
So on this particular weekend, we must confess that we still make decisions as if our mother Earth and our own immediate environment, will continue to yield us sustenance and profits without side effects.
4. SPEAK. 1. We could make our confession once a year, too, on our own property, on Thanksgiving just as they will be doing in Plymouth again for the 51st time. Maybe we need to renew the prayer and fasting of the Mass. Bay Colony to acknowledge the horror we feel at having become the brutes we thought we were putting in their place.
2. Open a conversation between the John Eliot Church of Nonamtum with the Wampanoag nation—study the history of the partial remediations made over time and learn from them where to go from here. The hunger felt because of the pandemic disproportionately among native populations is an illustration—hence our special offering today: Neighbors in Need.
3. Co-write the letter with our four UCC congregations letting the City of Newton redesign its Seal. I will bring such a proposal to LC next week. And note the name change at Plimoth Plantation to Plimoth-Patuxet to honor their 400th anniversary 1620-2020.
4. Justice Thurgood Marshall gave us our orders—“Speak out.” So, don’t just stand there, Eliot pillars and steeple: say something. That’s my very message to the Art(iculation) Mob. We have the whole exterior of this property (originally belonging to the native Americans)—it is essentially mute (like every other beautiful Congregational meeting house on our New England village squares). Can’t we get some money, form a jury of professionals, commission an artist, and erect a monument that acknowledges our history? Look at the message the Monument to Forgiveness by Danish sculptor Francis Jansen (attached) sends. It stands now at the foot of the 1000 mile-long Trail of Tears at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma (go to www.graceinstone.com). We have our own memorial in our stained glass panel at the rear entrance of the Sanctuary to consider in that light. Of course, we will have other ideas and craft our own message and form for it. But let’s be thinking about this on Indigenous Peoples’ Day!
If we Stop, and Think, and then Speak our confession, we thus lay the foundation necessary for reforming our national attitudes and policies toward Native Americans. As someone said, the truth will make us free, but first it will make us mad as hell. We will be reminded of Christ’s gospel that true freedom is seeking the freedom of others. May it be so!
We are following the theme of strength, how much we need strength, how hard it is to come by when we most need it. Christ’s power is that he has no power. When you have no recourse left, at the end of the road, but to lift your eyes to the hills and ask, where on earth am I going to get help, where on earth will I find any more strength to go on, you will be faced with a choice. One kind of choice is to clutch at any straw—assert your power any way you can to survive. Daily life buries in the world’s wake myriad such decisions—it is the way of the world, and no one in the world would begrudge you, certainly not when the evictions start rolling in earnest. Another choice is to summon up your lifetime relationship to God, who ultimately will not let your foot be moved or allow the sun to smite you by day nor the moon by night. This poetic language of Psalm 121 is to say, you can depend upon God, not for rescue, but to be your inner strength. Though Samson was a strong man, in the natural sense, his real strength arose from his dedication to God—he was singled out from birth to fulfil a divine mission. In the story this morning about Samson’s first “feat of strength,” Samson tears the young lion apart which attacked him—it was out of self-defense, but this was not the purpose of God’s gift to him—Samson misused that power. When we learn from the rest of the story that God’s mission for him is to eliminate the Philistines, we understand that many of Samson’s other feats are wanton showing off. Although it was his conventional strength that got Samson into trouble, as his story unfolds, it was his inner strength that got him out, in the mortal fashion that it finally came to be—when, after a long captivity, he finally pulls down the temple roof onto 3000 of the enemies’ heads, and upon his own. Whence cometh my help, whence cometh my strength? We can be pretty sure this was Jesus’ plea in Gethsemane, in Pilate’s custody, on the Via Dolorosa, at Golgotha. Such was the question Jesus was asked by his captors when they jeered for him to ask his God to rescue him. Of course, Jesus couldn’t be rescued, much as obviously he would wish. What strength did Jesus have? Jesus’ strength was that he had no strength—he lived his whole life in right relation to God, from which he gained all the strength he would have or need, come what may. A name for that strength is “love,” which is a puny word next to the reality, but we will use it anyway. Jesus embodied, and lived, perfect love, which is to say he lived knowing and accepting the ways of the world and loving it as it is. The perfection of Christ drives some people crazy—what was perfect about him was his love. We don’t know much about other aspects of his life and don’t need to. But his perfect love was plain to see, although this love has seemed intolerable to bear for certain other people throughout history. For them, it hasn’t been enough just to ignore Christ; it was necessary to deny Christ’s love, to repudiate it and to crush others to disprove it. I do not speak of the Jewish response to Christianity, because what they rejected was that Jesus was the Messiah. Atonement for Jews results from public confession, contrition and reform, for which Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, was ordained by the everlasting mercy and lovingkindness of God. I refer rather to the very different instances in history when Christ was denied through explicit inversions of Christ’s love. An example? Like the Black Mass of the Middle Ages. When every symbol in the Latin Mass was turned on its head, Christ’s perfection was not being ignored, it was denied through performances of its opposite. A modern example? The Dracula cult movies in which every part of the Christ story is mirrored negatively in the actions of the vampire—as when Dracula seeks a continuous resurrection through an unholy love sealed in the blood of the victim. The love of Christ repels the vampire—this love must be manifestly denied with the assertion of its opposite. In the Dracula story, good and evil are emblematically inseparable—there is great good and great evil, but which is which? Because it’s the difference between evil that looks good, and evil that looks evil. We know the Devil when we see him—ugly, grotesque, threatening, maybe with horns and a tail! On the other hand, in the gothic world, evil is appealing, seductive, slightly but not totally mysterious, and always mistaken for the good which we desire—Dracula’s powers bring captivity not freedom, his kind of love brings restlessness not peace. Let me give you a more contemporary example of an inversion of Christ’s love—QAnon and other conspiracy theories which abound in this world today and are very worrisome. They warn that your real enemy is the government you depend upon, which harbors innocuous looking villains, like Hilary Clinton who “runs a child sex ring.” Adrienne LaFrance, the Executive Editor the Atlantic wrote in the June issue, “To believe in Q requires rejecting mainstream institutions, ignoring government officials, battling apostates, and despising the press,” and I would add—to believe in Q, by implication, requires denying the love of Christ. QAnon transforms nonexistent dangers into visible enemies where none exist, the antidote for which being armed preparedness. Conspiracy movements invent enemies to fear, which, if they actually existed, Christ would exhort them to respond with love. It inverts Christ—just calling someone an “enemy,” and it is the first step toward false self-empowerment, grasping at the straw of natural strength. In the ultimate inversion, Q followers embrace the evangelical Christian vocabulary—apocalypse, conversion, redemption through violence. LaFrance continued, “QAnon marries an appetite for the conspiratorial with positive beliefs about a radically different and better future, one that is preordained.” Abandoning conventional morality, it nevertheless adopts a para-Christianity as cover for the assertion of power over the imagined enemy. Suspicion and paranoia, vilification of the enemy, have taken possession of many Americans and replace what Christ offers as our only strength. What is it about love that makes some people so angry? We know, as the gospel shows us, perfect love casts out fear. But the fear exhibited by conspiracy theories reveals some need they have to deny love, for psychological reasons unknown—we struggle to understand where this phenomenon comes from. Disappointment with life’s imperfections and with love’s imperfections might have its origin in love lost. Something clearly converts their strengths into energies unmanageable and violent toward an unknown and unfulfilling end. The pain of a love lost may drive them to punish the world through scapegoats like immigrants, Jews and blacks—but the only thing punished is themselves. At least in gothic literature and movies like Dracula, the emotions get worked out, as Aristotle theorized, through the catharsis of the fictional drama—but in the conspiracy theories, they will not find catharsis, only self-immolation by the very power they misdirect upon others. These are the disillusionaries into whose hands America is increasingly falling. Now it’s finally time to tell you the full definition of that overused and under-rated word “Love.” The meaning of “Love” is that it is a synonym of Jesus. Look and see for yourselves, the gospel shows that normal human strengths are at times unequal to the forces of evil. The gospel is for us when we have reached our limit, as when Jesus looked down from the cross at the jeering crowd and said “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” The gospel is for us when we have reached our limit, when we raise our eyes to the hills in desperation. The New Testament was written for desperate circumstances, not for those who have security and want more. The strength of Christ is that he has no strength. We, who remain in possession of Christ’s love, can proceed with courage and joy into God’s turbulent world without fear. Amen. -Rev. Richard Chrisman