Invitation: Cross Words

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For me, one of the greatest delights in life is wordplay. I’ve heard puns described as the lowest form of humor, but a good pun – whether it’s good because it’s clever or because it’s painfully corny – always brings a smile to my face. My older nephew and I will spend and entire weekend of camping trying to out-pun one another. On my Facebook timeline I created a recurring hashtag for #typosthatshouldbewords. (Regreat? Something you’re sorry you did, but you did really well!) Every day I attempt the New York Times crossword puzzle then read the blog about its construction.

My love of crossword puzzles is handed down. On Sundays I would sit at my grandparents’ big kitchen table and do crossword puzzles with my Grandfather. Joint puzzle solving is a character-building experience. When I was young he was patient with me, letting me figure out (or leading me to) some of the answers he of course already knew. I learned relationships are built on give-and-take, and that you may have to wait a little for someone to understand what seems obvious to you.

Last Sunday was Pentecost, and the weekly scriptures included the story of the Holy Spirit, in the form of tongues of flame, descending on the disciples. Afterward, though they spoke many languages, they heard one another in their native tongues. That got me thinking about how we can use so many different words to mean the same thing.

And in turn, that got me thinking about how the same word can mean many different things.

“Love” is a good example. But I’m not talking about that that romantic versus Christian or agape sense of different kinds of love we hear about in sermons.

Several years ago some relationships at church led us to briefly becoming guardians to a teenager who was working some things out with his family. He and I grew close over several mission trips and years of tutoring, movies, cheap pizza, and long talks. We remained in weekly contact for many years. He’s now a father himself and though I see him less frequently, my affection has not waned.

One of things I learned was that “love” meant something different to him than to me. In my family the words “I love you” come easily (but not cheaply or thoughtlessly). Therefore, it felt natural for me to say “love you, buddy” when we parted or ended a phone conversation. He didn’t reciprocate, and I didn’t force the issue. Some people feel left hanging when they say “I love you” and the person doesn’t return it, but over time I’ve come to believe you shouldn’t say “I love you” if what you really mean is “I want to hear that you love me.”

Now he would say it when he was asking me for something inconvenient: “Can you take me to Game Stop [some 15 miles away]? I love you!” It was half jest, half unsuccessful emotional bribe. He’d also say it to girls he dated – in my opinion far too soon and far too often. I think those were more like hopeful little prayers though: “I want to hear that you love me.”

One day as I was dropping him off at his mother’s place, I gave him a hug and said “Love you, buddy.” I was surprised to hear “Love you, too” but I decided not to make it weird. In the moment, at least. The next time we saw each other I mentioned I had appreciated it. He told me he didn’t say it much because his father would make him say it back when he didn’t feel like it or mean it.

We had learned to solve life’s puzzles very differently. What an invaluable lesson in the power of how the intention and reception of our words can be so distant from one another.

Love-the-word had very different meanings for us, but we both understood love-the-feeling. When he trusted me to pull splinters out of his hand, or rode to summer school in my passenger seat in silent protest but never once defied me about actually going, or burped across the table at me in anticipation of how I would rate in on a ten-point scale, we both understood.

When we tell people Christ loves them, our intention may be distant from how they are able to receive it. Sometimes that distance may feel irreconcilable. Maybe they’ve been mistreated by the church and we represent pain. Maybe they’ve had struggles we can’t imagine and a loving God seems like an impossibility. The list of maybes is endless. Regardless of the reason, if they don’t respond in a manner we find acceptable, our reaction to that response tells us whether we are truly seeking to share the gospel … or seeking validation.

The Gospel is not delivered via scare tactic or data dump: it is delivered via relationship, sometimes in many installments over a long period of time. People need to – and should – get to know us before they trust or believe us. We shouldn’t be offended by that. Sure, you and I know we are coming from a place of love and honesty and feel defensive when someone questions that … but do you believe everything told to you by a stranger or acquaintance? “Actions speak louder than words” has become a tried old cliché for a reason.

Crossword clues can be intentionally misleading. That can be fun for the experienced puzzler, but frustrating for those who aren’t used to the conventions. If we want someone to understand love from the clues we’re dropping, it is more important that they be clear than clever.

If you invite someone’s into Christ’s love and they decline … invite them again a different way. Don’t guilt them. Don’t strong-arm them. Don’t dismiss them. Love them.

Take out their splinters.
Endure their moods.
Laugh with them about the things they think are funny.
Play with the words until they make sense.

As my grandfather grew even older and his thoughts slower, the puzzles became much easier for me than for him. It was my turn to sit at the table and  demonstrate patience, and it was easy because I’d had such a good example, who had shown me solving a puzzle together – whether it be about life, love, or the Hawaiian state bird – is about far more than the solution.

Wait for them, and let them wait for you.
Sit patiently at the table.

In the end, it’s not our words that persuade people of Christ’s love. It’s the limitless grace of God, the enduring nature of Christ’s table.

Not our words, but The Word.

You and I simply choose whether or not to love them enough to speak it in a language they can understand. “I want you to hear that Christ loves you. Let’s gather at this table and start that conversation.”

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Invitation: The Bow Lady

Every December, for about the last ten years, some friends and I spend a Saturday volunteering at a Christmas “store” run by a local church for families in need. Parents, grandparents, and guardians can select gifts for children and pick up a Christmas dinner while children do crafts and pick out gifts in another part of the building. Most volunteers are either wrappers or personal shoppers guiding the adults. Since I’m not comfortable starting conversations with strangers, and because I worked in a luggage and gift shop for years, I try to stick to the wrapping.
The first year there, I met The Bow Lady.

She was wrapping at the same table I was, but most of her efforts were concentrated on selecting exactly the right bow to go with the paper. Now every hour each table had to wrap dozens of presents that came in all shapes and sizes – from decks of cards to bicycles. The donated gift wrap was a mishmash of colors, styles, and quality and the bows tended not to stick very securely, if at all. Bows were not most volunteer’s highest priority. Sometimes, knowing they were going to fall off anyway, we just tossed a bunch into the bag to apply at home.

But The Bow Lady wanted exactly the right bow on every gift. Not just the ones she was wrapping, but on mine and everyone else’s as well. At one point she removed the bow from a gift I had just wrapped, and replaced it with one she thought looked better.

“Please don’t do that,” I said, feeling miffed.

She didn’t, but she kept making suggestions and nudging bows toward us before moving on to another table.

Over the years, The Bow Lady has remained consistent in her quest for the optimal bow for every gift. She never seems to stay at any table for too long. She doesn’t seem attached to any of the other little groups from the many churches and organizations who volunteer. I suspect she’s associated with the home congregation, but I’m not sure.

All I know is, she’s there every year insisting you could be better about your bow choices.

She hasn’t changed. But this year – about nine years too late – I have.

It occurred to me, I am somebody’s Bow Lady. I undoubtedly have habits and behaviors of which I am unaware that have irked people for years. Sadly there are also behaviors of which I am perfectly aware that seem baked into my fruitcake; they are unappealing, but I am as yet powerless to change them. Those are the ones causing that little bit of shame; a sense of not belonging. I don’t know whether The Bow Lady is aware of how her behaviors can annoy others, but it can’t be easy not having a table to call home.

All I know how to do is show up and be me, and The Bow Lady knows how to show up and be herself. And she has shown up. Faithfully. For ten years. It took me this long to realize the ministry of the Christmas store – like every ministry really – is about more than its stated mission. We can’t compartmentalize how we show Christ’s love to others. The Bow Lady is not an obstacle or quirk to performing the ministry, because every ministry falls under The Ministry. I need to love her better.

And please don’t get the idea I think it’s only me ministering to her. She has, for ten years, patiently asked me to be more thoughtful about gifts I am wrapping under the banner of Christ. Okay that one time it was not so patient, but never once has she been unkind. She is ministering to me also.

We are all showing up as ourselves, discontent but powerless against our own quirks and flaws, hoping to be accepted, and not as loving as we could be.

But there is a table we can call home. It’s Christ’s table. The gifts prepared for us on this table are perfect and timeless. Christ knows us – warts and bows and all – and welcomes us. And he asks us to welcome each other. Warts and bows and all.

If we can do at Christ’s table, we can learn to do it a little better everywhere. Every ministry is just part of The Ministry.

I hope The Bow Lady is there next December. I think Jesus would like it if I invited her to our table.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Invitation: Preemptive Strike

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Earlier this week, I had a brief exchange with a stranger on Facebook.

He’d made a comment claiming that he couldn’t talk to liberals because as soon as they learned he was a Republican, they accused him of being a racist, anti-gay, hateful, gun nut. I responded that I am a liberal Christian and didn’t make any of those assumptions about him.

He replied, “Good for you for not being like all the rest of them.”

I don’t think he saw the irony of defending himself against stereotyping by promoting more stereotyping.

I’ve had similar online and face-to-face exchanges with people who claim Christians do nothing but promote intolerance and then dismiss countless examples of charitable and loving efforts as “exceptions that prove the rule” – which, by the way, isn’t really what that phrase means.

Right now we live in an atmosphere that promotes division. It encourages us to assign one label to a person – conservative, liberal, Christian,  atheist, feminist, socialist, capitalist, whatever – and assume they possess all the attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs of the most extreme people who claim those labels.

That there is some lazy thinking, and even lazier loving. It gives us permission to stereotype and perceive ourselves as victims of stereotyping at the same time. It even recycles language formerly associated primarily with racism, such as “That Joe is one of the ‘good’ ones.”

This kind of thinking is not fair or welcoming. We can’t express it in our churches and homes and expect anyone to take us seriously when we say all are welcome at Christ’s table.

On the flip side, we shouldn’t assume others are thinking that way. If you suspect someone may want to judge or stereotype you because they identify as liberal or conservative, don’t preemptively do their job for them by being pre-offended. Let them do their own dirty work of exclusion. Or – better yet – be pleasantly surprised that they don’t hate you because you’re different.

There will always be some people who want to deliberately exclude or oppress others, and we will stand up to such injustice.  There will be many more people – myself included – who will always be in a state of learning about how we can better relate to and learn from our fellow human beings.

At Christ’s table, we manage to put our differences on hold for the duration of a single, communal meal. One bite, one sip. Whatever else is going on in our lives, we find common purpose and need at Christ’s table. Can we take that moment and expand it? Throughout the week, can we preemptively assume we will accept and be accepted? We very well might do so and be wrong, but otherwise we will miss every chance to be right.

May the peace of our lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Invitation: Resentment

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Today I’m angry with Jesus.

Not because of anything he did or didn’t do.
Not because of some disappointment or unanswered prayer.
Not because something bad happened to me or someone I love.

Though something terrible did happen in Charlottesville.

No, I’m angry with Jesus because he wants me to love people. People I can’t find lovable. People who use his name to justify their bigotry. People who hate – or, maybe worse, people who cynically brew a toxic mixture of fear and faith to to poison our hearts against each other.

My sincerely held belief that Christ’s table is open to all is at odds with my limited ability to love.

Being angry with Jesus sounds like a terrible thing for a Christian to admit, but maybe that’s where it needs to be directed. It’s easy to nod on Sunday morning when a minister says each of us helped drive those nails through Christ’s hands … easy to be part of a metaphor that says we all sin. It usually seems abstract. Yet today my knuckles are white from gripping the hammer so tightly.

I am not a fan of atonement theology, yet somehow I still believe in the redemptive power of the cross. I’ve often wondered how that can be. And today I think I get my first real inkling.

This anger isn’t going to simply disappear, yet Christ asks me to forgive and love and do good to those who would persecute me and those I love. So for now, for right or wrong, Christ has to absorb that anger so my mind and heart can be focused on figuring out how to love white supremacists enough to accept them – but never their hate! – should they show up to Christ’s table. I’m too human to not resent being asked to do that. My resentment is a cold, hard spike and it needs to be buried somewhere before I can move toward love.

And that, my friends, is exactly where I pierce the flesh of Christ.

That is where I finally understand how all that nodding on Sunday mornings has been so much lip service. How the cross is redemptive in a very concrete way.

This morning, my invitation to Christ’s table comes from an especially humble place. Who am I, bearing these nails and resenting my savior, to invite anyone? Yet I do, because I believe more than ever Christ’s table is the only place where all the pieces of this story make sense.

The invitation is not actually mine to offer. Christ has already done that. Perhaps the only way we can truly accept it is to pass that offer along when we least want to. For what but love will change us for the better?

All are welcome. All are welcome. God help us, all are welcome.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Invitation: Between The Lines

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When I was a kid – junior high and high school aged – I made money in the summers by mowing grass. I mowed lawns all over the neighborhood. In retrospect I undercharged, so that may have been why I had so many customers. Most places I used my own mower and gas. One day the husband of an older couple only two doors down from my house asked if I would do his lawn. He normally did it himself, but he was laid up for a few weeks because of a surgery. I hauled my mower over got started. Though they were on the same block, their back yard seemed really long, especially compared to other lawns I did. When I was done, he said: “You got everything, but those lines aren’t very straight.”

At the time I was a little confused. This wasn’t a ballpark. By the next afternoon the stripes wouldn’t even be visible. But apparently they were important to him. As a myopic thirteen-year-old with a push mower, those were about as straight as I was going to get them. He hired me a second time, and I slowed way down to get the lines straight as I could. In my mind, it was tedious and frustrating. When I was done it seemed markedly straighter than my previous effort and I asked him how I did. He shrugged and said, “A little better I guess.” I was deflated.

When he asked a third time, I thanked him but told him I had too many lawns to add another customer. To this day, I have no idea why straight stripes with less than a 24-hour lifespan were so important to him, but if I met my thirteen-year-old self I would tell him to stick with it.

In a weird pre-adolescent way, I felt unfairly judged. But in my own way I was judging him. After all, he did ask me back twice, and I was the one who severed the relationship, at least on a lawncare level.

To some people, it makes perfect sense that straight mowing stripes are important. To other people, they will never be important. We’re not going to understand each other on this controversial subject. Yet we all have to keep mowing.

We seem to get stuck on the idea that we have to understand each other to coexist peacefully. Certainly we should make an effort, but sometimes we just won’t. Sometimes we just need to agree the grass needs tending, and deal with each other’s quirks.

As we gather around Christ’s table, we’re not all going to agree on everything. We will feel very strongly about some of these areas of disagreement – we may even think they should be obvious to anyone calling themselves a Christian – but there are much bigger things we need to accomplish together.  Maybe when you’re recovering after surgery and I bring you a casserole, you would have preferred a salad. Maybe when you makes posters for the bake sale, I would have preferred stenciled letters over freehand. So what? In the end we’re working for the same cause.

During the Thirty Years War in the seventeenth century, Lutheran theologian Rupertus Meldenius wrote: “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.” You may have heard it attributed to Augustine … but let’s not make a thing out of it.

Our Essential is Christ’s table. Let’s start by gathering around it freely and charitably. We’ll work the rest out … or we won’t. The table remains.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Invitation: Fair

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Last weekend I attended our local county 4-H Fair. If, like me, you’ve never been an active participant in 4-H, the fair may be your only exposure to the organization. The fair is up for a little more than a week, and most of the vendors, rides, and attractions are part of a national circuit unrelated to 4-H. The heart of the fair – and the core of 4-H – beats in the exhibits of livestock, agriculture, arts, and skills demonstrated by young people who have worked hard all year to submit their entries. While 4-H has more members in urban and suburban counties, rural and farming communities have much higher participation rates.  American rural communities skew conservative in their politics and religion, but the organization itself focuses on values that cross the cultural divide.

For me this tolerance is most evident in the vendors exhibit hall. These groups are unrelated to 4-H, and while the organization doesn’t endorse any of them, it does have final say on who can or can not exhibit. Most of them are completely non-controversial, but you might also be surprised to find some of them under the same roof in Indiana. Local Democratic, Libertarian, and Republican parties all seem to think it’s a good place to recruit. A Right To Life group, The Gideons, and Planned Parenthood are all present. Event organizers are smart enough not to put them beside each other, but there’s room for all.

Nobody protests or taunts anyone. Everyone seems to understand we are there in common support for the youth and the program. The four Hs in 4-H stand for head, heart, hands, and health and for at least a week we manage to direct them toward the common good without betraying our values.

4-H is not a Christian organization, but it sure sets a fine example of gathering around the table. So many Christian congregations adopt a decidedly liberal or conservative stance – often based on the preferences of the pastor – that it doesn’t take long to figure out “All are welcome” really means “all are welcome … to be persuaded to our positions on social issues.”

Yet we can have wildly varying positions on many controversial topics and still be dedicated to Christ. Instead of splintering into narrower and narrower definitions of “acceptable” Christianity, maybe we could take a cue from 4-H. We don’t all need to stand next to each other on every issue, but we can coexist under the same roof without shouting each other down. We can find common values and use them to help young people become better citizens of both the world and the Kingdom. We can understand the beating heart of the church is in the fruit of the vine and the bounty of the harvest present on the communion table. We can realize letting someone in the door is not the same as endorsing their values … but helps us to live ours.

Our reasons for excluding each other are our reasons, not Christ’s. Let’s gather around the table to hear what Christ might have to say about finding reasons to be inclusive. It’s only fair.

May be the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Invitation: Cross Traffic

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Over the last few months our neighborhood has undergone a lot of changes in traffic patterns. My street in particular has had many stops signs and streetlights moved or removed. Judging from the number of automobile collisions, near misses, and squealing brakes, “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop” is not universally understood. You might assume that legally the responsibility clearly falls on the person who didn’t stop when they were supposed to, and most of the time you’d be right, but in many states the law says if you can try to avoid an accident and choose not to, you are also partially at fault. As I’ve lived on the street for several years, and I am aware of the increased possibility of accidents, you can be sure I slow down as I near problem intersections. Part of me is annoyed that I have to, but a better part doesn’t want my self-righteousness to cause anyone else pain.

Would it be fair to say the church doesn’t always take responsibility for how its own Cross-traffic can sometimes do more harm than good? We can feel fully justified about the course we have set, following the doctrinal rules of the road, but sometimes our determination to move our own agenda forward causes harm. When we are unyielding and someone gets hurt, we tend to shift all the blame to those sinful drivers who would be just fine if they followed the rules.

Life throws all kinds of confusing detours at people. If we are so stuck behind our righteous blinders that we’d rather collide than swerve, we need to take responsibility for the damages.

If we really want to share the gospel, instead of wielding it like two tons of unforgiving inertia,  we need to be aware of where people are. If we insist on being right, yet our rightness wounds or kills them (and bad religion has done plenty of both), exactly who have we saved? When it comes to life, none of us has a spotless driving record, yet when dealing with other people we often seem to forget how we’ve been forgiven and survived to tell the tale. We insist on repentance for sins we aren’t currently committing but remain silent about the ones we are (unless perhaps we protest too much). Offering a little accident forgiveness doesn’t mean we’ve justified the infraction.

If you feel like like you’ve been run over by the church, remember Jesus made many an unexpected left turn to love people he could have bypassed. If you don’t feel safe coming to him, let him come to you. Other people don’t get to make that decision for you.

The communion table is where Cross traffic stops to remember. Where we shouldn’t feel like people are cutting us off, because we shouldn’t be jockeying for the lead.  Where someone may experience their first taste of real love and forgiveness – provided we haven’t closed the road.

To paraphrase an old bumper sticker, “Save a life. Be aware. Struggling souls are everywhere.”

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Invitation: Daylily

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In the late spring of every year, the daylilies start to appear in the back yard. I’m no gardener, but I do enjoy the beauty of flowers and these ones, with their brilliant orange glow, pop like slow-burning fireworks of joy.

Aside from an occasional watering when the weather grows unseasonably hot or dry – which I’m not sure they even need – they require no effort to maintain. These beauties were here when we got here, and unless someone purposely tears them out, they will long outlast us. Given the short lifespan of any individual flower, that seems a little mystical.

Of course the desirability of any plant is subjective to the grower. I’ve heard people say daylilies are “just this side of weeds” and “invasive nuisances.” Still, I get excited when I see them appear in a corner of the yard where they hadn’t been before. They may be my favorite kind of drop-in guests.

The more there are, the brighter the glow. When the sun hits the yard at just the right angle, it puts me in mind of the holy fire of Pentecost, a season we are in the midst of at this moment.

Maybe we can take some invitational inspiration from the daylily.

It doesn’t appear because of anything elaborate we’ve done – no special programming, no fancy greenhouse. It appears because its nature is to bask in the sun for the short time it has on earth, and it thrives when we accept it for who it is and offer assistance during tough times.

Daylilies are as common as the dirt they grow in, but God has seen fit to imbue them with striking beauty. There may be fancier plants in the garden, more serious subjects which require elaborate knowledge and constant care to grow, but we miss a lot of grace if we choose to equate common with nuisance, or if we devote all our attention to the “important” blooms and never look around at what we’ve been given freely. When they show up uninvited in the odd corner where they aren’t “supposed” to be, could it be a misplaced sense of control that compels us to reign them in rather than marvel at their resilience?

People are going to show up at Christ’s table uninvited. We might prefer them to have been better tended, more holy and less common in appearance or demeanor, closer to some design we had in mind, but God puts them where God will. Our job isn’t to weed them out, but to find the Christ in them and offer spiritual and physical nourishment as needed. Viewed from just the right angle, even the most common flower glows, and the more who gather around Christ’s table, the brighter the glow.

Who are we to determine who deserves to bask in the Son? Let us be gardens of welcome.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Invitation: Cross Traffic

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About five years ago we moved to downtown South Bend. We moved into a “transitional” neighborhood, which is what realtors call it when they think you’ll be concerned a lot of the neighborhood is not as white and wealthy as you are. We love living downtown, especially being able to walk places. Walk past the same people enough times, and you start to recognize them. If they’ve asked you for money and you’ve obliged, they start to recognize you, too.

One day I was walking back from the library when two men I didn’t recognize ducked into an alley I was about to walk past. One of them stood lookout, which seemed suspicious to me. Still I nodded at him as I went by, and he nodded back. Then he said, “Hey, mister!” I turned around mostly because I didn’t want anything at this point happening behind my back. “Do you have any cash to spare? My buddy is looking for food in the dumpster. I don’t want food from the dumpster.” I looked down the alley, and his buddy sure enough had one leg over the edge into the bin. I’ve been told before that giving cash just “enables” people (as though there are no drug addicts with well-paying jobs), but somebody could have a needle hanging from his tied-off arm and I wouldn’t want him to eat from a dumpster. I had $3 on me, so I gave it to him. He called to his companion that they could buy real food.

Some people who read this will think I made a bad call. They will think these guys could have gone to a food pantry or a homeless center. They may say these guys need to learn from the consequences of whatever decision brought them to this sorry state.

But I’ve learned something else from living downtown.

Our house is on a fairly busy street. Several less busy streets intersect it at two-way stops. Each one of these signs has a warning: “Cross Traffic Does Not Stop.” At least once a day, somebody ignores the warning and flies into the intersection. When they’re lucky we hear the screeching tires. When they’re unlucky we hear the sickening crunch and shatter. So far, thank God, no one has been so unlucky that we’ve heard the ambulance take them away.

My point is that the people driving on our street are following all the rules. They have no idea that life is about to plow into them at an intersection. The rules didn’t protect them. Following the rules is no guarantee of your safety – be it vehicular, physical, or financial. No one starts their day hoping to get into a crash. No one starts their life planning to eat from a dumpster either, but life can force us through some pretty nasty intersections. And sometimes it can bless us with an intersection that lets us help someone else.

We can sit in judgment of whether someone belongs at our table, or deserves to be at any table, but we’re all one bad intersection away from lost dignity.

Jesus said he came for the sick, not the well. If the only people we invite to the table are the people we think deserve it, we’re not ministering to the same people Jesus was. Turning people away from the communion table is like sending them to find dinner among the garbage. Sometimes you can’t make a good decision until you are relieved of the pain of hunger – be it physical or spiritual.

We all hunger for love and dignity. Christ offers it to us in bread and wine. Let’s share it generously.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Invitation: Transcend

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Several weeks ago I attended a church service acknowledging Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual recognition of transgendered people who have died from violence during the year. All over the world, participants in similar services remember, name, and mourn these people. Several years ago I was listening to an interview with a transgendered woman. When asked about how people first reacted to learning she was transgendered, she said she was surprised and disappointed by the number of gay friends who were happy to hang out and buy her a beer when they thought she was a gay man, then said they “just didn’t understand” and distanced themselves after she came out as trans. Hearing this hurt my heart (though surely nothing compared to how living it must have affected hers).

As a gay person, I’ve heard more than once from someone who “just didn’t get it” and thought that was reason to reject me and people like me; that’s why I was so disappointed to hear people like me were almost as likely to do the same thing. God bless the friends and family who “didn’t get it” (and maybe still don’t) but loved and included me anyway.

We have this notion that once we get to know each other, we’ll learn to understand and love one another. I even believe it’s true, but let’s face it: we don’t have time to get to really know absolutely everyone we meet. There are lots of things I “just don’t get” about other people, and I never will. I could start listing them, but that’s just another type of finger pointing and rejection.

Here’s the thing: Jesus doesn’t ask me to “get” you, and he doesn’t ask you to “get” me. He asks me to love you. He’s actually very specific about loving the people you don’t even like when he says: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.”

So when it comes to Christ’s table, our personal objections to a fellow Christian’s behavior, attitude, or identity don’t matter. Yes, we may be able to point to some specific verses that make us feel justified, but then we could also point to the ones we choose to ignore when we “get” someone. Christ asks us to transcend the idea that we have to “get” or accept someone before we can love them. If they are starving – physically or spiritually – it’s not okay to ask them to wait on our own comfort while we gorge on their portion at the table. Yes, we should work to understand each other, but my inability to understand you does  not trump your membership in the Body of Christ.

I may never “get” you. You may never “get” me. It’s okay. Christ gets us all.

May the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.