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All You (we) Need is Love

What a crazy political time it is, this summer of 2013! The Supreme Court of the United States has just gutted the voting rights act making it easier for states to discriminate against minority groups in the balloting process and then on the very next day allowed a lower court ruling to stand that repealed Prop. 8, paving the way for marriage equality in California. It also repealed the federal ban on same-gender marriage (DOMA) thereby granting same-gender couples in states with marriage equality to finally receive the same benefits under federal law that are currently enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.

Wow! Meanwhile, the President finally took some major steps to reverse climate change, the U.S. Congress is debating immigration reform, and Sen. Wendy Davis in Texas is leading a “citizens” filibuster to block legislation that would gut women’s reproductive rights in that state. Nearly 200,000 people watched a livestream of Davis and her orange-shirted friends completely shut down the state capitol in Austin for over 12 hours. Oh and in San Francisco, it is LGBT pride week. Phew! For those of us who deeply care about these issues, the last week of June in 2013 was one big roller coaster ride!

Where does our faith fit in when things get so crazy? How do we seek the holy when things are so chaotic and unbalanced? In between the swings between joy and disgust, I found myself hearing the Beatles in my heart singing: Love, love, love. All you need is love.

In the Bible, I began thinking about the church in Corinth. They were a pretty crazy bunch too! They had a group of women prophetesses having all sorts of visions wearing wild outfits. There were a bunch of mystical types who were disgusted by all the loud carrying on of the women who practiced all manner of bodily sacrifice to seek holy ends. Then there were a group of former slaves who wouldn’t stay “in line” thereby setting all the former masters of slaves into a frenzy.

If I were the pastor of this church, I would probably throw up my hands, throw in the towel, and maybe just throw up. But the Apostle Paul went for a higher solution and penned this beautiful poem that both exposed and encouraged this riotous bunch of new believers to get back to the basics. Back to the basics of love.

Read it again and drink in these words in First Corinthians 13: 1-13:

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly,[b] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

When the Supreme Court first heard the marriage equality cases in March, the Rev. Ben Guess, one of the members of the Collegium of Officers for the United Church of Christ wrote this “love offering” that he delivered at an interfaith prayer service the day the court heard oral arguments.

A Love Offering for Marriage Equality, U.S. Supreme Court (An occasion-specific paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13:1-13) Interfaith Service of Love and Justice Church of the Reformation, Washington, D.C.

If I speak like I know everything, like the world revolves around me, but I don’t love, I am nothing but a fool at a microphone.

If I can talk about The Scriptures, and preach better than all the other preachers, and get everybody and their sister coming back to church, but I don’t embrace love, then I’m just a silly dude in a robe.

If I give away all my best stuff, and have all the “Rev. Dr. This and Thats” in front of my name, but I can’t recognize love, then I haven’t learned a thing.

Because love, she is amazing. Love is relentless. Love is extra-generous.

Love looks out for the interests of other people, not just one’s own self.

Love doesn’t reserve rights and privileges just for some. Love doesn’t promote hierarchies, to the expense of equality, because love just doesn’t think that way. Love doesn’t work that way.

Love doesn’t hurt people. And love never leaves people out.

No … Love goes all the way. Love removes every obstacle. Love appeals to the highest court in the land, when necessary.

Love gets up really early in the morning, after having stayed up really late the night before.

That’s how love is. Love always does the right thing, even when it’s hard. Love is fair and just, extravagant and wasteful. Love can never be depleted.

Now as for long speeches and oral arguments and amicus briefs, they’ll play themselves out. And fanatics can cry, ”Surely the world will come to an end!” and they, too, have their rights. But your loved one’s embrace at the end of a hard day? … The dreams you share … The plans you’ve made … The inside jokes … The kisses goodnight … Till death do you part. That will never pass away.

When I was a scared, uncertain, disempowered gay person, I thought and reasoned like a scared, uncertain, disempowered gay person. I thought this day could never come. But now, I’ve put all that behind me, every limiting thought.

Yes, we see through murky waters. We’re trying to discern every 5 to 4; 6 to 3; 9-to-nothing scenario. But the day is surely coming, when we will be seen, and see each other, as God sees us — through love, because God is love.

We have a lot of things to sustain us in this life.

There’s that quirky optimism that, with God, all things work together for good. And there’s always hope, and hope never disappoints. And that’s all nice. But most importantly, we’ve got this big, expansive, inclusive love. Love! And isn’t that the greatest thing? Isn’t it?

Love is all we need and as Cornel West once wrote: “Justice is what love looks like in public”. May it be so.

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