Monday, July 28, 2008

Love, love, love, love, love

Yesterday I was bathed in it as I preached my last sermon from the pulpit of the First Parish in Brewster's pulpit as their senior minister--and my last sermon anywhere, for a while at least, as a parish minister. We laughed, we cried. I ate fire. It was lovely.

Yet while this love-fest was going on, a man entered our congregation in Knoxville, TN, took a shotgun out of a guitar case, and started shooting. (Here's a link to a recent Associated Press story about the incident.) He killed two people--including one who apparently purposefully put himself between the gun and other people--and wounded several others. According to a letter apparently found in his car, one of the reasons he went to the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was because of that congregation's support of liberal policies.

My first response was shock. Then, admittedly, relief that it hadn't happened here. Then outrage and sorrow mixed together. Then incredulity--how could someone do this? Protest, sure. Rail against, okay. But shoot people because of what they believe in?

Of course, this is not a rational act so it will no doubt be futile to look for rational explanations. But it does reinforce for me the message in the sermon I delivered yesterday, that the words we use, the categories we create, the labels we apply (to ourselves and others) are just that -- words. What matters is not liberal or conservative, gay or non-gay, white or black -- what matters is that we're alive on the same planet, related to one another, breathing the same air. What matters is that our hearts beat to the same rythms.

I'm reminded of the poem by Alice Walker:
Love is not concerned with whom you pray,
Or where you slept the night you ran away from home.
Love is concerned that the beating of your heart
Should kill no one.

That's it, isn't it?

In sorrow, in hope, and in gassho,

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