This post continues part 2 of our 3-part series based on Matthew 22:36-40:
loving God (part 1); loving your neighbor (part 2); and loving yourself (part 3).
"For the first time in my life, I saw people that looked like me living freely. I saw people in their joy. I saw people in their celebration of life. Over the next several years, [it] became the place where my best friends learned to be themselves. I’ve seen [it] go through renovation after renovation, growing to accommodate the crowds of people who came there every weekend to celebrate."
It's a beautiful thing when our churches are a place where people can find a home. When all the stress and anxiety of the world is lifted from our shoulders because we are embraced by a community of people that actually loves and cares for us.
I think the above quote could have come from someone who attended a weekend service at a church, but I read this quote in an article recently, and it was talking about a very different place. Here's more about the place this person is talking about.
"While a lot of people turn to churches, LGBT communities are often forced to use nightclubs as our safe haven, and Pulse was mine."
Yes, that Pulse. The same night club that experienced the worst mass shooting in American history.
What happened in Orlando is incredibly sad on so many levels. It was an act of evil and terror. It sent shockwaves, again, through our country. Most importantly, it resulted in the tragic loss of 49 innocent lives. The impact of this event is strong and widespread.
It reminds me of the tragedy at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston a year ago when a gunman shot and killed 9 people in a church while they were in a prayer service. We were angered because it was a hate crime against the black community and because it was another mass shooting. We were also shocked because it infiltrated one of the most sacred spaces in our country - inside the church - a place where people are to feel safe, accepted, loved, and free to worship God.
The shooting in Orlando was a shooting in another sanctuary - one that so happens to also be a bar for the LGBT community of Orlando.
And so I'm saddened because someone went into the most sacred and accepting space for a population of people that doesn’t feel safe and accepted in our country. I can’t pretend to know this kind of pain. I cannot imagine if someone came into my church during Sunday morning worship and shot and killed 49 people. It would be utterly devastating. For these people in Orlando, they don’t get the privilege anymore of not imagining such an experience in their place of support.
I'm also saddened because this reminds me the church isn't a place where many in the LGBT community feel safe and accepted. We truly have much work to do here.
When I think of Jesus' command for us to love our neighbors, I think how important it is for the church to embrace people where they are and to help them feel loved and accepted because God has done this for me and for them.
As for me, Orlando reminds me once again that this extension of love and acceptance to all people is what I’m called to live out.
Written by Mark
The 12:12 Project is sponsored by Katy First United Methodist Church.