I’m not sure that I can add anything particularly insightful or new to the conversation taking place right now.

Baltimore is suffering.

But Baltimore and many other places have been suffering for a long time.

I am called to speak hope into suffering.
It is not a hope that denies pain and suffering. It is the hope that recognizes how bad this is, but trusts that a new reality is possible and coming.

The lectionary reading for this coming Sunday is John 15:1-8.
To refresh your memory:

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

I am reading:Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John, by Jean Vanier. He started the L’arche communities in France. Communities in which people of all abilities were given opportunities for meaningful work and meaningful relationships.

He writes:

Jesus tells us that he is the Vine;
he is not separate from the Vine.
He is not separated from the people of God, but is part of them,
one with them.
Now that the Word has become flesh, he is one of us and we are one with him.
We are of the same human race.
he is the first-born of creation.
All life flows from him and through him
and then through us, the little braces, to bear fruit,
just as the sap runs through the vine,
through the braces to produce grapes.

Imagine what it would be like if we lived like we believed this? What would happen if we believed that we are a part of the vine? We are a part of God’s vine. We are God’s. What would happen if we believed that our neighbors were also a part of God’s vine? They are a part of God’s vine too. They are God’s.

I don’t pretend that this is easy.
I do know that we are called to be in relationship with God and through that relationship with one another.

The second reading is from 1 John 4:7-21.

7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

I choose to believe this radical idea that I must love my brothers and sisters in order to love God. It is so simple. It is so hard.

I believe that change can only come through love.
And hear me when I say this:
Love does not mean condoning negative behaviors. It does not mean that there are no consequences for damaged relationships. It does not mean we aren’t angry about injustice. It does not mean we ignore violence against the most vulnerable.
Trust me when I say it isn’t those things. There is a biblical narrative to back that up. I will spare you the citations.

Acting in love is trusting God’s presence in our midst.
I am going to do my best to act out of love. I hope you will join me.

Keep hope in God’s abiding love alive!