Faces on Faith: Love always wins in the end
“With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord”
– Psalm 119:145
On the day of the shootings in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, I was driving from Albany Georgia to Captiva to begin my final season as pastor at the Chapel by the Sea. I wasn’t listening to the news, as I often don’t these days, and I wasn’t checking my phone. It was only when I arrived that I heard this terrible news. Once more the virus of anti-Semitism coupled with the normalization of anger at and fear of the other had death to the innocent. When will it ever end? When will it ever end?
Just the day before there had been a beautiful service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., to remember Matthew Shepherd the 21-year-old gay college student who had been murdered in Wyoming 20 years ago. His ashes were, after all these years, interred in that beautiful cathedral; “a house of prayer for all people.” At that service attended by 2,000 people, the word lifted up was love.
In both instances and in so many others like them hate sought to kill love; violence tried to destroy peace, and injustice sought to smother justice. On the surface it would seem that those forces won. Human beings died horrible deaths, but we will not remember the names of those who have done such evil acts. We will remember the names of those who died. When such evil occurs we like the Psalmist batter at the gates of heaven and cry out, “answer me, O Lord”
Even when those who seek to practice evil and hate seem near the Psalmist reminds us, “Yet you are near, O Lord.”
What sustained Matt Shepherd’s parents through that horrible time and led them to make a difference in the years since through their foundation was their faith. What has sustained the Jewish people over centuries of persecution is their faith in the God who has called them to be a people. At the center of all religion is the beating heart of love. Richard Rohr writes:
“The most powerful, most needed, and most essential teaching is always Love. Love is our foundation and our destiny. It is where we come from and where we’re headed. As St. Paul famously says, ‘So faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest of these is love.'” (I Corinthians 13:3)
In these days which seem so dark, when we seek answers, let us remember that the God who we may cry to is the God who loves us with an everlasting love and in the end love always wins.
The Rev. John N. Cedarleaf is the pastor at the Captiva Chapel by the Sea.