I apologize for the late post of The Sunday Stiletto this week. It has been a week leading up to one of the biggest servant-leadership ministry opportunities in my life. Surrounded by accountability partners, great friends, new friends, partner churches, 350 runners, and nearly 100 volunteers, Be The Change 5K ran and walked in the name of our God – for solidarity, for inclusion, for one another, for all – in Downtown Orlando on October 5, 2013.
I was privileged to share opening words with those gathered in the start line. I shared that the church I serve as well as our partner churches understand the wideness of God’s mercy – that all means all – and we desire to be in true relationship and community with all our brothers and sisters. With a humble heart and boldness of speech, I asked for forgiveness on behalf of the institutional church for the harm that has been cast towards our LGBTQ neighbors and allies; I asked for forgiveness from God and from those present.
I made my confession and sought reconciliation.
And then I received gifts of reconciliation from some gathered that morning. One man approached me and extended his arms for a hug. I returned the hug and when I started to release him, he clung to me longer. When he was ready, he stepped back, looked me in the eye and shared these words, “I want you to know I love you. I want you to know that I appreciate what you are doing. I want you to know that you are teaching me what it means to be a true Christian.” And then he walked away.
My friend, that you and others would hear my confession and grant me forgiveness, you are teaching me what it means to be a true Christian. Christians are people of forgiveness and grace and I believe we learn more clearly how to share forgiveness and grace when we receive it.
I know I do.
Yesterday over 400 people – participants and volunteers – took huge steps towards reconciliation and unity in our community. In fact – we took 3.1 miles worth of steps and it is my prayer that those steps will continue.
To those who served – thank you.
To those who participated – thank you.
To those who experienced this vision and helped bring it to reality – thank you.
To those who never gave up – thank you.
Together, we are the change we want to see in the world. Together – exactly the way that God created us to be.
Prayer: O Lord, open my eyes that I may see the needs of others; open my ears that I may hear their cries; open my heart so that they need not be without succor; let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong, nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich. Show me where love and hope and faith are needed, and use me to bring them to those places. And so open my eyes and my ears that I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for thee. Amen.*
*”For Courage to Do Justice,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 456.