“Bold Acts of Love” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell
I hope your week is going well and that you are reveling in this beautiful sunshine. I don’t know about you, but I am ready for this winter to be over. And while I know that New York in the spring is beautiful, we have an incredible hour of worship planned for this Sunday, so I hope you will take a morning stroll through the park to The Park!
(Sorry I had to! )
This week I couldn’t avoid reading about the White House Correspondents Dinner and the backlash that Michelle Wolf’s monologue created. I thought her set was real, authentic to her style of comedy, and a vulnerable and personal risk. Michelle used her gifts to do her best job and in turn be her best self. As I watched her set, there were things that made me wince. Not because I thought what she said was wrong, but I could preemptively feel the backlash that I knew was coming her way. And to be honest, I saw myself in some of her jokes in a way I didn’t love. But it was truthful. It shined the mirror I so often point at others, back at me. But that is what the gift of comedy does best. It loves truth boldly. It takes a risk of vulnerability and shares that truth with the world. It is the fragile dandelion in a windstorm. As I thought about how Michelle must be feeling this week, being misunderstood and challenged, in a way that only a woman who is good at her job in a patriarchal vocation can understand, this week’s scripture from John, popped into my head.
“9 As my Abba has loved me,
so have I loved you.
Live on in my love.
10 And you will live on in my love
if you keep my commandments,
just as I live on in Abba God’s love
and have kept God’s commandments.
11 I tell you all this that my joy may be yours,
and your joy may be complete.
12 This is my commandment:
love one another as I have loved you.
13 There is no greater love
than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
14 And you are my friends,
If you do what I command you.
15 I no longer speak of you as subordinates,
because a subordinate doesn’t know a superior’s
Instead I call you friends,
because I have made known to you
everything I have learned from Abba God.
16 It was not you who chose me;
it was I who chose you
to go forth and bear fruit.
Your fruit must endure,
so that whatever you ask of Abba God in my name
God will give you.
17 This command I give you:
that you love one another.” (John 15:9-17)
This week’s scripture talks about the many ways in which we are called to love each other. In my opinion, one of the most important forms of love in the text is that we are called to love each other by breaking systems of oppression. The author of John writes that we are to be called friends and disrupt the systems of hierarchy that we see in the relationship of “superior and subordinates,” as a form of love. Love isn’t favoring the powerful but seeking equity and equality for all. We have this equality in God’s love, but we don’t have it in the society that we have built and inherited. Which is why using our gifts, like the gift of comedy and other forms of public speaking, to disrupt systems of patriarchy, white supremacy, racism, sexism, and the seemingly never-ending list of ways we don’t love each other, is actually a bold act of love.
Bold acts of love are hard. Remember the cross? We are just 4 weeks post Easter and it seems like we have forgotten that we are a community built on bold acts of love. But we received a great reminder about it this week through a comedy act that spoke truth to power and boldly highlighted the ways our empire keeps us from loving each other as the holy-created beings that we are. The criticisms of this act of bold love, in my opinion, are the insecurities of those who saw themselves portrayed in ways that are hard to admit. For example, those that saw themselves as not loving their friends fully and perpetuating systems of oppression. Our gifts are a way for us to publicly destabilize systems of oppression and be bold lovers of truth but can often come at the cost of facing the scrutiny of those in power. These bold acts of love may seem easy, but actually take courage, vulnerability, and a whole lot of faith. It sounds a little like Jesus, don’t you think?
Friends, I love you. And like Michelle, Jesus, and all of those who courageously use their gifts to seek justice, I will endeavor to always love you boldly and use my gifts publicly, so that this community grows in God’s love. I hope you will love boldly and publicly in the name of love, in the name of justice, and in the name of Jesus with your own gifts as well.