During Lent this year we are going to read the book “Love Without Limits” by Jacqueline Bussie. It explores Jesus’ boundary busting love and how it disrupts our lives and our expectations. At Wednesday worship during Lent, several of you will tell your story about how your life was transformed by a radical definition of love and inclusion.
We each have our own story of being transformed by love. Some transformations are simple, some complex. Some take moments. Some take a life time.
What’s your story? Or stories?
One of my childhood friends had a big brother with Downs Syndrome. I had never met such a person. After my initial hesitation, I learned that he was playful and fun. We loved hanging around with him.
One of the reportedly “unpopular” girls was the only girl to pick up the phone and call me during my first week at a new high school to welcome me to town. As a new kid, it was hard to imagine choosing to connect with kids I had already been told were uncool. But she befriended me warmly and authentically.
Our Schwann’s delivery man was black. He patiently answered my very young daughter’s questions about his dark hands. She hadn’t yet met a black person. He modeled grace and patience and normalized what seemed “other” to a curious kid and an ignorant, inexperienced mom.
Ted’s cousin married his true love 25 years ago in a ceremony that included every living relative. While Curt and Timm’s love was transformational, what was truly transformational was the unconditional love and support of their extended family, way ahead of their time.
Maggie had a birthday party in 6th grade that included girls who were white, Latina, Black, Chinese, citizen and immigrant. I hadn’t had that much diversity in my whole high school, and here were Maggie’s closest friends gathered around our dinner table. They laughed at the same jokes, liked the same kind of pizza and busted the same dance moves in the family room. And all stayed up WAY too late.
Our younger two had a way of befriending kids that lived on the margins: ostracized for being LGBTQ, parents with addiction issues, you name it. Our dinner table and couch became host to kids who challenged my perception of family, hospitality and courage.
When our own child came out as trans and queer, shaved their head, wore combat boots, ripped leggings and smoked cigarettes, I never looked at “those” kids the same way again. Instead I saw the children they had been, the suffering in their eyes, the passion in their hearts, the love they have to offer. And I stopped making assumptions about the kind of family from which they came.
My own extended family includes ex-cons and law enforcement with DWIs, PTSD-embattled soldiers and pacifists, anarchists, addicts both active and recovering, abusers, extremely conservative, liberal, bigots and homophobes, pro-lifers and pro-choicers, strict Catholics, evangelicals and “nones.” And yet, for the most part, we cling to the central value of “family” and work hard to let love rule the day. We don’t always get it right. But as we look across the wacky, broken landscape that is our family, our hearts soften.
Jesus transformed hearts at every turn. He showed love and radical hospitality to the demon possessed, the leper, the sex worker, the outcast, the sinner, the tax collector, the otherwise tainted and untouchable. Jesus built an authentic community out of people that no one else wanted. He transformed their understanding of who they were and what they were capable of in the name of the living God.
Sometimes it helps to remind ourselves: “In someone’s eyes, Jesus crossed a boundary when he took me in.” What grace! What love! What expansive welcome and possibility! That is what Jesus is inviting us to experience.
So grab a copy of the book, sign up for a book conversation, and start sharing your stories.