This past Sunday was the Super Bowl 51 and no matter what side you cheered for, it was an epic game. I am a sports fan, but I was not particularly interested in the game this year apart from wanting to watch Lady Gaga perform during half time.
The thirty year old millennial superstar preaches a message of radical love of self and others, demonstrated in her most recent, blockbuster ballad, “Born This Way”. While her style of music and provocative artistry raises eyebrows around some religious communities, the chorus for “Born This Way” hits the nail on the head in terms of articulating a theology of inclusivity:
“I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes,
I’m on a right track baby
I was born this way…”
God did not make a mistake when creating all of us who make up the fabric of humanity, though we might side-eye a neighbor from time to time and think otherwise. Particularly in our current social and political situation, we may be more inclined to pray to God something along the lines of:
“I’m beautiful in my way, God,
And I know You don’t mistakes…
But Sally is making a mistake…
So I hope you can change her heart, oh God…”
Sound familiar? I will be the first to admit that my prayers, as of late, sound more like “Help (him/her), Oh God…” rather than, “Help me, Oh God…”.
I was reminded of this subtlety in my prayer life after visiting with Bayside Presbyterian Church, in Virginia Beach, Virginia this past weekend. Nestled near Lake Smith and to the northeast of Virginia Beach, Bayside Presbyterian Church has been serving the Church since 1948 and is currently pastored by Rev. Dr. David Rollins.
Upon entering the front doors of the church, one finds a beautifully crafted, wooden tree structure just before the main entrance to the sanctuary. Red and pink hearts are strung up by decorative ribbon. Each heart includes the name or names of individuals listed by members of the congregation. This community prayer project was inspired by Valentine’s Day and Christian love.
Rev. Rollins shared, “The idea is to get people to take seriously Jesus’ command to love one another or try to see our neighbors as ourselves, even when we have great differences because of our unity in Christ. It is easy to think about and name those people that we find easy to love, but God asks us to love our enemies.”
Paper hearts were handed out to congregants as they entered the worship space on Sunday morning and folks were invited to string up their names or prayers on to the tree at the conclusion of the service. As Rev. Collins and I processed out, I went over and tied my prayer to the love tree. My heart stated, “My prayer is that I work to see the image of God in all those I encounter. Help me, Oh God.”
How is your congregation addressing unity amidst our divisive cultural climate?
Rev. Nicole Childress Ball, Church Relations Officer