Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lent 3: Spirituality and Jesus in unlikely places

The reflection question this week is "Where are you encountering Jesus in the unlikeliest of places?"

Counter protest to WBC held at Lorde Concert
as reported by The Denver Channel
Last week, on March 19, Fred Phelps died in hospice in Kansas. Fred Phelps is one of the most hated men in America because of his highly controversial Westboro Baptist Church and his outspoken hatred of LGBTQ folks.  In the days before his death, it came out that he was excommunicated by his own church in August 2013.  There are a number of blog articles and conversations about how we should respond to his death.  Some people want to respond in kind, protesting his funeral, like his church has protested so many funerals (although WBC said there would not be a funeral), some people want to ignore them, and yet others are responding out of love.  The image to the left has been making the rounds of the internet for the last few days.  This is an example of Jesus in the most unlikely of places. I want to hate Fred Phelps because of the hateful vitriol that he has spewed and the fact that he hates people like me and so many of my friends.  Yet, I find myself unable to do so.  He seems like a lonely, miserable person.  And Jesus loves him too.

Nate Phelps, the estranged son of Fred Phelps who is now an atheist and outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights, said it best in his public statement, referenced in this article, when he said he will mourn his father "not for the man he was, but the man he could have been" and implored us all to work for justice and "have his death mean something.  Let every mention of his name and his church be a constant reminder of the tremendous good that we are all capable of doing in our communities."

We were talking about the death of Fred Phelps in my church office last week, and my supervising pastor said, "He will be welcomed into heaven, but God is going to have some SERIOUS questions for him."

Jesus shows up in the most unlikely of places.  I am definitely NOT saying that God ordains the sort of vitriol spewed by WBC, but rather, that Jesus shows up in people who continue to love in spite of this hate.  For the Gospel is not just for people that I like.

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