Last May, my church, St. Ignatius of Antioch Episcopal Church, took a risk. We posted a bold symbol of love. We staked our claim for rights for inclusion of ALL. We flew a rainbow flag from our church flagpole. This week, we took the flag down. It had grown a little weather-beaten and tattered. It had done it’s job and earned a retirement. A new, crisp, bright rainbow flag stepped in to do the job.
Our old flag bears the scars of lessons learned. It flew proudly from our flagpole, standing up for those who needed a symbol of inclusion. It bore the wind and the rain and the sun. It bore our conflict, our pride, and our anger. It bore all faithfully and now it is tattered and torn, but flying high and still standing for inclusion and love. Our flag is tattered and torn and beautiful, like the life of a community. Living into the kingdom of love isn’t always easy. Living with each other in community and making our way forward will rip at our seams and fade our colors from time to time.
We can see the ups and downs of community in our gospel lessons, especially during Holy week. In one week, we traverse the highs and the lows of the human condition, just like in our communities and in our lives. St. Ignatius put the flag up on a “Palm Sunday” kind of day. We put it up in a moment of glory, proud to stand for those we love. Along the way, we had some “Good Friday” and “Holy Saturday” kind of moments. We had some times of conflict, of doubt, of anger, of frustration. We had some days where we hurt each other, failed to listen, failed to care. We had some days where we put own own needs before those of others. We also had some beautiful moments of reconciliation and understanding. Our lives swing between selfishness and sacrifice, between conflict and consideration because we are people--people flawed and beautiful, making our way forward, struggling in love.
This Holy week, we realize the truth once again, year after year. We don’t worship a pretty God, all nice and pleasant and clean and whole. We worship Jesus of Nazareth, a God that sacrifices himself to the basest, ugliest natures of human nature. We worship the Trinitarian God, a God who lets our hate kill him so he can kill our hate. We worship a God who lets all our brokenness into himself and makes us whole. We worship a God that is, like our rainbow flag, and like ourselves, tattered and torn and wholly holy.