Do you think God doesn't love you? Please think again. (2023)

In student ministry at Dartmouth College, where I work, we say 'All are welcome - no exceptions' and we do our best to live that. In my 3.5 years in the Episcopal Campus Ministry, including 2.5 years as a coordinator, I saw how this was lived. As a group we do our utmost to live this motto and offer hospitality to anyone who joins us at one of our events. Whether it's by luck or on purpose, we have it pretty easy as we don't really let people who are difficult to love come to us. The students we recruit come to us, whether they are interested in our program and are looking for spiritual sustenance or just want the free dinner we offer on Wednesday nights, they come to us because they want it. Sure, we have agnostics and atheists and other people for whom religion and spirituality are not their primary interest, and we welcome and enjoy their perspective. So far, however, I have not seen anyone step through the door in open hostility.

To my knowledge, no one has ever come to us declaring their sinfulness and saying that they are completely depraved and absolutely unlovable. However, the students we draw show brokenness in other, more subtle ways. Many people came to me for advice because they were convinced that they did not belong in the Christian community. I'm too sinful they might say. I've slept with too many people. I struggle with addiction. I'm too angry i am too sad i drink too much I'm unlovable. God doesn't want me.


God doesn't want me. Now I ask you, what could make someone believe that God doesn't want them? It's not something God said or did. As far as I know, the Almighty is not in the business of sending out breakup texts or handing out pink notes. The God "in which we live and move and have our being" is not one to throw away the work of God's own hands. No, my colleagues, when you come to me and say, "God doesn't want me," they're not saying that because they heard it from God. They don't feel lovable or say God doesn't want them because other people told them so, not because God did.

The God I worship is the very source of love, and "unlovable" is not something that ever comes about. The God I worship doesn't cast people aside because they are "too" everything. Mary Magdalene was not too sinful or too adulterous. The Gerasene demon didn't have too many demons. Zacchaeus was not short. Stubborn Peter, God love him, wasn't too stupid or stubborn. Even Lazarus wasn't too dead.

When someone comes to me and feels unlovable and left out once I've brought them to this point, the question inevitably arises, "What can I do to make me feel part of the Kingdom?" or "How can I feel more involved?"

At this point I remind you that despite these confused parables, at least some of Jesus' commandments were actually quite simple. Barbara Brown Taylor puts it well when she says: “With all the conceptual truths in the universe at his disposal, Jesus gave [his disciples] nothing to think about together while he was gone. Instead, he gave them specific things to do - specific ways of being together in their bodies - that would continue to teach them what they needed to know when he was gone to teach them himself... "Do this," he said - not believe, but do this - 'in remembrance of me'.”

And that's it. For me, the Eucharist, the sacrament of communion, is as close to being united with the love of God as I can get on earth. Whenever anyone starts talking about mind-body dualism or about not tempting us in this sinful flesh suit wrapped around our souls, I remind them that our Christian life centers on two very important physical ones things focused.

First, the incarnation: we believe that God somehow took flesh and came to dwell among us. If physicality were so evil, God would not have become man. Much ink was shed in the first centuries of Christianity to refute the “Arian heresy” which held that Jesus only looked human or had the illusion of being human. Our Christianity calls us to accept the mystery that Jesus was fully human AND fully divine.

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The second touchstone of our Christian life after the incarnation is that we center ourselves around something very physical: the reception of bread and wine, food and drink in the Eucharist.

When we come to Communion, whether standing or kneeling, we make an open and public declaration of our own need. We stretch out our hands, cupped and expectant, waiting to receive. We step forward to receive from the Church what we cannot procure for ourselves. It is our right as children of God and adopted joint heirs with Christ, and yet we are all unworthy of such an outward and visible mark of an inward spiritual grace which we continually strive for but can never fully attain. By coming forward, we surrender. We give away some of our pride and admit that we don't have all the answers or all the power. We get what we can't deserve and we certainly don't deserve. And yet Christ always meets us where we are. Aleksandr Schmemann and orthodox priest said:

No one was "worthy" to receive Communion, no one was prepared for it. At that point all merit, all righteousness, all devotion vanish and dissolve. Life comes back to us as a gift, a free and divine gift... Everything is free, nothing is due, and yet everything is given. And so the greatest humility and obedience is to accept the gift, to say yes—with joy and gratitude.

That's why we answer "Amen". We come forward and learn that this bread is the body of Christ, the bread of heaven. This cup, the cup of salvation, contains the blood of Christ. While we do not believe in the Aristotelian concept of transubstantiation and that the substance of the bread and wine becomes the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ, we affirm: “Amen. I believe.” We are not asked to prove our faith or take an exam in order to receive at Christ's table. We are invited and we can accept or decline the invitation. Even if we've accepted it, it's up to us to decide what to do with the experience. I firmly believe that we can be transformed by the Eucharist, regardless of our own personal beliefs about the nature of the sacrament. As someone who believes in the Real Presence, I take something different than someone who believes that the Eucharist is simply a Memorial. Someone who firmly believes in transubstantiation will take something else. The beauty of the sacrament, however, is that although we all take different things from it, we all take exactly what we need.

Everyone in any group of people can share food and drink, care for one another and be changed to some degree, whether inside or outside of Christianity, believer or not. However, Christians recognize this special sharing of bread and wine as a sacrament, as sacred. We come to the altar to nourish both physical and spiritual diversity. To quote Rachel Held Evans, we are concerned with the “collective memory [which] Jesus brings alive in every breaking of bread and pouring of wine, in all the tastes, smells and sounds that God Himself loves.”

In a document on the theology of the Eucharist published by the Episcopal Church, Reginald Fuller is quoted as saying: "Anglicans have always understood their liturgy as more than just a human activity initiated here on earth: it is a participation in worship Of the sky . The ultimate destiny of mankind is seen in participation in this worship.”

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As we partake of this holy banquet, we partake in the worship of Heaven. We are united with every Christian who received the Eucharist, with every priest and bishop who ordained it, and with the sacrifice of Christ who died once for all for the forgiveness of sins.

I don't know how Christ is present in the bread and wine, but I believe that somehow he is. It therefore seems counterproductive to me to tell someone to wait and meet him somewhere else, as if we all had to go to Emmaus and meet him (where even then his disciples did not recognize him until they broke bread together). The people are hungry. let them come eat People are thirsty. let her drink The table doesn't belong to me. It does not belong to my denomination, my church, or anyone but Christ himself. It is not my job (or anyone's) to be a bouncer at the door of the church and get everyone to show their passport to heaven and their baptismal certificate .

That's not necessarily easy. As someone in training to be a priest, and with the rubric in the Book of Common Prayer giving the priest the opportunity to refuse the Eucharist to someone who lives a "notoriously wicked life," this adds another layer of difficulty. It's fine in summary, but what if Donald Trump came through my communion line? The world is full of people who don't seem to deserve to come to Christ's table. Including me. At the end of the day, however, it is Christ's table, not mine. The faithful gathered around the altar, whatever their persuasion, remind us that we are all invited to God's banquet and that we are united. The beauty of the Church is that it is not about being correct or orthodox or totally agreeing: Church is about feeding and in turn being fed.

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Sometimes the easiest thing seems to be just to keep looking until we find the denomination or pastor or church that does exactly what we want and feel. Finding the Goldilocks solution where everything “fits”. However, this is impossible and irrelevant. "Right" has nothing to do with it. To quote Rachel Held Evans again, "The church is God saying, 'I'm giving a banquet, and all these odd, mixed-up people are invited. Here, have some wine.'”



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Ethan Falleur, contributor



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