Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hillary's Tears

If you have watched the news this week, then you know that Hillary Clinton had an emotional moment in New Hampshire on Monday. While meeting with a group of undecided women voters, Hillary was asked how she keeps it all together - how she keeps on going. Looking exhausted, she paused for a moment, got teary-eyed, and then talked about the passion she has for this country. She spoke of all this country has done for her and how she wants similar opportunities for her children. She shared passionately about how she does not want America to lose what it has given to so many people.

It was a remarkable moment.

It is a moment in which many ears heard Hillary's heart for the first time; a minute when we realized that the campaign is not about her but about a country she loves and appreciates.

News analysts and political pundits are scrutinizing Hillary's tears. Each day a different newscaster has spoken about them. Some people even say it was an act. I don't think so. I gained more respect for Hillary on Monday than I have had for her since I first introduced her at a campaign rally at my college in 1992.

Passion is a powerful thing.

The ability to see - really see - what motivates someone is a precious gift.

I respect and admire Hillary's passion, and I keep thinking about how this passion is needed in so many other places, especially in our churches.

I have been accused of many different things since arriving as the pastor of Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church. Mount Vernon Place is the first place since I accepted my call to ministry where I was not immediately and warmly welcomed - where I was questioned more than I was accepted - at least by the people who vocalized their thoughts. Many people accused me of wanting to change them. Others called me an "insider" because I was an outsider who was brought in to this Conference. Still others said I was in it for myself - that it was all about me. And, at an evaluation meeting, I was told that I am too focused on growth. While the congregation has come a long way and I have long forgiven the people who said these things to me, I am not sure I will ever forget their accusations.

What continues to amaze me is why any pastor would want to come to a declining church with enormous potential for growth for any reason other than passion. When I accepted the invitation to leave North Carolina and come to Mount Vernon Place, I came for one main reason - because I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ still has the power to change and transform lives.

I remember well what I was like in 1994-1997, when I was working in the political arena of Washington. My entire identity was based upon who I worked for - as a scheduler for Congressman Eric Fingerhut or a letter writer for Senator Tom Harkin. I often forgot who I was at the core of my being - a beloved child of God, accepted just as I was. I did not need additional legislative issues or more money to become valuable. I was already valuable - just for being me - the person God had created me to be. I long to tell this message today - "It does not matter who you are, what you do, who you love, who you have failed to love, how much money you make, what you have or what you do not are loved. You are accepted. You are forgiven. You are cherished."

I also remember what it was like to long for community - real community - authentic community in Washington. I longed for a place where I could be me - where I could tell others what I felt like God was doing in my life when I was being called into ministry. I found this community in a church, and I long to continue to provide a place for all of us to discover this community.

My first year at Mount Vernon Place was the hardest year of my life. There is no way I would ever do this for myself. I do it because I believe Jesus lived, died and rose again. I believe we have this treasure in clay jars - this extraordinary power that does not belong to us. I believe that grace is amazing. I believe this place where people in their 80s and 90s laugh regularly with people in their 20s and 30s is a remarkable place.

I am passionate about it.


I am passionate about it - to the point that it has moved me to tears.

Thank you, Hillary, for your passion.

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