This afternoon a group of people from the Wellsboro Baptist Church out of Topeka Kansas made our Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh the scene of their vile and hate-filled protests. They marched down Fifth Avenue, at one point standing in front of Saint Paul Cathedral, carrying signs denigrating the Pope, Catholics, and homosexuals among others – the actual language on those signs does not bear repeating here. They are known for disrupting funerals of veterans with their hate speech. Of course their real hope is to goad the anti-protestors into responding in kind – with angry, hateful speech and actions – which only incites the media to cover these events with gusto. The great numbers of law enforcement personnel present spoke to the seriousness of this threat. But the best response is to ignore their bigotry and hatred as they exercise their freedom of speech. And of course pray that God’s mercy will touch their hearts. But we need to make one thing perfectly clear: calling themselves Christian is a complete misnomer, a contradiction and falsity. Their signs proclaim that “God hates”. St. John teaches us that God is love. Christian faith professes faith in a God who is total, unconditional, perfect love – God cannot hate – hatred is inimical to the divine nature. When asked by the scribe to name the most important commandment of the law, Jesus was clear to answer: To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; this is the greatest of all the commandments. And the second, Jesus said, is like it: to love your neighbor as yourself. The whole of Christian faith is rooted in love – a love that manifests itself in forgiveness, mercy, compassion, kindness, understanding, and tolerance. We are all sinners who fall short of the mark; yet God still loves each and every one of us. He constantly seeks the conversion of every sinner – each of us – as we learn with the help of grace to embrace more and more fully each day God’s ways. But each day we are sure of one thing – that the God who created us and desires our salvation continues to love us and hold us in the palm of his hand. There is no place in a Christian heart for hatred, for bigotry, for prejudice, for denigrating people who are different from us or who have made different life choices. We are called to love our neighbor, even to love our enemy – that is the Christian way. We who follow Jesus Christ are sent out into the world to share God’s love with joyful hearts, sharing the truth of God’s word not with judgement and condemnation but with conviction and true openness. There is no hate in God, there is no hate in the heart of Jesus Christ, and there can be no hate in the heart of any one claiming to be Christian. Yes there might have been a hate walk in Oakland this afternoon by a few people calling themselves Christians, but for most of us, it was nothing but a display of hate, ignorance and bigotry that has no foothold in the minds and hearts of the good people of our beautiful Pittsburgh community and the many people of different faiths that share deep bonds of respect, unity, understanding and friendship with each other. I must admit, however, that yesterday I prayed for rain and boy did God answer my prayer not just with rain, but with a deluge just about the time they arrived at the Cathedral!