Orlando and the Banner of Love



Early on Monday morning I walked over to the church and lowered the flag to half mast. It felt good to do something. When we are faced with another horror, it’s easy to turn away. “What can I do, anyway?”

I slid the red, white and blue down to a lower station and secured the rope. I stood back and gazed up at the strange space above. According to some legend the reason a flag is lowered is to make room for another, invisible flag of death flying above. I don’t believe in any flag of death. But the empty space between Old Glory and the finial is all right at a moment like this. I trust empty spaces because I know about three days in a tomb. I know that loss and blank desolation can be a womb within which the unimaginable and the beautiful are born. I can live with that nothingness above my banner.

I walked home, and saw the little Rectory flag pole—not half as tall or grand as the mast in front of the church—flying its colors full in the wind. I untied the rope and opened the empty space.

What happened in Orlando has brought us into loss and blank desolation. These are moments of agony and tears, and then—if we have faith and trust—these are moments of greater strength and courage, broader embrace, deeper love. But only if we know how to trust those empty places and let the silence speak its wisdom.

We live in a world, however, in which empty spaces are immediately commandeered for partisan purposes. The Left and the Right are happy to fill that blankness with talking points we have all heard before. But we can let that go, people of faith and trust that we are, and rest in that in-between place. There the truth gradually dawns in us. There we know what matters, what is eternal, what we must be about.

There we know that we must first console our gay and lesbian friends and loved ones, and then work harder to include all the excluded ones, to embrace anyone who belongs to a “target” group, whether by race or religion or any designation other than human being, child of God, sister and brother of us all.

There we know that violence and bloodshed do not, cannot work the good purposes of God. And there we know that no act of evil can overwhelm the power of divine love. Not if we can wait patiently in the empty space for that ultimate power to become our own.

Today you will almost certainly see a flag flying low. Look above. There in that blankness is our hope. For in the longing words of the Song of Songs, “Let his banner over me be love” (2:4).

4 Responses to Orlando and the Banner of Love
  1. Michael
    June 15, 2016 | 6:47 pm

    Well said David. I will forever see that empty space above the flag as the love flag, the hope flag.

  2. Matt
    June 16, 2016 | 5:30 am

    I have been spending a lot of time with this verse even before Orlando.
    Matthew 5:44 “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
    Excerpt From: Authors, Various. “The King James Bible.” iBooks.
    This material may be protected by copyright.

    He goes on to say that anyone can love those that love them back (even the tax collectors!) and I thought what a hard concept even loving those that love me has been for me in my life. And in these moments of national grief I also catch myself getting so small with my little injustices. Lord, help me get out of myself. Please.

    For now I see the LGBT flag in the empty space. So sad

  3. Cathy H.
    June 16, 2016 | 2:31 pm

    I believe the empty spaces are, perhaps not empty at all, but filled with divine love and healing if we will just look and wait. We live in Orlando and the media has been saturated with sadness but also with acts of love and kindness. Thank you for your words of hope.

    • David Anderson
      June 17, 2016 | 10:23 am

      It has to be hard living in Orlando right now–so, I’m glad to hear from you, and know that people like you are there to encourage those acts of kindness and love.

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