The Gospel according to John portrays an extended scene along the Sea of Tiberius, which continues to engage me. Chapter 21 finds the risen savior both directing the discouraged disciples in their fishing efforts and challenging one of them to selfless leadership.

When the weary disciples pull in their heavy, yet unbroken net they are astounded to find 153 fish - the exact number of fish species in that region, according to church patriarch, Jerome. The challenge for the church has always been to take seriously the divine mandate to invite and include all persons within our porous walls.

The story continues with Peter being asked three times to declare his love for his savior, in a reversal of his three-fold denial in Pilate's court. Each time, Peter is mandated to 'feed' the 'sheep/lambs,' to care for all those who would be his followers.

This mini Bible study is offered in light of the recent passage of Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 2007 by the Oregon Legislature.

Our response to this action? 'Thanks be to God!'

The United Church of Christ and our four predecessor denominations have always championed opportunity and inclusion. Through the abolitionist, anti-apartheid, women's suffrage and civil rights endeavors, we have held that humans really are equal, and that there ought to be room in our 'tent' for all the variations of the divine image in which we are created.

In our time and place we seek to 'feed' those in need of being fed, whether it is spiritual, emotional, physical or relational hunger that is experienced. In the process we work through the Holy Spirit to empower those being fed to, in turn, feed others.

If the church is to be about caring community, then part of our caring here at Zion United Church of Christ is growing in Christian love with others, some of whom have experienced discrimination because of who they love. The Legislature responded to the need for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to have equal rights under the law.

Thanks be to God.

Dennis Alger is the pastor of Zion United Church of Christ.