August 17, 2009, Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
First Lutheran Church of the Trinity, Rev. Thomas R. Gaulke
Proverbs 9:1-6,Psalm 34:9-14 (10),`Ephesians 5:15-20,`John 6:51-58
Jesus’ message—the message of his parables,
the message of his miracles,
The message of his sermons: on mounts and planes, on seashores and in synagogues,
Was a message of God’s radical and unrelenting love for all people—
and of God’s radical and unrelenting love for all Creation—for God so loved the world that he gave his only son…
It was a message of liberation for the oppressed,
Of Good News for the Poor,
And of a Way and a Kingdom
made manifest among God’s people,
where, Christ says:
the last shall be first and the first shall be last,
and where the lowly and the humble
and the meek and the persecuted shall all be lifted up.
It is my conviction that when the church is acting like the church, Jesus’ message is still our message today.
Christ’s message was
a message of:
for those who are considered by religious authorities to be sinful or “full of sin,”
And forgiveness between humans who continue to judge, to hate, to belittle, to discriminate, and in-so-doing, to sin against one another.
Jesus’ teaching declared clean those who popular religion deemed “unclean,”
And “pure” those who were considered “impure” by the holiest and most-well dressed priests.
(Including, in Jesus’ time, lepers, menstruating women… and Gentiles).
I is my conviction that when the church is acting like the church, Jesus’ message is still our message today.
The scriptures teach, through Jesus’ parables that the only folks ever excluded from God’s Kingdom are those who exclude others; and through St. Paul’s writings that, for Christians,
there is no longer any distinction between greek or jew, slave or free, male or female (or any other category we humans construct to exclude one another), but that all are one in Christ Jesus.
Scripture and Lutheran tradition teach us that our status as citizens of God’s kingdom and our status as children of God are solely a gift, granted by God’s grace, whether we think we deserve it or not.
My conviction is that when the church is acting like the church, these teachings are still our teachings today.
Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke:
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
And again in Matthew
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled.
Despite these basic teachings of Jesus from scripture,
(and Jesus’ graphic—and intentionally offensive—offering of his flesh and blood in scripture today)
We, as the church, now and throughout history,
have done quite well to not welcome our sisters and brothers in humanity to God’s table—to the Lord’s Supper, into the Lord’s house, and especially into ordained ministry,
(especially when to some it might be considered offensive.
In fact, more than not welcoming, at times, we as the church
have intentionally excluded
folks who were different form us as a majority,
folks who made us uncomfortable,
and folks who we imagined,
because of our own distaste or dislike for them, were outside
Jesus’ teaching about the radically inclusive love of God…
In American Lutheranism alone, these groups have included: women, slaves, freed slaves, and people of color, among others.
And one by one, prophetic Lutherans have pointed out our collective sin of excluding folks from God’s family and have called us to repentance.
However, to this day we in the ELCA continue to officially exclude some who happen to be different from the majority.
We do this both intentionally and unintentionally.
“by what we have done and by what we have left undone”
One groups of people we as the church have excluded (and continue to exclude), intentionally,
Is our lesbian, gay and, and transgender sisters and brothers.
These words alone might make some of us uncomfortable
They might make some of us squirm because we’re not used to not talking about sex or sexuality period—
especially not in church.
We’re not accustomed to hearing “God loves gays” on the Christian radio.
And so we might react like Jesus’ audience when he started talking, crudely, about his own flesh in the Gospel today, and telling people to drink his blood.
To others of us, this is a welcome topic—those of us might be like those who Jesus refers to as being eager to talk about something with more spiritual “meat.”
And still others of you wish the church could move past the subject of sexuality and on to discussing other parts of peoples’ physical and spiritual lives—to quit arguing and start helping people.
Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum,
You should know that this week, at the ELCA’s church-wide assembly, our national church’s delegates, as a whole, will be voting on whether or not we, as a collection of 10,500 congregations nationwide will begin to officially accept active partnered, monogamous gay and lesbian clergy into ministry.
If these recommendations are accepted—and there is much dispute over this issue, as you might imagine—this will be the ELCA’s first, unambiguous decision on clergy who are not heterosexual, ever.
It will also mean that our friends in the seminaries or considering God’s call to ministry who happen to be non-heterosexual in one way or another will be able to become ordained without fear of a witch-hunt or loss of scholarship by those opposed or afraid. Also, our friends who have gotten denied ordination into ministry, simply because they were gay, (if they want it) will be able to reenter the process.
Although I think I have made my point clear time and again, in sermons and in Bible studies, I thought it important that, if any rift were to occur in the church as a whole based on this coming week’s decisions, you all should know where your pastor stood on this issue, knowing that it’s not the most popular perspective in many churches, especially churches here in Bridgeport.
I do believe our sisters and brothers in Christ who hear God’s call to ministry, should, like our sisters and brothers throughout scripture and history, heed that call, regardless of age, race, class, sexual orientation, and so on. Because God’s call transcends all human boundaries. And God’s call is always by grace, to a humanity who will always fall short in comparison but by a humanity who is called continually anyway by a loving God.
I am happy to discuss this farther with any who might be interested in the coming weeks.
And I ask for your prayers for the ELCA as it enters into a week of deliberation, voting, prayer, and certainly controversy.
May God’s Spirit of Justice, Love, and Reconciliation guide all who vote on our behalves this week.
And may God lead us continually in a Spirit of transformation and Lutheran Reformation.
May the peace that passes all understanding guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.