Reclaiming Jesus: Affirmation #2

12 07 2018

Reclaiming

THERE IS TO BE NO OPPRESSION BASED UPON SEXUAL IDENTITY!

This morning we are continuing our study of a recent statement of Christian belief, born in the hearts and minds of an extremely diverse group of American Church leaders.  In light of all that is going in our country today, these saints have called Christ-followers to “humbly reconsider what it means to proclaim that Jesus, and no one else, is Lord!”

Their statement is titled “Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis”; and the second affirmation reads: “We believe that we are one body in Christ, and therefore there is to be no oppression based upon race, gender, identity, or class.”

So today, in the middle of what has become known “Pride Month”, we’re going to tackle the subject which, after abortion, may be one of the most divisive issues facing some churches today: and that is the treatment of our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.

Now interestingly, society at large has been far more receptive to the Spirit’s movement in this area than we in the Church have: which I must say is a sad statement on the state of the faith community in our country.  Never the less there is a growing chorus of Biblical Scholars, theologians, and average Christ-followers just like many of you, who believe that as the Spirit continues to shed more light on this issue, the Church and the world will one day recognize that, as the saying goes . . . God is less concerned with who a person loves, and more concerned with THAT a person loves.  And so when it comes to the many LGBTQ+ issues facing us today, the faith community needs to be far more supportive than we have been.  And not IN SPITE of our faith, but BECAUSE of our faith.

In his book “God vs. Gay”, author Jay Michaelson points out that a close reading of both the Hebrew Bible and the Greek New Testament, along with the latest data on the science of sexual orientation, all reveal that diversity in all its forms, including sexual diversity, is part of the beauty of creation; and there is no reason for anyone to feel threatened by that.

Scripture actually has nothing at all to say about committed, same-gender relationships; and while there are passages that condemn both hetero and or homosexual promiscuity and oppression, Jesus himself never addresses the subject of homosexuality.  Unfortunately, for too many in the Church today, “othering” has become the norm; and that has been the response to the LGBTQ+ community.  Too often, we meet people who are not like us: people who look, live, or love differently than we do, and we “other” them!  We treat them as if they are less, simply because they are different.  And that behavior is precisely what is being challenged in the New Testament Letter to the Church at Galatia.

The author of those words is telling the Church then, as well as the Church today, that in the Body no one is superior to anyone else.  Jews aren’t better than Gentiles.  Men aren’t more valuable than women.  Slaves aren’t inferior to their masters.  Worldly labels simply don’t matter to God, and we in the Church MUST remain united around this belief, regardless of what is going on in the culture around us.

Now sadly we’ve not always done this.  The Church has been telling women for centuries – and in some instances is still sending the same message today – that they are the weaker sex, created to be nothing more than ‘helpers.’  We’ve exalted Whiteness, and White ways; and then equating Black and Brown bodies with darkness and sin, we’ve built nations, governments, and religions on teachings that are nothing short of evil.  And when it comes to homosexuality, here too Scripture has been used over and over again to oppress countless women and men who were likely already struggling with their identity, adding needless fuel to the fires of their self-hatred.

The suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain two weeks ago have brought to all of our attention the growing mental health epidemic that suicide is becoming in this country; but it’s especially problematic among our youth.  It is the second leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 10 and 24 today; and gay and lesbian youth? . . . they contemplate suicide at 3x the rate of heterosexual youth, and they are 5x times more likely to actually attempt suicide?  And while things are indeed changing, coming out and admitting first to yourself, and then to others, that you are gay, lesbian, trans – well the people I’ve encountered in my ministry have taught me that we in the straight, cisgender community will ever be able to fathom how difficult it is.

So if by chance anyone listening to this sermon, either here this morning or on-line at some point in the future, is struggling with their sexual identity, know that you are deeply and dearly loved . . . every part of who you are . . . every part of who you were created to be.  And you need to know that doesn’t EXclude the sexual expression that best suits you.  It INcludes it.  You’re not loved by God in spite of your sexuality.  God loves that about you just as much as God loves the texture of your hair, the passions of your heart, and the warmth of your smile.  And you can never, ever let anyone, lead you to believe differently!

This is the message the Church is called to proclaim, and today, as much as ever!  . . . Freedom of religion does not give any of us the right to discriminate against another person for the lives they chose to live.  Ever! 

Yes, here in America we have the right to believe whatever we want to believe, and to practice whatever faith we choose to practice: until that faith oppresses or infringes upon the rights of others.  That friends, is not the way of Jesus, nor can it ever be masqueraded as the will of God.

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.

Do you know that phrase?  It’s the infamous, and condescending phrase, that means “Let them eat cake”.  It is thought by many to have to have been spoken by Marie Antoinette, in the 18th century, upon learning that the French peasants had no bread.  Now there is actually no evidence she ever said such a thing, and in fact, she was known as someone who had great sympathy for the poor.  Never the less, old legends die hard, and so it is hard to change the belief that she had an overt insensitivity to those on the margins of French society.

Sadly, today, there are far too many people in the Church of Jesus Christ who have an overt insensitivity toward others, and far too many who are continually trying to push more and more people to the margins of our society: the immigrant and refugee, the poor and underemployed, women and sometimes even old white men, and most certainly those in the LGBTQ+ community.

But friends this simply cannot be the case for those of us who claim to be part of the Church of Jesus Christ.  Here, everyone deserves a welcome . . . gay, straight, trans, bi, rich, poor, young, old, single, married, divorced, and on and on and on.  Here, doors and hearts must always remain open; and our behavior, attitudes, and hospitality, all need to be determined and shaped not by Supreme Court decisions, but by the living Word, Jesus. Here, we not only . . . eat cake, but we bake cakes, for everyone!  Because here, everyone, is welcome.

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