10.17.2014

A Welcoming Word...31 years delayed

I would like to introduce you to a great video from House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. The pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber, was invited to make a video about homosexuality and the church, and instead, she chose to give the time to people from the congregation she serves. I think it's beautiful and well done.

As a parish pastor, I didn't speak up nearly as much as I now wish I would have on the issue of welcome and hospitality to the GLBTQ community. I wish I had been more bold and open and affirming. Far too often, I was quiet in my support and neutral in my public profession of welcome. Sorry this took 31 years.

To my gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer brothers and sisters in faith, I apologize for not being a hell of a lot louder in my support of who you are and who God created you to be. Sincerely, I was a cowardly bonehead. 

A part of me feels like saying at this point in the post, "Well, I never said a single condemning word about homosexuality." And that's true. I didn't. Instead, I was just neutral all the time! Which is worse! I felt God placed a message of acceptance and affirmation in the core of my being...I journeyed through life with many gay friends...and instead of sharing that love and proclaiming it to people of every age group, I held it in. I felt I needed to tow the line...keep everyone happy...never offend.

I tell you what...Jesus wasn't particularly interested in keeping everyone happy. And as a called and ordained leader of the church, I don't think my call is to keep everyone happy either.

You are all so loving to me about my platelets! My platelet situation is not a result of sin. It's just how I am.

Being gay and having a platelet disorder are not the same thing...at all...but stick with me a minute....You all go out of your way to support and encourage me on this journey. What if you suddenly were silent, neutral, or quiet in your support? What if you just listened as people said mean and judgmental things, like, "Must be a result of her sin? Or must be because she doesn't have enough faith?"

I would be brokenhearted. Utterly! I would not feel inclined to participate in the life of the church. I would feel defeated and alone.

Every day people encourage me to be me...to trust that God is with me...to believe that my platelet problem is not a result of sin or defiance of God or the devil. And you know what? That's what has helped me press on...on the days when it's super hard and frustrating and exhausting! Your love and support! I see and feel God's presence through you.

So friends...I believe that's who we are called to be for others. Straight and gay and sick and healthy and poor and rich. We are called to love and support and help one another press on. To be the hands and feet of Jesus for one another. And we don't have to perfectly understand one another in order to love and support one another!

I look forward to the day the church is focused on what Jesus was focused on...healing the sick, welcoming the broken, feeding the hungry, and proclaiming a word of justice in the midst of systems of absolute injustice.

I will always do my best to be a person who engages in healthy debate and dialogue. I will also seek to understand all sides of an issue. I will respect the opinions of others. But that doesn't mean God is calling me to neutral.

For awhile, I thought it did.

But it doesn't. And it never did. I was wrong.

Here's what I think: The Gospel is NOT neutral. The Gospel is not quiet and afraid of offending. The Gospel is LOUD. It's affirming and profoundly revolutionary. The Gospel is love beyond comprehension. 

Yesterday I heard Rachel Held Evans say something profound: "The Gospel is not offensive because of who it keeps out. It's offensive because of who it lets in."

Namely...us! Me and you. God loves us! In spite of all our weirdness and sin and regrets. In spite of all our stupidity. God loves us! With all our creativity and giftedness and humor and wonderful qualties. God loves us. Not because of what we do. Not because of what we don't do.

And how good does it feel to be deeply and profoundly accepted - just because we exist?!?! Just because God made us and breathed life into our bones.

I will tell you how it feels. It feels like the kingdom of heaven. It feels like swimming in a pool of love water. It feels like living in a house full of ice cream sundaes. It feels like the best hug ever...the kind you never want to break away from.

Shame on us if we ever try to keep that Gospel message for ourselves. Shame on us if we ever try to keep grace for ourselves. It's for everyone.

Jesus sends us out to proclaim love.

Holy Spirit...grant us the courage we need every day to see every single human through your eyes. Eyes of love, acceptance, and grace beyond comprehension. Holy Spirit...keep the hearts and minds of your people and your Church on what YOU believe are the greatest priorities. Prevent distraction. Prevent ego. Cast out our fears. Engage us in your work. Engage us in your spirit of welcome. Sort out the pieces and places we don't understand. Forgive our sin. Direct our path. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for reminding us that we never have to earn your love and no one else does either. Amen. 

8 comments:

  1. Love this! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and beliefs.

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  2. Thank you for standing up and proclaiming this, but I don't think you need to apologize for what you'd done before. It wasn't that long ago that the ELCA was not welcoming of the GLBTQ community.

    The confirmation Bible my almost-21-year-old received from our church (a Rochester ELCA) I'm paraphrasing, but it said that being gay was a sin. When she pointed out that article to me, I sent a message to our youth coordinator and the pastor in charge of the youth because I couldn't believe it was something that would be given to our youth.

    So, I see that part of this was in the culture of your job. I realize that I can't speak for the GLBTQ community since I am not a member, but I can understand where you are coming from.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing this comment - and a bit of your own story, too.

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