And yes, there's still the horror of Iraq, the insanity of Afghanistan, and the bullies of the patriarchy continue with their anoying 'threats,' but then...... then there's the radiant grace and articulate faith of some of our LGBT sisters and brothers that just about make me bust with wonder, joy. and thankfulness.
Two specific instances of God's grace speaking through wondrous LGBT lives in the last ten days (in chronological ordrer).
The Living Church Foundation http://www.livingchurch.org/news.asp Sept 11, 2007 reported on an incredible address +Gene Robinson delivered at the General Theological Seminary on Sept 10 2007. And I quote:
''I'm going to do my best to be at the table.
More than anything I wish I could be in the same room with Archbishop [Peter]
Akinola [of Nigeria] so he could hear from my own lips how God has transformed
me through scripture. The miracle is that I heard God's voice in scriptrue. I am
fiercely committed to it. It literally saved my life."
"The process of reconciliation begins when someone comes from the margins, challenges 'empire' and causes it to re-examine how it functions. Reconcilliation is not turning the tables. "
'I think we are at a moment in the Anglican Communion and the world where there is a lot of oppression going on, but it cuts both ways. The reason I am desperate to stay connected to the Global south and the Anglican Communion is that I need them for my salvation. I don't know how else I am going to understand the injustice I participate in and benefit from that is perpetuated on the rest of the world by the United States.
That is also why we need to stick together as an Episcopal Church. The worst sin
of all is to walk away from the table."
O.K. I know I'm repeating myself, but Thank God for +Gene Robinson and his witness to God's love ('beyond our wildest imagening' to quote the dear man) and for +Gene's graceful part in the wondrous growth, healing and renewal I truly believe Christ is working in His Church at this time.
I can only pray and wish that +Rowan and the other Episcopal Bishops meeting in New Orleans this week- to say nothing of whoever might end up attending Lambeth- might all be capable of such grace, generosity of spirit and love for Christ's Church.
And then we come to Canon Elizabeth+ Kaeton, or 'Sistah Liz+' as I remember her in my thankful prayers. Again, I'm repeating myself, but can that sister preach... And she's not afraid of taking on some of the more prickly sections of scripture either.
The most recent example of Canon Kaeton's grace and articulate intelligence is her sermon last Sunday available at http://telling-secrets.blogspot.com/ and it's well worth the couple of minutes to read it. Elizabeth+ is preaching on the day's Gospel Luke 15: 1-10
And again I quote
You’ll miss the message if you misjudge the intended audience. Jesus tells these two parables because “the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”You see, the story is not so much about the sinner as the religious people of the organized religion of his day.Elizabeth+ goes on to relate the gospel to a tragic local situation:
Jesus was telling these parables not only as an example of God’s never-ending, unconditional love, but as a model of the responsibility of being a Christian.We who profess to be followers of Christ are to be like the shepherd who had 100 sheep, and one was lost. We, like God-in-Christ, are to search out the one lost sheep until it is found. We, like God-in-Christ, are to be like the woman who had ten coins and turn the household upside-down until the lost one coin is found.Most importantly we, like God-in-Christ, are to forgive. We are to be unrelenting in pursuing those who have sinned until they are brought back into the fold and returned to the household of God.Now, that’s a difficult enough message for some to hear when we need to forgive our sister who ‘borrows’ our baseball glove and gets it all out of shape or our son who takes
the car, gets into an accident and messes up the car.But, what about the hard
stuff? What about the really major mess ups in life? What about, for example,
when someone betrays a trust? What about when someone crosses a boundary? A
sacred, albeit cultural boundary? What if that sacred, cultural boundary
involves the safety of our children?
Some of us are content to think that, if this man repents, he will be forgiven. Others of us are not. Some would like to believe that the betrayal of a child’s trust – especially in sexual matters – is an unforgivable sin. That this man should burn in hell forever.
Well, ready or not, here’s what this gospel tells us.
Jesus says that God, like the shepherd who has lost one of
his 100 sheep, is now, even now, pursuing that man.
Now, even now, God, like the woman who lost one of her 10 coins, is turning over the household of God, searching out that man who lost his way in the midst of his boredom or his loneliness or his perversion or his temporary insanity, or whatever it was that led this father of three boys to have a sexually explicit conversation with someone he thought was a 13 year old girl.
That, my friends is not just grace.That’s what some have called ‘radical grace’.And, radical grace is radical because it doesn’t stop there.
Now, even now, God is pursuing the lost among us – you and me and those whose hearts are hardened by harsh judgment and fear. But, that’s not the only message Jesus has in this gospel.
There is more than a well intentioned collect writer giving us the message that without God we can not please God.
There is more than Jesus, like Bono, standing at the microphone, telling us that every time he claps his hand, another soul is being pursued by God – another soul has repented, another angel rejoicing in heaven.Listen to that and you have missed the fullness of the message of this gospel.
Jesus told these parables to the religious people of his day – the Pharisees and the scribes – who were criticizing Jesus for welcoming sinners and eating with them.
Jesus was saying to them by way of these two parables that the church exists not so much for those who are found but rather for people who are lost.Jesus is saying to us, by way of these parables that the church exists for people like this Chatham Township man, who needs to be here in this place, or places like it, as much as sinners like you and me.
For some of us, this is decidedly NOT good news. Some of us hope this man is locked up in a dark cell and that someone throws away the key.
Jesus comes to us this morning and says that no one is so
lost that s/he can’t be found. Jesus says that no one is so far from sight, that
s/he can’t be seen.Not you.Not me.Not any one of us.
Here’s the amazing thing about radical grace: it transforms
not only the one who is being pursued, it transforms the purser.The one who once
was lost and now is found is not only changed and transformed by God’s justice,
but the one who pursues the lost is changed and transformed to administer God’s
justice with God’s mercy and compassion.
Radical grace is transformative grace and God pursues us all
with this grace relentlessly until we are all brought back into the fold, back
into the household, once again.
Here’s the gospel truth:
(Clap. Clap. Clap) Every time I clap my hands, another
person is pursued by God to bring about God’s justice.
(Clap. Clap. Clap) Every time I clap my hands, another
person is found by God to bring about God’s mercy.
(Clap. Clap. Clap) Every time I clap my hands, another angel
rejoices that God’s radical grace has triumphed over sin.
(Clap. Clap. Clap) Every time I clap my hands, you and I are
charged to seek out and find those who are lost and help them find their way
back home again.
This is what it means to be church. This is what it means to
be community. To be the Body of Christ. To be the shepherd who seeks out the
lost sheep. To be the woman who finds the lost coin.
My friends, the good news is that we are neither wretched
nor weak. We are, however, occasionally lost and need to be found.
From time to time, we all fall short and miss that mark, and
we all need to seek repentance and forgiveness, no matter how small or how great
our sins and offenses.
Our God is a God of abundant mercy and the source of amazing
grace, freely given. We do not have to earn it or work for it – indeed, we can
not. That’s the most amazing part of this amazing gift of radical
We are not wretched, miserable sinners. We are, in fact,
marvelously made by a most marvelous Creator who has made us God’s eyes and
ears, God’s arms and legs in this world.
We have been given a sacred trust and a sacred task. We are
co-creators with God, charged with helping to bring about the salvation of the
world through Christ Jesus, being led by the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s
gift of radical grace.
This . . . this . . . is what pleases God, without whom,
nothing in this world makes much sense, nor provides much pleasure
As I said earlier, Elizabeth+ relates Sunday's gospel to a local tragic situation which had unfolded during the previous week, but I think Elizabeth+'s powerful witness also speaks to the path ahead for our Church.
First we have dear +Gene, a much-loved brother in Christ who has been cursed, damned, lived under death threats, and who knows what else- emboding Christ's unconditional love and patience with his Creation- that same radiant brother extending a hand to the very brother who is working day and night to break the Communion over the awesome (and very legitimate) call by the Holy Spirit of +Gene to the Episcopate.
And then radiant Sistah Liz+ reminding us... reminding us to make it real.
With two such awesome radiant beings as +Gene and Elizabeth+ in the same post we don't even have to connect the dots.
Either Christ Jesus makes a difference or we're 'post-it Christians' -our fath little more than another costume or label we wear- something we 'consume' to avoid the real grit and grime- but also the larger grace, joy and healing to be found in these very lives we've been given.
The funny thing is, the closer we get to New Orleans, and yes Lambeth, the less fearful I am about either the outcome or 'the bigger picture.'Because the bottom line is, no matter how damaged the Communion might be by all of the acrimonious threats, the schismatic defiance, the Episcopal poaching and just plain ugliness, we're still talking- still 'in process-' even if one party insists on shouting across a divide of their making. And of course, their version of reality is neither the whole picture nor the end of the process.
And of course each time the voices of inclusion who embody the spirit of God's love incarnate take the conversation back to Christ Jesus and His vision for the Church.
After the two radiant examples I cite above it would almost be reduntant to quote St. Paul - you all know the passage- the one about nothing prevailing against the church, about nothing separting us from the love of Christ Jesus.... Well that's my faith- that's the truth I'm walking with these days, and to have such radiant examples as +Gene and Elizabeth+ to affirm that understanding- well I'm nothing short of blessed.
Thank-you +Gene. Thank-you Elizabeth+.
Thank-you and Thank God for all the other radiant brothers and sisters- you make all the difference in the world- and to countless more lives than just this one blessed in Montreal.
God's Greatest Blessing to God's Greatest Glory- Always Unconditionally
PS: You guessed it- reading Elizabeth+s sermon, I clapped too