Affirming Ministry Theme ~ Romans 15:1-7
We’re celebrating today, and we here at Faith United are so blessed that we have so much to celebrate! There is a special, energized, positive, spiritual vibe about this place – and it’s not just because we’re anticipating the pot luck lunch that awaits us. I felt it the moment I walked in here 10 years ago – and I repeatedly hear people make the same comment: It feels spiritually positive here.
That doesn’t happen by accident. It wasn’t part of the architectural drawings. We didn’t pay extra and order the super-sized box of positivity from the good vibes catalogue. The only way to ensure a positive, spiritual environment is to grow it – to work on it – to prioritize it – and to resource it. We do all those things. And it works.
Faith United is a good place to be.
Faith United is a healthy, vibrant expression of the body of Christ.
That’s worth celebrating.
It’s also worth sharing. And that leads us into our pondering time today. We are in the midst of a journey of learning and awareness called the Affirming Ministry process. Affirming ministries began to address the challenges that lesbians and gays experienced when interacting with churches and church people. Unfortunately, and sadly, many well-meaning church folks took a troublesome mixture of cultural norms and bad theology and used it to exclude, insult, belittle, and bar people whose sexual orientation was different than the majority.
And that’s what this ultimately is – the majority having to wrestle with how to treat minorities. But before I go there I need to back up and unpack a couple of things I just said.
A few months ago I preached a whole sermon about how the bible has been misused and incorrectly interpreted in regards to lesbians and gays. I’m not going to repeat that sermon – I encourage you to read it if you missed it back in January, it was called “A Firm Faith”. I also know that some folks had trouble with that sermon, and maybe will with today’s as well.
Here’s why I think that is.
If you were born a person who is attracted only to the opposite sex, and you’ve never had the faintest sense that you were anything other than the male or female person your body indicates you are, then you are part of the vast majority of people in our society and in our churches.
Add to that a culture that has taught us over and over again that we who are in the majority, we who have the power, are “normal” and anyone not like us is “abnormal”.
And now add to that a view of the bible that tended to read literally (when it suited us) – and you get an environment that creates barriers for those not in the majority, and uses “common sense” and “God’s word” to reinforce those barriers.
The challenge before us is that we have to unlearn a lot of things that we grew up thinking were true, but aren’t.
The first is the idea that being gay is a choice.
It is not.
It’s like being born left-handed, or red-headed – not a choice, but definitely a minority.
If you’re part of the straight/heterosexual majority this whole thing may not make any sense to you. But I would argue that we can no more understand the challenges of being part of the gay minority than we who are white can understand being part of an ethnic or racial minority. We’ve always had the power, so our ways became the only ways.
Then we had bible passages to seemingly back us up. This is the second thing we need to unlearn.
There are two key issues there.
One is that cultural norms in biblical times were very different from now. If you don’t believe me try selling your daughters as slaves this afternoon and see what happens! They made rules and pronouncements that fit their time, their context, but they don’t necessarily apply for all time.
The second key issue about the bible is that by saying “it says so in the bible” we’re picking and choosing which verses should be literal and which shouldn’t.
Those of us who are not gay are quick to point out Leviticus 20:13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman they shall be put to death.
It’s an “abomination,” the bible says.
It’s funny though how those of us who have some money (which is everyone in this room) never seem to want to bring the same biblical authority and literal reading to a verse like Luke 18:22 – something Jesus himself said.
If Leviticus 20:13 is God’s final word, then so is Luke 18:22, right?
Jesus says, Sell everything you have and give the money to the poor.
Until you show me the receipt you are forbidden from throwing biblical quotes at anyone!
The problem is that we (straight people, the majority) can feel it in our bones that being gay is wrong – but that just means it’s wrong for us – not for everyone.
Just because someone is born into a minority doesn’t mean those of us in the majority, who have the power, can deny their reality.
It is a scientific fact that one’s sexual orientation is as optional as one’s skin colour. Just because that may go against what some of us grew up “knowing” doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It means we still have stuff to unlearn, and learn. read on