Monday, June 29, 2015

From the Mountaintop to the Valley...and Back Again

Haven't written here in a very long while... not because I have had
nothing to say but perhaps because I just needed time to figure out
what to say and how to say it. Even as I write this, I realize that I
still don't have the "right" words...at least not words which everyone
I pastor or with whom I am friends will want to hear. But I can only
write and speak and live from my heart, from my convictions, from
the relationship I have forged with the One who Loves and Accepts
and Forgives. So here goes...

The decision handed down by the Supreme Court of the United
States regarding the legality of same-sex marriage as the law of
the land is one which fills my heart with joy since in it I hear, at
long last, justice for my LGBTQ sisters and brothers. Having had
the privilege of presiding at one same-sex marriage this spring,
the lovely culmination of an eighteen-year committed relationship
between two wonderful men, I am looking forward to being able to
serve in this pastoral way for other couples in the future, couples
who have walked together and loved together and handled adversity
together and are at last able to have their commitment recognized
in the same way as that of heterosexual couples.

I realize that there are those people- yes, some of whom I know quite
well- who find this anathema because, they say, it goes against the
word of God in scripture. Well, I don't read the Good Book that way-
never have, never will. The God I have come to know over seventy-
three years of living is a God of acceptance and inclusion, a God of
justice and welcome, a God who looks at every human creature and
calls us son or daughter and holds out loving arms to one and all.

Admittedly, some of my joy has been tempered by the heart-breaking
and terrible murder of nine children of God in a church in Charleston,
South Carolina. As they studied scripture and prayed together, these
African-American sisters and brothers welcomed into their midst a
young white man who, after spending an hour with them, proceeded
to take out a gun and begin shooting, hurling words of hatred and
racial slurs as he fired. So, how does one stay on the mountaintop
while being pulled into the Valley of the Shadow of Death? What in
the world does it all mean? Where is the love? Where is the justice?
And where in the world is God in the midst of all this?

I have long believed that the impetus behind prejudice of every
sort is FEAR...fear of the other, of those we perceive as different
from ourselves...fear of uncertainty, of not having boundaries and
distinctions clearly spelled out and delineated...fear of not being
"top dog", of being less than...fear that we- as we are- are simply
not enough- not smart enough, not rich enough, not right enough.
And perhaps, just perhaps, also the fear that if God isn't the way
we think "He" is, then everything will just fall apart into some
dreadful morass of immorality and degradation, and the world
will make no sense at all.

As a pastor, trying to shepherd people who may not agree with
me, as well as those who do, I have sometimes felt that I was
walking a tightrope these past days. I have yo-yo-ed between
overwhelming joy and overwhelming sadness...between hope
and despair...between the certainty that a new day is dawning
and the uncertainty borne in the shadows which still seem to
close in as nighttime falls. But I am certain, deep in my heart
of hearts, deep in that place where the Spirit of the Living
God dwells, of one mighty Truth: WE ARE ALL CHILDREN OF
THAT LOVING, CREATING GOD AND BECAUSE OF THAT,
WE ARE ALL ONE.

The one I call the Christ came to show us the way of wholeness
and healing which is the way of God. To treat anyone...ANYONE
as "less than" in any way- because of race or gender or age or
sexuality or socio-economic status- is to belie the wonder and
truth of who each person is... and I believe it is to turn our backs
on the very God we profess to love and serve.

My LGBTQ sisters and brothers, I am ONE with you.
My African-American sisters and brothers, I am ONE with you.
My Christian sisters and brothers who disagree with me,
I am ONE with you, in the sight of the God who fills us all.
Can you be ONE with me, too, and with all those "others"
who need your love and acceptance and inclusion? Can we return
to the mountaintop together?

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