May 21, 2017

 May21Bigotry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter 6 - Year A

A Sermon Preached by The Rev Ian M Delinger

 

In the name of God whose offspring we are;
In the name of Christ through whom we see God;
In the name of the Spirit of Truth;
In the name of the Triune God,
may I be empowered to speak and we inspired to hear. Amen.

 

“For we too are God’s offspring.”


It isn’t common in the Bible that Paul’s words are quoted by someone else. The bulk of Paul’s writings are in the form of his letters to various Christian communities in the Eastern Mediterranean. But here in the Book of Acts, St Luke recounts a speech by Paul, which includes Paul’s quoting of poets, “For we too are God’s offspring.”


I want to talk about God’s offspring in the context of current community events.


Most of you have probably heard the news of the article and letter written in the San Luis High School’s newspaper “Expressions”. In the May print issue, an article was written about the experiences of 3 LGBTQ students. LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer. One of the subjects of the article wrote a short piece about coming out. And then there was another Q&A article about an LGBTQ couple and their experiences of having a relationship at SLO High School.


Included in that issue was a Letter to the Editor from a teacher, who expressed his Christian views by expressing his love for all the students and staff of SLO High School, selectively summarizing the Bible, quoting portions of Romans 1 (out of context), ending his letter with “I write you these things in order to lift up those who have stumbled, or may stumble, and put you back on the right path”, which is also a paraphrase of Paul’s salutations, and also included in his quotation of Romans “They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway.” He never mentioned the students, but it was in a student newspaper in response to an article about students, mere children whom we are to nurture and foster.


I am not here to chastise the teacher. There has been enough of that, plenty of it not very Christian in nature. I stand here this morning to illustrate how today’s readings affirm that the LGBTQ students at SLO High School, like the black students, the Latino students, the disabled students and all the other students are God’s offspring.


Whether a person is a Christian or not, we believe that what God wants from us is a relationship with the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


Paul’s concern in this morning’s
first reading is about the worship
of God, citing that God created
humanity:

 

…so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for Him and find Him—though indeed He is not far from each one of us.

 

Paul is speaking against the misguided religious practices in Athens and the Greek world. Still today, we have to speak out against the misguided religious practices of our own Christian brothers and sisters. Paul is deeply versed in the Hebrew history, as any good Pharisee would be. He alludes to misguided worship:


‘For we too are his offspring.’ Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.
He is comparing the Greeks to the worship of the Golden Calf in the desert in the time of Moses and the Exodus. Just as Aaron and the Israelites in the desert formed idols out of gold, so too do those who form the perfect image of man and woman out of the art and imagination of mortals. Whether its Size 00 supermodels, men with the physique of Michaelangelo’s David, or anthropomorphically-perfect blonde-haired-blued-eyed able-bodied heterosexual Christians, idealizing a particular archetype of human as the only one formed in the Image of God is also to worship idols.

 

We must find God in others, for
we are all God’s offspring. It is
not for us to challenge another to
deny their sexuality, their race,
their gender. It is for us to see the
other as God’s offspring and to
see the Image of God in the other.
And we are to invite people to the
worship of the God we know,
God who is Love.

 

St Stephen’s and the Episcopal Church are here for people who want to worship God and walk together on our spiritual journeys. Why would we turn away anyone who wants to worship God through Jesus Christ? That is what we are here for. We welcome all God’s children who want to worship.


The Sacrament is the great equalizer. We come to the altar as equals. If we have not reconciled with our neighbor, we are not to come to the altar, and technically, I have the right to refuse the Sacrament to anyone I believe not to be reconciled with their neighbor. You can find the details of refusing the Sacrament on page 409 of the Book of Common Prayer. With regard to what happened at SLO High School, it would be difficult for me to view the students as living notoriously evil lives – they are children! And it was not the students who have done wrong to their neighbors and are a scandal.


People of different sexualities, races, genders, abilities are not lesser human beings, and they are not living notoriously evil lives. To make them lesser is to do the evil that oppressors have done in the past, those horrific events in history that we claim that we are to learn from. The Jews were made to be sub-human many times throughout history, and expelled from many countries, including the Holy Land. And we all know what happened in WW2. Black Africans were considered sub-human during the slave trade, to validate their subjugation. The key to these and other events were decades of leaders, at national and local levels, convincing the masses that the Jews or the Blacks or the Hutus or the Natives of the Americas during the Columbian Exchange were lesser, they were sub-human, they were inferior in their genetic make-up. It was that attitude, eventually spreading through the masses, that facilitated the extermination, expelling or enslaving entire groups of people. And for women, it was not that they were sub-human, they were simply weaker.


Christians do not make other humans sub-human. God came as a human in Jesus Christ and therefore sanctified humanity.

 

Jesus made us a little divine
through His own divinity. There
is no person who is sub-human.
God is in each of us.

 

Jesus was the only perfect human being, without sin.


Sin is tricky. At Wednesday’s Adult Ed Forum, Pastor Jay Perry from the Seventh-day Adventist Church brought up a point that I have been struggling with for 30 years: we rank sin, and we have put sexual activity at the top of the list. But what never seems to be on the list is the judgmental nature of those who have problems with other people’s sex lives. What others do, from a spiritual perspective, is actually for them to work through. We’re talking about daily life stuff, not big “notoriously evil” stuff. I’m really talking about the sex lives of people, whether they are gay or straight. A person’s sexuality in relation to their spirituality is between them and God. If they want to get me involved as their priest, I’ll walk with them on that journey, and I have, with heterosexuals, bisexuals, homosexuals and transgenders. If you have a problem with someone else’s sexuality, that's for you to work through with God. With regard to judgment, that is not for us. As Paul is quoted, God has appointed a man, one whom God has raised, to execute the final judgment.


You know, I genuinely never thought I would have to come out in support of LGBT issues once I moved back to California, into The Episcopal Church and in the Diocese of El Camino Real. I really thought I wouldn’t have to hear about the controversies again. And I know that I don’t need to preach to you about affirming the LGBT community. Yet, here we are. God’s work is never done.

 

What would happen if we let it be
known around the city that
St Stephen’s welcomes all people
regardless of race, gender,
sexuality, ability, national
origin, etc?

 

Would we get hate mail? Will we be told that we’re not “real Christians”? Will some people never darken our door? I hope not. But if we do, we are told in 1 Peter:


It is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil.

 

We are first and foremost called to love God, then we are called to love our neighbors. Let us go out and do good, and let us nurture others so that they might flourish. Whether it’s the LGBTQ students at SLO High, the homeless who come to our office door, the mentally-unwell who live in residences on either side of St Stephen’s, or the person sitting next to you in the pew:


Let us welcome all who want to
search for God, to grope for Him
and to find Him.

© 2017 St. Stephen's Episcopal Church
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