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July 30, 2017

“Because…”

By Rev. Katrina Pekich-Bundy

John 1.1-9

Psalm 86.1-13

July 30, 2017

            Peter was an active and faithful member at Living Waters Church. He enjoyed the faith community and took part in leadership in the church. He served as liturgist and was an elder on the governing body. He had a positive relationship with the pastor and felt welcomed. Peter and his partner, Artie, were out in the church and community, but their orientation was not a topic often talked about. This was a place where they felt they belonged – it was their family.

            Then, the day came when a new minister arrived, who made it his personal mission to “cleanse” the church of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Peter was asked to no longer serve on the governing body and was banished as liturgist. Eventually, Peter left the church, hurt by the pastor’s actions, and the lack of support from his faith community who never spoke up in favor of him or Artie.[1]

            Unfortunately, stories like this are all too common. People are forbidden to use their gifts in many churches because of their sexual orientation. Teenagers questioning their sexuality are frightened by threats of hellfire and damnation. Rather than creating a space for people to ask questions, those struggling may repress their feelings, and sometimes become depressed. Some people only see suicide as their option. Even adults are shamed by this exclusion, being rejected by the church, and therefore feeling rejected by God. There must be safe churches – places where people can feel welcomed and encouraged to ask questions and share feelings, and to know they are welcome. That they may know that suicide is never an option – because they are surrounded by people who love them and care for them, and value them.

            I am grateful to announce that the session has approved that we become a More Light church. Based on our conversations of inclusivity and our support of PFLAG, the session felt it was the right time to affirm a sentiment we already held true in our actions – that we love and welcome all people. This choice to become a More Light church does not mean that we just support GLBTQ people but that we encourage those who identify as GLBTQ to be leaders in the church. We recognize that some people have been hurt by religion. We will not be inclusive 100% because we are still learning, and we will make mistakes along the way, but this is a process that we keep trying to welcome more and more people.

            You might wonder why we choose to do this – we are already a very inclusive church. It is perhaps naming something we are already doing. God created us as equal and we are called to be in community. For more information, there are pamphlets in the back of the sanctuary and in fellowship hall.

            The Psalmist in our scripture passage talks to God, giving the simple formula that x happens because of y. For example, the psalmist says, “Have mercy on me, Lord, because I cry out to you all day long. Make your servant’s life happy again because, my Lord, I offer my life to you.” The psalmist responds to God as if a small child is in the corner, asking “Why” every five minutes. The psalmist is preempting the question.

            The first “because” structure is about the psalmist. The author asks God to help because the psalmist is poor and needy. We may read this in financial terms, but it was more about a lack of protection.[2] The psalmist is looking to God for shelter. The psalmist goes on to ask God to pay attention because the author is faithful. Then the person asks God to have mercy, because the psalmist cries out. Finally, the “because,” or the focus of the psalm, becomes about God. “Because you are good and forgiving.” We realize that we act because of God, not that God responds because of us. The psalmist goes on to say that God is awesome and works wonders. Why does God work in amazing ways? The psalmist tells us it is because God is God. Mic drop – end of story.

            Why do we choose to become a More Light church? Because God is the great I AM – and God has a history of caring for people who have been turned away. God has a history of caring for the marginalized – and haven’t we all been marginalized or excluded at some point in our lives? Can you think of a time when you were left out? Some of us may not understand what it is like to be excluded based on our sexual orientation, but perhaps you know what it is like to be excluded based on a disability, or your gender, or your height or some other reason. We each have our own paths, but we can relate to human emotions and responses to situations.

            The Gospel reading we have for today is one that is often read at Christmas time. Advent is a time of light, and we think of Jesus being that light that leads us to Christmas. Except, our light shines all year. We are called to share God’s light in all of our lives in all times.

            The words “light” and “life” are associated with creation.[3] The first creation story in Genesis tells us that God began with light in the darkness and created life out of chaos. As we think about sharing more of God’s light in the world, throughout the year, we also recognize that we are a new creation in Christ. We are at a new beginning, starting something new. This is exciting and maybe a little bit scary, as we embark on the unknown. We can trust that God is with us in this journey.

            The author of the Gospel of John also reminds us that God’s light is the light of all people – no exceptions. We are reminded of God’s deep love once again. John the Baptist testified to the light – he went from the wilderness into the towns and preached and baptized. We are to testify to the light, as well. We testify to the light because we have been in the darkness. We testify to the light because we have seen the power of the light. We testify to the light because God is God.

            If you have questions about becoming a More Light church, I encourage you to go to the website, which is on the pamphlet and our bulletin. I encourage you to talk to session members and to me. This is something the session has been considering for some time, and realized that now is the time to do it, because God’s light is for all people, and we want to reflect that light. This is just the beginning. Throughout the coming months you will hear more about More Light, as it will be in the newsletter, and hopefully we will have a sign outside that expresses this, and perhaps some other more public displays to let people know that we are a welcoming church. If you have ideas of how we could do this, please let us know! We want to let people in the community know that we are welcoming.

            May we be filled with God’s light and shine on all God’s people, welcoming those who are in the dark, and those who are shining God’s light, because God is good. Amen.

 

 

[1] Craig O’Neill and Kathleen Ritter, Coming Out Within, (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992), 102-104.

[2] Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, “Psalms” in The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 1378.

[3] Rene Kieffer, “John” in The Oxford Bible Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 962-963.