The past couple of weeks leading up to the Feast of the Ascension could very well be labeled the “Season of Love.” That’s not to say that each Sunday celebration is not a celebration of the love God has shown to us, and poured out on us through Christ Jesus. It is to say that it is particularly demonstrable in the lessons appointed (via the Revised Common Lectionary) for Easter V and Easter VI. Just in case you’ve forgotten, or in the oft chance you missed worship on one of these Sundays, I invite you to read 1 John 4:7-21, 1 John 5:1-6, and John 15:9-17. I’m asking you to do this because there seems to be some confusion about our roles as baptized followers of Jesus. One does not have to hunt very hard for the evidence of our confusion, two things have happened over the past several days that make this an easy reality to observe.
The first is a neighborhood sort of thing. A billboard, that appears to be part of a series of like-messaged billboards, has been posted in Dearborn – our neighbor community to the west. It claims homosexuality is a behavior not a (civil) right. It appears that the funders of this campaign are unwilling or un-wanting to consider the vast body of scientific evidence to contrary. In a bit of a new twist on this, they cite Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:5. In case you don’t recall them, the Genesis is that which says, and I paraphrase here, that a man shall leave his father and mother and woman leave her home and the two shall become one. The Matthew citation echoes the Genesis.
Now let me be clear, I believe that. I’m a living example of that. No qualifications. The challenge to using these citations is that Scripture never indicates that this is the only faithful way to live the course of one’s life. There is no indication that blessed Paul, an apostle, and the patron saint of our cathedral ever did this. If you really want to raise a row, suggest, even vaguely, that Jesus might have. It just is not there in the Scriptures. Paul, pretty pointedly suggests that marriage is a distraction to one’s living wholly and completely for Christ. But, if you have to marry in order to avoid being “aflame with passion” then Paul says go ahead. You can find that in 1 Corinthians 7, along with lots more that I’m not planning on tackling today.
The second is in the larger garden of The Episcopal Church. Over the past week and a half or so, some things became clear (and others may still be foggy) regarding a scheduled baptism at the cathedral in Orlando, Florida. A couple went through all the required (by canon) preparation for the baptism of their young son, Jack. Just a couple of days before the baptism was to take place the parents were informed that it was being postponed. Not all the baptisms scheduled for that day, just Jack’s. Jack’s dad Rich, and his other dad Eric, were left in a quandary. Eventually, the bishop of the diocese gets involved, and, well, the whole thing just wasn’t, just isn’t, pretty, because it seems that the only presenting issue is that Jack has two dads.
I could go on for a number of pages about this, but let me try to summarize. In last week’s reading from Acts (Acts 8:26 ff), Philip baptizes an Ethiopian eunuch in what amounts to standing water on the side of the road. A person such as our Ethiopian friend was as far outside the norm or the law of first century Judaism as possible, and due to his physical alterations could never be a Jewish convert.
This week, in Acts 10 (Acts 10:44 ff) Peter, speaking of the Gentiles, can find no reason to withhold the waters of baptism from those who have “received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”
Look, Moses killed a man, and though not baptized, God used him in significant ways in our salvation history. Ruth was a Moabite, a foreigner in every way to the people of Judah, who, because of her love and care for Naomi, ends up the great-grandmother of David. Saul of Tarsus (aka Paul the apostle) had a license to hunt down the followers of Jesus to put them in jail or worse. Every time we impose our constraints, God, by actions if not by words, says, “Look what I can do; look who I can use.”
In “Seasons of Love”, a song from Rent, we are reminded that there are 525,600 minutes in a year. As Christians, as Christians walking the Episcopal path of the journey, as people of the community of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, each of these minutes represents an opportunity to love. As those who are sealed in by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever, our whole existence after that is to be a season of love. And we have to be committed to that, both inside the worshiping walls of our cathedral and, most especially outside them.
It is our season to love, as well as being a season of love. Let me be clear about a couple of things: First, it doesn’t matter your age, your gender, your relationship status, economic circumstances, ethnic or cultural heritage, sexual orientation, gender identification, etcetera, as long as you are a child of God (and you are!), willing and wanting to respect the dignity of others, you are welcome here. Second, if young Jack and his parents had a relationship with this community of faith, he would be baptized here.
Right now a very small but noisy part of Christianity is working hard to draw the circle of who is included in God’s love smaller and smaller so as to exclude. We must be more resolute than that – in the words of the poet:
He drew a circle that shut me out — Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in!
“Outwitted” by Edwin Markham (1852-1940)
Yours in Christ,