Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Today’s texts are largely like pep rallies for the faith, a time of rejoicing and celebration, at least for the most part.
In this setting, God manifests far less machismo than in some other parts of Hebrew scriptures. Here his spiritual DNA is a closer match to that of his son Jesus:
He is not impressed by the might of a horse; *
he has no pleasure in the strength of a man;
But he’s not nearly so accessible as his son. His son said, “I have not called you servants, but friends.” Saint Paul stresses the same point in his letter to the Galatians: “So you are no longer a slave but a child.” That’s a bit too chummy for the vision of God in Psalm 147:
But the LORD has pleasure in those who fear him, *
in those who await his gracious favor.
Isaiah says that we make God happy when we are full of awe and fear.
Beware of questionable assumptions that can sneak into a text when the predominant mode is one of uncritical celebration. We are most vulnerable when we assume that we do not need to be critical readers. Here, for example, amidst all the celebration in No. 147, the psalmist asserts:
He has not done so to any other nation; *
to them he has not revealed his judgments.
That is the attitude that has built the wall, not a fence but a wall, separating the Jews from the Palestinians in Jerusalem. That is the attitude that threatens stability and peace not only in the Middle East but in the whole world. `My God is better than your God. Yanh, yanh, yanh, yanh, yanh.’
When the Samaritan woman asked where it is best to worship, Jesus refused to take the bait. “God is a spirit, and those who worship God are those who worship God in spirit and in truth.”
I know that it is Christmas, a time of rejoicing that God dwells with us in great happiness. All the more reason not to turn off our thinking caps regarding the sacred texts. God gave us good brains and expects us to use them.
When I consider God’s purpose in loving lgbt people in our time, no text more clearly explains God’s intentions than this passage from Galatians.
Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian.
There is no way that lgbt persons can live in the church under the discipline prescribed in Leviticus, one of Scripture's main law books. "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination" (Leviticus 18:22). “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them" (Leviticus 20:13). Those laws are disciplinarians indeed, and for centuries the church exacted huge penalties from lgbt persons.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.”
Lgbt people are new faces in the old story of God’s grace -- amazing still. We are no longer subject to a disciplinarian.
We are living in hard times, many straights and gays alike. Many doubt that the church has any news genuinely good for them. Some are watching how the church responds to those whom it formerly cast out. Some straights who have no particular fondness for lgbt persons themselves, are watching closely: “If the Church welcomes them, maybe the church will welcome me too!”
Lgbt persons are the canaries in the coal mine called the Church. We test for toxicity. An Anglican Communion not safe for lgbt persons is probably not safe for most other people either.
An Anglican covenant that subjects lgbt persons and our friends to a disciplinarian is a violation of the Good News, and it will likely bite back for others in the communion in the future about issues quite different from the sexuality issues framed around lgbt persons.
God loves straight people just as much as God loves lgbt persons, no more and no less. May your Christmas season be filled to overflowing with the Good News in that.
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