You know, I had this whole sermon that I had started about our own belonging and what the cross might mean for us – based on the 1 Corinthians reading.
But it just felt a bit empty and the more words I typed, the more disingenuous I felt.
Because I feel like Paul could be writing that letter to us now. We still do not all get along or understand the teachings of Jesus in the same way.
It feels to me like the more we learn about each other, the more stories we tell about ourselves and our stories and our lives; the more we know about human expression and how we show love, the more we know about human sexuality, the harder it is to hear statements put out by churches about who marriage is for and why they think they are right.
I am so tired of this debate. I am tired of Christians offering literal readings of scripture that tell us why they think that marriage should be kept for just one man and one woman.
I am tired of our expectation that the Bible and the Gospels should remain static – just laying on the page waiting for us to literally interpret them rather than dig deep: learning about the culture that surrounded the people who were writing and thinking about what we might need to suspend or hold up. I’m tired of not expecting the Gospels to be living documents that beg for our learning and debate. I am tired of having scripture used as a weapon to justify power and exclusion.
Because that is not how my faith works. It is living and it is nuanced, it changes and deepens and grows as I more deeply engage the Jesus story.
I believe in an incarnate God, who shows up in all of creation – humans and plants and animals and sunshine and rain, alike. I believe in a God who loves us into being and who looked at creation once she was done and stood back and said: this is good.
I believe in a God who continues to be revealed in our own revelations of one another as we grow into who God calls us to be.
And while we continue to fight about who is in and who is out – the world continues to cry out for justice. The earth continues to die – and humans continue to fight over its precious resources.
And I just cannot.
Paul writes to the people of Corinth, that we preach the Gospel not just with words – that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are looking in and salvation for those of us who follow this way.
But what does salvation look like? Particularly for those of us who continue to have these ridiculous debates?
I think that salvation might come in the form of knowing that you can acknowledge your own beloved-ness and belonging, while still making space for others. Your beloved-ness takes nothing away from mine and we are saved from thinking otherwise.
I can see why those who are looking in, or those who have walked away, might think this is foolish. And on my bad days, I wonder why I stay.
It feels hard to be the people who are being asked to make space for those who would see us as other – or who would quote ancient laws from scripture that frankly disagree with one another and take a whole lot of unpacking to make sense of – in order to justify a limited view of God and Gods kingdom.
But I’ll tell you why I stay. I stay because I don’t believe that they are right. (and I know that others would say the same of me).
I stay because following Jesus forces me to be better. The Gospels insist that I pay attention differently from the way that I am inclined – they ask me to look at the person in front of me and to be ready to change my mind about them. They remind me that holding on to negative reinforces negative, but that leading with love, helps me to move towards love. The teachings of Jesus remind me that, though it is not at all easy much of the time – remaining in what separates us just reinforces our divisions and does not allow me to see the version of God that is in front of me.
We follow the teachings of a person who was kind of harsh, who made friends with the outcasts, and who did not hang out with the cool kids. He was clear about power and our need to separate ourselves from the political leaders of our times to see the people who are being affected by the laws that are in place. We follow the teachings of a man who listened to women in a time when women had no power. We follow a person who was not afraid to touch others who were seen as unclean.
And we follow someone who -when he was killed for pushing hard against the social and political rules of his time – still prayed for those who killed him.
And that looks foolish – particularly to those who would cling to the power that they hold.
So, when the Church of England put out it’s statement about marriage this week – I just COULD NOT!
And I was grateful for the organization of our church, who despite our own failed vote – has made it possible for us in this Diocese and in this church to make space for marriage beyond simply two people of the opposite gender – THANK GOD.
So, like my children who are all from the same family – linked to the same genetic gene pool, but who are all completely different humans, with varying ways of interacting with the world around them – so too our church, though linked, has a variety of ways of showing what following Jesus looks like.
And as you can guess, I do not agree with all of them.
But that isn’t what is important, I don’t think.
We don’t have to agree . We just have to make space, because like at my dinner table with my children- all of whom are deeply loved and wanted there – so too are we.
We are all beloved. All of us are loved and belong – even when we can’t see it. God does see it, and our maker longs for us to figure that out.
It isn’t what we want that matters- it is what God wants, and I know that God wants us too.
That God shows up here too – that none of us has the only one true way or expression or connection to Jesus.
And so I invite you, to hold your head high with me – to look around, and to see all of the beautiful expressions of God just in this room.
Salvation for us comes in the form of reminders that we are all loved and wanted at this table. We are saved from having to judge one another – we are saved from choosing to ‘other’ each other, we are saved from having to bow to the influences around us that do not know or who have forgotten, that love is the way.
We are saved from believing that we are any less – because we are not.
And the foolishness is that we would be any other way.
We are not here to draw lines between one another – we are not here to judge each other – we are not here to choose for God who is in and who is out.
That way of being is not good for anyone and it is exhausting.
We are here to choose love and to create safer spaces for us to be reminded of our own belovedness and to work together to care for the precious gift that we have been given in one another and in creation.
The cross is powerful because it shows us another way.
A way into life.