There are many books available on the market that explore what it means to be part of the LGBT+ community in the Church of Christ. Those that are opposed to full LGBT+ inclusion often use scripture to make their point known for all that will hear. In the process they often neglect that everyone is created in the image of God.
Brandan Robertson presents a well-researched proclamation as he advocates for a full inclusion of LGBT+ people in the church today. He brings to the forefront that we are all called to be in relationship with God and it is of great importance how we live out that relationship in the rest of our lives. He addresses the six “clobber” passages that have been used time after time to berate the LGBT+ community. These passages have always been taken out of context when used in this manner and as people of God, we have learned a lot as we grow into relationship with one another. Robertson writes, “Any relationship centered on a consensual commitment to sacrificial love for the good of another is a holy relationship, and any attempt to break that commitment is seen as less than God’s desire for humanity.”
This resource compliments his previous offering, True Inclusion, which discussed what it truly meant to be a welcoming church in the world today. Doing such, requires change among our thought patterns and the denigration of those that we see as different. This is not just true for the LGBT+ community, but also for immigrants, gender, race, and any other way that we as broken people decide to divide.
This is not an easy step for the church to take, because of the damage that has been done over time. The Gospel has been co-opted by humanity to use to its own advantage in various times and places. It is time to speak up and be bold in our proclamation. Robertson shares, “We must know that our silence is being complicit in oppression. Silence is opposed to the gospel. We must, in Christ’s name, speak up. We must be willing to sacrifice our positions of privilege, power, and comfort in order to lift up the oppressed and give the voiceless back their voices.”
There is redemption to be found in Christ and we are not called to get in the way of the Holy Spirit working among the people of God. We are called to love and inclusion. Brandan Robertson’s book shares this in a way that is full of wisdom as well as from a full heart that has experienced many things. It speaks boldly and calls us forth in love.
This sentence alone can be interpreted in many ways. For a
teacher asking a student the answer to a math or science question, it shows
that the student does not comprehend or simply failed to do the homework or
When it comes to hearing this answer in the setting of the
church, how does it make you feel? Are you comfortable with living into not
knowing, or are you more like the disciples that are constantly seeking
concrete answers from Jesus? Are you comfortable with mystery, or are you
stymied by it?
As a pastor, I hear plenty of questions where people want
specific answers. Sometimes that is just not possible. At one point in my life,
I have even had asked some of the same questions. I recall during CPE in
seminary, where I was a chaplain in a hospital, the struggle and challenge of
walking with families that encountered various diagnosis. One family I visited was
in the ICU and they were sitting with their father, whose chance of recovery
was very slim. As we prayed together, I could sense the love that filled the
room. The next day I stopped by and he had awakened from the coma he was in and
was beginning to communicate with his family. Another family had a sister that had
had routine heart surgery and died a couple of days later due to complications.
Where was God in these circumstances, I questioned at the time. It was safe to
say I didn’t know and to just be present.
That is the mystery of God that we live into and it could not
be made more apparent than today when we recognize Holy Trinity Sunday. The
mystery that is God, lays in the very heart of the Trinity.
The disciples were uncomfortable with this mystery. They
wanted answers before they were even ready to understand what those answers may
be. They constantly sought answers to the mystery that was unfolding in front
of them, yet they did not fully understand what was happening. They knew the
God they followed in the Hebrew scripture, yet something was not computing when
trying to equate God with Jesus. There was a disconnection with fully
understanding that Jesus was both divine and human. There was a disconnection
occurring when they tried to understand that Jesus was the Son of God. There
was a disconnection when Jesus promised to send them the Holy Spirit.
So, where does this disconnection happen for us? It happens
more times than we would like it to. To say that we fully understand God and
the mystery that surrounds the Trinity means that you are fooling yourself. As
David Lose writes in his blog,
“As I’ve said before, I don’t
understand the Trinity and don’t trust those that report that they do. The
Trinity is, at heart, our best if manifestly inadequate attempt to capture in
words the mysterious nature of God.”
We fall short when we think that we have everything figured
out and those that are different or have different thoughts than us are wrong. We
stumble when we move forward in our own reasoning without listening to the
Spirit’s guidance. We slip when we bow to the expectations of the world in
preference to the teachings of Christ.
Jesus calls us to trust in the mystery. The mystery that we
are not expected to fully comprehend. To be comfortable in the unknown requires
faith. As Jesus tells us in today’s lesson, “I still have many things to say to
you, but you cannot bear them now.” The disciples have already been overwhelmed
with the journey thus far and Jesus knows that they are not quite ready to bear
anything else. It will only be revealed when they are ready. It is the same for
all of humanity.
As children of God, we are invited into this wonderful
mystery. We are invited to join in community and walk with each other as the
Trinity leads us. Richard Rohr, in his daily meditations, recently shared this
about the Trinity,
I see mystery not
as something you cannot understand; rather, it is something that you
can endlessly understand! There is no point at which you can say,
“I’ve got it.” Always and forever, mystery gets you! In the same way, you
don’t hold God in your pocket; rather, God holds you and knows your deepest
Whatever is going on in God is a flow, a
radical relatedness, a perfect communion between Three—a circle dance of
love. God is Absolute Friendship. God is not just a dancer; God is the dance
itself. This pattern mirrors the perpetual orbit of electron, proton, and
neutron that creates every atom, which is the substratum of the entire physical
universe. Everything is indeed like “the image and likeness of God”
the opportunity to encounter each part of the Trinity in our own time and
place. We are invited to join in the dance of the Trinity as Richard Rohr
refers to and that we will sing about soon. To enter that relationship is
mysterious and yet also overwhelming. God is much greater than we can ever
imagine. God is the creator that calls us to care for God’s creation. Jesus is
the part of the divine that has come to us in our own human form to show us the
way. The Holy Spirit completes the three to companion us on this great journey
The Holy Trinity
is present with us at all times in our lives. When we are born. When we fall
off the bicycle for the first time and scrape up our knees. When we enter the
scary world of high school. When we must start providing for ourselves. When
our own children are born and when we grow old and experience all new aches,
pains, and terrible diseases. The Holy Trinity is with those that wake up from
comas as well as those that breath their last breathes in this earthly world.
Trinity is at the heart of our Faith and is revealed to us in Jesus Christ as
he died on the cross to reveals God’s unbounded love. The Holy Trinity is the
Spirit that companions us throughout all of lives twists and turns. The Holy
Trinity is the creator God that brings us all together in a relationship that
is growing and is mystery.
okay to say, “I don’t know,” when you do not have an answer. For we are not
expected to know it all. For as Jesus tells his disciples, you are not yet
ready to bear it all.
pray. Holy Trinity, your mysterious way leaves us dumbfounded. As we enter the
dance of the Trinity, let us be open to those teachings that draw us ever
closer to you. In the meantime, let us be at ease with those things we cannot understand and let our faith guide us in your ways. Amen.
There is an anxiousness that often times will creep up within me
when I find myself in a place that is unfamiliar. Perhaps, you know exactly
what I am talking about. It is that feeling when you feel yourself at an unease
and you begin looking around for someone that you may know. Someone familiar to
make the unfamiliar not seem as unnerving.
Believe it or not, some people live for these moments! And to
be honest with you, as an introvert I do get anxious, but that little bit of the
extrovert within me loves the new surroundings and the ability to experience
new people and places. I want to believe that extrovert is the Holy Spirit
within me pulling me in a direction to try and experience new activities,
people, and places. It is the same Holy Spirit that energizes us to go out and
share the good news of Jesus Christ.
Our first reading this week unfolds onto the birth of the
Christian church as we know it. Now, Pentecost is not a new celebration for the
followers of Jesus. It has been known as the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot, and
eventually Pentecost by the Jewish people. Pentecost would follow 50 days after
Passover and on it they would celebrate the handing down of the Torah, or law,
to Moses and also the giving of the first fruits of the harvest at the temple. Therefore,
the disciples are already gathered, and it is in this place that Jesus sends
the Holy Spirit to take up residence in them. It will guide and teach them in
the ways of the Lord and drive them out into the world to spread the gospel.
Amid this Pentecost celebration the anxiety had to be escalated!
This was not a normal Pentecost, as everyone was speaking in their native
language speaking about the amazing deeds God has and will continue to
accomplish. I would like to know how Philip felt at this point in time following
the conversation that he had with Jesus in the gospel lesson this week.
Philip needs to learn a little patience as the disciples walk
with Jesus. Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father so that they will be
satisfied. He does not sound much different from Thomas after Jesus’
resurrection. He wants some proof of who Jesus really is. This will satisfy
him. He knows that it had happened before with Moses, so why can’t Jesus just
reveal the Father to the disciples so that they are better equipped to go and
share Jesus’ message. There must be more. Philip could simply be afraid. His
expectations of God, the Father is not what he has witnessed so far with Jesus
as he eats with sinners and touches the outcast. He is afraid and his heart is
troubled because he is still looking for God among the actions of Jesus. This
therefore feeds into the unbelief that Jesus addresses further in the gospel
Fear and a troubled heart can lead us in many wrong
directions. Out of fear, we seek to exclude those that are different from us.
Out of fear, we lock all our doors and are afraid to step out into the greater
world. Out of fear, countries engage in war with one another. When this fear
takes over our very being, our hearts become troubled and we fail to see Jesus
in anything. The enemy has worked its way in and is doing exactly what it
intended to do; to believe that we are separated from the love of God.
Personally, it is hard to overcome that unbelief! On my own, I
struggle with this from time to time. The moment that we think we have it all
figured out ourselves is when we begin to find ourselves in trouble. If we keep
going down that hole, it just keeps getting deeper and we definitely cannot climb
out on our own.
While Philip cannot help is own unbelief, Jesus can. And Jesus
does the same thing for each one of us, for every person in our community,
state, country, and around the world. The proof of Jesus helping our unbelief
is that fact that he laid down his own life to share with us the depths that
God is willing to go to bring us a love greater than we could ever imagine in
our earthly home.
To relieve Philip’s anxiety and fear, Jesus gives him peace.
It is a peace that will wash over him and guide him. This peace comes to him in
the form of the Holy Spirit. Jesus once again reminds the disciples that he is
different from anyone that has come before him. He tells them, “I do not give as the world
gives.” What a blessing this is for us to live into. You name it, we can find
it out there somewhere in the world. But if we are looking for a grace and love
that knows no bounds and is willing to knock down all barriers, that alone can
be found in Jesus Christ.
The Holy Spirit is alive and active in our lives and is just
waiting for us to listen and heed her guidance. It is not just for us
individually. The Holy Spirit is also alive and well at Trinity Lutheran and it
is our hope with the Tune-In team that we hear that Spirit moving and calling
us to new and wonderous ministries.
Are you praying for the Holy Spirit to reveal itself in the
life of our congregation? If not, will you? The Holy Spirit is just waiting to
set us on fire with the passion to go out and share the good news, and oh, how
much sweeter it is when we are able to do it in community.
Jesus went to the cross for us. It is here that we lay our
unbelief and are reminded of the gifts of God found in the waters of baptism
and the presence of Christ in the bread and wine at communion. The Holy Spirit
is not a noun. The Holy Spirit is a verb that is active and moving around us as
we continue to be God’s hands and feet in the world. It is the Holy Spirit that
keeps everything moving. It is the Holy Spirit that takes up residence within
our very beings and guides us and teaches us in the ways of the Lord. The
promise of Jesus Christ has been fulfilled in the Holy Spirit!
Let us pray. God of Spirit, you have sent us your Son, Jesus
to heal the sick, walk with the outcast, feed the poor, and so much more. May
the Holy Spirit that comes to us as an advocate continue to teach us and guide
us to be bearers of your goods news. Amen
This past Thursday, I had the opportunity to take Emali to
Central Michigan University for orientation. After all the visits to different
schools over the last couple of years, you would think that I had been ready
for this point in time to occur. As many of you know, sending your first to
college is a scary, yet wonderful experience. I am excited by the diversity
that she will encounter and the sense of community that is to be found on
Unity seems to be a common theme of all the schools that we
have visited. Every single one of them have promoted their inclusiveness and
diversity that can be found among the many organizations on campus. I know that
diversity is something that is hard to come by in our rural communities, and
especially the Lutheran church. Did you know that the ELCA is the most
segregated denomination in the United States on any given Sunday? We are the
whitest denomination in the United States. Part of me wants to say, “what do
you expect when you were founded primarily by Germans and Scandinavians.” Another
part of me is upset by this fact and desires the diversity that is found in the
university environment. We cannot live fully into unity until we meet our
sisters and brothers of every race, religion, sexual orientation, and ability, with
a warm embrace and loving welcome. Jesus Calls us to live into unity with one
another. Are we welcoming our neighbors into that unity as Jesus leads us?
This morning we come to the end of Jesus’ last prayers before
he is handed over to the authorities. It is a prayer that challenges the
disciples as well as those believers to come. It is a prayer for all to become
united in Jesus Christ so that they may come to know his love and grace. His
prayers are evoked from the experiences he has had with the disciples and the
challenges he knows future believers and seekers of the divine will encounter.
He prays for unity because he has experienced division among
the disciples. There are several times within the gospels that the disciples
appear to be divided. Peter shows his division with Jesus when he tries to
sweep Jesus’ talk of crucifixion under the rug. He does not want to hear about
it and does not want Jesus to talk about it. We witness James and John arguing
about who is going to sit at the right and left hand of the Lord. Jesus is not
even dead yet and they are arguing about who will be with him in his glory and
how they will be present to advise him. This is not much different than the
disciples arguing about who is the greatest. And don’t forget about the
disciples insecurity when others are healing and casting out demons in the name
of Jesus. They seem to think that they are the only ones worthy of performing
these mighty acts.
When it comes to Christian unity today, in certain circles,
that can sound like an oxy-moron. We argue and bicker among ourselves over
orthodoxy and doctrine. We overlook the teachings of Jesus Christ to simply
help support our own points of view. We choose not to worship with this group
or that group. Of course, I am speaking in broad sweeping strokes, but we can experience
this in our own community. While our table is open to all, we find the table
closed off to us in other congregations in town. I am sure that there are even
certain practices and actions that we do that make others feel excluded that we
may not even be aware of. We create division when that is not even our
Fortunately, we can find the grace in the prayer of Jesus. A
prayer that begins with prayers for himself, flows into prayers for his
disciples, and concludes with prayers for all believers that are yet to be.
This prayer flows down to us in this time and place so that we may be one with the
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus is praying for us! It is a prayer for unity
that we are still seeking to fully live into. It is the promise of the kingdom
of God to come into this world as we look forward to a new creation.
Jesus’ prayer is not for one single group. It is for all of
humanity that is formed in the very image of God. Jesus’ prayer is a sign of
the love that he has for all of creation. Bede Griffiths is quoted in Pathways to Peace, saying:
invisible, but it is the most powerful force in human nature. Jesus spoke of
the Spirit which he would send as Truth but also as Love. “If anyone loves me,
my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our abode with him.”
This is the love, the prema and bhakti, which was proclaimed in the Bhagavad
Gita, the compassion (karuna) of Buddha, the rapturous love of the Sufi saints.
Ultimately a religion is tested by its capacity to waken love in its followers,
and, what is perhaps more difficult, to extend that love to all humanity. In
the past religions have tended to confine their love to their own followers,
but always there has been a movement to break through these barriers and attain
to a universal love.
As the ELCA, it is our hope to reach out to all people in love
and compassion. We join with our ecumenical partners to share the love of Jesus
Christ. We reach out to dialogue with our interfaith partners to see how we can
live into unity with one another. Love is the one language that transcends all
religion. It is this love that Jesus can be found praying for his disciples as
well as the believers yet to be. It is a reciprocal love that Jesus prays for
us to live into. It is a love that is reflected in the words of the Apostle’s
Creed, “one, holy, catholic and apostolic
church.” The catholic in our
creed simply means universal. We are called into unity with one another to be
one holy church.
Thursday was Ascension Day. The day that Jesus ascends to be
with us in the bread, wine, water, word, and even the stranger. In Jesus’
ascension we hear the promise of unity and eventually all will be made one. May
we continue to live into that unity while continuing to proclaim the good news
of Jesus Christ.
Let us pray. Ascended Lord, we give thanks for the teachings
that have remained with us through your first disciples. May we be guided in
the time to come as we attempt to live into that unity and be directed by your
ever-present love. Amen.