08 August 2009

How will the story be told?

As a "lurker" on the House of Deputies/Bishops list I read many excellent comments. Occasionally I write the author and ask permission to quote from the post. I feel fortunate that permission has always been given.

A recent post by L. Zoe Cole, a lay delegate from Colorado, needs a wider readership. Her comments are a response to a delegate who said TEC has a golden opportunity to reach out and tell the story of Jesus and his love -- if we seize the opportunity presented to us, now. He asks "How will the story be told."

Here is Zoe's response.
    I am always reminded of what Gamaliel said (or at least what the Book of Acts says he said to the rest of his Pharisaical brethren) about the early Christians: if this is not of God, it will pass away more quickly the less we oppose it; if this is of God, woe to us if we oppose it; so why not just chill and see what happens?

    We seem to forget that this faith we follow and sometimes so jealously guard from further spiritual growth is itself a growth of the Jewish faith of Jesus' first followers. That never means we throw out what we have received.

    However, our brothers at the council in Jerusalem relied as fully on their experience as on their Scriptures to discern how the Holy Spirit was leading them to find a way to live with each other. Why are we so determined not to follow their example?

    Jew/Gentile, Slave/Free, Male/Female represent the essential, immutable human differences for Paul's world view. And yet, he says these disappear in Christ; they have no bearing on our life as the Body of Christ. Our own experience of essential, immutable human differences has changed some 2,000 years later, but the crux of Paul's argument remains the same: whatever we think makes us irreducibly different as humans is of absolutely no importance to God - it can not prevent God's action in Christ from making us One: One with God and with each other, whether we like it or not. That is the inescapable reality that we live in as Christians.

    Given that reality:
    • What if all those who believe that Scripture says that God unequivocally and categorically opposes same-sex sexual relations, and that the "theology hasn't been done" to show otherwise acknowledged to all who asked, that Christians of good will, holiness of life and prodigious study of Scripture and tradition disagree about that understanding of Scripture?
    • What if everyone, instead of simply saying, "this is what I believe" added, "but others have come to different conclusions" and then identified some sources for further review and reflection, trusting that the lifelong faith formation which we do as the People of God gives everyone the ability to discern God's will, in community for their life and their relationships?

    Is it possible that God is so powerful that we do not risk our own salvation - or that of those we love or feel we're responsible for - by continuing to live as sisters and brothers with other Christians/Episcopalians and doing the Gospel work together that we have been given to do together? If not, why do we follow such a puny God? If so, why do we refuse to live and work together as the Body of Christ?

    Frankly, I've read LOTS (I admit it hasn't been every word) of the theology that says God doesn't accept same-sex sexual activity and I find it totally unpersuasive. I keep praying and studying and asking God if maybe I've missed something and reading more theological arguments, but to no avail. I just can't shake the sense I get from taking the Bible as a whole that its trajectory is in favor of inclusion - that God really has no standards, but simply loves every human ever made and wants to be in relationship with us - that in every age and place, those who love God and seek to be in deeper relationship with God and to treat their fellow humans as beloved children of God are indeed acceptable to God.

    Is there sin? Of course! Are there right and wrong absolutes? Of course! Do these correspond to what affirms my understanding of reality? Occasionally.

    Will God reject us because we get the sex piece wrong? The Bible itself seems to say no. Will unGodly chaos ensue because we admit we don't have all the answers and allow people to be who God made them even though Scripture doesn't clearly state that's ok (or maybe even says that something that might be close is "an abomination" like sowing two kinds of grain in the same field or cloth woven from both wool and linen)? Well, there is a certain amount of chaos in the world. However, that seems to be less the result of variations on Biblical sexual practices (although that really rules nothing out) than of economic injustice, which tends to result in oppression and poverty and corruption and violence and the disintegration of social structures.

    In the end, I find I'm not so concerned about what you (my sister or brother in Christ) BELIEVE - even if you sincerely believe it - but about whether you will serve God with me. Will you join me, will you help me to proclaim in all that I do and say and am that the Kingdom of God is right here with us as near as our own breath and that it is always the Year of the Lords Favor? Will you help me release the captives and provide justice for the widow and the orphan and feed the poor and seek and serve God in everyone I meet - including you?

    This, I think, is where the road is. And we need to be walking this road together. Are you coming?
Thanks you, Zoe for an excellent commentary and allowing me to post it.