Yesterday the Governor of Minnesota signed into law a bill making it legal for same-sex couples to celebrate their love through marriage.
The signing of the bill represents the heart longing of legions through decades of cloaked love and hurtful distancing of same-gender loving people from full participation in communal grace.
I am still not able to name my joy around this wild and wonderful thing that happened in Minnesota; it is too big, too long in coming, too beautiful to speak.
I’m a preacher. I shared the sermon below on the Sunday between the House and Senate votes. It is no small thing to lay the power of the gospel over the raw hopes of those longing for justice.
It is a good church I serve.
Ascension of Jesus
Luke 24: 44 – 53
Ephesians 1: 15 – 23
Rev. Elizabeth Macaulay
May 12, 2013
There are emotional strands aplenty to name on this Sunday. I will name three.
First, It is Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is a jumbly sort of holiday, dense in so many emotions.
The early intent of Mother’s Day is that it be a day set apart to honor mothers.
And, it grew to be a day on which mothers, tired of sending their children to die in war joined together to organize a witness for peace. Sprung from the heart of a belief that God’s vision is that swords would be made into plowshares and that war, and the mangling of children it brings with it, would be no more.
We don’t hear so much about that facet of Mother’s Day. Instead, Mother’s Day has been domesticated and Hallmarked into sweetness and that which can be marketed and consumed.
The second strand present this morning is that this Ascension Sunday. Ascension Sunday is a day when followers of Jesus mark the forevermore movement of God in this world:
We remember the ongoing movement that is Jesus: the heart of God became Flesh through the body of a young mother – Mary, by name. When Mary found she was to bear the holy one, she sang a song of revolution: a song that spoke of how it is God’s vision for the world means that those who have power at the expense of the poor will have it no more.
In Mary’s song, she speaks of the brining down of the powerful from their thrones and the lifting up of the lowly.
Jesus, Mary’s son, nurtured by that justice song, grew and taught and sought out the marginalized and said “come in. God is especially excited to name YOU as beloved and welcome.”
Jesus, whose message of love got him killed. Jesus, who could not be silenced. The love of God in Christ bursts any bond – even death. Jesus rose and appeared to his disciples and reminded them that his teachings were ALL about taking up and sharing and living his teachings: together they were called to building an ongoing movement for justice and communal grace.
Jesus taught his disciples that discipleship must be shared and when he knew he was to complete his time on earth he took the opportunity to open the minds of his followers in order that they understand that God’s heart desires this:
that they – that God’s people throughout time – would give to the Holy our brokenness – our fears, our addictions, our inability to see the pain of others, our unwillingness to welcome all to fullness of life. Jesus taught that we are to open to our God those places that cause us so much pain.
We are to name those places – some call those places “sin” – and ask God to help us with them in order that we might move into the expanse of wholeness and grace God longs for us to live – what we in the church call “forgiveness”.
On Ascension Day, Jesus calls his disciples to witness to that kind of revolutionary love – a love in which the poor are fed and the vulnerable tended and the wounded made whole.
Jesus calls his disciples to organize a witness of justice and love lived by all of God’s people.
But like the original intent for Mother’s Day, the world often doesn’t much associate Ascension Sunday (or Christianity writ large, for that matter) with witnessing for peace and grace because Christianity, like Mother’s Day, has all too often been Hallmarked into sweetness and that which can be marketed and consumed.
Heaven knows I savor the sweetness of honoring the many women who have stood as mother to me – including my own mom. And I love the ways my kids mark this day with me.
And, Mother’s Day is made even more meaningful to me when I remember the heart-wail that led to a movement of women using Mother’s Day to demand peace.
And, heaven knows I savor the sweetness of sharing Sunday worship and life with beloved community.
And, being a Christian is even more meaningful to me when I remember the Holy heart-wail that led the Word to become Flesh and dwell among us in order that we might live peace, one with the other.
There is a third emotional strand that needs to be named on this day. On Thursday of this last week, Minnesota lived communally caught breath.
The House of Representatives voted on whether all couples – same sex or heterosexual couples – be accorded equal rights through legal marriage.
The result of the vote was that the House passed the bill and it will go to the Senate on Monday where it is assumed it will be passed and then it will be sent to the governor to sign into law – something he has already said he will do.
The vote taken Thursday raised the roof of the state capitol and that vote has the state resonating yet.
A number of the Representatives named their faith as a reason for voting against the measure. Their understanding of scripture holds that God’s word is static and must be interpreted literally and immovably throughout time.
And, a number of Representatives named their faith as a reason for voting for the measure. One quoted the prophet Micah about God’s most passionate requirement being that we would do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.
Their understanding of God’s vision as voiced in scripture is that God’s word is alive and especially directed to the plight of those marginalized and oppressed.
They see the denial of marriage to same-sex couples as the sort of oppression their faith calls them to challenge and work to overturn.
In today’s scripture, Jesus tells the disciples that they are to be witnesses to the vision of God.
Paul tells the church in Ephesus that they are called to “open the eyes of their hearts” in order to know the powerful working of God in their lives.
In today’s world, we are called at just such a time as this to consider what it is we witness to with our words. our lives, our actions.
What does it matter?
I have heard horrible things said in the past week. People naming their faith on both sides of the issue have bashed each other with hate speak.
We all have endured this toxic wash. But for some, the collateral damage is heart-wail.
I share with you the the words of a past parishioner, a man who anchored the church band with his amazing talent. A man whose heart speaks in this way, after encountering yet more hate speak shared this past week in the name of Christ Jesus:
IN MY 50 YEARS, EVERY DAY I HAVE ENDURED INTOLERANCE PURELY DUE TO ONE ELEMENT OF MY BEING… of being gay.
I am a spiritual being… do not think that violating my spirit is ordained by God. Nor is the silence of our family, friends, and colleagues. Silence is a passive embracing of every day attacks on my spiritual being.
For my hundreds of friends and family… take a stand. Speak up… and don’t tolerate spiritual attacks in your name. None of us owns the market on faith, love, prayer, or belief in Christ. As Christians, and as my loved ones… take a stand. Will you continue your silence because you think it keeps ‘peace in the family’? Is that justice?
For those of you who have spoken up, thank you from the bottom of my heart. For those of you who will publicly speak up for the first time, there is not better time to do so than now. For those of you who continue to speak against my being, or equally so through silence, know that it hurts every time it’s done.
Take a stand. Speak up.
Timothy M Robinson, Christian
As Jesus was ascending into heaven he reminded his disciples:
You are witnesses to the healing power of God.
Share that good news.
Know that the movement of Jesus is not Hallmarky sweetness:
The movement of Jesus is:
working for justice.
It is organizing for peace.
It is speaking out.
It is choosing love.
It is using the power God gives us each to witness to the movement of Christ Jesus; among us yet.