Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Drink up!

I will walk in the presence of the Lord
in the land of the living
I believed, even when I said,
"I have been brought very low."
In my distress I said, "No one can be trusted."
How shall I repay the Lord
for all the good things he has done for me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call upon the Name of the Lord.
Psalm 116 8-11

Back in the late 1980s, I used to think it was fun to go eavesdrop on the Maranatha group on the University of Missouri campus. They usually had some sort of highly-inflammatory presentation at least once a month, and, on occasion, I’d go listen and then become livid when they would do things such as pervert the text from First Corinthians 6: 9-10 to include “homosexuals” among the group of undesirables the apostle Paul said would not inherit the kingdom of God. Although I was not “out” at the time, and was, in fact, still struggling to be straight, I did not believe lesbians and gays were going to be tossed into the fire unless they repented the core of their beings.

Glad I had already reached that conclusion for myself! Not that it made coming to terms with my own sexual orientation any easier. But I imagine that I would have been a bigger mess if I had really believed the lies that the Maranathas and others liked to spread about me and “my people”. From their standpoint, I am a product of Satan. I am someone to be feared. Women should latch on to their husbands and shelter the children from my sight. In some ways, I think that the LGBT community represent for the religious right-wingers the lepers of the 21st century. Or maybe they’re like the olden-day Jews and we’re their version of the Samaritans.

Perhaps that’s why I was so struck with the gospel story about Jesus’ talk with the Samaritan woman at the well. Here’s Jesus, a Jewish man, initiating a conversation with a woman who is one of “those people”. She is taken aback at first that this guy is even bothering to engage her. And as these two stayed in relationship with each other, the woman becomes more amazed at how completely this man knew her, understood her, and wanted to her to experience the kind of water he could provide. So amazed that she goes back and tells the rest of “her people” about him, and they all head up the hill to meet Jesus themselves. And once he gets to talking with them, the Samaritans want him to hang out for a couple of days which he does. And thus a cultural barrier is broken down.

So, if I am to think of myself in the role of that Samaritan woman…a woman who others in the culture see as one of “those people”…what a refreshing and loving feeling to know that God’s intent is not to tell me to “get lost and get a drink elsewhere, you dyke” but rather to take time to be with me. He wants me to stay in the conversation. And He wants to meet me so completely that He is offering a chance to quench my thirst forever. And no amount of me saying, “Yes, but I’m not this, or that, or the other” matters to Him. He doesn’t care about the labels, the categories or the excuses. He just wants me to have the drink.

In the story, it is about water. But I believe you can take it beyond that. What I think this woman desired, and what I think any one of us wants, is to feel acceptance and love. And it is my belief that the God who keeps me engaged in conversation and plants a song in my brain every day is continually telling me that this dialogue we’re in is about His acceptance of me and His deep and abiding love that is there for me always, no strings attached. No hidden clauses or exceptions. And He is not concerned with me being one of “those people” because He knows me much more completely than any label I, or the culture, might have for me. In his accounting, he is looking for those who desire to choose life over death, those who are fully awake and not just sleep-walking. If I trust in that truth, and not the words of right-wingers and nutty Maranathas, I will find that the doors of the Kingdom of Heaven are open to me and all others who will accept his offer to take a drink. Because the cup of salvation is there for anyone who wants it.

The bar is open. What are we waiting for?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good enough to be sent out to my friends so they understand how hard it is to hear the insults and comments. Good job. I hope more people drink at the fountain of life and love.