Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sheeps and Goats and Gays and Votes

I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.
As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord GOD: I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats.
Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. --Ezekiel 34: 15-17; 20-22

I was heartened this morning when I woke up and read the news that was coming from Lisa Fox in the Diocese of Missouri. At their convention this weekend, the Show-Me staters approved all the resolutions that affect the LGBT faithful and will (hopefully) lead to the undoing of the church resolutions that bar the blessing of same-sex unions and allowing LGBT persons to be elected as bishops. Please go over to My Manner of Life and read her account of this major shift in the Missouri mindset. And to me, it seems to say that God is continuing to unfold the plan, and God will see that all those who seek him will be allowed to come into his courts...and his church!

All the readings assigned for today in the Episcopal Church seem to me to point back to one simple idea: God's the shepherd, and God alone knows who is the sheep and who is the goat; who has been seeing the Divine in the eyes of their neighbor, the stranger, the opponent, and moved from a place of love toward that person rather than judgement. Look at what's said in Matthew 25:

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, "You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'

When I think about the events of the past few weeks following this election, I am struck by how important this message really is for all of us, and how hopeful it is for those of us who are the "others". Because us of the "others" category have felt judged. Here in Florida, where our community hadn't raised a ruckus to overturn the marriage ban already in the state statutes, the vote on Amendment Two was just a nasty, mean, and bullying judgement. An attempt to drive a wedge between those in the majority and those in the minority. And one of the saddest parts of the vote was the number of churches or religious institutions that were financial contributors to the Florida For Marriage group, leaving the appearance that this Amendment was done in the name of Jesus Christ.
But appearances aren't everything.
And again the readings this Sunday leave me with the inescapable truth of what Matthew and others were capturing for audiences long ago....and today. There is one shepherd, one king, one judge. And that judge is not me, and it's not you. It's God. And he is the only one with the authority to decide who comes to the eternal kingdom party, and he doesn't require a popular vote to figure that out. If you want an invite, just say so. It will be there for you. Once you've believed in the truth of that invitation, you will start seeing how many others also have a place with God, some who are like you, and some who are different than you. And once you recognize the Divine in others, you have a choice: will you clothe the naked, feed the hungry, take time for the prisoner (both the actually incarcerated or those living in a prison of their own design)? Or will you ignore the needy, crossing the street to avoid the homeless person, and cling to all that you have and refuse to share?
In other words, will we be "people of faith" or "people of fear"? Maybe this was on the minds of those at the Diocesean Convention in Missouri!
God's call is for us to live into the life he has given us together in unity, constancy and peace. I'm willing to give it a go. As the apostle Paul notes in Romans: "If God is for us who can be against us?" All of us.


Anonymous said...

I loved your sermonette,and I don't know what happened to my other comment. It disappeared into thin air. I read the thing about Missouri and was greatly heartened. So... those on the margins will be let in as soon as we work on it some more.


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