Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Big Welcome

This Sunday, I'm scheduled to serve as a Eucharistic Minister. At St. John's, that means I'm a chalice bearer, and either a lay reader or a prayer leader. My assignment for this date is "lay reader" and it's a particularly wonderful passage from Acts that is "on the menu" for the morning:

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days. --Acts 10:44-4

That's right: can ANYONE withhold the water for baptizing "these people" who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have? Does any person have the authority to deny God's Holy Spirit? And I would expect anyone who has ever felt pushed to the margins, relegated to the fringe, or otherwise excluded from the community of God would say, "No!"
Passages such as this one are the clarion call to all queer people that it is NOT unusual or perverse or satanic for those with "ears to hear" to find themselves in relationship with God.
Because God does not hide from those who seek, and does not deny those who ask. We saw that in last Sunday's reading, also from Acts, in the story of the eunuch and Phillip:

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Ga'za." (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Canda'ce, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isai'ah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over to this chariot and join it." So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isai'ah. He asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" He replied, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:
"Like a sheep he was led to the
slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth."
The eunuch asked Philip, "About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?" Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus. As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?" He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azo'tus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesare'a. --Acts 8:26-40

"Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?" In some circles within our own Anglican Communion, there are those who might turn to the eunuch and say, "You must repent your castration first!" Not true of Philip who, with God's help, must have seen in the eunuch a true and contrite heart. The eunuch was baptized and happy, and Philip got swept away to continue proclaiming God's power through Jesus to a whole set of untapped people.

And to this we say, "Thanks be to God!" Thanks be to a God who doesn't deny access to a liberating love, but rather continuously reaches out to all of humanity hoping to bring as many in to the party as possible. Thanks be to a God who handpicked the right people, and gave them enough wisdom in the moment, to see that this love reached more and more "others" in the world. And thanks be to a God that didn't just do this kind of outreach centuries ago, but is continuing to seek and find the "others" in an effort to share the gifts of being alive and awake.

This Sunday, we'll be baptizing and confirming more people into "the family". With the bishop's laying on of hands, or the water of baptism, I will be gaining a new set of brothers and sisters in Christ. They won't necessarily look like me, talk like me, walk like me, or be queer like me. But, like Philip and Peter, just because they aren't "exactly like me"... they are as worthy in God's sight as I am... and the labels and outside 'things' don't matter. Because, in Christ, as Paul notes in his letter to the Galatians, there is no longer Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free... just one body in Christ. God's body in the world.

Welcome to the big welcome!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It sounds like a good Sunday. We are baptizing on the 31st when #Gene comes for his Annual Visit.