Monday, June 21, 2010

Seeking and Finding on a Sunday

I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,
to be found by those who did not seek me.
--Isaiah 65: 1a

For whatever reason, St. John's chooses to use what are called the "Track Two" readings during this "ordinary" season of After Pentecost. These readings are supposedly "thematic" rather than taking us through one book in the OT week-after-week. At any rate, yesterday was a real ping between the eyes, starting with the above quote from Isaiah. No sooner had the words left the reader's mouth that I felt overcome with joy and sadness all mixed together.

I've mentioned before here that I am a rather strange Episcopalian in that I will cry during services listening to Scripture or prayers or hymns. This was another one of those times, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what about those words was making me cry.

I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,
to be found by those who did not seek me.

On reflection, I know that I did consciously say that I was seeking God "or a deeper knowledge of him." But prior to that out loud statement to my mentor, I didn't have a desire for God. Or, at least, I didn't have an appetite for inwardly digesting anything about Scripture. In fact, I would say, I think some Scripture was like the dreaded liver, or it would get lodged in my throat like a bone to choke on. There's a sadness in the fact that I can tell you roughly what Paul says in Romans 1: 26-27 or 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10 because they are passages that have been used for evil intent against the likes of me.

But ask me today what I think of the apostle Paul, and you'll hear a much different understanding of what his words mean to me. Even those passages carefully selected for maximum condemnation of gays do not scare me nor make me think that I am the abomination that other people say I am. Ask me today what I think of Paul and I will tell you he is more like me than many in the Bible. A man in perpetual seek and find mode, wrestling with how to articulate what he's gained having been delivered from being one who persecuted the Christ followers to one who has joined with them with his whole heart. (This is always highly entertaining for some to think that a lesbian actually likes and appreciates Paul!)

I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,
to be found by those who did not seek me.

There is enormous power in just those words. To know that God is always there, always willing to be found... even when we don't know that we need to ask, need to seek. God is not just the possession of those "in the know" but stands on the mountain top to be seen by anyone. Having sought God, my experience has been one where once found, God dashes further down the path with a gleefulness that the pursuit will continue. "Think you know me now? I'm a lot more than you think!"

Of course, this is not just a fun game of hide and go seek. I wish it were. But after the readings, the sequence hymn reminded me of what goes into the pursuit:

"Take up your cross and follow Christ,
nor think til death to lay it down;
for only those who bear the cross
may hope to wear the glorious crown."

Ugh. This was a whole lot easier when it was just a pursuit! But I am reminded of what Bishop Gene Robinson is fond of saying, "Jesus wants followers, not cheerleaders!" If we are going to believe in the freedom and redemption offered through Jesus' death and resurrection, it's not enough to say it on Sunday and then leave it behind at the church door. This is about changing habits, and recognizing that we have the ability to touch others and remove stumbling blocks. I just had the boyfriend of a Mickee Faust cast member share with me how I did that for him. He was new to this group of people, and was coming to a party at my house. When he walked in, he said he felt the looks from the crowd as they tried to figure out, "Who's this guy?" I then came out of a room. When I saw him, I beamed and opened my arms, "Welcome! You know that the first requirement is that you have to hug the birthday girl!" I remember he gave me a big ol' squeeze (and this guy is no shrimp!). In his retelling, he shared that my act of welcoming had made him feel at home and like he really was part of the scene. Acceptance is a huge deal. And it is the radical welcome of God that says, "Come to the party! There's plenty of food and drink for everyone!"

Whether you sought it out or not!

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