EfM has changed its curriculum (Thanks Be to God!!) and now has the people enrolled in the program reading books by contemporary theologians instead of texts written-by-a-committee of Sewanee faculty. One of the books for the Year Four members is called, "Theology for a Troubled Believer" by Diogenes Allen. While the print is microscopic, the information is interesting and wonderful, particularly the point that Allen makes about Chapter 15 of Luke, the "lost and found parables" as I call them, which ends with the prodigal son story. He notes that Jesus was the first to tell us that the nature of God is so loving, so completely desiring of each and every individual that it is God who will go on a search-and-find mission to seek out that one sheep, that one coin, that drifter son who squandered all until he comes to his senses and realizes he must come back to his father. Up to that point, Allen says, that was not the God that had been described to the Hebrew people: a God with such an investment in each person.
As a lesbian Christian, I certainly have believed in this idea that God is determined and will find everyone, and will keep looking and searching and calling and inviting everyone to come back to the banquet of Love. This is why I have never thought it to be out of character for gay people to be in the church. Why wouldn't we be there? And why wouldn't we be there in our full gay selves and not hiding our identities? The banquet of Love is God's party, and God keeps adding leaves onto the table to bring in more and more people. All we have to do is accept the invite. And yet, for so many, that's the most difficult thing.
And I do understand why it's been hard for gay, lesbian, bi and transgender people to realize that they, too, get to sit at the table with everybody else. God is inviting, but there have been others who have stood in the doorway and demanded we deny a core part of our being in order to be allowed in. God has asked us to dance, but the people of God have said we can only dance once we've completed the proper lessons in how to dance to their beat, as if the beat they're hearing is the only one God is playing at this party. When you get that enough in your lifetime from the church, you begin to make the tragic mistake of believing that the church is God.
What the "lost and found parables" tell us is what Allen expresses: God will not lose anyone. Ever. Period. God will keep looking until that lost one is brought home. What an enormously hopeful, and wonderful expression of Love! What an important essential to carry with us into a week which may pose questions from the outside about our self-worth. Are we worthy of such lavish Love that says we are beloved by God?
As they say in court: asked and answered, your Honor.