Saturday, May 23, 2015

Come, Holy Spirit

 The vote is official: 62-percent of the electorate in Ireland has approved marriage equality for the Emerald Isle, making them the first country in the world to approve by popular vote a constitutional change in favor of lesbians and gays getting married. It was such an overwhelming majority that the opposition leaders conceded defeat before all the votes were in because the writing was so clearly on the wall.

“The people have spoken,” Irish Senator Fidelema Eames, an outspoken opponent of the referendum campaign, told the English newspaper The Telegraph. Eames says all the polling had shown support for the referendum but added that some of the No voters were afraid to express themselves because they felt intimidated by the other side.
 In both Dublin and Cork, people reported seeing rainbows in the sky, a sign that even the heavens were rejoicing in this amazing moment.

The Anglican Church of Ireland, however, was not as excited by this development. In a news release put out today, the Church remained firm in its opposition to marriage for same-sex couples:

The archbishops and bishops of the Church of Ireland wish to affirm that the people of the Republic of Ireland, in deciding by referendum to alter the State’s legal definition of marriage, have of course acted fully within their rights. 

The Church of Ireland, however, defines marriage as between a man and a woman, and the result of this referendum does not alter this. 

The church has often existed, in history, with different views from those adopted by the state, and has sought to live with both conviction and good relationships with the civil authorities and communities in which it is set. Marriage services taking place in a Church of Ireland church, or conducted by a minister of the Church of Ireland may – in compliance with church teaching, liturgy and canon law – continue to celebrate only marriage between a man and a woman. 

We would now sincerely urge a spirit of public generosity, both from those for whom the result of the referendum represents triumph, and from those for whom it signifies disaster.

Disaster? You would have thought this public exercise of democracy had been a terrorist attack.
The Church of Ireland is not alone in the Anglican Communion in holding this type of attitude about the advent of marriage equality. Even in the United States, where 37 states have adopted marriage equality, there are Episcopal dioceses that are slow to change or are flat out refusing to reflect the reality that is around them.

This stuff was very much on my mind as I served at St. John’s 12:10pm service on Friday. The Gospel lesson was from John 21, the portion right after Jesus has prepared a fish breakfast on the beach. He takes Peter aside and quizzes him:

 "When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep." --John 21:15-17

I thought about that mantra, “Feed my sheep; tend my flock; feed my sheep” and reflected on the state of affairs for the LGBTQ+ faithful. There are those sheep who are there, week after week sitting in the pews, waiting to be fed. There are many who have been scattered and haven’t heard the call to come home or, in some cases, they have come home only to be run off again because the shepherds left in charge haven’t tended to them, but instead used their crook to strike them. Not many are going to stick around a place where they’re going to get beaten up in the name of God. They are in need of shepherds who will feed them and tend to them and be willing to be led into places where the shepherd may not want to go but has to if he or she is going to tend to these “other sheep.”

A prayer that has been on my lips this week is the Thomas Tallis piece my choir at St. Thomas will be singing this Sunday:

“If ye love me keep my commandments and I will pray the Father will give you another comforter that he may bide with you forever e’en the spirit of truth.”  

If we keep the commandment to love one another as we are loved by God, then that love must continue to extend. One of the complaints I have heard from those who are “Millennials” is that we, who call ourselves Christians, are hypocrites. We say we love and God is love, and then we fight against marriage equality or letting lesbians and gay men adopt kids, including their own! They see that as judgmental because, well, it is. And there’s been so much time and effort put into keeping the LGBTQ+ community out that they aren’t anxious to come back in and neither are their many straight ally friends.

So here we are on the eve of Pentecost, and the Church of Ireland is using words such as “disaster” to describe the reaction of those on the losing end of the referendum, and making sure everyone knows that just because secular law is changing, their canons have not changed. Are they not sensing the power of that blowing wind?

As we prepare for the arrival of the Holy Spirit, I would hope that those who have such fear of the change that is bringing about marriage equality in places such as Ireland might remember that the promise Christ gives to all of us at the end of Matthew’s gospel is that he will be with us always to the end of the age. His presence is not absent in these votes or these changes or in the years of struggle that got us to this new place. The Holy Spirit has blown a new wind into the Emerald Island. That same wind is blowing across this nation, and it is even reaching into states such as Florida which cannot withstand the hurricane of change that is coming. Resisting the reality that is to come and is now here is futile, and only serves to feed the belief that the church is irrelevant.

Come, Holy Spirit. Breathe new life into these places and give them the courage to live into a gospel of love and freedom.

1 comment:

Phoebe McFarlin said...

The archbishops make me think of the song from "My Fair Lady" Words, words, word, ..don't talk of love, show me!

Preaching a God of Love, and acting out hate does not impress anyone.