the sinner, hate the sin. It's a phrase we all have likely heard, especially in
faith circles. When it's said, it's supposedly meant in love. Trying to show
someone the error of their ways, seeking to help them to escape the eternal
torment of hell. Yet, for many, those words are not received as loving words,
as words meant to point to a loving God. Instead, for many those words leave
behind a question, “Why does God hate me?”
wandering around the internet, I came across an article (https://www.nytimes.com/…/seth-stephens-davidowitz-googling…)
about the things people search for on the internet. When it comes to God, the
number one question is: 'Who created God?' Then comes, 'Why does God allow
suffering?' The third question is, 'Why does God hate me?' When Google looked
into the way people finished the internet search, 'Why did God make
me_________?' The results are heartbreaking. The number one word was 'ugly',
then 'black', then 'gay'. Other common words were: short, stupid, fat. It makes
we like it or not, whether we want to face it or not, those internet searches
are in many ways a rephrasing of the question, 'Why does God hate me?' It
breaks my heart, and forces me to admit that there are way too many incorrect
and damaging ideas about God. And the damage being done isn't to God, it's to
the least among us. The church may teach that we are all sinners that have
failed in doing that which God desires, but, it also declares and affirms that
each of us is created in the image of God, that each of us is loved
that message, the one of love and being made in God's image has not been heard
by many. Instead what is heard is that God is judgmental, that Christians are
hypocritical, that God has favorites – with some being made beautiful, and
others ugly. With some being made gay, and others straight. And that that
difference was a punishment of some kind.
thing is, God doesn't play favorites. God isn't the one who labels and
excludes, who determines who is in and who is out – it's us human beings. We
are the ones who have divided people into categories, who have created
societies where a person’s physical appearance or their being a part of a
specific demographic group is what is important, rather than the content of
their heart, the character of their lives. A practice and message that
contradicts the message we see in the Bible over and over again.
message of Scripture, from Genesis through Revelation is that God has come into
the world to reconcile all people, that God's love is for all people, that
God's grace is freely given to everyone. It is the mission and calling of the
church, both as an institution and as individuals of faith to spread the
message of God's love and grace far and wide. We must do all we can to counter
the damage done by the poor theology that has resulted in so much pain and
unhappiness in others.
can do that, even just a little bit, it could bring the hope and peace that may
cause people to change their Google searches from wondering why God hates them,
to: “Why does God care for me so much?” and “Why did God make me so beautiful
With the Greatest of Hope!
Pentecost is Sunday May 15. It's the day in
the church year when the church is decked out in red. It's the day when fire
and wind are common images. It's the day the church celebrates and remembers
God's gift of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples gathered in Jerusalem. We
recall how the Holy Spirit appeared as tongues of fire floating above the heads
of the disciples. We are amazed by the power of language and tongues that was
given to the disciples; and how that gift enabled the Gospel to be preached and
heard by thousands.
But, Pentecost is more than just a day, it's a
season. The season of Pentecost begins on Sunday and continues until the Sunday
before the beginning of Advent in November. It's the longest season in the
church calendar. Why? Because the gift of the Holy Spirit marked the beginning
of the church, and Holy Spirit continues to be present in the church, guiding
it and strengthening it.
The initial gift of the Holy Spirit equipped
the disciples for the sharing of the Good News. Through the power of the
Spirit, walls were broken down, people from different cultures, who spoke
different languages were united as one. In the years that followed as the
church grew from Jerusalem out across the Mediterranean people from all walks
of life, all cultures, all languages, all genders, people who had held all
sorts of differing religious perspectives, came together as the church.
Empowered and equipped by the Spirit, not only for the sharing of the Good
News, but for the continued breaking down of the barriers that divide us one
One of the truths that we in the church are
especially aware of is the central role and power of love in our lives, and in
our faith. God's love for us shown in Jesus, and our calling to love our
neighbors as ourselves. Loving is often difficult, it's tough to do it on our
own. Yet, we are not on our own. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is
empowering us to love. When we are open to the Spirit, we are open to love.
When we open ourselves to receive God’s love, then we abide in God’s love, and
we allow God to love through us.
There is plenty of division and animosity in
our world. The wounds of exclusion run deep in our culture and in the church.
But God shows no partiality. The Holy Spirit breaks all our boundaries. In
Christ there is no slave or free, male or female, black or white, gay or
straight. All are one in Christ, and all are acceptable to God. When we follow
the lead of the Holy Spirit, we can become agents of reconciliation.
All we need is love. But we also need to be
open to the work of the Holy Spirit to help us break down the barriers and
divisions we create among ourselves. We have to be open to the dangerous,
provocative, unsettling work of the Holy Spirit. We have to be willing to be transformed.
Jesus calls us into friendship in order to bear the fruit of the work of the
Holy Spirit – to love as God loves – in order to be salt and light and to be
agents of reconciliation in our struggling world.
With the Greatest of Hope!
A few months ago, we put a
rainbow on the lectern in the sanctuary and on our church sign. I'd like to
take the opportunity to explain why.
We put the rainbow on our
sign as a declaration of welcome; yes, to the LGBT community, but that welcome
is much broader. Many folks have a story where the church has hurt them,
betrayed them, made them feel unlovable, caused them to doubt whether they are
loved by God. Single parents, divorced couples, mentally or physically disabled
folk, to name just a few have experience hurt. The damage that has been
done by churches and by people claiming to be followers of Jesus is
astronomical. And it continues.
Which is why the rainbow is
important. Because I dream of a world where no kid wonders if God loves them or
not. I dream of a world where no person shies away from a community because
they don’t know if they can be authentically themselves. I dream of a world
where we don’t have to put a rainbow on our sign as a public witness that God
unconditionally loves ALL people because it’s just a given, that of course God
I dream of that world. I
think God has been dreaming for a long time about that world. Every time I see
rainbows, I think about the covenant made to Noah, after the flood. In the
story, God hangs the rainbow in the sky and tells Noah never again will that
damage happen. From there on out, God was all in. No matter what, God promised
that nothing would come between God and people again. And that sign, that
boldly colored rainbow, would remind both God and Noah of that.
The rainbow on our lectern
and on our sign is meant to proclaim that same message. It proclaims a message
that every person (not just gay, lesbian, bi, and trans folks), needs to hear
and know: God’s church is open to all. No qualifiers. No conditions. Just come
as you are. That’s the core of what Jesus knew and taught.
Gay or straight, white or
black or brown, tall or short, fat or skinny, poor or rich, extroverted or
introverted, left-handed or right handed, child or adult, democrat or
republican, abled or disabled, whoever you are, wherever you are on life’s
journey, you are beloved, both just as you are and as who you are growing to be
day by day.
The rainbow matters to me
because it shares a message every person ought to hear: you are loved by God
and by a gathered group of Jesus following folks who strive to be bold enough,
crazy enough, to affirm and celebrate the worth of every single person.
May we ALL be bold enough
to proclaim that.
With the Greatest of Hope!