Monday, May 28, 2012

Sermon for Sunday, May 27, 2012 Pentecost Sunday Acts 2:1-21 “Hear”

How did you feel when we read that passage from the Acts of the Apostles a few minutes ago? Randy read it in English, of course, but overlaid on his rendition were passages spoken in Spanish by Gail, German by Lynne, Lingala – an African trade language – by Doug, and Greek by me.

Was it confusing? A little bit, I’ll bet. It’s a hard thing when there are crunches and clashes of different languages. And we only used five languages. Imagine what it might have been like if all the languages represented in the Acts passage were spoken simultaneously. I think there were at least 15 different language possibilities among the nationalities listed. 

But what happened in that small room, when the Holy Spirit descended upon them all, was not a cacophony of different languages competing for the ears of the group. They all understood their conversation with each other regardless of their native tongue. It wasn’t a sudden implantation of the Rosetta Stone software in their brains, it was the Spirit.

And the intriguing thing was not that the disciples could speak each other’s languages, it was that they could hear whatever was said in their own language. In their own language!

It was as if, when Doug was speaking Lingala to you, even though you don’t speak Lingala, you could understand what he said. And when I was reading in ancient Greek, you could understand what I said. And if Anita stood up right now and began speaking to you in Hungarian or Korean, you’d get it perfectly. It wasn’t the gift of speech. It was the gift of listening. And that may have been yet another example of the Spirit’s great wisdom.

Because language gets us into trouble. Those of us who have said a harsh or teasing word to another thoughtlessly and then have seen the pain we have wrought know that all too well. And mix in the complications of another language, and the opportunity for Massive Fail goes up exponentially.

It seems that every year, we hear stories of attempts to translate on the fly that get people into trouble. Chevy offered a model a while back called the Nova. Remember it? Well, it didn’t sell too well in Spanish-speaking countries, where the name was way too close to “no va,” or “no go.” Ford didn’t do much better with its Fiera, which translates as “ugly old woman” in Spanish-speaking Latin America. And in China, the KFC slogan “finger-lickin’ good” was translated as “eat your fingers off.” Not too appetizing!

So it was a good thing that the miracle wasn’t in the speaking, it was in the hearing.

Now, that’s not saying that we don’t get into trouble with our hearing. Ask any man whose wife says, “how do I look in this outfit?” If he doesn’t say the simplest and safest thing, which is as my husband says “you always look great to me,” whatever he says is ripe for misinterpretation. If he says, “I like the blue dress better,” his wife might say “so you don’t like this one?” If he says, “it makes you look ten years younger,” she’ll say, “so you thinks I look old!”

Hearing is a problem, too… but it is also the place where we have the most potent opportunities.

Think of what Pentecost is…it’s the birth of the church, when they all can talk together, share the things they learned from Jesus, figure out how to do the ministry they were charged by Jesus to carry out. And I have no doubt that they all had their own ideas, priorities, agendas. Each of them may have thought that they were the only ones who truly understood what the Messiah had taught them…and until now they had no way to communicate.

But now they could hear each other, truly hear each other. And so it was possible to join in conversation across all those cultural differences, religious practice differences, priorities differences.

Note again, that the focus is on hearing.

Why? Because only when we hear can we have constructive dialogue. If all we are doing is talking, and not listening, we’re not going to get anywhere.

My mother used to say “you have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk.”

It sounds like God was adhering to the same principle, giving people the gift of being able to hear each other.

I cannot imagine a time when we need to return to that gift more than today.

It seems we have lost our ability to hear each other, especially when we speak different languages. And we do speak different languages, even if we all speak English!  If we are lawyers, we speak one language, the language of the laws and the courts, with decisions about plaintiffs and defendants, who is right and who is wrong. If we are small business people, we speak another language: access to capital, how to advertise, negotiating with suppliers, satisfying customers. If we are teachers, we speak the language of teachers, expressing our concern for the children with whom we work and the families from which they come, worrying about SOLs and about IEPs. If we are clergy, we speak the language of liturgy and pastoral care and spiritual formation, thinking about what will feed our flock, how to deal with folks who are unhappy with us, which way we can stretch the day to get to visit those who cannot come to church, and what we will preach on next Sunday. Different languages.

It doesn’t take a linguistics scholar to recognize that people who speak different languages, even if they have at least a little facility with another language, struggle when they have to deal with each other. At the very least, if we can hear and understand what the other person is saying, we’ve got a good starting point.

And if hearing is our strength, we are more likely to pay close attention to what the other person says.

One of the greatest skills we can exercise if we are trying to come to a place of mutual respect with someone who differs from us is to be able to listen. Just listen, and hear what the other person is saying. Because hearing what they say is the critical first step in a dialogue across our differences.

And yet we live in a society where we are urged to avoid listening to someone or some group whose opinions don’t match ours. We are encouraged to demonize rather than to listen. And in the coming months, we will see that played out in its most brutal form in the coming elections. The television is already saturated with advertisements telling us not to listen to the other candidate – that all they say is lies. Doesn’t matter what they say. Doesn’t matter that even if you disagree with much of that candidate’s positions, there might be some common ground between you…none of that matters. Don’t listen. Because heaven forbid you might find some common ground!

And yet one of the first things our Creator gave to the newborn church of Christ was the ability to really hear each other. And in the first months and years of that church, there were many times when the leaders disagreed about matters both logistical and theological…remember the battle between Peter and Paul about whether Christians needed to be circumsized before they could be baptized into Christ? And yet they came to a place of peace after some long and slightly heated conversations. That gift of the Holy Spirit which was implanted in them at Pentecost gave them the ability to not just argue across their differences. It gave them the ability to hear each other without immediately dismissing them out of hand.

They found that common ground, because they ended up doing just what my mother said: “You’ve got two ears and one mouth so you should listen twice as much as you talk.”

In this time of hardening of the hearts, of the forces of darkness telling us we should not listen to the other, can we regain some of that beautiful gift of Pentecost? Open your ears. Listen. Hear. And then be willing to open your heart with the love of Christ as you enter into conversation with those who believe differently from you. You don’t have to convert them to your position. That’s God’s job, if it is meant to be. Just use the gift that was given to you – to us all – on Pentecost, and hear.  Amen.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sermon for Sunday, May 20, 2012 Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 “Replacement Apostles”

Matthias, whom we hear about in the reading from Acts of the Apostles today, is one of my favorite saints, for a whole bunch of reasons. First, Matthias is the name of my eldest boy – I think he’s just great. Second, Matthias is an apostle, but he is the “replacement” apostle who was chosen to fill the spot of Judas Iscariot. He was a follower of Jesus from the beginning of the Lord’s ministry – that seems to have been a requirement for the job, according to Peter – so he was eligible, and they threw some dice to choose between him and Joseph Barsabbas, and Matthias got the nod. 

There are all sorts of interesting questions that may come to mind when we hear this story. We have a limited amount of time, though, so we are just going to focus on a couple of them.

The biggest one is this: why did they need to replace Judas? After all, later in the story of the early Christian community, the apostles died, and they weren’t replaced in this very deliberate way. But think of when this story occurred. Jesus had just ascended into Heaven. The apostles returned to the upper room for prayer and for consideration of what to do next. Shortly after this moment the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. Somehow, it was important that there be twelve apostles for this event. And the key to understanding that might be the number twelve. 

The Lord himself had chosen twelve apostles to symbolize the restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel. This restoration was already something the apostles themselves had been talking about back in the sixth verse of this chapter, when they asked the resurrected Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?”

That wholeness of the kingdom seemed to require recognition of the twelve tribes, and thus twelve disciples. 

So if they needed someone to replace the betrayer, how would they determine who it would be? 

There were lots of candidates. At the top of anyone’s list might be Jesus’ brothers, such as James the Just. There were other people who were part of the circle of followers of the Lord. There were women of prominence, such as Mary Magdalene, often called the apostle to the apostles, but that was culturally too big a leap for these folks. But instead, Peter said there were certain criteria: the replacement apostle must be “one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken from us – one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.” It is important that Peter felt that it needed to be someone who was part of the whole journey, and who could speak out clearly that Jesus was raised from the dead. Second-hand reports would not be sufficient.

By those standards, if the apostle Paul had been there, he wouldn’t have qualified! So it was a pretty small group, perhaps only the two men whom Peter set before the assembled disciples for election: Barsabbas and Matthias. We know nothing of these two men except that they met the qualifications that Peter outlined.

In our secular world we would wonder if Peter was stacking the deck, if you will, if he was setting up the prequalifications in such a way that he would get the person he wanted as one of the twelve. But this was a different world and a different time. Peter was simply hoping that God would reveal who could share what they had all experienced faithfully, not as a second-hand retelling, but as a lived experience. And so there were two. And Peter did not want to simply name one, even though he could as the named leader of the disciples. He wanted God to reveal the right one. So the disciples prayed and asked God to show them whom they should choose. And then they used an ancient method of choosing – not an election, what we would expect – they cast lots. If there had been an election, it would have been a human choice, votes by the human beings in that room. But casting lots? That was an Old Testament way of giving God a way to convey his desire…throwing dice would put the solution into God’s hands, not their own.

And Sarah J, this has nothing to do with Tunica…

And the dice told of God’s will, and so Matthias was chosen. Not because of any particular skill, just because he had been a part of the journey all along, and God was asking him. Not because of his relationship with the others – as far as we know, he was not a member of the families of any of the other disciples, no dynasty here. Not because he was renowned for his gifts of proclamation, or the money he could bring into the church, or any other earthly reason. God chose him. God simply chose him.

And that’s the thing that really appeals to me about Matthias. Once again, God asked a seemingly ordinary person to step up and serve. That’s both a comfort and a challenge to us ordinary people. We can’t get away with saying, “No, Lord, I don’t have anything to bring to this task you called me to.”

I had a conversation with someone preparing for ordination the other day, and when queried about his call, he said, “The Big Guy said ‘do this’ and I said ‘aye aye sir.’” Suffice to say, he was retired Navy.

God taps us to do things. Sometimes it is a whisper in our hearts, sometimes it’s a request from someone here at the church, sometimes it’s a situation that demands our response. It rarely has to do with what we think we do well. It rarely will yield results that will be documented in the news or in the Bible. Just God asking us to do something, and us saying “aye, aye, sir.”

And the last thing that makes Matthias dear to my heart is that this is the last we hear of him in the Bible. He fulfills his role as the twelfth apostle, so that there will be twelve at the miracle of Pentecost, and then he does whatever he does in service to the Lord in anonymity. Just like the rest of us whom God calls.

I guess the take-away from all this for me is that none of us is one of the original twelve. We are all replacements for the originals, several hundred generations removed. We usually discount our gifts and abilities, and yet God still finds a way to use us, and our gifts are sufficient for the task he asks of us.

On this Sunday when we wrap up our Sunday School year, it is clear to me that we are very, very blessed with people with great gifts leading our Sunday School (Gail and Kathy and Anne, April and Karen) , and it is tempting for us to say, “Well, I’m not sufficiently gifted to do that kind of work, or to replace any of these saintly apostles of Sunday School teaching.” And so we ignore God’s nudge or a request from me or someone here in the parish when we are asked to help out. But God expects us all to be replacement apostles, and gives us what we need to do the task he offers us.

So I would urge you to consider how you might be one of God’s replacement apostles in this place and at this time. Are you meant to be someone who helps teach our children about God’s love? Maybe. Are you meant to be someone who writes an article for the newsletter? Maybe. Are you meant to be someone who offers a warm welcome to a newcomer to this parish family? Maybe.

Only God knows when he will ask you to step up and be a replacement apostle. Only God knows the hidden strengths and gifts that you didn’t even know that you had.

But only you can say, “Yes, sir. Aye, aye.” Say it, with fear and joy, and be the replacement apostle that God knows you to be!


Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Sabbath Miscellany

Lots of beautiful moments this week:
  • Our parish hosted a group of 32 men without permanent housing through CARITAS (Churches Around Richmond To Assure Shelter). Delightful men and great volunteers. A different menu each night - we've evolved past the point where we serve seven nights of baked spaghetti or lasagna - and lots of helpers to take the guys to the Y for a shower or to the laundromat to do their wash.
  • We got three volunteers for the internal audit committee. Necessary but not necessarily exciting work - I am so grateful for folks who will tend to this.
  • At the Committee on the Diaconate, we talked with three persons who are in preparation for that ministry. Three more different people you could not imagine, and yet they share one important thing: they have a deacon's heart, wanted to bring the church out into the world to transform it for those who are hurting, lonely, sick, suffering. They will be gifts tot he church.
  • Our newly formed Stewardship team came over to our house last night for a conversation - they are wonderful, full of good energy and good ideas. Looking forward to going with them to the training program our diocese is presenting on narrative budgets as a way to tell the parish's story.
  • It is a gorgeous day outside, and I think now that the sermon is done, I'm going out for a walk. Still have to finish the adult forum on the Care of Creation, but that can wait until I savor some of that Creation!
  • To come: finding a couple more folks for our deacon-trainee's Lay Committee. I've got two guys and I want to find two women...hoping the two I am considering will say yes.
Oh, and tonight is Date Night chez Mibi. Haven't decided what we'll do yet, but it will be nice to have some uninterrupted time with my sweetheart.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sermon for Sunday, May 13, 2012 John 15: 9-17 “Friends in Low Places”

Have you ever had a relationship with someone that changed in the course of your knowing each other?  A time when the defined pattern of how you interacted with that person turned into something very different, in a way you might not have expected?

It’s not uncommon. For me, I can recall several bosses who were first mentors, then colleagues, and eventually became friends. There was a shift in the relationship. Sometimes it was context: I was promoted to the same level as that boss, and it was natural that things changed. Sometimes it was a moment of being in the trenches together, struggling through a difficult problem, appreciating each other’s gifts. I can also recall professors from seminary with whom my relationship changed once I graduated. The artifice of teacher and student was no longer necessary. We could appreciate each other in new ways, because the context in which we related to one another had changed.  We were no longer professor and student. We were simply friends. I had no doubt that these professors were still much more knowledgeable than I was, but the pivot point of the relationship was no longer my studying with them. They now were my friends. The context of our relationship changed, and so the relationship itself changed.

Think, for a minute of Matthew Crawley, the middle-class cousin of the aristocratic Crawleys of Downton Abbey. When we first meet him, he is a working attorney, tending to his own needs. When it becomes apparent that there will be no male heir to inherit Downton Abbey, Matthew is told that he must come and be the one who manages to keep the estate in the family. He has to adjust to life as an aristocrat, with servants assisting him in dressing and such, a life he finds ridiculous. But he gets used to it, and when he goes off to war, William, one of the servants on the estate who has enlisted, is detailed to serve as his valet. The pre-Downton Abbey Matthew would have found it absurd, but he falls into this odd relationship of lord and servant in uniform rather quickly. Context matters. He has grown used to seeing William as his servant, but the relationship shifts once again in the midst of the fighting…earldoms mean little in foxholes, it seems. When Matthew and William are trapped in a firefight, they struggle as equals once again. And when William is mortally wounded attempting to save Matthew in the battle, it is clear that Matthew does not see him as an expendable servant, but he grieves him as an equal comrade-in-arms. The shifting context affects the shift in their relationship.

Now think of Jesus in today’s gospel. What has the context of his relationship   the disciples been over the three years of his active ministry? Very simple: he is the Lord, they are the disciples, also named as servants. In fact, if you look at the Greek text of this passage, Jesus refers to them not as servants, but as doulos …. slaves. That’s a pretty radical difference in status, isn’t it?  But no sooner does he describe them as slaves, he says that something has changed. They are no longer slaves to him. They are philos…friends. Talk about a promotion!

The disciples probably wondered what was going on here. This was before Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion and death. What he said to them sounds to us like a sort of last will and testament, final instructions before he leaves them. But all they knew in that moment was that there was a shift in their relationship. They were no longer subordinates. They were on an equal footing with Jesus, as his friends. His words about dying for each other had little meaning beyond an expression of love, since they didn’t know that shortly Jesus would do exactly that. The full revealing of the context was yet to come.

But love and friendship are things they cherished, and they are things that we cherish, too. Those people who are enduring friends in our lives are our anchors and our sails. Our lives become entwined with theirs and we are changed by their presence.

So, too, Jesus’s presence in the disciples’ lives and in ours. We know a bit more about the whole story than the disciples did in today’s Gospel. We know that Jesus did lay down his life for us, being willing to be a slave to suffering and death so that we might live. And we also know that his very presence among us was yet another kind of gift of love and friendship, a divine gift of divine love and holy friendship.

His presence among us is in fact the proof of divine love. We human beings have made it apparent that we cannot understand who our creator is, so Jesus comes to earth to make it easier for us to understand the Creator's boundless love. Jesus comes to earth so that our relationship with our God is strengthened.

That's what St Augustine was talking about when, almost two millenia ago, he wrote these words: "Deus est qui Deum dat." God gives us many gifts, but God is He who gives God[1]. Sounds a bit strange, that phrase, until you think of it as Jesus does in the gospel: God has given us Jesus, a human as well as divine, so that we can be in relationship - in love - in friendship with God. We cannot love God without the gift of Jesus to help us understand God, and what relationship with God means. Friendship seems a word both too small and too large to contain such a loving relationship. 

What the disciples did not completely understand when Jesus said “I call you my friends” was how radical that shift in context and relationship was.  We only begin to understand it. This man among us, teaching us, weeping with us, laughing and eating with us, dying for us, is God. God shaped in a way that we can understand, to be sure, but fully and magnificently God. It is perfectly reasonable that we should be his servants. He is God and we are not. But Jesus says, “Of course I am God. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot love each other with the same intimacy, the same tenderness, the same joy as friends. And, oh, by the way, love each other the same way that you and I love each other.”

Even as he is laying out his end-of-life instructions to the disciples, he is continuing to be their friend by modeling what filial love is. This Holy One is the God who has given us himself in human form so that we might better relate to Him. That makes the guidance to love each other as he loves them even more striking…we are to love each other as God loves us. Impossible? Perhaps, but we are asked to try our best to do that.

Friends come in surprising ways, in unorthodox places. They may come to us in an Abbey or in a foxhole or on the train or in the hospital. They may even – Don’t be shocked – come to us in church. Can we welcome our friends as Jesus did, loving no matter what? Can we share the gift of that love with those sometimes unlikely friends, in sometimes difficult circumstances?

How can we not?


[1] Augustine, On the Trinity, XV.26.46

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Sermon for Sunday, May 6, 2012 Acts 8:26-40 “Gathering the Shorn”

We hear the story of Philip baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch today, and we might be tempted to make some assumptions. The Ethiopian, we think, might be someone who has no knowledge of the One God. He might be very different from Jews like Philip, and perhaps even a little frightening to him. Philip might be particularly brave or saintly, engaging this odd man on a wilderness road, simply because the Holy Spirit told him to hit the road. Brave, holy Philip! Poor misguided Ethiopian!

If that’s the lens through which we read this story, it simply becomes another tintype portrait in a compilation of works of the early saints.

But like so many stories in the Bible, it is so much more than that!

Let’s start out with the Ethiopian eunuch.

He was a high official in the court of the queen (the Candace, or kandakē in Greek). His appearance as a man with brown skin would not be unusual to Philip, because the nation of Israel consisted of many different racial and ethnic groups. Think back to the Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon and being impressed with his wisdom and teachings about the One True God. This Candace whom the Ethiopian eunuch served might well have been an Ethiopian Jew.

This man is said to be coming back home from Jerusalem where he had come to worship. He would not be worshipping pagan gods from Ethiopian culture in Jerusalem – that was the seat of worship for the God of Israel. And so this man was probably an observant Jew.

As he rode on the road in his chariot, he was reading aloud, as was the custom in those days. Philip heard him and ran toward him. “Do you understand what you were reading,” Philip asked. “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” answered the Ethiopian.

So Philip got in the chariot with him – never mind that his mother probably taught him never to get into a chariot with a stranger – to teach him and to tell him about the new covenant foretold in the very scripture that the Ethiopian had been reading…a passage from Isaiah.

“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.”

We hear that passage and immediately think, “Wow, Isaiah is once again prophesying about what happened to Jesus Christ!”

But the eunuch might have heard it differently.

Think of what it is to be a eunuch. Eunuchs were men who were castrated, usually before puberty. They were neutered men, considered to be “safe” to work in the royal courts, particularly to serve the royal women, because they had no sexual desire for them.

Men who were, in effect, shorn as lambs. Powerless in their loss of sexual identity. Considered odd, different, half-men. Useful tools in a royal court because of their difference, but unable to live fully because of the way they were shorn. Like a sheep, silent, humiliated.

That eunuch might have heard the passage from Isaiah, and felt like it was telling his story, the story of another person who was powerless against the forces that sheared away his manhood.

It’s an odd juxtaposition, because in many ways the Ethiopian eunuch had power. He was akin to the chief of staff for the queen of Ethiopia. No doubt his chariot was beautiful, richly decorated, with the latest in shock absorbers to deal with rough roads, with a stern soldier driving and a pair of powerful horses pulling it. His clothing might be the most luxurious fabric, hand-embroidered, bejeweled, and he might wear a pendant or ring denoting his office, set with diamonds or rubies. But all that he had could not take away the fact that he had been shorn like a young lamb many years before, and all knew his humiliation by his hairless face and high voice.
Isaiah was speaking to him.

It is a good thing he was reading Isaiah and not Deuteronomy, where the ancient laws said that anyone who was sexually mutilated was ritually unclean and could not enter the “assembly of God.” (Deut. 23:1).

Deuteronomy would have named him persona non grata in the temple. It would have humiliated him, shorn him once again, by naming him imperfect and unworthy.

But it was Isaiah he was reading, the same Isaiah who held particular promise to eunuchs, saying eunuchs who “keep my Sabbaths will receive a name better than sons and daughters” (Isa 56:4-5). It was Isaiah who promised hope for the marginalized, the outcasts, the captives, the same Isaiah whom Jesus preached so often. The eunuch might be powerful, he might be rich, he might have jewels on his person and the ability to command in the name of his queen, but he was still viewed as different, unlike other men, snickered at when he spoke in that high voice. He needed to hear some of that hopeful promise.

And along came Philip. The eunuch would be surprised by this strange fellow on the road, asking him, “do you understand what you’re reading?” Sounds a little presumptuous, doesn’t it? Imagine, as Barbara Brown Taylor has done, the eunuch as a rich foreign diplomat riding through Washington DC in a Lexus, and suddenly this street preacher in shabby clothes runs up to the vehicle. In Washington, the diplomat would ignore the fellow. In this story, though, the eunuch invited Philip into the vehicle for some conversation.

And the eunuch, perhaps inspired by the Holy Spirit as Philip was, or perhaps just curious, asked Philip “This passage I was just reading – is it just about Isaiah and his situation, or is it about something or someone else?” Philip couldn’t have asked for a better opening…he told him about Jesus, and how this passage described Jesus, that suffering servant king, so perfectly. And somewhere in his conversation, he must have told the eunuch about baptism, because when they came up to a place where there was water, the eunuch said “what is there to stop me from being baptized?”

Perhaps the eunuch did have familiarity with the passage from Deuteronomy that forbade him from entering the temple. Perhaps his question to Philip at that moment was not “Sure, why shouldn’t we do this thing that you have talked about?” Perhaps it was more like, “Will you, too, deny me God’s grace by saying I am unworthy, because of my sexual status?”

But Philip had no desire to keep this man away from sacramental blessing. To him, the man’s status as a eunuch was irrelevant. All that mattered was that he was a child of God, and sought to affirm his belief through baptism. And so the chariot halted, they two men hopped out, ran to the water, and Philip baptized him. And they parted ways, the Ethiopian going back to his country rejoicing, Philip going to Caesarea Phillipi proclaiming the good news.

Philip would no more deny this man a sacramental blessing because of what had been done to him than he would deny a Jew who was the father of ten children such a blessing. He would no more deny a prostitute such a blessing than he would deny a woman in a stable household such a blessing. He would no more deny a gay man or a lesbian woman a sacramental blessing than he would a straight one. Just like Jesus.

Why? Because Jesus said we are all eligible to be part of God’s kingdom. We are all shorn in some way. We are all missing parts of our bodies and our hearts and our souls, and if that’s the criteria for entrance into the kingdom, we all fail.

But Jesus Christ, the lamb who was shorn and slaughtered, is clear that all are welcome. And only he gets to be the judge of who stays forever. And based upon his teachings in the gospel, I suspect that sexual status is not the prime litmus test for faithfulness – in fact, it may have little bearing at all in his judgment…it is simply loving God and loving each other.

So as we continue forward on our journey to be faithful to the One in whom we were baptized, here’s the lesson from Philip: share God’s love without making assumptions about whether or not they are worthy of God’s love.  Be grateful for the opportunity to welcome newcomers of all stripes into God’s family. Ask for God’s blessings on all God’s people. Trust that God knows your heart, and the heart and soul of those you meet, and, like the Ethiopian eunuch, go on your way rejoicing.