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The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
July 17, 2016
by The Reverend Maureen Hair, Preacher St. Paul, Washago & St. Luke, Price’s Corners (and text circulated to the other churches in the cluster: Good Samaritan, Port Stanton, St. John, Matchedash and St. George, Fairvalley)
RCL Readings: Proper 16: Amos 8:1-12; Psalm 52; Colossians 1:15-28; Luke 10:38-42 (opening prayer)
Last week our national church met in Richmond Hill for General Synod that is held every 3 years. I’m sure most of us are aware of the motion regarding changing the Marriage Canon to allow for marriage of same sex couples. The public interest in the topic and the unfortunate difficulty with counting the votes when there was an extremely narrow margin, thus first not passing and then passing the motion, created frenzied coverage in the secular media.
So, this morning I’m going to share with you the pastoral letter of Toronto’s diocesan bishop, Colin, sent to the diocese on Wednesday, and then a brief reflection of my own.
I will be posting the Primate ++Fred’s letter on the bulletin board and it can also be found on the anglican.ca website.
(Read ++Colin’s letter)
For my own part, this week was a roller coaster ride of emotions. As do many of us, I have gay people in my own personal circle, both married, partnered and single. This includes family members and friends as well as neighbours. To me these people, including their sexual orientation, are just as much children of God as I am or anyone else is, and therefore, as a matter of justice, ought to have full rights and privileges.
Over the years I’ve become persuaded that the gospel values taught by Jesus to love one another, and to include rather than exclude, take precedence over most other passages including admonitions in Hebrew scripture or Paul’s letters that refer negatively to same sex activity. My reason for this is that the admonitions in scripture were written long before the nature of innate sexual attraction was understood – something that we’re born with and therefore God-given, rather than a sinful behaviour or lifestyle choice that must be resisted or punished.
And besides, we’ve already decided as a church that some prohibitions from biblical times are not applicable today. We don’t insist on circumcision. We eat pork and shellfish. We don’t require the separation of meat and dairy in food preparation or serving. We don’t have rules against tattoos. We do have rules against adultery but the penalty is not death. We don’t allow slavery or polygamy or substitutional wives for procreation as in Sarah’s servant Hagar who was given to Abraham. All these practices and prohibitions were evident in ancient Israel and are told about in Hebrew scriptures, with no interdict against them. They’re no longer culturally relevant or even thinkable in our modern context and church. So, not every prohibition mentioned in the Bible is still observed as such today. Many are irrelevant to us and we read them as historical and cultural anomalies, not binding commandments or rules for us to follow.
Most of us can recall when we used to try to correct left handedness in children because we thought it was wrong. Then we learned that dominant handedness was innate and we stopped harming children by forcing them into using their right hand. Same for being gay or transgendered now – innate and to be respected.
And besides, the number of references that Jesus made in the gospels about homosexuality is zero. That’s enough for me.
On Monday evening as I watched the live stream from the floor of synod on my iPad, after 60 people spoke, sometimes with eloquence, sometimes with very hurtful words, the fraction of a percentage in the house of clergy that the motion failed by was high drama to be sure. It was one clergy vote shy of passing. It was a painful moment for both sides, I think. Those voting against would have been saddened by how many people, a wide composite 74% majority, voted for the motion. Those voting for, heartbroken at losing by just one vote.
A Facebook site that was started about a two weeks ago is called EquallyAnglican and it is a place for Anglican LGBTQ people to post their picture, speak of their sexual orientation, and say something about their lives including where they minister/worship. These are from all across Canada. About 48 profiles have been shared in just this short time, many of them clergy and lay leaders in this diocese, one is a candidate in the upcoming Toronto episcopal election. The experience of reading these profiles has solidified my own identity as an ally of LGBTQ people living, working and worshipping among us. As one bishop wrote this week, “It is time. It is past time.”
As ++Colin said, there are differences of conviction on this matter in virtually every congregation. Therefore, we will need to be sensitive and loving towards each other in this congregation and cluster as we navigate this new territory together.
The Archbishops’ letters will be posted on the bulletin board. I am also sending a cluster-wide email including them, as well as posting on the cluster Facebook page later today. It will be on the website on Monday or Tuesday.
And to reflect briefly through the prism of today’s gospel passage, in a few words Luke draws the picture of these two sisters. Martha receives Jesus into the house, showing that she’s hospitable and constantly busy. Then, in a single memorable image, Mary is presented to us. She sits listening, passive in contrast to Martha’s incessant activity.
Last week we heard the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus told the disciples to emulate the Good Samaritan. He said: go and do likewise. “Do this and you shall live.” It all boiled down to one little word: “this.” “Do this.” Do this one thing: love the Lord your God completely, and your neighbour as yourself. This story says go and do.
This week we meet Martha, a woman who is doing up a storm. But this time, doing doesn’t seem to be the key according to Jesus. “Sit and listen” as Mary does, seems to be the right answer. Jesus says there is need of only one thing. But some days it is hard to figure out what that one thing is.
Go and do, sit and listen, in all these ways of being with and for the Lord, it is about loving God and our neighbour. I believe that this means all of our neighbours; it includes our LGBTQ friends and loved ones. All are welcome, and all are to be offered the ministrations of the church. That was already passed as a motion of the national church in 2004 and in our diocese later that year, when we affirmed “the sanctity and integrity of monogamous, adult, committed same sex relationships.” Our church already acknowledges this and has for 12 years, even though I know some members don’t agree with it. Now I believe we have come to a time of including in this affirmation the provision of the sacrament of marriage for all who are legally qualified. I think Jesus meant this in his command to his followers to “do this (love your neighbour as yourself), and you will live.”
My prayer is for all of us to continue in our walk with Jesus in the way that our informed consciences guide us. I close with ++Colin’s reminder, “We need to be tender with one another, recognizing in each other the image of God redeemed by our Saviour Jesus Christ, a beloved child, the desire of God’s heart and will. And we need to remember that what unites us is far more central than what divides us: our baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and our service together in his mission in the world.”
And for that teaching today we say, thanks be to God. Amen.