The morning after…
…actually it’s the first day of the week following the historic vote at the ELCA CWA09 last week in Minneapolis; a vote that changed ministry policies allowing homosexuality clergy in committed, life-long, monogamous same sex relationship to serve ELCA congregations. The vote also opened the door for ELCA congregations to bless same sex unions if they so choose. But also recognizing that fact that people across the church have “bound consciences” and that we are to respect that.
With this vote I knew I would get lots of questions (as I did as I walked into the coffee shop this morning) so I decided to address this right away on Sunday morning in the sermon. Below is the newsletter article I wrote that is a very brief summary of what I preached on Sunday. I used the text from Joshua 24:14-15 about choosing whom we will serve. Here’s my newsletter article:
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14-15)
By the time this newsletter reaches your mail box and is in your hands, the ELCA will be forever changed. ELCA Church wide assembly met Aug. 17 – 23 in Minneapolis. The big agenda item (and one that garnered the most passionate discussion/debate) had to do with lifting the ban on homosexual clergy, who are in life-long, monogamous, committed relationships, from serving on the ELCA roster and allowing congregations to bless same sex unions. Many of you are no doubt experiencing a number of emotions surrounding this that include but not limited to: anger, confusion, disappointment, sadness, etc. Some of you no doubt believe that scripture is clear when it comes to homosexuality. Some of you no doubt are not even willing to discuss/debate this because you believe there is no discussion/debate. But I also recognize that some of you may be very excited and happy about this change. Wherever you fall and however you feel the reality is still the same: We live and serve in a Church that has been forever changed. In a way we now live in a foreign land. So what now…
…As with everything there are decisions to be made, but in our case there is only one faithful option: We will continue serving our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ in advancing the Gospel with all our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ…who are all as equally sinful as you and me.
This may be hard to accept for some, but when you consider how Jesus treated the outcast, it makes a lot of sense. In the sermon on Sunday, Aug. 23 (one that many of you were not in attendance to hear) I reminded people of the story of the woman caught in adultery from John 8: The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus taught us to separate the sin from the sinner; to hate the sin NOT the sinner. So what does all this mean? Simply this: In light of the change in ministry policies here in the ELCA concerning homosexuality I echo Joshua’s words, “As for me and my household we will serve the Lord”. Basically…nothing is going to change. The ELCA vote will not change what I preach or how I preach; I will continue announcing forgiveness and presiding at the table; I will continue to baptize, marry and bury people; I will continue teach and love people. And (as I expect everyone here to do) I will continue to welcome ALL people. I may not approve of their lifestyle but I will continue to separate the sin from the sinner and serve the Lord through loving my neighbor. That is what Jesus commands us to do. Loving people and accepting ALL people is serving the Lord.
The ELCA has been forever changed (there is no question about that), but Salem Lutheran Church has not been changed. We will continue to serve the Lord; we will continue to welcome ALL people; we will continue to advance the Gospel. But as we do this I urge you to dive even deeper into scripture and explore the Good News that God has for us. Know what the Bible commands us to do AND know what God promises to do for us. Get to know God better through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So join me, as we travel through this uncertain time, and continue to serve the Lord…all the while praising God always and forever.
I know that more and more questions are going to come. There is going to be much spirited discussion and debate through blogs, Facebook, Twitter and coffee shops. But through it all we need to remember that we are all children of God. And my hope and prayer is that we can somehow move forward in mission. We need to get out there and announce to people this awesome love we have from God through Jesus Christ. Forgiveness needs to be proclaimed; people need to experience love; the stranger still needs to be welcomed. Let’s not lose focus.
We serve an awesome God…let’s continue to do so…praising God always and forever.