On this topic I would like to include a sermon
my mother gave at her Methodist Church in Potomac, MD at some point when she was still a minister there. I figure that the closest modern man can come to understanding the intentions of Jesus
and of God
are those who have been instructed upon and entrusted with teaching the words of the bible
. Her credentials include being a practicing minister
of the United Methodist Church after having graduated with a Masters of Divinity
(what a cool title, the next thing higher must be masters of the universe ;) from the Wesley Theological Seminary
in Washington, DC
He Who is Without Sin
This is the first Sunday of Lent. A part of the christian year set apart for the meditation on and penitence regarding our existence as sinners. Yes, we are all sinners. Like it or not, try as we might... We are now, and shall remain for as long as we live, sinners in the eyes of God. When Adam and Eve are of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil, they broke the first covenant God made with humanity. And from that day to this we are, and will remain, sinners until Christ comes again.
After being thrown out of the Garden of Eden, humanity became so wicked that God decided to destroy everyone but Noah and his family. And after the flood God made a covenant with Noah. But, after a time, sin multiplied on the land. So, God made a covenant with Abraham, promising to make a great nation of his descendants. After the children of Israel became slaves in Egypt, God made a covenant with Moses, In truth, the history of humanity is a long list of God's people losing their way and God trying again and again to keep us in a right relationship with Him.
The Old Testament is filled with lists of laws that cover almost anything from diet to Sabbath observance. And, along with the laws, were listed the penalties. Most of the time the penalty was death, and most of the time the sinner was stoned to death. Disobedient sons were stoned, non-virginal brides were stoned, adulterers were stoned, This seemed to be the punishment that fit every crime.
But, with the birth of Christ, we and God are in a completely different type of covenant. The angry, vengeful God of the Old Testament sought to keep us in line with punishments and threats. In Christ, God comes to us with understanding... As someone who has lived inside a human body with all it's temptations. And with Christ's death our salvation was guaranteed. Love God and love one another, that's all that is required of us. Sounds simple, doesn't it?
If all we need is God, and God is love, then why is there so much hatred in the world? There are a lot of people around these days who believe the end times are at hand. So wouldn't you think that these people would be working hard to be like Jesus? Like children the day before Christmas, we should be on our best behaviour.
Instead, hatred is rampant in this nation, and some of the ugliest hatred is coming from fundamentalist christian churches using scripture from the Old Testament to justify their hate campaign against persons of other races, religions, and sexual orientations.
A few weeks ago, my daughter called to tell me there was a web site on the internet called www.godhatesfags.com. To my dismay, when I got the web site, I discovered it is actually the homepage for a church. The Westboro Baptist Church, to be exact, and what I saw made me angry. First, they showed a picture of young Matthew Shepard, a young man killed about a month or so ago. Above the picture were the words "IMPORTANT! REMEMBER!" These "christians" picketed his funeral. They also picketed at the funerals of persons who died of AIDS. Can you imagine the pain this causes the bereaved?
The web site offered a list of churches which welcome persons of different sexual orientation, calling these churches "fag churches". They even listed the churches by name and location, sort of like those pro-life people who send out wanted posters with the pictures and addresses of doctors who perform abortions. Let me read to you the list of what they call fag friendly denominations:
They say, "Churches not listed above, like the Southern Baptists and Assembly of God churches are as much to blame as the out of the closet fag churches listed above. Why? Because they have created an atmosphere in this world where people believe the lie that God loves everybody. This world's condition is your fault. Don't listen to heretics like Billy Graham."
There is just one thing with wrong with the reasoning of these fundamentalist fag bashers. They have made the mistake of assuming that there is a hierarchy of sin... Some cosmic graph that rates all sin from a little white lie to the depravity of genocide. But it doesn't exist, not in the New Testament and not in the old. A sin is a sin, is a sin. And we are all sinners. The scriptures are like statistics in that they can be used to justify ugly, hateful behavior. Bishop Spong, in his book Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, says it this way:
"The word of God in scripture confronts me with the revelation that all human beings are created in God's image and reflect God's holiness. All human beings means just that, all human beings. Men and women, homosexual persons and heterosexual persons, all races, nationalities, and persons of any ethnic background, all communists and capitalists, rich and poor, old and young, religious and nonreligious, Christians. Moslems, Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus, athiests and agnostics---all persons reflect the holiness of God, for all are made in the image of God. How can I enslave, segregate, denigrate, oppress, violate, or victimize one who bears the image of the Holy One?
The word of God in Scripture also confronts me with the fact that God loves all he has created. God loves everyone, even those my prejudice would reject. There is nothing one can do or be that places them outside the boundaries of God's love. If I continue to hate one whom God loves, I place myself in the pecular position of claiming for myself a moral righteousness beyond the righteousness I attribute to God."
So I ask myself, what does Jesus say about how we should approach these issues in our private lives in this time and place? The gospels contain almost no mention of laws at all, but there were moments in the ministry of Jesus when his actions speak much more than words ever could.
Look at the incident of the woman caught in adultery. Deuteronomy 22 instructs that adulterers are to be stoned to death, so the crowd preparing to stone her was following Hebraic law. And, what does Jesus do? He confronts the crowd, telling them that only the one without any sin may cast the first stone. In truth, although the crowd didn't know it at the time, Jesus was the only one there who was without sin. Did he take up a stone? No, he did not.
Or, consider the story of Jesus heaaling on the Sabbath. The priests were right when they admonished him. The laws of the people of Israel did not allow this. But, Jesus didn't care about law. What mattered to him was people.
During the past few years I have watched with a heavy heart the hate groups that have sprung up across this nation and the way that these groups subvert christianity for their own purposes. They spout rhetoric about the superiority of the white race, hatred of the Jews who they say murdered Christ, and an AIDS virus they claim is the punishment straight from God.
During Lent, we should take the time to examine what is in our hearts. Do you wear your christianity like a royal robe that makes you feel aloof and superior? Christ came in humility and served the castoffs of society. Do you believe that Christ would turn away the addict, the prostitute, or the homosexual? Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone.
Reverend Candace Rose McCay - 1998
my own commentary
I gotta say I agree with my mother
on this one. The laws of the old testament were archaic
laws. The birth of God within the body of a man showed God the real deal about being human
. God lived within what he created. I think the big G man learned a bit about positive
it's not really specifically addressed within my mother's sermon whether or not she feels homosexuality
was a sin
. However I have spoken to her on this matter. My mother is not of a belief that any act of sexuality is a sin unless someone is made to be a victim by the act -- for example, adultery
infringes upon the pact
made with God
and the spouse
on the wedding
day. The infidelity
leaves a victim
. I don't know whether or not she views premarital sex
as a sin, but I do know that she encouraged me to get to know my partner "fully" before making a life commitment
. I think her marriage
taught her a lot about getting to know people and the importance of sexual compatibility
and awareness. Given that she is a minister
to the people, and given that she is my mother
, I trust
that she would not encourage
me into an act which she considers a sin. My assumption is that she, like me, believes that so long as life is enjoyed and lived without malice
to anyone, God
is pleased). Even if acts of sex
ARE a sin, they are certainly not sins without forgiveness
. God loves ALL his children, and the salvation
of his children was guaranteed upon the death of Jesus
, even above and beyond all that is that a person's sin is a matter between GOD and the sinner only.
I think it's safe (and obvious
) to say that my mother is a fairly progressive minister
. My mother's beliefs and mine are quite in tune to one another despite my lack of belief in a conscious
, and personified GOD
. I live by the bible
. it makes sense.
All of this is a pointless argument, however, as the bible
has been interpreted
, reinterpreted, and reinterpreted again and again... Each time meanings subtly change. No human can truly know the will of God -- each side will use the bible
to their advantage
and interpret in their favour various passages. Further, on matters of faith, faith wins.