To be honest, I struggled with this blog. I was out of the office last week (at Bear Creek Camp—a topic for another post), and I was grateful for the time and perspective. Because last Sunday, June 12th, I woke up at my usual 5:30 and turned on the news.
What greeted my eyes was news of yet another mass shooting. This time at a night club in Florida. The shooting only started around 2:00 in the morning, and the shooter was taken out at 5:15 am. So the news was just coming in. At the point I was watching, 23 people were reported dead. That number would rise to 49. We knew it was a gay club, but not much had been released about the shooter’s motives by the time I left for church.
I got to church and looked at my sermon—it focused on the social and sexual exclusion of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet. How we ought to try and see others the way that God sees them. And I numbly inserted a line or two about the shooting, about the homophobia and hatred of differences that led to it. I added a petition to the prayers.
I knew it wasn’t enough—the worst mass shooting in US history had happened while I was asleep, and a prayer petition and a few lines in a sermon wouldn’t cut it. But I wasn’t sure if I really ought to be the one to speak. Surely, voices from within this affected community could and would do a better job than me. My job should be to give them the microphone. (Read them here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/orlando-a-pastoral-response-from-a-gay-latino-priest_us_575ee2d9e4b079c7cee5ff95 and here: http://www.vox.com/2016/6/12/11911960/orlando-shooting-lgbt-pride.)
But then the week went on. And news story after news story came out without ever mentioning the LGBT community. Political candidates talked about this massacre without ever mentioning the hate and homophobia that fueled it. An attacked and suffering group of people was brushed aside because it was easier to talk about this shooting with getting into “all of that.”
And then I came to church on Sunday. I wasn’t preaching, and had been at camp all week, so I didn’t even know what the readings were. But the second lessons from Galatians was read:
Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
I heard this passage with fresh ears, and at first it made me so very sad. Because that’s not the world we live in. We live in a world where we seemingly can’t get over our differences and refuse to see the common humanity that we share. But then I realized—it’s not the world Paul lived in either. He lived in a world where clear lines were drawn between different ethnic groups, where men and women were viewed quite differently, where slaves and free people were treated like polar opposites.
Paul wasn’t describing his world, he was describing God’s intention for it. The intention forces us, instead of seeing what divides us, to see what we hold in common. And so I started to rewrite it in my head:
As many of you were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Latinx or White, there is no longer straight or gay, there is no longer trans or cis; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
It’s not the world we live in. We live in a world where hate and fear divide. But it is God’s intention for the world we live in. To get there, we need to speak up—as a church, as individuals, as community groups. We need to say no to hate. Instead, we loudly and boldly proclaim that God’s intention is diversity. God’s intention is inclusion. God’s intention is love.