Today we visited the Creation Expo in Portsmouth. It was not good. However, one of the pamphlets we got said:
‘Why shouldn’t homosexuality be regarded as acceptable if what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah is just a folk myth?’ Pamphlet no. 327 by Barbara Lambeth
This irritates me a lot. It irritates me because here are people using bits of the bible when they obviously haven’t read the commentary included in bible about that particular passage.
Ezekiel 16:49 (KJV as the Creation Expo seem to only like this version)
‘Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.’
Pride, fat and lazy. Ignoring the poor and the needy. These were their sins and so often christians ignore these sins in favour of focussing on the sin of homosexuality.
I think often because it is easier to point out other people’s sins than to examine our own lifestyle and consider if we are guilty of any sins. These sins, of pride, gluttony, laziness and not caring for the poor and needy are ones that we in the western world need to be standing up against. It is these sins that we should be preaching about – and yet, the christian media spends its time fighting against homosexuality.
In a week where we are receiving news from around europe about the migrant crisis, showing people who have left their own countries due to war, extremism and famine, we need to be preaching compassion. We need to be preaching about love, acceptance, about putting the needs of others before our own needs.
And these are scary things to preach about. These are scary things to live out because these things require us to change. To say that we should share more means that I will have less. To condemn others is easy because it requires nothing from me. To take the lessons of Sodom and Gomorrah and use it to demonise a minority is easy because it puts the blame onto someone else.
When Jesus died, he took everybody else’s sin onto himself and then he called us to take up our cross and to follow him. To follow Jesus we need to be saying with Paul, that we are all sinners and that I am the worst of all. To be looking at the evilness of the world and saying this is because of my sin, not looking to others and saying they are to blame.
It is our sin, our pride, our gluttony, our laziness, our failure to help the poor and needy, that is causing the problems. It is us, not them, and we can change our behaviour, and we can change the world.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
I’ve been thinking about this passage a bit recently. It is used a lot. A verse that describes the mission brief that Jesus left first for those who had followed him and then on to each generation.
And it is a crazy thing to be asked to do. Therefore go. Go. Go away from this holy land that your ancestors took so long getting to and building. Go. Leave the land you have been promised. Go away from the temple where your God lives. Go from your homes, from your families. Go.
And make disciples of all nations. No longer is this message just for one nation. Go to all nations and all people.Leave not only the place where you are comfortable but also leave the culture you are comfortable with. Go to all nations. You have been blessed to be a blessing.
There are then stories about how the disciples went about carrying out this command. They sold everything they owned and shared everything. They practiced equality among people from different backgrounds. They equipped and sent out missionaries. They took opportunities that they were given to share the gospel with everyone they came across. They spoke to leaders, they spoke to groups of women meeting at the river, they met in the homes of the wealthy, they sang praises in jail.
They changed. They adapted. They moved.
They disagreed and held meetings to seek God’s will in new situations – decisions about big changes to things they had held onto as solid parts of their faith such as circumcision. And then they left it behind.
And then I think about this generation, about me. Sometimes we think about where it is we have to go but sometimes I think where do I need to go from? What do I need to go away from? What is it that I hold dear? Can people still be disciples if they don’t believe or do something I feel is important? Can I change? Can I adapt?
If I went to my parents now and told them that I was gay (I wouldn’t do it here because my dad reads this blog and finding out in a blog would be a pretty sucky way of finding out) I am certain they wouldn’t throw me out of the house, they wouldn’t disown me, they wouldn’t ignore me. I know this because they’re my parents and they love me and they support me. I’m sure that I haven’t turned into the person they thought I was going to be when I was born and they don’t love me in spite of this, they love me because of this.
I don’t understand parents who claim to be loving while turning their backs on one of their children because of something so insignificant. You can believe that sexuality is chosen if you want to ( I’d think you were wrong but you can believe it) but then many other things in life are chosen.. Career choices, where to live, to go out on Friday nights and get drunk or eating left over curry for breakfast.
And I suppose there are parents who would abandon their children due to their career choices but those parents will have missed the point.
It is sad when parents turn their backs and it is terrible when people claim that a loving God would turn his back, a God we call father. God is our creator and our sustainer. He is love to everyone and the idea that would abandon his children is slander to his nature.
Jesus came to give homes to the homeless not to create homelessness. He came to set the prisoners free not to create more. He came to the orphans not to create more.
Daring to be different, to be unique, to stand against the norm is costly and it is difficult. By not going with the flow, those who are different, cause others to consider their own views, their own way of doing things, themselves. That leads to fear and fear leads to anger often. By standing apart, you could be seen as standing in the way.
But we are called to be different, called to stand in the way of the normality. We are called to look at what is being done and see it by love….is this action, the action of love? Will the outcome of this action be a demonstration of love?
There was a tv show where a man sat his children down and told them the story of how he met their mother. However, this was not just a short story it was a build up including all the important stories that made him the man he was when he met her.
Stories are important to people, stories help us understand what is really going on. Stories reveal truth to us and help us to understand concepts previously hidden from us.
Stories can change depending on who is hearing them and what people need to understand about the world. Cinderella used to have shoes made of fur, now they are glass. But the changes don’t make the story any less true.
There are many stories about floods. There were gods, or a God who looked down on the earth and saw the people. The people stopped worshipping the gods. or the God. The gods became hungry because no one was offering them sacrifices. The God became angry because everyone was sinful. They/He decided to send a floor to punish the world and start again. There was a man called Gilgamesh/Noah who built a giant boat and took two of each animal on it.
The stories are not important because they document historical fact. They are important because they show us who we were, what was important to us, and who we are.
I have just finished reading The Humans by Matt Haig. It was recommended reading for Greenbelt 2014’s reading club. However, I did not read it before Greenbelt, which I now think is a shame because I would have enjoyed discussing it.
This quote was one that I found particularly interesting, especially so that I read it shortly before church this morning.
‘I looked at Isobel and I saw a miracle. It was ridiculous, I know. But a human, in it’s own small way, was a miraculous achievement, in mathematical terms.
‘For a start, it wasn’t very likely that Isobel’s mother and father would have met. And even if they had met the chance of their having a baby would have been pretty slim, given the numerous agonies surrounding the human dating process.
‘Her mother would have had about a hundred thousand eggs ovulating inside her, and her father would have had five trillion sperm during that same length of time. But even then, even that one in five hundred million million chance of existing was a terrible understatement, and nowhere near did the coincidence of a human life justice.
‘You see, when you looked at a human’s face, you had to comprehend the luck that brought that person there. Isobel Martin had a total of 150,000 generations before her, and that only includes the human. That was 150,000 increasingly unlikely children. That was one in a quadrillion chance multiplied by another quadrillion for every generation. Or around twenty thousand times more than the number of the atoms in the universe. But even that was only the start of it, because humans had only been around for three millions Earth years, certainly a very short time compared to the three and a half billion years since life first appeared on this planet.
‘Therefore, mathematically, rounding things up, there was no chance at all that Isobel Martin could have existed. A zero in ten to-the-power-of-forever chance. And yet, there she was, in front of me, and I was quite taken aback by it all; I really was. Suddenly it made me realise why religion was such a big thing around here. Because, yes, sure, God could not exist. But then neither could humans. So, if they believed in themselves – the logic must go – why not believe in something that was only a fraction more unlikely?’
The sermon, talking about opening our church to more people, about the idea that when you welcomed people in they weren’t always going to be ‘your kinda people’, the idea that being Christ-like meant talking to, showing compassion to and loving sinners. The idea that gay people deserved hell meant that you had forgotten that ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’.
The idea that some people are too far away to ever be loved.
And then I thought back to the words of an alien stuck on the planet Earth. There was no chance that Isobel Martin, or me, or anyone could exist. We are impossible, incredible, each one of us, a miracle. Statistically unlikely and yet, here we are.
And we spend time making other people feel worthless, making other people feel like they have no place in this world. They have overcome insurmountable odds to get to this point and yet feel like they don’t deserve to be here.
When we see a human, shouldn’t we be more amazed that they are alive and being? Where ever they currently are, it is a miracle that they are. And if we can support them in continuing to be then we are part of a miracle but if something we say or do hinders them, then we are destroying millions of years of energy and work and time and miracles.