Sermon – Eucharist for Pride Festival
20th July 2019
2 Corinthians 3.4-end; John 8.1-11
I bring you great tidings. Hark! The church is in crisis! There’s no way forward. We’re at each other’s throats! Gone are the wonderful days of old. Chaos reigns. People of God, despair!!!!
Now, that’s probably over egging it. But I bet all of us, especially queer folk like me, have felt like this in the church from time to time.
The overriding narrative in the Church of England, and in other denominations too… is that queer people, those of us who don’t easily fit society’s gender and sexual expectations… spell at the best confusion, and at the worst darkness.
Chaos reigns! People of God, despair!
Well, I for one refuse to accept that narrative. Coming to faith as an openly gay person, my sexual identity, my desires and relationships, were not a cause of confusion, and they certainly weren’t a cause of chaos.
Each one of us has a different journey of faith to navigate… but fundamentally the discovery of the gift of faith is the same for each of us….
A child of God finding, realising and nesting in the home that was prepared for us from the beginning by our Lord.
Narratives that see queer folk as a problem aren’t good and true for us. And they aren’t good and true for the church.
What narratives might free us? What narratives might offer us hope? What is the narrative in which I am one for whom Christ died and rose again, and not just a problem to be solved.
I have known many churches that say they believe the Gospel message is offered for all. They confess proudly that the Good News is for the transformation of all people, that there is no corner of the created world which Christ cannot redeem and make holy.
Well, queer people put that confession to the test.
Do you really think God gives eternal life to all who have faith in Jesus, as a gift, without a price, as grace? Or do you believe we have to earn it?
Sometimes, it feels like queer people have to do an awful lot to earn our place in the church, to earn the assurance that others can get much easier.
Sometimes, it feels like we have to prove our faith, not to God who already sees it, but to our fellow Christians… who seem to do their best to make us feel inferior.
Sometimes, we may let it get to us, and wonder if we really do have to leap through hoops, to earn God’s love. To pretend to be something we are not… because Jesus’ grace, Jesus’ love, isn’t strong enough to make me holy.
To this, St Paul says, no.
The Old Testament Law was a start. It tried to teach God’s people how to love God and it tried to teach them that God loved them, even when they betrayed that love. But Jesus has fulfilled the Law. God’s children are freed from its demands, its judgment, its condemnation… even its death.
The Law is good for teaching us how to love our God and how to love one another. But it cannot condemn us.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
All of us who have been baptised and confess Jesus as our Lord, live in the Spirit. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, when we look on Jesus in word, prayer or sacrament, see the glory of the Lord. And it transforms us.
God does not change who we are. God loves who we are. And died for who we are.
But God sets us alight in holiness, and frees us to live lives of deeper love, more fervent faithfulness.
I wonder how many times you’ve heard the story of Jesus and the woman caught committing adultery.
She is guilty, plain for all to see, and the Law says she should be stoned to death.
But Jesus and the woman… talk.
Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” Jesus has shamed the scribes and the pharisees into leaving her alone. But Jesus is not finished.
She said, ‘No one, sir.’ Now, that word, translated as Sir, is important for christians. She says, “No one, kyrie.” She says, “No one, Lord.”
She confesses Jesus as Lord in the same words that we use. Kyrie eleison. Lord have mercy. Ho Kyrios mou, kai ho Theos mou. The words St Thomas used when he put his hands in Jesus’ side. My Lord and my God.
She calls Jesus her Lord, this woman caught in one of the worst offences against the law, and he responds… Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.
She has called Jesus her Lord, and she is forgiven. She is freed from the condemnation that hung over her. Her faith… not her works… have set her free.
Her faith has set her free, to a new life, of loving better, loving more truly. Her faith has set her free, to learn without fear how God is calling her to be more faithful still.
I think that queer people call the church to remember the battles of the past. The battles to recognise that we are saved through our faith, not by our works. Our faith sets us right, not any attempts we might make to earn God’s love.
If you have faith, the Spirit lives within you. Take the Law seriously – explore how it speaks to you about God’s faithfulness, and about what it means to be faithful in love to God. But do not fear.
If you confess Jesus as Lord, be at peace. Be assured of your place in Jesus’ heart. Grow in holiness because you can. Not because you must.
If you confess Jesus as Lord and seek to follow him as a disciple, love boldly, your God, yourself, your neighbour.
Remember the confidence that Jesus has won for you. And live in that confident, peaceful and joyous hope, all your days. Amen.