A Sermon Preached on Sunday, June 14, 2009
New Creation… Water + Welcome
In a week full of overcast rainy days and thunderstorms, it is easy to get bogged down in the gloominess of the weather outside, the water in our basements, and the storm clouds of uncertainty looming over nation, church, and individual lives. It seems that all of creation groans as it struggles to keep its collective head above water. But creation has always struggled to keep its head above water, from Noah in the flood, to the Israelites escaping slavery through the Red Sea, and Jonah fleeing from God in a wave tossed boat and then the belly of a great fish.
But the struggles of late have been pretty intense…
Two Sundays ago Dr. George Tiller was killed as he served as an usher at Reformation Lutheran Church while his wife, Jeanne was in the choir. Tiller’s death was hailed on pro-life websites, while others asked what kind of church would welcome and accept a doctor who performs abortions as a member of their faith community.
That Wednesday Gov. John Lynch who personally opposes gay marriage, signed legislation replacing the Civil Union law with a Same-Gender Marriage law. A law with language that gives clergy and religious institutions legal protection to choose not to marry same-gender couples in their faith communities.
Last Sunday at our congregational meeting we learned that a previous restriction regarding use of pastoral discretion for blessing civil unions/marriages of same-gendered couples at CtK was rescinded. We also affirmed that a team will facilitate dialog and education regarding whom we welcome in this faith community.
On Wednesday Stephen Tyrone Johns was killed by a rifle-wielding white supremacist. The very person he held the door open for in welcome while working at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Johns’ death was called heroic as he protected schoolchildren and other guests visiting the museum.
And today, here and in churches around the world, we hear from Paul’s second letter to the faith community in Corinth that in Christ, we are a new creation! We are reconciled to God and to one another. We are washed clean and our old ways are tossed aside. We are asked to wonder… what kind of church accepts abortion doctors, blesses same-gender unions, affirms the welcome all persons and is about living outside ourselves.
+ + +
So who is truly welcome here in this faith community? Are we able to accept children of God…?
- If they are Asian, Hispanic, Black, or White;
- If they are male or female or transgender;
- If they are three days old, 30 years old, or 103 years old;
- If they never stepped foot in a church; or if they are Buddhist, Roman Catholic, Agnostic or life-long Lutheran;
- If they are single, married, divorced, separated, or partnered;
- If they are straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual;
- If they are Republican, Democrat, Independent, Socialist, or not registered to vote;
- If they have, or had, addictions, phobias, abortions, or a criminal record;
- If they own their own home, rent, live with their parents, or are homeless;
- If they are fully-abled, disabled, or a person of differing abilities…?
(Building an Inclusive Church: A Welcoming Toolkit by Rebecca Voelkel, Vicki Wunsch, and David Lohman, www.welcomingresources.org)
Who is welcome here initially seems like an easy question. Faith communities as people of God are called to minister to all people, knowing that creation is often hurting and unwelcoming. As a new creation, we are challenged by the Gospel to live out our baptisms in a world of alienation and brokenness. God calls us to reconciliation and wholeness as the body of Christ as Paul shares in verse 18, “…this is from God who reconciled us through Jesus Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18)