Sermon 4.07.13

The outline of my sermon yesterday from Living Waters United Methodist Church, Belgrade. Scripture: Acts 5.27-32

Most of us want to be liked.

That in and of itself isn’t anything new- it’s a fairly universal trait.

Most of us also want to stay out of trouble.

Again, simply human.

But when being liked and staying out of trouble aren’t an option when standing up for the truth… Well, that can be a real problem can’t it?

Let’s listen again to the scripture for today.

When the temple police had brought Peter and the apostles, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this Name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this Man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority.”

 That’s what we heard today. What we didn’t hear is the passage that came after that.

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.

A Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel spoke on their behalf, reminding the council of others who had come and gone before them, all claiming to have been sent by God-all of whom had failed.

And then Gamaliel gave the council this advice:

“So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail butt if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!’

They were convinced by him. Then when they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.

They left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the Name.  And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.

Talk about getting into trouble.

Talk about not being liked.

But what did these disciples do?

They did something all heroes do- they trusted their hearts. They followed their conscience. These men and women preached the Gospel of a God who is in love with us.

And most of them died for it.

Often very cruel deaths.

Just to do the right thing. To proclaim love.

Today I want to ask a very simple question:

“When should we choose love?”

Seems simple doesn’t it?

And yet, we make decisions every day that are not loving.

We can exclude people, we can hoard things, we can lock our doors and load our guns in fear, we can drink too much, we can eat too much, we can lie to ourselves, we can lie to others- sometimes simply to stay out of trouble or to be liked by the right people.

Well, the Jesus who died on the cross, rose from the dead and sent his disciples into the world to proclaim a crazy, loving God doesn’t want us to let the world get in the way of love.

That’s what these disciples knew. That’s why they stood in fear of their lives in front of the courts, why they suffered scourging- just like Jesus- why they refused to deny love.

Because they saw love, risen from the dead.

And so have we.

You know it, in your hearts, you see it every day. Love risen from the dead. You can even create it if you like.

You’ve seen a child’s face- crushed by disappointment- restored to life by a word of encouragement and love.

All you have to do is restore someone’s hope.

All you have to do is not deny anyone their dignity.

All you have to do is trust that we are more than our fears.

All you have to do is open your heart- and your mouth and eyes and ears and hands and feet will follow.

Just open your heart.

Let us ask our God to give us eyes to see the opportunities to build the Kingdom of God- right here, right now.

And when you feel that feeling rising up in you, the one that says, “I want to be liked, I want to stay out of trouble”, the one that wants to close your heart down, will you know what to do?

I think we do.

We stop and recognize the choice in front of us: To be open or closed; to be loving or cruel.

So, when do we choose love?

Every time we can.

New Equality Organization For Catholic Students Launched

Good news! From GLAAD, Thursday, October 11, 2012

LGBT and allied students at Catholics universities are using National Coming Out Day to launch a new association calling on the church to expand its acceptance of LGBT equality. The Catholic Association of Students for Equality (CASE) is made up of LGBT student groups from eleven Catholic-affiliated colleges.

Each LGBT student organization mailed a letter highlighting the benefits of LGBT and Catholic collaboration to their own Bishops, Diocese, and school administrators. The letters referenced how the Church’s stance on LGBT issues has been harmful, using passages from scripture and the Church’s catechisms.  However, it focused on how the groups that make up CASE have been able to work with Catholic institutions to better their campus communities. CASE’s goal is to raise awareness about these instances of cooperation and acceptance.

“Before some of us were tall enough to even see over the pews, let alone understand our orientations, we were being raised with Catholic values. We were taught to believe in family, love, and commitment. To work to ensure respect, inclusion, and human dignity,” wrote Thomas Lloyd, Georgetown student and founder of CASE. “Therefore, it is only natural that as we grew into adults we would apply these values to how we viewed our LGBTQ identities.”

So far, participating schools include: DePaul University, Chicago; Georgetown University, Washington, DC; Fordham University, New York City; Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California; College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts; University of San Francisco;Loyola University, ChicagoLoyola University,  New OrleansLoyola University,  Maryland;Boston College; and Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles. CASE is actively reaching out to LGBT students at other Catholic schools to grow the list of participating schools.

“These students are right in step with the strong Catholic support for LGBT equality that we see nationwide, “ said Ross Murray, GLAAD’s Director of Religion, Faith & Values. “At a time when the Roman Catholic hierarchy has only negative messages, these students remind us that the true Catholic values are about dignity and solidarity.”

More information can be found at CASE’s Facebook page. CASE and many of the participating networks will also be going purple for Spirit Day on October 19, to stand with LGBT youth and oppose bullying. Over time the group will post more photos, stories, and videos, to show how LGBTQ groups on Catholic campuses are helping their administrations and students better fulfill their catholic mission.

Sisters Get A Facebook Solidarity Page

You may have heard that the Vatican is investigating U.S. Sisters for being, as someone I know said, “Ridiculously outside the mission of the church- they’re the only ones getting it right”.

Now the sisters have a new Facebook page for people to express their solidarity with them in the face of this hierarchical end run.

“Support Our Catholic Sisters- shaping faith, shaping lives” is the title of this page. Its mission is described thusly:

Women religious have inspired countless lives in remarkable ways. Let’s mobilize the Catholic community in support of our Catholic sisters.
For most Catholics, our sisters are our most precious resource within the church. They’ve taught us and our children in schools. They’ve run our hospitals. They ministered to us in our parishes. They’ve encouraged us in good times and bad. Perhaps more than any other group within the church, they’ve shaped our faith.They have helped us so much over the years. Now they are in need of expressions of our support and gratitude.

The Vatican last week ordered an umbrella organization representing 80 percent of the sisters of America, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, to reform its programs to conform more closely to the official teachings of the church or face further disciplinary actions.

To oversee the reform process, the Vatican has appointed Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain and given him wide-ranging power to oversee and direct LCWR as he reviews and revises the organization’s policies.

The women say they were “stunned” by this Vatican directive and to be the objects of these directives. As sisters across the country begin to discern what these changes mean for their lives, Support our Catholic Sisters aims to harness the stories, testimonials and actions planned on behalf of the sisters and report these to you.

We want Support our Catholic Sisters to be shared widely to build support for these wonderful women.

How has one or more Catholic sisters changed your life? Use Support our Catholic Sisters to post your testimonial and those of your family members and friends. Help us tell your stories. Post short essays, photos and/or videos telling us what a particular sister has meant to your life.

Are you organizing a prayer service or vigil? Are you part of a letter writing campaign? Share with us the details here.

We want to report the actions of our Catholic communities as they express their support and affection for the women have set exemplary examples, shaping consciences and faith lives for so many years.

I’ve “liked” it- simply because bullying in any form is repugnant to me. Go here and “Like” it too.

Often Overlooked, Sisters Are At Equality Forefront

What do you know about nuns?

nuns

Image by neil1877 via Flickr

I’m not talking about the caricatured, stereotyped and ridiculous portrayals by movies, television and popular culture (Dead Man Walking and a few others excepted). You’ve probably seen pictures of nuns marching for civil rights in the sixties. You may heard of the selfless sacrifices made by sisters in the missionary field. And you may know a sister (or two) who have changed your life for the better.

I do. Several, in fact.

Sisters have been on the cutting edge of social issues (it can be argued) for over a thousand years- much of the hierarchy cannot claim even a fraction of the social justice work these women have accomplished. They have been working (often very quietly) to keep the fundamental message of Jesus alive- the message that compassion, dignity and respect is the only response to every human person.

What you may not know is this: they are also some of the fiercest advocates of social justice for LGBT persons.

New Ways Ministry, a Catholic organization dedicated to promoting understanding and dignity for LGBT persons, has an excellent blog post about the work of religious sisters for LGBT equality. Excerpt:

It’s no secret–though it’s not well-known, either–that high on the list of Catholic supporters of LGBT equality are nuns.  Communities of women religious have consistently been supportive of education, dialogue, and justice activities for LGBT people since the late 1970s.

After Vatican II, when nuns’ communities re-evaluated their charisms and ministries, they quickly realized that the church had long neglected lesbian/gay rights and that this was an issue that cried for justice.  They responded positively and actively.

Johnson’s article  highlights the reason that nuns can be so steadfast:

“American nuns don’t want to fight the official church, but neither are they likely to sacrifice the integrity of their consciences for the sake of peace.”

At New Ways Ministry,  we are indebted to our Sisters for financial, spiritual, and practical support over our 35 year history.  More New Ways Ministry programs have been held in convents and motherhouses than in any other type of Catholic facility by far.

Read the full post here- and follow their blog on Twitter- it’s a heartening voice in a religious climate that is often far from charitable.

So if you have a negative view about nuns, consider changing your mind. And if you know a sister who’s braving the forefront of equality- thank them. Send them this post, in fact.

We owe them more than we think.

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