Sermon Matthew 15.10-28

“It is not what goes into a person’s mouth that defiles them, but the thing that comes out that defiles.”

We have had a week of confrontation, violence and even murder. We have had displays of ignorance, hate, anger and fear.

We have seen people stand up to hate- even at the risk of their well-being.

“It is the thing that comes out that defiles.”

And what is this defilement?

It is in believing that I am better than anyone else- and then saying that.

Defilement is this: hateful thoughts that become words that become actions that defile this world.

It starts with thoughts that become words, words that are not loving.

It is in saying that other human beings are inferior to me.

It is in saying that certain human beings have no right to live.

It is in speaking hate.

And what is hate?

Hate is a fundamental denial of the reality that every human being on this planet is made in the image and likeness of God. It is a refusal to believe in the fundamental goodness and value of every human being.

This is against what we believe. To quote the Book of Common Prayer’s ritual for Baptism- which most of us have participated in once or twice during the past few months:

“Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin repent and return to the Lord?

I will with God’s help.

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

I will, with God’s help.

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people; and respect the dignity of every human being?

I will with God’s help.”

This is what we believe.

If you don’t believe that, this is not the place for you.

We must be totally clear. In the words of pastor Jay Abramson:

“Racism is an extremely dangerous sin, invisible to the one suffering under it. Jesus condemned it when He commanded, “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.” No one who holds racist beliefs can call themselves a Christian. The group in Charlottesville held these views against all but Anglo-Americans. Those views have led them, in the past and now in our present, to despicable acts of violence.

How should we respond to these events?

You and I are not able to recognize the disease of racism in ourselves. We need to find another Christian to pray with us and honestly help us identify any racist tendencies so that, through the Holy Spirit, we can follow the instructions of 2 Corinthians 10:5 and “take every thought captive,” and then daily live out Jesus’ command of love. If you are Anglo, I suggest you find a believer of another ethnicity for this purpose.

We live in dangerous times. Racism has destroyed whole cultures and it will destroy ours unless it is fully and finally dealt with. Followers of Christ should be at the forefront of this healing process. May we all enter into a season of concentrated prayer to that end.”

Former Presiding Bishop Edmond Lee Browning wrote in 1997:

“Sunday at 11 O’clock is the most segregated hour in the American week. The history of every religious denomination in our country is shot through with the scars of racism- fresh scars and older ones. Racial bigotry frequently cloaks itself in religious language.

We all recoil from its extremes, like the Ku Klux Klan or the Aryan Nation, but we must acknowledge the link between even the politest prejudice and violence. It is a short step from holding a group in contempt to considering that group less than human. If it is true that the longest journey begins with a single step, it is true for ill as well as good, and small hatreds are the first steps toward great ones.

The custodians of a society’s religious and moral traditions are precisely the ones who constitute the greatest danger; we are the ones people look to for guidance. If we begin to lead those who seek God down a path leading to hatred, or stand quietly by while others lead them there, they may well follow. And the judgment against us in heaven will be more severe. Our God of love can only be served with love. If we- of all people- succumb to the virus of bigotry and hate that afflicts so much of the world, our state is a grievous one indeed.”

So, what do we do?

We love.

We love until it’s the hardest thing that we’ve ever done in our lives. We love until it hurts; we love even if we bleed, we love until our strength is gone- we may have to love until we lose our very lives.

Just as Jesus did.

We must choose the power of love over the love of power- just as Jesus did.

And most importantly, we don’t stand silent in the face of injustice, oppression or abuse.

We stand up. We speak out. We do it, because as Christians we MUST- even if we are crucified because of it.

Because we are created in love; we are created by love; we are created for love; we are created TO love.

Let us pray.

“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people and kindle in them the fire of your love. Speak the Word and we shall be created, and together we’ll renew this pained and confused world.”

Amen.

Tonight: Montana PBS to Air Inlaws & Outlaws!

Some good news for Montana- Inlaws and Outlaws will be screened on Montana PBS tonight.

inlawsFrom the director, Drew Emery:

Montana friends!
Set your DVRs for Sunday night 6/9 10:30 pm: your local PBS station is airing our marriage documentary Inlaws & Outlaws — along with our story update: Just Marriage.

If you believe in love… and equality, please do pass on the word to friends & family!

Drew was in Montana last year, sharing the film with audiences in Helena and Bozeman. It’s an opportunity to see what love looks like up close.

Grab your peeps and watch this- it’s amazing.

Building Courage

I came out approximately 5 years ago.

English: Rainbow flag flapping in the wind wit...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the time, I was terrified. I assumed that I would never speak to my family again, lose my friends, move far away and start a new life.

Now, that just seems silly. I told one of my sisters first, and word got around either by me or through the grapevine. The majority of my friends stayed true to me. Those that did not,  quietly removed themselves from my life. Although, to be fair, I didn’t exactly give some people the chance to tell me what they really felt, and for that I feel regret. I should have given them the chance to give me a chance. 

I was selfish, scared, immature and irresponsible to a degree. I didn’t know what to do with myself once I had finally conquered my biggest fear. Life became beautiful, wonderful and… chaotic at best. Eventually, I straightened it out, grew up and moved on. I have amazing family, awesome friends, and great jobs. Something struck me today at a new job I recently took.

I was talking to a coworker I hardly know. I just met her, we are both new, and I have no idea what her beliefs or political standings are. I related my relationship to hers, talked with other LGBT employees about the drag shows, etc. I openly mentioned my partner in my interview, and as the last few weeks of training have progressed there has been no hesitation in relating my life and experiences to others. And I wasn’t even thinking twice about it. Even when I taked to a sweet little lady about the election of a new Pope, I never assumed she was anti-LGBT inclusion. I just saw that she was sweet, polite and happy about the selection that had been made. It made me smile.

There used to be such fear and discomfort. Always worried about how someone might react to my orientation, my life, my partner… But now, I just don’t even think about it.

And no one reacts innapropriately. THAT, my friends, is so beautiful. And I owe it to all of you that have supported me, given me opportunities and chances, friendship and love. I hope and pray that every young person, regardless of what struggle they have, will find those people in life so that they may reach full potential.

I smile so much these days. I laugh, dance, sing, and love. Not like before, when it was gaurded, insecure and sometimes forced. Now it is genuine, bright and glowing like a Montana summer day.

We all make a difference in the lives around us. Let’s make sure it’s a positive difference.

Just Marriage

I’m really proud of my dear friend Drew Emery and his film. His passion and vision were priceless in the approval of this measure to legalize Marriage Equality in Washington State- and all around the country. From him and our friends at The True Stories Project:

We can think of no better way to celebrate this amazing day than by releasing our latest video: Just Marriage: from Outlaws to Inlaws.

For a long time, our audiences have been asking for an update on the lives of our storytellers. When we we were invited to bring Inlaws & Outlaws to public television, we decided this was the perfect time to do just that.

So enjoy. And as you reflect on how far we’ve all come these past eight years, give a moment of thanks to the thousands of people from all walks of lives who set the ball rolling but stepping up and telling their stories.

Note: If you haven’t yet seen Inlaws & Outlaws, be warned; this update is chockfull of spoilers!

Help Inlaws & Outlaws Make It To Public TV!

One of the best (and most elegant) pieces of human understanding and compassion is Drew Emery’s film Inlaws & Outlaws. I’ve written about the Montana screenings we had this past spring and the fantastic impact it had on the audiences that gathered in Helena and Bozeman. It’s an amazing piece of work.

Now, this little gem has a chance for public distribution- and a better tool for compassion and understanding of gay relationships (and all relationships in my opinion) would be hard to find.

If everybody in America saw this film, opposition to marriage equality would melt away like a bad mood in a room full of puppies.

From the True Stories Project:

We’ve got terrific news! The National Education Telecommunications Association (NETA) has offered to distribute a full presentation of Inlaws & Outlaws on public television! That means that, if we act quickly, the film will be made available to virtually all public television stations in the US this Fall – including over 350+ PBS affiliates!

This is huge!

Public TV reaches over 117 million viewers a week. If we slice off even a modest amount of that, we’ll bring Inlaws & Outlaws to a much, much larger audience than it’s ever had. Just as same-sex marriage has finally arrived centerstage with President Obama’s support, we have the opportunity to reach millions of households with true stories we know change hearts & minds.

But to meet our deadline, we need your help — and we need it now.

We need our first $50,000 in underwriting by the end of September. Your support will pay for vital post-production for broadcast, closed captioning, station relations and more. Can you help?

You betcha. I’m in. Anybody else?

Donate here.

Share Your Story- Montana LGBT Couples Needed

SHARE YOUR STORY 

The ACLU of MT needs your help to
make domestic partnerships a reality in Montana!

Real families with real stories

will help us convince the public that same-sex couples need

equal protection to safeguard our families in times of crisis. 

For more information

read the ACLU memo below

or write to

ACLU of Montana LGBT Advocacy Coordinator Ninia Baehr at niniab@aclumontana.org.

English: No Homophobia logo

English: No Homophobia logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Montana, the state government offers legal protections to couples and families that help them care for one another. Right now, these protections are only available to couples who get married. This means that opposite-sex couples are eligible for the safeguards offered by the state, because they are able to marry. But loving, committed couples of the same sex are left without the protections they need to care for one another in times of crisis, and that’s not fair.

The Montana Constitution guarantees fair and equal treatment to all people. That’s why the ACLU of Montana is suing on behalf of same-sex couples who have been denied the ability to take care of each other and their families. In the lawsuit Donaldson and Guggenheim v. Montana, the plaintiffs are asking the state to create a domestic partnership registry that would grant them access to the safeguards that are currently only available through marriage. Here are a few of the ways the plaintiffs have been discriminated against:

  • Mary Leslie of Bozeman lost her home because she was ineligible for worker’s compensation death benefits when her partner was killed in an accident.
  • Denise Boettcher of Laurel was denied bereavement leave when her partner Kellie Gibson’s father died.
  • When Mary Anne Guggenheim of Helena had a hip replacement, a health care provider would not speak to her long-time partner Jan Donaldson without a release.

Lawsuits like Donaldson and Guggenheim are important, but to win lasting fairness for gay and lesbian couples we need to convince not only the courts but also the general public that Montanans need domestic partnerships. Our public education campaign, Fair is Fair, highlights the real stories of real people who have been denied equal protection. We are looking for same-sex couples who are willing to share their stories about how they have been denied basic protections afforded to other families. We are especially interested in hearing from couples who have been denied one of the following rights:

 The right to make medical decisions for their partner if s/he is incapable of doing so

 Inheritance rights or the right to determine burial arrangements

 The right to family medical or bereavement leave

 Priority to become the court-appointed guardian for an incapacitated partner

Have you had experiences like these?

If so, please e-mail me at niniab@aclumontana.org or call (406) 579- 8884. ACLU staff will listen and talk with you to explore whether your story might be a good fit with the Fair is Fair campaign. We will keep your information confidential unless and until you feel comfortable telling your story publicly. For more information about the Fair is Fair campaign go to www.fairisfairmontana.org. And please do pass this on if you know a couple who might be interested. Don’t miss this opportunity to make your voice heard!

Baucus Endorses Marriage Equality

Say what you will about Max Baucus- and we have- but this gives me a moment of pride:

Fair is fair: he hasn’t always done what I would have liked (and it might take something much more major to get me over the healthcare debacle) but mad props for being the first elected statewide Montana official to stand for marriage equality. Thanks, Max. Click the link above to follow his Twitter feed.

Now for a Pride Present, I’d like to hear the other statewide elected officials following suit.

Hell, better yet, I want to see them in the parade this Saturday.

They’ve all been invited.

Update: Reader Karl Olson reminded us that “Pretty sure Justice Nelson came first, however, and by several years, and more openly. Nelson proved you could get a statewide vote with an unwavering pro-equality stance. Its history, but still relevant in the current fervor.”

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