I remember earlier this year during one of Pastor Mariah’s sermons she mentioned to start thinking about what brings us deep gladness or joy. I immediately thought to myself, that’s an easy one. What brought me great joy this year is that our church has become an Open & Affirming Church to the LGBT Community.
Growing up I had an aunt who lived with another woman for many years and they were together until my aunt’s friend passed. When I was younger, we would go out to their farm and I always enjoyed the time spent with them. However, there was a period of time when we didn’t go visit them and I thought that was odd. Later, when I was older, but had already figured it out myself, my understanding was that since they might be “gay” we weren’t allowed to be around them. Which, of course, made me sad because my thought was always “so what”. I had 2 aunts I loved and enjoyed spending time with. I could care less if they were gay or not.
When the Pulse Night Club shooting took place, I felt an overwhelming amount of sadness. It was a place that the LGBT community could have fun and feel safe with no judgment by others. Unfortunately, that all changed on the night of June 12, 2016, all because an individual decided to judge and wasn’t accepting or welcoming to who those individuals were. And, perhaps, members of the LGBT community feel the same when they are considering joining a church but hesitant because they might be scared of being judged rather than being accepted or welcomed.
I remember what a beautiful wedding and reception some of us here at Church of Peace attended when Curtis and Alex were united in marriage on June 27, 2009. At their reception, I remember Alex getting up and talking about how happy he was now that he and Curtis were married. Alex said for so many years he and Curtis wanted to be “officially together” and proclaim their love in front of their friends and family. I just remember thinking that when you’re in love and want to be with someone forever that all you can think about is wanting to shout it from the highest mountain top but yet you can’t. Congrats to Curtis and Alex as their tenth wedding anniversary is coming up later this month.
There are so many times that folks from the LGBT community are criticized for their choices and some of us forget that this person is the same as us, but different. In fact, we are all different, but the same in the fact that we all want to be accepted and loved. I personally think different is great!
We, at Church of Peace, are as welcome and open as they come. However, the reason our church was asked to vote on the covenant to become an Open and Affirming Church is more than just being a welcome and open church. Here is a story I came across that illustrates the difference. An open-minded church had a gay couple that started to attend their church. As we do here, we share joys and concerns, so the couple shared with the congregation their joy that they were celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary that weekend. Some members had concern because they were o.k. with their “lifestyle”; however, they didn’t want the couple calling attention to that. So, the moral of the story is that church may have been open but it was not being affirming.
This is why it was so important to become an Open and Affirming Church. Many LGBT people are people of deep faith, and they need to know there is a place they will truly be welcome and safe in being who they are. In the sometimes hatred world we live in today, we need to provide that assurance to them.
A house of God should be a place where, if no one on the outside will accept you, you know you can be accepted here on the inside at Church of Peace. We are all God’s children and we need to embrace one another.
During Pastor Mariah’s final sermon before she left on her sabbatical, she quoted the words from Frederick Buechner which is “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meets.” Here, at Church of Peace, we have a deep gladness to share with members of the LGBT community and the LGBT community has a deep hunger to be a part of our deep gladness as they worship with us in the house of God.
Now that we have reached out to the LGBT community by letting them know we are an open and affirming church, I hope folks in our community will take the opportunity to join us some Sunday morning for worship and fellowship. I know how welcomed I felt when I first came to Church of Peace and I think to myself how wonderful it would be for others to experience that feeling as well.
I would like to end today’s sermon with Psalm 139, vs. 13-14: “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
This psalm sings of God’s intentional knowledge of each person. Every crucial part of our identity was known to God, crafted by God before we were born in such love, we are created good. This psalm also suggests that there is nowhere we can go that will remove us from God’s steadfast love and presence. Amen!