© 1976 by Philadelphia Gay News; © 2004 by Louie Crew
This essay first appeared in Philadelphia Gay News 5 (1976): 17, 19. It was orginally delivered at a sermon at St. Mary's on the Penn campus in Philadelphia, March 24, 1976, to members of the parish and to members of Integrity/Philadelphia
St. Paul stressed: "All things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to God;s purpose."
We are not clean slates on which life writes some mistakes and some solutions. Rather, we are children of God, and God works in us to make all that we are now, all that we ever have been, and all that we ever will be to work together for good.
This claim used to madden me; it seemed ridiculous. "But repentance and forgiveness acknowledge waste," I thought. Yet again and again God has taken that which has seemed a waste and redeemed it.
This material was originally delivered as a sermon at St. Mary's on the Penn campus in Philadelphia, 24 March 1976, to members of the parish and members of Integrity/Philadelphia.
Our Christian faith is a faith in redemption, yet for too long we Gay people have not been told that. We have been peddled instead a second-class theology, of God as the swap-shop operator or God as the wheeler-dealer who accepts our Gay selves, if at all, only as a bad trade-in on a heterosexual self. We have been told that if we through our own effort change ourselves, we will be saved.
By contrast, Christ tells us as Christ tells everyone: God redeems persons just as we are. The redeemer, as opposed to a swapper or trader, always acknowledges the value of what or whom is to be redeemed. The purpose of redemption, whether of things or of people, is to make more accessible the value which the redeemer has already determined. God does that with our Gayness.
Much in Scripture that used to embarrass me in my spiritual closet now makes sense, particularly the miracles of healing. I like the way the translators emphasize these acts of healing as "making people whole again," that is, giving persons access to all parts of our bodies. Many of us right here know the joy experienced by the woman who felt the flood of strength pour into her when she touched Jesus's garment: we have felt that same flood in Christ's unconditional acceptance of our sexuality as an integral part of our personhood, and we can repeat that flood of strength again and again in our unconditional acceptance of ourselves and of one another.
The healing Christ gives us is not the healing for which some of us
have asked: Christ does not free us from involuntary same-sex arousal nor
from the hostility of our culture towards same; rather Christ frees us
to discover in our Gayness joy, fulfillment, and common love and respect.
And let us not forget that Gays long before have also witnessed this redemption:
|I have watched God take Her love
And squeeze it through a surgeon's
Precise line of vision to save
The heartbeat of someone
Who would probably vomit
To know she'd been saved by a Lesbian.
I have heard God distill His grandeur
I have watched God twinkle in the
And I have seen God grow bald to don
Recently in the secular forum of a criminal justice class in central Georgia I was amazed that the more than a dozen policemen there, hearing an openly Gay professor for the first time ever and wide-eyed, when the time came for asking questions mainly wanted to ask Bible questions. For over an hour I plodded patiently with them through all of the passages that were troubling them, weighing those passages in the context of God's central revelation through Jesus Christ the all-loving Savior. A few stayed with me, really hearing, or trying to hear my humanity, our humanity, over the roar of the taboo. Then one said, full of feeling: "But sir, how can you think it unfortunate that God would use a man like the Apostle Paul to establish Western sexual ethics?"
"I did not say that He did so use St. Paul. Rather people have, and that is what is unfortunate."
"But God put St. Paul there at that time and that place Surely he wouldn't have done so if it were going to mislead the world for 2,000 years!" the student said.
"I think I understand your problem," I replied. It is the problem of Judas, who possibly believed that his betrayal would force Jesus to seize earthly power. It is the problem of the disciples after the crucifixion, who were defeated, whose God was dead because God would not interfere in human history with the unequivocal clarity that alone could guarantee that we would not mislead ourselves.
Yet that same God who can allow people to mislead themselves on faulty evidence from St. Paul can allow people to lead themselves aright by the witness of just such plain folks as this policeman and me. God interferes in human history only as human beings permit ourselves to be instruments of God.
Nothing is wasted. Nothing is ever wasted for Children of God. God can take our mistakes, our short comings, our disappointments, our pain.....and use them lovingly. What is more, God wants to do just that for each one of us: God's very nature is indiscriminate love.
For me personally one of God's greatest gifts of healing is the spiritual insight with which to appreciate the paradoxes in our painful experience. Ernest and I have been variously denied housing, spat upon in our streets, daily and nightly mocked with hateful telephone calls, heckled by policemen, denied access to cosmetology schools of our choice, to a seminary of our choice, intimidated on our jobs by insecure bullies, scurrilously attacked in the local media, damned by most of the local clergy.......Last week the vestry of my parish wrote asking me not to come back, provoked to this extreme only by my regular silent and peaceful presence as a worshiper. In their letter they almost forgot that we are Episcopalians and tried to say, on a technicality, that I am not even a communicant, though the Bishop has since assured me that I am and that I cannot be excommunicated by the vote of any vestry...........As painful as these experiences are, they are joyful too! Not in a sick way, as when one seeks out needless ways to suffer: but in the healthiest way of all, as when one lives life honestly, openly, faithfully, prepared to watch the agonies of those forced by this witness to change their conception of the way the world is. Paradoxically, faith is never stronger than in hours when most attacked. "For so persecuted they the prophets which were before you." "Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing."
Dearly beloved, who we are as Children of God would sustain our struggle were there only two Gay people in the whole world. But our faith assures us that we are not alone. Generations past and generations to come bless these nights that we are working together. Lift up your voices in praise and thanksgiving. Nothing we who have been redeemed do here together in love is ever wasted!
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