Wow, I haven’t blogged in forever. There is sooo much to blog about–a crazy amazing panel discussion about being gay and in Divinity School that happened on campus yesterday, a (now semi-) new relationship that I’m in that is going really well, the incredible class I’m taking at UNC-Greensboro on God and Sexual Orientation, etc…etc….

But, I don’t have time to talk about all those things right now. Right now, I actually just want to repost a sermon I had to write. I’m not much of the sermonizing type, but to graduate from the Div School, we have to take a preaching class, and in said class, we have to write (and preach) three sermons. Below is the transcript of the first sermon I did. I’d love to hear your thoughts! (note: WordPress isn’t letting me include my endnotes, which I guess is ok, since those who heard me preach this didn’t get the citations either! If you want citations, let me know via email, and I can send them to you…. just an fyi, I stole a lot of ideas for this sermon from an incredible book my Eugene Rogers- Sexuality and the Christian Body: Their Way into the Triune God. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it!) Alright, here’s my sermon:

“To chose someone of the same sex for one’s sexual activity is to annul the rich symbolism and meaning, not to mention the goals, of the Creator’s sexual design. Homosexual activity is not a complementary union, able to transmit life; and so it thwarts the call to a life of that form of self-giving which the Gospel says is the essence of Christian living. This does not mean that homosexual persons are not often generous and giving of themselves; but, when they engage in homosexual activity, they confirm within themselves a disordered sexual inclination which is essentially self-indulgent. As in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one’s own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to nature and to the creative wisdom of God.”

Thus reads the “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons”, drafted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by the now Pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. What is so interesting about this document, and what I want to speak to you all about this afternoon, is that last line: as in every moral disorder, homosexual activity prevents one’s own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to nature and the creative wisdom of God.”
Our text today is in Acts, the 11th chapter.

The beginning of the chapter tells the story of how Peter came to congregate with the gentiles, which is being told because there are some who aren’t all that cool with it. So peter tells his story, I saw a vision, he explained, when I was in Joppa, with sheets and animals, and a command to kills, and I was instructed by God to eat unclean food. After a little argument with God, Peter explains, God told me not to call anything impure that God has made clean. After that, Peter’s vision was immediately tested, with three Gentiles showing up on his doorstop, and as peter spoke the Holy Spirit came upon them. A little Pentecostal church service happened right there! And Peter got it. He reminisces about this experience, starting at verse 16:

And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, “John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?’ When they (those who originally found this fraternizing with the gentiles problematic) heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.’

This is the word of God for us, the people of God.

To say that homosexuality is a huge issue in the Christian church today would not be to overstate it, rather, it seems trite to say, as if I am just speaking the obvious. On one side, the liberals speak of homosexuality and the support of same-sex marriage as a justice issue. Peter Gomes, Harvard minister and homiletics professor (and guest professor here last year!), sums up the bias against LGBT people as “the Last Prejudice.” The church has often been wrong, the liberals retort, on issues of race and gender, and it is no different here.

The conservatives quickly jump in, offering that it is different in this instance.

How so, the liberals ask.

Well, the Bible is clear on this issue, they say. Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, Leviticus 18, etc…

They meant a different thing in that context, liberals say, and what about the verses that support slavery? That support the oppression of women?

Well, it IS different in this instance, conservatives respond. So reads a response to the comparison in First Things, a Catholic theological journal:

“Gay and lesbian advocates sometimes claim that they are asking for no more than an end to discrimination,” the article states, “drawing an analogy with the earlier civil rights movement that sought justice for black Americans. The analogy is unconvincing and misleading. Differences of race are in accord with—not contrary to—our nature… “
Other than perhaps Scriptural texts themselves, nature and ‘the natural’ stand as the barrier from many people, many Christians, accepting and supporting LGBT (and that’s shorthand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) relationships.

Romans 1:26-27 serves as a major proponent of this natural theology—
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

The text tells us that because of their idolatry, they gave into the unnatural. God has given us nature to point us to God, the logic goes. Thus the Catholic stance on homosexuality–homosexual activity prevents one’s own fulfillment and happiness by acting contrary to nature…

Yet, as we look at this story in Acts, we are reminded that nature has been acted against in the church before, we have to remember that, most, if not all of us here are Gentiles. This God is the God of Israel, as Dr. Carter reminded us so often last semester. God first revealed Godself as the God of Abraham, the God of Moses, the God of David. This whole business of the Gentiles being part of the community of God, well, its just…unnatural.

Romans 11 elucidates this new reality of salvation for the Gentiles for us. Paul writes that we, the Gentiles, are the wild olive branch, grafted into the tree. In verse 24, Paul writes, “For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these natural branches be grafted back into their own olive tree.“

Notice the word there, contrary to nature. It is actually the exact same word, para physun, that is used in Romans 1, to describe the unnaturalness of the same sex attraction. Yet, in this instance, it is God Godself who is acting unnaturally, and it is the Good News to the Gentiles.

In a great act of grace, God has grafted the Gentiles into Israel, and called us also to be God’s people.

The question I have for us today is, is it possible that God is doing the same thing among gay and lesbian Christians? Could we be called to say the same thing Peter said, that those who criticized Peter for fraternizing with the “godless uncircumcised Gentiles” affirmed?

Whether homosexuality is or is not actually contrary to nature is not what I’m talking about here—in much of a sense, it is entirely irrelevant. Listening to the stories of many LGBT Christians you may hear that, for them, falling in love with a member of the same sex is not unnatural, in fact, that it is much more natural then trying to do otherwise. Yet, even if homosexuality IS contrary to nature, does this necessarily mean that it is wrong, or unbiblical? As Acts 11 shows us, that which is unnatural is that which is the good news for us. As Romans 11 points out, God Godself acts in an unnatural way, to graft us in to Israel, into she whom God is wedded. And one just needs to look at this genealogy of Christ in Matthew—Ruth, Bathsheba, Mary. In mentioning these women and their irregular pregnancies, Matthew portrays God as capable of, even delighting in, the use of irregular sexual unions for Gods own purposes.

So, even if homosexuality is irregular or unnatural, what if…what if God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who are we that we could hinder God?’ Could we be the people Peter is speaking to, and could we, hearing this, be silenced? Could we praise God, saying ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles, (even to the queers?) the repentance that leads to life.’?

Gentiles, defined as “not knowing God” by Paul himself, have come to know a God not their own, and are allowed to share in the benefits of God’s people, who they are not. This grafting in of Gentiles is the very opposite of seek and ye shall find, God’s fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: I have been found by those who did not seek me, I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me. If WE, as Gentiles have been sought by God and grafted into the community of God, is that not possible for lgbt Christians? How else can we explain the faithfulness of so many LGBT Christians? Can we not see the way the Spirit has worked in their lives?

In Romans 11, Paul goes on to warn those who have been grafted in not to be arrogant. Note the kindness and severity of God, he admonished in verse 22. Severity to those who have fallen, but Gods kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness.

Could it be that marriage for gay and lesbian couples depends on the work of the Holy Spirit just as baptism does for us as Gentiles? Could it be that to live into our baptism means to also live into the Spirits working of those who are different from us in the gender of whom they love? If so, that might mean that disbelief in either denies the work of the spirit and puts Gentile Christians in danger of their salvation.

Maybe instead, upon seeing and hearing the lives of gay and lesbian Christians (and, if you are interested in this, there will be a panel tomorrow at lunchtime, right down the hall in 0016, where LGBT Christians will be telling their stories and taking questions), perhaps we can see that God has grafted them in too, that God has acted unnaturally and shown us all grace! May we be able to look at the lives of LGBT Christians, see their faithfulness and the fruits of the Spirit in their lives, and praise God, seeing that perhaps, God has given even to the gays the repentance that leads to life.