I had the honor of joining the Washington National Cathedral for the celebration of Holy Eucharist on the fourth Sunday after Pentecost (this past Sunday). It was a very difficult morning with the breaking news of the massacre in our home town. Even so, I hope you are encouraged by the message. The first video is the sermon and the second video is a Q&A we did with the congregation. The transcript of the first video is at the end of this post.
Good Morning. It is a tremendous honor to be standing in the Canterbury Pulpit as the guest preacher for 2016 Pride Weekend.
For those of you who know me and my story, you too, know this is truly momentous.
Special thanks to Bishop Budde, Ruth Frey, my friend, Kevin Eckstrom, and all of the Cathedral staff for this rare gift.
Thank you, members of the Cathedral for allowing me to share with you this morning.
Thank you to the LGBTQ+ community for welcoming Leslie and me both to this weekend and to the community.
We do not take your friendship lightly.
Many have speculated about the reasons Leslie and I have for being here this weekend.
Some say it is to advance our own agenda—that we are seeking to remain relevant.
Some say we are preaching the same old message but in a nicer way.
Others say we are here promoting a new agenda—Y’all know….THE GAY AGENDA.
I must confess being here is difficult because of the push and pull we feel from all sides and from the diverse chosen communities of people we call family.
Today we joyfully stand with one of our chosen tribes—people we hold dear—people who in the push and pull have embraced us as we are.
The truth is we do have an agenda.
Because we believe through faith in Christ, we, whose sins are many, have the forgiveness of sin and guilt and shame,
Because we believe we are justified by faith in Christ and not through works of the flesh,
Because we believe we have been crucified with Christ and have new life though we remain in this suit of flesh,
Because we believe Christ’s life and death served a purpose and is not nullified,
Our agenda is to follow HIS commands: To love God and to love people.
Admittedly, that agenda appears passive to people who want clear answers or position statements or who want me to wear any number of labels.
Conversely, to demonstrate love in certain arenas feels aggressive to those who believe we have succumbed to an errant theology; a sloppy grace, unreflective of Christ.
But, this is our choice. Our life.
It’s true—we have fallen prey to grace and it has wrecked us.
It is messy, sloppy, and troublesome, but we have found it is the only key that unlocks the prison of legalistic religion and set the captive truly free.
True, we are here to support and celebrate the gift of living in a society where people are free to live outside of the dark, frightening, and lonely closets in which they’ve been imprisoned whether for short or long periods of time.
True, we celebrate and honor the amazing families who have finally been given the legal recognition they deserve.
True, and most importantly, this morning we celebrate as members of one body, The Church, and as a remnant hoping the diversity we have in this House this morning will lead others in our body to open their Houses of Worship to ALL, as well.
As was the case in the first Pride weekend in June 1970 on the streets of midtown Manhattan, we are here to celebrate a growing movement of honesty, transparency, and pride.
Shame is an antonym for pride. And, we’ve had enough of shame.
Leslie and I are also here to celebrate our story—that of our family of 4. Our 10 and 11 year olds, Molly and Isaac are attending our home church today in the greater Orlando area.
We are here to celebrate the minority of others, like us, who don’t fit the narrative of many gay families.
We are here to make amends to people who’ve been hurt by sexual orientation change efforts like our friends Q, Michael, Chris, and others.
We are here to honor friends like Jill, Amy, Don, and others who, because of their faith convictions, have chosen to remain celibate.
We are here to reunite with dear friends like Julie who in embracing her sexuality has found peace in the embrace of God.
We stand here NOT as people plugged into the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil — pointing to one story as good and another as evil.
We stand here NOT as people whose moral pendulum has swung from one side to another, but rather as people who are joyfully and irrevocably plugged into the Tree of Life seeing people as God sees them: redeemed, holy, blameless, righteous, and beautiful.
Our pendulum has fallen off its axis never to swing again.
And our hearts have expanded to include a community of people we once felt in opposition to and estranged from.
We are here for reconciliation and relationship.
Most importantly, Leslie and I are here to promote the amazing grace—Kairos—Charis of a really good Father.
Along the road we’ve traveled we encountered a pure gospel—THE Good News.
That gospel—THE Gospel—illumined the narrative of our Good Father who gave his only Son to be radically EXcluded, marginalized, cast aside, tortured, and executed so that all of humanity could finally be radically INcluded once and for all—included in a Kingdom that would never end.
The only Kingdom that ever has or ever will matter. Allowing all of us to be adopted into the family of a King who will reign forever and who willingly bestows on his children every good and perfect gift.
Sadly, many of us who found ourselves recipients of this amazing deal—this amazing adoption—have twisted the Gospel and made it exclusionary.
We’ve mixed in the Law and referred to it as THE TRUTH. But, Jesus fulfilled the Law through his death, burial, and resurrection. Grace came through his ultimate and unparalleled sacrifice.
We’ve demanded that grace without the truth of the Law is sloppy, hyper, slippery, greasy, CHEAP.
But, cheap grace, like cheap super-glue is the kind that does not withstand the elements.
It falters under pressure. It fails.
God’s grace—his infinite unconditional and unmerited love—never fails, never falters, never stops working or holding—no matter what comes its way.
It is all-inclusive and, because it cost him everything, is the antithesis of cheap.
God’s grace is lavish. Priceless. Free to all.
The TRUTH is, God is full of GRACE.
I once led the largest organization in the world dedicated to proclaiming freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ. I did so with the best of intentions.
My goal was to educate churches and make them safe places for LGBTQ+ people, and unfortunately, to help those churches convert LGBTQ+ people—to help them change.
My stated objective was to put Exodus International out of business because the Church was doing its job.
Three years ago this week, ironically, I stood on a stage at our 38th Annual Exodus Conference and announced Exodus was shutting down.
I repented publicly—I changed my mind.
That night, I amended the statement I’d lived by all 12 years of my presidency to this, “Exodus must go out of business so the Church can do its job.”
My beliefs about the church’s job had been altered, too.
Today, I believe the job of the Church is to continue the work and ministry of Jesus.
To love and serve others, to be radically inclusive even at the expense of comfort and understanding. To proclaim the pure Gospel.
The job of Christians and Christian leaders isn’t to usurp the roles of God, Savior, and Holy Spirit.
It isn’t to condemn—Jesus was the ONLY perfect human being who ever lived on planet Earth.
The apostle John states that Jesus didn’t come to condemn but to save.
It was Jesus, after all, who in the story read this morning from the book of Luke, rebuked Simon the Pharisee and showed favor to the prostitute who gave all she had out of a pure heart.
So, then, why do we condemn? Why do we judge? Why do we exclude?
I wonder if we – and by we, I mean those of us who call ourselves Christ followers and have condemned, judged, and excluded – have allowed fear to rule us.
Fear of the unknown, fear of that which is different—other.
Do I dare say – fear that God’s angry judgment would rain down on us like it did in the Old Testament story of Sodom and Gomorrah? A story I believe we have gotten terribly, terribly wrong.
If I’ve learned anything in the last few years, it is NOT to fear.
I don’t know that I’m brave, but I am convinced I’m a child of a really good God.
I am convinced that HIS perfect love, demonstrated in the life of Jesus— who is the Tree of Life—casts out all fear.
My heart is plugged into Him and into Life. I trust Him. I fear NOT.
Without fear, I have a lot more time and energy to love God and to love people—and shop.
In the last few verses of the book of Acts 28, Luke writes something astoundingly prophetic to his friend Theophilus:
30 And he (Paul) stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.
This is our mandate in the Church – To Welcome all. To preach the Kingdom of God—the pure gospel. And to share the life found in Jesus with all openness. Unhindered.
In the book of Matthew verses 13:45-46 we find the story of A Costly Pearl.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Many interpret this story to mean that we are the merchants and upon finding the priceless gift of Jesus, we should go out and sell everything we have in order to follow Him. It’s not a bad concept. Jesus is worth everything we have.
But what if there is more? What do we possess, what do we own, that if we sold it, would ever be enough to purchase the entire field in which Jesus is found?
What if instead, this is a story about our Good Father?
What if He is the merchant?
What if He paid the ultimate price – the price of redemption – in giving His own son/Himself/All He had to purchase us?
That would make us, that would make you and me the pearl of great price. For God SO loved the world….
It is time this becomes our anthem. So let it be. Amen.