Friday, June 25, 2010

From the Vaults: The Old Man and the Queen

This post originally appeared in 2008. Since it's Pride Weekend in Minneapolis, I thought I would bring it out again.

As several denominations struggle with the issue of gay pastors, I am reminded of something that happened to me a few years ago.

I had just graduated from seminary and was doing my CPE at a local nursing home. I was still involved at the church where I was an intern and was asked to serve on the church board. It came to a vote and I was voted in nearly unanimously. I say nearly because one person voted against me. I knew who it was and so did many others. It was an elderly member of the church. He had some idea I was gay and many people assumed that was why he voted against me. After the meeting concluded, he asked me to come with him into another room. He explained that he prayed and studied the scripture on the issue of homosexuality, but his conscience was not swayed in favor. As he said this, he began to cry.

I was and still am touched by this guesture. He did have to speak to me to explain his actions, but he did. He might not approve of who I sleep with, but he did treat me with respect. This wasn't simply about being right for him, but about being loving.

Yeah, I know that his actions were hurtful. Yes, it would have been nice had he voted in favor. But I could respect his decsion even if it was wrong, because he valued me enough to respect me.

Why am I sharing this? I guess because sometimes those of us who fight for justice for GLBT folk tend to paint everyone and anyone who might disagree as evil and backward and not worth listening to. Many pro-gay people think saying anything that is against being gay is hurtful to gays and react strongly to anything that might be hurtful to gays.

But the thing is, there is a difference between words and people that do mean to harm and those that are just not there yet. There are people that truly hate gay people, but not everyone who might have an opinion opposing gay marriage or gay ordination is necessarily a bigot. And the fact is, I'm a big boy-I can handle an old guy.

I truly believe we must work for justice and inclusion in the church. But grace has to be part of the plan. The old man's opposition was tinged with grace and for that reason I could also respond in grace.

I still see the old man-he is now in his early 80s, but still going strong. We are friendly to each other and he still treats me with the utmost respect and even sees me as Biblical scholar (?). And I love his tenor voice-which is still strong after all these years. I have no idea how he feels about me being gay or having a husband. But I do know that he has taken the command of love very seriously and I will truly weep the day this man leaves the scene. He has taught me about grace; and for that I am ever thankful.

Great, now I'm tearing up...

1 comment:

Colby Cheese said...

God is love and grace. These are unchanging characteristics of God that define who God is, has been, and always will be. God is timeless. More precisely, God is beyond time, beyond the constraints and confines and control of time. God is not bound by events or expectations. God is bound by love and grace; God is bound by the conditions imposed by the act of creation; and God is bound by the conditions imposed by the act of being in relationship with creation.

Grace is not awarded for satisfactory completion of a spiritual check list and grace is not earned for works or acts and grace is not part of a quid pro quo arrangement or relationship and grace is not a stipulation of a contract or covenant. Yet, we live, we exist and have always existed, in (not “by”, not “because”, not “alongside”) the grace of God. Grace is always freely available and freely supplied and supplied freely unconditionally and abundantly without exceptions and without restrictions and without qualifications. Grace and conditions are mutually exclusive, even oppositional. A faith full of grace has no conditions. A faith with any condition or any qualification or any requirement or any exclusion has no grace. God has never required and never recognized and never accepted any sacrifice by anyone for anything. God requires nothing of us – this is grace.

"Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I needed it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors." (The Shack, William Paul Young, pp. 188-189)

God accepts whatever we bring to the God/person relationship – personality, talents, inabilities, cognition, knowledge, ignorance, life journey, spiritual journey, walk about, wandering, seeking, questioning – and emotional and mental status: love/hate, anger/peace, sadness/happiness, hurt/health, feeling lost and abandoned/feeling found and included, agitation/serenity, apathy/passion, confusion/clarity, fractures/wholeness – all of this, all of whoever we are and have ever been and every action committed or ever contemplated and every thought we ever entertained or that flitted through our mind – all of this, we bring to the God/person relationship and God accepts the totality of who we are as a gift. The constant inviting presence of God and this unconditional acceptance of us in our entirety as a gift – this is love.

Through the constant presence of God, we are constantly invited by God, we have a constant opportunity from God to accept and acknowledge the grace and love of God and to live a life imbued with and possessed by the grace and love of God. Each of us has something to offer to God and God has only good – unconditional grace and unrestrained love – to constantly offer to each of us.