27 was my favorite age. It was a year where I finally felt like I was adult enough to be taken seriously, but not so old I had to be serious. It was an age… More
Over the last week I have been invited into, and forced my way into, many conversations regarding the Bible and sexuality. And that has gone as well as you might expect.
There are, what seems to be, three separate schools of thought when it comes to Jesus and queer folk.
Camp A: love the sinner, hate the sin: queer=sin. (They also don’t use the word queer, but are more likely to say homosexuals or the gays; the group I seem to talk to more?)
Camp B: god made you perfect! You did you, booboo! (Encouraging. Supportive. Sometimes theologically problematic for me.)
Camp C: the Bible says…but it also says…and Jesus says…and I just don’t know.
Today I want to talk to camp C. All y’all leaning out various sides, or planted right in the center, of this same “I just don’t know” boat.
First of all: I’m there with you. I don’t know either.
I do not know, in fullness, the extent of Gods Grace. I can not comprehend Gods holiness that demands we also be holy. I cannot definitively express to you what it means when Jesus says: I am the way, the truth, and the life no one come to the Father except through me” or when he says “neither so I condemn you” followed by go and sin no more. Or when entire households are saved because one person believed and were baptized. And what about baptism? Is it merely a suggestion? And no one tells us the follow up stories for these new believers. Did the jailer quit and become a member of the way?
My first theological argument I remember having with my mom was about the rich young ruler. He wanted to know what he needed to do to be saved, he wanted to join Jesus wild band of misfits. Jesus asks him: what does our law and history say?
Easy–love God. Love others. Jesus the kid–ok. Go do that. And the kid says–I do! So the next step: sell all you have, and let’s go! And the kid is like, wait. What?
And he can’t do it.
And I told my mom that I needed to be a semi-homeless, dumpster diving, couch surfing, thrift store shopping Jesus follower.
She told me that I wasn’t a rich young ruler.
But Jesus said…and that’s how the disciples lived..and the early church…
Jesus says: if you love me, you will obey my commands.
But which ones? Love God? Love others?
Matthew 22:37-39 uses the same word for “love” God and “love” your neighbor. How, then, do we do that? Some (camp a) might argue that our love for God is rooted in fear and respect of Gods holiness. To love our neighbor requires us to call to account their sins and shortcomings.
Camp B might argue that to love God is to be in time with Gods spirit and recognize that God is in all and through all and has incited us into holy communion with Gods self. Loving our neighbor would require time, talent, advocacy. It would look like justice seeking, showing up, and spending time. There would be free mom hugs. Affirming. Reconciling. Celebrating.
And in camp C? Well. Maybe neither are completely wrong. Maybe neither are completely right? God is both. The holy terror of the Old Testament who will not abide a blemished lamb–while being the one who makes you spotless. It’s confusing.
How, then, do we treat our neighbor.
Luke 10 gives another account of the age old question: what do I do to inherit the kin-dom.
A lawyer stands up and asks and Jesus responds–what does the law say? Same answer. Love God, love your neighbor. The lawyer then asks: who is my neighbor?
And Jesus tells this story:
A woman from a large city was traveling home late one night. It was June, 2002. She was dressed for pride and had spent the day celebrating with friends. She was exhausted and had an early morning leading worship at her small, celebrated congregation. When she got to her stop, she exited the train after saying goodbye to her friends. She started walking home. It was a road she traveled often, but not usually this late. Not usually this alone. Never dressed like this. She heard someone call out to her as she was removing her wig. The voices quickly changed from suggestive to irate. She began to dig through her purse for her phone as she heard men quickly approaching. Angry. She was elbow deep in her bag when the first blow landed. Then another. Another and she was down.
Her clothes were torn, the word “fag” was written across her body. She was spit on. Sodomized. Wallet, medical bracelet, everything was taken. And she was left for dead.
As she lay there a few people walked by. “Is he ok?” She heard a voice. Feet sped up and quickly moved on.
Another couple walked past, also on their way home from pride. They wore “not gay but supportive” t-shirts. They wanted to stop and help but what if the attackers were still around? Besides, neither of them had gloves and how could they be sure of this mans status? So they crossed the street and walked on.
Finally, as she breathed what she thought might be her last breaths, she heard a car pull up close and a door slam shut. A voice, close to her ear whispered–“don’t worry. I’ve got you.” Hands gently wiped the blood and letters off the woman. He found things to wrap the wounds and gently put her in the car. When they arrived at the hospital the staff initially thought the man was wounded, he wore so much blood on her. He stayed until morning–when she awoke, he apologized that he couldn’t do more and asked if there was someone he could call for her.
Who is the neighbor?
There was no chastisement about being a black, trans woman out late and on your own. No one told her she shouldn’t have dressed like that. Or that she was asking for it. The people who were wrong in this story are those who do not stop. Who do not show love. I imagine the Good Samaritan joined the woman at her small church when she was able to return.
We are supposed to be the Samaritan. We are supposed to be the guy who stops.
So, while we could spend hours discussing history, linguistics, and cultural norms that influenced scripture. We could discuss how “clear” homosexuality is as a sin in scripture, or why God would spend time condemning homosexuality when sin typically relates to behavior that interferes with ones relationship with others and causes some sort of harm.
Or we could all just be good, kind, loving neighbors.
We could see those who are hurting and welcome them.
Once they are welcomed we can affirm them.
And then celebrate them. Their lives, theirs families, their children.
We could just love them.
You could just love me.
I wanted to write you a letter because, well, I have some thoughts and I wanted to share them with you. I won’t lie—I have been told to be prepared to be disappointed. And I guess that’s ok. Disappointing, I suppose, but ok nonetheless. (Maybe a little bit less, actually.)
I was at a conference recently, and it was a pretty great event. The music on Saturday night was exciting, seeing those called by God ordained and sent out on Sunday was beautiful. It is a wonderful thing to celebrate in what is both the culmination of a lifetime of preparation as well as the beginning of an exciting journey. I remember the joy I felt at my own commissioning—before that, even. On covenant day I was so excited! I felt like I was stepping into the fullness of what God had for me. I was signing my name to enter into a covenant that I knew nothing would ever distract me from. In a time that was meant to be most serious, I could not get the grin off of my face. I actually got in trouble for not taking that service seriously, and high fiving (very quietly, of course) a couple of friends. It was awesome—in the truest sense of the word. I felt like everything we had done up until that point was preparation for our wedding day, and here it was—a celebration in honor of this most wonderful union. I still feel that way. But, as you know, I am no longer an Officer in The Salvation Army.
My loops, my sash, my flag, my name tag, and my covenant are displayed prominently in my living room—but often they are viewed as, and understood to be, my former life.
At commissioning I listened as the commissioner preached; rousing an army of soldiers to go for souls and go for the worst! I stared at those, drowning in the sea, my heart breaking as those on the rock failed to see them. My heart was moved as the words of Keith Green’s song, based on William Booth’s vision, played in my mind. When you called out “who will go?” I couldn’t help but be moved, as I was at the commissioning of the Ambassador’s of Holiness, reflecting on Isaiah—whom shall I send and who will go for me? The answer, resounding in my heart and in my mind was simply: Here am I, my Lord. Send me, send me!
When you spoke to rally the troops, to encourage the faint, to remind people why they do what they do—I wanted so badly to be a part. I sat there, whispering the words of the Articles of Faith to my son, as I held my wife’s hand. I sat there, whispering the words of my covenant to my son, as I held my wife’s hand. I sat there as anyone who felt the call of God in their life, who was moved to love and to serve, were invited to come forward. I sat there, feet firmly planted, heart softened but unyielding. Because I know that invitation was not for me.
And I do not understand why not.
I probably know most of the arguments and I can probably provide rebuttals to most of them. I have even had these arguments with myself. I have been attending a Methodist church for over a year, they are open and affirming, while the Methodists as a denomination are not, and the way they put it that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Which may very well be the case, I am just not understanding what that teaching is based on. There have been many Christian teachings that are incompatible with the love and grace of God. We have held on to some of them far too long, the Church has often found herself on the wrong side of history. I don’t believe it has to be that way.
I don’t understand why I am not welcome—when most people were nothing but welcoming. I do not understand how we advance the kingdom when we don’t even recognize the kingdom within others. I do not understand how it is possible to preach to a room full of people where illegal immigrant status, drug addiction, abusive past relationships, rebellious children, divorce and remarriage are all acceptable, but homosexuality is not.
There are so many young LGBTQ (and so many not so young) dying because they have been told they are not covered by the grace of God—and I don’t believe that God is the one who told them that. I recently listened to a podcast and there was this woman who absolutely broke my heart. You see, she was raised as a Southern Baptist, her daddy was a minister, her granddaddy was a minister, she knew that she would also be a minister. When she went to college she realized what she had been ignoring and avoiding her entire life; she was gay. Not only was she gay, but she was trans. When he came out and began to transition to becoming she—everything fell apart. The podcast I was listening to actually had nothing to do with the Church—it was about shutting down the website BackPage, and this woman, this beautiful child of God who was sure of her calling from a young age was interviewed as someone who sold herself to support her drug habit; her working name was Trinity. Satan only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. It breaks my heart when he is aided in that work by the Church.
Imagine if the church had been a refuge. Imagine if there were people who were like Trinity, who were also gay, who were also trans who could help her embrace who she is while also being a child of the Most High King. Imagine if the kids we raise in our conservatory programs, the ones who we dote on because of their musical gifts, their artistic talents—the very traits we celebrate as gifts from the Lord, but that are also very tied to other parts of them—imagine if we nurtured the whole person. I can count so many kids I helped raise at camp who are now living unfulfilled lives as they have lost so much of their foundation—but they still love the Lord. And therein lies the problem.
I love the Lord. I love Him so much. I love to serve His people; to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, provide for the poor wanderer, to befriend those who have no friends—I spend time reading, praying, worshipping—I try so hard to do everything in my power to keep the fire on the altar burning. You taught me that. Only, my altar is not welcome within the sanctuary—my altar has had to be rebuilt in the desert. I am up against the elements here. It is so much harder on my own.
I am married to a wonderful woman who has found God in the last few years. She loves him, trusts Him. She sings praises to Him, hungers for His word, seeks His guidance, works to be more like Him, shedding selfishness, anxiety, bitterness—we read to and pray with and for our son. But we are alone. There are not retreats or guidance or counseling or encouragement for our marriage. We do not have people coming alongside us to help us bring up this beautiful little boy in the way of Lord so that he will not depart from it. Instead, we are on our own, figuring it out. And that’s not the way it is supposed to be. That isn’t what the people of God are about.
And so, Church, having raised me, loved me, nurtured me. Being rooted and established in the love and the word of God—why are we still fighting this battle? Why am I not seen as a part of this vast Army? Why is my call the only one that can be revoked? When will we stop misreading scripture and misinterpreting God’s love? I need to understand.
This was written and submitted to an online magazine; they chose not to print it. So now I can. It’s the first in what may be a series of rejections…but hey–I still like it!
As a kid I wanted to be a mermaid. Or a country singer. Or an actress, ballerina, cowboy. Or a writer. Something that set me apart and put me centerstage. But I have neither fishtail nor voice. Boots or ballet slippers. No story to tell. I thought that I wanted the spotlight; to be known and loved by all. To entertain; to draw crowds into my stories, warming or breaking hearts. I wanted solos and lead roles in Christmas Musicals, to deliver memorized scripture on Sunday mornings. But I never really told anybody. What if I had no talent? What if I failed?
I am a middle child. Second of three girls. There’s a boy in there, too, but he had the luxury of growing up with all these women (which, all things considered, he may not have thought of it as a luxury–I just saw it as him automatically winning without brothers to compete with). I partially blame birth order for my deep desire to be known and seen and adored by multitudes. I partially blame my southern evangelical upbringing on my need to be liked and please everyone.
Growing up, I had my heroes. I wanted to be Ariel or Harriet the Spy, or Benny the Jet Rodriguez, or part of a Jamaican bobsled team. I always loved a rabble rouser, a pot stirrer, and an underdog. I wanted to join the resistance; any of them, all of them. The idea of being a rebel was always appealing to this attitudinal rule follower. I was the son that said he would not go and tend the fields and went anyway.
It’s hard to join the resistance when you are worried someone may disagree with your stance. It’s hard to write when you’re worried someone may not publish your piece. It’s hard be vulnerable and protect yourself.
It’s hard to reach for the stars when you’re afraid of heights.
Growing up in church provided me with a plethora of mind-boggling, heart-wrenching, adrenaline pumping stories of heroes that I could hope to someday be like.. I loved Jael and her quick action. I loved Ruth and her compassion, loyalty, and boldness. I loved Rahab and how easily she lied to the authorities, calm, cool, collected as she spun a story. I loved Miriam and how she decided she was going to lead the singing, not the men. I loved Deborah and her fearless ride into battle. I loved Esther and her confidence before the king. I loved Mary Magdalene and her confidence to let her hair down, spend all her money, and shirk her household responsibilities. I spent my childhood in wonder, dreaming of who I would be.
There was a popular song on Christian radio back in the day that, as an eight year old, I would sing with gusto, “Looking for a reason, roaming through the night to find my place in this world, my PLACE IN THIS WOOOORLD!”
I am 32 years old. I am a mother of one precious, smart, funny, and kind 14 month old boy, who loves to raise his little fist and laugh in defiance and wear hairbows. I am working in a career I didn’t know existed two years ago and do not know if it is something I will even want to do long term. I live in a two-bedroom apartment and love to look on Zillow at all the beautiful houses and hope that one day, one might be mine.
Out of place. Dreaming of more. Just being me. Kind of my life theme. And I’m starting to, at 32 years old, realize that maybe that is ok. Maybe I will not live a “such a time as this” Esther life. Maybe I won’t ride into battle, or save some spies, or be chosen to perform one great and mighty act that will place my name firmly in the annals of history.
My big dreams have always been crippled. Crippled by opportunity, ability, resources. I am more like Mephibosheth than a valiant warrior woman of old. Broken and begging, sitting at the feet of the king. It was t until I recognized my broken legs, embraced my position there at feet of the king, that I noticed how many of my heroes were also there. Ruth. Esther. Jael. Mary. All of them found themselves at the feet of the one who would restore them, save them, help them become who they were meant to be.
So today I am content with my place, seated at the feet of the King. I am not vying for a better place. I am not watching others succeed around me and begging for my turn. Rather I am learning to love deeper, trust more, see others, invite them to this place as well. I am learning that if this is all there is–it is more than enough for me.
And finally. But before we get to finally—if you haven’t read the last two posts—you should! You can probably follow along without them, but they might be helpful.
We have been looking at Acts 5:27-32 and there were three things about this passage that really stuck in my mind. We have looked at thing two and thing three. And now for things one.
The first things that really stuck in my craw was this idea of civil disobedience.
Now, this blog was originally written as a sermon (A one part—aren’t y’all lucky, we got a three part!) and I was preaching this sermon from someone else’s pulpit. So I didn’t feel I had much to say regarding disobedience because, well, it was my place but it wasn’t my place. But today we are here, back at my pulpit and I’m going to tell you what I told them—and then a little more.
The disciples had good news—like actual good news—and were telling everyone. This disrupted everything. I imagine this caused people to question the death penalty, the power and authority of the Sanhedrin, to wonder about their collective last, their political leanings, their understanding of deliverance—-as an encounter with the true and Hoky Christ should. The disciples were completely disrupting life, and the powers that be didn’t like it. They told them to sto.
Naturally, they didn’t.
Because stopping wasn’t going to change anything. Being quiet was not going to force the church Father’s (or Sanhedrin) to look at their wealth, their treatment of the poor, the way they ostracized “sinners” for the sake of their own “cleanliness”. Shutting up was not going To encourage anyone or give hope. Their was no peace in silence. So they continued to preach and teach and tell about their friend.
A friend of mine died recently, and he wasn’t even the Messiah—but he was a good, kind, giddy man. And still I take opportunities to tell others about him. To tell of his love for people, his doth of understanding of marvel characters. His hunger for God and goodness in the world. How he liked pizza but always wanted it without cheese because he was kind of lactose intolerant but then, what good is the pizza?
I tell about him. I can’t not. So imagine if you spent years hanging out with Jesus, seeing miracles. Of course you’re going to tell. And when you walk into a place where He is being discussed, misinformation is being disseminated, you’re going to correct. You can’t not.
So the holy disrupters continued disrupting. They refused to accept the status quo. They refused to be party to the cover up, the denial of, Jesus life, death, and resurrection.
Y’all. We have to become disrupters. We have to stop sitting at our desks when we should be in the streets. We have to stop pretending that asking politely or putting our heads down and doing the work is going to accomplish anything. We need to be loud and boisterous. We need to be bringers of peace and light and life. To do that we can’t be silent while 4 little black babies get shot in Oklahoma by police officers as they gun down a moving vehicle. You don’t need the rest of the story to know that is wrong.
We can’t be quiet and celebrate the brave and valiant young men who have their lives for their classmates these last weeks. They made an amazingly tough choice, they should be celebrated. And we should be ashamed that this is a choice our kids are making. We cannot be silent.
While the bodies pile up the streets, the prisons, the hallways at school—-we expect what? Things to get better? To think shuffling along doing our due diligence is good enough? It’s not. We have to do more. At this point it’s just not optional.
We have to go and find the good news: it’s there. Love, light, life, joy, peace—we can have it all. We can share it all.
We need to beCome holy disrupters.we need to fight against the lies that say transgender folks have mental illness, that they want to hurt our kids in the bathroom, that they are reverts or broken. We need to fight against the lies that say LGBTQ folks are ruining America, the family, are disgusting, are an abomination. We need to stand up against corporations and governments that create laws to strip away protections and continue to oppress our brothers, sisters, and siblings. We need to fight against unjust laws that incarcerate our black and brown brothers and sisters at exponentially higher rates with longer sentences. We need to stand up for women’s rights for bodily autonomy. We need to do something about healthcare, education, poverty, capitalism..y’all. There’s a lot to do.
Kids at the border, in schools, in streets—-all dying at the hands of those who are supposedly sworn to protect. What are we doing? Suicide rates are increasing, disproportionately affecting black kids. WE HAVE THE HIGHEST METRSNK AND INFANT MORTALITY RUGHT IF ANY DEVELOPED NATION. That’s just ridiculous.
So where are we? Where are the disrupters? What are we doing?
Because there is good news. We can’t nit tell it. There is good news, and even the most hard-headed and ridiculous of us is capable of spreading it and making a difference.
So again—what are we doing?
It’s time to find ways to disrupt—to refuse to participate in a society that stands so violently against what our Savior dies for. It’s time to move against the the flow. Use reusable shopping bags, stop eating out, bake homemade things, share with your neighbor. Learn strangers names. Shop locally. Be vegetarian 2 or 3 days a week. Read a book about a different culture or religion. Dance in public when your favorite song come son at the supermarket make arts and crafts and give them to people. Be kind of weird. Don’t shop at big box skmroeee who refuse anti pay good wages and andhave deals with law enforcement to turn petty theft into a 10 yr sentence. Go to a protest. Get a flag. Be ridiculously kind. Walk to work. Walk to to the store. Walk down the street. Wave at strangers. Bake cookies. Bring some to me. Get mad about stuff and then tell people why you’re mad . Collect food and blankets and books for kids and poor and prisoners. Call a school and pay some random lunch debts.
There are a lot of ways to disrupt. What are you going to do today to disrupt?
If you haven’t read part 1, you should! Otherwise, you might miss something real important.
This is part two. We are talking about Acts 5:27-32. Jesus is gone, ascended. His followers are out causing a major ruckus. They had been arrested for proselytizing but they refused to slow down. In reading this passage initially (for this study) I had 3 thoughts. My third thought, from part one, we talked about the redemption of Peter and him stepping fully into his calling. It’s a beautiful story from that perspective.
Thought number two: They just couldn’t not share the good news.
Arresting them wouldn’t stop them. Folks dying by lying wasn’t going to slow them down.
Because the news was Just. That. Good.
Now here’s the problem with good news. It is not good news if it is not ACTUALLY good news. Free ice cream is not good news to the lactose intolerant diabetic. Last week there was a toddler climbing toy on the curb outside someone’s house, and I don’t know if that’s a big thing where you live, but around here that’s how we shop. One man’s garbage another man’s…kid’s playroom? It was exciting when my wife got the text to say, hey! There’s a climber out here! Come get it! So we went over, following the good news! Until we got there. At which point we discovered the climber was missing the stairs, was too small for our child, and was incredibly dirty. What had been, potentially, a great find (FREE KIDS STUFF!) became a nice little detour on our way out of town.
Good news is not good news, if it’s not good news.
Let me give you another example:
I don’t know if y’all know this, but I am queer. That’s my wife, over there, with our cute lil baby. What up.
The good news: Jesus loves me! He died, for me! He has a purpose and a call for my life. He wants to use me and fill me with Holy Spirit and do even Greater Things than have been done. That’s all in the Bible. So, that’s the good news.
The not good news: is when we, the church, ( and lately) the UNITED METHODIST CHURCH (which we attend, where or son was baptized, where we celebrate our unofficial membership) add caveats. When we are beholden to a church as a whole that does not accept my marriage. That does not believe that I am saved. That does not have a place for me in ministry. When we, as a body of believers, don’t create space for our LGBTQ brothers, sisters, and siblings–or create special requirements rather than wholly embracing them–that is not good news.
Telling of a savior, of a bringer of peace–offering an invitation into wholeness and community that requires denouncing yourself, your family, your love? that’s actually terrible news.
And another example: our gospel is very white washed.
We as a church often confuse the message of redemption, reconciliation, and liberation with white whiteness. Our cultural lens through which we view the Bible does not always create space for folx of different colors, ethnicities, or even socioeconomic backgrounds to really hear the good news. We become so steeped in church tradition as played out in our own cultural norms that newness becomes disruption. And it’s not good news.
Good news that ignores black and brown people dying in the streets is not good news. Good news that has nothing to say about systemic oppression, lack of opportunity, mass incarceration, subpar health care, desecrated tribal lands, ignored historical atrocities–is not good news. That, again, is terrible news.
Andre Henry, a musician, brilliant lyricist, and warrior for justice, has a song where he explores these questions. He asks why he would attend a church where the things that affect his life, his community, make him who he is–his hair, his killer dance moves, his clothes–if they inhibit him from full participation, put others off, or cause more of a stir instead of the stories that clog our facebook and twitter feeds–why would he even want to be a part of that?
I thought that Christians were supposed to love they neighbor and such
But every Sunday I’m subjected to some mediocre lesson
having no specific reference to the world that I touch
This could not be the truth
This iis not good news
If it’s gon’ be that way
I don’t think I’ll go to church this Sunday I’m…I’m just keepin’ it real
It’s just the way I feel
The shh is not okay
I don’t think I’ll go to church this Sunday
She think that I should cut my hair
She don’t like my dirty mouth
She don’t like anything I wear
She don’t like the way I swing my hips when I be in the pew
But she got nothin’ to say about the lies that pass for news
Now come on
Is that the God that you know?
Guess what I’m wearin’ has some bearin’ on the state of my soul
But does He care about the neighborhood
Just tell me if He’s looking
Are you saying that the Savior wouldn’t save me cause my hoodie
(An excerpt from “Playing Hookey”, Andre Henry)
The annoyingly white thing about these lyrics is that they are more likely to spark a debate about curse words, how one should dress in church, and one’s attitude regarding worship. We will completely ignore what he is saying–what good is a God that does not see me? What good is a God who won’t save me because I’m black, I wear a hoodie, and am subjected to a perpetuated myth of animalistic rage and strength that makes me a valid target for well-armed and trained protectors of the citizenry?
Because, come on, y’all. We know from the beginning of the story–God sees us. When we cry, expecting death in the desert, God sees us. When we are on our deathbed, when our bodies are ruined with disease, when we have had so many husbands the community stopped counting–Jesus chooses, is willing, to reach out and touch us. He sees us, hears us, and invites us in. We worship a God who is not only of redemption and reconciliation but of liberation.
I wrote a lenten devotional in February, and for a few weeks I was steeped in studies on racism, on being an ally, on white fragility and the pervasiveness of white supremacy. But I also became more acquainted with liberation theology, and it is beautiful y’all. This is where you read the old testament and rather than grappling with the horror of a God who could sentence an entire people group to death–men, women and children–you see Them as the God who loves you–YOU–so much that when you get picked, They come up and say–which one of them hurt you? And takes care of it. This is the God who says i’m no just about setting captives free, but once them chains are off, we are going to break those chains, we are going to melt them down and turn them into something else! Those yokes of slavery, they cords that bound? BREAK’EM and SET’EM on fire! Because they will not hold you back any longer.
THIS is good news y’all. It’s not how to be an acceptable and pleasing Proverbs 31 woman, it’s not about giving your 10% and receiving tenfold in return making up the prosperity gospel.
It’s that when you hurt–you’re not alone. You serve a God who knows, personally, deeply, what it is to hurt. It’s when you are anxious–you’re not alone. You serve a God who was so anxious His sweat was like blood. It’s when you are overwhelmed–you are not alone. You serve a God who as He breathed His last felt himself far from His own being–crying out MY GOD, MY GOD, why have you forsaken me? As he was literally crushed by the weight of his body. This, y’all, is good news. It’s not that God will reach down and pluck you up and make everyone like the LGBTQs and make you accepted and welcomed. But that he, too, was hated, misunderstood, outcast, unwanted. So when he says we will do greater things, when he says we Holy Spirit will come on us and we will go out and tell others, when He says that when he is high and lifted up all will be drawn to him–when he says he ha the living water, he is the door, he is the good shepherd–when he claims to be the great I Am…we can trust that. That, fam, is the GOOD NEWS.
And I just can’t not tell it.
I want to tell what God has done
Through Christ. his well-beloved Son,
How my poor heart he sought and won;
Can you wonder that I want to tell it?
I want to tell what God can do
For sinners lost like me and you,
Of sins washed white and garments new;
Can you wonder that I want to tell it?
I want to tell you what the Lord has done,
What the Lord has done for me;
He lifted me from the miry clay;
O what a happy day!
I want to tell you what the Lord can do,
What the Lord can do for you:
He can take your life as he did mine,
And make it anew.
I want to tell of saving grace,
Of God’s strong arm, his warm embrace,
Of blood that can all sins erase;
Can you wonder that I want to tell it?
I want to tell to sinners lost
That Christ has paid sin’s fearful cost,
And saves unto the uttermost;
Can you wonder that I want to tell it?
What God has done, he still can do;
His power can fashion lives anew,
And all who trust him find him true;
Can you wonder that I want to tell it?
I want to tell of that glad day
For which we watch, for which we pray,
It must be near, not far away;
Can you wonder that I want to tell it?
This song was written by the great Sydney Cox, Salvation Army hero, music extraordinaire. Known simple, thought-provoking, spirit-capturing lyrics–this is the music of my childhood. We often crooned this song at Salvation Meetings, known to the wider church as “Sunday Evening Services” where things were a little more laid back, sometimes a little more rowdy. During these Salvation meetings, one wouldn’t be surprised to have a little more clapping, a little more percussion, a few more amens. This was a time to celebrate God’s saving grace; we did this often by sharing in a time of testimony.
Popcorn testimonies were my favorite. We would all sing and clap each verse and chorus, and between them pause and give space for folx to share God’s work in their lives. It was encouraging, it was exciting, it was a feat in being serious and polite, sometimes. As a kid, a friend might elbow you in the ribs and dare you to stand up, or the Pastor might call on you for participation. I attended one church where a family of older adults attended. There were three of them and each week, these folx who otherwise might not have been able to keep up, raced to see who could pop up the fastest. And each week we would listen as Mrs Opal, Ms Edith, and Mr Raymond would recount to us how “The good Lord pulled me up out the miry clay and set my feet upon that solid rock; this is why I am thankful to be here today”
Acts, chapter 5 verses 27-32 tells the story of Jesus’ followers, the disciples, and how they have been out preaching and teaching and causing all kinds of trouble so they’ve been brought in to the Sanhedrin to be questioned. (The Sanhedrin was less legal authority and more church authority, which to a Jewish person back then, was probably worse.)
Now, let me give you a little context: Jesus was born in a manger, fled to Egypt, grew up in Nazareth, travelled around performing miracles and preaching and teaching. One day he rode on a donkey and folx were for it, hootin’ and hollerin’…and then a few days later one of his buddies sold him for 20 pieces of silver. Jesus was tried, convicted as a terrorist, hung on a cross where within hours he died. A sword pierced his side, probably through his lungs and heart, to ensure that he was, in fact dead, he was then put in a tomb that belonged to someone else. 3 days later, He was up, walking around, hanging out with his friends, reminding them about how good life is and 40 days after that, He ascended into heaven. So now we have some disciples, some followers who are telling everyone. Because,seriously. The guy raised the dead–was the dead! Made the lame walk, the blind see. He calmed storms and turned a few pieces of bread into some awesome feasts. Plus he called out the rich and powerful and told them they weren’t so great, while telling the last, the lost, and the least that they had worth and were loved.
So the disciples were telling everyone. Which, they had been told to not do that. A bunch of them were arrested. While in jail, some kind of God-magic happened and all of the sudden they were no longer locked up in jail cells. That’s the middle of Acts 5. So here we pick up in the verses after they were located, rounded up, and brought BACK to the Sanhedrin. And I have three things from this passage that stick out to me:
They couldn’t not share the good news.
Peter is the spokesmen.
Alright, so let’s look at these in a different order because, why not?
3. Peter is the spokesman.
What do y’all know about Peter? When I think of Peter I think of someone who is quick to speak, kind of brash, more than a little hard-headed…really I just think of me with a beard and sandals and fishing skills. Peter recently gained some notariety in Jesus’ circle because, well, when he was asked about being buddies with Jesus he was real quick to say, NOPE! But Jesus didn’t hold that against him. Instead Jesus was like, dude! Peter, you’re the rock. I’m going to use you to build my church. And Peter took that and ran with it.
So here we are–a mere month or so later–and Peter is before the very men he feared enough to completely disregard his friend as he was being arrested and beaten, the same man he had cut someone’s ear off for, the man he had seen perform miracles, who had showed him he could walk on water, calm a storm, and create food and wine from kid’s lunch and foot water–Peter stands before them and is just like. Guys. I can’t stop. WON’T STOP.
In faaaaact…I want to tell you what the Lord has done what the Lord has done for meeee…
And I just find this little fact, that it was Peter leading this crazy band of misfits, well it just warms my heart because maybe God cause use me too. So that was thought number 3.