On Thursday night of Annual Conference, Rev. Greg Moore led us through an experience of creating spiritual friendships, showing how such practice works as the basis of new church development. It was pretty amazing that through a few questions and prompts, four strangers could sit in a circle and open themselves in ways that by the end of our time together we knew each other more than just casually. We have even communicated with each other since that initial meeting. Imagine such coming together as people of God.
At the very end of our time together, our last question triggered a response from one of our four that I have thought about and prayed about since last Thursday. Essentially hers was a response of pain in feeling like all the LGBTQ issue had been thrust upon traditional people in hurtful ways. My new spiritual friend asked, “Where is LGBTQ written or even mentioned in the Bible?”
The buzzer rang and our time was over before her question could be unpacked. I expect there are a lot of people like her who have trouble when more is required of their faith than the Bible has words for. Thursday night was not the first time I had encountered this mindset.
Several years ago I was facilitating a labyrinth workshop in a small church in eastern North Carolina. A group in the church wanted to build a community labyrinth on a piece of property where the old parsonage had stood. What was supposed to be a two-hour workshop ended up being like 3 and a half hours of Christian Apologetics that ended only when I called time. The question that night was, “Where is the word labyrinth in the Bible?”
Bible words seem to matter in the Bible Belt. Truth is there are a lot of words that define our faith that are not black and white in the Bible. Trinity is one of them. Sacrament is another word. Confirmation is another and there are a slew of others not written, but lived out in traditions in the church and the ongoing experience of the Living God.
Revelation did not end just because the canon was closed. Through all the ages, God has acted and we have known God’s movement among us. New words and new practices have been incorporated to tell the ongoing story of God as lived out in Jesus. As God’s faithful, we accept that God is not finished inviting and pressing us toward the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven and we live with joy into that glorious future.
I sat in that little Thursday group in my full regalia as a progressive Christian. My rainbow boa and stole surely were a give-away. My hope is that I was part of a fresh wind that is blowing us toward the love and acceptance of all people, one in the spirit, one in the Lord. The Bible Word that speaks most loudly to me is LOVE. Love for all people and all creation. Welcome the stranger – it’s there in black and white. Love your enemies – yep, that’s printed. Do not be afraid – that one takes up a lot of ink. When Jesus says, “Let us love one another, for love is of God. God is love.” Those are words to live by.
Nels Ferre, a theologian of the 1940s, wrote a little book, The Sun and the Umbrella. Ferre talked about umbrellas we humans put up that block the Light of God. When he talks about the Bible being the umbrella that keeps us from seeing God, I think he is talking about how we use the Bible as an end rather than a means. The Bible is an entry point for hearing the story of God told through faithful hearers.
Bible Words can hurt sometimes. When they do, that is not God’s intent. God’s intent is that all creation be blessed and bathed in grace for the living out of a purpose set forth in the garden. Every living creature is invited to the feast and it’s a big table that’s been set before us.
My prayer is that with open ears and open hearts we will hear what God is speaking today. I pray it is a fresh word for a groaning world, a unifying, healing word that we would all be one.