By: Rev Roland Stringfellow - May 12 2009
I have always been amazed at how two people listening to the same sermon can take away two separate messages. Sitting around the dinner table on Sunday evenings, my siblings and I would prove to mom that we had paid attention in church by retelling her the points of the sermon. As one of us retold a different version of what the majority said, we would tease, Were you even paying attention? My mothers wisdom would interject and say, Now remember, God speaks to each of us in different ways. As I grew and later became a pastor myself, I realized how true this point was. I believe God will craft for the individual human heart the message that is designed for him or her. This is true whether a person is listening to a sermon, reading scripture, or experiencing an inspirational moment through song, conversation, or nature. This is a testament to the nature of a living God.
Is God dead? I dont believe so. We can hear the encouraging words of peace spoken to our hearts or the uneasy feeling in the pit of our stomach when the Spirit convicts us of wrongdoing. This is evidence as to how God actively speaks in our world today. The Old and New Testaments are referred to as the Living Word of God because of the way they are able to communicate new understanding from ancient words. Does scripture inform us of the ethics of human cloning, global warming or the importance of recycling our plastics? Directly, no, but I do believe there is wisdom found in those pages that can and will guide us in ways that are beneficial towards others. Scripture not only inspires, but points to the ways of life.
Whenever I speak to audiences about what the Bible says about homosexuality, gender expression and marriage equality, I ask the questions, Is God dead? Is the Bible a static document? Or are we able to receive a fresh word from an interactive Sovereign every time we interact with scripture? If God is alive and scripture is active and not static, then it stands to reason that different people will receive different messages that are designed expressly for them. These messages will lead to peace, integrity, morality and life. To argue that the message of scripture points to one universal moral standard that was given to us in antiquity is to also argue that the Bible was closed for good when the cannon of scripture was put together and thus God is dead because we have the last will and testament. So when people say they do not support homosexuality or marriage equality based upon what scripture teaches, I challenge them that they are using it as a static document unable to speak peace, integrity, morally and life to the homosexual.
Where is the peace that forces a person to adopt a persona that is not consistent with who they feel God created them to be? Where is the integrity in a religious system that encourages people to lie about their sexuality in order to have membership or to serve in leadership in a congregation? Where is the morality that values a sham of a heterosexual marriage in order to be acceptable in society over a same-sex couple marrying because of their love for one another? Where is the life that would allow a teenage child to be thrown into the street, stripping them of their family status simply because they desired to be authentic before God, their family and self? It is possible that God speaks acceptance through scripture to the homosexual and values the joining of two hearts when love is present. I reference the acceptance of the Gentiles in the New Testament, who were a marginalized class of people. The ruling religious body of the day said only Jews were Gods chosen people and the Gentiles were only dogs! Yet, God spoke peace and life to them and proved they were people worthy of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit without having to become circumcised in order to follow the societal expectation. Eunuchs were a sexual minority also assigned an outsider status, but we see how the good news was preached to an Ethiopian eunuch and he was welcomed into the Kingdom of God. His social status probably did not change, but his status with God certainly did and that gave him the peace that passed all understanding. Stories such as these are able to give encouragement to live with integrity and come out of the closet for many sexual and gender minorities that there is a God who knows them, loves them, and accepts them just as they are!
I was ordained in the Metropolitan Community Church that has performed and celebrated same-sex marriages since its inception in 1968. I have witnessed the joy and devotion that exists with same-sex couples as they marry. I currently serve on the staff of a local United Church of Christ in Oakland, CA. All UCC churches share a phrase that is very true God is still speaking. This phrase is used in conjunction with the old saying, Never put a period where God has put a comma. God is continually speaking the words of peace and encouraging healthy, life-giving relationships among people. This is why I believe that marriage equality is a testament to the Living God.