Exodus 17: 1-7 (NRSV)
From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses said to them, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?" But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?" So Moses cried out to the Lord, "What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me." The Lord said to Moses, "Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink." Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?"
Psalm 25: 3 (BCP. Page 614)
Show me your ways, O Lord,
and teach my your paths.
Philippians 2: 1-13 (NRSV)
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
- who, though he was in the form of God,
- did not regard equality with God
- as something to be exploited,
- but emptied himself,
- taking the form of a slave,
- being born in human likeness.
- And being found in human form,
- he humbled himself
- and became obedient to the point of death--
- even death on a cross.
- Therefore God also highly exalted him
- and gave him the name
- that is above every name,
- so that at the name of Jesus
- every knee should bend,
- in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
- and every tongue should confess
- that Jesus Christ is Lord,
- to the glory of God the Father.
Matthew 21: 23-32 (NRSV)
When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?" Jesus said to them, "I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" And they argued with one another, "If we say, `From heaven,' he will say to us, `Why then did you not believe him?' But if we say, `Of human origin,' we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet." So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And he said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
"What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, `Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' He answered, `I will not'; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, `I go, sir'; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him."
“Is God among us or not?” This provocative question weaves itself through today’s readings. In Exodus 17:1-7 we encounter a familiar scene. The Israelites begin to quarrel and complain that Moses has led them on a death march. They ask: “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” (verse 3). For his part, Moses appears frustrated at their impatience. Yet, God miraculously provides water from a rock. (Out in Scripture).
I am sure that Troy Davis and his family asked the question: "Is God among us or not?" As the legal battle, and storms of media controversy and the blatant racism demonstrated by the State of Georgia to be sure they executed a black man whether he was really innocent or not, can feel like God just was not there to help.
Many LGBT people and others without jobs, housing, health care, a cure for cancer, HIV/AIDS, equal rights, who experience the marginalization of the Church and society feel a lot like the community of Israel wandering through the desert.
For LGBT people the legal repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell feels like a much needed drink of water. Before we know it, we are back in the desert working for marriage equality, work place rights while the Roman Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan sticks his nose in to stop them. Or worrying about youth like Jamey Rodemeyer who though he made an It Gets Better Video, took his life because of constant bullying over his sexual orientation.
The facts of life include that no matter what walk of life we come from, we all have our moments in the desert when we are wandering aimlessly asking where do we find God in it all. We are all wandering in the deserts of our lives. We face illness, poverty, the uncertainty of our future, discrimination and violence and so on.
As with the story about Moses and the Israelite people, God is there. We may not see or hear God acting in the way we would wish, but that does not mean God is not there with great concern about our needs. Sometimes God answers our prayers by giving us just what we want. Other times God gives us just what we need even if it is grace to wait until God reveals God's will to us.
The verse I chose from the Psalm today, is a prayer to ask God to help us to know God's ways and paths to true peace and holiness. God has already created LGBT people just as we are. If we are LGBT people of faith, then we need to pray and ask God to lead us in God's ways to know what is the path to holiness as we love our partners or engage in relationships.
As Christians we believe that God revealed God's Self in God's perfect revelation in Jesus Christ. Jesus came among us not to exploit equality with God, but to give his life in service of God's people. Jesus is exalted by God not just because God was in Christ, but because Jesus laid down his life so that others might live in everlasting life with God who is Creator, Servant and Life-Giver.
The life God calls us to live is not one of just saying yes in the prayers and creeds found in the Book of Common Prayer, but through an honest and devoted life of service for equality for those who are marginalized and oppressed.
As lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, we hear from Christianists that being gay and living in committed same-sex relationships is somehow saying yes to God, but not doing God's will. As a gay Episcopalian Christian who struggled many years to come to a place of peace with God about who I am and who I love, I cannot agree with how Christians use today's Gospel to frame the debate about homosexuality and being Christian.
I would dare to say that knowing we are LGBT or even questioning or queer, being called by God to come out and live who we are proudly, and we say no, but later think better of it and do, we are among those who do God's will. You see, when we settle the question between ourselves and God about who we are as LGBTQ people, after having gone through the dry desert of fear and anxiety while in the closet wondering what we should do, we then come to understand that our sexual orientation and/or gender expression/identity is a gift of God, not a choice of humankind.
Among our decision to finally accept God's will to live as LGBT openly and with a sense of pride in who God has created us to be, we cannot be settled with just being by ourselves or just doing all for ourselves. God challenges us to continue to participate in the work of God's creation by working for a Church and society where all individuals who face violence, prejudice and oppression can find justice, equality and inclusion.
This is why we can not just sit in silence as not just Troy Davis, but many individuals mostly African Americans get the death penalty through the political maneuvering of racist people.
It is not good for us nor the Church and/or society to keep quiet about the constant attack on women and women's reproductive health care, job programs, anti-violence laws and unequal pay.
We are doing a terrible injustice when we do not speak up about Christianist organizations and politicians targeting Muslims and Jewish people to create atmospheres of violence and prejudice.
When we fail to take into account the suffering of immigrants and Native Americans as a result of white, Christians, we are saying yes to God, but not doing God's will.
When Tea Party folks and Republicans exploit the poor suggesting they must do more, while giving all the tax breaks and job opportunities to corporate greedy people who just want more and more, Christians need to speak up and act to promote social justice and economic equality.
Doing God's will to achieve equality and justice in a time when there are a lot of Christianists paying good "yes" lip service to God, while acting contrary to what the Bible actually teaches, is like wandering in the desert wondering where God is in it all. The fact is God's reign is not just some transcendent and detached being surrounded by ancient stories and theological masterpieces. God is also close to each of us and calls every one of us to become partners in the work of disclosing God's healing and transforming presence.
In so doing, not only do we say yes to God in our worship and prayers, but we also do the work God has asked of us in the vineyard where God's people who are hungry, thirsty, oppressed and hurting are waiting and seeking God's powerful hospitality and reconciliation. God's answer to their prayers is found in us who seek to do God's will in our lives, loving and doing as God's holy LGBT people.
O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Proper 21: Book of Common Prayer, page 234).
Lord God,, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ triumphed over the powers of death and prepared for us our place in the new Jerusalem; Grant that we, who have this day given thanks for his resurrection, may praise you in that City of which he is the light, and where he lives and reigns, for ever and ever. Amen. (A Collect for Sundays, Book of Common Prayer, page 123).
O merciful Father, who taught us in your holy Word that you would not willingly afflict us, look with pity upon the sorrows of (name) for whom our prayers are offered. Remember her/him, O Lord, in mercy, nourish her/his soul with patience, comfort her/him with a sense of your goodness, lift up your countenance upon her/him, and give her/him peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Prayer for Someone in Trouble or Bereavment, Book of Common Prayer, page 831).