Love Changes Everything 11-17-13

I love this congregation. I’m excited about the opportunity we have to live into the love of God in our time, and I know you are excited to be on this journey as well. Normally on this Sunday I would give a stewardship sermon about giving, about tithing and about God’s abundance in our lives. Today I think it’s more important to pray for our denomination and in the process to deepen our commitment to God’s love.

Luke 21:5-19 Some disciples were speaking of how the Temple was adorned with precious stones and votive offerings.  Jesus said, “You see all these things?  The day will come when one stone won’t be left on top of another—everything will be torn down.” They asked, “When will this happen, Rabbi?  And what will be the sign that it’s about to happen? Jesus said, “Take care not to be misled.  Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the One’ and ‘The time is at hand.’  don’t follow them. And don’t be perturbed when you hear of wars and insurrections.  These things must happen first, but the end doesn’t follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and empire against empire. There will be great earthquakes, plagues and famines in various places—and in the sky there will be frightening omens and great signs. But before any of this, they’ll arrest you and persecute you, bringing you before synagogues and sending you to prison, bringing you to trial before rulers and governors.  And it will all be because of my name— this will be your opportunity to give your testimony. So make up your minds not to worry about your defense beforehand , for I’ll give you the words, and a wisdom that none of your adversaries can take exception to or contradict. You’ll be betrayed even by your parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends, and some of you will be put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, yet not a hair of your head will be harmed. By patient endurance, you’ll save your lives.

Nov. 17, 2013

Love Changes Everything: Initiative for the Future
Consecration Sunday

Love changes everything. Luke proclaimed that love changes everything. The love of Christ, Luke knew, would lead to the Temple being destroyed. Luke also felt that the love of Christ would lead to the Temple being restored, to the destruction of the Roman empire which had been so oppressive to their community.
Luke was written in the 2nd century, so that community knew that these changes were not going to happen as quickly as the earliest Christian communities thought. They were beginning to get a sense that the love they felt in Christ would cause division in their families and in their community. They warned of trials, saying “don’t worry about what your defense will be. I will give you the words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries can take exception to or contradict.” The gospel of Luke advises “patient endurance” through the trials and a time of difficult growing pains. Patient endurance and steadfast love changes everything. With patient endurance and the love of Christ you will grow into the new realm of the Living God.

Bishop Johnson has asked that we pray today for the outcome of the trial that begins tomorrow in our conference. At Camp Innabah, dozens of pastors will gather ready to become a jury that decides whether Rev. Frank Schaefer will be able to continue being a pastor, his crime being that he agreed to perform a wedding for his son in Massachusetts 6 years ago.
I ask you to be in prayer with me for Frank and his family, for Bishop Johnson, for  Bob Coombe and Bill Ewing helping with the defense, the presiding bishop, Bishop Gwinn, and the counsel for the church, Rev. Chris Fisher and Rob Shoemaker. Passions get very inflamed about this issue, for a variety of reasons, but with patient endurance and the love of Christ, we will find our way through. That’s why we pray for everybody involved including our church, and all of those who would rather not be involved. Love changes everything. We will find our way through.

Last week, I told you a little about the wedding that I helped to officiate last Saturday.  But I didn’t really tell you that the reason I participated in was partly because I want to stand with Frank Schaefer.  I think it is silly to try him for agreeing to help his son marry the person he loves. We all wish at this point that these trials would go away. With patient endurance and the love of Christ, they will, and we will grow into the new realm of the Living God.  Love changes everything.
The other reason I participated last week in the wedding of two gay men I didn’t know was because I have a real love for Robin Hynicka.  Robin is a great guy, a wonderful pastor, and I couldn’t bear the thought of him having to face a trial by himself, without me standing with him, as he decided that he would publicly perform a wedding for two of his congregants.
One of the reasons I love Robin so much is because I have seen the way he loves his wife, Weslia. Weslia has lupus, and a few months ago she had to have her leg amputated because of this dreadful disease.  Cathy and I used to go to their house on New Year’s eve every year, but they haven’t been able to have their party the last few years because of Weslia’s health. Robin is taking care of Weslia with a love that I deeply admire.
He loves his congregation with a love that is almost as determined, a love determined to heal the ills of the city and the church.
Our church has said that it is not ok to be in ministry if you are a self-proclaimed, practicing homosexual. Last Saturday, Robin gave a sermon in which he declared his hope that he would no longer be a self-proclaimed practicing hypocrite. With fear and trembling, I’m trying to follow his lead.
After 30 clergy stood and helped Robin proclaim his 2 congregants married, the choir of about 70 people including three of our altos stood in the back of the church and sang “Love Changes Everything.” I’d like to play it for you since I found it so moving. (see this link to YouTube if you would like to play the video  )
Love Changes Everything.
Love makes fools of everyone/ All the rules we make are broken/
Yes, love, love changes everyone/ Live or perish in its flame/
Love will never, never let you/ Be the same/

As I said in charge conference yesterday, I have no desire to be divisive in this congregation or in the denomination.  I just think we should stop putting people on trial for caring for their children and caring for the people in their congregations. I know we don’t all agree and I have no desire to force my opinion on people or get into arguments. I have even less desire to lose my job.
But I had to participate in this wedding because I love Robin and Weslia, and because I love Marilyn, and Stephanie, and all the people in this congregation. I love this congregation because of the way we care for each other. I am so excited for our future together as we live into Christ’s love.  That love changes everything.
That love makes it possible for us to disagree and to have patient endurance with each other. That love makes it possible for us to get through whatever trial faces us, in our church, in our community or in our denomination. Love changes everything. We give ourselves to Christ’s love with out whole lives as we dedicate and consecrate them this morning.
Let’s sing, “Take My Life and Let it be Consecrated”