Monday managed (thankfully) to be a somewhat less hectic day than my last several days. In the evening I and my EPF Young Adult compatriots had the pleasure of attending the Integrity USA Eucharist in support of their work for LGBTQIA Episcopalians and the entire Queer community. After a truly moving video, award and speech for Louie Clay Crew, the founder of Integrity USA, we shared a delightful liturgy with Eucharist celebrated by the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus of California, a renowned ally of the LGBT community. The Rt. Rev. Mary Glasspool of Los Angeles- the only currently active LGBT bishop and an old friend from our days in the Diocese of Maryland – preached a brilliant sermon about the concepts of “home” and “family” for Jesus, based on Mark 3:20-34. Her thoughts caused me to reflect on the idea for myself, especially in light of EPF’s work for those whose homes have been made inhospitable, such as the Palestinians of the Israeli occupied territories.
As famously borrowed later by Abraham Lincoln, Jesus says “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. A church, a people of God divided against itself cannot stand. Satan cannot drive out Satan. Demons cannot drive out Demons. Evil cannot drive out Evil and Hate cannot drive out Hate. Violence cannot drive out Violence and degradation cannot drive out degradation. If the People of God respond to judgment by sowing more judgment, we respond to hatred by sowing more hatred, to violence by sowing more violence, than we – ALL of the people of God, from you and I to those Christians who most viciously attack the rights of LGBT folks, Palestinians and others – CANNOT STAND. We cannot love God and hate our neighbors whom God created. It is simply impossible.
This is even more remarkable when we think about Mark 3 and Jesus’ family. While the two other Gospels tell the bit about sin and demons, only Mark tells us in the beginning and the end about Jesus’ Mother and Brothers. In fact, Matthew and Luke place this story in chapters 12 and 11 respectively, after Jesus has already been performing miracles and healing people for a while – and so the emphasis in those Gospels is on the healing and therefore on the stuff about demons. But Mark puts this story up front in chapter 3, immediately after Jesus chooses the disciples! So for Mark, this story is about the questions of “who are Jesus’ disciples? And “who are his friends” and “who are his family?”. Jesus’ twelve new disciples and his mother are outside this crowded house trying to get Jesus out of there for fear that he has actually lost his mind! As Bishop Glasspool pointed out, when someone tells him that his friends and family are outside, he retorts “who are my friends and family? Here they are! In this house! Those who follow God’s will are my friends and my family!”. In one swift (and frankly, sarcastic) move, Jesus turns the concept of family on its head! Mary and the new disciples, who completely misunderstand what Jesus is doing, are literally on the outs – outside the house, and the poor, the sick and those who have clamored to see Jesus are there on the inside! These, he says, are my family. It’s of course not the only time he turns this family idea upside-down, and in fact he does it often. Recall the Good Samaritan story which he concludes by asking which person had really been the neighbor to the dying man. And recall the words of Jesus in John 10, “no longer do I call you servants… but I have called you friends”.
And so we are called always to remember that if we are to be disciples of Jesus – if we are to be his family in the world, all that matters is that we serve him. All that matters is that we return hate, not with more hate, but with love – that we return judgment not with more judgment, but with love. All that matters is that instead of condemning others as devils, or sinners, or any other epithet we might come up with, that we do the hard work of loving everyone – EVERYONE – even when they might do nothing but hate us in return.
We are soon going out of this General Convention into a world fully prepared to call us devils and demons for doing the work of Christ in the world, and at the same time, we are going into a world full of people that are badly in need of love after being told that God hates them and they have no part in God’s kingdom. Our response to each is the same. Love. We are each going out of Salt Lake with new tools and skills to share the love of God with the world. And we’ll go out into that hurting world renewed, refreshed, and re-enlivened to share God’s love with every person we meet.
I’m so blessed and fortunate to represent the Episcopal Peace Fellowship in going out to share God’s love with a world so badly hurting from senseless violence at home and abroad.