This is a sermon from my Community of Grace days. I think my sermon writing is a lot better than it was back then, but the essence of the sermon is still prescient.
“Three Beeps Means ‘I Love You’”
January 23, 2005
Community of Grace Christian Church
St. Paul, MN
I’m going to break tradition here in that I am using a text that is appointed for next week. However, since we are a bimonthly church, I think that’s okay and I think this text is timely-I didn’t want to miss the chance of preaching on it.
A year ago, next month, my best friend Erik and I moved into a home we purchased together. It was a heady time. Neither of us could believe that we were buying a home. We were surprised that any bank would even loan us $100,000-plus to buy a home. We moved in and got situated in our new surroundings in North Minneapolis. One day, I noticed this stocky woman come out of a house across the alley and into her Subaru wagon. Now I know stereotypes are a bad thing, but I wondered if she was a lesbian. When I saw the equal sign bumper sticker on the Subaru, I knew.
It wasn’t long after that Erik and I met Cathy and Ann. They had been a couple for nearly a decade and live in a charming house across the alley. We’ve helped them clean their gutters and they have watched after our cats. When I was unemployed last year, Cathy let me know of a few job openings at the community college where she works.
One day, Erik and I were coming home from an event and Cathy and Ann called us over. They told us they have a house warming present. We noticed it was the present was moving. And it had fur. Ann has a habit of befriending the many stray cats in our neighborhood, and that morning a little girl gave her this kitten who some boys were planning to kill. So, being softies and all, Erik and I took this cat, our fifth, into our home. Henrietta can be a terror, but we are thankful that she has a home where she is safe, and we thank Ann for her kindness to this creature.
As I prepare to leave for work in the morning, I’m always greeted by the sound of a car horn. Cathy leaves around the same time I do and as she pulls the Subaru out of the garage and then goes forwards, she beeps the horn and heads down the alley. Cathy commented that the beeps were her way of telling Ann that she loves her.
The text today, is a very familiar text to me and it might be to you. What does the Lord, but to do justice, love kindness and to walk humbly with your God? The text resonates for me because of several news interviews lately. As you may have well known, people are interested in “moral values” and how the influenced the last presidential election. Many in the media have taken to interviewing various religious figures mostly from what is called the religious Right. When asked what is the most important issue, most of them say something akin to protecting marriage, meaning making sure no same sex couple could every marry or even have anything resembling a marriage. Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, said as late as this Wednesday, that “there is no more important issue for the president’s second term than the preservation of marriage.”
In a recent USA Today poll, banning same sex marriage came in dead last in issues that Americans care about. Health care, the deficit, poverty and the environment were far ahead.
Does there seem to be a disconnect here?
Those who are pushing for banning gay marriage believe that if we allow gays to enter into this relationship, God will destroy American society for its sin. In the Bible, God does destroy nations for not following God’s way, but if you look a bit closer, its not because they allowed to women in Minneapolis to get hitched. Sodom and Gomorah? They were destroyed for not showing hospitality to strangers. Egypt? For enslaving the Israelites. Israel itself? For not caring for the poor and the widow. Nowhere in the Bible does God punish a nation for letting Adam and Steve marry.
The text in Micah talks about how Israel has strayed away from God. And you can see Israel asking for how to get back on God’s good side. Israel wonders if it should give a proper animal sacrifice or maybe offer up their firstborn. Maybe if we do something religious, then we will be right with God. God then answers that what God desires is that people be right with others, be kind and live a humble life before God.
Humillity seems to be a theme in the texts today. In the Gospel, see Jesus saying that it is the “down and out” who are the ones who are blessed by God, not the righteous ones. And in First Corinthians Paul says that it is the foolish in the world that shame the wise and not the other way around.
Do you see a theme here? As followers of Jesus, we are called to live lives of humility and we are to live for others. The values that we encounter here are ones of compassion and justice to the poor, nothing is said about hating those who are different.
I’m not here to bash the Religious Right. Jesus calls us to love everyone including those who don’t love us back. But I do believe that they have misunderstood the Christian message. If they understood it, they would not see a couple, where one beeps her car horn to the woman of her life as a threat to society. They would not fashion laws that would write discrimination into our state and federal constitutions, and reinforce laws that prevent gay couples from seeing one another in the hospital or as it is in some states, from adopting children that nobody wants. If they understood the Christian message, they would talk more about ways to help the poor and less about how gays will threaten Western civilization.
So what can we do? Well, as Christians who do understand that Christ came to set us free to serve each other instead of ourselves, we need to be vocal about what values matter. We need to be vocal that discrimination is not a Christian value, but compassion, mercy and humility are. We need to remind people that God is concerned about the poor, about the outcast, the sick, God’s creation and not about two guys holding hands. We need to be evangelists for justice.
We not all agree how to achieve justice. Liberals and conservatives have differing opinions on this. Where we agree is that God has called us time and again in God’s word to do justice, and that we must do.
I want to end with a man I’ve met recently. Shortly after the election, I met a man named Denny. He’s in his early sixties and I found out he has a gay son. He has decided to make it his life’s aim to change the hearts and minds of people to become more accepting of gays and lesbians. He’s doing this a person at a time. He will constantly pester people (in a nice way) to tell them that gays are not a threat. And it has worked. People who were virulently homophobic are starting to see another viewpoint. Things are changing, one person at a time.
So, go out into the world and proclaim loudly that we are followers of Christ who believe in justice, kindness and compassion. Let us be fools for Christ and let us do what the Lord requires. Amen.