Sunday, November 1, 2020

Sunday Sermon

 November 1, 2020

All Saints/All Souls Sunday

(Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; Matthew 5:1-12)

All Saints. All Hallows Day. A Christian solemnity celebrated in honor of all the saints, known and unknown. The liturgical celebration begins at Vespers on the evening of 31 October, All Hallows' Eve (All Saints' Eve), and ends at the close of 1 November. In Catholic theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven – known and unknown (or to say known only to God).

One would need to be a saint, sometimes, to be able to tolerate life today. For all of our advances - social, political, medical, theological and otherwise - we still seem to have the same problems. Problems that saints before us fought, sometimes with their very lives, to ease or eliminate. Yet, we always seem to come full circle.

With the pending election, political wars are flowing in all directions. Many were up in arms about the latest Supreme court nominee, and with good reason. Even the Supreme Court Justices, apart from one, did not attend the swearing in of the new justice. That speaks volumes. The potential changes to abortion, same-sex marriages, health care for all, are especially heightened and divisive.

And during this period, I have been asked on more than a couple of occasions about the statement from Pope Francis that was recently revealed in a documentary of him. I found it interesting timing, given the Supreme Court rhetoric having one of those topics being the same regarding what some are up in arms about over the Pope’s alleged statement. Given I have been asked on multiple occasions the past couple of weeks, I felt maybe it was time to have a little sermon on the topic. I am sure I will get some nasty Facebook comments, but c’est la vie!

The alleged statement by Pope Francis, regarding civil unions for gays and lesbians, in which he says, “What we ought to have is a civil Union law, that way they are legally covered.” Of course, there are multiple conservative priests and bishops and laity out there who are already condemning this like they do some of the other things that this present Pope has been saying. Be that as it may, it is certainly a different direction than any previous pope.

The interesting thing for the statement he made, is if you really listen to what he said, it really was kind of a safe statement. Reason I say “safe” is because he is stating civil union which is nothing more than a governmental law. He is not talking about anything from the church in this statement. He is not speaking of doctrine change. (Though it will force discussion on it.) So, we have people in church who are up in arms over statement he was making about civil law. Not about church law. He has not changed doctrine.

Well, we are not Roman Catholic, so I really do not care if they do not change, even if I think they should.

The problem here I think is something that is not going to go away any time soon; although it would seem that we are making progress. Yet if all these nightmare stories that people are saying about the political issue with the Supreme Court, in regard to a potential challenge to same sex marriages and what have you, I suppose there is some reason for the concern.

The Roman Catholic Church has frequently stated that homosexuality is disordered. This is not overly striking. We know the church is slow to change. It is like a large oil tanker at sea – it takes time to shift course (though they have not even turned the wheel). Although, it is amazing that given the American Psychiatric Association removed it as a mental disease back in the 70’s.

Now, to answer the repeated question I have been asked since the reveal of the Pope’s alleged statement. Let me say this mostly for those people who read my sermons on Facebook, not so much here at the parish, because most people here who come every Sunday already know what our church's stance is on those of the LGBTQ community.

We do not view anyone with the same sex attraction any differently than we do someone who is heterosexual. Our church has never really had any firm stance on the topic with the exception that they are simply accepted! Our church does not treat them, or teach about them, any differently than we do about anyone else. We will always welcome people of the LGBTQ community.

I think it is abhorrent, especially in this day and age, that we still have this issue. To refer to someone as “disordered” or having an “unnatural” inclination is quite sinful, in my opinion. These people no more wake up in the morning and suddenly decide to be same sex attracted or transgendered than anyone else in the world. It is ludicrous to think they would, given the negative stigma they receive from prejudicial and discriminatory people.

We insult God by insisting on the notion, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” or that the “natural order is to procreate.” Obviously, the time of Adam and Eve is far different from our current time. Let us be clear; the story of Adam and Eve was not written as a ‘sex-ed’ class! It is merely the story of God creating our existence. Sure, He wanted us to populate the earth, but to insist sex between two parties must be open to procreation is an insult to God’s infinite wisdom and omnipotence! Do we really to need to “populate” the earth currently?! Not hardly. Some areas are overpopulated. Not to mention that His original design got a little off track after the forbidden fruit episode!

It is repugnant to listen to the religious right call same-sex couples as “objectively immoral relationships.” Let us be clear, sex trafficking, prostitution, or promiscuity may be immoral, but loving committed relationships are not.

Further still, many will use various passages to claim that LGBTQ people are going against Sacred Scripture. Although, I will not enumerate them all, as I am sure many have heard them ad nauseam, but I can gladly follow-up with passages for those who really want them. However, when it comes to this, there appears to be a problem with interpretation, theology and context, to name a few. Many of the passages used are done so in a prejudiced manner without doing some research and listening to other very valid arguments that tend to make the passages questionable to downright misinterpreted. I will explore merely one example.

In the 16th chapter of the prophet Ezekiel, The Lord says to the city of Jerusalem, “Now look at the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were proud, sated with food, complacent in prosperity. They did not give any help to the poor and needy. Instead, they became arrogant and committed abominations before me; then, as you have seen, I removed them.”

This is not the spiritual inventory that many of us would expect. Ezekiel does not even mention the specific nature of Sodom’s sexual sin. Sodom’s fate was determined before the incident with the men and the angels!

Modern scholarship, particularly in Judaism and certain branches of Christianity, has proposed that it is the inhabitants’ lack of hospitality, not their homosexuality, that gives offence to God. According to this view, the mob’s demands to rape the angelic guests reveals their deep-seated violence and inhospitality and is meant to stand in striking contrast to the gracious hospitality given by both Abraham and Lot to those same strangers. To further this claim, some cite the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:14–15:

“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”

Here, Christ is implying that the grave sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, and of any towns that refuse His disciples, is that of inhospitality. Additionally, Ezekiel 16:49 mentions the inhabitants’ refusal to care for the poor despite their prosperity, which is taken as further evidence that homosexuality is not the cause of their damnation. If it were about homosexuality, surely Jesus would have made that clear – or certainly the writers of the Gospels would have. We all know that Jesus was certainly not bashful; He was more than forthright about anything He felt was a sin and we needed to change, and yet an issue that so many think has been condemned by God, was nowhere spoken by Jesus.

A final thought. I want to ask everyone here present today this question: Does God make mistakes? It is a simple question. You need not look at me strange. It is a valid question. How about, is a child born with Down Syndrome God’s mistake? How about a still birth?

Okay, now if we do not blame God for these things and we love and cherish these babies who become adults, should we blame God for LGBTQ people? Medical and psychiatric science has along ago determined that same-sex attractions are already present at birth. (Of course, given our current leader of our country and some of his followers seem to think they are smarter than the scientists, I suspect some will not agree with this logic!) If they are born this way, and it is supposedly “intrinsically disordered,” as many clergy think, then God must make mistakes! Right? Wrong!

No, all LGBTQ people are as equally loved by God as anyone else. It is not a “tendency,” or a “condition,” or an “inclination.” No one in their right mind, given the horrible treatment some churches dish out toward them, would choose to be so. That is what “tendency,” or a “condition,” or an “inclination,” implies. They do not choose to live this way; they choose to accept who they were born as. They do not wake up and suddenly feel this way any more than anyone else.

Pass this along – literally everyone – pass this along – our denomination does not and will not discriminate or ostracize any LGBTQ person. We may use an older traditional form of worship service (that I think is magnificent when you truly focus mystically during it), but we have very progressive understandings and believe in the radical love of Jesus! We may speak of “sexual” sins but being LGBTQ and in loving relationships is not one of those sins. It is not a sin at all. If anyone in this community feels their church looks down on them, treats them like pariah, will not baptize their children, will not officiate at their wedding, or whatever aspect that their church does not treat them as equal to everyone else, you tell them Archbishop Robert said they are welcome here, we will do those things for them and to join us! Amen. Praise the Lord! Let us pray!

Let us pray.

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us how as Christians we should live our lives. We pray for the insight to listen to his words and in our own lives to be patient, generous, forgiving, compassionate and non-judgmental. We pray also that we love our enemies, do good to those who hate us and bless those who curse us.  We pray to the Lord.

On today, the Feast of All Saints, we remember those who have lived their lives in the footsteps of our Savior, Jesus Christ and we pray that through following their example, we ourselves may also gain the rewards which the Lord has bestowed on them. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for all who have gone before us in faith, especially those of our own families and of this parish that they may stand with the saints before the throne of the Lamb. We pray to the Lord.

We pray to our merciful God, that when we ourselves come before him in judgement, we too may be the recipients of his infinite love and be accepted by Him into glory with all his holy saints. We pray to the Lord.

That our Lord will show us how to help people see His face and we be led to pray for those whom need our prayers. We pray to the Lord.

That we be led to the ones our Lord wants us to reach, that we be shown how our church can better serve God and to organize ourselves to serve Him always and that we be allowed to be a part of what He desires to do next. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for health workers throughout the world and particularly in our own country, who at great personal risk and sacrifice are attending to the needs of victims of this devastating global pandemic. We pray that the Lord bless them with safety in their work and reward their personal sacrifices with success in their labors. We pray to the Lord.

For those on our parish prayer list, that they may receive swift answers to their needs and that they may find consolation through Christ’s healing presence. We pray to the Lord.

We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.

Eternal God, there is a prayer that goes like this, “From the cowardice that dares not face new truth, from the laziness that is contented with half-truth, from the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth, Good Lord, deliver us.”  Eternal God we indeed ask You to deliver us from our unwillingness to wake up to Your truth and accept that sometimes our doctrine is wrong and needs Your Holy Spirit to breathe new life into old beliefs. We ask Your blessing on all LGBTQ people throughout Your creation. May they feel Your love and grace in their hearts and may all Your people treat them as complete equals in all facets of life.

Loving God, You surround us in a warm embrace, and in Your love teach us how to love others. In Your Spirit, we ask for guidance and remind us always of Your compassion for all humankind. Help us to keep our eyes and our lives focused on our perfect guide in Jesus Christ. Enable us to follow the teachings of Jesus above our own way and will.

Help us, too, loving God, to work for growth in Your kingdom. Sometimes it is difficult to speak a word of hope and help to those in need. With the encouragement of your Spirit, may we be faithful builders of Your eternal kingdom.

Lastly Dear Father, as we prepare for the national & local elections, in the midst of a global pandemic, may our political engagement be guided by Your Spirit. We thank you for the opportunity to have a voice in the way our government runs, while there are still countries in which peoples are not given this right. During this time of debate, diffusion, and decision-making, please have Your sovereign hand over this country. Please keep our country healthy during this season. Give us the peace that passes understanding about the vote, and the outcome. You change the times and the seasons, so You are in control of this election, we ask that our nation would see You in it. We ask all these things through Christ our Lord. Amen.

God Love You +++

++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor – St. Francis Chapel

San Diego, CA

We are beggars – As the epidemic continues (and even increases again) we continue to need your help. The virus keeps people away and thus donations are down, and bills pile up! Please helps, if you can, to keep our ministry alive and vibrant so that there is a place for the those needing respite from a troubled world! God Bless You +++