Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Emerging Rainbow Church

A House of Prayer for ALL People

It seems as though we are a very minuscule, tiny corner in the world of faith. We are the ones who claim the blessing: "all the sacraments for all the baptized". We boldly announce to the world that we are "A House of Prayer for ALL People". We base this claim on biblical authority as well as on tradition, and reason. I have argued so in my first book, "Everything You Need to Know About Sex in Order to Get to Heaven".
Many take the opposite view focusing their arguments on Romans 1 and on several passages in Leviticus. I have dealt with these passages in depth in my book. But here's an interesting thing. When Jesus said that his house should be a "House of Prayer for all people", he didn't mention all the exceptions. Christians have argued that there were exceptions based on racial, ethnic, class, gender lines, and obvious to most...this goes conclusively and obviously for non heterosexuals.
The emerging Rainbow Church argues that when Jesus said that his church would be a "House of Prayer for all People", he meant ALL people. To Jesus there were no exceptions; certainly no exceptions of human invention such as race, ethnicity, class, gender or orientation. In fact Paul argues that once we are in Christ we are no longer Jew or Greek (or any other race/ethnicity), we are no longer slave or free (or anywhere else on the economic totem pole), we are no longer male or female (obviously you see a pattern emerging; that goes for orientation too!!!)
Thus we are becoming obedient to Scripture, the more we become ONE, the more we cultivate the emergence of the Rainbow Church. We may be tiny now, but God's Kingdom is at hand, just as Jesus said it was.

"A House of Prayer for All People", a biblical base.
The event is called the "Cleansing of the Temple" by biblical scholars. You can read it for yourself. It is the only event using physical force that we see in all four Gospels. You can read more in detail on a fine article in Wikipedia. Imagine if you will, King Jesus arrives at the Temple on a donkey. His retinue is every imaginable outcast, blind, maimed, deaf, the poor by the thousands, sinners of every sort and description, tax collectors and prostitutes and lets not forget the eunuchs who were very specifically excluded from the temple in Leviticus as were all the rest of the unsavory sorts that were always with Jesus.
He enters the Temple precincts. I've been there. There is a sizable area inside the Temple walls where hawkers of religious trinkets can sell their wares, flea market style. They can peddle pigeons, and other sacrificial items, for the observant folks of Judaism.
But most of the people Jesus had with him were excluded from the Holy Place by definition. We can see the conflict building throughout the Gospels. It reaches now a crescendo as he sees what he can no longer tolerate. Buying and selling on the very sacred ground that is dedicated to the Father, His Father.
Then comes the outburst. He overturns the tables, and makes a whip and chases all the traders in trinkets out of the place and manages to seal his fate. This remember is Palm Sunday. By Thursday evening, there is the Last Supper and the arrest of Jesus. The next day he is tried and crucified on charges of blasphemy.
I studied this passage with my parishioners on retreat some few years back and I asked that we study the passage this decisive event was based on. I was amazed at what I found and so were my parishioners. It is easy enough; just punch up the phrase in any biblical word search online. I use the Oremus Bible Browser. All the others will give you the same result in any and all translations.
Look at Isaiah 56. Read the whole chapter. Read it more than once. Notice that the prophet Isaiah is interested in justice as he often is. Notice that the prophet does NOT want the foreigner separated from the people of God. This is quite a challenge to a religious tradition that is based on the exclusive nature of purity. Then the prophet does not want to allow the eunuch to say that he is a "dry tree". Look at that very carefully.
In my earlier blog post on the Rainbow Marriage, I argued that the eunuch held an interesting place in the culture of the Ancient Near East. What makes Matthew 19 interesting is that Jesus refers to those born "that way". He is not talking about castrated males here, but people who were born without an interest in the opposite sex. You cannot escape the fact. Jesus makes his statements in the context of his teaching on marriage. Read Matthew 19:7-12 again. And he notes that his teaching is "difficult for many to accept".
Thus Isaiah is saying something that is difficult to accept. Foreigners and eunuchs are part of God's loving embrace. God wants justice for both. Consider how we treat foreigners and eunuchs.
So what are eunuchs anyway. Castrated males? How can they be "born that way"? Explain that to me. I'm waiting. It seems obvious to me that we're talking about folks who are not like heterosexuals and they were born not like heterosexuals. I've always known people who were "different". Some called them names.
Jesus calls it as he sees it. They were "born that way".
But Jesus didn't want to exclude foreigners or eunuchs from his Temple. Neither did he want lepers or outcasts of any sort to be excluded. He wanted his place of worship to be "A House of Prayer for ALL People". Moreover, he was willing to give his life for them; more correctly, Jesus wanted to give his life for ALL.
And so he did. And from that time his church has grown like topsy all over the world. Until it came to this one last group of outcasts. Finally there is one tiny, minuscule church that is willing to be obedient to Jesus.
He overturned those the tables of the Temple many years ago. The shock waves of that event reverberate down through the centuries, and yes through the millennia. The prophet Isaiah set the stage well before that. Then King Jesus gave his life so that his place of worship might one day become what he wanted to be all along; "A House of Prayer for ALL People".
Thus there is this Emerging Rainbow Church. It will build across denominational lines. Many Roman Catholics are very quietly finding ways to become part of this movement. Other Protestant denominations are struggling with the question.
For now, there is the Episcopal Church. The Anglican Communion and the Archbishop of Canterbury may set its sanctions against us. That is their prerogative. But we can do none other than embrace Jesus, because when Jesus stretched out his loving arms on the hard wood of the cross, he did that for EVERYONE!!!
And remember, God loves you, and so do I.
Fr. Paul

1 comment:

Wayne Rollins said...

Paul, I believe that we'll truly find ourselves open to others and to God when we stop looking for ways to see others as anything less than a child of God. Until then, there will always be those who seek to crucify rather than accept, using accepted reasoning as their foundation. I have one question. When we judge others, are we putting ourselves in the place of God, thereby committing (possibly) what Jesus called "the unforgivable sin"--blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? After all, what we're really saying is that God/Christ/Spirit cannot work through that person because of race, gender, physical/mental ability, sexuality, etc? Still working it out.