The General Convention of the Episcopal Church is a Fabulous Fiesta! The entire extravaganza is Eucharistic! I was there in Minneapolis when we elected Gene Robinson the first openly partnered gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. I was there again in Columbus when we elected Katharine Jefferts Schori our first woman as Presiding Bishop. How I'd love to be there again for the Festivities!
As many of you will know, I am an outspoken advocate of many things. Among them I believe we Episcopalians are on the right track with regard to Marriage Equality and Inclusivity. Over the course of my own lifetime I have been part of the struggle for Human Rights of all sorts; A struggle for the cessation of belligerent Foreign Policy, Civil Rights, , Gender Equality, and now the embrace of all without regard to Sexual Orientation. Along the way, I've noticed the poor, the homeless, the sick and those in prison. It seems Jesus noticed them too.
The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth
"When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ "
The following is an attempt to contextualize the question.
Jesus got that right a long time ago. He hoped we might also get it. The "it" is this; "Love one another".
The Biblical notion of The Body of Christ involves the People of God. Paul puts it well
One Body with Many Members~1Corinthians 12
All of which leads me to a Celebration of a Rainbow Eucharist. As we discover the inevitability of God's Love embracing all of humanity in ever widening circles of inclusion, we will need a way of Celebrating God's Love. This inevitability has been there all along.
God Is Love~1 John 4
I believe there is a way to Celebrate God's Universal and Catholic Love for humanity. And the following is just one way. It comes from an ancient tradition which began when Jesus fed the multitudes with his love and compassion on the hillsides of Galilee.
There was probably music. Large crowds respond well to music as they do at rock concerts for instance. Jesus loved to be with folks, young and old, rich and poor, and had a special bias for the outcast. There were stories and teachings and a picnic of sorts.
If I were to teach folks of the God's inclusive Messianic Banquet, I would begin with this magnificent passage from Isaiah.
The Covenant Extended to All Who Obey
Maintain justice, and do what is right,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.
Happy is the mortal who does this,
the one who holds it fast,
who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it,
and refrains from doing any evil.
Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say,
‘The Lord will surely separate me from his people’;
and do not let the eunuch say,
‘I am just a dry tree.’
For thus says the Lord:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
I will give, in my house and within my walls,
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.
And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,
and hold fast my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.
Thus says the Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them
besides those already gathered."
Notice how this passage on Justice includes foreigners and eunuchs. I like that because these folks were pushed away from the worship of the Temple. Foreigners have always been resented by "Chosen" folks. Americans have an edge on them about illegal aliens. And note too those whose sexual identity challenges the norm. Many (including me) feel that the word "eunuch" suggests more than just "damaged" folks. Especially when "born that way" these folks can easily be understood to be of a different "orientation" than heterosexuals. And even more interesting is that God wishes to gather "others" to the house of prayer beyond foreigners and eunuchs. There will always be "others" to gather to God's Holy House of Prayer.
You can imagine my amazement when I connected this passage with Christ's Cleansing of the Temple. The signature moment of Jesus' life; the moment that led directly to his crucifixion, was based on this extraordinary manifesto of freedom as God gave it to the prophet to see. In all four Gospels the Cleansing of the Temple is a signature moment and in the Synoptics this moment in Isaiah is cited as the authority for Jesus doing what he did; "My house shall be a house of prayer for all people". This generosity of spirit led to execution. That is an icy reminder of the danger of preaching and doing Gospel work and the "religious" response to that very proclamation!
The Second Story I would tell about the Messianic Banquet for Marriage Equality would be Paul's glorious vision of Christ's Body as one without regard to the following barriers;
"As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."
It is clear to me that when Paul says "Jew or Greek" he doesn't mean Jew or Greek alone, but any race or ethnicity. Likewise, when Paul says "slave or free" he also means rich or poor and of any other economic station in life. And thus when Paul says "male and female" he is not indicating that sexual identity is exclusive to those two options but also to the whole gamut of human orientation, especially since we know from Isaiah and Jesus that the eunuch is included in God's great plan of salvation.
How do we know that?
Clearly from the Third Story of the Great Messianic Banquet would be the teaching of Jesus around Marriage. Jesus figures significantly in Biblical Literature as the Bridegroom of the Church (Revelation 19 etc.) Then when asked about the question of divorce Jesus makes it clear that he is searching the human heart for the faithfulness we promise to one another in the first place. Thus he teaches the following;
Teaching about Marriage and Divorce
Faithful lifelong monogamous marriage is the ideal. Divorce is merely a creature of the hardness of the human heart. It happens.
But what Jesus then says is fascinating. When the disciples recoiled from Jesus' impossibly strict teaching, he then goes on to say, "Not everyone can accept this teaching". And just when we begin thinking he is talking about marriage, he veers off to talking about eunuchs.
But let me suggest to you that Jesus is not veering off from his teachings about marriage. In fact he is becoming clearly inclusive of marriage not just for "men and women" but for eunuchs as well. Take that as you will, but when there are those who have "been so from birth", there seems to be a suggestion that there are people who God made "that way".
Even Jesus knew that this would be a hard sell. He knew right then and there that there would be those who could not "accept this teaching". In fact he knew all to well, that as people checked the context of his teaching that his church would be "A House of Prayer for All People", that there would be those who could find this teaching difficult to accept.
And as Isaiah noted so would Jesus; there are other sheep that he must gather.
This, if it were up to me we would have a wonderful banquet. I might prefer a fine Italian spread, must like my wife's family is famous for. But my family was famous for grand festivals around our table too. And everyone was there; including my gay uncle, my divorced dad, and my mom who had her abortion. We'd laugh and cry and fight like cats and dogs and my grandmother pleaded with us not to talk about Politics or Religion. But my uncle rightly observed; what else is there to talk about?
In this way we would dwell with God and one another in this life. It is fun to do so now. I would love to do so for ever at the Mountain of God. Isn't that funny! That's exactly what God promised!
The Messianic Banquet~Isaiah 25"On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain."