Saturday, February 01, 2014

Homophobia Politics & Reconciliation

Homophobia & Politics

The old man took the Child in his arms and said "Now I can depart in peace according to your word, for with my own eyes I have seen the salvation of God which you have prepared before the face of ALL people. For you are a Light to the Nations and the Glory of your own people". 
The old woman Anna stayed in the temple day after day, night after night praising God. It was all she could do to satisfy her soul after the loss of her husband. Ah, but when she saw the Child her soul sang in exultation because all who looked to this Child would see the salvation of God. ~Luke 2:22-40
The old woman.
The old man.
The Child.
The Feast Day of the Presentation; February 2. What a wonderful Feast Day, also known as Candlemas for it was on this day that all the candles used in the previous year were melted down in preparation for Easter. It was a hopeful day after a long winter. It was a sign that Spring would come. It was, as with so much of our faith, the heart of hope.
It has been a long hard winter for many, but now the days are getting noticeably longer. Punxsutawney Phil, the Pennsylvania groundhog, will come out of his hole to see his shadow or not. Poor thing has to compete for attention with the Superbowl.
But we’ve long since given up trying to compete. We are the church. We proclaim the Gospel. It is and always has been, there for the taking. Or if you prefer, you may ignore the whole thing.  
But when that day comes and it always does, when the loss of something  or someone dear to us becomes inevitable, all that the world can see is the bad news. There is just the darkness of oblivion for so many.
The chasm between those with faith and those without is wide and almost impossible to breach. Even Thomas Aquinas, arguably one of the greatest of all theologians, said; “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” ~Thomas Aquinas

But the Gospel sees more, believes more and hopes much more than so many in our contemporary world see, believe, or hope for. Our lives are not set in a night of gloom but amid the splendors of God’s everlasting day. We saw it initially in our baptism when all our sins were washed away. It was then that we were buried with Christ in a death like his in order that we may be raised with him in a life like his. For as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be made alive. ~I Corinthians 15. These words have become a part of us. The Blessed Apostle Paul gave them to us long ago and it is now that we work to embrace them in our lives. For it is clear to us that God’s everlasting day shines not just when we are summoned to our final reward, it shines in the midst of the lives we live even now. 
These are so much more than words to us who walk the King’s Highway. Like Simeon and Anna it is our joy to dwell in the household of God. For we are persuaded that nothing can separate us from the love of God. We know that we are forgiven, thus we forgive and that the ministry we have been given is the ministry of reconciliation. This is our lifetime work. And that work begins every day of our lives.
Anglican Homophobia
The challenges we face within our own Anglican Communion are significant. New laws are being passed in both Nigeria and Uganda to criminalize homosexual behavior. The Anglican Churches in both nations embrace these new laws. It took a while but the Archbishops of both York and Canterbury have made clear that such persecution of minorities is not consistent with the mind of Christ or of this Church. 

The American Church went on record about this matter some time ago. Uganda and Nigeria have formally broken ties with us over the question of our stand on inclusivity in both the Episcopal Church in the United States, and the Anglican Church in Canada. 
See how much there is to be reconciled. In the meantime, we in the west have always found it necessary to grant a fair amount of cultural latitude to the churches in Africa over matters of family life there. The matter of bigamy for instance in the churches of Africa is still not fully resolved.Where is the theological and pastoral reciprocity now? It is interesting to see how selective we are when it comes to the invocation of Biblical authority.
Don’t Drink the Water!

Nationally the great divide between us continues. The role of government in our public life is a matter of intense controversy. Even with the poisoning of the drinking water in West Virginia, any regulation of either the coal or the chemical industry is a hotly contested matter, even in the wake of the disaster. And just take a good look at Atlanta to see whether the public safety is at stake when it comes to anemic governmental response when dealing with disaster.  Whether of human or natural origin the public safety must be protected.
We are divided in so many matters. The Gospel requires much more of us than merely to express our own opinions. We are called to search diligently and work tirelessly for a pathway to reconciliation of all who are divided one against another. Thus we come back to the ministry of reconciliation which has been given us. Listen to these words from the Apostle Paul;
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us." ~2 Corinthians 5:16-18

These words are a challenge to us when it comes to their application whether in our church or in our political life. When it comes to loving God, that’s easy, but when it comes to loving one another, things do seem to get bogged down.

Just because peace, justice and reconciliation are difficult shall never mean that we give up, certainly not if we seek to say we love God. The peace talks over the civil war in Syria are a case in point. People are dying. People are suffering. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said; “This is a matter of serious urgency”. 

It is tempting to throw your hands up in the air; what’s the use? I often wondered that about peace prospects in Ireland, but the Good Friday accords have now held, more or less, since April 10, 1998. With God much is possible.

Jesus had to give his life for the sins of the whole world. So did all of his immediate apostolic following. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that for the rest of us, but the ministry of reconciliation is the redemptive way of dedicating our lives for the sake of the Peace of the World.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Fr Paul

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