Saturday, March 15, 2014
LGBTQ Irish Need Not Apply
Some Irish Need Not Apply
There will be a parade in South Boston Monday and I will not be there. Neither will the Mayor of Boston. And one of the primary sponsors of the parade, the Boston Beer Company, maker of Sam Adams brand of brew, has withdrawn its support. This is all because the organizers of the parade have specifically excluded one particular group of people from marching in the parade.
I do not think this would please Patrick of Ireland one bit. We do not know all that much about Patrick but what we do know is that he was sold into slavery by Irish slave traders when he was a young man. We know that he was not much of a Christian in his youth. His dad had been a deacon, but he was more or less “ho hum” about the faith. But there was something about being in slavery for six years in France that brought him to his knees. He had a vision of a ship one night that beckoned to him to come home. He escaped his master and after a series of minor miracles, walked two hundred miles to freedom and fast talked his way onto a ship bound for Britain. There he studied the faith of the church and again had a vision, some say of the Bishop of Rouen, a sainted fellow by the name of Victricius, and the vision invited him to Ireland and become the Apostle to the Celts.
It was not an easy task for the foreign born Patrick, probably a Welshman or a Scot, to bring the Gospel to a stiff necked and stubborn lot which those Irish surely are, I’m here to tell you.
But, he was a tireless builder of the church. Remember these Celtic Christians built their communities on the reality of human need and human suffering. As they built their monasteries their message was consistent; if someone you love is sick or dying, bring them to us and we will take care of them. If you are hungry, come to us and we will feed you. If you and your children want to learn, we are among the best schooled scholars in Europe, come here. If you are weary and dreary with life, come to us and we will cheer you with good brew, good stories, and much mirth. If you hunger for God, come to us, where you may be baptized and born anew to a living Gospel life, and live with Jesus.
He was an extraordinary man of faith, and yes, I believe he did drive the snakes out of Erin. But the serpents that he drove away were not of the sort that crawled about on the ground but a more evil and pernicious sort. The snakes Patrick drove out of Ireland were the slave traders who worked under the military might of a man known by the name of Coroticus. It is our good fortune to have Patrick’s letter to Coroticus to this day. We also have his so called “Confessions” or the story of how he came to Christ.
He rid Ireland of the slave trade, but it is the way he did it that is extraordinary. He wrote an open letter to Coroticus and delivered copies of his letter to all his soldiers, informing him that, under his authority as Bishop of Ireland, he is excommunicated. Worse still, if any of his followers and soldiers did not repent and turn from their evil ways, they too would suffer the same fate.
Here, let me read a brief snippet of his vivid, lively, and salty wit;
“I myself have composed and written these words with my own hand, so that they can be given and handed over, then sent swiftly to the soldiers of Coroticus. I am not addressing my own people, nor my fellow citizens, but those who are now become citizens of demons by reason of their evil works. They have chosen, by their hostile deeds, to live in death; and behave like apostates, bloody men who have steeped themselves in the blood of innocent Christians. The very same people I have begotten for God; their number beyond count, I myself confirmed them in Christ.
“The very next day after my new converts, dressed all in white, were anointed with chrism, even as it was still gleaming upon their foreheads, they were cruelly cut down and killed by the swords of these same devilish men.
“Because of all this, I am at a loss to know whether to weep more for those they killed or those that are captured: or indeed for these men themselves whom the devil has taken fast for his slaves. In truth, they will bind themselves alongside him in the pains of the everlasting pit: for "he who sins is a slave already" and is to be called "son of the devil." Jn. 8:34, 44 (O.L.)
“Because of this, let every God-fearing man mark well that to me they are outcasts: cast out also by Christ my God, whose ambassador I am. Patricides, they are, yes and fratricides, no better than ravening wolves devouring God's own people like a loaf of bread. Exactly as it says: "the wicked have scattered your law, 0 God," which in these latter days he had planted in Ireland with so much hope and goodness.” ~From the letter to Coroticus.
We do not know exactly what happened then, but we do know that Patrick and the Christian Church fought valiantly against the slave trade in Ireland long before that became fashionable.
This little sketch of Patrick’s life is seldom referenced. But it is important, because it seems to me that when Patrick baptized his thousands, I find it hard to believe that he set out to exclude anyone from the grace and mercy of the Gospel of Christ.
As the words of John’s Gospel today make abundantly clear,"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."
If Nicodemus wanted to know what it would take to gain eternal life, if Coroticus, and his soldiers may have wanted to know, or if the organizers of the St. Patrick’s Day parade or if you and I may want to know, we must be born anew, born again in the Spirit of the Compassionate heart of Christ. This is the same Christ who knew no outcasts, for to him all were welcome within his saving embrace. The blind, the lame, the poor, alike as well as the healthy and the wealthy, for to Jesus we are all one people in God.
No parade for me, tomorrow. Perhaps instead, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from when my help cometh.” ~Psalm 121. I am a member of the Mount Washington Weather Observatory. I often check the MWOB website, what wonderful photographs. How I love to check the weather conditions up on the mountain. No matter how bad the weather is here, it is worse up there. On Thursday afternoon at 4pm, it was chilly, cold and windy here, oh, but up on the Mountain it was -13F with sustained winds out of the NW at 70mph, rendering a wind chill of -51F. Now that’s cold. The people native to the area called Mount Washington Agiocochook, or "Home of the Great Spirit. It is born into us to look up into the hills, for it is from the heights that the Great Spirit of God is made known to us. We look up!
We live by the Faith of Abraham. When God said to Abraham, look up to the stars of heaven and count them if you can, so shall your descendants be, or count the grains of sand upon the earth if you can, all the nations on earth shall be blessed in you.
God did not say...make sure you pick out the black ones, or the poor ones, or the female ones, or the LGBTQ ones. God said, look to the stars of heaven and stand in awe and wonder. Look and count them if you will. They are all God’s creation, so are we.
Many years ago, in the wake of the great migration during the potato famine there were those who posted signs in their workplace windows that said; “Irish need not apply”, for shame. Now the organizers of tomorrow’s parade have placed a figurative sign in South Boston’s window that says “Some Irish need not apply, you know who”, for shame!
Today’s collect says it is God whose Glory is always to have mercy. Yes, mercy,
Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.