This past weekend I had the opportunity to take my Forward Together tour to Hope Church in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. Next week I’ll travel to Oneonta NY, followed by Wisconsin, and then my undergrad graduation, followed by four months of twenty-first century John Wesley style circuit riding via cars, planes, busses, and trains. I am continually reminded that our God surpasses all understanding and expectation. I thought I would travel around my home state of NY and see a California church or two this summer—I did not expect to travel to eight states and nearly 30 communities!
This hectic new reality which has become my life reminds me of the theme verse for the summer, Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.”
We, as followers of Jesus, believe in the “absurdity of faith” (a phrase from Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling). We live in this paradox: we are completely obedient to the will of God—even if that means sacrificing everything like Abraham was willing to do with Isaac—and yet we simultaneously have hope that God will provide far above what we could expect. We must believe in the absurd, be convicted by the things not yet seen—including a Church which celebrates LGBTQ+ people and our callings.
While at Hope Church, I had the opportunity to hear from other young people who are in the process of discerning callings—and some specifically feeling called to ordained ministry in the UMC. Many of these young people, like me, identify somewhere in the LGBTQ+ alphabet soup. If you’ve ever heard someone articulate their calling, you know it’s a powerful experience. As these young queer folks described their “burning bush moments” with me, I witnessed God’s continued presence with us—God is still at work! God is using all of us to be vessels for a time such as this, we just have to listen and then act boldly.
I mentioned to the congregation that one of my favorite sermons by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is “But if Not.” In these powerful 23 minutes, King used the action of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as a biblical example of civil disobedience. He said,
“There were those individuals in every age and every generation who were willing to say ‘I will be obedient to a higher law.’ I must be disobedient to a king in order to be obedient to THE KING.”
Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we are called to stand boldly in defiance of injustice, for we abide by a high law. These boys wouldn’t have made it into our bible if they had just decided to pack up shop and join other like-minded folk in a village outside the reach of Nebuchadnezzar. These boys were influential because they decided that truth must call out the injustices of power, that their God was calling them to boldly embody civil disobedience from within.
May we be like Amos and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; may we boldly speak truth to power and be obedient to a higher law. May we commit to join together through resources like Reconciling Ministries Network, to boldly remain and resist; to claim this ground as holy and all people as sacred—especially LGBTQ+ people and people of color. We are the Church, and we will go forward together into this unseen future believing in the absurd: that we can reclaim the Church as a vehicle for divine justice and love.