Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

A letter to those who do not support equal marriage.

Love. On the surface it seems easy – love one another (John 13.34), love your neighbour (Matthew 22.39) . But Jesus makes it clear that it is not just about loving people like ourselves, people of our own tribe or religion. He commands us to love “the other” – those outside the social order, those who are different from us. Even our enemy.  Not so easy.

Loving my LGBTQ brothers and sisters is easy for me, because it is easy to love my friends. But I am also called to love you, you who support some form of exclusion of people who identify as LGBTQ.  You who may, perhaps, admit them to communion or baptism, but draw the line at blessing their long-term, loving relationships with the sacrament of marriage. Yet I am to love both you and my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. Christ’s commandment to love one another is not easy.


Bleeding hearts on each side.

How do I love the preacher who uses complex theology in the pulpit to prove why the marriage of same gender couples will destroy the unity of the Church, when so many denominations already marry same-gender couples, and the Church still stands?

How do I love the writer who argues that equal marriage will damage the nuclear family, even though Jesus was born into a non-nuclear family? How do I love the theologian who argues that marriage is solely for procreation, when so many marriages are between people who will not, or cannot, have children?

It is hard to miss the underlying message that God does not love LGBTQ people quite as much as “normal” folk, that God – at least your God – would not consider same-gender unions as marriage because the couple or their “lifestyle” are somehow “wrong.” How does that hymn go? Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so… but maybe you think that doesn’t apply quite so much to LGBTQ folk.

And the great pain and suffering that your actions cause to my LGBTQ friends make it even harder for me to love you. How do I love that preacher when the gay teenager in the congregation goes home and attempts suicide because he does not feel loved by God – or at least by the God who was preached? How do I love that priest who gladly marries two divorced people who have both committed adultery, but balks at a committed lesbian couple who have been faithful to each other for 20 years? How do I love the pastor who counsels the parents of a newly-come-out gay teen as if the family has experienced a death?

How do I love people whose love of the Church and tradition seems to outweigh love for all the diversity of God’s children? I just don’t know how to love you, yet Christ’s commandment is clear: Love one another. I am commanded to love you even if it hurts. Even if it makes me weep.

So I stand before you, weeping, imploring you to join me in not being afraid to love. To join me in loving all of God’s people fully, and unconditionally – straight, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, celibate, married – and yes, in loving those who support equal marriage, and your friends who do not. Because this is what Jesus commanded, that we love one another. That we love above all else, above the Church, above religious law, above tradition. That we open our hearts and love courageously and with abandon. One of the definitions of love in the Webster dictionary is “to cherish or foster with divine love and mercy.” May we both be channels of that divine love and mercy.

Jesus never said loving would be easy. So I am called to love those who cause terrible hurt and harm to my LGBTQ friends, those who label them “less than,” who would deny them the sacrament of marriage and, if they could, maybe even the sacrament of baptism and the Eucharist. Jesus commands me to love you, whose words or actions may be the last straw that turns a gay man away from God, who may withhold a blessing from a lesbian couple raising their child in your church.

My heart is heavy. Jesus asks too much of me, to love you and everyone who holds your view. Perhaps you also feel that Jesus asks too much of you, to love me and my LGBTQ friends. I pray for grace and understanding for both of us.

Your hatred – for that is the opposite of love – your hatred eludes me. In seeking to understand I have come to recognize that I have likely had different experiences from you. My family had LGBTQ friends when the word “homosexual” was whispered with hushed tones, and being gay could cost you your job. I remember colleagues who did not have the courage to come out at work – one came out in his obituary, after he died of AIDS, another finally after she married the love of her life and could not hide the ring on her finger.   I wept with gay colleagues as together we read their hate mail – among them death threats justified by Christianity. In recent years I have been heartened to learn that scientific research has confirmed that being LGBTQ is not a lifestyle choice, nor caused by one’s upbringing, but is a matter of birth. It turns out God creates us straight or gay, fearfully and wonderfully made, right in our mother’s womb. You know that, right?

Perhaps you haven’t had the same experiences as me. Maybe you haven’t walked with a friend who is gay. Maybe you are truly afraid that our beloved Church will be broken if it marries two people of the same gender. That equal marriage will devalue your marriage. Maybe this is where I can love you, in trying to understand where you come from.

Because I think we have something in common, you and I. We are both commanded to love one another, both called to love the “other,” both called to love all of God’s children, to extend to them the full extent of God’s grace, whether LGBTQ or not, whether they support equal marriage, or not. So I am called to love you fully – and you are called to do the same of me – even if we do not understand each other.

May God be with us both.




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Street blocked with broken trees and ice

The aftermath of the ice storm in our neighbourhood.

On December 23, 2013 Toronto was in the aftermath of the Ice Storm.  Huge swaths of the city were without power.  But I had been visiting “Edith” in palliative care for a number of weeks and I was determined to visit her for Christmas.

I didn’t have power nor internet service at home, and last I had heard on the battery radio the subway was not running where I needed to go.  An hour cab ride later the sun had set by the time I arrived. The hospital was surrounded by darkness.  Inside the corridors were hushed and dim, the whole complex was running on backup power, the lonely corridors filled with the scent of institutional food and humanity…

I walk into Edith’s room – shared with two other people.  Only the emergency lights are on, and outside the window the city is dark as far as I can see.  The two other women in the room are asleep or unconscious – surrounded by loved ones keeping silent vigil.  A breathing machine roars and hisses in the corner pressing a dying grandmother to take one laboured breath after another.

Edith is sitting up and alert.  She greets me:  “You came!  No one else is coming because of some problem on the roads.”  I explain about the ice storm, the city-wide power outages, the trees toppled by the weight of the ice on every street.  Cut off from the news, she didn’t know about the storm. I water her plant, give her a Christmas card and settle in for a visit.  I ask what she remembers of the candlelight Christmas Eve services at her church.  We reminisce about the smell of the oil lamps and the music. Especially the music.

“Since you can’t get to church, shall I read from Luke?” I ask.  She nods.  I pull out last year’s Christmas Eve bulletin – which I had somehow found in my darkened home – and read Luke’s account of the nativity.  In a loud voice, over the roar and hiss of the breathing machine in the corner, I read about angels and shepherds and a newborn baby.

Edith is rapt, soaking up every word.  I can feel the other visitors in the room leaning forward, listening.  “Do not be afraid; I bring you good news of great joy for all people.”  The words have new meaning in this room where the patients are weeks or days or even hours away from leaving this life.

The room is focused on me and I feel a little self-conscious.    “Would you like me to sing a carol?” I ask Edith.

“Oh yes!” she replies, her eyes gleaming with delight.

Summoning my best and loudest voice, channeling my meager music training, I sing a verse of Silent Night over the sound of the roaring, hissing breathing machine.

Edith mouths the words with me.  Her eyes shine.  A nurse changing a bed behind a curtain joins softly in the singing.

I launch into Hark the Herald Angels Sing.  The nurse comes out from behind the curtain and sings with me.

As I start O Come All Ye Faithful  two more nurses join in, singing from the doorway, and the visitors sitting with their dying grandmother sing too.  At that moment it seems that all the company of heaven is in that palliative care room.

It turns out that was Christmas for Edith.  No-one else managed to get through the ice clogged roads to visit her.  And there was no candlelit Christmas Eve service at her church either – the power was out.

Edith fell asleep in God’s arms a month later and passed into what awaits us on the other side of death.  I think she is singing with choirs of angels this Christmas. Tonight I will remember that precious night in the darkened hospital room as I sing Silent Night.


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