Share with me and Isaiah, God's exclamation:
"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" (Isaiah 43:18-19)
I've heard Rev. Dr. Janie Spahr, a caring and deeply faithful minister in my church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), say many times that what she wanted for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians was the same voice and vote in the church as everyone else. After all, she says, they are created and loved by God just like everyone else. On Sunday, July 10th, this begins.
You see, this Sunday, a change to the ordination requirements in the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will go into effect that will allow for the ordination of faithful lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members who live openly and honestly about how God made them.
The whole point of the revised ordination requirements is this: Love.
God's love is not a new thing, of course. When asked what God's greatest commandment for us was, Jesus replied: Love. Love is Jesus' Truth about God that He lifted up, emphasized, and established through His words and actions in the world, including His death on the cross. From God's creation in Genesis -- where all was deemed good -- to the triumph of Christ in Revelation that gave hope to the violently oppressed Christians in the Roman Empire at that time, God's love streams through Scripture and our experience.
God's love, however, is not always ascendant in the church or in human experience. Scripture also teems with tribal violence, judgment and punishment -- again Revelation is a good example. In fact this dynamic of destruction sent Jesus to His death even as Jesus' resurrection stands as the ultimate promise that God's love will prevail.
Only a few centuries after Jesus, the church made judgment and punishment more important than love. This continued through the violence of the Crusades and the wars of the Reformation to the apotheosis of Christian domination, violence and destruction in the 20th century with its world wars and genocides.
However, from the beginning, and especially in the last century, many groups have carried the torch of God's love for all. I think of the colonial revolutionaries, the abolitionists, the suffragettes and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. I know you can think of others.
Right now, I am grateful for the faithful, courageous lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians who, through trials and adversity, have picked up the torch of God's love for all. They are leading the way in helping us all understand God's love in a new way.
Perhaps you see with me that this step in the PCUSA joins all kinds of other indications that the church and the world are on the brink of a new era in which -- alleluia! -- God's love for all is ascendant.
Two millennia of lifting up fear rather than love have been enough. On July 10, 2011, I plan to recommit myself to ensuring that the 21st century is known for marking God's love. May God's loving embrace be so established that the church of the third millennium after Christ writes in the Book of Life Jesus' message of His love for all.
That's what July 10th means to me. What does it mean to you?
Follow Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RevJanetEdwards