Sunday, August 31, 2008

Standing Inside the Gates

Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem…. For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.”

                        Psalm 122.2, 8

Hebrew Tribes

In Psalm 122, David defines Jerusalem as “where the tribes go… to praise the name of the LORD.” The Hebrew Tribes shared common ancestry but had their own patriarchs—each claiming one of Jacob’s twelve sons. They divided the land among themselves, some getting more or richer property than others. Inequities invariably triggered infighting and eventually coalitions were forged, resulting in two nations: Israel and Judah. Politics, suspicions, resentments, and every other imaginable conflict threatened their stability. Yet when they worshiped in Jerusalem, they put their differences aside; they were united by faith in the Living God of their fathers.

Christian Tribes

The tribal template also applies to modern Christians. We celebrate a common spiritual heritage, but we’re fragmented into (are you ready for this?) about 34,000 tribes. Sadly, our conflicts aren’t centered on property or politics. We fight over faith—the very bond that held the Hebrew tribes together.

One might hope a common fire exists to camp around. Then the Devil gets in the details. What wood makes the best fire? How hot should it be? Who gets to sit closest?  Do we put it in a pit or build a pile? Is it only for heat, or also for light and cooking? Who controls the fire--it can’t just burn untended! Some aren’t even sure it exists or why we need it. Before long, we’re fighting fire with fire. My fire is warmer, more welcoming, brighter, safer… ad nauseam.

Back to Jerusalem

It’s gone like this from the start, which GLBT and other disenfranchised believers should remember when returning to the church. Furthermore, many will exploit our reemergence as something else to squabble about. Let them. We aren’t coming back to Jerusalem to start arguments or prove points. We’re here to resume our walk with Jesus. Our purpose is praise, not pride. And as we reenter communities of faith, we join David in saying, “Peace be within you.”

Paul told the Corinthians, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ.” That’s our resolution, too. Some may protest our right to return. Others may concede it to their personal displeasure. Jesus never commissioned us to challenge anyone in self-defense. He commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves—adversaries included. His love unites us, even if we never agree on who “we” really are. His love is why we’re here after all, standing inside the gates.

The Damascus Gate, Jerusalem.

Postscript: “Jerusalem” Churches

In the past week, I’ve heard from pastors or parishioners from five “Jerusalem” churches that have flung their gates wide open to welcome GLBT and other ostracized Christians. One S-F reader, Leigh, wrote, “My partner and I have been part of this community for over 15 years! It is a wonderful place!” I resist identifying which church it is because I believe it’s true of them all.

If you’re seeking somewhere you can stand inside and in the vicinity of any of the gay-friendly churches listed here, I strongly encourage you to check it out. These lovely people have reached out to us without any solicitation. Their compassion and concern for our spiritual success earn their highest recommendation.

Metropolitan Community Church, Brisbane, Australia

New Song: A Disciples of Christ Faith Community, Kansas City, MO

The Parish of Saint Paul Episcopal, Newton Highlands, MA

Park Central Presbyterian, Syracuse, NY

Redeemer Lutheran Church, Neptune, NJ

(Tomorrow: Your People, My People)

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