Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Place to Pray

I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place…. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.

                        Jeremiah 29.10, 12

Coming to Us

These promises bracket God’s plan to end Israel’s exile in Babylon discussed in yesterday’s post. We saw the impact our restoration can have where we worship and live. Now we see personal benefits we gain from coming home.

It begins with God’s return to us. This means He sees where we are. He knows many of us are cut off from our faith. He recognizes compromises we make because of this. Some of us hide in plain sight—“in” to our natural and church families and “out” to friends. Others trade “religion” for “spirituality,” living as believers stripped of our Christian identities. Still others adapt to the customs and attitudes of our new home; godly things we loved before we were rejected become quaint memories faded in a blur of pain. But wherever we are, God is coming to us.

The Land We Loved

He wants to bring us back to the land we loved. Yes, there was much unhappiness there, particularly if people we trusted turned against us. But faith is a bigger part of us than our sexuality, because it transcends labels and categories to speak to the center of our being. It’s our expression of the infinite love God invested in creating us as He did—male, female, gay, straight, black, white, brown, etc. Indeed, faith is the constant that binds our being. That’s why we yearn for it. Try as we might to suppress our ache to resume walking with Christ, it will never fully leave us. Without Him, we’re incomplete.

Psalm 137 opens with this: “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.” Compared to the hardscrabble life the Jews left, Babylon must have looked like paradise—at first. Yet after they got acclimated to the environment, they found something missing beneath the style and sophistication and power. Sheer physics, not shared faith, held Babylon together. They sank into the mossy banks of the Tigris and Euphrates and sobbed.

Coming to Him

On completion of God’s plan to return Israel to its homeland, it resumed coming to Him in prayer and He began answering. What? This wasn’t true in Babylon? Of course, it was. The difference was in what Israel requested. As outcasts, other problems seemed less significant than getting home. Then, once they returned where people trusted God in everything, their prayers changed and God’s grace grew more evident. We need God in every area of our lives. We’ve experienced His presence all around us. He has come to fulfill His promise to bring us back to a place to pray--a place where we'll find answers. Let’s trust Him to finish His plan. Let's go home!


"Celebrate Me Home"

(Tomorrow: Healing)

Postscript: New Places to Pray

Israel didn’t pack up at once and go home en masse. Its return was gradual. We’re seeing the same phenomenon as God’s plan for GLBT believers takes effect. We're coming back one by one and in pairs. 

Being God, He’s working on both sides of the equation—dealing with us to summon the courage and commitment to make the journey as He encourages pastors and congregations to welcome our homecoming.

The more of us who make our way home, the easier it will be for others to find their way.

This week, three additional churches join the “Gay-Friendly Church” roster. Nothing pleases me more than listing these new places to pray.  I urge those of you who live nearby and seek a welcoming church family to begin your search with them.

Bridgeport United Church of Christ, Portland, OR

St. John’s United Church of Christ, Lansdale, PA

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Minneapolis, MN

May God richly reward the pastors and people of these churches for their obedience and compassion!


Missy said...

Tim, another excellent post.

You've brought to mind for me once again today's second reading: as Paul said, "love is the fulfillment of the law." (Rom 13:10)

If only more congregations would embrace that ideal.

Even though you write primarily for the GLBT community, I see many parallels in your essays for everyone who has left their faith and struggles to come home. Most have left after being on the recieving end of some pain or hurt.

But to be a Christian is to be connected to everyone else. To be a Christian is to be in community.

I truly appreciate having you as part of my faith community.


Tim said...

I think love is tough for us because it has no limits. The phrase "love with reckless abandon" is something of an oxymoron to me, because I believe love requires abandoning many of the things we attach to it--expectations, desires for comfort, etc. (Although I also think "reckless love" isn't a such good thing.)

Missy, thanks for your "GLBT" comment. As I try to listen to the Word and tie its ideas back to thoughts and ideas currently running the minds of GLBT believers, I'm constantly aware--and often surprised--at how universal the Word truly is. It's encouraging to hear that that's coming through the posts. There isn't a "straight" Gospel and a "gay" one any more than there's a "straight" church and a "gay" one. The miracle of Christ is that His love and power unite us all.

I'm equally glad to have you and all the other "straight" friends who come here as my friends and fellow followers of Christ.

Be blessed,