Saturday, June 17, 2006

Gene Robinson's sermon (Part 1)

I want to begin by saying hello to the people downstairs. (Loud cheering from us people downstairs).

I need to say thank you to, perhaps some less obvious people. Of course to Integrity and Claiming the Blessing, and all of the people who have just worked so hard during these days. But, I need to thank some people very, very close to my heart, and have you thank them with me.

It's hard, sometimes, to have to share your bishop with the world. And, while most of my ministry is in New Hampshire that I know and love, and let me tell you--all the other bishops can close their ears--I have the best diocese! (Laughter.) And I want you to join me in thanking them for sharing me with you. (Applause).

And I've just started, and I'm getting teary--and the person who makes this all possible, my partner Mark (applause).

(Dabbing his eyes) Okay, I can't look at him anymore!

This event tonight is many's a pep rally, it's a celebration of what's happened and what is happening, and what will happen. But mostly it's what every Eucharist is--a giving thanks to God for God's great goodness in creation, for Jesus' sacrifice on the cross for our redemption, and for the Holy Spirit's continued work and inspiration and guidance and advocacy in our midst. How could we not be thankful for the miracles we see unfolding about us every day?

I hope you will permit me to address this sermon to my brothers and sisters who happen to be gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgendered Episcopalians. But I do invite those of you who are, shall we say, "homosexually challenged" (laughter) to listen in, and see if there isn't something here for you too.

This is not the time to talk about legislation or strategy or advocacy. This is the time to listen to our hearts. To come to this table praying that we've been delivered from "coming for solace only and not for strength, for pardon only, and not for renewal." It's a time to remember with humility and resolve that no matter how much is being asked of us by this convention, God always asks for even more.

We find ourselves beginning the long season of Pentecost. That season when the spirit of the living God comes to us as wind, and fire, and breath. "Come Holy Spirit our souls inspire!"

Mike McCloud tells the story of a priest in a large church in Florida, who decided to dramatize the Holy Spirit coming like a mighty wind in a particularly spectacular manner. He got the engine out of one of those boats that they use in the Everglades, and, you know, an airplane propellor attached to a big gasoline engine, and mounted it in the choir loft.

The wind from the propellor would blow out across the congregation when the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit was read. Now the priest and the head usher gave it a dry run on Saturday afternoon, and although it was incredibly noisy, it worked well and promised a spectacular effect for Sunday morning.

Now, on Pentecost morning, the lector read, "...and suddenly, from Heaven, there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind and it filled the entire house."

At that exact moment, the head usher gave one pull. Gave a second pull (laughter) and then gave a third pull, and that engine *howled* into life! But on Sunday morning, things were different than they had been on Saturday afternoon. First of all, now the choir members were in place. (Laughter). And they had not been there for the practice run.

And the sudden screaming gust of wind sent sheet music flying all over the congregation. Hairdos of the congregation became unglued. The preacher's sermon, literally, was gone with the wind. And a hairpiece flew toward the altar. And it was like in the play Green Pastures, when the Angel Gabriel says to the Lord, "Everything that was nailed down is comin' loose!" (Laughter) And that's just the way it is with the Spirit.

It's that part of God which refuses to be contained and confined to the little boxes we create for God to live in--safely confined to the careful boundaries *we* set for the Holy Spirit.

The problem is, and the miracle is, and the gift is, God just won't stay put! And God won't let you or me stay put, content to believe what we've always believed, what we've always been taught, what we've always assumed. But change is not just something to be wished upon our enemies, but it is something God requires of us as well.

Think of the things you and I believe and think today that we could not have imagined years ago. We used not to be outraged at Black folk being made to drink from separate water fountains. At women not being deputies to this General Convention, nor priests standing at God's altar. Nor differently abled folk being able to get into our churches.

Our change in thinking didn't come as a result of our own work, but the work of God's Spirit blowing through us like wind. Calling us away from our narrow thinking, and more nearly into the mind and heart of Christ.

More importantly, remember how we used to think of ourselves? We *believed* the church when we were told we were an abomination before God. That *our* relationships, even our lives, were intrinsically disordered. That we were second class hangers-on in the church of God. Loved, perhaps, but, only if...

And then the Spirit of God blew through us like a mighty wind. We heard God's calm and loving voice above the noisy din of the church's condemnation, and we were saved. Made worthy to stand before God through God's Son's sacrifice on the cross. Quite literally born again, and our lives changed forever.

Think of the joy we have come to know because of the Spirit's work within us. Psalm 27 says, "What if we had not believed the goodness of the Lord?"

Well, St. Peter didn't like change much either, and he was horrified in his dream to hear God saying, "Don't be so picky about what people eat!" (Laughter) "Care more about what's in their hearts. My word is broader and deeper than that, and I'm going to be calling people unto me whom you have thought to be unacceptable in my eyes. You've been wrong, and I'm going to show you a different way."

Is there any doubt in our minds that the Holy Spirit is alive and well and calling God's church to open itself to *all* those whom Jesus loves? We don't worship a God who is all locked up in scripture 2000 years ago, but rather a God whose love knows no human bounds, and blows through us like wind.

Now lest you think I'm talking only about *them* loving *us*, let me remind you that the Spirit of God wants *us* to love *them* too. Indeed, the Spirit of God longs for, *yearns* for, and demands that there cease to be "them" and "us".


Gene takes a drink of water and says, "You might just want to take a little mental break here--it's a long sermon!"

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