Friday, May 4, 2012
It Feels Like Exile
Of course that is overly dramatic, and I have not ever been in any situation even remotely like the Exile, but still for many United Methodists, watching our General Conference unravel so much that we hold dear and then once again declare that our gay and lesbian (and bi-sexual, and transgender) sisters and brothers are not really welcome, has felt like Exile.
It feels like wilderness and desert. But as Walter Brueggemann observed, it was in the Exile that the Hebrew prophets did their best work. In was in the Exile that hope was born. The Exile gave birth to Rabbinic Judaism, which in the fullness of time gave birth to Christianity.
It is not by accident that the Advent scripture readings bring us back to the Exile. Christianity begins in Exile.
Within the United Methodist Church in East Greenwich, and within thousands of other United Methodist Churches, nothing will change. We will continue to proclaim the grace of God. We will celebrate the wideness in God’s mercy. We will do our best to embody the living presence of Christ in the world. And we will include everyone, even the people who want to exclude us.
But General Conference 2012 has made our job harder. Because some people will read about what happened and think that General Conference speaks for us. In some cases they will ask me what it means and where we stand, and I will do my best to explain it all. In other cases they will just drive by and shake their heads.
Like Israel in Exile, we are called to action, to build up and raise up and repair, and to proclaim “good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of justice of our God.”
In other words, our task today is the same as it was two weeks ago. We are called to be faithful. And we know that God will continue to sustain us. In the words of the Psalmist, “the steadfast love of the LORD endures forever, and God’s faithfulness is to all generations.” Even in what feels like Exile.
“For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.”