With curiosity, with anxiety, I read John Pavlovitz’s piece about Christians Making Atheists only to find much truth and plenty to convict my Christian faith in his words. Jesus is my truest best love, the one I know at my core and brings me to every relationship, how could I not want others to experience that grace? I know full well the power of forgiveness, what happens when a church decides to allow a sinner to participate and to serve, the healing that begins when the refreshing waters of new life discussed in sermons are truly shared with those who thirst for a second chance. I am that person who has come alive which has allowed me to make space for others to do so as well, I say yes when asked, grateful to be included and able to use gifts long laying dormant, waiting for my church home to recognize that my offerings, like the widow’s, may be scant but came from the deepest of my soul and could be used for great good. My church I think is open to sinners and saints alike, I am proof. Yet even with the labels I do carry, there are many that find headlines currently that I don’t wear, that maybe make it somewhat easier to accept this sinner.
As a United Methodist congregation, we are facing the challenge of taking a stance regarding LGBTQ as described here. Our pastor has asked our members to prayerfully begin considering how we are to act on this new information, the opportunity to stand up for our brothers and sisters who love who they love without our censorship. This is a no-brainer for me, I want to open our hearts and minds and doors to those who deserve the level of acceptance and grace that I have experienced. I want everyone to taste and see the deliciousness that I find every time I walk through the doors, the coming home where my brokenness is not hidden but celebrated. How could I keep this only to myself, how could I ever feel better than, above, superior to anyone, that my sin is not as bad? Regardless of where one falls on the “homosexuality is a sin” continuum, it is clear that by sitting on the throne of judgement, we are practicing exclusion and not practicing a walk with Jesus.
My Plum was gone for 2 1/2 weeks, a planned vacation that I raised up as a concern and a joy to my friends and fellow worshipors one Sunday. I asked that they surround his family as they travel and also Chef and I as we were left without the joy-bringer, the giggler who delights and enlivens us. Finally yesterday my little shadow was home and ready to accompany me on errands, a trip to church for several quick meetings and the gathering of extra food in the kitchen to deliver to local non-profits who could use the donations. After a full day of traveling and a late night, he came to me in the now famous picachu pajamas, a bit grubby and carrying his much loved wad of a blanket. As we walked from the car to the church doors, he began to question not his attire, he stands by that choice, but the security blanket he was clutching. I reminded him that our church cares more about our insides than our outsides, that they love us for who we are and not what we look like. I told him friends inside might ask about Purple Blankie but would never mock him. He was immediately at peace, he told me other people outside of church might make fun of him but not our friends at church. Two steps inside, we both met Jesus.
The office staff have a practice of gathering each morning at a set time to share their own joys and concerns and circling up for a moment of prayer. We arrived just at this time, just as all were visible through the big office window as we entered the building. What happened next was so sacred, was so beautiful, so holy that I want to gush with joy at my church. All my family spontaneously raised hands to wave at my boy, tears of celebration of his return met mine through the glass, they welcomed him like the prodigal son. He stood taller, he swaggered a bit, he answered quick questions, he felt loved. My dirty little boy in pajamas entered church and found acceptance and cheers and grace. I could barely speak, how does one talk when Jesus is walking among you?
I want John Pavlovitz to know that my little church out in the cornfield in Indiana is working hard to get it right. I want everyone to know we are so incrediably full of grace that a child who began life such as my Plum did, who has experienced hardship and trauma is being taught that he matters and he is taking that teaching with him everyday. We may have a more difficult challenge reaching some of our older folks who learned that the bible says no more often than yes, but we are striving everyday to undo some harm and find space for sinners and saints and lovers and grumpy people and for those who wear their pj’s during the day. We are all little children inside, carrying a security blanket or teddy bear, wondering if we will be met with love or judgement. Let us remember to cheer the return of all who enter, surely Jesus is waiting to join in the celebration.