A friend of mine from Fort Worth commented on my Facebook note about Mass on the Grass on Pride Sunday in Saint Louis, MO. He wrote “praisin’ in the grass is a gas, baby, can you dig it?” That paraphrase couldn’t fit any better!
And it was a joyous occasion with only one blot upon the service. That was the preacherman who rants each year a short distance from the crowd gathered to praise God and give thanks for God’s inclusive love. This year he stood much closer than in the past two years. He shouted throughout the service that God condemns all those who are gay and lesbian, bisexual and trangender. He yelled out that if we don’t change we will burn in hell. At one point, he asked if we thought that God would really listen to our prayers. A number of people nearer to his rant cried out in unison, “Yes we do!”
If he could be called nothing else, the word rude is appropriate to describe him. But many other descriptive terms come to mind. However, the emotion he brought out in me was an extreme and almost overwhelming sadness.
Sadness for him. That his idea of God is so small and his understanding so limited that he focused on a very few pieces of scripture rather on the theme throughout all scripture – LOVE. He attempted to thrust upon us a god so small and vengeful that only the fearful and hateful could ever worship a god such as that. All of his rantings were antithetical to my understanding of what God is to me.
I wanted him to hear the idea that if we are able to reconcile ourselves to one another, then we can be reconciled with God. He seemed a sad and lonely man, full of the fire of hell. Driven by a false dilemma that creates an inability to live in faith and love, he could not hear my message or that of others who tried to talk with him.
The Epistle reading for yesterday was Galatians 5:1, 13-25. I am sure that the preacherman knew the verses well. “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.” Sadly, I am also sure that his focus would be only the part dealing with sexual acts rather than viewing the verses as a whole.
Even sadder still is the fact that he does not reap the promise of the very next verses…”The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.”
Preacherman is scared and filled with vengeance. Preacherman is afraid that if we, as LGBT people are accepted as full members into the living kin-dom of God, what does that say for him? If we are loved by God as children of God, and that in that love there is no “other” or “them,” where does that leave him in the hierarchal, patriarchal tenuous world he lives in? Where is his authority and power?
And that is the sad part. If we, as LGBT people hold an equal share in that love of God, he may see himself as losing the small amount of power and authority that he feels he can claim.
That is what fear does to us. It makes us worry that we are not getting our fair share. We put ourselves first rather than understanding that it is in the giving that we receive.
We are called into freedom but that does not mean that we can stand on a street corner and judge and condemn those we deem unworthy according to our own limited understanding. The “whole law is summed up in a single command.” We are called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Preacherman can’t love me because his imagination won’t allow him to know how fully he is loved by God.
Because of that, he is not able to love himself. There is no way he could understand what was happening as we were “praisin’ in the grass.”