In the “Alabama News” this week, there was an article about Beloved Community Church, one of our sister UCC congregations, here in Birmingham, who hired Rev. Jennifer Sanders, a lesbian, as their new Pastor. She organized a day of silent prayer and meditation at their church for the following Saturday. The article says it didn’t stay silent for long. “A protester with a megaphone, along with his wife and baby, who are not members of the church, stood outside with picket signs, apparently to protest that the church had hired an openly lesbian woman as pastor. The man held a sign that said, “Repent or Perish.” I’ve often wondered how many folks bought into that violent message and really had a loving relationship with God.
Rev. Sanders noted that critics of churches like ours wonder if we just let anybody in church now. I loved her answer. She said, “We sure do. I don’t see how you can claim to follow the example of Jesus and do otherwise. Furthermore, we will accept them as they are. If people wait until they’re perfect before they come to church, they ain’t never going to get here or there or wherever it is that considers itself a church full of perfect people.”
She’s right! None of us are perfect, so why do we expect others to be? We all make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes hurt others unintentionally as I did to someone this very week. As people of faith, we apologize and hope to reach out to everyone because people do not need a perfect church, but a place that welcomes them just as they are. They need a place where they can find unconditional love and meaning. A meditation from Richard Rohr this week has this wonderful line: “The body can live without food easier than the soul can live without meaning.” You only live with meaning when you have hope and you can only have real hope when you know that God really does love you just as you are!
So there is a reason we talk a lot at Covenant about God’s love for all of God’s children. It’s so important to us that we search and find it even in some of the oddest of Jesus parables. This week in The Parable of Pharisee and Tax Collector that went to the Temple to pray, we find yet another reason why God loves sinners; just like all of us.
So join us for worship at Covenant this Sunday morning when the assigned gospel lesson for this week comes from “Luke 18:9-14” and my sermon is “The Reason Jesus Loves Sinners.”