For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder’; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. “You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. [NRSV]
Q: So is marriage a matter for church and preaching?
Marriage is a relationship founded and grounded in God and has been a faith relationship before it ever was a legal conversation.
A: And for that alone, it is forever an appropriate conversation for worship, study and defending.
June 26, 2015, The Right to Marry
The recent court decision, made by the majority of non-elected-legislative-judiciary, have create a new right to marry that includes all adult persons to marry the adult of their mutual choice independent of genders. Five people have changed an institution they did not create.
If you are celebrating or if you are angry about the new definition of marriage, I ask you:
What are you doing strengthening marriage before June 26, 2015?
- 40% of children live in single parent household. What of marriage, independent of who can marry whom?
- 33% (Barna) of US marriages end in divorce. [The 50% includes people who have been divorced more than once, which skews the overall numbers.] But if one in three divorce, is that an acceptable number we live with as those who so highly value marriage?
- 1% of those who marry commit suicide
- 2% of those who never marry take their life.
- 9 % of married couples deal with alcoholism.
- 24% of married couples deal with mental illness
- 86% of unhappy couples deal with domestic violence
We don’t have a lot of room to talk about marriage, never the less, the court’s decision encroaches on our faith identity of marriage that is thousands of years in the making.
First know this: This is not the end of the church or our country or our society.
- We are people of God and God remains with us.
- Things might change, but God will not church.
- God’s love for us will not change.
- God’s presence with us is unchanging and
- God’s call for us to hear and follow Christ will not change.
Secondly, Remember marriage is not a requirement. [A big shift in the court’s action is to name marriage as a right.]
- 75% of adults do get married. 25% do not marry.
- It has been the responsibilities of each state to license those who get married.
- The government cannot force us to marry to nor force us to be single.
Where Are We, What’s Next?
These past two weeks have indeed been a challenge to our faith. And while I am disappointed at Friday’s Supreme Court’s decision to “legally” redefine what Christians, Jews and Muslims, have believed the covenant of marriage to be for millennia, remember that the court’s decision does not change our Biblical and theological worldview nor does it change our denomination’s stance on the issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage as expressed in the church’s Discipline.
Only the General Conference speaks for the entire United Methodist Church. The General Conference of the United Methodist church will convene in May of next year in Portland, Oregon to discuss this and other issues that face the church. It has the potential to be divisive, but it also holds the opportunity to be a time of faith renewal.
How should we best respond to the court’s decision: Be Not Afraid.
God is Good, All the Time, RSUMC likes to affirm. Remember that God is still at work redeeming the world to Himself. Trust that even though we do not understand all of God’s ways, God is involved in the events of human history…even as hard and unclear as they may be.
Teach by Loving
Love your neighbor. Let our words, witness and response to all people be loving. A loving response will always be our strongest example of leadership. You will be drawn into conversations and discussions of “winners and losers.” Be respectful to those with whom you disagree. Be slow in anger and even slower to speak, email and post.
Its about God, People and Relationships not rules and laws
Know that you are always talking about someone’s child, grandchild or sibling. It is easy for us to objectify a conversation and forget the laws and commandments are for broken and sinful people in a broken and sin filled world.
Be Faithful in your intentional spiritual growth
This is a time for us to step up our faithfulness in the Christian life. Don’t let other people’s words or actions cause you to do harm to others or to compromise your Christian witness. We are accountable to Christ for what we do and say. We are not responsible for what other people do or say. Trust the Holy Spirit to lead you and do the best you can to express your hope in God’s redeeming grace for us all. (Romans 2.23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.)
The Government is not God
Remember: the Supreme Court, even it follows the constitution properly, does not speak for God and does not speak for the United Methodist Church. The General Conference Speaks for the church and the Discipline guides our practices. Our stance on these issues and our practices have not changed. The church only allows me to conduct and attend marriage of one man and one woman. The church values every person with equal value from God, who creates us all.
Trust and Follow the Holy Spirit
In conversation with our D.S. and Bishop I was reminded that as our United Methodist Church is a global body, a global church, and not simply a U. S. church, and it is not at all unusual for the legal, moral and spiritual to be in tension in our various countries. We continue to be the church even though we might be in contrast with the laws of many lands.
We are in this together
As your pastor, you are in my prayers, and as your pastor I ask for your prayers in this matter. We might be tempted to allow anger, fear or ignorance to rule the day, but I ask that we constantly seek to help each other live with current reality. Life is not easy at any time, but we must live trusting in the Holy Spirit’s guidance to enable us to minister to all people in the light of
God is with us.