Monday, May 21, 2007

Sermon Notes May 20, 2007

Does the Bible condemn homosexuality?

Clearly the Bible is concerned with sexual morality. As the most intimate act of humanity, our sexual values speak about our value of humanity and our relationship with God. So what does the Bible say about homosexuality?

There are five primary references of homosexuality in the Bible. The account in Genesis of the destruction of Sodom is the origin of the term “sodomy.” It is clear God’s condemnation is about the violence the crowd wished to inflict on God’s messenger’s who were guest in Lot’s house and not on homosexuality. Some people point to Leviticus and its commands that a man should not lie with a man and yet Leviticus also condemns wearing clothing with mixed fabrics. Christians understand that Christ gave us a new covenant and that we are no longer bound by the Levitical Law code.

The most difficult passages come from the New Testament in Romans, I Corinthians and I Timothy. In I Corinthians 6:9 and in the letter to Timothy Paul uses a word, “arsenokoites”, that is not found in other Greek writings of the same period. The word is often translated as sodomites, it can also mean literally “male bed.” Some scholars have compared the Biblical reference of this word to other Greek writings and found that the term could refer to male prostitution or some economic exploitation of sex. Most scholars will agree we simply don’t know for sure what it means and that its translation as “sodomy” or “sexual perverts” is a modern presumption.

The other New Testament word sometimes understood to refer to homosexuality is “malakos.” This word is translated in I Cor. 6:9 as “male prostitutes” but in the Gospel of Luke it is translated as “soft.” Luther’s reformation Bible translated these terms as “effeminate” (malakos) and “violators of boys” (arsenokoitai).

In Romans 1:26-27 Paul condemns people for “unnatural” intercourse. Paul presumes that all people are created in the same way. Paul and others assume that it is unnatural for two people of the same gender to fall in love. Many people no longer believe that this is so. In 1973 the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of disorders. Researchers today are studying brain activity and genetics to further understand our natural sexual desires.
We believe that it is natural for some people to fall in love with others of the same gender. Therefore, the question of sexual morality moves from a focus of gender to one of honoring our relationship with each other.

So today we celebrate the decision of Longview United Methodist Church to join the Reconciling Ministry Network. A network of United Methodist Churches working for the full inclusion of all people in the life of the church.

The choice of the word reconciliation is important. As a reconciling congregation we are working to reconcile the church with the GLBT community who has too long been set aside by the church.

Reconciliation is a Holy exercise and it is one we often neglect. As a church of reconciliation we are called to reach out to those who have been set aside by others. We are called to consider those relationships in our life that have become broken and to seek healing.

As we live into the fifth year of being a reconciling congregation I believe God is calling us to consider all who need to reconcile their relationship with God. We will not be able to be all things to all people. We will work to truly be a diverse community. Primarily we will continue to seek out those who have been broken and are in need of healing.

Monday, May 07, 2007

May 6, 2007 Sermon Notes

A New Heaven and a New Earth

Revelation is full of fantastic images. Four horsemen, Angels blowing trumpets, monsters being defeated, and finally the image of the perfect city coming down from heaven and replacing the imperfect fouled up world.

For some of us a new heaven and a new earth seems more like a fantasy than a reality. A fantasy is a sort of idea that is so far fetched that it cannot intersect with the real world, whether that fantasy has hobbits and wizards or unicorns and fairies. The imagery of a new Jerusalem coming out of clouds is a rather fantastic idea and it has little meaning for us.

For some, a new heaven and a new earth seems like a dream, some sort of possibility yet it is in the midst of a fog. We can almost imagine the possibility of God taking such drastic action that this world in which we live might be made new and perfect. Pollution would be gone, war would be gone, poverty would be gone. But it all becomes hazy, how does this happen, is it heaven, is it now, what on earth is this dream?

Yet for other’s this vision of a new heaven and a new earth is a real possibility. It is a vision of how God makes things new. God makes all things new through the commandment of Jesus Christ, Love one Another. Jesus’ command is a vision of a new heaven and a new earth. Love one another.

We will struggle with this command. We will struggle with the reality of truly loving the people we are with each day. That is sometimes a difficult task. But we have had success with this before and we are able to succeed again.

We will struggle with the reality of truly loving people we do not know and will never meet. For in order for us to create a New Heaven and New Earth, we must live so that the other 6 billion people on this planet know that they are loved. For Americans this is a huge responsibility. We must challenge the images of our culture that say we do not have enough. We must consider the possibility that we have the potential to bring about a new creation, we have the potential to enact the vision as we live into the reality of loving one another.

Devotions for the Fifth week of Easter
After Each Day’s reading consider how God is calling you to love this week? Take some notes, pray, act lovingly.

Monday Read Romans 12:9-21

Tuesday Read Colossians 3:12-17

Wednesday Read Galatians 5:1-15

Thursday 1 John 2:7-17

Friday 1 John 3:1-8

Saturday 1 John 4:7-21

Registration for Church retreat is May 20th.

Mission Trip for Ocean Park Camp is June 9th.