First: please insert here my much-to-self-referential brooding about…sin and forgiveness…the weakness of the flesh…writer’s block…the insane schedule of a parish Pastor. Having intended to keep up with my blogging discipline, I see I have failed terribly. BUT, ’tis a new year. And I hope to do better in 2011.
Beyond using the start of a fresh, new year to renew my blogging discipline, there’s another reason for restarting a conversation here (for any who might happen to tune in). This past Sunday, our scheduled preacher, Chad Ensz, our Intern for Pastoral Care and Education, was unable to make it back from South Dakota because of weather. Of course, the reason they pay me the big bucks is to be able to fill in when such a situation occurs.
I decided that I would pull an old “story-sermon” from the file, which I find to be the easiest kind of sermons to “repreach”. By story sermon, I mean a short story – an imagined narrative that illuminates the biblical text – used as a sermon, told in the style of “reader’s theater”. It’s a story-sermon I had preached for the congregation I served in Palo Alto, California, about nine years ago, entitled “Pip Marihart”.
Just to give a bit of context about the community for which I had originally preached this: First Pres Palo Alto is a very progressive congregation, one that was very comfortable with allowing the full participation of gay and lesbian Christians in the life of the church. If you wish to read that story, you may discover that the original context illuminates something about the content of this story – the struggle of Joseph reflects in some ways the struggles and concerns of that congregation, and seek to mirror the very counter-cultural decision that Joseph made in Matthew’s Christmas narrative.
I realized that by preaching it in Lawrenceville, there may be some danger of things getting “lost in translation.” A story about two gay men to elucidate an Advent/Christmas text may have been difficult for some of the people in the congregation to hear.
Hence my reflections today. I realize that a conversation about human sexuality is a talk we, as a congregation, need to have at some point. (And, as the parent of a ten-year-old, the slight tongue-in-cheek reference to that conversation we often try to avoid is intended…and I admit perhaps is to some degree reflective of my own reluctance).
So – here are some questions for any who may have tuned in. First – I’d be very interested in anyone’s thoughts and reactions to the story/sermon. Though born of necessity, I felt that this story would serve as a good place for us to begin having a conversation on this subject – because it’s a story. There’s no abstract reasoning, no overt “preaching,” no position I’m taking on the issue. The intent is and was to provoke thinking and reflection on the biblical text and the issues in play.
Second – I’d be interested in any thoughts about this question: how does a congregation have a healthy conversation about human sexuality – specifically, about the issue of homosexuality? How can we have such a conversation in light of the fact that there are no doubt people in the congregation who disagree on interpretation of the Bible and how it guides us on this subject? What do we do when I (as the person who has been set apart to preach and teach the Bible) have the advantage of the pulpit, while others do not?
If there are any out there who wish to comment- love to hear from you.
Meanwhile, I wish you every good blessing in this New Year.