Nate Nelson

"Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come."
- Hebrews 13:14
"Strengthen in faith and love your pilgrim Church on earth."
- Eucharistic Prayer III
"The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance." - Pope Benedict XVI

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Lisping Lector: Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading I: Isaiah 43:18-19,21-22,24b-25
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 41:2-5,13-14
Reading II: 2 Corinthians 1:18-22
Gospel: Mark 2:1-12

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In today's Gospel, Jesus reveals a different kind of paralysis: the paralysis of sin. It is sin that paralyzes us and prevents us from moving toward God and closer to one another. It is sin that breaks up our partnerships and marriages, freezing us in place and blocking us from meeting the other halfway. It is sin that divides queer and straight and sin which impedes any move toward unity. It is sin that keeps us from going back to church or from receiving Eucharist, stuck in the quicksand of despair or indifference.

But in Jesus Christ, God boldly fulfills his promise: "See, I am doing something new!" Jesus Christ is the one who removes the hold sin has over us, enabling us to once again move toward him and toward one another. Jesus replaces the sin which has so stubbornly kept us apart with his own love, which draws all things together in the Holy Spirit.

As Christian queers, we can certainly see the paralyzing power of sin in the Church. But we can also see the mobilizing power of Christ's love. Catholic queers have seen this recently in the bishops, religious superiors, and priests -- gay and straight alike -- who have said that they will not allow the Vatican ban on gay seminarians to translate into blanket discrimination under their jurisdiction, and who have affirmed the ministry of gay priests and the good they have brought to the Church.

We have also seen the mobilizing power of Christ's love hard at work and prevailing in other Christian Churches and Communities. We have seen the United Church of Christ move toward the blessing of same-sex marriages. We have seen the Anglican Church of Canada move toward the blessing of same-sex unions, and the Episcopal Church USA has taken the first challenging steps in this process as well. The Episcopal Church has also consecrated its first openly gay and partnered bishop, Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. We have seen the Religious Society of Friends and the Unitarian Universalist Association widely accepting us and fighting for our rights in the Church and in the State.

We have seen the mobilizing power of Christ's love struggling against the paralyzing power of sin in other Churches and Communities. In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we have watched as an increasing number of straight allies have stood with us to demand an end to the hypocrisy of a church which claims to accept us while refusing to bless our unions and refusing to recognize that God is calling us to ministry. We have watched as an increasing number of straight allies have stood with us against the defrocking of Beth Stroud in the United Methodist Church, and we look forward to the day when justice will visit that church. We have watched as the Church of England, the heart of Anglican Christianity, has been faced with challenging decisions regarding the blessing of civil partnerships -- and they have taken the first tentative steps in the right direction.

Sisters and brothers, the Lord Jesus is again breathing the Holy Spirit into the Church. And the wind is picking up!

We would be remiss, however, if we didn't acknowledge that we too have been paralyzed by sin. How often has sin mired us in hatred for the sisters and brothers who persecute us, even as Christ's love has tried to guide us toward love for our enemies? How many times has sin paralyzed our own hearts, trapping us in despair and blocking us from moving toward a place where we can see the hope that the Holy Spirit is pouring out on the Church of God? How often has sin prevented us from joining in common mission with those who do not entirely agree with us? How many times have we allowed sin to keep division alive while love has been striving for unity?

As we contemplate the Gospel reading today, let us hear Christ's words spoken to us: "Child, your sins are forgiven." And let us know that this is an exhortation to abandon our paralysis, to rise, to pick up our mats, and to walk back toward God and one another. Let us glorify God, saying: "We have never seen anything like this."

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