"A Spirit of Power" Pentecost 20 (October 6, 2013), MCC Windsor, Rev. Martha Daniels
October 6, 2013 was the 45th anniversary of UFMCC's founding in Los Angeles, CA.
2 Timothy 1:1-7
I, Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Creator and Christ Jesus our Saviour. I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.
Luke 17:5-10The apostles said to Jesus, “Increase our faith!” Jesus replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’?Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the servant for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless servants; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”
Will you pray with and for me? You who are the source of life, fill us with your spirit today. Give us wisdom and open hearts, courage and strength. May our listening and our speaking be full of your grace. In all your many names, amen.
45 years ago this week, a man named Troy Perry put an ad on a local gay paper, looking for anyone interested in Christian community. 12 people answered that ad and showed up at his front door that Sunday morning. Over the years since, MCC has grown to plant churches on every continent except Antarctica, with clergy and members of every colour, gender and race under the rainbow, opening doors of hope to thousands and thousands of people. When a person comes out as LGBT, often the most devastating loss, after that of family, is of their faith tradition. Indeed, it was often that tradition that forced them into the closet for so long. Without a community of faith, those individuals for whom their faith was a central part of their lives felt isolated and lost. Yet when they tried to go to a church--or synagogue or mosque--they were marginalized or ejected once their orientation was discovered. They were told they were sinful, condemned, wrong, not worthy. Their relationships were treated as if they did not exist, their calls to ministry, whether ordained or lay, were dismissed, and their families of choice were disregarded. Much of this is not news to most of you--some of you have lived these truths.
And then came Troy Perry, himself cast out by the denomination he was raised in, had been ordained in. He declared a new truth: that God had declared all things God had made to be good, and that God had created LGBT people too, and therefore, there was nothing sinful or wrong about being LGBT. There were so many people around the world hungry to hear this news, MCCs sprouted like mushrooms after a rain. Los Angeles, the mother church, San Francisco, New Orleans, New York, Chicago, Washington DC, Toronto, London, England, Cape Town, South Africa, Sydney Australia, and now Quezon City, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, and hundreds of others. MCC was the first church to bless same-sex relationships, the first to ordain openly LGBT individuals, one of the first to ordain women, the first to have a female leader, one of the first to use inclusive language. MCC may be small in numbers but we have been a huge force in the world of human rights. MCC petitioned to join the World Council of Churches, an organization that works to bring harmony between the various Christian traditions. Unfortunately, the petition was denied because a couple of traditions could not countenance homosexuality and threatened to leave the Council. Nonetheless, during the study period, members of the World Council of Churches attended a special MCC worship service. That service marked the first time, and I think the only time, members of the Council took Communion together.
Today, in small prayer groups in Eastern Europe and in the Caribbean, in Uganda and Nigeria, in Pakistan and India, MCC is still bringing that word of truth and hope. We have gotten used, here in Canada, to the fact of the legal right of the LGBT community to exist; our right to marry, to serve openly in the military, all the legal protection any other Canadian resident has. Many of the mainline churches here are or are moving towards affirming LGBT rights, ordaining LGBT people, accepting and supporting trans* people as they transition, blessing and officiating at same-gender weddings. Elsewhere in the world, it is not so rosy for our brothers and sisters--some of them face the death penalty simply for being who they are. MCC is speaking truth to power in those places--working for tolerance, then acceptance, then celebration. It is not easy. But it never is for a minority trying to change the attitudes and beliefs of the majority. But that spirit of power wins, in the end--because it is also the the spirit of truth.
One of the things about Rev. Elder Troy Perry that struck me when I had the chance to spend some time with him during the anniversary weekend is lack of pride. When I laid out a tentative schedule for the weekend and asked him for approval, he just looked at me and smiled, saying, "I am at your disposal for the weekend. Whatever you want or need me to do is fine with me." He has no attitude of entitlement or pride. When I invited him to co-celebrate communion with me at the worship service, he would not, saying that I was the pastor of the church and he would not take my place. He stood with me, but made it clear that I was the pastor of MCCW.Troy never expected kudos for what he did--he has never bragged about his founding of MCCS. It was simply what he was called to do, and he did it. He did only what he ought to have done.
How different the world would be! It is, of course, possible and even probable that another church would have been created, or that the mainstream churches would move more quickly to inclusion, and that the LGBT communities in Eastern Europe and on the continent of Africa would find other champions. But it is not certain that those things would have happened. Without Troy's willingness to do what he ought, none of us would be here in this place. Where would you be without MCC, without this community? Some of you have been to conferences and workshops and meetings of other MCCs--think of all those people, and what their lives might have been like without. MCC.
It matters, what we do--whether we can see the end or not. Troy had no idea he was founding a church--he was looking for other LGBT Christians, for support and encouragement. That support groups, gathered for prayer and worship around God's table, has become a multinational church, a voice in human rights work that is listened to in Washington DC as well as Ottawa.
We may think it doesn't really matter, in the larger scheme of things, what we do. It may seem that our work is too minor or small or inconsequential to even be noticed, let alone make a difference. But it does make a difference--whether we know about that difference or not, whether it is a difference in one person's life or the life of a community, or even the life of the world.
Doing what we ought, in the spirit of power, makes a difference. What we ought to do is different for each of us. For me, it was coming out, and then coming here to Windsor. I continue to do what I ought to do, as best I can discern it. For others, it will be other things, whether changing what you do or simply keeping on keeping on. Every one of us can make a difference in some way--in the spirit of power and love. Make that difference. In all God's names, amen.