A succinct and thoughtful essay in the Otago Daily Times by Civis this Saturday just past. Time to post something myself perhaps, so here is the Evensong reflection.
It is a fact in ministry and church life that we have great Sundays and then we have those Sundays that are not great, not great at all.
Last Sunday I got a letter from a couple, who I like and cherish. They were apologetic and complimentary, they liked worship in the Cathedral; they liked the choir; they liked my preaching; they even liked the way I celebrated the Eucharist; but they were dismayed that General Synod had passed Motion 29 and so would have to withdraw from the Cathedral congregation.
For those who may not be familiar with Motion 29 – it allows clergy to bless civil unions of LGBT persons; it does not command it of a priest, but allows it; the blessing can be denied if it is contrary to the priest’s conscience. There will be no punishment for blessing or not blessing.
- The motion did not pass a judgement on LGBT status
- The motion did not comment on marriage or the theology of marriage; it made no change to the formularies of our church.
For guidance I had commended to me an essay on the motion by a colleague, Vicar of a neighbouring parish. He was strongly opposed to the motion and referred to the passages in the scriptures where homosexuality was prohibited. For instance:
1Cor 6:9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
The question is simply this: what does that statement from Paul have to do with whether or not a priest will give a blessing? I am not here to judge or condemn, and if someone asks me for a blessing – which is to ask God to be present and to work in their life – how can I not do that? My job is to bless.
At the most ordinary level of guidance there no list of categories as to whom one may not bless; any more than there are any categories of people for whom we may not pray.
Where may one go for guidance? Is there a gospel principle that might help What do the gospels say? The one point that came to mind was in Luke 10:25-37. We know the story we call it the parable of the Good Samaritan, as below:
"Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.” Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’"
Let’s not get too elaborate in how we unpack and read this parable. It is a parable of reversals and of crossing boundaries; it is a parable about the reach of love.
But I believe I can find in this parable a principle for blessing those who seek it. No boundaries. I find here a fundamental principle – no boundaries to God’s love.
My neighbour is always the one I have to deal with at that moment, the one who asks for blessing; the one about whom I feel challenged, uncertain, made uncomfortable, the one who puts me ‘on the spot’…