Barbara Brown Taylor has long been my favorite preacher. I love to read her sermons. She is masterful with words. Hearing her teach for an hour last night and preach in worship this morning was a pure gift. She said several things last night that are still making me think.
Her lecture was called, "Red Letters in Red Clay." She spoke of how the South is hardly Christ centered but more Christ haunted. She then went on to share the different signs she has seen on her journeys along dirt roads and how so often she wants to stop and rearrange the letters to make God sound less stupid and mean. She spoke of how there are a whole lot more people who love the Bible more than know what is in it. She also shared how we cannot read the Bible unless we read our lives - how the Bible speaks in a different way after 9/11 than it did before 9/11, for example.
I preached a sermon on Sunday about the Bible and Homosexuality. You can read the sermon on our website by downloading it here. It's the second time I have devoted an entire sermon to this subject, though I have mentioned it numerous times in my preaching. The sermon preached on Sunday is quite different from the sermon I preached two years ago. My life is different now. More and more individuals have shared their testimony with me, and I read the Bible differently now that I read it with their lives and my life.
Following worship on Sunday, we had a "Talk Back with the Preacher" session. About 40% of the people in worship on Sunday stayed for the session. It was a holy conference - a time in which we could introduce ourselves alongside our partner. It was a place where we could share how we are the parents of a lesbian daughter or a gay son. It was a room that seemed thin as authenticity took over and people shared their joy and their sorrow, their dreams for the future of the church and the hurts from the past. No one spoke a word of hatred. No one spoke a word of judgment. Everyone seemed to offer a mind that was open. The ages of the participants ranged from 24 to 92. It was really quite remarkable, and I am grateful for it - so thankful for it.
And, I wonder. I wonder what might happen if we had more conversations like this in church. What might happen if instead of telling one another that we are right and others are wrong - if we came together, to try to always see the other person's side or viewpoint or life.
I cannot read my Bible without also reading my life. And, I cannot read my life without reading my Bible. Thank you, Barbara Brown Taylor, for your words. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for offering words to me on Sunday. Thank you, my church family, for struggling together and seeking to be faithful disciples.
Make us one, Lord. Make us strong, Lord. Make us courageous. Make us faithful. Amen.