A Sermon from the North Yarmouth Congregational Church
A sermon offered by the Rev. Nancy J. White in the public worship of the First Congregational Church of North Yarmouth, UCC of North Yarmouth, Maine on June 19, 2016.
Principal readings Galatians 3:23-29 Luke 8:26-39
This week has been horrific – a roller coaster of emotions – tears of anguish, shame, outrage, anger. We have heard news reports that say the shooter in Orlando claimed ISIS inspiration. We have heard news that the shooter was homophobic. We have heard that perhaps even he was conflicted about his own sexuality. We have Christian clergy rejoicing that this happened – that these people got what they deserved. We have again heard outcries that the Muslim community is to blame. So much fear, so much hate.
We have also seen loving response to this 2nd largest mass-shooting in US history. We have seen churches hold prayer vigils, honoring the 49 victims. We have seen how the people of Orlando formed lines for blocks to donate blood in response to the senselessness of it all. Muslim congregations have responded once again that ISIS is an extreme radical group – it is not what Islam teaches. The teachings of Islam are much like those of Christianity – love your neighbor, do no harm, protect the innocent…
Loving people have reached out to their gay families and friends to see if they are alright.
Some have said – well, they were in a gay bar, what do they expect? A gay bar? Which of us here has never been in a pub or local tavern, a club or restaurant, a coffee shop, a sport’s bar watching a great game, Toddy Brook on a Friday evening enjoying food and drink with friends and family. Perhaps even listening to some good music which makes us tap our toes – maybe even dance? I know I have and these are times of relaxation and sharing comfortable times with people I enjoy being with. That’s what everyone there thought as well. They were out for an evening of fun and dancing. In a gay bar.
Thursday evening I shared a reflection written by a minister in Texas speaking about gay bars. Gay bars have come to be those places where the LGBT community can feel at home, can feel comfortable, can be themselves. Some have been rejected by family and friends because they are gay and so they find solace together in a gay bar enjoying food and drink and music and dancing. She says, “I know that I have always felt a kind of safety at the gay bars I’ve been to; like I could let my hair down. “ she further says that going to a gay bar has been like going to church – or at least the way churches should be – welcoming of all, accepting of all
Churches have hurt people, particularly gay people with their judgmental and holier than thou ways. The ‘you are going to hell’ for your sinful lifestyle rhetoric that comes out of Christian churches doesn’t sound anything like ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ as Jesus teaches us. I have a friend who recounts that as she spent many Sundays on the road with her daughter’s travelling volleyball team, she found community there among other parents. Later she found ‘church’ in a pub in Boston. She found a safe, comfortable space among people who did not judge her for who she was – something she didn’t find in church.
This killing of 49 people and injuring of more than 50 others has added ‘gay bars’ to the list of places where we are afraid to be. We’ve had killings in churches, movie theatres, schools, colleges, restaurants, work places – no place is safe from the hatred in our world – hatred born out of fear. Fear of life changing? Certainly. But especially fear of the ‘other’. But the apostle Paul tells us there is no ‘other’.
Paul tells us that we are no longer Jew or Greek, no longer male or female, no longer slave or free – all are one in Christ. For Paul, these categories encompassed the world as he knew it. All are one in Christ. All are included in the love of Christ. All races, all genders, all sexual orientations, the wealthy and the poor and all those in between, those who are sick and those who are well, those with mental illness and those who have developmental challenges, and yes, those who hate and those who love.
We are called as Christians to stand and protect those whom the world shuns. This week it is the LGBT community. How do we do that? We go to prayer vigils, we stand on a bridge holding a sign saying God’s love is for all, not just for some – for Christians, for Muslims, for black, and non-black, for gay and non-gay, for male and female, for young and old.
It is no longer enough to sing ‘ they will know we are Christians by our love’ – our actions, our statement to the world needs to reflect the love of Christ in all that we are and do.
North Yarmouth Congregational CHurch welcomes all people. Perhaps it is time to tell the world that. Amen.
The Forgotten Children
Killed in the Orlando
JUNE 13, 2016 / JOHN PAVLOVITZ
49 children were murdered in a night club in Orlando this week.
49 sons and daughters, carried in the swollen bellies of mothers who
waited breathlessly for them to arrive.
49 nurseries prepared with brightly colored walls and soft, and furry
animals just waiting to welcome them home.
49 smooth, helpless, perfect bundles, cradled in the crook of the arms of
proud, nervous parents and loving siblings and beaming grandparents.
49 middle of the night cries, rushed to by sleepless caregivers whose
very voices quieted the fear.
49 sweet-smelling heads with swirls of fuzzy hair spirals.
49 pairs of doughy hands, pulling themselves up onto end tables, and
one moment pushing away and reaching toward outstretched arms.
49 pairs of wobbly legs begin to find their strength.
49 first words, greeted with wild exuberance by tearful, applauding
49 first days of school, with new lunch boxes and butterflied tummies
and dreams of what will be.
49 gloriously off-key First grade recitals.
49 paper mache volcanos.
49 early morning snuggles.
49 toothless, jack-o-lantern smiles.
49 wide-eyed mortals realizing they are superheroes.
49 fearless boys and girls bounding and skipping and jumping through
the woods and on top of beds and off of staircases.
49 scraped knees and stitched chins and broken arms and
2AM emergency room visits.
49 First loves and pimpled cheeks and awkward moments and fender
49 middle school meltdowns.
49 high school crises.
49 children finding their gifts and passions and calling, all pushing
them toward purpose.
49 young men and women, navigating the worries, joys, and wounds of
finding their own place in the world.
49 souls just beginning to find their voices.
49 people loving and being loved.
49 laughing, dancing, embracing bodies—silenced in a second.
49 hearts, ceasing to beat.
49 family members waiting in helpless, prayerful, panic.
49 cell phones ringing incessantly, never to be answered again.
49 children were murdered in a night club in Orlando this week.
49 children’s parents are grieving.
49 children’s siblings and friends and lovers and spouses and children
are planning funerals.
49 children’s stories were horribly interrupted.
Not statistics, not people groups, not causes or culture war symbols, not
illustrations or examples or stereotypes or case studies.
As treasured as your own.
As treasured as you are to another.
Flesh, blood, and bone.
Souls and dreams and crooked smiles.
Children whose deaths should shake and infuriate and grieve us fully.
Children whose loss is as senseless and tragic as any we an experience.
If we can’t see this or we choose to overlook it or succeed in forgetting
it, it will be our fault when more children die.
49 LGBTQ children were murdered in a nightclub in Orlando this week.
49 children were born.
49 children lived.
49 children were loved.
49 children deserve to be treasured.
49 children deserve to be remembered.
49 children deserve that we all do better.