Pastor’s reflection: Reconciling Sunday

Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you from God, who loves every single one of us the same.

In November 1997, St. Matthew’s became a Reconciling Congregation, welcoming all people. Our inclusivity is, by its nature, for everyone, but it is especially extended toward gay, lesbian, transgender, queer, questioning and intersex people, because they are specifically targeted by the church’s church’s official policy of prejudice and persecution. A whole group of people are labeled as “sinful” and condemned and rejected from church life and ministry simply and purely because of who they are.

St. Matthew’s stands against such cruelty and bigotry. As followers of Jesus we know we can’t separate ourselves from others. Our goal is to be reconciled with one another, especially with those whom society has rejected, condemned or labeled. Because the “official” church specifically condemns LGBTQI people, we are called specifically to contradict that prejudice. Hence our stand as a Reconciling Congregation.

Tomorrow we will celebrate Reconciling Sunday, honoring our stand for justice and reconciliation. If you want to celebrate you might wear bright rainbow colors. Below is the affirmation we’ll read in worship. I’d love for many people to read the plain type lines, while we all respond in the bold. If you’d like to read one (you can pick!) let me know.

I know not everyone at St. Matthew’s is comfortable with our Reconciling witness. Whether you support, oppose or aren’t sure about it, we need to talk. So after worship we’ll hold some talking circles in which you will be free to speak your truth without being contradicted, interrupted or challenged. We’ll all simply have a chance to be heard and affirmed.

We’re doing this because we need to reflect together and hear one another. This needs to be an ongoing process; this is merely a place to begin. We need to reflect on two basic questions:

• Are you comfortable with our Reconciling stand? Why or why not?

• In the spirit of Jesus, how is God calling us to embody inclusion and reconciliation? What specific steps or ministries might we embark on to fulfill Christ’s vision of the Realm of God?

Your beliefs and experiences around these questions are are valid no matter what your stand is. God speaks to us through one other and in our own hearts. What is God saying to the church? I want to hear.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

                  A Reconciling Affirmation

We believe in God, Creator of all people, with all our diversity.
Thank you, God, for the rainbow of humanity you have created!
We follow Christ, who loved the outcast, who included the marginalized, who built a New Community of radical welcome and belonging.
Thank you, Jesus, for your love for all people, and your love of justice.
We live by the Holy Spirit, God’s love that breathes in all of us, that gives each of us gifts for ministry for the sake of the world.
Thank you, Spirit, for filling all of us with your love and courage.
As children of God we affirm that we are all broken and beloved, that we are all sinners and all forgiven.
In grace and mercy God has reconciled us with God, and with all people.
As followers of the Crucified Christ we behold God in those who are condemned or rejected.
We who bear the cross of Christ stand with those who are exuded.
As vessels of the Holy Spirit we reject discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
We affirm the Holy Spirit’s gifts in all God’s children; we will not judge or label people.
God, we confess that we do label people, and we need your mercy.
We repent of our racism and sexism in their many forms, and ask your forgiveness.
We affirm our baptismal vows to “accept the power God gives us to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”
We pray for faith to love mercy.
We pray for courage to do justice.
We pray for strength to bear witness in love, even facing resistance, even from within the church.
We pray for the Spirit to reform our hearts and our church.
We pray for hope to cary on.
For our brokenness and our belovedness, and our unity with each other, we cry, Mercy!
For systems that hurt and exclude people, we cry, Justice!
For a church that offers healing and reconciliation, we cry, Come, Lord Jesus!
For the grace to offer love unbounded, we cry, Come, Holy Spirit!
For the coming of your Reign of mercy and justice, in unity with all who live in hope, we cry with one voice:
Your will be done! Alleluia!

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