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BRAVE IN THE NEW WORLD: It’s Complicated      Matthew 19-1-12

We are finishing up a series we’re calling “Brave in the New World.”  Over the last two months, we’ve been tackling difficult issues, socially, and trying to figure out what it looks like to live as a follower of Jesus in this new world.  How many of you would agree that the world is changing quite rapidly?  Actually that’s not just a feeling; a sociologist studied our cultural moment.  They’re saying that things are changing at a more rapid pace than they have ever changed before.  That’s not just a visceral reaction, that’s a reality, according to sociologists.

Last week we talked about the Scriptures and science.  We talked about this perceived dichotomy, chasm, between what the Scriptures say and what science says.  We actually said that you don’t need to choose between Scripture and science.  You can actually be someone who loves the Bible and loves telescopes and microscopes and that’s an okay and a good thing.  In fact, that’s the way it’s designed.

Today we’re going to end this series by talking about sexuality.  As I’ve thought about this, I don’t know if there’s a more contentious, debated, and emotional subject in our culture today.  Here’s what I want to promise you: 1) I want to promise to do my best to wrestle with what the Scriptures actually say.  2) I want to do my best to be an equal-opportunity offender.  If halfway through you’re like yes and amen, just wait.  And opposite.  If halfway through you’re like I’m not sure I like this guy, just wait.  I promise that everybody will walk out of here thinking I didn’t go far enough on whatever perspective they have on this issue.  3) I want to say I’m not standing up here because I have all of the answers, I just drew the short straw.  Just kidding.  I don’t have all the answers.  I’m a sojourner, I’m a struggler, just like you are.  I want to do my best to wrestle with what the Scriptures actually teach about this subject.

We live, like I said, in a cultural moment where things are changing in regards to sexuality quicker than they have ever changed.  In 2008, President Obama was interviewed by Pastor Rick Warren.  He stood up on Rick Warren’s stage at Saddleback Church in southern California, and very clearly said that he was opposed to gay marriage.  In 2015, gay marriage was legalized all over the U.S., and a lot of the voices that were very adamantly against it were then for it.  Today, around two-thirds of the people in our country would say, “I’m for gay marriage.”  Two-thirds.  I just tell you that to show how quickly that tide has turned in our cultural moment.  We’ve seen the transgender movement catalyzed.  While that seems like a new phenomenon, I just want to tell you, it’s not.  The surgeries associated with it and the transition possible is new, but the desire isn’t.  It’s been around for a long time.  Even right now, you could go to the TLC channel on your television and you could watch multiple shows about polygamy….in our day and our time right now.  Sexuality is a complicated thing.  Right now in downtown Denver, there’s a gay pride march going on…..and there’s churches out there picketing.  And we’re sitting in here, talking about it all.  There’s tension, isn’t there?

My goal, this morning, is not to give an entire discourse on sexuality or a complete diagnostic of our cultural moment, that would be fun and interesting, but it would take hours and hours and hours.  I’m not going to talk about the politics behind the sexual revolution of the 1960’s and where that’s left us.  I’m not going to talk a lot about the transgender movement.  I’m not going to talk a lot about the debate between gender and sexuality.  All of those things are things we COULD talk about.  What I want to talk about this morning is how do we as a church wrestle with this issue of sexuality, specifically homosexuality and the LGBTQ community as a whole.  What’s our perspective on that?  What’s our direction in that?  How do we respond to that?

There’s no shortage of debate.  Unfortunately, there’s also no shortage of pain.  If you were to do an interview of young people across the U.S., there’s a number of ways that they would describe the church.  They’d say we’re hypocritical.  They’d say we’re judgmental.  Then in the top three things they’d say about the church….they’re anti-gay.  They’re homophobic.  I don’t know about you, but as a follower of Jesus, that just absolutely breaks my heart.  Here’s my question:  What do the Scriptures teach and how can we, as a church community, chart a course that will serve us well moving forward into this brave new world where we continue to hold onto the Scriptures and say, we believe that the Scriptures are God’s word to us AND we believe that there’s a world out there that God has called us to passionately love.

If you have your Bible, open first to Genesis 2.  In order to talk about sexuality, we have to start at the very beginning of the story.  If you were here last week, you heard us talk about the differences between Genesis 1 and 2.  Genesis 2 starts to dive a little bit deeper into what does it mean to be human.  One of things that it means to distinctly be human is that we were made for connection with one another.  Listen to the way that the Scriptures say it in Genesis 2:18 — Then the Lord God said, “It is not good {If you’ve been reading straight through the poem in Genesis 1, you get to Genesis 2.  Genesis 1… times it’s good, it’s good, it’s good….seventh time, it’s VERY good.  Then in Genesis 2, it’s not good.  What changed?  Nothing.  Sin did not enter the picture yet.  God looks at his creation and says it’s not good….}  that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”   Now, before we get bent out of shape on this word “helper,” let me just give you a little bit of background.  It’s this word in the Hebrew, ezer.  It’s used twenty-one times in the Scriptures.  Two times it’s used to describe Adam’s wife, in this text.  Three times it’s used to describe other people.  Sixteen times, out of the twenty-one, in the Scriptures, this word “helper” is used to describe God.  He’s our helper.  It literally means “powerful advocate.”  It means rescuer.  Somebody who comes alongside a weaker party to strengthen them, that’s what it means.  God says, “Listen, Adam, I made you a helper that’s fit for you,” but here’s his point: people were created for relationships and designed for intimacy.  Every single person that walks the face of the globe longs for intimate connection with other people.  Longs to be known.  Longs to be valued.  Longs to be loved.  That’s a universal….you have never laid eyes on somebody who wasn’t designed for relationship and wired for intimacy.  Take that in for a second.

So when Simon and Garfunkel write a song like “I Am a Rock,” right?  I’ve built walls // A fortress deep and mighty // That none may penetrate // I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain // It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain // I am a rock // I am an island   {Ryan sings the song.}  Here’s the thing, Simon and Garfunkel knew it was all a sham.  They ended there song by saying:  And a rock feels no pain // And an island never cries    They knew it wasn’t possible to shut down relationship and intimacy they longed for.

As we see in this Genesis narrative, one of the ways humanity tends to the longing for intimacy is through marriage.  It’s the way that God met that longing for Adam in the garden—he created Eve. I want to be very specific in saying it’s ONE of the ways.  Because I think in the church—I don’t think, I know because I’ve talked to enough of you—it can be a really, really difficult place to be a single person.  We elevate marriage really, really high…..actually, higher than the Scriptures elevate marriage.  You do know that Jesus was the most whole person to ever walk the face of the planet, do you not?  He was unmarried.  So, if marriage is the pinnacle for human existence, Jesus never reached it.  Okay?  Number one.  Number two, can I just say what my heart is? I long for a day where it’s easier for a single person to find community in a church than it is for them to find a hookup online.  That’s my heart.  I long for that.  That’s not the case now, but I long for a day when that is the reality.

So, God says you were wired for intimacy, you were wired for relationship; one of the ways I’m going to give you to meet that need is through marriage.  Will you flip over to Matthew 19:1-3 with me?  In the beginning of this message we talked about the way that science and the Scriptures are not at odds with each other; the world is created with design and so are human beings.  There’s a design and there’s a design for this thing called marriage, one of the ways that God meets the longing for intimacy and relationships in humanity.  There’s two times we have recorded that Jesus taught about marriage.  Ironically, both of those times {Matthew 5 and Matthew 19} he’s talking about divorce.  Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.  And large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.  And Pharisees came up to him and tested him {As we’ve been in this Brave In The New World series, what we’ve seen is a lot of the ways people tried to test Jesus are still contentious issues today.  The world is changed, but the issues we wrestle with have remained the same.}  by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?”

I think these two words, any cause, should actually begin with capitals.  Any Cause.  Because they’re having a debate.  There’s a cultural debate that’s going on.  You have two rabbinic parties that were going head to head.  You had the party of Hillel.  He was sort of a more liberal rabbi.  Hillel taught that you could divorce your wife for any reason.  She burns the toast—divorce her.  She stops pleasing you—divorce her.  You don’t like the way she looks anymore—divorce her.  ANY. CAUSE.  Then you had another rabbi named Shammai.  Shammai said, no, you can’t divorce your wife for any cause, only for being unfaithful.  The breaking of the marriage covenant.  The breaking of the marriage vow.  These were the two camps.  There question was: Jesus, who do you side with?  Sort of more liberal Hillel or more conservative Shammai?  Which is it, Jesus?  Here’s the thing, and don’t miss this.  Jesus sides with the more conservative Shammai, because he is so adamantly committed to the value of women, to the protection of women, that they wouldn’t just be cast out for burning the toast.  He goes no, no, no, no, no, I side with Shammai because I side with women.

Then he continues — He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”  I’d like to propose to you that in this text Jesus gives a very, very clear design for marriage. Let’s unpack it.  He says he creates them male and female, so he would say marriage is designed for two heterosexual people to come together.  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two….   Wasn’t designed for more than two.  Wasn’t designed for polygamy, monogamy is God’s design.  Keep that in mind.  …the two shall become one flesh   There’s this idea of covenant.  Like we’re committed to each other—the good and the bad, rich and poor, sickness or health.  Like we’re in this together.  Finally he says, let not man separate.  It’s designed to be a permanent arrangement.

According to Jesus, God’s design for marriage is heterosexual, monogamous, covenantal, and permanent.  That’s his design.  It’s pretty clear.  It’s also the historic stance of the church for the last two thousand years.  It’s why you could systematically walk through this and find instances that God says either “I’m against this” or “This never works out well.”  Let me give you one.  The most contentious issue in our day and our time—homosexuality.  It’s the first one Jesus addressed…a man and a woman.  Here’s the way Paul says it in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10  —  Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived:  neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  Notice that homosexuality and sexual impurity are in a category with a number of things, but it’s there.  Here’s why it’s there: It’s there because it goes against the design that God clearly laid out for marriage from the beginning.  So anything that goes against this design would be considered sin.

Now, here’s the time where I just want to hit Pause.  Timeout.  If you’re ready to cue confetti, hold it.  If you’re ready to throw tomatoes, throw them at Dan or hold them.  Here’s the problem, you guys.  We live in a broken  world.  If you’ve ever felt ashamed of your body; if you’ve ever had an affair; if you’ve ever looked at a person in lust; if you’ve ever looked at pornography; if you’ve thought you don’t measure up sexually; if you’ve kept a secret from your spouse; if you’ve failed to enter into a relationship because of fear; if you’ve taken advantage of another person; if you haven’t allowed yourself to be fully known by your spouse; if any of those things apply to you, your sexuality is broken.  I hope I’ve just implicated everybody in this room!  I certainly implicated myself, and as a heterosexual male who’s never slept with anybody other than my wife, my sexuality is broken.  All of ours is.  All of our sexuality is broken in some way.  Yours is, mine is.  Just read through Genesis 2 and 3.  This world is not the way God intended it to be.

Okay, so here’s the question, you guys, here’s the question.  It’s the question I don’t here people asking.  How does God respond to our brokenness?  How does He respond to our broken sexuality?  In all the reading I’ve done about this over the last few months, really intensely and specifically, but over the last few years, I have not found anybody doing an exposé of these issues.  So I’ve clearly said, here’s what I think God’s design is for marriage.  Heterosexual.  Monogamous.  Covenantal.  Permanent.  That’s his design.  What happens, though, when the design is broken?  How does God respond when the design doesn’t hold up?  Here’s a key principle and we’ll see it displayed here in just a moment, but I want you to write it down before we jump into it in a lot of detail.  God always meets us where we are, not where he wishes we were.  God ALWAYS meets us where we are, not where he wishes we were.  We could describe this as accommodation, sometimes in the Scriptures.  Right?  God says, “I didn’t design you, Israel, to have a king.”  They’re like, we want a king.  He’s like, it’s going to go really bad for you.   They’re like, we want a king.  And he says, okay, here’s a king.  Did you know that God says multiple times, “I never wanted you to have sacrifices.”  This isn’t about sacrifices.  What’s the whole book of Leviticus about then?  He goes I know the culture you’re in, you needed it, I didn’t need it.  I never wanted it.  I wanted you to be people of mercy and justice.  YOU needed it, not me.  He always meets us where we are, not where he wishes we were.

Matthew 19:7-8, case in point:  After Jesus has just given the design for marriage…..They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?”    Ryan’s summary:  Jesus, you have just waxed eloquent about the design for marriage.  Really beautiful.  We’re with you.  We’re for it.  It’s so good.  Could you explain one thing to us, Jesus?  If that’s your design, why did you give divorce?  Because that clearly goes against your design—one man, one woman, one flesh, for life.  We knock the Pharisees for a lot of things, but they stuck the dismount here.  That’s the right question to ask.  Why would you give accommodation for divorce if it was never part of your design?  How many think that’s a really good question?  We are tracking on that together.  Your follow-up question might be what’s the deal?  God, aren’t you going against the grain of what you said you want?  Yes, yes he is.  God goes against his own design in giving the Israelites the ability to divorce.  No other way to read that passage.

Then he says let me tell you why, because my guess is you’re wondering.  My guess is you’re going, what do we do with that?  He goes okay, hit pause, let me tell you why.  He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”    Just because God gave it, doesn’t mean he wanted it.  He makes accommodation because of things that go wrong in marriage, whether it’s an affair, or an addiction to pornography, or some way that your heart grows hard and covenant is broken.  Jesus doesn’t just cast people aside because their hearts are hard.  He meets them where they are.  He gives them the best that he possibly can given the reality of their situation, because God always deals in reality.  It’s the best he can give some people, given the circumstances of their life.  The best he can give some is divorce, and he gives it even though it’s not his desire.  Which by the way—I’ll take a quick timeout here and say that should cause all sorts of questions to be stirred up in our mind and they’re the right questions.  What does God do with things like gay marriage?  What does God do with….fill in the blank, fill in the blank, fill in the blank.

Can I add another layer of complexity?  {One person said yes, so I’m going to take that little….} Did you know that there are times in the Scriptures when God doesn’t just ALLOW the breaking of his design, there are times when he commands the breaking of his design?  Let me show it to you.  It’s called Levirate marriage.  It’s described in Deuteronomy 25:5 — If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the dead man shall not be married outside the family to a stranger.  Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.  How many of you, if this law was intact, would have wanted to have more of a say over who your brother married?  Yeah, me too!  What’s going on here?  Why in the world?  Presumably this other brother’s married—if you want to read a really interesting story, read through Genesis 38 sometime this week, because we have this in the patriarchal line.  We even have this in the Jesus line, read Matthew 1 if you want to do an interesting study on that in Tamar.  But…..what’s going on?  God is commanding polygamy.  Why? In this situation, if this woman…..her husband passes away before they have children, she’s going to be outcast.  She’s going to be put into the streets.  She’s going to be forced into prostitution.  It’s going to be a hellacious life for her.  So while God says polygamy isn’t my design, it’s better than a woman being cast into the streets and being taken advantage of.

I hope we’re starting to wrestle with the title of this message—It’s Complicated.  It’s not just complicated culturally, it’s complicated biblically.  Think about this, King David, a man after God’s own heart—the only person it’s said that about in Scripture—had seven wives.  Just to be clear, you can never find a situation in Scripture where polygamy works out well for anyone.  Just want to make it as clear as I possibly can.  You also cannot find a passage in Scripture that condemns it.  The New Testament makes some prohibitions.  If you do have multiple wives (or multiple husbands), you cannot be an elder in the church.  But that’s the only prohibition given.  Why in the world would God allow this kind of fracture, COMMAND this kind of fracture to his design?  Here’s why—God values people over his design.  People are the most important thing to God.  He knows a polygamous relationship is going to be difficult.  That’s an understatement!  But it’s better than somebody getting taken advantage of, like the way this woman would have.  The design was made for people, not the other way around.

Lest I don’t fully do my job as a pastor—a lot of you are going you aren’t, that’s fine, we can disagree on that—what we need to recognize is that there are instances where God says I will break my design in order to value people and then there are instances where he says I will not break my design.  Let me give you one example.  1 Corinthians 5:1-2 — It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.  And you are arrogant!  Ought you not rather to mourn?  Let him who has done this be removed from among you.  He’s saying that someone’s sleeping with their step-mom.  They’re in the church. They’re proud of it.  You need to remove them from the church because of the atrocity of what’s being done.  Paul will go one to say at the end of 1 Corinthians 5, I’m not talking about the world out there, I’m talking about the church!  We need to be concerned with our sexuality and tackle that one first.  We might summarize his statement like this:  While God may command you to marry your sister-in-law, he will not accommodate you if you want to sleep with your step-mom.  {I didn’t see anybody writing that down.}

The Scriptures are really, really clear in condemning sexual immorality—or what we might call promiscuity or what we might call sex outside of the bonds of marriage.  It’s important to note just how seriously the early church took this.  The early church was known for three primary things that made them distinct in the Roman Empire.  1) They cared for the sick and the dying.  2) They were generous with their money.  3) The husbands were sexually faithful to their wife.  It was revolutionary in the early church.  Christians adamantly rejected sexual promiscuity and it was one of their primary, MAIN platforms as a church.  But please notice, if you go back and flip one chapter back to 1 Corinthians 4, all the other things that Paul condemned along with sexual immorality and homosexuality.  He rebuked greed, and we’re not trying to legislate that, are we?  Idolatry.  Abuse.  Drunkenness.  And people that take advantage of others.  All in the same category as this issue of sexuality.

Can I just get on my platform a little bit?  It’s a small platform.  I think one of the things the outside world sees about the church is that we’re inconsistent.  I was living in California in 2008 when Proposition 8 was a huge thing out there.  Prop 8 was essentially a proposition put forward to say, constitutionally, that marriage was between a man and a woman.  That proposition actually passed and then in 2010 was overturned by a federal district judge.  What happened was you had this line in the sand drawn, right?  You’re either for Prop 8 or you’re against Prop 8.  And you’ve got to choose.  You’re either for the gay community or you’re against the gay community.  You either love the LGBTQ+ group as a whole OR you hate them.  If you’re for them, you vote no on Prop 8.  If you hate them, you vote yes.  There was venom being spewed back and forth, back and forth.  Like I said before, I am convinced that God’s design for marriage is heterosexual, monogamous, covenantal, and permanent.  That’s what I believe God designed marriage to be, but I also am convinced {please hear me on this} that God’s design for followers of Jesus is that we would be known for our love.  That we would be known for our love.  So the fact that the church is paired with such hatred breaks my heart.  I hope it breaks yours too.  I hope as you see the complexity of this issue, you start to go man, Jesus, what would you do?  How would you live?

What would you do, Jesus, if you were the senior pastor of South Fellowship Church and a lesbian couple started to attend here?  {I hope they’re here and I hope there’s more of them that begin to come because they know that you love them.}  Let’s say they have two kids.  They come to faith in Jesus, praise be to God.  They set up a meeting with me.  They say to me, “Ryan, we’ve been married for six years.  We have two kids together.  We love each other passionately.  We love Jesus with our whole heart.  We love our kids.  And we love being a family together.  What should we do?”  What do you tell them?  We can have the “issue” figured out, but when it starts to have people and faces and stories attached to it, what would you do?  Would you tell them, like Paul says to some people “remain as you were when you were called?”  (1 Corinthians 7:20)  Would you tell them to get divorced, even though God hates divorce. (Malachi 2:16)  What do we tell them?  Do we tell them continue to love Jesus with everything you are; hold the issue before Him and see what the Spirit says to you?  It’s complicated.

Our case study could be about somebody that was born with both reproductive organs, and the doctors had to make a decision, at birth, is this a man or a woman?  Or it could be about someone who was abused and taken advantage of as a child.  Or it could be about someone who you talk to their mom and mom goes, “From the time they were three years old I knew they were gay.”  What do we do?  What do we do?  What do we do?  One of my hopes today is to show you from the Scriptures, not culturally, from the Scriptures that it’s not just black and white.  I know that because very few followers of Jesus would say polygamy’s okay, even though the Bible doesn’t seem to have an issue with it.

So, what do we do with this?  Glad you asked, I’ve got three things.  What does it look like to be brave in the new world when it comes to sexuality?  Let’s be the kind of people, followers of Jesus, who love everyone, always.  Period.  If you are a follower of Jesus, you do not get to decide which people you love, you simply get to decide how.  For those of you who are here and you’ve been wounded by the church because of sexuality, or if you’re listening online and you’ve been wounded, however you come across this message, I just want to, from the bottom of my heart, say I’m so sorry that you carry that pain.  I’m so sorry that you carry that pain.  Some of that came from a place of hatred, and some of it came from a place of homophobia, and it is downright sin and it’s wrong.  I also want to say that sometimes it comes from a different place also.  Sometimes it comes from people who are trying to wrestle with the Scriptures, who want to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus, who want to be full of grace, who want to be full of truth, who, like me, believe God’s design is one thing, but our reality is another thing, and it’s just so hard to figure out sometimes.  Forgive us.  Forgive us.

Here’s what I do know:  Growing up, being gay in the church, from what I’ve heard, is an absolutely terrifying, difficult experience for people to have.  It’s why the suicide attempt rates for those who grow up gay in the church are off the charts.  I hope that breaks our heart.  I do know that for those in the LGBTQ community there is a market (no money to be made) for moms and dads to stand during pride parades with a sign on that says “Free Mom Hugs/Free Dad Hugs,” and to give hugs to people who have been ostracized from their own families. People who would say, “My dad hasn’t hugged me in years!”  I’m not invited to family dinner anymore, I’m not invited to Thanksgiving anymore.  Free mom hugs.  Free dad hugs.  And they’re just hugging people all day, you guys.  I mean, something in us has to go we’re broken.  We all are.

Love everyone always.  Jesus defended people he didn’t agree with.  He validated their humanity.  He heard their story.  He refused to label.  He put himself in their place.  If that sounds familiar, it’s simply our points from our message we gave a few weeks ago, “Tolerance in an Age of Contempt.”  Here’s what I do know:  Jesus had a very high standard for sexual integrity, and yet, people who fractured that standard were drawn to Jesus.  They were.

Second. What does is look like to be brave in the new world?  Live with fidelity.  If you’re single, be faithful.  Treat other people who aren’t your spouse in a way that honors them as brothers and sisters in Christ.  If you’re married, be faithful to your spouse.  That’s what the Scriptures would say in every instance.  Be faithful.

Finally, invite people to follow Jesus.  After doing a deep dive on this throughout the Scriptures and seeing man, there’s so much tension here, I want to figure out what do I walk away with, what do I say to South Fellowship Church at the end of a message on sexuality?  Here’s what I want to say to you.  Point people to Jesus.  Whether you’re straight, or gay, or anything else, you are human.  And in being human, God is calling us to Jesus.  He’s our salvation.  He’s our hope.  He’s our healing.  He’s our everything.  And in Jesus we are safe to be loved and molded more and more into his image and likeness.  The Scriptures say he does this through his kindness.  So take all of your baggage and all of your brokenness and everything you’re wrestling through and run to him this morning.  Love everyone always.  Give some free mom hugs and free dad hugs today.  Live with fidelity.  And invite people—ALL people—to follow Jesus.

Because of the complexity I’ve hopefully drawn out here, I believe that there’s room at the table (Christianity) for differing opinions on this issue.  That’s my conviction personally.  There are some strong followers of Jesus who love the Scriptures who disagree with me and who would fall on a different side of this issue.  That’s okay.  While I hold wholeheartedly to God’s design for marriage, I don’t know how God responds every time that design is fractured.  To be honest, the Scriptures threw me off a little bit.  If you’re here today and you’re gay, I want you to hear me say as clearly as I possibly can, we, as a church, are willing to walk with you.  We’re willing to try to live as best we can in the tension of conviction and compassion.  But I would also say—and I think this is important—if you need to find a church that’s more affirming of your position, that’s not us, we want to wrestle with the tension we see in Scripture.  If you need to go somewhere else where you can feel more supported in that, you’re free to go.  But just know, we would love the chance to walk with you and try to walk in the tension of conviction and compassion.

Here’s this pastoral impartation I want you to receive before we go.  No matter where you are on life’s journey, how you find yourself in this room today, you’re welcome here.  Young or old, you’re welcome here.  If you have brown skin, black skin, white skin, yellow skin, or any other color of skin, you are welcome here.  If you’re married or single, you’re welcome here.  If you’re gay or straight, you’re welcome here.  If you cannot see or cannot hear, you’re welcome here.  If you’re sick or well, you’re welcome here.  If you’re a man or a woman, you are welcome here.  If you’re happy or sad, you are welcome here.  If you are rich or poor, powerful or weak, you are welcome here.  If you believe in God some of the time, or none of the time, or all of the time, you are welcome here.  You….you….you….you….you….you….you….you are welcome here.  Let’s be people of welcome.  Let’s be people of love.  Let’s live with integrity and fidelity.  And let’s be a church that’s passionately obsessed with Jesus.  Amen?  Amen.  Oh yeah, and Happy Father’s Day!  Love you guys!

Let’s pray.  Jesus, we’re all strugglers and sojourners and wrestlers, if we’re honest.  So help us wrestle and walk well.  God, help us to be people who are able to live in some of the grey areas, the things that we struggle with, the things that we disagree with, the things that we don’t understand, the things that we doubt, the questions that we have.  Lord, help us to live with all of them in a tension that draws us to you and to you alone, we pray.  It’s in Jesus’s name.  And all God’s people said…..Amen and amen.