Leading up to the Special Council on Human Sexuality in April, the Reformed Church in America has published a series of 21 devotionals to help the denomination and participants prepare. We encourage all Room for All supporters to sign up to receive these devotionals via email and follow along as we pray for the church and particularly those LGBTQ people who are participating.
In addition, Room for All has commissioned a series of 21 Inclusive Prayers and Devotionals written by supporters and friends of Room for All to coincide with and complement the RCA’s series. We will publish those here on OUTsights over the next 21 days.
These readings and prayers are solely the words and opinions of each guest writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Room for All, their staff, or the board.
A Reflection in 3 Parts from Marilyn Paarlberg
This is the last of a three-part series; thanks for coming back (or for going back!). Over the last two days, I’ve shared the story of how a random poem led me to discover a painting, which, in turn, led me to discover the back stories behind both. I’ve been living with all of this for a few years, but it seems fresh to me again, in light of the RCA Special Council on human sexuality that’s coming up.
Of course, much of this is speculation; we’ll never know a definitive answer about the two paintings, and “a poem should not mean, but be” (Archibald MacLeish). But here’s where my mind goes with this intriguing story, and why I’ll carry it in my heart to the RCA Special Council on April 15.
- From the earliest days, there hasn’t been a time in the history of the church when some, however well-meaning, have not stepped into the role of guardians of purity, often with catastrophically cruel outcomes.
- During his life, Jesus always responded to such attempts to keep out those deemed unworthy by scolding the religious authorities and even his own disciples.
- Jesus told surprising, socially offensive stories of religious, ethnic, gender or class role reversal, and ate with people shunned in the culture of the day, to describe the topsy-turvy structure of the kingdom of heaven.
- When people who had been “othered” by religious society responded and believed in him, Jesus commended their faith, even lifting it up as an example for his followers.
- Before he died, Jesus said that he and God were one; that he had loved as God loved. He went on to command his followers to love in the same radical manner.
- Jesus promised that God would send another Advocate, a Spirit of truth, who would remind them of all he had taught, and continue to teach them (John 14).
- That Advocate emboldened followers of “The Way,” challenging them toward ever-widening horizons (non-Jews, slaves, women, black-skinned eunuchs), reminding them that God shows no partiality; that if those formerly thought unworthy received the gifts of the Spirit just as they had, “Who are we to hinder God?” (Acts 10-11).
Finally, this layered story reminds me that people— all people, in all times— the Samaritan woman, the Ethiopian eunuch, the leper, the disciples, the Gentile, the morisco, the converso, the mulata, the monarch, the artist, the poet— each one of us is the amalgamation of the details of our lives, both profound and mundane, tangible and intangible, beautiful and tarnished. We are the stuff of our genes, our cultural context, our relationships, our experiences.
And in the midst of all of it, now and then, a person’s heart may be miraculously stirred by One who seems to be the truest Word we will ever hear, who shows us a new frame through which we may understand who and whose we are. And so we “lean in,” and invite that One to stay with us in our complicated lives, as we respond to our callings and those to whom we feel called. Why would the church of Jesus Christ deny anyone such a sacred mystery? Why would we seek to paint over them?
I’ll leave the rest up to you to ponder, and invite you to pray for the Special Council and its work, using the prayer that’s embedded in the anthem that I introduced earlier in this series. May it be so.
Jesus Christ, the world’s true light,
Shine so the darkness cannot overcome it.
Stay with us, Lord Jesus, it soon is evening.
Stay with us, for night is falling.
Let your light pierce the darkness
and fill your church with its glory.