Growl, Grumble and Complain

The One who is to be obeyed was in church a few weeks back and heard me preach about the Prodigal Son. She said that this message was perfect for this issue of “Whosoever” since the theme would be dealing with those times God appears silent. Of course, I don’t think from a relationship standpoint God is ever silent when it comes to dealing with us. I think it has more to do with whether we are paying attention or not. I also believe it also has a lot to do with how we view God and how God deals with us. Which is why I really love this story Jesus told… as it relates so well to the GLBT community and our adversaries from the legalist side of Christianity.

“And he said, a certain man had two sons: 12And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me that part of your property which will be mine. And he made division of his goods between them. 13And not long after, the younger son got together everything which was his and took a journey into a far-away country, and there all his money went in foolish living. 14And when everything was gone, there was no food to be had in that country, and he was in need. 15And he went and put himself into the hands of one of the people of that country, and he sent him into his fields to give the pigs their food. 16And so great was his need that he would have been glad to take the pigs’ food, and no one gave him anything. 17But when he came to his senses, he said, What numbers of my father’s servants have bread enough, and more, while I am near to death here through need of food! 18I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have done wrong, against heaven and in your eyes: 19I am no longer good enough to be named your son: make me like one of your servants.

20And he got up and went to his father. But while he was still far away, his father saw him and was moved with pity for him and went quickly and took him in his arms and gave him a kiss. 21And his son said to him, Father, I have done wrong, against heaven and in your eyes: I am no longer good enough to be named your son. 22But the father said to his servants, Get out the first robe quickly, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet: 23And get the fat young ox and put it to death, and let us have a feast, and be glad. 24For this, my son, who was dead, is living again; he had gone away from me, and has come back. And they were full of joy. 25Now the older son was in the field: and when he came near the house, the sounds of music and dancing came to his ears. 26And he sent for one of the servants, questioning him about what it might be. 27And he said to him, Your brother has come; and your father has had the young ox put to death because he has come back safely. 28But he was angry and would not go in; and his father came out and made a request to him to come in. 29But he made answer and said to his father, See, all these years I have been your servant, doing your orders in everything: and you never gave me even a young goat so that I might have a feast with my friends: 30But when this your son came, who has been wasting your property with bad women, you put to death the fat young ox for him. 31And he said to him, Son, you are with me at all times, and all I have is yours. 32But it was right to be glad and to have a feast; for this your brother, who was dead, is living again; he had gone away and has come back.” (Luke 15:11-32)

This story was given by Jesus to help the listeners get an idea of what God was all about in relation to God’s people. Here is the loving and caring father image. These two sons are very representative of our world today when we speak of the GLBT community and those who would do us harm.

We in the GLBT community can certainly relate to the younger brother…can we not? Living at home and over the years; beginning to figure out that we are different, that we are not fitting into the scheme of things. Recognizing the values we are being taught somehow does not apply in the same way to us. Recognizing that we can’t talk about it at home because it would cause such an up roar that we would have to leave or be thrown out. Recognizing the standards that are being set before us for success and a good place in society are only a fantasy we will never achieve. Ah…. yes we of the GLBT community have indeed stood where this younger brother stood. We stand where this younger brother did recognizing we would never be acceptable to our Family or God for that matter.

So we begin to visualize what it would be like in a world where we are not held accountable because of who we are. We start to dream of having a life free from the burden of feeling like our love is an abomination to our Father. We look out into the world and dream of another place; where we can be who we want to be, do as we wish and go where we want to go. So we go to our family and claim what is ours and set off on our own. We are excited by the anticipation of a new city, new people, and new adventures. So we slip off into the night…maybe leaving a note, maybe having one last fight about how we are grown up and can fend for ourselves. We might even have that last angry prayer with God where we say, “if we are going to hell then we will enjoy life and all that it has to offer first.” The church and all it hypocrisy now has no meaning for us, they don’t want us and we don’t need them. We will do it on our own, on our own terms.

Like the younger brother in Jesus’ story we arrive at that far away destination…we are free, at last we are free from all that entangled us at home. We dream of getting a great job. We see the great celebration of life…the nightlife, the bars, the groups, the clubs. We see ourselves finding great prestige and wealth. We vision great romance and untold happiness.

Yet, wait…what is this? The only job we can find is for minimum wage and the cost of housing is far from our means. The night life is filled with danger…temptation…drugs, alcohol, robbery, smoked filled bars and police hassles for hanging around all the wrong places. The idea of prestige and wealth has become only a distant memory of what we thought we could do. Our romance is filled with fake numbers, lies, abusive sex, phone sex, cyber sex, bath houses, moving from one relationship to the next growing more bitter with each change of partner. We find ourselves not being able to maintain any kind of meaningful relationship, we are afraid.

Suddenly, it occurs to us that we are not free but rather in deep agony. We are alone.

What friends we have made are dying or moving away. We are alone.

We lose the only decent job we had because they “don’t like faggots here.” We are alone.

No way to pay the rent we borrow money or maybe even sell ourselves, or worse yet start selling things that will cause us to end up in a far worse situation then the street. We are alone and afraid.

It occurs to us God seems far away and angry with us. If we could just tell God we were sorry, if God would just help us….but we are apart of the hated GLBT community and God will never accept us back, much less help us…..Didn’t the church say to us; “You have no place in the Kingdom!”

In the story as Jesus is telling it, the younger brother decides to go back home because even the slaves were better off then he was. Please remember Jesus is telling us this story to give us a picture of what God is like, how God reacts to God’s people. It is not about any more of a dramatic change than the younger brother deciding to come home. If you will, come back to God. Remember the first time you thought about going to a Gay church or a Gay friendly church. Remember how you weren’t sure if this was right… you weren’t sure you were good enough? Look we had kicked God out of our lives quite praying…stopped loving. “The church was right all along….look at my life now.” But you see here is the most important piece in this story… while still a long ways off the father ran to greet and embrace his son.

Jesus is saying to us the time away makes no difference, the wild and crazy times do not count, nor the empty pockets. What matters is that we are coming home. God has been watching for us and to assure us we are welcome comes to us while we are still yet a long ways off….Yes, we may be afraid, we may be weary, we may be heavy burdened, but God comes to us and calls for a celebration. Your sexuality has not removed you from God! The day we walked into that Gay friendly or Gay church we have come home and the celebration begins. We were once lost but are now found.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at http://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.