Dear Siloa Friends, Neighbors, Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Why does God trust us with so, so much?
I have experienced some amazing conversations as part of our Adult Forum series on Human Sexuality, and that inspires my monthly letter for this October.
As Christians, as followers of Jesus, we hear his instruction: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ (Matthew 22: 37 to 40)
That is how Jesus summed up his understanding of the message of God's Word and God's Law in whole Old Testament. So, as we give thanks to God for the gift of life and the many gifts we have been given in this world, we then come to the realization that we have been blessed in order to be a blessing to others. That is how God loves the world. God loves and saves and blesses us so we can help God to love and save and bless our neighbor. Everyone should be loved. Everyone is loved. God reaches out directly, and also through faithful people, to love and encourage and to heal and forgive and teach and care for every person and every part of this precious creation. (Genesis 1: 31-- God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.)
So, when we consider our human sexuality, can we see it as good and beautiful, and as a gift from God to be treasured and celebrated and shared? And, at the same time, can we understand sex and our sexuality to be gifts given to us to love and serve and care for our neighbor? How can our sexuality and our sexual behavior rightly honor God and love and care for each other?
Immediately, we might pause and ask an important question. If sex is good and beautiful, then why does it seem to cause so much harm, destruction, dysfunction and unhappiness? At Siloa, almost every Sunday, we pray, "Most merciful God, we confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves. ... We have not loved you with our whole heart, we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. " We human beings, created in God's image, have been entrusted with so much. But we can misuse and destroy and waste our gifts. The word we use to talk about this tendency and these actions is, "sin". We also know that there are addictions, personality disorders and mental illness that can misuse our sexuality, resulting in disorder, pain, and misery for so many. Often, we need help.
Here are two quotes from the ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality from 2009:
"We are called therefore to be trustworthy in our human sexuality and to build social institutions and practices where trust and trustworthy relationships can thrive." - page 2.
Pastor's October Letter, continued, Page 2.
"We sin when we turn away from God and look to ourselves. Sin turns us toward obsessive self-concern, with disastrous consequences for ourselves and for others." - page 3.
In order for others to trust us, we must be trustworthy. In order to care for each other and to love God, we have to trust God to guide us. We have to earn the trust of each other as we love each other and care for each other. Loving God with all our heart leads us to rely on God to show us how to love each other. But, we know, we mess up, we make mistakes even when we have good intentions. We can become absorbed in selfishness and we sin against God and against our neighbor. Mental illness can hinder or destroy our ability to think and plan and do the right thing.
So, we will rely on God and seek to strengthen our faith. We will study the Bible and we will also talk to each other, seek to understand each other more deeply, and we will look to science and research and our intelligence and our experience to help guide us as we seek to walk the two-fold path of loving God and loving our neighbor.
Can we build a Church and a society and a world where sexual assault is prohibited and unthinkable? Can we create workplaces and schools and communities where sexual harassment does not occur? Can we prevent and also treat sexually transmitted diseases, work to reduce unwanted pregnancies, and can we encourage and teach each other to avoid risky, harmful, and self-destructive behavior? Can we become a Church where we can teach our children to honor and celebrate a healthy sexuality while we also teach and encourage them to be trustworthy, careful and genuinely seek the best for all?
Christians read and study and pray about God's Word as it comes to us in the Bible. And Christians, including the seminary professors, university professors and biblical scholars can come to very different conclusions. How do we interpret and translate the Bible correctly? How can we know how to put God's Word, as we understand it, into action and policy and teaching in our families and in our communities? Daily, we all have to decide, and we are called to reach out in love, knowing we might get it wrong at times, but we rely on God's grace and guidance and forgiving power to carry us and to show us the way.
Why does God trust us with so much? I am so pleased and proud to know that the ELCA says that everyone is welcome at the table. All are welcome. We will listen to you, welcome you, try to understand each other, pray and study and commit to live together as brothers and sisters in Christ. This includes the journey of trying to understand our sexuality in "the Light of God's Love in Christ Jesus". It is not always clear, easy or comfortable, but we commit to this adventure of faith. God has promised to guide us. This is good news.
Peace, Pastor Dan Olson