Today we are going to look at what happened right after that. From that time forward Jesus was preparing his disciples and revealing what was to happen to him. He began to describe the great suffering he was to undergo in Jerusalem and tell them that he would be killed and then on the third day rise again.
Peter was determined to stop this from happening. He plead with Jesus saying, “God forbid it Lord”.
Although well intentioned, Peter was standing in the way of Jesus’ destiny. His destiny was to save his fallen people through the sacrifice of his own earthly life. I say unintentionally because we all know by the way Peter answered Jesus’ question that he was a true believer in Christ as the Son of God. We also know this because Peter went on to be a building block to the Christian faith.
So what I want us to think about is this theory. Often those of us who are for Jesus and Christianity also are the same that work against Christianity and Jesus. Sounds weird I know. It will get clearer.
We should be asking ourselves are we getting in the way of our own faith, or the faith of others. I’m going to give some examples from my own life.
I can remember when I first returned to MCCW. I was happy to find a spiritual home and also felt that I finally found a way to feel closer to God. But as I tried to delve deeper into my spirituality, I examined the way in which I lived my faith. I realized I was being a “closet Christian” or a “convenient Christian”. I wasn’t living my faith out loud or encouraging other to do the same. Afraid to pray in public or listen to Christian music in my car with the windows down and I knew right away why this was. I realized that I was afraid of what others would think about what I was doing. I was acting ashamed. Ashamed of my faith and ashamed of my relationship with God.
How ridiculous does that sound! All the while unintentionally (like Peter) I was getting in the way of my faith and the faith of others. By these small acts alone I wasn’t allowing myself to enjoy the things that help me feel closer to God. I was also not doing the one thing Jesus asked us to do, which was to love my brothers and sisters by bringing them the good news that God loves them unconditionally which I believe made me a stumbling block to their faith as well.
It starts to become clear that I cannot be a closet Christian. The term can’t even exist anymore. To truly be Christian you have to live it out loud. In all you do and all you say and all you feel. Your faith is the basis of how you live your life.
For many in the LGBTQ community living your faith out loud is a pretty tall task. For so many years we have been marginalized by most organized religions. Even within our own community people seem quite shocked to see gay people living proud Christian lives.
But this is far more that an LGBTQ issue. The inability to live our faith out loud plagues so many Christians. Christianities reputation has taken such a hit at the hands of extremists who preach hate, intolerance, and build churches on judgement and fear.
This goes back to our earlier thought of Christians getting in the way of others ability to have faith. I don’t know but I don’t think it a very good sales pitch to say. Come join our faith, where you will be judged, stared at, expected to be perfect, smiled at on Sunday and talked about the rest of the week long. This is definitely not a way to help others find their way to Christ.
Unfortunately though this is how many people view the church and Christianity. At one time I felt exactly the same way. Right up until I came to MCC and heard my call to ministry, I was a member of a very extremist thinking form of Christianity. They were always very welcoming to me and most likely still would be if I were to visit today. However when the preacher stood up to bring the message, he would begin to spout out hate and judgement on groups of people including LGBTQ. He would go on further to say that when Armageddon came that this group of Christians would be the only to survive and inherit the earth. They all believed they were the chosen ones and that all attempts to build a closer relationship with God outside of their denomination would only fall on deaf ears.
In the end all this accomplished was the breeding of hate and the alienation of his people. It discouraged so many (including me) from even trying to become closer to God or allowing us to see his presence in others or ourselves.
Coming to a church that preaches Gods unconditional love for all his children has undone the damaging and painful history I have had with church. Today I get to be confident and proud of being a gay Christian man. I know now that I have the ability to step over all stumbling blocks to my faith whether internal or external and come out of my Christian closet. By doing this I also realized that I no longer allow myself to be a stumbling block to the faith of others.
We all have to walk the talk and live our lives as proud Christians. We have to give glory to God for our successes, and pray when and where we need to pray. We need to share the good news with all who will listen and still love those who want no part of it. We can no longer be ashamed of ourselves or our relationship with God.
A year ago for our Homecoming service, MCCW had the honour of hearing the Lords message through the musical talent of Shawn Thomas. Shawn is and out and proud gay Christian singer. I remember being inspired by his song, “Faith Unashamed”. Now I’m not going to sing this for you today and believe me when I say I just gave you all one more reason to be thankful today. I do however want to share the lyrics that touched me. The song starts by talking about a woman sitting in a church parking lot waiting to go in for service. She sits there thinking of what the others have heard about her. She goes in and hear them talking about her and sees them pointing at her. It goes on to say that she is no longer afraid. This setting spoke to me because it reminded me of when I first came back to MCC. Me alone in the parking lot judging myself before I even walk in the door. The chorus was the kicker tough. It explains that she is no longer afraid because she has faith unashamed, she has hope unafraid, she has love undenied, and that she is saved under grace. Because where there is love there is faith unashamed. This for me was an ah ha moment. I decided that my call to ministry could not be a mistake. I did not misunderstand his message to me. It made things clear for me and I hope it is clear to all of you. It doesn’t matter if you are gay or straight, or if you made some mistakes. None of it matters. We are all worthy of his love. We can’t let our past become a barrier to our future. We are loved unconditionally.
I had realized that all I had been taught about Christianity and the conditions that God puts on us had been wrong. I thank God for giving me these building blocks to faith through Shawn and MCC.
So I guess what I’m really getting at today is that we need to be intentional about how we practise our faith. Instead of being stumbling blocks, let’s be the building blocks. Let our actions, and mostly our heart do the talking.
We may be hated or persecuted for following Jesus and he did warn us about this. But remember all of the benefits to following Christ. For it has been written that those of us who recognize Christ in front of man He will recognize in front of his Father.
Remember when you leave here today that the way we as Christian conduct ourselves determines not only our faith but the faith of those around us. So get out there and blare the Shawn Thomas with the windows down, don’t be ashamed, love one another, help your brothers and sisters, speak to the Lord and leave your hearts open to his answers. Be a proud Christian remembering always that God loves us all.
Through all His many names, amen.