Valentine’s Day just came and went, and with it the swirl of activity around gifts and cards and plans for showing those we love that we love them.
It’s a beautiful thing… and also a stressful thing.
Author Rachel Held Evans put it this way in a tweet:
This year I ended up throwing my husband a curve ball.
He had made arrangements ahead of time to send me flowers and have them delivered to my office…since Valentine’s Day fell on a workday.
There was just one snag in his well-laid plans.
I was feeling under the weather this week, and ended up working from home on Valentine’s Day.
I am happy to report he was able to intervene and redirect the delivery to our home.
At the end of the day, his flowers were in the right place.
That got me to thinking.
Sometimes, despite planning ahead and thoughtful consideration, our efforts to show our love can land in the wrong place.
Literally, our heart may not be in the right place.
And that got me to thinking.
Sometimes, despite studying scripture and faithfully attending worship and being in community and fellowship with others of our faith, our efforts to show GOD’s love can land in the wrong place.
And, friends, while our hearts may not always be in the right place, GOD’s love can never be in the wrong place.
Sometimes (like with my husband’s flower delivery plans), we need to keep our eyes and ears open and listen for new information and new direction.
And then we need to take action based on that new information.
God’s love doesn’t change.
But maybe our understanding of God’s love can grow and change.
Maybe the way we try to share it needs to change.
As the United Methodist denomination prepares to meet later this week in St. Louis to discuss and vote on matters of human sexuality and the church, I believe we have come to such a time.
I believe the Holy Spirit is saying to us that God’s love is for all.
I believe the Holy Spirit is saying to us that God’s love is unconditional.
I believe the Holy Spirit is saying God’s love doesn’t change, but old interpretations of short passages of scripture will not help get God’s love to its intended destination.
I believe the Holy Spirit is saying it is time.
It is time to welcome and include all.
It is time.
Fellow United Methodists, I pray our hearts are in the right place.
Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,
‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’
You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”
Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God)— then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.”
Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”
When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7: 1-23 NRSV)
I have read and re-read this passage of scripture. To me it clearly calls out those who put their own human traditions (including human traditional interpretation of scripture) above the commandment of God to love one another as he loves us – unconditionally.
And that got me to thinking.
It’s often pointed out that Jesus never said one single word about sexual orientation or homosexuality.
He talked about many things.
And here, in this scripture, he pours out a long list.
A LONG list of things that – if coming from a human heart – can defile it.
Nothing on this list can be directed at homosexuals or any person regarding a different-from-traditional sexual orientation that cannot also be directed at any person of traditional sexual orientation.
It’s not the sexual orientation that is an issue for Jesus.
It’s the heart.
And so, I say again, I pray our hearts are in the right place.