On Sunday morning of June 18, 2017, as part of Bismarck’s Dakota OutRight Capital PrideFest, we held an interfaith worship service in Seratoma Park. Numerous religious religious traditions came together to celebrate faith, spirit, and community under the theme of “Coming Home” —
Celebrating Faith, Spirit, Community, Family
… to Faith
… to Spirit
… to Self
In this we are a united community, gathered together. We come to offer our joys, share our grief, release our anger, examine our frustrations, afﬁrm our strengths, and name our inter-connectedness.
We are many, but we are one. All are welcome to come together and celebrate. We are sacred people, coming home!
Four of us were invited to share personal reflections of the theme, “Coming Home.” Following are the words I shared, reflecting on thoughts from Luke 15, the story of the Prodigal Son:
“You can’t be and Christian.” “You can be part of our church, just don’t be gay.” “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” Oh, the countless times we have heard those divisive words that have driven us away from God, away from the church, or from our own family.
In the 15th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we read about Jesus doing what Jesus does — hanging out with those the religious elite despised — even eating with them! Naturally, the religious elite mumbled, grumbled, and questioned Jesus’ motives. So, Jesus took the opportunity to break it down for them with a couple of symbolic stories.
When we were deciding on the theme for this service, a few of the responsive readings we looked at focused on the thoughts of coming home. For me, the idea of spiritually coming home has always been summarized in the story of the Prodigal Son.
This parable, in the two thousand years since Jesus first shared it, has been dissected and and interpreted in just as many ways. Most often we hear the story told of a young man demanding his rightful inheritance, running away from home, and wasting it all on a life of debauchery. He soon comes to his senses and returns home expecting to be turned into a servant. Instead, his Dad welcomes hime home with arms open wide, and his older older brother complains about their Dad’s extravagant love to such a despicable little brother.
The way that I have related with this story is that I went off trying to find myself, to fix myself, simply because I was taught and fully believed that God hated the gays. Yet, oddly enough, through those years, despite what good Christians told me, I stuck with the church. I wanted and hoped the stories of God’s hatred were not true.
Slowly and eventually and gratefully, I discovered, re-discovered God’s grace and mercy, even to a gay kid like me. No, it wasn’t a instant moment when I found myself down with the pigs, eating their slop, and running back to God. Think more along the lines of sneaking back home, stalking around, and cautiously evaluating the safety of the situation. For me it included a lot of digging into the Scriptures and discovering the one common thread woven through from one end to the other, this thread of God’s extravagant love for his people.
Long story short, this has been my spiritually coming home, discovering God has been there all along at the end of the driveway, expectantly anticipating my return, with his arms wide open with abundant grace and mercy. He joyfully exclaimed, as the Prodigal’s Father did, in Luke 15 verse 32, “We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!” In His great peace, I am home. To God be the glory.
Luke 15 – New Living Translation
Parable of the Lost Sheep
1 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!
3 So Jesus told them this story: 4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!
Parable of the Lost Coin
8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ 10In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”
Parable of the Lost Son
11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.
17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’
20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.b’
22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”