Seasons; you know all about them. Each one we see coming and know when it’s time is at hand. Our Bible also proclaims Holy seasons for every purpose under heaven; a time to be born and a time to die. But, a faithful life is formed not at one end of the other, but on the day’s in-between. And the church is where we sharpen our focus on the God-season along our way. Yet as good as we are in predicting the weather, we’re not so good when it comes to seeing God. As with all seasons in life, even the one we call PRIDE, these should not simply be occasions to recognize one special community.
Yes, gay lives matter, as black lives matter. The fact we’re so lousy at living into God-season is why these and other groups must be lifted up in the first place. The God-season values and celebrates every group in human creation; our response an opportunity to take stock in how well we live the radical and life-giving welcome of God. When it comes to PRIDE, the “rub” for us straight, mostly-white, mainstream, and largely middle class people is how intolerant and uncompromising even the best of us can be. Any season under heaven is more than just another Sunday. Of course we can stay home for PRIDE and return the week after the “gay service” is over. But think of it from our gay member’s perspective, if this is the “gay service” then all other Sunday’s are the straight services. And I don’t see the gay community staying away from us. Recognizing the ever-present season of God offers a chance to deepen our relationship to all that’s created and to the Creator of every season under heaven. There’s a time to be straight, a time to be gay, a time to be black, and white, and brown; a time to be young and a time to be grey.
Whenever a part of human creation’s celebrated, if we don’t come away with an appreciation for the vast diversity, beauty, and nuance in all of it we’ve missed the God-season.
Since I’ve been at Lake Edge we’ve “put out our shingle,” or in this case our “flag of inclusion and welcome” a PRIDE-filled expression of love under heaven. Those who couldn’t stomach such a widening of God’s radical welcome cried foul. They couldn’t recognize the Spirit of this God-season. We call ourselves people who believe in a still speaking God, yet when this God creates and calls all of it “good” many refuse to wrestle with the vastness of a Holy order our psalm calls “fearfully and wonderfully made.” And we flee from our discomfort, and rather than listen, learn, and grow bury ourselves where things stay comfortable and safe. Jesus has a Word, and it’s a hard one for all of us “fair weather” faithful, “Frauds!’ he cries “You know how to tell a change in the weather, so don’t tell me you can’t tell a change in the season, the God-season we’re in right now.”
In Luke Jesus speaks to everyone. The church he’s come to build isn’t simply for one group or another. William Willimon says, we’re “…quite clever in reading weather signs but are blind to the sign from God; the ministry Jesus (brings to all of) us.” Every follower of Jesus is duty-bound to pay attention to the God-season we live in. John Wimberly, the author of our “team ministry” training earlier this year, sees our God-season as one where everyone studies the “weather forecasting” of the Spirit. Wimberly says it’s the only way our church can remain relevant today. Audrey West, a spiritual weather forecaster in her own right, sees Jesus go a step further. Rather than smoothing over all disagreement West sees growth through healthy conflict as an important part of recognizing our God-season. Who among us can’t relate when Jesus says the Spirit of his ministry isn’t simply to comfort the afflicted, but to afflict the comfortable? “I’ve come to disrupt and confront” He says. “From now on…it will be …father against son, son against father; mother against daughter, daughter against mother; mother-in-law against bride and bride against mother-in-law.” For a God who brings love and peace this hard-edged message seems contradictory. It’s a painful and all too real reminder for some. But the sword Jesus brings isn’t literal. It’s the sword of healthy conflict; the God-season of discomfort and ultimately growth. His is a ministry, West says unites old enemies; black and white, gay and straight, the able-bodied and the less-able, conservative and liberal, the comfortable and the poor. When we overcome age-old hatreds and fears, what’s torn apart aren’t the healthy relationships but the death-dealing relationships of the status-quo. When black and white, gay and straight become one it’s the bankers, brokers, venture capitalists and politicians exposed as the Pharisees they are. God-season blows apart comfortable living and what’s born is lasting peace.
PRIDE is a time to celebrate the diverse expressions of human love and community under a unifying Creator; a God whose season of growth and maturity calls for our constant attention, not just one Sunday a year. Our God-season is a time of comfort and time of discomfort, a time of peace and of the sword. For there’s a time for every purpose under heaven; a time for today and for tomorrow, an openness for growth and development and a harvest of extravagant welcome; a season of God’s unmatched love.