It's always fascinating to me to read other people's sermons - to get their 'take' on the gospel and how it speaks to them in the message they want/need to deliver to a particular community of faith.
We are richly blessed with some wonderful preachers in The Episcopal Church.
I've been especially interested to see how some preachers are handling the death of young gay men - seven since September - Asher Brown, 13, of Houston, Texas; Seth Walsh, 13, of Tehachapi, California; Billy Lucas, 15, of Greensburg, Indiana; Raymond Chase, 19, of Providence, Rhode Island; Caleb Nolt, 14, of Ft. Wayne, Indiana; and Justin Aaberg, 15, of Anoka, Minnesota, and Tyler Clementi, 18, of Ridgwood, New Jersey.
All boys; one of them, Raymond Chase, African American.
It would be easy to simply ignore the issue entirely, as I'm sure many preachers have. Actually, the 'main stream media' is doing a great job of educating people about bullying in general and the homophobic and heterosexists tormenting of LGBT young people in particular.
So, why bother bringing "all that stuff" into church, right?
Well, here are three good answers to that question.
I can't recommend highly enough Michael Hopkins sermon "Who let the Samaritan lepers in?". It is powerful, honest, transparent, and the Gospel truth.
As Michael writes,
"The reality is that gay teens commit suicide in these kinds of numbers all the time. The media happened to notice Tyler Clementi’s death and then poked around a little and were “shocked” to find that seven of them did it in a space of less than three weeks. Folks, this has been going on in America for decades. Best estimates are that around one-third of all teen suicide is related to sexual orientation. Those estimates have been around for thirty years."I also highly recommend a sermon preached by Ed Bacon, rector of All Saint's, Pasadena, "God did not give us a spirit of cowardice. Never one to pull a gospel punch, Ed preaches that the cause of these suicides was due, at least in part, to the "Christian supported harassment and constant dehuminization of youngsters who are gay."
You can catch a three minute snippet of his sermon "Fan the flames of love, not hate" here.
And, if you haven't already, please do read "The world needs our witness," a joint statement by Bishop Mark Beckwith [Newark] and Bishop George Councell [New Jersey] on the death of Tyler Clementi.
I think what's most impressive about the bishops' statement is in raising up of "another, potentially deeper issue": Intimacy, saying:
"Intimacy is a holy place within every human being; an innermost sanctuary where we develop our ultimate beliefs and values, nurture our closest relationships and maintain our deepest commitments. No one has the right to disclose that intimacy for someone else without consent. Such a violation is tantamount to the desecration of a sacred space. It is, in fact, a sacred space. It is the territory of the soul."I'm very proud to be an Episcopalian and to live and move and have my being among these Giants of Justice. The world would be a much darker place without their light.