[When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like seabillows roll; Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul. – 8 AM version]
“It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.”
I have not sung that hymn in quite some time, although I like both the words & music. It is a classic hymn written by Horatio Spafford in 1876 after he suffered some great tragedies in his life. But that refrain, I think sums up nicely what our Christian faith should lead us to…even with all that life throws at it, that at the end of the day, we each can say it is well with my soul.
Our journey of faith is in so many ways finding such wellness for our souls. A place of peace, of wholeness, where our souls can rest. It reminds me of the words of assurance from Jesus, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls…”
Such is the call from Jesus to find our fullness with him. But today we heard…
“He has gone out of his mind.”
Even Jesus had in his life doubters who didn’t trust what he said and did, those who didn’t like what he was doing for he challenged their power and authority, some who felt he was out of his mind, & for some, calling him crazy made it easy to dismiss him.
"He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons." Said the scribes. Not only is he crazy, but Jesus is in league with Satan!
What had Jesus done?
· He healed people (even on the Sabbath)
· He taught in the Synagogue, as one with authority
· Threw out demons
· Ate with sinners
Jesus was living in a way that challenged much of the culture around him, even as he fulfilled the will of his Father. He tried to helped people live abundant lives so it would be well with their souls but not everyone was with him. And yet, Jesus was able to keep his soul healthy even with the conflict. It is never easy living in such a way that brings ridicule or scorn, especially when you have little or no control of it.
For our LGBT neighbors, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered neighbors, many of their lives have remained hidden so they would not receive such scorn and be labeled as crazy or even killed.
Ellen and I just finished watching The Imitation Game, a wonderful film acted by Benedict Cumberbatch, about Britain's codebreaking center in WW II and the role of Alan Turing, cryptologist and pioneering computer scientist. But of us were both disturbed by the end when Alan Turning was prosecuted for being gay (it was 1952 in England) and then ordered to take a year of chemical treatments to control himself. I wonder how that tortured his soul.
He would die just two years later from either an accidental or suicidal exposure to chemicals he was working with in his home.
For such a pioneering and brave fellow, it was a most ignoble way that he died. “In 2009, following an Internet campaign, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government for "the appalling way he was treated". Queen Elizabeth II granted him a posthumous pardon in 2013.” (from Wikipedia) Today, in some countries in our world it is illegal to be gay or lesbian, and they risk imprisonment and torture if they were outed.
This week we were introduced to Caitlyn Jenner. I grew up with her as Bruce Jenner, our Olympic gold medal decathlete from 1976 and if I remember right, he was on the Wheaties Box. For some time now, he has been talking about his transition from male to female. This past week it was completed and Bruce is now Caitlyn. For many in this country, the Transgendered population is something virtually unknown and not understood. And when we don’t understand something, too often we react out of fear than love.
One of the best comments I heard this week about this didn’t come from a church. It was on sports radio (I know you are shocked I listen to sports radio!), and this what I heard…
“Be inclusive not exclusive over time it's just a better landing spot, accept other humans and their flaws, I made this mistake I've grown, be inclusive not exclusive and when you're confused like this Jenner story, fault on the side of inclusion not exclusion, fault on the side of empathy not anger, let him in and not keep him out.”(Colin Cowherd, 6/3/15)To me, those words have more in common with Jesus and what he asks of us, then the words I have seen and heard from other Christians, that Caitlyn Jenner is sick and delusional, that we are celebrating confusion, that she is threat to the Christian Faith (& honestly, I grow tired of hearing the weekly tirade of who or what is a threat to the Christian faith.).
The question I come back to with Caitlyn Jenner and other LGBT members of our society, is how can we help them live that abundant life, how can it be well with their souls?
Too many Christians want to jump in and answer that question for them, instead of letting them answer it for themselves. It may make us uncomfortable. We may be confused. But Jesus would insist that we love them, include them, and accept them. We can leave the judging to God. For Jesus was called crazy, in league with Satan and his family came to fetch him away…
(from the Gospel) Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around Jesus; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you." And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."Did we see what Jesus did? In a patriarchal society that Jesus lived in, in whose religion such a patriarchal society was steeped in, he changed the definition of family. He just included everyone who does the will of God as part of his family. He was inclusive not exclusive.
The Alan Turings & Caitlyn Jenners of our world need our love and support. May we, as our collect prayerfully said, by God’s inspiration may think those things that are right, and by God’s merciful guiding may do them. So that all can join together as that wonderful hymn concludes…
And, Lord, hast the day when the faith shall be sight…the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend, “Even so” it is well with my soul. May it be well for everyone’s soul. Amen.