One year ago this month, our church voted to declare itself Open and Affirming, meaning that we welcome with open arms any person, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Beyond that, it means we welcome people who suffer from mental illness and brain disorders, people from family structures of any kind, people who are divorced, people with any level of physical or mental ability, people of all ages and races, and so on.
When a church pronounces itself Open and Affirming, it is telling the world that anyone may walk through its doors and feel welcome, but that we are making a special effort to welcome those who occupy the margins of society – the people who are considered “less.” These are the modern-day versions of the lepers, the outcasts, the poor, the sick, the unclean and unwelcome people with whom Jesus spent almost all of his time.
No wonder the Good News of and about Jesus Christ spread so rapidly in the decades after his death on the cross. The earliest evangelists, including the Apostle Paul, had an incredible truth to share. As Bible scholar Marcus Borg puts it: “What might Paul have said to (them)? I cannot imagine that he simply proclaimed, as some Christian preaching today does, that we are all sinners and that Jesus died for our sins, so we can be forgiven and go to heaven if we believe in him. What reason would (they) have had for responding to that? Instead, we need to imagine Paul telling (them) about Jesus, about the kind of man he was, what he taught, and what he did; about his execution by the authorities; about Paul’s own experience of Jesus appearing to him, convincing him that the way of Jesus was the way of the God of the Bible; and that Jesus was Lord and Messiah, the promised one of Israel. In short, he would have talked about Jesus and testified to his meaning and significance. … He would have invited (them) into a new community…” (from Evolution of the Word).
We are forming a new community right here in Ogden. We are forming a community in which all are invited to join us in worshiping the God of love and in spreading that love by way works of mission and justice for those who occupy the margins of our society. It takes a bold voice to speak out in favor of rejected and outcast people. I’m so glad that a year ago, this congregation found its own bold voice. Let’s keep talking.
Peace and love in Christ, Pastor Gage