The Joy of Standing for God
Isaiah 61:10-11(New Living Translation) I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in the robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.
The reading from Isaiah is beautiful. There are those in charismatic circles who feel that the most wonderful joy comes from falling down for the Lord. I have no problem with those who are falling for the Lord - I would hope falling in love with the Lord, but I feel there is more joy and more good in standing for the Lord, in showing in our public and private lives that we God’s children, and that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is our god. The Lord needs those who have the courage to stand for God and for godly things, and who will have the courage to reach out to touch people’s lives.
The Christian Scripture for this week covers Romans Chapter 3. In this portion of Romans, we see humanity’s need for salvation. Romans shows all people, Jews, Gentiles, straight, bisexual, gay, and trans-identified need salvation through Jesus Christ. Verse 9 (Contemporary English Version) What does all this mean? Does it mean that we Jews are better off than Gentiles? No, it doesn’t! Jews, as well as Gentiles, are ruled by sin, as I have said.
There are some theological and practical concerns here. When I was a kid, I remember hearing ladies whisper, “Your slip is sowing.” Sometimes, when we act, our theology is showing. Whenever we look down on somebody, because of who they are, our slip is showing. Looking down on a person, because that individual is of a different racial or ethnic background is letting our slip show. Looking down a person, because of the person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression leaves our slip showing. And when we disrespect people who are more butch or less butch than society expects, our undergarments are showing. The body of Christ is no place for us to show our undergarments, or to display our dirty laundry. That means we need to be careful how we treat all people, regardless of their background, political views, or theological opinions. You may need to remind me of that too!
The second Hebrew Scriptures reading is in Deuteronomy. We will reflect on Deuteronomy 29:10-13 (Moffatt Bible). You stand here today before the Eternal your God, all of you, chiefs, judges, sheikhs, and officials, even all the men of Israel, together with your children and wives and the aliens belonging to you (whether they gather wood or draw water for you), that you may pass into the compact which the Eternal your God swears to you this day, that he may confirm your position this day, as his people, and that he may be a God to you, as he promised you and as he swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, your fathers.
The scene. The people are standing before Moses. Moses is giving a speech to the children of Israel, before they enter the promised land.1 Everybody was standing there. The big shots - the leaders and officers. The women. The children. The foreigners. Your Bible may call them “hewers” of wood and “drawers of water.” Make no mistake. They were gophers. For much of my life, I worked as a gopher. Everybody was there for a reason.
Moses was talking for a reason. The covenant was the reason. The purpose of the assembly was so the people could enter into the covenant of the Lord.2 Jeffrey Tigay, author of the Jewish Publication Society Deuteronomy commentary says the purpose was to create a “mutual relationship between God and Israel.”3 God and the children of Israel were reaffirming their covenant.4 Everybody was included in the assembly, because God wants everybody to be part of the covenant of love between humanity and God. The Lord is an inclusive God.
The people may have been standing in some organized way, by family or tribe. Moses call, however, was not to some form of outward oder, but to an inner devotion to the Lord.5
We are standing here before the Lord. Our purpose is the same. We are here, Jews and Gentiles, people of all races and sexual orientations, people of different gender identifications and expressions, people of many different occupations, putting aside our personal, political, or ethical differences, to confirm our relationship with God. Through the relationship with God, we find forgiveness and righteousness.
We are also here for another reason - to help others come into the covenant and into a relationship with the Lord. Sharing forgiveness is wonderful. That is one of the big reasons why gay congregations exist. We share the good news of Jesus Christ with God’s queer nation. When we share the joy of the Lord, we can truly agree with Isaiah and echo his words. I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!