Look Up. Look In. Look Around. Look Forward.
Recently the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage as a civil right in all 50 of the United States. Many states, including here in Texas, have defended the institution of marriage as that between one man and one woman, but as early as Friday evening, same-sex couples were lining up at Dallas City Hall, applying for their marriage licenses. I am sure that you saw many outward signs celebrating the ruling. The White House endorsed the ruling publicly, calling it a step forward. The change we have seen was rapid and will likely continue. As your pastor, this is deeply disturbing to me and I am concerned about this judicial redefinition of marriage and subsequently, the family.
To be frank, the ruling did not shock me, but I have to admit having a sense of “funk” since learning of it. At All Saints Dallas our summer sermon series is based upon St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. How providential that the passage we looked at last Sunday was Ephesians 3:1-13? Reading St. Paul in Ephesians 3 gave me renewed confidence and hope. He refers to himself as “a prisoner for Jesus Christ…” Think about this statement.
In Chapter 1, we see the revelation of Christ as the victor over the cosmic forces of this world. In Chapter 2, we are seated with Christ in the heavenly realm. In Chapter 3 we realize a great paradox. St. Paul writes the truths of Chapters 1 and 2 in jail. He is writing as a prisoner. He should be defeated, according to the world. It seems as though the gods of Rome have won. Though, despite his chains, St. Paul continues to write and preach about the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ… “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purposes that are realized in Christ Jesus our Lord…” (Eph. 3:10-11) There is comfort and strength for us in this fact. Those in positions of power and influence will not know the saving grace of Christ except through us, God’s church.
We all need to remember that God works, more often, through the weakness and the brokenness of the church and the world, in circumstances that seem precarious. St. Paul was a prisoner. He couldn’t speak to large public crowds nor did he have any political influence. According to the rulers of this world, he was insignificant and marginalized.
Likewise, I believe this Supreme Court ruling has clearly demonstrated to us that our culture is not fed by Christian values. The church and her godly values are more and more marginalized and seemingly insignificant to those who live outside her saving grace. Yet, as St. Paul shows us in his letter to the Ephesians, it is precisely in these situations where God shows what miracles of renewal He can perform through the church! As difficult as it has been for me to realize this, we have more in common with the persecuted early church than ever before in America’s relatively short history. However, we will not despair or stay discouraged. It is precisely in these situations where we must call ourselves to a deeper trust and discipleship in Christ.
Two Supreme Court decisions in the last 45 years, Roe v. Wade and this most recent decision, have served to undermine some of the deepest securities we have as free people. The sanctity of life and the institution of marriage and family are anchors of our Judeo-Christian values. We cannot accept either one of these court decisions as purporting to grant a fundamental right for choice as in Roe v. Wade or in same-sex marriage.
The gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is summarized in John 3:16, and because of his love, we love and care for all those who experience the tragedy of abortion or same-sex attraction. Here at All Saints Dallas, radical inclusivity and profound transformation are at the heart of our vision; this is how we live in God’s presence, live out His love. Our church has been given many opportunities to witness God’s love and healing in restored relationships and renewed identities. These have blessed and connected us as a community.
As Christians, we have made mistakes in the past in how we addressed some of these issues. Consequently we need to respond like St. Paul, with humble courage and deep dependence on God. We will continue to exercise our religious freedom, and to call the world and ourselves to repentance and faith. We will still only perform marriages for those who come for holy matrimony as defined by the church. That will not change. Working with our legal counsel, we are looking at possible steps to help secure our churches’ freedom to express and teach the Christian values of marriage and family.
It may seem, like it did with St. Paul in prison, that there are so many forces against us. Suffering may come. In this context, what do we treasure? Even in prison, St. Paul’s faith was unwavering. And what’s more, even more churches were planted. Hope in Christ flourished. If our treasure is in Jesus Christ, we possess an inheritance that can never be taken away. Here at All Saints Dallas we will never stop offering this hope to those who do not know Christ.
So I encourage you all with the words I ended my last sermon. Look up. God is still on his throne. He is not surprised by all this. He is still sovereign. Jesus is with us. Look in. Where do we need to repent? Where have we failed to live up to the high calling of our faith? Look around. Where can we show God’s radical and transformative love to a hurting world? Look forward. Christ is still coming back. And until then the Holy Spirit is being poured out generously on each of you as we go out each week on mission, so you can expect great things to happen as God glorifies Himself by building his Church.