Not long ago I visited a church where I got to hear The Sheep Sermon again. It had been quite a while, years I guess. But The Sheep Sermon hadn’t changed a whole lot over the years. It even still had the part about the broken leg.
The joy in Good Friday
By Velour/Mtn Shepherdess ©
“I dare you to break bread with the people that Jesus broke bread with. It will change you.”
from Jory Micah’s website: http://www.jorymicah.com/
Indeed this quote from Johnny Miller, posted on Jory Micah’s blog, resonates with me. I and a little old lady friend Catherine, aged 100, visited a young man named Sean who was dying of AIDS in the hospital one Christmas-season. He was all alone, abandoned by his remaining family (his mother had died when he was a boy).
by Velour/MtnShepherdess ©gbfsvchurchabuse.org
Cartoon used with permission by David Hayward ©Naked Pastor.com http://www.nakedpastor.com/
One of the things I had to reconcile – and reject – was my ex-church Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley’s hatred of gays. It bothered me but I had to be quiet to “keep the peace”. It bothered me that my ex-senior pastor asked us in Adult Sunday School class if “God could kill gays?” I responded with Scripture that God could kill any of us.
My ex-senior pastor smiled and corrected me before about fifty people “that God could kill gays.” Why would he even have to mention it? I wondered why adults, who called themselves Christians, were even wasting breath on this topic? Hadn’t Jesus called us to a radical form of Love? Didn’t we serve a big Jesus, not a little one? Weren’t we supposed to be known for our Love?
Then there were two women who both hated gays. One older church member repeatedly demanded that I use hate speech against gays. I refused. She ordered me in person over and over and over again to use hate speech against gays, until the blood drained out of my face in shock.
Another woman boycotted attending all of her large, extended family’s holiday events and celebrations because there was one gay relative. The gay relative is also a cop. I couldn’t identify with her immature “stand” that she simply wouldn’t bring a side dish, show up, be nice, and socialize with everyone. What do her relatives think about her Jesus and the Gospel because of her “stand”? It can’t be good.
The constant anger at gays by GBFSV clergy and church members was like the Bible talked about. It contaminated me too and made me angry, and sad.
And finally I remembered that before that unloving church, God had called me one night at Christmas-time to minister to a young man named Sean who was dying of AIDS. If I did what GBFSV does, I couldn’t have listened to the call of God. I answer to Him, not them.
Here is my story about that December night that I posted on another blog.
At my former NeoCalvinist/9Marks/John MacArthur-ite church many people espoused a hatred for gays. They had vile speech, and were proud of it.
I can’t do that because of my job, I have to uphold anti discrimination laws, and because a boss (who is a wonderful, talented professional) is gay.
On a deeper level, I couldn’t abide by the lack of love. In these groups people also proudly shun gay relatives. John MacArthur recommends this.As a Christian, I can’t.
Years ago, in December a few weeks before Christmas, some friends called to say that their young neighbor in the countryside in their town by a river had been taken by paramedics to my city’s emergency room. He was dying of AIDS. It was the middle of the night, a pouring rain storm, I was in bed, cozy and warm. And God insisted that I go visit this young man in the middle of the night. I had never done anything like that before, or with an AIDS patient (which on my own strength would have frightened me). But the Lord was insistent. “Go!”
So I got dressed, got a teddy bear and some Christmas candy together (early Christmas gifts from others). I called a little old lady friend Catherine, 100 years old, Catholic, a retired social worker and a lovely, warm, kind person who could melt anyone’s heart. I asked her if she wanted to come with me. I told her the Lord insisted I go, and I was going. It would be nice to have company, but I understood if she wanted to sleep.
She said she wanted to come. She got out of bed and got dressed as well.
I went to a 24-hour supermarket and bought a small table top Christmas tree, with little decorations on it, some sports magazines, entertainment magazines, and some snacks.
My elderly friend and I went to the hospital. I told the nurse at the ER that, “Sean’s [the young man who was so sick] Christmas Angels have arrived.” He was so stunned when my little old lady friend and I walked in with gifts to see him. I introduced us.
He was so terribly weak. And he hugged us. I got him a Pepsi and fed it to with him a straw. Sean kept hugging Catherine, 100 years old. She stroked his hair.He kept saying, “This is the best Christmas I’ve ever had in my entire life.” He was in his mid 20’s. His mother had died when he was a child. His family that remained was very dysfunctional and they had disowned him. They lived back East in Massachusetts.
The little room for indigent patients was nothing spectacular to look at. Old large discolored white tiles on the floor. No art work on the walls. Old, tired sink near by.
It was 3am and it was pouring rain outside. But I could feel the presence of God and the angels in that room. I could feel them.I thought when I went to give Sean some Pepsi or a hug or whatever that I would bump into an invisible visitor. That room was physically ugly but it was so beautiful because it glowed from the presence of God!
Sean said to me, “If you ever need anything, call on me and I’ll be there.” I smiled and I thought to myself, “What is a guy with AIDS who is this weak going to do for me. He couldn’t even lift a box if I moved.” I smiled and nodded. Sean repeated it, “If you ever need anything call on me and I’ll be there.” I nodded and said, “If I ever need anything I’ll call on you and you’ll be there.” He smiled weakly and said, ” Yes.”
I went, or so I thought, to minister to a young man named Sean dying of AIDS that night.
I thought that was what God wanted me to do. Instead something entirely different took place: I was ministered to. It was glorious.
I told Sean I would see him a few hours later that day, bring him some Mickey Mouse socks from the mall to keep his feet warm. He said he’d like that.
When I called the hospital in the morning to ask about Sean, the nurse said, “Oh you’re the lady who was here with the 100-year old lady visiting Sean. Sean passed away peacefully this morning at about 6:30 a.m.”
“When you did this for the least among Me, you did it for Me.” That is what my Lord would have me do. The Royal Law of Love.
Catherine who died at 102 years old was known for her Italian brown sugar candy, Penuche. I had made it with her all of my life, since nursery school. During the first rains of the season I would call her to make candy. Here is her recipe.
Penuche Italian Brown Sugar Candy by Cath
1 small can – evaporated mil. Add water to 1 cup.
2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
nuts 1/2 cup to 1 cup of pecans chopped
Directions: Place all ingredients (except for vanilla) in a saucepan on low fire on the stove top. Stir well until sugars dissolve and boil begins.
When boiling begins cover the pan and cook rapidly for 2 minutes.
Continue to boil until a little of the mixture dropped in a glass of cold water forms a “soft ball” and “clings”. (Or try creaming a little on a small plate for the same result.
Remove from fire. Set aside until practically cold.
Beat with a large spoon until thick and creamy.
Add 2 teaspoons vanilla.
Pour into buttered pan. 8 x 8, or on to a plate, or on to aluminum foil.