I typically script my sermons. It keeps both my time and topic under control. Sometimes, however, that process leaves too little room for the Holy Spirit to speak through me. That is, scripting sometimes prevents the unexpected epiphany, the words that even I do not expect to come out of my mouth.
Last Sunday, I veered from my normal style and preached primarily from notes. The result was that my sermon ran nearly thirty minutes. More significantly, however, was that my sermon spoke even to me. The Holy Spirit surprised me with epiphanies and challenged me.
I discovered through preaching this sermon that though I had told myself that during the years we lived in West Virginia we were secretive about my daughter’s sexual orientation primarily to protect her; we really did so to protect ourselves. While there was some truth to protecting her, it was a secondary reason. We hid who she was and failed to talk about our joy at the love she’s found with her partner because we were afraid the church that my wife was serving as pastor would react harshly.
But the Holy Spirit spoke to me last week, nudging me to confess this past sin of self-protection while refusing to allow me to do the same again. Listen to Boldness in the Spirit using the audio player below. The text for the sermon is Acts 4:23-31.
My mantra over the last few days has been, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way!” No, I’m not talking about my baby boy getting married. I always thought that would happen. Neither am I in any way disappointed in who my son Isaac is marrying. I adore Breetel; I couldn’t have picked anyone better.
Two weeks ago I got sick. Very sick. Sicker than I’ve ever been. It was (and is) serious, requiring treatment and time before I’m fully myself again. I don’t yet have the energy level that I’m accustomed to having. And, so, I tire before activities are over. I excuse myself and go to bed early when I’d like to socialize.
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” I whine. My image of this wedding weekend included a stamina that I simply don’t yet have. But I’ve been missing the point.
I’ve been looking at this the wrong way. I’ve been viewing this weekend, especially my role and my stamina, through the wrong set of eyeglasses. Two weeks ago, I would not have been able to be here.
I am here.
Though I am not at my peak, I am present in this weekend in which two families are getting acquainted. I am present as two families unite to celebrate that our children have found love. They’ve found the soulmate kind of love. They’ve found the kind of love in which one couple is greater than the sum of two individuals.
Slipping on the right the right set of eyeglasses, I realize this is exactly the way it’s supposed to be.
One of amazing things about fatherhood is that my adult children have increased the size of my family. I’m not talking about grandchildren; that joy may come in its time. I’m talking about my children’s significant others.
As my daughter and son have found life-partners, I’ve been blessed by a doubling of my children. It wasn’t until Frances and, now, Breetel joined our family that I felt the depth of my father’s words the first time I brought my beloved home. He said, “We couldn’t have picked anyone better for you.”
|My amazing children…all four of them!
My daughter and son are remarkable, phenomenal individuals. (This is a fact not a father’s pride.) Still, the love of another, somehow reveals a depth, a wholeness that I never saw in Isaac or Jessica before. Their love is more than a skin-deep affectation. Their love has added a vibrancy to who they were before.
Love is powerful in all its forms. Love transforms, makes us each more than we were. It defies the laws of physics. There is always an abundance and extravagance about love. Love reveals the Divine within us and in our relationship with others.
“…and the greatest of these is love.”
The air conditioning broken, the windows of our townhouse were open, fans were blowing, and I was stripped down to my blue running shorts. I lay on the floor nearly comatose from the humid midwestern heat, smiling as I looked at my baby son. He smiled, I smiled. I talked, he cooed.
The oppressive heat that kept me from moving, didn’t thwart the deep joy I felt as I stared into the eyes of my 2-month-old son. There is nothing – NOTHING – as wonderful as fatherhood.
Despite the joys of daddy-ing, a few weeks later I visited the Planned Parenthood office near our home. I made arrangements for, and several weeks afterward had, a vasectomy. I did this because I like sex. I did this because my wife and I chose not to have more children. Oh, yeah, I am and was Christian. Since that time we have both responded to Calls to the ministry.
- Fatherhood and children are amazing.
- I like having sex.
- I practiced birth control so we could have sex and no more children.
- I am an ordained minister, as is my wife.
Good people disagree with one another. Equally moral people arrive at different conclusions about what is right and what is wrong. Though we all seek to follow Jesus, Christians are not a monolithic group. Despite the impression given by some, there are many different understandings of what following Jesus means.
My theology and understanding of the science of reproduction, lead me to conclude that contraception is consistent with the faith. In many cases, such as my own, I believe it to be the most moral decision. I understand and respect the Catholic theology that is unsupportive of many forms of contraception. There is a strong faith that undergirds the official position. I simply do not agree.
Americans are free to hold personal beliefs about the morality of contraception based upon their religious (or nonreligious) worldview. As designed, American government must cast a wider range of what is morally acceptable than any particular belief system or religion. This is the nature of a pluralistic, open society.
This is the nature of a people who built respect of differing views into their constitution. Freedom of expression and religious practice are an essential part of what it means to be American.
Many do not come to the same conclusions about birth control as I do. They are free to persuasively argue for their position. They are not free, however, to impose their religious teachings upon the whole. To do so has a name. That name is theocracy.