Today I wrote an article on adoption for next month’s G-Scene. When I came back to it I realised that it was exactly what I wanted to say in this Easter message. On Easter Sunday Jesus rose from the dead, bursting forth from the tomb and I believe that he invites us to do the same. Whatever form our sleep of death takes, whatever shape our tomb may be, whatever is holding us back from life, Jesus invites us to walk away from it.
When I was a kid I dreamt of being adopted. I had parents, and I loved them, but I had to wonder what it would be like to be loved by people who accepted me just as I was. The reality was that I had to hide who I was from my family. I knew that if they found out who I really was that they’d throw me out. It was a closet, not a tomb, but for all intent and purpose there’s very little difference. In each case there is a part of you that is dead, or at least can’t live. Same thing.
When they did find out the rejection was complete, and there was a long time I had no family. It was painful and I was lonely. I longed to be a part of a family and eventually, much to my surprise, I was. Liz took me in and her family was mine. Suddenly I had siblings, and a dog. I can’t begin to express what a difference it made to me. It saved my life. I was accepted, unconditionally, and for the first time in my life able to explore what it meant for me to be a gay man. I was 22 years old, but nobody needed to be adopted more than I.
Imagine being adopted by a community who understands who you are. Secure in the knowledge that they are there for you, and that they likewise trust you to support and care for them. Imagine the feeling of warmth and security that comes from knowing that it’s not because they have to love you, but because they’ve chosen to love you. You are adopted, chosen, a part of something greater than yourself. Safe, secure.
It’s what I believe a real church is all about. It’s not a group of people who all believe exactly the same thing. At The Village MCC even what we believe about Jesus differs greatly person to person. For some he is the Son of God. For others he’s a wise teacher. My husband may be an atheist but we share the same values. Love, trust, and grace are not religious words, they are the common foundation upon which we build community.
Real church changes lives. We don’t just connect with people we like or people we have lots in common with. We learn how to get along with, to accept, to love, people who are very different and may believe very differently. It is our values that bind us, not rules or fear. We support our fellow travelers unconditionally,especially when they’re wrong and make mistakes. We learn how to love and serve, how to lead and how to follow. We become chosen, and choose everybody else – without exception.
We learn what real discipline is. It’s not ‘right and wrong’, or being told what to do. Discipline is being able to steer your own course true, even in the roughest storm, because others are helping you. It happens automatically in healthy loving families. In a healthy church it happens by design. What is your destiny and how are you going fulfill it? With the unequivocal support of a community you can do anything, be anything. It is the wind beneath your wings.
We should all learn what it is to be adopted, to be chosen. It is to know that you will never be rejected for who you are. It is to feel the support of a family, and the knowledge that it needs you too. In a world that says ‘It’s all about YOU’ it’s daring to say that ‘It’s all about US’. We dare to commit and accept commitment.
Jesus didn’t come out of the tomb to simply take up a crown and rule. I believe that he came back so that he could guide, nurture, and support us in our lives together. We gather together so that he can be present with us, reminding us that love and life are inextricably linked and that we are all members of God’s family. Not by accident. Not by birth. Adopted. Chosen. For who we really are. And that God is not willing to lose us. Not one. And Jesus reminds us that despite what anyone else may say nothing can change that reality – not even death.
I pray you have a blessed Easter.