Christian? REALLY? ~ The Rt. Rev. Michael R. Beckett, OPI

My soul is troubled.  My heart is heavy.  My spirit is angry.  I have never been more determined in my life than to tell the world about the Jesus I know and to speak against the so-called ‘Christian leaders’ who are everything contrary to what Christ taught us.  Let me share with you a glimpse of my life for the last 2 weeks….

In which the bishop is dumbfounded:

I’m walking down the street, in front of a rather large church, and I see this youngish woman with a high school age guy and a middle school age guy (who turn out to be her sons.)  The woman is crying and the kids look rather upset.  Being me, I ask her what’s wrong and if I can help.  This is what the woman told me, between sobs:

My husband left me with nothing.  I haven’t been able to find a job in my field that pays anything, so I resorted to dancing in a men’s club.  I’m trying to raise my boys right, but this is the only job I’ve been able to find that gives us enough money to live.  I want my boys in church.  I want to know that God is with me.  I want to be sure that God loves me.  My older son is gay and he needs to know that God loves him, too.  I spoke with the priest here and he said to me, ‘Your filth isn’t welcome here.  God doesn’t love who you are and won’t until you straighten your life up.  Come back when you have your act together.’”

This priest represents Jesus how?

In which the bishop is angry:

I’m discussing tattoos with a rather heavily tattooed friend of mine.  Knowing that I’m the Presiding Bishop of the Unified Old Catholic Church, he says to me:  “How can you be a bishop in a church and have tattoos?  Every church I’ve ever tried to go to has told me that I’m too rough, too tattooed, that I’m obviously a drug user and trouble, and not welcome in their churches.  I can’t go to church because of the way I look.”

These churches represent Jesus how?

In which the bishop is heartbroken:

I befriend a transgender woman and as we are chatting, of course the topic of conversation turns to church.  She tells me that when she came out as transgender, she was kicked out of her church because she “refused to be ‘the man’ God made her to be,” and that her pastor said that when she “got over her trans nonsense and accepted who she was born to be” she MIGHT be able to return to the church.  She cried and said to me:  I have ALWAYS felt like a girl.  I’m supposed to be female.   Can’t God love me and me be who I’m supposed to be?”

This pastor represents Jesus how?

In which the bishop is crushed:

The news reports that over 1,000 kids have been abused by approximately 300 priests over the past 7 decades in one state, and these are just the cases that have been documented and covered up.   These priests are the same one who preached against being gay, being trans, being anything other than what their church expected.

This represents Jesus how?

In The Christ of the Indian Road by E. Stanley Jones, Stanley Jones asked Mahatma Gandhi how to naturalize Christianity into India. Gandhi replied in part:  I would suggest first of all that all of you Christians, missionaries and all begin to live more like Jesus Christ.

Bara Dada, brother of Rabindranath Tagore, wrote in the mid-1920s: “Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians, you are not like him.”

If these two great men’s words were applicable in their lifetimes, are they not even more so applicable to us today?

What does it mean to be a Christian?  The word “Christian” literally means belonging to Christ, or “one who adheres to Christ’s teachings,” or, more simply “little Christ.”

I have to wonder, do we take Christ seriously?

Those of us who proclaim, proudly, to be Christians need to spend a whole lot of time examining ourselves, our faith, and our personal beliefs and compare them to what Christ has taught us.  In Matthew 11:28-29 (KJV) Jesus said:  28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Notice he said, “ALL ye…”  He didn’t qualify that one had to be anyone other than who they are.  When Jesus fed the 5,000, he didn’t qualify that the hungry folk had to be anyone other than who they were in order to be fed.  In what is probably the most quoted Bible verse in the world, John 3:16, St. John wrote, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that WHOEVER believes in him should not perish, but have every lasting life.”  WHOEVER.  Period.  EVERY and ANY one.

In the Gospel reading appointed for today, (John 6:51-58) Jesus said, “”I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”  Again, no qualifiers.  No “you must be so and so and if you conform to whatever.”  He said WHOEVER…

And ya know what?  The religious leaders of the day were not impressed and didn’t like that at ALL.  They had rules to follow.  They had a narrow idea of what was right and wrong, acceptable or unacceptable, clean or unclean.  Much like many of the “Christian leaders” of today.  And Jesus practiced radical hospitality.  He came for EVERYONE.  He loves EVERYONE.  He accepts EVERYONE.

To those of us who profess to be Christians, I ask, DO we represent Christ?  DO we act in love at all times?  DO we love as Christ Himself loved?  DO we accept people the way Christ accepts us?  IS everyone welcomed into our churches?  Or do we just say that and act contrary to what we profess?  Who is and who is NOT welcomed in our churches?  If WE are the only Jesus some people will see, what kind of Jesus do those people see?  If WE are the only Bible some folks will ever read, what are they reading?

To those of you who have been rejected, to those of you who feel you don’t have a place in and with Christ or in and with His Church:  In short, no matter what the so called “Christian leaders” in this world say, Jesus came for YOU.  He loves YOU.  He died for YOU.  St. Paul said it best in his letter to the Romans, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:38-39.

I ask you, come to Jesus.  Come to Love.  Come to Acceptance.  Let Jesus love you.  Let those of us who profess Christ love you.  The song, “All Are Welcome” by Marty Haugen, sums up the beliefs of The Unified Old Catholic Church, and should be the belief of Christians everywhere:

Let us build a house where love can dwell And all can safely live,
A place where saints and children tell How hearts learn to forgive.

Built of hopes and dreams and visions,
Rock of faith and vault of grace;
Here the love of Christ shall end divisions;

Let us build a house where prophets speak,
And words are strong and true,
Where all God’s children dare to seek
To dream God’s reign anew.

Here the cross shall stand as witness
And a symbol of God’s grace;
Here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:

Let us build a house where love is found
In water, wine and wheat:
A banquet hall on holy ground,
Where peace and justice meet.

Here the love of God, through Jesus,
Is revealed in time and space;
As we share in Christ the feast that frees us:

All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.

Let us pray:

Father, help us to love as you have loved us.  Teach us to accept others as you have accepted us.  Help us to be the ‘Little Christs’ we are called to be.  We ask this in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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