The readings from Leviticus and Romans in David Ackerman's Beyond the Lectionary for the 4th Sunday of Lent invite us to wrestle with one of the most difficult issues facing the church today. A decade from now, much of this will likely be settled, at least for Mainline Protestants and probably goodly strands of the Roman Catholic and Evangelical World. But in the meantime we remain locked in a cultural debate. This set of lectionary readings invites us to take up two of the texts -- in context -- that have been used as reasons for exclusion. The Gospel reading takes us closer to Jerusalem, where Jesus will face death and resurrection. Perhaps these readings will offer an opportunity for an important conversation.
“Forgive Us Our Homophobia”
Call to Worship: Psalm 118:5-9 NRSV
One: Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
Many: With the Lord on my side I do not fear.
One: What can mortals do to me?
Many: The Lord is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
One: It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in mortals.
Many: It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.
Gathering Prayer: As we gather together, God, we pray that you would continue to give us the courage we need to examine the ways that we have unjustly used our sacred texts to exclude and reject people from your church.
Confession: Today, God, we confess the harm we have done by misusing scripture to wrongly judge people who are gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual. We have treated the Bible as a weapon and have not listened to the cries of those whom our society has marginalized. When we question people’s sexual identities, we question the way you have created us. Have mercy on us, God. Show us how you have made us all beautiful and different in your sight, and forgive us when we doubt this truth.
Assurance: This day, God has given us a new chance to turn away from our sins and believe in the good news. May we do so, as we work for justice for all people!
Scriptures: Leviticus 18:19-22; 19:19, 27-28 – “Miscellaneous Laws”
Romans1:18-2:11 – “Do Not Judge”
Mark10:32-34 – “Journey to Jerusalem”
Commentaries and sermon ideas are available in Beyond the Lectionary.
- What do you make of the miscellaneous laws in Leviticus 18-19? What do you think are some of the reasons for them? Do those same reasons make sense today? Could these same laws all practically be applied today? If not, do you think some should be? What are your criteria for choosing which laws to observe and which to reject?
- Along with Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:18-32 is one of the most frequently cited Biblical texts used to condemn homosexual behavior. Why do you think today’s reading extends to chapter 2, verse 11? How does the first part of chapter 2 show what Paul is trying to get at in chapter 1? Does the description of the people Paul is railing against in Romans 1:29-31 match that of most gay and lesbian people you know? If Paul is not describing loving same-sex relationships here, how does this passage reveal the cultural gap between the first century Near East and the Western world today?
- As we continue on our Lenten journey with Jesus to Jerusalem, how does today’s reading from Mark 10 remind us of what awaits us?
- How can we repent of injustices perpetrated in the name of God against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people? How can we work for justice for all people in our world today?
Prayer of Thanksgiving: Thank you, God, for giving us the opportunity today to examine our sin, repent, and show your love in this world.
Benediction: We are sent out today to be ambassadors of a radically inclusive realm which invites all of creation to celebrate the good news that God welcomes us with the open arms of grace and love. Thanks be to God! Amen.