Ray Of Hope Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Inc.
The Church in Central New York founded and consistently fostered by the GLBTQIS community. October 31, 2018 was the 35th Anniversary in our 36th year in Ministry.
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Sermon for May 8 and 9, 1999
Resurrection Week Six, Year A

The following are the Scripture readings as scheduled in the "Revised Common Lectionary," an ecumenical schedule of readings of Holy Scripture. Our sermons are based on these readings.

Acts 17:22-31
Reader: This first reading is in the Book of Acts, Chapter 7, verses twenty-two through thirty-one, and it may be found on page 137 in the Christian Testament of your NRSV.

17:22 Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, "Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. 17:23 For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, 'To an unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 17:25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 17:26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 17:27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him--though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 17:28 For 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we too are his offspring.' 17:29 Since we are God's offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. 17:30 While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 17:31 because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
This is the Word Of The Lord; Thanks Be To God.

Psalm 66:8-20
Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard,
who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.
For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs;
you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.
I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay you my vows,
those that my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
I will offer to you burnt offerings of fatlings, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah
Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me.
I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue.
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer.
Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.

1 Peter 3:13-22
Reader: The second reading is in the Book of First Peter, Chapter 3, verses thirteen through twenty-two. You will find it on page 234 of the Christian Testament of your NRSV.

3:13 Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? 3:14 But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 3:15 but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 3:16 yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. 3:17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God's will, than to suffer for doing evil. 3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 3:19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 3:20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 3:21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you--not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 3:22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
This is the Word Of The Lord; Thanks Be To God.

John 14:15-21

Reader: The Gospel reading is in the Book of John, Chapter 14; verses fifteen to twenty-one. You will find it on page 109 in the Christian Testament of your NRSV. We sing an anthem before and one after the Gospel. You will find them in your notebook on page W-1. Please rise as you are able to Celebrate the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Reader: The Gospel according to John:
14:15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 14:17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. 14:18 "I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 14:19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 14:20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 14:21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them."
Reader: This is the Gospel of the Lord; Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Brother Benedict, Sermon 173

Acts 17:22-31
Psalm 66:8-20
1 Peter 3:13-22
John 14:15-21

This weekend we are recognizing Mothers among us and remembering those who are not with us in person. Mother's and Father's days are difficult days for preaching in the churches that are well attended by Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning and supportive Straight people. First, many of us are estranged from one or both of our parents. Second, many of us have had very difficult relationships with one or both parents. Many of our families have in fact disowned us.

Unfortunately, the Christian Church is largely responsible for the division in many families over sexual orientation. For many people the pain has been so great that they simply stay away from the church completely. Of course, this is not what Jesus would want to happen.

Parenting is a gift from God. Parenting is only complete if it is a reflection of God's relationship to us. We have to look to God to understand how to be a parent for anyone. Parenting means loving another person with the unconditional love of God for the benefit of the other person. One cannot give a love they do not know themselves. It is essential that we personally know the depth and eternity of the parental love of God.

It is interesting that "in Christ" we all have the opportunity to represent the parental qualities of God to each other. God certainly knows that many of us have not had successful relationships with our parents. God's ability to be Love for us is greater than our human ability to love each other. When we fail as humans to love each other, we do not cancel our opportunity to experience love as the reality of God in our lives.

Many of us have opportunities to show the parental love of God for another. If you stop and think this through for a moment, the reason we can recognize when we are not being treated the way we should be by a parent is God has put into our heats and minds God's own parental love. Our soul desires a certain warmth of love from another person and the soul knows what it is expecting because our souls were with God before our birth. So, there is this sort of comparison that happens as we experience what someone may be calling "love" as they give it to us. Natural scientists call this "instinct," but it is really divine knowledge in the soul.

Look at the animal kingdom, our Natural Scientists say the animals have no feeling, no conscience, or ability to reason, they are just functioning on "instinct." No, I don't think so; it is too beautiful to watch mother animals taking care of their young. It is my opinion that the animals are very much in touch with the love of God and they know what they are doing. Further, it is just the natural man's arrogance that says we are so superior to the rest of creation that we are the only ones that reason.

So, I want to invite all of you to appeal to your very deep knowledge of divine love. Examine the way God loves you in the very depths of yourselves. There you will find the wisdom of parental love as God gives it to everyone individually. It seems to me that God calls us to share God's parental love with each other. God can reach out and heal that need that all of us have for the experience of parental care by working through us.

Our society is starving for the parental love that is necessary for a healthy society. Since we have done so poorly raising our young, our young people have turned to the streets in search of someone to love. It is notable that all of the sexual orientation reparative therapy methods focus on unfulfilled parental love.

Some "reparative therapists" say a person will be gay or lesbian if the love of mother was absent, others say if the father was absent, some say if the father was too dominant and abusive and others say if the mother was too smothering or dominant. When these reparative methods begin the healing it is often centered on learning to have fulfilling relationships with the gender that represents the missing normal development in one's life. When some sense of progress is made with the broken-ness in one's relationships it is often said that the person has been "healed" and often healed to be heterosexual.

In our readings today we hear a very powerful Doctrine: "In him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28) What does this Doctrine mean? It is cross referenced to Romans 14:8; "For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's." This means we are totally involved, totally consumed, totally within the ever-abiding presence of Jesus. The reparative therapy that anyone needs is waiting to spring forth in us like streams of living water. Christ abiding in us wants to heal any type of emotional broken-ness we have and Christ offers us emotional and spiritual wholeness. If Christ abides in us, Christ will give us total emotional healing, total spiritual healing if we but ask and have expectant faith. Christ may use the help of medical or psychological care to bring about our healing, but complete wholeness is available to anyone who wants it. Christ in us is there to redeem us. Christ is in us to make our lives complete, even where there are missing pieces in our relationship development.

Verse 30 of Acts 17 said; "…. Now God commands all people everywhere to repent…" Why? God has made the way to total wholeness, total emotional health, and total spiritual health and therefore God wants all of us to make the journey to wholeness. God knows this is the right and good thing for us to do, so God commands us to do so. That "command" is another way to say God so strongly wants us to make the move to total healing.

Along with this command comes Peter's instruction to "in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord." (1Peter 3:15) The Lordship of Christ must be individually applied to each life, to each heart for it to have eternal effect in the life of each person. When Christ is Lord of our hearts and Lord of our lives we have a direct experience of parental love. First, Jesus was determined to help people to find the love of God. In the days of His living on earth in the flesh, Jesus was frustrated to find people had reduced faith and salvation to head knowledge, rituals, and law following. He taught people to know God as personal love. This was very new for the people of Jesus' day.

To sustain this relationship after ascension into heaven, Jesus promises the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said; "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you." (John 14:16-17) Jesus spoke this before the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit began the ministry of "indwelling" the believer-priests of Christ. In this promise is a tremendous expression of God's personal care for us. As the perfect parent, God is assuring us that we never have to be alone and on our own. It is one thing to consider being on your own in the neighborhood, or even on a trip from State to State, but consider being on your own in the Universe! God does not allow us to have that terrifying experience. Christ promises His presence in many ways, not the least of which is as the Good Shepherd. In this Gospel we have the very powerful promise of our sharing in the very oneness with the Trinity. Jesus said; ".. You will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. …. those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them." (John 14:20-21) I hope you are experiencing great comfort from these verses.

God has love for us that surpasses any love that we can give each other. However, when we are "in Christ" we have Christ loving from within us. In this way, with the Holy Spirit as our Advocate, our Counselor, and with God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit within us we can be the love of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit to every person we know. The only true love we can offer each other is the very presence of God within us.

Let us be grateful for those mothers who have been faithful and good mothers. Let's ask God to return to them all the love and efforts they have given us in the form of grace where they need it most in their lives. Also, it is a wonderful gift to pray for those persons who have been mothers to us throughout our lives. Finally, lets ask Christ to use the real presence of the divine within us to be the agent of parental love for those who need this special kind of love in their lives. Together as a congregation, let's diligently search to develop our spirituality to the potential that God knows it achieve. Seeking God as parental love we can offer this love to each other and bring more wonderful healing to our world.

A special blessing on all of you who have been a mother to someone be he or she your genetic children or someone you were representing the love of God to
. May Almighty God bless all of us, in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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