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 June 12 and 13, 1999

Pentecost 3, 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.

Genesis 18:1-15 (21:1-7)
Proper 6 (11), Third Sunday after Pentecost, (Year A)

18:1 The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.

18:2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.

18:3 He said, "My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.

18:4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.

18:5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on--since you have come to your servant." So they said, "Do as you have said."

18:6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, "Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes."

18:7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.

18:8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

18:9 They said to him, "Where is your wife Sarah?" And he said, "There, in the tent."

18:10 Then one said, "I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son." And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.

18:11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.

18:12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, "After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?"

18:13 The LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?'

18:14 Is anything too wonderful for the LORD? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son."

18:15 But Sarah denied, saying, "I did not laugh"; for she was afraid. He said, "Oh yes, you did laugh."

21:1 The LORD dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as he had promised.

21:2 Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him.

21:3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him.

21:4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.

21:5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

21:6 Now Sarah said, "God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me."

21:7 And she said, "Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age."

This is the Word Of The Lord; Thanks Be To God.

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

Proper 6 (11), (Year A)

116:1 I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.

116:2 Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

116:12 What shall I return to the LORD for all his bounty to me?

116:13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,

116:14 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful ones.

116:16 O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed my bonds.

116:17 I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the LORD.

116:18 I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,

116:19 in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

Romans 5:1-8
Proper 6 (11), (Third Sunday after Pentecost), (Year A)

  5:1 Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

5:2 through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

5:3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

5:4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

5:5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

5:7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.

5:8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.

This is the Word Of The Lord; Thanks Be To God.

Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)
Proper 6 (11), (Pentecost 3 Year A)

Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)

9:35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.

9:36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

9:37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;

9:38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest."

10:1 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.

10:2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John;

10:3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;

10:4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans,

10:6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

10:7 As you go, proclaim the good news, 'The kingdom of heaven has come near.'

10:8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.

10:9 Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts,

10:10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.

10:11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave.

10:12 As you enter the house, greet it.

10:13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.

10:14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.

10:15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

10:16 "See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

10:17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues;

10:18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles.

10:19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time;

10:20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

10:21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;

10:22 and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

10:23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Reader: This is the Gospel of the Lord; Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Brother Benedict, Sermon 178

Pentecost 3A, 1999

Genesis 18:1-15 (21:1-7)
Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35-10:8, (9-23)

Wednesday morning I opened the Lectionary to see what the readings were for this weekend. Wednesday is a little later than I prefer to begin preparations for the sermon. I was so blessed by the readings I found there waiting for my hungry soul. So often the Lectionary astounds me because it will schedule readings of the Holy Scriptures that speak to exact circumstances and situations we are dealing with in Ray Of Hope Church. For those of you who may not be familiar with the Common Lectionary, it is a schedule of Scripture readings that most denominations agree to voluntarily follow that divides the Bible over a three year period of Sunday readings. So, when individual circumstances match the theme of the pre-selected readings for a given date, I often find myself thanking God for speaking so directly to us through the Scriptures. This is again the case this weekend. Allow me to make the connections for you.

On June 15, 1996 Ray Of Hope Church celebrated its first ordination service since the founding of the Church in Syracuse in 1983. Two very remarkable events were happening with that celebration that few of us in attendance were aware of. The fifteenth of June was our second date selected for the Ordinations. Fr. John McNeill was scheduled to be our guest preacher for the event. We had initially been scheduled for June 8, 1996. Something came up and Fr. McNeill requested we set the worship service for June 15. As it happens, June 15 is the middle of the year and has become the time we license, re-license, and ordain our clergy. This has worked out remarkably well because now that we involve the whole congregation in the evaluation and re-licensure process it has to begin in April to be done on time for June 15 when Licenses expire. If we were trying to take on this new responsibility of licensing and ordaining clergy at the time of the Annual Meeting, which takes place in January, it would mean we would be doing evaluations and drawing up licensed duties in November and December. October, November, and December are already very busy for Ray Of Hope Church beginning with the anniversary of the founding of our congregation on October 31, and that is also the Feast Of All Saints, as well as Reformation weekend. Additionally, there is the Thanksgiving Love Feast, Christ The King, four weeks of Advent, Gaudete - Gay Christian Weekend in the Winter on the "pink" weekend of Advent, and the Nativity of Jesus. January is filled with Epiphany, The Holy Name Of Jesus, and The Baptism of the Lord.

Aside from the liturgical celebrations, the congregation begins working on the new fiscal budget as early as October, with agenda items for the Annual Meeting approved in the December Council Meeting. To add clergy evaluations, licensures, and ordinations to October, November, December, and January would have been a real shock to those who are already very busy with the already established responsibilities of that quarter of the year. What I am celebrating here is this. We thought we were simply picking a nice date for ordinations that worked for Fr. McNeill and our needs in 1996. In fact, Jesus was picking the exact date for reasons that only He was paying attention to that would become very important to the long-term functioning of Ray Of Hope Church.

Jesus also had something else in mind. When the ordinations were re-scheduled for June 15, we didnít notice it was also Fatherís Day. The significance of the day being Fatherís Day was almost indescribable for me to express. Here I was being given the name Francis after St. Francis of Assisi on that day. The day Francis entered religious life he stripped himself of all associations with his father in the flesh and turned toward God and said, "From this day forward I shall say My Father who art in heaven." I was deeply touched because in so many ways God had always been for me so many aspects of the fatherhood that was lacking in my father in the flesh.

So, today is the closest weekend to June 15 when our clergy licenses expire. I realize next week is Fatherís Day, that is just how the solar calendar changes from year to year. However, these readings speak so well to the anniversary of ordination that I must address them.

In the first reading we have the familiar story of Christ and two messengers coming to Abramís tent as recorded in Genesis 18. Interestingly the lectionary jumps right over the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, choosing instead to read Genesis 18:1-15 and skipping to Genesis 21:1-7. This choice of verses is focusing on an epiphany of Christ in the Hebrew Testament. To alert Abram and Sari to the divinity that is present, Christ promises they shall have a child. As we pointed out last week, this was surely a miracle considering the ages of both Abram and Sari. Jesus also shows Himself as the author of truth when He confronts Sari for lying and saying she did not laugh when Jesus announced she would bare a son. Of course Chapter 21, verses 1-7 is the birth of that son, Isaac.

Many people along the road in my life have laughed at my desire to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in religious life as a minister, priest of Christ. My earthly father never supported the idea, my friends in public school didnít want to hear of it, and in some way my friends in Catholic School looked down on me as just a public school boy and therefore I would never be a priest. After one successful year of Music School in college I did enter Seminary. There were many curves in that road and many side street that distracted me from ordained priesthood. Of course at this time I was acutely aware that I was gay. Our church tradition assured me that Christ would give me the "grace" to be celibate. This was a major conflict for me and eventually the seminary staff laughed and said I would never be an ordained priest. After a return to music conservatory I headed down a side road into secular music teaching and it seemed I would never be an ordained priest. My sexuality was a growing conflict and I entered monastic life a second time, again taking a vow of celibacy. After almost eight years I failed again and many laughed and said I would never be an ordained priest.

I went through a period of believing I was "healed" of being gay and entered preparations for ordination to the Protestant ministry with the understanding that I was no longer gay because I wasnít having gay sex. I couldnít do it, it was in total conflict with everything inside of me that seemed to be the way God had created me. I was outside of religious life again and many laughed.

Shortly after that time, I was brought to Ray Of Hope Church. You know the story from there. Many have laughed along the way in this chapter too. However, finally, God has gotten from me what God wanted all along. I was finally 37 years old when sexuality, Christianity, and being an ordained priest of Jesus Christ came together.

While many have laughed and some continue to laugh, I have been driven by a belief that God would somehow, and likely in a way I couldnít foresee bring me to a life of faithful service. So, I relate to the first reading today, I too heard the laughter, but in my heart I believed.

The psalm today says everything we could ever hope to say to God. I love the Lord, He heard my cry and pitied every groan. As long as I live and troubles rise Iíll hasten His throne. Actually that is a lyricists paraphrase of the first few verses of that psalm. My favorite part of this psalm is in verses twelve to fourteen: "What shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. My vows to the Lord I will fulfill in the presence of His people." This summarizes everything I want to say to God on this ordination anniversary. After all these years of trying to get my life in order, at last I have lifted the cup of salvation and paid my vows to the Lord in the presence of His people.

Verses sixteen and seventeen say; "O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl. You have loosed by bonds. I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord." You see, friends, there was one other gift God arranged with the selection of June 15, 1996. June is Gay Pride Month. I understand why the activists at the time of Stonewall were rejecting the label "homosexual." Homosexual was a word constructed in the 20th century by the psychiatric profession as a diagnosis of an illness that was believed to cause persons to be attracted to members of their own gender. About the time of Stonewall, some psychiatrists were willing to try to increase tolerance of homosexual persons in society through an appeal for pity for these poor people who couldnít help their mental illness. By the time of Stonewall many of us had realized we were not sick, ill, or in any way deprived of life because of our sexual orientations. No, in fact we were happy, and this is how the word Gay was chosen over the diagnostic word homosexual.

As a Christian, I must tell everyone, I am indeed Gay. Gay is the perfect word to describe the whole package because I am totally at peace with Christ, I know and experience His joy. Christ brought me out of the darkness of the closet of shame and guilt and brought me into His marvelous light. After so many hard years of trying to find the place in the church where I could be honestly who I am, God brought me to Ray Of Hope, and on June 15, 1996 on Fatherís Day in Gay Pride Month, Christ ordained a priest and my struggle and search was over.

The second reading says; "We are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand.." (Romans 5:1-2) This is our banner for God during Gay Pride Month. It is faith that has saved us and not just any faith in any thing. This is the faith that Jesus is our Christ, our Lord. He is able to save us. He desires to bring us to the way, the truth, and the life in Him and Him alone. It doesnít matter any more who doesnít accept me, who doesnít endorse my "life style" or my faith. God and God alone is my justification. Christ and Christ alone is my salvation. The Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit alone is the source of any ministry I do in Christ.

Would all this not be enough? The Gospel is the calling and naming of the twelve Apostles being sent out and told to proclaim the good news, ĎThe kingdom of heaven has come near.í Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons..... (Matt. 10:2-8) I am so humbled that this weekend, the closest to June 15 anniversary we have the call, ordination, and commissioning of the twelve Apostles, who were not justified by the established religion of their day, but were justified by faith, and whom many people laughed at and counted them for naught.

You noticed the first reading skipped right over the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. However, the Gospel did not. Jesus clearly tells His disciples that whosoever rejects His messengers of His Gospel, will bring upon themselves a worse judgement than the inhabitants of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Notice Jesus absolutely does not make any mention of homosexuality as having anything at all to do with the judgement of the Sodom and Gomorrah! He clearly says it is the rejection of the His ordained and sent messengers bringing His Gospel that will bring a more harsh judgement. Fr. John McNeill has said and written that he believes this sin, the true sin of Sodom, is being committed every day in the Church when Gay people are rejected in any way by the professing church. This is especially true when a Gay Christian is called by Christ to be an ordained priest and has been rejected because of their sexuality. Has this happened to me, have I been rejected in this way? Yes I have, and many other called of God have been rejected too. The true sin of Sodom is alive and well today.

Is there any possibility of a better selection of readings for this anniversary of the ordinations of Ray Of Hope Church? Could anyone had planned these readings for this day on a random three year cycle of readings? Yes, these are the readings this weekend. Only God could pre-arrange something so perfect.

I had to witness to you today so you would see why I am always in awe at what God is doing. Remember, these readings were picked for this date when this three year schedule was set up some time in the 1960ís. Since we will be doing all of our ordinations on Fatherís Day in June we can just sit back and marvel at how these readings come up today and how perfect they are for the anniversary of our ordinations this year.

Be inspired and be in awe as we see our Heavenly Father reaching down and taking care of His own. The Lord loves us at Ray Of Hope Church. The Lord knows us and has wonderful plans for us. All He asks of us is faithfulness, fidelity, and devotion. We can do that. We can serve. We shall be His forever and ever.

"What shall I return to the Lord for all He has done for me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people..... I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord." (Psalm 116)

TOTUS TUUS! Totally Yours, Lord Jesus Christ.

May Almighty God bless all of us, in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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