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 Lent 1 B March 12, 2000


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 9:8-17
Lent 1 (Year B)



9:8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him,

9:9 "As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you,

9:10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.

9:11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth."

9:12 God said, "This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:

9:13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

9:14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,

9:15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.

9:16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth."

9:17 God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth."

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

Psalm 25:1-10

25:1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

25:2 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.

25:3 Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

25:4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.

25:5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

25:6 Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.

25:7 Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness' sake, O LORD!

25:8 Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

25:9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.

25:10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

Lent 1 (Year B)
1 Peter 3:18-22

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.

Mark 1:9-15
Lent 1 (Year B)



1:9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

1:10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.

1:11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

1:12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.

1:13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,

1:15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."


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




Brother Benedict, Sermon 211

Lent 1 Year B March 12, 2000



In todayís first reading (Genesis 9:8-17) we learn where rainbows come from. After the flood of Noah God again has compassion on all of creation. God expresses this compassion by establishing a new covenant with Noah and all his descendants and with every living creature, "...the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark." (Genesis 9:11) This brings into serious question the theory of human superiority that claims the animal, bird, fish, plant kingdoms are nothing to God and only humanity matters. Obviously this is not the case as clearly expressed in this covenant. Specifically, God promises all of us that flood waters shall never end this world. That is the specific expression of the real matter, but there is a lot more meaning to this covenant.

What God again is doing is expressing immeasurable love for all creation, not just humanity, all of creation. Jesus says God knows each sparrow, (Mat 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.) and Jesus says the lilies of the field are more beautiful than all of King Solomonís rich clothing. (Mat 6:28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, Mat 6:29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.) The psalms are teaming with statements like the rivers clap their hands at the presence of the Lord, mountains and hills bless the Lord, fruit trees and cedars bless the Lord, sea creatures, birds of the air, beasts wild and tame, and ultimately, let everything that has life and breath praise the Lord. Listen to Psalm 148:

Psa 148:1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights! Psa 148:2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host! Psa 148:3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars! Psa 148:4 Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Psa 148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created. Psa 148:6 He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed. Psa 148:7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, Psa 148:8 fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command! Psa 148:9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Psa 148:10 Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds! Psa 148:11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Psa 148:12 Young men and women alike, old and young together! Psa 148:13 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven. Psa 148:14 He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD!

These Scriptures demand that we move past the idea that our religion is only a mental exercise we assemble to sit and stand to speak and sing about it. No, in fact all creation is well aware of God, actively involved with God and what God is planning to do. Remember, Paul says creation itself is groaning as it also waits for our redemption. (Rom 8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; Rom 8:23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.) At the Nativity of Christ A star assisted in the announcement of Christís birth place, the earth quakes at moment of His death. Last week we heard that Jesus was bathed in Light, and this is another example of nature taking part in the proclamation of Godís plan. We know Jesus was taken into Heaven on clouds. He turned water into wine! He uses bread and wine to nourish us with His own body and blood. Water cooperates with the Holy Spirit to bring the grace of baptism, oil rejoices to celebrate healing, incense rises gracefully to symbolize our prayers, light pierces darkness to remind us there is no darkness in God at all. (1 John 1:5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.) "Let everything that lives and that breathes give praise to the LORD." (Psalm 150)

Most of us agree that rainbows are truly beautiful to behold. Everyone stops to see a rainbow, and everyone has an innate feeling that rainbows are special. Science tells us how just the right amount of moving moisture and mixed with sunlight at just the right angle will produce a rainbow, but science believes it is all chance. Oh no, it isnít chance at all. God shows rainbows to speak to us from Heaven and say I love you. Science may be able to tell us of the right formula of light and water to make this happen, but science has no way of explaining the love of God that causes rainbows to appear and proclaim Godís message of unconditional love and unbreakable covenants with us and with all of creation.

I suppose some of you think I just went off the deep end, but I assure you I did not. This covenant is one of many that God has made in attempt after attempt to tell humanity that God operates completely from a position of love. Whatever God does begins with love, continues in love and ends in love. God is love. (1John 4:8)

This covenant which is made with all of creation through the faithfulness of Noah proclaims Godís love of creation so loudly that it is almost defining. In this covenant God is assuring all creation that manís sinfulness will not bring about the destruction of Godís beautiful creation. This is really a covenant of mercy and grace.

When God made this covenant with Noah, God knew what we would be like in the year 2000. It is remarkable to see how the world grew to over six billion people from the eight persons who were on the ark with Noah. God knowing all things could look down through time and see our individual and collective sins. God knew about Ray Of Hope Church before Adam and Eve were created! God knew you would be sitting here. God knows right now which ones of us will be faithful until Christ comes again, and which ones of us will fall away. The marvelous factor of this covenant is in spite of all God knows of us and those who will come after us God has promised so much mercy and forgiveness that God will not destroy the Earth even though the sinfulness of the people of this Earth would justify an instant judgment and destruction for Godís name sake.

God loves us even when we do not love ourselves. Many of us have been taught to not love ourselves. In fact, we have been taught to strongly dislike ourselves. Into our self dislike comes the eternal lover of all creation.

In 1978 Gilbert Baker of SanFrancisco decided to fly a rainbow flag to represent Gay and Lesbian freedom. (Source: Alyson Almanac, page 57) Anything I have ever read about how he came up with the idea does not indicate it was for religious reasons, and it is unlikely he had even a clue that there was no more appropriate symbol in all creation than the rainbow. Now, twenty-two years later the rainbow flag has come to express our desire for equal love for all people regardless of gender, sexuality, race, creed, custom, ethnicity, social status, or economic prowess. The rainbow flag is now being used to say we need to celebrate diversity. Rainbow symbols appear on buttons, bumper stickers, little flags, huge flags, streamers, posters, just about anything it can be printed on, even bank checks.

In a very beautiful way the rainbow has been a symbol of great hope and human dignity when used to relieve the pain of the AIDS Pandemic. In 1994 people stretched a one mile long sewn rainbow flag made of heavy flag nylon, and it was the width of a two lane large city street. Pictures were taken from helicopters as it flowed past the United Nations building. Every inch of the entire parameter of the flag was filled with hands holding it up and moving it along the parade route. What a tremendous spectacle it was. The one mile rainbow flag appeared in all the national news magazines. Most media agencies had wonderful pictures from the air and pictures of the people making if float through the streets of NY.

When I saw the one mile rainbow flag I was hit very hard in the heart by the Holy Spirit. What I heard in my mind and heart was something just like this as I sit here and try to remember it. I remember hearing the Holy Spirit saying: "There it is, my rainbow. I remember today my covenant as I see rainbow flags everywhere today. I see them in the hands of children, on the strollers of babies, in the hands of young men and women, and in the hands of the elderly, and yes I am remembering my covenant right now as I see you, and yes I am keeping my covenant with all of you. All of you out here, I see you, I hear you, I am with you. If you only knew how much I love you. Fly my rainbow with pride! Fly it high, hang it from your house tops, fly it from your cars, cover books with it, place it as a door mat to your home, and though you may not know it is I who am with you, I am with you always. I know your pain, I know what the liars are saying.... shhhhhh... quiet children, you have no need to defend yourselves to me. I made you, I know more about you than you know about yourselves. Fly my rainbow! You make it look so beautiful! So many beautiful rainbows flying in the warm June sun. Fly! Fly! Fly high against my sky! Whenever I see your rainbows I will remember you by name, and I will remember how much I love you. When you are home with me you will see all the pain and injustices will be over. Let me into your lives oh my people. I can comfort you so much and help you understand why so many do not understand my ways. You understand them. You are right, all people are beautiful in my sight. Fly my rainbow with pride today and every day. I want you to fly it. I will help you love it and if perchance you donít find out why you love it so in this life, I will personally show you when you are home with me that I was with you all the way. I love you."

These are almost the exact words as I am finding it very easy to relive that moment. Tears were flooding my face as people of all ages walked by holding the giant flag, people in military uniforms, clergy clothing, professional uniforms, all kinds of people holding Godís rainbow and causing it to fly. Lots of people were crying for many reasons. I was overwhelmed with the presence of the Holy Spirit at the 25th Anniversary Stonewall parade.

There is a very large rainbow flag that is hanging on the wall at the Pride Community Center in Syracuse, NY where the Syracuse Extension of Ray Of Hope Church worships. It is the largest symbol in the room. It is impossible to be in the room without seeing it. We have come to really appreciate it as our most prominent symbol in our worship space. Should God ever will us to have a permanent building of our own it is clear to me that the rainbow flag must be the most large and looming art piece in the worship space.

The miracle in all this for me, is millions of gay,l esbian, bisexual, and transgender people truly believe the lies that condemn them from the so-called church, and are convinced God hates them and God will be condemning them to Hell, and yet God found a way right into their hearts. God had to find a way to counter the lies and shout NO that isnít true. God found it! God put into the heart of an unsuspecting young man to make Godís rainbow the symbol of the hope for liberty and justice for all. When God recreates the Earth and all the sting and curse of sin is lifted we will finally have that world that is one nation, under God with liberty and justice for all. God will make His home on Earth in that hour. When we see God face to face, we will finally understand why the rainbow is the perfect symbol of His truth that He is with us always. You see, Godís throne is completely encircled by an unbroken rainbow for all eternity. WOW! There is no way one man naturally chose the symbol that is Godís very own signature and seal for His throne! God did it as a way to reach out and love us. So when you see a rainbow sticker, flag, button, etc., stop and envision the throne of God as it is completely encircled with the rainbow this very second as we speak. Tell me this was an accident. No, I should say, try to tell me this was an accident! God is so good to us. We are loved with an everlasting love, one that is eternal and beautifully expressed in the circular, eternal rainbow with God in the center.

Today our Gospel replays the voice of God at the baptism of Jesus; "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him." (Mark 1:11) Yes people, listen to Him, really listen and believe. The second reading reminds us again: "For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous in order to bring you to God." (1 Peter 3:18). Where is the proof for all these accusations for a wrathful and vengeful mean god???? Not in this Bible, not in this covenant, not in this Gospel of Jesus.

What should our response be? Do we really need to tell each other to love God with our whole heart, our whole mind, our whole soul and our neighbor as ourselves? God loves you, so go ahead and start loving yourself, and affirming yourself and who God made you to be. Come home to the circle that knows no end, the rainbow that leads to the heart of God. May God bless you richly as we begin the first full week of Lent, 2000.

May almighty God bless you, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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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