Dear First Church,
I grew up in the knowledge and understanding of God’s love for me. Sure, there were challenging teenage years, but even then I was carried through tough times because I knew that at the end of the day God loved me. I figured everybody else knew it, too: God loves us all, no matter what.
During my first march in the PRIDE parade, I saw that not everyone had been given the same message, and I learned once more the incredible importance of showing up and sharing God’s love. FUMC members, gay and straight alike, walked the streets of downtown Austin–a visible, vocal, enfleshed expression of God’s love–we heard “Thank you!” and “I needed to hear that.” We shared tears with those who had been told God hates them and wants them to die. We heard stories of those who go to churches where they must remain closeted because they are not accepted as they are. We took the opportunity to share not only God’s acceptance, but God’s affirmation of them and the love they share with others. We shared that gay love, itself, is rooted in God, and it is a gift to be celebrated. In that experience, we were both givers and receivers of God’s grace; our lives were changed, too.
A generation after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Apostle Paul and his friends tore through the Mediterranean region proclaiming God’s love through Jesus to any who would listen. The message was revolutionary: God’s love was meant not just for Jews, but for all the world, and particularly for the Gentiles, who had previously been excluded. The result was even more revolutionary. When Paul and Silas preached their message in the city of Thessalonica, an angry mob dragged their followers to the city authorities and charged them with “turning the world upside down….” (Acts 17:6)
One of our core values at FUMC is “Constructive Disruption.” We describe it this way: “We seek to create positive change in the world by using our words and courageous action to creatively disrupt mindsets, systems and structures that cause injustice.” I like to think of it as joining Paul and other followers of Jesus who are turning the world upside down. By our positive, upbuilding presence and action, we are overturning hurts inflicted in the name of God; we are chipping away at injustice that threatens the most vulnerable; we are changing the way people think about God, themselves, and the world. This is the joy of joining God in transforming the world. At our best, we do it with humility, following the leadership of those who have been marginalized, listening long before speaking, yielding to compassion before anger, all under the guidance of God’s Spirit.
As we turn the calendar page to begin PRIDE week in Austin this coming week, I look forward to joining with you to proclaim God’s disruptive love for all. Let’s go turn the world upside down.
With great love for you,