(Rev. Denny Coon’s sermon from the May 24, 2012 “Do No Harm” gathering, held at the Walnut Hills United Methodist Church.)
The United Methodist Church needs a wedding. I mean one with a lot of color. It would be biblical, like the rainbow God gave Noah. There would be a lot of multi colored balloons and flowers. We could invite Joseph, you know, the guy with the coat of many colors. More Bible!
People would be wearing scarves and outrageous clothing. The UMC needs something like this.
Just think of a traditional wedding in the UMC. The bride wears white and the groom wears a dark colored suit. Boring! We need something to brighten things up. You know who would show up, don’t you? Jesus! It’s biblical that he went to a wedding in Cana. Do you suppose that wedding was for a man and a woman? It doesn’t say. It could have been a Levirate wedding, you know where a husband dies and the wife has no son, she has to marry her brother-in-law. Or it could have been a concubine wedding. That’s in the bible too. Maybe it was one of those weddings where the soldier conquers someone and takes home a female prisoner of war. How about polygamous marriage? Do you know that’s one of the biggest marriage problems for Africans? That’s what an African delegate told me at general conference. I surely hope that if one of our sisters or brothers in Africa knowingly or unknowingly conducts a polygamous wedding that they won’t lose their credentials. We need good pastors in Africa.
Oh and let’s invite the eunuch who Phillip baptized in the book of Acts. That poor man was mutilated sexually by someone who had more power than he. And there he was reading the book of Isaiah and Phillip did not reject him but opened the scriptures and he was baptized. Amazing. I’m glad there was no statement like we find eunuch-ism incompatible with Christian teaching. I’m sure that eunuch would like a party.
It would be good for the church. It could change the church having something so exciting. I heard on the radio the other day that one of the happiest countries in the world is Denmark. Their income tax is 70% and they are one of the happiest in the world. Can you believe that? School is free, college is free, free health care and they live freely after retirement. And you know what else? Gay Danes have been able to be wedded since 1968. Forty four years they’ve been doing this. And they are one of the happiest countries in the world. Go figure.
I know this would be edgy but that’s what will change the church. The church won’t be changed by rearranging the chairs at the connectional table, will it? The church will only be changed by working on the edge with people who are suffering. Try doing ministry with immigrants, people in prison, the poor, the hungry, and anyone else suffering, like gays. The church will not be changed by changing its structure, but by engaging with those who live on the edge. If you want to try it, go worship on Thursday nights with the Women at the Well and you will know what I mean. Get to know someone who hangs out at Blazing Saddles and hear their story of isolation and rejection. Go eat a meal at Trinity UMC and talk to someone. Work with Doris Knight and an immigrant with JFON and you will know what I mean about being changed.
I know what you’re thinking. It could mean problems. I know, but I’m like Huck Finn who was told by his Sunday School teacher, representing the institution, that if he helped a runaway slave he would go to hell. Huck got to thinking about what his Sunday School teacher told him after he had helped Jim and Jim had helped him. He thought of their experience on the Mississippi and thought to himself, I guess I’ll just have to go to hell.
That’s how I feel sometimes. It feels like I have to choose between God and the institution at times. It feels like I have to choose between loving my neighbor and obeying the Discipline. If I have to choose, I’m going with God and loving my neighbor and being in ministry with folks who suffer. If we don’t, then I don’t think we’re the church of Jesus Christ.
Jesus also uses weddings in his parables. Remember the parable in Matthew 22 about the king who threw a wedding and no one came? So he sent his servants out and told them to go get the lesbians and the transgendered people and the queers. It’s in your bible. And do you remember that after they get to the wedding one person did not wear the wedding coat and he got tossed out? I think if that person had worn Joseph’s coat of many colors, he would not have been dismissed.
How about a wedding? Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 10: 25, that some people called him Beelzebub, the ruler of demons, because of what he taught and how he behaved and that they, his disciples, may even be called worse names. But he also told them to not fear because God loves even the sparrows. So I got to thinking that at our wedding we will release doves like Noah and we will also release sparrows. There are a lot of those in Iowa. So, let’s have a wedding with all the colors of the rainbow and all the joy that life can muster. It would be like Pentecost with all that color and excitement. The UMC needs a wedding. Who knows we may even find happiness!