Sermon Series: SAD – Spiritual Affective Disorder
Title: Get UP and Don’t Be Afraid
March 3, 2019
Rev. Sandy Johnson
Today is the last Sunday in our spiritual affective disorder series. I have enjoyed sharing it, I hope you have enjoyed experiencing it and doing the assignments each week. You’ve done well! I would give you each an A+ for your efforts!!
I mentioned at the beginning of worship that this series had been planned last November. Not anticipating the timing of General Conference, nor the outcome of the session, this scripture and message couldn’t have been timelier.
I begin this morning by sharing an excerpt from a blog written by Rev. Beth Rambikur. Rev. Beth serves as our Director of Connectional Ministries. In her blog she outed herself as a member of the LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or questioning), intersex, and asexual (or allies)) Community. She has been serving as an ordained Elder for 15years and is just now sharing this about herself. She writes:
“There were police blocking the doors, people weeping on their knees, there were protestors and revelers, there was division. No words can capture what it was like on Tuesday the 26th when the vote came through. On Wednesday the words were added to the Book of Discipline, words that, if they stand as passed, will keep all members of the LBGTQI family from practicing licensed, commissioned, and ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church.
But the damage is already done, the world saw the church close its doors to protect an interpretation of righteousness and holiness. Tuesday my mother texted me from her church, “we are here, we are still doing ministry,” and on Sunday our members will still go to church, our pastors will still do their ministry, our church will still preach the word of God.
But for me and 6 million others, I will be weeping and mourning the loss of church home. If the legislation stands as passed on Tuesday the 26th, come January 1st, 2020 I will no longer be welcome as a member of or a pastor in The United Methodist Church and my removal will not be a matter of preference or choice it will be a matter of church law.”
My colleague Rev. Dr. Dottie Escobedo-Frank shared her reflection:
“I was outside in the lobby with our LGBTQAI siblings when we were locked out of worship. Literally, we were locked out, and guards barred the door, and police officers prevented us from going back upstairs to the seats for the Observers. And so the body of Christ found Communion elements, and served communion to all those who were prevented from being a part of the Church. I received communion outside the locked doors too.”
And from Rev. Hanna Adair Bonnor following the worship we attended yesterday morning:
“This morning, Methodists gathered in four parts of the Desert Southwest to worship together. We sang and prayed in each location; then had a sermon from the Bishop simulcast where he told us, “We will not be going backwards”; then we shared communion at each location. As I was leaving, I noticed how many crumbs had fallen to the ground from our gluten-free communion bread, so Rev. Amy Barron-Gafford and I began to kneel down and pick them up. It’s what I’ve done throughout my ministry, because every crumb of the loaf has been made a sacred mystery, not to be thrown away or crushed into the ground – just as every single one of us who make up the Body of Christ are of sacred worth, not to be thrown away or crushed into the ground. Today, I cradled the crumbs in my hand, like so many broken spirits that have felt cast aside this week. I gathered them, honored them, protected them, and carried them to where they were supposed to be. And so it is with God and us.”
And finally this post from Cheryl Johnston, the Organist/Pianist at Green Valley UMC: “I’m so very sad – what this says to LGBTQI persons is that we aren’t worthy enough. All does mean not all. Open doors, open hearts, open minds? I’m ok enough to play the piano – but I better know my place…that is what this type of vote says to people like me…”
You can hear the pain and anguish from our queer sisters and brothers and those who stand in the gap with them. I was glued myself to the live streaming and felt sick as I watched the traditionalist plan gain support and finally the vote. I was numb and saddened, I sat on my couch and cried. The next day I was still hurting, unable to understand how this could have happened, how my United Methodist Church could have gone so far away from the teachings of Jesus. I didn’t recognize her.
As the week progressed I began to gain perspective. First the knowledge that much of the traditional plan has already been deemed unconstitutional gave me hope that in reality not much has changed from before the conference. The worst parts of the plan likely won’t pass through the judicial review that will be held in April. We know that any piece of the plan that is unconstitutional will be removed and not put into effect
I also began to ponder on our history. I remember in 1968 when we became United. When the Methodist church joined together with the United Brethren and became what we know today as the United Methodist Church. That merger followed almost 100 years where we were divided – what was the issue that divided us in the 1840’s? Slavery! Unable to find a way forward, our church split – the Methodist Episcopal Church was split into northern and southern wings.
Next, I remembered the decades that women and their allies fought for women’s ordination. There were vicious battles that lasted more than 30 years before the General Conference in 1956. 
Finally, I recalled that, in 1972 the language of our discipline was changed to reflect a biblical literalist point of view. Section 304.3 of our Book of Discipline states: “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the UMC.”
Those of us who understand that the bible wasn’t meant to be taken literally and those of us who respect John Wesley’s method of living and studying scripture, we have been working to get this language removed from the disciple ever since. For 47 years we have been working to right this wrong.
Then I thought, what if those who supported the abolishment of slavery or women’s ordination had simply left the church when the vote didn’t go the way they felt it should, the way they felt God calling them?
Wednesday I was ready to turn in my credentials, I was ready to seek work in another welcoming denomination. Today I stand before you determined to stay and fight for my LGBTQIA sisters and brothers. I will not leave and put the responsibility of this vital work on to someone else.
Our scripture this morning describes the transfiguration – the experience that Jesus had when he took three of his disciples up onto the mountain top and revealed his divinity to them. Jesus shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. I imagine the disciples had to shade their eyes, so bright was the sight. Not sure what to make of the two saints who joined Jesus, they offered to make three dwellings, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Before they could even get the words out, God interrupted. A celestial cloud descended upon them and the voice of God boomed out: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”
Immediately they fell to the ground, covering their eyes because their tradition was that if you see God face to face, you will surely die. They were scared out of their wits, as would we be if we were witness to God’s voice. And Jesus, understanding their fear came along side of them, bent down and touched them, reassuring them, saying “Get up and do not be afraid.”
Get up dear sisters and brothers! Get up from the funk you may be in following this decision. Get up from the spiritual affective disorder you have been stuck in. Get up and recognize that Jesus is tapping you on the shoulder and tell you, “Do not be afraid.”
For years one of my favorite scriptures is Galatians 6:9 and it says,
“So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.”
We must fight the urge to give up, to quit, to leave the Methodist Church. Yes, we are angry, yes, we are hurt, yes, we wish that the One Church Plan had been passed. We are a church that focuses on justice and the injustice done to our LGBTQIA sisters and brothers has to be undone.
There may be some among us who are feeling that the damage is too deep, the hurt too much, the injustice unsurmountable and to you I say, I love you, I value you and your opinion, and I will continue to pray for you through this difficult time. It is possible that not everyone here today will wish to continue the fight, some may be weary. Some may feel the need to step aside and let others take the lead. Each of us must make the decision whether we will stand and fight or if it is time to step aside.
My prayer is that we can stand together and be stronger, because united we are more powerful than divided. It is my prayer we, as the body of Christ, will not be fractured or broken, because we need everyone united together, making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Amen.
Your assignment this week is to receive this affirmation, Galatians 6:9 and put it on your bathroom mirror to encourage you to find hope this week. We will not give up the fight and in due time God will honor our work.
While we are passing out the cards, I invite you
to watch this video that was shared by our Western Jurisdiction Bishops.
 Matthew 17:5