Tuesday, August 18, 2009

God's Work, Our Hands

by David R. Weiss

While Churchwide Assembly will certainly address a wide range of issues beyond sexuality, it is simply honest to say that the Sexuality Statement and its accompanying recommendations are in the very air we breathe this week. It’s hard to hear anything said anywhere without immediately thinking about its relevance to the looming conversation about sexuality.

So, when Bishop Hanson further reflects this morning on our Assembly theme, “God’s Work. Our Hands,” and the question, “If I could follow your hands with a video feed for the last few weeks where would I see them doing God’s work?” well, you know where my mind went …

But before you scream, “TMI!,” remember, grace comes to us as bodied, not disembodied creatures. Jesus speaks of encountering him—or failing to encounter him—in “the least of these,” our brothers and sisters in need, because whatever Good News means beyond our bodies, it cannot be indifferent to our bodies.

And while doing God’s work surely involves putting my hands at the service of my neighbor’s need, it also involves placing my hands lovingly in pursuit of my beloved’s ecstasy. Soup kitchens and sexual joy are both instances of tactile grace, both moments when the “kingdom of God is … at hand.”

In this church, however, we tend to see sexuality—even while calling it “gift and trust”—as little more than “temptation to sin.” As though the best we can hope for is to hem in its potential for harm with a host of rules and boundaries so that we know at all moments what both our right hand and left hand are permitted to do.

The message is most explicit to our gay and lesbian members, but it remains powerfully implicit for those of us who are straight. We have learned too long and too well: making love, invoking intimate ecstasy in our loving relationships, is not God’s work.

But it is.

It is hardly the whole of God’s work. But I will say this. Sexuality is one corner of God’s creation where grace longs to be exquisitely present … and where its presence has an incredible capacity to heal and empower … and where its presence rests on our hands.

At times we seem determined as a church to hinder rather than welcome this Grace. But so long as the grace offered us by God through the goodness of bodily touch is shaped more by the long tradition of shame than by the deep (and holy!) intuition of joy, our response to the rest of God’s creation, from the pressing cries for economic justice and ecological care to the daring hopes for peace and flourishing, will be less than whole and less than gracious.

So, when I ask you, “when in the last few weeks or months have your hands done God’s work, offering someone a touch of grace?” I’m not trying to embarrass you. I’m trying to remind you that in our work to spread the gospel and to further God’s desire justice and peace we need all the grace we have available to us. And some of it—some wonderful portion of it—is right at our fingertips.

David Weiss is a theologian, writer, poet and hymnist committed to doing “public theology” around issues of sexuality, justice, diversity, and peace. His first book is "To the Tune of a Welcoming God: Lyrical reflections on sexuality, spirituality and the wideness of God's welcome" (2008 / available online and in Goodsoil Central). A longtime Goodsoil supporter, he lives with his wife and children in St. Paul, MN.

No comments:

Post a Comment