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THROUGH AN OPEN DOOR

Date: 
January 22, 2017
Speaker: 
Rev. Terry Martinson
Reading: 
John 13: 34-35

THROUGH AN OPEN DOOR

Theme: Jesus calls us to love one another…

INTRODUCTION

  • How many open doors have you passed through already this morning?
    • Starting with your bedroom door… your bathroom door… your kitchen door… your back door… the church door – count all the doors you have passed through already today…
    • We don’t usually count or give any thought to the number of doors we pass through because we know what awaits us on the other side…
  • But when we don’t know what awaits us on the other side, passing through an open door can be very scary…
  • For some people, walking through the open door of a church for the first time can be a scary thing, especially if they are a member of the LGBT community, a woman wearing a birka or hajib, an African-American, a Syrian refugee, a single parent, a child with an autistic child, an individual in recovery, etc.
  • The church should always be a place of welcome… a place where all people are safe…
  • The opposite of being welcomed is to be excluded… and the greatest fear of some folks, especially those in the LGBT community is the fear of being excluded… many folks in the LGBT community have had painful experiences with the church. (Not DUC)

OUR OPEN AND AFFIRMING JOURNEY

  • In June of 2016 our Moderator, Judy Berrien, appointed a task team to begin the Open and Affirming Journey at Dennis Union Church.
  • “Open and Affirming” (ONA) is the United Church of Christ designation for churches which make a public covenant of welcome into the full life and ministry of the church.
    • There are 161 ONA churches in the MACUCC (Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ) and over 1,300 ONA churches across the country.
    • Our denomination, the U.C.C., was a pioneer in the ONA movement.
    • ONA Churches invite people of every age, race, national origin, sexual identity, gender expression, means, ability, family structure, and spiritual tradition to join together in the love of God and neighbor.
    • ONA Churches welcome and affirm all people no matter where they are on life’s journey.
  • Our ONA task team was charged with the task of educating and engaging the congregation in conversation and developing a “Covenant of Welcome,” which you will find printed on the beige insert in this morning’s bulletin. It is our hope that we will be able to vote on this “Covenant of Welcome” at our upcoming annual meeting in February.
  • Our task team has done quite a bit in just 7 months… Throughout our journey it has been and continues to be our priority to include as much of the entire congregation in our study and decision making process as are willing to be involved.
  • Our steps have included:
    • An open showing of the movie: The Bible Tells Me So
    • A public forum with representatives of the LGBT community
    • The creation of a small pamphlet: Our Open and Affirming Journey
    • A “blue box” in the foyer where folks could raise questions or concerns
    • Members of the task team were available for conversation in the church library on three Sundays in November
    • The very careful writing of our “Covenant of Welcome”… we invited all church members to participate in the creation of this covenant… we worked and reworked the covenant with input from several members of the congregation…
  • In our efforts to educate and engage the congregation there is only one question that has come up several times – Why are we doing this? Aren’t we already “Open and Affirming?”
    • In practice we are “Open and Affirming” and have been for well over 30 years…
    • In 1985 Dennis Union Church adopted a sweeping diversity statement which is part of our bylaws.
    • In 2005, when the concern about same gender marriage was raised, the congregation reaffirmed our diversity statement.
  • By voting to make our “Covenant of Welcome” public, we will officially become one of the Open and Affirming Congregations of the United Church of Christ.
    • Our affirmative vote will mean that no one will need be fearful of walking through our open door…
    • Our affirmative vote will mean that we will continue to welcome all who Christ welcomes into the full life and ministry of Dennis Union Church.
  • To date, we have not received any pushback (negative comments) concerning our efforts.

THE LOVE OF CHRIST

  • About 100 years before Jesus, the great Jewish Rabbi Hillel was asked if he could teach the whole law while the questioner stood on one foot. Hillel said, “Do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself. All the rest is commentary.” (from a sermon by Curt Anderson)
  • No one, I’m sure, would ever choose to be excluded.
  • By voting to become an ONA church, we are following the teachings of Jesus Christ… Jesus taught love…
    • Mark 12:30-31 – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength… You shall love your neighbor as yourself… There is no other commandment greater than these.”
    • John 13:34-35 – “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
    • I John 4:21 – “Anyone who loves God must love his sister and his brother.”
  • I believe – with all my heart and soul and strength and mind – that the Open and Affirming position of the United Church of Christ is a direct expression of God’s love for all humankind, and Jesus’ particular concern for the outcast, the stranger, the poor, and all people who are pushed to the edges of society. (Anderson)
  • By example Jesus taught that those who society thrusts to the margins have a place of value in the eyes of God.
  • I have not always believed that. It has been a journey for me – one that was difficult and a struggle at times. I am glad that the prejudices I learned as a child and a youth were not so deeply ingrained that they became a permanent part of my being. (Anderson)

CONCLUSION

  • I am intentionally leaving a little bit of time this morning for conversation/feedback…
  • Also, I want you to know that members of our task team will be available for conversation in the church library during the Fellowship Hour this morning.
  • On February 4th, the morning of our Budget Meeting, our Moderator has promised that we will include a time for conversation.
  • Please, review “Our Open and Affirming Covenant of Welcome”… if you have questions, if you have concerns, please bring them to my attention or to the attention of any one of the members of the task team or to any of the retired clergy who are a part of our congregation.
  • Let us, the members of Dennis Union Church be identified by our love and welcome all who pass through our open door.

Sermon Seeds

  • The Most Important Commandment – a sermon by Pastor Beth Lyon (2009)
  • Sermon for ONA Sunday by Curt Anderson (2011)
  • Sermon Starters on LBGTQ Inclusion – Rev. Rod Mundy (ONA Coalition of the U.C.C.)
  • Other assorted resources from the United Church of Christ

Worship Bulletin