came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!
50 I have
a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until
it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there
will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They
will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against
daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."
54 He also
said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and
it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance
of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present
Before reflecting on our rather challenging Gospel
reading this morning - Jesus really does seem to be in
one of his moods in this one - I'd like to share some
recent thoughts that have one common denominator. See
if you can guess what it is.
Ten days or so ago was the tenth birthday of CC
Blooms. CC Blooms, in case you don't know, is the
largest of Edinburgh's gay bars.
If you are looking for elegance, for style, for a
chance to hang out with beautiful people enjoying a
sophisticated life style, CCs is not the place to try.
CCs has a bar area on the ground floor and downstairs
there is another bar area with a dance floor.
Everyone complains about CCs - it is rare to hear
anyone say anything good about the place - unless they
are going through the rosy, honeymoon period of just
recently having come out and realising that there are
places to go. However, on a weekend, and throughout
the Festival, CCs is ALWAYS busy.
Don't worry, this is not going to turn into a bar
CCs opened round about the time I made my first group
of gay friends and started socialising on the scene.
I was in my first year of my legal traineeship at the
then Scottish Office, living in a shared flat in
Stockbridge. We were a year away from founding MCC
CCs' tenth birthday caused me to focus on the last ten
years. While I don't go to CCs that often, the place
seemed emblematic of my journey over that time -
having featured in so many different stages of that
I had been there with friends and family and
boyfriends. I have had wonderful evenings there where
I danced with friends till closing time. I have
written sermons in my head while dancing to the latest
Kylie. I have watched friends take part in the
Edinburgh heat of Mr. Gay UK - one ex ended up
representing Edinburgh in the final.
I have reflected on all of the people that journeyed
with me over that time. That is the saddest part. In
remembering the good times, I can't avoid remembering
the less than good times.
Arguments that happened.
Boyfriends who once spent great times with me out on a
Saturday night and who I no longer know or speak to.
Friends who have moved on from Edinburgh or moved on
from my life.
That horrible night I walked in to find a then recent
ex with his new boyfriend, kissing at the bar.
When we focus on our lives over a period, it is easy
to become nostalgic and to claim the good old days
were so much better than today. But the reality is,
if we are honest, often so different.
Yes, there is much to remember with fondness but often
the memories are bitter sweet.
Even the best of lives is messy.
We can easily beat our selves up about our failures or
things that we wished had gone better but in looking
at the last 10 years of my lives and the first ten
years of CC Blooms, I have to take that time as I find
it. I must accept the reality of my life and all my
experiences for what it is.
And that brings me on to the second thing I'd like to
Anyone who has heard me preach before will know that I
often get inspiration from films. Now that I am 175
in gay years, the easiest option for a social life is
to go to the cinema and often this ends up being the
new cinema in the Omni Centre, just minutes from CCs.
I have seen a few films recently but one that got me
thinking, especially in the context of my reflections
on the last ten years of my life in Edinburgh, was The
I really enjoyed this film. My flatmate Ross was
initially reluctant to come as he is a devotee of the
pretentious twitterings of Newsnight Review - if
Germaine Greer doesn't like a film Ross will not go to
Newsnight Review didn't like the film because the
characters were clichéd and the plot simplistic.
They are right.
But the film was still fabulous.
If you are looking for a revealing expose of the
American character or a complex psychological drama
exploring the challenges of modern existence - this
isn't your film. It is a pantomime if anything and
all the better for it.
The film stars Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Glen
Close and Bette Midler - all fabulous in my book.
Firstly, does anyone get the connection between the
gay bar and the film?
Bit of Edinburgh trivia here. In the film "Beaches "
Bette Midler's character was called - yes, you
guessed it - CC Bloom.
Anyway, I won't spoil the plot for anyone who hasn't
seen Stepford Wives but essentially what happens is
The Nicole Kidman character is a high-powered TV
executive whose career falls apart suddenly and who
has a break down.
Her husband, Matthew Broderick, takes the family away
from New York to Stepford, a gated community where
things are different.
All of the women are subservient to the rather geeky
men - Mathew Broderick is so out of place - and exist
solely to make their men folk happy.
The place is perfect. There is no crime, no litter
and, as Glen Close explains, no pushing.
Everyone's house is gorgeous and tidy. The wives cook
gourmet meals without complaint. No one argues.
There is domestic harmony.
Not everyone likes this however. The Nicole Kidman
character in particular can't cope with all of this
In exasperation she complains to her husband that "All
the women smile all the time and all the men are
happy!" To which he replies "What's wrong with that?"
What is wrong indeed?
Now, many of us would be uncomfortable with the rather
misogynist values that lie at the heart of Stepford -
and anyone who wouldn't be probably should keep quiet
as I suspect that the majority of the folk in this
room identify as female to some extent.
However, I am sure each of us has moments when we
crave our own version of Stepford, our own happy place
where life is perfect, where there is no
unpleasantness, where there are none of the things
that upset or annoy us, where life is easy.
In Stepford, the outward perfection masked an
unhealthy reality and you will have to go yourself to
see how all that worked out.
Looking at the last ten years of my life, I can see
lots and lots of imperfection - both in me and my
behaviour and in others. I have caused pain and have
been caused pain. I have made friends and I have lost
friends. I have had blissfully happy times and had
times when I have hurt so much that I wondered if I
could ever be happy again.
Which of us looking back over a period of our lives
will not see the same pattern?
Friends, that is real life. If we live life to the
full. If we life live abundantly, taking risks in
ourselves and in others, loving extravagantly, living
honestly - then that is the pattern that life will
give us. We could have the unreal existence of our
own personal Stepford, but we would find that no more
real than did Nicole Kidman.
Today's Gospel is a challenging reading.
I remember when we worshipped here last Sunday one of
the hymns had a line, describing Jesus, which went
somewhere along the lines of "Gentle child of gentle
This is not gentle Jesus, meek and mild, today.
He is angry.
"Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the
earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!"
He then goes on to talk about how families will be
divided against themselves.
This goes against much of conventional Gospel wisdom
when we talk about Jesus coming to proclaim God's
realm of justice and peace.
Is Jesus really calling for war? Are we being told
that all of the divisions in our world that cause so
much suffering are divinely ordained, part of God's
plan for us?
I can't see how such a conclusion could be reached
from this passage if read in the context of the Gospel
as a whole.
This is a particularly meaty passage and there are
lots of different directions that we could validly go
off on in reflecting on Jesus' message here.
I, for one, was quite struck by the depiction of a
Churches often idolise families - and I use that word
deliberately. Idolise means to making an idol out of
something - something artificial that we worship
rather than worshipping the truth of God.
We were hear the "family values" brigade talk about
the joys and perfections of family life I often wonder
if they have ever lived as part of a family.
The truth of our family lives is as complicated and
messy as my reflection on my ten years since entering
the gay scene in Edinburgh. At their best our
families are loving, nurturing, safe places where we
can grow and flourish throughout our lives.
However, even the most loving, the most stable, the
most "normal" (if such a concept exists) is a place of
conflict and division and pain and endless challenge.
Maybe that was just my family - maybe the rest of you
here perfect Stepford families - but I was heartened
to hear Jesus reflect on families in a way that seemed
real to me - in a way that recognised what life was
Jesus came to give us life in all its fullness - in
all its abundance - and he is telling us here that we
shouldn't expect that life to be plain sailing.
A fulfilling life will not be one of Stepford
perfection but will be one immersed in the mess of
imperfections - that is real life for most of us.
And I use families in the broadest sense.
We have our families of birth and our families of
Our networks of friends and neighbours are families.
Our Church Communities are families.
Church families can be especially challenging, can't
they. We are all here to celebrate Christ's Gospel of
love and liberation for all - but at times we end up
driving each other mad.
There are disagreements over big things and small
Often it is the smallest of issues that cause the
biggest of disagreements in Churches but many
denominations are facing major theological
controversies at this time.
In MCC, ministering as we do within and amongst God's
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children, we
look on with sadness to see the Anglican Communion
tearing itself apart while trying to decide if God
welcomes sexual and gender minorities. I know that
the URC has been challenged on this issue too.
In MCC we have our own challenges - we have members
around the world from many different cultures and
theological perspectives. We have gay affirming MCC
Pastors who would not look out of place in a
conservative evangelical Church (with only the
anti-gay theology removed) and at the other end of the
spectrum we have one of our Churches, MCC San
Francisco, who takes their claim to be a house of
prayer for all people so seriously that they have a
full time Buddhist minister on staff and offer
Buddhist worship on a Monday night.
MCC may be united on many aspects of Queer Theology
but we have a bucket load of other divisions and
debates to make up for it.
And in Churches we panic when there is division.
We would almost prefer a Church were we all smiled all
of the time, where all the answers we easy, where no
one disagreed. Yes, often we'd rather be Stepford
Friends, let us listen to Jesus today. Let us listen
to Nicole Kidman. We are not called to live Stepford
lives or be Stepford Christians.
The reality of living together in Christian Community
is that we will clash with each other, we will
As God's truth lies more in the breadth of the
perspectives reflected amongst us than in any one of
our perspectives. The clashing and challenging of
ideas and opinions is what Jesus came to facilitate.
In our lives let us not be afraid of challenge nor
feel we have failed or our Churches have failed when
we are in difficult times.
The key issue is not whether there is division, but
how we deal with it.
Can we follow Jesus way of loving and respecting those
he encountered. Can we see the grain of God's truth,
struggling to be revealed, in us all.
I wonder if God's realm is not a place where conflict,
division and disagreement cease but instead one in
which conflict and challenge are lived out healthily.
I often quote Bananarama, those prophets of song from
the 1980s and every gay man of my generation's
favourite girl group, who told us in one of their
first songs that:
"It's not what you do it's the way that you do it."
I pray that each of us individually and all of the
various overlapping families and communities of which
we form part, will be pleased with the grace to live
lovingly in the midst of our callings to a roller
coaster life of division and disagreement.
Copyright © by the author
All Rights Reserved
Back to the Table of Contents