Sermon delivered August 16, 1998 at Gentle Spirit Community Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
When Paul called to ask me to preach today, I groaned inwardly .. and into the phone. It wasn’t a great surprise. Ever since I founded Whosoever, my internet magazine for gay, lesbian, bi and transgender Christians, Paul has been giving me rather large hints that this day would come. But when it happened I felt a little like Moses. Certainly there was no burning bush, though Paul has been known to flame a bit.
I only gave Paul token resistance to his request, because I knew the time was coming when I would have to stand in a pulpit and say a thing or two about my recent experiences with God.
My objections go deeper than just my reluctance to stand before you today. In each instance of my life where I’ve felt God call me, I’ve made excuses, I’ve hidden from responsibilities and passed up opportunities. When Paul called though, I had run out of excuses and reasons why I didn’t want to do it.
My excuses to avoid any of God’s calls, whether it be to preach to you today, or start an internet ministry to gay and lesbian Christians, mirror those of Moses. His first objection is mine as well. Who am I? What makes me so special that I should be doing God’s work? Isn’t that for preachers, teachers, missionaries and other holy people?
But God’s call is for all us …
The other day, as I screamed obscenities and flashed the international sign of friendship to the beloved child of God who cut me off in traffic, I had to laugh at the flawed vessels God chooses to God’s work. Then I remembered Moses. He was flawed, too! Did you know Moses was a murderer? He killed an Egyptian who was beating up a Hebrew! A murderer! God used a killer to lead the people out of slavery.
I guess my temper tantrums in traffic are not so bad after all.
Who am I? That was the question on Moses’ lips, and on mine. God’s answer was, “but I will be with you.” The answer is indirect, but clear. It doesn’t matter who you are .. a murderer, a temperamental driver, God is with you in whatever God calls you to do.
Okay, one objection shot down. What’s our next excuse? But, no one will believe me. They’ll say God did not appear to us. They’ll say we obviously don’t know God at all.
Indeed, ever since Whosoever appeared online I’ve had people write me almost daily telling me they don’t believe me. They say I’m an abomination and the last thing I am is called by God to do works in God’s name.
Well, that excuse works pretty well … I’m right, they don’t believe me.
When Moses made this objection, God equipped him with several miracles he could perform. His rod, when thrown on the ground, became a snake. He could put his hand to his bosom and have his hand turn leprous, then do the same thing again, and be instantly healed. Finally, he could scoop water from the Nile and make it turn to blood.
I can’t do any of those neat tricks, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t seen miracles performed through the work I do. I get a hint of God’s miracle working power in the letters readers’ send me. I’d like to share with you a few examples of the miracles God has worked through Whosoever.
One reader wrote:
My name is Richerd. I’m 15 and I discovered that I was gay when I was 11 but did not decide to come out until I was 14. My life has changed. My father disowned me and my grandmother, who I love the most, will not talk to me because I’m gay. But I was sick of hiding and by coming out it made my life much easier and less stressful. But I find it painful knowing that my family does not care or support me. So I decided to do my own research and found many outlets to this and I have decided that this is not a problem but a solution to the problem and I wanted to thank you for your web page because it encouraged me and that’s what I need more than anything.
Another reader wrote:
Whosoever has given me hope that the Church may have turned its back… but maybe God didn’t after all.
Still another told me:
I was near suicide when I thought I was going to go to hell for my love for women, it nearly killed me, and I was so confused and sad and now I can praise my God!! Now I can step into a church without feeling guilty … this online magazine could save lives, because the pressure of people telling you you can’t go to heaven because you are gay makes a person scared and depressed. I know I was .. so God bless you all!!!!!
I may not be able to make a snake out of a stick, or heal leprosy, or turn the Nile to blood, but I have seen miracles performed through Whosoever. I give God the glory as I see another of my excuses .. shot to pieces. Those who need to hear the message the most, do believe me.
But Moses and I aren’t out of excuses … his final excuse has always been my largest stumbling block .. He told God, “but I’m not eloquent, I am slow of speech and tongue” …and I would add … besides I hate public speaking!
Alas … God spared Moses in this instance by sending Aaron … but not me. I’m still looking for my Aaron. If I had one .. he’d be up here instead of me. So, maybe today you’re witnessing another miracle .. me, in the pulpit, attempting to be eloquent.
Instead of an Aaron .. maybe God sent me courage. But just being here means I’ve lost my final excuse! I can no longer stall .. I must be about God’s work.
I must admit I gave into God’s call with great reluctance. I never thought Whosoever would become the magazine that it has. We’ve been online for just over two years now. We’ve put out seven issues so far, and the magazine continues to grow and thrive.
The apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians that God loves a cheerful giver. This passage is always used in tithing sermons, but it’s about so much more than giving our money to the church .. it’s about cheerfully answering God when the call comes. We are promised that when we give up our reluctance, when we react cheerfully to the call instead of feeling forced to comply, we will see blessings. We will experience abundance.
Let me tell you about the abundance of Whosoever. The abundance does not come in any monetary form. I do not make any money from Whosoever. I spend hours and hours a week on the page, posting issues, revamping pages, redesigning the site, writing articles, interviewing people for articles … all for free. I’m not sure how many writers you know .. but they are a greedy lot sometimes. They want to get paid for what they do .. imagine that! But since Whosoever doesn’t make any money, I can’t pay writers. Sounds like I’m not going to have much to put in a magazine, right? Wrong! I have writers falling over themselves to get into the magazine … and they do it all for the low, low price of … ready? … nothing!
I discovered long ago that Whosoever is not my magazine. Whosoever is a work of God. How do I know this? Because I have no idea how each issue gets posted. I wring my hands over each issue .. I worry I won’t have enough stuff to put in it. But every other month, without fail, enough material winds up in my mailbox. Writers from around the world put their time and love into each issue. I have no idea why .. and I’ve stopped questioning it. Every time I post an issue I sit back and shake my head in wonder. It’s a miracle in action.
Paul was right .. when we cheerfully give we are blessed with abundance.
In Matthew, Jesus reminds us we are the light of the world, and it is wrong to hide that light under a bushel. I was reluctant to shine my light, but not anymore. I’ve seen the abundance that comes with cheerful giving.
Are you a reluctant servant? What is God calling you to do today? What excuses are you giving God? I’ll bet Moses thought of them first.
Who am I? You are child of God, and as such, God calls you to do holy work. But remember, God has promised to be with you as you work.
But, they won’t believe me. God knows what you’re to do, and the ones who need your touch, who need to hear the word of God through you, will believe you. Don’t worry about the ones who don’t believe you.
But I’m not eloquent. Well, neither am I … I hope God sends you an Aaron .. but if God doesn’t, you’ll receive something even better … the grace and the courage to stand up and proclaim the miracles and wonders you’ve seen God work in your own lives.
Or maybe, God will have Paul give you a call, and you’ll be the next one standing in this pulpit with sweaty palms. If that’s not enough to get you to answer the call, I don’t know what is.
But whatever form God’s call takes, I urge you to be a cheerful giver, and not a reluctant servant.
Whosoever founder and Editor Emeritus Rev. Candace Chellew is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians. She earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She serves as the spiritual director of Jubilee! Circle in Columbia, S.C., and blogs at Motley Mystic.