Psalm 23 v 1 states: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
So many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people have had the doors of their churches slammed in their faces. Often discovering and revealing one’s sexual orientation mean that many doors slam shut in one’s face. Families many times do not cope with this information. Ignorance, prejudice and ultimately anger can drive the GLBT person from their home and families. Yet nowhere in Scripture can we find God’s back being turned on those who belong to Christ. In fact we, like David, discover that we may safely put our trust in God, for God will ensure we are not starved of spiritual nourishment.
David, shepherd and king, often faced opposition from family members, from his countrymen and from his nation’s enemies. Yet he used these opportunities to cling more closely to God, totally convinced that God would supply all his needs even when it appeared he was alone and vulnerable. David trusted God, just as we learn to trust God in every circumstance of our lives. Jesus spoke of God as a father who never ceased searching for his wandering children. This is the God, Abba, Jesus knew intimately and seeks that we too should know. Sometimes God chooses to separate us from all the resources we have depended upon, for God needs to draw us even closer. Brendan Manning, author of the Ragamuffin Gospel, invites us to draw closer to God using the phrase, “Abba, I belong to you.”
When Jesus’ family came to restrain him, he trusted God to over-rule their fears. When David’s son, Absalom, gathered a band of supporters with the sole purpose of killing David, David laid all these things before God, knowing that God could overrule these evil plans. David rejoiced that even in these circumstances God was there. Psalm 23 v5 reminds us “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies …”
God seeks to protect us from our enemies and from our fears, even though at times circumstances seem to overwhelm us. Just as a personal trainer encourages us to extend our strength and fitness by supervised exercises, so God watches us grow spiritually as we tackle and overcome weighty physical and spiritual matters. The first of the Wayside Gifts God gives those who trust their Creator is the enveloping cloak of divine love. Such love will never be recalled, and can never be eroded away by the words or actions of others, or even ourselves.
We are engraved on the palms of God’s hands; we are beloved. God knew and loved us from those first moments when we were in our mothers’ wombs. And just as a mother does not neglect to feed her infants so our God prepares spiritual food, by the wayside it seems, when we are excluded from the worship communities of which we were once an integral part. No person or circumstance can ever separate from the family of God, those whom God calls beloved,
If we truly are determined, like David, to dwell in God’s house forever, we must be prepared to let God take our hands and lead us, both over rocky unmade tracks as well as through lush green pastures. How, when we are excluded from those places where we received our spiritual nourishment, do we find another source of spiritual food? It is truly wonderful should we be able to find a church congregation in which we feel welcomed.
Just as God provided manna and quails to feed the nation of Israel during its sojourn in the wilderness, so God provides spiritual food for us, often from the most unexpected sources. The internet provides web sites for Christian meditations, weekly services, Christian fellowship, free music and words based on the psalms, various translations of scripture and resources that are able to help us with even the most difficult events in our lives. From these sites we are able to download powerful and sustaining messages, such messages as will feed our spiritual hunger. Web sites such as Sisterfriends offer lists of those churches that are welcoming and affirming. In this way those who find there is no place where they may join in communal worship can be fed from God’s variety of sources.
Just as the birds of the air are fed from God’s bounty in nature, so we, precious children of our Creator, are able to find rich supplies of Food by the Wayside. There are Christian websites – such as “Whosoever” and “Soulfoodministry” – that offer the sustenance our spiritual lives crave. Also God has gifted singers such as Marsha Stevens with messages of love, forgiveness and fellowship in the music she composes and sings. Most of us own a bible, and God often uses the words we read as we maintain regular times for studying the Bible to teach us new, yet universal, truths. God never ceases speaking to us: it is usually we who are too busy to take time to simply sit and spend time quietly with God. Taking time to read quietly small portions of the Bible and reflect on them provides an opportunity for God to speak to us and increase our understanding. Hovel Audio offers podcast ministries with free downloads and a free newsletter.
Though nothing can fully replace the companionship we share as members of a visible congregation of fellow Christians, we can develop a truly personal and spiritual relationship with those who belong to various Christian on-line groups. Internet access allows us to draw as close to our on-line friends as we do to those friends who live close by. We are able to share both spiritual and commonplace adventures with such friends. Jesus told the Samaritan woman of the rivers of water that flow within the lives of those who know God. It is this spiritual refreshment that we also encounter as Food by the Wayside. The Holy Spirit dwells within each believer and reminds us that we are never alone.
Make no mistake – nothing we can say or do can cause either God’s Grace or Love to be withdrawn from our lives. Nothing any person or any church can say can negate the fact that God calls each of us “Beloved”, and waits patiently for us to accept our name and these gifts. Nothing we can do, no effort we choose to exert, can win us God’s approval – for our Creator already approves us. God welcomes all who see themselves as less than perfect, including the ragtag end of society and those who do not measure up to the expectations of Christian folk. God embraces all who come just as they are. Those whom society and churches judge unworthy shall be found to be God’s own.
Rev. Vera I. Bourne of Lismore, N.S.W., Australia, served as Outreach Clergy at Christs Community Church.