I am so embarrassed with my life as it is now, living the past 10 years as a gay guy and on my own. I am sick to death of being gay. Now 43, I feel I am a loser and to add insult to injury, I am a heavy drinker and smoker and social phobia has got to me. I am usually a doer in life and achieving so much in my past, but I have come to a full stop now.
I would love to get out of this terrible rut and just start a new life with friends who can support me in my venture.
I am not wanting to sound like a “poor me,” but my God! Can someone take me on and help me to recover?
Cheers for now.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by people. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill can not be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put in under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everything in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, that they may see your good deeds and praise your God in heaven.” — Matthew 5: 13-16
This particular passage is attributed to Jesus and comes in the Gospel of Matthew as a part of the “Sermon on the Mount.” I have taken a closer look at these words — more specifically to whom the words were spoken. I have started asking the question of “who” was Jesus talking to in this sermon a lot these days. Especially in the light of the onslaught of hate and outright evil that is being slung at our community today by the religious right and the mainline church itself. In the light of our people’s deep depression and ruts much like yours, Samuel, I asked that question yet again as I read your letter of paralyzing pain.
So, Samuel, to whom was Jesus speaking? Who was sitting on the hillside or in the meadows listening so intently to the words of one who seemed to understand their hurt, their need, their hunger? Understanding, the “who” will change the message and its impact. Understanding the “who” might change your rut. Understanding the “who” can and does effect how you relate to God and to yourself.
For the sake of simplicity, I am going to write about this from the point of view that this was one sermon at one particular gathering. I have no proof this sermon was done this way. I have just the way the author(s) presented it translated from an old language into a newer and modern language. This raises all kinds of issues that are better suited for a different letter.
Gathered that day, were people considered outcasts of society. Yes, I suppose there were mainline people there, but probably for the purposes of seeing if Jesus took any missteps on traditional teaching. Listening closely that day were the lepers. These were the people affected by a disease that was not understood and contagious. They were not allowed sanctuary within the mainline tradition of the temple. Instead, they were shuffled off to some far corner of society to fend and make due for themselves.
There were prostitutes who, in an act of survival, sold themselves to other people so that they would have food to eat. They served a need of the rich, but they too were thought of as the dregs of society.
There were those women who were childless and therefore considered outside the realm of blessing by a God who demanded procreation as that sign of blessing.
There were the poor, who by their lack of money, land or prestige were outcasts in a society that demanded one have these things in ordered to be heard and to be genuine contributing members of that society.
There were the blind, the deaf, the emotional distressed, the physically handicapped — all who did not measure up to the standards set by the religious leaders to be worthy of God.
There were the outcasts of the society because they were not married. There were those who were not pretty enough, smart enough or strong enough to be considered worthy of the great institution care and or concern for their welfare.
Yes, God forbid, there were practicing homosexuals both men and women, and those who expressed their sexuality in ways that no person in their “right” mind would tolerate much less include as a part of the proclaimed good of society.
OK, so Samuel, which group are you? It seems your “rut” fits any number of the groups on the hillside that day listening to that particular message.
Yes, Samuel, I think you indeed are sitting on this hillside and listening to the words of Jesus. You are the “who!” Jesus is saying to you: You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world! You are right there for all to see. You are there to experience a new day a new message. How you say? How can it possible be? Remember these words of Jesus are spoken to you, you are on the hillside. Jesus is talking to you.
Salt is a common commodity today and it is relatively inexpensive. Yet at the time of Jesus it was very costly. In Rome, a main road is named “Via Salaria” or “the way of the salt.” That name is said to have dated from ancient times when Roman soldiers could have been paid with salt. Salt in these times and having access to it was the difference between life and death. Salt was preservative, it kept food from spoiling. It added flavor and zest to that which otherwise was ordinary. Salt gave its recipient character and integrity. Salt was not potential but rather reality.
When Jesus called those persons on the hillside that day “the salt of the Earth” he paid them a high compliment. He pays you, Samuel, a high compliment. You are the one that adds spice and a zest to life. You, by virtue of who and what you are, are the preservative of life — that which gives flavor and zest to what otherwise is ordinary.
Salt, by its very nature, gives to rather than extracts from. You as a gay man give to our society rather than take from. In being yourself you give and contribute to the beauty of creation rather than take from. Just as salt adds and enhances everything that it touches so do you. Our people (GLBT) have added the beauty of incredible art, expression of love, expression of emotion not found anywhere else in our society. We add zest and flavor to life itself. We have even taught the world to die with dignity and grace.
Salt becomes apart of everything that it touches. Despite what some people say, you are a part of everything, Samuel. You have touched, influenced, and participated in every part of creation. You can not be extracted by laws, beatings, or even killing or even by living in this rut. Because you have penetrated life itself, your world is having new discussions around sexuality and what it means. The world is discovering new ways of looking at relationships, how the roles of men and women in relating to each other are important. How roles within a relationship can be redefined to include and meet the needs of both partners. Because you are a gay man you have been a part of that.
It is because of this zest, this spice, this giving that indeed you are “light of the world!” Jesus, that day, told you to not hide who and what you are, but rather let it shine so that all may see. In other words, you are not to be ashamed of who and what you are but rather to be a bright light so that our world may see clearly that God created diversity, differences, and tolerance of that diversity and differences to bring about wholeness rather than brokenness.
My dear child of God, salt penetrates and preserves. Light brings sight and penetrates that which is dark. You are on that hillside. You are receiving these words today right this moment. You are indeed that which gives rather than takes away. Let’s not forget, in all of our vast differences, you are the “who” to which this message is addressed. You, Samuel, indeed are “the light of the world!” So get out of the rut my friend and begin living rather dying. Let your light shine for all to see!
Editor-in-Chief of Whosoever and Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church of Atlanta, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994, have been in a committed partnership since the early 1980’s and have been legally married since 2015.