I sit on the council of my church as the representative from Lutheran Campus Ministries (though I am a member of the church), and as a member, it is my job to lead a "devotion" at the meeting. I really don't know what that's supposed to mean. We are given a topic (we're going through the church's mission commitments) and are supposed to find a relevant verse to exegete in order to provide some insight. I suppose we call it a devotional because it is supposed to inspire devotion to the commitment amongst the council members, who will then somehow mystically transfer it to the congregation.
My devotion is about our church's commitment to being what is called a Reconciling in Christ church. The Reconciling in Christ movement to bring acceptance of all sexual orientations and gender identities within the body of the church. As would be obvious from reading the things which I write, I am in full support of our affiliation with this organization and am myself a member of it. My devotion was supposed to be in November, but it was swapped for our August devotion because our councilmember who was supposed to give the August devotion is recovering from medical treatment (and how happy we are for that is beyond words! Anne, you are a prayer answered!). I am glad that this change happened, because I'll be giving this devotional one week before going to Churchwide Assembly, albeit as a staff person and not as a voting member, and it will be a good opportunity to discuss the issue and encourage members to contact our synod's representatives to the assembly about our commitment and desire to see that commitment reflected in their votes.
In way of passage to work with, I think I'm actually going to choose two -- Galatians 3:28 and Matthew 19:1-9 (of course there almost always is a reference to 1 John 4:7-21). I feel drawn to these two passages especially because they are used respectively to argue for and against GLBTQ rights in the church. In the first, Paul tells us that there is now neither Jew nor Greek, neither salve nor free man, nor man and woman, for all are one in Christ Jesus. In the second, Jesus talks to the Pharisees about divorce, telling them that God created us man and woman and joined us together, and that we ought not break apart what God joined. I would like to reconcile them, if I am able.
It is the Matthew passage which causes us problems. However, the part which I summarized is only 1-6; it does not include 7-9. Let us look at the entire selection:
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"
"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,'and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."
"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"
Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."
I was arguing with someone who used this verse to defend their choice to accept only heterosexual unions as legitimate. He claimed that this verse made it clear that marriage had to be between a man and a woman only, and that Jesus clearly left no other room by his definition. He then rehashed the argument that heterosexuals are able to procreate, and that's what Jesus means by saying that 'God joined them together' -- God joined them biologically through creation for that purpose. My response was to ask the simple question of whether or not an action is deemed good by the virtue of the action, and if so, what then is the virtue of marriage? "If this verse is to espouse that the only good marriage is a heterosexual one, then we must ask what is the virtue that this passage teaches us such that it confines marriage to only heterosexuals. Jesus tells us that the only reason a marriage can be dissolved is because of infidelity, and this stands in stark contrast that the virtue of marriage has anything to do with the ability to procreate. You say that the reason that heterosexual marriage is ordained is because it can produce children, yet I do not think that you wish to argue that as the virtue of marriage, and neither does the church. We don't make couples take a fertility test before marriage, and we don't turn couples away for deciding not to have their own children and adopting instead."
I continued to argue that Jesus gives us the proper understanding of marriage in verse 9 when he tells us that the only reason for a marriage to be dissolved is because of marital unfaithfulness, an echo of the 10 commandments. If the virtue of marriage was its ability to produce children, Jesus would have said that the only reason a marriage could be dissolved would be infertility, not infidelity. Instead, Jesus affirms that marriage is about love, about trust, about faith and trust in one another. Marriage is a commitment on love. Recall then that God is love, and that all are one in Christ Jesus. You don't have to be a logician to understand that transitively, all are equal in love.
Here is the devotional prayer that I have written for the meeting:
O God most mighty, O God most merciful, you teach us that the true believer worships you in spirit and in truth -- let our meeting here tonight be an act of worship to you. Let our Spirit for your church manifest itself in wisdom and right conscious and let the devotion tonight re-align our hearts to the truth that your love and mercy know neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free man, nor man and woman, but that all are one in Christ Jesus. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, our savior and Lord. Amen.