From Pastor Ara Guekguezian
Sunday, September 10th is Homecoming at the Big Red Church. Sunday School, Chancel Choir, Sacred Pursuits, and other Congregational activity resumes with a great celebration. One month after an ugly reminder of the need to live an engaged life in a community that at the very least acknowledges the full humanity of every person, we gather at the place that welcomes almost every person. The gathering of Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, the home of the University of Virginia, and near Thomas Jefferson’s beloved home, was an insult to humanity.
‘For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;’
The truth is, as we stand before the wholly Holy One, there is no degree of difference between the best and worst of us. But…in the meantime…there is a great difference. I had joked that every place of worship I drive by has a sign proclaiming “all are welcome”, knowing that this statement is not true. Even at the Big Red Church, everything does not go. Even at this Open and Affirming Community of Faith. We are a community that not only tolerates, but affirms the humanity of people of any color, even the palest among us; we hear and actively listen to children; people lead—any faithful committed person we know, be they CIS, trans, gay, straight, whatever their race, wherever they are in their faith journey, they can be fully immersed in the life of the church. We give first with our commitment to God and to one another. This is settled.
All who want to affirm this are welcome here. You may struggle with this idea—and we will walk with you in the struggle—but it is a settled issue.
I have been blessed to hear the stories of thousands of people over the course of my life. I have heard the stories of the Genocide of 1915 (but not from my grandfather, who could not/would not talk about it with his precious grandchildren). I have heard the story of many who served during World War II, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam War. Not a single person has ever expressed any regret over their service in WWII, however, not so for Korea or Vietnam. Fighting and defeating fascism—no regrets.
None of the storytellers was perfect, but by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, forgiven. We are not perfect, but we can be great. We start by standing with those who yearn to live fully and freely, moving with anyone who is marginalized toward a full seat at the table. We work to dismantle institutional obstacles that deny access to some and welcome only a privileged few. We live in a place where there is still hope and possibility for this to occur, where progress can be made manifest through committed, faithful, reasonable, intelligent effort.
I thank God that—in the meantime—we are not ruled by a monarch, but by the law. I thank God that our first president was a wise, not perfect, but great and wise person, rejecting the proposal to be a new “king” that would serve for life, instead serving only his eight years and moving over. I thank God for Abraham Lincoln, Fredrick Douglass, Dolores Huerta, the Rev. Dr. King, and scores of not perfect, but great and beautiful people who led and served this great nation. I thank God for this not so perfect, but great and beautiful, congregation and I hope to be with all of it on Sunday, September 10 and every other Sunday as we gather as one to worship the One, the source of our being.