|Here I am - "Burning Bush in the Desert"|
(Exo 3:4 NKJV) So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am."
(Exo 3:7 NKJV) And the LORD said: "I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows.
The taxi from Kuala Lumpur’s Airport to the Hotel played a 45 minute church Pentecostal worship session. This was the driver’s way of evangelism in a Muslim country. In our different ways, we are commissioned to continue on the Ministry of Christ here on earth until He returns. For the GLBT Christian Community coming out to accept ourselves as God sees us is a desert road to Damascus like experience on our pilgrim journey of faith. It is a message of God’s grace and mercy to the least of the people groups, the GLBT minority that must be preached. From the Road of Damascus, Paul went back to the desert for a decade and we too must meet God in our burning bush in the desert. It is the experience with God that sustains us in the long term.
Moses had to stay in the desert for 40 years before he heard God saying that He had heard the prayers of the Jewish people and know their sorrows. Many have waited in Malaysia and Singapore for that long and have grown weary. Will God hear the cry of the GLBT people? Yet, God have surely seen the oppression suffered and the time was right after 40 years of soul searching for Moses to take lead. The rash young man, has been replaced by an 80 year old man, who despite his age said "Here I am". Some of us cannot even wait a few years without having a partner and then give up on God. Yet, Moses still trusted and had faith after 40 years of silence.
Many friends no longer attend church. I was once the quiet listener to their testimonies of faith and how zealous they were for God. They were good people, served faithfully for over a decade often the entire day on Sunday. Yet 5 to 10 years later, I was again listening to why they no longer attend church. Faith is seldom based on an intellectual reasoning alone, and needs nurturing by a tangible experience with God especially with so much challenges to the faith being GLBT.
With much condemnation by mainstream Christianity, we cannot but have sufficient dose of affirmation that God still loves us – not only at an intellectual level, but a deeply spiritual experience which touches our deepest part of our spirit and soul. Ingrained Internal homophobia separates us from God who loves and accepts us as who we are. If we do not love ourselves, we may find it difficult to fully accept the love of God. Often, GLBT Christian churches tries to “play” church, rebuilding their childhood church, yearning to be “normal” yet forgetting that because the continuing condemnation of gays in the community and in the church, there is a special ministry need to the GLBT community, and being a church in all other name except that we are inclusive was never going to be possible.
Church is a place for communion and fellowship of the Saints, to be community, and to share the bonds of friendship and relationship, to be one as the body of Christ supporting each other to run the race of discipleship. However conflicts are abounds especially in the gay community which has suffered so much hurts, rejection, bitterness and condemnation that we are often over sensitive to critical comments yet are often the worst perpetrators of insults against others. We bitch a lot to hide our wounded heart. If relationships are our major reason for church attendance, it could become the major reason for leaving the church as well. Do we meet God at church? or only friends and play church.
Few gays from the mega churches in Asia attend gay churches. If just 1% of the mega churches were gay, we would have thousands in attendance. What is the key to evangelism to bring them to the Promised Land, where their sexuality will be accepted and celebrated? Is it being more professional and to do better our services and sermons to be like a mega church or is the key lies in more welcoming and be inclusive not just in intention but in deeds and structure. What about the many who came through the inclusive churches, reconciled their faith and sexuality, yet no longer attends church. We may be getting a trickle from the mega churches yet can’t retain them.
Many inclusive churches exist just because they were inclusive and because of relationships and not because people meet God there. Gays in the mega churches stays there for they have a spiritual experience which transcends the negative anti-gay remarks which is sometimes preached from the pulpit. Do we have a burning bush in our churches to attract them?
How then do we evangelize? Fundamentally, we must first realize that GLBT should have and attend gay affirming churches. Why?
The Gospel Message
of God’s love and forgiveness to the GLBT community is best proclaimed
by the GLBT themselves, being of the same people group.
2) The Christian walk and ministry is best lived authentically where we do not need to deny ourselves or to live a lie to our fellow church members. We are free to be who we are and be authentic to others, to serve in the ministry (without being denied just because we were gay). It is to serve God and to live with a clear conscience to our selves, to others and to God.
Secondly, to recognize that Christianity is the lowest priority for gays because there is a need to survive in a harsh social and religious environment. The Pastor Benny Hinn spoke of his divorce – “I don’t care how spiritual you are, you do not want to be lonely”. Our survival become intertwined with our same sex relationships – the basic human desire – the need to be loved, and to love in return. Our lives focus is heightened on what keeps us going – our partners, our work, and how we look. Jesus must be real if Faith is not to become optional beyond mere basic survival.
Thirdly, the Gospel message to the GLBT has been seriously compromised when Christians are the champions of the anti-gay movement. Christianity becomes synonymous with being anti-gay, hence few gays would want to become Christian. The mainstream churches have little credibility amongst gays for they have cheated, lied and stole from the gay community, basic human rights and dignity. Mere words and preaching would not do, for people need to be touched and ministered tangibly by the Spirit of God, and with signs and miracles. Jesus must be real, beyond the negative credibility of Christianity or the mere assertion of an inclusive Christ.
Many come not because we are welcoming, or inclusive of their theological views, but because they meet Jesus face to face. We may rationalize any absence of the presence of God by saying that God is everywhere. However, God chose in the Old Testament to reside in the Holy of Holies. It was the place where God chose to present Himself tangibly and to minister to those who seek after Him. Without meeting Jesus, there would be no pertinent reason for people to come to church, given the priorities of basic survival needs and negative reputation of the Christianity.
Like Moses, we roam the desert places ashamed of ourselves to be gay and Christian, just as Moses suffered the intense shame to be a Jew, a despised people. Gay Christians are outcasts, an oddity being Gay, yet still being Christian despite all the harm that Christianity has done. The desert represents the safe and a reflective place of our lives where time stands still and causes us to reflect on a life gone past. Moses was beginning to forget about the past, until God met Him in the desert, in the burning bush. In the desert of God, Moses still had a purpose, and mission in God’s plan.
God uses those that have been broken, humbled, and who has lost everything in life, but with the right heart of compassion and love for God and for His people. Do we love the GLBT community whom God has wonderfully created! Our broken dreams of ministry and service to God, He sees. God is still there, He has not left us. The time in the desert has a way to strip away all our pride, and pretensions. When we have nothing, when all that is left is memories of a vision long time ago that we could have served God mightily, God will meet us where we are in the desert places.
What we need is not more inclusiveness, social justice, outreach, gay pride marches, but a sanctuary with burning bush where we can have a miraculous encounter with God to renew their spiritual life, dreams, hopes, and ministry for Christ. Moses didn’t realize that being a Jew was part of God’s plan, and so often we fail to realize that being Gay and the wilderness experience was part of God’s plan that we might make a difference to the nations for Christ. God is calling our name out from the burning bush. Do we turn to look and answer to God's calling or do we keep on wandering? "Here I am" is our cry as we turn to God's burning bush to proclaim His kingdom come.