Full Of Grace & Truth

by Patrick Keough

I was a junior in high school, it was a week after Christmas, and it was bitterly cold. On St. Stephen’s Day a blizzard of Biblical proportions blanketed Massachusetts in a chrysalis of snow. Peripatetic winds had buffeted those icy banks, sculpting them into miniature topographical masterpieces, complete with condensed peaks and vales.

I worked for a charity that delivered food and furniture free of charge with no prerequisite for service.

The weather, though making our deliveries treacherous added an element of sublime, timeless beauty to the gritty urban landscape. For but a few weeks while the snow would last, Mother Earth had tenderly sheltered her young in her bosom and the whole earth sang aloud: “Alleluia, rejoice”.

I found myself in a spartanly furnished, third floor walk-up. A young mother in an act of Marian maternal love held onto her infant son, sheltering him in her breast. Out from the living room appeared a young kid with curly brown hair and terribly expressive brown eyes. He tugged my hand and led me into the living room.

We sat on a raggedy couch, which, other than a sad looking Christmas tree, was the only object in the room. The boy, I know not his name, began to read to me from a story book that he presumably had received as a gift a few days prior. He read slowly and deliberately. He formed the words carefully in his mouth, tasting their sound, inwardly digesting their meaning.

In this moment of pedestrian simplicity and grace—a mere occurrence in the kingdom of ordinary time—something inexplicable happened. No longer was the Christ child an abstract concept —a divine edict made into flesh in first century Palestine. Nay, here he sat and my eyes beheld his glory as he chanted sacred litanies in the living room of a third story walk-up in Brockton, MA.

And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us…full of grace and truth.

Recently there have been a slew of articles asking questions: “Are ‘homophobia’ and ‘Christian’ synonyms?” “Can one be both LGBT and Christian?” For me, as a gay man and a Christian, this is a foreign concept. I recognize I had good fortune of growing up in a church where my sexuality was deemed inconsequential. It never was a focus because it never was relevant. People often ask me how I am able to reconcile my sexuality and faith, especially in a world where it seems those two things are in opposition to one another.

My faith is strong and I am able to “reconcile” it with my sexuality because those two things exist on separate planes of existence. Sexuality is a worldly thing whereas faith is eternal—something that transcends the riven things of this world, making them whole.

Christ chose Peter to be the rock on which his church was founded. Verily, Peter was fallible, being but a man. He denied Christ thrice and Jesus even called him Satan. Thus, by this precedent, we should understand that the church is very human. Surely it is an organ, and a vital one, in the body of Christ, but in it men set doctrine. Dogma is a human creation. Yet, feelings, emotion, love, agape; that is divine.

Those riven things—oppression, hatred, exclusion, and discrimination—are a product of the human aspect of the church, not the divine.

Thus, those hateful words spoken from decaying pulpits are not the Word of God, but rather the words of foolish men. We need not quake at their authority for they are not prophets of God, just prophets of their own egos.

A true prophet is that young man with the big brown eyes. In his face, the face of Jesus, the riven things of the earth—inequality, inhabitants of bully pulpits, and begetters of hate—have no authority.

When we have an interaction with God, which for me was made manifest in words of that young man and the warmth of his hand against mine as he led me to that sordid couch, we know it is real and no one can take it from us. In this “thin place,” a place which in Celtic spirituality where God is near, sexuality is of no importance. All that is important is the love of God, which transcends those earthly riven things.

Our dignity as LGBT people is guaranteed in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Through the coming down of the divine we know truly that that tabernacle of God dwells amongst men. Our lives and all the parts of it—even earthly things like our sexuality—are sanctified. Our dignity is assured. And the word was made flesh and dwelt among us…

Photo via flickr user VickyTH