Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fat Lesbian & the Light

I went to a comedy show last night. It was one of those shows held in the back room of a restaurant where, for no charge at all, we were invited to watch newbie comedians try out their acts. Some were funny, some weren't even close.

I was sitting with a group of women, none of whom I know particularly well. A couple could almost be called friends, and might soon be, if we share some food and drink a couple more times. As soon as the night's host got on the small corner stage, it became clear that we were the only newcomers that night. Of course, we would be the fodder for the jokes made.

During the first set, the fact that I'm a pastor came out. That became fodder for the entire evening. Every comedian, like clockwork, would mention the pastor sitting there at the front table. I braced myself, sitting with feet firmly planted on a chair and table base, open body posture; those who know me best would realize the false bravado that position represents.

I got, "I've never seen a female pastor before," a few times.

The comedian who introduced herself as Fat Lesbian, though, went for the throat. "Hey, so, you're pastor." I nodded to confirm.

"So, you think homosexuality is a sin?"

"Nope." I said calmly. And her train derailed. The incredulity was in her eyes as the audience applauded. Back on her game, she said, "Oh, a new agey pastor."

My response, "I'm doing my first lesbian wedding in May!"

I got some more applause. Then the set went on.

On Sunday, I preached about Jesus--there's a surprise. More specifically, I preached about Jesus as the Light that chases away the shadows of death. It's been said before, in many, many ways, but at the end of the day, remember: we bear the Light most fully when we are living as the people Jesus called us to be.

Even if that's at a slightly skeezy comedy show.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Just Show Up?

I'm guessing she was about my age, that faceless voice on the other end of the line. She was calling to ask about my church.

"I haven't been to church since I was a kid."

"My fiancé and I are looking."

"We want some place where gay people are welcome."

"What about my two year old?"

The conversation wasn't long--under ten minutes from beginning to end. In many ways, it was a quite standard conversation from someone interested in coming to worship.

And then, near the end, she asked the one question that surprised me: "So, well, do I just show up?"

My answer was exactly what you'd expect--"Yes!" followed by worship time and a "wear whatever makes you comfortable." In that particular case, I knew I would be out of town the following Sunday, so I sent a quick email to the person most likely to greet a newcomer on any given Sunday.

Still, her question has stayed with me because it was so surprising. In the weeks since that phone call, I've also heard a few more stories along the same line. Particularly, a friend of mine mentioned when she was in college, a church sent her goodies but never an invite. That church assumed she knew they'd like her to show up in worship some time.

I confess, anything normally termed "evangelism" makes me nervous because I automatically think about telling people something along the lines of, "Here's what's wrong with you and how to fix it." I know I'm not alone. And in my nervousness, I've forgotten that invitation matters. It really, really does. From me. From others. From the church.

Most things we do in our social lives include invitation--a party, a wedding, a game night, a pick-up game. There's a connection with someone, even if only a tenuous connection. Often, we agree to go to many of those things only after we make sure there will be a few people we know at the party or the whatever. We're used to being invited. We're also lousy at doing it when it comes to church. And we need to get better.

Because the truth is, unless we ask, there's a lot of people who will never know that church is one of those places they can just show up.