I took 9 years of ballet as a child, and one of the first things they teach you is how to spot. Spotting is how ballerinas can do dozens of turns in a row, twirl across a floor, and still know where they are. When you spot, you pick a stationary spot on a wall, and as you turn, you keep your eyes locked on the spot, and when you eventually have to whip your head around, you immediately lock your eyes back on to the same spot. Spotting keeps you from getting dizzy, spotting reminds you which way is up when your head is (literally) spinning, spotting makes you able to stay balanced when it would be otherwise impossible, and it rests on a simple skill: being able to keep your focus locked onto one thing that will not change.
These past few weeks in the world of the United Methodist Church have made many of us dizzy, have made our heads spin, and made us unsure about which way is up. We have seen people who are faithful followers of Jesus spit ugly words at each other, seen our denominations name in the national news, and wondered if our spiritual home would be the same come Sunday. As we try to figure out how to be us, and maybe even be us together when we are being pushed to name a “them,” may we take a moment to exercise some spotting.
Maybe we will be served by taking a moment to lock eyes on the spot that will not move, on being clear and focused about that which has not changed and will not change. Maybe the key to keeping our balance when our world is spinning around us is in naming those truths about our church’s life together, and particularly our church’s life together with LGBT+ people that can keep us steady.
Last week, Matt and I took a moment to speak from the Justin stage to all of our youth about the called conference, and what it meant in particular for our LGBT+ teenagers, who were feeling very much like the world was spinning around them. Here’s what we told them last weekend. And what we will tell them this weekend. And what may very well tell them every weekend after that if we need to — this is the spot we told them to lock their eyes on and return to on every rotation.
Our spot is that every single one of us are created in the image of God and are loved by God and are of equal and sacred worth to God. That includes people who identify as LGBTIA+ who, (like women, and people of color, and people with disabilities) have, at times throughout history, been told by the world that they are less.
Our spot is that every single one of us belong and are welcome here exactly as we are. Jesus always intentionally sought out and offered extra measures of grace to those who his religious community had been unkind to — like tax collectors, and “sinful” women, and lepers. Following that example, we will be conscious of offering extra grace and care to those who our church has often been unkind to, including people who identify as LGBTIA+.
Our spot is that hatred, vitriol, and exclusionary behavior, from anyone, will not be tolerated. We know that is a lot easier to turn the person we don’t understand into a monster. The harder and better way is to acknowledge that the image of God is in them as well.
For the youth ministries, our spot is that our children — our gay children, our straight children, our athletic children, our shy children, our girl children, our boy children, our thriving children, our struggling children — are all beloved by God, beloved by us, and welcome in our midst.
May all of us, in dizzying times, find those truths we can spot to — the unconditional love of God, the redemption we find in Christ, and the continuing work of the Holy Spirit through us and the church, even when we seem the unlikeliest of vessels, and may that be enough for today.
Director of Youth Ministries