From the Old Testament, the Presbyterians heard a message from Genesis, the story of Joseph. And the Lutherans were led to a passage from the 56th chapter of Isaiah, verse 1, and then verses 6-8.
Lundblad said she’d long told folks in the congregations where she was pastor that “when you see that comma,” indicating that some verses have been skipped over, “ask, `What didn’t they want us to hear? What was in the comma?’” In this case, “the eunuchs were in the comma.”
In those missing verses, Isaiah speaks of foreigners and of eunuchs, saying that those who hold fast to God’s covenant will be given a place in God’s house.
“Isaiah wanted us to see the eunuchs and the foreigners together in the same text,” Lundblad told the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, meeting at Westminster Church in Minneapolis on Nov. 6-8. “What Isaiah put together, let the Lutherans not put asunder.”
While she laced her remarks with humor, Lundblad was also making a serious point – and she knew she was speaking to a group of progressive Presbyterians who have worked for the past decade to try to push open the doors of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to allow the ordination of gays and lesbians.
Isaiah knew the prohibitions of his time – that those whose testicles had been crushed or penises cut off could not be admitted to the assembly of God. But he declared that eunuchs who kept God’s covenant and followed God’s laws would have a place in God’s house.
“The Holy Spirit did not wait for the New Testament,” Lundblad preached. “Isaiah dared to declare a new word, different from the word written down” in Deuteronomy. To be clear, there is no evidence the eunuch was gay, bisexual or transgendered – although “probably he was not a lesbian,” she quipped.
But there are similarities between the eunuch’s life and others who are judged based on gender identity, Lundblad said. A eunuch would be seen as “sexually other,” no matter if he has a powerful position in the military or in the king’s court, no matter what his accomplishments.
This passage indicates that God made room for the eunuchs, because of their faithfulness, and that “God violates Torah for the sake of relationship,” because the eunuchs kept the covenant, Lundblad said. Today, we often speak of gays and lesbians as though “anything goes” for them – characterizing whole categories of people (“Heterosexuality is good, homosexuality is bad”) even though “categories alone can never bear the weight of moral discernment.”
Fidelity is an issue for both gays and straights, she said. And to those who contend that for the church to allow gays and lesbians into ordained leadership would violate 2,000 years of Christian teachings, she says: “Longevity of tradition does not ensure its faithfulness. It is possible to be wrong for a long time. Even Jesus discovered that,” when he encountered the Canaanite woman, as described in the 15th chapter of Matthew’s gospel.
At first, Jesus refused to help her, even insulting her. But she challenged him – saying that even dogs are allowed to eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table – and he was swayed, in the end, by her faithfulness, and healed her daughter.
“If Jesus could be changed,” Lundblad asked, “why not the church?”
In truth, “many people here have been given crumbs for a long time, and you’ve been told to be satisfied, just wait a little longer,” she said. “I’ve been told that too. Many of us, myself included, we have lived in the comma, where we don’t dare to be ourselves unless we be kicked out.”
But we have seen gays and lesbians living faithful lives, in big cities and small towns, Lundblad said, “people whose committed relationships have lasted a lifetime, hopefully blessed by the church even when the state refuses. I see it. So have you.”
And now, in receiving communion, “we will receive a piece of bread, no bigger than a crumb. But we believe it is the bread of life. And that makes all the difference, forever.”
In other words: We are faithful, and we are welcome in the house of God.