Sermon Transcript: Bishop Sally Dyck

Editor’s Note: This is the transcript of Bishop Sally Dyck’s sermon as we received it before we preached.

9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

10 And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

I’m thinking about joining the Catholic Church.

No, not really.

But I do find a religious body whose leader calls for this to be a year of mercy to be compelling.  He opened the Holy Doors and said, “Go, and do mercy, taking it into all our places of daily life.”  “Go and do mercy” from this passage was his episcopal motto.  For those in the room running for the episcopacy, you’d do well to take it as yours.

But, no, I’m not joining the Catholic church; please no headlines that say UM bishop joins Catholic church.  Just headline this: go, learn, mercy.  It’s who we are as United Methodist Christians at our best.  It’s what Jesus demonstrates as he has dinner at Matthew, the tax collector’s, house.  And there at dinner are all Matthew’s friends.  Like most of us, Matthew hung out with people who were like him:  other Jewish tax collectors. They were considered morally questionable because of who they were and what they did.

The tax collectors are usually a foil/contrast in the gospels to Pharisees. Pharisees weren’t such a bad lot.  Their intent was to renew and extend the observance of Jewish practice, especially laws of holiness, sacrifice and obedience to God.  The life of a Pharisees was a life of sacrifice and servitude.  How noble and laudable!  Unless of course, pride seeps in and love, compassion, justice and mercy are forgotten, even withheld from others.

Which is exactly why they’re Jesus’ foil to the tax collectors.  It’s to make the point to the disciples and others that God’s mercy is for all…and all means all.  What was once so compelling about Jesus and continues to be with so many people in all of our cultures, including mine where more and more people want nothing to do with the church, is that he was just so amazingly merciful!

That’s why it’s inconceivable to me that we as UMs have one category of humanity as being “incompatible with Christian teaching.”  War is incompatible with the teachings of the gospel; that’s far different than a category of humanity.  Remember that the word, incompatible, means “two things so opposed in character as to be incapable of existing together.”  One category of humanity is incapable of existing with Christian teaching; separated from Christian teaching.

There’s still a difference of opinion about whether LGBTQ persons are “sinners” or not.  I believe that homosexuality is a matter of identity, not just behavior. But even if you think that homosexuality is only about behavior, is it the worst/only category of humanity separated from Christian teaching?  I have at least one gay family member.  It’s pretty hard to see him as separated from Christian teaching; he’s a sweet guy.

Yet there are others even in my own family that seem to me to qualify for incompatible. It’s been a number of years but a family member killed another family member and then he killed himself.  I can’t tell you how wide the wake of destruction, pain, grief, division, hostility and hurt has resulted from what one person did.  Yet even at the funeral with both family members before me, I said the words, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus…” And we believed it.  It was all we had to hang onto.

So, okay, being a murderer was his behavior and not his identity.  So how about this: I’m white.  You may have noticed that.  I did nothing to be white; I can’t help being white.  Even if I sit in the sun all day, I’ll just be red; I’ll still be white. It’s part of my identity; how I relate to the world and how the world around me relates to me.  Is it part of my behavior?  I believe it is; sometimes I can prevent myself from being racist and sometimes I’m afraid I probably can’t because of white privilege. My behavior and my identity are really very closely connected.

WHY ISN’T RACISM INCOMPATIBLE WITH CHRISTIAN TEACHING?  Not much more has created such a wake of destruction, death, pain, violence, and suffering in individuals’ lives, churches, this denomination, our witness as Christians…yet, if it is something that separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, I’m toast.  And so are many of you.

My point isn’t to add any other human categories to the list of what is incompatible with Christian teaching; my point is that while we’re not a perfect church, we can be a merciful one. The good news is that Jesus said he didn’t come for the perfect people, the perfect families, the perfect churches, the perfect denomination…he came for us all, forgiving, accepting, healing and giving sheer grace and mercy.

Some of you have heard me tell this story before. When I was a DS in Ohio, I lived in a town that had a daily newspaper.  You could read it in about 5 minutes.  One night I came home and flipped through the paper.  There was an article on the front page about an event at one of the churches in town.  The article was about the First Church of God.  But they left “d” off of God.  So the headline was: The First Church of Go.

When I’ve told that story I’ve told it with a sense of it being a rallying cry:  I want to be a part of the First Church of Go!  But today I tell the story differently.  I tell it as a cry, a deep cry.  I want to be a part of a church that is sent out to go…learn…mercy

Laura Harbert Allen, Managing Editor

Laura is an independent public radio and multimedia producer who makes stories in the documentary tradition. She served as communications director for the West Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church for seven years and has more than 20 years experience in public radio as an announcer, producer, program director, and general manager. She has also written about music for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, and done feature work for Wonderful West Virginia Magazine. Laura is married to the Rev. Jeff Allen. They live in Charleston, West Virginia.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Elaine SlocumbBarbara BellusSharie MorganJudy Coffey Recent comment authors
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Barbara Bellus
Barbara Bellus

What a powerful insightful word, A gift to urge us to follow Jesus And do what he told the Pharisees and all of us who are drawn into pharasaical thinking and judging to do, Go. Learn. Mercy. It is a lifetime journey to live as Jesus lived, To love as Jesus loved, day by day by day. Let us earnestly pray that We may see Jesus more clearly, Love Jesus more dearly, and Follow Jesus more nearly Day by day by day, Including the week of days we have remaining in this General Conference. Pentecost is coming. Will the miracle… Read more »

Judy Coffey
Judy Coffey

Thank you Bishop for your strong thought provoking sermon and call to action; Lord, have mercy, Christ teach us mercy!

Sharie Morgan
Sharie Morgan

Jesus often said ” Go.”. He said ” Go, and sin no more.” If a person is comfortable in thinking that their behavior is not sinful, will they seek, or even accept,
the forgiiveness offered to them?

Elaine Slocumb
Elaine Slocumb

Sharie, I am not a sinner. My behavior is not sinful. I do not seek nor accept your forgiveness. That is why I am no longer a Methodist.

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