July 8, 2012: Hot Summer Sex I

Posted on : Jul 5th, 2012 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

If it’s summer, it’s time for our “hot topic” worship series.  Each year I pick one of the “hot topics” of our life and faith for one of our summer worship series.  In “church lingo” we are in what’s called “Ordinary time.”  Since most of us in the Protestant Christian tradition don’t have an “Ordinal” I’ve never quite figured out why we use that language, but we do.  An “Ordinal” is a book of prayers for each Sunday of the year.  From the Day of Pentecost to the first Sunday in Advent, there are no “special Sundays” that are celebrated in the Christian Church.  Put those two together and the concept of “Ordinary Time” emerged.  It has come to mean, “nothing out of the ordinary” is going to happen for the next 20-26 weeks.  Well, that’s not true at West Hollywood United Church of Christ!  Something extraordinary happens here, every Sunday, if not daily.  And to be sure we don’t fall into a summer slump, I always plan a Hot Topic series.

This year it’s SEX.  Uncensored Sex.  As some of you know, I’m pretty gifted and experienced in this area so you get to choose:  baking at the beach or a hot sizzling sermon on sex by our resident sex-pert pastor?

In 1988 the Presbyterian Church was embroiled in heated debate about homosexuality.  Some bright, insightful soul finally realized that the reason the church couldn’t deal with homosexuality was that it didn’t have a healthy, contemporary, practical working theology (Spirituality) of sexuality in general.  So in true Presbyterian fashion, they appointed a special Task Force of the General Assembly to “study the issue and prepare a report and study guide” to help the Church deal with sexuality.  Yours truly was one of 18 persons appointed to serve on the Human Sexuality Task Force.  The 18 of us covered a wide variety of areas of expertise including Seminary professors of Christian Ethics, Seminary professors of Biblical Studies, Seminary Professors of Theology and Spirituality, MD’s working in the area of sexuality, a Professor of Women’s Studies who taught Sexuality at the undergraduate level, people who worked in the social services with expertise in a whole bunch of areas related to sexuality, a marriage and family counselor, local church pastors and one pastor who worked in a “specialized ministry with sexual minorities” and who also happened to be gay.  Who could that possibly be?  Have I met him?

In preparation for our work, we read and reviewed just about every statement and study that every Christian Church had prepared in the last 25 years and some of the ancient texts about sexuality as well.  Right from the start of our work a number of things became very clear.  Christians had no theological or spiritual framework in which to talk honestly about sex or sexuality.  So the default theology was:  to celebrate marriage and its by-product, the birth of children through which the “original sin” of sex was redeemed through the Sacrament of baptism.   Sex outside of marriage was prohibited, and the Church declared that the sole purpose of sex was for making babies (procreation).  That may have worked for many centuries, but it sure wasn’t the reality of life from the 1960’s onward when two things changed the game significantly.  One was the feminist movement or women’s equality movement.  The other was the development of “the pill.”  Birth control.  Once birth control was readily available, having sex no longer had the unintended consequence of conception.  Birth control really opened the possibilities of sex being for pleasure as well as [occasionally] for procreation.

It’s the pleasure part that really scared the heck out of the Church.  That just didn’t fit into the Christian Church’s theology.  The cry was, “If the purpose of sex is simply pleasure, all you get is ‘sexual license’ (anarchy), as well as the probability of ‘promiscuity.’”

Now if you’ve followed me this far, you can clearly see why gay and lesbian sexuality was so volatile and fearful to the Church.  Sex between same gender couples is obviously NOT procreative, though we all know lots of couples who keep trying!   Therefore, sex between same sex couples is about pleasure, not procreation.  And up until just recently there was no possibility for marriage.  So gay and lesbian folk just didn’t fit this “old” or as some called it the “traditional” paradigm regarding sex.  The Christian Church’s worst fears were that Christians would discover that sex is about pleasure and love, and in a birth-controlled world marriage was no longer that which defined responsible sex.  What the Christian Churches knew, but didn’t know how to deal with, was that the same changes in attitudes, practices and beliefs that were happening in the gay and lesbian community, were happening in heterosexual communities as well.

So from 1988-1991 our little group of 18 began working on a new theology of sexuality, one which keeps “body and soul” together.  As you might guess, there was violent opposition to it, but “Keeping Body and Soul Together:  Sexuality, Spirituality and Social Justice” is still the most definitive study of human sexuality and spirituality to date.

This Sunday we will begin our 5 week series with the topic:  “Taking All the Fun Out of It: How Did Christianity Get to be so Anti-Sex?”  How could something so good get labeled so “evil” or “sinful?”  That’s where we’ll begin this Sunday.  Bye bye sex-negative Christianity.  Hello sensuous, full bodied spirituality!




~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

Romans 8: 1-13

The Apostle Paul speaks about the difference between flesh and spirit.

There is no longer any condemnation, however, for those who are in Christ Jesus.  The law of the Spirit – the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus – has freed you from the law of sin and death.  What the Law was powerless to do because human nature made it so weak, God did – by sending the Only Begotten in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering, thereby condemning sin in the flesh.  In this way, the just demands of the Law could be fulfilled in us, who live not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  Those who live according to the flesh have their mind set on the things of the flesh; those who live by the Spirit, on things of the Spirit.

The mind of the flesh is death, but that of the Spirit is life and peace.  The mind of the flesh stands in opposition to God; it is not subject to God’s law – indeed, it cannot be, since those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not belong to Christ.  But if Christ is in you, then though the body is dead because of sin, the spirit lives because of righteousness.  If the Spirit of the One who raised Christ from the dead dwells in you, then the one who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through the Spirit dwelling in you.

Therefore, we are under an obligation, my sisters and brothers – but not to the flesh or to live according to the flesh.  If you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if you live by the Spirit, you will put to death the evil deeds of the body and you will live.

Genesis 1

God declares all of creation “GOOD!”

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light!” and there was light.

And God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.  And so it was.

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.”  And it was so. God called the dry land “earth” and the waters, “seas.”

And God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit”.  And God saw that it was good.

And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly about the earth.  And so God created them.

And God said “Let the earth bring forth living creatures.”  And it was so.

Then God said, “Let us make humanity in our image, after our likeness.”  So God created humanity in God’s image.  And God blessed them.

And God saw everything that God had made, and behold it was VERY GOOD.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the hosts of them.  And on the seventh day God rested.  So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work which God had done in creation.

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