My Beloved Siblings
Jul 21, 2021
By The Rev. Robert Cederstrom, Christ Lutheran Church, New Hyde Park
“Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” 23 And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.” (Mark 6:22-23), We heard this promise from Herod to his stepdaughter in our gospel reading a few weeks ago. Must have been one heck of a dance. I’m fairly certain her request was not what Herod anticipated. After consultation with her mother, she asked for the head of John the baptizer on a platter, to which he obliged.
If you strip away the horror of this story, you can see a man, Herod, faced with an impossible situation. Does he choose the right thing or the easy thing? Unfortunately, he opted for the easy way out by saving face with his cronies and executing John. Churches often find themselves facing difficult decisions, stuck between a rock and a hard place. When society was first confronted with the COVID virus, church leaders had to make the difficult decision to stay open or close. The easy option was to stay open and continue “business” as usual, in my case that was the majority opinion of the congregants. I suggested an alternative to stop in-person worship, close the school, suspend all group meetings and begin a totally virtual ministry. I knew that this drastic option would cause us to lose members to churches that stayed “open” (which we did) but sometimes – often times – the easy way is not the right way. Thanks be to God, we did not lose a single life to COVID and when we returned to “normalcy” we were stronger in spirit than before.
On June 27th, we celebrated our first “Pride Sunday” during our morning worship and livestreamed it on Facebook as we do every Sunday worship service. We normally get a couple of hundred hits on our livestream, but on Pride Sunday we received 5,184 (that’s not a typo). For the first time, we also had a handful of negative comments posted on our Facebook page, most directed at me personally. Everything from me being a terrible pastor and betraying the scriptures for encouraging sin, to saying I should rot in hell. Some of our congregants were angered by these comments and thought I should delete them but I didn’t. In my eyes censorship is unjust regardless of the validity of the comments or the venom hey contain. When I decided to celebrate “Pride Sunday” I knew full well there would be some dissenters but I also hoped being fully inclusive would serve a greater good. The easy way out, which in this case was to do nothing and hold to the “status quo” was just wrong. The more difficult choice created some furor but it was just right. I guess if Jesus could make waves by embracing EVERYONE, it should be good enough for us.
One of my go-to verses during the pandemic comes from the prophet Micah,
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
As I reflect on what course of action to take in the face of a difficult or unpopular decision that verse continues to resonant loudly in my head and my heart. For me the easy way is rarely easy, but by taking the right road you seldom go astray. And just for the record…you sleep a whole lot better at night. Justice is a beautiful thing.