God Is Still Speaking

This sermon was written by Sharon Cantrell while she was at Central Baptist Seminary.

Our scripture today comes from John.

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

And Jesus goes on to say in John 16:12-15

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

I read a story once about a mother who was asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability — to try to help people who have not shared the unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It went like this:

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip — to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. Michelangelo’s “David.” The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The flight attendant comes and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?” you say. “What do you mean, Holland? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plans. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. You must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, and Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never [completely] go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.

But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.

That story is very much like the day you learn your child is gay . . . life suspends for a while, like the landing of the plane.

I remember that day vividly . . . oh, not the exact date, but I remember the call from my daughter. You see, our oldest daughter had been divorced for about 3 years. Leaving an abusive situation, with her small daughter, she lived with us for a time until she got on her feet. . . . Now, for the past year, she had lived with her best friend Sharon, her best friend from high school . . .

“Mom, I need to talk with you, would you come over tonight?” Oh, I have so much to do . . . Can’t it wait for another night? . . . “no, mom, I need to talk with you.”

As I sat down in her living room, the words still ring in my ear. . . “I have something to tell you.” Thoughts swirled wildly in my mind . . . is she sick, or . . . a mom’s worst nightmare . . . I said out loud . . . “Are you pregnant?” No, mom, I am gay. . . The tears flowed as I sat numbly yet I managed to get out, “it will be okay . . . will you tell dad? I can’t.”

I am not sure how I got home that night, through the tears, but I told her dad through the tears and the pain. The next morning we sent flowers to her at work, telling her we loved her unconditionally. But the journey had just begun. I cried a lot and I prayed a lot. I kept up a good front for her but my pain was more than I could bear. So much flooded in as I grieved.

At first, I tried to deny it, oh this will pass. . . “Well, she was dating a young man for awhile, maybe she is just confused.” I knew very little about homosexuality but I knew all about my daughter. She was feminine and funny and creative. She was very bright and accomplished, deeply caring for others. She was faith-filled and had taken very seriously her faith walk, can still even today tell you about her baptism and how and when she found her own personal walk with Christ And as much as I wanted it to, it did not pass.

And in the midst, I sought to explain it . . . it must be my fault, my poor parenting . . . but didn’t I raise three beautiful daughters, yet the other two aren’t gay. Was she a mistake? Either she was a deeply flawed person whose lifestyle made her a sinner . . . in contradiction to nature and the will of God . . . or there was more I did not know . . . perhaps . . . perhaps there was more.

In my state of ignorance, I sought answers. . . I began to read all that I could read.

Addressing the question of whether sexual orientation is chosen, Dr. Gregory Herek, Ph.D., (associate research psychologist at the University of California at Davis and a national authority) on heterosexuals’ attitudes toward lesbians and gay men said, “Regardless of whether they are homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual, people generally experience their sexual orientation as an essential part of their core identity — their sense of who they are, sexually. Scientific research has not established why anyone develops a particular sexual orientation. But we do know that people generally do not choose their sexual orientation. Rather, they discover it and come to understand it through a long developmental process.” I began to see that perhaps it was not a choice. And I learned along the journey that it could not be prayed away, not by me nor her father, not by my daughter nor the millions of the gay and lesbian people who populate our earth and have tried to be what “society and their faith” has sought to demand of them.

But this did not quell the storm inside . . . that center of belief . . . my faith, for it was rocked to the core. The words . . . abomination . . . sinner . . . burn in Hell . . . Not welcome at the Table rang in my mind, filled the conservative airwaves, and often spewed from pulpits. I began to search my Bible and I was more confused, for I easily found the few Scriptures that were so quickly used to demean, to condemn . . . but I didn’t find any words from Jesus to condemn my child. . . I searched. All Jesus said over and over was –“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. That you love your neighbor.”

In the Psalms (39:13) I found, “13 For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

In Isaiah (49), I read “The Lord called me before I was born; while I was in my mother’s womb, God named me.” I went on to read, “14 But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.’ 15 Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. 16See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.” I wondered . . . if we are inseparable from God . . . is my name and your name and my daughter’s name written on God’s hand? Do we all matter to God?

I prayed. . . “It seems God, that forever and ever your truth is known, yet . . . surely you have more to say. Surely you did not leave the world to hang in silence henceforth.” Then the whisper of God’s grace filled my presence, as I read Jesus’ words. . .

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of Truth comes, the Spirit will guide you into all the truth, for the Spirit will not speak on her own authority, but whatever she hears she will speak, and she will declare to you the things that are to come.”

Craddock and Boring suggest that after Easter, the Holy Spirit, that promise of the Spirit of Truth, led the church into new truths not perceived during Jesus’ lifetime. One clear example is the reception of the Gentiles– contrast Jesus’ words in Matt (10:5), the twelve Jesus sent out -with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles” —–to Peter’s revelation in Acts – “What God has called clean you must not call profane.” “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”

When the Spirit of Truth comes, the Spirit will guide you into all truth. That same God who was alive before the Scriptures were written . . . that same God– in the Spirit of Truth, guiding Peter . . . that same God is alive today. Maybe God is still speaking today. . .

I wish I could tell you that I found all the answers quickly and all was well in my soul and in my heart and in my house. But it wasn’t. I learned many lessons along the journey. As I emerged from my mourning, I grew to accept, then to embrace and then to celebrate and to dance in God’s house at the gift God had given in my daughter.

But I must confide in you, I also began to be angry . . . angry at the injustice that I saw around me . . . the rejection. . . the pain that was inflicted by so many . . . people of the family of God. I found prejudice and discrimination. In my search for answers and for justice, I found that there were many deeply committed and respected people of God who did not agree with such abuse and condemnation, many who welcomed all to God’s table of remembrance.

The Reverend Dr Peter Gomes, an ordained American Baptist minister, who has served in the Memorial Church, Harvard University {since 1972 and on the faculty of Harvard for many years,} was one such giant. [In 1999]. . . in an address to the American Psychiatric Association, he lamented, “It falls to me as a Christian minister and a practitioner of religion to indicate that in the matter of sexual prejudice, religion is fundamentally a part of the problem and one can only hope that by acknowledging that, it may well indeed become part of the solution as well . . . we find that the first and the last resort used to justify a prejudice is the fact that the Bible tells me so.” The Bible tells me so but doesn’t it tell me other things as well?

There seems to be another problem that co-exists with the prejudice that abounds . . . it is silence. Those of us, whose faith values and beliefs differ from the more vocal conservative folks have not been willing to stand and be counted, to suggest that our God is filled with unfailing love and grace for each of us, regardless of our sexuality. Our silence has helped to maintain the prejudice and hatred that fills our nation. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

In 1998, Darrell and I, after painfully considering our options, left our church home in Texas for their failure to stand in the face of grave bigotry against a young gay African-American man applying for song leader. We could not remain silent. We could not continue to worship in an environment that would allow the members to discount/attack him so vocally for his race and sexuality, without some Christ-filled response from other members or the pastor.

After leaving, I made numerous talks about the call on the church for Christ’s table to be open to all. At that time, I wrote:

I can’t debate the theological issues as well as many. I only know that the Psalmist says, “I have known you since you were in the womb; I called you by name.” No God that I worship would form three beautiful babies in my womb and then PRONOUNCE ONE A MISTAKE. I am called to celebrate and love her in her wholeness, every bit as much as I celebrate her sisters.

As a parent of a lesbian child, I am often questioned as to how I have the courage to stand up and support her. How do I have the faith to stand in the face of rejection and scorn for my beliefs? It is my sincere passion to walk with others on this journey, to make sure that “all are invited to the table of our Lord each Sunday”. Why do I choose to make that often-lonely walk? Perhaps it is because of this letter that my husband and I received from our daughter. Perhaps if all people put these issues into human terms, ones affecting those they love most dearly . . . maybe then the courage to stand for human rights and dignity would not be so difficult. After leaving the church, we received this letter. . .

Dear Mom and Dad,

I am proud of your courage in standing up for what you believe. I know that it takes so much strength to stand up for those things. I feel that I fight that battle every day of my life in some regard.

I believe that you both prayed and gave this matter great thought. I am confident that God has heard you and is guiding you in your journey.

I was reading to Ashley tonight, I came across a quote that touched me in much the same way your fight has. The story was about the Germans occupying Denmark and how a young man named Kim Mathe-Bruun of the Danish Resistance, orchestrated secret operations in an effort to save the Jews from the Nazis. This young man was captured and eventually executed. But before he died, he wrote the following: . . . “and I want you all to remember – that you must not dream yourselves back to the times before the war, but the dream for all of you, young and old, must be to create an ideal of human decency, and not a narrow-minded and prejudiced one. That is the great gift our country hungers for, something everyone can look forward to, and with pleasure feel he is part of—something he can work and fight for.” Nearly 7,000 Danish Jews were smuggled to safety because of brave, young fighters such as Kim Mathe-Bruun. While I was reading this tonight, it touched me as symbolic to all the wars we fight for humanity.

Continue to pray for . . . all such (church) members who may fear to stand and fight. Truly our country has come so far on many issues. It is true that there is the need for further growth and acceptance. I sat the other night at the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at our church and for a moment, I changed the barrier from color to sexual orientation. If only people could stand with such passion to a cause such as that.

Thanks to loving parents like you who will stand proud, maybe a difference will be made. Although only slight is the reality that you are only two people—it is enormous to me. And perhaps as you begin touching others, those numbers will grow. If only all children had parents such as you two to stand behind them with support. I am blessed and fortunate. I thank God for your unconditional love. Thank you for loving me.


Perhaps the Holy Spirit, the continuing voice of Jesus who reveals God . . . the prophetic chain of command from God through Christ to the church and to the world . . . is still speaking today.


The following resources were helpful in preparation of this sermon:

Boring, Eugene, and Fred Craddock. The People’s New Testament Commentary. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.

Emily Perl Kingsley. “WELCOME TO HOLLAND,” October 28, 2003. Andrews McMeel Universal Company.

Bishop Paul Egertson. “One Family’s Story.” In Homosexuality and Christian faith: questions of conscience for the churches. Edited by Wink, Walter. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1999.

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