The Rev. Peter Faass
Five years ago, Anthony and I were shopping for a wedding cake. Yes, that’s already five years ago! Wedding cakes, like other wedding components, express the personal tastes of the couple. For foodies like us, it was paramount to select a great baker for a fabulous, delicious confection. I only wish that the Duchess of Sussex (Meghan Markle) had been around to advise us. Her lemon and elderflower wedding cake sounded scrumptious!
A friend of ours recommended a wonderful baker who makes unusually beautiful and delicious cakes. So, we visited this bakery to discuss their products and prices (I am still shocked by what a decent wedding cake costs per slice!).
When we entered this bakery, we explained to the woman who greeted us why we were there. While I wouldn’t say her response was happy and congratulatory about our pending nuptials, she was reasonably pleasant. Inviting us to sit at a small table, she produced two loose-leaf notebooks filled with plastic-coated photos of various wedding cake design options, cake flavors, fillings, icings and price ranges. She explained that the bakery owner took the wedding cake orders and was in the back of the store, but that he would meet us in a few minutes. She then left to tell the owner we were there.
For ten minutes, we leafed through the binders. I thought, “well people get busy,” so we continued looking. Another ten minutes went by. I asked the person at the bakery counter to remind the owner we were there. She went to the back room and did not come back. The prolonged absence of the owner and other staff at this bakery was deafening and sent a clear message. A few minutes later, I said to Anthony, “They don’t want to sell us a wedding cake because we are two men. Let’s go.” We left.
This past week, the Supreme Court ruled on the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. This case involved a Colorado gay couple who wanted to order their wedding cake from a bakery called Masterpiece Cakeshop. Bakery owner Jack Phillips, who describes himself as a devout Christian, refused to bake a cake for Charlie Craig and Dave Mullins, because in his interpretation of the Christian faith, homosexuality is a sin. By a rather astonishing lopsided vote of 7-2 (thank you so much Justices Kagan and Breyer, and Kennedy), the Supreme Court upheld Phillips’ right to deny Craig and Mullins their wedding cake.
Anthony and I felt their pain and disappointment.
I am not going to comment on the legal aspect of this decision. I am told that it’s not as bad for the rights of same-sex couples as it initially appears. That’s cold comfort, since Ohio LGBT folks really have no rights to speak of. We have an abundance of lawyers in this congregation who can offer more accurate insight into the Supreme Court ruling.
I want to reflect on Phillips’ Christianity, especially as the majority Supreme Court opinion quoted him as saying that his “main goal in life is to be obedient to, 'Jesus Christ and Christ’s teachings in all aspects of his life.'”
So, his refusal to bake this wedding cake begs the question: Is he? Is his refusal to bake a cake for a same-sex couple being "obedient to Jesus Christ and all Christ’s teachings?" I would posit that the answer to that question is a resounding no!
Despite homosexuality being well-known in the ancient world, Jesus never mentioned it. While Jesus talks about yeast and bread, he never mentions wedding cakes (although he – or at least his nudgy mother – had plenty to say about wedding wine). In the Gospels, Jesus clearly sends a message that includes those who others feel are not worthy of inclusion. Today’s Gospel account is a case in point.
Jesus’ life-changing teachings and healings are causing larger crowds to gather around him. He and his disciples are so hemmed in that “Jesus and his disciples could not even eat.”
These growing crowds are no surprise. When someone tells you that you have self-worth regardless of who you are, after being told your whole life you are worthless, this is going to attract a huge following.
The authorities were alarmed by the increasing crowds. What is all this stuff about respect and dignity Jesus is teaching, anyway? Their power structure depends on having worthy and unworthy classes of people. Of course the authorities are the worthy classes, so they feel threatened. In last week’s Gospel reading, Jesus’ feeding and healing on the Sabbath so alarmed the authorities that they, “immediately conspired . . . against him, how to destroy him.” They are not happy campers.
Jesus’s family gets wind of how disruptive Jesus has become and they fear for his well-being, so they try to take him away.
“They went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’”
Others accuse Jesus of being Satanic. “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” This is a classic response by those who are threatened by people proclaiming a hopeful alternate message to their own: “They’re crazy!” “They are satanic!”
How often have conservative Christians said that about Episcopalians?
Satan’s got a hold on them
It’s false Christianity!
A member of a door-to-door denominational cult once told me that as an Episcopal priest I was a spawn of Satan. Regretfully both my parents are deceased, so I have no way of confirming this.
Jesus says something which changed everything. His family, more intent than ever to whisk him away come to find him again.
“The crowd tells him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ And he replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’”
Not only does Jesus resist the intervention of his mother, he renounces their claim on him. He doesn’t do this because he disdains his family, but because they want to keep him from proclaiming the good news of God’s abundant love and inclusion. He can’t abide by this. So, they remain “outside” while Jesus embraces those encircled “around him” in the crowded house.
Jesus redraws the lines of family and belonging, saying that those who do God’s will are siblings and mother to him. Thus, Jesus proclaims a new family. In a culture where identity was bound to kinship and tribal structures, Jesus’ pronouncement of a new family beyond blood or tribal kinship surely elicited gasps of shock. But it also brought gasps of great joy to many, especially people who find themselves estranged from their own families or tribes because of who they were. This still happens to LGBTQ folks in our own time.
Jesus’ new family is defined by “those who do God’s will.” Doing God’s will is about doing the rule of love: loving God, loving neighbor and loving one another as Jesus loves us. As Presiding Bishop Michael Curry proclaimed, “Love is the way!”
There is no other way to follow Jesus. Love is the only way to obey Jesus Christ and his teachings in all aspects of life.
In Jesus’ family when you follow God’s will by loving all of God’s children, not only do you get your cake baked for you, you get to eat it, too. That, my friends, is one hell of a wedding feast!
The Reverend Peter Faass
The Reverend Peter Faass was born in Delft, Netherlands. He is a graduate of the General Theological Seminary in New York City and has been at Christ Church since 2006.