My fifth grade year was a living hell that I don't like to remember much, but during that very difficult time - I had one place of refuge.
Betty Lou Gervais was the fifth grade Sunday School teacher at Kane First UMC. I don't know what experience or credentials she had, or if she had ever taught anything before in her life, but I thank the goodness of Heaven that she volunteered to teach our class. We did lots of crafts - and not just junk to throw away, but high quality stuff that my mother still proudly displays around the house - and we listened to the Bible stories that Betty Lou told us. She spoke the book of Genesis, telling the stories in the fashion of a soap opera. For weeks we sat on the edge of our seats waiting to find out if Sara would survive her captivity in Egypt, we felt the great betrayal, we showed up week after week to find out if she was really pregnant and if she could really have a baby at her advanced age.
A few years later, in an English class, our teacher asked if anyone knew one of those stories from Genesis - all seven of us in that classroom who had been taught by Betty Lou raised our hands in unison to tell the story. The whole class got an ear full as we compared notes on the finer points of the story. The proof is in the pudding.
There are really only two ways to look at the Bible. There are those who see a book written thousands of years ago - a book that can be studied, dissected, and ultimately proven and understood. And then there are those who learned from Betty Lou and the millions of Betty Lou Bible teachers around the world - there are those who see the Bible as a book that God continues to write on our hearts - a book that is meant for us and for our lives, to give meaning and purpose to an otherwise senseless world.
One of the girls from that Sunday School class got engaged to her partner this year, and as Pennsylvania inches toward becoming another state to get on the right side of history - I think that she'll get married fairly soon. I don't know Betty Lou's political position on such things, but I know her great love. I know the way she loved the Lord and I know the way she loved all of her students. I'm glad that we had a teacher who taught us about God's great love, a love that passes all understanding. It's helped shape and form all of us into the people we are today.
There's a big brouhaha about a retired United Methodist Bishop who will be officiating at a same sex union this weekend. It is a bold and prophetic step in a grand march that began decades ago and will likely continue for decades to come. The Bishops who have sided with institutional security and the law over grace will soon seem like relics of a distant time. In the same way that I can't imagine what kind of Bishop sided with segregation, I'm sure that many will wonder what our Bishops were thinking.
Of course our problem is that we elect politicians to high office and not prophets. We need more people known for their holiness and preaching and spirit to lead the church instead of people known for their policies and procedures. We need more leaders who are willing to follow God's still small voice and to ignore the megaphones of our pundits and politicos. We need Bishops who lead.
Well, I'm sure that there are many who will see this wedding and bring out their holy measuring tape and hold it up against their holy textbook divided into columns and they will pronounce it disgusting and unruly. But my heartfelt prayer is that some will hold open their hearts, that God may continue writing the greatest love story ever told. Someday we will be a church where all are accepted, supported, and loved. Until that day, we must do all that we can to live into God's vision of a reconciled world. We must preach that Gospel for all, we must minister to all and especially the least likely, and we must teach the Bible as a living and gracious book - because that is exactly what it is and that is exactly what we are called to do.