by The Rev Brad Froslee
For forty years the Israelites wandered and wondered in the wilderness unsure exactly what God’s plans were and where exactly the road would lead them. While the chains of outright abuse and oppression had been left in Egypt, it would be a long road to freedom. There would be quarrels, questions of faith, and questioned commitment to God as the motley crew made their way to the Promised Land.
Now, for nearly forty years the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its predecessor bodies have been wandering and wondering in the wilderness in discussing, quarreling, questioning, and wrestling with faith alongside the issue of sexuality. The question before us now is whether we are prepared to trust the Spirit’s leading and cross into a promised land.
Imagine with me for a moment the thoughts, emotions, and dreams, as Joshua and the Hebrew people crossed from forty years in the wilderness into the Promised Land. What joy and outright giddiness! Imagine also the sense of loss as they stood ready to create a new life for the people of Israel; yet knowing that it would be different from the life and times of their ancestors and that there would be a shift in generational leadership. As Moses saw the Promised Land from one side of the Jordan, the people of Israel moved forward and gave way to God’s leading and evolving promise. Alongside the joy and hope, the sense of loss and longed for promise, there was likely also a sense trepidation in taking next steps—knowing that the land before them would hold challenge even as they lived into God’s promise. What a sense of responsibility! God now entrusted them with a promise and a land and they were coming home as a changed people—changed by God’s presence and the experiences on the “road out” of oppression.
As a teenager I questioned and quarreled with faith—with God. I found myself living in a wilderness. Growing up in West Central Minnesota I was well aware of the comments, the names, the harassment of people who were “light in their loafers,” or “lived in San Francisco,” or had “long-time roommates.” I wondered, as a youth who recognized my own difference, where I fit into society and particularly how, or if, I could fit into the church. The Lutheran words of grace fell on deaf ears and the church created a strong works righteous theology in a young teenager who believed that if he could be better than everyone else then, and only then, God would love and accept him. Arriving at St. Olaf College, a college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I was met by God’s radical promise of grace and found myself crossing the Jordan into a new way of being—called by God to wholeness as a person.
The words of professors and friends at St. Olaf and co-workers at Luther Crest Bible Camp echoed the words of former pastors and a grandfather who had encouraged me to follow the call to serve as a pastor. While trying to run away from this call to serve as a pastor in the Lutheran church, I found God unwilling to give up on me. This cast me into yet another wilderness.
Having come to a place of wholeness and promise as child of God, I found myself now wrestling with a church trying to make its way through its own wilderness of sexuality and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons serving as clergy. It has been a journey for me…it has been a longer journey for many others…and certainly it has been a long and challenging journey for this community we call the Church.
Yet, now, as I stand as a gay man ordained to serve as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I am well aware of the Promised Land to which we are called. We stand at the banks of the river preparing to cross over. We will carry with us our lived experience, the memory and the promise of those who have gone before us, the profound sense of grace that God instills in us as a church, and most importantly we will look to the God who calls and challenges us to live into promise.
“…the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying… ‘Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them’… ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous.’”
Rev. Brad Froslee received his MDiv. from Harvard University and his BA from St. Olaf College. He has been active in work with youth and youth education with program such as 4-H and his church youth group. Brad serves as pastor of St. Luke Presbyterian Church in Minnetonka, MN. Pr. Brad is also the Camp Director at the Naming Project. The Naming Project Camp and The Naming Project Drop-in Center provide safe, welcoming, and nurturing environments for g/l/b/t and allied youth. You can learn more about the Naming Project by visiting: http://www.thenamingproject.org.