Sunday, June 27, 2010
Sermon for Pridefest 2010
I want to take this time to wish all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender persons and our wonderful friends and allies, a very happy Pridefest!
I remember my very first Pride Event, I was living in Chicago, I had not come out of the closet to my family, and to be honest I was a bit apprehensive. You see fear was really holding me back. I was caught in that old trap of “what if someone I see from work is here?”, “what if this makes the news and my fundamentalist preacher grandfather sees me?!, heck what about my mom?!” You see Fear is so big of an emotion that it can utterly paralyze us. But I bucked it up and marched with the Integrity Chapter of the Diocese of Chicago. I took that first step away from being paralyzed with fear. I was being cheered on, by people watching the parade, it made me elated. It gave me courage! I hadn’t realized just how held back I had become. How much of my life I was hiding from my family.
You see it was that paralysis that persuaded me to come out of the closet. From my baptism and confirmation at Calvary Church in Columbia at 22, I was a very devout church go-er. I moved to Omaha, Nebraska, joined a parish there, helped to start a young adult campus ministry, then moved to Chicago, became involved there. I was the GO TO guy for helping out at church events. You need a volunteer for Happening or for Vocare, count me in. Work the parish picnic sure no problem. I knew that I was gay, but I sort of figured if I immersed myself with many activities, then I wouldn’t have to deal with that aspect of my life that cause me such fear and anxiety.
That is until, I started some education for ministry classes, and it was the exercise of writing a spiritual autobiography, that got to me. I was just hit with the realization that I could not become the man I was to be, the man that God wanted me to be. Until I came clean with whom I was.
Being held back by fear and shame is a way that the world inhibits us. Heck it’s the way we inhibit ourselves.
It prohibits us from claiming our faith, and our due place as a child of God, and as a true part of the body of Christ on earth!
If we are to truly follow the gospel as Christ proclaims, humankind cannot set up boundaries, between those in society who are different , or to whom we may judge to be ‘unfit’ to associate with.
Those whom others would judge too wicked to even walk through the doors of a church.
For you see that type of thinking truly limits God, it hamstrings God into only saving those who have somehow followed all the rules and have done everything right, those who have checked every task off their to-do list, adhered to every formula.
The truth is that those types of people who follow the rules and live a truly godly life, are saved, but God in Christ didn’t just come to save those types of people. God came to save the worst of us.
Theologian Karl Barth, in his voluminous writings titled Church Dogmatics, states and I paraphrase, that “God so wants to be with us, that God does not desire to be God without us.”
And in my understanding of God’s actions toward humanity through Christ, that means ALL OF US, LGBT, Straight, and questioning, closeted, etc!.
The Gospel of Luke which we read today, shows Jesus instructing the disciples in the manner they are to act. They are not to act out of malice and destroy the city that doesn’t welcome them. This is what we may like to do at times to those who disparage us, or who call our faith “unchristian”. Jesus tells them that they should just move on to another city. And certainly LGBT persons have moved on to other towns, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Heck some even coming from small town Missouri to the bigger cities of St. Louis or Kansas City. But what if we stayed? What would it be like if we “tried to convert” those who preach a different exclusive gospel to us? For centuries those brothers and sisters in Christ have tried to convert us from our lives. Using the “Christian Faith to condemn others”, preaching to us of the separation of sin and always assigning that sin to us. And they preach very little about the reconciling love of God! What if we confront a shaming fearful gospel with one of hope and love!?! Shouldn’t we feel obligated to save them from perpetuating this hell that they are creating for their neighbors, save them from placing stumbling blocks in front of those who want to walk with Christ?
That my friends is what the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered persons in our community are looking for, to walk with God and to take a rightful place as an adopted child with the support of their church families. And for many of our allies, it is important to them that they belong to such an open and welcome family of faith!
We who for so long have been told we are not worthy of God’s grace. We who are told that we are steeped in sin, and that we are unforgiveable.
We as children, in our rooms prayed to God to change us, to make us like everyone else.
The shame so great, that we dare not tell anyone. We retreat to our closets, to protect ourselves, and ultimately perpetuate that lie and shame over and over in our lives.
Until finally the gospel comes to us!
The gospel that Christ preaches and proclaims and the Gospel that this church here proclaims, that grace and forgiveness come to all.
That each of us no matter where we are or where we have been is capable of receiving forgiveness and love.
That who we love is NOT sinful.
That love is NEVER sinful.
That it is the abuse of power that is sinful.
But even those who abuse power are forgiven, because God doesn’t wish to be God without them either.
Next in our service we will approach the table of god, and receive even more grace; we will receive those things that will nourish us: The Blood and Body of Christ.
Those gifts, that unite us with all the community of believers past and present as EQUALS, equals in receiving the grace and forgiveness that flows down upon us.
And that is what this church has chosen to do by expressly welcoming the outcast LGBT person into our congregations, proclaiming the reconciling love of God to them.
Especially through our Oasis Congregations, Christ Church Cathedral (Downtown St Louis), St. Mark’s (St. Louis Hills), Trinity (Central West End), Church of the Advent (Crestwood), Washington University Campus Ministry, Church of the Transfiguration (Lake St. Louis), Trinity Church (Kirksville), and our newest Oasis Congregation Hope Church (Columbia), along with the Integrity Proud Parish Partner St. John’s (Tower Grove), we explicitly state that LGBT persons are welcome in our congregations as worshiping members, lay leaders, and clergy!
For we now banish those feelings of shame and fear from our lives, so that we may take our spot as faithful fully participating members of the body of Christ.
May the rest of the body of Christ come to realize fully the gospel that “Oasis Congregations” and “Believing Out Loud Partner Congregations” have discerned, in the name of God the Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier of the world. Amen.