Homily from service on June 19, 2022 – Second Sunday after Pentecost
by Seminarian, Michael Thompson
Sermon preached by Seminarian, Michael Thompson
Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
Let the words of my mouth and the collective meditation of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight. Oh God, our rock and our Redeemer, and set our hearts on fire with your love. Amen.
It’s pride month. This is the month in which members of the queer community like me celebrate who we are in the beautiful diversity in which God created us. So in the words of the psalmist Why are you so full of heaviness? Oh, my soul. And why are you so disquieted within me? Well, the reason is that Pride Month is usually accompanied by questions like, Why do we need pride? What about straight pride? Why do they need to flaunt their lifestyle? Pride Month and Pride marches find their origins in 1969. During the early morning hours of June 28 1969, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club and bar in Greenwich Village. This was not unusual. These raids were part of the system. gay bars and clubs were frequently run by the mob. After all, engaging in same sex activity, including holding hands was illegal. police raids and payoffs were part of this system. But something was different. In June of 1969 in New York, the queer community was fed up and angry. Led by trans people of color they waited outside the Stonewall and they got angrier. When police turned violent the queer community through coins, bottles, rocks and other objects. Within minutes, riots that lasted six days had begun complete with chorus lines because after all, we are fabulous even when we protest. The queer rights movement had started long before Stonewall. Organizations like the Society for Human Rights, the Manichean society, and the daughters of boletus were formed in the 1920s and 50s. Stonewall though sparked a revolution to respect the dignity of every human being that continues today. Pride is still very much needed. Attacks on the queer community persist in the 1980s and 90s. governments and societies stood by as queer people in their 20s and 30s died of HIV AIDS. AIDS was God’s judgment. The message was that queer people should die. In the early 2000s, I sat in a church in Cambridge, in which the pastor who was a candidate for bishop in that denomination, preached a sermon condemning, among other things, the demons of homosexuality. I left that church that day and I did not return the message. Queer people are not welcome. In the church. laws prohibiting prohibiting sodomy were illegal and to until 2003. Same sex marriage became legal in Massachusetts in 2004. And it did not become the law of land of the land until 2015. We’re still fighting for trans people to use bathrooms and locker rooms and serve in the military. The message queer people belong on the fringes of society. Violence against queer people persists. In 1998 Matthew Shepard just 21 years old was beaten, tortured and left for dead. And Laramie was Wyoming. Perhaps his capital offense was flirting. Our trans and non binary siblings, the prime leaders in the fight for queer rights have been ignored and left to die, murdered doing sex work that they needed to do to survive and murdered just for being this is still happening and disproportionately so to trans people of color. Hundreds are murdered each year and we don’t even have an accurate count. Because trans people, especially trans people of color, are not valued in our society. Today’s lessons teach us what we as the church are to do in response to issues affecting the queer community.
Step one is for us to feel deeply how Elijah must have felt Elijah was overwhelmed everyone was against him. They wanted him dead. And so he begins to think he might be better off dead. He sits under a tree and says, God, take me. Too many queer youth know this feeling all too well. They absorb messages from society and the church that they who they are is wrong. They are told directly and indirectly, that they are better off dead. They are denied affirmation of who they are, and that God loves them. We drown out the message in God’s sheer silence, the message that says, I will teach, I will tend you feed you and empower you, with screams that God hates them. Our job is to amplify God’s voice and to do God’s work. We are to attend, feed and empower our queer siblings, and especially the youngest and most vulnerable among us. These are our children. And if you have any doubts about that, I invite you to go look at that table over there. We did we that simple question for Breakfast Club, what brings you joy and peace, they painted rocks, eight or nine of them, say pride rocks. We are called to be allies and champions. That is the calling in the lesson from Luke. So this story appears in all three of the Synoptic Gospels. So I think that means we need to pay attention. Jesus arrives and the first person he meets is a man who is possessed and living on the fringes of society. The community had tried to no avail to restrain him, but they seemed to reach an agreement. He is okay. Only if he lives at the literal margins of society, in the tombs among the dead, as if he were dead. Jesus shows up and the possessed man or the demon immediately identifies him, the Son of the Most High, Jesus liberates the man ordering the oppressive force out. Jesus’s first act is love towards someone he just met. But the love doesn’t end there. It gets more radical. Having learned of this healing, the community is afraid and asked Jesus who they have not properly met, to leave. Jesus has restored this man to the community, taken away all impediments to their living together. And he’s asked to leave Jesus resolved which must have been a nuisance to the community, but they reject His healing. Perhaps they had become content with having forgotten about this marginalized man in the tombs. Perhaps they had no patience for Jesus upsetting the system that they had created. Perhaps they were just too afraid to believe that healing was possible. In Luke’s and Mark’s version, the healed man asked to go with Jesus. This man probably knew that the community would not accept him healed, restored, clothed, and in his right mind. Jesus though, sends the man back to his oppressors, with the instruction to tell them of all God has done for him. So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city, how much Jesus had done for him. Mark’s version actually goes farther. He went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone was amazed. Mark has this man going to the local beyond the local community, to the Decapolis. That means the 10 cities to tell Jesus’s deeds. This parallels the lesson from First Kings, God 10s, feeds and accompanies Elijah and then sends him back to continue his prophetic work. As I said in a sermon a couple of weeks ago, love always leaves a significant mark.
Even in this supposedly progressive time 2022 And even in the supposedly progressive place Massachusetts, we are too comfortable keeping the marginalized and the oppressed at the margins. Even in the most accepting churches, being queer is acceptable only with conditions. We accept you if you don’t flaunt your lifestyle. If you adhere to heteronormative relationship styles, if you blend in if you otherwise appear and act straight and cisgender. If if, if this isn’t acceptance, this is not inclusion. In the same way the gara scenes were only okay with the man and with Jesus if they didn’t disrupt the system that was already in place. That simply isn’t good enough. Jesus leaves behind a mark of God’s love. He leaves the man to tell the people of God’s love. Jesus leaves in their midst a walking, breathing, loud reminder of who God is and what God does. God loves radically. God heals and restores. God removes all impediments to reconciliation. God’s love is so powerful that no oppressive system can contain it. God’s love enters those systems and breaks them. If you are queer, be the man Jesus healed. If you are not be an ally, and be the man that Jesus healed. Don’t go into the tombs and live among the dead. shout, shout about what God has done for you. Welcome all people, truly embracing all aspects of who they are witness to the power of God’s love. We the church have a lot of catching up to do with our queer siblings. For too long, we have been complicit in the message that these people, our siblings are less than that they are abomination, that they are not wonderfully made in the very image of God, with the Holy Breath of God filling their nostrils, and descending into their lungs, that they are not created as God created them, and knew them before they were formed in the womb. We tell them that they must change. No, we must change. Even if we don’t advance hateful messages, we allow those who do to be louder than we are. No. If we say that God is love, then we need to be allies who shout about God’s love through the streets of the Decapolis. If we say that God is love, then we need to witness to that love. We need to declare not just in the eucharistic prayer, but out there. Our thanks to God for the goodness and love which God has made known to us in God’s beautiful, diverse and wonderful good creation. We need to declare how God brought us out of the error of oppression and marginalization into the truth of God’s love. Out of the sin of racism, homophobia and transphobia, and into the righteousness of God’s love for all God has made an out of the death in the tombs and into life, in community and love. We all need to see in the faces of our queer siblings, the very face of our Lord and God. To my queer siblings, hear the words of this black, Puerto Rican gay man who hopes one day to be a priest. God loves you. Period. Nothing about you needs healing. Nothing about who you are needs healing. But God does want to heal the hurt inflicted on you because of who you are. That is the truth. You are made in nothing less than the very image of our Creator, who is love. To my straight and sis siblings. Make God’s love for all people, known to all people, be forces through whom God heals the deep pain that has been inflicted on God’s queer children. For too many, this is truly a matter of life and death. Remember, there is no longer Jew or Greek. There is no longer slave or free. There is no longer male and female. For all of us are one in Christ Jesus.
So Happy Pride. Now return to your home and declare how much God has done for you. Amen.