25 June 2023 – Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
by Seminarian, Michael Thompson
Sermon preached by Seminarian, Michael Thompson
Below is a TRANSCRIPT of the homily. It may vary considerably from the prepared version. Please do not cite without permission.
Let us pray. That the words of my mouth and the collective meditation of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight. Oh Lord, our rock and our Redeemer and set our hearts on fire with your love. Amen
several of you have complimented me on the sneakers I’m wearing. I won’t show you from the pulpit because I’ll fall. These sneakers are converses pride edition from a few years ago. They are striped with the colors of the familiar LGBTQ plus rainbow pride flag, with the addition of black and brown stripes to proclaim that people of color are also included and welcome in the LGBTQ plus community. The latest progress pride flag similarly contains colors that proclaim the inclusion of our trans and intersex siblings. And that’s a message that is sorely needed. So these sneakers have had a busy month, they appeared at my ordination. And what an incredible day that was. I was blessed to have Bruce and Mary stand behind me with my husband, Patrick, and my dear friend and really family Isaac, and present me to the bishop to be ordained a deacon, Richard and Tammy who have supported me over the last two years. We’re there for this huge milestone, showering me with love and adding their voices to the chorus celebrating the ordain ends. And this joyous occasion for the church, and making sure we had some really great pictures. Many more of you were there declaring that it was your will that we be ordained promising to support us in our ministry, and concluding that prayer of consecration with a thunderous Amen. And the sneakers were, they’re announcing in an array of colors that all are welcome in Christ’s church. They even prompted Bishop Allen to say to me nice shoes, so talk about an endorsement. The next day the sneakers appeared at my ascending parish, Trinity and Melrose. I wore them as I preached about the Holy Trinity teaching us that God is relationship and reminding us that in everything we do, we are called to remain rooted in relationship and love. The following Saturday, the sneakers were in Michigan, as I stood behind my dear friend, my brother Geraldo, joining others and presenting him to be ordained a priest. Bursts of color surrounded us as we celebrated this moment and prayed for the Holy Spirit to bless her Arctos ministry. The symbolism was rich, blues and reds representing the waters of baptism and the fire of Pentecost, an LGBTQ woman, a bishop, consecrating an LGBTQ man of color, a priest, her Rhodos husband, Dean and Dean’s parents lovingly vesting, Geraldo as a priest, and there were cheers and hugs and tears of joy. The sneakers were not done though. The next day they were here, as I served as Deacon continuing to celebrate the achievement that you all have helped me reach. Last week, the sneakers were back at Trinity, accompanied by many pride flags as we celebrated Isaac, a queer man of color as their new priest in charge. And the sneakers are here again, on my last official Sunday with you. So what’s with the sneakers? Well, if you weren’t aware, it’s Pride Month. And this pride month like many before it comes with sort of the usual comments. Why do they have to throw their preference in our faces? Why do they need a whole month? What about straight pride? This Pride Month, though, comes amid even worse, queer people, especially trans women of color are beaten and murdered for no reason other than who they are. Around the world, LGBTQ plus identities are punished with death. In this country legislation targets the non existent threat of drag queens, and prohibits trans children from accessing life saving gender affirming care. To many people, especially LGBTQ plus youth believe they are better off dead. Sadly, the church has been complicit in this exclusion for centuries. The message all over around us is that the church opposes LGBTQ plus people. We are told that the Bible clearly condemns LGBTQ plus people and the expression of their identities. Even today, children are tossed out on the streets by religious parents because those children dare to claim who they are. Even today, Pride marches are marred by contingents of religious people holding signs of condemnation. Just a few weeks ago, an Episcopal parish, another All Saints in Pasadena, California, faced a bomb threat and a threat of violence against their Rector for the grave offense of LGBTQ plus inclusion. During our God made the rainbow discussion with this parishes youth, we talked about LGBTQ people and the church and asked what they’ve heard of the Church’s position. And the youth of this parish affirmed that this place all saints and the Episcopal Church support LGBTQ plus inclusion. But they also told us that the broader societal messages that Christians are against LGBTQ plus people. The message that we hear most often and most loudly is that these people are siblings are an abomination, ungodly, and even hated by God. This is not new. And it’s not new for members of any marginalized or oppressed community. The Bible and religious tradition have been used to condemn women, people of color, those whose bodies and minds work differently, and so many others. For centuries, the Bible was used to justify the enslavement of human beings and oppression of women. Fast forward to 1989 and we find Barbara Harris, being told to wear a bulletproof vest to her ordination because she, a black woman had the audacity to answer the call to be a bishop in Christ’s holy Catholic Church. And just within the last two weeks, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to ban women from serving as pastors and elders based on you guessed it, the Bible.
But we don’t believe that here. This is a safe space, right? And don’t get me wrong. It’s important to believe in a gospel of radical inclusion and welcome, and to make sure people feel safe and included here. But I want to challenge this challenge us all, including me and my rainbow shoes, to do more. The Gospel lesson comes from a passage in which Jesus is preparing his disciples to go into the world, and to proclaim the good news and heal the sick. At the end of chapter nine, Jesus says the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. And he tells his disciples to pray for more laborers. In chapter 10, they learned they are the laborers going out into the harvest. Jesus tells them where to go, what to do, how they will eat, and where they will sleep. Today’s Gospel has the next part. Jesus warns that the work of proclaiming the good news and healing the sick is going to make people really mad. The disciples now apostles will be hated. Jesus warns. And he also tells them not to be afraid, even in the face of those who kill the body. This passage ends with the confusing statement that Jesus has come not to bring peace to the earth, but a sword, and that he’s going to turn family members against each other. Now, I don’t think Jesus is saying these are things he wants to happen. I think what he’s saying is that a consequence of proclaiming a gospel of radical inclusion is this. In Jesus’s time, and in our own time, people get upset when you preach a gospel of a God who is too accepting, were too loving. The people of All Saints Pasadena know that too well, they were targeted for daring to announce that God’s love extends to all people, that each person’s whole being is welcome and cherished in the presence of the Creator. And that indeed, we are all made in God’s image. Even as Jesus warns his apostles that they will face unbelievable opposition and even death. His instruction is not to keep quiet is to get louder. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light and what you hear whispered proclaim from the house top Not only are we to proclaim the Gospel of love despite those who would kill us, but we are to proclaim it loudly.
It is not enough for us to rest on our own belief in a radically accepting and inclusive gospel. We have to proclaim that gospel from the house tops in the face of those who say LGBTQ plus people cannot possibly experience the love of God in the face of those who say that people of color are inferior. In the face of those who say women have no place in church leadership. Our gospel compels us to shout NO. These are our siblings in whom we see the radiance of God’s face. They are beloved by God and by us. We cannot let the prevailing message the message of exclusion and oppression continue to prevail. We are called to proclaim a new message that nothing can separate us from God’s love and grace. We are called to proclaim the gospel, the good news of God’s justice and care for the oppressed and the marginalized. We are called to strive relentlessly for justice and peace among all people, and the dignity of every human being. And we are called to do it not all in a quiet, hushed voice, but shouting it from the rooftops. I want to conclude with a message specifically for the youth of this parish who over the last two years have really down to the youngest been amazing teachers of mine.
And you I see God’s face. You have blessed me more than I can ever express.
And just like Jesus says in the Gospel lesson today, you will face very difficult times. Some of you already have a mid whatever comes I proclaim from the house tops to you and for you. Remember who you are. You are beloved children of God, the Holy One who created everything that is God loves you more than you can possibly imagine. Just the thought of you makes God’s face beam brighter than 1000 suns that makes God’s heart burst with love and grace. That is who you are. And do not listen to any voice that tells you otherwise.