Sermon – June 29, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
Celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month
Third Sunday After Pentecost (Track 1)
Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Matthew 10:40
Please be seated.
“How was your weekend?,” is a common question on a Monday morning in many workplaces. Usually we give a nondescript answer of , “It was fine,” but with some friends, we may go further. “It was great, because I saw my family.” “It was wonderful, because I just relaxed.” “I got a lot done in the garden and it’s looking really nice.” “Well, cleaning wasn’t all that fun, but at least the house looks better.” The question seems innocuous and friendly; a good way to get into the week.
But for some, that question is scary. For people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, they have to think about this and many other seemingly simple questions. They must carefully pick their words. In some places of work, they could be fired because of their sexual orientation. Even when protected in their place of work, co-workers can shun them or put them down because they are LGBT.
Many of us hug when we say good-bye, especially when we are catching a train or a plane. We give each other hearty hugs upon returning home. You see it at transportation terminals all of the time, yet LGBT people must be very careful about this. Is it okay to walk down the street holding hands?
And what about church? So many religious groups reject people who are LGBT, even telling them they can change or easily deny themselves. That being LGBT is not inherent to who they are, but an aberration of humanity. And so some start on a life of hiding, trying to be something they are not. Loving God, loving Jesus deeply and profoundly, sometimes called to religious service, they suffer.
Even when embracing who they are, coming to see themselves fully as loved and created by God, they can’t be sure that the faith community of their choice will welcome them. In a church I belonged to, it appeared that LGBT people and couples were accepted, but when one couple wanted their photo for the church directory to portray them together as a couple, there was protest. One of the men said, he never knew how much he could say about his life to others in the church, especially the young people, because he wasn’t sure the young person’s parent approved of him.
All of that hiding takes its toll. The suicide rate for youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning is much higher than the norm. People who are Lesbian and Gay form heterosexual marriages, hoping they might change…marriages that, while the two people truly love each other, often end in disaster. People who are transgender find it difficult to get the medical care they need and the support needed to effectively transition.
While things are much better than they were even ten years ago, we continue to live in a society and a country that is unwelcoming and inhospitable to people who are LGBT. For instance, I did not put in the newspaper that we were having this service. I asked some of our members who are LGBT about whether to do this, because I don’t live as a person who is LGBT, so I can’t say totally what the dangers are here in this community or this region. Ultimately, it seemed best to keep it quiet, but maybe I was wrong.
I informed Everlasting Arms of our service today, because I knew their faith understanding is different from ours. You see, they are not here. I thought of so many stories to tell you, but realized telling them would embarrass or make things difficult for some people. I censored myself and what I am saying today. All of these little things are so painful. As someone who is heterosexual, and fully understanding how heterosexism has been oppressive to people who are LGBT, I am sorry. I hope I and I hope we at St. John’s can do better and lessen and stop the suffering.
Desmond Tutu says the most evil thing you can do is make a person think they are not a child of God. Forcing people who are LGBT to hide tells them there is something wrong with the way they were created.
Jesus says, whoever welcomes the stranger, welcomes me. There are no “buts.” There are no qualifiers. The passage doesn’t say, “Welcome the stranger, but only if….”
No, Jesus welcomed all and we are challenged to do the same.
In doing so, we truly are challenged. As we talked about when we read the book, Radical Welcome, when we truly welcome as Christ did, our lives will be changed and may be reordered. How was it to come into the sanctuary today with the rainbow paraments on the altar and the candles? Being welcoming does not mean staying in control; it means being in partnership with those welcomed, creating something new in the process. It means listening and hearing what the person, who before this time has been considered “other,” finds welcoming and hospitable. It means trying to find a way for all of us to feel welcome. It requires a new way to live together.
When we can truly welcome one another…when we can truly be hospitable, we bring the Kingdom of God right here and right now.