Sunday, June 24, 2018, The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost & Pride Sunday

This year is a particularly special Pride Sunday at St. A’s, for two reasons: first—we have made a public statement about our explicit welcome of LGBTQIA people on our new sign, and on our website—which is big news!!  And second—we have new artwork to display that highlights God’s loving response and care for all of us.

Pride festivities began as a way to celebrate the Gay Liberation movement—it’s a day to celebrate the historic and modern contributions of LGBTQ folks; to recognize the progress our society has made with regard to the full inclusion of all LGBTQ persons—as well as it is a day to pray for fuller inclusion—in our neighborhoods, in or institutions and especially in our churches and religious institutions.

Pride is also a way to remember all those who have died at the hands of hate, homophobia, and transphobia, and the many who died in the early epidemic of AIDS in the 1980s and 90s. Pride invites us to look back at our journey and remember some heavy hitters who did incredible work for our progress. People like: Barbara Gittings, who rallied the American Psychological Association to declassify homosexuality as a mental health disorder.[1] Audre Lorde, whose poetic mastery brought us face to face with the realities of surviving this life as an onlooker rather than as one who is accepted on every level.  Lorde said, “Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society's definition…those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older -- know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths.”[2] And Bayard Rustin: Rustin marched in Washington in 1963 and was one of the first men of color to be open about his sexuality in an age when men were arrested just for suspect of being gay.[3]


Even our beloved state of Illinois was no slouch in the struggle to recognize LGBTQ persons. In 1924, the Society for Human Rights was founded in Chicago as the country’s earliest gay rights organization;[4] and in 1962, Illinois became the first state in the country to decriminalize gay relationships.[5] In our Episcopal Church, the General Convention of 1976, affirmed LGBT people as having equal standing as straight people;[6] in 2003, Gene Robinson was the first openly gay person to be consecrated a Bishop; in 2009, the church affirmed ordination for all people regardless of gender or sexuality; in 2012, liturgies were made for same-sex unions; and in 2015, gay marriage became canonical in our church. So many people and so many achievements and milestones have helped our church and society become more welcoming and accepting of LGBTQIA persons and normalize their presence. However, there remains much work to do so long as hate crimes and transphobia and homophobia remain.


Years ago, I worked for an agency that served homeless and run away young people ages 18-21. We had a drop-in medical clinic, a center where they could work on job skills, do laundry, eat good food and take part in a live-in program that got them into jobs, or school, and housing of their own. After getting to know these young people, we learned some heartbreaking things about them. 45% of our homeless young people identified as LGBTQ; and over half found themselves homeless because of coming out to their families. We also learned that a number of them were victims of violent crimes or were complicit in minor crimes, by simply trying to survive. One of the ways that we were able to build relationship with the young people was through an evening meal program. Caring volunteers made themselves available to come in and cook breads and cookies and invite the young people in for hospitality. After some level of trust had been earned, together everyone took part in making an evening meal that brought at least twenty to the table, and people took turns serving one another. Over time, walls began to fall. Guests might slip and call a volunteer mom or dad, and but for a moment the sea storm that was their life was still and for however long they stayed, they could be part of a family again—a family that said, “you are welcome here!”


The oppressed and marginalized experience a lot in this life. This week, our government has torn families apart in the name of self-preservation. We’ve heard recordings of children crying out of guttural fear that they are not okay—that all they know has been taken away from them. We have criminalized people who are unable to stay in their homeland, and further harmed them by breaking up the very structures that they are trying to secure and bring about a better life.


Our gospel lesson today captures the disciples in a bit of chaos, and a Jesus so relaxed—he is asleep in the storm. Awakened only by the disciple’s angst, Jesus calms the winds, completely shocking the disciples. I imagine an equally shocked Jesus looked at them wondering—why would they not think I could calm the storm? I imagine all those children and parents this week who are traumatized, in shock, and scared. I imagine them to be timid, leery of systems and governments, and scared that their families will never be the same. And like the disciples, who knew all the well that Jesus is, as our Psalm says, “a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble,” it is easy to forget when life’s storms seem to overwhelm us. This week, people of faith and their religious institutions have made public statements denouncing the treatment of families at the borders. Our own Bishop, with us last Sunday, also released a statement this week. In his address, entitled, All of the Body is Hurting, Bishop Lee says,


…As Christians, we must not stand idly by as these families are torn apart. The story of God’s people fleeing persecution and seeking a promise of peace and plenty is also our story, and the families we see on our border are our sisters and brothers. ‘You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien,’ God tells the children if Israel in Exodus 22:21, ‘for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” Many of us are descended from immigrants by blood, but all of us are descended from immigrants by faith, And so even—especially—if we feel helpless, God calls us to act. [7]


The weight that these refugees are carrying is heavy. They are escaping the kind of violence and economic poverty, that like the winds of the seas rocking the boat, scares them, and are unable to take any more. The pressures are so much, that they are willing to risk their lives to get their family to a new place, a better place, where they can experience peace. The disciples were not doubting Jesus, and they were not wavering on their faith in him—they were scared. They were looking for God to do something—anything—to quell the winds and waters. They had the hope of faith, just as so many wanting to cross our borders with their families in tow.


When the seas around us become rough—we rely more heavily on our faith. It doesn’t mean that our faith is a safety net—it means that our faith deepens our connection to God so that we can both walk through the trials we must—and be a presence of love and care for others when they endure their trials. This is perhaps some of the most meaningful work we will do together as people of faith. We get one another through—we support one another—and we hold on to faith that through it all, God is with us.


The storms of this life can have so much power over us. They can make us critical or reactive people, particularly if we endure storms alone and never have the chance to bring light to them and process what we experienced. The storms of this life can wound us and they can also present us with opportunities for healing. And when the storm breaks, and the waters calm, and clouds begin to open, the sun stares in and changes the scape. And as light pierces the precipitation, we are left with a rainbow.


In his painting, Darkness Shall Not Overcome, Bill Doughty preaches this very gospel. In the wake of the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida, Bill was so inspired to paint something that captured the idea that God holds all of us; and the rainbow is the historic symbol for this. Of the piece, Bill says, “…not just LGBT people, but ALL of us together will assure that the promises of the rainbow will prevail.” Even in the wake of tremendous tragedy; even in the wake of our storms; even in the wake of all discrimination, the rainbow serves as a symbol of God’s presence, of God’s love, and of God’s welcome. Appropriately, the plaque which will accompany this piece will read, simply: Dedicated to the day when everyone will live in the Rainbow.


This week, we are called to live further into the promises of the rainbow. We live further into our convictions that families should not be separated; that children should not be given over to trauma; and that our country can do better in caring for refugees who are looking for a better life; and today, we celebrate those we know and love who identify as LGBTQ and honor the struggle it has been to even be seen in this world. However, today is also a day to remember our baptism. Through our Baptism, we have promised to persevere in resisting evil, to proclaim good news, to seek and serve Christ in one another, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to strive for justice and peace among all people. This my beloveds, is a PRIDE celebration, and our very true colors.


May we all be a people of the rainbow who remember God’s love and know God’s mercies. Amen.



[2] Lorde, Audre. “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” 1984.   Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Ed. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press. 110 114. 2007. Print.