June 25, 2023 “Pride Sunday Sermon "
“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God.”
I thought quite deeply and for some time how I would approach my sermon for this Sunday. My initial thought was to use the sermon provided by the ELCIC written by my friend and internship supervisor Pastor Steve Hoffard. Pastor Steve was the Pastor at St. Mark’s in Kingston when I had the opportunity to be his intern. We worked very well together with different interests and strengths.
Pastor Steve is now known in the ELCIC as an openly gay Pastor who is also the co-chair of the task force on homophobia and transphobia and he will present at the Special Assembly in Calgary later this week. But at the time of my internship he was not. Steve came out to the congregation of St Mark’s a month or so after my internship came to an end. It was an incredibly brave and loving thing to do.
So I thought I would use Pastor Steve’s sermon which he graciously made available for Pastors all across the ELCIC.
But then I had second thoughts. And ultimately I decided that I would share his sermon with the Advent family through the weekly email so that you can read and enjoy it.
I am an ally. I am a Pastor in a Reconciling in Christ Congregation and I am deeply proud of that.
This month - this Sunday is all about Pride and the importance of recognizing all the voices - but especially the voices and the stories from the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities.
It did not seem quite right to take on someone else’s voice this Sunday.
I started to think how our Gospel reading might be relevant to Pride and to the stories of people marginalized by their gender identity or sexual orientation.
For many people this passage from the Gospel of Matthew is not easy to hear or easy to read or easy to agree with. We like to think that Jesus is loving and a source of peace. In this passage he negates that. Jesus is harsh here. Jesus says in our Gospel reading this morning that he has NOT come to bring peace. On the contrary he has come to divide.
“For I have come to set a man against his father,
And a daughter against her mother,
And a daughter in law against her mother in law
And ones foes will be members of ones own household”
I was thinking of this passage and its possible relation to Pride and people who identify with the 2SLGBTQIA+ communities.
Gender identity and sexual orientation have split families and communities. God’s beloved children have been denied a space at the table. God’s beloved children have faced and continue to face discrimination and hate and fear and violence. Suicide rates are high for youth in these communities.
The pressure, the stress often associated with trying to hide who you truly are to stay safe can be more than some people can bear.
I think we would like to think that the diversity in God’s created world is apparent to everyone and that all are indeed welcome. But we know that that is not the case. In our own building someone removed the Reconciling in Christ window clings that I had put up in our vestibule - twice. And then someone removed our signs from the outside poster box. This was a deliberate attempt to silence. It was also a clear message that people who have some familiarity with our space do not share our values.
I think we are trying to do better as a Church. Apologies have been made. Work is being done to make the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada a safer place to be. I look forward to hearing the presentation at the special assembly and I hope and pray that the delegates will vote to accept recommendations made by the task force. They are not shocking nor outside our values as a Church.
Let’s go back to Matthew for a minute. This chunk of the Gospel is part of Jesus’ getting the disciples ready for work. He says they should be like the teacher. Well what was that like?
What does it mean to live like Jesus? Jesus had strange and unsettling ideas. He was working for the Kingdom and that meant the work was more controversial and subversive than conventional kindness. Jesus had Kingdom values NOT family values.
Disciple means “learner”. Discipleship is a journey that includes learning. If we are going to call ourselves disciples then we need to learn from Jesus who we are to be, what we are to say and how we are to communicate this with others.
Do we make it possible for all our sisters and brothers to truly be who they are?
Are we still open to learning about the beauty of each of God’s beloved children?
Jesus said he did not come to bring peace. He did come to share the all encompassing love of God for God’s creation.
There are times - there have been times when allegiance to Jesus causes a crisis of loyalty and forces a decision. I think that this is what happened in our church. I hope it will continue to happen. Because the Gospel shakes up values, rearranges priorities and reorients goals.
Jesus invites us to recognize a faith that is able to overcome fear.
If we are to be like the teacher - if we are to be learners - disciples of Christ then we must love God and our neighbour - in the diversity of the created world. We are all beloved children of God.