“The Substance of Pride” is
the third of a series of sermons for Pride Sunday. The pride of LGBT Christians
is the honoring of the image of God given to us in body and soul. Its substance
demands that we refuse to internalize homophobia, and to
carry ourselves with clarity of heart, wisdom of life, truthfulness of speech,
perseverance, compassion, seeing sacredness in all, no falsehood, and the power
of God that is love.
Pride Sunday. It has been three years in a row that I have preached on Pride
Sunday at Pine Church – that one Sunday in the month of June, the month in
which lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people – LGBT people, are being
celebrated. A few weeks ago, I took the
101 exit from 80, came down Octavia Blvd and stopped right in front of the light
on Market St. I was kind of deep in my
thoughts when I looked up and I saw all these rainbow flags hanging on the
lampposts. And so, on one Sunday out of fifty-two,
I have a chance to focus on LGBT folks for the benefit for ALL people of God.
looking over what I had preached over the past two years on Pride Sunday. Well, obviously, the theme had been
pride. But a lot can happen in a year’s
time, especially the past year. The
election of our first African-American president. The traumatic economic downturn
since October. The failure to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage in
California. Even if I had been preaching
a series of Pride sermons over all of June – truly a Pride month in Pine, which
would be nice, there is only a slight chance that you would have that in the
forefront of your mind. So let me
refresh your memory.
In 2007, I
talked about the audacity to be proud as LGBT Christians. You heard about the SOURCE of our pride – our
Creator God, the God who is LOVE. The
God who formed your inward parts, and who knitted you together in your mother’s
womb (Psalm 139). The Spirit of Jesus is
witnessing in us in these times, so that we can understand, grasp and continue
to live out the truth that we are the making of God’s grace (John 16). That we are all created in the image of God,
male and female – all genders in between.
That is the nature of our humanity.
We are fabulous because our Creator is fabulous.
I talked about the daring discipleship of LGBT Christians. You heard about the ACTION of our pride,
according to the source – God is LOVE. Proclaiming
and celebrating the truth of our LGBT lives in
God is daring discipleship. When LGBT
followers of Christ choose to be unapologetic in the promise and mission of
discipleship, we call out the lies of injustice and oppression by our very
presence. We bring to light the lie that being straight is the only legitimate and
spiritual norm, because the sin of heterosexism in personal and institutional
lives offends our Creator God.Today, I would like to talk about the substance
impression of a title like that is that it seems like an oxymoron. We have to remember that when we talk about
pride as LGBT Christians, we are referring to our honor in God and our humility
before God. When we hold fast to the
source of our pride as the God of love, we HUMBLE
ourselves before our Creator in whom we move and have our being. When we speak boldly the truth of our LGBT
lives against injustice and oppression, we HONOR the image of God given
to us in body and soul. But I do have a
quick word concerning the sin of pride when marked by a self-aggrandizement
that clouds the worth of others. An example
is the self-obsessed mentality that underlies the dictum “love the sinner, hate
the sin”– a catchphrase that is often used to violate the spiritual integrity
of LGBT persons, who are children of God.
has done immense damage because at first it appears to be a logical and fair
way out of a difficult question for some religious people: What are we to do
with LGBTQ persons? It is a self-serving
response for the speaker who wants to believe that he or she is not a hater,
when what is being said expresses neither understanding nor compassion. Worse, it violates emotional boundaries by
injecting hate upon the soul of a LGBT person who is no more identified as a
sinner than anyone else who is straight and deserves no hate. What one hates, one works against, even
destroys. Hate is not an abstraction for
it always comes to land on someone. The
mentality of loving the sinner but hating the sin perpetuates hate, never gets
to love, and must be challenged. Well,
that is more than a quick excursus.
Now let us
come back to the substance of pride as LGBT Christians. We will look to the biblical passages today
for inspiration about this honor in God and this humility before God. The gospel passage that we have heard is Mark’s
version of the stilling of the storm in which Jesus performs the nature miracle
of calming the Sea of Galilee. Now,
healers and exorcists were not uncommon in Jesus’ time and place; but,
commanding nature is a different thing all together. Control of chaotic waters, like God’s breath moving
over void in Genesis, was considered a divine characteristic.
glance, the emphasis of the passage seems to be Jesus’ words to his disciples in
charging them for having no faith. But
from the response of the disciples about the identity of Jesus, I think we can
also zoom back out to look at the bigger picture of what has happened. The central question of the passage appears
to be: if Jesus’ closest followers misunderstand who he is, how will others
ever understand him? Far too often we become the prisoners of the perception of
others. When we do something we are not
supposed to be capable of doing– conflict usually follows.
Look at the
response of the disciples in Mark: they are filled with great fear. As long as LGBT remain in the closet, hiding
our identities, pretending to be “confirmed bachelors” and “not flaunting in
public,” “America is satisfied.” Like
Jesus, when LGBT people begin to live out their identities, act out of the
dignity given them by God, and take command of the circumstances around them (for
example, claiming the civil right to marry, or, asking that all youth to be
educated about diversity of families), then we may see those around them – even
those closest to us – respond with great fear.
is the anticipation of loss of heterosexual privilege of marriage, family, and
indeed of humanity. Fear is the anticipation
of the necessity to face sexual and emotional insecurities. Anti-LGBT parents often
say that they are protecting their children.
I think that they fear greatly that their children would turn out to be
queer. For they are well aware of the discrimination and alienation that they
choose to internalize. LGBT people are the
scapegoat of their fear. The substance
of pride, of honor in God demands that we do not internalize such homophobia,
so that all will experience true freedom from fear.
selected passage from 2 Corinthians is an anxious appeal for reconciliation
from the apostle Paul. He had founded the Christian community at Corinth, but
they had now questioned his apostolic authority, and so Paul was defending that
in this letter. In his defensive
rhetoric, we have a glimpse of how he sought to carry himself in his
apostleship and service with boasting and confidence. In other words, how he carried himself with
pride and honor. Even more relevant to
us is the way that Paul talked about the paradoxical relationship between affliction
and consolation in living out his life in God.
11, Paul concluded that he has spoken frankly to the Corinthians, opening wide
his heart to them, referring to the truths in his life as apostle from verse 4
to 10, which we will come to in a minute.
Paul said earlier in the letter “this is our boast, the testimony of our
conscience: we have behaved in the world with frankness and godly sincerity,
not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God.”
When it comes to proclaiming and celebrating the truths of our lives,
frankness and godly sincerity is not the same as rawness and drama as in a
reality show. Rather, it is the way our
lives bear witness to our created sacredness as the image of God.
of Paul’s life (vv. 4-6): afflictions, calamities, beatings, imprisonments,
riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger.
As LGBT, you may not have experience all of the above. But depending on which countries, or which
part of the United States that you have lived in, there are certainly experiences of
some of the above in varying degrees due to our sexualities, because this is a
heterosexist world. But let us inspired
by the substance of pride with which Paul carried himself.
They are: purity
– clarity of heart. Knowledge – wisdom
of life. Patience - perseverance.
Kindness – compassion. Holiness
of spirit – sacredness in all. Genuine love - no falsehood. Truthful speech. Power of God – which is love. Weapons of righteous – the grace of God. Other
Christians say that we are imposters, because we cannot be queer and Christian;
yet the true witness of the Holy Spirit is in our hearts. People refuse to acknowledge us and treat us
as dead, yet we are known by God and alive in the living Christ. We are punished for being ourselves, yet
nothing can kill our souls. We have
known pain and loss, yet we also know healing and joy. Dominant cultures see us
as marginal, yet the truth of our lives has touched many. And so … by the grace of God, let us
persevere to live out our nature and destiny as the image of God. Amen.
Pride Sunday Sermon at Pine United Methodist Church, San Francisco, on June 21, 2009, based on Mark 4:35-41
and 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Elizabeth Leung is an
ordained minister with standing in the United Church of Christ. She earned a
PhD in Christian Spirituality from Graduate Theological Union in 2006, and
coordinated the Asian Pacific Islander Roundtable at the Center for Lesbian and
Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry from 2007-2011. Rev. Leung currently
serves as Minister for Racial Justice with the national setting of the United
Church of Christ.