I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made! Psalm 139
June is a special month in the LGBTQ community. In the United States and in many other countries around the world, it is the month dedicated to being public and proud of who we are. There are parades, festivals, celebrations, and parties all commemorating our common identity as a people rooted in love and acceptance for all people. It is a time for us to show the world that we are not ashamed, but are instead incredibly proud of who we are and the diverse ways in which we express ourselves. At the same time, we honor all those who have gone before us — who have been discriminated against, exiled, terrorized, and even systemically exterminated.
However, now it is July — the parades are over, the festivities have ended, and, even in the most progressive of cities, the expectation to be hidden from the world is tightened and enforced. It is fine to be public during Pride month; that just makes sense. Now, though, Pride month is over and there is no longer a need to “shove it down our throats” that LGBTQ people are proud of their identity. After all, “why do we need to know what happens in the privacy of your bedroom?”
One year and three months ago I had a conversation with our staff here at Shepherd that I will never forget. It was the conversation that changed everything for me in this place and even as a child of God. It was the decision that the time had come for me to tell the congregation about my sexuality and the issues my identity had caused for me in my journey to becoming ordained. I have written about this before, but I cannot overemphasize the feeling of love, support, and welcome I have and continue to feel from all of you. I again emphasize this at this time because it can be easy to simply belong to an inherently welcoming community. It is what comes next that is challenging.
Now that Pride month is over and Loring Park has been restored to its former park-ness, we must ask ourselves what does the Gospel of our God compel us to do for our LGBTQ neighbors?
Psalm 139 proclaims the presence of an inescapable God. Our God is present “when I sit down and when I rise up,” “if I ascend to heaven…[or] if I make my bed in Sheol,” and even “at the farthest limits of the sea.” Why is our God always present? Because God made each and every one of us. In fact, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” as the Psalmist so eloquently writes. There is no part of us that has not been formed by God and that is unknown to God. Let us reflect on that for a moment — there is no part of who we are that has not been touched by God, that is not known to God.
I do not have the time to unpack all of this here. However, I hope that you hear this message from me — there is nothing unknown to God about who we are, but there is much unknown to us about who our neighbors are. So, my challenge for you this month and beyond, especially post-Pride, is to talk to your neighbors, LGBTQ and otherwise. Listen to their stories. Discover together who God fashioned them to be. Experience with them God moving through their lives and into God’s Kingdom. Be the light of God in the world that brings the voices and experiences of all into the public spheres so that all people may be heard, loved, and genuinely and openly be embraced in the community of Christ’s Church.
If there is anything we can learn from the narrative of the Bible, it is that the stories and experiences of God’s people should never be forced to live in a dark closet. What people feel and how they identify is very much so our business because the Holy Spirit ties us all together. Through Jesus Christ, we have all been created and brought into relationship with God. All of us are sisters and brothers and all of us are called to care for each other. If any one of God’s children is forced to hide who God created them to be, we all suffer. Today I pray for all of our sisters and brothers who cannot find their wholeness as a beloved child of God because of fear, violence, and threats of harm and death. I pray for all of us and those we encounter so that we may be a place of welcome and that God’s love may flow from us through relationship and a safe place of storytelling. I pray for all of these things and so much more and ask that you join me in these prayers.