And while I could regale you with soap opera stories until the cows come home, I think a better use of our time would be to look at the readings which were selected for tonight’s service. I want to look at where we’ve been – where we are – and where we are headed. Most importantly, I want to talk about what we are called to do as part of our Christian faith to promote equality for every human being.
The reading from Ecclesiastes reminds us there is a time for everything. A time to break down and a time to build up. A time to cry, and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance. The issue we have to deal with is that God’s time and our time don’t often coincide. We are impatient humans. We want what we want and we want it RIGHT NOW! Even when our desires and just and right, we must remember that there is indeed a time for everything.
The Abolitionist Movement to abolish slavery began in the United States in 1780. Our Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863. The Civil Rights Act which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin and ended racial segregation in schools, workplaces and public accommodation was signed into law until 1964! I am no math wizard but by my calculations that took 184 years to achieve. And I doubt anyone here this evening would argue with me that racism is unfortunately still alive and well in the United States today.
I am not directly comparing the fight for civil rights for people of color to the gay rights movement, but there are many similarities. Let us consider how fast the push for equality for the LGBTQ community has moved forward. The Stonewall Riots are commonly acknowledged as the beginning to the Gay Liberation Movement. Those occurred 45 years ago this month – June 1969.
Only 35 years after that event, in 2004, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize marriage equality. 10 years have passed and now 19 states have legal marriage equality. 45 years since the Stonewall Riots sounds like a long time. It’s about half a lifetime. But compared to 184 years for a civil rights act, I think society is moving at a better pace than in the past.
In July 2012, the National Episcopal Church approved the blessing of same-sex relationships. It seems at the next national convention in July of 2015 the odds are good the church will approve the marriage of same-sex couples in the church. I’ll address the elephant in our sanctuary. Would I prefer that our bishop gave the go-ahead for same-sex marriage in our diocese sooner than next summer? Of course I would. But I understand and I hope we all understand that the Diocese of the Rio Grande is made up of a lot more congregations that the four or five progressive parishes in Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
In just a little while, we will all pray the Prayer of St. Francis. It is a prayer so familiar to us that I sometime think we forget what it actually says. We will prayer that we want to understand someone else MORE THAN we want them to understand us. Let us prayer that with honesty. Let us really mean those words.
I’m not making excuses.
But I am 52. It’s not my place to reveal my husband’s age. Neither of us thought we would ever see marriage equality in our lifetime. But in the past year we have had our relationship blessed in our church and we have been married in California, slightly before New Mexico passed marriage equality. I think that is an amazing advance. I don’t want to wait another 15 month for priests in our diocese to be able to sign legal marriage certificates. I am an impatient human and I want what I want and I want it right now!
But can I wait 15 months for it to happen. Yes I can. And I will spend each and every day of those months promoting equality for all people. And when it happens that the priests in every Episcopal parish in this country can marry couples of all sexual identities, I will throw the biggest party in this church has ever seen.
There is a time and purpose for everything under Heaven.
In today’s opening collect, my favorite prayer in our prayer book, we pray these words: “let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new.” Things are happening.
In the New Testament lesson John had a revelation in which he saw “a new heaven and a new earth.” And the one who was seated on the throne told him “See, I am making all things new!”
The Stonewall Riots kicked off the march for equality in 1969.
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) was formed in 1972 when parents and families discovered how shamefully their LGBTQ children were being treated.
The AIDS crisis which began in the early 1980’s galvanized and strengthened the LGBTQ community when the government refused to act on an epidemic that was affecting “that kind of people.”
Matthew Shepherd’s murder in 1998 brought gay bashing to the national arena. Hate crime legislation has been passed throughout the country after that horrific event.
Also in 1998 the Trevor Project was founded. It is a national organization focused on suicide prevention of LGBTQ youth. A rash of suicides in 2009 and 2010 committed by LGBTQ teenagers who had been bullied prompted the start of the It Gets Better Project to help young people know they are not alone. Schools and organizations have begun anti-bullying campaigns.
And a new charity has just begun right here in Albuquerque. CasaQ will provide housing for LGBTQ teens who have nowhere to go after having been disowned or thrown out of their homes for admitting their true selves.
A lot of good work has been accomplished in the past 45 years. Things are being raised up and things are being made new!
But there is still a lot of work to be done.
Which brings us to the Gospel reading chosen for this evening. And frankly, it’s a tough one to hear. Jesus clearly states that if you want to be his follower you must take up your cross daily and follow him. If you want to save your life, you’ll lose it. But if you lose your life for the sake of Jesus and his teaching, then you will save your life!
I think a practical way to interpret this lesson for us today is to realize we cannot become comfortable or complacent. Every single day we must live our lives to the best of our abilities to show the world we believe in Jesus teaching. We must take up our cross and show that cross to the entire world. We are called to give up our comfortable, rut-filled lives, our day to day same ol’ same ol’ and shake things up. We are called to give up that life.
I have recently had several opportunities to offer pastoral care with parishioners in different churches as part of my postulant duties. Most of these encounters have gone very well. One situation did not turn out as I hoped it would. I felt like a failure and talked with several clergy members about how one deals with such a situation. The most helpful advice I received was that sometimes all you can do is witness to someone. Witness your truth.
I am often asked why I am pursuing ordination. I have an answer that is truthful.
Reason #1: I know what being a part of a loving, supportive, spiritual community has done for me in my life. I want everyone to know that is possible for them as well.
But there is a second reason that I have only lately been able to put into words. I have shared it with our bishop, with the Commission on Ministry of the Baptized, and with the faculty of my aspirancy retreats. I want to share it with you this evening.
Reason #2: I want to wear a collar and stand in front of the world and say “I am a Christian. I am an out, proud, married gay man. I am also HIV positive. The Episcopal Church has found me perfectly acceptable for ordination and to have me to represent them as a member of the clergy. Therefore, no matter who you are, no matter where you are on your life’s journey, no matter how you identity yourself, you are certainly welcome here.”
That is the cross I’m going to pick up each day and follow Jesus. I invite all of you to find your cross as well.
It’s clear to me – probably to all of us – that the world isn’t perfect. Or country, our society, our state, our town – they aren’t perfect. Our church isn’t perfect. Of course not. We are all human. We are not perfect.
But as God’s children, as followers of Jesus we must strive to make our world the best possible place it can be. We are not called to sit back and whine and complain and rant and tweet about the injustices of the world. We are called to work! We must not only let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up and things that had grown old are being made new.
No! We must also help raise up those things which had been cast down. We must help make new those things which had grown old. We must help build that new heaven and that new earth. We will help the person sitting on the throne make all things new. We will do this by picking up our cross – whatever that cross might be – and following Jesus and his teachings.
They may shoot us with their words,
They may cut us with their eyes,
They may kill us with their hatefulness,
But still, like air, we will rise.
We will raise up the things which have been cast down. We will make new the things which had grown old.