LGBTQ+ Pride Homily


"Love Is Love" Homily by Ryan Pryor | Pride Sunday, June 10, 2018

There's a great bit that Seth Meyers does on Late Night called "Jokes Seth Can’t Tell," and Ed gave me a great joke last week, but it definitely falls into the category of "Jokes Ryan Can't Tell." If you’re really curious, I guess you’ll have to track down Ed at the end of the service.  

Welcome, everyone, to Pride Celebration Sunday at Mission Hills. I want to thank all the testimonies and stories that were shared this morning. I'm genuinely humbled and honored to be a part of this community at Mission Hills Christian Church that recognizes the dignity of every person, no matter one’s gender or sexuality. We affirm in communal practice what the creation poem in Genesis 1 declares, "God created humanity in God’s own image...and blessed them." 

With this affirmation, we understand, however, that LGBTQ+ persons are still not accepted in many faith communities and equal rights are still being contested in public life. Our struggles are not that different than those Jesus and his followers faced, as many of them were also on the margins of society being poor, ill, uneducated, unclean, imprisoned, tax collectors, and women. Jesus not only made radical love and grace of the outsider the guiding principle of his ministry, which sought to ensure the well-being and dignity for people that didn't have it, but Jesus was also transformed by his experience with the people on the margins. 

The experience of Christ signaled the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God, that was both present and yet to come. We acknowledge this morning that we too are in the midst of this Kingdom, standing on holy ground. And yet, we acknowledge that the fullness of God's Kingdom has not yet come because not all are allowed to live with the full dignity given to them by God. I believe Christ's love still has the power to break open our social, cultural, and religious norms that polarize people today into troublesome tribes. This radical love of Christ penetrates our harden hearts to expose us to forgiveness, vulnerability, compassion, and the opportunity to not only love but to be loved.

We must champion LGBTQ+ rights because if we do not affirm LGBTQ+ persons in their full human dignity, created in the image of God, we close ourselves to the very love of God and stifle the good news of Christ that can only be experienced in the fullness of creation. 

Paul also In Galatians 5 Paul writes, "use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself." Throughout Paul's life, he is transformed by his experiences with Christ in the expanding community of God's people. These experiences of Christ's love removed barriers that stood in the way of love and freedom for all people. 

In a time in which slaves were separated from their masters, men from women, jews from greeks, Paul wrote, "In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us, you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ." Just as the Spirit of God moved through the lives of people in the early Jesus movement to realize God's love expanded to people outside of the religious and ethnic bounds of Judaism, we recognize God's Spirit continues to move and work for love and the formation of God's community that encompasses the LGBTQ+ community just as God accepts us.

I'm not particularly interested in the Biblical debates around same-sex relationships because it often devolves into lame hermeneutical jujitsu. Instead, I find it helpful to turn to Jesus' approach to interrogations that he received about not obeying the religious laws of his days. 
When approached by a Pharisee, and asked what is the most important commandment, Jesus responded, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, but there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” Everything from the law and prophets. All of Scripture must be abide in love. If the laws do not produce love, compassion, and dignity for God and people, they are futile. 

Are the laws, rules, and measures that we use to judge people filtered through our love for God and our love for people?

When the Church references Bible verses or tradition to justify opinions that prevent people from life and ministry, are those judgments resting in Jesus' commandments to love? 

People often ask why our community is outspoken about LGBTQ+ alliance and inclusion or why we have a sign on the corner of the intersection outside. We believe that it's imperative for the Church to be clear and vocal about full acceptance and celebration of all LGBTQ+ persons and that the struggle for equality and justice is the very movement of God.

The Church has failed to recognize God's love and Spirit accepting LGBTQ+ persons created in the image of God. Just this week, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland voted to adopt a new policy that will prevent anyone in a same-sex relationship from being a full member of the church and also will prevent their children from baptism. The SBC, the largest denomination in the U.S. still strictly holds a position that disallows its churches from welcoming LGBTQ persons into the full life and ministry. The United Methodist Church in the U.S. is also deeply divided over the issue. Fuller Seminary, where I attended, continues a hold a position that prevents opportunities for ministry and service of the Gospel because of their institutional stance against love and equality. 

Christ calls us to love our neighbor, and if we cannot see our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers as our neighbors, we cannot see nor love Christ. Loving our neighbors means listening and learning. Loving means supporting and encouraging. Loving means relinquishing our cultural and religious prejudices and being ok with being wrong. Loving means fighting for equality.

As someone who was raised in Texas, I still bear many of the cultural prejudices that must to be transformed by love, grace, and my mistakes. The work of Christ that opens me up to this grace. Grace is often painful and unexpected, but it's the gift that Christ lived and died for so that we can experience love in beloved community.

A couple of months ago, we talked about the eunuch in Acts 8, who had been kicked out of the Temple in Jerusalem and was on his way home to Egypt dejected for not conforming to standard gender, sexual, and cultural norms. Phillip (who was rejected by the Apostles in Jerusalem) told him about the good news of Jesus, and the Eunuch simply responded, "What prevents me from being baptized?"

With no response (and no Acts 8:37), the chariot simply pulled over to the side of the road and the Eunuch was welcomed into the community of God.

"What prevents me from being baptized?"

It is a brilliant question that rests within the heart of Christian faith, in which we should acknowledge the divine silence of verse 38 as a loud and emphatic: nothing. Nothing prevents anyone from being baptized. You don't conform to gender, sexuality, or personality norms? You were rejected by the religious institutions? It doesn't matter because you are welcome in Christ and created in the image of the divine. There is no partiality in Christ and there is no distinction in God's love. 

Today, we celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and recognize that they reveal to us the love of Christ. May compassion guide us. May we be reminded that all Scripture should produce within us an abundance of love for God and neighbor. May we continue to ask God for our own hearts and lives to be transformed by grace. And may we continue to be allies with Christ in the effort for equality and justice in the lives of our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers.