Commentary is in [red bold brackets].
So, a couple weeks ago I was helping my best friend revise a liturgy for a "Service of Healing and Hope (on the occasion of National Coming Out Day)," [Ari said: in the interest of Maximum Information, the final version was called "Coming Out: A Service of Healing and Hope."] and I looked up the lectionary readings for that (this) Sunday.
[sweet_adelheid asked me why I didn't list the Gospel. I'm used to all the read passages being used in the sermon, so since I couldn't work the Mark passage in -- though having heard about RevS's sermon on that passage, I totally could talk about "going all in," giving up our comforts and safety nets and radically trusting in the Triune God, Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, to walk with us through all the challenges we may encounter -- I didn't list it.]
I find this passage from Job fascinating.
Job is angry with God. And God is absent, so Job can't even get redress in a court of law. Job hasn't done anything wrong -- "But God stands alone and who can dissuade God? What God desires, that God does." [I utilized The Inclusive Bible specifically to help me deal with not wanting to use gendered language for God, and ugh, it is too contemporary colloquial sometimes -- "Would God get on a high horse debating me?" for verse 6 "Would God contend with me in the greatness of his power?"] There is no court Job can appeal to. And so the passage wraps up with Job's terror and dread of God.
Just the sort of upbeat passage you wanted for National Coming Out Day, right?
"But God knows the way that I take; when God has tested me, I shall come out like gold." (Verse 14)
Leaving aside the problematic issue of suffering as testing, hear what Job is saying.
But God knows the way that I take. And I shall come out like gold.
God knows the way that I take.
This is the core of the Incarnation, isn't it? "We have a high priest who in every respect has been tested as we are," as Paul writes in the letter to the Hebrews. [I had hoped to say more about the Hebrews passage. When I started, I was just exegeting the lectionary passages, which I know is not sufficient for preaching, and I was doing that self-destructive thing where I was self-editing before I'd even written things -- telling myself I shouldn't be writing such-and-such, rather than just writing it and getting it out of my system. Yeah, the perfect is the enemy of the good.]
How many times have we cried out -- "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Psalm 22:1. Matthew 27:46. The words of David. The words of Jesus.
But Psalm 22 ends -- as so many of the Psalms do -- with an affirmation of the greatness of God. "The poor shall eat and be satisfied [...] future generations will be told about I AM, and proclaim God's deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that I AM has done it." [Language for God is HARD. I really like "Hashem," which means "The Name," but it doesn't feel natural to me, since I didn't grow up Jewish. I found myself wanting to say "The One God" or "Our God," and both seemed somewhat problematic.] Just as Matthew ends with the Resurrection. Okay, actually, I looked it up to be sure, and Matthew ends with the Great Commission. (Matthew 28:16-20)
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw Jesus, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Creator and of the Christ and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.""I am with you always, to the end of the age."
This is the Good News that the Christian story proclaims [I've recently noticed myself a really big fan of "This is the Good News" in a sermon, and Chris and I were talking on Saturday about "what does the church have to say about this that's different/unique from the message you might hear in any similarly-minded secular group?"] -- that God will never leave us. That God loved us so much, that God Incarnated, became flesh and dwelt among us, and even now, the Church struggles to continue to embody Christ for the world, guided by the Holy Spirit. To deliver people from that which oppresses them. [This last sentence was my attempt to connect back to the ending of Psalm 22. Reading this sermon, Ari commented, So the first thing that struck me is that your sermon style is like your blogging style is like your conversational style -- "Hey, look at this interesting thing! *points*" True story. And one of the things I would have liked to work on if I'd had more time would be to improve the transitions and also to get into more depth not just about the connections but about the passages themselves, rather than just flitting from passage to passage.]
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, "Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these. [...] And I will ask the One who sent me [thanks to The Inclusive Bible for this wording], and God will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees her nor knows her. You know her, because she abides with you, and she will be in you." (John 14:12, 16-17) [I had hoped to talk about the "greater works than I," though I'm not sure what I would have said.]
We are called to a continual process of coming out -- of living more fully into the life that God wills for us, of drawing ever closer to God. [This is reminiscent of my preferred Call to Confession language -- reminding us that "repent" means to turn. And also my deep belief that God never turns away from us.]
In the song "For Real," Bob Franke sings [lyrics and chords, YouTube] [This song's been in my head a bunch recently.]:
Some say that God is a loverJesus has a coming out story, too. "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." (Mark 6:4) Jesus knows what it is to be called to something far different from what is expected of us, knows what it is to choose a new family from the one we were born into.
Some say it's an endless void
Some say both, some say she's angry
Some say he's just annoyed
But if God felt a hammer in the palm of his hand
Then God knows the way we feel
And love lasts forever
Forever and for real
We are called to be allies. Allies to persons who are marginalized because of their gender identity or gender presentation. Allies to persons who are marginalized because of their sexual activities between mutually, meaningfully, consenting persons. Allies to persons who are marginalized because of the language they speak, or don't speak; because of their country of origin or their citizenship status. Allies to persons who are marginalized because of their political or religious beliefs. Allies to persons who are marginalized because of their physical or mental health.
[Jeremy's facebook status was "is an ally...and wants to share his privileges with everyone." Plus, Ari and I had been talking about how to include Allies in a GLBTQ Coming Out Day service.]
All those to whom society said, "You don't belong," Jesus said, "Yes you do. Come join the feast at my table. In my family’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" (John 14:2)
[I say "In my Father's house are many rooms" automatically, and then remember that that's problematic gendered language. I first changed it to "in my Mother's house" -- because if I am going to gender God, I would prefer to gender God as female because we are immersed in male God language and so rarely think of God as female (despite the fact that "let us create humanity in Our image ... male and female God created them") -- but then I thought of "in my family's house," and I loved that. A lot of the rewriting in the Inclusive Bible made me uncomfortable because I felt it subtly shifted the meaning -- moving from the active to the passive voice so as to remove a pronoun, for example -- but the idea of "my family's house"... I love that.]
I heard a Reflection earlier this week about taking Communion as an act of coming out to God. [At Rest and Bread, Laura Ruth preached on Matthew 5 -- which was not in the week's lectionary, though we have been doing the lectionary in recent weeks -- about not bearing false witness, about letting our yes be yes and our no be no.] In the act of taking Communion, we open ourselves to receive the very life of God into our own bodies, allowing the love and the Call of God to transform us. [This is influenced by RevSteph's personal theology around Communion. And I find my saying it so ironic given my low theology of Communion.]
So go forth, to be transformed and to transform the world.
Happy National Coming Out Day.