I guess you could have called it a typical high school crush. Taylor was good looking, funny, charming, talented, and an all around good guy. He had brown hair and blue eyes that pierced. We were involved in the choir and theater events. I was smitten almost immediately. He was a year or two younger than I in school and seemed “out of my league.” But that didn’t stop me from hoping, wishing, dreaming, that maybe, just maybe, this boy might find me worthy of dating. And so, with all the bravery my little high school self could muster up, I asked Taylor to be my date to the junior prom. And, much to my surprise, he said yes. I looked good. He looked good. We had a great time. The evening even ended with a kiss and me floating home. It was the stuff all cheesy teenage romance novels write about. I desired more. I wanted to date him. I wanted to call him my boyfriend and I wanted him to brag that I was his girlfriend. That didn’t happen. We had a long heart to heart one evening and almost through tears I said “I just don’t understand why this won’t work out.” And he looked at me, took a deep breath and said “well, JV, it’s probably because I’m gay.” We’re still good friends to this day.
The events of Orlando have weighed on my heart and mind all week. I’ve tried to keep myself purposefully busy so that I don’t have to hear the gory details or be reminded that it happened. At the same time, I am tired of turning on the news and hearing about one mass shooting after another and then hearing the same “thoughts and prayers” but nothing being done to prevent these types of things from happening again. And I read our Galatians reading for today and this verse (28) sticks out to me “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” If we were to read that in language that was a little more pertinent to today, it would probably read “There is no longer black or white, there is no longer gay or straight, there is no longer democrat or republican, there is no longer churched or unchurched; for all of us are one in Christ Jesus.”
Brothers and sisters, being a follower of Christ is one of the most difficult things I do in my life. I fail daily. Christ calls me (all of us, really) to (as Micah says) “seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly” with God. The church, if it puts its mind to it, could be more powerful than congress. Can you imagine if all the Lutherans in this country decided to rally their support behind one issue or another? Our elected officials would be forced to listen. But, all too often we sit idly by, thinking our hands are tied. We think our voices don’t matter. We participate in blanket statements like “I wish things were different” or “well, what can I do? I’m just one person” or even have thoughts like “I don’t even vote…my vote doesn’t even matter.” What I have really learned this past week is that when powerful voices are silent, people die. And most of us, because we are white and because most of us are straight, we have power in this country. If we don’t use that power and privilege to advocate for those that are called “other” then we are not living in accordance to God’s will. We are one in Christ Jesus. This means that we are called to advocate for the poor, seek justice for the oppressed, work for equality, and stand with those on the margins.
This means that when people start to spew hate rhetoric we are the ones who need to rise up and put a stop to it. When we see people protesting funerals with signs filled with hateful slogans, when we hear people using derogatory language, when we see people being treated differently just because they don’t fit into our perfect little box, our call as christians is to put a stop to it and declare that this isn’t what God desires for the world. What we so flagrantly call “weird or different” or even worse, God calls “holy.” What we call “undeserving” God calls “worthy.” What we label as “the other,” God calls “my child.” What we call a “sinner” or an “abomination” God calls “forgiven.”
Friends, I can no longer stay silent. I cannot be silent. My silence, and the silence of thousands of others who label themselves as Christians has been a catalyst for violence all too long. I know what I am about to tell you isn’t popular. I know that after I tell you this, there may be some of you that no longer want to attend this church. Maybe after I share with you how I feel, you may even want me fired. But I can no longer stay silent. I am an ally. What this means is that I stand with those who identify as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, or even questioning. Maybe this doesn’t come as a surprise to any of you; I don’t know. It means that I believe “love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.” It means that if you are gay, or lesbian, or bi-sexual, or transgender, you can come out to me and I will still welcome you at this table. I will still love you. I will visit you in the hospital. Because I love you.
We are all one in Christ Jesus. This means that any distinctions we try and place on one another are erased in the cross. We are all one in Christ Jesus. This means that the way we try and group people so that we can make ourselves comfortable are erased in the cross. We are all one in Christ Jesus. This means that anyone who isn’t welcome at the table of the Lord in any church in this country (for whatever reason) will be welcomed at a heavenly feast. We are all one in Christ Jesus. This means that when 49 homosexuals, or 11 children, or 6 Muslims, or 5 African Americans, or innocent theater goers, or even 1 person is killed because of hate, we all feel the pain. We are all one in Christ Jesus. This means acknowledging our differences, maybe even celebrating them, and working towards understanding and reconciliation when those differences seem too much to bear. We are all one in Christ Jesus. This means our story, no matter what we call ourselves, what we label ourselves, what we embrace, or who we love, is grounded in God’s grace. And grace is grace is grace is grace is grace is grace is grace is grace and no bullet, no words of hate, no church bombings, no blood spilled, no xenophobia, not even nails and a cross can stop grace.