Preached at the 2017 Pride Evensong of Grace Cathedral of San Francisco, CA by The Rev. Thomas C. Jackson, President of Oasis California, the LGBTQ Ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of California, and as Vicar of St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church. Fr. Tom also serves as the Episcopal Chaplain at Stanford Hospital.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen.
“Two are better than one,” we learn from tonight’s first reading.
I know that. I mean I really know that. It is a lesson I have learned from my life since meeting my husband at 5:45 p.m. Feb. 1, 1999, at 168 York Street in downtown New Haven, Connecticut. Since that time we have been – and this is in chronological order – recognized as domestic partners by Yale University, registered as domestic partners by the State of California, united in a Civil Union by the State of Connecticut, married at San Francisco City Hall (thank you Gavin Newsome), had our marriage annulled (by the state Supreme Court), married a second time at San Francisco City Hall, and finally had our civil marriage blessed at St. Bede’s Episcopal Church. That’s what it took to be able to legally be married to each other.
Based on our life together, I can affirm the fundamental truth in saying “Two are better than one.” And I believe that is as true for marriage as it is for the work God has given us to do as followers of Jesus: the work we are called to do right here and right now in 21st century San Francisco.
Our place is here, our time is now, and our call is to live out our faith by resisting evil; and resisting with pride. Each of us must choose their own path of resistance. Whether we succeed depends not on politicians but in our collective ability to resist evil with a million, billion acts of resistance – of resistance with Pride.
Perhaps you are called to resist with Pride by shining God’s love into places where people are isolated; showing them though your life that God is alive and that God loves them just as they are.
Perhaps you are called to help them feel that they are neither a sinner nor a mistake because they are transgender or lesbian or queer or bisexual or gay or questioning.
Perhaps you are called are called to resist with Pride by bringing the Jesus Movement to parts of the Bay Area that have lost touch with God; where people so worn down by oppression, addiction, poverty, loneliness, isolation, or homelessness that they don’t believe God exists or loves them.
Perhaps you are called to resist with Pride by caring about transgender people, for they are perhaps the most frequently the victims of hatred and violence of all who share our LGBTQ community.
Perhaps you are called are called to resist with Pride by ministering to black LGBTQ Americans. Who else can counteract the homophobia that continues to fuel the spread of
HIV/AIDS among black gay men and black men who have sex with men? Today African Americans are 6 percent of our population here but represent 17 percent of all new HIV infections here.
Perhaps you are called to resist with Pride by helping homeless LGBTQ children who need mentors, safe foster homes, hope, and above all love.
Perhaps you are called to resist with Pride by befriending LGBTQ seniors, some of whom are back to living in the closet because their nursing home doesn’t accept homosexuals.
Perhaps you are called to resist with Pride by standing with and helping undocumented workers and their families survive the current assault by thuggish, Trumpian ICE ‘police.’
Perhaps you are called to resist with Pride by joining in the Pride March June 25th or standing Vigil or joining in sacred conversations in the Castro or simply joining one of the Mission Churches of our diocese.
Or perhaps you are called to resist with Pride by the way you live your life at work and in your neighborhood, day in and day out,
Think you aren’t prepared for this? That this is all some mistake? Listen to the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “There are no accidents in God, though some of us might look like an accident.”
“There are no accidents in God.” It’s no accident that we are here today. It’s no accident that we are living here in the Bay Area right now. It’s no accident that we’re here in a decisive time, a turning point, in human history.
For God calls us to be fully present in our here and now. You and I, we were made for this place and for this time. We stand at the cusp of great challenges. Will humanity will move ahead into a time of peace and freedom? Or will we fall back into a new Dark Ages, an era when, to use the words of British philosopher Thomas Hobbes, life will be characterized as nasty, brutish, and short.
You can see the handwriting on the wall that emphasizes the decisive nature of our time. You can see it in the current effort to cancel the health care that keeps millions of Americans healthy, in a disregard for the epic danger posed by human-made climate change, in a complete unwillingness to prepare for a wave of automation that will make almost half of today’s job’s obsolete in a few decades.
This is what is at stake if we do not join God’s resistance, if we, as the Book of Prayer puts it, “make peace with oppression,” if we do not resist with Pride.
Today’s second reading warns us to be sure no one takes us captive through empty theological arguments or political slogans. Then the author – who was probably not St. Paul – calls us to come to fullness by following Christ, saying we are not to be judged by the standard of other religions, denominations, or sects.
In this letter attributed to Paul we are told to disregard those self-proclaimed “Christians” who would cut LGBTQ people out of the Body of Christ. We are told to pay no attention to those who condemn our liturgies for same-sex marriage or the ordination of LGBTQ people – and women – as deacons, priests, and bishops. For those who presume to judge others are themselves heretics, those who believe they literally understand all each of God’s words follow a deep and divisive heresy.
The theology of evangelical or conservative ‘Christianity’ is deeply flawed. It allows people to play God instead of following Jesus, to do what they want to do instead of doing as Jesus did. For the sake of those who have no voice or place at the table, we must speak our truth: evangelical or conservative ‘Christianity’ is a heresy, one that drives more and more people away from Jesus each day.
The odds facing every generation of Jesus’ followers have seemed unconquerable at one time or another. But they lived fully into their “here and now.” Now we are called to do the same. May God help us become the Jesus Movement of this time and place.
May the people say: Amen.