For the full liturgy, including the readings, visit http://apostleschurch.org/liturgyforpride
It has been a tumultuous few weeks in the world. Like many of you, I have found myself emotionally paralyzed, experiencing grief and joy and everything in between. As my heart celebrated the supreme court’s ruling to make same-sex marriages legal in all fifty states, I listened to President Obama’s eulogy for Charleston shooting victim, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, and all I could think is “what the f*** is happening?” Life feels like something out of a history textbook, and I never did very well in history …
Even in the joy of the court ruling and pride weekend, cynicism won over me and all I could think was “I’m so glad it is finally legal for gay couples to spend their weekends cleaning the house, running errands, and mowing the lawn together. Thanks, America.”
But, fortuitously, I have been signed up to give today’s homily/reverb thing, which required me to consider a story much larger than myself and current affairs; a story that also considers death and life, grief and joy, and everything in between.
I would like to read again the whole of our passage from the Wisdom of Solomon. Each line speaks truths whose relevance for today blows my mind just a little bit.
God did not make death, And God does not delight in the death of the living.
For God created all things so that they might exist;
the generative forces of the world are wholesome,
and there is no destructive poison in them,
and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.
For righteousness is immortal.
God created us for incorruption,
and made us in the image of God’s own eternity,
but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his company experience it.
I am thankful that I am a part of a community which does not require me to convince folks that all people are loved by God; that, as religious scholar, and author of “the Queer God,” Marcella Althaus-Reid eloquently says,
“If God embraces our humanity in Jesus Christ, then God must embrace the humanity of all human beings, including those whose sexuality falls outside traditional norms. Our God is one whose love for us is not bound by human categories of what is perceived as decent or indecent.”
That is not to say that we are all the same, and share all viewpoints here at Church of the Apostles. In fact, many of us disagree on a number of important topics, such as the awesome-ness of the Twilight series. But regardless of opinion on my favorite vampire saga, we can all agree that God is Love. That, as the writer of Wisdom of Solomon proclaims, “God created all things … and made us in the image of God’s own eternity.” All of us.
But what of those parts about “the dominion of Hades” and “the devil’s envy.” Do any of us know what to make of that? Not really. We simply know that evil and hatred and death exist, just as all created things. I am thankful that Scripture, at least, acknowledges those realities. I do think there is some wisdom to be found toward the end of this passage, though: “through the devil’s envy death entered the world.” I believe that fear and envy are what drive the evils that occur far too often in our own nation today. Fear and envy are also tenants of own personal hell.
I think this is where the Gospel speaks most loudly to us today: Jesus says to Jairus, the leader of the synagogue: “Do not fear, only believe.”
To rewind, Jairus comes to Jesus to heal his daughter who has just about reached the point of death. Jairus tells Jesus “Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” It seems to me that Jairus does believe. And he has fear. Because he is a normal human being.
There is a fancy word to describe what is happening in this Gospel passage, when one story is told, sandwiching that of another. I don’t remember what that word is, because I was a terrible student of religion (and history, as we discussed earlier), but I do remember that they happen a lot in Mark’s Gospel – and that the intent is to highlight that which is at the center – the “meat” of the sandwich, if you will. (*note: I have researched this. It is called the “chiastic stucture.”)
So central in this Gospel is the story of the hemorrhaging woman. It is, for sure, a meaty story. I have always been drawn to this one. I think because Jesus’ words “your faith has made you well” always sounded sexy and poetic and healing to me. And also, more to the point, because I have experienced chronic suffering. So I felt like I could relate to this woman, in a time when I couldn’t relate to much.
But today, I am struck by new truths and realities within this Gospel passage. I have recently “come out,” as they say. But it has taken years. and years. and years. Like the hemorrhaging woman, I thought I was ill and created with – not necessarily sin – but something that was off and left me to feel outcasted growing up in Texas and attending the world’s largest Baptist university. I never asked Jesus to “cure” me or anything. That, at least, would have required me to be honest with myself. Instead, I carried my shame and internalized homophobia around with me like a disease.
What healed this woman is not dissimilar from what eventually healed me. It was people stopping in their tracks, speaking truth and love into my life, and informing me that I am okay. Once I chose to believe that reality, I was healed. And I have found that much of what I suffered from, depression and all kinds of self-hatred, dissolved. Slowly, but surely.
Just after the woman touched Jesus, the Gospel says, “He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.”
I wish I hadn’t waited so long to tell the whole truth of who I am. For all kinds of reasons, I could not believe that those around me would respond with such kindness, and even enthusiasm. But they did.
Jesus is not bothered by this woman who approaches him in her need. It is Christ’s willingness to stop, and pause, and respond to the woman’s plea for healing, that changes the course of her life. It was the acceptance of my brothers and sisters, who were not bothered when I distorted the image they had of me, that changed the course of my life.
And, it will only be by our willingness to stop and advocate for those people and communities who remain marginalized and oppressed, that any healing and ending to systematic injustices will be brought forth.
So yes, this weekend we celebrate and we are joyful. But come tomorrow, we go to work for those who need their voices lifted. The work of healing does not end here. We are to take an example from Jesus, and allow ourselves to be interrupted, over, and over, and over again. Until all are liberated, not only from oppression, but from the fear we find within ourselves.