Pride Sunday ~ June 6, 2021 – Pastor Teressa Sivers
Rainbow God, We do believe. Help us to speak. Help us to not give up, to not give in to weakness and fatigue in the work for your Kingdom. Renew our spirits each day! Set our eyes, our hearts, our feet on the path to the Beloved Community. Amen.
Beloved Community. It all comes back to Beloved Community, also known as the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, the realm of God…God’s Dream. Or as Paul likes to say, being ‘raised with Jesus,’ ‘standing before God,’ ‘setting our eyes on what we cannot see.’ Beloved Community. True Heaven and Heaven on Earth.
Paul knew how easy it was, how easy it is, to lose sight of this promise of God, this ultimate community and this wondrous way of life, in the midst of an imperfect world. As we have experienced over the past year plus, difficulties arise. We struggle and face hardships and fear and pain and illness. Injustice looms large and seems insurmountable at times. And so, Paul wrote to those who struggle, even those who struggled against him. Paul wrote words of encouragement and motivation and inspiration. “We do not give up!”
Beloved Community. We can’t quite see it, not really. It is not here, not yet. …And yet, it IS here. It is made new within us each day. We can’t literally see it, but scripture lifts it up over and over and over again. Paul pointed to it in his letter, in all of his letters. ‘We are raised to new life in Christ.’ ‘We have a glory that is much greater than our troubles.’ ‘We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see.’
Even Scripture struggles to paint the picture of God’s Kingdom for us. It is a garden of life, Eden, where all creation dwells in harmony. It is a rainbow, where violence cannot have its way and diversity is cherished in unity. It is bread from heaven, poured down for each to gather just what we need, no more, no less, as we wander in the wilderness. It is loving neighbor as a sign of our love for God. It is the Peaceable Kingdom of Isaiah’s vision—where the wolf will live with the lamb…the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child shall lead them. Beloved Community is the great feast on the holy mountain where death is wiped away, Isaiah again.
And then…Beloved Community became flesh. Love became flesh. The Word became flesh. God believed that all creation could be God’s Dream and so God spoke God’s very self among us. God believed and so God spoke. Jesus lived and taught and breathed God’s realm for all to witness. Jesus died to see the Peaceable Kingdom brought to life. Jesus rose to new life as a promise that this Dream can be and is already. The Church herself also embodied this Kingdom of Heaven for a moment in our scriptures—and I would bet that many of us have had moments when we saw that glimpse of what is to come in the faith communities we call home. The Great Pentecost story, which we experienced on Pentecost just a few weeks ago, in Acts 2 ends with this vision of Ultimate Community, the Church of God’s dreams:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to be together in the temple courts. They broke bread together in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.
It is Pride Sunday, the first Sunday in the month of Pride. This month exists as an act of resistance in a world that rejects the unusual, the foreign, the queer. Pride month is a time for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexual, intersex, plus to proclaim in one, loud, awesomely colorful voice, that they have a right to exist and to love and to live and to work and to be exactly the beloved children of God that they are. As AFAB4 sang with such joy, Pride Month is that time when our queer siblings on this planet shout their victory, “I’m Still Standing…after all this time!”
To our queer family here this morning, I thank God for your strength and your perseverance. I apologize from the depths of my soul for how society and how the Church has treated you. It is a horrible sin not to cherish you as beloved and precious just as God created you to be. Do not give up, as Paul implores! Let your spirit be renewed each day! Set your eyes, your hearts, your feet on the path to the Beloved Community. We will walk with you, whether you need us beside you or to step back and let you lead.
To all allies and potential allies—If you believe in inclusivity and love and welcome and belovedness, speak! Don’t be silent in the face of hatred and persecution. Don’t give up. Let you spirits also be renewed each day. Set your eyes, your hearts, your feet on the path to God’s Dream. Look to your queer neighbors, your queer family, and follow their lead. Together we can work for Eden’s Garden, God’s Rainbow, the Peaceable Kingdom, the Great Feast! We can recognize the risen Christ within each of us shining forth.
Paul says, ‘So we do not give up. Our physical life (this present human struggle) is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day…We set our eyes, our hearts, our feet, not on what we see but on what we cannot see.’
As we prepare to sing our hope, our vision, our praise in the hymn by Mark Miller, let us hear the words that inspired this powerful hymn—Psalm 139, selected verses:
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it…
13 …For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
that I know very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written
all the days (all my days) that were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
17 How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end—I am still with you.