If you are here today, in this fabulous zoom room, and your camera is on, I implore you to tap that little button at the bottom of your screen that turns your camera, off. And because I know that most zoom meetings don’t ask you to do this– I get to tell you now: you are welcome. In a moment, I’ll ask you to turn it back on (if you’d like to). But for now, turn your cameras off and dream with me for a moment.
It is Sunday, September 20, 2020. You’re sitting outside on your porch, as the crisp emerging fall air brushes lightly against your cheeks and leaves harmoniously bristle against the ground. You feel gratitude in your heart. You begin to close your eyes, and the warm evening sun settles on your eyelids. You find stillness. Exhale. And at just the right moment- your kid barrels straight into the back of your chair, jolting you up and out of your moment of perfect Zen, and informs you that it is indeed time for you to buy them, a cellphone. You begin to grumble, “you’re only 10!” (and I, as narrator, grumble right along with you, because we were just at peace.) “You don’t need a cellphone”, you tell them.
You close your eyes again, tune out the whirring sound of their high pitched child voice and continue to sit, letting that crisp fall air consume you. You find stillness. Exhale.
It is Sunday, September 20, 2020.
Feel free to open your Zoom eyes and turn your cameras on now.
I think we can all agree that, thus far, the year 2020 has felt like one interruption after the next. COVID19 has disrupted, halted, or put an end to many of our plans. Coupled with our pandemic, 2020 has brought mostly disasters in every form: from wildfires, floods, murder hornets and flying locusts, to the senseless murders of black and brown folks, a nationwide reckoning of such, the deaths of giants who have long created and influenced the journeys that we get to take today, and Zoom church. The disasters abound. And to think that that Popeyes sandwich made 2020 seem like it had so much promise.
If only there was a way that we could all just sit, let crisp fall air consume us, find stillness, and exhale.
Pride Sunday would not be Pride Sunday without me first acknowledging this to be the unyielding cry of our queer siblings for years – to find stillness and exhale. Present lived realities replete with abasement, abuse, and loneliness trace back to national histories fraught with the marginalization of all who identify as queer. To deny one of healthcare and medical treatment, preclude one from job opportunities, and shame one into thinking they are less or not worthy to God because of their gender expression or sexual orientation has somehow been the task of many in our country.
And so, how, can one find stillness and exhale in a country where discriminating doctrines and laws, and hateful rhetoric and actions consistently disrupt the flourishing life that we were all meant to live?
From where can light come for the queer child whose life is susceptible to the darkness of hatred?
When Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, he didn’t say that we were the light of the world just to stroke our egos. He told us that we were the light of the world because He is the light of the world, and thus, by extension, so are we. While our duty is to love and serve our neighbors, we are also meant to live in the light of God and to be the light of God to others, as Jesus is for us.
God gave us life through Christ so that we can live in the light that is perfect freedom, to be liberated from anything that would try to deem us less than Holy, less than Divine, less than worthy – anything that would try to dim our light.
Imagine what life would be like if our Queer siblings in Christ could fully experience the liberation of life. Imagine what life would be like if our Queer siblings could live fully without the disrupting presence of hate. Imagine what life would be like if they, too, could find lasting moments of stillness. To be able to exhale. To get to be light.
And yet, to be the light of the world in the face of dehumanization is a gift of resilience that the queer community continues to bestow upon us all. To show up in joy and in the fullness of one’s Holy self despite the world forcing them to minimize themselves, has long been the life and survival of our Queer siblings. To consistently fight for liberation against the structures of oppression that contain and invalidate the queer identity– from Stonewall 1969 to virtual pride celebrations in 2020– is the epitome of unrelenting strength and the embodiment of God’s light. It’s what happens when we are shunned out of our light. Our Queer siblings– openly out and not– are living proof of the resilience of Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Stormé DeLarverie, Bayard Rustin, James Baldwin, Alvin Ailey, Audre Lorde and queer saints unnamed. They are living proof of the resilience and light of our savior, Jesus Christ.
“On this Pride Sunday and beyond, may we be unyielding in our cry for justice to roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream for our Queer siblings,
May we forever effervesce and fill the atmosphere, for we are the light of the world.
And may we lead our lives with love, so that our queer siblings in Christ can live their lives with pride.