Updated: Aug 6, 2020
This sermon was delivered on June 28, 2020 At Common Ground Church In New York, New York. Text: Luke 12:32-40
If you are at all familiar with the process of coming out, you know that it is exactly that—a process and for many, it is a challenging and painful one. My own coming out process experience goes something like this: Awareness. Disruption. Rejection. Pain. Healing. Wholeness. Freedom. Awareness. Disruption. Rejection. Pain. Healing. Wholeness. Freedom. Repeat.
I will never forget the moment when I gave myself permission to ask this question, “Do you want to be with a man?” Asking that question caused an emotional earthquake that led to four and a half months of silence, reflection, fear, and agony.
I wish that I could say that the disruption only affected me. The reality is that my coming out had a much broader impact.
I will never forget the rejection that I experienced from close friends as they informed me that I was oppressed (or maybe even possessed) by a demonic force or that dissolving my marriage was an offense to the heart of God. I’ll never forget the fear that I held in my chest and stomach every time I uttered the words, “I’m gay” to another person that I loved and cared about, but couldn’t be sure about whether or not they would still love or care about me after this disruptive news.
But I would be telling you a half truth if I left the story there.
Because I also remember the healing that came from my awareness.
I remember the sense of wholeness that came as the pain subsided
And I remember feeling free in a way that I had never felt.
I learned early on in my coming out process that even though I made a public statement about my queerness on what felt like all forms of social media known to humanity, coming out is an ongoing process that continues to take me down a path of disruption, sometimes rejection, sometimes pain, and hopefully healing, wholeness, and freedom for others and myself.
And here’s the other thing: all of us—whether or not we are somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum—have parts of ourselves that we are afraid to tell others about. All of us have parts of ourselves that we keep in the closet, because of fear.
And not just us. The great story that we read in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament is, I would argue, a story of God’s coming out. From cover to cover, we read stories of God’s self being revealed to humanity in new and shocking ways. The stories tell of a God who was once hidden and becomes more distinct and more clear as the stories develop.
This is especially the case in the way that Christians have historically understood the person and work of Jesus. Christians have argued that Jesus is God’s big coming out. The Christian claim that God’s nature is embodied in Jesus meant that God was no longer an intangible, divine essence, but God now had a face and a body. Humans could interact with God in this other human.
And just as an LGBTQ+ person’s coming out disrupts, God’s coming out in Jesus caused a disruption—in fact, it was so controversial that it eventually led to the death of Jesus. God’s message as revealed in Jesus was one that included loving one’s enemies and caring for the oppressed. It centered the messages from the great Hebrew prophets: empathy, love, and justice.
The text we started this whole thing with presents Jesus as reminding his listeners about what this queer God is really like. He suggests that God cares for the people just as a good, loving Father cares for his children.
What does that do to the way that you imagine God?
What does it do to the way that you live your life?
Is there trust? Scarcity? Abundance? Fear?
Jesus’ parable is inviting us to re-imagine our lives. To check out the assumptions that we have about God. To check out what our actions are saying about our deeply held beliefs.
You see, one of the reasons that it is so important for queer people to come out is because it raises awareness that not everyone is straight and not everyone’s gender fits neatly into these strict male/female categories. The person who comes out has usually been living with this awareness for quite some time.
But the recipients of this news are oftentimes shocked and at best merely affirmed in their suspicions. Coming out is a radical act that challenges the assumptions that we live with in this world. Coming out demands empathy, love, and justice from those we come out to.
In the same way that this queer God coming out causes people to re-evaluate, re-imagine, and re-envision the world.
In our text this morning, Jesus is suggesting that God’s coming out should create a more conscious awareness of life. Jesus makes it known that God’s care for humanity means that we can spend more time investing in relationships, empathy, love, compassion, and justice instead of spending all of our time investing in our own fortunes which will die with us. His teaching reminds us that our lives do not have to be dictated by fear but rather, our lives can be moved by the positive force of love.
To live with this kind of conscious awareness shapes everyday life. Just like the servants, we often say to ourselves, “If I had known, I would not have done that.” Or we say, “If I had known, I would have done that.”
Listen. Hindsight is 20-20. We know this. Jesus’ invitation is to pay attention. To live in a way that acknowledges what is happening right in front of us. And meets what is happening with empathy, compassion, and justice.
So how do we respond to Jesus’ invitation? I think a good first step is that we have to be ready to be surprised by God. We have to be willing to recognize God in places where we thought God could not or did not exist. We have to be willing to say that we were wrong. We have to be willing to exercise humility if we are going to recognize this queer God coming out in the world in front of us.
Instead of being surprised to find that God is on the side of love and justice, we can be like those who are not surprised when the queer God comes out. We can instead, welcome the moments when God’s true nature is revealed.
To go a step further, we can be part of creating the moments when God’s true nature is revealed. We can be like Jesus in this way. We can be the ones who are advocates in our daily life for conscious living. We can invest in the lives of others and our own life with what truly matters. We can re-imagine and re-envision the world based on the character and call of this queer God.
Just imagine with me what it would look like to live in a world where love was supreme. Where compassion and justice flooded our streets. Where trust and abundance were our everyday experiences. Imagine what it would look like if we all had enough.
All we need is a little bit of courage to come out with God.
Friends, may you go forth today living with awareness of God, others, and yourself because this queer God is coming out to the world and invites us to join in. Amen.