Matthew 10:24-39The Message (MSG)
24-25 “A student doesn’t get a better desk than her teacher. A laborer doesn’t make more money than his boss. Be content—pleased, even—when you, my students, my harvest hands, get the same treatment I get. If they call me, the Master, ‘Dungface,’ what can the workers expect?
26-27 “Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So, don’t hesitate to go public now.
28 “Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.
Forget About Yourself
29-31 “What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So, don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.
32-33 “Stand up for me against world opinion and I’ll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. If you turn tail and run, do you think I’ll cover for you?
34-37 “Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me.
38-39 “If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.
That was the message version of today’s reading
“One of the Major complaints of Jesus’ critics was that he ate with those he shouldn’t; his radical egalitarianism at table was threating to those elements of Judeo-Roman Society that fostered separation between people as a way of preserving the imperial status quo.”
Imagine being a young follower of Christ while your parents are devout members of Jewish society. You are in direct conflict with your parents, you are in direct conflict with your culture and you conflict with custom and law. Your acceptance of Jesus and his teachings have driven a sword between you and your family, you must choose what you know in your heart to be right, to be what you are called to be or to go home and live in suppression trying to give the illusion that all is the same though for you there has been a radical shift in your way of thinking and being.
I should stop here and warn you I am going to use a word that some may find offensive or may be concerned with my use of it that word is Queer. Queer once a word that was used to demean gay people is now a widely accepted term used for many different reasons.
Charlie Glickman States it this way:
One of the things about the word queer that fascinates me is how many meanings it has. It can be used as an adjective, a pejorative, a noun, an identity, a sexual orientation, and as a gender identity (as in genderqueer). But there’s one use that we don’t hear as much anymore: queer is also a verb. What does it mean to queer something? There was a time when that phrase meant “to mess it up,” as in queering a business deal. While I’m glad that use has gone out of fashion, I like using queer as a verb.
To queer something, whether it’s a text, a story, or an identity, is to take a look at its foundations and question them. We can explore its limits, its biases, and its boundaries. We can look for places where there’s elasticity or discover ways we can transform it into something new. To queer is to examine our assumptions and decide which of them we want to keep, change, discard, or play with. This becomes a practice in transcending the habit of settling for pre-defined categories and creating new ones. And even when we leave something unchanged, we have changed our relationship to it.
So why would I mention all this, well on this Gay pride Sunday I would venture to say that this Church has, to quote Rev. Tom Bohache, a queer sensibility. Now a “A queer sensibility that seeks to stir up and spoil the status quo of imperial heteronormativity will, like Jesus our Christ, be welcoming of everyone; we who have been kept from many tables, both literally and figuratively, dare not keep others from the table.” This is what my call is, therefore I speak of earth care, accessibility for all, I will address migrant welcoming communities and sanctuary. I will work toward a queer sensibility
Unfortunately, we know we are not there yet. We must tell people that our church is welcoming and open to all. Why? And Why fly the rainbow colors? Won’t that just draw attention to us? Maybe even make us a target? We as united church of Christ and this church by covenant proclaim we are open and affirming. This congregation voted to publicly proclaim our welcome. And we must proclaim that welcome because there are other places in the Christian landscape that don’t say anything but allow their pulpit to speak for them and often times those pulpits are not the friendliest. We must proclaim we are an open affirming congregation because kids are still kicked out of their homes, Gay men are still attacked in the street and transgender people are murdered. These events are not from faraway places but here in America.
My husband and I, by the way I legally could not call him my husband until just a few years ago. Each have our own personal stories and experiences. Some painful, some joy full and all part of the struggle to reach the day when I do not have to say I am gay and it be a political statement.
I was born and raised in Detroit Mi. I was adopted a year after my Birth by may parents who also fostered me for that first year. Two years later my brother was adopted and my sister was adopted. As a kid, I had a hard time adjusting. I always had a social worker in school. In grade school, I taught my counselor how to play chess, well tried too we usually ended up playing checkers.
I was bullied and picked on. Part of the issues was I had a muscle deformity and so I walked funny as a kid, my ears were too big, I couldn’t play baseball, I wasn’t very socially oriented to kids of my age…whatever, kids will find excuses to tease and or bully. It probably didn’t help that the longest I was in one school was high school for 4 years.
When I went off to college is when my life changed. I went into catholic seminary and there I discovered my sexuality. Not the best place to discover that or try to figure it out. I left after the first year and transferred to school where I majored in sign language studies. There I found other people like me. (my mother’s words not mine). I started to get involved in the community and in 1986 I went to Detroit’s first pride rally.
It was Father’s Day, June 15th, I had been asked to interpreter for the speakers at the rally for the march. By then I was well known in the community for working with the gay men’s chorus, which I joined in 1983 as their interpreter, as well as serving other events around the city. Any way it was a big deal, there was a protest march, nothing like todays pride, there were political speeches at the rally stage. Leaders from the Michigan organization for human rights and other big wigs were going to address the crowd.
So, I am on stage and suddenly I feel this nudge it’s a camera man who wants to film the audience for the evening news report. I thought nothing of it. It wasn’t until I got home that I was made aware that the camera focused on me for a bit. When I arrived home my father’s face was red and my mother was crying. My family does have a dramatic flair. My father yelled, my mother cried even more. They complained because I told them I was at a human rights rally. I said I was and they asked who rights were I fighting for? So, I asked the rhetorical question whose do you think. I think then was when my father used the word faggot and shortly after I left the house. We did find reconciliation and peace eventually.
It is interesting to note that before I came out I was heading out for a date one night. My grandmother was on the phone with my mother and she asked my mom who the lucky guy was. Needless to say, I had to make a bee line to grandmothers and have a conversation. Another odd thing or maybe not but at one point I worked for the public schools with mandatory Ed programs for disabled kids up to the age of 26. Our campus counselor was My counselor from grade school. I was so surprised to see her and funny thing she tells me “I always knew you were gay but we were not paid to tell you that.” It seemed like everone knew before I did.
My mother has a group of about 6 women that she went to high school with. They have been friends all these years and they were always around for special events. Two of them had openly gay sons. I think this helped them all to grow as they were their own PFLAG Group. PFLAF stands for parents and friends of Lesbian and Gays. PFLAG is working to make sure that all people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer are not only valued by society, but take pride in and value themselves. they do this through providing peer-to-peer support, educating people on the issues that are important to the community, and advocating for inclusive policies and laws.
My life since that day took me many places. I was a practicing catholic and went to dignity for services until the catholic church told dignity They could not meet in a church of theirs any more. At that point I had to leave, I could not call the catholic church home anymore because I was not welcome.
In 1982 I met Brian. Brian was the first person to address publicly that he was living with AIDS in Detroit. His story was heard and as he relayed his pain and anger I saw someone who needed a companion. After his speech was over I sat down next to him introduced myself to him and we had a great conversation. I became the person that he could talk to about anything with except AIDS. His life was educating people about AIDS he talked and lived AIDS every day. So we agreed no AIDS conversation.
Through Brian I saw the everyday struggle and what was needed. I and a few friends formed health education association Detroit. We were the first organization to directly fund people living with aids in order to pay emergency bills like electricity, gas etc. In those days I spent many hours driving around Detroit ( remember it’s an hour across town) chasing down board members signatures so I could pay many a heating or electric bill or buy some groceries.
In 1984 I had to say farewell to Brian as he did succumb to AIDS. I was one of the few people who refused to wear what we called full Martian garb to visit. I wore a face mask just to avoid infecting him with any cold I might be carrying. I did get to visit before he passed but he was asleep and I did not want to disturb him. If I knew then what I know now about death and dying I would have seen that it was his last night.
Since then I do not know how many I had to say good bye too. Aids took hundreds of thousands lives in the 80’s and 90’s. I saw intelligent brave men slip into dementia. I witnessed strong hearty men become shells of who they were. The struggle for meds and dignity seemed to take forever and still goes on in many places today.
I lived in Worcester and Boston and moved to San Francisco in 1991. Ah what a great experience October 18, 1991 I arrived in san Francisco after a 3-month journey across the united states from Dorchester Mass. Staying at a nice little boutique hotel, getting ready to find an apartment, the morning of the 19th the sky was funny. It was getting dark instead of light. Oakland firestorm had started. When we did get an apartment and my mother asked where we were living I told her watch the 6 o’clock news they are interviewing a hooker on the street outside our building. We had a studio at Polk and Geary for 800 dollars a month. The walk-in closet was so big we put our bed in it and used it as a tiny bedroom. I started working for the ARK san Francisco at their vocational training center for developmentally disabled adults. I had worked with his population close to 15 years.
Shortly after moving to SF I was introduced the imperial court system and all the glamour and fundraising that goes with it. For those of you who don’t know;
“In 1965, Jose Sarria proclaimed herself the Empress of San Francisco, and laid the foundation for the formation of the Imperial Court de San Francisco. Today, the International Court System (ICS) has over 65 chapters in the United States, Canada and Mexico, making us the second largest GLBT organization in the world. On October 23rd, 2015, The International Imperial Court System Celebrated its 50 Anniversary”
Jose Sarria in 1961 was the first openly gay candidate for a public office in the united states and I am proud to say a friend. I love the imperial court system and all the nonprofit work they do. It was because of the Imperial court system that I met miss Ginny.
Ginny was a man who lived as woman without surgery. She came to all the court fundraisers and events her wife would bring her in her wheelchair. Though she was technically a straight man she found solace and acceptance in the gay community. There was no place Safe for her in her community. It wasn’t safe for transgender people in San Francisco yet and they had to be cautious about how they lived.
One of my friends from the transgender community was candy sweet, she was a big ole lovable girl. I mean big she needed two seats on the airplane. she sewed all her own clothes and beaded all her own Gowns. She loved to perform and was well known, respected and loved around the city and yet. On her way home one night she was attacked and killed we still do not know who did it or why. But because nothing was stolen we can guess it was a hate crime. But that was before there was such a legal disclaimer. I have actually lost three of my friends to Hate crimes it is impossible to comprehend or even process.
So, a year after moving to San Francisco I declared my candidacy for grand duke. This is a public campaign and people vote, it was fun to run. Unfortunately, my boyfriend at the time was not as socially engaged as I and he said if I won I was out…well I won and I moved out the next day.
It is funny because that triggered a few things for me including burn out form caring for the extremely multiply impaired. I went on a journey to find new job and new ways of surviving in SF. I found myself a little job working for a tour company that specialized in day trips and casino trips for the senior community. I drove a 15 seater that had a tv and everything. I drove from sf to Jackson ranchera my stops were in alameda and up through the delta, with stops in Pittsburgh, antioch, rio vista and Isleton. I eventually worked my way up to VP in charge of PR.
I will never forget a super happy day in San Francisco it was august 1998 and we had a new headline on the cover of the Bay area reporter.
"No obituaries were filed with the paper for this issue, a first since the AIDS epidemic exploded in San Francisco's gay community," Timothy Rodrigues writes in the Aug. 13 issue of the Bay Area Reporter. Rodrigues laces this good news with a few words of caution. "That doesn't mean that there were no AIDS deaths in the past week; next week's issue may have more obits than usual," he says. However, "after more than 17 years of struggle and death, and some weeks with as many as 31 obituaries printed in the B.A.R., it seems a new reality may be taking hold, and the community may be on the verge of a new era of the epidemic," he says, adding tentatively, "Perhaps." (Rodrigues, B.A.R., 8/13 issue). An accompanying editorial, titled, "Death Takes A Holiday," states, "We tried not to get too excited about it too soon. ... So we waited patiently, quietly, to see how many this week's mail would bring. And then there were none. ... Although we fully expect to receive more obits than usual next week, for such is the nature of life and death, we also hope to see a time when issues of the B.A.R. without obituaries are commonplace" (Bay Area Reporter, 8/13).
This is just some of my story. I am just one story and this has actually been a few peoples story. But this story, me I wish I had you when I first came out. I wish I knew that there was a safe place where gay straight bi transgender questioning people can gather and worship safely without Judgement. Maybe, just maybe my friends would have lived longer, maybe just maybe one young person would not have committed suicide.
Maybe just maybe someone, someone here today has experienced the acceptance they have always sought because we are an open and affirming congregation of the United Church of Christ and that is why we need a rainbow outside. That is why we need to proclaim it loud. We need to be the safe alternative for Christians so that they know there is a loving God that made them perfect just the way they are. Please let you Queer Sensibility Continue to Shine.
On that note, I also want to say happy ordination anniversary to Bill Johnson for it was 45 years ago today that he was the first openly Gay man to be ordained to mainline ministry. It was 60 years ago today that the united Church of Christ as a denomination came into existence. So happy anniversary to the denomination and we forgot to mention that technically two weeks ago was this Churches anniversary the first church to vote to become United Church of Christ. So Please let you Queer Sensibility Continue to Shine. Let us continue to be a place that honors and welcomes the marginalized. Happy Pride Sunday.
 Deryn Guest et al., eds., The Queer Bible Commentary (London: SCM Press, 2006).
 Charlie Glickman, What does Queer Mean, April 6, 2012, accessed June 20, 2017, http://charlieglickman.com/queer-is-a-verb/.
 Guest et al., The Queer Bible Commentary, 514.
 Imperial Court System, 50 years of Noble deeds, 2015, accessed June 21, 2017, http://www.impcourt.org/8-about-us/213-about-us-2.
 California Healthline, Aids Deaths: Bay Area Reporter Posts No Obits, August 17, 1998, accessed June 22, 2017, http://californiahealthline.org/morning-breakout/aids-deaths-bay-area-reporter-posts-no-obits-endstoryhed/.