Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Giants and Ancestors

 There is so much to celebrate.

SCOTUS has upheld the subsidies in the Affordable Care Act.

The President gave a stirring eulogy for Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney, a victim of the mass shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., which provided a sound theological context in which the oppressed - especially, but all of us - could find hope.

Then... THEN . . . there was SCOTUS on Marriage equality.  Obergefell v Hodges. The vote was 5-4.

And, just like that, there was no longer "marriage equality" or "gay marriage" or "traditional marriage". There was just marriage.

I'm still trying to get my head wrapped around that. Seriously.

So then, The Episcopal Church, meeting at General Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, made history by electing the very first African American man as Presiding Bishop.

Bishop Michael Curry of the Diocese of North Carolina - the self same diocese that flew the Episcopal flag at half mast upon the election of Barbara Clementine Harris, an African American woman who was elected the first woman bishop in The Episcopal Church - was elected on an unprecedented first ballot by a landslide.

Here's a video interview of him here.  (

I had just dried my eyes when General Convention did yet anther amazing thing. Something more than 40 years in the makings. Something which has framed my entire adult life and fueled most of my ordained ministry. Something which I really didn't think I'd live long enough to see.

On July 1, in the year of our Lord 2015, The Episcopal Church once again made history, by making marriage for same-sex couples available throughout the church.

Okay, so this is me, taking a deep breath here, clearing my throat and wiping my eyes.

Let me say that again: Marriage for same sex couples is now available throughout The Episcopal Church.  

We did provide conservatives the same "pastoral generosity" which liberals asked of them six years ago. Bishops who voted against the canonical change as well as the liturgies for marriage may refrain from offering the sacramental rite of marriage in their dioceses, but . . but . .  BUT . . . they must make provision for the couple to be provided with that sacramental rite elsewhere.

Fair is fair and that will be fair enough for some but not fair enough for the five dioceses where bishops have said they will not allow LGBT people access to the sacrament of marriage, even if they have been granted that civil right by the highest court in the land. 

Score one for the Traditional Anglican Via Media

As Susan Russell wrote
Carefully and prayerfully crafted, the changes provide as wide a tent as possible for the historic diversity that characterizes the Episcopal Church — guaranteeing access to marriage liturgies to all couples while protecting the conscience of clergy and bishops who dissent theologically.

The genius of these actions by the Episcopal Church is that the conscience of a dissenting bishop is protected but not at the price of denying same-sex couples access to the sacramental rite of marriage.
We did what some asked us to do. We "waited at the asterisk" (like the one at the psalm) so that others could catch up with the rest of the church. 

I suspect it will take another six years for some bishops to retire and others to "evolve" but I don't think it's going to take that long for full sacramental equality in our church.

In 2015 the challenge from the Queer community (LGBT people and our allies) to the church was framed in Jesus’ words from the Gospel according to Matthew (5:37) “Let your yes be yes.”

I know one thing: My 'yes' is most definitely 'YESSSSSSSS!'

So, I've been thinking these past few days, about how far we've come by faith and all the shoulders of all the Giants on which we've stood to walk above the madding, homophobic crowd to get to this day and this time and this place of celebration.  Especially in The Episcopal Church.

Oh, there are the obvious ones: Louie Crew Clay who started Integrity in 1976 when he and his Beloved, Ernest Clay, moved to San Francisco - the gayest city in the U.S. of A. - and were excited to call the Episcopal Cathedral to ask if they, as a gay couple, might find welcome as new members. 

They got passed along to several different people who apparently thought it was an absolutely HYSTERICAL question and took turns laughing uproariously each time it was asked. 

It wasn't a laughing matter then. It isn't now. But, that derisive laughter sparked a movement in The Episcopal Church that, forty years later, has reached a significant, historic, sacramental moment, but is far from completed. 

And, of late, Susan Russell has been front and center, providing important sound bites in an age of 24 hour news cycle as well as sound, accessible liberation theology, all the while being an enthusiastic, seemingly indefatigable evangelist of the Really Good News for absolutely everyone. 

Both Susan and Louie would rush to tell you that this movement is more than its stars. Of course they would look to Bishop Gene Robinson as well as Bishop Mary Glasspool as two of our major spiritual leaders, but there are more. 

So many, many more. 

There are those who sacrificed jobs and the possibility for 'upward mobility' by coming out and being authentically, honestly who God made them to be. They are articulate, intelligent, well educated people who laid the foundation for this journey on their very backs. 

It's always a very dangerous thing to start naming names but I have to call the name of Kim Byham, who probably authored 80% of the legislation which paved the way in previous General Conventions for us to travel this road. 

I have to call the name of Michael Hopkins, who was the major architect of the theological statement "Claiming The Blessing" of the group by the same name. I should know. I was a member. 

Michael listened deeply, took all our thoughts and put them into a magnificent statement that not only provided an articulation of the theological foundation of our work, it sent a message to the conservative/orthodox that there was more than a "nice liberal feeling" to the full inclusion of LGBT people in the church. There was, in fact, a cogent theology.

You didn't have to agree with it. You could pick it apart. But, you couldn't deny its theology. 

It also sent a message - loud and clear - that LGBT people were not going to leave the church, as so many had hoped would happen. We were no longer helpless, hopeless victims who needed to be pitied and taken care of because they "just couldn't help being gay". No. 

Avoiding entanglement in that dead end "nature or nurture" conundrum, we were going to keep on walking forward, just like our baptism prayer, in the full stature of Christ.

His was not the first articulated theology of being LGBT - many authors had done that well before him and to whom we also owe a huge debt of gratitude - but it was the first time a theology was written with The Episcopal Church as its primary audience and it was made available to every bishop and deputy attending General Convention.

John Clinton Bradley also set the bar for the Integrity Nerve Center at General Convention - a technological marvel that allowed us to be in communication by riding the beginnings of the wave of electronics and exploration of the architecture of cyberspace. 

Sending emails and text messages by smart phones between the visitors gallery, the Nerve Center and the various deputations proved to be absolutely invaluable in terms of developing on-your-toes legislative pivots and shifting strategies. 

Even before all of that were folks like Robert Williams , an openly gay man who was ordained by Bishop Jack Spong in a ceremony at All Saint's Church in Hoboken, NJ that was, I have absolutely no doubt - attended by more international press than Episcopalians. 

Bishop Spong was also dissociated by his colleagues for his efforts. And, one of his assisting bishops, Walter Righter, was brought up on heresy charges for ordaining Barry Stopfel to the priesthood. 

And then there are other straight allies like George Regas who started allowing the blessing of gay and lesbian relationships at All Saints, Pasadena more than 25 years ago. And, Ed Bacon who said on Oprah, "Being gay is a gift from God." And, Bishop Barbara Harris who preached, "How can you initiate someone and then treat them like half-assed baptized?"

There have been so many, many more Giants of Justice, some of whom are not theologians or even leaders - elected or assumed - in the church. I'm thinking of people like Chris Mackey-Mason whose organizational skills are so superior as to have absolutely no comparison. She has organized more group meetings - from Beyond Inclusion to Integrity to Episcopal Women's Caucus to General Convention presence - that it makes my head spin. 

And then there are the blessed most chaste spouses of those of us who have trekked all over God's vineyard to labor in the Fields of Justice. 

They have made sure the bills were paid on time and done the laundry and mowed the lawn and gone grocery shopping while we were being interviewed on CNN or writing pity Letters to the Editor or on a Conference Call developing a strategy with colleagues or just listening patiently as we ranted about the latest horrible exchange we had with yet another homophobe. 

You can get a much better picture of the past 40 years by looking at this wonderful video put together by IntegritTV. It's here

While you're there, check out the tribute to Louie Crew Clay. That's here

And, don't miss Bishop Mary Glasspool's sermon at the Integrity Eucharist. I really think her discussion of "home" and "family" begin to build on the liberation theology already articulated and form the foundation for a spiritual life after SCOTUS. You can find that here.

As grateful as I am for all of these amazing Giants of Justice - and, I am, deeply, and there are so many, many more - I can not shake the sense that we would not have come this far by faith without "a great cloud of witnesses" who have been "behind the scenes" but at the soul center of the Spirituality of this Movement. 

I'm talking about all those amazing, blazing, shining souls we lost to AIDS in the 80s.  

I remember clearly holding the hands of so many who were taking their last breaths and promising them that their death would not be in vain.  That their deaths may have been hastened by beurcratic red tape, but their legacy would live on. 

Some how. Some way. I said. Not knowing what I was talking about but speaking from a place of absolute truth within me.

I think this is it. I really do.

There's a scene "A Call to the Ancestors" in the movie Amistad.  Singbe, the slave, and John Adams, the former President who is defending the slaves of the ship Amistad, are talking just before the trial. Adams is trying to prepare Singbe for what he's about to experience in court. 

Singbe says, "We won't be going into there alone." 

Adams says, "No, of course not. We have justice and righteousness on our side."

Singbe says, 
"I have my ancestors. I am calling to the past. Back to the beginning of time. I am begging them to come and help me with this judgment.  I will reach back and draw them into me. And, they must come. For at this moment, I am the whole reason they have existed at all."
I do believe all those martyrs to the early days of the AIDS pandemic have been with us every step of the way. We may not be 'the whole reason they existed at all', but their young, senseless deaths to a pandemic that could have been avoided have provided the heart and soul of this movement.

So, I want to end by encouraging us to call their name in words of prayer and thanksgiving. They who have brought us to this day.

We are going to need them to walk with us even further, to raise up new leaders, to take on the deeper issues of justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people like housing and employment.

I call their names often. The ones whose names I remember. The ones whose names I never knew.

If "all we need is love" they'd be with us today:
D.J Jimmy Mac (one of the first but far from the only)
Mark Clarke
The Rev. Dennis Dellamalva
Garry Lambert
Bill Urban
Joe Horan
Bob Meili
Lisa Tisti and her daughter Anasthasia
Jay Schaeffer
Dennis O'Keefe
The Rev Bill Lowry
The Rev Bernie Healy
Avon Johnson
Bertha "Birdie" Thompson
"Just call me Madam" Jim Ramp
Paul Risi
"Tall Paul" Wallace
Bob Applegate
and the amazing, the unforgettable, the large and lovely Ms. Beula Lamont, who said,

"We're all born naked, honey; everything after that is all drag."
May their memories always be a blessing and continue to inspire us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. 

Giants and Ancestors. We celebrate their memories and their continued presence with us as we continue to move forward in faith, stopping just now to celebrate all that has been during most this amazing week.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Like David in the Valley of Elah

“Like David in the Valley of Elah”
A sermon preached on PentecostIV 7B
St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Laurel, DE
(the Rev’d Dr) Elizabeth Kaeton

I don’t know about you, but I come to church this morning with a very heavy heart. The events in South Carolina have deeply troubled my spirit.  I can only imagine what you all may be feeling – what emotions you carry in your heart.

Some of you may be shifting in your seats and thinking, “Oh, God. I come to church to be uplifted; to spend some time away from all that mess in the world. I come to learn something about my faith. I don’t need politics in the pulpit. I can read the New York Times or the Washington Post when I get home.”

This is not a sermon about politics. I trust you won’t read anything like it in the NY Times. 

My intention is for this to be a sermon about the promises of the Gospel and the hope we have in Jesus. But, I would not be a faithful priest if I ignore the horrific pain that is just outside our doors which some of you have brought into church with you this morning.

As Episcopal priest and author, Barbara Brown Taylor, once wrote about her priestly discernment,  
“Being a priest seemed only slightly less dicey to me than being chief engineer at a nuclear plant. In both cases, one needed to know how to approach great power without losing great danger and getting fried in the process. All in all, I was happier in the pew.”  

In his statement about this national tragedy in South Carolina, the Rt. Rev. Dan Thomas Edwards, Bishop of Nevada wrote, in part:
It is too small a thing to condemn racism once again. It is too small a thing to condemn gun violence once again. It is unacceptable to attribute the violence against a Black congregation to a deranged lone gunman when systemic racism and systemic violence are pervasive and are being overtly acted out with increasing frequency. We must not “heal our people’s wounds too lightly,” as Jeremiah put it. Nothing short of the gospel can speak for us to this tragedy, a gospel not just proclaimed but acted on to usher in the Kingdom. We need a lot more Kingdom right now  . . .  . . . We need the gospel to infiltrate the real life of the people and make the creation new right now.
Not “heal our people’s wounds too lightly” and not just proclaim the gospel but get the gospel to “infiltrate the real life of people”.  You understand what Ms. Taylor was talking about in terms of “getting fried in the process.” You’ll forgive my preference for sitting in the pew. 

Mark’s Gospel (4:35-41) does offer us a great deal to consider about how we might rely on Him when storms like this terrible national tragedy enter our lives.  
Many of us clearly identify with those disciples in the boat in the middle of a storm. Jesus was asleep on some cushions in the stern. They went to him, woke him up and said, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And, it was Jesus to the rescue! He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And lo! There was a dead calm. 

If only . . . .  If we just had faith. More faith. Enough faith. That’s the answer, right? All of this is happening because we’re afraid and we are afraid because we have no faith. Simple. 

I am hearing the words of the Prophet Jeremiah. “Do not dress the people’s wounds too lightly” (6:14) or “ . . . cry ‘Peace! Peace!’ When there is no peace”.

I submit to you that, in order to better understand the Gospel, we need to understand something from the Hebrew Scripture which we heard this morning. It was the first option – the passage from 1 Samuel 17(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49). I think there are some things we can learn about faith and conquering the Giant of Racism and being like David in the Valley of Elah. 

It’s the story of David and Goliath which we all think we know but, tell me, when was the last time you heard it as an adult – much less, in church? It’s a classic battle between the Israelites and the Philistines. The nation which emerges as winner of the battle will be lord and master over the other.
You may have missed the connection by the gentile language of “servants” but hear again the words of Goliath: 

He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, "Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us."

Just so we’re clear, we’re talking about slavery based on race and religion here.
Saul and the rest of the men of Israel heard the words of Goliath and saw his great size and strength and they were sore afraid. When young David appeared, fresh from the fields of tending sheep, he also heard the words of the great giant but said he would fight him. 

When Saul and the other men protested, David reminded them that, as part of his job as a shepherd, he sometimes had to defend the sheep against lions and bears. Surely, if God was with him in battle against the lion and bear, then, with God’s help, he could take on this giant.

Saul reluctantly agreed and tried to dress David in his armor, but David could hardly walk in it. He took it off and “he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi (or, a dry river bed), and put them in his shepherd's bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.”

Goliath laughed at the sight of this young boy, “ruddy and handsome in appearance” but David laughed right back. Drawing one of the smooth stones from his pouch, slug it and hit Goliath, bringing him to his knees, and he fell dead, face down on the ground. 

And thus, David did kill Goliath in the Valley of Elah.
Here’s what I think: I think the church, the Body of Christ, has been asleep in the stern of the boat. The storm of racism has been swirling around us for a long, long time.  In many ways, the issues for which we fought and many died in the Civil War are still alive and well and continuing to tear apart the very fabric of this nation. 

Here's what I think: I think Jesus has been waiting for US to wake up. I think it’s time for us to take off our protective armor and get back to the basics of our faith. I think we all have experience fighting lions and bears in our own lives. 

I think we all have slingshots of power and authority and a pouch where we store at least five smooth stones of faith. We all know how to protect and defend that which is precious and important to us. 

Either we believe what we say in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States that “all men – all people – are created equal” or we don’t’. Either that’s worth defending or it isn’t.

Either we believe what we say in our Five Baptismal Promises – that we respect the dignity of every human being” or we don’t. Either that’s worth dying for or it isn’t. 

Indeed, I believe the five smooth stones we have to fight off the Giant Evil of Racism can be found in those Five Baptismal Promises:

Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

And, there it is, my friends. Those are the five stones we have at our disposal. They are five stones made smooth by the baptismal waters of our faith. We have our own slings – the authority of our baptism in Christ Jesus – to take those stones into the Valley of Elah and take on the Giant Evil of Racism. 

We who call ourselves Christians, we who have built the story of our faith on the stories of Hebrew and Christian Scripture, can change the story of this country by the witness and actions of our own faith. As Brene Brown writes:
When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending. 

Until we find a way to own our collective stories around racism in this country, our history and the stories of pain will own us.

We will not get away from the violence and heartbreak. Fear and scarcity will continue to run roughshod over our country. Yes, the violence in Charleston is also about access to guns and, more than likely, mental illness. But it’s also about race.

Our collective stories of race in the US are not easy to own. They are stories of slavery, violence, and systemic dehumanization. We will have to choose courage over comfort. We will have to feel our way through the shame and sorrow. We will have to listen. We will have to challenge our resistance and our defensiveness.
I do believe that our Five Baptismal Promises will help us to do this. It won’t be easy. Our leaders will not be allowed to cry “Peace! Peace!” when there is no peace.  We will not be able to dress our wounds too lightly. We will have to call up prophets and listen to them speak.

I do believe, in the words of Bishop Dan Edwards, we will need to do 

a lot more justice in the distribution of resources and opportunities, a lot less racist blaming of minorities to distract poor whites from the real forces behind their growing numbers and declining quality of life, a lot more curiosity and imagining our way into each others situations, a lot less grudge clinging, a lot more hope for the common good, and a lot less scrambling to get our piece of the action.”

I do believe we can wake up, drop all of our protective emotional armor of self-deception, resistance and defensiveness and carry our five stones made smooth by the waters of our baptism into the Valley of Elah. 

I believe that together, we can bring this Evil Giant of Racism to its knees – with God’s help. I believe we caninfiltrate the gospel into the real life of the people and make the creation new right now”.  I believe Jesus will cry out “Peace, be still” and calm the waters of the storm.

And, I don’t know about you, but that belief, that hope, that vision, that shalom peace, that work of moving us through the storm and closer to the Realm of God is the reason I come to church.
To learn how to be more like David in the Valley of Elah.  

(Lectionary lessons)
Note: In place of the Nicene Creed, the congregation was asked to reaffirm their Baptismal Vows, which they did with great vigor and amidst tears.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sing to the Lord a New Song

“Sing to the Lord a New Song”
A Sermon preached for Integrity/Pride Eucharist
Christ Church Parish, Kent Island, MD
(the Rev’d Dr) Elizabeth Kaeton

I know it’s proper form for a visiting preacher to begin by saying how good it is to be here, but in my case, I’m not just being a polite Episcopalian. Mark Delcuse and I were in seminary together, back when dinosaurs roamed Cambridge, MA – is it really almost 30 years ago? Le sigh! – and  I’ve only been able to keep up with him on FaceBook (you know how that goes); so I am absolutely delighted to be able to spend some time here with Mark and his beloved Mimi.

The other reason I’m delighted to be here is that, for the first time since 1985, I will not be going to General Convention. I’m not as ambivalent about this as I was a few days ago. Every day, I feel that my decision was wise.

I’ve never been known to be a person in search of – or at a loss for – an opinion. Indeed, I don’t think I’ve ever known a time in my life when I haven’t had at least two opinions on any one given subject, both of which were held with equal passion and conviction. Mark, can I get an Amen?

As we move closer and closer to the church council gathering as the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City, Utah, I find my blood pressure rising in direct proportion to the opinions being expressed – on the Left, Right and so-called Middle – about all the hot topics of the day. These include but by no means are limited to:
the election of a new Presiding Bishop, 
the re-visioning and restructuring of the church, 
the proposed changes to Title IV canons regarding the disciplinary actions for clergy, 
the proposed canons regarding compensation for family leave for clergy, 
the Anglican Covenant (yes, it’s baaack) and, of course, 
the proposed changes to the canons and revision of the BCP with regards to marriage.  
Just to name a few. 

It’s okay. You can relax. I’m not going to give to give you my opinions on these things. This is a sermon, not a lecture. I’m here to preach the Gospel. But, if I were at General Convention, you can bet I’d be at the microphone every chance I got when I wasn’t having intense conversations with people in the corridors of convention hall and hotel lobbies and coffee shops. 

If you didn’t know, that’s where some of the real intense work of convention gets done.

What I’d like to do in the next few moments we’re together is to be a bit more like Barnabas, whom we remember this night, and explore whether his life might contain some lessons for us in how to be leaders who are LGBT and our straight allies (or, as I prefer to say, in shorthand “Queer people”) in the church, especially as we move towards a season in our church which is a time of transition and change, decision-making and, yes, history. 

We are always living history.

I’d like to echo the Prophet Isaiah and ask us “How do we sing a new song to the Lord”?

So, let’s look first at what we know about St. Barnabas. The first mention we have of him in Scripture is from Acts 4:36f : "Joseph, a Levite, born in Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (son of encouragement), sold a field he owned, brought the money, and turned it over to the apostles."

Barnabas. The Son of Encouragement. His new name fits what we know of his actions. 

When Saul (or Paul) came to Jerusalem after his conversion, most of the Christians there wanted nothing to do with him. They had known him as a persecutor and an enemy of the Church. 

But Barnabas was willing to give Paul a second chance. He looked him up, spoke with him, and brought him to see the other Christians, vouching for him. Later, Paul and Barnabas went on a missionary journey together, taking Mark with them. Part way, Mark turned back and went home. 

When Paul and Barnabas were about to set out on another such journey, Barnabas proposed to take Mark along, and Paul was against it, saying that Mark had shown himself undependable. Barnabas wanted to give Mark a second chance, and so he and Mark went off on one journey, while Paul took Silas and went on another. 

Apparently Mark responded well to the trust given him by the "son of encouragement," since we find that Paul later speaks of him as a valuable assistant (2 Tim 4:11; see also Col 4:10 and Phil 24). 

There’s a great deal in today’s world – in today’s church – that is very discouraging, isn’t there? Who knew that, after Brown v. the Board of Education in Topeka in 1954, the Civil Rights Act of 1984 and electing a Black Man to the White House in 2008, we would still need to take to the streets and protest, reminding everyone with signs that say: “Black Lives Matter”?

Who knew that, after Roe v. Wade in 1973 we’d be having conversations and debates, not only about abortion but about contraception? Would someone please tell me why, in the year 2015, we’re still debating the issue of contraception? (Are you kidding me?)

Who knew that, after Lawrence v. Texas in 1965 which struck down the sodomy laws and the election of Harvey Milk as the first openly gay politician in the state of California in 1977 and that, now that 37 of these 50 United States of America have Marriage Equality, the Supreme Court would still have to decide whether or not Queer people have the civil right of marriage? 

Interestingly enough, that Supreme Court decision has a good chance of being rendered during our time at General Convention – even as we are deliberating whether or not to change our canons to have our ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and provide ‘all the sacraments for all the baptized.’ 

It’s easy to get anxious. It’s easy to let our anxiety slip into fear. It’s even easier to allow our fear to paralyze us and keep us stuck in a place of self-fulfilling “oppression sickness” where we imagine only the worst and envision ourselves as perpetual and eternal second class citizens in the world and in the church. 

I want to stop here, at this moment, and have us consider again Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement. I’d like us to reflect on how it was that he got that name. It would appear that the disciples called him Son of Encouragement because he gave people a ‘second chance’. 

He had known Saul as a persecutor of Christians and enemy of the early Church. But, Barnabas was willing to give the old Saul/new Paul a second chance, even vouching for him with other Christians who wanted nothing to do with him. 

He also gave the young disciple Mark a second chance after he left Barnabas and Paul halfway through their first mission trip. Paul was much annoyed, but Barnabas gave him a second chance and Mark apparently turned out just fine, since even Paul later speaks highly of him in three of his Epistles. 

It has been my experience that people who give other people a second chance are confident, hopeful people. They are people who have hope because they have enough confidence in the lessons they have learned from their own failures that they are not afraid of the failures of others. 

People like Barnabas who are ‘encouragers’ are people who have learned how to take the bad that has happened as lessons to apply to the future.  

People who provide encouragement to others believe that failure is never the end. Indeed, failure is just an opportunity to learn something you could never have learned any other way. 

That new song that they sing to the Lord? It’s just a rearrangement of old notes and words. Like the words of repentance and forgiveness of Amazing Grace that are carried on a tune widely speculated as one that had been sung by the slaves on the ships that carried them to a tortured life of slavery. John Newton, who wrote the words to Amazing Grace had himself been a slave trader and had no doubt heard the slaves singing to give each other some comfort and encouragement.

How do we Queer people – and, I mean LGBT people and our straight allies – sing a new song unto the Lord? 

We who have been sent out, as Jesus is quoted as saying in Mark’s Gospel “like sheep in the midst of wolves,” how are we to proclaim the Good News” that the “Realm of Heaven has come near”?” 

How are we – having been baptized in the sacrament of new life in Christ and nourished by his Body and Blood in the sacrament of Eucharist, and having been denied full sacramental access to the all of the five sacramental rites – how are we to give the church a ‘second chance’ and encourage her to “love mercy, do justice and walk humbly with God”? 

I believe our sister Carter Heyward has one answer for us. Building on Mary Daly’s teaching that “God is a Verb,” Carter encourages us with these words:

For too long we Christians have imagined that we have very little sacred power, little divinity, little goodness, in and among our human selves. With devastating historical, social, and personal consequences, our patriarchal religious tradition has failed to convey to us the central and most important meaning on the JESUS story – God is with us, in the flesh, embodied among us, in the beginning and in the end.

Like JESUS, and in his Spirit, we are created to god.

This is what it means, to be fully human/creaturely – to god.

That is why we are here – to god.

Godding is loving – justice-loving.

To live fully in and with humanity is to make justice-love roll down like water!

To live fully in and with divinity is to share the earth and the resources vital to our survival and happiness as people and creatures.

To god is to embody the Spirit that creates and liberates the world, She who is incarnate among us here and now, literally calling us to life moment by moment.
So then, here’s the truth of it: We can only give someone else a second chance when we give ourselves a second chance. Like Jesus and in his Spirit, we are created to god. That is why we are here – to god. Godding is loving – justice loving. 

Contrary to what we’ve been told – by our culture and the church – we have all the sacred power we need, all the divinity and goodness we require, in and among our human selves. We are not helpless, orphaned, hopeless victims. 

God is with us, in the flesh, embodied among us, in the beginning and in the end. 

"Godding" – to embody the Spirit that creates and liberates the world – is that new song. As more and more of us have come out and lived our lives with integrity and authenticity, we have been harder and harder to ignore and dismiss. 

Our whole lives matter. Our song of redemption and freedom and salvation can be found in the lives we live and it cannot – will not – be silenced. 

I know. I know. I’ve heard you. I’ve heard your weariness. I confess that I share it, sometimes. 

What if, you ask, your knuckles white in a grip of anxiety, what if the Supreme Court doesn’t give us our civil rights? 

What if The Episcopal Church does what it often does and kicks the marriage equality can down the road for another three years? 

What if the voices that cry out “we haven’t done the theology” and “we don’t have a robust theology” and “we should wait until the rest of the church catches up with us,” and “this will kick us out of the Anglican communion” – what if they drown out the new song we are singing to the Lord? 

Well, I don’t deny the possibility. But probability? I am choosing to believe that while it’s probable that we’ll leave Salt Lake City with at least an authorized rite of blessing, it is possible that we won’t get the canonical change we seek. It’s also possible that we will. 

Let me tell you something about St. Harvey Milk, who must have taken lessons from Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement. 

Anne Kronenberg, his final campaign manager, wrote of him: "What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us."

I think Harvey Milk was “godding”.  We can’t be Havey Milk, but we can “god”. We may not be able to be a visionary but we can fire our imagination and create a church which offers all the sacraments to all the baptized. We can’t be Barnabas but we can encourage each other and give each other – and the church – a second chance. 

And, if in the off chance – the improbability – that we leave SLCU without a change in the marriage canons? We go back again to the next 79th General Convention, wherever it may be held, and we try again.  Another chance for ourselves and for the church. 

Here’s the thing: We are not going away. We are not leaving the church – much as some would like and expect us to do. We are not leaving the Anglican Communion. We are singing a new song to the Lord and that song will not be silenced. 

As Pauli Murray – the first African American woman to be ordained in The Episcopal Church – once wrote: “Hope is a song in a weary throat.”  

I am here to boldly proclaim that Queer people – and I mean LGBT people and our straight allies – are that new song unto the Lord. 

We are singing for our lives. Of our lives.

Our throats may be weary, but we will not be silenced. We know  - we have learned the painful truth – that Silence, does in fact, equal Death.

We will give ourselves and each other and the church a second chance to make it right – until we get it right.   

We will continue to encourage each other in faith and hope. 

We will participate in the holy enterprise of “godding” – engaging our imaginations to be the change we seek, to be the justice we work for, to be the incarnate love that God has created us to be. 

In the words of ancient scripture, we are “blessed to be a blessing”.   

God is with us, in the flesh, embodied among us, in the beginning and in the end.  

So, go. 

“God”.  (God is a verb)

And, as you are “godding”, be yourselves - in your very own bodies - that new song to the Lord, proclaiming – so that all who meet you will know incarnate love and hope – that the Realm of God has come near. 

Can I get an 'Amen'?