Greg and I enjoyed a week of continuing education as we learned watercolor painting. We are far from accomplished in the arts – the Impressionists are safe! And we had a really fine experience. We skipped the art show on Friday to return home, so I could join our table the Pride Festival in Harrisburg.
I do not remember exactly when I chose to become an ally/advocate for the LGBTQ community. I do know that this community has impacted my life in a positive way. It is a little surprising, as I grew up in an entirely homophobic household. My Uncle Frank – mom’s brother and my godfather – was unwelcome because he was out and partnered long before Stonewall. I was forbidden to see a friend because she was too, um, “bossy.”
In 1970 I came home from school to find my mother sobbing on the coach. She had received a packet of photographs in the mail. My father had been outed as a closeted gay man, in a particularly cruel way. Our life changed immediately.
In retrospect, my father’s closeted life explains many things: his animosity toward his brother-in-law, his work that involved travel, his deep intractable depression and heavy drinking, my high school friendships with young gay men.
What continues to mystify me is the tenacious power of antiquated myths that dehumanize and marginalize decent people because of who they are and whom they love. This mythology about what is normative is poisonous and destructive. It leads to broken relationships, broken hearts, ruined lives, death. This must stop.
While today’s gospel lesson sounds harsh, the truth it reveals is enduring. We must treat our selves (our whole selves) and our bodies (not just the parts that see sunshine) and our neighbors (all of them, not just the ones who are like us) with love and respect. Remember what is most important in God’s eyes. Nothing – neither our stored up neuroses nor our possessions – will insulate us from our mortal accountability. Nothing.
We already know that, don’t we? On a global level, we have endured a pandemic, violence, and war. On a personal level, sometimes it feels as if we are just this close to losing all that we have. Our national political dynamic is discouraging. It can be frightening to watch the news. The Lambeth Conference has been marred by renewed controversy over personal identity. We are not in a good place. Brené Brown would tell us to embrace the suck to transform it.
When Jesus tells today’s gospel parable about the successful man he calls a fool, and when he admonishes his followers to beware of greed, he is not just criticizing the wealthy or the successful. He is not saying we should quit preparing for the future. He is telling us to attend to good relationships now. He is reminding us that all the things we use to try to insulate ourselves from the complications of human life are useless in the end. All the things we cling to – including our prejudices – will not save us. Only God saves – and this is within an earthly context, because the reign of God has begun on earth.
Just like every other sin, our anxiety about other people is often rooted in fear. Fear of the judgment of others. Fear of difference and uncertainty. We try to insulate ourselves from our fear by accumulating stuff. We want to insulate ourselves by sticking to the sociological straight cis-gender script, which may work, until it doesn’t.
And then someone’s kid comes out as trans. Or your dad is gay. And it messes everything up. Or does it? Maybe sexual identity is one blessing among many, an invitation to love someone as they actually are.
Jesus challenges us to consider: who and what are really precious. Are we expanding our hearts in the same way we want to expand our closets and storage spaces? Because it is through genuine love and generosity that we find security. The foolishness is rooted in a denial of the importance of human relationship, across a diversity created by God.
When our Lord invites us to love one another, he does not seem to be concerned whether we “like” one another or “understand” people who are very different from us. This love one another is a dominical command, an instruction from the lips of the Son of God. We will not get a do-over. We need to love and live as if we mean it – the first time.
There is nothing that could make any of us more precious in the eyes of God. God looks at our soul and sees the Beloved. God loves each of us, as we are. We are all absolutely cherished by the God who made us. Through Jesus, God has initiated the most important relationship ever. Jesus is saying My sister, my brother, my dearest child, I am willing to stand right here with you in the middle of all this mess and promise you I will even die for you, so you shall live with God forever. There is nothing that will come between us. And then Jesus actually has the temerity to tell his followers – including us – to act in that way toward each other, because love is what changes the algorithm of the world.
The good news is: God is and always will be. God has come among us. People matter and always will. We can let go of all the old presuppositions and all the stuff we cram into our psychic barns. Stuff will not take away what frightens us the most. It will not transform our lives. Go forth and cling to love. Cling to real love. Embrace someone different. Welcome the stranger. Safeguard what is most precious. Love. It is the only thing.