Pentecost 5, Year C, June 19, 2016
The Rev. Greg Foraker
One week ago today, we witnessed a horrific tragedy in Orlando. As morning light came last Sunday, we learned that 49 people had been killed and an additional 53 had been injured in the massacre at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando. Soon it was clear that this tragedy was a perfect storm of many hot-button issues we struggle to face: a hate crime, terrorism, racism, gun violence and homophobia. The fact that the target of this attack was a gay club and the gay community has affected the LGBTQI community in profound ways.
The day after the rampage a clergy friend and colleague living near Palo Alto, CA, wrote a reflection on how this tragedy was impacting his life as a gay man of faith. Meeting with our Rector and Wardens earlier this week, I shared Griffey’s reflection with them as we reflected on the Orlando tragedy and they all asked that I share his reflections with you today:
“The day before the killings at a gay club in Orlando, my husband and I were walking around, holding hands, at Point Reyes National Seashore on the coast of northern California. Though many straight couples were holding hands too, I felt that familiar fear that revisits me when we are together in public places. I wondered who might be watching us, pulling out a knife or gun, or following us home.
As we walked past families with children, I prepared myself, expecting a protective father or mother to walk over to us and shame us for exposing their pure and innocent child to our disgusting relationship. It wouldn't be the first time. Allegedly accepting members of our own families have asked us to refer to each other as "friends" in front of the children. "It's just that the kids are too young," they say. "They won't understand." I image the thought of their child being gay is simply terrifying to them.
As usual, a bit of self-talk helped quell my fear while walking around at Point Reyes, though no amount of self-talk, or anything else, could take away the fear completely. Over the years, I've learned to live with it. Scanning our surroundings with hyper-awareness of other people's reactions to us is as normal for me as breathing.
My biggest regret today is that I have rejected my husband's attempts to take my hand in public so many times that I cannot count them. Every time I do that, I feel like I'm rejecting him. Those who hate us, fear us, or think we are disgusting have made their way into our relationship. They are with us all the time because I let them come in, internalizing their fear, hatred, and disgust. I have accepted their shaming and their shame. At times I have even worried about protecting their children from what we represent.
I'm tired. I'm tired of living in fear. I'm tired of pretending. I'm tired of wondering how safe it is to talk about my husband at work when my coworkers talk about their spouses and families. I'm tired of people asking about my "wife" when they see my wedding band. I'm tired of using children as a shield to protect myself from my own shame and parents from their own fear.
In two weeks, we will be at San Francisco Pride, bringing with us more trepidation and fear than usual. But we will be there because I'm tired of letting fear, shame, and disgust define my life. We will be there holding hands, and we will be proud.” - Chaplain Greg Griffey, Sunnyvale, CA.
Many LGBTQI people have lived lives dominated by fear. We have often faced the painful reality that family, friends, the wider community and especially their Church have often judged and even demonized even as we struggled to find acceptance and hope in our lives.
Gay people, like all people, are on a life long journey to remember that they are lovable, created in the image and likeness of God, and that they are loved by a God who created them in a wondrous and beautiful way. They are striving to know that they, too, are children of God.
We are all children of God. That is the message at the heart of our reading from the Letter to the Galatians today. Paul writes to a community coming together in the face of diverse experiences, backgrounds, cultures and even religions, “There is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave or nor free, male or female”… and I might add: gay or straight… “for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
Our differences makes us who we are, beautiful and holy reflections of God’s image. We are all heirs to God’s promise of hope. We have a profound opportunity to share this truth with everyone around us.
In the Pulse massacre, we lost 49 beautiful beings whose loved ones held dear. Our LGBTQI sisters and brothers lost a sacred sanctuary, a last place where they could be together and celebrate the beautiful people God created in them.
Now is the time for each of us to grieve those who died, to prayer for those in need of healing and to listen to our LGBTQI sisters and brothers, to hear their stories, and to celebrate their lives in our families, in our community and especially here at St. Luke’s. We pray for the repose of the souls of those who have died. We pray for healing and peace for those injured and we pray for openness, courage and renewed hope for the LGBTQI community, for we are all children of God. Amen.