full video at https://www2.cathedralofhope.com/worship/2014-worship/123-2014-june/2720-june-04-sermon
What a powerful thing to be standing before you tonight. My story is convoluted and strange. The first time I took communion from someone I knew was openly gay…was from Rev. Mike Piazza when he visited Emory University and I was a student there. That was a real special moment for me…a moment of real transformation. I know y’all are pretty used to it here at the Cathedral…but for me it was a real moment of transformation. I remember hearing about the Cathedral of Hope then and wondering what in the world is going on out there in Dallas, Texas. I had never been to Dallas, Texas…but as soon as my wife and I moved over here…we came to check it out. So again…it is a tremendous honor to be standing before you and be standing with you tonight.
I have entitled this message, “Embracing the Power of the Queer.” I am warning you that I am a queer theologian and talk about the Gospel in a queer way…so we will be talking about queer things throughout our time together tonight. I have chosen to remain at the beginning of scripture. We talk about origins a lot and origins are important. So often we transition in life and we make choices that take us to different spaces and seek to be different things and sometimes we forget where we come from…but origins are important.
Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning…” This passage has been battled about here in Texas a lot. What are we going to talk about when we talk about “In the beginning…”? You know what I think is most important to talk about is that fact that there was a point in time where there was nothing and now there is something. In that point in time when there was nothing…this being…I don’t think we can call it a being…I don’t know what we call it. Perhaps if we call it anything then we are wrong. We are talking about the God that is beyond God. This God that is beyond what we can conceive of. Being there in the beginning. I like to talk about beginnings. There are a lot of my Southern Baptist folks that would call me a hedonist…I actually think of myself as more of an Edenist.
I think there are many folks who want to ask the question, “Were Adam and Eve real people? Is this a real story about creation?” To most of those people I say, “Who gives a shit?” Because I think the power of this story is not to be found in whether this is a scientific story or whether we can figure everything out…the magic is to be found in this moment where there was nothing and then there was something. It is to be found in this point where God is there and then all of a sudden God creates something.
You know when you think about God…when we try to describe God…when we try to anthropomorphize God…when we create God in a human likeness to be a being…so often we fail to describe what God truly is. I think it is safe to say that God is the queerest construct to ever be imagined. God is the queerest entity to ever exist and that is because all of our normativities…all of our ways of description pale and fail in comparison to what God is.
We venture down to Genesis 1:26, God says that God created us in God’s image. The Imago Dei…in God’s image…I think this is the most important part of our faith. The most important part of our faith is to believe we are made in the image of God. To believe that somehow God has created all of these beings and individuals…all people to be unique non-normative…no duplicates…perfect human beings. You see I think if we allow our imagination to open up…if we allow ourselves to move past the borders, boundaries, dichotomies and dualisms that we create then I think we will arrive at a place where we can realize that God is queer and so are all of we…so are all of us. Queer individuals made in the image of God…made in the image of a God that is totally non-normative. We are individuals made totally non-normative…totally made to not be like anybody else…and yet we spend so much time trying to fit into other people’s expectations…and yet we spend so much time trying to define ourselves. I can tell you that I have been asked on so many occasions…”How do I identify?” Folks are not ready when I respond, “Queer.” They are simply not ready for that. But I want to push and challenge a little bit there. So often we will attach ourselves to definitions in order to give ourselves value…in order to give our self worth…in our to try to find a safe space. But I want you to know something…the safest place for you to be is in the arms of a loving God…who created you to be just as queer as God is…who created you to not be like anybody else and there is nothing wrong with that.
I entitled my sermon, “Embracing the power of the Queer”…and the power of the Queer and the power of the Queer is to be found deep within. You see if we are made in the image of God and there is that stamp of God deep within us. If we are made in the image of God and there is that stamp of God deep within us…then what quarter do we have with anything else. Where are the answers going to be found except in God and if God is in you…then perhaps the answers are to be found in loving your self. Everybody wants to talk about reading your Bibles…sometimes you might want to tell them, “read your self.” You were created in the image of God…you are a walking testament to the beauty and power of our creator.
Now you know we have got to talk about sin. I am a Southern Baptist minister and I bet you all knew that we are going to get to that…but first before I run over to the fall and get to sin…I don’t want to skip over an important part of the Eden conversation. In Genesis 1:27, God says that God created human beings to be male and female. You know Southern Baptists and the rest of the church have tended to jump right over that and assume that there was both a male and a female…that is not what it says. The scripture says God created them “male and female.” We have grown so accustomed to the names Adam and Eve…maybe it might be more appropriate to give them names that are more gender neutral and more representative of who they truly were and what the scripture seem to say…and you know Southern Baptists love scripture…but what the scriptures seem to say is that both genders…and all genders for that matter…existed in each person. In the beginning. I told y’all…I am an Edenist. So when we begin to push against this dichotomy of gender…and people begin to say, “Look to scripture!” Just take them to the beginning and show them how God created the first persons to be both male and female. We have to begin thinking and living past the dualisms and the dichotomies. If we are going to take our faith into the future…if we are going to reach new generations with the Gospel of Jesus…then the Gospel of Jesus has to be bigger than these dichotomies and dualisms we have always upheld.
You know there is that old temptation that comes in Genesis chapter 3. The temptation is what? Everyone wants to talk about the apple or whatever it is and Satan slithering around. We are always taught that the first sin is what? Disobedience. We are taught that from the youngest of ages if you grow up in the church…and when you first get here that is one of the first things you are taught…because they want you to be obedient I guess. I have something else to tell you. The scripture says that the temptation of Eve from the serpent centered on one phrase, “you will be made like God.” Eve takes the bait and there in that moment the fall happens…the moment when she wants to be made like God. Perhaps the first sin is not one of disobedience…but daring to be something or someone other than what God has created you to be. Maybe the first sin…that first moment of falleness…is that sin of looking somewhere else for God. Trying to define your self by something else and not accepting who God has created you to be…made in the very image of God…to be beautifully and wonderfully non-normative…beautifully and wonderfully undefinably…queer.
Well…when we start talking about Adam and Eve…it is hard for us to not think about these pieces that we are given at such early ages about that story…but I want to tell you something…when humanity left the garden…whether it is metaphorical or whether it really happened is another conversation…but when humanity first started to sin…that sin came from desiring to be something other than what God intended for each of us to uniquely be. Friends you are perfect…perfect. I have listened to a man speak on numerous occasions…who has cerebral palsy and challenges me every time I listen to him. He preaches to my spirit with more power than most preachers I have ever heard. I have asked him, “How do you envision God? How do you think about God? Do you feel like God has done this to you?” Every time…my friend challenges me with something like, “I don’t know what kind of God you are working with…but I am made in the image of God and my God is in a wheelchair.” I think that is quite beautiful.
When God drives Adam and Eve out of the Garden, we have to think about the result…the result is that constant struggle to define the self…that constant struggle to be something…to figure out who you are. Friends, the heart will be restless…the mind will be restless…until they rest in God. The mind and heart will be restless until you allow you allow your self to believe that God put you together and that was a miracle…God put you together and that was beautiful…God put you together and put you together in such a way that you are God’s rescue mission. If we want to talk about getting back to Eden…you are the rescue mission…each one of you.
I believe that the Cathedral of Hope…this beautiful body of people…will be hope…will truly be a Cathedral of Hope…when it speaks to the entire region…and for that matter the nation…and for that matter the world…and tells them it is ok to be queer…no matter what that means for you…and we are going to welcome you…we are going to welcome your queerness…no matter what that means for you. Why? Because God made all of us queer too.
I am going to invite you tonight in this moment before I sit down…I invite you to embrace the power of the Queer. I invite you to embrace the power of God that is within you. I invite you to embrace the power of the Queer to transform this church…to transform you. But I must give you a warning…the queerest individual to ever walk the planet…Jesus the Christ…ended up on a cross. If we allow ourselves to move in a queer direction…there will be persecution…but there is no safer place than in the arms of God. Our savior crossed borders and boundaries. Spoke to people. Empowered people. That nobody else would talk to. Died for people that most people could not imagine living for much less dying for. So let us follow the message of Jesus. Let the queer revolution begin and let it begin with us tonight and carry us to a future where all of you and all of creation will be exactly what God created us to be…queer.