In the second chapter of the Gospel of John verse 13, we find Jesus confronting a grave injustice. The money changers and sellers of sacrifices were cheating the people out of their money. Jesus responded by making a whip of chords, meaning Jesus had a little while to think about what happened next. In a rage, Jesus overturned tables and kicked all of the proprietors of injustice out of the temple.
The religious folk responded by asking Jesus, “What sign can you give us for doing this?” Jesus said, “If you destroy this temple, I’ll raise it back up in three days.” “How? It took 46 years to build the temple,” they demanded. Jesus was talking about Jesus’ body.
The religious folk wanted Jesus, but Jesus did not trust the people enough to give over the body.
In the second chapter of the Queer, we find the Queer in similar circumstances. The Queer went up to the Church of the Bible for a religious festival. Folks were everywhere trying to scare the shit out of people in order to get them saved, whatever that means. Hell and damnation were the chief tools of oppression. For the Church of the Bible, God was an often-sexist burly bloodthirsty homophobic American Christian man with a large penis. They persecuted everyone who did not subscribe to all the elements of this narrow doctrine.
Red with fury, the Queer slowly and methodically made a whip of electronic chords and went to work. In a righteous anger, the Queer overturned the sound system, ripped down the projector, tore down the American flag, and screamed of a God that loves all people. “Get this hate and injustice out of here NOW!”
The Queer declared, “This is my sign, destroy this church and I will raise it up.”
Many started to believe. The Queer, however, did not trust them with the body of the Queer, because the Queer knew the destruction that people often inflict on the body.
These passages call out to us this morning. The words beckon us, “Who are you going to be in the face of oppression and marginalization? Who are we going to be as a church in the face of oppression and marginalization?”
We find Jesus confronting deep injustice. The money changers and sellers of sacrifices were taking advantage of some of the poorest people in the society. The poor people had to change their money and buy sacrifices at the door while the rich folk could simply bring their own. At the door of the temple was a line of class…those who had to use the money changers and sacrifice sellers and those who didn’t. All of this was being done with the backing of the government. Jesus had a choice to make.
In the face of oppression, Jesus had to ponder, “Am I going to tell the truth?” We live in a world of grave injustice and we have to ponder, “Are we going to tell the truth?”
Are we going to tell the truth when people treat queer folk like shit?
Or are we going to care about our own wellbeing and comfort to the detriment of everyone else?
Are we going to tell the truth when factories with close ties to American retail stores burn down in Bangladesh and kill hundreds and hundreds of people?
Or are we going to keep wearing the clothes?
Are we going to tell the truth when Texas prepares to carry out its 500th execution of the modern age?
Or are we going to turn our heads?
Are we going to tell the truth when women are treated like shit all over the world?
Or are we going to remain silent?
When war breaks out all over the world are we going to tell the truth that the root of war is fear and insecurity?
Or are we going to fool ourselves into thinking that violence can accomplish peace?
The questions of truth begin to get closer to home…
Are we going to tell the truth when folks inquire about whom we love or are attracted to?
Are we going to tell the truth when our job begins to be endangered?
What about when we are told to stop our activism or lose our job?
I made that choice many months ago and lost my job.
Many of you think that that you can lie about yourself and that your deceptions won’t hurt anyone.
I have brought our dear brother and noted mystic of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Howard Thurman, by way of an anthology of his writing (Strange Freedom, 148), to respond to such thinking:
“Deception has its genesis in fear wrought by precipitous and systematic violence…Deception practiced over time however becomes self-defeating and destructive to others…Deception and lying are never viable moral alternatives because they destroy the value structure of the one who deceives and lies. ‘The penalty of deception is to become a deception’…Truth-telling underscores the fundamental dignity of human persons and highlights the equality of all people…For Thurman the option to tell the truth is the essence of individual freedom and each human being’s birthright as a child of God.”
The truth is what sets us free. The truth is what makes us whole. The truth is what draws us closer to God.
When we find injustice how are we going to react?
Jesus committed an act of civil disobedience. Jesus did not hurt anyone…but there is no question that Jesus did break the law to stop the oppression in the temple.
How far are we willing to go?
We all desire marriage equality…but the question ultimately becomes how far are we willing to go to make it happen? Are we prepared to spend a few nights in jail to protect and fight for the rights of all in our community?
What are the tables that we need to overturn? Instead of sitting quietly this morning, do we need to be working on a whip? Who do we need to be?
I pray that we will be a people who never stop asking these questions.
Jesus saw the injustice and heard the muffled cries of the oppressed.
I pray that we will be a people who never stop listening to the demands of the people.
Oscar Romero, in his 16th of July 1978 homily, said,
“The people of God, illuminated by their faith, look at their own aspirations, demands, and ideals. And with this faith they know how to discern what God wants according to the signs of the times. Clearly not everything that people demand is the word of God, but in the heart of the demands of our moments, there is much of God to be found…”
We find God in the signs of the times and the demands of the people. In the midst of such signs and demands, who are we to be? The people need truth and reaction to injustice. Are we willing to make the sacrifices it takes to be such things?
“Destroy this temple and I will raise it up!!!”
Jesus was talking about the body of Jesus. In this piece of the scripture, we find a deeper truth.
Jesus basically said, “You can’t touch this temple.” This unquestionably translates into our present age. Everyone wants to touch your temple. They want to change who or what you are. They want to destroy your temple.
You are all children of God made in God’s image. The God that is queer beyond normalization. The image within you is uniquely queer. There is no one that can do anything to your queer image of God. No one can destroy it. If they try to destroy who you are, God will raise you up.
We are a people who do not believe in death without resurrection. So when you feel drug down and hurt by the pressures of society or you feel that death is near, know that you will soon be resurrected into a higher state of queerness and love.
Jesus did not trust the people with the body of Jesus.
Jesus knew what happens when you trust others with your body. They often name your body and call you what they want to. Don’t trust anyone with your body. You are a queer child of God unlike anyone else…rest securely in that knowledge.
I am so tired of the attempts to create boundaries of identity and orientation that people are forced to exist within. I am exhausted by the attempts to name the body. We use the word queer because we are interested in queering such boundaries with the reality of the unique queerness of every individual.
Tell the truth! We are all queer.
Be who you are…that is where God is.
In conclusion, we tell the truth, we refuse to not react in the face of injustice, we trust in the continual resurrection and rejuvenation of our persons, and ultimately protect our bodies so that we might be the queer that God has called all of us to be.
Perhaps it is the truth that will ultimately move us to one.
God is with us.
-Fluker, Walter and Tumber, Catherine. A Strange Freedom: The Best of Howard Thurman on Religious Experience and Public Life. Boston: Beacon Press, 1998. Pp. 148.
-Wright, Scott. Oscar Romero and the Communion of the Saints. Marknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2009. Pp. 121.