Matthew 10:39 and Excerpts from The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
June 25th, 2023
Rev. Nicole M. Lamarche
Welcome again and thank you for being here on this special open and affirming Sunday celebration. And as we come to this part of our gathering, I invite you, as you are moved, to take some deeper breaths, to tune into your heartbeat and as we each let ourselves arrive a bit more fully, may we each be able to hear whatever word God/Spirit/Love has for us today…
And I offer this preacher’s prayer from Psalm 19.
God may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
A few months ago, after our family had settled into our evening routine at the dinner table (one of our few screen free zones BTW so I cherish it) and just as we were into our first few bites, my husband announced that he had determined he was gender queer.
Now my husband and I have been together for more than 20 years and this summer married for 15 and we have shared honestly about our needs and our hopes, our evolutions. After I chewed enough to not choke, I responded with something like, “What in the world are you talking about baby?” “Is there something you want to tell me?” He went on with clarification of terms and more descriptions, “Genderqueer means someone who does not follow binary gender norms. I don’t follow all binary gender norms.” He said. “And we just didn’t have a way to talk about that when I was coming of age.”
And on our conversation went around the dinner table.
I asked permission from my daughter to share that about a year ago she asked us to call her Peaches. Instead of her given name of Eliza. That was very challenging for me. My first response was, “That’s a soft fruit. Why would you want to be called a peach?” But the conversation around the dinner table was about how the people in her life would respond to that request as much as the request itself.
At the beginning of the 1990’s, the philosopher and gender scientist Judith Butler described in the publication ‘’Gender Trouble’’, that the category of sex is constructed. For Butler this meant that the categorizations of bodies in male and female are assignments without natural legitimacy and she wrote of the construct of heteronormativity. She challenged the idea that biology is equal to the assignment of physical characteristics.
And in 1995, the term genderqueer first appeared in print and was used in mostly activist and academic circles.
Sex refers to your biological characteristics, gender is something else.
And I am realizing that seeing gender as a construction is new to some and therefore challenging to some of our pre-existing mental maps.
And maybe like other parts of human life right now, we are living where a lot is in flux, new understanding, new insights, new ways of seeing what is fixed and what isn’t and for some of us that is challenging and new and for others of us it is liberating and life-saving.
But what if it is gender as a construct that has held us back?
And what if manhood and womanhood and even our understanding of what it means to be a human right now are all really under construction?
Under review and what if this is a blessing, what if this is a good thing?
James Baldwin wrote that “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”
What if what is happening is that our Greater Love is inviting us to take off our masks?
Because really what my husband was saying is that he is ready to take off the masks, to come out of the boxes that have bound him and others for so long.
Really what he was pointing to is the suffering that comes when those who don’t fit, don’t have ways to talk about it or places to belong.
Norms that others have put on us, that the world told us we had to wear can feel like masks that we are forced to cover up to get by, these masks can be suffocating physically and spiritually.
What are the gender norms that were put upon you?
Boys and men can’t be emotional or cry
Girls and women can’t be angry or loud
What are some that you would like to name and maybe take off today?
As Pete and I shared last week, one of our colleagues in the Rocky Mountain Conference, Reverend Mallory Everhart, says she is open about calling her church Queer, not just her, as a bisexual person, or her people, but her church.
She says that the label of queer lets the world know that they are a place of welcome, a safe space for all. She says that she leads a “refugee church,” and she says, “We take really seriously that Jesus is on the side of the most marginalized.”
And so it’s clear to me and I will say it out loud and proud today and that it’s a gift- we are queering the church! We are flinging wide the doors and making room at the table, we are moving over and taking off our masks and coming out of our boxes. What a gift to be alive for a time like this! I really do think that!
What a privilege to be alive on planet earth right here and right now, where each and every one of us can be free.
To be a woman doesn’t have to be reduced to being accommodating, and nurturing.
To be a man doesn’t have to be reduced to being strong and bold.
To be someone who doesn’t conform to any of this doesn’t have to be wrong or weird.
And it doesn’t have to be seen as bad.
We are saying it out loud and proud today!
One of Jesus’ most complicated and valuable teachings is found in this one line- that often we must lose to find, to surrender to gain, to lose part of ourselves and our way of thinking to find and embrace our Higher Love.
The questions before us today: are we willing to trust the unfolding? To follow the spectrum where our Higher Love pulls? Are we willing to fully become the refuge for all of us and each of us that the world calls strange? Are we willing to lose to find, for the sake of our Greater Love?
Gwen reads the Open and Affirming Statement
What a gift that we have a place and a people where we can take off our masks? Where we can uncover and see all of our colors? What beauty has been hidden? What talent has been covered? What love has been boxed up? What if the Universe is summoning each of us and all of us to come out, as our full selves? Whatever that means! We are ready to take off the masks, to come out of the boxes that have bound us for so long. What a gift! If you are a little queer or super queer or a little in between, you are welcome here! May it be so. Amen.