Pride Sermon

by John Brett

Grace and peace to you good people of St John the Evangelist Episcopal Church and welcome to all visitors present, whether in the courtyard with us today or beyond in the wide world of Zoom. As we gather close today in community, may each of us find here a hem of Jesus’s garment to touch, to heal us in whatever way we may yet bleed.

Our gospel today tells of a girl whose healing was interrupted and of a woman who had the cover of a crowd to enable her approach to Jesus, both stories demonstrate the centrality of body, of incarnation, in Jesus’s Ministry, both stories tell of faith, of healing , of healing first derived from a faith internal that did not receive timely external validation.

The hemorrhaging woman who approached Jesus required the anonymity of the crowd, she who lived rejected in her suffering, rejected  in her status a woman and, as one who continually bled, rejected as ritually unclean. Jesus restores her, not only to physical health,  but to community. When I hear Jesus tell the woman that her own faith made her well, I hear affirmation of the faith she was required to hold, to nurture, despite & not because of the community that surrounded her, perhaps like poet Lucille Clifton writes, the woman might speak:

come celebrate

with me that everyday

something has tried to kill me

& has failed. –Lucille Clifton

Until her healing, the community likely would not have responded to such an invitation to celebrate with the woman… Whatever the case, the internal faith, perhaps the source of her courage, Jesus affirms. In that affirmation lies deep celebration. She who was willing to act on her faith, even in the face of potential continued disappointment and rejection, she was made well. Some of us must wrestle angels for our blessings.

The woman who once hemorrhaged stepped forward when Jesus called her,  in fear and in trembling, she told her whole truth. Her example underscores that we are blessed in our wholeness, that we need not set aside any part of ourselves for God’s welcome. Last Sunday evening’s drag Eucharist was such a time for me: a celebration of faith,  a celebration of healing,  restoration to community,  despite & even in the face of continuing rejections. We  who dared that night manifested a new creation, Beloved Community, collectively borrowed in that moment the authority of the future reign of God. It was extraordinary;  we not only touched Jesus’s cloak, we threw it on top of us and danced in its splendor. We may have left Jesus naked, having taken that cloak & all, but I prefer to imagine that Jesus danced anyway. This act of creative resistance proclaimed that all that has tried to kill us psychologically, spiritually, physically, has failed. Jesus reigns. Jesus blesses. We Are Loved.

A number of you read this week in our bulletin an invitation from me to mount insurrections of affection, whether individually or  jointly endeavored, insurrections we might also name insurrections of community affirmation,  insurrections of joy–often a queer strategy,  a resistance of  the heart against business as usual. I thought I would share as a further example, in case the pink-bearded picture of me in genderqueer punk drag was not enough, a further report of an insurrection of affection that affirms the body, in it’s heart a desire to raise the dead of spirit, remind that life calls the living:  

A few years back, after singing in a Christmas Eve jazz service over in Oakland, I hopped on BART and I transited to the midnight mass at the Grace Cathedral. On that trip I brought with me a hula hoop first on BART, through San Francisco streets walking,  and then into the cathedral. This hula hoop I named the hula hoop of the Incarnation. So, named, of course, because if the Incarnation is real, the Incarnation has hips. The Incarnation has hips to hula hoop! On BART, as I walked, I would invite people: “Hey, it’s Christmas Eve. Do you want a hula hoop?”  & they would look at me like I’m crazy, well, because I am a little bit crazy,  and then many of them would hula hoop. & not all were into the hips just yet, some would hula hoop with their arms, or even their neck, which I found quite daring on BART, it can take awhile before we accept the hips of our incarnation sometimes, you’ve got to experiment, feel your way there first with the whole of the body. After they participated, after they hooped, I’d whoop for them, & give them the Christmas Eve gift, a little stocking or some candy, a blessing. Perhaps their faith, their courage had made them well. Then I brought the hoop into the cathedral. From what I recall, no hooping happened inside, I respected the Episcopal liturgical decorum, that night, though as I was leaving the cathedral, at the door, Bishop Marc Andrus, blessed the hula hoop as the Hula Hoop of the Incarnation–now a little 10 year old neighbor girl of mine has the hula hoop, blessed by the bishop. Maybe she’s out playing with it in the streets as we worship here. 

Once blessed, Jesus tells the woman to go forth in peace, after the girl is healed, Jesus asks that she’s given food… how will we go forth in faith this pride Sunday, live in forgiveness, claim our wholeness, feed our faith? How will we commit insurrections, how will  we share this joy with the world, with Pride? We proclaim, what has tried to kill us has failed. Thank you, Jesus.

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