Scripture: Micah 6:6-8 & Amos 5 (excerpts)
The prophets are people and books in what we call the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible. Major prophets, because of their length, are books like Isaiah and Jeremiah, and Minor Prophets, 12 books that include both Amos and Micah, where our scripture for today comes. Prophets and the prophetic books are not future tellers, they are not magic eight balls, or predictors of the future. On behalf of God, with the voice of God, they speak truth to power. They hold people and powers accountable. Prophets call the people back to ways of justice, love, righteousness and away from selfishness, greed, idolatry, and oppression. Do prophets talk about the future? Yes, but it is usually in the context of, y’all have gone astray, come back to what y’all know is good, and if you don’t there will be natural consequences and things that will probably happen in the future because of these actions and toxic patterns. Most often, the prophets hold people and communities accountable for how they treat one another, how they treat the most vulnerable and least powerful among them. With God’s voice, they hold people accountable for loving their neighbor. And Amos, if you read the whole book, pulls no punches. He names specific practices going on, excessive taxation on the poor, taking bribes, oppressing the poor, and goes so far as to tell the people, because of how you treat folks outside of worship, what you do in worship is meaningless to God. That when you do not fully love your neighbor, your worship songs and offerings are hollow, just noise. Instead, let justice roll on like a river and righteousness like an ever flowing stream. Micah has a similar message. Our passage starts out with the questions, what do you need from me God? What do you want? Do you want everything I have, even my own children? No, all God wants is for us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. The prophets call people of faith back to back to the fundamentals God’s love for us and our responsibility to love our neighbor. Pride is a beautiful prophetic time, that names, claims, and reminds people that queer, gay, trans, non-binary folks are of sacred worth and made in God’s image. And we need pride, we need that prophetic reminder, because the world and the church can go so far astray from that understanding.
I listen to a podcast worship service from a synagogue in New York and one Friday, one shabbat or sabbath service, the rabbi was talking about humility. Humility in the Hebrew sense of the word, she said, is about people taking up the right amount of space. It is about not thinking too lowly of ourselves or too highly of ourselves but knowing our value and knowing our worth and taking up the right amount of space in the world. And when I think about that definition, I think of lgbtq+ pride. The “pride” of pride month isn’t the, pride goeth before the fall or pride as the root of all sin, kind of pride. I think we can all agree that egotistically and arrogantly thinking about yourself to the detriment and oppression of others, not good. But that understanding is not what LGBTQ+ pride month is about. Pride month simply says, we are here, we are created by God, we are beloved by God, and who we love, how we express our gender, and what gender, if any, we identify with is a part of our beloved created nature. Pride is about loving yourself, celebrating who God created you to be, making space that has been denied, and reclaiming space that has been taken away over and over and over again.
Laws have gone up around the country this past year criminalizing hormone therapies and restricting even the use of the word gay. I have multiple queer friend couples right now who are either moving up their wedding timeline or working on extra legal protections for their parental rights because they have no idea what this country will be like for lgbtq+ folks this time next year. And one of the biggest, the biggest denier of space and taker of space from the LGBTQ+ community? The church. Unhealthy interpretation and misinterpretations of scripture have caused so much harm. Which is why pride is important for churches to lift up or be a part of. We may know that we welcome everyone and we may know we believe that everyone is of sacred worth but saying it, explicitly naming it, matters. That naming might be a small thing for you but it could literally be life changing for someone else. And for how our denomination is right now? I think Pride is extra important. The United Methodist Church has debated its stance on lgbtq+ folks for almost 50 years. Currently, the United Methodist Church is not affirming but conversations came to a tipping point just before COVID and a parting of the ways within our denomination became basically inevitable. The general idea was that the UMC would lift restrictions and penalties and out gay clergy and officiating gay weddings and a new denomination would form keeping those restrictions in place. COVID threw everything off track, the new more conservative Methodist denomination officially formed on May 1, but the plans for the UMC to finally become affirming are not so certain anymore. Pride is important. Even for churches like ours who are a part of the reconciling movement, a movement that explicitly disagrees with our denomination’s current stance on lgbtq+ ordination and marriage, even for churches like ours pride is a prophetic witness, a prophetic reminder, not letting us slip into complacency and keeping us oriented towards love.
Pride month is doing justice. Where so much injustice, physical, spiritual, theological, and emotional harm, has been done to the queer and trans communities, pride says no. That is not how the world should be and claims a different way of existing and being treated.
Pride month is loving kindness. Y’all, pride celebrations and parades are some of the most loving, joy filled, celebratory spaces. We’re all are loved, all are welcome, and those things are explicitly named and shared.
Pride month is walking humbly with our God. Being gay, lesbian, queer, trans, non-binary, a-sexual, a-romantic is nothing to feel ashamed about. God wants to journey with you through life as you love yourself and claim space for yourself in the world.
Pride is a prophetic witness, a resistance, an act of love helping bring about the day when justice and righteousness roll in a never ending flow.
May our church always be a safe space for all people and work towards transforming the world into a safe space as well. May our lives and our implicit witness give people permission to be themselves, to love themselves, and discover themselves. And until that glorious day when justice rolls down like water and righteousness like an ever flowing stream, we hold pride as a church and we hold pride in our hearts. Amen.