I don't remember this ever happening before, but Pride and Pentecost are on the same weekend this year.
Pride and Pentecost--wow! Pentecost is that celebration of hearing each other and understanding each other across separations and miscommunications. Pride is that day when some of our most marginalized and discriminated against citizens take to the street in joyful visibility to promote mutual awareness and understanding.
This confluence of celebrations all just seems so right to me!
Which is why I was saddened when, at our sermon text study last Tuesday, one of the pastors talked about a phone call received on the church's answering machine.
This church has long been known for its very visible social justice work and in keeping with their years-long support of the Pride event, they had bought an ad in the Pride program. The ad declared that they were welcoming to everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual or gender orientation, economic or physical ability.
The phone call on the answering machine was from a gay man. He was an angry gay man. He left a verbal screed attacking the church and saying that it was all well and good that the church wanted to say they were welcoming, but the history of Christianity had harmed and abused gay people throughout the ages and church members were not welcome to come to the Pride celebration at all!
Now, this was one man's opinion. And it was not true that churches weren't welcomed--many, many folks in the church community came out to join in the Pride Parade. But this phone call disturbed my colleague.
We do know that many churches have and continue to exclude and deny the full humanity of sexual minority people. So yes, the man's anger makes sound sense. But what he did with that anger--refuse to extend hospitality to a repentant and repenting church--was not defensible.
So my colleague did not call the man back. Or try to explain, defend or apologize.
Because the man's actions were counter to the spirit of Pride. And further, they were counter to the amazing story of witness and understanding that we get in the Pentecost story from the book of Acts.
The attitude that says "I'm right and there is no room for you...unless you are just like me" is part of what creates communes that devolve into cults. It's also what brings about their downfalls and disastrous ends.
Solidarity that requires conformity becomes destructive our inter-relatedness as humans. I think that's worth repeating: Solidarity that requires conformity becomes destructive our inter-relatedness as humans.
Pride and Pentecost are all about recognizing the godliness or the inherent worth in each other and understanding each other across our differences. Differences need not be divisions. And that's why it is so special to me that Pride and Pentecost shared the same day this year. Both celebrate inclusion.
And it is by trusting in the way of inclusion--or for people of faith, God’s faithful and sustaining vision--that we can make good in this human and incarnate world. But we must pay attention and listen to each other and the diversity of voices that surround us. And it is also our charge—to enact hospitality to strangers, seek redress of injustice, pursue peace instead of violence, build bridges, not walls and trust that God’s will is the incarnating of love.
Now--if I have a teacher, a spiritual mentor I come back to again and again and actually find water in the well, it is Mark Nepo, a writer, poet and philosopher. Let me explain. As a religious leader and a yoga teacher, I peruse a lot of writing on spirituality. Some of it is simply horrible. But most is just kind of meh—heavy on can-do suggestions or mired in murky theological vagueness or jingoistic phrases. (Just don't ever say to me, "let go and let God" okay?)
But Mark’s writing—and thus Mark’s thinking--is different. Rather than being a theorist of the soul, he is an anthropologist of the heart. Rather than relying on big words for big concepts, he cites human realities and human reactions, writing in such a way as to temper your heart and soul toward greater awareness. So in his latest book, which is all about community, he writes something I want to share with you:
...I became certain that the things that matter are unfinished paintings that everyone creates and no one owns. More deeply, we are created each time we touch the breath of being, and each time we add a stroke, we are connected to everyone who ever lived. And sometimes, we are briefly aware that we are living parts of the most elemental community of all, the community of life-force that moves through everything.
And what of the unfinished painting we call relationship? Is misunderstanding an unfinished painting that our trust sketches and re-sketches on our oldest wall? Is feeding the hungry ad unfinished painting that we must tend to every chance we get? In truth, healing the ill is an unfinished painting that we must touch up and repair whenever we see others breaking down. And stopping the violence and making peace is an unfinished painting of the life-force that moves through everything. Ultimately, caring for each other is the one tribe we all belong to.
My prayer is that we will all work on these unfinished paintings with all the colors of the rainbow!
Happy Pride! Happy Pentecost!