This evening I am thinking about the day, just over a year ago, when the Supreme Court issued its decision in Obergefell vs. Hodges, making same sex marriage legal in all 50 states.
Do you remember it?
All those images of landmarks across the country, lit up in the colors of pride and inclusion. All those parades. All those grinning families with two moms, or two dads.
For those of us in the United Church of Christ, it was also the opening day for our national synod, and the mood was so profoundly joyful.
It was a remarkable moment.
And for those faith communities that have witnessed on behalf of love in the lives of all God’s children…for those who have stood on behalf of love in its many expressions as something sacred and to be honored…there was a particular power.
Church people are often such hopeful and positive people.
But even so, there were so many of our LGBT sisters and brothers, women and men of deep faith, who never expected that they would live to see that day.
Standing with them at that moment was to be a witness to something so personal…and typically, so private…and yet it was the spirit of that day to come together, and to celebrate, and to share, and to feel a part of God’s beloved community together.
It was a moment when it felt as if the world was finally catching up to God’s own vision of how it ought to be.
And yet even then, even at that remarkable milestone in our history, there were those who were quick to remind us that there was still a great deal of work to do.
They reminded us that vulnerability doesn’t dissolve with the stroke of a pen.
And of course, that’s absolutely true.
Because while rights are important, and fairness is important, the ultimate goal is beyond just rights and fairness, or some quiet agreement that you stay in your corner and I’ll stay in mine, and that we will learn to coexist.
Our faith teaches to work for something much more noble than just coexisting.
Because the ultimate goal is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind, and our neighbors as ourselves.
You remember that, right?
The ultimate goal is that, even across our differences, we will find ourselves united, not only with one another, but finally, with God.
The dream is that, different as we all are, shaped by different loves in different ways as we all are, nevertheless, we will learn to love and lean on one another.
That we will learn to look to one another to help us become whoever God has called us to be.
It’s a good thing when we start trying to add seats at the table. But we’re not going to get where we need to go until we start working together to build a bigger table.
That’s a higher standard.
And reaching it is going to take everything we have—all our heart and soul and strength and mind.
That doesn’t leave much for us to hold back. And indeed, we can’t hold back.
In these days, we know we’ve gotten closer, here and there, but we’re still so far from where we need to be. We’re still so far from home.
The shootings in Orlando remind us of just how far we still have to travel.
They remind us of how vulnerable our sisters and brothers in the LGBT community remain.
They remind us of how powerful fear remains, especially in their lives.
But also, the shootings remind us of the fears that fester so dangerously in the hearts of so many.
So many people feel so threatened.
The world is changing so rapidly.
And people who once had to focus all their heart and soul and strength and mind on flying carefully below the radar of intolerance are now learning to live out loud–growing in voice, growing in strength, growing in pride.
Dignity is a remarkable thing. When someone finally claims it, there really is no going back.
And so the only solution is to scare them from claiming it in the first place.
We can’t let that happen. Not in Orlando. Not in Laramie, Wyoming; Seattle, Washington, or New York City. Not in Greenwich.
That would not be the faithful thing to do.
So yes, these are profoundly fearful times.
But at the end of the day, our faith teaches us that we have a choice: we can look on as some lash out in anger, hoping that we will ourselves be shielded from it somehow—hoping that it will burn itself out before it decides to come for us.
That’s one option.
Or we can reach out and stand with the vulnerable, and show them tenderness and love before all the world, and model the love of a vulnerable God who loved extravagantly and defiantly even in the face of the world at its worst.
My prayer is that tonight, not only here but in so many sanctuaries around the country, we will recommit ourselves to reaching out.
Tonight we do so in grief.
Tomorrow, may we reach out in hope and promise.
Let us pray, let us work, and let us learn to love with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind.
It begins with a candle. May it become righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, sweeping us all to the ocean of God’s love.