Queer Pride and the Glory of God [Sermon]

In June of 2021, I was invited to preach at Emmanuel’s Pride Sunday service. The audio and video recordings are available below. I was able to pick out all of the service elements for this service. Pastor Matt Upshaw had an excellent Children’s sermon this week too. Sermon Graphic created by the lovely Rhys W.

Audio version available on Spotify

While I didn’t preach directly from a manuscript, I still wrote one to help prepare. So the raw version of my notes is below.

Good morning, Beloveds. I’m Yost, and my pronouns are they/them. I’m one of several seminarians here at Emmanuel. I’m so grateful to be here with you all for our Pride Sunday Service. I’d like to thank the Rooke Chapel’s Virtual Vocal Ensemble at Bucknell University for the beautiful recording of Mark Miller’s Child of God. Mark Miller is a United Methodist Musician whose music has been sustaining LGBTQIA+ Methodists for years.

I recently decided (we’ll see if it was a wise choice) to start creating content for Tiktok. I intend to create a space where people can ask questions to a Queer Seminarian. One question asked: “What is your favorite way the LGBTQ community glorifies God?” I recorded a few answers for Tiktok, but honestly, 60 seconds at a time just couldn’t do it justice. For the rest of our time together, I’d like to offer an extended response to that question.

Let’s first look at today’s scripture. In Luke’s Gospel account, our passage comes right after Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and some brief miracles throughout Galilee. We find Jesus returning to his hometown and boldly proclaiming his public ministry. People start to get excited after hearing what Jesus had already done in Capernaum and expect him to do the same for them.

They knew who he was as he grew up. Hearing how he had blessed the neighboring town, they expected Jesus to stay with them and bless them similarly. Instead, Jesus quickly shuts down their expectations for him by talking about the prophets Elijah and Elisha.

During a significant drought, the prophet Elijah was tended to by ravens as he lived near a brook. He was then sent to be taken care of by a widow from Zarephath. This widow down to just a jar of flour and a bottle of oil. Jesus notes that there were plenty of widows in Israel at this time. And yet, God chose to provide for a marginalized outsider by ensuring that her jar of flour and bottle of oil never ran out until after the drought was over.

Similarly, Elisha heals Naaman, a Syrian man, from his skin disease. Again Jesus reminds us that there were lepers in Israel also seeking healing. Furthermore, the Love of God is revealed through great miracles performed for outsiders.

Jesus’ ministry stood in the face of the expectations of those that knew him growing up. So much so that they tried to kill him. Luke continues, “When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.”

Also, this isn’t foreign to LGBTQIA people, growing up with a community that has set expectations for you. And for many, living life as their authentic self comes with death threats too. So for my siblings in the LGBTQIA community, you are seen, and you are not alone in your struggles. Additionally, you are deeply holy as you seek to live out who you were made to be.

So let’s look deeper at the passage that got the crowd excited. Jesus is referring to an excerpt from Isaiah likely written around the time of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. This passage likely instilled hope in Jesus’ audience, a people living under Roman occupation. Jesus declares that this Isaiah passage is actually for those most marginalized and considered outsiders by the larger community. I want to share some stories of various LGBTQIA people that have inspired me to live out this passage.

First, I’d love to introduce you all to Jabari Lyles. Jabari is presently the Chief Operating Officer of Baltimore Safe Haven, a non-profit that “seeks to provide opportunities for a higher quality of life for TLGBQ people in Baltimore City living in survival mode.” Before that, he served the Mayor’s office in Baltimore City under various titles for LGBTQ Affairs. But I first met him during his work with GLSEN. Through GLSEN, Jabari ensured that Queer students were seen and supported through their local GSAs and beyond. The GLSEN Youth Summit that he helped organize gave students a place to learn more about the larger community and themselves in a safe and authentic place. My students that went felt empowered and loved in ways that they hadn’t been before. But the most sacred and impactful thing I witnessed Jabari organizing has to be the LGBTQ prom. The first one brought so much joy and love to these students to fully embody their true selves without fear of harassment. No corner of that prom could escape true unconditional love. Now he has joined forces with the outstanding Iya Dammons at Baltimore Safe Haven, continuing to support the TLGBQ community in Baltimore in their moments of need.

Jabari Lyles is anointed to preach good news to the poor.

Patrisse Cullors shares in her memoir, When They Call You a Terrorist, how her Queer identity and lived experiences shaped the formation of Black Lives Matter. Their quest to end white supremacy expressly affirms “the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, undocumented folks, folks with records, women, and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.” Recently Patrisse Cullors stepped down from the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation to create abolitionist art. Cullors advocates for a future free of the oppression found in the Policing and Prison systems.

Patrisse Cullors is anointed to proclaim release to the captives.

Archbishop Carl Bean grew up as a Gay Black boy in Baltimore. Later on, he performed in various Gospel groups and even found himself recording a disco track entitled “I Was Born This Way.” Rumor has it that this track inspired Lada Gaga. Archbishop Bean recounts his first live performance of this song at Catch One, a disco bar for Black gay men.

From the first lyrics, sung a Capella – “I’m happy, I’m carefree and I’m gay … I was born this way” – to the first thump-thump-thump of that dazzling four-on-the-floor disco beat, the crowd went crazy. They were shouting and screaming and jumping for joy. They made me come back and sing that dang thing fire more times. … they liked the message I was preaching.

His work did not end there. When he saw the lack of AIDS support in black gay communities, Archbishop Bean founded the Minority AIDS Project. This project was formed using the training he had received through other AIDS support programs and infused it with the Black church’s traditions. After being ordained by Rev. O’Neill’s Christian Tabernacle Church, Carl Bean chartered Unity Fellowship of Christ Church, proclaiming “God is Love and Love is for everyone.” Since then, his congregation has grown into the Unity Fellowship Church Movement with 16 communities across the nation, including Unity Fellowship Church of Columbia. Archbishop Carl Bean’s ministries have gone to those most neglected by the world to help them find dignity and see their own value.

Archbishop Carl Bean is anointed to proclaim the recovery of sight to the blind.

Across LGBTQIA communities, the healing love of Chosen families is well known. One of these families that I’m a part of happens to be a discord server for a non-binary Tiktok content creator. This space holds each other in love through our questions, struggles, celebrations, and even our corny jokes. The channel #hypes-given-here is regularly an outpouring of love serving as a balm. Our conversations can go from absolute nonsense to deeply spiritual conversations in a matter of minutes while simultaneously holding space to understand the needs of one another. A member of my chosen family, Rhys Wynn, took the time this past week to make our beautiful sermon graphic for today. Through my chosen family (Specifically the City GSA), I obtained the language to describe myself. For that, I am forever grateful.

Chosen families are anointed to bring healing and hope.

Pauli Murray was raised in a segregated school system and went to Hunter College. Early on, she dressed ambiguously, called herself Pete, Dude, or Pauli. Her journal talked about falling in love with women. Still, she resisted the label “Lesbian.” Instead, she used the term “pseudohermaphrodite,” which was an old word that would describe what we now call trans. Throughout her life, she exclusively used the pronouns she/her. Married a man for 18 years. Her letters and journals document relationships with women and her dislike of sex with me. She even asked to be photographed as her boy-self, Pete.

15 years before Rosa Parks, Murray was arrested for not sitting in the correct bus seat section because the seats were broken. Later, she was rejected from some law schools because she was black, ended up at Howard, and then experienced discrimination there as a woman. Thus her coining the phrase “Jane Crow” to describe discrimination against Black women in America. While in law school, she called out President Roosevelt catering to the racism of Southern Democrats by sending letters back and forth with Eleanor Roosevelt. Later, Pauli Murray became the first Black deputy attorney general of California in 1946. Woman of the Year by Mademoiselle magazine. In 1950 She published “States’ Laws on Race and Color,” which was influential in Justice Thurgood Marshall’s arguments for Brown v Board of Ed. In 1961 appointed by Pres. JFK to the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. Pauli Murray’s legal work served as a significant inspiration for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. When Murray got a job at a New York law firm, she met her new life partner, Irene “Renee” Barlow. They never lived together, but they did everything else as a couple, including going to Eleanor Roosevelt’s funeral. At the age of 64, she went to Seminary and became the first African American woman ordained as an Episcopal priest. She is honored as one of the church’s “Holy Women, Holy Men.”

Pauli Murray was anointed to liberate the oppressed as both a lawyer and a priest.

The first pride parade was actually the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade in 1970, celebrating the first anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. Two prominent figures from this protest were Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson.

Rivera was born in Spanish Harlem in 1951. She lost her mother to depression at a young age and was raised by her grandmother. The latter was ashamed of Rivera wearing makeup and dressing fem as early as 4th grade. Rivera dropped out of school and started to work on the streets before she was even 12. She met a commune of Gay men on 42nd street who held a Christening for her name, Sylvia Rivera. Not long after, she met Marsha P. Johnson.

Johnson was born in New Jersey in 1945 and moved to Greenwich Village after high school. She was raised Roman Catholic and remained religious despite discrimination. Johnson also dealt with many mental health problems, but she took in Rivera to take care of her.

While they weren’t at the Stonewall Inn the first night of the Stonewall Uprising, they were there for most of the uprising. Afterward, they founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries or more commonly known STAR. STAR called out the exclusion of transvestites from the Gay Liberation Front and other post-stonewall events.

While STAR was not entirely accepted by the larger movement for a few short years, they worked hard to help those excluded by the more prominent Gay liberation movement. Because of their work, we have Pride parades around the globe in June every year.

It was only a few years ago that I finally attended my very first Pride Parade. I was able to march in the parade with Jabari Lyles, GLSEN Maryland, and some of my students. Pride events are some of the most beautiful and loving events I have ever witnessed. While modern pride events are celebrations of what has been done so far, they also call attention to the work left to do. Throughout the nation, trans youth are being targeted by over 100 vile and discriminatory laws proposed so far this year alone. And Trans Women of Color are disproportionately targets of violence. They have been for years without any true justice being served. Just like Jesus proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor, TLGB activists are preaching that a better world is possible.

Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and modern-day pride parades are anointed to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Queer people across the nation because the Lord has anointed them. She has sent them to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and bring healing to those neglected by society, to liberate the oppressed, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

For whenever you find a Queer Chosen family throughout history, today, and the future,

you will find the fulfillment of this scripture.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s