Sermon for Pride Sunday, June 26, 2011
St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church
David R. Weiss
Pride Sunday is a “proleptic” moment. Now that’s a 50-cent word if there ever was one.
Proleptic means “already-but-not-yet.” It’s sometimes used to name paradoxes in theology. We are saints … proleptically: “already-but-not-yet.” As Luther put it, simultaneously saint and sinner. But the saint part is proleptic. Our faith tells us that the final word spoken over us will be a word of grace. Then we will be altogether and entirely what we are now only in glimpses, only proleptically: we will at last be saints, pure and simple.
So Pride is a proleptic moment. A moment in which we celebrate the full acceptance and affirmation of all GLBTQSIA persons as something that is ultimately assured, but which remains in this present moment a truth that is “already-but-not-yet.”
We will dance, cheer, sing, and drum our way down Hennepin Avenue – with a whole WIDE range of other folks.
But we will not manage to vanquish forever the bullying that haunts far too many of our young people. We will not automatically, simply by our marching, turn back a proposed constitutional amendment. We will not insure that the justice accomplished just days ago in New York will now move like lightning across the land from east to west.
Still, for one proleptic moment we will bear witness to what we know by faith as the final truth: that every child of God is a loved child of God. We will preach that good news with every step we take.
Sometimes, however, the “not-yet-ness” can be too uncomfortable, and people reach too quickly for the “already.”
In our first lesson today Jeremiah responds to Hananiah’s declaration of an “already” moment. Hananiah has prophesied Israel’s sure and speedy return from exile in Babylon. And it sounds like good news. And in the few verses given to us in today’s reading, you can barely hear the sarcasm in Jeremiah’s voice. It almost sounds like he’s affirming Hananiah’s words. But if you follow the text further, you discover that Jeremiah sees that Hananiah has declared the “already,” without recognizing the “not yet.”
Jeremiah longs for Israel’s homecoming as deeply as anyone, but as a faithful prophet he knows, too, that sometimes only the more difficult route – only the path through a wilderness – is the way that leads home.
Sometimes the only path leading home is not straight.
There are Hananiah’s today who also proclaim an “already” that is not trustworthy. We hear it in the arguments made that if we can just define marriage as being only between one man and one woman, then we can safeguard our families.
We hear it in the arguments made that you can pray the gay away – or that any form of “therapy” can re-direct one’s God-given capacity for love into a more narrowly acceptable range.
And we hear it in the rabid cries in Uganda that GLBT persons be put to death. That fervor, created in large part by fundamentalist evangelical pastors from this country, is an insidious “already,” that aims to erase the tension of “not-yet” by erasing the lives of people.
But sometimes … the only path leading home is not straight.
Against these types of false promises Jeremiah calls Israel to be faithful, to be hopeful, and to take the longer, winding way home.
Against the ELCA’s unjust ordination policy, this congregation refused to accept the false promise of a policy that consigned lesbian and gay persons to forced celibacy if they wished to answer the Spirit’s call to ministry. Instead, we lived long and winding years in that “already-but-not-yet” place. Prolepticly Leo Treadway, Jodie Belknap, and Anita Hill all served as ministers for Wingspan, bearing witness to a moment the larger church could not yet see.
In 2001, when we called and ordained Anita to serve as pastor among us, we were – like Jeremiah – insisting that there was a path home, even if it meant sojourning for a long while in the wilderness.
And in 2009, during Churchwide Assembly, we heard multiple voices that wanted to close off the tension of living in the already-but-not-yet space where the Spirit often dwells. Voices that warned about how the ELCA’s possible proposed welcome to GLBT persons would jeopardize our relationships with African immigrant congregations here and with our global partners. As though GLBT people exist only in the Western and Northern hemispheres. Or so that false promise suggested.
But here we are today, on Pride Sunday. Just this past week a group of us gathered in Tidemann Hall to listen to the powerful “already-but-not-yet” words of Pastor Pieter Oberholzer, a gay man from South Africa called by St. Francis Lutheran in San Francisco to reach out to GLBT persons and to help build affirming ministries all across southern Africa. Because God’s children are diverse across the globe. And they are hungry for good news.
And over the past few months you’ve heard about Wingspan’s work to support Bishop Christopher in Uganda. A modern prophet, Bishop Christopher uses his voice and his energy to create safety for GLBT persons today and to sow the seeds of change and hope for tomorrow. He lives entirely in that proleptic, “already-but-not-yet” moment.
In today’s gospel Jesus speaks about receiving others: welcoming prophets, righteous men and women, and even little ones. He says that welcoming these people IS welcoming him, and that gifts to them, even as small as a cup of cold water, are precious.
Well, so far we – that is, you gathered here today, who have joined Wingspan in our work – we have collected almost $2000 of little cups of cold water to offer to Bishop Christopher and his community in Kampala, Uganda. A precious gift. A proleptic gift – honoring the truth that Bishop Christopher proclaims in a place where the already-but-not-yet quality of it has put him in great peril: the truth that every child of God is a loved child of God.
So proleptic means “already-but-not-yet.” In a few minutes now you will experience the miracle of a “proleptic” moment right here. Near the end of our Pride worship, we will sing “Preserve Uganda’s Future Hope.” Afterwards some of us will carry our Uganda banner in the Pride parade, and, as we did yesterday, we’ll share with Pride-goers our hope for the people of Uganda – loved children of God, every last one of them.
But most especially when we begin to sing this anthem, we will be buried deep in a mystery. There are people and congregations from elsewhere in the Twin Cities … and from New York to California, from Wisconsin to Texas, from Indiana to Iowa, who will be singing this anthem with us this morning. Each set of voices will join theirs to ours at a different moment, made one moment by our longing for justice.
But listen especially to this: later this afternoon, in a small room no bigger than our narthex (it’s just an old three-car garage converted into a small chapel), a group of Christians will gather in Kampala Uganda. Led by Bishop Christopher himself, they, too, will sing this anthem, drinking in each note like a cup of cold water offered to them by us – members of the same Body of Christ reaching across 8000 miles in song.
When we sing, let’s sing with wonder. Let’s make each word overflow with hope. So that later today, at around 4:30 this afternoon, when they sing, our words will welcome theirs. But: they are 8000 miles away … and to the east. They will sing this anthem later today, on Sunday afternoon, which for them was already thirty minutes ago, and for us, is not yet. The gift that we shortly will sing for them, they sang back to us already later this afternoon … prolepticly.
So Pride Sunday is a proleptic moment if ever there was one. And I hope that when we send one another on our way, singing “Preserve Uganda’s Future Hope,” we remember from within the wonder of that proleptic moment that—
“We are not, any of us, strangers to grace. She meets us at worship. She accompanies us as we come out. She sneaks under the closet door and greets us on the other side. The fact is, we are grace, made flesh. And when grace abounds, she is unbound in us, as us. What a grace it is when we come out, bread broken, word spoken, wine poured, love given, grace unbounded, God made flesh. … The most precious grace God gives us is the grace to be ourselves. And – in this proleptic moment – it is time to let grace abound.”
And let the people say, AMEN.
 adapted from Joel Workin, Dear God, I am gay – thank you!