Today, though, was a little different. Today was a little more of a struggle. Today required me to keep remembering the "why" behind this service: because it is the way I can express my thanks to God for the understanding of how deep God's love is for me and all creation. And it is my way of giving back to my community of believers, the Church, that is the congregation of St. John's.
As I put on my vestments, I was aware of the baggage that was with me. I was to lead the the Prayers of the People which includes prayers for the upper echelon of the Anglican Communion and Episcopal Church... as well as for our President and our Governor. And honestly, as a gay person, I have felt increasingly betrayed by these human leaders. They simply don't "get" me and the other "others". And, in fact, I have felt more and more that they wish I would just be one of those sheep wandering off into the wilderness where the wolves lie in wait to pounce and rip me to shreds.
But before I could become absorbed in my self-pity, and thus not paying attention to God, I was hit with another task: I was asked to read the Second Lesson for the day, a passage from the 2nd Letter of Paul to Corinthians. The Daily Office has been chock full of this book this past week, and I've found myself again marveling at all that Paul endured in his ministry. I'm reminded that I used to really despise Paul, until I started doing the office and looking more closely not only at his own journey, but how he expresses himself in these letters as he tries to bring others along with him on the path toward eternal life. Because this assignment got sprung on me, I only had a few minutes in which to read through the material. So, I went to the lectern before the service, and sped read. Or at least tried to speed read.
I intellectually understood that this was Paul of the First Century in a struggle with the Corinthians who were being influenced in their beliefs by his opponents, and in this letter, Paul is basically on the defensive throughout, trying to persuade the Corinthians to not see him in a false light. But his words felt so real to me, and how I've been feeling as I attempt to remain in step with God as I experience my country and my Church trying to put me in a box and close the lid on me.
We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see--we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return--I speak as to children--open wide your hearts also. --2 Corinthians 6: 8b-13
These words felt like they could have come from my own mouth in response to all those who are trying to box me in... or out as the case may be... from full participation as a citizen and as a child of God baptized into the faith. These words, filtered through my gay experience, make me understand the plea that St. Paul is placing before the Corinthians as a minister of Christ. If you were to read the "we" as the LGBT community... and the "Corinthians" as "Political leaders of the USA" or "hierarchy of the Episcopal Church"... you might understand what I'm saying. Certainly, returning to Paul's situation after running it through my own body, I again found myself in empathy for his passionate plea to "open wide your hearts also." How bold and faith-filled he had to have been to put that out there!!
And so, let me borrow those words as I send out my plea:
Open wide your hearts also, you bishops, you Congress, you President. I am not an impostor; I am one of your number as a citizen and a child of God. We, all of us "others", are still alive, as punished, but not killed. See us as your fellow citizens and members of your faith communities. Open your hearts.