2 December 2013

A meditation for the first Sunday of Advent

In the Name of the Father, and of Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We are a gentle angry people; and we are singing, singing for our lives.

Some days are imprinted on the consciousness of a particular people. They might observe memorial days, remembrance days, national days, or independence days. Year after year, they serve to remind people of an event or person that meant a lot to them.

We have our own special days too. We might observe a birthday, a death anniversary, or a wedding anniversary. In our own way, we set these days apart from the rest, and give significance to them.

I’ve never forgotten Christmas Eve 2009. Christmas Eve is now one of those days that continue to spark some emotion within me. As families and friends gathered to prepare for Christmas Day, I was housesitting alone in San Francisco, crying over an e-mail I had just received from an ex-lover.

He was and still is a member of the clergy in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, where LGBT clergy are permitted to be ordained, but must remain celibate.

He could not restore our relationship. He ended his e-mail, saying, “I’m sorry that I fall short” – a clear reference to the motion passed by the Church of England’s General Synod in 1987, which said “that homosexual genital acts also fall short of this ideal, and are likewise to be met with a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion.”

He was apologising for being gay. He needn’t apologise. And why he should apologise for the beauty and grace that transpired between us?

We are a gentle angry people; and we are singing, singing for our lives.

That was the moment I became aware of my own privilege as an American Episcopalian. That was the moment I cried out to God for justice. That was the moment I realised how different I am. That was the moment I knew I could not feast on the table without sharing the meal with all.

I had been made aware of those still behind a wall of apartheid that drives fellow Anglicans apart.

I somehow dried my tears, dutifully trucked up Nob Hill, and made it to midnight mass at Grace Cathedral. It was cruel to be there, in the midst of all those happy people, glad with their carols of praise. I could not find it in my heart to sing joyfully of the birth of Jesus Christ. It was like the Grinch coming to steal, kill, and destroy any blithe that I might have partaken on what was otherwise a cheerful occasion.

That Christmas Eve still hurts me. It still makes me angry. It still causes me to grieve. And every Christmas Eve, I am reminded of what happened between me and the man I’m I still love. I might be misdirecting all my hurt and pain to the wrong person. Nevertheless, his words cut through my heart like a sword of grief. How appropriate to see that on his diocesan coat-of-arms.   

We are a gentle angry people; and we are singing, singing for our lives.

I find today’s lessons to be quite distressing. One will be taken and one will be left behind. We go up God’s mountain to partake of God’s kingdom and the benefits thereof.  But what of those left behind in the valley? What of those begging for a crumb from the full menu of human rights? Can they not have a place at the table too?

We are a gentle angry people; and we are singing, singing for our lives.

I believe our work still continues to include all at that table; this is the struggle we face. This is what we work, pray, strive, and give for.

I am angry at the Anglican Communion for grieving gay Anglicans worldwide. I am angry at the Anglican Communion for causing gay couples to split up for the sake of church unity. I am angry that I became an unwilling sacrifice to a corrupt system that continues to dehumanise people who try to live truthfully and honestly. I burn, outraged and indignant, knowing full well that a Church who cannot represent its people in their integrity, must be transformed to truly reflect itself. To be catholic, a church must be transformed.

We are a gentle angry people; and we are singing, singing for our lives.

As LGBT North American Anglicans receive God’s blessing on marriages, partnerships, or covenants, I am angry that our Anglican-Episcopal counterparts in the Anglo-Celtic Isles, South Africa, and elsewhere are merely acknowledged and welcomed into God’s house, but cannot partake of the fullness of God’s lavish grace. You can partake of the Holy Communion, but please, please don’t spread your germs, lest everyone partake of your contagion.

We who are LGBT are marked not as Christ’s own, but are made to wear yellow stars by ecclesio-Nazis. This is repugnant to the baptism that makes all Christians equal to each other.

We are a gentle angry people; and we are singing, singing for our lives.

I find it difficult to reconcile to a Church that cannot recognise the gifts of LGBT people and bless our relationships. And I cannot reconcile myself to my ex-lover without him being true to himself. The South African experience has taught us that reconciliation must be founded on truth.

We are a gentle angry people; and we are singing, singing for our lives.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Each week we light a candle in anticipation of the coming of Jesus Christ. In darkness and gloom, they symbolize hope. But they aren’t merely candles. They also represent us.

As we prepare for Christmas, I’d also like to take a moment to remember those whose lights have gone out on this earthly plane. This Christmas might be or will be subdued and muffled for those who remain.

We remember those who have died as a helicopter crashed into the Clutha pub in Glasgow. We also remember Colin Eglin, an anti-Apartheid fighter. We might also remember Paul Walker, a life cut short.

These lights have gone out, and the night is much darker.  

We also remember LGBT clergy who long to generously encounter the grace of Jesus Christ in another person’s love. Some of them remain closeted, just like my ex-lover. We remember those living with HIV/AIDS. We remember those rights have been infringed, and those longing to partake the fullness of those rights.

Their lights will burn, although the cold winds blow.

Be you mindful of your own light, and think of them. To those still living, hold out your candle to them. To those who have gone off, light your candle in memory of them.

We are a gentle angry people; and we are singing, singing for our lives.

Our scripture lessons today also remind us to keep awake. Just like the Grinch, who stole unexpectedly, redemption and freedom will come unexpectedly too. Be prepared to receive the fullness of what is rightfully ours. In order to know our need, we might do well to recognise our lack.

So we wait for the coming Messiah:  “In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

May we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world, through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

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