Sunday Preaching: Each Life a Thread Bearing Pain and Hope

Psalm 30 (NIV)

A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.

I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit. Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed. To you, O LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: “What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help.” You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. - Psalm 30:5 (Artwork by Charisse Marie Reyes / a Psalm of Remembrance, Psalm 30 is traditionally set to the re-dedication of the Jewish Temple, but tonight, I would like to use Psalm 30 to put forward one question that we may ask ourselves as we start celebrating another year in the life of MCC: “What does it mean for us to be lifted out of the depths?”

OPENING PRAYER: In this wonderful month, may the wisdom of Psalm 30 bring us to further appreciate the personal, partnered and collective journeys as members, friends, and even newcomers and guests to the church. May the Advocate speak through me tonight. May I be an instrument to put forward Your word to Your people. In Jesus’s name.

PREACHING: Tonight is a Queer Reinforcement of what I have been holding. Based from our experiences, we may have been imprisoned by labels, constructions.

Based from the narratives of many of us here, we may have come from a church or a faith system that continually misjudges, discriminates, condemns or refuses to understand our community. But I say this without downplaying, discrediting or saying our home or former churches are not Houses of God. In this time and age, and in our contexts of having been outcasts, the “depth” or Sheol – the Jewish equivalent of hell – that Psalm 30 talks about is both a tangible and psychosocial reality. I would liken this Sheol, imagined as a place of darkness, to something that’s very relevant to us. This is the difficulty of seeing and reconciling that we can be Christian and LGBTQI at the same time.

Moreover, I also see this “pit” – as a time or place or conditions that reinforce this difficulty, making us feel confused or weakened in our faith journey, feeling rejected and unaccepted, and unloved and alone among Christians. I have lived through this pit for a few years. (May I read a sentence from p. 111 of the book Torn, written by Justin Lee. A book given to me by Don when he visited last year.) – “My homosexuality was something dreadful to them, something they were afraid of, and the only way they knew to handle it was to tell me it would go away if I just trusted God.” But my initial journey as a young man, and later being Christian brought me to an experience of living between two polarities: I am reminded of a situation in the 1980s and 1990s described in Torn: “Many people assumed that there were only two options for Christians who were attracted to their own sex: Either go to an ex-gay ministry to be “healed,” or accept oneself as gay and pursue a consummated same-sex relationship.” Another option was to deny God’s Grace and just remain silent. I have lived through these three options, but I am thankful I am living in the fourth option.

But I am here now. And you are here now. I would like to think, though God’s mercy and grace, that you have already reached a resolution or are undergoing a process to resolve on what it means to be a member of our community and be Christian. The fact that you are here means you have been delivered from, or are being offered a way out of such depths. Indeed, every Sunday, when we gather here, we praise God for the goodness and deliverance given to us from such darkness through the death of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and how we are sustained by our Advocate, the Holy Spirit. If our former churches or its leaders make any declarations against our community and what it believes in, do we answer with hate or disapproval? I say not, for they cannot see the way we do, nor do they live from the same colorful cloth that God has specially woven for us. Be thankful, for we are no longer in that darkness.

Indeed, Psalm 30 is one of remembrance that echoes and resonates through changing generations, different persuasions, and varying seasons. Tonight, may we remember each and every instance when God has delivered us from our troubles – from the time we had no money left and was jobless, from the time we were among fellow Christians who forbid us or would not want us love the people we chose to love, from the time we had been experiencing difficulties with our partners, family and loved ones, from the time we have experienced great loss from the death of people we love or care for, from the time we feel lonely or dejected for not having a hand to hold and lips to tenderly and genuinely kiss, from the time we feel like giving it all up and saying that it was better if I have never heard of the truth that God loves me.

May we collectively remember how God has delivered MCC from a difficult period in its history but more importantly, may we remember and celebrate how God has been helping our church and our leaders since. May we remember why we have come up with annual themes, like the theme to widen and expand our circles. These themes help us affirm others and be affirmed… and helping us realize what makes us alive. May we also be strongly reminded of the periods when we have become complacent, perhaps too complacent in our faith and responsibilities, only to wake up that the God we worship is not the God we thought we know. Has our comfortable lives and new jobs, the very same jobs we had prayed for, made us forget God? There may have been a period in our lives that we still engage in activities that continue to enslave us or others, through concepts, lifestyles or conditions that defeat or blur the purpose why we were lifted from the depths in the first place. We become dismayed, when God seems not to answer our prayers. But does our faith then boil down to a simple equation or polarity, whether God favors us or not? Or are we assuring ourselves wrongly? Is it a question of feeling secure because we are told that God is there for us? Or is it a matter of believing and resting in the reality that God is there all the time, especially when we feel abandoned or removed from grace? Why has God not given me the job or promotion I had been praying for, or the partner I have always been looking for, or the peace of mind I have been seeking, or the miracle that will save my friend from physical death and disease?

Many times we may feel removed from God’s presence and we become even angry. There are more dimensions to this – “For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” – Relationships are very temporal, often working in binaries. But if we put in the omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence of the Parent God, let us then ask, what do we mean by moment or lifetime, or night or morning? What are these temporal states for the one who lives reigns forever? But God have mercy on me, for I, in my selfishness, allowed my heart to say that God has abandoned me. Such a brief admission, but a very powerful one. God have mercy on me for being unkind to members of my community and to others, whether in person or through social media. May I continue to express that it is ultimately God’s mercy that has brought me here, in this room. It is God’s mercy that has brought me out of the depths, out of the pits. It is God’s mercy that brought me to you.

As LGBTQI and Christian, the more serious thing to be troubled about, is silence… when our communion with God and by natural extension, our communion with the community is broken, and we fall silent. As the Psalmist sings to us: “What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?” One commentary on Psalm 30 describe this as “a place of silence where God is not praised and that to praise God and to give thanks has become for the psalmist the vocation of the human being and the sole purpose of the creation.” Dust is what we ever are and ever will be, without God. Another commentary I read says that: “If we are to do anything by personal effort for the spread of the Gospel, it is to be done before we die. Whatever we may do in heaven, these things are not to be done there, for when we close our eyes in death, our personal efforts for the salvation of men will cease for ever.”

May I give this rejoinder to the Psalmist thousands of years later: Even if I die, may my narratives proclaim God’s faithfulness. May my story of being delivered from a painful ex-gay past and from decades of turning my back on my faith proclaim God’s faithfulness. In December 2013, my mother Paz, along with two other mothers, Mommy Myrna and Mommy Ofelia, was here for a night of worship. May that memorable night proclaim God’s faithfulness. God has delivered my mother from cancer and may this and my dream of having her join us here again proclaim God’s faithfulness. Early this year, I was involved in a motorcycle accident, and my standing here now proclaims God’s faithfulness.

May the proposal of Don to Yhel in this church a year ago and their life together now in the US proclaim God’s faithfulness. May each Holy Union we consecrate proclaim God’s faithfulness. May each semester that Joseph and Pastora Kakay endure at the UTS “piitan” proclaim God’s faithfulness. May each time we have had guest pastors and joint activities with other churches proclaim God’s faithfulness. How many of you remember when we had a hetero-guest from Victory and he shared during the service that he felt that God is with our tiny church? May the success of the Adarana School of Transformation, Rainbow Camp, Easter Retreats, and other projects that we have conducted, and every Life Learners sessions and Novenas proclaim God’s faithfulness. May our call for justice to every LGBTQI who have been killed in hate crimes proclaim God’ faithfulness. May the music that churns out from our praise and worship leaders and the sterling cast of the Rainbow Ensemble under the baton of Maestro Jack proclaim God’s faithfulness. May the monthsarries and anniversaries of Sam and Mike, Jack and Glenn, Paula and Atty. Nessa, Mark and Christer, JD and Tipie, and Olie and RJ and others who are partnered proclaim God’s faithfulness. May the heartaches we have had in our past relationships proclaim God’s faithfulness. May my own sorrows and fears, dreams and answered prayers proclaim God’s faithfulness. May Fr. Troy’s lifestory proclaim God’s faithfulness. May the way we honor our diverse sexual experiences proclaim God’s faithfulness. But the trick here is may we continue to talk about each other, even after one of us have died or moved on.

But then, may I go back to an admission: God have mercy on me. It is this mercy that has helped me realize that there is no longer a need for me to wear the sackcloth of the past. I no longer need to shuffle living in and between polarities. God have mercy on me. It is this mercy that has brought me to understand that I am accountable and have a duty not to be silent. All of us here have a duty not to be silent. As a living and breathing extension of the Psalms, may the song of your lives and narratives – The Now Testaments – continually proclaim that we can be LGBTQI and Christian at the same time, but yet let us cautiously plant our narratives on fertile soil. Let us remember each other’s stories and how God has worked in our lives and not be silent about it.

The Good News is that we can be LGBTQI and Christian. There is no doubt about this. If we go back to our narratives of being in or having come from other churches, we may have begun with adversity, we have suffered, but this shall end with consolation. Our parent church in LA was created from darkness, out of Fr. Troy Perry’s experience. This is the consistent Christian narrative of coming from the darkness, from the depths, from Sheol to become the light for others. Again, may I ask: “What does it mean for you to be lifted out of the depths?”

ENDING PRAYER: Let us thank the Parent God for a church that refuses to be silent, where over a table of shared prayers, we become one with those who have gone ahead and have suffered in ways we cannot endure. Thank you for this shared safe space, where we praise the goodness and glory of God.

Each life a thread bearing pain and hope,
Woven by love into a matchless artwork of rainbows
A body broken as the weaver’s steady beater,
Stories, tears and laughter shared on a rainy night’s meal,
Indeed, a love edified, breathing heaven’s fire,
And on the seventh year and beyond,
As more stories, tears and laughter are sure to follow
May each thread blaze a trail and serve as a blessing for others…

Preaching by MPPuzon

Join MCC Quezon City’s worship service every Sunday, 5:00PM. MCC is a church for all, including LGBT+ people. First timers and guests are much welcome. For instructions on how to get to our chapel, click here.

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