The Diocese of Los Angeles was honored to have as our preacher at this year's LGBT Pride Eucharist our friend and colleague in ministry, H Adam Ackley. Here's the text of his moving and inspirational sermon.
Many Gifts, Same Spirit: For LA Pride
preached by H Adam Ackley, Ph.D. on the Feast of Pentecost | June 8, 2014
The first reading we heard today (1 Cor. 12.3b-13) comes from the apostle Paul, who himself prayed over what he called “a thorn in his flesh” that God never removed, just as many of us (myself included) have at times struggled to accept – let alone celebrate -- gender and sexual identities so shamed and belittled in our religious traditions.
But the Bible affirms God’s untamable grace and radical inclusion here. Paul teaches us in this letter to the earliest Christians that no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit. In other words, having faith in God never comes about through anyone’s own special brand of personal righteousness in contrast with some lesser “others” whom they choose to belittle and exclude.
There are varieties of gifts, services and activities – just as there are varieties of gender and sexual orientation identities, but the same Spirit, the same God, activates all of them in everyone – never by their own self-righteous efforts and never merely nor primarily for their own sake, but rather always for the common good – for the good of ALL God’s creatures, even those whom some would prefer to exclude.
The Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, knowledge, healing, miracles, prophecy, spiritual discernment, the ability to communicate and interpret God’s truth in many different human languages, even faith itself come from and are activated by that same Spirit, who gives each one individually as the Spirit chooses – giving a spiritual gift to each and every one, excluding no one, that is intended to benefit all. In that Spirit we are all ONE body— every one of us no matter what stripe of the rainbow flag represents us -- all made to share in that one Spirit together for the sake of ALL.
As we heard earlier from the Gospel of John, Jesus too is radically inclusive. His beloved disciple John, whom others report often rested on His breast as they reclined together at meals, tells us here that Jesus invited ANYONE who thirsts to be spiritually filled to come, to believe, and to receive not only enough for ourselves but to overflow with the living water of faith, to bless ALL people (John 7.37-39).
Then, after His resurrection, John the beloved disciple tell us Jesus promises these same disciples that anyone who both recognizes Him by His wounds and also allows themselves to receive His gift of peace that His Spirit is sent to and through them -- specifically to FORGIVE others as they now find themselves completely forgiven in this radical act of inclusive grace (John 20:19-23).
Today we celebrate Pride in our whole, wondrously beautiful diverse community – and as Christians, we also celebrate Pentecost. The story of the first Christian Pentecost (Acts 2.1-21) suggests that to receive the Spirit of unity, we first must gather together, ALL of us who are able – LGBTQIIAA and beyond. To be overcome by the Spirit that fills and gifts ALL of us together, uniting us, can be an experience that feels urgent, overwhelming, frightening in its intensity.
No one is left out – people of all genders, all ages, of every status and religion are given a gift to communicate and a gift to understand, each as we are able, each one as is natural or “native” to us, and everyone who asks is saved by God.
The story of the first Christian Pentecost echoes an ancient Hebrew story about Moses, who defended two male companions, the prophets Eldad and Medad, left out when the seventy elders of Israel gather at the tent where God’s spirit met with them (Numbers 11:24-30). Moses’ inclusion of these marginalized prophets shows us that even those who are NOT gathered together with the larger group are not left out by God. When God’s Spirit rests on those whom others try to exclude, no human being has the power to stop that.
In the words of the psalmist David, whose soul the prophet Samuel tells was knit with that of his lover Jonathan, we bless and praise the Lord our God, in Whose wisdom ALL of us were made just as we are in all our many diverse variations of gender and sexual identities (1 Samuel 18.1, Psalm 104).
God, You send forth Your Spirit and create us, fill us and rejoice in us – just as we are, just as You have made us, and we praise You for being who we are, who You created us to be – gay, trans*, bi, lesbian, genderqueer, and in so many other ways -- with greater beautiful diversity than we can ever imagine in Your infinitely glorious creativity!