Today is the first Sunday of the month when we share guest posts from people living and teaching the Contemplative and/or Celtic Christian way around the world. One of the beautiful things about the internet is that people doing amazing things in isolated parts of the world can learn from one another and grow together. We hope this article inspires you to dive a little deeper into what it means to follow in the footsteps of our ancestors while looking forward to what kind of world we will leave for our grandchildren.
Michiko Bown-Kai is a minister in The United Church of Canada who is passionate about social justice and creative expression. Michiko studied Social Justice and Peace Studies and Political Science at the University of Western Ontario before attending Emmanuel College for their Master of Divinity program. You can often find Michiko biking, highland dancing, or befriending as many dogs as possible. They have recently moved to the land of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral peoples known as Cambridge, Ontario which is part of the Haldimand Tract treaty.
This sermon was offered in June 2019 as part of a Pride worship service, at East End United, an Affirming Ministry in The United Church of Canada. The gospel reading was Luke 24:13-35 and this message was shared shortly before the community celebrated communion.
Let us pray- Holy One, we come to you know for a time of learning and reflection. For those of us with aching hearts, may this time heal us. For all of us gathered, may we draw closer to you and our community during this time and may it strengthen us for our shared ministry of the justice you have called us to make happen in this world. Amen.
Happy Pride! As a queer Christian – I am so thankful to be here, unapologetically queer – worshipping with you this morning.
But today, as we journey with these disciples down the road to Emmaus – I’m struck by the tension of this weird place where grief and Good News intersect. I know Easter was a while ago but this is where we are in today’s scripture – Jesus has just been crucified, the movement has scattered, these people have just witnessed a friend being murdered in the most horrifying way imaginable. Did you catch that part in the reading where the disciples say: “we had hoped… that he was the one..” – they aren’t even hoping anymore. Their hope has died.
We, LGBTQ2S+ folks only ever had to figure out how to be proud of who we are, because we were told to be ashamed. The reason why we have Pride with all its vibrance and beauty is because trans women of colour were resisting police brutality. We celebrate Jesus being alive because he was executed by the state and yet lives again.
Resilience is a blessing we know only because we have endured injustice. So this is the tension I’m holding today – that we know and see resurrection and new life happening around us all the time but only because we’ve also known death.
So, I just want to say this plainly – for those of you grieving, I see you and I hope that this worship will be a space today to honour that. And in the midst of grief, my prayer is that you may be blessed by the Spirit that reminds you that you are deserving of celebration, affirmation, and respect.
The road to Emmaus shows us that even when we are unaware, Jesus is present with us, journeying with us, and helping us learn and grow. I find it interesting that Jesus feels no need to identify himself to the disciples — when it seems like so many of us are eager to name ourselves as allies or activists or feel like the label is what is necessary to do the work. Jesus just shows up. And they walk and talk. And this story is the meaning of accompaniment. In a quite literal sense too, when we think about the word companion meaning “with bread” in Latin. So, in this, I’m reminded that companionship is not just walking the walk, or talking the talk, it’s about sitting down and sharing a meal with someone.
When we share communion, we remember the last supper and Jesus’ commandment to remember him in the simple act of sharing bread. And in the act of communion I want to lift up another tension. Two things to hold – that Christ alone is all we need, and that this act of communion means nothing if we are not living it out in our everyday lives.
So this first point:
In communion, we receive this small piece of bread and claim that it will sustain us. That we will never hunger as long as we are with Christ. And here, we celebrate communion as the truth that Jesus was the embodiment of God’s never-ending solidarity, the pain of this world, the evil of this world is known and shared by a God who is always with us.
So friends, hear these words: Christ is present wherever you are, Christ is with you, the Spirit is something that can never be taken away from you and that no matter what will always call for your healing, empowerment, and liberation. When they tried to use violence to silence Jesus, they could not, the power of a God who is wholly Love is stronger than all of this. In sharing this, I hear the echoes of Romans 8
Christ is our way of knowing our God as a God of Solidarity. And solidarity is where and how we understand new life, that beyond death caused by injustice we can love bravely and fiercely. We can create new life, another world where all can know they are sacred and beloved children of God.
Okay – but here’s part 2:
We only see this new life when accompaniment moves from walking with to building community with, to offering sustenance not just company. If grief keeps the disciples from being able to see Christ, if grief is a barrier to the Spirit, this means that we have a spiritual obligation to create a world where people are not having to experience unnecessary grief which makes them unable to really experience Christ in their life.
God is calling us to live into Pride as something so much more than a chance once a year to walk with others. God is calling us to accompany, to break bread with one another.
So, as we gather at this communion table for Pride Sunday:
I challenge us not to think of this as the table where we simply celebrate gay marriage, but also the table where we are moved to ask questions about queer housing, trans employment, and who we are inviting to have at our own dinner table every night, especially when we know that a disporportionate amount of the homeless youth in our city are LGBTQ2S+. Communion is not just about the glitter and the party, but asking why so many Two Spirit folk do not have access to clean drinking water. Communion is not about window dressing corporate greed and mindless consumption with rainbow curtains, it is asking the tough questions in our workplaces about who is afraid that speaking up might cost them their ability to afford their daily bread.
At this table we are fed, we are fed with the truth of God’s abiding love – so that we may accompany and create the radical change this world so desperately needs. Amen.
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