In the summer of 1990, my husband Charlie and I went on a trip to Spain. Though, of course, back then we weren’t married. No gay couples were. We’d only been together about 10 months.
Earlier that year, Charlie had signed up for a summer course for Spanish teachers in Madrid. So, I decided to join him. I’d never been to Europe before.
I’d minored in Spanish in college and looked forward to visiting a country with so much history. With beautiful castles and museums and churches.
Once there, we traveled to various cities. In Salamanca, we went to visit the cathedral. At the entrance, I saw graffiti painted on the ancient door—large white letters that said in Spanish: “Soy lesbiana, porque me da la gana!” A poem that’s really a gay rights chant, meaning: “I’m lesbian, because I feel like it!”
Shameless words of pride. Shocking words for any Spaniard. Symbolic words on a church door. Words of courageous opposition to closed-door policies of Catholics and Protestants regarding LGBTQ individuals three decades ago. A stance still held by many Christians.
Words that echo a meaning of the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel reading. Where Jesus says, “Knock, and the door will be opened for you.”
This is a familiar verse for most of us. But after two millennia of Christianity, it’s easy to miss the bold promise Jesus makes. For Jesus doesn’t say, “Knock, and maybe someone might answer.” Or, “knock, and we might open the door a crack.” Which is the kind of answer many hear today.
Like queer people, who have been so bullied by the Church that we are happy when Christians grant us a qualified welcome. Like people of color, who face racism on a daily basis, but are told not to complain about microaggressions, or past misdeeds, or inaction by politicians. Or like immigrants, who are told how lucky they are to be in this country, and that if they don’t like it, they should just go back.
Recently, President Trump took to Twitter, criticizing “The Squad,” the four women of color in Congress who represent his worst nightmare: they aren’t white, and they’re women who aren’t afraid to say what they think.
Many suggest people like that should just accept what they’ve received with “gratitude.” To stop knocking on the door, asking for more. More acceptance, more understanding, more protections, more power.
Recently I read an article by John Paul Brammer, a US citizen whose mother is Mexican American. Brammer addresses the issue of white privileged people expecting gratitude from immigrants. He wrote:
“But [from my perspective, that] kind of gratitude is the enemy of self-assertion…. [For] if we are made to feel like perpetual foreigners in our own homes, we will be less likely to advocate for ourselves and to ask for better treatment. I’ve seen this sentiment… among Mexican Americans as well as LGBTQ people. For some, there is stigma and shame in asking for too much, for being loud, for the audacity of voicing our discontent. 1
I believe that the words of Jesus we heard this morning speak in stark contrast to the voices of today’s world.
The parable Jesus tells about the pesky neighbor repeats that message. The man wants to show hospitality to his visitors but needs to borrow some bread. So, at midnight he goes to his neighbor’s house, and knocks and knocks and knocks. Until his groggy and grumpy friend finally opens the door and gives him what he wants.
The author of Luke puts these words in the context of prayer. But some Biblical scholars believe Jesus originally taught these sayings to the first disciples he sent out in pairs to share the Good News. Itinerant preachers. Instructed by Jesus to carry nothing. With no home base.
As a result, they had to learn to ask for what they needed. They were completely dependent on the hospitality of others for food and shelter.
A ministry of collaborative hospitality that reflects the gracious welcome we find with God. The same kind of hospitality our congregation has received from Temple Beth El Synagogue.
For like the people of Israel in our first reading from the very last verses of the book of Exodus, St. Mark’s is a wandering community. And just like the people of Israel, the cloud of God’s holy presence has followed us along each stage of our journey. Providing everything needed both by them and by us.
During the past 6 years, we have been dependent on the grace of God and the hospitality of others as our ministry has moved from place to place. Along the way, God opened many doors. And today, God has led us to a new door.
At the time we moved here 28 months ago, Prairie St. John’s told us about their plans to build a new hospital but didn’t know when—until this year.
When we started looking for a new worship space back in January, I really didn’t think it would be that hard. However, our search took nearly six months! We had to do a lot of door-knocking both literally and figuratively, with about 45 different options.
So, here we are today—ready to begin a new path in our pilgrim journey.
This is our last day of worship here. A day to remember the good things experienced in this space. A day to grieve the loss of this lovely home. A day to celebrate God’s abiding presence among us in this sacred sanctuary.
On Tuesday, everything here will be moved. And we will close these chapel doors one last time. Next Sunday, we will joyfully gather before God, as we pass through the doors of a new sanctuary. And God’s presence will follow us there.
Together, our faith has allowed us to see amazing possibilities for our congregation. And I believe our new sanctuary will be a place people come looking for unqualified acceptance.
A place to find God’s undeserved grace. A place to feel God’s loving embrace. A place to lean on God’s arms during the darkest days and most difficult steps of our journey.
A place with a door that opened to us even before we stopped knocking. With words of hospitality boldly emblazoned on the hearts of everyone inside.
A place where, no matter who you are, or where you come from, or whomever you love, you are truly welcome both here and there. Amen.
1 Brammar, John Paul, “Stop Demanding People of Color to Show ‘Gratitude’”, Out Magazine, July 19, 2019; https://www.out.com/…/stop-demanding-people-color-show-grat…
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FIRST READING: Exodus 40:34-38
Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on each stage of their journey; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, before the eyes of all the house of Israel at each stage of their journey.
GOSPEL LESSON: Luke 11:5-13
And [Jesus] said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. “So, I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”