A couple of Sundays ago, I was asked to give the homily at Knox Met United Church here on the anniversary of their becoming an affirming congregation. Bellow is the text that I wrote, and a link to the video of the service.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, amen.
Thank you for the invitation to take the pulpit today. I am humbled,
grateful (and potentially sweating).
I’d like to speak about 4 things today. Firstly, I’d like to give you a brief
idea of who and what I am. Secondly I’d like to speak about the
transfiguration, the meaning we can draw from this moment in scripture.
Thirdly, I want to talk about how we can more perfectly love one
another, more perfectly allow God’s love to transfigure US, and finally,
I want to offer you an observation of how Knox Met has been
transfigured by your actions.
And I have between 15 and 17 minutes.
First: Not all Catholics are Roman. Council of Trent.
Keep in mind, this was in part a response to a renegade Franciscan with
a nail and a hammer and some questionable ideas.
At the time, there were bishops who disagreed with the idea of papal
infallibility—the Vatican, in response, uninvited them to the council. As
a result, they began a process of naming their own bishops and
administering their own parishes, and called themselves Old Catholics.
As people immigrated to North America, Old Catholicism followed and
today, there are over one million Old/Independent Catholics in North
America. Some are conservative, some liberal, and others, like my own
denomination, fall a little bit in the middle.
Fast forward to 1946, Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Atlanta,
Georgia and the young man who refused to agree with a priest that being
gay was an abomination. Talk about how that was an act of courage at
a time when doing so could mean loosing a job, loosing one’s life. Over
the weeks, the number of people who stood with that young man grew.
My church draws from the spirit of that, and the original Eucharistic
Catholic Church founded by Archbishop Clement in New York City
shortly after the stonewall riots.
I was ordained September 21, 2021 in Toronto and draw apostolic
succession from the Vilate Line of succession which goes directly to St.
Second: The Feast of the Transfiguration.
What I love so much is that this is a time in scripture where we have a
very deliberate display of the thumbprint of God. I’m in no way trying
to diminish God! This is the thumb of a being that has created a
universe infinitely beyond our comprehension, so it’s a big thumb. We
see the Lord transfigured, glowing, changed, transformed in such a way
that there is NO doubt this is the Son of God. A bright cloud covers
them, and a voice from heaven says “This is my Son, whom I love; with
him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” And here’s Peter, feeling the
need to say something, and putting his foot in his mouth when he
suggests constructing tents for Moses and Elijah and Jesus so they can
stay longer. This was how impactful this moment was. They were
terrified until Jesus touched them, cowering on the ground, and said
“Hey…it’s ok…don’t worry, come with me. And don’t tell anyone
about this ok?”
What does that Transfigured Being, that which is identified so clearly
and so distinctly at that moment, teach us? What is His clear message to
us? It must be big, because God spoke! God revealed with an
exclamation point, Pay attention! This Man is Important! His message
John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one
another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
Third: How Can We More Perfectly Love One another?
I’m going to draw on St. Francis, and an experience I had in Toronto.
It’s a pet homily of mine.
St. Francis in his desire to be closer to God, to be in closer union with
Christ, needed to move beyond his fears and anxieties, the labels he’d
imposed on his life, by society, so that he might encounter God better in
those he feared. Lepers. Leprosy was not a nice thing in the 11 th
century. It disfigured your body. The only treatment was complete
isolation from your family, your friends, your community. You were
forced out. When Francis saw a leper, or heard a bell indicating one was
coming, he would always cross the road, cover his face, look the other
Awakening, then riding the horse down the road. Gets off the horse,
puts the coin in the leper’s hands, kisses them, then goes on to serve the
lepers. In a way, this was a reflection of the transfiguration, another
moment we see the thumb print of God.
When I went to Toronto for my profession of first vows as a Franciscan,
it was a crazy few days. Pride had invaded Toronto, and there were a
million more people on the streets. The day I professed my vows was the
same day as the Pride Parade, and after some convincing I decided to
attend. It was madness! A million people filled the streets. I was in my
Tribe for the first time in my life.
My bishop and I watched from the vantage point under the awning of a
large tower. The crowd was about two deep where we were standing,
and there was a crowd three to four feet deep by the edge of the street.
In between, a small space where two way pedestrian traffic moved.
From my left, I saw a homeless man, dirty, his only clothing a pair of
jeans that were ripped and dirty, yet he was dancing in absolute extasy.
From the other direction, a well dressed, well manicured young man.
His clothes and jewelry showed he was a person of means. He looked at
the homeless man, covered his mouth, and looked away.
This is normally the place where I challenge the congregation with a
question: who are your lepers?
And while I think we can run with that challenge still, and we still need
to think about those we consider lepers in our lives because they may not
be as clean, or they may not be the same colour, or they may be too
different for our comfort levels, or they may make us uncomfortable
with how they may challenge our beliefs and ideas and actions, there’s a
glimmer of great light. The thumbprint of God in what Knox Met has
Fourth: How I have observed the transfiguration of Knox Met.
I want to read from a video that I saw several months ago that leads into
the point I want to make. This is a quote by Ms. Abbey Smith:
“Queer people engaging in any faith context is an act of bravery. It is a
radical act of boldness that takes on a substantial burden of vulnerability.
And because of that, they get to hold whatever boundaries they want.
No one in any marginalized or oppressed … group should be expected to
bear the burden of someone else’s betterment journey…. That person in
that marginalized group gets to decide whether they want to engage with
you or not…. When it comes to leaders (in the context of faith),” and
here, I believe Ms. Smith is referring to leaders of mainstream faith
“asking for clarity of belief is not unkind, it is not deplatforming them, it
is not shaming them or pushing them out, it is just honouring the dignity
and autonomy of queer people.”
Several months ago, I put a call out to leaders of affirming faith
communities, recognizing there was a need for a place that queer people
could heal from trauma they may have experienced in the context of
organized religion. Similarly, I reached out for space to conduct liturgy
by queer people for queer people, in a way that people in our community
could feel safe to explore liturgy, their connections to faith, to find
fellowship in faith, to be queer in faith. Knox Met was the only
congregation, through Cam Fraser, to reach out and offer space. Knox
Met was the only congregation that offered a space where we as queer
people could engage in that act of bravery; you joined in that act of
boldness when agreeing to allow us space to host one of only two groups
in North America focusing on healing from religious trauma. One of
two. The only one of it’s kind in Canada.
All of you today, whether you know it or not, have taken your statement
of purpose linked with your affirming status and made it real by your
actions, through the graciousness of your board. It’s not just a sticker on
a sign out front, it’s not just a tag line in letterhead or a Facebook
broadcast. It’s tangible. It’s real. You are affirming. You have given
us sanctuary so that we, as queer people, can celebrate Mass, engage in
fellowship, and explore our faith in our terms.
I encourage you: don’t stop here. Don’t be satisfied you’ve done
enough. Break your doors wide open, knock them off the hinges, and
allow Christ’s love to move you into community, further move you to
people who need to experience love, to people you may be terrified to
know; if you feel someone is beneath you, that’s where you need to start,
and that may be someone closer to you than you realize.
In your lives, live the gospel. Love one another as I have loved you. Let
the fullness of the transfiguration, the fullness of that thumb print of the
Infinite Love of God move you, in you, in your words, and what you do.
There is a line that is attributed to St. Francis: Preach the gospel at
every opportunity. Use words only when necessary.
God love you.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.