A Queer Reading of 2 Cor. 6

On Pride Sunday at Church of the Redeemer in Toronto one of our beloved Generous Space family members got up to preach – and preach they did! Lyds did such an amazing job (it might help that their parents are both biblical scholars and so Lyds has engaged good preaching their whole life) that we wanted to share it with the broader GS community.  Thank you Lyds for sharing such an encouraging and strengthening word!

If you want to listen to the audio of the message you can find it here.

Text: 2 Corinthians 6: 2 – 13

May only the truth be spoken and only the truth be heard. Amen.

Good Morning, my name is Lyds Keesmaat-Walsh and I use they/them pronouns.

Although I currently live on my family’s farm near Lindsay, I grew up here at Redeemer, this is the church that is, and always will be, my home parish when I’m in the city. Growing up here I never thought that there was anything different or unusual about being part of the LGBT community. One of the other kids in my Sunday School class had two moms, my five year old mind didn’t think anything of that! The first time someone came out to me I was confused about why this was a big deal. After we moved away we attended a more conservative church for a few years. It was there that I realized the unique and special place this church is. How amazing it is that this has been an affirming congregation for so long. How amazing it is that here, as I hope it shall one day be in the rest of the world, being part of the queer community is just part of the norm, it’s part of who this community is. This has always been a church that I come back to and feel like I can just be myself, fully, openly, and honestly.  So, as a queer, trans, Redeemer kid, it’s an honour to be asked to be here this morning. Thank you for welcoming me home today.

I just want to note that through this sermon that I’ll be using “LGBT” and “Queer” as umbrella terms to refer to the whole LGBTQIA2S community. I will also be using the word cis or cisgender which means you’re not part of the trans community, it means that you identify as the gender you were assigned at birth.

As Queer folks we don’t usually to like Paul very much, he’s been used against us too many times. We’ve been told too many times, over and over again that we aren’t welcome in Christian spaces because of Paul. Paul’s the one who’s been used to push us out.

But what would it look like if we reclaimed Paul as our own today? If we listened to this letter to the Corinthians as if he was writing it to and about us, today on Pride Sunday? What would it look like if, instead of hearing Paul as someone who’s always against us, we hear Paul today as a friend?

I mean, we are a community that knows what it’s like to have obstacles put in our path. The world, and even more so the church, has been putting obstacles in our path for thousands of years. Barring us from church, from leadership, from marriage, from the right to exist as our true and honest selves. Telling us that if we want to fully participate and worship we must hide a part of who we are.

So could there another way to read Paul?

A way where we acknowledge that he’s our friend and not our enemy?

Could it be that today is an acceptable time?

Could Pride Sunday be a day of salvation?

So let’s try reading this text again, but this time lets read it with a little bit of a pride Sunday twist.

“At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way:

Through great endurance,” The LGBT community, my community, has great endurance. Look at us, look at what we’ve been put through. Everywhere I look my Queer siblings are being rejected and beaten and disowned. I see the church still fighting about if we should have full rights in our places of worship. And yet here we still are, we are still finding pride and joy and community in our Queer identities. We’re still here, in the church.

“In afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, and imprisonments.” Almost every day, trans women and trans femme people of colour are beaten and killed. In 74 countries around the world there are laws against being gay. In 11 of those countries you can still be put to death.

“In Riots, labours, sleepless nights.”  I don’t even know how many sleepless nights I’ve had because of the heteronormativity and cisnormativity of the society we live in, sleepless nights in fear after and before coming out to someone I love. Sleepless nights battling my own internalized homophobia and transphobia.

“Hunger.”  We are hungry. We are hungry for acceptance, hungry for love, hungry for equal rights. We are hungry for home and we are literally hungry – queer and trans youth are over 100% more likely to experience homelessness than cis and straight youth are. They are literally hungry for a full stomach and a safe, loving home.

“By purity, knowledge, patience” We are a community that knows how to be patient. We know how to be patient from our long wait for marriage equality, a wait that still isn’t over for so many churches and so many countries. We know how to be patient from waiting until it’s a safe place and time to come out. We know how to be patient from waiting for hormones and surgeries to help us alleviate dysphoria. We know how to be patient as we continue to wait for the day when we are fully equal members of society.

“Kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love” Love, that’s what this community is all about. Love. The right to love who you love freely and equally. The right to love yourself and be true to yourself. We are a community full of love. A lot of the most important people in my life are part of a community of LGBT Christians called Generous Space. And the Generous Space community is truly full of love. We are a community that holds each other in love. When someone gets an email from a grandparent who isn’t affirming of their trans identity while at Generous Space retreat; this community rallies around them and upholds them. Gets them back out dancing when their favourite song comes on and has an epic Non Binary sleepover that night so that they’re not alone. We’re a community that is family to each other because so many aren’t accepted by their biological families. We’re a community that comes out in force when one of us is preaching at a Pride service and is really really nervous.

“By truthful speech and the power of God. With the weapons of justice for the right hand and for the left” We are fighting for justice for all people and we know that we will win the fight through love not hate. We will win this fight by existing, by marching today and being unapologetically ourselves. But we are not fighting this fight to win and beat those who oppress us. We are fighting to learn how to live together, all of us, as one community where everyone’s intricately beautiful identities are seen as valid and good. As a very wise woman Palestinian named Amal women I met a few weeks said, “We are working here to transform enemies to friends”.

“In honour and dishonour in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true” Last week someone posted in a Trans Facebook group I help run asking, “Does anyone else feel like they’re imposters in non-trans spaces?” within an hour there were over 100 responses of trans folks feeling like they didn’t fit in non-trans spaces, mostly because we’re treated like we don’t fit. When I walk in to a church that I don’t know as a fact is affirming, I immediately feel like an imposter, like I don’t belong there. And yet we are true, we are true to ourselves. We stand up and say “no. I do belong here.” On my Mennonite school programme last year there were a handful of the other students who didn’t seem to think I fit in the community because of my queerness. But I stayed true to myself. Although I did often feel like I was an imposter in the straight cis space I stood up and said. “No, I belong here.”

“As unknown, and yet are well known. As dying, and see, we are alive” We are dying, this community is literally dying. Homophobia and Transphobia is literally killing us. And yet, look around you today. Look at all the life in this room, in this church community. Look at Chris Ambidge giving so much life to this church through his fearless, fearless advocacy for the LGBT community. Listen to the music and remember John Campbell, and the years of life joy he brought to this church through his music. Look at Heather Steeves and Karen Turner and beautiful life they bring to this church though their love for each other and their love for this community. We are alive. We are fighting shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart.

“As punished, and yet not killed. As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” We are sorrowful and we mourn. We mourn for those who we have lost to the evil that is Homophobia and Transphobia. We mourn for Leelah Alcorn who died by suicide when her parents made her go to conversion therapy. We morn for Naomi, Christa, Viccky, Tonya, Celine, Phylicia, Zakaria, Amia, and Sasha. All trans women killed, and that’s jus