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[Sermon] For Such a Time as This: Finding Your Voice and Embracing Your Identity

David Horton, Minister of Music & Worship + June 30, 2024 + Pride Sunday

In his Pride Sunday sermon, David Horton, Trinity's Minister of Music & Worship, draws parallels between the story of Esther and the experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community, highlighting themes of courage, identity, and divine love. He shares his personal journey as a queer individual, celebrating the beauty of diverse identities within our community. David urges us to challenge systems of marginalization and to support the voices of those who have been silenced. Through the lens of Psalm 139 and Esther 4, he calls for a deeper understanding and celebration of the unique purpose and beauty inherent in every individual.

Sermon Transcript

Grace and peace to you from the radiant light of the Divine in all its infinite forms. May the whispers of our ancestors, the courage of those who came before us, and the boundless joy of chosen families fill this space with strength and celebration. And let the church say amen. 

Happy Pride! 

It's truly a joy to celebrate Pride here in church, a place that can sometimes feel hurtful for LGBTQIA+ people. We know that too often, their voices, my voice, haven’t been heard, and their identities, my identity, haven't been embraced. But today, we celebrate the beautiful diversity of our community, knowing that God's love is for everyone. 

Today, I stand before you, not just as your Minister of Music and Worship but also as someone who proudly identifies as queer, the “Q” in LGBTQIA+. This word, "queer," might be strange to some, but for me, it's a powerful term of self-affirmation. It represents the beautiful rainbow of identities within my community. And the message I bring is one of hope, love, and acceptance. The Good News is for everyone, regardless of who you love, how you identify, or how you express yourself. 

So, I want to invite you on a journey – an exploration of love's ever-expanding purpose. Forget a God who dictates reality. Instead, imagine a divine dance, a co-creation where our relationships are the brushstrokes. In this unfolding masterpiece, God's love is the constant ground, a love that transcends our limited understanding. This love embraces all creation, including the magnificent tapestry of human experience. As we celebrate Pride today, let's see each other not just as individuals but as vibrant expressions of God's ongoing artistic spirit.

Deal? Alright. 

Our scripture might be unfamiliar territory for some. It comes from the Book of Esther, a story cherished by our Jewish siblings during Purim, a spirited celebration of liberation. While not a typical Christian text, Esther's tale speaks powerfully to themes that resonate with us all: courage, defying oppression, and finding our voice.

Similar to the familiar Psalm 139, which reminds us that God knows us intimately and loves us uniquely (v. 14), Esther's story offers a powerful affirmation. Both narratives celebrate the beautiful diversity of God's creation and the freedom to be authentically ourselves.

Interestingly, unlike most biblical accounts, the Book of Esther is a fictional story. Filled with humor and theatricality, it departs from traditional themes, focusing less on God's covenant and more on the power of courage and defying injustice.

This aligns beautifully with the Jewish tradition of celebrating Purim. Purim is a joyous occasion marked by costumes, noisemakers, and lively celebrations. It's a time to honor Jewish heritage and community, which again, beautifully resonates with the spirit of Pride month.

Just like Esther, who risked everything to speak her truth, we, too, are called to find our voices. Let us respectfully use this story as inspiration to challenge systems of silence and marginalization and to advocate for ourselves and all who yearn to be seen and heard. In doing so, we celebrate the breathtaking mosaic of human experience and the freedom to be authentically ourselves.

Queen Esther's story is the LGBTQIA+ experience. Just like many in this community, Esther faced powerful leaders whose decrees could mean life or death. Imagine the fear that gripped her. Here she was, a young Jewish woman living in a foreign land, married to a pagan king. The very act of revealing her heritage could have put her life and the lives of her people at risk.

This internal struggle between duty and fear mirrors the struggles of many LGBTQIA+ individuals. The fear of rejection, discrimination, and violence can overshadow the desire to be true to oneself. Just like Esther hiding her identity, many LGBTQIA+ people feel pressure to conform to societal expectations, fearing the consequences of being open about their true selves.

Esther's initial hesitation to approach the king uninvited underscores the imbalance of power. Aware of the king's volatile nature and the risk of approaching him unannounced, she embodies the powerlessness many LGBTQIA+ people face when advocating for themselves. Just as Esther needed a platform or sign of approval from the king, LGBTQIA+ individuals need more authority and a stronger voice to challenge societal norms and discriminatory laws. This is where allies can do their part to listen more, amplify LGBTQIA+ voices, and help them reach full inclusion and acceptance.

Yet, despite the tremor of fear, Esther discovered a wellspring of courage she never knew existed. The gravity of her people's plight became a heavy sea upon her heart, a chilling reminder of the devastating undertow of inaction. Her bravery reflects the unwavering spirit of LGBTQIA+ individuals who choose to ride the crest of authenticity in the face of societal storms. Their actions, though seemingly like pebbles tossed into a vast ocean, have the power to generate ripples of change. These ripples, gathering momentum, become waves that crash against the shores of conformity, inspiring others to embrace the uncharted waters of their true selves. Esther's story, etched within the sacred canon, transcends mere narrative. It becomes a timeless testament, a beacon across the ages, whispering that even the quietest act of self-acceptance can send forth a wave of transformation.

But here’s where it gets really good. 

In the face of Esther's paralyzing fear, Mordecai utters a profound truth: "Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14). These words transcend the story, offering a powerful call to each of us.

Mordecai reminds us that our seemingly ordinary lives hold extraordinary purpose. The very challenges and positions we find ourselves in are opportunities to make a difference. Esther, an outsider in the king's court, possessed the power to save her people. Likewise, we, too, have unique gifts and experiences that can serve the greater good.

Mordecai's words resonate not only with the ostracized and the queer but with all who yearn for authenticity. Within our vulnerabilities lie reservoirs of strength waiting to be tapped. Our truest selves, once embraced, become the instruments of a more just and equitable world. This aligns with the deepest yearnings of my faith, with the image of a divine being who celebrates the vibrant tapestry of creation, each thread woven with a unique purpose. We are called not to cower in fear of our identities but to understand that perhaps we were placed here precisely "for such a time as this," a time when the world craves the fullness of who we are. This is the true image of the divine reflected in humanity: the courage to embrace the self we were meant to be.

Following Mordecai's call to find purpose, let's also consider Psalm 139: "You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb... I am fearfully and wonderfully made" (v. 13, 14). God isn't a static creator but a co-creator in a dynamic relationship with the world. These verses resonate with that concept. Our identities are constantly evolving, shaped by our experiences and interactions with others, just as God interacts with the ever-changing universe.

Like a stained-glass window, each of us is a vibrant composition shaped by the light filtering through our unique experiences. Our identities, like the colors and textures of the glass, encompass gender, sexual orientation, strengths, talents, and challenges. All these elements contribute to the magnificent artwork that is our life's purpose. Even moments of fear, like the lead separating the colors in the window, can add strength and definition to the overall design.

Even when the world seems to mute us, this perspective amplifies our inner strength. When faced with marginalization, remember that our ever-evolving identities are like a symphony composed alongside the Divine. This ongoing collaboration empowers us to find our authentic voice. Our purpose unfolds as we embrace who we are, allowing us to use our experiences to contribute to a more inclusive and ever-changing world, one powerful note at a time.

The scriptures tell us again and again that God is love, and as followers of Christ, we are called to extend that love to all. Period. 

But how do we translate that love into action within the walls of this very church? How do we create a space where everyone feels welcome, embraced, and truly seen?

Well, there’s always three things, right? 

First is practicing endless grace. 

We must shed the cloak of judgment and assumptions. Each person carries a unique story, a tapestry woven with experiences and beliefs different from our own. We must respect that. Our role is not to force conformity but to illuminate the path where God's love empowers us all. It's about showing, not just telling, how faith can be a tool for liberation for each individual to reach their full potential.

The second is practicing faith in action. 

Faith is not a passive state, my friends. It is the burning ember that ignites our service. Having faith is the first step, but true transformation comes through action. Let us step outside these doors and into the world. 

There are voices to be heard, injustices to be challenged, and those in need who yearn for a helping hand. Volunteer your time, participate in your community, and educate yourselves and others. Let's not just talk about making a difference; let's make it happen!

Third is knowing that love is the end all and be all. 

Let love be the cornerstone through it all. We may disagree on certain matters, and that's okay. What truly matters is that we all walk a path of faith. Let us foster a space where open and respectful dialogue can flourish.

This includes actively listening to the experiences and voices of our LGBTQIA+ siblings. Their stories deserve to be heard, not silenced. Let's create a space where they feel safe, loved, and valued, not ostracized.

Remember, love is not a fleeting feeling but a constant choice. Let us choose love, not just in moments of ease but even when faced with challenges. For in the end, it is love that binds us together, a love that transcends differences and creates a true community of faith.

Can I get an amen? 

Finally, let the dynamic spirit of Pride ripple outward like a pebble cast into a still pond. May we carry its message of courage and self-acceptance beyond these walls. Remember Mordecai's words, a beacon in the storm: we are all here "for such a time as this." Our unique voices, once hesitant whispers, now hold the power to become crashing waves of change. Let us rise, casting off the shackles of fear, and embrace the symphony of our authentic selves. Together, let our voices rise in a crescendo of inclusivity, amplifying the unheard and weaving a vibrant tapestry of love. In this grand chorus, each voice, like a unique instrument, adds its own beautiful melody, forever altering the landscape of our faith.

And for that, we say amen. 

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