susan sacred resistance

Secure Yourself to Heaven

A Sermon for Trinity Sunday: We “acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity and worship the Unity” by celebrating those who march today for love, justice, compassion and resistance.

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Secure yourself to heaven
Hold on tight, the night has come.
Fasten up your earthly burdens
you have just begun. Amen.

These words from an old, favorite Indigo Girls tune literally leaped out at me from a playlist that was running in the car a few weeks ago as I was stuck in traffic between one appointment and the other.

Secure yourself, to heaven: hold on tight, the night has come.

And I thought yes, boy howdy, the night has come all right. Barraged by the news of fresh disasters in our global family and the shredding of the very fabric of our national body politic it has seemed in so many ways that a night of division, polarization and systemic violence has indeed fallen upon the land.

The reason I had the playlist on in the first place was to avoid the news for just a little while … to carve out a little bubble of sanity from the pervasive chaos for those few minutes commuting from one appointment to the other.

And in that moment — in my car stuck in the bumper to bumper reality that is Glendale Boulevard at 4pm on a weekday — I heard those words from that old Indigo Girls tune in a much different way than I did back in the mid-90’s when I heard them for the first time as a newly and naively out lesbian discovering that the movement for Gay & Lesbian Equality not only had its own flag … it had the Indigo Girls. Who knew?

Secure yourself to heaven,
Hold on tight, the night has come.
Fasten up your earthly burdens
you have just begun.

We have just begun. And we have been at it for a very long time.

Both of those things are true.

And on this Trinity Sunday we are reminded by the lessons appointed for this day … lessons that begin with “in the beginning” and end with “even until the end of the world” … that we belong to the God who is both Alpha and Omega … beginning and end. Our as we do every year on Trinity Sunday in our opening prayer — the Collect for the Day — we pray for “the grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and to worship the Unity.”

Trinity Sunday is — according to the definition on ChurchYear.net — the Sunday “that honors not an event but a reality; honoring the eternal God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Now as a child, my images of the Trinity were pretty well and specifically defined and — being a child of the 60’s, as well as a child of the church — they were as follows:

GOD THE FATHER looked a lot like Charlton Heston in the “Ten Commandments” distantly poised on a mountain-top, ready to etch some profound words of wisdom in stone tablets – or maybe throw a lightning bolt or two. (I think I got in a little Zeus mixed in there for good measure and dramatic flair.)

GOD THE SON was — of course — Jesus: gentle and kind, usually pictured in stained glass, surrounded by small children or fluffy white lambs. With hair that looked like the Breck girl on the back of Seventeen magazine. (It was the 60’s, remember?)

And GOD THE HOLY GHOST, well, he looked a lot like Casper “the friendly ghost” – a popular cartoon of the era. Casper with a halo, flitting about, working over-time trying to keep us all in line with what was etched on those stone tablets – and out of range of any lightning bolts.

Understandable images given my generation and context they were — in retrospect — not remotely helpful in equipping me for my journey of faith.

As I came to understand that the concept of the Trinity is our way of expressing our experience of God, I came to also understand that my childhood images needed some serious revamping. One might even say “recalculating.” But I didn’t even know where to start.

I was well into my seminary studies when a visiting priest in the parish I was serving helped jump-start the process of recalculating my Trinitarian GPS by offering the following blessing:

In the name of God,
Creator of all worlds,
Redeemer of all souls and
Inspiration of all our lives

Now, to “All Saints ears” those are familiar words but to me they were transformative … words that broke open my understanding of the Trinity: not diminishing it, by any means: but giving depth and breadth and fullness to words I’d said my whole life.

Just as my childhood imagery proved inadequate to describe my adult experiences of God, so all our carefully formulated doctrines and passionately debated dogmas; complicated theologies and even our loveliest liturgies are useless unless they translate into our willingness to BE God’s people in the world.

Throughout the scriptural record we have stories of those who God called to step out in faith — to do things they didn’t ask for and couldn’t have imagined: Isaiah and Esther, Samuel and Sarah, Moses and Mary. And just as God called those in ages past, the God of “in the beginning” and “even until the end of the world” continues to call us now — in this moment; today — and send us out.

I love what Mike wrote in his “Gnaw on This” column for this week:

When Jesus says, “All authority has been given me both in heaven and on earth; go therefore” [he isn’t talking about] a crusade to win the world for Jesus; he’s telling us that the kin-dom of God is already among us.

So we’re not sent out with the message “convert or die” — but with the message “wake up and live!” God, made human in Jesus, and faithful to us always through the Spirit, is already here — as God has been from the beginning. The church is not here to make the world worthy or good — that happened in creation.

We are here to join hands with as many people as possible and dive into the cool, deep waters of the rich, abundant life God dreams for us. Not to fight a battle but to celebrate a victory, a destiny and a love that will never fade away.

It is that destiny — that love — that heaven we secure ourselves to when the night comes.

In words I remember coming from former All Saints member Kristi Wallace:

“Heaven is not about pie in the sky when you die but about making sound on the ground while you’re around.”

And … in the words of my newest favorite theologian — Wonder Woman:

“It’s not about what you deserve. It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love.”

When we believe in love, it is about waking up to the news of the latest terrorist attack in Tehran — or London or Portland or Baghdad or Paris — or gun violence in the streets of Pasadena — and recognizing that this scourge of violence that plagues our human family both infects and impacts us all equally.

It is about understanding that no religion, culture or ethnicity is either exempt from responsibility or immune from threat .. and that when fear of “the other” motivates hatred that turns to violence it kills not just the innocent victims in its wake but the humanity of the perpetrator.

It is about praying for the whole human family … for the healing of our collective amnesia that “in the beginning it was very good” … and for the will and wisdom to get ourselves back to the Garden.

And today — on this ResistMarch Day — it is about taking our faith into the streets in solidarity with those around the nation who are marching not only for LGGTQ Equality but for the whole human family.

Members of All Saints — led by Jim Loduha & Kelly Phelan — are praying with their feet as they join marchers from around the Diocese of Los Angeles to support this amazing witness to both unity and diversity. From the #ResistMarch Mission:

“We are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. We are people of color. We are people of different faiths. We are people of all genders and no gender. We are immigrants. We are dreamers. We are people with disabilities. We are parents. We are allies. And we are beautiful intersections of these. But most of all, we are human — and our rights are in jeopardy. Forces are gathering to take away our hard-won basic human rights.

Instead of a Pride Parade meant to celebrate our past progress, we march today to ensure all our futures. Just as we did in 1970’s first LGBTQ+ Pride, we are marching in unity with those who believe that America’s strength is its diversity. Not just LGBTQ+ people but all Americans and dreamers will be wrapped in the Rainbow Flag and our unique, diverse, intersectional voices will come together in one harmonized proclamation.”

A harmonized proclamation recognizes that unity is not the same as unison.

It recognizes that when diverse voices gather together they will sing different lines — different notes — different tempos at different times. It recognizes that there will be dissonance and that will not only be OK — that will lend to the beauty and the power of the proclamation — just as complex melodies and harmonies create the most beautiful music that touch our hearts and souls; that call us to our best, most creative selves.

We have just begun. And we have been at it for a very long time.

But lest we be discouraged by that reality; lest we forget the progess we have made in the face of the work we have yet to do let us not forget who it is that has brought us thus far on the way.

From “in the beginning” and “even unto the end of the world” — and every moment in between — we belong to the God who is the source of all Love, who created us in love and called us to walk in love with God and with one another — who goes before and behind us … surrounding us always with that circle of love … as we join hands with as many people as possible and dive into the cool, deep waters of the rich, abundant life God dreams for absolutely every single one of us.

And so on this Trinity Sunday — which is also #ResistMarch Sunday — I can think of no more profoundly holy way “to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and to worship the Unity” than to celebrate those who march today for love, justice, compassion and resistance.

Those who step out in response to God’s call as icons of a unity that transcends unison wrapped in the rainbow flag of God’s Big Fat Human Family with all its beauty, its dissonance and its diversity.

Secure yourself to heaven
Hold on tight, the night has come.
Fasten up your earthly burdens
you have just begun.

A Sermon for Trinity Pride Resistance Sunday [June 11, 2017] at All Saints Church in Pasadena, preached by Susan Russell.

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