A sermon preached at the Milton Keynes Pride Service, organised by Faithfully LGBTQIA+ MK, held at St Mary’s Shenley Church End on 25th September 2022.
Texts: 1 Corinthians 12.12-27 and John 15.1-11
“You are the body of Christ.” You. Yes, you. You are the body of Christ. Know that, and know it deeply. Many of us may have been told in various ways, by words or by actions, that because of who we are or who we love, we are not part of the body of Christ, that we cannot be full members of the church, that we cannot really be proper Christians. That is not true. And more than being not true it is dangerous theology, and it is idolatry. When we start picking and choosing who ‘counts’ as part of the body of Christ, then we are in danger of making the body of Christ – making Jesus, making God – smaller and tamer than God really is. We run the risk of worshiping not God, but our own narrow, safe idea of who God is.
We are the body of Christ in all our glorious God-given diversity. Diversity is and always has been a characteristic of the body of Christ, a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is essential, as Paul so humorously points out in his musings about feet and eyes and noses, that not all members of the body are the same. Each member of the body needs the full range of other diverse members of the body, in order to flourish together. As members of the body of Christ, we cannot say to one another: “I have no need of you.” When any member of the body of Christ is excluded the whole body is diminished, and the image of Christ which we present to the world is impaired.
This is why services like this, and events like Pride, and having an affirming Christian presence at Pride, really matter. It is not just about inclusion, it is about justice. Full inclusion and affirmation of LGBTQ+ people and relationships is not just a kind thing for a nice church to do – it is essential to being the church we are called to be, striving to resemble more closely the perfect justice of God’s kingdom. But it is not just about justice either. It is about who we are, and who God is, and who we are in God. It is as fundamental as that, and as radical – in its proper sense of being ‘at the root’ – as that.
We are called to be rooted in God, like branches in a vine, like vines in a vineyard. “Abide in me as I abide in you.” I wonder what it means for you to abide in Jesus? Abide is such a rich, resonant word. It has connotations of stability, of closeness, of intimacy, of steadfastness, of dependence, of deep relationship, of endurance, and so much more. We, in all our rich and beautiful diversity, are called to abide in God, to abide in God’s love. All that we are: our bodies, our lives, our loves, our relationships; the things we love about ourselves and the things we find hard to love; the things everyone knows about us and the things known only to us and to God; the whole of who we are is where God chooses to abide, full of grace and truth.
Our diversity as the people of God, as the body of Christ is a sign to the world of who God is: wild and free, expansive beyond our imaginings, longing to encompass and enfold all people and the whole creation in infinite love. And our diversity is a source of delight: delight for us, I hope, and for our loved ones, but also delight for God. God delights in us. “I have said these things to you,” Jesus says, “so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” God rejoices in us. God’s joy is in us – in our live and our loves. God delights in queer joy.
We don’t talk nearly enough about joy and delight in our conversations about the place of LGBTQ+ folks in the church. But I firmly believe that is how God see us. One of the reasons we celebrate and thank God for Pride is that it is such a site of joy – the joy that comes from being who we truly are, being known and seen and delighted over, being together. And doesn’t that sound to you like a place in which God abides? It does to me.
As we abide in God’s love, as we take our place as members together of the body of Christ, as we show to a weary world the full depth and height and breadth of God’s limitless love, may we know God’s joy in us – may you know God’s limitless delight and joy in you – today and always. Amen.