A sign of Divine Love

Pride – La Fierté

Isaiah 43.1-5 – Luke 4.16-21

The Very Rev’d Bertrand Oliver, Dean and Rector

Good to be here today.  Thank you to all who are contributing to the service – Ganymede, the choir, etc.

And thank you to Tatenda and Ian for your powerful testimony.

There are not many cities that have a whole ten days of Pride Celebrations, and Montreal is certainly pushing the boat out in order to encourage many to participate in this popular annual event.

Of course, it is good business for the tourism industry and our local economy to attract the pink dollar – when business and good cause meet, we have a virtuous circle.

Local companies and organisations make sure that they show their LGBTQ2S+ friendly credentials, rainbows are everywhere, and tourists join Montrealers of all hues in order to celebrate.  It is also a time to see and celebrate the large amount of voluntary work done by local LGBTQ2S+ organisations that support those in our communities who are struggling with isolation, self-worth, bullying, mental health and many other issues.  Even as we celebrate, we know that we are not immune to the woes of the world.

Most of us who are able to take part in these celebrations one way or another feel able to stand tall and be proud, at least for a moment or throughout our lives.

There is enough momentum this week, and there are enough of us together that we can simply be who we are without having to pretend.  We do not need to feel apologetic, shameful or make ourselves invisible.  We are able to discover a newfound freedom, new aspects of ourselves, we can be truly proud of the person that we are.  Everyone rejoices with us for a week. And then life returns to business as usual.

Thankfully, here in Montreal, we live in an environment where we are now broadly safe to celebrate even if security concerns have been on the rise around Pride week in recent years even here.

We have seen and read how, in many countries around the world, to simply participate in a Pride parade is to open oneself to intimidation, violence, arrest, and in some cases imprisonment.  Some countries such as Uganda have even legislated for the death penalty in certain cases.

Tatenda’s testimony reminds us that to be born LGBTQ2S+ in the wrong country can have devastating consequences.

And Ian reminded us that many LGBTQ2S+ people are still thrown out of their families, out of their homes, out of their churches, even here in Quebec.  Protection of the law does not mean that our lives are any easier to navigate, and there are many instances in which we simply would prefer not to draw attention to ourselves – life would be simpler that way.

Today, we gather here, because we are people of faith who, like many in Montreal, are sharing in the Pride Celebrations.

And we come here especially because, in a world which includes both light and darkness, we know that God celebrates the whole of his creation with us, and that includes each and every one of us.

We were reminded in the passage from the prophet Isaiah that it is God who has created and formed us.  God says: ‘I have called you by name, you are mine’.  There are no conditions to this.  In fact, God adds: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you’.  In whatever way we feel that we might be falling short, God vindicates us, wipes the slate clean, offers us a new beginning.

God who, from ancient times, promised to be with God’s people every step of the way, even in the midst of the most difficult trials.

God who whispers in our ears – You are precious in my sight.  I honour you, and I love you.

God who is prepared to trade great wealth and countries for us and our safe keeping.

God who sent his son Jesus to embody those very words to a world that was – and is still – not that interested: good news to the poor, freedom to the captive, recovery of sight to the blind.  A new vision.

God who seeks to draw us into the divine creative process of building the Kingdom of God here and now, with all the skills and talents that we have.

And of course, we know how creative the LGBTQ2S+ community has been and can continue to be in the face of challenge, oppression and traumas of all sorts.

And how our celebrations are only the tip of the iceberg of what our communities can do to change the world, one step at a time.  To let the world understand that members of the LGBTQ2S+ are not a threat, except to those who do not already know the love of God, but instead we are people who seek to lead fruitful lives and contribute to the wellbeing of society as we already do so often.

When challenged by some who kept trying to trap him, Jesus summarised the ancient commandments into a very short statement: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’

Yet, we often do not hear the very last two words of Jesus’s statement – As Yourself.

Many who claim to love God and to love their neighbour have not even begun to start loving themselves, perhaps because no one told them they were lovable, or they cannot believe that they are.  They may have a distorted or idealised view of who they are and may be trying to plaster over the cracks of their failings with hate or with misplaced religiosity.

The amazing transforming power of God is this: that in knowing that we are accepted and loved, regardless of what others tell us, we in turn can begin to learn to love ourselves as we are and to live lives open to showing love to others.

So especially in this Pride week, but also always: rejoice and celebrate, know that God loves you, be proud of yourself, and in that knowledge, learn to be a sign of Divine Love to others and the world.

A blessed Pride week.


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