LGBTQIA+ Folks: Showing Everyone the Kingdom of God
Pride Sunday Sermon
The Rev. Sara Cosca-Warfield
Scripture: Mark 4:26-34
A quick prologue to today’s sermon:
Since today is Pride Sunday, I just want to clear something up. When I use the word queer, it’s an umbrella term for everyone who identifies as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Asexual, plus. I’m saying queer because it’s much easier than saying the LGBTQIA+ community every time. But we all need to remember that each person in this community has their own preferred identity.
End of prologue.
This Pride Sunday, this Pride month, I think it’s fitting that Jesus is talking all about seeds.
“The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.”
The part that caught me in this verse was, “the earth produces of itself.” More specifically, the phrase “of itself.” Which seems not that significant, if a little abstract. But I wondered about it. And I looked it up. The original Greek—because the New Testament was written mostly in Greek—is the word automatē. It’s where we get the word “automatic.” You know, things that work without an external force causing it to work.
Grass growing is automatic.
Rain falling is automatic.
Breathing is automatic.
But are they? I think about this when I wonder whether God exists or not. Whoa, I know! But yes, sometimes I question it. “I believe, help my unbelief,” is biblical. It’s a valid way, an honest way, to approach faith.
But then I think about all these things we consider automatic: The sun rising. Babies growing into children into adults. Our hearts beating and beating and beating for decades on end.
And I realize: they’re not automatic. they’re not of itself. There is an initiating force, a spark that gave life to this matter and caused it to shine, to rise, to grow, to beat.
So I think there’s a different way to think about this Greek word automatē. It’s not something that happens “of itself.” It’s that which only God can do, that which only God can spark.
That’s the parable, right? That nothing is automatic. That everything starts because of God, without human effort.
The sun is the sun because of God.
Grass is the grass because of God.
Roses are roses because of God,
and lilies are lilies because of God.
I am me because of God.
You are you because of God.
You are you because of God.
That’s what Jesus is saying when he talks about this seed. There is a seed inside each of us, that thing that God plants in each of us and causes to sprout and grow. That thing that makes me, me. That thing that makes you, you.
Which brings us to the mustard seed, the smallest of all the seeds on earth, or at least so says the gospel. I imagine this seed inside us packed with all the things God means for us to be, all the ways God intends for us to be uniquely ourselves.
And I don’t want to get into a nature/nurture discussion. While I think that’s an interesting and important intellectual discussion, I don’t think any sort of dichotomy or structure like that can hold the fullness of God’s creation. I’m not just talking about nature when I’m talking about the mustard seed. The fullness of God’s creation packs our seeds in infinite ways: the people we encounter, the experiences we have, the hardships we face. The seed is unfathomable. It is nature, nurture, and all the ways we encounter life and life encounters us.
The seed holds your disposition towards poetry or science or service. The seed holds your unique sense of humor, whether it is dry or earnest or clever. It holds the way you’re drawn to bearded irises or deserts or the color green. The sound of your laugh. Your talents and gifts. Whether you’re more lighthearted or more serious. The way you experience love and attraction. The way you experience gender.
The mustard seed is a ball of potential waiting to burst open and blossom. It’s on us how we tend to that seed—how we water it, surround it with the most nourishing soil, create the conditions for its thriving. But it’s not just that. It’s not just how we take care of our own seeds. It’s also on us how we allow for the flourishing of other seeds, and how we allow others to nourish our seeds.
Because we don’t thrive on our own. The concept of the Body of Christ is explicit about this. As Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good…If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”
It is our call as Christians to be who God created us to be—in all our uniqueness of gifts and ways of being—AND to lift up others in their uniqueness of gifts and ways of being.
Oh, but we know how hard this can be. We know how hard it is to let our differences shine—or to let other people’s differences shine—when we are most often rewarded for conforming to some norm, for not rocking the boat.
Did you know that Rachel and I were together for five years before we got married? This was an intentional choice of ours. But what we noticed in that time is that all of her straight cousins who were partnered but not married were constantly asked, when are you going to get married? Never once were we asked. Even though we were completely out to them. Not once. In five years.
I don’t think it was intentional. I just think we didn’t conform to what people believed was “normal” and so they didn’t even think to wonder how our relationship might be celebrated. They hadn’t thought to water that seed of ours.
Nonbinary and trans folks come up against this whenever someone refuses to recognize their gender—at the doctor’s office, when dealing with the government, at work, at church.
What I’m talking about now is what seeds we water. So often queer folks’ seeds aren’t watered, and part of them withers. Or we have to figure out ways to water our own seeds. For decades, queer folks sought out community amongst themselves—often in secret—to nurture one another’s ways of being.
That’s how Pride originated. At a gay bar in Greenwich Village. Only recently has a lot of the world caught on and joined that celebration, allowed for our blossoming. But still, not everyone is on board for that blossoming. And even those who claim to be on board don’t always make room for gender expression or ways of being in relationship that they don’t understand.
So this Pride, I’m not here simply to say, “love is love” or “God loves you just the way you are.” I mean, I am, but that’s not enough.
I’m here to say that queer folks actively teach the rest of the world something about the Kingdom of God. Because tending to our seed, nurturing our blossoming in this world, is often difficult. But we do it anyway. Despite—at best—the ways we are overlooked and—at worst—the ways we are harmed.
The ways we queer folks bravely live our truth shows everyone else how to live theirs. I’m here to say that when we live our truth, we get closer to the kingdom of God. Because living our truth is honoring how God made us.
The Kingdom of God comes to fruition when we let ourselves sprout and grow. And when each of us is fully being ourselves together, as a body, that’s a community becoming the Kingdom of God. And when a bunch of communities manifest the Kingdom of God together—well, that changes the world.
That’s what Pride is ultimately about: each of us being fully ourselves, being who God made us to be. Even in the face of hardship. And it’s about nurturing one another, tending to each others’ seeds, recognizing that every single person’s unique way of being is absolutely essential to all of us thriving.
Because the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. It starts small and it changes everything.