Coming Home

On March 8, 2015, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Coming Home Rev Dr Durrell Watkins Lent 3 (2015) Next Saturday, March 14th, iconic gay comedic actor Leslie Jordan will be here at Sunshine Cathedral (get your tickets at SunshineCathedral.org). In preparation for the return of Leslie Jordan, his coming home to Sunshine Cathedral you might say, Rev Anne Atwell, our Minister of Connections, hosted […]

Coming Home
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins
Lent 3 (2015)

Next Saturday, March 14th, iconic gay comedic actor Leslie Jordan will be here at Sunshine Cathedral (get your tickets at SunshineCathedral.org). In preparation for the return of Leslie Jordan, his coming home to Sunshine Cathedral you might say, Rev Anne Atwell, our Minister of Connections, hosted a movie night last Friday and the movie was Sordid Lives featuring, of course, Leslie Jordan as Brother Boy.

The story is set at the end of the 90s. Effective AIDS medications are new, marriage equality doesn’t exist anywhere, and a rural small town in Texas is fraught with prejudice, dysfunction, and a puritanical moral code that no one is able to keep.

Storylines intersect showing “Sissy” a chain smoker and multiple divorcee trying to quit smoking, Ty – a young gay man struggling to come out to people who have long known he’s gay, GW – a married man having an affair with a much older woman, Peggy (GW is grief stricken because his older paramour, Peggy, the mother of his wife’s best friend, has just died by tripping over his prosthetic legs going to the bathroom in their motel love nest).

And while all of this mayhem is going on, Earl, aka Brother Boy, is stuck in a mental institution undergoing his 20th year of failed reparative therapy. Brother Boy is gay and petite, and in his youth confessed to his sister Lavonda that he had a crush on his heterosexual best friend, his sister’s boyfriend Wardell. Lavonda tells Wardell about Brother Boy’s unrequited love for him, and Wardell responds by assaulting Brother Boy and for his own protection, Brother Boy’s mother (Peggy, the now dead lover of Lavonda’s best friend’s husband) has him committed.

In the mental hospital, Brother Boy escapes into a world of fantasy, imagining himself to be strong divas of the Country and Western music world. He performs in drag for the other patients and basically lives his life as a fulltime cross dresser, which makes him the recipient of a lot of verbal abuse from the hospital staff. The place that was meant to keep him safe has long been his personal prison. His only crime was being a little different than his neighbors.

By the end of the movie, Brother Boy, with the help of his old friend and former assailant Wardell, escapes the mental hospital in time to attend his mother’s funeral…in the most garish attire imaginable.

The movie is really about coming home. Brother Boy comes home to the small town and family that exiled him 20 years earlier, but long before that, he comes home to himself by finding a way to celebrate who he is even in the most difficult of situations. Ty comes home…yes, to the small town for a visit to his family, but finally and more importantly, to himself; allowing himself to be honest about who he is and to be happy about who he is. There is even a poignant moment in the film when ex-convict Bitsy Mae sings an old evangelical hymn: “Lord, I’m Coming Home.”

I’ve wandered far away from God, Now I’m coming home.
The paths of fear too long I’ve trod; oh I’m coming home.
Coming home, coming home, never more to roam. Open wide thine arms of love; oh I’m coming home.

That movie, and that old song, reminded me of my discovery of Metropolitan Community Church in Dallas, TX in 1991. I had never heard of MCC, but when visiting Dallas from Arkadelphia, AR, I found a brochure at a bar called the Round Up. I was amazed that there was a church that celebrated, invited, defended, and proclaimed as good same-gender loving and gender non-conforming people. Soon thereafter I moved to Dallas, and decided that I had to visit this strange church at least once.

I went to the later of the morning services, and people were so friendly. It looked like church, but different: God wasn’t a boy’s name, women weren’t asked to pretend that man meant them, people were asked to go together on the journey instead of walk together, and people were invited to rise as they were able. The language was the most inclusive, the kindness, that I had ever heard.

There was a sermon delivered by an out gay man, and Holy Communion was celebrated by two out gay men and an out lesbian. And the invitation to communion said the table was open, “whosoever will, may come.” No one was excluded.

And then families went forward to take communion together. Couples, friends, parents and children. It was a whole new insight into both family values and the gay agenda. I, normally not given to public displays of emotion, wept copiously.

That night, I returned to the MCC for the evening service. It was more casual, but still happy and welcoming, complete with sermon and an open communion service. Afterward, I was invited to join a group of people for dinner and hot oil wrestling. Praise Jesus!

After delicious Chinese food and a long night of watching oiled up men wrestle on a plastic sheet at a bar called “The Wave”, I said to one of my new friends from my new church, “I just never knew that church could be this much fun, this real, this happy.” And he said to me, “That’s how we all feel when we find it. It’s like coming home.”

It wasn’t the home I had left; it was the home that I longed for…the one where all of who I was could be welcome and celebrated and affirmed and blessed.

Coming home, coming home, never more to roam. Open wide thine arms of love; oh I’m coming home.

I hear a lot these days about our living in a post-sexist society, a post-gay society, a post-racial society…people seem determined to assimilate and silence every bit of uniqueness and difference, they want to pretend that prejudice no longer ruins lives and nefarious schemes aren’t afoot to keep people in the margins. And if we buy that lie we do so at our peril.

We don’t’ want to ghettoize ourselves, but neither should we deny the special uniqueness we each have to offer and neither should deny the struggles we have overcome and neither should we pretend that there isn’t more work to do. Not nearly enough people have come home to a place that will celebrate their wholeness.

In John’s gospel story today we see Jesus cleansing the Temple. The story of the cleansing of the Temple is more than chastising religious leaders for cheating people. It’s also a story of helping people move past the past so they can embrace a new future.

You see, the Temple cleansing stories are ALL Post-Temple narratives. Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed in the year 70 CE. All four gospels are written after that. John almost 30 years after.

So stories Jesus challenging the Temple system all come AFTER there is no Temple. Having Jesus decentralize the no longer intact Temple is a way of reminding the hearers of the story that WE are the true Temple and we must continually be lifting and building ourselves up so that we can welcome more and more people home to an atmosphere of hope and healing and celebration.

Are we willing to cleanse the Temple in order to make it more inviting to more people? That is, are we willing to cleanse our attitudes? Are we willing to throw out the idea that says racism is a thing of the past? Are we willing to throw out the temptation to remain silent as voting is made more difficult for far too many people? Are willing to take notice that even as marriage equality gains ground legalized discrimination against same-gender loving people is being proposed all over the place? Are we willing to throw out the fear that would cause us to shame transgender people for where they choose to use the bathroom?

Are we willing to throw out the shame and stigma still attached to HIV?
Are we willing to throw out the chauvinism that continues to ask women if they are too old to lead?
Are we willing to throw out the church killing attitudes that want to keep worship styles locked in the 1950s?
Are we willing to throw out the lie that homophobia, racism, xenophobia and misogyny are yesterday’s problems?
Are we willing to throw out the tendency to judge entire religions by the actions of their most extremist elements?

Are we willing to cleanse the temple? That means realizing that the real Temple is us, the compassion we show, the generosity we demonstrate, the hope we inspire, the relationships we build, the justice we work for endlessly?

Whether its Rev Anne building connections within the church, or our executive minister Rev Dr Robert Griffin in Selma this weekend commemorating the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, or you and I today singing and praying and sharing the open table and contributing our gifts of time, talent, and treasure…we are the Temple, and must always work to keep it clean and open and inviting and diverse and relevant; because there are still so many people needing to come home. Will we dare to be that home for them?

Sing it with me:
Coming home, coming home, never more to roam.
Open wide thine arms of love; Oh I’m coming home.

And this is the good news! Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2015
I am coming home to my innate goodness.
I am coming home to the power of Love.
I am coming home to indomitable hope.
Thank you, God!
And so it is.

 

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