The Dyke March is different in a number ways. It’s much smaller of course. There’s no floats either – it’s a March, not a Parade. And we walked on the sidewalks, not the streets. All in all, this was a pretty meek, “inherit the earth” kind of crowd, it seemed to me. Also, no corporate sponsors are allowed, instead, they do private fund-raisers throughout the year, and then at the event, the only thing they sell are Dyke March T-shirts, carefully laid out on the grass, for only $10. And finally, if you’d been there, you’d probably have noted how I was definitely in the minority as an M, among mainly, F’s, as the Transgender community would say!
But a couple things were the same. For one, the Dykes on Bikes were there, on their Harley’s of course, always a crowd pleaser at the big Sunday Pride Parade. But secondly, and most importantly, people feel free to be themselves. Women arm in arm, a myriad of T-shirts expressing equal rights in various creative ways, lots of rainbow colors and fabulous tattoos, and a strong sense of belonging and empowerment. The core of any Pride march is being out and proud, and not afraid to show it.
Every year it seems to become just a bit more accepted and respected. It wasn’t always that way of course. In fact, the Pride movement was founded on it’s opposite, overcoming the fear and anger and violence against those who are LGBTQ. The brave few who stood up at the Stonewall riot in NYC on June 28th, 1969, and said, we’re not going to be excluded any more, endured all out war by the police. Early Pride marches, always held non-violently, were not always well received. But today, in Chicago, the Pride Parade will have only a small band of ultra-conservative Christian denouncers, reduced to a very small gallery at the end of the route, their vitriol being drown out by the 99% of the crowd cheering their support.
In our gospel reading, when Jesus acts out of the ordinary by rebuking the wind and sea, the disciples are afraid of him. Who is this? This is no ordinary healer, but a rebuk-er of the wind and sea, one with the power, only God, God’s-self, can possess. Healers were relatively common, even the disciples were given the authority to heal when Jesus sent them out 2 by 2. But to rebuke the wind and sea, command its “proud waves be stopped,” as Job described God’s creative power, that was not done!
The windstorms that came up in the Sea of Galilee in the gospel stories, were all about the spiritual conflict of the day. And the raging waters are a symbol and sign of someone, or something, that has come out of the closet and declared their pride, and refuses to go back again. The initial coming out is not always well received. We are changed, and we don’t like it.
For Jesus and the early church it was all about crossing over to the other side. By the time Mark wrote his gospel from Antioch, or wherever he was outside of Palestine, he really didn’t know Syria from Jordan from Lebanon. For him, the other side just meant, the side that wasn’t Israel, foreign territory, the non-Jewish, Gentile side. And every time the disciples cross the Sea of Galilee to go to the other side, that’s when a windstorm of some type blows up out of no where. Every time they come back home, the seas are calm and its easy sailing.
Coincidence? Hardly! For Jesus and the early church, they were struggling to hold their ship together over the issue of allowing “those people” on the other side to come into the church or not. Should Gentiles be allowed in? And if so, what would the requirements be? Since all followers of Jesus were Jews initially, wouldn’t Gentiles have to convert to Judaism first? The voyage was a stormy one for a time. The debate raged on. The windstorms blew up every time someone reached out to include the other side!
According to Mark and all the gospel writers, Jesus, a Jew himself, took a stand, came out of the closet, and rocked the boat. But he also calmed the storm, to make a way for the reeling, fearful church community to find, unity. The disciples are shaken by their call to go to the other side, but they are also filled with awe that Jesus can help them; and when Jesus asks them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” we begin to understand the gift of grace that Jesus has given us – that we too, as Gentiles, have been grafted on to the tree of life. And, as St. Paul says, faith, now, is the only marker of discipleship. Given as a free gift of God’s grace, we are free to be who we are. Jesus provokes controversy and change, but also provides a way through the windstorm. He is alive, commanding us to go to the other side, promising to make a safe passageway, out of every storm.
“Something similar,” Michael Joseph Brown argues, “has happened with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in the United States. As long as we remained in the closet,” he said, “hiding our identities, pretending to be confirmed bachelors – and such, America was satisfied. Like Jesus, when LGBT people begin to reveal their identities, take command of the circumstances around them, act out of the authority and dignity given them by God, then they may see those around them — even those closest to them — respond with great fear.” And so, marching, I guess, is still important.
You see something similar, we could say, going on around President Obama’s announcement of supporting Marriage Equality. There are some of his own supporters who are not there yet, and are even digging in their heels. Going boldly to the other side raises questions of authority, and there is some vocal opposition and fear. Many others, of course, have welcomed the President’s declaration as a real break through, and see it as a calming of the storm they have lived, and are cheering him on.
Jesus opened the door to receive all those he encountered on the other side who had faith, whether faithful fathers who came to him to heal daughter’s who were deathly ill, or women who’s faith was so strong they asked to eat just the crumbs from Jesus’ dining table, and it would be Grace & Life enough! He was initially misunderstood by his own disciples, and reviled by the Jerusalem religious leaders, humbling himself all the way to the cross. But he lives again, and sends us the Holy Spirit to empower us now to be able to calm the storms and say to windstorms and raging seas, “peace, be still.” And so we welcome the stranger, and build bridges to shores, on the other side.