Genesis 12:1-9/ Romans 4:13-25/ Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26
Faith, Compassion, Blessing, and Pride
I Am What I Am
Today, to celebrate Pride Month, let us start with the lyrics of my personal anthem. This song is from a musical called La Cage aux Folles, which inspired the Robin Williams’ movie The Birdcage, and the song is called I Am What I Am. We will listen to this song after the sermon. Just a little warning though: there is the “d” word, so be prepared, in case you feel uncomfortable hearing it. It goes like this:
“I am what I am. I am my own special creation. So come take a look, Give me the hook or the ovation. It’s my world that I want to take a little pride in. My world, and it’s not a place I have to hide in. Life’s not worth a damn, ‘Til you can say, “Hey world, I am what I am.” I am what I am, I don’t want praise, I don’t want pity. I bang my own drum, Some think it’s noise, I think it’s pretty. And so what, if I love each feather and each spangle, Why not try to see things from a diff’rent angle? Your life is a sham ’til you can shout out loud, I am what I am! I am what I am. And what I am needs no excuses. I deal my own deck. Sometimes the ace, sometimes the deuces. There’s one life, and there’s no return and no deposit; One life, so it’s time to open up your closet. Life’s not worth a damn ’til you can say, “Hey world, I am what I am!””
This song is loved by a lot of queer people, as it sings about what a lot of us think. On this Pride Month, as we learn to be compassionate and aspire to make the world a safer and better place for our queer siblings, let us learn what God is teaching us about being good Christians.
Relationships Based on Faith and Trust
We know this story in Genesis very well. The 75-year-old Abram is told to leave his home and go to the land that God has prepared for him and his descendants. He went on a journey of great faith. As God sent him on the journey, God promised to bless him and his family, and told him that he would be a blessing.
In the Letter to the Roman Church, Apostle Paul links our identity as Christians with the story of Abraham. God called Abraham righteous by his faith, and we are also called righteous by our faith. We are justified by our faith. It is like our relationship with our parents or other people who love us unconditionally. We don’t become their beloved because of what we did well, our merit. We forge these relationships through our trust and love for one another. If we love and trust our parents, we trust their teachings and guidance even when we cannot understand them or agree with them.
We are Christians because we trust the teachings of Jesus. Therefore, we stand for what Jesus stood for. What did Jesus stand for? He believed in God’s reign based on compassionate love and justice. He believed in not judging others since no one is perfect. He believed in standing with those who are marginalized by the society.
Compassion and Healing
The three small episodes we read in the Gospel of Matthew show Jesus acting by his conviction. Episode 1: He calls Matthew the tax collector to be his disciple. He hangs out with tax collectors and others who are considered sinners. Episode 2: He goes to revive a dead girl whose father believes that he can. Episode 3: On his way to the dead girl, a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years touches the fringe of his cloak because she believes that it will heal her.
These are all stories of compassion and healing. He healed the spirits of those considered sinners by treating them like normal human beings who deserve dignity and respect. He healed a woman who has been suffering not only from her medical symptoms but also from the sigma of being ritually unclean for 12 years due to her bleeding. You see, bleeding or skin diseases were considered ritually unclean according to the Jewish law, and she was ostracized by her community because of that. Ritually unclean people had to be separated from the rest of the community. This is not a simple healing of her medical condition but also her liberation as a human being deserving dignity and respect. He not only saved a young girl who died but also the spirit of her heartbroken parents. These are all acts of compassion and healing. These people were healed by their faith.
God blessed Abraham so he could be a blessing to others. Abraham followed God with faith and trust. God blesses us so we can be a blessing to others, especially those, like the tax collectors and the bleeding woman, were marginalized by their society. Let us trust the teachings of Jesus with our faith. Let us learn compassion from our teacher and saviour, be a blessing to our queer siblings as they shout out, “I am who I am” and be proud of who they are. Let us follow Jesus’ examples and heal the wounds of the world. Now let’s listen to I Am What I Am as we reflect on today’s biblical teachings. May God fill us with compassionate love and the desire to work for justice.