And God said, “I will gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.” — Zephaniah 3:19
Last Sunday afternoon was hard as a small group of folks from New Church, along with friends from Central Congregational Church, gathered to walk in the annual Dallas Pride Parade. Dallas was having unusually warm weather for September, and while we waited for the parade to start, the heat was oppressive. Even huddled together under an overpass didn’t seem to make things any better, and the rainbow stole I was wearing added to my personal misery. The parade usually starts at 2:00 pm, but soon we realized that none of the parade entries were moving. Later we learned that the parade officials were having trouble with the barriers that hold the crowd back, and so we waited. Finally, nearly 2 hours after the parade was scheduled to start, we began to move.
As we waited for the start of the parade I was thinking, “Why on earth are we doing this? We are both small congregations and even by joining together we are probably one of the smaller parade entries. Why are we doing this?” Still, as we began to walk, the heat didn’t feel so oppressive, and as we reached the beginning of the parade route the energy and enthusiasm of the crowd began to lift my spirits.
We were carrying signs that we felt were in keeping with the theme for this year’s parade, “Stand Up! Speak Out!” They were signs we got from our denomination, the United Church of Christ. They said things like: “White Privilege: If You Can’t See It, You Got It,” “God is Transgender,” “Believe in Science, for God’s Sake,” “Looking For Jesus? Good. So Are We.” I could go on, but you get the picture. As we walked along, people cheered our signs and called out to us yelling “Yes!” It was exciting.
Then, as we neared the end of the parade, we noticed a small group of young women looking at us and pointing at us with expressions of wonder. By then Stephanie and I were holding hands. They took out their phones and started taking our picture. It was as if they had never seen two women holding hands in public, or maybe it was that they had never seen a woman pastor and her wife holding hands.
I realized in that moment that they were the reason we were there. It didn’t matter how small a parade entry we had. It didn’t matter that we had waited for over an hour to begin. It didn’t matter that we had been miserable in the heat. All of that faded away when we realized that we had a message to share with the parade watchers. We were there to proclaim with our signs and our very presence that there is another way to understand Christianity, a way that follows Jesus, a way that stands for peace and works for justice, a way that proclaims and works for a just world for all, a way that says, “Church Is the Practice, Love Is the Point.”
We were echoing the words of the Prophet Zephaniah who, speaking for God, said to the people, “I will gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.” So, if our witness and our presence changed one life last Sunday afternoon, if we helped one LGBTQIA young person know that they matter and they are people of worth and God loves them, and that God wants to change their shame to praise and renown, then that was why we were there, and that was enough.
Holy One, just for today remind me that showing up, standing for peace and working for justice, and witnessing to your love is enough. Amen.