Thursday, February 25, 2010
Great sermon: We ARE light, all of us
I listened to the sermon again recently while duplicating tapes of worship services. More than 20 years later, it is still just as powerful and inspiring!
I have never forgotten the sermon that Ziegler delivered on Nov. 8, 1987 at Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco, where most of the congregation was HIV positive, there was no effective treatment for AIDS, and many people were dying. I had just joined the staff as student clergy and women’s programming coordinator. More than 500 MCC-SF members died of AIDS between 1982 and 1997.
Like me, Ziegler was a lesbian whose primary relationships were with women, but she unexpectedly grew much closer to gay men as they faced death. She never stopped challenging sexism in the church, but a “transformation” happened. “My heart has been opened in a way it never has before,” Ziegler said in her sermon. She was pastor of MCC New York at the time.
She urged us to think of ourselves in an empowering new way. Decades later I still remembered this part of her sermon, and now I transcribe it here:
“Keep your light burning. We ARE light, all of us. The light of the world, each of us. We’re all like little lights, like in space suits, you know. That’s all our bodies are, like these space suits. Men’s suits, women’s suits, gay suits, straight suits, different color suits, differently abled suits. They’re just SUITS! We are lights really, that’s what we are. Lights that nothing can quench. But the world needs us, and we need each other to keep our lights burning brightly and clearly.”
Ziegler interacted with the congregation and spoke eloquently about the importance of loving oneself in the midst of the AIDS crisis -- especially because we have been wounded by the homophobia of the church. “Growing up in the church, we learned that our very capacity to love was the thing that God hates,” she said.
Old Devil Time” at the same worship service. The Pete Seeger song brought everyone to tears and we all talked about it for weeks. It still made me cry when I listened to it again recently. If you have never heard this song, it’s a definite MUST, and nobody sings it better than McNamara. You can hear it on Randa’s album “Living in My Heart.”
Ziegler went on to become a nurse practitioner who teaches at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. A preaching prize was established in her honor at New York’s Union Theological Seminary. It is awarded annually to the student who “represents the highest ideals of feminism and liberation theology in the present day by articulating anew a vision for a more just church and world for all God’s people.”
Thank you, Karen and Randa, for helping our light shine.
This post launches a series on great sermons from Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco. Click here for the whole MCC-SF history series.
Photos: Karen Ziegler (above) and Randa McNamara (below)