- March 30, 2018
People look to their faith as a source of guidance and inspiration – and LGBTQ people and our family and friends are no different. Throughout the Lenten season, HRC will share devotionals from faith leaders, LGBTQ people and allies. The campaign seeks to create an environment in which LGBTQ people of faith and their allies can practice the spiritual traditions of their faith in a welcoming, inclusive environment.
The Lenten season marks the days that lead up to Jesus' crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.
For Christians, the resurrection is both a celebration of life and a reminder that people continue to suffer, including members of the LGBTQ community.
It is important to note that the season of Lent is an observance of many Christian denominations and may not resonate with all readers. Throughout this series, HRC seeks to amplify and honor the voices of LGBTQ-affirming faith leaders in many religious traditions.
Today’s post featured below comes from Ruth Coker Burks, an AIDS awareness advocate and activist in Bentonville, Arkansas. For more about the Lenten Devotional, visit hrc.im/Lent.
“Then the king will say to the godly people on his right, ‘Come, my Father has great blessings for you. The kingdom He promised is now yours. It has been prepared for you since the world was made. It is yours because when I was hungry, you gave me food to eat. When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I had no place to stay, you welcomed me into your home.When I was without clothes, you gave me something to wear. When I was sick, you cared for me. When I was in prison, you came to visit me.’ Then the godly people will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you with no place to stay and welcome you into our home? When did we see you without clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and care for you?’ Then the king will answer, ‘The truth is, anything you did for any of my people here, you also did for me.’” -Matthew 25:34-40
By Easter 1987, I knew I could count on the Piggly Wiggly on Park Avenue in Hot Spring, Arkansas. They were the first store to leave food outside the dumpster for me. But, it was the Kroger out on Airport Road that had the best dumpster. You wouldn’t believe what they would throw away. I could feed so many people with that perfectly good food, especially on a holiday like Easter. I had gotten used to spending all my holidays the way I spent most of my days: driving around, bringing meals to my guys.
I was three years into my life’s work caring for people dying of AIDS. The average age of my guys were 21 or 22. They had no money for groceries. Most would have been homeless if I hadn’t helped them apply for housing, or if I hadn’t found a spare bed for their last weeks or months. Many had cared for their dying best friends or boyfriends. But, now there was no one to take care of them. They had no choice but to come home to Arkansas and to the families who already wanted nothing to do with them. Like Jesus, these young men had been cast into the wilderness not for 40 days, but for a lifetime.
I went to church every Sunday. There was a lot of talk about doing without at Lent. It usually meant chocolate. There was a lot of talk about Jesus telling us to help others. As he says in Matthew, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
But it was the “sinners” -- the LGBTQ people they had shamed and driven from home -- who modeled true grace. How many times did I assist a man cleaning his dying beloved in the shower because he was too weak to stand? I watched as he bathed him, dried him, kept him warm, the whole time knowing that in weeks, months, it would be his turn. How many drag show fundraisers did I attend because the government was doing nothing to help fund care for the dying? How many times did I coach lesbians on administering medicines to their friends?
Blending our lives, sharing our pain, speaking our fears -- that was our Lent. It was a season of hopelessness, yet we created hope. We created love. We saw the value of discarded food and more so, of discarded people. When I give talks to predominantly LGBTQ audiences, I look out at these faces. All I can think is, “You had it right. All those time they told you were wrong -- starting from the moment you were born --you had it right.” I’m just grateful God declares them wrong. You are beautiful; you are valuable; you are beloved; you are cherished -- just as you are.
Gracious God, we give thanks and praise that Your thoughts are not our thoughts, Your ways are not our ways. Teach us how to be more like You, to live like You and to love like You. Amen.
The Lenten Devotional is a faith-driven resource that compiles meditations written by 47 faith leaders from across the U.S. This project and other public education work with faith leaders in HRC's Project One America states and HRC's Religion and Faith Program is made possible in part by the generous support of the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.