The WITH-God of Orlando
(An excerpt modified from a sermon preached at Saint John’s Cathedral for the Wilderness Eucharist, July 26, 2016)
We see You in the glittering, clean candles of our altars.
We see You in the rainbows, and the puppies.
We see You in the Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas Day.
We see you in the triumphant hymns and processions.
We see you in the birthing units of hospitals
and the gentle hospice centers with low lights and air fresheners.
But we like, very much, to see you as a clean God.
Like the slightly older, bald, Mr. Clean. Shiny, Spotless. Smiling, Strong.
We like to polish our silver and buff our golden icons.
We want bright, lovely vestments
with no coffee stains on the white ones.
We see you in beauty and light.
But when we are having fun
we tend to put you on hold.
Now, the second a crisis comes,
we grab for those prayer beads like they
are the bell pull for our next bus stop, now arriving.
Yes, we grab at those prayer books and those soothing
spiritual books when we are sad and in grief or scared.
So you are in the pretty, and near to the fun, and in the pain.
Where are you when a gay night club is peppered with bullets?
I am there too.
I am Emmanuel.
I was there as they danced, wandering among them.
I was there watching them kiss and drink and talk.
I was there enjoying them find a safe place from
the assault of hateful Christians who judge them outside.
I was there, in that place, absent of patriarchy.
I was there as some of them were testing new relationships, tenderly, tentatively.
I was there in the back corners where pants were unzipped
and bodies were enjoyed.
I was there when he caressed his boyfriend’s cheek
with the backs of his fingers
and realized nothing bad happened when he did.
I was there when she kissed her girlfriend’s lips
and both blushed, even in darkness.
I was there with vodka and beer,
the pheromones and the sweat of a pounding dance
setting free a people constrained by ancient laws for a different time.
I was there when the first bullet hit a shoulder.
I heard the crack of bone even under meat and music.
I was there as bullets sounded like drum beats in the subwoofers.
I was there as my beloved people at Pulse began to drop
and could sense souls wandering, see them in the dark.
I was there as beloveds held their beloved’s heads and wept.
I was the light in those tiny cell phone screens calling moms and dads.
I was listening to the prayers.
And I grieved – oh how I grieved, how it hurt me
that they prayed to me as if I were far away on a throne behind Jupiter.
How I grieved that they prayed as if I could not possibly be among them
not in this dark bar with semen on floors at the back.
How I wept as some thought “See, there is no God.”
I grieved as some thought “If God allows this…”
I held them as they finished those sentences with words like
hammer rings on metal spikes.
But I was there. I was in the darkness. I was with my beloved
people in the splatter of blood and brains.
I kissed so many sweaty foreheads that night.
I spooned the dead on sticky floors. Held them so tight.
With my face in their necks, smelling humanity.
I am even in the country clubs, cathedrals, malls and mansions
Many there ignore me.
But be assured.
I was at Pulse that night,
I, the Lord God of the Universe,
I was at Pulse that night in the back corner of that toilet.
I held hands, though unseen.
For I am the God who is WITH.
That is Who I Am.
I am the WITH-God.
I am there too.