Sacred Soil


National Coming Out Day Eve
October 10, 2013, 7:00 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Esther 4:13-16
Psalm 139
John 11:39-44

I want you to take a moment to imagine a closet. Well, really, your own personal closet. The tightly bound space that you turn to when things get a difficult, when you need a moment of quiet, when you need to just close yourself against the world.

I want you to imagine this, because I want to, dis-spell the notion that the closet is, by definition, terrible. We all have closets—we need them. We need these spaces where our real and true self is truly safe. That’s what a closet is for.

So I ask you to imagine, if you would, what is your space apart, the place where you are really you. Imagine that space–complete with a door. What color is it? What are the walls like? Are they upholstered? Wallpapered? Or are the walls unfinished, exposing the lines of mud and tape. What’s the lighting like? Is there a light? Track lighting? A single compact florescent, hanging, perilously close to your head? Is there a lock on the door? Which side of the door is that lock on?

On this National Coming Out Day, we celebrate opening that closet door. We celebrate the beauty of our in-most selves. This is not a day to dispose of those spaces where our real selves reside. But a day to celebrate the beauty of humanity, and beg that our closets not become tombs.

Because it’s true, sometimes our closets are dangerous places. Filled with sharp corners. They are cramped, smelly. There is no light. No space. Barely any air to breathe. I think of these as the places where we house our skeletons and other things we wish were dead. We try to ignore these closets–shoving into them all those things we would rather deny about ourselves. All that we think is rotten and putrid.

This is Lazarus’ tomb. The place where that 4-day dead body lay, resting against the stony insides of that tomb, his death filling the air with a putrid stench. The kind of smell that you can see.

I don’t know about you, but I have lived in that closet. That stinky, dark, tomb of a closet. For a long time, I didn’t even realize I’d taken up residence there. But, my real-self felt dangerous, out of place, unwelcome in the world. And so, without even considering it, I forced that part of me, that real part of me, to live a squalid existence. I suppose part of me thought that if I merely starved the real part of me, if I smothered it with darkness, that it might die.

I imagine that some of you have lived in that closet-tomb too.

But then, by the grace of God, I met a few Esthers. Remember, Esther? She was the woman that we read about earlier. Hers is the story of a young woman married to a king—a king that did not know she was Jewish. He merely knew she was beautiful. When the scoundrels of the kingdom plotted to kill all the Jewish folks, Esther recognized that her closet had become a tomb. And that it was now time to stand up, to open that closet door, and step out. Indeed, she needed to re-arrange the furniture in her closet, and invite the king in–invite him into her own vulnerability. I wonder what her closet looked like? What that place where she was real was like? What it took her to let someone else see into that space of truth? I don’t know. But I am astounded that she did it, all so that she might save her people.

I can’t tell you that my own Esthers have been such grand heroes. I’m not sure that they even know that they served as such to me. They were ordinary people, people just like you here tonight, people who have heartbreak and hope, people who love. People who got angry. People who were occasionally obnoxious. But, there were two things about these people. Two things that mattered:
1. Through a lot of hard work, they’d begun to re-arrange and re-decorate their closets. Made them beautiful. They’d taken away the rough hewn walls, and made them comfortable and cozy. They cherished their real selves as gifts from God.
2. And, they were willing to let me in. Willing to be vulnerable enough to allow me to know their own closets.

These closets, I think of them more like a womb, the womb described in our psalm today. This is the womb where God knit our in-most being. A sacred place of forming and creation. A place of warmth and safety, a deeply connected place, with an umbilical cord to the heart of life, and yet still set apart. A place where the real-self is held and cherished. Honored.

It is these Esthers who, through their own vulnerability, showed me how to live. And on this eve of National Coming out Day, I am grateful. Profoundly grateful. Grateful that my closet door is open—that the walls are finely decorated with a beautiful green linen. The light is soft and warm. It is cozy, safe. Inviting. And still mine. Like a womb.

I think of that day for Lazarus. Remember, he had been in the tomb, dead. Smelly dead. Dead for four days. Oh, how often we have felt that kind of dead in the closet, right? Numb to the world. Cut-off from the place of life.

I wonder then, how it was for Lazarus, when that stone was rolled away. When the fresh air came pouring into the closet-tomb. When the putrid smell of his flesh rushed away, and the light poured onto him. I wonder what it was like, raising his arms up again–lifting his limbs into the light. Hearing Jesus’ words: Come Out. I wonder what it was for him to feel the freshness of the air filling up his lungs.

I wonder–because I know what that was for me. And I imagine this is true of many of you too–that moment when at long last you felt as if you were whole. That moment when you knew that your real-self was welcomed, and loved. That moment, when you knew you no longer needed to hide that self away, wishing it would die. That moment, when it became possible that the tomb might just become a womb. When the closet of death could instead become a place to celebrate and cherish the real-ness of you. The person God created you to be. It is an amazing moment. A moment beyond words. A moment of release and hope, and stunning possibility.

And it is good. But there are so many who still long to know that moment. Too many.

Which is why Jesus gives one more command to the crowd around him. “Unbind him and let him go.”

This, I think, is Jesus way of saying to all of us—all of us–do your best to be an Esther in the world. Do your best to claim your full self-for the sake of your people. For the sake of others. For your own sake. Because no one, no one, should redecorate alone.

And it is by this that we will be able to go out into the world–redecorating closets everywhere. Turning tombs into places of safety. It is by this that we will make it possible for everyone among us to claim their real-self. Their whole self. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer, straight. Whole and beautiful, just as God created us.

Let it be so. Amen.