Notes from the Pastor – June 2023

A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our

I have been trying to be more adventurous lately.

I have always known that I will never be an “outdoorsy” person. I like my shower and my bed and my air conditioning and my Netflix and my Switch way too much to spend days at a time in the wilderness, sleeping in a tent and cooking every meal over a fire. To quote Michael Scott: “Man became civilized for a reason. He decided that he liked to have warmth and clothing and television and hamburgers and to walk upright, and to have a soft futon at the end of the day.”

I like my comfort zone. It’s comfortable.

Which is exactly why I’m trying to expand it. Whether through my disastrous attempt at skiing or my brush with dehydration up in Glacier, or just through climbing and biking more often, I am doing more things that are difficult or scary or uncomfortable because in doing so I increase my own capacity for ease and comfort.

The paradox of personal growth is that in order to be more comfortable, you have to be less comfortable.

And the same is true of a society’s growth. Our society, like any human society, has its own comfort zone, a habitable orbit around the gravitational center of race, class, gender, or whatever other hierarchy is used to divide and conquer.

We enjoy the comfort that is gained by our proximity to power, and so we don’t like to question that power’s rationale for existing.

It’s the reason that so many of the biblical prophets spent their time in the wilderness, why so many of them acted in ways that seemed like madness to their peers. To be prophetic requires perspective, the kind of big-picture thinking that only distance allows.

Of course, not every wilderness is a Judean desert. Sometimes it’s a Greenwich Village gay bar.

That’s the story of Pride Month: the Stonewall uprising was the beginning of a prophetic movement.

Drag queens and trans people and gender non-conforming people made us uncomfortable because their existence threatened the fantasy of the patriarchal heteronormative ideal. They were forced from their homes and their communities and their jobs, and their existence was not a topic of polite conversation.

But that marginalization exposed the lies of our white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal culture. If someone can get detained and beaten simply for wearing the wrong kind of clothing, if someone can get evicted from their home for loving someone of the same gender, how can any of us say we live in a free country?

Those courageous revolutionaries refused to be made invisible and in doing so became the prophets calling our society to repentance. And while in many ways it seems like we are moving backwards, its undeniable that we as a society have become more accepting over the years, thanks to the witness of the prophets of Stonewall.

Ultimately, Pride Month is about listening to the wisdom of the wilderness. We are so enchanted by a life lived in relative comfort—preferring not to question the system that enables it. Therefore, we need a radical voice, an outsider, a prophet to shout over the numbing noise and let us know that there is something better than comfort waiting to break through.

Will you heed the voice of the prophets this Pride Month?

Pastor Stephen.