He is risen! Alleluia!

What a joyful celebration of our risen Lord this past Sunday. The music was grand and uplifting, filled with the spirit of regal praise and adoration. The children of the church and community brought joy to the heart as they excitedly scattered across the lawns in search of Easter eggs and the surprises awaiting them inside. And what a Spirit was present with them as kids shared with others who came late or who couldn’t get to eggs fast enough. No one walked away feeling left out, overlooked or sad. And, who could’ve walked away hungry from such an Easter breakfast as we shared together. The food was plenty, the community spirit was high, and we experienced both bellies and souls filled with goodness and life.

But then, after worship, I turned on the radio (why, oh, why did I do that?)

And my joy turned to anger and frustration. And I just can’t ignore it or be silent as a pastor, and particularly as the current pastor of a congregation committed to being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community.

On Sunday, certain political leaders coopted Jesus and the celebration of His resurrection (and all that it means for the world) for their own political gain. They broke the second commandment, taking the name of the Lord in vain for their own advantage and bid for earthly power.

If you haven’t heard, on Sunday certain political leaders took to the media and airwaves to decry the fact that President Biden had issued his annual proclamation in support of Transgender Visibility Day, a day that has been celebrated on March 31st since it began in 2009. They didn’t just decry the day itself. They took it as an opportunity to draw attention to themselves as the “true defenders” of Christianity by accusing President Biden of an attack on Easter and Christianity itself. One particular political candidate declared such a proclamation to be “blasphemous” saying at a Tuesday campaign rally, “And what the hell was Biden thinking when he declared Easter Sunday to be trans visibility day?…Such total disrespect to Christians.”

Well, let’s be clear about a few things, because truth is supposed to be important to Christians because truth certainly is important to Jesus.

First, let’s get at least these facts straight. President Biden did not declare Easter to be trans visibility day. In 2009, Transgender Visibility Day was established and set for recognition every year on March 31. This year, this day just happened to fall on Easter Sunday. But it will not fall on Easter every year. Thus, President Biden did not politicize Easter as other political leaders are claiming. What he did do was issue a public proclamation of support, lifting up all transgender women and men as equal citizens of this nation for whom we will work to protect their basic human rights. If hope for a life where you are seen and loved and valued isn’t the good news of the Gospel…

Second, to be a transgender male or female is nothing shameful. It is to go through a very complex process of self-examination and self-realization. It is to live a life of pain and sorrow when others cannot or will not see you as a fellow human being who wants to live the fullness of life as you can best understand it to be for yourself. It is to walk a road of striving to be fully and authentically the “you” you believe you were created to be. It is to be brave and courageous in a world full of bigots and other people who let their fears of what they cannot understand hold sway. Living an authentic and true life is one of the gifts of the Gospel.

Third, what is blasphemous is to coopt Jesus for your own political power and gain. It is even further blasphemous to manipulate and twist the truth of Easter to pull the spotlight to yourself on a day when we honor JESUS as Son of God and risen Lord. It is to profit from the sales of a book that equates human word with divine Word, that intersperses the Word of God with the word of human government, that makes nationalism and pride of country its own religion on par with the way of Jesus the Christ. As followers of the Christ, we must remember that we are first and foremost fellow citizens of the Kingdom of God before we are citizens of any particular geopolitical boundary. The Scriptures as holy Word of God are the primary norm and authority for our lives, separate and not equal to the authority which documents such as the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence or the Pledge of Allegiance have for Americans, and certainly not the lyrics of a patriotic song. The publication of the “God Bless America Bible” is blasphemous, and it is no bible but only book.

Friends, as we heard on Sunday in worship, we are those who are given the honor and privilege of helping to write the rest of the Easter story of the Gospel of Jesus. We are those called and sent by the Holy Spirit to build a world that reflects the image of the rest of the Easter story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are those sent to proclaim to the world a Savior who was crucified, died and was buried but who was raised from the dead, breaking the chains which have bound us to the powers of sin and death so that we can live freed and forgiven, loving one another as Jesus first loved us. This is the way of the rest of the Easter story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May we so write. May we so build and may we so love. For the world needs THIS Easter story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.