It's very clear our love is here to stay Not for a year, but ever and a day The radio and the telephone and the movies
that we know May just be passing fancies and in time may go
But, oh my dear, our love is here to stay Together we're going a long, long way In time the Rockies may crumble Gibraltar may tumble They're only made of clay, but Our love is here to stay
Castro Street in front of the Twin Peaks bar was full of people standing shoulder to shoulder, but this was no typical Sunday afternoon beer bust. The Rockies and Gibraltar and the entire world made of clay had fallen and crumbled.
We remember that in the predawn hours, 49 young, beautiful people were killed and 53 others were wounded in an act of senseless violence at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus had been asked to sing for the candlelight vigil, and as I stood there with my husband, Mark, close beside me, waves of sadness and pain and fear and anger crashed on and into us.
49 young, beautiful people were killed and 53 others were wounded in an act of senseless violence at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
As the days wore on, we learned more about Omar Mateen and those he killed and wounded, that his target of hate was on my own people, our precious LGBTQ community that was celebrating life and love in a gay bar, our sacred space of hope and laughter.
My husband and I didn't receive any calls from our family or friends to see how we were doing, despite knowing that in many ways, we were at the Pulse nightclub too. And that if this type of unimaginable attack were to occur again, we would be the victims of homophobic fear and ignorance. My emotions ranged from anger to despair to fear to frustration and back again all week long.
When Pastor Alison asked me if I would preach on Sunday, I asked God, "What would You have me say to Your people after such a week full of horror and agony?" And God directed me to the famous passage known to a lot of us as "The Great Commission". It seemed like an odd choice.
When Pastor Alison asked me if I would preach on Sunday, I asked God, "What would You have me say to Your people after such a week full of horror and agony?"
The life, death, and resurrection of our Lord have all taken place now and we have reached the big ending, Jesus' "Farewell to the Troops!" This is it! His last words that I am sure His disciples had been waiting for with bated breath, knowing that nothing could be more important to remember as they attempt to be followers full of love and hope in the clay world that is crumbling and tumbling all around them. Their beloved leader tells them the obvious, "Go! Invest in people and teach them about love and acceptance and hope and healing!" But then, Jesus makes an unexpected statement in light of His imminent departure, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Wait a minute — you are leaving, Jesus, to be back with the Father in heaven! How can you be with us and with Your Abba at the same time? You're not staying here! Things and people are still falling apart all around us, but You are not here to stay!
And while we know that Jesus meant that the Holy Spirit would soon be sent down to the disciples on Pentecost, I think there is something more in the words of love He speaks to His dear friends. What does it mean to be with someone and to stay?
What does it mean to be with someone and to stay?
I've been a pastor in a number of churches and denominations for over 20 years, but no one has taught me what it means to stay better than a man named Mike. God knows I loved Mike, but he was incredibly demanding, stubborn, and picky! Those of us in the clergy have a little label for dear folks like Mike: E.G.R. or "Extra Grace Required". Yes, that was Mike! I'd fight traffic and drive over to the Disney Studios in Burbank where Mike worked, whenever he demanded that we meet, and would listen to him talk about how unhappy he was being single in his 30s. It wasn't like he wasn't going out — Mike went on dates regularly, but again, he was so picky! I'd stay and listen for as long as I could stand it, before I quickly prayed for him and hurried back to my church office.
In the spring of 2003, Mike found out that he had stage 4 cancer cells that had metastasized in his back and chest. The chemo treatments were so intense, Mike needed rides back and forth to the oncology clinic almost every day. Fortunately, we were able to get a team of wonderful volunteers from the church to help take him to all his appointments. These amazing folks went to his apartment in Pasadena to clean and cook for him as well. Eventually, because of the chemo, Mike could barely climb the stairs up to his home, but then, a miracle!
The apartment just below him became available, alleluia! But Mike didn't want to move! What?! Was he out of his demanding, stubborn, and picky mind?! He chose to stay where he was, making it harder for us to stay to help him!
By the summer of 2004, Mike could no longer walk; with a few months left of predicted living, he moved back to his parents' home in Alameda. About a month or so after his move, Mike requested that I go to Northern California to talk and pray for and with him.
When I walked into his room at his parents' home about a week before his death, Mike could barely speak or move. All I could do was sit there and stay with him for as long as he could manage. After I prayed for Mike, I walked over to his bed to grab his hand and bent over to give him a hug. Our eyes met.
It was the first time that I heard Mike's inner voice, his heart, speaking to me in a glance. "Thank you for coming to see me, Pastor Melvin. Thank you for staying with me in my pain, staying in my struggle to find companionship, staying with me as I journey to the end of life."
"Thank you for staying with me in my pain, staying in my struggle to find companionship, staying with me as I journey to the end of life."
"And surely, I am with you and staying with you always, to the very end of the age."
I believe that Emmanuel, God with us, says to you and me, "Love one another and stay. Stay with the pain and suffering and grief of our dear LGBTQ sisters and brothers and the challenging years that are yet to come. Stay and listen without judgment or fear, listen to their eyes that speak from their hearts."
God says, "Go in order to stay with and love our dear LGBTQ people who are all gifts to the world just like everyone else! Go to their sacred spaces! Go to the bars and the neighborhoods and places where they are safe, and listen and love and stay with them. The crumbling, tumbling world as we know it will be transformed into a place of healing and wholeness if you will only obey My command to love and stay."
And I am here to tell you, as a gay Asian man of faith and the member services manager of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, that "staying" will not be easy since the LGBTQ family can be demanding, stubborn, and picky from time to time!
"Staying" will not be easy since the LGBTQ family can be demanding, stubborn, and picky from time to time!
Welcome to the ministry! Welcome to humanity! Welcome to the work of the Church of our God of mercy!
Mercy stays no matter what. Mercy stays in the Pulse nightclub when the bullets start to fly. The Rockies and Gibraltar and the clay world may crumble and tumble, but Mercy stays — Love stays — and lays down her life in order that others can stay in a place of Life and Healing and Wholeness.
But, oh my dear, our love is here to stay Together we're going a long, long way In time the Rockies may crumble Gibraltar may tumble They're only made of clay, but Our love is here to stay.
MELVIN FUJIKAWA is a member of the Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, a certified Spiritual Director, a professional singer, a vocal coach and the members services manager for the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. He and his husband, Mark Hamner, are excited about using their Berkeley home as a “retreat house” for the LGBTQ community and their allies.
AARON HUANG was born in a Christian family, but never had an “aha” moment. Traveling and nature photography help him experience the beauty of God’s creation and remind him of his own insignificance and God’s grandeur. Find him on Instagram @heyeyron.