Liturgy of the Word

Left to right: Rev. Penny Nixon, Rev. Jim Mitulski, playwright Tony Kushner, and Rev. Karen Foster. In 1998 MCCSF commissioned a stained glass skylight inspired by a monologue from the play Angels in America. Kushner spoke at the dedication ceremony on April 26, 1998. Photographer unknown. Courtesy of Jim Mitulski.

Every Sunday worship service had a time for reading out loud from sacred texts. These included readings from the Hebrew Bible, the Christian scriptures, and other ancient texts. At MCCSF, like in other more liberal congregations, they also read from contemporary texts that had spiritual resonance with their lives and the struggles of their community. It was common to hear readings from LGBTQ writers like Audre Lorde or Tony Kushner alongside those from canonical Christian texts.

After the readings, the preacher delivered a sermon – a kind of sacred lecture – that used those texts to impart spiritual knowledge, teach religious lessons, or make meaning of the moment the community was living through. Most sermons at MCCSF were preached by clergy who were on staff at the church. Coming from a range of Christian traditions, they had different perspectives on how to understand sacred texts and what kinds of religious messages the congregation needed to hear. But all shared a commitment to liberation theology and its approach to interpreting the Bible from the perspective of the marginalized.
Liturgy of the Word


Liberation theology emerged in Latin America in the late 1960s and early 70s as a way to prioritize the voices of the poor and thereby create social and economic change that would liberate them. Early liberation theologians argued that this “preferential option for the poor” was a reflection and extension of Jesus’s own priorities as evidenced in scripture. This approach to developing theological understanding from the perspective of those who have been the most socially excluded was adapted by other communities marginalized in the United States. African Americans developed black and womanist liberation theologies and women developed feminist ones. Religious leaders in churches like MCCSF used their congregations as theological laboratories of sorts from which to develop gay liberation theologies and theologies of AIDS.

Rev. Penny Nixon, MCCSF co-pastor from 1995 – 2000 and senior pastor from 2000 – 2007, preached on the Gospel of Mark. MCCSF Archive, November 20, 1993.

Mark 5: 1 –20

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain.

The story in Mark 5: 1 – 20 is about Jesus healing a man who was found living among the tombs. He healed the man by exorcising the demons that were possessing him and sending them into a herd of pigs. In Reverend Penny Nixon’s telling, the story is about how Jesus and God are found among the socially scorned and emotionally suffering. The lesson is that God is with us in our most profound pain and that presence with pain is what ultimately heals. She links that to the pain gays and lesbians experience when pushed to social edges and affirms that even when the rest of the world can’t see, hear, and appreciate that pain, Jesus and God do. And that their healing presence is what will help gay and lesbian people re-engage the world and change it.

Mark 5
Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man

1 They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.


When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”


Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”


“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.


11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.


14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.


18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

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