I got too much sun yesterday.  But the day was so nice.  Nothing but blue skies, cool breezes, the temperature edged just over 80.

My shoes got sticky with lemonade on the north side of Chicago.  The count was 5,000 cups of lemonade, Gatorade and water served in the name of Jesus to some of the 750,000 parade audience watching the annual Gay Pride Parade wend its way up Halsted and then down Broadway.  In the name of Jesus.  With the red Salvation Army shield on each cup.

For several years I’ve joined a small group of Salvation Army soldiers, officers and others as we’ve set up our stations (Brian Allan would not claim it but he is our leader), one on each side of the Army’s College for Officer Training for this parade.  The College has been at this spot between Halsted and Broadway for almost a hundred years.  Before any parade, before a time when we were asked to understand where gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered persons belong in society, in our workplace, in our church.  For many of us the answers do not appear easily.

So, we get too much sun and a good amount of lemonade on our shoes.  We stand along the parade, actually on the wrong side of the crowd.  It’s only when they get thirsty and dry that they notice us.

This is the first year I recall we didn’t receive a hostile comment, accusation or denouncement.  A few years ago a grand denouncement was shouted at us by a man from San Francisco parading on Halsted Street .  Dramatic.  He shouted at us, pointing his finger at us.  Outing us.  The crowd turned as one (like a movie scene) and looked at me; I happened to be closest.  I had just lifted a cup of lemonade to offer.  They looked at me and it felt that a turning point was about to take place in the next two seconds.  I offered the cup to the crowd, smiled nervously.  ‘Free lemonade’.  The crowd shrugged and turned back to the parade.

But the crowd gets thirsty, hot, and then they turn.  They turn and, like children, quench their thirst on the shocking cold water we pour into our Red Shield cups.  They ask ‘how much does it cost?’ and we always say ‘free’ and either their faces or words express astonishment, and then gratitude.  Then they simply drink.  Some ask for more.

The Salvation Army has had an uncomfortable time of defining our place in the public discussion and debate in America on the issue of sexual orientation.  We have squirmed between our evangelical brothers based in the cool mountains of Colorado Springs and our non-evangelical brothers in Boystown.  We want to believe right and we want to serve right.  Being this way seems to make it pretty hard to please just about anyone with an agenda.

But we offer water and lemonade to thirsty people who ask us how much and why are we doing this.   We talk, show ourselves, in the name of Jesus.  We’ve been outed.