random musings...

Tag: church

Wolf and the Lamb

Advent is a time of waiting. We await the birth of the Christ child but perhaps even more importantly we await what the Christ child represents: change. Christ brings us the promise of a new way of living in the world, a new way of doing and being. Into our current world that is so obsessed with greed and power, love is born. But Advent isn’t just about waiting as if God is suddenly going to solve our problems. It’s about an active waiting, anticipating and preparing for how we can participate in this new world – how we can help bring hope by creating peace and justice in our lives and in our society.

In the eleventh chapter of Isaiah, the prophet also gave the people of Israel a vision of a different kind of world. This was a world where “common sense” was turned upside down and where the wolf and the lamb lived in peace. Not a world where the lamb defeated the wolf in battle but where they learned to live harmoniously. A world where the lamb no longer needed to fear. Is Isaiah’s words, this would be a world filled with the knowledge of God, a world without violence or oppression for if we truly know the love of God we cannot do violence and harm to others.

For us who follow Christ, we understand this vision of a different way to be fulfilled in Christ. By knowing Christ we know God. But simple knowledge of doctrines concerning Christ isn’t enough. We also need to “know” Christ as we know a trusted friend. We need to know Christ in our hearts and not just our heads for it is in our hearts where transformation and growth must take place. How we act in the world doesn’t change unless our hearts change. How do we do this? Can we forget about doctrines and whether we’re believing the “right” things and just feel the presence of Christ, of love, in our hearts? Perhaps what we really anticipate during Advent is the birth of Christ into our hearts, continually, that we might be set upon a path of transformation and love.

This Advent, let us in our anticipation make room in our hearts for the birth of the love of Christ that we might be transformed and in turn begin to transform the world. For where there is love, there is hope. Let in the Spirit of God this Advent that it may bring us the wisdom and courage we need to create a new world where the wolf and lamb live together in peace, where we stand up for the oppressed, where people are treated fairly with compassion. This Advent let us be God’s love to the world.

(I originally wrote this short reflection for my church’s newsletter. It was inspired by my sermon from Sunday, December 4, 2016. The church’s website is http://www.phoenixchurch.org)

The American Shadow

Have you ever had a dream in which someone was chasing or attacking you? In dreams like this the attacker represents our Shadow, where we shove all of those aspects of ourselves of which we are ashamed, hoping that they never see the light of day. When the Shadow shows up in our dreams it is basically our subconscious telling us that some repressed part of ourselves needs attention. The world-renowned Jungian analyst Robert Johnson wrote that if the Shadow gains enough energy “it erupts as an overpowering rage or some indiscretion that slips past us; or we have a depression or an accident that seems to have its own purpose.” An out of control Shadow “is a terrible monster in our psychic house.” In other words, the Shadow escapes our nightmares and becomes a real life problem causing pain and disruption for us and those around us.

Donald Trump is the Shadow of American culture. He is the nightmare that reminds us of the misogyny, racism, xenophobia, islamophobia, etc. that lurks just below the surface. We’ve tried to deny and repress these aspects of our culture. We’ve tried to claim that women are given equal treatment, that black lives already matter, that we welcome the stranger, that we offer religious freedom, but Trump is revealing the falsehood of our delusions. He is our Shadow demanding attention. He is an eruption of rage, an indiscretion. As the raging Shadow, it’s not surprising that his entire persona has no real substance. He doesn’t offer plans or ideas but only anger and vague, grandiose boasting. It’s not his function to solve anything but only to demand attention.

Queer Theology

The “anarchistreverend” blog, in the post http://anarchistreverend.com/2011/07/synchroblog/, asked people to blog about queer theology today, August 10, 2011. I think it will have a list of all of those who responded by blogging. My friend Cindi, who blogs at http://cindik.com/, has echoed the call several times, which finally inspired me to add a few words to the cause.

The original proposal stated: “On that day I want people to blog about what queer theology means to them. I want you to share your story of how reading the Bible queerly has changed your life. I want you to talk about how your sexuality or your gender identity has brought you deeper into relationship with God.”

And further clarified: “This synchroblog is NOT ABOUT apologetics. This isn’t about taking on the clobber passages or explaining why it’s okay to be queer. It’s time to move past those conversations. […] This day will give a hint of the beautiful stories that can be shared; of the amazing ways that queer folks read and delve into the Scriptures.”

Since I’ve waited until the last possible moment to think about this, my thoughts aren’t as well thought out as I would like… but I’ll give it a shot.

As a gay pastor of a small church composed of mostly LGBT people, the relationship of Christianity and queerness is very much of personal interest to me. First of all, I would echo the anarchistreverend’s sentiment that “it’s time to move past [apologetic] conversations.” Although I don’t mind giving my take on the “clobber” passages or why one can be queer and Christian to those who are genuinely struggling with those questions, I have no interest whatsoever in arguing about it with those who are determined to adhere to homophobic views. Queer people are loved children of God and our inherent, God-given worthiness is not up for debate. Period. End of Question.

But what does being queer and Christian mean to my life? For one, if I had not come to terms with being gay, I probably would never have come back to the church or Christianity. After many years, having left the church behind for reasons that had nothing to do with the question of queerness, I came back to church as a safe place to meet other gay people. In the process, I discovered “progressive” Christianity and re-found my love of the church and God. This has led me on a weird and wonderful journey to ministry.

But does being gay / queer enhance my spiritual journey? One way in which it does is that being a queer Christian forces me to question the status quo. To think for myself. I cannot just accept whatever traditional doctrine that I’m told I’m supposed to believe. Too many church teachings have historically been about maintaining the church’s power over people’s lives and not about helping them find God’s love. To buy into those doctrines would be self-damaging and irresponsible. The way many churches treat queer people is a good example of this at work.

This questioning and challenging is a gift that queer people give to the church. Being queer is to be on the margins of what is “acceptable.” Queerness makes people question and challenge boundaries, especially as to whether our boundaries are really God-given or established by fearful, power-pursuing humans. Marriage is a good example. Queerness challenges the status quo. It challenges the very definition of and reasons for marriage.

But, our questioning as queer people should also go beyond pushing the boundaries outward to include more people. We should question the very structure of the boundaries. Sticking with marriage, we might question whether being included in this institution is even the best thing. Perhaps we instead need new understandings of committed human relationships. In one way, I’m surprised that conservative Christians are against gay marriage. If conservatives wanted control over gay people and how they are allowed to act and present themselves then the best way to do that would be to bring them within the walls of their moral codes. I think it is wonderful when a new state approves gay marriage, but is to be within those walls really what is best? I’m not saying I disapprove of marriage… I think it is exciting when two people are in love and make a commitment to each other. But there are lots of side issues (such as church vs. state marriage) and this is not really meant to be a blog entry on marriage.

And there are plenty of other issues that come to mind… sexual ethics, open relationships, pornography, bdsm, family dynamics, the nature of love… Being queer should challenge us to try to think through those issues and not just accept the stereotypical, traditional Christian responses. And all of this questioning and searching the Bible, our hearts, and our fellow spiritual journeyers for answers should bring us closer to God in a more genuine, heartfelt relationship. Because that’s what queer people have to do, forge our own path of relationships – with each other and with God.

Related to this questioning, being a gay Christian has led me to think of Christ as queer… Jesus was always challenging the status quo, making people think. If you’re interested in the idea of a queer Christ, I’ll offer a sermon I preached a couple of years ago for further reflection. Listen to it at http://www.phoenixchurch.org/sermons/032909_ka_1corinth12_12-21_26.mp3 or read the pdf file attached to this blog entry.

Okay, that’s it as a last minute reflection on what being queer and Christian means to me… at least what it means to me today anyway 🙂 I’m still questioning… and hope I always will be.

referenced sermon in pdf format:  Recognizing Ourselves in Christ

How to make a difficult decision easy (sort of)

At a meeting a month or so again I mentioned how my church had made a difficult decision without rancor or ill will despite the fact that not everyone was in agreement on what the outcome should be.  Several people asked “how did you do that?” as if it sounded quite miraculous.  Indeed, in some sense it did seem like a miracle, especially considering we have, at times in our history, sometimes made easy decisions seem difficult and difficult decisions seem almost impossible.  But this is not unique to our church either.  Any group of human beings, all of whom have unique opinions, passions, and perspectives, can struggle with group decision making.

This led me to think about how did we take a difficult decision and make a pleasant process out of it?  Here are some of my thoughts and some of the principles that we followed:

Another powerful anti-bullying message

Another powerful video:

Watch: ‘At 13’, A Spoken Word Anti-Bullying Performance by Kenneth Morrison – Towleroad | #gay #news.

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