Friday, August 29, 2008

Transition in the 76th Year

Matthew 16:21-28:

This past week HRC invited me out to Washington DC to help write about the church year as viewed by transgender eyes. Perhaps this is why I'm particularly reading this text with transeyes this week.

Those who want to save their life will lose it. This makes me think of the great wilderness space that many trans folk occupy for years of their lives. Sometimes it is because of fears about how others will treat us if we transition. Sometimes it is because of our own fears about losing control if we enter (or re-enter) a time of puberty. Sometimes it is because we truly need to honor other commitments in our lives or don't have access to hormones, surgeries or communities that are tolerant.

In DC, I heard the story of a transwoman who waited until the age of 76 to transition because she loved her wife and knew that she couldn't transition and maintain the relationship she vowed to honor and cherish. Not knowing what it must have felt like for this transwoman to make the decisions she made. Living in different shoes, with different eyes and different sets of privilege, I note that this weeks lectionary text can be read in a number of ways.

Is the cross, the life choices the transwomen made to delay transition? Is it finally deciding to transition and carry through with what she knew to be her destiny? What is the cross? Is it the suffering or the end of suffering?

Perhaps that depends on us, and our perspective, assumptions and biases.

Only the 76 year old transwoman could say for sure, but today I remember the joy of this woman. The courage it would take to transition without the support of the relationship that clearly meant so much to her.

What must it feel like for her, after 76 years of wilderness, to feel like she can look at a body without shame, or wishing that it was profoundly different?

Isn't this afterall what our Christian journey is as well. To transform that moment in the garden of bodily shame, to strive to be people who can be naked with each other without shame.

Nakedness is the essence of unity, of not being torn apart, of being for the other, of respect for what is given, of acknowledging the rights of the other as my limit and as a creature. Nakedness is the essence of being oblivious of the possibility of robbing others of their rights. Nakedness is the revelation; nakedness believes in grace. Nakedness does not know it is naked just as the eye does not see itself or know about itself. Nakedness is innocence. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Binding on earth? Braless heaven?

Matthew 16:13-20:

Binding, huh? When I think of binding I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He believed that you should be careful who you were in community with (sanctorum communio), because you will be judged (in a final judgment kind of way) by God(dess) based on these connections. Bonhoeffer, of course, could not figure out all the implications of this - as it meant you could be saved individually and condemned corporately or the other way round. He stated that it is as impossible as it is necessary.

Impossible yes. But, is it really true? Is what we bind on earth really bound in heaven? In this time of same-sex weddings where couples who have been together for decades find themselves getting bound together three or four times as they receive different levels of state and church recognitions. Does this weeks text mean that God(dess) recognized these marriages the first time they were bound on earth even as courts, voters and politicians continue to argue about them?

I imagine that this would be Good News for the couples who recognized their "unofficial" ceremonies as"valid" in their hearts decades ago.

Does this verse eliminate all the silly religious arguments about the validity of same-sex marriage in God(dess)' eyes? Is this the biblical trump card? I hope couples who are married everywhere (regardless of the sex, gender and other such differences and samenesses) will proudly proclaim to nay-sayers that "what is bound on earth is bound in heaven!"

As, I am getting ready to head to Washington DC on Monday to work on Bible Study through transgender eyes I am also thinking about binding in a physical way.

I would love to say to my trans-kin that "what is bound on earth is bound in heaven." Those who are accustomed to binding parts of their bodies that bulge in undesired ways or frankly for anyone who has any kind of unwanted fat in places they try to manage with support or tight wrappings, may consider it Good News to know that what is bound on earth will be bound in heaven.

And I imagine this may have something to do with wearing the clothing of Christ. Bonhoeffer certainly would say it does (creation and fall). In Medieval times this meant that females could become males (or at least wear pants... which some were burned at the stake for). But this is a longer story, that I will talk about another time...

Wouldn't it be great if in heaven there was no binding, because all the places that needed binding on earth were supported in a way that was better than the best pair of non-running pantyhose, support top, frogbra or spandex. We could all be naked an unashamed, like in the garden. We could all have the bodies that show us in our deepest places that God(dess) sees us, loves us, supports us and names us.

A braless heaven! Meet you there, for what is bound on earth will be bound in heaven!

Extra-Ordinary Time

As a pastor called to four very diverse congregations (St. Francis, HerChurch, Christ Church and Iglesia de Santa MarĂ­a y Martha), I do a lot of preaching in different contexts, with different names for God(dess), with different liturgy, and different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

I also find myself sharing with a diverse group of people in this motley city of Saint Francis the answer to the question "what did you preach about today?" And I'm always surprised to find how different my take on the text tends to be from what people expect from a pastor.

My mom told me that if the Bible was translated the way I tell the story that churches would be packed. Perhaps this is because I have a special ability to tell the story that is written between the lines in a flip yet reverent manner that can be poetic and disarming. Or perhaps its because its because of the unique worldview I have from speaking with, to and for so many diverse folk.

So, I've decided to place some of my thoughts about the texts and how they speak to me in this blog space. Hopefully it will speak to the flip yet reverent spaces inside of you. Perhaps it will help you see a text from a new perspective.

You should remember that as a pastor, sharing the Good News of God(dess) is my passion and life's work. So, please read my deep engagement with the text as a deep wrestling of someone who is deeply committed to faith and learning about God(dess)' inter-acting with(in) this crazy and beautiful world that is already the not yet (like me and you).

Here are some brief snippets of the texts as I have seen them so far this summer:

Matthew 15:10-28:

Jesus/Christ-Sophia literally says don't worry about what you eat it just becomes poop. Why are you focused on poop when you should be thinking about what comes out of your heart?

Then, he immediately misses his own point and calls a women a b**** (the greek is the female version of the word dog which in english translates to a swear word), who asks him to heal her daughter because she is of the wrong race (ie not a Jew). The woman, retorts to Jesus within his patriarchal language and causes Jesus to change his mind. Though, he still calls her "woman" rather than learning her name - as happens when men ask to have their children healed - he does end up doing what he ought.

While originally I thought that this text was just another example of misogyny (which it is) that either came from Jesus or those who wrote the text, I came to see how subversive it is to have this story remain in the text. This text highlights Jesus' humanity. It shows even he has a hard time following his own advice. And it shows that even those that God(dess) insults are still able to get justice when they, like the prophets of old, remind God(dess) of the promise to protect and save God(dess)' people. And it shows that (like in life) a racist and misogynist character usually has a lot to learn from the person they are putting down. [Sermon preached at Herchurch in San Francisco]

Matthew 14:22-33:

Jesus/Christ-Sophia tells the fishermen not to be afraid. Yet, fishermen are probably not afraid very often on the sea, and if they are it probably helps them have the adrenaline they need to take a situation seriously. People often preach that we should not be afraid if we have enough faith.

I believe that we should listen to our bodies. The fear we feel is important and it teaches us. It helps us stay safe when we are potentially in danger. It helps us to take care of the things we ought to, like getting earthquake readiness kits, insurance and following stop light signals. Though being cautious doesn't always mean that bad things won't happen.

Listening to our fears also teaches us when we need to learn something new or shows us where we have prejudices that we need to take a look at. But if we ignore our fears, we will never take the opportunity to notice that we are afraid of people that are not like us.

Do we have different rules in our churches for people who are of a different socioeconomic class, race, membership status, etc? Are these fears helpful?

And if it is true, as the Gospel of Matthew claims, that Jesus is in the stranger, the hungry, the homeless, then are we creating rules in our church that keeps us away from God(dess)? Do the fences around our churches and locked doors keep what is sacred in or out?

Yes, we can do unexpected amazing things, beyond our expectations. But we have to go outside our churches, our boats and our comfort zones in order to do it. [Preached at HerChurch and St. Francis]