Sunday, October 19, 2008

Invitation to join me on the streets for a week, starting Saturday October 18

Greetings friends who have followed my street retreats in the past, or who are interested in learning about my retreat for the first time.

If you don't know me, my name is Rev. Megan Rohrer and I am the director of the Welcome Ministry in San Francisco, where I have been eating with and journeying with the chronically homeless (many who have been homeless for more than 25 years).

Each year for the past six years, I have been going on street retreats - to live in the Tenderloin. This is a journey I regularly take with a group called the Faithful Fools. I have had various motivations that have led me to the streets. Certainly, these retreats inform my work with the homeless throughout the rest of the year. But, because the retreat also includes twice daily reflection, it also becomes one of the most self revelatory times of my year.

Street retreat helps me to feel in my bones what it means to say "no" to guests requests, the ache of sleeping on the sidewalk, and the severe mental toll of my mere glimpse into what others are stuck in for far too long.

While I have entered my retreat with different expectations each year, I have found one thing is often the same: my retreat is an embodied living of all my stereotypes of the homeless I am living and working with.

When I thought homeless people were smelling and go to a lot of free meal sights, I became very smelling ate at a lot of different meal sites. When I thought the homeless panhandled a lot and ate out, I panhandled a lot and ate out at every meal. When I thought that homeless people stayed in one space and had a lot of freedom, I stayed in one place and had a lot of freedom.

As I listen to the stories of the homeless, I know that there are as many ways to be homeless as there are homeless people. I also know that the knowledge that I have a warm bed to come home to at the end of my week and a job waiting for me. It is not possible for me to escape these limitations of my power and privilege. Acknowledging this, here is how I seek to retreat to the streets this year...

Acknowledge my biases and with constant reflection on how I am holding myself apart and the ways I am choosing to connect to life on the streets, I seek to embrace vulnerability in my body to learn more about my truest self, and to work mightily to walk with each step moving me a step closer to God(dess).

In my past year working with our homeless guests, I have found that there is one aspect that I need to learn more about: my transgender brothers and sisters living on the streets. This is a journey to not only learn more about our guests, but also myself.

Before I was born my name was Ryan. A heart monitor told the doctor that I was a boy. When I was born the first words exclaimed were "oops" when the doctor saw that my body was female. For three days I was baby girl Rohrer, until I was named Megan.

I love my body and the life that I have lived, but I deeply believe that my gender queerness is not an "oops." I believe that both my heart and my body got it right. Yet in the world we live in, people tend to judge people's bodies without seeing their heart.

Today, I embrace both the male and female sides of my life.

So this year on street retreat I have decided to pass as male and go by Ryan. I hope this will be a way for me to expose my heart more fully to the streets. I ask you to join me in this journey, as I learn more about what it is like for my trans kin living on the streets and for my own personal gender expressions.

Each day I will be reflecting about my experiences on this blog at:

I hope you will pray with me, think about your own naming stories and share with me your experiences, fears and joys about my street retreat experience.


Rev. Megan Rohrer
The Welc

Monday, October 6, 2008

many are called, but few are chosen

Matthew 22:1-14

What a seemingly strange text. Many are called, but few are chosen? What does this mean in light of Jesus' proclamation in Matthew that the poor and sex workers will go ahead of you to heaven. Will they only then be kicked out for not having the proper clothing?

That's a hard pill to swallow, unless it is a metaphorical understanding that we are called to be clothed in Christ. Even then, Jesus' own words that there will be others in heaven and with him that we would not expect would lead me to believe that this text is in tension with Jesus' calls for inclusion. Last weeks entry speaks more about that.

How can we believe that many are called, but few are chosen and still believe in the priesthood of all believers?

Some of these questions can be answered by nuances in the greek meaning of the word many. I had always read the many to mean the final group of people that came to the party. Yet, in the greek the word "many" is the equivalent to "all." All were invited but only a few bothered to show up or do what they ought. This is talking about the entierty of the story, not just about the last group that showed up. This new reading suggests that all are invited, and we are the ones who need to respond appropriately.

Yet, as a Lutheran pastor, I would not want you to think that I am saying that we are justified by our works.

While this passage may lend itself to the reading that if you do the right things you will have life and get to party with God(dess), I believe the deeper meaning comes from not splicing this text from the rest of Matthew. It is very fitting in Matthew's text that the poor would be the ones to overwhelmingly respond to the call. My concern with the one member of the lower class that is killed, caused me to forget that 100% of the upper class got it wrong.

Isn't that always the way that people, like me in this case, remember the slight of the poor more than the slights of the upper crust. Perhaps some people. Or, it could be that so much of my work is about making sure every person, regardless of their socioeconomic class gets fair and equal treatment, that I am just responding to my call to speak out for the poor.

No, we couldn't have expected the poor person to show up in the right outfit. Yes, it is better that he atleast made the effort to show up (probably knowing he would be killed). But, you and I both need to care equally for those in the highest offices as we do for those sleeping on the lowest sidewalks (and the otherway round).

This text teaches me my own biases. That's the point. No matter who we are rooting for. We are not only equal in our sinfulness, we are equal in our sense that our neighbor isn't getting their fair due (good or bad). We are the hands that need to be working to maintain God(dess) justice (Isaiah 56) and/or reminding God(dess) of the justice that has been promised, but is woefully overdue!

We've got work to do. It want save us, but we are all called nonetheless.

Proper 23A/Ordinary 28A/Pentecost +22