Sunday, December 13, 2009

What We Have Been Waiting For

Listen to the sermon by pushing the triangle below. If you have trouble playing the sermon you can also find it at:

Sermon by The Rev. Megan Rohrer, December 13, 2009
Scripture readings: Zephaniah 3:14-20 and Philippians 4:4-7
Preached at the San Francisco Swedenborgian Chuch

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The poverty of loneliness

Push the triangle to play the sermon. If you can't get it to play, listen to it at:

Date: 11-15-2009
Description: A sermon about the very real and debilitating loneliness that plagues some people's lives.
Key words: lonelieness,depression,suicide,jesus
Pastor : Megan Rohrer
Sermon : St. Francis Lutheran Church
Scripture : Mark 13:1-8

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Rich Young Ruler

Click the triangle above to listen to the sermon. If you don't see the triangle, you can hear the sermon on

Date: 10-11-2009
Description: Give all your money to the poor, or keep in for an emergency? The call to be vulnerable.
Key words: poverty,stewardship,mark,jesus
Pastor : Megan Rohrer
Sermon : St. Cyprian's Episcopal
Scripture : Mark 10:13-31; Amos 5:6-15

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ministry to the Little Ones -Sermon

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If you don't see the triangle, you can listen to the sermon at

Date: 10-04-2009
Description: Seeing ourselves as a single mother and vulnerable little one. And God is a momma bird!
Key words: justice,mark,isaiah,mothers
Pastor : Megan Rohrer
Sermon : Old First Presbyterian Church
Scripture : Isaiah 56:1-8; Mark 10:13-16

Monday, September 21, 2009

Open Letter to the Bishop

Dear [insert name of your favorite ELCA Bishop]-

I've been hearing some rumors that Bishops are wondering if the pastors who were ordained extraordinarily (like myself) need to be re-ordained before they can be admitted onto the ELCA roster of approved pastors. This is of course following the church's decision to allow non-celibate gay pastors to be ordained (reversing a 20 year policy).

Re-ordination, really?

First these Extraordinary Ordinations follow our confessions, which outline how to ordain a pastor when Bishops make an (against the Gospel) requirement that celibacy is a requirement for the priesthood. How can the Bishops argue that following something in the confessions is not legitimate? Really, the ritual created by Martin Luther to ordain pastors who refused celibacy is not good enough?

Second, a parable:
A man refuses to attend a wedding because of his religious principles. Years later after seeing the faithful relationship the man changes his mind. When he goes to the married couple to tell them his principles have changed, he also asks the couple to get remarried now that he is willing to show up. Do you think the couple would agree? How would their children feel? Further, what if their salary was based on the number of years they were married or they had to pay for a new marriage license?

Third, what if the person who is now your bishop was present at your first ordination. What exactly would be the difference in this new ordination?
So dear Bishop [insert your name here], I understand that:
  • you may have missed our ordinations;
  • your principles may have changed or you may be living in bound conscience;
  • you may want to make nice with those who are afraid of change, so they don't leave the church
but you well know that:
  • our clergy minimum wage is based on the number of years we have been ordained;
  • that our candidacy process models the ELCA's;
  • that congregations are able to call pastors and ordain them without the approval of a Bishop;
  • even if you didn't show up for our ordination ritual, God(dess) surely did!
I pray for you during your time of leadership and cannot imagine the pressures and responsibilities that you have upon you at this time. I urge you to listen to your Lutheran gut, and make the right decision.


Rev. Megan Rohrer
called and ordained by:
Christ Church Lutheran (ELCA)
Sts. Mary and Martha Lutheran (ELCA)
Ebenezer (HerChurch) Lutheran (ELCA)
St. Francis Lutheran (formerly ELCA - until it was expelled for calling gay pastors 20 years ago)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sermon - The World Would be a Better Place if Everyone Was Naked!

Preached on my 6th day on the street. Click the triangle above to play. If you don't see a triangle find the sermon at
Date: 08-23-2009
Description: A sermon preached at the 8:30 Contemporary service at Salem English Lutheran in Minneapolis.
Key words: homeless,HIV/AIDS,health,justice
Pastor : Megan Rohrer
Sermon : Salem English Lutheran - Minneapolis
Scripture : John 6:51-66

Sermon- Really, Really, Really, Really

Preached on my 6th day on the street. Click the triangle above to play. If you don't see a triangle find the sermon at
Date: 08-23-2009
Description: A sermon preached at the 8:30 Jazz service at Salem English Lutheran in Minneapolis.
Pastor : Megan Rohrer
Sermon : Salem English Lutheran - Minneapolis
Scripture : John 6:51-66

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sermon/Bible Study- Rocky Goodsoil

Press the triangle above to listen. If you do not see a triangle you can listen to the sermon at:
Date: 08-22-2009
Description: Bible study and brief meditation the day after ELCA votes to have full inclusion of GLBT folk.
Pastor : Megan Rohrer
Sermon : ELM - Churchwide Assembly 09
Scripture : Mark 4:1-20

Friday, August 21, 2009

Celebrating Full Inclusion of Queer folk in the Lutheran Church

Lutheran Group Eases Limits on Gay Clergy

Published: August 21, 2009

After an emotional debate over the authority of Scripture and the limits of biblical inclusiveness, leaders of the country’s largest Lutheran denomination voted Friday to allow gay men and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as members of the clergy.

The vote made the denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the latest mainline Protestant church to permit such ordinations, contributing to a halting sense of momentum on the issue within liberal Protestantism.

By a vote of 559 to 451, delegates to the denomination’s national assembly in Minneapolis approved a resolution declaring that the church would find a way for people in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships” to serve as official ministers. (The church already allows celibate gay men and lesbians to become members of the clergy.)

Just before the vote, the Rev. Mark Hanson, the church’s presiding bishop, led the packed convention center in prayer. When the two bar graphs signaling the vote’s outcome popped up on the hall’s big screens seconds later, there were only a few quiet gasps, as delegates had been asked to avoid making an audible scene. But around the convention hall, clusters of men and women hugged one other and wept.

“To be able to be a full member of the church is really a lifelong dream,” said the Rev. Megan Rohrer of San Francisco, who is in a committed same-sex relationship and serves in three Lutheran congregations but is not officially on the church’s roster of clergy members. “I don’t have to have an asterisk next to my name anymore.”

But the passage of the resolution now raises questions about the future of the denomination, which has 4.6 million members but has seen its ranks steadily dwindle, and whether it will see an exodus of its more conservative followers or experience some sort of schism.

“I think we have stepped beyond what the word of God allows,” said the Rev. Rebecca M. M. Heber of Heathrow, Fla., who said she was going to reconsider her membership.

Conservative dissenters said they saw various options, including leaving for another Lutheran denomination or creating their own unified body.

A contingent of 400 conservative congregations that make up a group that calls itself Lutheran Core is to meet in September. Leaders of the group said their plans were not to split from the Evangelical Lutheran Church but to try to protect its “true tenets” from within.

Among so-called “mainline” Protestant denominations, distinguishable theologically from their more conservative, evangelical Protestant counterparts, both the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ already allow gay clergy members.

The Episcopal Church has endured the most visible public flashpoints over homosexuality, grappling in particular in the last few years with the consecration of gay bishops. It affirmed last month, however, that “any ordained ministry” was open to gay men and lesbians.

Earlier this year the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) rejected a measure that would have opened the door for gay ordination, but the margin was narrower than in a similar vote in 2001. The United Methodist Church voted not to change its stance barring noncelibate homosexuals from ministry last year, after an emotional debate at its general conference.

But the Evangelical Lutheran Church’s heavily Midwestern membership and the fact that it is generally seen as falling squarely in the middle of the theological milieu of mainline Protestantism imbued Friday’s vote with added significance, religion scholars said.

Wendy Cadge, a sociology professor at Brandeis University who has studied Evangelical Lutheran churches grappling with the issue, said, “It does show, to the extent that any mainline denominations are moving, I think they’re moving slowly toward a more progressive direction.”

Describing the context of Friday’s vote, several religion experts likened it to the court decision last year in Iowa legalizing same-sex marriage.

“In the same sense that the Iowa court decision might have opened people’s eyes, causing them to say, ‘Iowa? What? Where?’” said Laura Olson, a professor of political science at Clemson University who has studied mainline Protestantism. “The E.L.C.A. isn’t necessarily quite as surprising in the religious sense, but the message it’s sending is, yes, not only are more Americans from a religious perspective getting behind gay rights, but these folks are not just quote unquote coastal liberals.”

The denomination has struggled with the issue almost since its founding in the late 1980s with the merger of three other Lutheran denominations.

In 2001, the church convened a committee to study the issue. It eventually recommended guidelines for a denominational vote. In 2005, however, delegates voted not to change its policies.

On Friday, delegates juggled raw emotion, fatigue and opposing interpretations of Scripture.

Before the vote but sensing its outcome, the Rev. Timothy Housholder of Cottage Grove, Minn., introduced himself as a rostered pastor in the church, “at least for a few more hours,” implying that he would leave the denomination and eliciting a gasp from some audience members.

“Here I stand, broken and mournful, because of this assembly and her actions,” Mr. Housholder said.

The Rev. Mark Lepper of Belle Plaine, Minn., called for the inclusion of gay clergy members, saying, “Let’s stop leaving people behind and let’s be the family God is calling us to be.”

Michael Luo reported from New York, and Christina Capecchi from Minneapolis.
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» A version of this article appeared in print on August 22, 2009, on page A9 of the New York edition.

On Street Retreat

In case you did not know I'm living on the streets of Minneapolis during the ELCA Churchwide Assembly Aug. 17-24. You can follow my journey at:

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Assumption of Assumption

Luke 1:39-56
I love the Gospel of Luke's telling of the birth of Jesus. This tale is so beautifully feminist and subversive - but this is only because of it's use of tradition and patriarchy. Luke's Gospel gives very high value to the roles of men and then silences them and gives the prophetic words to the females in the story. First Zechariah is silenced (1:22), and Elizabeth proclaims (1:25) God(dess)'s favor.

Then Mary is called the "favored one" (1:28). In this week's selection of the text, instead of telling her betrothed about all that is to take place, she goes to Elizabeth and sings a song of praise. While this is the context for the text, the story continues to highlight the women in the story. John is born and Elizabeth decides not to name the child after Zechariah as the couple had intended (1:59-60) and once Zechariah agrees he is able to speak again (1:62-24).

In a nod to patriarchy Luke seeks to establish that Jesus is a first born son in a long line of first born son's. This is an obvious attempt to establish a priestly lineage back to King David and ultimately to Adam. And yet, the lineage does not line up with other biblical texts. For example, Jacob is not a first born (though he does get the birthright), 1 Chron says David is a descendant of Ham (not Shem as listed in 3:36) and according to Ruth 2:1 is not a part of this line, but rather a member of the wealthy family Elimelech. If you're really want to be nitpicky you can note that Cainan should be Kenan, and Araphaxad sohuld be Araphashad.

The fact that the genealogy is a bit off, makes it even more clear that Luke is going out of his way to prove that Jesus is the first born son of a long line of first born sons. And yet, all of this work is still dependant on Joseph being Jesus (bloodline) father, which is not the premise of the first two chapters of this story.

So why if Luke is working so hard to prove the patriarchal lineage of the story do all the speaking parts of the texts go to the female leads? This of course is the inspiration of this blog. For me it is not so inspiring to argue that queer people exist and grace lets us do what we want. But, examples of the queerness that exists in scripture (that we ignore or forget because we assume the text only affirms heterosexuality), stories of the queer saints and deeply held traditions that are much older than the contemporary assumption that only monogamous heterosexual relationships. And of course you can read more about this (shameless plug) in my book "Queerly Lutheran: Ministry Rooted in Tradition, Scripture and the Confessions."

But, it causes me to wonder about what the history of biblical scholarship will uncover as the next assumption that we are reading into scripture. What is the next scale we need to remove from our eyes so we can see the text more clearly?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

If only Jesus' followers were the same...

John 6:35-51

If you read between the lines of this week's text you'll find these words of Jesus:
anyone who comes to me I will never drive away...I should lose nothing of all that he has given me...Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.

This is of course a tenant of Lutheran faith... there is nothing we can do that will secure our own salvation and more importantly nothing we can do to screw it up. If only those who followed Jesus could utter these words to those they disagree with. What if instead of chiding each other we had to affirm each other.

Dear Fred Phelps, (insert whomever you disagree with theologically) I am so glad that regardless of the vile things you do that nothing can separate you from the love of God(dess), just as nothing I do could ever separate me from the love of God(dess).

What if we could not dismiss or disown others? This means that we cannot get rid of or abandon those who are no longer profitable, we cannot step over those who sleep on the sidewalks, we cannot abandon those in need of health care or ignore the hungry.

And this spiritual quest lasts forever. Yikes, that could change who we see as our neighbor. I'm not sure what would be scarier, if we held ourselves to this standard or our enemy!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sermon: Jesus brings the peanut butter and jelly!

Push the play button (triangle) above to listen to the sermon.

Date: 08-02-2009
Description: Sermon at Bethlehem Lutheran in Oakland 8-2-09. About the history and call for giving away food that perishes in churches, urban sharing and the current economy....
Scripture :John 6:24-35

Proper 13B/Ordinary 18B/Pentecost 9

Friday, July 24, 2009

Urban Share

Garden made from used pallets and milk crates

John 6:1-21

Jesus feeds 5000. A pretty spectacular story that if you've heard it a million times before may lose it's power. And with all the stories of miraculous healings and bringing people back from the dead, we may have already put this story in the category of things that God(dess) could do, but we could not.

But what if we could do it too? Two Saturdays a month we feed more than 200 and we only spend $600 a year on food. How is that possible? Well, we simply let people who have more than their daily bread, know there were others who were going without. And they bring their extra bread (actually they serve restaurant quality meals that are better than I eat at home).

At the Welcome Ministry, we use a philosophy that I call Urban Share. Urban Share is founded in the belief that we have all the supplies that we need, we just have to share it and communicate our needs to others.

Using this model of Urban Share we are working on a community garden project to enable churches and other organizations to create gardens to grow food, learn about hunger and meet the need that is so much more than a need for daily bread. Working with local gardening activists we have learned that it is possible to create raised bed, sidewalk, rooftop and lot gardens virtually for free by recycling materials that are common in urban environments.

Now we are working on connecting gardeners with organizations to teach them how to use the space and things they have around them to produce food for those in need in their communities.

Join our movement! Help us create connections, to fund this program, to reach out to more organizations and churches. Let's use Jesus' ability to feed large groups of people with the resources he found around him and his commandment from Mark "You go feed them" and go and do likewise.

Call to action- Help us feed 5000: The Welcome Ministry plans to feed an additional 5000 people this year, but we need your help. We will be growing produce in community gardens. How? Send us seed! Please send us one or more packets of seed (to grow food) in the mail along with your prayers - we will use your seeds to grow food and feed 5000.

Send seeds and prayers to:
The Welcome Minsitry
1751 Sacramento St.
San Francisco CA 94109

Proper 12B/Ordinary 17B/Pentecost 8

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sermon: Sheepdog's Tale- Don't Wait for Help

To play click the triangle above.
Date: 07-19-2009
Description: The text is cropped to say that we should all take a vacation, but hunger, health care and the needs of the world can't wait. Jesus' response: You feed them. Learn some ordinary and extraordinary ways you can help with hunger in your community
Pastor: Rev. Megan Rohrer
Congregation: St. Francis Lutheran Church
Scripture : Mark 6:30-34, 53-56; Psalm 23

Monday, July 13, 2009

You give them something to eat!

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

When the lectionary cuts out an important story in the middle of the text it does a disservice to the story and to those who hear it! Jesus' command that the disciples feed those gathered is an important part of this story. This cut out story seems to be the script that many people have today about why the poor should help themselves. Yet Jesus responds, despite the cost: "You give them something to eat" (v. 37).

Don't argue about how they got here, if they should have planned better, about how much it will cost or if it will split the church. Just feed them!

In much of my work with those living in poverty or who are homeless it has often felt like the obvious thing to do is just staring everyone in the face:
People without homes -- give them homes
people without food --- give them food
people with out clothes --- give them clothes
people without health care --- give them health care

You can see where I'm going with this. And I can hear the questions now: but what if they use it for bad purposes? Or what if they just waste it (after all if they were able to use things appropriately they wouldn't be in this space now)?

Perhaps. But people living in emergency situations, don't have the privilege of time to figure out what your budget should look like, if there is a better way to use the money or the color of the carpet in the room where the service happens.

Perhaps giving people the basic needs that are required for a healthy life may lead some people to be able to make choices we wouldn't condone. But thankfully, when I'm given my paycheck each week no one asks me how healthy the groceries I will buy are or if I will get any exercise this week before they give me my check.

No, we seem to want to control other people choices, but don't want people to control our own choices. If you have money you can choose from so many different types of milk that there is an entire aisle of milk. But, those who do not have money we seek to take away what little choices they do have (for fear they'll make a poor decision).

I happen to believe that giving people the things they need to be healthy is what we ought to do. We can't know or control what people will do with the things we give them. But that doesn't mitigate our very real responsibility to share what we have, with those who have less. And I find that when we do, those in very real need - more often than not- will use what we have shared in appropriate ways.

At WELCOME this is our mission. And we have a huge increase in the number of people who are begging for food right now. Help us to meet the growing need. Jesus commanded us to feed them. If you can please support our work, or volunteer so that we don't have to turn anyone away.

Proper 11B/Ordinary 16B/Pentecost 7

More than just the worst day.

Click the triangle above to play the sermon preached at St. Cyprian's Episcopal in San Francisco.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Healing from our Christian trauma.

Mark 6:14-29: John the Baptist's Head on a Platter

This text is gave me pause. How do you find "good news" in a story about a beheading. Particularly a story that exists as a foreshadowing of more death to come.

Yet, for anyone who has felt like the they have been stalked by death, chronic illness or who have been silenced by a political system that gets rid of hope and truth, this text may feel like it speaks to our situation. And perhaps it could be seen as "good news" because it speaks to our fears and anxiety.

But, as a pastor who works with those who don't have the ability forget their trauma - and sometimes feel like trauma of the past is still happening to them today I'm more comfortable when "good news" to provide hope for a better future.

The condition of being stuck in trauma is called post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It's something I'm getting intensive training to help people heal from. And the results have been stunning. I'd even say that it's been miraculous. Read Pastor Jay's thoughts about this work.

I wonder sometimes if Christians need trauma care. Death on a cross is a form of biblical terror and one that we keep inflicting on others - expecting others to live on a cross. Some Christians keep reliving and reenacting the cross ~ which to me seems to fit the mold for PTSD.

So perhaps the hope and healing comes in our remembering that this trauma is John's (and Jesus') not ours. We are alive and we should celebrate that. Even more so, we should do what we can to live fully, to improve our health and to heal from our trauma. And then of course work for all of this for our neighbors as well.

Baptism is one way that Christians seek to encounter their deaths. While we continue to remember our baptisms throughout our lives, we don't continue to live in a Good Friday space. Instead we strive to live in the resurrection, in our Easter.

"Good news" if you're reading this, it's safe to say that your head is still attached to your body. You are alive. Be Whole. Live in forgiveness. And Go in Peace.

Proper 10B/Ordinary 15B/Pentecost 6

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sermon: Not Worth Waiting For

Mark 5:21-43

Push Play (the triangle above) to Hear the audio.
Or download the sermon video.

Date: 06-28-2009
Description: Sermon that asks: What is so important to you that you would not wait, that you would reach out and grab it?...
Sermon : First Congregational, San Francisco

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Philadelphia - womb of the gay rights movement

This weekend is Pride in San Francisco and the anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion. I'll be preaching at First Congregational in San Francisco (Polk and Bush at 11am) and I'll post the sermon. But today I'll send one reminder that most people may not know:
A 1965 gay march held in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, according to some historians, marked the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. It was not Stonewall. In fact the Compton Cafeteria Riots also predate Stonewall.

In honor of the birth place of the gay rights movement I post some videos that I made while I was in Philadelphia recently. Enjoy:

In(dependence Hall):

Liberty Bell:


Sunday, June 21, 2009

The lesson of fear

Mark 4:35-41
What a strange and marvelous passage. On the one had it's a terrible idea to tell people to ignore their bodies and their fears. As humans living in a time when all we have to rely on is our intuition and our need to protect ourselves, we must listen to those voices of fear. Of course, they are not always rational. Sometimes the voices of fear are telling us to take a closer look at ourselves, that we need care, that we are racist and that we have more to learn. Regardless of whether our fear is rooted in truth or bias, we need to listen to them in order to keep ourselves safe and to grow.

In this week's text we have a story of fishermen afraid at sea. They knew when a storm was bad. And anyone who has feared a teacher can imagine the dread and pacing that probably happened for an hour before they had the guts to wake up Jesus, until they were pushed past the point of fear to necessity. At the point that they wake him up, there was nothing else they could have done. And yet, knowing he was their only hope they are still amazing when they get the calm they were seeking.

The sea represents the unfathomable uncontrollable chaos. And for the uncontrollable to be controlled means that sometime extraordinary is happening. Yet, there are moments in our lives when things grow calm unexpectedly, when the person who always lets us down finally gets it right, when we suddenly understand the thing that made no sense for so long.

Today's text is a prayer for those who have a hard time asking for help, for those who have waited too long to transition into the healthier life that has been long waiting, for those who have lived in chaos for too long and for those who are desperately longing for peace and stillness in their lives.

Proper 7B/Ordinary 12B/Pentecost 3

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sermon: Seven - the little thing that makes a big difference

Mark 4:26-34

Press play (or the triangle) above to listen to the sermon.

Date: 06-14-2009
Description: A sermon about the second two seed parables in the Gospel of Mark. About Welcome's identity crises. What does a homeless ministry do when it helps the homeless move indoors....
Location: University Lutheran, Philadelphia

Monday, June 1, 2009

pastors called to be boring?

Isaiah 6:1-13
“Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’ 10Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.”

One of the things I hear the most often when I preach in churches is: "thank you for coming to preach, I feel like someone said something alive for the first time in a long time from that pulpit." I always feel sad from the congregants that say that to me. How many churches are full of pastors who have the same call as the one in Isaiah above? Would we admit it if we did?

Today's text is for all the pastors out there. I don't think you mean to be boring. But, the thing I know is that congregations all over this country keep telling me they are ready for more, to be challanged, to hear the truth, to engage messy issues and to feel like their pastors are passionate about something.

So how to we become less boring when we preach? Don't bore yourself. If you are excited and care about what you are talking about, that is 75% of the battle of a good sermon. Yes, we want to speak to the needs of the congregation. But, if you are preaching the message they need to hear -and never the message you need to hear- then people will not feel engaged, like they are part of a conversation.

The Spirit is a gust of wind that blows through us, it moves and swirls and is passionately alive. She wants to be a part of your sermon, to wake you up and help your congregation grow. Will you let it?


Monday, May 25, 2009

Ascending gender

The stories of Jesus' new body that is unrecognizable to his friends and family, reminds me of the journey many trans folk take after their bodies and voices change after beginning to take hormones.  Others may have similar experiences after a dramatic hair cut change or by dressing in garments that are gender non-conforming.  

While trans' experiences may be a bit more dramatic than the typical coming home story.  I imagine that all people who journey back to their hometown after living in a different community, after years of a different job or with other families experience a bit of dysphoria.  

Going back to an old school as an adult gives a taller perspective.  As we change, the way we see things, even those most familiar to us changes.  

Passing as the opposite sex, gives us eyes to see the thin lines of gender in a new way.  To see the subtle sexism that we may not have noticed before.  

As Jesus returns to his hometown in a changed existence, with eyes that know physical pain and suffering, rejection and abandonment, I wonder how he saw his loved ones and those familiar to him in a new light.  

As Jesus ascends to heaven we assumed that he then takes on another form.  One, that Martin Luther imagines in his Table Talks, is without gender or sex.  Jesus ascends to a gender free reality.  

As easy assumption for someone who lives between genders to come to from this text.  

I wonder how the world looked from up there.  Far above the hubble telescope, where I imagine the earth and life on it looks smaller and smaller the higher he ascends.  The things that we argue about, for biblical correctness probably get smaller and smaller too (as we all do).

What are the things we need to ascend above?  What do we need to see with new eyes?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Local Option: What Would Luther Do?

Lutherans who seek a church with a true priesthood of all believers:

Why have we let those calling for a required celibacy rule for gay and lesbian rostered leaders claim that tradition and scripture is on their side? Luther was so convinced that requiring priests to take a vow of celibacy was against the gospel (On Monastic Vows), that he left his own personal sexual rigidity and chose to get married to make a political point.

Our confessions outline how congregations should call pastors in defiance of Bishops who try to require celibacy (Smalcald Articles - followed today by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries). Our tradition tells us that voting to allow Bishops to require pastors to be celibate (even if it is only applied to some people in a few places) is against the gospel.

What would Luther do? Not only would he vote against the sexuality task force’s recommendations, if it passed he would actively disobey the rule and help pastors get married. Luther responded to the local option of his time by playing matchmaker and helping monks and nuns marry each other.

Some may argue that Luther would not do the same thing with same-sex marriages , that he did with opposite-sex ones? Again, when we look to history it is clear that Luther was just as convinced that marriage was a matter to be decided by civil authorities, not churches. Not only that, Luther argued that we should follow the most liberal marriage policies (which at the time came from Turkey) when he gave advice to people about their marriages.

When a marriage was outside of Luther’s comfort zone, he still counseled people that it was better to marry than to get divorced. From a traditional standpoint, I find it curious that our church welcomes divorced people to be fully present at both sides of the communion table, and yet has yet to do the same for gay and lesbians.

I firmly believe that if our church stopped worrying about opinion polls and church fractures, if we stopped letting majority votes decide the fate of minorities, if we truly looked into the traditions of our church the answer about what to do about gay and lesbian pastors who be clear.


Lutheran (True) Confessions:*

First, I confess that I am a divorced pastor, in a committed same-sex partnership who lives in a state that currently is unable to recognize same-sex marriages (as of 5/5/09). So I write this, like all other Lutherans live simultaneously as both a saint and a sinner, grateful daily for the promise of my baptism that allows me to “sin boldly and believe more boldly still.”

For those who will discount my writings by saying that I am only trying to justify my own life I say this: As a lifelong Lutheran, I know that there is nothing I can do, say or write that could ever justify my life; I am saved by grace, through my faith in Jesus. On one level, my life could have been much easier if I acted straight, or decided not to be an ordained minister. Yet on a deeper level, as Luther once proclaimed, “here I stand, I can do no other.” Thankfully, I am blessed with a God(dess) whose love is so much bigger than my sexuality and gender (Romans 8:38) and I pray that God(dess) will forgive any typos or false theology.

Second, I confess that, like the tradition of Martin Luther, my writings are politically motivated. Despite having been a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) my whole life, I am unable to cast a vote to change the policy that will decide my own fate. My refusal to make a vow of celibacy has meant that I cannot be on the official roster of the church. Ordained by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries I am allowed access only to the visitors section of churchwide assembly (the armed guards keep me from violating this restriction). Synodically, as a pastor called by ELCA congregations, I am given voice, but no vote. There too I am required to sit in the “visitors” section – a rule I happily break every year to sit with members of my calling congregations.

So dear reader, if you are someone with voice and vote in the ELCA, I implore you to speak for me and the other silenced minorities whose fate you will be taking a majority voting on.

Third confession, Luther’s writing is a bit messier than I have made it seem. Luther does write about same-sex sexual relationships and he calls them unnatural. The reason is deeply rooted in misogyny and sexism. Stated bluntly, Luther believed that men are for thinking and women are for making babies (Luther’s Works 54: Table Talk Recorded by Veit Deitrich No 55.). Thus, effeminate men, and women taking on the “role of a man” (hetero or homo) are unnatural.

A similar word in Romans that some translators translate “homosexuality” is more correctly translated by Luther as “effeminacy” (Luther’s Works 25: Lectures on Romans) – same issue. Yet, we would never go around complaining that God(dess) has abandoned all effeminate people (though Early Christians and our Lutheran tradition did). Contemporary Lutherans need to reject both Luther’s misogyny and sexism and the heterosexism that comes out of it.

And while I'm talking about confession and forgiveness, I believe we should also confess our failure as a Lutheran church to follow the gospel sooner and for the devastating affect it has had on the lives of gay and lesbian pastors, lay people and their friends and family for decades.

*a nod to the website

Monday, May 4, 2009

Hunger is not a metaphor!

I'm preaching two services on Sunday: 11am at St. Francis and 6pm at Grace Cathedral

Since I'll be at an Episcopal service in the afternoon, I thought I'd talk about the Episcopal Psalm Reading: Psalm 22:24-30

I happen to like the entire Psalm and wish that it was read together. Note the omission of verse 31 which proclaims "deliverance to a people yet unborn." Such a beautiful promise. We can't even imagine the things that God(dess) can and will do in the world.

And yet the promise that the poor shall eat and be satisfied (v.26) seems to be beyond our grasp. So often preachers turn promises of hunger being filled into metaphors about a spiritual reality. The Psalmist, like Isaiah, seems to get it that we all are equal in our need to eat food. We all have stomachs. Regardless of what we eat and if we ever get to feel full, we all require nutrients to live. In a world with so much to grumble about - there seems to be nothing more consistently biblical than people grumbling at God(dess) - God(dess) promises that we will be satisfied.

The feeling of satisfaction is not one we get very often. In a world where bigger, better and faster is just around the corner it's no wonder that popular musicians proclaim: "I can't get no, satisfaction." That could be our modern day mantra.

And yet God(dess)'s constant refrain of "peace, be still" continuously meets our perpetual "not enough" space. Stop and smell the flowers. Stop and notice the satisfaction of a meal you eat. The taste and texture are meant to be enjoyed. And in all the moments that we truly do not have "enough," or the privledge to reflect we can remember the promise of what is coming.

It is our obligation to confront those who are content to let biblical promises of satisfying hunger and God(dess)'s groining for justice become metaphors (another way of saying permission to not act).

Fruit of the Vine

It just feels too easy this week. John 15: 1-8 God(dess) wants us to bear fruit. So be fruity!

Seriously, if we are a part of God(dess) and God(dess)' work there is no limit to what we can ask for, or what we can expect. This kind of freedom has scared Christians for ages! Doesn't this mean you could commit murder and get away with it. What would our life be like if people used this freedom and disobeyed all those human laws that make our world work.

Dominic, takes the bible literally. So literally that he ignores the laws of humans and only obeys the laws of God(dess). This means that he crosses the street on the red, walking against traffic and blocking buses. Of course this has come at the cost of his body. He's been hit by cars on more occasions than I could count.

Dominic believes deep down to his toes that we have the resources we need. He spends most of his time in dumpsters reclaiming things that people have thrown away so he can share them with others that need them. Most people see his gifts as trash, but some find what they need.

For Dominic, myself and many other faithful people, it's not hard to ask for what we need (as long as it is for someone else). It's hard to take care of ourselves and ask for what our bodies, minds and souls need.

Yet, God(dess) promises that our fruits will be multiplied. I'm crazy enough to believe, like Dominic that if we all shared more that we would all have enough. The message I need to hear (and perhaps you do too) is that if we accept God(dess)'s gifts for our own care, that God(dess) will use our holistically healthy lives to help others do the same.

So, enjoy a vacation and donate those hotel toiletries to the homeless (at the Welcome Ministry or somewhere close to where you live).

Have a really nice dinner that is good for your body and then donate the same amount of money to a local food pantry.

Take yourself to a spa, and then donate the same amount of money to make sure the poor have access to basic hygenie (public restrooms, showers and socks).

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Trans Pastors Speak Out Against Hate Crimes

I spent the past three days, with over 200 trans folk in Washington DC for Lobby Days and the Transgender Religious Summit (sponsored by CLGS and NCTE) to help lobby for congress to pass the Hate Crimes Prevention Bill (which the house just passed the bill today).

A few of the 50 trans pastors, took time before lobbying to release the first major letter written by an interfaith group of transgender faith leaders. You can read the letter in English or Spanish. These trans pastors gathered in support of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and to encourage other faith leaders to do the same.

Notably the most prolific charge at the Transgender Religious Summit came from Kate Bornstein. Here are some of my favorite quotes from her keynote:
  • "it's time for churches to start having good sex: safe, sane and consensual."
  • "everyone here is getting a 'get out of he'll free card'"#trs
  • "when we are outsiders we get to be hidden bodhisattvahs... Because no one would expect us to do good work"
  • "what does it say that the downfall of humanity (in Genisis) comes from the desire for morality"
  • the story of Adam and eve is story of God warning us against the binary
  • "you never have to answer either/or questions... Either/or is the language of bullies."
  • "I'm a masochist, if I did unto you what I like done to me, you'd rightly put me in jail"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Out in Season Lent - Easter

I forgot to mention this resource I helped write for HRC on the Lent and Easter Cycle. Learn about baptism and the transgender experience.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Trouble Will Bury Me Down

Hear "Trouble Will Bury Me Down"
Sermon Preached at the San Francisco Swedenborgian Church on April 5, 2009 (the second day of my seven day street retreat).
Scripture readings: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 and Mark 11:1-11

Street Retreat Blogging

If you are interested in following my experiences living on the streets for 7 days and 7 nights (as I have done for 7 years now), check out:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Palm/Passion Sunday

Jesus rides into the crowd on a donkey (John), no a horse (Mark and Luke), no both a horse and a donkey (Matthew)...

In a great case against literal interpretations of the bible, this is one of those stories that everyone has heard (the church going ones anyway). Yet, the details are a bit fuzzy. Like the oft overlook diversity that exists in the birth narratives.

What Jesus rode doesn't really matter, since the point is the irony of the glory that comes before the suffering pain and awefulness of the story that follows. It's that grand welcome, that end up being a trap like a good spy movie or episode of Scooby Do.

And there are still a good number of Christians continue the trap of over exaggerated welcome - followed by judgement, trial and death of individuality (and sometimes creativity and fun).

My dream is for a church that welcomes people, all people (especially those who disagree with me), and continues the welcome with the more gritty change and transformation that comes from staying in relationship. This means that we don't throw out our tradition with the bath water. I myself am a fan of reclaiming the roots of the tradition (which usually prove to be much more radical anything I could ever come up with) and rituals with an ability to also welcome and honor the new traditions and rituals that move people living today.

This week I visited First United Methodist in Vermillion (FUMV), South Dakota. The Human Rights Campaign sent me there as a part of the trainings about faith and gender identity that are happening in all the congressional districts that are needed to pass ENDA. I learned that this congregation in the midst of the "bible belt" where fundamentalism is an assumption, is a church practicing radical welcome. If it can happen here it can happen anywhere. I was also excited to learn that FUMV has a donkey at their Palm Sunday worship each year. They're still looking for one for this year, so if y9u've got a donkey to lend for a couple hours, I can't think of a better cause!

This Palm Sunday I will be preaching at the San Francisco Swedenborgian Church. It will be the second day of my annual street retreat (where I live on the streets of the tenderloin for 7 days and nights). Check out my street retreat blog to follow my journey through holy week. I will be riding neither a donkey or a horse (famous last words...).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Righteous Anger

This week's text features Jesus overturning the temple tables in a rage about consumerism and trying to make a profit on the sacredness of temple ritual. What did he expect really? The temple was also a bank and the safest place to keep money. It was also a regular feature for the faithful to purchase their livestock for sacrifice. Busy as we all are, we can understand how convenient it would be to arrive at church (lets face it most San Franciscans arrive late) and have everything ready to go.

So what is with the righteous anger? Though today in our current economic state it's easy to get angry at capitalism, the sacrifice of the poor and the churches who have tightened their belts to think about numbers in the pews and their potential giving.

It's a good time to yell about workplace discrimination, bathrooms that are not accessible, the sexualization of trans people and political surgery requirements that leave lower income (and suregically disinterested) trans folk without proper id.

What is more surprising than Jesus' anger, is our lack of it today. Why aren't we demanding access to health care, fair voting rights, that the rights of minorities not be left to majority votes and for justice for those who are used as raw material to produce goods and services.

Where is our anger? Righteous or not.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Divine Sex Changes in Genesis

When culture began to believe that men were superior to women, it reinterpreted the queer creation story into a story of a woman coming from a man in order to reinforce cultural assumptions. And for centuries, patriarchal assumptions continued to reinterpret and sometimes guide our scientific assumptions of sex and gender.1

Still, the earliest listeners and readers of our sacred scriptures believed that sex changes were a miracle of God(dess), beginning with the first sex reassignment surgery that was preformed by God(dess) trans-forming the intersexual Adam into a male Adam and female Eve.2

This first sex change was not the final act of creation that ended the need for any other sex changes. Ancient Israelites believed that there were more than two genders: male, female, barren women and Eunuchs.3 While rejecting the assumption that you cannot be fully a woman or man if you cannot procreate, we must continue to lift up the sacred stories of the God(dess) who not only performs sex change miracles but uses gender queer individuals as agents of God(dess)’s work in the world.

The earliest readers of the Hebrew Bible believed that barren women and circumcised men were models of the androgynous ideal (like the Divine Androgen).4 This means that God(dess)’s command that all men be circumcised could be said to be a requirement that all faithful believers undergo a physical sex change. Numerous barren women also received divine sex changes when God(dess) notices them and opens their wombs: Sarai, Rebecca, Leah, Rachael, Zulaikaha, and Hannah.5

While the type of sex change that comes from circumcision or the opening of a womb seems very different then the surgical and hormonal sex changes that some transsexuals undergo, the story of Dinah’s sex change may speak more to the contemporary transsexual experience.6 This story begins with Jacob, a character so gender queer, that even Luther notices.7 But, how could he not notice when the text seems to go out of its way to note that everything that Jacob does is feminine: female pronouns are used to describe him and it is noted that he “dwells in tents” (Gen 25:27) which were known to be the space of women. Even more queer is the fact that this effeminate male is able to amass so much masculine power, which the patriarchy of the time defined as the ability to “take” multiple wives and produce many male children.8

Jacob’s children come as the result of at least two divine sex changes (Leah’s womb is opened in 29:31 and Rachael’s is opened in 30:22) and ultimately produces twelve male offspring, who become known as the twelve tribes of Israel. Though its not recorded in the text, ancient readers believed that after eleven of the sons were born (six to Leah, two to Bilhah and two to Zilpah), that Leah prayed to God(dess) to have a girl so that her sister Rachael could bear Jacob’s final male child, Joseph.9

While some sources believed that Dinah’s sex change occurred in Leah’s womb and others believed it was happened after Dinah was born they all agree that it was God(dess) who changed Dinah’s sex from male to female. Yet most commentators fail to notice that the cost to Dinah for her divine sex change is the loss of the privileges given to men in a patriarchal society.10 As a woman Dinah endures the subjugation commonly endured by other women of her time when she is raped by Sehecham (34:2-7) and “treated like a whore” (34:31). Dinah ultimately dies giving birth to Benjamin.11

Despite Dinah’s unfortunate fate, the prayer of Leah has been used by trans individuals as model for praying to God(dess) for a sex change. Qalonymos ben Qalonymos in Even Bohan (1322) prayed:

Our Father in Heaven! You who did miracles to our fathers by fire and water; you who turned [the furnace] in Ur of the Chaldees [cold] to stop it from burning [Abraham]; you who turned Dinah in her mother's womb [into a girl]; you who turned the rod [of Moses] into a serpent in front of tens of thousands; you who turned [Moses'] pure arm into a [leper's] white arm; you who turned the Red Sea into land, and the sea floor into solid and dried-up earth; you who turned the rock into a lake, the cliff into a fountain - if only you would turn me from male to female.12

The sex changes in Genesis could be read as enforcing strict gender binaries, as God(dess)’s way to trans-form the gender queer into “normal” procreative men and women. But, we have already seen how God(dess) uses Jacob in gender queer ways, without correcting or changing the ways Jacob is queer in gender. Michael Carden, who called Jacob a “pretty-boy nancy,”13 describes Jacob’s youngest son Joseph as “twitling, minicing, in rainbow garb and with painted eyes, Joseph is a flaming young queen.”14 God(dess) continues to use gender non-conforming individuals not only in the book of Genesis, but throughout our sacred texts.

1. See Laquer, Thomas, Making Sex: Body and Gender From the Greeks to Freud, Harvard UniversityPress, 1992.

2. The Jewish midrash argues that: “Men and women were originally undivided, i.e. Adam was at first created bisexual, a hermaphrodite.” [Plaut, W. Gunther, The Torah: Genesis- A Modern Commentary, 1974, 24.] See also, Gottwald, N. K. 1985. The Hebrew Bible--a socio-literary introduction. Includes index. Fortress Press: Philadelphia

3. Carden, Michael, “Genesis/Bereshit,” The Queer Bible Commentary, Ed. Guest, Deryn, et. al., SCM Press, 2006, 27.

4. Ibid, 33, 35 and 49.

5. Ibid.

6. See Carden, Michael, “Genesis/Bereshit,” 47-51.

7. LW5: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 26-30: Genesis 29:29

8. See Carden, Michael, “Genesis/Bereshit,” 47-51 and Stone, Ken, “1 and 2 Samuel,” The Queer Bible Commentary, Ed. Guest, Deryn, et. al., SCM Press, 2006, 212.

9. See Berakhot 60a and Tanhuma 19:5.

10. Rosen, Tova, Circumcised Cinderella, 89.

11. Carden, Michael, “Genesis/Bereshit,” 51.

12. As it appears in Rosen, Tova, “ Circumcised Cinderella,” 87.

13. Carden, Michael, “Genesis/Bereshit,” 50.

14. Ibid, 53.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

Isaiah 40:21-31

Let this be my official angry retort to those who argue that they know what is natural, to those who think there is one bodily "normal" way to look male or female. These same individuals then talk about the normal variations that happen when babies are born and talk about them being "disordered or malformed". They say surgery is the answer. Some say same sex loving folk ought to get the parts others are able to keep private corrected through surgery. While I don't want to talk the surgery will make you natural and "normal" people out of being accepting of trans folk who choose surgical options, I must quote to you these words from Isaiah (which of course are also quoted back to me just as strongly): "21Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; 23who brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing."

And as a reminder to myself, that when I am told these sometimes well meaning, but nonetheless misguided comments, that I should respond boldly: "Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? 28Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. 30Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; 31but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."

Then we can all hold hands and sing together about being raised up on eagles wings. Well, this is my dream anyway. It never seems to work that way. It usually end with someone telling me I am not a REAL Christian (or insert any other category in my life). And all I did was quote scripture. Why is it so hard for some to think that scriptures words of freedom of welcome and hope only apply to others who think the same way we do.

This of course is my reminder that the words of hope and freedom are just as much for others who disagree with me. And then I must put faith in the mystery that is God(dess), and who thankfully is big enough to be a God(dess) for both me and "them."

Epiphany 5B

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Male brides of a female Christ

Caroline Walker Bynum, in Jesus as Mother, outlines how 12 th century cloistered male saints began to understand themselves as mothers who were the male brides of the mother/father Christ. As these saints expanded the Gospel of Matthew’s imagery of Jesus as a mother hen (23:37) and wrote about the breast feeding Christ who was a mother, they were not implying that Christ was female. Rather, they believed that the male Christ’s humanity was dependent upon the simultaneous nature of Christ’s mother/fatherhood. Unlike the binary sex roles of our contemporary culture, “Medieval authors do not seem to have drawn as sharp a line as we do between sexual responses and affective responses or between male and female.”1 This fluidity of gender went beyond the belief that men could be feminine to the idea that men could take on physical characteristics of the female body while still remaining male.

It is possible to read the works of these saints as reinforcing patriarchal assumptions by giving males not only the ability impregnate but also to birth and breastfeed. It is also possible that they were expressing gender freedom by expressing the language of divine androgyny that they read in scripture. While I reject the former as patriarchal, I lift up the latter. Bynum also argues that works of these 12 th century saints are rooted the Hebrew Bible’s naming of the male God(dess) who “speaks of himself as mother, bearing Israelites in his bosom, conceiving them in his womb (e.g. Isa. 49:1, 49:15, and 66:11-13)”2 and the Wisdom of God(dess) as the divine feminine (Ecclesiastes 24:24-26).

Anselm of Canterbury is one of the first of the 12 th Century saints to write about Jesus (and Paul) as mother/father who nurses an individual’s soul with his breasts.3 Anselm named both Jesus and Paul “fathers by protection, mother by compassion.”4 Bernard of Clairvaux uses female/mother imagery for Jesus, Moses, Peter, Paul, prelates and abbots when he writes extensively about how their wombs nurture, conceive and shelter while their breasts pour out instructions like breast milk.5

Guerric abbot of Igny, takes the mother imagery a step further when he calls the male abbots mothers who give birth to Christ, just as God(dess) the father becomes pregnant with our soul in his bowel for the sake of our salvation.6 Eventually it becomes commonplace for the cloistered male monks and abbots to speak of each other as mothers.

By calling Christ and each other mother, these saints sought to highlight the erotic nature of their union with Christ and to highlight their own humility. While the former is quite queer, the latter is deeply rooted in the patriarchy of the time. By referring to themselves women, they were highlighting their own weakness and need to be nurtured and supported. This comes directly from the assumption that women, by their very nature, were weak. While the male saints considered this a positive description at the time, it is nothing less than patriarchal.7

And when we take a closer look at the queer reading, it too is entrenched in heterosexist assumptions. While the freedom of gender they express can be liberating for queer readers, it should also be noted that the gender trans-formations came out of a desire to avoid the appearance of queer sexual orientation. Bynum notes that the desire to avoid erotic same-sex language when speaking about their sexual unions to Christ. This may be why the saints referred to their souls as “brides of Christ,” instead of “coming out” about the physically erotic relationship that was occurring between a physically male saint and the physically male Christ.8

Postmodern readers who strive to free themselves from dualistic and binary assumptions of male and female may relate to the language of Christ as mother/father. However, instead of believing that the physical and metaphoric motherhood/femaleness of Christ enhances the fatherhood/maleness of Christ, postmodern readers should strive to envision Christ as gender queer. If we were able to see Christ as truly gender queer then the femaleness of Christ would not negate her maleness of Christ, just as the maleness of Christ does not negate his femaleness. Like the 12 th century cloistered male saints Christ’s ability to be a father should be read as dependent upon his status as a mother. But, a queer reading would reject patriarchal privilege that comes from Christ’s maleness, just as Christ often rejects privilege to be with/for the poor, sex workers and tax collectors in the Gospels.

When queer readers name Christ as a gender queer mother/father it is not done out of fear of linking Christ to a queer sexual orientation. If Christ is both male and female, then it is impossible for a Christ to have an opposite-sex relationship. And if it is true as Paul writes in Galatians 3:28 that in Christ we too are no longer male or female, then it is also impossible for any Christians to have an opposite-sex relationship.

1. Bynum, Caroline Walker, Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages, University of California Press, 1982, 162.

2. Ibid, 125.

3. Ibid, 113.

4. Ibid, 114.

5. Ibid, 115.

6. Ibid, 120-3.

7. Ibid, 138-9.

8. Ibid, 161.