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).