In a religious culture that taught me I was a worm, a wretch, a sinner undeserving of God's love, compassion, and forgiveness, I had no problem believing that, when God looked at me, all God saw was my filth, my brokenness, and my utter irreparability. I was shit, and despite my best efforts, that was never going to change.
Moment after moment, my YES became louder, stronger, and more resolved. I did not go to Synod with many expectations. I certainly did not anticipate the Spirit opening me up in the ways she did. Nor did I anticipate the overwhelming experience of being loved and welcomed that came my way. But this is who God is, and this is how She works.
Recently, Amber Hikes, director of Philadelphia's Office of LGBT Affairs, approved a motion adding two more stripes, black and brown, to the current 6-tone rainbow flag, as a part of the city's More Color More Pride initiative, an initiative that "strives to create an even more inclusive community", while also seeking to "celebrate the stories of those who have been typically left out of the LGBTQ experience, including people of color and people of the transgender/gender nonconforming experience".
Waking up this morning, I felt broken, sad, and incredibly discouraged. Again, very common human emotions, ones that so many of us share. Thinking back to Sunday, to Easter, and to conversations I've had with my closest clergy friend, Paige, I couldn't help but remember how many conversations we've had about the Incarnation, about the reality of Jesus joining us in our fleshly experience. The act of God putting skin on is one of joining, of empathy in its truest form...
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The man in the story was so stuck in his own feelings of powerlessness that he couldn't see the opportunity for healing right in front of him. Jesus could have waited around for the waters to be stirred, ordered his disciples to pick up the man, and the same result could have been effected. Instead, he jumps right to the heart of the man's issue and tells him to stand up and walk. No waiting for the waters to magically turn on. No waiting for someone else to come to the rescue. Just get up and be made whole.
Throughout human history, we've had to face the reality that some people enjoy the privilege of certain bodily and sensory experiences from which others are excluded. Some can see while others are blind. Some can hear while others are deaf. Some can speak while others are mute. Some can touch while others either lack the nerve ability to experience the sense of touch or have conditions that make touch a painful experience. In short, some can while others cannot. Yet again, we're faced with an us/them reality.
Twenty-five times in the entire psalm — that's how frequently you'll find the word "law" in Psalm 119 (at least in the NRSV). For a gay man like me, any talk of God's "law" felt like a knife to the neck, waiting to sever an artery. In my pre-coming-out days when my prayers were filled with supplications for God to change, fix, or straighten me out, the law referred to those passages in Leviticus that pointed out just how broken I was, that reminded me of the doom I would face should I surrender myself to my heathen ways. In short, the law was a tool of shame and oppression. It certainly wasn't something in which I could ever find myself experiencing "delight."
Inevitably in any Lenten lectionary, in any conversation about scripture passages relating to the crucifixion, this one, Psalm 22, is going to make an appearance. Quite frankly, one reason I appreciate this psalm is its brutal emotional honesty, which feels insanely jumbled and dissonant — kind of like my own brain and heart.
...The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”