Entering into Pride

Image Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/MfhETsgQM6A

Image Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/MfhETsgQM6A

It is almost June and for many of us this means the end of the school year and the start of summer. For many people, it also means the start of PRIDE month. Sometimes called Gay Pride or LGBT Pride. This year is seems especially important.

For one, it is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. In the wee hours Saturday June 28th, 1969, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people rioted following a police raid on the Stonewall Inn (43 Christopher Street, New York City). This led to further protests and rioting on successive evenings. Though not the first protest for LGBTQ rights in the US, it served as the watershed moment in the modern LGBT rights movement.

So this June, people across the country will be celebrating 50 years of Pride. Fifty years of affirming themselves as people worthy of love, respect, dignity, and civil rights when no one else would.

But as followers of Jesus, we have a terrible track record. If we are honest, a deplorable one, when it comes to loving LGBTQ+ identified people. While many Christian denominations are in the process of change around their understanding of human sexuality, it is still a recent phenomenon. Queer people (an inclusive term for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people) continue to struggle with the idea of faith.

What does it mean to embrace LGBTQ+ people?

Many churches now call themselves welcoming, as in welcoming to Queer people. Others use the term affirming. Still others, like the ELCA Lutheran church uses the term “Reconciling in Christ,” defined as ‘communities who have made a public commitment to welcome, include and celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) people.‘

But what does this really look like?

Too often it is a sign hanging near the entrance of a church. Congregations say they love LGBTQ+ people, but keep waiting for them to show up. Followers of Jesus may be reconciled to Christ, but they have yet to reconcile themselves to the queer people in their community.

What COULD it look like?

To truly love others, Jesus told his followers to serve one another: “But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant” (Matthew 10:43). After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus speaks to Peter saying, “Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me? ”He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” (John 21:16). Jesus is always turning those who would follow him toward service to others.

In this same way, embracing LGBTQ+ people means more than just hanging up a sign. More than just attending a Pride parade or marching in it.

Loving queer people means actively listening to their stories. It means really hearing the pain they have experienced from people of faith. It means remaining openhearted to the harm, trauma, oppression, and heartbreak that LGBTQ people have experienced without denying it. Without explaining it away. Without adding your own opinions about it. Not even to say, that it wasn’t you who did this or that things are different now. It means you have to own your part, even if that part is historical or collective.

We wound never say to Jesus, “Well your suffering happened a long time ago” or “Yes Jesus, but things have changed for the better.” So why are we so prone to do it to our LGBTQ+ neighbors and loved ones?

Learning to deeply listen and bear witness to the pain, anger, frustration, confusion and hurt of others is part of what it means to truly love. As followers of Jesus we must learn how to stop telling our own stories, so that we may begin to hear how God may be working in the lives of LGBTQ+ people. Only when we truly listen we can respond to those stories by saying, “What do you need from me?” and “How can I be of service to you?”

Easter Blessing


An Easter Blessing
written by Emma Donohew for Easter Sunday 2019

This is a blessing for those still finding their way on this Easter Day,
For those who are finding it difficult to see
The Pattern of Love in all Things,

In the midst of this world’s overwhelming sadness.
In the midst of the places that experience violence
In the midst of the people that experience pain both physical and emotional
In the midst of the creatures that experience destruction of their homes and land

This blessing is for those still searching for hope on this Easter Day.

Looking for life amongst death.
Listening for sound amongst silence.
Grasping for sense, amongst nonsense.

This blessing asks you to set aside for a moment
Those things which are no longer bringing you life.
In your stories.
In your home.
In your being.
Set them aside for this day.

This day is for mystery.
This time is for wondering.
This moment is for gratefulness.

This blessing is for those still seeking new life on this Easter Day.

May this blessing remind you that
You are alive. Today. Here. Now. Still.
You have arisen once more to a new day. Still.
Resurrection is not a one time thing.

May the new life that is always arising,

Find You.
May the old fall away around you.
As it keeps doing.

Making way for revival.
Making way for hope.
Making way for love.

This is a blessing for those still finding their way on this Easter Day.
May it find you too.

A Blessing written for Easter Day, April 21, 2019

A Pattern of Love in All Things

by Victoria Loorz

by Victoria Loorz

The resurrection is a pretty extreme application of our monthly theme of “ReVIVE.” It would be a little hokey, in fact, if we were trying to be literal about it. But, the resurrection story of Jesus is interesting to me not just because Jesus walked out of a tomb and through walls, freaking everyone out along the way. The story is fantastically and naturally and wonderfully and simply relevant because the pattern of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection follows a pattern found in everything. It’s a pattern of Love.

Life simply does follow this pattern: Life: Death: Grief: New Life. It’s built into nature. It’s built into transformation. It’s built into the stories we tell. It’s just the way it is. Love is all about What Actually Is, not what we think it (or at least the “other”) should be.

LIFE. It begins with life, regular good life. Life that you hope would and should, honestly, go on forever. A lover who understands you and sees you and laughs at all your jokes. A family you made all on your own with children and a house and holidays. A healthy body that can do anything: look hot in your new jeans, climb mountains, cry at happy movies, move furniture for your friends. A job that uses your skills and challenges you in just the right ways, bringing in more money than you really need.

GOOD FRIDAY. And THEN something happens. The lover who betrays you. The children who move away and stop talking to you. The body that won’t stop hurting long enough to make it to the market much less the mountaintop. The job that gets cut out and never really materializes again. The car accident, the violence, the loss, the ending. Everything you thought life would be….isn’t. Good Friday comes in a variety of ways….almost never welcome.

HOLY SATURDAY. Followed by an emptiness, a grief, a silence. A wondering what you did wrong. A confusion. A loneliness. Sometimes we try to skip this step, this Holy Saturday, and we want to climb right into whatever can take us out of this pain. But when we try to force the end of the pain, it never leads into New Life. It is just Distraction or Denial or Delay. And it usually leads to Addiction. But, when we try to avoid the pain of Love lost, we miss something. We miss the actual resurrection. The pattern requires a time of emptiness, surrender. When you are in the clutches of grief, your priorities suddenly get rearranged. Urgent projects are suddenly rendered meaningless. People you used to think were important to you disappear and others who you never noticed, show up and sit with you. As you grieve, something shifts in you, a softening begins to happen.

EASTER SUNDAY. Only Mystery we sometimes recognize as God can bring about the new life of resurrection after a major loss. And while we don’t want to even think about “something more” when in the reckoning of loss and death, this is the only way through. All we can do is face the death and surrender to it, allow the emptiness so that we can receive whatever lies on the other side. When you do allow it, something new awakens in you. New gifts, new insights, new perspectives. Deeper connection with your soul. The new life will not bring back that which you lost. Your lost loved one will probably not be resurrected and revived like Jesus. But, new life does follow. Something expands in you …. a compassion, a kindness and tenderness you never knew before being thrashed open, and a deepened capacity to love.

My favorite book of 2018 is called Matter and Desire: an Erotic Ecology. In it, author and biologist Andreas Weber, with nearly swooning language befitting Song of Solomon, describes how all of life is actually grounded in this pattern of life-death-emptiness-new life and how it is Love. I like this kind of thinking. It’s spiritual truth told through a non-spiritual lens and language. Sometimes we forget that spirit and matter are not actually disconnected.

The logic of the living world, he says “relies on the fact that every species is dependent on another, that every act of taking is balanced by an act of giving.” The inherent relationship between predator and prey reveals a degree of intimate interconnectivity. The salad you eat require the lives of the carrot and beet to be taken. The giving of one life to continue to life of another is built into the system. “All matter,” he says, “can only be understood as the experience of being in relationship.” The world is not a series of singular autonomous separate beings. “Everything is a dynamic of interaction where one thing changes through the change of another.” And that change is a pattern of new life, surrendering to death, surrendering to new life.

I had to cut back the ferns hogging all the space in the front of my house this morning. They were not allowing the purple Easter-looking flowers enough sun to stand up straight. I didn’t kill them, but it felt like it. I’m not a gardener and so i have an aversion to cutting things back. But it was clear that unless I participate in the Pattern of Love, which in this case, was cutting off the still alive fern fronds suffocating everyone else, the new life of the flowers, longing to show up this Spring, was not going to happen.

It is good to celebrate Easter, new life, resurrection. But, the whole pascal mystery, the whole passion week is the pattern of Love in this sacred story, not just the Sunday part. The deaths come without my beckoning. The new life comes mysteriously and in ways I can’t contrive. The only part of the pattern where I actually have any agency is the part where I face up to the losses, accept them, grieve, and hold out my broken heart in a posture of vulnerability. It takes a lifetime, it seems, to trust the pattern of love in all things. All things. For the new and deeper life I seek, for the love I long to see awakened, what must I surrender? What is dying or already dead in me that is waiting patiently for me to grieve and feel and enter into emptiness so that I can be open to the new life starting to unfold within me? Dare we trust that in all things, the pattern of love is enacted in us and through us, to the whole world?

Come to the Easter Walk next Sunday, which honors the pattern of love weaving through the life, death, new life of our city and the story of Jesus.