Two recent Sermons

It’s been a while since I posted an update. Here are two recent times that I have been able to preach.

First, I preached at Lancaster Theological Seminary’s Chapel Service on January 14th. The focus was Jesus’ Baptism.

Then on February 19th, I preached on the Transfiguration of Christ at Mt. Pisgah CME. A few friends asked me to record, so I have an audio recording from my phone that was sitting on the pulpit.


On Pets and Pet Loss

Today is national cat day. And yesterday, Arlene and I decided to euthanize Allie. Her sudden illness (hard hit by diabetes) and her death hit me way harder than I ever expected. I am known as the one that watered the neighbor’s tree because it looked like it was dying, and also deeply mourned when kids destroyed robin bird eggs from our front tree. And yet I somehow was completely caught off guard by my own deep emotional response to the suffering of Allie and then her subsequent death.

Photo f Allie sitting on a multicolored rug during 2020.

I think our society completely understands when Children mourn this deeply for the loss of a pet, but somehow we don’t expect adults to respond the same. And while I’ve always understood when a friend deeply mourns the loss of their pet and then returns home cling to ours, I was still surprised by my response.

This past week, I have realized that my theological tradition did not prepare me for this moment. It seems that the white theology handed down to me by theologists had done so much mutation to narrowly define salvation as saving people from hell that we have completely lost the sacredness of all creation and their part of salvation.

Much of the rest of this post will be sharing a bit about Allie and my personal theological explorations. I’m writing this as a way for me to process what happened. I’m publishing it so that others may potentially benefit from it. It is very much a draft of my thoughts, so if you want me to explore any aspect of this more, please let me know.

We first got Allie the exact day that Arlene and I moved into our own place. The house we were living in had A LOT of people in it and so many sweet cats in the house. As someone who grew up with cats and dogs, a pet was definitely something I wanted at home. I went to the local PetSmart way too often and fell absolutely in love with this older (3-year-old) cat that hadn’t been adopted yet. She had sass, beauty, a tag that said “neat and tidy,” and the name “9800.” She had been with Last Chance Animal Rescue since February 2011 or maybe even as long far back as April 2010. I showed her to Arlene, who was very reluctant to get a cat after growing up mostly without pets.

So moving day came, and my family came up to help us move all of our belongings from Riverdale, MD, to our apartment in Laurel, MD. After the move, we went out to eat at Chevy’s in the same shopping center as Allie’s PetSmart. I had been talking about this cat, hoping she would still be there. And my family egged me on, and Arlene folded. We went straight over to PetSmart after eating lunch, and she was still there.

When we asked to see her so that we could potentially adopt her, the employee was very quick to tell us that she didn’t like people much. And sure enough, as soon as the employee opened the pen, Allie swatted and hissed at the employee. Turned her head down the little hallway, looked at us, immediately jumped down, trotted over to us, and started to affectionately purr and rub against us. We were sold. At least three months after being with the rescue, she was going to our new Apartment the same day we were. It appears that on that day, we thought we were there to choose her and give her a name, but really she was in charge and chose us.

Photo of Allie lying on her favorite teal blanket on our couch within the first week of being in our apartment.

Ever since that day and up until Thursday night, Allie was always there at whatever place we called home for over 11 years. She went with us from a one-bedroom apartment to a townhome of our own. More specifically, she was part of the people that we called family. The bond that we would forge, I didn’t expect to happen at all, and that might have been because I had no clue how affectionate and sassy Nebelungs can be.

One thing I have picked up from the theology I was handed is the sacredness of all created life. I’m lucky that the UMC has a service for the blessing of Animals strongly influenced by the works of St. Francis of Assisi. It opens with the following:

The animals of God’s creation inhabit the skies, the earth, and the sea.
They share in the fortunes of human existence
and have a part in human life.
God, who confers gifts on all living things,
has often used the service of animals
or made them reminders of the gifts of salvation.

and animals share in Christ’s redemption of all God’s creation.
We, therefore, invoke God’s blessing on these animals.
As we do so, let us praise the Creator
and thank God for setting us as stewards
over all the creatures of the earth.

In my systematic theology class, I learned that all of the more than human creation innately worships God just by being who they were created to be.

And Allie was undeniably created to be affectionate. While yes, she would let you know when she had enough of you, she also would quickly return to you with her strong affection. Our other cat, Dofu, we got as soon as we moved into our bigger townhome so that Allie wouldn’t feel alone while we were gone. Many days I think she disliked our decision to adopt him too. He’s much less affectionate, except when he wants you to feed him. On the other hand, Allie would always want to curl up with one of us or, at the very least, be in the same room with us. I have many photos of her curled up, sleeping with Arlene on the bed and couch.

All three of our pets helped us cope with isolation during the early COVID Days. Dofu was our trusty alarm clock demanding that we get up on time and off of computers in time to feed him. Trixy helped us get out of the house for at least an hour each day. And Allie’s calm and loving presence reminded us that our presence at home was appreciated and that everything was going to be okay.

Photo of Allie asleep on a blanket on our couch earlier this year. Not pictured is that Arlene is the one under the blanket.

A year ago, when Trixy underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, I discovered a prayer from St. Francis for sick pets. It was very helpful for me at that time, and so I turned back towards the work of St. Francis through Allie’s sudden health struggles in the past week. But my heart was longing for more.

I began noticing nature so much more thanks to COVID slowing down my daily rhythms. And also began to work through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius too. I discovered that my prayer life was so much richer when I was outside with the pets on the deck or just outside surrounded by the more than human creation. Around the same time, I had begun to dig more into my ancestry, seeing that my ancestors mostly came from Northwestern Europe (to no one’s surprise).

In an effort to intentionally decolonize my spiritual practices, I started to search for the spiritual practices of my ancestors before they became obsessed with power, dominion, colonization, and supremacy. Which led me to the rich spiritual practices of modern-day Druidry. Luckily many Druid groups practice wildcrafting of Druidry, providing tools and practices for people to select and choose from so that you may keep what works for you within your own religious beliefs. When the tradition I was raised in only had the works of one scholar from years ago, modern pagans and druids helped me in this difficult week. I think it is definitely time for more Christian scholars to return fully to our connection with the rest of Creation and walk with people through the loss of a pet. And I’m convinced that it will be in conversation with modern druids and pagans that we would best do this.

Once we knew that she had made a turn for the worst and that it was time to euthanize, the writings shared by a pagan helped me find the words to sit in my pain as we said our goodbyes to her. The same works gave me a beautiful prayer to share as she died. What follows is my best recollection of what we said to her before she was euthanized and as she was euthanized. The first part was deeply influenced by the works shared by Krystal Madison the part I spoke while she was euthanized is directly from her post because the rush of emotions was too much at that moment.

Allie, we have loved you from the day you came into our lives and a deep part of our home

and now it is time for us to let you go.

We have watched you suffer so much this past week, and we cannot watch you suffer and be in pain anymore.

Soon you will be free.

Your body will no longer be sick or weak, or hurting.

You will be able to run with your ancestors, playing, hunting, and loving as wild things do.

Because we loved you, we have to let you go. You will live forever in our hearts.

“Mother Earth, we return to you the body of one of your children.

Her spirit will return to her ancestors, and she will continue to live in our memories.

We are thankful that we were able to share our lives with her, and give her to your loving arms.”

Do I think she heard me? No, the brain damage by then made it so that she couldn’t really even see me so I doubt she heard me nor understood English fully. But if I truly believe that the Divine Creator stitched both of us together, brought us together, and connected us through the Holy Spirit, I know that she felt the presence of our love as we held her body for her last breath.

Small update: I did find these beautiful liturgies/prayers after hitting publish. May they also help you when you are grieving.

Prophet Margins: Learn to Do Good [Sermon]

Way back on August 7th, 2022, I had the honor and privilege to preach at Emmanuel UMC in Laurel, MD, once again. It was during their Prophet Margin’s series and the lectionary reading for that day was Isaiah 1:1, 10-20.

Below you will find the video recording of the 9 AM service, which includes ASL interpretation.

It’s been a while since I preached this sermon so I don’t remember how accurate my manuscript is when compared to what I actually said during the service. But my manuscript is available below:

Opening Prayer from Enfleshed

Redeeming One, where we have learned to push our emotions down for our safety or for the comfort of others, create with us safe places for sorrow and anger to land. Where we have learned to stifle our childlike playfulness, create with us welcoming places to dance with delight. For in you, all emotions are safe to feel and safe to express. Amen.

Good morning, Beloved people of Emmanuel. I’m Yost. My pronouns are They/Them. I’m one of many people here at Emmanuel currently enrolled in Seminary. I have the honor and privileged of filling in for Rev. Edgardo this morning one last time this summer.

Our Hebrew Bible passage this morning, comes from the prophet Isaiah who was likely prophesying this passage during the reign of King Ahaz of Judah, known in the Second Book of Kings as an evil king. His actions led to the destruction of the northern kingdom and the expansion of the oppressive Assyrian empire.

Isaiah directs God’s anger, not to the people suffering under oppression, but the rulers that helped usher in the oppression. “Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom!” Right out of the gate, God compares the rulers of Judah and Jerusalem to those of Sodom and Gomorrah. Who were widely considered the worst nations. It’s worth noting that many Church and cultural spaces have historically conflated the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah to “sodomy” or homosexuality.

But that is not what we find in the biblical text. Looking at the sins of Sodom of Gomorrah, we find quite a few issues related to the ruling class of Isaiah’s time and ours. While you listen to the context of God’s anger towards the ruling class, pay close attention to how you think this connects our world. I’ll be providing the space for people to share the ideas in a bit.

Ezekiel 16:49 outlines the sins of Sodom as “pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease” without aiding the “poor and needy”. In the Talmud, a collection of reflections from Jewish Rabbis, one Rabbi describes Sodom as having four Judges with the names “Liar, Awful Liar, Forger, and Perverter of Justice.”1

How do you see similar accusations in our world?

Our Isaiah passage helps us to see that God joins us in our anger in the face of all of these injustices.

The lack of Justice sought by the ruling classes leaves God unimpressed and even loathsome of receiving worship from them. God proclaims, “Bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me.” I’m especially fond of Eugene Peterson’s interpretation of this text in the Message translation:

“Quit your worship charades.

I can’t stand your trivial religious games:

Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings—

meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more!

Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them!

You’ve worn me out!

I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion,

while you go right on sinning.

When you put on your next prayer-performance,

I’ll be looking the other way.

No matter how long or loud or often you pray,

I’ll not be listening.

And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing

people to pieces, and your hands are bloody.”

The more time I have spent with this Isaiah text, the more it seems to me that worship without Justice isn’t truly worship. Instead worshiping God without seeking Justice for the last, the lost, and the least is violent – our hands raised to God in worship are seen covered in the blood of the oppressed.

Another way to think about this. St. Ignatius points out that just saying that we love someone, even God, isn’t quite enough. “Love ought to manifest itself in deeds rather than in words”.2

And while Isaiah targets the ruling class in this harsh prophesy, we can see how we are invited to participate in the ongoing revelation of God’s kin-dom. God shows us how best to show our love for God.

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove your evil deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do good; seek justice; rescue the oppressed; defend the orphan; plead for the widow.”

When we look out into our world at the impacts of climate change, systemic racism, violence, and the use of power to control others, it is overwhelming.

Throughout this series we have already spent time seeing injustice with the support of Amos and enter into risky love with the support of Hosea. And now, Isaiah isn’t asking us to do good and fix everything immediately. Instead, he asks us to learn to do good.

Recently I read an illustration by Erin Law, “a somatic movement educator, politicized healer, and multidisciplinary artist.”3 While they were talking about making connections with our bodies, I think their illustration works well here. They reminded me that in mathematics, fractals are generated with one simple set of directions repeated over and over again leading to some beautiful final images. So, in our case, we can learn to do good by choosing to do good over and over again until it slowly transforms our world around us into a beautiful expression of God’s kin-dom.

Our passage from Hebrews outlines how Abraham and Sarah’s faith directly connects with their actions. Abraham followed his call, set out to a foreign land, stayed there for a time, lived within community, and looked forward to God’s future kin-dom. Sarah had sex with Abraham, longing for a child, whom she then birthed, raised up, and taught to live as strangers in a foreign land. Even though they did not live to see the promise of God fulfilled, they still pressed forward with hopeful anticipation. Their seemingly small actions were picked up over generations as the fractal of God’s kin-dom was still being revealed. We too are invited to do the same from our own circumstances as the work of Liberation has always been a series of small wins that transform the world over time.

The best part is that we are not alone in this journey. We have each other to lean on and learn with. I find it quite fitting that today we get to celebrate communion. As it is in the sacrament of Communion, we get to experience together the Spirit of God in a way that transcends time. We are reminded of what Christ has done, that Christ is with us now in our learning to do good, and that Christ will be there on the day that the full fractal of God’s kin-dom is revealed.

So it is here in this space that we find our companions for this journey. So if you look out at the injustice of our world and feel overwhelmed, find the people in this space and your community on the same journey.

Whether that be the Green team seeking to push back against climate change, community partners at Elizabeth house, little flowers, LARS, or Bridges to Housing Stability, groups supporting the work of intentional diversity and the work of anti-racism, groups supporting the liberation and healing of LGBTQIA peoples, or maybe it is something completely different and you’re feeling called to join together with someone and start something new.

For it is in the face of mountains of injustice that we come together, empowered by the Spirit of God, to learn to do good, seek justice, and rescue the oppressed.

Benediction from Enfleshed

Go forth in the name of

the Creator, who calls you inherently beloved;

the Sustainer, who breaks bread into enough;

and the Redeemer, who labors with us towards liberation.

1“Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin 109,” accessed August 2, 2022,

2Ignatius and Louis J Puhl, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: Based on the Studies in the Language of the Autograph (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2003), 101.

3“Erin Law Embodiment,” Erin Law Embodiment, accessed August 2, 2022,

Love Never Ends: Seeing the Glory [Sermon]

I had the honor and privilege to preach again at Emmanuel UMC for Transfiguration Sunday, February 27th, 2022. Below you will find video links for the 9 AM and 10:45 AM services. The 9AM service has ASL interpretation.

Spotify Link (coming soon)

9AM Sermon available on Facebook

While I don’t directly preach from a manuscript, I still write one to reference while preaching. That manuscript is available below. The opening prayer and benediction are from Enfleshed.

Throughout the Epiphany Season, we have been paying close attention to Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinthians in our Series “Love Never Ends.” Last week, Rev. Edgardo challenged us to lean into how we live out the resurrection in our present lives. It is here and now that God continues to transform our hearts towards justice. Rev. Edgardo reminded us that we remain open to this transformation by paying close attention to the model of ministry found in Jesus’ life. I know it’s been a while, but you may recall that we began this series with the Baptism of Jesus. And now as the final bookend for this series, we are focusing on the story frequently called the Transfiguration.

Today’s Gospel story is particularly interesting because it can be found in the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And the lectionary this year has us focused particularly on this passage within the context of the Gospel of Luke. Full disclosure, Luke is probably my favorite Gospel. In Luke’s account, the author has already positioned Jesus as an influencer that stands in opposition of the Roman empire actively occupying his homeland. And I think this is a critical context to keep in mind. Jesus was keenly aware of what life was like under the oppressive rule of an empire.

Up until chapter 9, Jesus’ ministry was limited close to his home in the region of Galilee but he recently started to get more and more attention. His ministry of healing, resurrection, and liberating love has gotten the attention of Herod, who had already killed John the Baptist by this point in the story. To make matters worse, Jesus’ ministry attracts a crowd of several thousand people, which he then miraculously ensures that they are fed. Through these series of events, Jesus’ ministry is getting harder and harder to hide. Eight days after feeding thousands of people we arrive at our story for today.

Jesus goes away to pray after a particularly event-less 8 days and brings with him his close friends and disciples, Peter, John, and James. Jesus’ face and clothes are changed, shining bright in a similar manner to the radiance of Moses after he speaks face to face with God. Which was the focus of our old testament reading for today. As Jesus’ appearance changes, Moses and Elijah appear speaking to him. Most theologians agree that they are here speaking to Jesus as representatives of the Law and the Prophets, two major components of Jewish scripture and life during the time of Jesus. What I find more interesting is what they are talking about.

Verse 31, states “ They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” The word here for departure is actually the same word as exodus. The use of the term exodus here connects Jesus’ ministry to the Exodus story where the people of Israel flee their enslavement in Egypt under the leadership of Moses. Jesus had already informed his disciples before this prayer time that he was going to die and now the destination of Jerusalem has been set.

What follows the story of the Transfiguration is equally important. The way Jesus speaks makes it sound like they are going straight to Jerusalem as fast as possible. But, Jesus takes 10 chapters of Luke to arrive at Jerusalem and another 3 chapters to be arrested. In the moment of the Transfiguration, Jesus knows that living out his ministry of healing and liberation will get him killed. He also knows that to not live out his ministry would be to continue to hide a part of himself and limit the Divine presence in his world.

Fr. Shannon Kearns, a Priest in the Old Catholic Church, argues that the transfiguration is Jesus’ coming out story. And that he starts by coming out to his closest friends and then continues to come out over the course of his ministry. While he was already performing many miracles and preaching the liberating love of God’s Kin-dom. He was recently outed by Peter as “the Messiah of God” earlier in this chapter. But Jesus knew that once he fully lived as himself within the larger society, the risk of death was inevitable. Remember that his ministry and love stood in direct opposition of the Roman Empire. He and his disciples knew that his choices were to remain in hiding and live or live as his full authentic self with the risk of death. So in a way, I see this more so as Jesus’ transition story.

Conveniently I just recently heard the story of Lynn Conway, so I’d like to share her transition story with you all to help illustrate this idea. While Lynn Conway is known today mostly for her trans activism, she started off her professional life working for IBM in the 60s. Her work at IBM was foundational for modern computing, developing a way for computer processors to process commands out of order. Without her work, we wouldn’t have much of our modern computers, smartphones, and more. While working at IBM, she found out about modern medical gender affirmation surgery and wanted to attempt to transition for a second time. She was hoping to complete her transition while working for IBM, but they fired her for being trans to avoid public embarrassment. With the trans-phobic laws at the time, Conway was denied access to her children and was divorced by her wife despite early support before the termination of her IBM career. Lynn Conway knew that within the transphobic society, she would have to risk it all to live as her true self.

She then completed her transition and began a new life as Lynn Conway and hid her identity as a transgender woman throughout the rest of her tech career. She had to rebuild her recognition within the tech community as a brand new person, unable to connect her identity to her early work without outing herself. Towards retirement, a journalist was investigating her early work at IBM so she realized that to receive recognition for her work, she would have to come out publicly as a transgender woman. In a Forbes interview Conway stated that in the 70s through the 90s, she was breaking the gender barrier it was in 2000 that she began to break the transgender barrier. Conway’s intentional decision to come out publicly allowed her the place to challenge transphobia within the tech industry and the larger society.

So looking at the Transfiguration story and Lynn Conway’s story side by side. I see that both of them had tough choices to make. They both had to decide to live publicly as their full and true selves while being fully aware of the very real risks of living within oppressive contexts. It was only after living fully as themselves, that their lived messages could become messages of liberation and hope for others.

Now I don’t know about you all, but this week I have cussed. A lot. Specifically, much of that cussing has shown up in my prayers with God. At times this week, it has been really hard for me to see the hope and love of God. This week alone we have seen a new Florida law trying to limit the teaching of LGBTQIA people and histories. They even had attempted to add an amendment that tried to make it mandatory for teachers to out LGBTQIA children to their parents. Then in Texas, governor Abbot increased his attacks on Transgender children by ordering the Texas Family and Protective Services to investigate and prosecute the parents of trans children for “child abuse.” And not even a day later, Russian began to invade Ukraine. You don’t have to go far in the news this week to see people that are actively living in opposition to oppressive forces. Much like Jesus was doing.

The weight of this week feels terrifying so I can easily see how Peter wants to make tents and stay in the place where he felt the Divine. He had experienced the Divine presence in a new way and did not want to continue the journey that would lead to Jesus’ death. But the decision to stay in that place would have hindered the reign of God’s love. Instead, they are met with an overshadowing cloud with a voice proclaiming “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” Now many people interpret this as the voice of God, which provides an interesting theological issue. How is God speaking to Godself and existing as one God? I think that the beauty of the Trinity is that God exists eternally as a community of Love. Even God is never alone. So, this voice coming from a cloud draws our attention back to Jesus’ Baptism where the voice first spoke of Jesus’ beloved-ness. Here as Jesus is about to transition publicly and take his message of liberation all the way to his death. In this critical moment in front of close friends, the voice of God shows up and reminds them that Jesus is beloved. God makes their presence fully known at the beginning of the long journey. God remains with them as Jesus and his disciples’ journey to Jerusalem.

It is with this same confidence that we can move forward living out the ongoing revelation of God’s kin-dom of Love because we do not journey alone. God shows up with us in the tough moments where we are challenged to live fully as ourselves. God not only shows up but reminds us of our beloved-ness.

So looking back at this week, this is where I have found the hope of God.

I found the hope of God in the organized resistance against the “Don’t say Gay bill”. I found the hope of God in the twitch streamer raising $25K for Equality Texas. I found the hope of God with the activists advising parents of trans Children to get their documentation organized demonstrating their excellent parenting. I found the hope of God with the multiple district attorneys in Texas refusing to comply with Abbot’s order. I found the hope of God in the 80-year-old man who signed up for the Ukraine military so that his grandchildren can have a better future. I found the hope of God in the 38-year-old Ukrainian father who left his children with a stranger. I found the hope of God in that stranger ensuring that those children are reunited with their mother.

God is not some controlling force pulling the strings from a Heavenly throne. The cloud at the transfiguration shows us that it is here in the mess of things that God resides.

Queering the Way: The 4th Sunday of Advent

There is something uniquely queer about Advent. Traditionally, Advent is a time of anxiously awaiting for the kin-dom of God to be revealed among us. It hinges on what is known as the Incarnation, or when God became human through Jesus. The Incarnation or enfleshment of God dissolves the binary of human and Divine, much like Queerness dissolves so many binaries. In the same way, modern-day queer experiences uniquely capture the now and not-yet ness of the justice of God being revealed in God’s kin-dom. Throughout the 4 weeks of Advent, we’ll be exploring these connections through the lectionary readings for Advent this year. I’m glad you’ve decided to join me as we Queer the Way for the Divine.

Be sure to check out Week 1, Week 2, and Week 3.

The Lectionary text this week shifts from focusing on John the Baptist to Mary. This passage might be one of my favorite passages of scripture, bringing great memes, art, and proving how one popular Christmas song mansplains the incarnation to the Mother of God. To top it all off, it is really Queer.

Our passage this week begins right after Mary meets a terrifying angel who tells her that she will get pregnant despite not being married and that this child will be God’s. What’s important in the lead-up is a line that is easily missed, and I missed until just a few months ago while working with my Spiritual Director.

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. …

Luke 1:35a Common Enlish Bible

Here we have the Holy Spirit coming down upon Mary and being overshadowed by the power of God. Some view this as God getting Mary pregnant through the Holy Spirit, but it’s so much more. This is the Holy Spirit empowering Mary to raise up sweet little baby Jesus into the man whose ministry shaped the world. So yes, Mary did know.

So Mary, just finding out about her upcoming pregnancy, flees to her chosen family, an older distant cousin who is SIX months pregnant.

39 Mary got up and hurried to a city in the Judean highlands. 40 She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 With a loud voice she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry. 43 Why do I have this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her.”

Luke 1:39-45 CEB

Mary, a young unwed mother flees to her chosen family for support. And knowing that Mary’s pregnancy was going to be received by those in Mary’s hometown with a bit of conflict, Elizabeth and Zechariah welcome Mary into their home. They seek to provide Mary the place to flourish in her first trimester which happens to be Elizabeth’s third trimester.

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to attend a Queer Christmas Pageant and it was absolutely glorious. In the biblical text, God chooses an impoverished and unwed teen to be the Mother of God. In the Pageant, the Divine meets humanity in the presence of a Queer community, predominantly a Queer community of color. It’s easy to see parallels in how both communities were the social outcasts of their days. I cannot help but see how BIPOC Queer Communities are the enfleshment of the Divine. Especially when we see how Queer led communities in Baltimore are taking care of each other through mutual aid and establishing housing and other support for the LGBTQIA community of Baltimore.

It is in the safety of her chosen family that Mary is able to fully proclaim the coming enfleshment of the Divine through her son, Jesus.

46 Mary said,

“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
47     In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
48 He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
    Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
49         because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
50     He shows mercy to everyone,
        from one generation to the next,
        who honors him as God.
51 He has shown strength with his arm.
    He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
52     He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
        and lifted up the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away empty-handed.
54 He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
        remembering his mercy,
55     just as he promised to our ancestors,
        to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”

Luke 1:46-55 CEB

Out of the marginalized, Mary is inspired by the words of her ancestors to proclaim the coming reign of God’s kin-dom as it will be revealed in Jesus. (This hymn spoken by Mary is frequently called the Magnificat.)

Scattering the arrogant and proud.

Casting down the mighty and powerful.

Uplifting those that are suffering and hungry.

Removing the power from the rich.

This is the vision of the life for Jesus proclaimed by Mary.

This is the hope we see embodied by Queer communities seeking justice and taking care of the needs of those most suffering.

May we join in the ongoing revelation of God’s kin-dom.

I’ll leave you with a few songs for this week. First, a rewrite of Mary did you know.

And then a beautiful song inspired by the proclamation of Mary.

Thanks for joining me for Advent this year. Feel free to use the contact page to send me any topics that you’d like to see me tackle in the future.

Queering the Way: The Third Sunday of Advent

There is something uniquely queer about Advent. Traditionally, Advent is a time of anxiously awaiting for the kin-dom of God to be revealed among us. It hinges on what is known as the Incarnation, or when God became human through Jesus. The Incarnation or enfleshment of God dissolves the binary of human and Divine, much like Queerness dissolves so many binaries. In the same way, modern-day queer experiences uniquely capture the now and not-yet ness of the justice of God being revealed in God’s kin-dom. Throughout the 4 weeks of Advent, we’ll be exploring these connections through the lectionary readings for Advent this year. I’m glad you’ve decided to join me as we Queer the Way for the Divine.

Be sure to check out Week 1 and Week 2.

While last week we saw the prophecy was spoken over John the Baptist at his birth and the start of John’s ministry, this week we pick up right where we left off with him interacting with those that want to be baptized by him.

Luke 3:7-18

Then John said to the crowds who came to be baptized by him, “You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire.”

10 The crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”

11 He answered, “Whoever has two shirts must share with the one who has none, and whoever has food must do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. They said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”

13 He replied, “Collect no more than you are authorized to collect.”

14 Soldiers asked, “What about us? What should we do?”

He answered, “Don’t cheat or harass anyone, and be satisfied with your pay.”

Responses to John

15 The people were filled with expectation, and everyone wondered whether John might be the Christ. 16 John replied to them all, “I baptize you with water, but the one who is more powerful than me is coming. I’m not worthy to loosen the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.” 18 With many other words John appealed to them, proclaiming good news to the people.

Copyright 2012 by Common English Bible

So John is quite aggressive with these people. It appears that John expects a particular posture towards justice snd he’s making these judgments based on the fruit of their faiths.

So speaking of fruit. With over a decade of working with LGBTQIA youth, I have seen the rotten fruit of bad theology. In Maryland alone, 67% of LGBTQIA students have experienced verbal harassment for their sexual orientation, 57% for their gender expression, and 55% for their gender. 23% of Maryland LGBTQIA students were prevented from having access to a bathroom that aligns with their gender. The Trevor Project’s National survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that “39% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months, with more
than half of transgender and non-binary youth having seriously considered.” 2 out of 3 youth in the study “reported that someone tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.” The theology of conversion therapy is alive and well in our nation.

This is not good fruit.

With a recent Christian University study showing that almost 39% of 18 to 24 year-olds identify as LGBTQIA, non-affirming theology is simply not good news.

We also know that the existence of one affirming adult in the life of an LGBTQIA youth reduces the risk of a suicide attempt by 40%. Now, this is much greater news and good fruit.

John is calling those rushing to join his movement to radical repentance and justice. It’s time for those that have brought down harsh judgment against LGBTQIA people to repent and join God in delighting in her LGBTQIA children.

But that’s not the end of it. LGBTQIA affirmation is not the end of the path of Liberation. We must dismantle systems of oppression for all LGBTQIA people, set the captives free, seek justice in an unjust world, and pursue our collective liberation.

John’s teaching regarding sharing a shirt if you own at least two and sharing food is about collective liberation. None of us are truly free when the system, society, and culture still hold people in bondage.

Queering The Way: The Second Sunday of Advent

There is something uniquely queer about Advent. Traditionally, Advent is a time of anxiously awaiting for the kin-dom of God to be revealed among us. It hinges on what is known as the Incarnation, or when God became human through Jesus. The Incarnation or enfleshment of God dissolves the binary of human and Divine, much like Queerness dissolves so many binaries. In the same way, modern-day queer experiences uniquely capture the now and not-yet ness of the justice of God being revealed in God’s kin-dom. Throughout the 4 weeks of Advent, we’ll be exploring these connections through the lectionary readings for Advent this year. I’m glad you’ve decided to join me as we Queer the Way for the Divine.

Be sure to check out Week 1.

This week we’ll look at two passages from Luke. Already in the first chapter of Luke, angels have been making appearances. First, we have Zechariah, a priest performing his priestly duties, approached by an angel who proclaims that his wife, Elizabeth, would have a child despite their old age. When Zechariah pushes back on this day, he is made mute by the angel.

The text then jumps to when Elizabeth is six months pregnant when Elizabeth’s relative, Mary, is also visited by an Angel, saying she will have a child. Even though she hadn’t yet had relations with her soon-to-be-husband, she pushed back a bit but later agreed to serve God by being the mother of Jesus.

What follows is probably one of my favorite passages. Check out our videos from last year’s Advent for more about these great stories. Mary immediately goes to see Elizabeth, her chosen family, speaks of the coming justice of the Lord, and sticks around until right before Elizabeth and Zechariah’s son, John, is born. Immediately following John’s birth, Zechariah finally gets his voice back and prophesied.

Luke 1:67-79

67 John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied,

68 “Bless the Lord God of Israel
    because he has come to help and has delivered his people.
69 He has raised up a mighty savior for us in his servant David’s house,
70     just as he said through the mouths of his holy prophets long ago.
71 He has brought salvation from our enemies
    and from the power of all those who hate us.
72 He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
    and remembered his holy covenant,
73         the solemn pledge he made to our ancestor Abraham.
He has granted 74 that we would be rescued
        from the power of our enemies
    so that we could serve him without fear,
75         in holiness and righteousness in God’s eyes,
            for as long as we live.
76 You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High,
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way.
77 You will tell his people how to be saved
    through the forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of our God’s deep compassion,
    the dawn from heaven will break upon us,
79     to give light to those who are sitting in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
        to guide us on the path of peace.”

Copyright 2012 by Common English Bible

Dismantling systems of injustice brought down by our enemies.

Preparing the way for those that follow to bring even more significant change.

Bringing Radiance in the shadows of life.

This is what Zechariah taught his son, John, while growing up.

Skipping a bit in the story, we find John grown-up in the wilderness only two chapters later. While he was raised in the Priestly class, John finds himself outside of the religious structure of his day and brings this ministry to life out on a river’s edge.

Luke 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the rule of the emperor Tiberius—when Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea and Herod was ruler over Galilee, his brother Philip was ruler over Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was ruler over Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas—God’s word came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. John went throughout the region of the Jordan River, calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. This is just as it was written in the scroll of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

A voice crying out in the wilderness:
    “Prepare the way for the Lord;
        make his paths straight.
Every valley will be filled,
    and every mountain and hill will be leveled.
The crooked will be made straight
    and the rough places made smooth.
All humanity will see God’s salvation.

Copyright 2012 by Common English Bible

John stood outside of systems of power, bringing hope and love to those outside of the system, making way for the kin-dom of God to be further revealed. Looking at these passages, it becomes clear to me how John lived the life of an activist. If you want to hear more about this idea, Alicia T. Crosby recently shared on a podcast how much she loves John the Baptist.

So whenever queer activists have existed throughout history, they were participating in the ongoing revelation of God’s Kin-dom much like the activism of John the Baptiser.

Starting with the perseverance of gender-diverse indigenous people.

To the weird ministry of Public Universal Friend.

To Sylvia Rivera & Marsha P Johnson demanding Justice in New York while living unapologetically as themselves.

To the liberating work of Rev. Dr. Pauli Murray in the courtroom, higher education, and later the Episcopal Church.

To the beautiful activism of J Mace III uplifting the divinity of Black trans people.

To even the incredibly public Thirst Traps of Elliot Page.

As J Mace III states, “Trans people exist because our ancestors existed.”

Each generation paves the way for the next generation. As I have seen in the lives of many trans youth living within the closet but seeing through the lived testimony of trans ancestors before them. Watching and waiting within the shadows of this world, knowing of the radiant hope that remains for them once they are free to live as their true selves.

Next Steps

  • Listen to “Those Who Dream” by The Many
  • Take time to check out any of the people mentioned in this week’s post to learn a bit more about them.
  • Pause and reflect: What are your dreams that may never be lived out in your lifetime? Are you prepared to be a good ancestor so that your dream may be a reality for those that follow you? If you’d like share your reflections in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Instagram. I’d love to join you in your prayers.

Queering the Way: The First Sunday of Advent

There is something uniquely queer about Advent. Traditionally, Advent is a time of anxiously awaiting for the kin-dom of God to be revealed among us. It hinges on what is known as the Incarnation, or when God became human through Jesus. The Incarnation or enfleshment of God dissolves the binary of human and Divine much like Queerness dissolves so many binaries. In the same way, modern-day queer experiences uniquely capture the now and not-yet ness of the justice of God being revealed in God’s kin-dom. Throughout the 4 weeks of Advent, we’ll be exploring these connections through the lectionary readings for Advent this year. I‘m glad you’ve decided to join me as we Queer the Way for the Divine.

On November 4th, we lost Marquiisha Lawrence. Yet again violence took the life of a Black trans woman at way too young of an age. Her smile and “heart of gold” was ripped from this world. Her death marked the 45th death of a trans or gender-nonconforming person in the United States this year making it the deadliest year on record for trans and gender-nonconforming people in the US. It is not even a month after her death that we find ourselves entering into Advent. It is within these deadly times for trans and gender-nonconforming people, especially Black, Indigenous, and other trans people of color that we find these words from Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 33:14-16

14 The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill my gracious promise with the people of Israel and Judah. 15 In those days and at that time, I will raise up a righteous branch from David’s line, who will do what is just and right in the land. 16 In those days, Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is what he will be called: The Lord Is Our Righteousness.

Copyright 2012 by Common English Bible

The Book of Jeremiah is written to the people of Judah following years of suffering, war, and exile. The first half of Jeremiah bears witness to this suffering, pain, and grief while trying to make sense of all that they had collectively lost. Our passage this week is positioned towards the beginning of the second half where Jeremiah offers the places where he sees hope and ways to survive in the future. (For more information, check out the intro in a good study bible or check out this video) So much of this book reminds me of the grief and resilience of the Transgender community on Transgender Day of Remembrance. For Transgender Day of Remembrance this year, the local LGBTQIA communities around me offered a place to grieve and pray for a better tomorrow and a Ball to “Uplift and Celebrate Trans Lives” (a few examples).

We see this ancient proclamation from Jeremiah of the coming justice of God and are left wanting more and wondering how much longer must we wait. How much longer shall it be terrifying for trans and gender-expansive individuals to feel like they either must hide or risk death in living their true selves. The beauty of advent is that we are reminded that even within the shadows of our lives, we still expect God to be there with us. May we spend these four weeks expecting God’s justice to be proclaimed into our lives and the lived experiences of those enduring suffering.

Next Steps

  • Listen to “How Much Longer?” by Common Hymnal
  • Spend time learning about the work of Baltimore Safe Haven and give to support their work if you can
  • Pause and reflect: As we enter into Advent, where are you waiting to see God’s justice prevail? If you’d like share your reflections in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Instagram. I’d love to join you in your prayers.

Open Letter to a Queer Christian

The following is an adaptation of a letter I wrote to a Queer Christian earlier this year that was later published on a friends blog. I’m sharing it here so that others may find it if needed..

Dear Beloved Child of God:

You may not know me, and I do not necessarily know you, but I see you and your pain. I know that you are first and foremost a Beloved Child of God. Grace and peace be with you in these times of pain and struggle. I’m sorry that your pastor betrayed you by spreading lies about God and yourself. I know that when toxic theology is thrown in your direction by someone that you trust, it’s effortless to allow that to shake us to our core. It’s also easy to gaslight ourselves and enter into a series of thoughts starting with the question, “what if they are right.” I wanted to share two pieces of scripture and a process that I find really helpful in moments like this.

Take a moment to breathe. Scan your body from head to toe to see where you are currently holding your stress. Is it your neck? Your shoulders? Your clenched jaw? Your tightened fist? Do what you need to become comfortable again in your own body. Your body is made in God’s image. It is a gift from God, it is Good, and you can trust it. This includes your gender identity and sexual orientation.

As you read the following passages, pay attention to how the Spirit moves within you.

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you dressed like sheep, but inside they are vicious wolves. You will know them by their fruit. Do people get bunches of grapes from thorny weeds, or do they get figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, and every rotten tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit. And a rotten tree can’t produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, you will know them by their fruit.

Matthew 7:15-20, Common English Bible, emphasis added

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this.

Galatians 5:22-23, CEB

Think about the words of your pastor or spiritual leader and how they manifested in you. Did they bear the fruit of the Spirit?

Now think about a time when you embodied your gender identity or sexual orientation fully. Think about a space where your gender identity or sexual orientation was known fully by others.

Does your gender identity and sexual orientation bear the fruit of the Spirit?

You are not alone. The Spirit of Christ is with you just like they are with all of the other countless Queer Christians around the world. May you be empowered by the Spirit of God here and now.

You are beloved by God and by us. We are here for you and with you in your journey.

With Love,

Yost (They/Them)

Queer Pride and the Glory of God [Sermon]

In June of 2021, I was invited to preach at Emmanuel’s Pride Sunday service. The audio and video recordings are available below. I was able to pick out all of the service elements for this service. Pastor Matt Upshaw had an excellent Children’s sermon this week too. Sermon Graphic created by the lovely Rhys W.

Audio version available on Spotify

While I didn’t preach directly from a manuscript, I still wrote one to help prepare. So the raw version of my notes is below.

Good morning, Beloveds. I’m Yost, and my pronouns are they/them. I’m one of several seminarians here at Emmanuel. I’m so grateful to be here with you all for our Pride Sunday Service. I’d like to thank the Rooke Chapel’s Virtual Vocal Ensemble at Bucknell University for the beautiful recording of Mark Miller’s Child of God. Mark Miller is a United Methodist Musician whose music has been sustaining LGBTQIA+ Methodists for years.

I recently decided (we’ll see if it was a wise choice) to start creating content for Tiktok. I intend to create a space where people can ask questions to a Queer Seminarian. One question asked: “What is your favorite way the LGBTQ community glorifies God?” I recorded a few answers for Tiktok, but honestly, 60 seconds at a time just couldn’t do it justice. For the rest of our time together, I’d like to offer an extended response to that question.

Let’s first look at today’s scripture. In Luke’s Gospel account, our passage comes right after Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and some brief miracles throughout Galilee. We find Jesus returning to his hometown and boldly proclaiming his public ministry. People start to get excited after hearing what Jesus had already done in Capernaum and expect him to do the same for them.

They knew who he was as he grew up. Hearing how he had blessed the neighboring town, they expected Jesus to stay with them and bless them similarly. Instead, Jesus quickly shuts down their expectations for him by talking about the prophets Elijah and Elisha.

During a significant drought, the prophet Elijah was tended to by ravens as he lived near a brook. He was then sent to be taken care of by a widow from Zarephath. This widow down to just a jar of flour and a bottle of oil. Jesus notes that there were plenty of widows in Israel at this time. And yet, God chose to provide for a marginalized outsider by ensuring that her jar of flour and bottle of oil never ran out until after the drought was over.

Similarly, Elisha heals Naaman, a Syrian man, from his skin disease. Again Jesus reminds us that there were lepers in Israel also seeking healing. Furthermore, the Love of God is revealed through great miracles performed for outsiders.

Jesus’ ministry stood in the face of the expectations of those that knew him growing up. So much so that they tried to kill him. Luke continues, “When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.”

Also, this isn’t foreign to LGBTQIA people, growing up with a community that has set expectations for you. And for many, living life as their authentic self comes with death threats too. So for my siblings in the LGBTQIA community, you are seen, and you are not alone in your struggles. Additionally, you are deeply holy as you seek to live out who you were made to be.

So let’s look deeper at the passage that got the crowd excited. Jesus is referring to an excerpt from Isaiah likely written around the time of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. This passage likely instilled hope in Jesus’ audience, a people living under Roman occupation. Jesus declares that this Isaiah passage is actually for those most marginalized and considered outsiders by the larger community. I want to share some stories of various LGBTQIA people that have inspired me to live out this passage.

First, I’d love to introduce you all to Jabari Lyles. Jabari is presently the Chief Operating Officer of Baltimore Safe Haven, a non-profit that “seeks to provide opportunities for a higher quality of life for TLGBQ people in Baltimore City living in survival mode.” Before that, he served the Mayor’s office in Baltimore City under various titles for LGBTQ Affairs. But I first met him during his work with GLSEN. Through GLSEN, Jabari ensured that Queer students were seen and supported through their local GSAs and beyond. The GLSEN Youth Summit that he helped organize gave students a place to learn more about the larger community and themselves in a safe and authentic place. My students that went felt empowered and loved in ways that they hadn’t been before. But the most sacred and impactful thing I witnessed Jabari organizing has to be the LGBTQ prom. The first one brought so much joy and love to these students to fully embody their true selves without fear of harassment. No corner of that prom could escape true unconditional love. Now he has joined forces with the outstanding Iya Dammons at Baltimore Safe Haven, continuing to support the TLGBQ community in Baltimore in their moments of need.

Jabari Lyles is anointed to preach good news to the poor.

Patrisse Cullors shares in her memoir, When They Call You a Terrorist, how her Queer identity and lived experiences shaped the formation of Black Lives Matter. Their quest to end white supremacy expressly affirms “the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, undocumented folks, folks with records, women, and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.” Recently Patrisse Cullors stepped down from the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation to create abolitionist art. Cullors advocates for a future free of the oppression found in the Policing and Prison systems.

Patrisse Cullors is anointed to proclaim release to the captives.

Archbishop Carl Bean grew up as a Gay Black boy in Baltimore. Later on, he performed in various Gospel groups and even found himself recording a disco track entitled “I Was Born This Way.” Rumor has it that this track inspired Lada Gaga. Archbishop Bean recounts his first live performance of this song at Catch One, a disco bar for Black gay men.

From the first lyrics, sung a Capella – “I’m happy, I’m carefree and I’m gay … I was born this way” – to the first thump-thump-thump of that dazzling four-on-the-floor disco beat, the crowd went crazy. They were shouting and screaming and jumping for joy. They made me come back and sing that dang thing fire more times. … they liked the message I was preaching.

His work did not end there. When he saw the lack of AIDS support in black gay communities, Archbishop Bean founded the Minority AIDS Project. This project was formed using the training he had received through other AIDS support programs and infused it with the Black church’s traditions. After being ordained by Rev. O’Neill’s Christian Tabernacle Church, Carl Bean chartered Unity Fellowship of Christ Church, proclaiming “God is Love and Love is for everyone.” Since then, his congregation has grown into the Unity Fellowship Church Movement with 16 communities across the nation, including Unity Fellowship Church of Columbia. Archbishop Carl Bean’s ministries have gone to those most neglected by the world to help them find dignity and see their own value.

Archbishop Carl Bean is anointed to proclaim the recovery of sight to the blind.

Across LGBTQIA communities, the healing love of Chosen families is well known. One of these families that I’m a part of happens to be a discord server for a non-binary Tiktok content creator. This space holds each other in love through our questions, struggles, celebrations, and even our corny jokes. The channel #hypes-given-here is regularly an outpouring of love serving as a balm. Our conversations can go from absolute nonsense to deeply spiritual conversations in a matter of minutes while simultaneously holding space to understand the needs of one another. A member of my chosen family, Rhys Wynn, took the time this past week to make our beautiful sermon graphic for today. Through my chosen family (Specifically the City GSA), I obtained the language to describe myself. For that, I am forever grateful.

Chosen families are anointed to bring healing and hope.

Pauli Murray was raised in a segregated school system and went to Hunter College. Early on, she dressed ambiguously, called herself Pete, Dude, or Pauli. Her journal talked about falling in love with women. Still, she resisted the label “Lesbian.” Instead, she used the term “pseudohermaphrodite,” which was an old word that would describe what we now call trans. Throughout her life, she exclusively used the pronouns she/her. Married a man for 18 years. Her letters and journals document relationships with women and her dislike of sex with me. She even asked to be photographed as her boy-self, Pete.

15 years before Rosa Parks, Murray was arrested for not sitting in the correct bus seat section because the seats were broken. Later, she was rejected from some law schools because she was black, ended up at Howard, and then experienced discrimination there as a woman. Thus her coining the phrase “Jane Crow” to describe discrimination against Black women in America. While in law school, she called out President Roosevelt catering to the racism of Southern Democrats by sending letters back and forth with Eleanor Roosevelt. Later, Pauli Murray became the first Black deputy attorney general of California in 1946. Woman of the Year by Mademoiselle magazine. In 1950 She published “States’ Laws on Race and Color,” which was influential in Justice Thurgood Marshall’s arguments for Brown v Board of Ed. In 1961 appointed by Pres. JFK to the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. Pauli Murray’s legal work served as a significant inspiration for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. When Murray got a job at a New York law firm, she met her new life partner, Irene “Renee” Barlow. They never lived together, but they did everything else as a couple, including going to Eleanor Roosevelt’s funeral. At the age of 64, she went to Seminary and became the first African American woman ordained as an Episcopal priest. She is honored as one of the church’s “Holy Women, Holy Men.”

Pauli Murray was anointed to liberate the oppressed as both a lawyer and a priest.

The first pride parade was actually the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade in 1970, celebrating the first anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. Two prominent figures from this protest were Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson.

Rivera was born in Spanish Harlem in 1951. She lost her mother to depression at a young age and was raised by her grandmother. The latter was ashamed of Rivera wearing makeup and dressing fem as early as 4th grade. Rivera dropped out of school and started to work on the streets before she was even 12. She met a commune of Gay men on 42nd street who held a Christening for her name, Sylvia Rivera. Not long after, she met Marsha P. Johnson.

Johnson was born in New Jersey in 1945 and moved to Greenwich Village after high school. She was raised Roman Catholic and remained religious despite discrimination. Johnson also dealt with many mental health problems, but she took in Rivera to take care of her.

While they weren’t at the Stonewall Inn the first night of the Stonewall Uprising, they were there for most of the uprising. Afterward, they founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries or more commonly known STAR. STAR called out the exclusion of transvestites from the Gay Liberation Front and other post-stonewall events.

While STAR was not entirely accepted by the larger movement for a few short years, they worked hard to help those excluded by the more prominent Gay liberation movement. Because of their work, we have Pride parades around the globe in June every year.

It was only a few years ago that I finally attended my very first Pride Parade. I was able to march in the parade with Jabari Lyles, GLSEN Maryland, and some of my students. Pride events are some of the most beautiful and loving events I have ever witnessed. While modern pride events are celebrations of what has been done so far, they also call attention to the work left to do. Throughout the nation, trans youth are being targeted by over 100 vile and discriminatory laws proposed so far this year alone. And Trans Women of Color are disproportionately targets of violence. They have been for years without any true justice being served. Just like Jesus proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor, TLGB activists are preaching that a better world is possible.

Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and modern-day pride parades are anointed to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Queer people across the nation because the Lord has anointed them. She has sent them to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and bring healing to those neglected by society, to liberate the oppressed, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

For whenever you find a Queer Chosen family throughout history, today, and the future,

you will find the fulfillment of this scripture.