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.

Queer Advent Series

After watching Happiest Season last week, I found that movie to be more of an advent movie than a Christmas Movie. Upon further reflection, I found that the lived experiences of LGBTQIA2+ peoples enflesh the themes of Advent (Hope, Peace, Joy, & Love) and the themes of Epiphany (Speaking out and persevering).

For Advent 2020, I’m having conversations with some close friends over on Instagram Live. Most of them are Sunday at 8 PM. The last one will be mid-week for epiphany. I know that I will greatly enjoy these conversations and I hope that you will too.

Here’s the schedule (edited each week with a link to a video on Facebook with auto captions):
11/29 – Hope with Iris and Tori Saunders
12/6 – Peace with Jules Barton
12/13 – Joy with Carly Aughenbaugh
12/20 – Love with Karen Collins and Susan Walters
12/27 – Speaking Out with Molly Koerber
Week of Epiphany – Perseverance with Tyson Morgan and Molly Koerber