16 April 2017: Resurrection Sunday

[I feel I should apologize for the lateness of these Lenten posts. I’ve been prioritizing my self-care as my mental health has been quite poor lately. Thank you for bearing with me as I try to work up the motivation to write about these important days in the liturgical calendar.]

I started Resurrection Sunday worship at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in the morning and finished at Grace North Church in the evening. This is one of the most important days, if not the most important day, in the Christian calendar.

Resurrection Sunday, commonly called Easter, is a story or rebirth. In fact, the word “Easter” comes from “Ēostare,” a month named for a Pagan goddess. Easter/Resurrection Sunday is a day of rebirth and fertility, as is Eostara. That which has lay dormant in the earth has sprung up in new life.

Being an adversarial theologian and a practical theologian, Easter is a difficult day for me to understand from the points of view of my theologies. The mystical victories that are joyously described seem to leave something to be desired, to me at least. When I encounter cissexism and heterosexism in my daily life, it can be very difficult to hear and believe that sin and fear and death have been defeated. Those victories serve to guarantee us our places in heaven, our life after death. But that doesn’t necessarily comfort those here on Earth for whom suffering is a way of life. That death will free us from suffering? No shit. Now, give me comfort for this life in the here-and-now.

The followers of Christ are the Body of Christ. So, it’s not just that He is risen. It’s also that We are risen. But, risen to what? Risen for what purpose? Well, it could be said that those of us who are out about our Marginalized Genders, Orientations, and Bodies (MOGAB) are risen to being visible so that our MOGAB identities will be normalized instead of marginalized. Those of us who are out about our mental illnesses are risen to being visible so that our illnesses are no longer stigmatized.

We are the Church. The Church is the Body of Christ. Christ is risen. We are Christ. We are risen.

Amen, and Blessed be.

2 April 2017: the Fifth Sunday of Lent

The fifth Sunday of Lent 2017 was another two-church day that started at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in the morning and ended with Grace North Church in the evening. And, it’s Sundays like this one that really demonstrate how it can be challenging to be both an Adversarial Theologian and a Practical Theologian in the pews. Not so much with readings such as Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones (37:1-14) or Psalm 130, but definitely with Romans 8:6-11 and John 11:1-45.

It’s bad enough having body issues as a transgender person. To hear the words of Paul’s letter to the Romans talk about how one’s body is death can be just a little too much, especially with all his criticism toward people who are focused on their bodies. Looking deeper into this selection with the help of my New Oxford Annotated Bible, it seems that Paul isn’t castigating simply because they have bodies, but because they seek sensual pleasures for their bodies. This is why bodies are sinful, because they can experience pleasure. It seems to me, then, that Paul’s true complaint should be with God for giving humanity bodies capable of pleasure. I reject the idea that resisting pleasure is supposed to be a test of faith.

And then, there’s John. I really don’t like the Gospel According to John. So much of it seems anti-Jewish to me. And then the story of the raising of Lazarus? According to this story Jesus delays intentionally so that Lazarus would die so for the glory of God. Now, of course, this is a spiritual truth and not an historical account. It’s an allegory. But, WTF? No wonder there is so much backlash against religion when humans are the pawns of God as if they’re some living props in an ancient live-action Godly Play set.

What do I mean when I say I’m an Adversarial Theologian? I just can’t bring myself to take the necessary intellectual steps to try to force scripture written for a vastly different time and culture and twist it so that it applies to our times. Instead, I preach against the text as is necessary. And with this selection from Romans, I feel it is absolutely necessary to preach against it. Paul’s words about the sinfulness of human bodies is disrespectful not only to God who created those bodies, but to us who have them.

What do I mean when I say that I’m a Practical Theologian? I just can’t bring myself to focus on the mystical aspect of the Gospel message when there is very real suffering in the here-and-now. Sinews will not grow on the bones of our beloved dead. Once gone, they will not return to us here on Earth. The Transgender Day of Remembrance (yeah, I’m bringing that up again) is a reminder of this fact.

I must preach against texts that do not seem to value our lives on Earth. I must preach against mysticism as a platitude when intentionally arriving late to a preventable situation to provide a solution doesn’t stop the suffering.

Letting suffering happen to prove a point is evil.

Amen, and Blessed be.

19 March 2017: the Third Sunday of Lent

I started the third Sunday of Lent 2017 at Good Shepherd Episcopal. Somehow, the third week of Lent got away from me and so this post is a little late.

The Gospel reading that morning was about Jesus and the Woman at the Well. As love featured prominently in the sermon, the preacher began with, “In the name of the Lover, the Beloved, and Love Overflowing.” This might seem heretical from the point of view of Christianity in general and Episcopalainism in particular, but such a blessing really spoke to me. But, I’m a Christo-Pagan. Though the idea of a deific “Lover” often seems to have sexual connotations in Pagan frameworks, here it seemed to encompass more than that one type of love. It seemed to me that the deific Lover here was the embodiment of all forms of love.

A common response in many of the Pagan rituals I’ve attended and led has been, “In perfect love and in perfect trust.” This is often said at the end of a ritual when the gods and spirits are being thanked: “Stay if you will, go if you must, in perfect love and in perfect trust.” This love and trust is the basis of a faith community. I bring this up because that evening I attended a 12-step meeting for Pagans, and it was an “all-A” meeting.

While I’m still new to 12-step Spirituality, I’ve had many friends work through such programs. Love of the community is a key factor in supporting one another. And, trust is vital, too, when one considers what is shared in meetings. But at the same time, I know that there are those Pagans who struggle with the concept of being “powerless.” We generally believe that we have the power within us. But, our addictions and codependencies interfere with our ability to access and use our power. Therefore, we must trust in the love of our gods and guiding spirits to be our higher powers, aiding us to overcome what ails us.

Love and Trust might seem more compatible than Christianity and Paganism. But I don’t care. My path works for me. If other mortals can walk it with me, that’s great. If not, well, I know my path overlaps with the paths of others. We can love and trust each other as we wander through our wastelands, looking for liberation.

Amen, and Blessed be.