Monday, June 22, 2015

Dished by God (Isaiah 49:14-16)

We who gather under the queer umbrella find ourselves, like Israel, questioning the validity of God's actions. 

     But Zion said, "Our God has abandoned me, Adonai has forgotten me."
     (Our God replied) "Does a woman forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish the child of her womb? Yet even if these forget I will never forget you. Look and see: I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands; your walls are forever before me."

Israel is angry with God. Promises have been made. Promises which Israel feels have been broken. "God has abandoned us," they say shaking their fist in the face of the Sacred. "You have abandoned us and left us nothing more than a door-mate for others."

These strong words reflect deep seated angst concerning Israel's place in the world. They are vulnerable, disliked, and perceived as a worrying nuisance by her neighbors. Sounds familiar doesn't it? We who gather under the queer umbrella find ourselves, like Israel, questioning the validity of God's actions. Is this true gracious movement towards us, or are we being set up to take a bigger hit?

The queer person of faith often asks - if you hate gays then why did you make me this way? We are, just like everyone other human, an accident of our birth. Our country, our hair, our skin color, our sexual orientation are the chances of dice rolled without our blessing. We come vulnerable and alienated with only one promise - that life, or the God of life. is on our side. Yet, queer kids, queer teenagers, queer adults tend to find out it is not necessarily so. 

"We won't sale cakes to your kind." "Oh, that so gay!" "God hates fags." "Let's pass this law for 'religious freedom.'" Of course there is more hate masquerading as religious zeal and it leave us wondering why God abandoned us. It might be, that like Israel, we need to shake our fists and demand an accounting from the Holy. 

Maybe I should end my post here. At times we are not angry enough. The slurs and the taunts will keep coming and only our anger will be able to point our compass to true north. It is our anger which alerts us that life should be better. Our anger motivates us to march and to have pride and to stake our claim for dignity and respect.

God replies to Israel's anger - and to ours - with images that are both intimate and striking.  The first image is of childbirth and suckling a new born, "Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you." The image of the mothering God feeding us at the breast and singing soft lullabies in our ears speaks to God's tender intimacy. An intimacy which knows us through and through, and while holding us accountable, never reject us as suggested in the Black Madonna icon above.

The second image vibrates along a forgotten metaphor.  The phrase "to cut" brings to mind the stylus and clay tablet or chisel and stone monument. When an important promise was made the words were cut into stone - into that which last beyond our lifetimes. God's announcement that our names are cut into the diving being means our name - our own essence - is before God from everlasting to everlasting.

When we broaden the context of this passage and place it into the flow of the full book of Isaiah, especially the second half, we discover that God's promise is not to necessarily to remove us from the accident of our birth. Rather God's promises to honor that we were born and to walk intimately with us on the trajectory the accident of our birth places us on.