Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Holla At Ya Boy (Isaiah 6:1-8)

 Like Hellen Keller making her way through the world of darkness, yet "seeing," as the curtains falls I shuffle across the stage with the Mute, yet listening. 

    In the year of the death of Uzziah, ruler of Judah, I saw Adonai seated on a high and lofty judgement seat, in a robe whose train filled the temple. Seraphs were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet (or genitals), with two they flew.
     They would cry out to one another, "Holy! Holy! Holy is Adonai Omnipotent! All the earth is filled with God's glory!" The doorposts and thresholds quaked at the sound of their shouting, and the Temple kept filling with smoke.
     Then I said, "Woe is m, I am doomed! I have unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips! And my eye have seen the Ruler, Adonai Omnipotent!"
     Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding an ember which it had taken with tongs from the altar. The seraph touched my mouth with the ember. "See," it said, "now that this has touched your lips, your corruption is removed, and your sin is pardoned."
     Then I heard the voice of the Holy One saying, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?"
     "Here I am," I said, "send me!"
Isaiah 6:1-8

Guatemalan Rainbow Stole

Recently I was asked to share my story about how I hear the voice of God. At first I was a bit concerned. I have never really heard God speak to me. At least not an audible voice that I can point to and say, "On this day thus said the Holy One to me." How I wish I was an Isaiah, but I am not. Half the time, I'm not even sure if I'm a gay man who happens to be a minister, or if I'm a minister who happens to be gay. I tend to leave that for others to figure out. It is their choice in how they wish to relate to me. 

But all is not lost. For I do have a story for how God talks to me. It is a tale in three acts and like Isaiah, I am happy to share it with you.

Act One stars the voice of authenticity. This voice came with the accruements of my faith - bible, worship, and discipleship. I call this the Orthodox voice, not because of theological purity, but because it is a deep resonating voice arising from some large chamber of credibility and trustworthiness. At times I hid from this voice, like Darth Vader it came to indicate my failures. At times this voice thrilled me, as One with such gravitas would call me by name and be concerned with the trivialities of my life. This voice retreated over the years, yet once in a while, when a moment of grace breaks open, there is an echo of the booming bass. At these times I rest in the fullness of my faith tradition.

Act One anticipates the role of faith in shaping a young life. As the curtain closes, a youthful me stands like Charlton Heston's Moses before a thunderous voice.

Act Two opens upon a restless soul as I seek to navigate my faith journey as a gay person within the Christian tradition. In this restlessness comes the voiceless voice. Like an old friend standing behind us and we sense their presence, so the Mute gets my attention, silently relying on me to take notice. There is a curious "hmm," or "umm" which lingers and is not easily shaken off. These little nudges plant themselves like seeds and send their sprouts into my awareness. Because I am not always conscious of the Mute, the Mute can be easily dismissed. I use friends, colleagues, and mentors to confirm I've heard correctly. When I do listen, oh, the great and wonderful paths that open up. Ironic that it is the Mute who proves most directive in my life. 

Act Two wrestles with the tension of silence and listening. Like Hellen Keller making her way through the world of darkness, yet "seeing," as the curtains falls I shuffle across the stage with the Mute, yet listening. 

At one point, that was it. A two act play easily divided between childhood and adulthood.

But the voice of God came anew. This time it is feminine and appears in a white lab coat. She speaks from the wonders of cosmology, evolution, and the natural sciences. She tripped out over the writings of Karl Rahner and John Haught, much to my surprise. This prim, bun on the back of head, task oriented scientist quickly let me know that evolution is the language of God. God's syntax is there in the whole sweep of deep time, of chance and risk, of struggle and dead ends, of diversity and thickening of consciousness. When I set with the scientist she probes the nature of Divine Being, as one probes the personality of artists based on their art. She shakes my thinking. 

Act Three indicates my search for knowledge of God outside of faith traditions. The end of the third act finds me like an awe-struck student sitting at the wise professor's feet, in wonder of her wisdom and intuition. The scientists not only speaks of God, she speaks from God for she is Sophia, the wisdom of God. 

This concludes my three act play of Orthodox, Mute, and Sophia. Now it's your time. Come up on stage. What acts do you add to the voice of God?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Great Green Gobs of Ugg (Psalm 34:4-8)

Taste and see how good God is - even as a naked bear served by a transgender Christ. 

I sought Our God, who answered me
   and freed me from all my fears.
Those who look to Our God are radiant,
   and their faces are never covered with shame.
The poor called out; Our God heard
   and saved them from all their troubles.
The angel of Our God encamps around those
   who revere God, and rescues them.
Taste and see how good God is!
   Happiness comes to those who take refuge in Our god.

Many a les-bi-gay-trans-queer-plus person has been turned off by the church and for good reasons - rejection and hate. While we realize that God is not synonymous with the church or synagogue or mosque or elm grove it is often hard to separate the place of sacredness from the sacred object of veneration. When this happens, when we confuse the less for the greater we often have to find our way back to discover the Holy as for the first time. 
The best I can describe the tenacity and courage for this journey is to relay an experience from a number of years ago. 
I was hungry. Not one of those end of the day, peckish, longing for a snack to tide me over yearnings. My belly was crying out as it’s own Oliver Twist, “More please!” But there hadn’t been any firsts to offer a second of. My naiveté of distance, conspiring with my penchant to slip by breakfast, forced me to play the role of the unmoved authorities to Oliver's and the boys pleading.
Now seated in the dinning car of the overnight train to Nairobi, I was ready to give attention to my personal Oliver and grant it the much needed "more." The serving staff brought out the first course. I recoiled in fear and dismay - asparagus soup. Like a kid finding underwear under the tree at Christmas, I felt the universe had betrayed me.
Asparagus, that pretentious weed, floating in a questionable pond of cream. Is there, in all this wide world, a more cruel use of dairy than as soup stock? What poorly resourced cook was so desperate as to heat up milk, throw in the devil’s creeper and proclaim it “good?" As if God could ever bless this unholy mixture. 
But I was hungry. My hollow stomach looked at the bowl as an sign of hope and comfort and wellbeing. My mind though, lit up like a blazing neon sign, “WARNING! WARNING! Great green gobs of ugg are in that bowl.”
But I was hungry. The single need of my gut was to get filled, green gobs of ugg, notwithstanding. 
I stirred the soup, watching the tiny green boats ride out the swells. Not fully committing myself to relieve the maddening hunger, I tentatively picked up half a spoon of the swill. I hesitated, for my tastebuds, those tiny bumps wise in knowledge of culinary good and evil, tried to crawl out of my mouth. Oh, how I loathed asparagus soup. 
But I was hungry and the badgering, harassing, provoking need to eat took over. I sipped from the spoon. Not a lot, just enough to quickly swallow before gagging. 
What was this taste? What beauty of flavor in happy marriage of cream and herbaceous plant. What joy of delicate spices which washed over and baptized my tastebuds bringing them abundant life. It was pleasure and peace of mind and contentment all rolled together.
Taste and see how good God is - even as a naked bear served by a transgender Christ.