Sermon,  Sermons

Accepting Love

sermon video pt1. Click for parts 2 & 3



Last week was the 50th anniversary of the 1st Moon landing. I’ve been gobbling up all the Audible.com deals on syfy books this week! But there have also been a flood of other news related to our need to understand the universe.

A lovely friend and fellow geek shared a recent CNN.com news article about the 20th anniversary of the Chandra X-ray Observatory – one of four observatories in NASA’s Great Observatories family. “Chandra sees X-rays, while Spitzer detects infrared light, Hubble captures visible and UV light, and Compton was designed for gamma rays.

Because the observatories can capture these different wavelengths of light, they act like detectives and uncover views we can’t see with the naked eye by using telescopes. The telescopes can also work together to provide insight on cosmic mysteries.”

You can find all of the images here.

Each observatory reveals remarkable things – mysterious, glorious, incomprehensible realities of our universe. Just one of them is fascinating on its own, but together, we can see and learn and marvel at, what? Are there words that can really, fully describe all that we can see? Well, mathematicians and astrophysicists, and their ilk can with their own languages.

Still, we wouldn’t know all that we do know unless all of the observatories – each seeing the universe through their own specialized filter – share their data with the others. And then overlaying all the data, the information available to scientists and scientist wannabes, is astounding – and the visuals are breathtaking.

God told Hosea,

“Go, take for yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.”

Hosea 1:2

            Wow. Just, wow. How do we even process that? But the narrative goes on to say that Hosea’s whore of a wife, Gomer, was not faithful because she felt the only way to get what she needs is to go to other sources: “they give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.” And later God say, “she didn’t know – she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and lavished her with silver and gold . . . that she then used for Baal . . .”

She didn’t know. Why did she not know this? Well, there are as many answers to that question as there are those who try to answer it. But I wonder: Whose responsibility is it to tell her?

Sure, God’s word is already written on our hearts – in our very DNA because we are made of God, right? But when we are not in communication with God (prayer, meditation, etc) we search for a source and latch onto whatever or whoever provides at least some measure of what we think we need. And maybe loose a bit of our selves in the process.

Gomer was loved by a man who loved her. Why did she not trust his love for her?

Do you find it difficult to trust someone else’s love for you?

Do you find it hard accepting love by letting others be loved? or, accepting love by extending it to others you might find it difficult to love.

Sojourners magazine’s daily email includes the “Voice of the day.” One from last week:

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” 

– Fred Rogers (Sojourners,“Voice of the Day,” 7/23/2019)

To find out ways to understand the need in our current context (in our denomination and in our country), I am writing a theology of (non)gender identity and covenanting together, through a Queer Theology lens and with Liberation Theology framework. I’m gathering qualitative data via focus groups, electronic survey, and interviews. This qualitative, narrative research is part of that project.

I am trying to get the survey out to as many as might be willing to share their story. The survey is anonymous, but with the option of including an email address so that I may gather a few focus groups for deeper discussion around our stories – messages we received about God and gender, and how that impacts our view of, and relationship with God; and, further, the way these messages impact how we covenant together, find meaning in our relationships.

I would love all the help I can get, so if you know others who might want to share their stories, would you please post this link and explanatory introduction to your group page, social media, and/or email? I am grateful for any input and look forward to knowing God better by knowing you and the people with whom you find relationship and meaning!

Launch me

I wonder if there was a reaction when I said “Queer Theology” just as there might have been a flinch when first hearing the Hosea reading and the word “whoredom?” What gives some words power? Why do they carry such weight in some instances and skepticism in others?

To make my point – I do have one, so please trust that! I’d like to explain Queer Theology and Queering as a method.[1] Actually, I’m latching on to an intriguing approach that crosses theological inquiry with quantum physics. Please stay with me here. I’m going to through out some words, but they will guide us to the point I’m promising.

Ontology, the study, the attempt to understand the nature of being. And one physicist envisions the study of the nature of being as entangled with epistemology – the process of attempting to ascertain knowledge itself – substantiated belief (versus opinion). Epistemology speaks to a belief system that is based on a reasoned faith, but still remains a mystery. And Ino Mamic likens this crossover of investigating these faith claims and studying the nature being as Quantum entanglement.

Quantum physics presupposes that on the quantum level the human brain cannot really fathom the particulars, but the universe may be understood systematically (mathematically) by observing the effects (resulting actions, etc.). This principle is not unlike theological study, the human brain is unable to fathom the mysteries of God and God’s action in and on creation, but we can know something of God by the effects of God’s being, dwelling, etc (the fruits of God’s work).

When I notice you loving each other; when we experience joy together; when we act as instruments of peace . . . These are the effects of God’s act and being in our world, much like the way physicists observe the act and being of particles in our universe.

Quantum physics speaks about the “spooky action” of particles and entanglement, how flavors of electrons shift and dance and can somehow be two places at once, and comprise more than one substance. Theology speaks of a Trinity, and the Creator who creates, the Word “through whom all things were made,” and Spirit that Jesus “leaves with us” – and these Three are actually One, and while one is doing a thing, it is also doing another in a separate time and space.

Queer, the definition of queer is strange, peculiar, freakish, bizarre, unexpected. Spooky – other. Queer was meant to mark another human being as other, as not fitting the norm – not normal. It was not until the early twentieth century that the word queer begin to be used to encompass homosexuality. The effect the same, though, isn’t it?

Mamic “made a ‘comparative table of queerness’, by comparing adjectives assigned to the term queer in the dictionary with (i) the terminology Althaus-Reid [another theologian] uses when elaborating on the nature of Jesus Christ, (ii) the terminology [the physicist, Karen] Barad uses when elaborating on the nature of the universe on its quantum level, and (iii) the peculiarities of the queer method.”[2] Some of those words:

Queer is strange, odd, freakish, outlandish, remarkable, unorthodox, unconventional, perplexing, mysterious . . .; Jesus was strange, odd, freakish, outlandish, remarkable, unorthodox, unconventional, perplexing, mysterious . . .; Creation on it fundamental quantum levels is strange, odd, freakish, outlandish, remarkable, unorthodox, unconventional, perplexing, mysterious . . .; Queer Method is strange, odd, freakish, outlandish, remarkable, unorthodox, unconventional, perplexing, mysterious . . ..

If theological methodology has been based on a systematic study of scripture through the patriarchal, privileged male perspectival lens that sees the word “zona” and understands it as prostitute, whore, rather than someone without resources and who owns her own business (other, unconventional, incongruous . . .). Then, ah, yes, with a queer lens my perspective on Rahab – who lived on Jericho’s wall and saved the Israelite spies – changes.

Then how we do theology matters.

When my data – how I experience God, understand scripture, and find meaning with that information – when my data overlays yours, and then ours together overlays your neighbors, etc., imagine!

Imagine the remarkable things we can see – with your gamma ray vision and my UV light vision and your X-ray vision of God’s very presence among us and as vast and vaster still as the unfathomable universe we can actually observe.

When words fail me, may You speak, oh God. Word of God, speak.

Language. To create is to make something that has never existed before. There’s nothing more vulnerable than that.” – Brené Brown. We have the power to speak something new into existence – create – be image of God. God speaks everything into existence. When we speak to one another, we shape a new reality – for harm or for good, for death of a dream or life into potential, possibility, becoming more, living into the being that one can be as one who bears God’s image. Unique.

Do my words crush that reality and limit the potential of another? Because, if that were so, it would be better that a millstone be tied around my neck and I be cast into the sea: do not quench the Spirit (of God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth). 1 Thess 5:19.

Then how can I say that someone who is seeking God’s voice through prayer and meditation and applying the effort and skill to interpret scripture has it wrong? If you read Wesley’s letters . . .

How can I say to my dear sister who voted for Trump, while also walking in the ways of Jesus, serving, bearing rich, sumptuous fruits, Your interpretation of God is flawed? Or to my brother who is a tree-hugging, liberalist of liberal democrat, How can you really understand what God means to say about financial stewardship?

And I quench the Spirit of God in these brilliant individuals and sow seeds of doubt, holding them back from living into the life of God, the image they bear in a way no one else does! Where’s that millstone?!

What’s a millstone anyway?? I’m pretty sure I don’t want it hung around my neck as I’m tossed into Summerset Lake!

But what if it is more that I am not confident in who I am, what I believe? Maybe that’s why I hold onto that one thing – and render everything else that person says as irrelevant.

And still, what I believe is a mystery – spooky, unconventional, even outlandish, and probably freaky most times. But if I believe the words of God, “you are forgiven; you are alive; I dwell with you, in you, among you – do not let anyone condemn you over your convictions (though they be unconventional, or quirky or odd) Listen to one another and let your infrared vision cross with someone else’s gamma rays sight, and maybe you can see my glory among you more clearly – and in each other” (ghostbusters and superman)

Infrared and gamma rays, X-rays and UV light . . .

Language is limited and imprecise. And sometimes a word frightens us. Sometimes it offends or means one thing in one context and something entirely different in another space or time. And too many times we don’t believe it, the word said to us.

“I love you no matter what,”

“I will never leave you,”

“you are holy,”

you belong.”

God, God-in-YOU

Because we must first believe the words of God before we can speak them convincingly to one another. And not only that, but to trust those words from each other – accept them.

And what if our words are first carried into that space where the sounds ends and the silence begins? Intentional. Carried by the Spirit of God to each other, on the wings of that Word and lives in us?

Rethinkchurch, a UMC ministry, posted an entry on Instagram on the 50th anniversary of the 1st moon landing. It says,

“On this day, as we remember an astounding human achievement, may we feel a sense of confidence in aspiring to achieve even grater things – especially as it relates to how we come together in our world. The lunar module was nicknamed ‘The Eagle.’

An Eagle, in Native American tradition, is often a carrier of prayer. While that lunar module carried so much hope for the people watching it 50 years ago, our prayers carry our hopes for today, as well. And we are reminded of a piece of prayer offered by Wanda Lawrence of the Chippewa people:

‘Then the eagle will carry our payer for peace and love, and the people of the red, white, yellow, brown and black communities can sit in the same circle together to communicate in love and experience the presence of the Great Mystery in their midst. Someday can be today for you and me. Amen.’”

Wanda Lawrence of the Chippewa people, via ReThinkChurch, Instagram

Perhaps if we begin by accepting that others know God in different ways, and give them permission (in our own hearts, of course) to accept God’s love, it might be easier to accept God at God’s word for ourselves, and in crossing our remarkable telescopes and vision, our expansive view can shine that light of love over all whom we meat.

Another Voice of the day:

So much of religion and spirituality that is offered to us is about sanding down our edges. It just so happens that the jagged edges of our humanity are actually what connects us to God and each other. 

– Nadia Bolz-Weber

[1] Mamic, Ino, “Queer Theology 2.0: The Queerness of Subatomic Particles as a Foundation For Theological Reflection,” Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, 2016. Accessed, Academia.edu, 7/23/2019.

[2] Mamic, vi.