On Sunday, November 13th, we gathered in a home for our church service. As LGBTQ people and allies, we were all facing various levels and stages of grief and fear over the recent election. As is our practice at The Flame, we read the gospel assigned to most mainline protestant churches for the day, as well as two other readings. Each week we ensure one or both additional readings comes from a person of color and an LGBTQIA person.
After opening with our welcome statement, and doing a few rounds of ice breaker questions and conversation, J read our first reading from “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen
The birds they sang
at the break of day
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Our second reading contained two quotes from Audre Lorde, “Eye to Eye: Black Women, Hatred, and Anger,” in Sister Outsider. K read:
When I live through pain without recognizing it, self-consciously, I rob myself of the power that can come from using that pain, the power to fuel some movement beyond it. I condemn myself to reliving that pain over and over and over whenever something close triggers it. And that is suffering, a seemingly inescapable cycle.
I can afford to look at myself directly, risk the pain of experiencing who I am not, and learn to savor the sweetness of who I am.
L read our gospel, as written in The Inclusive Bible, Luke 21:5-19
Some disciples were speaking of how the Temple was adorned with precious stones and votive offerings. Jesus said, “You see all these things? The day will come when one stone won’t be left on top of another – everything will be torn down.”
They asked, “When will this happen, Rabbi? And what will be the sign that it’s about to happen?”
Jesus said, “Take care not to be misled. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the One’ and ‘The time is at hand.’ Don’t follow them. And don’t be perturbed when you hear of wars and insurrections. These things must happen first, but the end doesn’t follow immediately.”
Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and empire against empire. There will be great earthquakes, plagues and famines in various places – and in the sky there will be frightening omens and great signs. But before any of this, they will arrest you and persecute you, bringing you to trial before rulers and governors. And it will all be because of my name – this will be your opportunity to give your testimony. So make up your minds not to worry about your defense beforehand, for I’ll give you the words, and a wisdom that none of your adversaries can take exception or contradict. You’ll be betrayed by even your parents, brothers, sisters, relatives, and friends, and some of you will be put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, yet not a hair of your head will be harmed. By patient endurance, you’ll save your lives.”
After the readings, we had time for silent meditation, and I shared a few thoughts before we discussed them in pairs and then all together. Here was my reflection:
At first I was torqued off that this is the assigned gospel for this week. It seemed unfair to have to read a passage that is so scary and gloomy at a time when we are already shaken. But on reflection, I decided I was ok with it. It felt more real than a reassuring text that everything was sunshine and roses, when I look around and it feels like the world has gone to shit.
This gospel passage is considered “apocalyptic”, meaning it uses this frightening imagery to assure us of God’s faithfulness in horrible times. These are not predictions of what is to come, but rather descriptions of what has already happened, and the way things are. The temple written about was already destroyed at the time these verses were written. This is a very real description of things that happen in our world, especially for marginalized communities.
These passage address that, much as I would like, God doesn’t come in and fix it all, at least not right now, but God is with us, and provides strength, courage, comfort and wisdom.
I chose the other two readings in light of this fact of brokenness in our world, and our need to carry on and “testify before our oppressors”, as the gospel tells us we have an opportunity to do. The other day I was at the Interfaith Call for Inclusion. It was a gathering held in Pioneer Square for faith leaders to stand with the various communities that are being targeted by the divisive and hateful rhetoric of our times. We were called and challenged to be love, resistance, and compassion, speaking the truth of God’s Beloved Community against the voices that would oppress and divide us. We were reminded that there is no retirement for those working for justice. Our work is not yet done.
Where in the brokenness of this world does the light get in? As we reflect on Leonard Cohen’s writing, how do we start again, and find slivers of grace, joy, and love in the midst of lament?
As we re-read the Audre Lorde quotes, how can we own our own pain, acknowledge and grieve it, and then rejoice in the gift of our authentic selves as we are embraced by and build the Beloved Community of God? Let us also be mindful that Lorde was writing about racism, particularly in the feminist movement. I don’t want to co-opt her wisdom and strength without reminding ourselves of this racism she was reflecting on, and our role and responsibility in dismantling it.
Luke’s gospel passage is intended to be a passage of hope, and an encouragement to stay the course. It reminds us that God is with us no matter what, even in the scariest of times. I am so grateful for this reminder, and the wisdom of Cohen and Lorde. But I do wonder if Jesus needed a better speech writer.
Vicar, The Flame