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advent Catholic vibes Holy Days My poetry Reflections for worship services

Advent reflection: “Virgin” Mary, Teen Mom

Mary, teen mom,
in those uncertain days

between your jubilant “Yes!” to God seeking shelter in you
and Joseph’s “yes” to marrying you
despite your indiscretion (daring to get knocked up out of wedlock! Did childhood friends desert you? Did your father weep in shame?)

would you have laughed, disbelieving, if informed
that the primary epithet bestowed on you
by those future generations who call you blessed…
is Virgin?

Mary, teen mom, against whom every packed inn turned its back, about whom, maybe, neighbors laughed
and mothers told their daughters, “Don’t be like her
(spitting your name like a nasty thing)…

You relate to the round-bellied girl
eating alone in a cafeteria crowded with harsh stares;

You relate to the girl singled out at church
for wearing a “too-short” skirt,
blamed for the lust of grown men
who ought to pluck out their eyes for looking at her at all!

…yet the words fastened to people like these are much less pretty
than what you are called.

Mary, teenage rebel! –
You who embraced impropriety with a song

you, full of grace but called disgraceful
by men who would have you stoned –

what in heaven’s name
does virginity have to do
with you?

…Unless for you, virginity means
not “no” to sex
but “yes” to choosing for yourself,
defining yourself, controlling your own body, your own life.

Hail, you
who looked the status quo
square in the eye – and laughed!

Hail, you
who saw the Grace in being called disgraceful
by a world not ready to be turned on its head.

Hail, you who defy categorization:
virgin or slut,
child of God or God’s own mother,
obedient servant or the one who knew
Jesus would do all you told him to do
(and thus you brought fine wine
into a world that’s parched for it)…

Teach us this defiance, devout rebel!
Teach us your fervor for God’s revolution,
your thirst for liberation from convention.


This reflection was written by Avery Smith and belongs to them. Please do not publish it anywhere, or use it in a service, without permission from the author. Reach out to Avery at queerlychristian36@gmail.com for that permission, or just to chat!

About this piece: This devotional from Advent 2019 was my first attempt at explaining why I love and look up to the Virgin Mary – whether she never had any sex in her lifetime, or had a little bit of sex, or had sex hundreds of times. Regardless of her sex life, she is holy, powerful, and worthy of honor – and she knows what it is to have your sexuality used against you, whether to vilify you or to put you on a dehumanizing pedestal.

I draw from ancient ideas of virginity as being about whether a woman had a man in control of her (be that her father, guardian, husband, or son) rather than about whether one has had sex. See Pallas Athena, Artemis, and the Vestal Virgins of ancient Greece.

I speak more on Mary’s virginity in this YouTube video.

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Catholic vibes Holy Days My poetry Reflections for worship services

poem for the First Sunday of Advent

As a child packs a snowball
tight and firm and
cold seeping even through their mittens
into palms

so You
once packed the Universe
into a ball scarce larger than
the pomegranates that had yet to burst
into being…

But still a greater miracle awaited!
— a denser packing of Infinity
into small single atoms —
You! You

curled Your endless Being up
into an embryo

oh! You who grew
the cosmos on a particle of Breath

You packed Yourself down into
near nothingness —
and waited.

You waited there
in warm dark roundness till
the time had come for Her to birth you,
wet and bloody, into an uncaring world.

Somehow
the Being who could wear the galaxy
like a bangle
nursed and grew and toddled,
walked among
us tiny beings of the frail bones…

i’ll never, ever
ever fathom it.

Divinity! if i could hold You now
as Mary held you, in my quaking arms
i think i might just know why You sustain

each instant — now, and now, and now again —
all of existence.

Seed upon the palm
tucked lovingly into a rich dark soil

infant on the breast
fed lovingly from one’s own aching flesh

— but not yet. Not yet —
already, yes — and still
not yet.

with Earth i wait for You
with bated breath.


This poem was written by Avery Smith and belongs to them. Please do not publish it anywhere, or use it in a service, without permission from the author. Reach out to Avery at queerlychristian36@gmail.com for that permission, or just to chat!

About this poem: I’ve been going through a time of spiritual stagnancy as religious trauma caught up to me…so it was a gift to awaken a little after midnight on this first Sunday of Advent with images of Divinity and Roundness glowing in my heart like embers, reminding me of birth and rebirth and the eternal sustaining breath of God.

The Creation and the Incarnation are intertwined for me – when I think of God birthing the universe, my mind eventually wanders to the human who birthed God, and vice-versa.

And through the way our liturgical year returns us over and over to the story of God’s entering into Hir good, good world; and the story of God’s creative act lasting not an instant but over all ages, I think of Meister Eckhart’s declaration:

“What does God do all day long? God gives birth. From the beginning of eternity, God lies on a maternity bed giving birth to all. God is creating this whole universe full and entire in this present moment.”

Here are notes about some of the images in this poem:

On the image of the pomegranate for the Big Bang event – have you ever sliced into a pomegranate and pulled the halves apart with enough force for those rich ruby seeds within to fling themselves upward, sideways, all about? That bright explosion is to me a fitting image for that first flinging of dust into infant stars, scattered across black space.

“…the Being who could wear the galaxy / like a bangle…” – this line is inspired by Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore’s depiction of the Lord of the Dance, Shiva, with celestial bodies whirling round his dancing ankles. You can read more of it at this link, but here are the most relevant lines:

Rebellious atoms are subdued into forms at thy dance-time,
the suns and planets, anklets of light, twirl round thy moving feet, and,
age after age, things struggle to wake from dark slumber,
through pain of life, into consciousness,
and the ocean of thy bliss breaks out in tumults of suffering and joy.

- Rabindranath Tagore 

Shiva’s dance is the source of all movement in the universe; it also frees humanity from ignorance and illusion. This conception of Divinity as Dancer resonates deeply with me, and links well in my mind to the Big Bang event – a dance begun so long ago continues into the present and for all time, ever sustaining and constantly transforming the cosmos that Divinity so loves.

“…seed upon the palm…” – we return to the image of a seed, but this time it’s the hazelnut of Julian of Norwich’s visions. In her vision, Christ hands Julian a ball no larger than a hazelnut and tells her that all of Creation is contained within that small globe:

“I was amazed that it could last,” Julian says, “for I thought that because of its littleness it would suddenly have fallen to nothing. And I was answered in my understanding: ‘It lasts and always will, because God loves it; and thus everything has being through the love of God.’” 

There is not a speck of matter in this universe that is not loved by God, that is not nurtured and watched over by its Creator, who revels in the stars and celebrates the blood pulsing through your fingertips. It is the creative energy and life-bearing power of this Love that forms and sustains each and every one of us. And it is that Love that moved God to slip off Infinity and step into flesh. Already this impossible event has taken place – and yet…we return to it yearly. Await it yearly. Yearn for it yearly.

The already and not yet of God’s Kin(g)dom is a Mystery that I almost think I begin to grasp when I think on the wonder and waiting to which we return as one, every Advent.

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Holy Days LGBT/queer Liturgy My poetry Reflections for worship services

A queer reflection on the Agony in the Garden – Holy Thursday / Maundy Thursday

Tonight we follow Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane. 

As we kneel with him in the dark, see his hands clenched in prayer,
the blood on his brow, in his tears,
as we hear the cry wrench out of him, “Take this cup away from me!” 

…we hear also the cry of so many of our siblings.

“I cannot bear this part of myself, O God. Why are you calling me to this? Why did you make me to be this way, when all it has done for me is cause loved ones to abandon me? Take this cup away. Please take this cup away.”

Let us not be like the disciples who slept,
ignorant of Jesus’s agony.

Let us not be like them when they fled the scene
leaving him to the ones who chained him and dragged him away.

O God, set our hearts on fire with a fierce compassion for your oppressed children, so that we cannot sleep when they cry out. 

We go to them. We stay awake with them. We. stay.

We remember the one who broke bread and called it his body,
who knelt to wash our feet.
We remember the one who commanded us to love in such a way –
to serve and be served.

Let us go now into a world full of cries,
all anxiously awaiting a day that seems far off, a dawn past all suffering
when we will rise transformed,
when relationships will be reconciled
and all will know God’s love. 

In the meantime – this time of anxious waiting – we leave no one alone in their agony. We cry out with them.
We stay awake with them.
We stay.

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Holy Days LGBT/queer Liturgy My poetry Reflections for worship services

A queer prayer for foot washing – Maundy Thursday / Holy Thursday

Jesus,

I do not know if I could let you, my God,
my Savior, to whom I owe all things
kneel below me
and take into your warm brown hands
my feet, dirty and cold.

I also do not know if I could take
the feet of my betrayers, my deniers –

those who declare my identity a falsehood or a phase,
those who sentence me to suffering by their hate,
those who wield you against me,
those who do not yet know all that I am, but when they do
might cease to associate themselves with me –

I don’t know if I could take their feet
in my hands, 
kneel before them in a pose of the same lowliness
they often make me feel

and wash their feet
just as you did for your friends, who would very soon abandon you.

Must I let you serve me?

And must I serve them?


…And if I do these things, will I really grow closer
to you?

to them?

Oh! You who stripped off Divinity
and took on the frail finitude of flesh…for me!
teach me this humility.

Give me the courage to ask them
if they will even let me wash their feet
and whether, maybe, they might wash mine too.

Intimacy like this is a fearful thing.

But if it truly leads to fuller life
and if you are with me,

I will take the bowl of water,
the washing rag,
and I will sit with bare feet
and I will kneel with warm hands.

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Charge and Benediction Liturgy Reflections for worship services

Benediction: the goodness of the body

Jesus, through your example you have shown us
that joy in banquets and good company can be a sacred thing.

We are ready to go out to expand the banquet of your love.

In the woman of the Song of Songs, we learn that passion and pleasure can unite us and lead us to God. 

We are ready to go out to learn to delight in our own bodies,
and to grow closer to one another, your people.

O Sophia, Holy Wisdom, having seen how you choose
to share your truth with the cast-offs of society,
with the naive and the ignored,

We are ready to go out to share the Wisdom the world calls foolish.

Let us go out with hearts transformed, with minds striving to improve while not fearing imperfection,
with bodies empowered for their share of work and of rest,
all for the glory of God our Beloved. 

Thanks be to God!

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Liturgy My poetry Reflections for worship services

Reflection: God our Beloved

God our Beloved,
you hold out your hands
with the wounds that mark your solidarity with us,
to accept us into your arms as one spouse takes another.

We will cling to you without fear,
for you will never reject us,
and you will never swallow up our selfhood in yours. 
Rather, you delight in what we are,
the true selves you fashioned and free us to be.

May we graft our lives to yours,
while learning to love ourselves as we are.

May we be yours forever, liberated from fear and doubt
and thus empowered to be your love for the world.

Amen.

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Liturgy My poetry Opening prayer Reflections for worship services

Opening prayer / reflection: Strange God, Wisdom for fools

O World’s Restorer, Status quo’s Demise,
you look into our minds, survey our assumptions and our plans
and you throw back your head and laugh.

You do not reveal your Wisdom
to the ones the world calls wise.
(They would not know what to make of it, anyway.)

Rather, Wisdom dazzles children’s minds;
She scoops up outcasts in a heady dance,
swaps secrets with the stranger and the fool.

Incomprehensible God!
The ones we call “unwanted”
you call Beloved.
The ones we call “broken”
you call whole and holy.

Impossible to think you look upon
our frail flesh and even frailer hearts
overgrown with greed and desperation
and fall in love with our potential!

Deepest desire of our hearts! Come!
Lift our burdens from our shoulders
and take us in your arms as your Beloved.

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Call to worship Charge and Benediction Confession and Pardon Holy Days Liturgy My poetry Reflections for worship services

Ascension liturgy (Acts 1, Luke 24, Jesus’s wounds)

Call to Worship:

Here we are, gathered in many spaces but in One Body.
Here we are, ready to worship God, ready to be transformed.

Today we remember Jesus’s ascension,
a rising up of human flesh to mingle with the Divine.

We praise the one who died and rose,
who lifts us all – body and spirit – in his outstretched, wounded arms. 

As we join in prayer and song and praise,
may the Holy Spirit fill us to bursting
both with anticipation of Christ’s return
and an irresistible urge to seek God’s kin(g)dom here and now.

Opening Prayer:

Great Creator,
You who crafted the cosmos and cradle it to your heart,
you who will the flourishing of all your creatures
and weave a tapestry of redemption for humanity –
these embodied spirits whom you fashioned in your image –

Teach us to be your hands, working for the liberation and restoration 
of the outcast and those who fear what they do not know,
of the oppressor and the oppressed.

In the name of your Child Jesus,
who rose in body to you
and who sent us the Holy Spirit to be the very heartbeat of the world,
we pray.

Amen.


Confessional Prayer

Risen God,

too often we live as though you abandoned us
when you ascended into heaven –
as though you are not alive and active in the world,
as though we could make up our own morality,
as though we should wait, dormant, for your return, watching the sky instead of being active vessels for your love and restoration.

When we fail to balance our hope in your return
with living out your already-present Spirit: forgive us. 

When anxiety holds us back: encourage us.
When apathy or resignation leaves us feeling powerless: empower us.

Amen.


Reflection

We are the Body of Christ.

Just like Jesus our God,
we are embodied spirits and inspirited bodies –
bodies of many colors, many (dis)abilities and shapes,
many desires and dreams.

When the world tells us our bodies are wrong,
that we are not the right color or size, that we are useless or broken,
that we love the wrong way,

may the vision of our embodied God –
Jesus of the wounded hands and feet,
Jesus of the brown and callused skin,
Jesus of the poor person’s belly
and kind person’s love of food and fellowship –
appear to us.

When we feel swayed to judge
the body of another and what they do with it
may the vision of Jesus’s table, set for
women and eunuchs, tax collectors and poor persons,
practitioners of many faiths, the Roman centurion and his lover,
deaf and blind persons, lepers and those with mental illness,
and ever other stranger and outcast
inspire us to expand our own table. 

When we feel anxious as the first disciples did
that Jesus arose in body, seeming to leave us on earth behind,
may his Spirit enfold us, a reminder that we were not abandoned
but empowered and transformed.

In the body and divinity of Jesus,
heaven meets earth –
thanks be to God!


Benediction 

The Risen One is here among us, here and now.
Jesus calls to us, not to look toward the sky,
but into the faces of those who surround us –

to listen to them; to commune with them;
to live peaceably with them whenever possible
and to disrupt injustice wherever necessary.

May we hear that voice and invitation as we go out into the world,
here and now, together,
to celebrate and cultivate the gifts of the Holy Spirit
whom we find wherever there is life.

Amen.