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Affirmation of Faith easter Liturgy Other search markers

Affirmation of Faith in the Wounded God who calls us Good

We worship a Mystery, a Being too vast to capture in words,
who reveals Godself to each of us in different ways.

While making room for different understandings,
let us affirm the faith that draws us together:

We believe in the God whose Word birthed the cosmos,

Who shaped human beings from the rich topsoil,
breathed Her own breath into us,
blessed both our earthy bodies and celestial spark,
and declared us Good, very Good!

When evil taught us shame
for those very bodies God had blessed,

God became a seamstress,
tenderly dressing Her children, Adam and Eve —
never dismissing our distress
but giving us what we need
to believe in our inherent dignity again.

This God reminds us at every opportunity
That we are destined for freedom:

God did what it took to liberate Her people
from enslavement in Egypt — and from countless future captors,
human powers who wield control through violence and fear.

The God who walked through Eden put on wheels —
the throne Ezekiel saw rolling through the heavens
to follow Their people into exile, and back again.

And then, this same God settled into flesh: 

For God so loved the world They’d made
that They entered into it Themself,
weaving Godself a human form within a human womb.

From boundless power to an infant in the lap
of his teenage mother, God learned to crawl, to walk,
to speak with human tongue the news They’d been proclaiming
through pillars of flame and cloud, 
through prophets’ cries and in the stillest silence.

In Jesus, God brought restoration to bodies and spirits aching
under the yoke of empire, the shackles of shame —

and then God died. 

But no tomb can restrain Life itself for long:
Christ rose with wounds — reminders of what happens
when we allow violence and fear to reign unchallenged.

This wounded Christ ascended into heaven,
but his Spirit abides with us still —
stirring up our indifference, whispering hope into our despair,
and whisking us up into the hard but holy work
of unrolling a kin-dom accessible to all.

Amen.


About this piece:

If you this piece it in your own service, please credit it to Avery Arden — and I invite you to email me at queerlychristian36@gmail.com to let me know you’re using it!

I wrote this affirmation for a worship service centered around John 20:19-30’s account of Jesus inviting Thomas to touch his wounds.

God created us to be inspirited bodies, embodied spirits — in Genesis 1, God calls not just our spirits but our bodies good — and not just some bodies, but all bodies, disabled bodies included.

Disability theologians have long been inspired by the idea that Jesus’s resurrected body keeps its wounds — wounds that would impair mobility and fine motor skills, that would cause chronic pain.

In rising with a disabled body, Jesus “redeems” disability: he evinces that disability is not brokenness, is not shameful or the result of sin; and he evinces that disability can exist separate from suffering — that suffering is not intrinsic to disability.

The idea of a wounded Christ also connects to Henri Nouwen’s concept of the “wounded healer,” which I recommend looking into if that phrase resonates with you.

The description of God as seamstress restoring a sense of dignity to Adam and Eve is inspired by Cole Arthur Riley’s book This Here Flesh, where she writes:

“On the day the world began to die, God became a seamstress. This is the moment in the Bible that I wish we talked about more often.

When Eve and Adam eat from the tree, and decay and despair begin to creep in, when they learn to hide from their own bodies, when they learn to hide from each other—no one ever told me the story of a God who kneels and makes clothes out of animal skin for them.

I remember many conversations about the doom and consequence imparted by God after humans ate from that tree. I learned of the curses, too, and could maybe even recite them. But no one ever told me of the tenderness of this moment. It makes me question the tone of everything that surrounds it.

In the garden, when shame had replaced Eve’s and Adam’s dignity, God became a seamstress. He took the skin off of his creation to make something that would allow humans to stand in the presence of their maker and one another again.

Isn’t it strange that God didn’t just tell Adam and Eve to come out of hiding and stop being silly, because he’s the one who made them and has seen every part of them? He doesn’t say that in the story, or at least we do not know if he did. But we do know that God went to great lengths to help them stand unashamed. Sometimes you can’t talk someone into believing their dignity. You do what you can to make a person feel unashamed of themselves, and you hope in time they’ll believe in their beauty all on their own.

People say we are unworthy of salvation. I disagree. Perhaps we are very much worth saving. It seems to me that God is making miracles to free us from the shame that haunts us. Maybe the same hand that made garments for a trembling Adam and Eve is doing everything he can that we might come a little closer. I pray his stitches hold. Our liberation begins with the irrevocable belief that we are worthy to be liberated, that we are worthy of a life that does not degrade us but honors our whole selves. When you believe in your dignity, or at least someone else does, it becomes more difficult to remain content with the bondage with which you have become so acquainted. You begin to wonder what you were meant for.

The idea of God on wheels comes primarily from Julia Watts Belser’s article “God on Wheels: Disability and Jewish Feminist Theology.” I highly recommend the whole article (check out the gorgeous art piece that accompanies it, if nothing else), but here’s one excerpt:

“…On the morning of the holiday of Shavuot, Jewish communities around the world chant from the book of Ezekiel, reciting the Israelite prophet’s striking image of God. The prophet speaks of a radiant fire borne on a vast chariot, lifted up by four angelic creatures with fused legs, lustrous wings, and great wheels. …One recent Shavuot, Ezekiel’s vision split open my own imagination. Hearing those words chanted, I felt a jolt of recognition, an intimate familiarity. I thought: God has wheels!

When I think of God on wheels, I think of the delight I take in my own chair. I sense the holy possibility that my own body knows, the way wheels set me free and open up my spirit. I like to think that God inhabits the particular fusions that mark a body in wheels: the way flesh flows into frame, into tire, into air. This is how the Holy moves through me, in the intricate interplay of muscle and spin, the exhilarating physicality of body and wheel, the rare promise of a wide-open space, the unabashed exhilaration of a dance floor, where wing can finally unfurl.

On wheels, I feel the tenor of the path deep in my sinews and sit bones. I come to know the intimate geography of a place: not just broad brushstrokes of terrain, but the minute fluctuations of topography, the way the wheel flows. When I roll, I pay particular attention to the interstices and intersections: the place where concrete seams together uneasily, the buckle of tree roots pushing up against asphalt, the bristle of crumbling brick.

I have come to believe this awareness reflects a quality of divine attention. Perhaps the divine presence moves through this world with a bone-deep knowledge of every crack and fissure. Perhaps God is particularly present at junctions and unexpected meetings, alert to points of encounter where two things come together…”

A similar theology around God on wheels can be found in the perspective of a Christian teen named Becky Tyler, found here. Becky says:

“When I was about 12 years old, I felt God didn’t love me as much as other people because I am in a wheelchair and because I can’t do lots of the things that other people can do. I felt this way because I did not see anyone with a wheelchair in the Bible, and nearly all the disabled people in the Bible get healed by Jesus – so they are not like me.”

She felt alienated by much of what she read in the Bible – until she was given new food for thought.

“My mum showed me a verse from the Book of Daniel (Chapter 7, Verse 9), which basically says God’s throne has wheels, so God has a wheelchair.

“In fact it’s not just any old chair, it’s the best chair in the Bible. It’s God’s throne, and it’s a wheelchair. This made me feel like God understands what it’s like to have a wheelchair and that having a wheelchair is actually very cool, because God has one.”

Categories
Autistic pride My poetry

Poem: at that banquet

there will be straws
at that banquet

and all the bread will be gluten free

and no one will go away hungry because
there was no food that fit their dietary needs

and the table will be high enough
for wheelchairs to slide easily beneath it

and no one will gawk at those of us
who have trouble sitting still so long
and stand instead, and stomp our feet

and no one will grab our flapping wrists and hiss, “quiet hands!”
(God, i cannot wait to never hear that hateful phrase again)

and Jesus, there you will be,
not at the head of the table

but in the middle of things
breaking bread with hands that struggle a little,
impeded by the damage done to your fine motor skills
when the nails pierced your wrists

and with a wheelchair stationed behind you
that friends can push you in when the chronic pain
in your nail-damaged feet becomes too much

and we will all share in the lopsided chunks
of gluten free bread that is your body
or the cups of juice with straws in them that is your blood

and there will be laughter, oh there will be laughter
loud and carefree

communicated through AAC
or sign language or smiling mouths
as we finally learn what it means to be

truly One: united, not in spite of but through
diversity.


[image: a mural by Hyatt Moore based on Luke 14′s parable of the banquet. There’s a blue background and lots of people gathered at a long table with a white tablecloth piled with food. There are persons of many different races and cultures and with various disabilities, including several in wheelchairs or with canes or crutches, several who have down syndrome, one with a service dog, and so on. Jesus stands near the right end of the canvas, conversing with a child of color in a wheelchair and an older Black man in a wheelchair. /end id]


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 wrote this poem as part of a project on disability theology for a class in seminary. I began my research into Luke 14’s parable of the banquet during that project, and I’m pretty sure at this point I’ve read more articles and books on Luke 14 than any other scripture passage (except perhaps Exodus 4). You can watch me discuss this text at length on my YouTube channel in the video “Luke 14 – Disabled persons are vital guests at God’s banquet.”

This poem is one of a few in which I try to envision what “perfect accessibility” would look like. In our own world, such a thing is nigh impossible, because sometimes what accommodates me may actually harm another disabled person. For instance, I struggle with loud chaotic noises and crowds, which are pretty much unavoidable at a banquet scene like the one in Luke 14 or in this poem! Could the banquet hall include a side chamber for people like me to calm down when needed – but somehow not isolate us? Will my autism manifest itself differently in heaven so that I do not become so overwhelmed by crowds – without losing what makes me me? These are important questions to explore as we work to make our faith communities as welcoming and accessible as possible – even while knowing we probably will never get it perfect for everyone. Being willing to own up to our mistakes and truly listen to what individuals say they actually need is key.

Some notes that might help in the reading of this poem:

  • Straws are mentioned a couple times as they are a vital tool to some disabled people and movements to ban straws were spreading across the United States when I wrote this poem. See this article for more information: https://www.vox.com/first-person/2018/7/19/17587676/straws-plastic-ban-disability
  • the mentioned phrase quiet hands is one frequently used in abusive therapies (such as ABA) that try to get autistic people to be as “normal” (read: non-autistic) as possible. “Quiet Hands” is a command to keep one’s hands still rather than stimming with them. Being forced to repress behaviors that come naturally, such as stimming, can go so far as to cause PTSD in autistic people. See this webpage for more information: http://autism.wikia.com/wiki/Quiet_Hands
  • AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication – methods of communicating apart from verbal speech. AAC devices include writing in a notebook and electronic speech-generating devices. See this webpage for more information: https://www.prentrom.com/caregivers/what-is-augmentative-and-alternative-communication-aac
  • For more on Jesus’s own disabling wounds, with which he chose to rise and ascend into heaven, check out The Disabled God by Nancy Eiesland or by listen to/read my sermon on John 20 The Wounds of Jesus: Goodness Embodied.”
    …Or just email me – it’s like my favorite topic ever and I’m always thrilled to get to discuss it!

“The disabled God is God for whom interdependence is not a possibility to be willed from a position of power, but a necessary condition for life. …For many people with disabilities, too, mutual care is a matter of survival.

To posit a Jesus Christ who needs care and mutuality
as essential to human-divine survival does not symbolize either humanity or divinity as powerless.
Instead it debunks the myth of individualism and hierarchical orders, in which transcendence means breaking free of encumbrances and needing nobody and constitutes the divine as somebody in relation to other bodies.”

– Nancy Eiesland in The Disabled God

“The text [of Luke 14] clearly situates people with impairments at the final banquet just as they are, not with their impairments erased or made invisible. …Consistent with the presence of the scars on Jesus’ resurrected body, here the marks of impairment are not cured or expunged.

What would a world in which impairments
will not be eliminated but rather “redeemed” look like? For Eiesland, such a world is one in which justice comes for disabled people in the form of perfect accessibility and mutuality:
a justice that removes the barriers which constrain our bodies, keep us excluded, and intend to humiliate us.’”

– Amos Yong in The Bible, Disability, and the Church

Categories
Call to worship Charge and Benediction Holy Days Liturgy Opening prayer

Jesus of the Wounds: Call to worship and benediction for the Second Sunday of Easter

CALL TO WORSHIP

Today we continue our celebration of the Resurrection.
Today, we worship Jesus of the Scars.

Today, we reach out to touch his side –
by reaching out to those who are struggling around us. 

We come with our own small victories.
We come with our own wounds some scarred over,
some still bruising.

We come, still burdened by weariness
over the suffering we feel and see;
We come, because although we don’t yet fully see
the new life won for us, still we hope. Still we believe.

Let us worship Jesus Christ, God with us,
through whom we rise to new, abundant life.
Hallelujah!


OPENING PRAYER

Jesus of the Outstretched Palms,

Though your work is already complete,
though you have liberated us from Death for good and all,
still we dwell in a liminal space:
Already we are transformed,
but not yet do we see all the fruits of that transformation.

Instead, we see scars.

Jesus of the wounded hands and side,
we see your wounds reflected in the world around us.
we feel them on our own hearts.

Jesus, your side, your hands, your feet
bear the marks of your love for us,
your solidarity with every person across the ages
who has been condemned and tortured by human powers.

Glory to you, Wounded Healer.
Glory to you, God of those with wounds.

Amen.


BENEDICTION

Jesus,

You who heal all humanity, all Creation,
bear wounds that we can see and touch.

Send your Spirit to give us the courage to reach out,
to touch them on the bodies and hearts of those around us.

Emboldened by the Good News of your redemption,
we head out into your world. 
We will be your hands.

Though wounded ourselves, we join you in healing your wounded.

We rejoice to know that you will be with us –
Leading us ever closer to Fullness of Life.
Amen.

ALTERNATIVE BENEDICTION

In worship we have been nourished
by our Wounded Healer’s very body –
and now They send us out to be Their hands.

Though we too are wounded, we rejoice
that God empowers us to do this work
and does not leave us to do it alone.

So let us go now, into a bruised world
in desperate need of healing hands and listening hearts

rejoicing that the one who Bore us, who Heals us, who Sustains us
goes out with us.

Amen.

Categories
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.