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Affirmation of Faith Holy Days Liturgy

Affirmation of Faith: Trinity whose very existence is relationship, you have made us for relationship

Leader:

As one, let us affirm the faith that ties us together
while lifting up the wisdom of some of our fellow witnesses.

All:

We believe in the Triune God
whose very existence is relationship.

Although this Trinity is the one Being 
who could be fully self-sufficient
They chose instead to let Their love flow out 
into the formless void
and explode emptiness into life.

The dance of planets around stars, 
stars around galaxies,
each body’s gravity tying it to 
the bodies spiraling all around,
exemplifies the truth of all created things:
that we are bound to one another.

It is as God proclaimed
after  fashioning the first human from the earth:
“It is not good for the human to be alone.”

Leader:

And that is why, trans Jewish Bible scholar Liam Hooper says, God took the lonely first human and split them into two humans who would depend upon each other:

“This earthling now is two. … So everything is exploded, and re-formed, and re-shaped, and re-imagined for the sole purpose of relationship. …God is telling us that self-sufficiency, and self-reliance, and self-care alone isn’t enough — ….that we need to be in full authentic relationship with each other in order to be in full relationship with God.”

All:

We believe that this Creator God 
so loved and desired relationship with the world They’d made
that They squeezed their infinity into finite flesh
to live among us, share our joy and grief, pleasure and pain.

This miracle relied upon the yes
of one poor Jewish teenager in Rome-occupied Palestine.
Ever respectful of our free will,
The Sustainer of the Universe asked Mary
if she would sustain Them with her own body,
conceiving and birthing and nursing her own Creator.

Mary’s daring yes was not the only yes in this story!
She would rely on her bonds with others
Elizabeth and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, 
Mary Magdalene and the Beloved Disciple — 
to live into God’s call.

We believe that these are the kinds of bonds
that tie all of us together,
and that the Body of Christ is not whole
until all voices are honored, all gifts celebrated.

Leader:

As Christian writer Rachel Held Evans once wrote,

“My theology is only as rich as the diversity of the people who have contributed to it, and it is a poor theology indeed that considers only the perspectives of those who look, think, and live just like me.”

All:

We believe that God’s gift to us through Jesus 
is the restoration of all relationships.
We strive towards that restoration 
here and now wherever possible,
and look forward to enjoying it in full 
in the world to come.


I wrote this liturgy for a Trinity Sunday service that focused on Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth, connecting our relationships with one another to our relationship to God and God’s own self-relationship in the Trinity.

The quotation from Liam Hooper comes from an episode of his Bible Bash podcast.

The quotation from Rachel Held Evans comes from a Facebook post she wrote in 2014.

Categories
Affirmation of Faith Call to worship Charge and Benediction Confession and Pardon easter Holy Days Invitation to the table LGBT/queer Liturgy Opening prayer Prayer after Communion Prayers of the People

Acts 8 & John 15 Liturgy: eunuchs, intersex & trans persons, & all outcasts welcome in God’s expansive love

Call to Worship

Beloved community, let us draw the circle wide!
And draw it wider still.

Each of us is here because something draws us to the Divine
as expressed in the Person of Jesus.
We come to explore what it is that draws us here,
in community with neighbors who can teach us 
what it is that draws them here.

We come with questions, struggles, doubts.
We come with unique perspectives that enrich the whole community.

We come in vast diversity of mind, body, being,
to live into a unity that does not quell our differences, but celebrates them.

We come to abide in the love of Jesus,
and to learn to bear good fruit that lasts.

Come, let us join in worship of the God of love
Who teaches us what true love is.

OPENING PRAYER

O God whose love sustains us, restores us, abides in us,
Send your mischievous Spirit whirling through our midst
in the many different spaces from which we gather.

Let Her galvanize our hearts
so that our worship will empower us for the work
into which you invite us:

For you do not call us servants,
nor does your power rely on dominance;
But instead you call us friends, co-laborers whose joys and sorrows
you know as deeply as if they were your own.

Loving God, Living God,
you guide us into true love, into true life
that consists of enough for all humans, all creatures,
and that will restore all relationships
between neighbors, enemies, strangers
and with you, our Friend.

Amen.


Confession and Pardon

CALL TO RECONCILIATION

Our sin, individual and collective, is almost too much to bear. 
It would be easier not to face it — but to pretend it is not there is to let it fester. 

So let us face it together. 

PRAYER OF CONFESSION 

Jesus asks only this of us: 
that we love one another just as he loves us — 
a love without conditions, a love that liberates!

But again and again, we choose hate, or fear, or control
not only with those we call enemies
but even with our family, our friends.

The love of God is a love that acts,
a love that bears fruit that lasts,
but we continue to think of love in terms of simple words,
saying “love” with our mouths 
but acting in ways that harm,
or failing to act at all.

God’s Spirit bursts through all walls we build
to separate “us” from “them” — 
but we build them back, unsure of what we’d be
without an “Other” on whom to project our insecurities,
on whom to blame our misfortunes 
or the consequences of our own crimes.

Created for abundance, 
we live as hostages of scarcity.
We steal from our neighbors
and hoard whatever resources, whatever power 
we can get our hands on.

_____

Siblings in the One who lived, died, and rose for us,
even when we fail to abide in God’s love,
still, still God abides in us — 
chooses to call us friend,
chooses to lift us up.

Thus we are redeemed — 
not through any effort of our own 
but simply through love
deeper and truer than we can imagine.

Empowered by this remarkable gift of grace,
Let us share Christ’s love and peace with one another.

The peace of Christ be with you. And also with you. 


Affirmation of Faith

Even while celebrating our diversity of thought
and making room for questions and new interpretations,
there are some beliefs that we who join ourselves to the church
have committed ourselves to holding in common.

As one, let us affirm that shared faith:

We believe in the God from whom all life flows,
who created all that is — seen and unseen,
physical and spiritual — 
and declared all of it Good.

Her blessing comes before 
and follows after 
any curse — 

for every instant that
our existence is sustained
attests to Her unfailing love
in which we move, and live, and have our being. 

We believe in the irresistible Spirit
who pervades the world 
and abides with whomever Xe choses
with no regard for the boxes and boundaries 
that humankind constructs.

To the dismay of worldly powers,
this Spirit bestows special care upon the most reviled and despised,
those deemed weak and worthless in human eyes.

Among this number are the eunuchs of scripture
who hail from various cultures and faiths,
who knew both enslavement and status,
whose binary-breaking existence disturbs human norms
but delights the Spirit of Upturned Expectations — 

from the eunuchs who helped Esther navigate a fearful situation
to Ashpenaz, who loved the prophet Daniel tenderly;
and from Ebed-Melech, who saved the prophet Jeremiah;
to the eunuch who encountered Philip
with graciousness and eagerness to learn.

We believe in the Word Made Flesh
whose love for those eunuchs and all whom this world Others
is so strong that, upon entering embodied life,
Jesus identified himself as a “eunuch for the Kin-dom.”

In Jesus, God knows intimately what it is
to be marginalized, misunderstood,
and subjected to bodily mistreatment.

We believe that, after his life among us 
and his rising from death on a Roman cross,
Jesus restored us into right relationship 
with the One who made us, sustains us,
and whose Spirit guides us still
in the work of ushering in God’s Kin-dom.

Amen.


Prayers of the People / Pastoral Prayer

Sisters, siblings, and brothers in Christ,
though already God has gathered us together
to abide as one in Their unfailing love,
still, still so many of us feel cut off, outcast, unloved.

So let us pray:

For those who have been cut off from their communities 
because of who they love, who they are, or what they believe,
we pray that God’s unconditional love will guide them
into chosen families who cherish them as they are.

For those who feel cut off and discarded by societies
that shove people aside when age, illness, or disability 
keeps them from fulfilling impossible standards of productivity,
we pray for loved ones that honor their inherent worth,
and for more just laws to protect them from abuse and neglect 
and enable their full participation in our communities.

For those who feel cut off from their cultures:
For refugees forced to flee their homelands, 
immigrants who leave places and people they love behind,
Indigenous peoples and others whose traditions 
are attacked and targeted for extinction,
we pray for strength and courage to resist assimilation,
for solidarity and resources that empower them
to preserve and revitalize their cultures.

For those who feel cut off from the global community
as they cry out for support — 
particularly for the people of India and Brazil
as COVID19 ravages their nations;
and for the people of Colombia
who are under attack from their own government;
we pray for a global outcry, compassion, and action on their behalf.

O God who gathers the outcasts
and gives them places of honor,
hear and respond to every prayer 
we lift up to you aloud or in the quiet of our hearts.

We give you thanks for your faithful love:
guide us to abide in that love
so that we may learn to love our fellow human beings
and all your good Creation
with the same love you first extended to us.

Amen.


Invitation to the Offering

Only when we all come together, 
only when each person is appreciated
for the different gifts and perspectives they bring
is the Body of Christ whole.

So let us offer whatever we have — 
time, skills, resources — 
to the God from whom we receive all things
for the furthering of Her Kin(g)dom
where all needs are met at Her expansive table.


Invitation to Christ’s Table

If you ask, “Does anything prevent me from this communion table? Would anyone tell me I am not welcome here?” this is Christ’s reply:

“Nothing and no one can keep you from God’s table, from God’s community, from God’s love. Let no one tell you otherwise.”

Friends, come to the feast! You are not only welcome; you are needed and appreciated. 


Prayer after Communion

Words cannot express
the wonder of the Spirit’s gathering power,
the miracle of Christ’s life nourishing us across time and space.

May we who have been fed
enact our gratitude out in the world
by joining the Spirit in Her holy work
of breaking down the boundaries that divide
and building up communities that restore.


Charge and Benediction

Friends in Christ,

In worshipping the God who loves us,
we have been reminded of the goodness of our diversity
joining together in one Body.

Gratitude is our response: 
Gratitude for the God who chose us, who abides in us,
and who goes out with us now
to bring love, justice, and peace into a hungry world.

So let us go, glorifying God with our lives!


I wrote this liturgy for an Easter season service centered around Acts 8:26-40’s story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, also tying in John 15:9-17’s instructions to love one another as Jesus loved us. You can view the worship service here.

You can read my sermon transcript here. In the sermon, I discuss the importance of reading scripture together and interpret Philip through an autistic lens and the eunuch through a trans lens.

Categories
Holy Days My poetry

poem for Good Friday: Jesus, let me pray for you

my God,
would it be odd
if i prayed for you?

Jesus, heart of my heart,
heart of all the cosmos – your heart
struggled –
             stammered –
                                      stopped.

thank you.

(i am
so sorry.)

thank you.

when you walked the earth you lived to liberate,
to serve, to ease, to lead towards flourishing:

you broke down and sobbed
when those you loved were crying,
extended your hands to those
desperate for human touch,
invited the high-up
to come down and dine
with the ones you’d raised from the dirt –

and still, today, right now,
your very Breath rushes down
to comfort, to stir up, to galvanize:

unfurls Herself in hospital rooms
where breaths come labored – slow – and
stop;

gusts through grocery stores, buoys up
the worker with the fearful mind
and aching feet;

sweeps through power’s halls
upturning spreadsheets,
tugging at shirtsleeves.

but
just for today
the day you died

please

let me
pray for you

let me cry out with you
the cry ripped from your chest
as the cross claimed your breath,
dripped out your lifeblood,
throttled your lungs’ rising

My God! My God!…

Jesus, heart of my heart,
heart of all the cosmos!

will you take a little rest
in these hours your heart was stopped?

let us attend to the aching world
for just this little while.

how urgently i wish
i could stop your pain

pull out the nails my kin drove in-
to your skin and sinew

staunch the whole world’s bleeding
while you sleep the deep,
dreamless sleep of the tomb…

if i cannot do any of that,
then let me do this:

you who ache
with every broken heart,
who bruise alongside
every trampled body,

today
let me ache with you.


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:

This was my prayer for Good Friday, 2020: Jesus, every day of the year, every instant of eternity, you care for the oppressed, the sick, the despairing. You suffer alongside us. For just this day, let us suffer with you.

Categories
Affirmation of Faith LGBT/queer Liturgy

Affirmation of faith in a Queer God

[One:]

To try to define the Divine
in human words is a fool’s errand –
but luckily for us, God delights in making the foolish wise.

Emboldened thus, let us unite our many voices
to confess what little we know of this queer God:

[All:]

We believe in the Triune God, incomprehensible
and yet invested in revealing Themself to us,
in helping us understand and truly know Them
in every place and time, among all peoples –
but especially those the world dismisses
as broken, worthless, foolish. 

We believe that the God who conceived of the cosmos,
brooded over its rolling waters like a mother hen
and then exclaimed over Her newly-birthed worlds,
“Good! very Good!”

is the same God who came to a small and subjugated people
and made them Her own.
We marvel that this God to whom belongs all power and glory
has a soft spot for the world’s outsiders and outcasts –
for She Herself is the ultimate stranger.

We believe that in the Person of Jesus Christ,
that same God – despite being beyond human constructs
like class and ethnicity and gender –
entered an impoverished household, entered a Jewish Palestinian body,
became one with that same oppressed and colonized people
with whom Xe had for so long persevered in relationship,
and was assigned male at birth.

But Jesus of Nazareth defied the gender roles assigned to him:
instead of settling down with a wife,
Jesus consorted with strange women, exalted eunuchs,
reached out to Samaritans and Syrophoenicians,
and traipsed across the region with a motley crew
of the very kinds of folk no respectable man would even greet.

A parable in himself, he shared queer stories
of a world turned on its head, where the last are first
and the powerful must relinquish their power –

And, in the ultimate display of solidarity
with all those whom the powerful persecute across the ages, 
Jesus was executed by Empire on a cross, dying between
two other “common criminals.”

But this was not the end of his story, nor ours:
this ultimate breaker of human binaries –
between Creator and creature, man and woman, have and have-not –
demolished the divide between death and life for good.
Jesus rose, lifting all of us with him, from death and into heaven –

but even so, Divinity dwells among us still,
for we believe in the Holy Spirit, the very Breath in our lungs,
the Breeze that comforts us, the Wind that stirs us to action
and sweeps us up into the revolution that is
God’s impossible incoming Kin(g)dom.


I wrote this affirmation for a More Light Sunday service, which is celebrated by the PC(USA) every October on the Sunday nearest to National Coming Out Day.

For more on God as the ultimate stranger, check out Joy Ladin’s book The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective.

The image of God as a bird brooding over the waters of Creation comes straight from Genesis 1:2. See footnote 11 of Genesis 1 on this website for details about the Hebrew verb used to describe “the Spirit of God ‘moving’ over the waters” in this verse.

For more on Jesus as the divine assigned male at birth and living a gender nonconforming life, check out the section “Assigned Male at Incarnation: An Intersex and Transgender Jesus” on my webpage here.

Categories
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.

Categories
Confession and Pardon Liturgy

Confession and Pardon – Wisdom’s presence where we fail to look

CALL TO CONFESSION

Beloved Community,
God delights in defying our expectations.
Right when we think we have it all figured out,
then we are at our most foolish.
When we think we are better or holier than others,
then we are at our lowest.

So as one let us confess our sins
to the God who casts down the mighty
and lifts up the humble.


CONFESSION

Wisdom whispers Her secrets to those the world rejects,
but we do not hear Her echo in their voices,
for we are too busy ignoring, exploiting, or shaming them.

Wisdom enters through the cracks in our hearts and minds,
but we fail to recognize Her in ourselves,
too lost in our worries, our pain, or self-loathing.

Holy Wisdom calling from the heights!
Have mercy on us when we deny your image
in others or in ourselves.

Gentle Wisdom crooning in our hearts!
Liberate us from the doubts and fears
that sever our ties to community
and paint those different from us as enemies.

Mighty Wisdom whirling through our midst!
Stir up our stagnant spirits till they sing
with a renewed resolve to carry out your will.


ASSURANCE OF PARDON

Dear friends,
Truly God’s grace covers every sin.
We need not fear rejection from God
who names imperfect people like us Beloved.

Assured of God’s mercy, we can move forward
with hearts a little more open to Wisdom’s call,
a little more ready to notice Her where we wouldn’t think to look.

Categories
Confession and Pardon LGBT/queer Liturgy Weddings

Confession and Pardon for a queer wedding

CALL TO CONFESSION

God desires that all Creation might be one, 
that love be central to human life; 
and that all beings might dwell together in right relationship. 

Trusting in God’s mercy, let us come to God and acknowledge
all that separates us from love’s source, all that wounds creation.
Let us pray:


PRAYER OF CONFESSION

Creator, you fashioned us with care and called us Good. 
Yet we point fingers at one another,
calling each other broken, evil, wrong.

Liberator, you freed us from the captivity of our own limitations and fears, teaching us your Truth, 
yet we continue to subject one another to yokes of falsehood, cruelty, and shame.  

Mischievous Spirit, you flow wherever you will, breathing fresh life into long-dead things and blowing down the walls we build – 
yet we lean into death and division, tearing your Creation apart.
We construct national borders and gender and race
to hold all that is different from us at arm’s length.

Forgive us. Nourish and invigorate us. 
Empower us to love bigger, seek deeper –
teach us how to join you in healing the world where we can.


ASSURING OF PARDON

Hear God’s words of grace for us, for you: 
“And I, once I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

This is the new thing God has done and is doing: 
She has freed us from suffering and injustice
so that we might live into the goodness we were made to inhabit. 

Let this truth liberate you and bring you peace: you are forgiven. 
Let us share the peace of Jesus with one another – especially with those strangers who today become our family. 

(passing of the peace)

Friends new and old, we have been freed from sin and suffering –
and freed for joy and love. 

It is one iteration of that God-given love
that brings us together today:

The love uniting [name] and [name].


This is the liturgy I wrote for the wedding between me and Leah. Some of the sins I bring to this confession are ones inflicted particularly against LGBTQA+ persons. God calls us to a world of joy and justice, where such hatred is no more, so that we all might live and serve together.

Categories
Charge and Benediction Liturgy

General benedictions – thanksgiving, joy, solidarity, lament

Below are several charges + benedictions that may be fitting for various worship services – some for general or joyful services, and others for services that focus on lament or solidarity with the oppressed.


Friends,
The Triune God whose self-sustaining love overflows into all Creation,
who whirls into our lives and sweeps us up in Their lively dance,

now sends us dancing out into Their world
to fill its empty aching with God’s love,
to subdue its pain with Their peace,
to make Their good news known far and wide
in what we say and what we do.

So let us go, glorifying the Source of life in all we do
and growing in Their love.

Let us go, following after the Redeemer of life
and striving to follow the example He set through His ministry.

Let us go, hand in hand with the Sustainer of life
allowing Her to use our hands to transform death
into new, radiant, abundant life for all creation.
Amen.


[referencing protests and activism]

Siblings in Christ,

Nourished by song and by scripture, by God’s Word proclaimed and Christ’s Body shared, it is time for us to go and be a nourishment to others. Whether at home or at work, at the park or at a protest, let us live out God’s good news of liberation and community for the world. 

Go in peace, go with courage, in the name of the One who creates, sustains, and redeems you.


[drawing loosely from Exodus 17:1-7]

Beloved community,

How can we thank God for the abundance that Xe has lavished upon us here? Only by responding in kind, by feeding one another as God has fed us. 

So let us go now, encouraged by the knowledge that we do not go alone:
we have each other;
and the one who Creates, Sustains, and Redeems us is in our midst,
blessing and empowering us for the work ahead.


[drawing from Psalm 23]

Shepherd God,

We have worshiped you and praised you for gathering us,
diverse as we are, into one flock.
Now, it is time for us to enter back into the world.

Lead us forth, guiding us through valleys and shadows,
protecting us as we dine not only with friends
but also with foes,
in the hopes of becoming one with them too.

Help us to be shepherds as well as your sheep,
guiding one another through valleys of shadow
to food, to water, to rest.

The way is not easy, but we rejoice,
because you guide us always
and because you give us to one another
to serve you and to be your church together.

Amen.


[suitable for services of lament / that address suffering, anger, etc.]

Comrades in Christ,
Here we have received good reason to believe
that the God of the Oppressed is with us in solidarity

– not only when we are content or joyful
but also when we are grieving,
when we are enraged,
when we feel disappointed in God,
when we cannot feel God.

Assured of God’s steadfast presence, let us go out
into a world full of grief and disappointment,
full of downtrodden spirits and tortured bodies,
and join God in Their solidarity with all who cry out for justice.

Amen.


Categories
Affirmation of Faith Liturgy

Affirmation of faith: Creator God who pulls open every shut door

As one, let us affirm our faith.

We believe in one Triune God, Creator of all things.
In that Beginning shared in Genesis,
She brooded over watery darkness, as in the womb,
and gave birth to Creation in all its remarkable diversity — 

including the day and night, and the various shades of dawn and dusk between;
including the sea and land, and the shores at which they meet;
including the plants and all kinds of animals, and beyond them
— the mollusks and fungi, and unicellular life…

and, finally, including human beings
with our vast diversity of mind and body
all crafted in the divine image.

We believe in one Triune God, Redeemer of humanity,
who came to Abraham and Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael,
Jacob and Rachel and Joseph;
who came to Moses — a stranger in a strange land, unsure of where he belonged — and liberated the Hebrew people from their bondage;

and who, in the Person of Jesus Christ,
entered Creation to liberate all peoples from all forms of bondage,
to redeem us even from sin, even from death itself. 

We believe in one Triune God, Sustainer of all things,
in whom we live, and move, and have our being

whose Spirit breathes life back into parched lands and withered hearts,
and pulls open every door we would keep shut,
sweeps away every line we draw in the sand.


I wrote this for a virtual service on August 16, 2020 (15A Proper), a service that centered around themes of reconciliation and interdependence. I preached on Genesis 45:1-15, exploring Joseph’s gender nonconformity as a source for the brothers’ violence against Joseph; how Joseph was brought from suffering into thriving and was celebrated for the very gifts that the brothers had hated; and how Joseph as the wronged party got to choose how and when reconciliation would take place.

Meanwhile, I wove that theme of reconciliation into my liturgy alongside our need for community and to draw the circles of our community ever wider, drawing from the alternative reading Isaiah 56:1-8.

To read or watch my sermon, visit here.

Categories
Call to worship Liturgy

Call to worship and opening prayer: draw the circle wide; God gathers us in our diversity

Beloved community, let us draw the circle wide!
And draw it wider still.

We come — laden with doubts, fears, resentments —
to worship the God who gives us faith, courage, renewal. 

We come — overwhelmed with remorse,
or struggling with what it means to forgive — 
to worship the God who teaches us true restoration. 

We come — with identities varied as the colors of the rainbow —
to worship the God who weaves our many threads into one tapestry.

We come, and the circle is drawn wide — and wider — and wider still!
Not by our strength, not by our merit, but through God’s grace.


OPENING PRAYER

God the Gatherer,
God the Grafter,
God the Weaver of our many threads into a colorful whole —
In which no color drowns out any other, and all have their role in the tapestry — 

Open us to your presence today, now!
Pour like rain into the cracked soil of our parched spirits; 
Seep into our dreams and set us alight with grand new visions of You.

Nourishing rain in desert places,
Night’s relief among sun-burned sands,
Revitalize us so we can worship you 
With the joy and wholeheartedness you deserve.

Amen.


I wrote this for a virtual service on August 16, 2020 (15A Proper), a service that centered around themes of reconciliation and interdependence. I preached on Genesis 45:1-15, exploring Joseph’s gender nonconformity as a source for the brothers’ violence against Joseph; how Joseph was brought from suffering into thriving and was celebrated for the very gifts that the brothers had hated; and how Joseph as the wronged party got to choose how and when reconciliation would take place.

Meanwhile, I wove that theme of reconciliation into my liturgy alongside our need for community and to draw the circles of our community ever wider, drawing from the alternative reading Isaiah 56:1-8. This is why the above liturgy is all about expanding our community and God’s gathering of all persons.

To read or watch my sermon, visit here.