Categories
advent Holy Days Liturgy Multifaith My poetry Reflections for worship services

intertwined inceptions:

written upon realizing that the first days
of Chanukah and Advent coincided this year

Happy Chanukah to those who celebrate it, and blessed Advent to those who observe it! Constructive criticism on this poem is invited and appreciated — particularly from any Jewish folks who take the time to point out any accidental misrepresentations of your holiday.

Image description below; or you can read the poem in its original format outside of screenshots in this google doc.

If you are interested in using this piece in a worship service or elsewhere, email me at queerlychristian36@gmail.com.


Images show the text of a poem titled “intertwined inceptions: written upon realizing that the first days of Chanukkah and Advent coincided this year.”

The poem’s format places lines about Advent to the left, and lines about Hanukkah to the right, with lines about both in the center. This is difficult to transliterate in a screen-reader friendly way, so I’ll put an “A” before each Advent bit, an “H” before each Hanukkah bit, and a “B” for shared lines.

A:
four tall tapers
ring round a fifth
on their bed of pine branches

H:
eight tall tapers
proudly flank the ninth
along their branching arms

B:
and one candle
lights another

A:
upon an altar draped
in royal purple.

H:
where passersby may glimpse
through windowpanes.

B:
we marvel at

A:
the Word made Flesh —
the miracle of Yes:

“I, Most High sovereign, will become
the lowest, weakest, poorest one!”

“I’ll bear my own Creator in my womb
— with joy, let it be done!”

H:
“a great miracle happened here” —
the miracle of
Enough:

a mighty army brought to shame
by one small hammer in God’s name

and a pittance of oil stretched
across eight days’ flames…

B:
we remember

A:
the stronghold of her stomach

stretched around
the Son of God:

seed of Divinity
growing in a womb-dark sea…

H:
the stronghold of the sanctuary
retaken and restored

by that dedicated band who’d rather die
than forsake their Lord.

B:
we praise!

A:
Magnificat anima mea Dominum
et exultavit spiritus meus
in Deo salutari meo

God casts down
the mighty from their thrones,
lifts up the humble,
fills the hungry with good things,
and sends the rich away empty!

H:
Baruch atah Adonai
Eloheinu melech ha-olam
asher kid’shanu b-mitzvotav

G-d brings up the poor out of the dirt;
from the refuse piles
G-d raises the destitute
to seat them with the nobles!

B:
we await

A:
the Kin-dom of God —
the world made whole!
a table set for all!

H:
tikkun olam —
the righting of the world!
and we must play our role.

B:
we join
we wait
we eat
we praise

H:
and the candlelight

A:
and the candlelight

B:
and the candlelight extends
a hand to shadow —
scoops her up into a flickering dance
across the walls

H:
across the pains

A:
across our upturned faces

B:
and singing fills the darkness round and full
and singing fills the darkness round and full
and rises to the One who blesses
all

Categories
Invitation to the table LGBT/queer Liturgy

Invitation to the Table: “If the world tells you that you are unworthy…”

If the world tells you that you are unworthy of a seat at the table,
that your presence is unwelcome or even unwholesome,
know that Jesus extends an invitation to you personally.

This table does not belong to human beings,
but to the God who delights in you,
Who welcomes you without demanding you be anything
but your own beautiful self.

Come, join this joyful feast without fear.

God has set a place just for you.


About this piece:

I wrote this affirmation for my church’s More Light Sunday service, an LGBTQA/queer-focused service. Themes included learning how to love ourselves, our neighbors, and our God; reclaiming scripture from those who have weaponized it; and the power of story.

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 thought of a poem by slats toole as I wrote this invitation. You can read the poem here. And you can buy their collection Queering Lent here.

Categories
Affirmation of Faith LGBT/queer Liturgy

Affirmation of Faith: Queer God who came out to Moses…& other biblical coming out stories

The love of our queer God
unites us into one Body —
not in spite of, but in celebration of
our varied gifts and roles in
the story God is telling even now.

As one, let us affirm some of what we believe
about the God who is for us
when we are in the closet, and when we come out,
when we receive our loved ones with rejoicing
and when we strive to understand.

We believe in the God who came out to Moses
from the midst of unburned branches
with a name They had never revealed before —

a name shared with love, shared as an invitation
into deeper relationship, deeper understanding
of the God Who Is and Who Will Be
the steadfast ally of shunned and shackled peoples.

We believe in the God of Joseph, 
who takes tattered lives
and weaves them into wholeness.

When Joseph came out to his brothers
as a dress-draped dreamer
and faced their violent rejection,

God went with Joseph into slavery, into imprisonment,
and out again, guiding his way into flourishing.

But They also stayed
with Joseph’s brothers,
never ceasing to work on their hard hearts,
preparing them for the tearful reunion
where they would embrace Joseph’s differences
as life-bringing gifts.

We believe in the God of Esther, 
who protected her from being outed unwillingly
in a place hostile to her very being;

and who, when the time came to act,
filled her with the courage and power she needed
to use what privilege she had
to save the more vulnerable members of her people.

We believe in the God of Mary,
the teenage girl who faced disgrace
by coming out as full of grace

pregnant with divinity —

yet she did so boldly, joyously,
recognizing the hand of God
in the status quo’s upturning.

We believe in Jesus, whose identity 
as God’s beloved son and God Themself,
as Word made Flesh and Life that died
is too complex for human minds to fathom —

yet Jesus yearned to be known,
to be understood by those who loved him most!
He asked them earnestly, “Who do you say that I am?”
but told them not to out him to the world
before he was ready to share his truth in his own time —
And oh, how he’d shine!

We believe that the God
who liberated Lazurus from his tomb,
and who overcame death
by rising from a tomb of his own,

is the selfsame Spirit
who enters into the tombs
we build around ourselves
or shove our neighbors into;

She looses our bindings
and pulls us into Her great Upturning.

Amen.


About this piece:

I wrote this affirmation for my church’s More Light Sunday service, an LGBTQA/queer-focused service. Themes included learning how to love ourselves, our neighbors, and our God; reclaiming scripture from those who have weaponized it; and the power of story.

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!

Further Reading

For more on Joseph through a queer & trans lens:

For more on Esther through a queer lens:

For more on Mary through a queer & trans lens:

For more on Jesus through a queer & trans lens:

For more on Lazarus through a queer & trans lens:

[image: a digital painting of Joseph of Genesis by tomato-bird on tumblr, a figure with light brown skin, brown eyes, and curly dark hair sitting in a field. They have their head propped on one hand as they sit, gazing off into the distance with a sunset or sunrise blushed sky behind them. And from their shoulders extends a gorgeous, flowing cape, rising upward behind them as if caught on the wind so that its colors blend with the blushing sky – ripples of vibrant red and blue, with orange and yellow stars plus a moon and sun scattered along the fabric. / end id]

Categories
Call to worship LGBT/queer Liturgy Multifaith Opening prayer

Call to Worship & Opening Prayer: Queer God with diverse children

Call to Worship

Gracious God,
in this time of worship and wonder, story and song
into which you have gathered us,

we marvel at the wondrous diversity of your human creation.
Each of us — Black, white, Latine, Asian, Indigenous, and beyond — 
is an integral part of your magnificent spectrum.

You call us to join in joyous worship, just as we are.

Each of us — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, and beyond —
is an integral part of your magnificent spectrum.

You call us into community, just as we are.

Each of us — with our bodies of diverse shapes, sizes, and abilities —
is an integral part of your magnificent spectrum.

You call us Good, you call us whole and holy, just as we are.

Each of us — of all sexualities and genders, all these ways of being and loving —
is an integral part of your magnificent spectrum.

You call us to share the gifts you gave us, just as we are.

Opening Prayer

Queer God beyond our knowing,
we glimpse your vastness in the diversity of your children
who together bear your image.

Queer Trinity, both One and Three,
your very Being shows us how to be:
honoring each person’s uniqueness,
and valuing our interconnectedness. 

Queer God, 
On this More Light Sunday, we humbly pray and act
for the full affirmation and inclusion of all of our LGBTQ+ siblings.

Amen.


About this piece:

I co-wrote this call to worship, and wrote the opening prayer, for my church’s More Light Sunday service, an LGBTQA/queer-focused service. You could edit the last two lines to take out the reference to More Light Sunday if using it for general worship.

If you use 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!

Categories
Confession and Pardon Liturgy

Confession & Pardon: Learning to Face Hard Truths with the Prophet Amos

Call to Confession

God sent the prophet Amos to Israel
to warn the rich and powerful
that the natural consequence of their mistreatment of the vulnerable 
would be destruction for all.

In many ways, the modern United States 
is not unlike that ancient nation —

A land of plenty only for the powerful few,
while the oppressed go hungry and unheard.

So come, let us confess our failings
by hearing some of Amos’s words
as if they were proclaimed to us.

Prayer of Confession

“Alas for those who are at ease in Zion,
and for those who feel secure…
Alas for those who ignore the evil day
        causing violent rule to draw near:
  for those who lie on beds of ivory,
   and lounge on their couches…” 
(Amos 6:1, 3-4a)

“…They have been led astray by the same lies
    after which their ancestors walked.” 
(Amos 2:4)

We cannot bear to hear of the atrocities
inflicted past and present by our fellow Christians
against Indigenous peoples

such news shatters our faith in the Church,
wracks us with grief and guilt 
we don’t know what to do with.

We cannot bear to believe all the stories 
of violence committed by police
against Black persons and other persons of color

such stories shake our trust in our country,
leave us wondering where else we could go
when our own safety is threatened.

We cannot bear the knowledge that
our world is burning due to human greed
don’t we need the gas that poisons our planet
to power our cars and homes?

God, when we think we cannot bear these truths,
give us the strength to face them — 
for in avoiding them, we move towards our collective doom.

“I raised up some of your children to be prophets…
But you…command the prophets, 
Saying, ‘You shall not prophesy!’”
(Amos 2:11-12)

“[You] hate the one who reprimands in the city gate,
abhor the one who speaks the truth.” 
(Amos 5:10)

We cannot bear the messages of
people we have individually harmed,
or of communities whose oppression
is the price of our own prosperity

because they pierce through our illusions
about ourselves as “nice” people,
and expose the pretty lie of the American Dream
for the nightmare it is, accessible only to the privileged;

they make us feel bad and defensive,
and expose the poison festering beneath
our “respectable” facades.

God, when we think we cannot bear these truths,
urge us all the harder to face them. 
Do not let us look away!

“They do not know how to do right, says the HOLY ONE…”
(3:10)

You alone, O God, can teach us how to do right. 
Open our hearts. Help us lower our defenses.
We will face the harm we have done
so that we can move forward.

Assurance of Pardon 

God declares, “Let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream!”
(Amos 5:24)

Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus,
such justice is possible!

God will make all things right,
and empowers us to join Them in that task.


I wrote this confession for a service centered around Amos chapter 7, which includes the metaphor of the plumbline, which God has used to measure Israel only to find its very foundation is completely skewed; the whole thing must be leveled and rebuilt.

Israel’s high priest Amaziah cries that “the land cannot bear [Amos’s] words,” and tells Amos to go on back home to Judah, because his prophecies are not welcome in Israel. But in reality, it isn’t the message that Israel “cannot bear,” but the avoidance of that message: because Amaziah rejects this message and the repentance and reform it necessitates, Israel will be invaded and driven into exile by the Neo-Assyrian Empire; by 722 BCE, the Northern Kingdom of Israel will have fallen, leaving her sister nation Judah standing alone.

There are so many truths that we likewise avoid because we believe that we and our communities cannot bear the guilt, grief, and upheaval those truths would bring. But to fail to face those realities and respond with active reform spells doom for us all.

As James Baldwin writes in The Fire Next Time, “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

What realities are the members of your faith community avoiding? How can the community come together to face them together?

_____

In the case of how white Christians can and must face our complicity in antiblack racism, I recommend Good White Racist? by Kerry Connelly as a good starting point. Connelly goes into the neuroscience behind why we react to our words or actions being called out as if such a thing were a life-threatening attack; how we value being “nice” and not making others uncomfortable to seeking justice; and how to move past that hardwiring.

Categories
Call to worship Liturgy

Call to Worship (drawing from Micah 6:8)

We gather to worship
the God who calls us to do justice.

God, here we are!
All glory belongs to you.

We gather to worship
the God who calls us to cherish kindness.

God, here we are!
From you all good things come.

We gather to worship
the God who calls us to journey humbly
side-by-side with Them.

God, here we are!
Give us all that we need
to follow where you guide us.

Opening Prayer

Great God of Justice and of Mercy,

You promised us that your yoke is easy
and your burden light —

not because the path you lead us down 
is never hard,
but because you bear every burden with us.

In this precious time of worship,
open our hearts to comfort and challenge
so that we may be sustained and transformed
to bear good fruit
for your glory.

Amen.

Categories
Liturgy Prayers of the People

Pastoral Prayer for Immigration Sunday: praying for all who know the heart of the stranger

Our God is the Ultimate Other;
Xe knows firsthand what it is 
to be the one who does not fit,
whose ways are not “our ways”
and whose thoughts are not “our thoughts.”

Thus trusting in Her steadfast solidarity,
let us lift up our prayers for all those 
who know the heart of the stranger.

We pray for Indigenous peoples across the globe
who are made Other in their own homelands,
their lands stripped from them and genocide attempted 
against their languages, their cultures, their bodies —

we pray particularly for the First Nations peoples of North America
whose long-held, never yet healed wounds were recently reopened
with the discovery of the remains Indigenous children 
who were forced into residential schools, died, and were discarded;

as well as for Palestinians facing persecution
and expulsion from the homes of their ancestors
with nowhere to go:

O God who saw and saved
the enslaved foreigners Hagar and Ishmael,
whose descendants would one day found the Islamic faith;
hear our prayer.

We pray for immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees
and all who find themselves far from all they know and love

only to face contempt and mistreatment,
often by the very powers that had a direct hand
in the violence they are fleeing:

O God who transformed the migrant Naomi’s bitterness to sweetness;
O God who, in the person of Jesus,
was yourself a refugee, finding asylum in Egypt as an infant,
hear our prayer.

Finally, we pray 
for all who experience double consciousness
in which they feel forced to think always
of how the oppressor will respond to their words and actions,

from Black persons to the children of immigrants
as well as Asian Americans and other persons of color 
who are subjected to the stereotype of the “perpetual foreigner”,
treated always as alien even in their place of birth:

O God of Moses, who felt stuck somewhere between 
his adopted Egyptian family and his Hebrew roots, 
hear our prayer.

Great Breaker of the human Binaries
of blood ties and national borders,

gather us into one community — something fresh, something new! —
where no one’s needs are denied 
on the grounds of being too difficult or strange;

where no one is forced to cut off pieces of themselves 
to fit into a pre-established mold;

where no one is treated like a problem, an afterthought, a disruption
but rather every person is protected, cherished, listened to.

It is you, God of the Stranger, on whom we depend
to right the wrongs of xenophobia.
Teach us to move with you towards justice.
Amen.


I wrote this pastoral prayer to accompany the “prayers of the people” session of a worship service on Immigrant Sunday, celebrated in the PCUSA denomination. It could also suit the UCC’s Immigrant Rights Sunday and, I imagine, other such services across denominations.

For more on Moses as one torn between identities in a way that relates to the second generation Latine experience, I highly recommend “Moses Speaks Spanglish” by Daniel José Camacho.

For more on God as ultimate other, see Joy Ladin’s text The Soul of the Stranger.

The term “double consciousness” comes from W.E.B. Du Bois’s 1903 text The Souls of Black Folk.

See here for the stereotype of the “perpetual foreigner” defined.

Categories
Affirmation of Faith Call to worship Confession and Pardon Liturgy Opening prayer

Liturgy for a service exploring God’s place in our suffering

Leader:

We gather here and now, 

All:

separated in space
and joined in one Body,

fractured by discord

and united by love,

to worship God,
to open ourselves to God’s voice,
to grow towards God’s will

together.

Come, let us worship God!

Opening Prayer

O high eternal Divinity,
You who are both
Unknowable, Other, utterly Beyond all sense and space —

and Presence itself, 
pervader of all things, 
glimpsable
in every human face,
in the wheeling of the stars
and the miniscule machinations of ants —

Remind us of your vastness.
Make room for our littleness.

Through this time of worship,
stoke in us a burning desire
not for easy answers
but for grace to guide our questioning;
not for light that forces out all shadow
but for the wisdom encountered only
by those who brave the stormy night. 

Amen.


Another prayer (read after reading Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32)

God whom even the seas obey,
All praise belongs to you,
for you journey with us
into troubled waters
and guide us out again.

As we ride the perilous waves together,
Surround us in your Spirit of wisdom and courage —
a whirlwind stronger than the gusts of any storm,
a breath that stills the most agitated soul —
to carry us through.

Amen.


Call to Confession

We have come to worship the Creator
not only of ourselves, but of all peoples,
all creatures, all the cosmos;

Yet we fall into self-centeredness,
becoming so lost in our own hurts, our own desires, our own needs, 
that we fail to look around to see how we might attend
to the hurts and needs of others.

Only in acknowledging our complicity
in the continued wounding of the world
can we join in God’s restoration. 

So let us confess our failings,
first in silent reflection,
and then as one.

Silence

Prayer of Confession

Borrowing from the words of Thomas Merton, we confess together,

Lord God,
We have no idea where we are going.
We do not see the road ahead of us.
We cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do we really know ourselves,
and the fact that we think we are following your will
does not mean that we are actually doing so.

When we fool ourselves into certainty
in our own rightness,

Remind us of how limited we are, Infinite God,
how prone to calling evil “good” and good “evil.”

When we favor being right over accepting truth,
cheap grace over the long hard road to justice and reconciliation,

Jolt us from our egotism, self-giving God.
Help us let go of our defensiveness.

When the way seems too hard
and we nearly succumb to despair,

Surround us with support, sweet Trinity;
suffuse us with wisdom and courage.

Returning to the words of Thomas Merton, we rejoice because…

We believe that the desire to please you, o God,
does in fact please you.
And we hope we have that desire in all that we are doing.
We hope that we will never do anything apart from that desire.
And we know that if we do this, you will lead us by the right road,
though we may know nothing about it.

Therefore will we trust you always, 
though we may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
We will not fear, for you are ever with us,
and you will never leave us to face our perils alone.

Assurance of Pardon 

In the name of Jesus Christ, we are forgiven!
By the Holy Spirit, we are empowered 
to strive ever deeper into God’s will!

Thanks be to God!

Passing the Peace of Christ

In Jesus Christ, we know God’s forgiveness and peace — 
not an easy peace, nor a halfhearted peace,
but a peace entwined with justice, 
a peace that empowers us to survive all discord.


Affirmation of Faith / Responding to God’s Word

Ours is a God who makes room for our demand for answers,
hears us out and guides us into wisdom
as far as our finite forms can go.

Our God affirms our cries for justice,
for in the cries of the oppressed and despairing
Holy Wisdom cries for justice too.

Rejoicing in God’s welcoming of questions,
let us use poetry as a medium for framing some of our deepest doubts,
with all the messy human emotions that come with them:

my God, you better be ready when i come
and stand before you face to face at last
because you know how many questions i have for you
and you know the very first that will
burst from my lips will be

why?

why did you conceive and birth a world
roiling with so much pain?
why did you make human beings
capable of such atrocities?

why did you make our skin so frail, our stomachs
so prone to hunger and thirst, our minds
so quick to judge and scheme and place ourselves first?

and why, why do you seem to watch passively
as we raze forests into barren dust
as we pour poison into rivers
as we tear flesh from each other’s bodies with our teeth?

…i don’t know, yet. 
but when i think of you
cradled in the arms of a single mother 
with calloused brown hands

and of you
walking miles between towns to bring
healing on tired feet,
your stomach eating itself with hunger, 
your tongue parched

and of you
being nailed to a cross
by hands that have shed their compassion for gain
as you cry out “my God, why! why have you forsaken me!”

…then, i feel a little better.
i still do not understand
but i trust.

we trust because you do not watch us suffer from
some lofty throne high above,

but rather
wherever a child sobs with hunger
a woman aches with grief
a whole community is being trampled into the mud
you are there. 

your face is tear-tracked too. your wrists
and feet and torso bear wounds, too.
so i question, constantly.

and i will demand answers. 
but also, i trust you.

truly, truly
our hope is in you.


These pieces were written for a service centered around Job 38 and Mark 4:35-41, with themes of God’s bigness and God’s co-suffering with us.

Categories
Affirmation of Faith Call to worship Confession and Pardon Liturgy Opening prayer

“God of the cedar tree, God of the mustard seed” – Liturgy for grafting ourselves to the God who makes the dry tree flourish

Call to Worship

Leader:

We come to worship
the God of Justice,

All:

who lifts the oppressed up
and pulls the oppressor down
till justice and equity come to all.

Come, let us graft ourselves to one another
and to this binary-breaking God.

It is good to grow together
amid all that keeps us apart!

It is good to grow in gratitude
for the God who gathers us!

Opening Prayer

O God the Nurturer, God the Transplanter,
God who brings flourishing to those 
whom the world would see wither,

we wonder and delight in your great upturning
of human norms and expectations. 
Let us sing your praises loud and strong!

Amen.


Prayer of Confession

Leader:

God calls us to gather as one grove,
to spread our roots deep in a foundation of justice and love,
to bear fruit that lasts.

All:

But our roots are often disconnected,
shallow, easily uprooted.

Often the soil we settle into
is poisonous, toxic to ourselves and the whole community.

The world is full of conflicting messages
and claims that what is poisonous is nourishing;
what is nourishing, poisonous.

We label God’s children our enemies
to be removed and eradicated,
while enabling cruelty and greed to thrive.

God our Gardener, Spirit of Life,
Uproot what is rotten in us.
Enter our deadness and blossom it into life.
Transplant us from any soil that does not nourish.

Graft us to one another
so that together we may root ourselves in you.

Only in you.

Amen.


Responding to God’s Word (Affirmation of Faith)

Leader:

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

All:

We believe in God the Conceiver of the Cosmos,
who with a Word and a Breath
burst the universe into expansion
from one small seed.

We believe that God pervades and sustains
all that She created
with Her all-embracing love.

As Julian of Norwich wrote in the twelfth century,

“[God] showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I…thought, ‘What may this be?’ 

And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ 

I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. 

And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and ever shall, for God loves it. And so have all things their beginning by the love of God.”

We believe that this God of love is the God
of David the overlooked son
and of Ezekiel the exile;
the God of the mustard seed
and of the cedar tree.

In deep love for us, God grafted Themself to us,
joined us in the beautiful frailness of our flesh
in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Catherine of Siena wrote in the fourteenth century:

And you, high eternal Trinity,
acted as if you were drunk with love,
infatuated with your creature.

When you saw that this tree could bear no fruit
but the fruit of death
because it was cut off from you who are life,
you came to its rescue
with the same love
with which you had created it:
you engrafted your divinity
into the dead tree of our humanity.

O sweet tender engrafting!
You, sweetness itself,
stooped to join yourself
with our bitterness.

In joining with our bitterness,
God transformed it into sweetness!

Jesus proclaimed good news
for the despised and discarded of the world.

Having been lifted up himself,
Jesus drew all peoples to him;

And we remain engrafted to Divinity
through the Holy Spirit who dwells among us still,
breathing life and wisdom into us
so that we might do God’s will
as many branches reaching from one tree,
many members enriching one Body.

Amen.


I wrote this liturgy for a service centered around Ezekiel 17:22-24, a parallel text offered for Mark 4:26-34 (the parable of the mustard seed). In the Ezekiel text, God proclaims that Xe makes low the high tree, and makes the dry tree flourish — an upturning of expectations, indeed!

Categories
Affirmation of Faith LGBT/queer Liturgy

Responding to God’s Word: God’s binary-breaking chosen family

Leader:

As one, let us affirm some aspects of
the faith that binds us into one family.

All:

We believe in a God
who made all of us in Their image
and proclaimed every member of Their creation
Good.

We believe that Xe extends a special care towards those
whom the world calls “broken,”
“worthless,” “unclean” —

and that Xe calls us to repent, reform, and rebuild
when we are the ones who call others broken,
when we are the ones who aim to break them.

We believe in a God who gathers
more and still more people into Her own family,
a family that breaks human binaries 
of blood ties and national borders,
demographics and doctrines.

We believe that She extends a special invitation
to all those who find themselves cut off
from their human family:
to the orphans, the eunuchs, the foreigners;
to immigrants, the imprisoned, and the institutionalized,
to members of the disability community, LGBTQA+ community,
and all those whom our societies shuns and shames.

God has this special care for the disowned and disenfranchised
because Xe Xemself knows what it is to be the stranger, 
the one who does not fit, 
whose ways and thoughts are deemed 
incomprehensible, incompatible, or even insane.

Leader: 

As Jewish poet and professor Joy Ladin writes in her book The Soul of the Stranger: Reading God and Torah from a Transgender Perspective,

“…The human rebellions and divine rages of the Book of Numbers make it clear that even after decades of wandering with God in their midst, to the Israelites, God remains a stranger, a deity whose feelings and actions make no sense to them. Perhaps that is why God repeatedly commands the Israelites to accommodate and include ‘the stranger who dwells among you,’ the non-Israelite who embraces the Israelite community as home. For God, the inclusion of those we see as different is not a disruption or a distraction for religious communities; it is an essential religious practice, part of making a place for the ultimate stranger, God.”

We believe that God commands
any community that professes to follow Them
to do Their will
by acknowledging when we have shut out
members of God’s family,
seeking meaningful reconciliation,
and drawing our circles ever wider.

We believe that the Holy Spirit
empowers us in this work 
so that we may join Her in ushering in
the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed:

A Kin-dom without hierarchy,
where all oppressive systems will be broken down
and all live in true kinship with the God who made us.

Amen.


I wrote this piece for a worship service on Mark 3:20-35, the famous “house divided” passage. The sermon and service theme was this:

Jesus redefines family in a way that defies any human-created definition of superiority, and in that definition, Jesus renounces the behaviors from within the community that threaten the people he gathers.