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
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.

Categories
LGBT/queer My poetry

poem: valley of dry bones

men who claimed to know the Word of God
and where it lay took me to stand above
a valley of dry bones.

they taunted me: here is no life
for you! you may as well
curl yourself among them, and return
to dust.

and so i did. 

the bones murmured beneath me, shifted
to make room – they did not pierce
my skin as i’d presumed.

i took one fragment, then another that
seemed not-to-sharp,
and held them close to my heart,

and listened to their clinking lullaby
waiting to die.
but i did not. 

instead a Breath whirled round
me and trans-
formed

those dead dry bones into
full flesh and blood – muscle and sinew
and skin, and chests that moved
atop their resurrected hearts and lungs!

i thrilled to see
these dead dry bones become
a throng of those they claimed
did not belong…

the Breath that animated
all those forms
did not pass over me –

my flesh grew warm
as eerie but invigorating song
stripped me down to my bones
and built me up again –
renewed, trans-
formed. 

i strode up to those men
who could not see
the breath of God in me
and said:

you worship
piles of dry bones

i worship the God
of ever-reinvented life! 

you shoved your book at me
and claimed the word it held for me
was Condemnation – well,
i took that book and read it
through and through

with God’s breath warming the ink
and i found

Life 
for me.

and – if you could just
embrace it too –

for you.


This poem was written by Avery Smith and belongs to them. This is an updated version of a poem that appears in their published volume The Kin(g)dom in the Rubble. 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:

Ezekiel 37’s valley of dry bones has long been near and dear to my queer heart. It was the lectionary reading a couple weeks ago, and Austen Hartke did a live study of it on his YouTube channel, which brought the passage back into the forefront of my mind.

Scripture is presented to many of us as dead dry bones, lifeless pages set in stone — but that belies the Breath of God rifling through those pages, and expanding our own lungs… 

In this time of epidemic, when we face a virus that can steal our very breath, i cherish more than ever that unquellable Breath of God.

The poem in these images first appeared in my collection of poetry, The Kin-dom in the Rubble. But i’ve revised it here — and added a few extra lines at the end, to remind me that while God’s Breath IS for me and NO ONE can steal it from my lungs — it’s for those who hurt me, too.

Categories
Holy Days lent LGBT/queer My poetry

poem for Holy Thursday: Jesus, you knew isolation too

Jesus
you knew
isolation too.

not of closing walls and stale air
but of a horizon unreachable
beyond stretching dunes.

you who were so sensitive to touch
you’d notice a woman’s fingers barely brush
the hem of your cloak

went untouched
for forty days
forty nights.

after that
did cradling the feet of your closest friends
washing clean the sweat and sand
etched into the sole’s every callus
feel almost too intimate to bear?

gazing up into their questioning eyes
after no one but devils and dust to talk to for so long
did you have to stop and catch your breath?

Jesus,
did your beloved’s fingers brushing your palm
as you passed him broken bread
set your skin on fire
with an anguished sort of pleasure?

was his head resting warm in your lap
after the meal, the wine, the storytelling
heavier than the whole world
leaning on your back?

and after the wine-warm room
after isolation revisited
in a tear-soaked garden
where best friends slept oblivious
i wonder

were even the press of trembling lips
the hands that bound your wrists
the shoves of soldiers eager to get home for the night –
even these, were even these cherished
after weeks without the warmth of others’ skin?

…….

Jesus
you knew
isolation too –

know better than any
the devils that come to keep one company
when wandering alone from room to room
or over wasteland sands…

so come. teach us
to make an upper room
of any room we’re trapped in.

cook us a meal out of our distress
and break it like bread with us.
nourish our bone-deep loneliness
into a yearning deep enough to drink

so that when this is over, we never again
shirk the feet that await our washing
shun the hands outstretched for bread to share
shake off the cross a stranger needs help bearing –

and Jesus, as we wait out isolation
in temporary helplessness and fear
remind us there are some who dwell
always, always here.


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:

My prayer for Maundy Thursday, 2020, in the midst of pandemic: come, Jesus, teach us to make an upper room of any room we’re trapped in.

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 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.

Categories
Affirmation of Faith Liturgy

Affirmation of Faith: Creator God-with-us, whose existence is relationship

We believe in the Triune God whose very existence is relationship,
a dance of mutual love that overflows into Their creation.

As beings made in the image of this relational God, 
we are most human when we live outside of hierarchy and individualism
and live into community with God, with each other, and with all creation.

We believe in Jesus Christ, the surest example of God-with-us,
of God-for-us, of a God whose power is not dominance and control
but rather a love that empowers, liberates, and invites us into partnership. 

We believe in the Holy Spirit
who brooded over the deep until She birthed the universe,

who is the breath that animates us,
the air that whispers to seeds till they sprout and bloom,

the wind that stirs up stagnance,
the flame that burns up deadness to make a way for new life.

We believe that this Triune God invites us to join Them 
in sowing a Kin(g)dom of equity and justice here on earth

where God’s blessings are shared fairly and there is plenty for all.


I wrote this for a service with a central theme of imagination, and how God’s gift of imagination can help us envision and enact a better world, a world liberated from oppressive binary and hierarchical structures like cishetero-patriarchy and white supremacy. My sermon’s text was Genesis 25:19-34 and explored the relationship between Jacob – with his marginalizing identities who assimilates into patriarchy – and Esau with his privilege who eventually seeks out reconciliation with his brother. You can read or watch the sermon here.

While the Genesis text was my sermon focus, I wanted to fit the lectionary’s Gospel reading into my liturgy. That reading was Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, the Parable of the Sower.

Categories
Call to worship Liturgy Opening prayer

Call to worship and opening prayer: God gathers the oppressed, and the oppressors

Beloved community,
We come together as one
while under different roofs.

We come together as one
while holding different ideas, dreams, struggles, fears.

We come together as one
as outcasts, and as those who cast out others.

We come together as one
gathered by the One
who befriended the oppressed
and the oppressor.

Let us worship God.


OPENING PRAYER

Strange God, untameable God,
You will not let us confine you or your children to a box!

You lavish love upon those we call unloveable;
You embrace those we shut out and call stranger;
and you delight in choosing people who shock us
to bring your blessing into the world. 

God who died and rose again,
You look upon barrenness and unkindness and hopelessness 
and say, “I can work with this.” 

When you touch death, it blossoms into life.
You make a way out of no way. 

Fearsome God, gentle God,
When we are merciless
you come in mercy.

When we deny justice
you come with justice.

We come with praise. We come with prayer.
We come with gratitude to you
Our creator, our redeemer, the breath within our lungs. 


I wrote this for a virtual service on June 21, 2020 centered around themes of oppression, patriarchy, and white supremacy; it explored how our world shapes each of us based on our various identities and what kind of reconciliation is possible between oppressors and the ones who oppress. My sermon text was Genesis 21:8-21. My sermon, “No Good Patriarchs – Solidarity with Hagar” can be read or watched here.