Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Queerying 3rd after Pentecost C

Periodic queerier, River Needham, queeries the Tanakh reading.

Tanakh: 2 Kings 2:1-2, 3-5, 6-14

When the Becoming One was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind,
Elijah and Elisha had set out from Gilgal.
Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, for the Becoming One has sent me on to Bethel.”
“As the Becoming One lives and as you live,” said Elisha, “I will not leave you.”
So they went down to Bethel. 

Disciples of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Becoming One will take your master away from you today?” 
Elisha replied, “I know it, too; be silent.” 
Then Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here, for the Becoming One has sent me on to Jericho.” 
“As the Becoming One lives and as you live,” said Elisha, “I will not leave you.” 
So they went on to Jericho. The disciples of the prophets who were at Jericho came over to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Becoming One will take your master away from you today?” 
He replied, “I know it, too; be silent.” 

Elijah said to him, “Stay here, for the Becoming One has sent me on to the Jordan.”
“As the Becoming One lives and as you live, I will not leave you,” he said, and the two of them went on.
Fifty men of the disciples of the prophets followed and stood by at a distance from them as the two of them stopped at the Jordan. Thereupon Elijah took his mantle and, rolling it up, he struck the water; it divided to the right and left, so that the two of them crossed over on dry land. As they were crossing, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”
Elisha answered, “Let a double portion of your spirit pass on to me.”
“You have asked a difficult thing,” he said. “If you see me as I am being taken from you, this will be granted to you; if not, it will not.”
As they kept on walking and talking, a fiery chariot with fiery horses suddenly appeared and separated one from the other; and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “Oh, father, father! Israel’s chariots and horsemen!” When he could no longer see him, he grasped his garments and rent them in two. He picked up Elijah’s mantle, which had dropped from him; and he went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Taking the mantle which had dropped from Elijah, he struck the water and said, “Where is the Becoming One, the God of Elijah?” As he too struck the water, it parted to the right and to the left, and Elisha crossed over.

Queeries for the text:
Which other stories is this reminiscent of?
Does God play hide and seek?
Why is the trip from Bethel to Jericho omitted from the pericope?
How does God speak in this passage? What does God look like?
What is a mantle?
Is God's existence dependent on each person? How is Elisha's experience of God different from Elijah's? What are the theological implications?
Who could the false prophets be today?
Where else do prophets strike water?



Rev. Emily E. Ewing queeries the Gospel reading.

Luke 9:51-62
51When the days drew near for Jesus to be taken up,
he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
52And he sent messengers ahead of him.
On their way they entered a village of the Samaritans
to make ready for Jesus;
53but they did not receive him,
because his face was set toward Jerusalem.
54When the disciples James and John saw it,
they said, “Master, do you want us to command fire
to come down from heaven and consume them?”
55But Jesus turned and rebuked them.
56Then they went on to another village.

57As they were going along the road,
someone said to Jesus,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”
58And Jesus said to them,
“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests;
but the Human One has nowhere to lay their head.”
59To another Jesus said,
“Follow me.”
But they said,
“Master, first let me go and bury my father.”
60But Jesus said to them,
“Let the dead bury their own dead;
but as for you,
go and proclaim the reign of God.”
61Another said,
“I will follow you, Master;
but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”
62Jesus said to them,
“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back
is fit for the reign of God.”

Queeries for the text:
How do you set your face?
Which messengers did Jesus send?
Why do James and John want to command terrible weather?
Why are we so inclined towards increased vengeance?
Did the "someone" know what they were proposing?
What is it like for Jesus to be without home
How does Jesus feel about family?
What happens when you look back while plowing?  What if you want to plow in a curve?

What are your queeries?

Monday, June 17, 2019

Queerying 2nd after Pentecost C

Periodic Queerier, River Needham, queeries the Tanakh reading.

Tanakh: 1 Kings 19:1-4 [5-7] 8-15
When Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done and how he had put all the prophets to the sword, Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “Thus and more may the gods do if by this time tomorrow I have not made you like one of them.”
Frightened, Elijah fled at once for his life.
Elijah came to Beer-sheba, which is in Judah, and left his servant there; Elijah himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. Elijah came to a broom bush and sat down under it, and prayed that he might die.
“Enough!” he cried. “Now, O Becoming One, take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” He lay down and fell asleep under a broom bush. 
Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 

He looked about; and there, beside his head, was a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water! He ate and drank, and lay down again.
The angel of the Becoming One came a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, or the journey will be too much for you.”

He arose and ate and drank; and with the strength from that meal he walked forty days and forty nights as far as the mountain of God at Horeb.
There he went into a cave, and there he spent the night.
Then the word of the Becoming One came to him. Ze said to him, “Why are you here, Elijah?”
He replied, “I am moved by zeal for the Becoming One, the God of Angel Armies, for the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and put Your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they are out to take my life.”
“Come out,” Ze called, “and stand on the mountain before the Becoming One.”
And lo, the Becoming One passed by.
There was a great and mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of the Becoming One; but the Becoming One was not in the wind.
After the wind—an earthquake; but the Becoming One was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake—fire; but the Becoming One was not in the fire.
And after the fire—a soft murmuring sound.
When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his mantle about his face and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
Then a voice addressed him: “Why are you here, Elijah?” He answered, “I am moved by zeal for the Becoming One, the God of Angel Armies; for the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and have put Your prophets to the sword. I alone am left, and they are out to take my life.”
The Becoming One said to him, “Go back by the way you came, and on to the wilderness of Damascus.

Queeries for the text:
Who was Jezebel?
Where else do prophets call out for God to take their life?
Why do we think the angel is not a necessary part of the story? Where else do we edit out people? Does the meaning of the text change with or without the italicized portion?
What meaning does the number 40 have?
What does it mean to come out?
Where is God in natural disasters?
How does God speak today?
Where all did Elijah travel?



Rev. Emily E. Ewing queeries the Gospel reading.

Gospel: Luke 8:26-39
26Then Jesus and the disciple arrived at the country of the Gerasenes,
which is opposite Galilee.
27As Jesus stepped out on land,
a person of the city who had demons met him.
For a long time they had worn no clothes,
and they did not live in a house but in the tombs.
28When they saw Jesus,
they fell down before him
and shouted at the top of their voice,
“What have you to do with me,
Jesus, Child of the Most High God?
I beg you, do not torment me”—
29for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit
to come out of the person.
(For many times it had seized them;
they were kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles,
but they would break the bonds
and be driven by the demon into the wilds.)
30Jesus then asked them,
“What is your name?”
They said,
for many demons had entered them.
31The demons begged Jesus not to order them to go back into the abyss.

32Now there on the hillside
a large herd of swine was feeding;
and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these.
So Jesus gave them permission.
33Then the demons came out of the person
and entered the swine,
and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake
and was drowned.

34When the swineherds saw what had happened,
they ran off and told it in the city and in the country.
and when they came to Jesus,
they found the person from whom the demons had gone
sitting at the feet of Jesus,
clothed and in their right mind.
And they were afraid.
36Those who had seen it told them
how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed.
37Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes
asked Jesus to leave them;
for they were seized with great fear.
So Jesus got into the boat and returned.
38The one from whom the demons had gone begged
that they might be with Jesus;
but Jesus sent them away, saying,
39“Return to your home,
and declare how much God has done for you.”
So they went away,
proclaiming throughout the city
how much Jesus had done for them.

Queeries for the text:
Why did people let the person live without clothes in a tomb?
Who else is bound?  With chains and shackles?
Who else is driven into the wilds?
What does "Legion" represent?
Who is Legion today?
What's the difference between the abyss and drowning in a lake?
Why does someone in their right mind spark fear?
Why and how are we afraid of healing? How do we encounter healing?
Why does Jesus send the person away?

What are your queeries?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Queerying Holy Trinity Images

This blog was updated on 15 June 2019, after its original publishing (13 June 2019) with more images.

This week I asked folks on Facebook what images they liked for the Trinity and for the Holy Spirit.  The responses were wonderful, so I'm sharing them all together here for you.  Most of them are pictures, some are words, and some are both.  The pictures have image descriptions if you hover over them (if this is not the case, please let me know so that I can fix that!).

Jess Davis posted this image, which really embraces the relationality and solidarity of the Trinity.

Rev. Stefanie K. L. Fauth describes the Holy Spirit with: "I see the Holy Spirit as a ball of energy. Closest visual is crab nebula. Not that I think the Spirit is distant, it's just the closet visual of how I feel the energy.   "  I love outer space and really resonate with this image.  For me Space is resurrection, so whether it is a suggestion of this Crab Nebula (or Mariah's image below) or the gender of the day as a black hole, if you suggest outer space, there's a very good chance I will love it.

In looking at a variety of images, this one caught Rev. Kim Beckman's eye.  On a personal note, I particularly love the way the triangle combines with the round halo to evoke the trans pride flag.

Rev. Kim Beckman also posted this stating: "Bishop Macholz used this Pentecost picture for his cover photo this week. It moves me. There was a post by someone about Pentecost hymns in the ELW last week that noted you can either go gentle or go forceful with the Spirit and the ELW hymns mostly went gentle. I've been thinking about that a lot and how to break out of the binary, so to speak, and this image captures that for me."  Anything that breaks a binary is good and holy in my book :)

Ashley Herrikane posted this image, a common way of explaining the diversity of the person of the Trinity combined with the unity of the one essence of the Triune God.

Rev. Kim Beckman shared this image.  Along with the obvious name on the front of the uniform, the joy and relationship, even while distinct and made up of a diversity of people on the team, points toward the diversity of God's essence.

This was sent to me in a private message, reflecting on both the Vatican's recent transphobia, and images of the divine from a Christian perspective.  The English translation for the top is "Some stories have two dads" and the bottom right is "I am not your joke." This queering of family is deeply fitting for Christianity at its heart.

This image was added by Matt Bear-Fowler and Elle Dowd.  It is my favorite icon of the Trinity and I would love to own it someday.  It is queer in so many ways and deeply representative of the diversity of God.

Mariah Himes posted this and the one below stating, "I think of the holy spirit as big and beautiful and complex and deep as the universe, as well as gentle and soft and real as animal friends. I like to think she’s multifaceted 🙂"  The holding together of these two images is delightfully queer, resisting a binary or forced decision.

Mariah Himes posted this and the one above it stating, "I think of the holy spirit as big and beautiful and complex and deep as the universe, as well as gentle and soft and real as animal friends. I like to think she’s multifaceted 🙂"  The way these two images are held together breaks the binaries and boxes so often created.

Tucker O'Leary posted this one stating "This is one of my favorites. It’s an icon I have in my office with a whole explanation on the back."  The explanation on the back reads: "Crow Trinity: This Crow Trinity highlights the Great Spirit as the Sacred Eagle whose wings enfold the mystical unity of the elder and the Son.  The Christ wears a warrior shirt of native tanned hide, glass beads, porcupine quills and ermine skins.  The ermine skins indicate that the man wearing this shirt is an old-time warrior who has captured his enemy's gun.  Contemplating the Christ within the symbolism of the warrior shirt we see him victorious in disarming death of its ultimacy. / Traditional iconography gives witness to the human face of the Sacred.  This icon, imaged in the features of America's indigenous peoples, reveals anew that sacred power.  It celebrates the soul of the Native American as the original spiritual presence on this continent, and as a prophetic sign, it celebrates the reconciliation of the spiritual vision of Native and Christian peoples of this land."  This image makes explicit the beautiful connection of the Trinity with all of Creation.

Rev. Tyler D. Rasmussen posted this one, stating "I was thinking of someone who described the Trinity as 'Papa, Kiddo, and Spook' and tried to find an image of that, but instead I found this and it made me laugh.  (which apparently is Nimrod, and Babylonian god, but has occasionally be confused for the Trinity)."  The pink triangle evokes the pink triangles that were used to label gay men and transgender people especially during the Holocaust and which have become a symbol of the LGBTQ community.

Rev. Aaron Decker posted, "From Bernard of Clairvaux, preaching on Song of Songs 1.2a: The first person of the Trinity is the one who kisses, and the second person is the one who is kissed, and the kiss itself is the Holy Spirit. So, like, any good picture of a kiss would do nicely."  So, I chose this picture of a kiss-in in Russia from an article in The Advocate magazine which points towards the intimate connection of the whole Trinity as one Triune God.

Rev. Marie Sager posted Andrei Rublev's Icon of the Trinity with this link, explaining its history.  This image is taken from Abraham and Sarah's hospitality to strangers, later discovered to be angels, in Genesis and reminds us of the way that hospitality is essential to the experience of a Triune God.

Resonating with the above icon, additionally, Rev. John Michael Longworth describes the Trinity, stating "Inspired by Rubelev's Trinity, I imagine a cuddle threesome that always has a spot for a fourth."

Rev. Kim Beckman also posted this stating "I found this one on a site Aleteia thru google and it makes me smile! Trinity, Fridolin Lieber, Early 20th century." The baby angel heads, especially the ones used as footstools, make me laugh, reminding me of the delight with which God experiences Creation.

Mairi McGilvrie posted the above video of a rare Rainbow Blanket Octopus swimming, colors undulating in the water.  Mairi states, "This is my holy spirit image of the day! It just seemed to fit the question you asked! Beautiful peaceful rainbow octopus. That is the holy spirit playing dress up for me today"  To this I add that octopi are also clever, tricky as can be, and nearly impossible to capture or contain, also much like the Holy Spirit.

To end these wonderful images, Wendy Heilman posted this stating "Maybe this is not exactly what u r looking for??? Lol"

Sheri Kutsch-Stanton posted this, naming it as "Native Spirit..."  This image makes explicit the connection of the Spirit to Creation within the frame of Native Spirituality and Tradition.

Rev. Tyler Rasmussen, in looking for the hymn "Come, Join the Dance of Trinity," found the following images:

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
This image and poem evoke the complexity and diversity of the Trinity within a framework of beauty and intimate relationship.

This image shows both the warm joy of the dance of navigating relationships and the connection of the Trinity as each person appears to blend into each other.

Trinity by Mark Jennings emphasizes the interconnection and overlap of the Triune God.

Dance of the Trinity evokes the movement and motion inherent in the Triune God.


If you're wondering why none of these are Harry Potter references, it's because I've got an entire podcast devoted to that, so check out our podcast and find out what Pastor Kay and I come up with for Holy Trinity images!

What are your images for the Trinity?  For the Holy Spirit?  For the divine?

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Remembering Pulse: Words at a Vigil

ID: lit candles against darkness form a rainbow from left to right with green, yellow, red, purple, blue, green, yellow, and red

Below are my words from the Pulse Vigil that took place this evening at The Blazing Saddle in Des Moines.  I was one of three speakers and simultaneous translation and interpretation were provided in Spanish and ASL, so I only have the English below.


Buenas noches.  Good evening.

I'm Pastor Emily Ewing and I'm the Social Justice Pastor at Trinity las Américas United Methodist Church.  My pronouns are they/them/theirs, elle.

Today, my queerly beloved, we gather on land originally inhabited by the Ioway, Sauk, and Meskwaki peoples to remember violence perpetrated on the land of the Seminole people.

The attack on Pulse night club on Latinx night was a decidedly “American” attack—born from a country that weds the dominant religious ideology and white supremacy.  This country combines the evils of racism and queer- and transphobia and in recent years has been even more explicitly encouraging them.

The ways this country has historically and still today perpetuated and even created newly horrific forms of racism, queerphobia and transphobia, especially under the name of Christianity and “religious freedom” are sin.  Racism is sin.  White supremacy is sin.  Queerphobia is sin.  Transphobia is sin.  Heterosexism and cisgenderism are sin.

They harm everyone.

Just as immigration and the evils of ICE and Border Patrol don’t just impact those living along the borders, what happened at Pulse is not restricted to Orlando.  White supremacists and neo Nazis have been physically disrupting Prides this year.  In recent months we have heard again of Black trans women being killed in Dallas, of yet another Latina trans woman dying in detention while seeking asylum, and this is all to say nothing of the murders that don’t make our news.

And so we gather.

Again and again we gather.

We gather to support and encourage each other.
We gather to remember the lives we have lost—the ones unjustly taken from us.
We gather to challenge the powers and principalities that seek to do harm—to oppress, divide, and diminish especially the most marginalized among us.

In my Lutheran tradition, when someone is baptized or confirmed—recommitting themselves to their faith journey—we celebrate and we also make space to renounce the forces that divide and harm us and the world.  So, if you are willing, please join me when appropriate by responding to my questions with “I renounce them.”  Not every renunciation will apply to each one of us gathered here, but especially when it comes to systems and powers that you benefit from or that you want tonight to commit to challenging, please join in the renunciation.  The decision is entirely yours to do as you feel moved.

Do you, my queerly beloveds, renounce queerphobia, homophobia, and biphobia?
I renounce them.
Do you renounce racism, white supremacy, and xenophobia?
I renounce them.
Do you renounce transphobia, cisgenderism, and the gender binary?
I renounce them.
Do you renounce all forms of religious bigotry, religious extremism, and religious supremacy?
I renounce them.
Do you renounce the shame that others impose and use to condemn?
I renounce them.
Do you renounce the powers and principalities that attempt to divide and conquer us?
I renounce them.

Recommitting ourselves to the work of justice, of love, and of peace takes all of us—calling each other in when we mess up, supporting and carrying each other when we cannot go it alone, ensuring the most vulnerable among us are safe and centered in the work we do, and also celebrating both when there are victories and when the victory is simply that we are still here to fight another day—celebrating even in the face of those who would seek to harm us.

So, to you my queerly beloveds,
who come from the rich, nourishing dirt of the earth
and the brilliant, sparkling stardust scattered throughout the cosmos
you, who bear the divine image, love, and wonder in all of who you are,
and in all of who you are becoming:
May you remember and work to honor those no longer with us—
from the early resisters, rioters, and brick throwers
like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson
to those whose lives were taken at Pulse
to those who are killed still today—
may your living do them justice and honor them
May you know that you are loved—oh so very loved—
that you are lovable,
and that you are capable of so much love.
May you know sacred spaces throughout your life—
from queer bars to faith communities,
from parks and coffee shops to gardens and shelters.
May you always know that you belong,
that you are valid,
and that your existence in the world is important.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Queerying Holy Trinity C

Rev. Emily E. Ewing queeries the reading from the Gospel.

John 16:12-15
Jesus said:
12"I still have many things to say to you,
but you cannot bear them now.
13When the Spirit of truth comes,
she will guide you into all the truth;
for the Spirit will not speak on her own,
but will speak whatever she hears
and will declare to you the things that are to come.
14The Spirit will glorify me,
because she will take what is mine and declare it to you.
15All that the Loving Parent has is mine.
For this reason I said that she will take what is mine
and declare it to you."

Queeries for the text:
Does Jesus have FOMO? Or is YOLO driving this speech?  Is YOLO even possible for Jesus?
What can't we bear?
How and why does truth matter?
What does the Spirit hear today?  Does she need to hear in order to comprehend?
Which possessions or people do Jesus and the Loving Parent hold in joint custody?
What things are to come?
What does the Spirit declare?
How will the Spirit glorify Jesus?  Did it already happen?  Will it ever happen?

What are your queeries?

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Queerying Pentecost C

Rev. Emily E. Ewing queeries the reading from Acts.

Acts 2:1-21
When the day of Pentecost had come,
the disciples were all together in one place.
2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind,
and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them,
and a tongue rested on each of them.
4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in other languages,
as the Spirit gave them ability.

5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven
living in Jerusalem.
6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered,
because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
7Amazed and astonished, they asked,
“Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?
8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?
9Parthians, Medes, Elamites,
and residents of Mesopotamia,
Judea and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia,
10Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene,
and visitors from Rome,
both Jewish-born and proselytes,
11Cretans and Arabs—
in our own languages we hear them speaking
about God’s deeds of power.”
12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another,
“What does this mean?”
13But others sneered and said,
“They are filled with new wine.”

14But Peter, standing with the eleven,
raised his voice and addressed them,
“You Judeans and all who live in Jerusalem,
let this be known to you,
and listen to what I say.
15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose,
for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.
16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
17‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your children of all genders shall prophesy,
and your youth shall see visions,
and your elders shall dream dreams.
18Even upon my slaves of all genders,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
19And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Becoming One’s great and glorious day.
21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Queeries for the text:
Why was it called the day of Pentecost?
What does a violent wind sound like?
Did they know which charm Wendelin the Weird used to protect from fire?
How many languages would be spoken today?
What are they saying about God's deeds of power?
Are they Lutherans? Or is this where Luther got it?
Do others also speak more easily in another language while drinking?  Who drinks at 9am
What are the dreams and visions?  What are the portents?
Is someone cooking over a campfire?  Is Joel talking about lunar and solar eclipses?
How else does coming out give birth to new opportunities and communities?

What are your queeries?