Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Queerying 3rd after Pentecost C

Rev. Emily E. Ewing queeries the Gospel reading.
ID: a photo by Agent J on Unsplash shows a crop circle of curved lines and partial circles visible in a golden field.
Gospel: 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 him; 53but they did not receive Jesus, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.

54When some of his chosen family, James and John saw it, they said, “Leader, 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 Child of Humanity has nowhere to lay Their head.” 59To another Jesus said, “Follow me.”

But she said, “Leader, first let me go and bury my father.”

60But Jesus said to her, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the reign of God.”

61Another said, “I will follow you, Leader; but let me get closure with those at my home.”

62Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the reign of God.”

Queeries for the text:
How long will Jesus take to get to Jerusalem?
Who are Samaritans?
Why do James and John want to enact violence?
What else do foxes have?
Who has nowhere to lay their heads?
What's wrong with closure?
What happens when a hand is to the plow and the person looks back?

What are your queeries?


Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Queerying 2nd after Pentecost C

River Needham, MA ThM queeries the Tanakh reading.
ID: a violet awareness ribbon, the color used to signify domestic violence.
Tanakh: Isaiah 65:1-9
I responded to those who did not ask,
I was at hand to those who did not seek Me;
I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
To a nation that did not invoke My name.
I constantly spread out My hands
To a disloyal people,
Who walk the way that is not good,
Following their own designs;
The people who provoke My anger,
Who continually, to My very face,
Sacrifice in gardens and burn incense on tiles;
Who sit inside tombs
And pass the night in secret places;
Who eat the flesh of swine,
With broth of unclean things in their bowls;
Who say, “Keep your distance! Don’t come closer!
For I would render you consecrated.”
Such things make My anger rage,
Like fire blazing all day long.
See, this is recorded before Me;
I will not stand idly by, but will repay,
deliver their sins into their bosom,
and the sins of their fathers as well
—said the Becoming One—
For they made offerings upon the mountains
And affronted Me upon the hills.
I will count out their recompense in full,
Into their bosoms.
Thus said the Becoming One:
As, when new wine is present in the cluster,
One says, “Don’t destroy it; there’s good in it,”
So will I do for the sake of My servants,
And not destroy everything.
I will bring forth offspring from Jacob,
From Judah heirs to My mountains;
My chosen ones shall take possession,
My servants shall dwell thereon.

Queeries for the text:
Who is speaking in this passage?
What does it mean to say "Here, I am"?
Who does/does not have agency?
Why does God DARVO? Who else does?
Where does this fall in the cycle of abuse?


Rev. Emily E. Ewing queeries the Gospel reading.
ID: Babe the pig stands in grass with a brown collar on looking toward the camera.
Gospel: Luke 8:26-39
26Then Jesus and his chosen family arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27As Jesus stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had gone naked, and he did not live in a house but in the graveyard. 28When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his 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 contaminated spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; the community kept him under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but breaking the imprisonment, the demon would drive him into the unpopulated areas.)

30Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?”

He said, “Brigade”; for many demons had entered him. 31They 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 he gave them permission. 33Then the demons came out of the man 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. 35Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been restored.

37Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned to Galilee.

38The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with Jesus; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So the man went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

Queeries for the text:
Who are the Gerasenes?
Who bears the shame of nudity?
Who else has been driven by a spirit into the uninhabited places?
How do communities harm those who react in unexpected ways?
What else is a brigade?
Why would swine be feeding?
Why does exorcising the Empire scare people?
Where are you called to declare what God has done?

What are your queeries?

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Queerying Holy Trinity C

ID: on an offwhite background is a black butterfly with a semicolon as its body.
Rev. Emily E. Ewing queeries the Gospel reading.

Gospel: John 16:12-15
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 She will not speak on Her own, but will speak whatever She hears, and She will declare to you the things that are to come. 14She will glorify me, because She will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Caregiver has is mine. For this reason I said that She will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Queeries for the text:
What does Jesus still have to say?
What can't we bear?
What does the Spirit of truth have to say?
What is Jesus'?
What does the Spirit declare?
How do you imagine the Trinity?

What are your queeries?

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Queerying Diakonia.Faith's Pride Vigil

ID: against a turquoise background with splotches of rainbow color, a white line drawing shows two hands with pointing fingers reaching out to each other beneath the words Pride Month Vigil, 8:30pm (est) June 4th. The rainbow logo is in the bottom right corner.
For's Pride Vigil, the following queer(i)ed readings were used.

Queer Grief and Lament
An adaptation of Psalm 137:1-6
By the rivers of a dangerous land—there we collapsed and there we sobbed when we remembered Home.
On the willows there we hung up our instruments.
For there our oppressors asked us for songs and rainbows,
and our oppressors asked for joy, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’

How could we sing the Becoming One’s song in a hostile land?
If I forget you, O Community, let my purpose and agency dissipate!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Queer Community above my highest joy.

Queer Anger
Suzannah Porter uses an adaption of Habakkuk 1:1-4, 12-17, 2:1-20
The oracle that the prophet Habakkuk experienced.

O Becoming One, how long shall I cry for protection from harm, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? Why do you put harm and oppression before me?

Destruction and violence are before me; oppression and inequity arise. So the law becomes twisted and justice never prevails. The wicked surround the righteous—therefore judgment comes forth to oppress.

Are you not from all times, O Becoming One my God, my Holy One? You shall not be destroyed. O Becoming One, you have marked the people for judgment; and you, O Brick, have established consequences for those who oppress.


Your eyes are too delicate to behold evil, and you cannot hear of wrongdoing; why do you look on those who oppress, and are silent when the violent swallow those working for justice? You have made people like the fish of the sea, like crawling things that have no ruler.

The enemy brings all of them up with a hook; dragging them with his wit, the enemy entraps them, and so rejoices and smirks. Therefore the enemy sacrifices to his wit and makes offerings to his trap; for by them his portion is exorbitant, and his food is rich. Is the enemy then to keep on devastating the environment, and destroying peoples without mercy?

I will stand at my lookout place, and station myself on the defenses; I will keep watch to see how he frames the narrative, and how he will respond to my criticism.

Then the Becoming One answered me and said:
Write the vision; make it plain on social media, so that a textreader may voice it. For there is still a promise for the appointed time; it speaks of the time to come, and does not lie. If it seems to stall, anticipate it; it will surely come, it will not delay.

Look at the white supremacists and nationalists! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith. Moreover, wealth is treacherous; the wealthy do not endure. They die how they live; like Death they never have enough. They gather all peoples for themselves, and exploit the nations for their own gain. Shall not everyone deride such people and, with mocking riddles, say about them, ‘Alas for you who build rocketships while Creation cries out!’

How long will you load yourselves with goods taken through extortion and exploitation? Will not your own creditors suddenly rise, and those who hold you accountable wake up? Then you will be their workers for them. Because you have exploited many peoples, all that survive of the nations shall exploit you—because of human bloodshed, and violence to the earth, to cities and all who live in them.

‘Alas for you who are slumlords and housing bankers, setting your homes in penthouses and mansions to be safe from the reach of poverty!’ You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples; you have forfeited your life. The very foundation will cry out from your house, and the plaster will respond from the woodwork.

‘Alas for you who build a sundown town by bloodshed, and found a city on redlining!’ Is it not from the Becoming One of Angel Armies that nations labor only to feed the flames of capitalism, and peoples exhaust themselves for nothing?

But the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the justice of the Becoming One, as the waters cover the sea.

‘Alas for you who make your neighbors drink, pouring out your wrath until they are drunk, in order to violate and harm!’ You will be sated with contempt instead of glory. Drink, you yourself, and become compromised! The cup in the Becoming One’s right hand will come around to you, and shame will come upon your self-aggrandizement! For the violence done to others will overwhelm you; the destruction of creation will terrify you—because of human exploitation and violence to the earth, to cities and all who live in them.

What use is an idol once its maker has shaped it—a tool of nationalism, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in what can be manipulated, though the product is only a lie meant to confuse and mislead! Alas for you who say to guns, ‘Wake up!’ to the flag, ‘Rouse yourself!’

Can it teach?

See, it is plated with capitalism, racism, and patriarchy, and there is no life in it at all.

But the Becoming One is in Their holy temple, Creation; let all the earth keep reverence before Them!

Queer Rest and Preparation
River Needham MA ThM adapts Genesis 2:1-3
Then, all the work of creating the heavens and earth were over. On this the seventh day, God completed the work that she had made. The whole host of the earth and heaven was created out of formlessness, and it was good. So, God rested. God took the seventh day and made it sacred and holy. God rested on this holy day, and it was good.

Queer Sexualities
J. Pace Warfield-May adapts Song of Songs 2:16, 4:16, 8:6-7a
My beloved is mine and I am his.

Awake, O North Wind
    and come, O South Wind.
Blow upon my garden
    that this fragrance may spread everywhere.
Come, beloved, into your garden,
    taste these pleasant fruits.

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
    as a seal upon your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
    its passion unyielding as mortality.
It burns like a blazing fire,
    like a roaring flame, it burns.
Many waters cannot quench love;
    Neither can the floods drown it.

Queer Celebration and Joy
Rev. Emily E. Ewing adapts Psalm 150
Praise the Becoming One!
Praise God in Xyr sanctuary;
    praise God in Her mighty firmament!
Praise God for Their mighty deeds;
    praise God according to Faer surpassing greatness!

Praise God with trumpet sound;
    praise Xem with lute and harp!
Praise God with tambourine and dance;
    praise Her with strings and pipe!
Praise God with clanging cymbals;
    praise Them with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the Becoming One!
Praise God!

You Can't Have My Oil

The following was originally written for Disrupt Worship and was used as the basis for Suzannah Porter's Queer Anger reading during's Pride Vigil.
ID: against a neutral background, an excerpt from this blog post is typed out with the title "You Can't Have My Oil." In the bottom left corner are splotches of color in the shades of the rainbow with a white line drawing of a lamp with a candle in it..
Matthew 25:1-13 indeed used to be one of my least favorite verses.  It was one of those verses that ended up with a lot of doodles in my bulletin. Usually accompanied by the message of "Look Busy, Jesus is Coming," it follows scripture full of similar sounding bottom lines of preparedness. It leaves me feeling uncomfortable and wiggly in my seat. I am not clergy. My context for uncomfortable scripture is most usually without conversation about theology, and more commonly the experience of sitting in a service riding along with liturgy and prayers about grace and love, suddenly punctuated with readings like this that are conspicuously without either.

So let us set the scene. Tradition held that once the groom makes an appearance, the wedding festivities are supposed to begin with the bridesmaids processing forward with their lamps and torches, and everyone is waiting for the collective big entrance to begin, a light show blazing through the shadows. But in this parable, the groom is delayed. Apparently hella delayed, because everyone had basically fallen asleep waiting for the groom to show. After this incredibly long period of time, the participants are alerted that the long awaited VIP member of the party has finally arrived. Now, after waiting an eternity to the point of taking a long nap, half of the participants face a quandary: they are not actually prepared. These "foolish bridesmaids" are meant to carry burning lamps, but they didn't bring any oil. The other half of the bridesmaids, identified as "wise," brought oil for their lamps.

Like most of the kids in every group work session of every class I have ever taken, the "foolish" ones (who had plenty of time to remedy the situation and do their homework) demand some of the resources from their wiser counterparts. Those of us who have been denied a place at God's table are rather familiar with this scenario. Queer folks, BIPOC folks, disabled folks, and often women in general, each of us clear that we were never assured a place at God's table by our less marginalized siblings, have followed the rules and prepared ourselves to the letter. Once there, someone nearby has taken the rules far less seriously than we, and they turn to us and demand accommodation. There's pressure to bend and keep afloat the ones who didn't do the work in order to keep the peace, and let the party go off without a hitch.

And we are not supposed to get mad.

And this is the point where I start to doodle in my bulletin because I have become uncomfortable. There's a couple bits of scripture that make me pretty uncomfortable, but this one seems particularly unloving. I remember no one talking about what I perceived to be biblical mean girls that wouldn't share. As a lay person in a conflict-avoidant denomination, we are given the constant overall themes about Jesus bringing Peace and Grace, not any theme about getting mad.

Not a lot of conversation breaking down the scripture that seems to contradict this saccharine simplicity.

This parable shocks me the way that Matthew 10:34-36 shocks me - to be sitting in a service with liturgy about peace and love and be hit with the diddy

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law- a man's enemies will be the members of his own household'"

The truth is Peace doesn't come without conflict and anger, but it wasn't until family gathered around Thanksgiving of 2016 that many of us white, progressive people came to understand how the family upheaval of Matthew 10:34-36 might be a part of the process of ensuring that the promises of the Gospel were extended to more vulnerable people. The more we vocalized our concern for those on the margins - ostracized for their queerness, shot down by police for the color of their skin, left without healthcare when sick - the more conflict we felt in our own families.

Peace and grace tho, we were told. Be civilized. Don’t get mad.

But Matthew 25:1-13 calls me to the same uncomfortable conflict that comes after we have prepared ourselves for the Gospel, the same uncomfortable conflict that simultaneously opposes all the saccharine versions of "Peace and Grace" my church has sold me in its quest for theology for the lowest common denominator. And deep inside my internalized misogyny that has always demanded I provide 100% free labor to anyone who demands it, the next part still shocks me: The wise bridesmaids don't hand over their oil. They suggest instead that the others go find some of their own. Dare I say, They sound… kinda mad.

I mean, it goes against everything I have ever been taught about church, being a woman (and the eldest female child), and the exponential sum of combining those two things together. My church teaches forgiveness and Grace, and commonly covers all the uncomfortable parts of Scripture with a topcoat of these two things that is less like sugarcoating and more like aspartame. At first taste it is sweet, but the aftertaste reveals it's lack of authenticity, and I am both left wanting as well as left with an exhausting headache. My femaleness has had "sharing is caring" drilled into it ever since birth, and the world has demanded that "sharing is caring" mantra at every turn, regardless of what it cost me. It's been the universal foundation of all free labor I have exerted in church. The more I give it, the more it is expected.  The less I draw attention to what it costs me, the more I am lauded. This scripture turns everything about the traditional expectations of my role in the church upside down.

And so while I've sat through many a sermon addressing the questions "Who are the foolish bridesmaids," and "Who is the Groom," I am instead interested in "What is the oil," and "Why would giving up the oil be unwise?"  And why does the lesson seemingly endorse the wise ones being super pissed to the point they don't "help" the others? Apparently, the lesson is that it is not wise to share in this instance, and I want to know why - what is the nature of the oil that we are actually called to not share?

When it comes to Thanksgiving, elections, or church, I am not a party person. This mostly is related to the intersection of my femaleness, queerness, and health conditions. While Thanksgiving conversations will include asking me about my health, they will also demand - in the name of peace and family unity - that I not talk about my anxiety over the recent election that affects whether or not I have healthcare. While elections will demand I turn out to vote, they will also demand - in the name of peace and unity - that I accept police 'reform' instead of a complete reimagining of neighborhood safety, even though the police are murdering my siblings of color. While church demands my offerings, not only in money but in the free labor of technology and musical ministry, they also demand - in the name of peace and unity - that I relinquish my call for them to become RIC congregations, a designation that comes with doing the hard work of preparing a congregation to be welcoming and affirming of our LGBTQIA+ siblings. It is demanded: don't show even a little bit that all this makes me mad.

The last point strikes a particularly sharp dagger in my soul. I've learned to keep the edges of my mouth just slightly upturned in those conversations about LGBTQIA+ inclusion, because to let a frown leak out on my face would so incense the cult of respectability that demands my acquiescence. Without me handing over a smile during conversations that drain my soul of its fire, the other party will immediately jump to 'how angry' I am and shut off the conversation. While you tell my my queerness is an abomination but you 'love me anyway,' while you tell me the congregation isn't ready to even discuss the work, and while you tell me that welcoming LGBTQIA+ people doesn't require actually affirming their place in God's church, I am required to look as though I am thoughtfully entertaining the notion that my community is subpar. It takes all my strength to keep my 'respectable' smile on my face, as you remove half the oil from my lamp, and drain the fuel from the fire in my soul. All so church can do half of the work but still hold on to it's respectable place in the processional.

While waiting to get into the party, I am not unlike the bridesmaids: I'm asked to sacrifice a lot of the prep work that specifically is necessary for the kind of party Jesus is planning, and I am asked to do it so that many of the participants can appear to have done their job, when they in fact didn't think that their participation required work. So I would venture to say that if the bridesmaids had shared their oil, the party procession would have had to be a lot quicker. The light of the flames would have had to go out a lot sooner, or their intensity be a lot dimmer in order to last the length of time for which the processional was planned. And as I made those sacrifices in the past, waiting for a church to decide to embark on becoming RIC, waiting for the holiday meal to be served, I suddenly understand what is in that precious oil.

Once, I had the privilege of joining Rev. Carla Christopher and Rev. Brenda Bos in a brief All Saints Sunday service online for the queer community in the ELCA LGBTQ & Allies Facebook Group. It was unabashedly queer, thanks also in part to the most amazing prayers written by Pace Warfield-May. We named our queer ancestors and ally ancestors who had lit fires, provided sanctuary, illuminated theology, and too often were gone too soon. We named our fears for the future, we mourned the losses of the past, we called each other family. No one there gave away an ounce of oil and I felt God's presence in worship more visceral than ever. The fire that blazed in that worship for me was every ounce the fire Jesus intended in a processional of the Gospel into the world. And for once I knew what it was like to show up to worship with a lamp entirely full. The parable doesn't demand I not share oil, it demands I share the most blazing of lights for the longest period of time.  I'm being asked to bring my full self to God's table.

The sin was ever asking me to bring only half.

We were always allowed to be mad that people inviting in Jesus only wanted us to bring half of ourselves, and sacrifice the rest of ourselves to their respectability.

What is the point of a blazing processional that is half on fire? What is the point of an election with not all the votes counted? What is the point of a table where all are gathered if not all are welcome? What is the point of neighborhood safety if not all are safe? At some point, sacrificing our oil negates the whole point of the party.

In the parable, the foolish bridesmaids return to a groom who does not recognize them as participants of the party. They have missed the point about what participating means. Participation in God's Kin-dom never required some of us to be only half on fire for the Gospel.

May every vote be counted. May all be welcome to the table. May everyone bring their full selves with every ounce of oil. And may the processional of Jesus' love and Grace blaze through all the shadows.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Queerying Pentecost C

River Needham, MA ThM queeries the Tanakh reading.
ID: a stack of dictionaries of a variety of languages.
Tanakh: Genesis 11:1-9
Everyone on earth had the same language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them hard.”—Brick served them as stone, and asphalt served them as mortar.— And they said, “Come, let us build us a city, and a tower with its top in the sky, to make a name for ourselves; or else we shall be scattered all over the world.” The Becoming One came down to look at the city and tower that humanity had built, and the Becoming One said, “If, as one people with one language for all, this is how they have begun to act, then nothing that they may propose to do will be out of their reach. Let us, then, go down and confuse their speech there, so that they shall not understand one another’s speech.” Thus the Becoming One scattered them from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel, because there the Becoming One confused the speech of the whole earth; and from there scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Queeries for the text:
How many languages exist now?
How tall would Babel have needed to be to have its top in the sky?
What purpose does babel hold?
How did these languages evolve into today?
What else can we mourn today?


Rev. Emily E. Ewing queeries the Gospel reading.
ID: Russian Nesting Dolls, or Matryoshka, in the style of Studio Ghibli's Totoro are partly taken apart on a wood surface.
Gospel: John 14:8-17, [25-27]
8Philip said to Jesus, “Lover, show us the Caregiver, and we will be satisfied.”

9Jesus said to Philip, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Caregiver. How can you say, ‘Show us the Caregiver’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Caregiver and the Caregiver is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Caregiver who dwells in me does Xyr works. 11Believe me that I am in the Caregiver and the Caregiver is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Caregiver. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Caregiver may be glorified in the Beloved. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

15”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Caregiver, and Xe will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Her nor knows Her. You know Her, because She abides with you, and She will be in you.

25”I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Caregiver will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

Queeries for the text:
When is this conversation taking place?
Why does Philip want proof?
How do you show someone the divine?
What works is Jesus talking about?
What power is in a name?
Where is the Spirit of truth today?
Who needs an Advocate?
What's missing?
What does the Holy Spirit need to remind you of?
How does the world give peace?  How does Jesus give peace?


Find previous queeries for the Acts text here.


What are your queeries?