Good Friday Meditation

Willamette River, 2017

The following is the meditation I shared at St. Andrew Lutheran tonight at the Good Friday service.  We did the seven last words of Jesus, and my passage was the Luke 23:32-34 below.

Luke 23:32-34 (NRSV): Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. And they cast lots to divide his clothing.

Today I took a walk and strode past sleeping bodies on park benches and in doorways. I averted my eyes, ashamed and overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who need help. I saw one man from the other side of the street while he wiped away several tears.

Today I read the headlines of cruelty against so many people here and around the world. More than I can count. More than I can handle. I don’t even know what to do with my outrage and powerlessness, my fatigue and my broken hearted-ness.

Today, in this service, we hear about the death of a man who, in his ministry, really saw people. Jesus looked into the eyes of each one, whether they lay on the street begging, or sat in a house of power counting money and influence. He fully saw all of their joys and hopes, their sins and their sorrows. And he loved them all. Even those he confronted. He loved them all, and they crucified him for it.

Today I think about all of the people I don’t see, don’t want to see, or don’t want to forgive. I haven’t forgiven those who drive the wheel that generates the conditions of poverty and homelessness, those who seek war instead of peace, those who say a harsh word, or those who are cruel bullies. I don’t even want to forgive myself for, without a word, sliding past the homeless man hiding from the rain in my doorway the other day.

I am so angry and heartbroken with our world, which continues to crucify to this day. Yet, even as Jesus was crucified with criminals, Jesus forgives. He sees, and he loves those who called for his death. Our God is compassionate. Our God forgives, restoring relationships and wholeness, even to my enemies, even to me.

May God forgive us all, for we don’t know all of the ways we participate in the violence and sin of the world. Forgive us, restore us, and guide us. Amen.

Christmas Letter, 2017

To my beloved Friends and Family,
Wishing you a beautiful holiday season, and all that is good and joyful in 2017! I’m grateful for each of you.  I write this on the day that the Electoral College voted, and I know that on my letter list are many who are mourning, and some who are glad.  But we are all part of the human family together, and even if we disagree, I’m glad we are connected.
One of the reasons I decided to write a Christmas letter again this year is because I think it is important for us to stay connected – to tell our stories, find common ground, and build up our communities.  We are all in this life together.  So I’m going to tell a little of my story of the last year, and would love to hear your stories too.  I’d love a letter, or email, or maybe a chance to catch up over coffee or drinks. 
This year, I really enjoyed diving into some of my passions.  I have continued to take trapeze classes.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am 41 and half my class is half my age, and many are bendier, stronger, and bounce back more quickly. But no matter if I ever advance to the next level of classes, trapeze is a great joy in my life.  I love growing stronger, being in the air, facing my fears, and getting to know fabulous people, including my teachers and classmates.  If folks in town are ever interested in checking it out, I love Night Flight, where I attend: nightflightaerial.com
Another passion of mine is advocacy for those affected by HIV, and busting stigma.  I just started my third year serving on the Board of Directors at Cascade AIDS Project and am learning so much and meeting tons of great people! I really enjoy getting to dress up for events like the Art Auction (pictured on my card, with my friend Darren picking me up), and hitting the town with a big team for AIDS Walk Portland.  I’m fired up to get an even bigger team for AIDS Walk in 2017!  Many of you on this list have volunteered, walked with me or donated, and I’m forever grateful!  AND it is thrilling that we are going to broaden our services as we open an LGBTQ health clinic! (LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning). If you’re interested, you can read more about our future clinic and services at www.cascadeaids.org  I have met so many amazing people volunteering for CAP, and made some lifelong friends.
Oh – a news item! In September, I moved again!  But this time I bought a place, so I won’t be moving again any time soon.  Finally! This is probably of great relief to the friends who have helped me move multiple times over the past few years, including Mark (pictured on my card with me celebrating batman) and Darren, who took time off of work to fight commute traffic and safe spots for my moving truck, since I didn’t have enough notice to get a permit.  Now that’s friendship!
One of the things that keeps me hopping is my volunteer work for ReconcilingWorks, the non-profit that helps Lutheran churches welcome include, and celebrate LGBTQ people.  This is truly rewarding work, and I love getting to go to different churches and provide trainings and get to know people in different parts of the country.  This year I was able to fly to Orlando to co-lead a large training of churches who wanted to take action after the Pulse shooting.  It was a little intimidating for me because I knew that the people in the class were impacted by the violence against LGBT and Latino community members. I was deeply moved by their participation. 
At any of my trainings, I come out to people in presentations as a bisexual trans man, and speak to my experience, while also training them on concepts of hospitality and gender identity. This leads to many interesting questions and great discussions.  I love this work, and all of the people I meet.  And I find it interesting that I’m happy to do public speaking and train large groups, but afraid of other things, like driving in snow and ice, or rain, or curvy roads.  You get the picture. J   If you’re intrigued about a group that works for welcome in churches, we’re at www.reconcilingworks.org
I’m also excited to work on an event that our local ReconcilingWorks chapter is throwing:  a huge community wide service of welcome: January 29th, West Linn Lutheran Church, 5pm. Our theme is “Building the Beloved Community,” which you may recognize from Martin Luther King Jr’s philosophy.  The music is again going to be awesome, and the service will be followed by a potluck dinner. Food+music+community = winning.  It is one of my favorite events of the year and you’re all invited.  Unless you don’t want to come because it’s church, and that’s totally cool too. J
But the most exciting news didn’t make it until page 2?!!  I had to build the suspense for this one. J  The Lutheran church in Oregon hired me to be an advocate for the LGBTQ community, to listen to people’s stories and hear their experiences with church, and in general.  One of the outcomes is that we have a new little start-up church that meets (for now) in my living room every week.  We named our church “The Flame”.  It is a pretty small group for now, primarily LGBTQ folks and allies.   We meet at 6pm, so we don’t compete with the Sunday brunch hour! J 
Even though I started a church, I still will never try to convert anyone.  It’s not my business what any of you believe.  We don’t have to agree.  Truly.  I think differing opinions and a variety of experiences is beautiful, and I love y’all.
There is so much of my church nerd self that now has expression, it is really pretty fun.  We even got a domain name and are working on our website!  www.theflamepdx.org  is our little baby (thank you, Evan!).  See, I had to list those other links, so that I could casually slip into the letter the web address of our little creation. J
One of our members, Adam Page, painted a logo for our church, pictured to the left, and I love it!  Our vision was that each person, no matter the color, body type, ability, sexual orientation or gender identity, could contribute to the community, and the flame.  Plus, I love rainbows!
Part of this new role with the Lutheran church is that I am on my way (again), to becoming a pastor!  I have 3 classes to do through a distance learning program, one of which I am in now – World Religions.  I have a few other requirements, and then maybe someday in the next year or so, I will be Pastor Leo of The Flame.  Whoa.
You know the little white tab at the neck on the pastor or priest’s shirt?  If I get ordained, I’m totally going to glitterize or bedazzle some of those for the right occasions.  It’s going to be great! I’ll definitely invite all of you to the ordination.

But wait, you say, aren’t I in tech support?  Indeed, it’s true.  I am! I will continue to  work both jobs.  I’m very grateful for my fun job solving problems and working with a great team on software used in the Medical Records department of hospitals at Nuance Communications, and I’m not going to give up a good thing there.  Oh yah – for consistency – that’s at www.nuance.com.
The best part about my day job is the people, and all of the cat pictures that we send to one another. I’ve included an example to the right.  (not my actual cat….) (nuance.com doesn’t actually contain cat pictures) (should I have # these?)
For whatever 2017 brings, may we all hug our loved ones tighter and more often, reach out to help a stranger, reconnect with old friends, and listen to each other’s stories.
I wish you and yours the very best, and may we all find love, joy, peace, and hope.

In gratitude,
~ Leo ~

Thank You Oregon Lutherans!

Rainbow Cross by Adam Page

I’m not sure if this is the right time to post this or not, but here it is.

On June 1st, I started a quarter time position with the Lutheran church to do advocacy for and ministry with the LGBTQIA community.

In the midst of our sorrow and anger, and so much frustration over the silence or bigotry we in the LGBTQIA community often experience from some church people, I wanted to share this small bit of good news.

In this ministry by the Oregon Synod of the Lutheran church (ELCA), I’ll be doing some of what I already do now, but with more local focus and support. It is a quarter time position, and I’m on track to be ordained as a pastor after I complete my training. I’m also still working full time in my tech job.

So what will I be doing?

  • Exploring the idea of creating a new worshiping community based on inclusion, diversity, justice, and healing,  We will start having one-to-one conversations and small group gatherings to explore the idea of what faith and community mean to us.
  • Helping Lutheran churches in Oregon become Reconciling In Christ, which means to be explicitly and publicly welcoming towards people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.
  • Helping Lutheran churches that have already voted to become Reconciling in Christ live out that welcome in real, tangible ways.
  • Connecting with and building up the community of leaders to share in this work.  
I am thrilled that the Lutheran church is putting resources into making a real difference in the lives of the LGBTQIA community, especially when our hearts are aching and our faces are wet with tears.  
Have questions, want to be involved, or just chat?  I’d love to hear from you.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

Hate Will Not Have The Final Word

photo from Holden Village, 2006

Republican lawmakers in North Carolina on Wednesday pushed through a broad sweeping anti-LGBT bill, removing local ordinances for equal rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and mandating that government controlled multi-user bathrooms be restricted to a single sex based on the gender assigned at birth.

It is distressing to have people debate my genitalia and my worth, when all I have to do is pee. More importantly, this law makes the trans community, trans women in particular, even more vulnerable to violence and harassment.

Lawmakers rushed the bill through during Holy Week, when we prepare for Easter Sunday. In multiple states and cities around the country, people are rushing to deny rights to the LGBTQ community, while waving the flag of Christianity.

It makes me sick, and it is not my religion.

On Good Friday, I remembered Jesus, the Son of God, who came to share a message of good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, freedom for those oppressed, and the year of the Lord’s favor. This is how he kicked off his ministry in the gospel of Luke (4:14-21). He spoke against those in power who had set up laws based on ritual purity. Those laws drove people into isolation and onto the margins. Jesus spoke against those laws, and brought people back in who had been made outsiders. He restored relationships by healing individuals and communities.

On Good Friday, Jesus was crucified by those in power because of the threat he presented with his ministry.

On Easter Sunday, we celebrated that death and hate did not have the final word.

On Easter Sunday, we remembered that Jesus preached a message of love, and care for one another, especially for those who are most vulnerable.

Many of us in the LGBTQ community have personally experienced abuse and cruelty at the hands of the church, or Christian family members and friends. Many of us have seen the hate and vitriol come out of our political system in the name of Christian values. Countless members of the LGBT community and our allies have left the church, because it was healthier and safer to leave.

Why would I expect anyone to be a Christian? Why would I even want to admit I am a Christian?

On Easter Sunday, we celebrate that death and hate will not have the final word.

The opponents of Jesus’ message of love, inclusion, and freedom for the oppressed, thought they had won when they nailed him to the cross.

They did not count on the expansiveness of God’s love.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

The resurrection of Jesus is a way for us to celebrate this truth. Not even death can separate us from the love of God. Not even a rash of discriminatory legislation. Not even an abusive church, or having left church altogether, will make God stop loving us.

So what does this have to do with North Carolina?

The lawmakers who are governing out of fear and ignorance will not have the last word. Jesus stands in solidarity with the oppressed. Jesus would stand with a sign at the governor’s residence proclaiming, “God loves all LGBTQ peeps.” Jesus would wear a button that says, #Illgowithyou and make sure that trans people have an ally to go to the bathroom in safety. God’s Spirit is active in igniting our hearts to stand with those who face violence, discrimination, and rejection.

We will not let hate win, because God has said “No!” to hate.

This is what I celebrate on Easter Sunday.

Wishing you all a Blessed spring, with a resounding Alleluia that God says “Yes!” to love.

I’m praying you may know love, safety, and the confidence that you are a wonderful child of God.
I’m praying for the freedom to pee, and an end to anti-LGBTQ legislation.
I’m praying for an end to violence against our LGBTQ community, particularly against trans women and people of color.
I’m praying for all who have been kicked out of church, and out of their homes.
I’m praying for all who are oppressed in any way.

With love for you this Easter season,

Leo

I Was There

A view from Holden Village, 2006

[This is my meditation from last night’s Good Friday service at St. Andrew Lutheran.  There were seven readers, each with a part of the passion narrative from the Gospel of Luke, sharing from the perspective of one of the witnesses. We began with “I was there”…]

Luke 23:32–43: Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.” One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 

I was there, on the cross next to Jesus. The mood was violent, and the frothing crowd that had yelled, “Give us Barrabas”, and “Crucify him!” craved more. They tried to humiliate Jesus, even as he was dying. I don’t know why they were so angry. Maybe some felt persecuted by the Romans, and some were just caught up in the frenzied rally. They wanted Jesus to feel their shame and impotence, and mocked him with “Save Yourself! Come down from the cross now!”

Jesus didn’t save himself from the cross, but he forgave them. I was so angry at them all. They were so cruel! And he forgave them. What did this Messiah hold within his heart that he could forgive such hatred and violence? I chastised the other criminal for heaping insults along with the rest. Isn’t it enough that he was dying?

I mustered up all of my courage to speak to him. “Jesus,” I said, and was shocked at how intimately I was speaking to this stranger. What should I ask for? He hadn’t saved himself from the cross, so saving my life seemed out of the question. He was as powerless as I was. He was in the same bad state, maybe even worse after all of the beatings. Then, I said, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” I don’t know what I expected. I didn’t deserve a place with the Son of God. But I wept with relief at his answer. “Truly, I tell you, today, you will be with me in paradise.” Truly this man was the Son of God. I would not only be remembered, I would be restored. I would be with God. I had never been good enough or at all righteous. I felt shame and embarrassment about all I had done, but he invited me to be a part of his kingdom.

Even in dying, I felt great joy. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the sneer on the face of the other criminal. And I had compassion on him and forgave him. He was just as I am, and worthy of a place in the kingdom too. That day, I forgave myself, because Jesus forgave me. And I forgave the angry crowds and the brutal soldiers, because Jesus loved even them. And I entered into God’s glorious kingdom, of forgiveness, restoration, welcome, and peace.

What’s New?!

Hi friends,

I wanted to take a moment to share a quick update of what keeps me busy, inspired, and energized.

This year I got more involved volunteering for ReconcilingWorks, a national non-profit that walks alongside the Lutheran Church (ELCA) to help churches welcome, support, and celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. In 2015, I had the chance to travel, meet people around the region, and train churches how to talk about God’s love for all, and how to have (sometimes hard) conversations in their faith community.

It is hugely rewarding to meet people working to make a difference in the world.  I am grateful that I am able to hear the stories of why people choose to spend their free time at a training. Many come because they have a loved one who is LGBT and was treated poorly by the church.  They want to change the church so that someone else’s sibling or child has a place to call home in a faith community. Their love and compassion is inspiring!

(Portland area folks – if you are so inclined – join us for a community wide celebration in January – more info here)

I am also grateful that I have been able to help out with Cascade AIDS Project. CAP is the oldest and largest community-based provider of HIV services, housing, education and advocacy in Oregon and Southwest Washington.  It has been amazing to get to know this community even better as we work together to fight the stigma that still surrounds HIV, and work on prevention, education, and services to improve the lives of those affected by HIV.

I also am now a regular columnist at PQ Monthly!
Here are my columns from JanuaryOctober, and November, December … stay tuned for more!

Be well!
~Leo

My First Radio Interview!

Me at Wild Planet Radio

I had the privilege of sharing some of my story on our local radio station, Wild Planet Radio.  Chris Hyde and Catherine Chapman invited me to be a guest on their show, Progressive Soul.

With Chris and Catherine

I’ve always wanted to be in a radio studio, but I figured it would be as an observer.  What a fun experience to be behind the mic!

Not sure what I was describing here…

Thank you Catherine and Chris for being such awesome hosts.

Here is a link to the podcast – and the Resources I mentioned.

I’m grateful for this opportunity and for all of you as my support community!

Thank you for listening to my story, for being my community, for being you.

Lots of love,
Leo

Clowning around with Malcolm after the show

Region 1 What?

At a fundraiser for the youth at my church
photo credit: LeeAnne Krause

I am so thrilled to be a part of the work of ReconcilingWorks as the new Regional Coordinator for Region 1, a volunteer position.

So what does this mean?  It means I get to meet and work with the local people who are on the ground in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, to help deepen and expand the Reconciling in Christ program in ELCA Lutheran churches.

We will work together make more churches welcoming to the LGBTQ community, and to dismantle injustice based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, race, ethnicity and other categories through a Lutheran lens.

Why is this still important?  Why does this matter to me?

Passion. Love. Hope.

Passion:  When I hear the personal stories of friends who have been kicked out of churches, estranged from families, bullied, assaulted, or told they cannot have a relationship with God, it makes me so angry.  I believe that God created a beautiful diversity, and that God loves each of us passionately, no matter what, just as we are.  I want to help create a world in which everyone is loved, where the worth and dignity of everyone is celebrated.

Love: I am grateful to have had church experiences where I have known God’s love, where my family and friends have been able to walk with me on my own journeys through divorce, depression, joys, and transition.  The love of my family, friends, and church gives me strength.  I want to help create a world in which everyone is surrounded by loving community.

Hope: Honestly, sometimes I feel hopeless in the face of whatever latest crisis or assault is on the news.  I try to keep my candle flame of hope still burning in the midst of the whirlwinds of injustice, fear, and devastation.  My hope survives because of the stories of faith and courage that I hear, in your stories! I also find hope in God, and in the stirrings of the Spirit.  I see the Spirit moving and healing in the world, and so I keep on keeping on.

I’m new to this role, and I’m still learning. I have many people to meet and stories to hear. And at the end of the day, I look forward to all of us working together to bring love, hope, and peace to our world.

Thank you for walking with me.

Good Friday – Crucify!

A meditation I delivered for Good Friday:

Mark 15:1-20  As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ He answered him, ‘You say so.’ Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, ‘Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.’ But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.
Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom.Then he answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?’ For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. Pilate spoke to them again, ‘Then what do you wish me to do* with the man you call* the King of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Why, what evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.
Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters*); and they called together the whole cohort.And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

Were you there when the crowds shouted “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Jesus has been sentenced to death, and the crowd refuses to let him go free. I can picture this crowd, loudly pumping fists in the air, cheering and jeering, stirred up by any variety of emotions – anger at Jesus for not being a heroic liberator, bored and bloodthirsty – looking for entertainment, full of religious zeal that Jesus is a blasphemer and should suffer and die. Regardless of intent, the crowd will not be appeased by the release of Jesus, but instead demands – “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

Then the soldiers beat him, mocked him and stripped him.

I am reminded of November 16, 1989, when the Jesuit theologian Ignacio Ellacuria and seven others were assassinated by the military in El Salvador, because they stood up for the poor.

Ellacuria had coined the term “the crucified people” to describe the Latin American poor, for as he described it, an unjust society means death – through institutional poverty, repression, wars, and the stripping away of peoples’ culture. It is a challenging image, the poor on the cross, because it brings the crucifixion into contemporary times and opens us up to be implicated as those shouting “Crucify!”

Ellacuria also reminds us through this imagery that God is present on the cross with Jesus, present when the people turn on him and demand his death. God is present in the suffering of those facing poverty, war, and repression.

Also in the tradition of Ellacuria’s theology, James Cone draws comparisons between the cross and the lynching tree. The crowds shouting “Crucify him!” are parallel to the white mob’s cry of “lynch him!” Though they are not identical, the cross can help us understand the lynching tree, and see that when the crowd lynched a black man, they were lynching Jesus. This is a vivid and grotesque version of Matthew 25:40, “as you did it to one of the least of these you did it to me.”

The cross reminds us that God is present with those who suffer violence and degradation. God have mercy.

This week has also been full of news stories of political, religious and cultural battles in the US. At least 26 states are debating legislation that would allow for discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people on the grounds of protecting religious freedom.

Passions are high on these bills. A pizza place in Indiana was quoted on air saying it would refuse to serve their food at a gay wedding, and there was so much fury on both sides of the question. Negative internet reviews were used as a platform to mock the restaurant and protest their comments. In counter protest, an online fundraising account was set up by a conservative media outlet and has raised almost a million dollars in a little over a day by people supporting the restaurant owners. I cannot help but hear this story, read the comments, and picture the chief priests and the crowd scene with Pilate: Ugly shouting and angry cries for justice on both sides.

Around the country there are also a bills being proposed that would criminalize trans people for using the bathroom for the gender they identify as. It is dehumanizing to have one’s need to pee questioned, and to be marked as suspicious and perverted.

And in California, even though the initiative will likely not even collect enough signatures for the ballot, a lawyer has submitted a petition that would call for gays and lesbians to be shot in the head. It doesn’t matter if it will not pass, it lies heavy on the heart, especially when people such as Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas tries to defend the religious freedom act of Indiana by arguing that at least it’s not Iran, where they hang gay men.

I don’t bring these stories up to be political. While Lutherans should be involved in the public sphere and I support healthy discourse and hard conversations about how laws are written and which should pass, I bring this up because of a comment posted by a friend on facebook who writes: “I’d just like to say that as a gay person, listening to the public squabble over my rights as a person and other’s rights to treat me as less than equal is exhausting. If you have LGBT friends, give them a little extra love today because this stuff is soul sucking.” I appreciate that Bonnie Beadles-Bohling wrote that post. It has been a tough week to watch the back and forth attacks that have dehumanized and vilified people on both sides of the issue. It has been tough to be afraid of discrimination and hate growing in our world.

Biblical scholar Raymond Brown highlights that the chief priests gave Jesus over to Pilate out of jealousy, and the same Greek word, phthonos points to both envy and zeal. Brown writes that by warning us of the envy and zeal that lead the chief priests and crowds to crucify Jesus, the gospel writer Mark is cautioning the early church and us of “a divisive competitiveness among groups struggling for their own view point.” Sound familiar?

The same zeal that can inspire us to do good things can also cause us to try to out-do one another in our supposed faithfulness and holiness. It can lead us to forget the cross and the people we crucify.

Ignacio Ellacuria draws our attention to the poor in Latin America, James Cone draws our attention to racism in the United States, Bonnie Beadles-Bohling draws our attention to the experience in the LGBT community.

Were you there when the people chose to free a murderer and crucify Jesus? Were you there when we did not value his life, but sentenced him to die?

And when did we not value the life of another based on ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental ability, education, income, or family status?

We need love, but we are surrounded by cries of Crucify! And we are about to crucify the one who is love, Jesus.

Maundy Thursday – On Fear

This is the second of two meditations I gave tonight at our Maundy Thursday service.

Mark 14:66-72 – While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘I do not know or understand what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt.* Then the cock crowed.* And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, ‘This man is one of them.’ But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.’ But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’ At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept.

Were you there when Peter lied about knowing Jesus? Peter was not a bad person. Earlier we heard about how he wanted Jesus to wash not just his feet, but his whole body, so earnest was he about following Jesus. But then his teacher had been arrested and convicted as Peter looked on. Now he is being confronted about his association with the arrested man, and Peter lies. I think he was afraid, exhausted, and probably full of adrenaline.

Fear turns us against our best selves, and can turn us against one another. There is fear in our world today over adequate water and oil, fear about jobs and crime, fear of sickness and death, fear of discrimination and rejection, fear of being overrun by those on the other side of the political spectrum, whichever that side may be… Fears can overwhelm us.

What resonates with me in this story is not whether or not Peter said he knew Jesus. For me, it is not about being willing to admit I am a Christian. In today’s political climate, one’s willingness to be called Christian can feel like a loaded statement, and it may not have the same meaning for me as for the one who hears it. What really strikes me is that Peter responded out of fear and impulse in a way that went against his own planning and intent.

Up to this moment, Peter thinks he has what it takes to stand firm as a disciple of Jesus, and has even stayed nearby during the trial. Didn’t Peter say that he would never betray Jesus? And then it happens so quickly, and before he realizes it, he has denied even knowing his teacher and friend.

Where have I let fear get in the way of speaking the truth? Where have I chosen the easy way out instead of risking hard conversations and building relationships?

Peter is afraid, angry, and upset. I am too. I weep with him. There are times when has my heart been just too broken, when has hope failed, and I have quit trusting in God. With Peter, we may weep when we realize our own fear overrides the message of the gospel, when we deny God’s abundant and passionate love.

Tonight, may we find the strength and the courage to be prophetic and instead of fearfully silent. May we be faithful to Jesus’ reminder of love and servanthood in the breaking of the bread, and the washing of feet. May we find the motivation to stand in solidarity with all who are crushed by the weight of poverty, illness, discrimination and hate. May we seek ways to build relationships, bridging divides instead of creating barriers.

And at the end of this dark night, though we watch our teacher and friend led away to face crucifixion, though we face all which causes us anger and despair today, may we remember that we can’t fix this on our own. We will fail, but God is faithful. God’s power is present in weakness, even our own.

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