A sermon prepared for, but not preached at Multicultural Tre Ore service at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on 25 March 2016.
A reading from the Wisdom of Psalm 130, adapted.
Out of the depths have I called you,
O eternal one; hear my voice.
Let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication,
If you were to note what is done amiss, O God, who could stand?
For there is forgiveness with you; therefore you shall be honored.
I wait for the Endless one; my soul waits. In God’s word is my hope.
My soul waits for you, O God; more than watchers for the morning, More
than watchers for the morning.
O Israel, wait for the Eternal one, for with The Sovereign there is mercy;
With God there is plenteous redemption, and God shall redeem Israel from all their sins.
The 6th Word: John 19:30
When Jesus had received the wine, Jesus said, “It is finished.” Then bowed and gave up his spirit.
A reading from the Wisdom of Anonhi
one dove, you’re the one i’ve been waiting for,
through the dark for, the nightmares the lonely nights.
i was born a curling fox in a hole hiding from danger
scared of being alone.
one dove to bring me some peace.
in starlight you came from the other side to offer me mercy, mercy, mercy.
one dove, i’m the one you’ve been waiting for.
through your skin i am born again.
i wasn’t born yesterday.
you were old and hurt. i was longing to be free.
i see the things you were too tired, you were too scared, to see.
one dove to bring me some peace.
in starlight, you came from the other side to offer me mercy, mercy, mercy.
Holy Wisdom, Holy Word
Thanks Be To God
The word of victory seems quite amiss in today’s world. Among the tragedies Earlier this week, from Brussels to Istanbul, North Carolina quietly called a special session of their state legislature to pass a law, that among a host of other horrible things, criminalized transgender people.
That’s a bold statement, but consider the practical effect of this law – as a transgender person, my transkindred can be forced to provide a birth certificate which lists their gender at birth as the gender which they identify and of the bathroom which they wish to use. In North Carolina, the process to change a birth certificate is currently only available to people who have completed gender confirmation surgery.
In addition to this, Washington, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Tennessee, South Carolina, Florida, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri and Illinois are each considering similar anti-transgender legislation – most concerning youth – the most vulnerable among us.
Jesus word on the cross feels so out of place… the promise that God’s reign of peace and love are being born into this world seems wrong. The hope of the day where peace, love and justice reign, bringing each of us into fuller company both of each other, and of God’s reign of peace still lives on, but when does hope end and reality begin? When does the eschaton come – the eszchaton we commemorate today, when for a moment it looked like evil overcame all that was good in this world, won the victory, and the end was near?
Jesus’ promise was that though there would be a moment of stress, in three days, he would rebuild the temple, yet here we are sitting in the darkness, with Jesus on a cross, and here he is, about to die.
The end is here, and it’s nothing like we expected or hoped for.
For persons outside of the straight, cis mainstream, a glimpse of this Eschaton came last year when throughout our country marriage between two people was legalized, regardless of the legal genders of the parties.
A glimpse came when Illinois prohibited insurance companies excluding life-saving hormone replacement therapy and other medical treatments for gender dysphoria.
A glimpse came when anti-bullying legislation was passed in Minnesota, providing safer spaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual and other individuals outside of the cisgender straight mainstream who were experiencing bullying.
But today, when we’ve seen glimpses of the victory, where will we find it, as Jesus dies on a cross, and for a moment it looks like the cosmic battle between forces of good and evil would end – yet, today we are gathered here, in anticipation of what is to come.
As dire as our situation looks, there has to be hope. At the twelfth station of the cross, there is an icon.
It says “How many transgenders must die before you get involved?” Although it uses language no longer appropriate to talk about trans folx, the icon boldly connects the cold-blooded murder of Rita Hester, a Black trans woman with the state-sanctioned murder of Jesus of Nazareth. The commemoration of Rita’s death has been carried on now for nearly twenty years as the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Moreover, with the suffering of transgender artist Anohni in the piece we heard, we join with creation crying out under the weight of a world where we are stuck, yet it is not yet ready for us. We listen to the words of Jesus “it is finished.” We feel the labor pains of our world, bringing about a new Commonwealth of love, justice and peace, and we get involved. We learn about the struggles facing our world. We learn that lives, particularly black lives are not valued in our world, and we get involved, donating to bail funds, marching on the streets, stopping traffic. We learn that transgender people, particularly transgender women of color are being killed en masse, and we gather to remember and say their names. We join God in her work, and soon enough we realize that he is making the promised reality present here in the work we do together, in community.
The crucifixion certainly was not the highest point in the movement of Jesus’ followers, it brought them together in a way that allowed the realm of God to begin. Today again we have joined together as the disciples around the cross, to realize the corrupt systems we participate in, to mourn the evil in our world. Today, we join together to protect the most vulnerable and to share in the work of God’s Commonwealth.