Discover more from a sorcerer's notebook
I feel like we have been trapped in an endless state of response as people of God. I have felt like I have been running from one fire to another and that the waters of life, the things that keep me going are nowhere to be found.
The water of life. For me, in community, it can be but is not limited to the following:
The little laughs of kids in worship who don’t give a shit what I’m preaching.
The queer beloved child of God taking their first tentative steps into a community I help lead.
The awkward discussions at coffee hour as I dash about in robes to a full sanctuary with a full-throated hymn slapping me out of business of community and into worship with community.
I get to lead.
Or in “Dear Church” I describe it like this:
“Church, you are gorgeous. You are full of some of the greatest people I have ever had the honor to be around—folks who are willing to lay it all on the line for the sake of the Gospel. I know people in this church who are willing to lay down life, limb, career, and future just to help guide us to be better. That sort of selfless dedication to me and to you is enough to fill me with power and send me out into the streets screaming to anyone who will listen about God’s love. This is the sort of agape we too often assume doesn’t really exist. But we see it flood our lives in ways that are so numerous we’ve forgotten how to notice them.
“Church, I see you out in the streets, with signs in your hands, marching for the poor and oppressed. It’s a sight to behold as you follow your pastors down the road toward liberation, as you stand up for the neighbors who can’t stand up for themselves. You are the living well of life that I get to draw a fresh draft from every day. I see you growing stronger, your voice becoming more defined, slowly realizing that the current climate isn’t about partisan bickering but about renouncing all the powers that defy God. It is glorious in its flowering and so Gospel-centered that at times it makes me weep.”
That. That incarnate, fleshy, messy thing we do when we gather together. Together: That is the water of life for me. That seeing that frayed weary look in your eyes, not on a screen, to see you wrestle with the times: I yearn for that because I feel like all I have been doing is responding. Everything is in response. I’m always on my back foot pushing back against the rampant evil and brokenness that have defined the last decade in particular. But these days, it feels like evil, empire, oppression, they may be having their way with this world in ways we dreamed we would never live to see. We were wrong. I’m so tired of responding.
A young ELCA member walks into a church in South Carolina and slaughters the Emanuel Martyrs. I respond by putting on a clergy collar for the first time that weekend and deciding that even if I am killed in a Bible study it will have been worth it if I dismantle any part of the white supremacy in the church. I respond to Dylann Roof by committing to the church he betrayed that weekend.
Freddie Gray is taken on a rough ride like the ones that Philly PD used to take me on as a kid. He doesn’t survive. I respond by wearing that clergy collar on the streets. I become a regular at protests and start to learn from interfaith organizers. My entire seminary experience is littered with names and responses.
Terrance Crutcher. I write a liturgy for exorcism of systemic racism. I respond by not avoiding radical evil. I respond by naming it and casting it out.
Sandra Bland. I respond to her videos that break me like this: Silent in tears and realizing I have failed Black women. I respond by looking, for the first time in my life, at my toxic masculinity.
George Floyd. I respond by pouring all my heart, terror, lament, pain, and tears into my writing and work. I start to live into my role as a witness and agitator.
My life is in response to the day Love was murdered on a hill, by law enforcement, in state-sponsored execution while Love's own mother watched on. You see grace, mercy, every little, fucking thing that’s ever been good and life-giving for me was because of God. Of encountering Love one day. If that sounds like bullshit to you, I get it.
But the reason I keep responding: I keep screaming #BlackLivesMatter. The reason I believe queer bodies are the literal Gospel to a decaying church. How Blackness is the only hope for this decaying republic. How I know all this is I encountered a Love that was murdered just for loving us. Its response to that is simply to offer life.
*We will be talking about reparations, supporing black thinkers anmd artist, and how you can be involved next week.