Tuesday, March 20, 2012
This Strange Path
Things started out well enough: Morning Prayer for the feast day of St. Joseph was fine. Massage appointment before lunch was fine. Checking my email on my not-so-smartphone...
I have a calendar in my office that lets me know things happening in the heavens, and so I am aware that Mercury is in retrograde. I didn't know what that meant until a few years ago when I was having problems with my car, and communicating with people around me. That's when a friend told me, "Mercury is in retrograde." And when that happens, apparently, you don't want to drive a car or attempt to have correspondence with people.
So, I should have known better than to look at my email on my phone in the middle of the day when Mercury is in retrograde. I got word that some priests that I had thought were on board and willing to participate in Tallahassee's LGBT Pride Interfaith service now will not be involved. It seems there has been a breakdown in communication about what interfaith, in a queer spirituality context, looks like.
Add to this the whole issue of the language we use for God (or do we dare say "God" at all?) and the next thing you know, people are walking away from the table. You'd have thunk this was the Anglican Communion or something!
The tension seems to be around the words some of us use to identify God (i.e. "Lord"), and the matter of some faith traditions that use other words for God (i.e. Great Spirit, or Shivaya). My own view of God is that God is bigger, better, and bolder than anything we can say about God. This deity I believe in is so big that the best any of us can do is use whatever language we have to discern the Divine.
How we get to that knowledge is also another 'God thing.' I am sealed and marked as Christ's own forever: Jesus is my way to God. I believe the cross is a symbol of sacrifice that led to the most amazing liberation ever. The Eucharist is the weekly reminder that I belong to the Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the way God sustains us and moves us and all matter every day. God is huge. And I believe God's sole desire is to live in Love with us, and will use any means necessary to pull as many people out of the shadows and back onto the path of light.
God's mission of outreach to the LGBT community is of personal and particular interest to me. I am part of a minority group that has, for decades, found itself on the outside of Judeo-Christian denominations because we were labeled "perverts" and "demons". Because of this, many LGBT people have found a home in the faith traditions such as paganism, with its Goddess-centric spirituality, or Buddhism with its meditative practices. No one wants to be where they aren't welcome.
It's really only been in the last couple of decades that there has been a move on the part of some mainline churches to repent of their sin of exclusion and invite the LGBT Christians to come back. Many have been reluctant to return.
But there are those, like me, who have come back. Why? Because of God. Not because of the church. I am back in the pews because I felt summoned (yes, summoned) back. Returning to the Episcopal Church after an extended absence, I discovered that the story of our Christian identity is liberation in my ears, and I see the highlight of the service being that moment when we are gathered, shoulder to shoulder, at the rail to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. This is the thing that will carry me forward in the world.
Still, I recognize that when one is planning a celebration of faith traditions that are important and inclusive of LGBT people, it means I will be gathered with people who do not believe in the Trinity and have a practice that is very different than mine. Just like the rainbow has become the symbol of the beautiful and vibrant diversity of the LGBT community, queer spirituality is made up of a diverse cross-section of faiths, each with their own way of arriving at that place of Love, Light, and Truth. And isn't that the point of "interfaith" as opposed to "intrafaith"?
I admit I do not always feel comfortable with the practices of other traditions... or even other Christian denominations, for that matter. But I also have enough faith and trust in God as revealed through Jesus Christ to know that I can share space with other traditions, hear their words, and allow them to flow past me like leaves falling onto a moving river rapid. Pretty to look at, lovely to experience, but they don't hold the root of me the way I am grounded in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Even with Mercury in retrograde, I am sure of the message that God is the one who saves me... and is saving a whole lot of others through whatever way works best for them.