A Week of Hard Questions: A Prayer

God, this week I asked hard questions

About love and tradition and cultural differences. I asked (rather timidly even) if race played a part to our reactions.

And soon I found myself hip deep in a quagmire of pain.

People were triggered. They felt they needed to defend their pain.

And it was hard God, and part of me wanted to take it all back. Because I don’t want to create heartache.

But then I remembered two weeks ago when someone asked me hard questions about love and inclusion and the brokenness of the system that I perpetuated.

And although that was embarrassing and hard. I lived through it.

And in reflecting this experience I remembered that part of why I asked the hard questions this week was because as of last week I was tired of us: me, the church, consumer culture, ignoring hard issues and perpetuating whatever was comfortable for us.

Did you ever notice Jesus really likes to answer a question with a harder question?

You deconstructed me Lord. And I confess I need you to bless this mess today, because I’m going to be in the deconstructed zone for a while.

Because once God starts to deconstruct you, it becomes easier for you to see other places where the threads of normal need to be pulled apart.

And you can choose to continue the work God started, but it’s up to you.

So I guess I’ve reached a new level of maturity, where I stay in the muck longer than is comfortable, and I feel the anguish of racism on top of the anguish of those in pain.

And as my heart aches, I am thankful for all the times I was able to say:

“I don’t know. “

And “I hear you.”

As I sat with the pain and let go of the reasons and the arguments.

Do you sometimes say I don’t know God?

I don’t know

But thank you for helping me to brave the muck; and help me to muddle through, or sit, or cry. Help me to do this hard questioning thing I pray.

Amen.

Feel free to use/share/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

Baptisms and Miracles

To modern day readers, this encounter with the Eunuch may be one of the wackiest texts we encounter. All the reasons that stick out to us as being weird or miraculous were fairly typical of ministry of the day. 

Philip is awoken by an angel and told to hit the road and travel on a specific road from Jerusalem to Gaza. Then the Spirit tells Philip to join the chariot, so Philip runs to catch up to a chariot! Then upon baptism the Spirit whisks Philip away, poof, and the Eunuch goes on rejoicing. In the era that this was written, none of these encounters with angels ro the Holy Spirit would be remarked upon as strange.

The parts that are not as strange to us, are the real miracles of the time:

Philip being converted by his mission experience

A Eunuch who can read ancient Hebrew text and is studying it

A river appears in, what is likely to be, the desert road between two cities. It is unusual for water to be in a place that is not a city, and yet it appears at the exact time that the Eunuch seeks baptism. We do not think hard about water in the desert, but we can be sure the ancient Hebrews and Greeks and Ethiopians did as they traveled. 

In modern times, we have learned a lot. We know that those who go on missions go to convert themselves not others, and think hard about the nature of toxic charity and heroism. We think that reading the texts is normal, or should be and encourage as many people as we can to study them. And we absolutely hope that all people are accepted into the faith. 

So what we consider miracles were considered normal and vice versa. Except for the fact that the Eunuch is queer individual, and we still aren’t sure what the answer to their question “what should prevent me from being baptized?”

Whether swept up in the suddenness of the moment or not having a good answer, Philip does not answer the question, and that itself becomes the answer. 

There is no objection to the baptism, so the moment passes. 

The Ethiopian is so excited to be baptized, that Philip cannot in any circumstances say no. 

No doubt the flashing neon signs fo the angel and Spirit served to help too. Yes that EXACT chariot, that’s the place we mean. No need to wonder if this is the right person, and the fact that they are reading Ancient Hebrew on a scroll is incredible. Here is this person, probably not even allowed in the temple, who takes their faith seriously enough to journey to Jerusalem and is educated enough to read, and not only to read, but to read a different language then that which is spoken in Ethiopia. 

How? Is this Eunuch a descendent of the Hebrews who journeyed and stayed in Egypt? The borders of such countries are unclear, but this individual is clearly a different gender, country and culture than Philip. They even garner such great power as to be the treasurer for the queen. They are riding rich, in a chariot. Did Philip feel overwhelmed by all of these differentials? Did he wonder if he was the right person for the job? Did he rejoice that God gave him such a challenge? 

It is important, as anti-trans legislation rips through the US and the UK, as anti-queer policy rips apart the Methodist and Reformed traditions, as the Pope proclaims that gays cannot get married in the Catholic church, it is important to look at this precedent. 

“What is to prevent me from becoming baptized”

In John, Jesus says: I am the vine and you are branches, abide in my and I in you, so that we might bear fruit. We are once again, reminded that our fates, our health, our prosperity, our faith is intertwined with one another. We must acknowledge one another, work with one another and grow with one another, so that we might all bear fruit. When we put barriers up, when we say we cannot welcome one another, we die on the vine. This is so very true in churches, where people want only people like them to attend. 

This is also true in our economies, where Citi Bank says we have lost $16 Trillion in GDP in the US alone due to our racism https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/09/23/916022472/cost-of-racism-u-s-economy-lost-16-trillion-because-of-discrimination-bank-says

Philip knows what it is to be an outcast and is by no means the least of the disciples, no doubt some part of him sympathized with the Eunuch. After all Philip was almost stoned to death. Philip knows what he is doing. 

So imagine after this incredible journey, after he is swept back to the disciples, after he has baptized this individual, the story he tells–the precedent he sets, is the a eunuch: A queer gender non conforming individual is part of who should be baptized! 

“Go and baptize all people” in Matthew 28:17-20 could be glossed as “I really mean it.” 

I am the vine and your are the branches could be glossed as: we are not meant to discriminate

And Psalm 22 definitely emphasizes that God is for all people and that God promises to be for all generations, even those “Dang Kids” future generations who no doubt will do things differently in the future. 

Hopefully this passage can inspire us to pursue baptism more inclusively and more joyfully. 

And if not, hopefully God sends an angel, the Holy Spirit and a river to help us along the way.

God we need your justice: a prayer

[Blue Green water reflecting the abstract of a mountain, tree and sky with the words “Let Justice Flow Down like Waters and Righteousness like an overflowing stream.] Image found here: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/560064903645243301/

I cannot wait until acts of justice are no longer a surprise, for you know God, and you told us through Amos and Isaiah and Luke that justice that is surprising is no justice at all. It is at worst painted as sacrifice and mercy and is at best the drops of accountability.

I am so thirsty for justice, Lord. And I confess my spirit is dry and brittle, breaking apart in its absence.

Human justice is not even a meager copy of your justice Lord. racism and bigotry poisons any system we might try.

God I cannot wait for your justice to flow like water. So that we taste it on our tongue, so that it rains on us daily from the sky.

I can’t wait until the taste and feel of justice is so familiar that it begins to feel like home.

I can’t wait until the moment that every cry for mercy, every cry for help, every cry for mama is answered–with the swiftness of the Holy Spirit on the wing.

God, I cannot wait, until not one street never ever sees a droplet of blood again. Instead they sparkle with the cleansing waters of justice, instead they are filled so much with justice, that it becomes puddles for the children to splash in, soaking themselves with the liquid.

I cannot wait until justice becomes a child’s plaything—Known so much, that it becomes a part of our very breath and body. I cannot wait until the 60% of water that flows through our bodies is blessed, in the completion of our baptism, into the holy waters of justice imbuing our very selves.

I can’t wait until I can spit justice out on the street with clear truths and gracious words that free my siblings of all colors, creeds, ages, sexualities and genders.

I cannot wait for justice to flood our world. Not like the flood of Noah killing off the bad, but like the rains of the desert, giving the much needed food to the flora and fauna to bloom.

I cannot wait for justice, so I’m going to gather the drops and the dribbles and the driplets I have experienced, and I’m going to share them out to those I meet. Showing them how it cools violence, and refreshes spirits, and is miraculously freer than any other action.

Because my freedom is wrapped up in yours, my humanity is wrapped up in yours, and my justice is wrapped up in yours.

I’m ready to do this justice thing, God. Teach me how to do it I pray.

Amen.

Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

With Thanks to Lilla Watson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s works and thanks also Black Twitter who let me listen as they prayed, grieved and celebrated over George Floyd and the guilty verdict of Officer Chauvin.

I’m Mad and that’s not Going to Change: Prayer

@Black Liturgies [Image of Daunte Write in a Red Baseball Cap with the words: “They dress the wounds of my people, as though it were no serious. saying ‘Peace, peace.’ when there is no peace. Jeremiah 6. Watermarked from @BlackLiturgies]

God, I am so mad.

I’m heartbroken by so many things, but I’m mad about the state sanctioned murder of yet another black and brown person.

“Thou shalt not kill” you say. But they say “He had a gun, he looked older, she was suspicious.”

And the streets run with blood, too often the blood of children.

I’m so angry that white terrorists shoot up towns and schools and workplaces and grocery stores and are arrested alive again, and again.

But Black skin is seen as more dangerous than a gun.

I’m so scared of those people who thinking they are keeping us safe: white men and women, cops, and especially white cops.

Lady Jane Illustration [Digital Illustration of a person with flowing green hair, a dark grey jacket, gold hoop earrings and nose ring, trans flag pin, and green shirt. They are clutching their face with their hands. Behind them are pink flowers blooming. The text reads, ‘policing doesn’t keep us safe’]

It makes me think of my friends in college–all 4 of whom were beaten by their father, it makes me think the 3 sisters all who were raped by him throughout their lives, and how they all kept it a secret from each other because of the shame of it. They were hurt by their own father, a cop.

God why is it that we cannot take weapons from abusive individuals? Why is their right to remain armed deemed more important?

Why does their need for violent safety trump my need for peaceful safety?

Why do the police always win?

God I’m angry, and I’m going to stay angry. Because the lack of justice burns my soul. It makes me hunger for a different land, a different way, a different power structure.

God I must confess over and over again Racism is killing us, all of us.

And it’s tricky and can make White People feel safe, when we too are dying. We commit suicide and deal with depression and toxicity all because we are blind and refuse to be healed.

Curse You White Fragility, Male Fragility and American so called Patriotism.

Our communities, economies and peace is dying each and every time one of our Black Siblings die.

Black Lives Matter.

Our families, our relationships, our very understanding of time iteslf suffers whenever a Brown sibling is abused and killed.

Stop Asian Hate, No Human Being is Illegal, Bad Theology Kills.

How can we stop the killing?

Is this how it felt, Lord when your children suffered slavery in Egypt?

Did Jesus weep in Jerusalem because he saw the Jews and the Gentiles and the Samaritans and the Essenes killing each other to win the prize of peace, never understanding that peace can’t be forced or taken or violently enforced.

Is this why you disarmed Your very own Godself? Hanging your Bow in the sky? And did you foresee the rainbow as a sign of acceptance, celebration, inclusion and peace for our queer siblings even as our Trans siblings of color die violently every week in the United States?

Are you angry God? You must be, because I am so angry.

God these are your children, and I am going to stay angry, until things change.

I’ll be here.

Praying

and Working, Protesting, Voting, Calling Representatives, Giving out Food and Water, and Living Out the Anti-Racist Journey and Work.

And I Know I’ll Still

Even After All That

Be Angry.

And it comforts me to know, that you, God, are angry too.

Thank you for this anger Lord.

Amen.

Please feel free to use/share/adapt the prayer with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta. Please credit Lady Jane Illustrations and Black Liturgies for the the apropos and inspirational images.