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Bo Sanders: Public Theology

updating & innovating for today

Why Pray

Prayer has been a topic of conversation lately. I came up with 7 reasons to pray – and two clarifications.

1 Prayer opens me to the direction and flow of the universe

2 Prayer binds my heart to the lives and realities of people in my community

3 Prayer allows me to walk in the paths of those who have gone before me

4 Prayer contributes goodness & intention to the outcome of concern

5 Prayer allows God’s holy spirit to form, inform, and conform me to the divine image

6 Prayer opens moments (occasions) to truth, beauty, and goodness in which the miraculous can happen

7 When we partner with divine will in ways that lead to greater flourishing and both human & non-human prospering we participate in a potentially transformative activity

If will allow me to touch on 2 other aspects (outside this scope) there is an element of phronesis (embody wisdom or enacted knowledge) that the practice of prayer cultivates in us and in our communities. This is of course outside a transactional-interventionist view.

Secondly, there is aspect of ‘habitus’ where we are formed as people (and communities) of character through our participation in this discipline – which (side note) Jesus did & asked us to do.

Enjoy the video below and let me know your thoughts.

Palm Sunday Sermon

a 6 minute sermon about Palm Sunday – a very dangerous story.

Transcript below the video. I talk about the financial, military, political, and religious layers of the narrative. It is a well known script that we rehearse every year.

If I were to tell you a story about a little girl named Liberty and the story was set in Philadelphia in 1776, you would probably have a head start on what was going on in the story.

Or similarly, if I told you a story about a police officer in Ferguson Missouri in 2014 you might have a clue as to what that story was going to be about.

Today we are celebrating Palm Sunday and it is a story that has layers and layers of the buried meaning that we have to dig through as a 21st-century audience if we want to uncover.

Palm Sunday is doubly distracting because there’s not only is there a cute little colt that Jesus rides in on but there are actual children waving palm fronds. Don’t be deceived however–this story is saturated with dangerous ingredients.

Jesus rides in to town and makes his triumphal entry in what appears to be an unassuming and non- threatening sort of a way. But just keep in mind,  there had to be more going on in the story then first appears because he will not make it out of this week alive. Whatever he was up to was perceived by the authorities to be such a threat that he would be terminated before the week’s end.

So what exactly what’s going on that was so threatening and dangerous? I just want to pull on three threads that are woven into the fabric of the story for our time together this morning.

The first thing we need to do is look at what was going on and the other side of town. It is not difficult to imagine the profound contrast of the Roman appointed ruler riding in to town on an actual stallion with actual soldiers in an actual military parade complete with trumpets.

Jesus was no military general and that was no war-horse with battle armor. So what we call the triumphal entry was really more of a low budget pantomime or charade. It would have looked more  like a satire or lampoon than an actual threat.

But let’s keep digging.

What were those palm leaves about anyway? Well it turns out that they were a very subversive dog-whistle of sorts that harkened back to it time when the Jewish people were not occupied by a military oppressor and actually had their own currency. Archaeologists and Biblical scholars pointer coins that had Palm fronds on them as a sign of independence and liberation.

Let’s be honest, compared to the swords of the Roman centurions, those palm branches were no threat to anyone. Especially in the hands of little children you wouldn’t think that they were to be feared. But here is the thing: they were a reminder of a time when the people were free and the nation was sovereign. These palm branches we’re not just subversive but a secret-song to incite revolt. Even in the hands of little children they were full of violence.

It is in to this powder-keg that Jesus, named for his ancestor Joshua whose name means ‘salvation’, comes riding into town with the crowds shouting, ”Hosanna – Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”. This can easily be heard as a cry for liberation, a freedom song that people who have been under the heavy boot of military occupation and both political and religious oppression sing when they are longing to throw off the yoke of their oppressor.

So we have talked about an economic layer with the coins, the military layer with the swords in contrast to the palm branches, a political layer, and even a historical layer with his Jewish ancestry and even illusions to a messianic expectation of deliverance, salvation, and liberation.

What is the religious layer?

When Jesus rides in, what he offers to ushers in is not just a new kingdom to replace the old Kingdom. It’s not a simple switch from Caesar’s reign to God’s reign. What Jesus is ushering in is an invitation to an entirely different way of being in the world. This is the tragic thing that gets lost in the shifting sands of history.

Jesus’ is vision of the kingdom of heaven (or the kingdom of God) isn’t a Caesar style Kingdom or empire at all! It is a counter kingdom, and un-kingdom, an upside down inside out insurrection of the established order and the status quo. It’s not a revolution or a military coup just so that Jesus can sit on Caesar’s throne–it is instead a vision of an entirely different way of relating to the divine order, your neighbor, and your enemy alike.

Whether the rulers knew it or even the people lining the parade route that day knew it – what road into town that day was of vision of a different way of being in the world: call it a revolution of love, a divine economy, or the kin-dom where all of God’s children can flourish and prosper without fear.

This is the sub-plot of our yearly drama. Every year on this Sunday we rehearse the pageantry of the palms and we have our children process as we enact the narrative of the Prince of Peace humbling riding in on an unassuming donkey.

That is all fun. Just don’t be under the impression that it is tame, or cute, or non-threatening. Embedded in the narrative is a menacing sub-plot. It is an invitation for you and I to imagine the world being a different way. It is chance for us to rehearse a different way of being in the world.

Underneath the well-rehearsed script of the familiar play is imbedded a subversive invitation to wake from our slumber, break out of our routine, and begin to participate in the inbreaking kin-dom of connection and care that undermines the assumed and entrenched ruts of this world in order to rupture the concrete reality of our daily existence.

We are in an unprecedented time in our society. We are caught up in a global pause of social isolation.

Our question for this Palm Sunday is this: when we hit the ‘play’ button again, how do we want things to be different? Can we imagine the world a different way? Maybe ‘getting things back to normal’ isn’t our only option. Maybe there is a different way of being in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

an (in)Version of Communion

Many churches normally celebrate communion on the 1st Sunday of the month.

This is not your average month however. There is a lot of hand-wringing about whether to do online communion … OR … utilize this Sunday as a ‘Lenten fast’ from communion until we are all together again physically.

It is amazing how ‘social distancing’ has challenged both our vocabulary and our metaphysics.

More about that in a future post.

I found a work-around or a middle-ground or a loop-hole:

It is call an (in)Version of Communion. I want to make it available to anyone who is considering celebrating the sacrament of communion with their online community.

Nerdy side-note: I totally get why ministers and church leaders may not want to say the same words that they always do when they do not fit the digital space when they are broadcasting from an otherwise empty room. So I changed the words.

This inverse communion does not start with with one loaf and one cup and then try and figure out how it can be virtually broadcast to the many. It starts with the many (breads and baked goods) and utilizes ‘words of instantiation‘ to make concrete the abstract or the theoretical.

I want to be clear: these are words of instantiation NOT the regular words of institution.

Something different is happening here.

We shortened it to 6 minutes.

Please see the PDF included here if you are interested, or read the words below and please let me know what you think. An (in)Version of Communion [edit 2]

An (in)Version of Communion:

Oh, beautiful and sacred divine, we greet you this morning in the knowledge that all life is in your loving care – for your Spirit’s presence is everywhere at all times filling all things with life and intention.

We give thanks this morning for the reality that in our various locations, separated by miles and social distance, that it is still true that it is in you in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). The psalmist reminds us that there is nowhere we can hide from your presence (Psalm 149:7) and we confess that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8: 38-39).

You have given us the gift of your Holy Spirit who testifies within us that we belong to you (Galatians 4:6, Romans 8:16) and who unites us with the saints of the past who have walked this road of faith before us through various trials and tribulations.

Now come Holy Spirit and make us one across the miles and through this media of the digital web that now connects us. Transform, by your spirit of grace, our social isolation and distance into a holy community that is connected to each other by your sacred presence. Be near to us as we are separated from one another so that each of our kitchen tables (and coffee tables) may be mystically connected in communion to your table which unites us all.

We give thanks for this sacred ceremony in all of the ways it has manifested over the centuries.

We also give thanks for these elements that nourish and sustain us through difficult times and for the earth from which these ingredients came. For this bread (or baked goods) and for this cup (or mug) we give thanks and acknowledge that it is through elements like these that our mortal bodies are nourished, strengthened, and satisfied.

We take these as symbols and pray that they would be transformed from ordinary elements into signs that point us to the greater reality of your presence in the earth in all places and at all times.

[For the Beauty of the Earth v1]

May these humble offerings be transformed into symbols that participate in the reality that point to into signs of the life to come.

Normally we take the one loaf and we break it to serve the many. In doing so, we symbolize the significance of our unity as the body of Christ through remembering your body broken for us that in you we may be one. This morning we lift up our many pieces through this medium of social media and ask that in you the many would be one. Make this bread to be for us a sign of your presence with us, sustaining us and filling us with good things.

May this symbol remind us that in our brokenness we are to be bread for the world

[For the Beauty of the Earth v2 communion chorus]

On the night that Jesus took this cup, he lifted it and gave thanks–infusing it with new meaning. This cup represents the life and the love of Christ poured out. We give thanks for what is in this cup and for the earth from which these elements come. We are grateful for the vines and bushes and brambles which give fruit in due season and fill our lives with good things.

Normally during this ceremony, we proclaim that there is one cup and that it is filled with goodness and love poured out for the good of the many. This morning we ask the by the power of your presence our many cups would signify that we drink deeply of the good things of God and that they would help us to remember that we look forward to a day where we shall be together with all the saints for the great Thanksgiving and the banquet feast of the ages in your eternal presence.

Let them, Holy Spirit, remind us that our lives – like this cup – are filled with your goodness and grace so that our lives may be poured out in service to others.

As we take these elements into ourselves, make them be to us the body of Christ – as we remember that we are your body – and the love of God poured out for our good and the good of the many.

May every plate and every cup help us to remember your great love for us and for all living things.

We partake of these elements together through the medium of this digital communion and ask that you would unite us in heart through this great mystery of the ages – through the mediating presence of this online medium – that we are connected to each other into a holy communion of the people of God – a royal priesthood of all believers.

By the power of Spirit, the medium of these elements and the media of this digital space is transformed into a sacred ceremony of communion and thanksgiving across the miles from here unto eternity.

Let us celebrate together!  Thanks be God who transforms our humble offerings.

Christ’s body broken for you – the many are made one and transformed into the body of Christ.

The Cup of God’s love poured out for you – to fill you with good things as you pour out your life for the good of many and the transformation of the world.

Thanks be to God. Amen

#Online #Communion #Liturgy #Digital #Church

Unknown Knowns

If you need a little encouragement today, here is a 6 min sermon.
It plays off of Rumsfeld and Zizek

  • known knowns (things we know that we know)
  • known unknowns (things we know that we don’t know)
  • unknown unknowns (things we don’t know that we don’t know)

Then Zizek reminds us that the 4th quadrant would be “unknown knowns”

If you like this you can also check out an early rendition based on Phronesis

Romans 5

Online Communion Liturgy

We did an experiment this morning with digital communion. It has been a big adjustment for many people of faith to go to online church gatherings.

Many are finally adjusting to online community but were struggling with how we were going to observe the sacraments. How do you celebrate communion online?

Here is my first attempt at an online liturgy for communion. It took 11 minutes and so we are going to refine it down next week to about half the amount of text. In the transcript below (also available as a PDF at the bottom) I went ahead and highlighted the ‘inverse’ elements where the innovation happens.

Please feel free to utilize or adapt this if it would be helpful to you in your context. We will be doing Inverse Communion (the shorter version) next Sunday if you would to join us.

Online Communion Liturgy #Digital #Church

Oh, beautiful and sacred divine, we greet you this morning in the knowledge that all life is in your loving care. For your Spirit’s presence is everywhere at all times filling all things with life and intention.

We give thanks this morning for the reality that in our various locations, separated by miles and social distance, that it is still true that it is in you in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). The psalmist reminds us that there is nowhere we can hide from your presence (Psalm 149:7) and we confess that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8: 38-39).

We rest in the assurance that we are your children and we receive the affirmation that we belong to you–your spirit testifies in our spirit that we have been adopted into your family (Galatians 4:6) and by your grace stand not just adopted but accepted, approved, and adored (Romans 8:16). You have given us the gift of your Holy Spirit who unites us with the saints of the past who have walked this road of faith before us through various trials and tribulations.

Now come Holy Spirit and make us one across the miles and through this media of the digital web that now connects us. Transform, by your spirit of grace, our social isolation and distance into a holy community that is connected to each other by your sacred presence. Be near to us as we are separated from one another so that each of our kitchen tables (and coffee tables) maybe mystically connected in communion to your table which unites us all.

We give thanks for this sacred ceremony in all of the ways it has manifested over the centuries. We give thanks for the ways that this Holy meal has transformed and evolved over the ages from a once a year Passover meal that Jesus took, blessed, broke, and shared with his disciples. We give thanks for all of those who have celebrated this sacrament throughout history in the form of the Lord’s Supper, a Love Feast, Eucharist, Mass, and Communion. We also give thanks for your divine presence in every place that we celebrate being the body of Christ this morning.

We also give thanks for these elements that nourish and sustain us through difficult times. For this bread (or baked goods) and for this cup (or mug) we give thanks and acknowledge that it is through elements like these that our mortal bodies are nourished, strengthened, and satisfied.

We take these as symbols of your provision and goodness and pray that they would be transformed from ordinary elements into signs that point us to the greater reality of your presence in the earth in all places and at all times.

[For the Beauty of the Earth v1]

May these humble offerings be transformed into symbols that participate in the reality that point to into signs of the life to come.

We give thanks for this bread and for the earth from which these ingredients come in humble acknowledgment that we are a part of your loving creation and that as these elements are rooted in the earth that our very life is dependent on the goodness of creation. You created all things good and we are a part of that creation. We pray this morning for those who work in the fields and the farms across to this land and pray that they would know your presence this morning in a significant way during this crisis.

Normally we take the one loaf and we break it to serve the many. In doing so, we symbolize the significance of our unity as the body of Christ through remembering your body broken for us that in you we may be one. This morning we lift up are many pieces through this medium of social media and ask that in you the many would be one. Make this bread to be for us a sign of your presence with us, sustaining us and filling us with good things.

May this symbol remind us that in our brokenness we are to be bred for the world and to care for those who hunger physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, relationally, politically, economically, and environmentally.

[For the Beauty of the Earth v2 communion chorus]

On the night that Jesus took this cup, he lifted it and gave thanks–infusing it with new meaning. This cup represents the life and the love of Christ poured out. This cup symbolizes the heart of God, spilled would love for all creation. We give thanks for what is in this cup in for the earth from which these elements come. We are grateful for the vines and bushes and brambles which give fruit in due season and fill our lives with good things.

Normally during this ceremony, we proclaim that there is one cup in that it is filled with goodness and love poured out for the good of the many. This morning we ask the by the power of your presence our many cups would signify that we drink deeply of the good things of God and that they would help us to remember that we look forward to a day where we shall be together with all the saints for the great Thanksgiving and the banquet feast of the ages in your eternal presence.

May these symbols remind us of the power of transformation. We give thanks for the grapes and blossoms and berries and beans that are transformed from one state into another and that as they are brewed and steeped and stewed that they become elements of refreshment and celebration.

Let them, Holy Spirit, remind us that our lives – like this cup – are filled with your goodness and grace so that our lives may be poured out in service to others. We lift up those in need this morning and those who are pouring out their lives in service to our hurting world at this time.

 

God of grace and mercy we ask that you transform these humble elements from mere reminders into a symbol of your presence with us and a sign of your life in us as we take these elements into ourselves. Make them be to us the body of Christ – as we remember that we are your body – and the love of God poured out for our good and the good of the many.

Holy Spirit we asked that by the power of your presence that we too would be transformed from the many into the one that the world may hear of your love and the good news of redemption for all creation. Until we eat and drink together again enjoying with all the saints throughout the ages and around the planet may every plate and every cup help us to remember your great love for us and for all living things.

We partake of these elements together through the medium of this digital communion and ask that you would unite us in heart and intention so that in every place and at all times your presence is manifest on the earth.  We make ourselves available to this great mystery of the ages – through the mediating presence of this online medium – that we are connected to each other into a holy communion of the people of God – a royal priesthood of all believers.

In God the many are one.  In Christ the loved of God is poured out for the good of the whole world. By the power of Spirit, the medium of these elements and the media of this digital space is transformed into a sacred ceremony of communion and thanksgiving across the miles from here unto eternity.

 

Let us celebrate together!  Thanks be God who transforms our humble offerings.

  • Christ’s body broken for you – the many are made one and transformed into the body of Christ.
  • The Cup of God’s love poured out for you – to fill you with good things as you pour out your life for the good of many and the transformation of the world.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

____________________

If you have questions, comments, or suggestions email VHUMCpastor@gmail.com

Digital Communion Liturgy [PDF]

 

Lessons from Luke (ImBible Study)

Reading the Bible through a progressive lens is so much fun!  I recorded a video about what we have been learning by reading through the Gospel of Mark.

Join us this Wednesday at 7pm for a lively (and irreverent) time of reading the gospel.

It is not your average Bible study!  Join the zoom here: https://zoom.us/j/585770550

The 4 layers of our ‘surplus of meaning’ and 3 surprises from the Gospel of Luke.

We ask the text 4 Layers of Questions:

  1. What would the original audience have heard?
  2. What has the text come to mean in history?
  3. What do we do with the text now? (application)
  4. What is the most the this text can mean? (future horizon)

Three themes that emerged in Luke:

  1. Jesus uses ‘Dog Whistles’
  2. the Bible reads differently for those on top or the underside
  3. Parables are not allegory

Moving On From SuperNatural

In a recent podcast of the Peacing It All Together Book Discussion Group, a question was asked about moving on from a the concept of the supernatural to a more integrated or indigenous perspective.

From minute 7 to 14 there is a nice discussion about different ways of moving on from this poorly manufactured thought construct.

I come from an evangelical-charismatic perspective in my past where the supernatural was just assumed.  It was almost like a second language that not fluent but fairly versed in. It has taken my 12 years of incremental work to move out of that language and worldview in order  to make room for a more wholistic and (possibly indigenous) perspective.

Here is the steps that I took to (re)orient myself.

1) Jesus did not believe in the supernatural. There is no Jewish concept like ‘spiritual’. It just wasn’t a category for them like it is for us . That division starts for Christianity in the Greco-Roman world (think of Plato’s philosophy) but comes to its height in the European Enlightenment. It is helpful to simply realize that the Bible does not have this word.

2) It has not born good fruit for the past 500 years. This dualism between natural & supernatural have had devastating consequences in the colonial, then industrial, then technological eras. Jesus said that you will know a tree by its fruit and this is bad fruit. Many of the problems we face today are rooted in this kind of binary (either/or) thinking. The church has been complicit in some pretty horrific stuff – partly because it was participating in this natural/supernatural split.

3) See the living world as a revelation of God. It is a valid loci for theological reflection. I am not separate from creation but very much a part of it. I am a narrative mammal – complete with nipples and a belly-button. I both need creation and am called to care for creation because I am a part of creation – from dust I came and dust I shall return.

4) The church messed up by conceding the ‘natural’ to science because the more that science can explain the less we need God. God has gotten smaller and smaller over the past couple centuries. ‘He’ is less powerful than ever before and at this point all ‘He’ can do is give us goosebumps during worship, get us a good parking spot at the mall (?), and speak to our heart when we are feeling bad about ourselves. How it that ‘super’ natural?

We messed up in the western worldview when we conceded the rules of the game to science and said that we would take everything that science or reason can’t explain and call that ‘super’natural. Everything else is natural?   That is why we must re-claim  proclaim that …

5) God’s work is the most natural thing in the world. We have made God into an idol – a ‘being’ who is a lot like us but just different kind if not degree. This is the danger of personification (anthropomorphism) when it goes from being fluid (theo-poetics) and it hardens to become more concrete in doctrinal statements and foundationalism.

The problem is that there is no ‘there’ there. This view is god is both unsatisfying and ultimately impotent. God is not ‘a being’ like we are a being – god is divine being. When we reference God ‘speaking’ is not by pushing air over vocal chords. When we talk about the hand of god we are not being literal. It is a poetic way envisioning or imagining the way in which the divine presence influences and animates all of creation.

I have tried to move toward a more integrated worldview that is holistic and interdependent.

So want to invite you to begin to or continue to deconstruct this terrible thought construct that we have inherited by looking out the window to creation and saying out loud:

 “There is no such thing as the supernatural. God’s work is the most natural thing in the world”.

Please don’t think that this is merely semantics or a rhetorical device. It is a completely different worldview – complete with different ontology, cosmology, and metaphysic. I am not being clever or tricky when I say this stuff. It really is a different way of believing and participating in the world.

So in summary:

  1. Jesus didn’t believe in the supernatural (only the miraculous).
  2. The natural/supernatural split has not born good fruit historically.
  3. Creation is a living thing that God loves and that you are a part of.
  4. The church messed up by conceding the ‘natural’ world and taking the leftovers.
  5. We profess and confess that God’s work is the most natural thing in the world.

Please let me know your thoughts and your questions. I would love to be helpful in your migration to a more integrated and wholistic worldview. I hope that this model helps.

Somebody asked about miracles!

Miraculous is when the result is greater than you would expect from the ‘sum of its parts’. It is an event (in philosophy).
So we say ‘the miracle of child birth’ or ‘the miracle on the Hudson’ when Sully landed that plane.
I still believe in the miracle of healing. It is not predictable or formulaic or even reliable … it is always surprising. BUT it does happen. Medicine can be a part of it, diet is a part of it, rest is a part of it, and prayer can be a part of it.
I can believe in the miraculous without the addition of another super-natural ‘realm’ beyond this one. The super-natural split just comes with so much extra (and unnecessary) baggage.
Keep in mind that the Gospel of John calles them ‘signs & wonders’ … which is much healthier and more helpful.
A sign (in this way of thinking) is a symbol that participates in the reality that it points to. Miracles are signs of the inbreaking Kin-dom.
Communion can be like this for us! It is a symbol (the bread and cup) that participates in the reality that it points to – we all gather around the table as the body of christ – but the bread and cup are not supernatural.

Transcend Transform Transgress

Something a little different today: here is a reflection that I wrote and below is the video of me trying to present it on the live-stream Sunday morning (with limited success).

I would love to hear your thoughts.

There is a wonderful and often quoted passage in Galatians chpt 3 that I wanted to flesh out a little today.

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

It is important to understand what Paul is saying here and what the possible implications are for us in the 21st century – since this verse has sometimes been used in a harmful way.

In the first century that Paul was writing in, there were 3 divisions of identity (if you will) and this passage addresses them all.

  • Political
  • Personal
  • Religious

Paul is saying that in Christ these divisions are ruptured or transcended. In the political realm, slave and free would have had very different lives. In the personal (gendered) realm, males and females would have completely different rights and obligations. Life would have looked very different. In the religious realm, Jews and Greeks were vastly different categories – especially under Roman religion regulations.

What Paul is saying is that in Christ those categories are complicated, called into question, and transgressed.

It is not that those categories ceased to be or ceased to be important. It is that they no longer were totalizing. They lost their power to be ultimately determinative. They did not completely define or confine you.

This is an amazing implication of the gospel – the good news of life in Christ. You were not the categories that you were born into and that society placed upon you. There was now something else about that transcended those external categories and transformed who you are in the world.

You might be able to say in our day: there is no republican or democrat, no gay and straight, no citizen and immigrant.

This is a very transgressive thing to say! It violates the very categories that we have set up for sorting out who is us and who is them.

Now here is the important part: those categories still exist. It is just that they don’t define us, limit us, contain us, and restrain us.

Transgressive issues can be very powerful. They call into question the entire structure of the inherited system and undermine (or subvert) the very way that we categorize society.

This is why I prefer to talk about transform instead of reform. It is not enough to us and we need to transcend these limitations in divisions. The danger is that we will come in times of great tension and social upheaval, redress when we should transgress.

Those are my words for the day:

  • Transform
  • Transcend
  • Transgress

I have been fascinated over the last several years to watch and listen to the heated debate around bathrooms and who gets to use which bathroom. As somebody who lives between two established communities having been raised Evangelical but now operating in Progressive circles, I have been astounded at the amount of attention and contention that issues of Trans people has received.

In the LGBTQAI+ formulation the T is only 1/8 of the signifier. It is notable that when looking at the millions of people who would identify by this series of signifiers that percentage wise trans people are a microscopic percentage. Not even one percent – a fraction of one percent. And yet, in the social imagination, their presence has drawn overwhelming amount of attention.

This is the power of the transgressive category. The presence of the ‘other’ calls into question the entire system, the whole configuration. It is one thing to be gay or straight, male or female– That’s contentious or confusing is the debate surrounding those to be –it is another thing to call the entire concept of genderization into question.

We live in very contentious times where any issue can you become instantly aggravated an divisive. I have been amazed at the outsized amount of attention that this issues who can use which bathroom has received in both my current liberal circles and in the evangelical circles that I get to visit. There is something very telling about the disproportionate amount of attention that this issue has drawn.

It is telling. And it is a good thing because it questions or interrogates the entire structure. And the structure needs to be examined!

I became aware of how big of a problem our gendered categories were when I moved to LA and I inadvertently picked up some new hand motions. Apparently they were a little too feminine for a large man to be using and people would point it  out to me. When someone would say that they were not very manly, I would protest by saying, “no. I am a man who uses these hand motions–that makes them manly”.

We also categorize colors by gender. It is interesting to know that 100 years ago pink and blue were used in the exact opposite way for baby boys and girls as they are now. In fact both the yellow and purple were acceptable. It was not until the first color addition of the Sears Roebuck catalog in the early 1920s that our current pink and blue category was formalized.

I recently read a story that my friend posted on social media about being confronted by somebody because her male dog had a purple harness.

Listen, if hand motions and colors and dog harnesses can be gendered then the entire enterprise needs to be called into question.

Our gender categories are too overly determined and totalized.

So that brings us back to our text. It is not that there is no such thing as a male and female, Republican and Democrat, citizen and immigrant… it’s that there is a category which transcends, transforms, and transgresses our understanding inherited categories.

I might say to you today that in Christ your identity it’s so much bigger then any of those external signifiers that society places upon you. It doesn’t mean that we are no longer males or females, that we are not Black and white and Asian And Native American, that we are neither gay nor straight–we continue to be all of those things. It’s that they are not final or total in their capacities to define us and divide us.

There is something much bigger about Life in Christ (the gospel) that subverts, undermines, and interrogates the ways that the world has been divided up for us and changes the ways that we are called to participate in the world.

The Church of Us vs Them recap

If you are looking for something to watch (or listen to), we have been having a blast in Sunday School.

We are going through the book “The Church of Us vs Them” and it has been really challenging.

 The Church of Us vs Them week 5 recap

Enjoy the video below or listen to the audio podcast here https://vermonthillsumc.org/podcast/us-vs-them-week-5-recap/

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