Advent, Christmas, and Public Church – José F. Rodríguez Páez, MDiv student at LSTC

IMG_4512Advent is nearing its end and Christmas is upon us. The life of migrants and refugees, all who seek peace and freedom, is especially poignant these days. José F. Rodríguez Páez gives us his own deeply personal observation of what this means to us, as Christians moving from Advent into Christmas, giving us all reminder that even in the darkest days of displacement and fear, God is always with us. Read, comment, and share.

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


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Advent, which means “arrival” and precedes Christmas and then Epiphany, provides us with a very special opportunity to renew ourselves and prepare ourselves to receive the Christ and celebrate his presence in our midst. We know the prophecies about his birth, the announcement of the angel to Mary and Joseph, the census, the manger, the shepherds, the child wrapped in a manger and the visit of the Sages of the East; these are all important and well-known events in the Christian tradition. However, the Gospel according to Matthew tells us about a moment in the life of Jesus that we rarely hear about in our churches during Christmas, despite the fact that this story is very relevant for the Christian people of today. Matthew 2:13-14 says:

“When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.14 so he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt.”

Currently thousands of men, women, youth and children are immigrating to this country. They are forced to leave their countries in search of a better future. Just as Jesus and his family had to flee to Egypt, these people come to the United States fleeing from the Herod who oppresses them in many of our Central American countries. The lack of work and health and education services, as well as poverty, government corruption, social inequality and weakened economies are some of the powerful reasons that motivate people to venture on an extremely dangerous pilgrimage to try to cross the border in search of better jobs that allow them to offer a better quality of life to their loved ones.

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The refugee ‘caravan’ making its way through Mexico last month.

The events that Matthew describes lead us to reflect on the fact that, in a literal sense, Jesus Christ began his life as a refugee and foreigner in another country.

As an immigrant, Jesus lived in his own flesh, together with his family, the harsh reality of having to leave his country and move to a strange land in search of safety and well-being. When we contemplate this aspect of Jesus’ life, then his name takes on a broader and extremely hopeful meaning for immigrants.

Amidst the atmosphere of hatred and persecution that currently prevails in the United States, against the immigrant community, it is extremely encouraging to know that even today, Jesus, the immigrant, is walking along with all the people who are pilgrims and foreigners. More comforting is knowing that Jesus Christ not only knows and understands our suffering as immigrants, but also suffers with and for us.

The presence of God and the certainty of this love and solidarity, as they are incarnated in our lives through Jesus Christ, strengthens us and gives us hope that a better day is coming for our people. On that day, our people will no longer be “invisible” or considered “illegal”. There will be just migratory laws that will treat all people with dignity and that will promote the unity of the family. The security of knowing that Emmanuel is walking by our side is what allows us to work hard to build communities where discrimination, racism and classism are not are tolerated in any of the spheres of government, society and church.

God says: “Do not be afraid, I am with you.”

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I may raise my voice when discouragement, frustration or nostalgia robs us of the joy and desire to move on. Let us raise our eyes to heaven and seek to be enlightened with the comfort, healing and strength that Jesus Christ gives us. Remember that the light of hope, which emanated from the humble crib of Bethlehem, still continues to shine in our favor to give us true freedom, salvation and hope. This freedom is key. As Christians—and as Lutherans—we are called to live in the freedom of Christ. I believe that there is no contradiction between freedom and the call to service of the human being because each of these faculties is given by different natures. We live out God’s freedom by also living in service to one another.

With a loving voice, today Jesus continues to encourage us with the same words that the angel pronounced to Mary and Joseph. It tells us: “do not be afraid”. The churches, which proclaim Jesus the immigrant, the churches that serve the immigrants who come to our communities with love, are the ones who receive the words of Jesus “do not be afraid”, as a call to continue raising their prophetic voices against discrimination, racism and unjust laws who oppress our people. For me, Public Church means connecting with the community with the needs of community member.

The Public Church is in the street, wherever it is located. It means walking with the people, as Jesus walked with people. In this situation, it means walking with immigrants, as Jesus walks with them.

To be with those whom are often regarded as the classic “other,” who do not belong. Such constructions of the “other” may be based on legal grounds, physical appearance or race, (perceived) cultural and religious differences, class characteristics, or on any combination of these elements. Such constructions have been used politically, e.g., by the anti-immigrant movement, and express themselves in discriminatory practices, deteriorating inter-ethnic relations, and weakening of social cohesion in communities, cities, and states.

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And it is for the sake of the least of these beloved ones, the least of these, to whom the cries of the baby Jesus summon us. 


14991307_1483363748347244_1499329586401493230_oHaving spent most of his career as an attorney, José F. Rodríguez Páez emigrated here to the US as a consequence of the political unrest in his native Venezuela. Currently, in addition to completing his divinity studies at The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago he also works coordinating Hispanic ministries at San Andres/St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in West Chicago, Illinois.

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Identity Crisis – Rev. Mauricio Vieira

IMG_4512After a hiatus of a couple of weeks, we have returned to our series honoring Hispanic/Latinx Heritage month – and this new post is truly a curious one. Written by Rev. Mauricio Vieira, a naturalized US-citizen from Brazil serving in rural Illinois, it is a poignant reflection on how being a “white-passing” Latino immigrant has been problematic. Read, comment, and share!

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of the LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


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Colorism in the Latino community – see video here.

Peace, sisters, and brothers, be with you from our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. How should I describe my journey as a Latino ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America? Four words come to mind: post-adolescence identity crisis. 

Allow me to explain.

It all began in the year 2000. My wife Ana and I were somewhat fresh living in the United States and working as life sciences scholars at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. One day someone working for the census bureau stops by, and Ana answers the door. There was a mistake with our census information. We had marked white. Ana looks at the inside of her forearms and all the veins visible through her ashen skin, gives the person a very puzzled look, and asks flat out, what do you mean?

The unfazed person then answered, “Sorry, you are not American.”

See, in spite of being born and raised in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Ana and I are white as white comes. We are designated as white in our birth-land. Without relying on the precision of DNA tests, Ana is 100% Portuguese. I am more or less 70% Portuguese, 15% Italian, and 15% French – pure Caucasian blood unless proven otherwise by modern science. Therefore, without thinking, Ana just went with the motions and checked the box that said, white. I confess that the fact that someone had come back in an official capacity to knock on our door to correct the “mistake” gave me pause. I went on to learn much more from that point on.

As a consequence of my pure whiteness, I can claim to myself the colonizer heritage mentioned by Nicole Garcia in this blog. Our ancestors, the Portuguese, did pretty much the same stuff that was done in the rest of the Americas, plus one small devilish detail. We invented the concept of go to Africa, kidnap people, and ship them as cattle to a foreign land to live lives of slavery – the British took over the business later. This is a heritage that is not oblivious to me, nor my wife, nor my two sons.  Ana and I, we own it, and since the time we were college students, each one of us on their own path, and then together, have worked and stood against the prevailing racial injustices that happen in Brazil.

Contrary to North American perception, Brazil is a very racist country, and I have benefited from its systems of racism. That privilege allowed me to come to the United States legally, to be offered a job, to become a permanent resident, and then, later on, a citizen.

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Nonetheless, like most Latinos, due to the excessive number of vowels in my name, which can be typical of Latin-derived names, combined with my place of birth, I was introduced to stereotyping very early. A lot of it can be dissipated in the science field. Flagship State University towns and work environments tend to be melting pots, including biology labs. Therefore, one’s accent and culture does not necessarily carry the same weigh in the power structure because this is what is important: can you generate data and get funding? If one can, ethnicity does not matter as much.  Even so, there were moments when, despite my qualifications and expertise, I lived the typical Latino experience in America, that is, almost always misinterpreted, often distrusted, seldom heard.

However, nothing had yet prepared me for the reality of the North American relationship systems outside the science “bubble.”

Seminary for me was brutal. I checked most of the handicap boxes, a second career, full-time, commuter, husband of a wife with a full-time job, father of two kids in elementary school, international student.  My perceived privilege – and physical strength – was shattered by mid-October during the fall semester of my first year. I made it, but I have scars.

I get it now what took me some time to figure out. In white North American Anglo-Saxon systems, solidarity and respect are earned, especially if you are perceived as a person of color – now you can see where this is getting twisted. I come from a system where there is an expectation of solidarity and respect out of the gate – at least if one is Caucasian – which is lost if you prove otherwise over time.  Therefore, when it came to the “real” world outside labs and conference rooms, acceptance was upside down to me, as it was paper styles. In life sciences, the conclusions are the last paragraphs. It took me a “D” to figure out that in human sciences the conclusion comes first. The seminary professor for whom I actually wrote that commented that it was upside down.

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Latinxs talking about the pain and frustration of being seen as “white.”

But I digress.

So, there I was. On the one hand, male, Caucasian and privileged for some, and therefore steward of powers that now I know I have, but that I never claimed or wanted. On the other, Latino, foreigner, heavy accent, perceived as a person of color for others – even if one can still see the veins on my arms – and therefore almost always misinterpreted, often distrusted, seldom heard. It was a mess.

Who was I supposed to be in God’s beloved creation!?

I know it sounds dramatic, but I have many mundane and shocking examples to share. However, since I am mindful of the number of words suggested to me by my friend Francisco Herrera, I will mention only three.

There was this day in CPE small groups that a colleague told me out of the blue that she did not know what it was, but my presence alone was stressful to her. I wonder if she got confused by a big Caucasian male who acts like a Latino. Then there was the day when we were on a candidacy retreat, and I had volunteered to set up the worship space, only to hear a fellow person of color tell another that he was sticking around “to make sure our international student (yours truly) knew what he was doing.” By the way, that was after one of the internship supervisors in the retreat approached the organizer and offered to set up the worship space in my place, only to hear that I was the one assigned to do it.

Now comes the cherry on top.

Once I was attending one of the classes on Science and Religion and it happened that the speaker was presenting something about my country of birth, out of a website, that I knew to be, let’s say, scientifically incorrect. The speaker had no idea that sitting in the audience was not only a life scientist with a doctorate but also a native of the same country. Credentials enough, right? Nope, comments dismissed, even after the such were presented. Apparently, I did not know enough about my own country.

One can’t make this up!

I can certainly say, however, that not everything in this crazy and awesome life of serving Christ through God’s people has been annoying our upsetting for this Latino pastor and preacher. I have met classmates, teachers, colleagues, and parishioners who have made this journey absolutely a blessing. The support of my home congregation of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Urbana, IL. My friends from St. Andrew Lutheran Church and Campus Center, who welcomed my services during my time in Ministry In Context. My supervisor and the people of Grace Lutheran Church in Champaign, IL, who taught me more than I deserved during my internship, especially my beloved confirmation class. My candidacy committee, who accompanied and prayed for me along the way. Those from St. John’s Lutheran Church in Cullom, IL, and St. Paul Lutheran Church in Chatsworth, IL, who have embraced me as their proclaimer, teacher, and pastor. I don’t have space to name all of you. But, you know who you are I would not have done without you; and I continue to do it for you. I love you all.

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Me and my family

So, here is my message to you, fellow Latinos who may be pursuing ministry, or to anyone who is not cookie cutter and feels like always having to justify why you are in such path…

By the way, it is a minimized version of the crude and lousy sermon that I preached on the before mentioned candidacy retreat. It goes like this. When one goes into my country to buy salt, one will find only one kind, which is cooking salt. It can be either coarse or finely ground but cooking salt, nonetheless.  In this country, there are a variety of salts, sometimes on the same shelf. There is water softening salt, salt to melt ice, rock salt, salt for ice cream machines. Besides the ordinary cooking salt, there is Kosher salt, sea salt, garlic salt, onion salt, celery salt, and Himalayan pink salt.

So remember, you too were called to be the salt of the earth. Figure it out what kind of salt God has made out of you, for this time and this place, and never, ever, let anyone take your saltiness away.

“[The God who abundantly poured grace upon you] may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:16-19).

Amen.


mo.jpgPastor Mauricio Vieira was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and became an American Citizen. He is a former life scientist with a Ph.D. in Cell Biology by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. He obtained his Master of Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Home is currently in Cullom, IL, with his wife Ana, sons Logan and Dominick – all culprits in this ministry – and puppies Gus and Molly.  He is currently the called Pastor to St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cullom, IL and St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chatsworth, IL.

“Who do you say that I am?” a Refelction on Laquan McDonald and Jesus – Rev. Erik Christensen

Dr TIn life, one of the hardest things that anyone can do is try to answer the question, “Who am I?” Compounding this, too, is the fact that despite what we say about ourselves there are countless others willing to say who we really are, and are willing to do so with violence. This week’s reflection, written by LSTC’s pastor for the community and Dean of Worship Erik Christensen, is a profound exploration of Jesus’ question “Who do people say that I am?” in the context of the horrific murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald – whose killer, Jason VanDyke, is going to trial this week (for a transcript of this sermon, click here – to hear the SoundCloud recording, click here). Read it. Comment on it, and share it. 

 Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of the LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


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Laquan McDonald in a family photo

The trial of Jason Van Dyke, the police officer who shot and killed Laquan McDonald four years ago here in Chicago, began this week. For those of us who have lived here in Chicago for some time, or who have been following the story of endemic police violence against black and brown bodies nationally, the details of this case are old news. But for those who may be new to this country, or just awakening to this issue, the details in brief are these:

Laquan McDonald was born on September 25, 1997. If here were still alive, he would have celebrated his 21st birthday this week. But he is not alive because, on the night of October 20, 2014 he was fatally shot by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. Police had been called to investigate reports of a person breaking into vehicles at a trucking yard at 41st Street and Kildare, about 11 miles from here just off the Stevenson Expressway, north of Midway Airport.

When officers confronted Laquan, he used a knife with a 3-inch blade to slice the tire of a patrol car and damage the windshield. Initial reports by the police department said that he lunged at Officer Jason Van Dyke, forcing him to shoot Laquan in self-defense. This was the accepted story for almost a year, until video taken by a police car dashboard camera was released, clearly showing that 17 year-old McDonald was walking away from the police officers when he was shot, 16 times in 15 seconds.

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Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago at the time of McDonald’s killing, and Officer Jason VanDyke

The tale of how that dashboard video got released is a story all its own, and worth taking the time to learn. It involves a $5 million payout to Laquan’s family that wasn’t settled until the day after Mayor Rahm Emanuel secured re-election to his second term, and continued protests that built into a movement calling for the resignation of the city’s top officials. Eventually police superintendent Garry McCarthy was fired, and Cook County’s State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez lost her bid for re-election. There is speculation that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision not to seek a third term is connected to the timing of this trial coming just as Chicago’s mayoral race is heating up.

Chicago Public Radio has created a podcast titled 16 Shots that goes deep into the facts surrounding Laquan’s death, and explores how the police killing of this one young man set off a series of events that led to the United States Department of Justice conducting a civil rights investigation that resulted in a public report in which the Chicago Police Department was described as having a culture of “excessive violence,” a “culture in which officers expect to use force and never be carefully scrutinized about the propriety of that use,” especially when used against minorities, an assessment supported by the fact that Chicago Police are 14 times more likely to use force against young black men than against their white counterparts.

But I feel like I’m getting off track here. I’m supposed to be talking about Jesus.

Oh, right, so I was listening to the podcast, 16 Shots, and was struck by the fact that of all the places the journalists might have chosen to begin their reporting on this story, they began with a clip of an interview with the Rev. Marshall Hatch, Sr., pastor of New Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, who — along with other black clergy from Chicago’s south and west sides — was called into the mayor’s office and asked for support in quelling the rising tensions immediately after the video footage of Laquan’s killing was released.

These clergy were told in no uncertain terms that if they did not help out, they should not expect support from city hall when they came with requests of their own.

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Rev. Marshall Hatch, Sr.

In that same meeting, Pastor Hatch learned that Laquan had been raised in foster care from the age of three, bounced from home to home, diagnosed with learning disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorder rooted in the brutality and trauma of growing up on the streets. Reflecting theologically on these facts, Pastor Hatch told the reporter…

“That’s when I knew we had moved into a real spiritual realm with this piece … and as a pastor, to me, that’s divine poetry. ‘Cuz he’s a throwaway person if ever there was one. That would have to be the one that God would have to put in the center, the name that somebody else thinks is worth throwing away. And it was pretty explosive after that, as the ministers kind of said, ‘Look, we’re not making any guarantees. It’s not our job to go and tamp down a situation that you guys have created.’”

That would have to be the one that God would have to put in the center, the name that somebody else thinks is worth throwing away.

Are we talking about Jesus yet?

This past Sunday, the Church throughout the world gathered for worship and many heard the except from the eighth chapter of Mark’s gospel, in which Jesus asks the disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” and follows this up with, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answers him, “You are the Messiah.”

The daily lectionary selects passages that support our reflection on the meaning of the Sunday texts, setting them in conversation with other biblical voices so that we can more readily perceive the conversation going on in scripture about questions like these. So, today we hear a related conversation taking place in the gospel of John, as “some of the people of Jerusalem” speculate about Jesus’ identity, wondering with one another whether or not the authorities have actually determined that Jesus is, in fact, the messiah.

This passage is the only time where “the people of Jerusalem” appear as a group in John’s gospel. They appear to be different from “the crowds” that Jesus has been addressing, who may be pilgrims to Jerusalem, there during the Festival of Booths. In the verses immediately preceding this passage, Jesus says to the crowd, “Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you looking for an opportunity to kill me?” And the crowd replies, “You have a demon! Who is trying to kill you?”

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Jesus perceives correctly that his movement is setting him in opposition to the reigning power structures, and that he is a marked man. The crowds, less schooled in the politics of Jerusalem, doubt Jesus. “The people of Jerusalem,” however, knew how power worked in Jerusalem. They understood how the religious authorities operated when it came to exposing false messiahs, so they knew that Jesus’ life was most definitely at risk.

They say, “Isn’t this the one they want to kill?” because they know that’s how the system works, to eliminate all voices of dissent. “And here he is, speaking freely, and they have nothing to say to him! Can it be true that the authorities have made up their minds that this is the Messiah?”

So here we have finally returned to the question from Mark’s gospel, the question that ties these readings together, the question Jesus puts to his disciples, and to us, “Who do you say that I am?” It is a question that forces us to examine our expectations of God, who God is and how God moves in time and space. Is God a divine conqueror, the sovereign of a heavenly empire? Is God an ineffable wisdom,  the truest of realities hiding in plain sight? Is God a righteous avenger, upending worlds and effecting regime change? Who is God, and how does God show up in the world?

We all have our explicit and implicit expectations about who God is, and how God will show up in the world. The people of Jerusalem say, “Yet we all know where this fellow comes from, but when the Messiah comes, no one will know that one’s origins.”

The story begins working in irony at this point, because the people of Jerusalem have named their expectation for God’s messiah, that that one will have unknown origins. Jesus cannot be the messiah, because they know exactly where he is from, Nazareth in Galilee, not Bethlehem — at least, not in John’s gospel — the expected site for a messiah in the Davidic model of warrior kings.

The irony is that Jesus actually meets their expectations, his origins are unknown to them, because he has been sent by “the One who is true.” He is, to use John’s earlier words, “the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [The Word] was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through [the Word], and without [the Word] not one thing came into being. What has come into being in [the Word] was life, and the life was the light of all people.” (John 1:1-4)

This is John’s answer to the conversation Jesus started in Mark. Who do you say that I am, John? And John replies, “You are the Word. You are the life that is the light of all people. The light that shines in the darkness, that has not been overcome. The Word that became flesh and lived among us.”

This is why the people of Jerusalem cannot recognize Jesus as the messiah at first, because they cannot conceive that God would take on human flesh in time and space, in history and in politics, in the dying mess of human relations and the decay of human bodies. In children shot down in the street and hung from crosses.

That would have to be the one that God would have to put in the center, the name that somebody else thinks is worth throwing away.

“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

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In this way, John’s gospel responds to Mark, asking a new question of those looking for a messiah. John poses from the first chapter, “And who do you think you are? Children of God?”

It is a question we must grapple with. Our desire to deny that name, child of God, to those we hate, those who oppress us. Our habit of denying that name to ourselves, in our own self-hatred and self-doubt. The evidence of history, the way that all our hate of self and other has laid the foundation for systems of violence that seem eternal. Yet, the gospel truth is that the Word of God, shining in the darkness, has not been overcome and, one day, it shall be that same Word that overcomes.

That is who we say Jesus is, the Word, co-eternal with God, the Word that creates, the Word that overcomes. The Word that somebody else thinks is worth throwing away. That is the truth we bear in our hearts and on our lips, even in moments when it seems that truth and justice themselves are on trial.


headshot professional (large)Pastor Erik Christensen serves as Pastor to the Community and Director of Worship at LSTC. He joined the staff this last after previously serving as the redevelopment pastor with St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square (Chicago) for the past eleven years.

Unctuous, Trailblazing Woman: Rev. Katie Geneva Cannon, Ph.D. First Among Women ~ In Memoriam (1950-2018) – a poem by Dr. Cheryl Kirk Duggan

Dr TThe world of theology was rocked again last week, as the trailbrazing womanist Christian ethicist and heroine to many of us, the Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon, returned to her eternal home last week (to read what the New York Times had to say about her, click here). Her passing has truly devastated many of us, myself included, whom she has impacted over the course of her life. Unsure of how to respond to such a deep loss, I received a poem extolling Dr. Cannon’s from a dear colleague yesterday, Dr. Cheryl Kirk Duggan – and being a woman who broke barriers and transcended categories here entire life, it seemed a fitting tribute to say something about her in verse, than in prose. We’re sure you’ll agree. Please read, comment, and share. 

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


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Elegiac moments, wrapping themselves around the viscera,
the DNA of the moments when first I knew of her,
and when I think that she is now with the ancestors–
So daunting, my imagination trembles at the absence
of her presence. Even though days have passed
since hearing that sister Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon
Fourth child born to Esau and E. Corine Lytle Cannon.
grew up in in the Fishertown community in
Kannapolis, North Carolina
took her rest–
This great granddaughter of former enslaved Mary,
who went and found all of the children stolen from her
lived her faith, and Katie followed.

The pain, the indefatigable loss, has yet to permeate my being
For some of us who knew her, yet know her–
the tears have been unceasing,
the grief inconsolable
the injury: the depths of the ocean, phantoms deep–
the pain searing our nerves–
After all, she’d “kicked herself back to life
when upon awaking in 2016, she had a broken ankle
in her sleep as she overcame the widow maker, the
type of heart attack, from which you do not wake up.
Kyrie eleison; Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison.

Annie Scales Rogers Professor of Christian Ethics
Degrees from the Schools of Life and the household of Grandma Rosie
Barber-Scotia College, Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary/The ITC
Union Theological Seminary (NYC)
Upon whose campuses she left an indelible mark
Now gone, but never forgotten
Our weeping and wailing
Oh, but for a respite, a moment
when the aches do not fill the caverns
of our hearts, souls, minds–
for some of us, the loss is so excruciating
that the dams of the liquid behind our eyes
cannot flow; they refuse to cross
the vicissitudes of our being
perhaps paralyzed behind our eyes
somewhere lost within our brains
for the inscrutable ways in which human beings function
there’s yet mystery.

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For we know her rigor and scrutiny
that exposed the white supremacist misogynistic patriarchy
that could not kill her soul, for “the God she served
has sufficient power
to make a way out of no way.
Theology is holy work, it’s a sacred vocation.**

And so in our ontological, existential realities
as we wrestle with the Absence of the physical presence
of the late great, the August, Awesome, Amazing
Rev. Dr. Katie
whose Beautiful Brilliance hovers
in the galaxy, Courageous, with Compassion
to the level of the exponential
Daring and Determined to move from the shackles of Kannapolis
“Be aware of the ontological arm of the empire.”

Erudite, though an introvert
Focused like Flint on troubling the waters
of her students’ beings so that they reckoned with the responsibilities
Faith-filled of her Foremothers, Great-grandmother Mary, Grandmother Rosie, Mother Corine
Giant in spirit and mind; Gentle in her movement with Global implications
Heralding the dawn of a new day, as embodied blackness can make a difference;
Intuition and Intellect par excellence, in public, in spirit
Joyfully quiet, Cordon bleu Chef and baker of Justice in spaces and places
folks were so privileged to be in her midst
Kindred spirit—Kind, creating a Kismet of womanist theological ethics
Loving her God and her people
Magnificence critiquing mellifluence, in all that she did and does
Noble in presence, Nudging herself and others toward excellence
Even when having to jump through hoops, and nasty spaces—she had the
Gumption to Challenge Dominated Forms of
Knowledge Acquisition and Religious Power”

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Open to new ways her Ontological self, speaking volumes
Prayerful, Passionate Pedagogical Presence
Quick wit, Quiet, so profoundly Quintessential
Regal and Restive with Righteous unction
So many fought her, which She faced with Salvific Sincerity
Troubled the waters, Triumphed over adversity

Ultimately unfazed in her spirit, her praxis radiating effortlessly
Valiant, with valor-clothed feet, having created the Center for Womanist Leadership
Wise Woman for the ages, in many ways, before her time;
Winner of numerous awards, in the Church and the Academy, for teaching, preaching
scholarship, civic engagement, for being Rev. Dr. Katie!!!
Xanadus of white supremacist patriarchal, misogynistic empires, she exposed
Youthful and whimsical in her art, her doodling,
Zealous for justice, for her students, for all who loved her
reminds us as she takes her rest:
“Thinking with our Hearts/Feeling with our Brains:
Testimonies of Faith that History Might Otherwise Forget”

And so we say, good night and good morning Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon
Welcome on behalf of the ancestors!
we will grieve you; we will miss you,
we will ache for days because of your transition
we will look for you at annual meetings,
we’ll go to text you, we will read, and read, and reread your work
And come to appreciate you even more
As you wear your robes of purple in glory
In the greatest of Presbyteries, where you continue to
“Rock steady in the faith of Almighty God”
We will never forget you.
We know well your lessons of “embodied, mediated knowledge”
Know that you helped a Lot of somebodies
And your living was not in vain.
As you rest with the ancestors,
As you have debates with the great ethical minds of the centuries,
Know that your impact spans oceans and continents:
You pedagogical genius embraced a praxis where you “mined the motherlode.”
While too many did you wrong,
You did so right by thousands
You have shaped hearts and minds
And we will call your name for centuries to come
And so good night, and good morning sweet Katie,
Thank you for living a significant, salvific, paradigmatic life.
We thank God for giving you to us for six decades
Thank you for being you
Rest of your soul
You’ve done your work.
Soar sweet giant, soar.

**Words in bold italics are the words of Dr. Cannon.

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Cheryl-Clergy-PHOTORev. Dr. Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan is a Professor of Religion at Shaw University Divinity School [SUDS], Raleigh, NC, and an Ordained Elder in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Her unique proposition is that she specializes in helping individuals and families who have experienced the trauma of grief and loss, come into their authentic selves. Dr. Kirk-Duggan has written numerous articles and over twenty books, including those related to experiencing trauma and grief: Misbegotten Anguish: A Theology and Ethics of Violence Chalice Press, 2001; Violence and Theology, and her edited The Sky is Crying: Racism, Classism, and Natural Disaster, both Abingdon; her co-written is Wake Up!: Hip Hop, Christianity and the Black Church. Her volumeBaptized Rage, Transformed Grief: I Got Through, So Can You, a volume of poetry has just been published with Wipf & Stock Press.

History Is Happening – What Part Do You Want to Play? It’s Not a Rhetorical Question. – by Aana Marie Vigen, Ph.D.

black and white dr thomasSaying that our country has been going through some hard times is a bit of an understatement these days. So to give our readers a word of courage for these days we will be hearing from Prof. Aana Vigen – from a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (ELCA) in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago and Associate Professor of Christian Social Ethics at Loyola University Chicago. In her role as a Public Voices fellow with The OpEd Project through Auburn Seminary, she has penned a simple reflection and reminder for the blog for this week, a message that she has been willing to share with us here. And what is message? History is now, people, and when the exigencies of life call out to us, how we feel about ourselves in the future – and how future generations will look upon us – will be determined by what we have done these days. Read, comment, and share.

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


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Heated debates about civility and moral witnesscontinuing trauma of separated children and parents; momentous 5-4 Supreme Court rulings on abortion, the travel ban, and unions; Justice Kennedy retiring at the worst possible moment—and that was only 3 days of the news cycle this week! It leaves out so much, such as the most recent example of white police killing an unarmed black youth—Antwon Rose—and of Scott Pruitt’s egregious lack of integrity at the EPA. As I write, news is just breaking of another mass shooting, this time at a newspaper office in Maryland. I need to take a breath.

Flashback: In 1982, I was a white, Lutheran 8th grader in a small town in South Dakota who loved horses and who didn’t yet know she was gay. I was interested in current events, but history seemed tedious.

Then came Social Studies with Mrs. Roth.

She exposed me to the unthinkable, yet actual violence committed by white, predominately Christian, people against others—indigenous Americans, descendants of Africans, Jews, and Black Americans in the 18-20th centuries. We learned about the brutalizing economics of slavery. We read Night by Elie Wiesel. We watched documentaries about death camps. And we walked through the litany of lies, broken treaties, dirty tricks and massacres enacted against native peoples. My gut wrenched when I first realized that I was living on land from which the Lakota had been forcibly removed.

I asked my 13 year-old self:

“If I had been a white Christian living in the Dakotas in the 1800s, or in 1930’s Germany—or anywhere in the United States before 1865 or during Jim Crow or in the 1960’s—what would I have done? Would I have feared and hated Indians? Would I have been an abolitionist or an apologist? Would have I resisted fascism or fallen in line?

Would I have marched or stayed home?”

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Mrs. Roth showed me that simmering hatred and full-on evil spread not so much because of the twisted vision of a few demagogic masterminds, but because of the willful complicity—and even greater complacency—of the many.

I wondered what it would have been like to have lived in a pivotal, epoch-defining moment. I wistfully longed to time travel so that I could prove my mettle and live a more interesting life. The 1980’s seemed dull and uneventful by comparison (of course, they were not). I have since learned to be careful what I wish for.

The thing about history is that we are always living it. And wow, are we making it on steroids now!

Half way into 2018, it feels as if we are on a runaway train—careening into uncharted territory that is both profoundly volatile and violent. And yet, it is rather familiar when I remember 8th grade Social Studies: rising white nationalism; brazen aggression against and callous disregard for “outsiders” (refugeesimmigrantsMuslimsgay and transgender persons); escalating economic and trade tensions; bald-faced, yet infectious lies spread by people in power; venom for facts and a free press.

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So in our history, it is time for us—across political, social and religious affiliations—to ask: What role do I want to play? My 8th grade hypothetical question is now painfully concrete: What actions and values will I model for my 11 year-old son?

I don’t want to go down in history as a bewildered person who wrung her hands, posted angry laments on Facebook, and who watched Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Samantha Bee, and Queer Eye in order to feel an addictive mix of righteous indignation and comfort that comes with escaping into screens. That much I know.

Dahlia Lithwick recently called out the danger of going numb and falling complacent (the whole article is a must-read along with her earlier piece on coping). Democracy doesn’t work on auto-pilot. Are we content to witness its demise or are we willing to perform CPR? Saving it will take all of us—people of faith and of none, farmers, teachers, blue-collar workers, parents, students, business leaders, citizens, professionals, immigrants.

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Me and my son.

And white people—I am looking squarely at you fellow Christians—given our major part in creating this mess—we have a special obligation to contribute meaningfully, no matter our political sensibility. Prominent, dyed-in-the-wool conservatives such as David Brooks and George F. Will are choosing fidelity to democracy over loyalty to party. Simply put, regardless of our 2016 vote (or absence of it), now is the time to stand up to bullies.

For now, I have job security, good medical insurance, a family that is safe, a vibrant church and strong support networks. I am a citizen. I can vote. I can donate a few dollars to RAICESthe ACLU, the SPLCThe Union of Concerned Scientists, the NRDC.

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Most of all, this white, gay, Christian can speak out, show up and organize with and for others who live on the front lives of our collective peril. Marches are happening across the nation this Saturday.

This is my—our—moment.

Make a legacy.


downloadAana Marie Vigen, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Christian Social Ethics at Loyola University Chicago and a Public Voices Fellow https://www.theopedproject.org/

 

The True Quality of a Theologian of the Cross – Rev. Dr. José David Rodriguez

Dr Thomas Smiling bigIn continuing our tributes to Vítor Westhelle, fellow colleague José David Rodriguez now shares some of his impressions. Both coming from Latin America, both having begun their studies at LSTC together in 1978, Prof. Rodriguez takes a moment to reflect on what it means to be this most Lutheran of things, a theologian of the cross, and how Dr. Westhelle understood that better than most. Read, comment, and share.

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


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Vítor Westhelle (1952-2018)

On Sunday May 13th our Brazilian colleague at LSTC Vítor Westhelle joined my father and others in the company of the Church Triumphant. As Rev. Dr. Carmelo Santos, one of Vítor’s former students and now colleague wrote recently on his Facebook page, we thank Vítor for introducing us to …the liberating mystery of the cross and to the practice of the resurrection. Few theologians have witness to this enigmatic experience that we will all face sooner or later, with the rational clarity and persuasion as Vítor – as demonstrated throughout his many lectures, books and articles.  Still fewer have witnessed with their life to what Martin Luther described as the true quality of a theologian of the cross.

The secret lies in the liberating experience that the practice of the resurrection grants as an unmerited gift to those who willingly and faithfully engage the challenges and risks that come with living in the context of the cross.

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For Vítor, this witness of faith took place not only in his role of teacher and scholar, but also – and consistently – as husband, father, friend, and colleague.  As demonstrated by the testimony of his colleagues, friends, and family during Vítor’s excruciating struggle against cancer, his willingness to come to terms with this terminal condition with hope and endurance was a clear sign of his trust in the liberating mystery of the cross in the context of the power of the resurrection.  Now, as Carmelo Santos also claims, …we trust that Vítor rests in peace continuing his theological labors not like one who sees as a dim reflection in a mirror, but as one that sees face to face and knows as he is known.

My relationship with Vítor and his family has run the span of approximately forty years.  We began our advanced studies in theology at LSTC in 1978 where he came with Christiane from Brazil; I came with my family from Puerto Rico.  Throughout the years we became fellow students, close friends, compadres (I am the godfather of his son Carlos), lecturers at common international events, and since the early nineties, dear colleagues at LSTC.

While my professional experience has led me to incur more administrative labors than Vitor, both of us continued our education in other international institutions of higher learning that enriched our vocation as teaching theologians.  For Vítor it was the University of Tübingen in Germany; for me it was The University of the West Indies in Jamaica.  Both of us are also ministers of Word and Sacrament and have had significant experience in parish ministry as well as social and political endeavors.  Given the precipitous departure of Vítor from our midst, there will be a vacuum that no one among us will be able to fill.

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Bruder Klaus Field Chapel – Mechernich, Germany

The memorial service for Vítor celebrated at LSTC on May 17th brought together a great number of people whose lives have been profoundly impacted by the creative, scholarly, teaching, and pastoral labors of this extraordinary Latin American theologian.  While the full range of contributions of towering figures like Vítor may only be acknowledged with the passing of time, the celebration at LSTC broke down barriers of time and space by including viewers in different geographical locations joining in the memorial celebration. This event reminds us that the relevance of faith in our times, rather than effacing, continues to be a present force of empowerment in the face of today’s challenges with hope and resilience.

May God’s grace, which filters through the fissures of rising walls of doubt and seemingly insurmountable challenges, continue to strengthen our resolve in witnessing to the true quality of a theologian of the cross.    


rodriguezRodriguez received the bachelor of arts from Universidad de Puerto Rico in the area of Philosophy (with honors). He earned the master of divinity, master of theology and doctor of theology degrees at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Ordained in 1975, Rodriguez  has served congregations in Puerto Rico and Chicago, held visiting appointments at the Seminario Evangelico de Puerto Rico and the Comunidad Teologica de Mexico, and has been an adjunct faculty member at Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Ill., and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lombard, Ill., before joining the Lutheran School of Theology faculty in 1985.

His service to the church includes membership on a number of boards, including the editorial boards of the Association for the Theological Education of Hispanics and the Journal of Hispanic/Latino Theology. He was co-chair and planner of the first meeting of Hispanic-Latina theologians and ethicists held at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is also member of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT). From 1997 to 2001 he was coordinator of EATWOT’s U.S. Minorities Region.

Rodriguez has contributed articles and or book reviews to The LutheranCurrents in Theology and MissionApuntesJournal of Religion (University of Chicago), and Voces Luteranas. He is currently working on the planning, coordinating, and publishing of the Rev. Evaristo Falco-Esteves lecture series.

Good Theology Saves: A Reflection on the Marginalized and James Hal Cone – Rev. Erik Christensen

Dr TThese have been hard days for me, dear readers. This past Saturday, April 28, my mentor and guide of some years – the Rev. Dr. James Hal Cone – joined the great cloud of witnesses after a full life of writing, teaching, mentoring the next generation, and prophetic witness. As the first of several tributes to the lives of this great man, my seminary’s own pastor and Director of Worship Rev. Erik Christensen has allowed us to share the sermon (also posted on his blog “By Proclamation”) he presented in chapel yesterday, touching on Cone, good and bad theology, and the Gospel’s insistent call to the margins. Read, comment, and share.

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


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I spent the summer after my first year of seminary doing street outreach with runaway, homeless, and street-dependent youth in Atlanta in neighborhoods like Little Five Points, Midtown, the Old Fourth Ward, and downtown; but this phone call that I got on my very first cell phone (a flip phone) from an anxious mother didn’t come until the summer was over and I was back in school the fall of my middler year. I was walking back to my car after a morning of classes when the phone rang. Those were the days when I still picked up for unknown numbers. I answered expecting it to be someone from school, instead it was a woman who immediately asked who I was.

I told her my name, Erik, and wondered if she might have the wrong number. She said she’d gotten this number off a business card she found in her son’s bedroom.

The card had my name and phone number and the name of my summer project, “Street Chaplains.” She wanted to know what it meant, street chaplain, and what I’d been speaking to her son about. I wish I could have taken a page from the recently terminated Congressional chaplain and replied, “hospital chaplains pray about health. Congressional chaplains pray about Congress. Street chaplains pray about the streets.”

But, the truth was, I had no idea what I’d said to her son. I’d spoken to hundreds of people over the course of the summer. I’d trained a handful of my classmates in the basics of safe, ethical outreach, work I’d done before going to seminary. Together we’d gone out in pairs, day after hot summer day, talking to every young person we found. We’d ask them if they had a safe place to sleep, or if they knew someone who didn’t. We handed out these business cards dozens of times every hour, and every once in a while we got to have a meaningful conversation with a young person experiencing homelessness. I didn’t always get people’s names, and I rarely remembered the ones I did get. So I really had no way of connecting this caller with a memory of her child.

The easier thing to do would have been to explain all this quickly and get off the phone. The summer was over, after all. The project was finished, the final report written and turned in. The subject of this conversation was in my past. To reopen the topic would be to make space for a detour on my way to the day I’d planned for myself. Except this woman had my number, and I still had the phone and this call.

I could hear something in her voice, a question she wanted to ask and an answer she didn’t want to hear. So I asked if her child was alright. She said, “I think he’s gay,” and I could tell from her voice that this thought brought her no joy.

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I remember wondering what my duty was in that moment. Did she deserve to know that she was speaking to a gay man?

Should I make that clear so that she could decide how much she wanted to say, or not to say? But I didn’t. Instead I told her that I’d met lots of LGBTQIA+ (well, I probably said “gay and lesbian”) kids out on the streets, kids who’d run away from home or been kicked out. Youth who’d been humiliated. Youth who’d been denied justice. Youth led to the slaughter. I didn’t say that last part, that’s from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. And, because the business card said “chaplain” on it, she felt free to ask me; more than that, she wanted to know what I thought the bible had to say on the topic of gay and lesbian people (though I’m sure she said “homosexuals”). So, like Philip, I was invited to help interpret scripture.

I do remember one of the people I met that summer. I’d been outreaching in the Little Five points neighborhood on a scorching hot day. I was wearing cargo shorts, a baby blue short-sleeved clerical shirt and collar, and carrying an over the shoulder bag in which I’d packed business cards, bottles of water, a social services referral guide, condoms, etc and I’d just purchased a soft serve ice cream cone to cool me down. Then I spotted this boy, almost a young man, no more than seventeen. He was tall, thin, white, all angles. I made it a practice to talk to anyone who looked twenty or younger, but he’d seen me scoping him out and he spoke first.

Spinning on his heel to confront me at a stoplight that had just turned red, he unleashed the kind of fierce fury that’s hard for anyone over twenty to sustain. He came at me hard.

“What are you looking at, preacher man?” I told him my name, explained what I was doing, and asked if he had a safe place to sleep. “People like you are the reason I don’t. ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner.’ That’s what the priest told my parents. So Dad showed me ‘tough love’ by kicking me out and telling me not to come home until I’d manned up. So excuse me if I don’t give a shit.”  By now the ice cream had melted and was dripping down over my fist, but I couldn’t find anything useful to say. The boy just kept going, delivering his final blow, “Is your church ready for this homosexual?” My next words were pathetic and inadequate to the wounds this child had just revealed. I’ve never forgotten him, or his question.

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As for this mother waiting on the phone for me to speak, I honestly don’t remember what I said next. I just know that the passages I might have quoted and the interpretations I would have given were not what she was expecting. I likely told the story from Acts 10 in which Cornelius calls for Peter, who then has the vision of the sheet being lowered from heaven, filled with unclean animals, and the divine voice that challenges Peter’s received theology and established practice, saying “What God has called clean, you must not call profane.” (Acts 10:15) Or maybe I quoted Romans 8:38, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We spoke for fifteen minutes, twenty at the most. When it was over, she didn’t ask to meet me or request to be baptized. I wouldn’t even say she left the conversation rejoicing over the good news I’d shared. All I know is that, like Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, I never heard from her again.

The Samaritan mission, under the leadership of Philip (whose saint day is observed tomorrow), signals the beginning of the spread of the gospel beyond the boundaries of traditional Judaism. For that reason, this story has served as an entry point for a number of communities that have historically been marginalized by the kinds of Christianity practiced by the dominant culture.

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Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III

When the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss came here to preach last fall, to kick off our commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, this was the passage he selected for preaching, reminding us that this African figure has been misrepresented and aspects of his history and identity erased down through the centuries; the presumption that he was an outsider on the basis of his African identity a willful forgetfulness that Israelite religion had made its way to Africa as far back as King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and that this Ethiopian eunuch is not identified in the text as a Gentile God-fearer, but simply as one “who had come to Jerusalem to worship.”

He could just as easily have been a Jew attempting to worship at the temple. The very fact that later audiences, that White audiences, felt the need to imagine him as an outsider on the basis of his national identity, with its roots in Africa, speaks to modern racial ideas and not the worldview of the scripture itself.

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This morning I can’t help but think that these insights owe a great debt to one of the most powerful theological voices of our generation, who died over the weekend. The Rev. Dr. James Cone, author of books that shaped a generation of teachers and leaders in the church and in society: Black Theology and Black Power, God of the Oppressed, The Cross and the Lynching Tree; teacher and mentor and guide. A man whose work reflected a holy anger at the disenfranchisement of black lives and disfigurement of black bodies, but will also be remembered for the warmth of his smile and the joy in his laughter.

A fully human being, who we can imagine might have heard the desperation in the Ethiopian eunuch’s voice when he read aloud, “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth” and then asked, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Because, at this point in the story, the Ethiopian eunuch does not know about Jesus, so we can only assume that he hears something in this account from Isaiah that reminds him of his own suffering, which reminds us of our own suffering, which is why this figure has remained central to the theological imaginations of all who suffer and therefore to liberation theology as well. I imagine Dr. Cone stepping into that chariot with Philip and the eunuch and teaching us once again that…

Either God is identified with the oppressed to the point that their experience becomes God’s experience, or God is a God of racism … The blackness of God means that God has made the oppressed condition God’s own condition. This is the essence of the biblical revelation. (This is the essence of the biblical revelation) By electing Israelite slaves as the people of God and by becoming the Oppressed One in Jesus Christ, the human race is made to understand that God is known where human beings experience humiliation and suffering … Liberation is not an afterthought, but the very essence of divine activity. (A Black Theology of Liberation, pp. 63-64)

What lesbian and gay, bi and trans, queer and intersex, non-binary folk and anyone else whose sexual or gender identity is not normalized by culture have seen in the Ethiopian eunuch is one who would have been excluded from the temple, Jewish or not, on the basis of his sexual or gender identity.

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The Baptism – by Don Reason

As a castrated man, he was not allowed access to the temple under Deuteronomic law, he was a gender outlaw, scarred and defective, impure and subject to stereotypes. But the prophet Isaiah announces that God will “recover the remnant that is left of my people … from Ethiopia” (Isa. 11:11) and that “eunuchs who keep [the] sabbath” will be welcomed home and will receive “a name better than sons and daughters.” (Isa. 56:4-5) What is at stake for the Ethiopian eunuch, and for many queer exegetes, is not the authority of scripture but its interpretation. Is God the one who authorizes the exclusion from the temple, or the one who gathers the remnant and welcomes the despised and the rejected home?

That is the kind of question that requires a guide, an exegete, a theologian. That is the kind of question that, depending how it’s answered, can either end a life or save one.

Black liberation theology set the table for the ever-expanding host of liberation theologies that have followed. My ability to find myself in this text owes a debt of gratitude to the work of James Cone and others who have helped me to know at the core of my being that at the very place where the world turns its back on me, God is with me, God is for me, God is on my side because God sides with the oppressed. And that, likewise, at any place where I would use the name of God to contribute to or continue the oppression of others, that is not true Christianity.

It is White Christianity, it is straight Christianity, it is middle-class Christianity, it is respectability-politics Christianity, it is colonial Christianity, and therefore it is not Christianity.

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You and I, who have been baptized, have drowned to those lies. We rise from these waters as the children of God and joint heirs with Christ of a freedom that cannot be taken away from us.

We are fully human.

We are alive.

As we prepare to take our leave of one another near the end of another rich, full and difficult school year, pay attention to those who share the road with you. Listen for the phone call that threatens to take you off the path you’d set for yourself. Be prepared to give an account of the faith that is in you, in you, knowing that the right word at the right time can save a life.

Good theology saves lives.

Amen.


headshot professional (large)Pastor Erik Christensen serves as Pastor to the Community and Director of Worship at LSTC. He joined the staff last fall after previously serving as the redevelopment pastor with St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square (Chicago) for the past eleven years. He also regularly shares his reflections and sermons on his personal blog “By Proclamation.”