My name is Rob Waker. I’m still standing. I still live in Toronto, though now I’m 36. Continuing PhD work in the fall at the Toronto School of Theology, hoping to move conversation forward about LGBTQ+ people in the Church. I’m 36 now, but I still love men and I still love Jesus–perhaps even more so, on both counts! Being a gay Christian is fun.
After quite a bit of drama, the Anglican Church of Canada has passed the first reading of a change to the Marriage Canon (church law) that would explicitly allow the marriage of same-gendersex couples. I was not expecting to be as moved by this decision as I am. Earlier this afternoon, I was overcome with emotion, and the best way to release it was to shout, “YAAAAAS!” at the top of my lungs. I hope I didn’t scare the cat on the stairs!
I really do believe that this decision is fully in line with the Gospel. I am also committed to loving and being in fellowship with those who disagree with me. I feel Anglicans (and the Body of Christ at large) has a remarkable opportunity in these days to really delve again into what makes the Gospel so good, into what drives our biblical interpretation and story-telling, and into what it takes to let all Creation know that it is accepted–becoming whole and free in Jesus. I expect strong disagreements, sure. But I expect something else, too.
I expect parties to break out at a moment’s notice. Because that’s what happens when the rule of God comes in. And that’s what happens when people realize that in spite of all the chaotic evil in the world, hope is free to roam and love is still gonna win in the end. Have faith, O people.
Here I stand, still. Lord, may I bring you joy! Amen.
Please hear this. This happens in far too many churches.
This guest post from a friend is published anonymously to protect the author. I encouraged them to write these words after hearing the story below. They have given me this post as a gift, and I give them to you.
Dear Family of God,
I am not someone else’s daughter. I am your queer daughter. I am not someone else’s sister. I am your queer sister.
I am next to you in your pew. I am teaching your children about Jesus. I am worshiping with you. I am leading you in worship.
You claim to love me, yet I am only welcome in your lives as long as I write this post anonymously. I am only welcome as long as I keep my hurting heart from beating too loudly.
As much as you believe that you have perfected the act of disagreeing with homosexuality while still remaining a safe space…
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My friend, colleague, and pastor Sam of MCC Toronto asked me to submit something for a prayer service about the Orlando Pulse mass shooting. After turning her request over for many hours, and admitting that I didn’t feel adequate, this is what bubbled up over about a fifteen-minute period, this early morning, well after midnight.
Where are the words?
in some eyes and hearts
less than the image and likeness of God,
less than fully human?
Where are the words?
Where are the best words to express, Word of God,
all the love and pain we feel,
all the lost sleep,
all the numbness and anger and tears,
all the memories of when
words from Scripture and the mouths of friends
and family felt like bullets ripping through us?
Where are the words?
Where are the strong words to shout, Giver of Life,
that we still hope in you,
that we will choose to forgive,
that we will not stop working for your justice
until every human being knows the flame of your love
over their heads,
until the principalities of homophobia and transphobia and racism and religious xenophobia
know their defeat,
until the idolatry of “the right to bear arms” is smashed
in favour of the Divine image in every life, the flourishing of our communities and peoples?
These feeble words are not enough,
and yet you hear us.
So, in your many names and in the name of Jesus,
we choose, for a moment, your silence of solidarity with us,
and the Love you are always speaking.
I had the honour of doing a spoken-word poem with my dear friend Chris Ong.
This last weekend I got to perform my first ever collaborative poem with a friend, Rob Walker. It was such an honour to work with Rob on this. Although we didn’t have much time to practice, I really enjoyed performing it and I hope to perform it again some time. Enjoy.
Chris: I was in shock.
Rob: Caught in the headlights
Chris: My mind was racing a thousand miles per minute,
but my lungs were in stop-and-go traffic.
Rob: It felt like quick jab to my gut,
Knocking the wind out of me and leaving me befuddled.
Desperately trying to remember how to breathe.
Chris: Like my body forgot how to survive and in a moment I tried to re-learn 22 years of my life
Both: Maybe you’ve been there too.
Rob: How do you keep your composure when your pastor betrays you in front of 30…
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So: daily blogging took a lot out of me, it seems. It was a good discipline, but I’m still not sure if it’s a sustainable one.
Maybe admitting that will give me the gumption to get back into it.
I am very thankful to all who cheered me on during Lent!
My friend Chris Ong wrote this; it’s such tasty and solid theology that I don’t even know what to do with myself. When I heard it for the first time at Toronto Generous Space, my response was a loud, “YAAAAAS!”
What little boys do during communion in evangelical churches
is take handfuls of bread and juice when they think nobody is looking
mashing their fists into their mouths so fast
I could have sworn they forgot to eat breakfast that morning.
Their parents scold them quietly under the soft melody of a piano,
and usher them back to their seat, hoping no one else noticed.
I notice, because back in the days when my school week started on Sunday morning,
I too had large appetite and didn’t know how to quench it.
We have all heard the adage, you are what you eat,
and so I took up cannibalistic tendencies and devoured the flesh and blood of the one I called saviour.
hoping that somehow his grace would get stuck in the deepest parts of me.
Today, I am grown up
I attend large dinner parties on the…
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TRIGGER WARNING: mentions of rape, death, physical violence.
The radical Good News of the Messiah Jesus, according to John (12:27-33, brackets mine):
[Jesus said:] ‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.
Abject and Crucified One:
Give us the grace and the courage to walk as children of light,
and include us now in the life of your coming Kingdom,
where you reign for ever and ever.
Critical theorists use the term abjection to refer to things that “disturb identity, system, [and] order”—the abject is “what does not respect borders, positions, [and] rules.” Something is abject when we feel so threatened that we have a visceral, gut-level response: fear, vomiting, revulsion. We know something is abject when we fear the world as we understand it will end—or even explode! Abjection, paradoxically, makes our worldview coherent, but only by making it the repressed centre of our understanding.
Who is ‘abject’? A young wife abused by her drunk husband so that he can maintain some delusional sense that everything is under control. A man with severe physical disabilities rolling down the street in an automated chair, drool glistening on his chin—deemed ugly and asexual. A gay man or trans* person beaten, a lesbian woman raped, by some local straight boys as their understanding of gender identity implodes and their internalized male privilege erupts. A child working in a sweatshop somewhere in Southeast Asia as a strapped-for-cash student (raises hand) thanks his lucky stars he can afford to buy shoes that won’t break the bank at the local super-corporate everything-in-one-place store. Abject: Out of sight, out of mind. If it, if they, came to mind, we would be faced with our refusal to face reality—so we don’t let them come to mind, and shove them under again, with our words–or our boots. Careful now—we might be faced with the sheer, stinking and rotten realities created by our own hearts and systems.
Jesus says in John that the world is under judgment, and “now the prince of this world will be driven out.” Jesus has been poking holes in the system by performing signs and wonders, and the keepers of the system, the ones helping to reinforce business-as-usual, want Jesus dead. If they face the reality of what Jesus represents, the whole system will come apart. So they want him to die, and Jesus knows it.
Interestingly, critical scholars who write about abjection say that we face it most in the presence of death or dying. We might be able to process death if a friend tells us about it, or if we see someone’s heartbeat flat-lining on a computer screen—these are things that exist in the symbolic order, things that are more-or-less manageable because they are at one remove from death and dying itself. But if we are present at a death: the death of a friend after an illness, or the implosion of a friendship, romance, or marriage—that moment often breaks something inside us. Reality, or at least the Shadow, comes in like a flood, sweeping to one side everything we thought we knew, everything we thought kept us safe.
According to John, Jesus has recently raised his beloved Lazarus from the dead. Let’s get specific, here: Jesus has raised Lazarus’ corpse to life again. For one incredible moment, the reality of human mortality in a world under the influence of the Satan has been utterly disrupted by the Voice of the Word made flesh calling him to life. And now the world—meaning the system under the control of its prince, the Adversary—is going to put Jesus to death. Jesus is about to become the abject, the shadowy “not-quite-a-thing” that the system has to ignore and suppress in order to continue.
BUT. (When we hear about disaster in the context of the Gospel, there’s always a ‘but’…)
Hear the words of Jesus: “But when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.” Without violence, without fanfare, the stark reality of Jesus death has destroyed, is destroying, and will destroy Satan’s ability to keep humanity and our Earth under its control. In the foolishness of God, God makes the Abject One the light of the cosmos and the path to eternal life. The glory of God is the utterly despised and foolish Man hanging on a Roman cross. The ultimate symbol of death and the victory of the world becomes—because it is Godself who hangs there, subverting it—the gateway to the New Creation and the resurrection of the dead.
This is the scandal of the Gospel—“Christ crucified—a stumbling block to Jews” (because the Messiah can’t be a Roman criminal cursed by hanging on a tree, it makes no sense!) “and foolishness to Greeks” (the body is disgusting and corrupt, how could flesh ever save the world? It makes no sense!), “but to us who are being liberated, the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
When we remember the events of Holy Week, and especially when we gather at the foot of Christ’s cross on Good Friday, we find that we are standing in the presence of God, waiting for new life to erupt seemingly out of nowhere, from the very Centre of things. Perhaps the wrong sorts of people: the abused, and the disabled, and the Queer (along with anyone who finds that they, too, are partly responsible for the death and rot in the world), find the favour to walk as children of light. And let us make ourselves available, friends, to let God’s scandalous love, flowing through us, disrupt—if even for a moment—the hold of the Prince of this World over God’s beloved creation, which, in his Cross and Resurrection, Jesus is drawing to completion in Himself. May God grant that we find it so.
(I preached an earlier version of this reflection on Tuesday of Holy Week 2010, at Trinity College Chapel, Toronto.)