Below is the essay submitted by 2012 Workin Scholar Asher O’Callaghan.
I’m a newbie to Proclaim. My first experience with the community was the recent 2012 Proclaim retreat. In light of my recent experience with the Proclaim community at the retreat, I was especially struck by Joel R. Workin’s sermon, “The Installation of Pastor Jeff Johnson”. In particular, the sermon helped me to identify two seemingly simple but thoroughly transformative expressions of the Gospel that have changed the course of my life: feet and the ground on which they stand, walk, and dance. Human feet. Like mine. Or yours. Or Christ’s. In my case, they feature frightening hairy toes which look freakishly akin to monkey-fingers. But in all cases they are somewhat embarrassing, often stinky, and are inescapably weird. So in many ways they’re a fitting expression of Church.
They’re also blessed. As St. Paul explains, “…how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim? And how are they to proclaim unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'” (Rom 10:14-15). Fearfully wonderful, beautiful, and blessed are the feet of all the folks I had the joy of meeting and hanging out with at the retreat. Theirs are feet that bring a proclamation of the Gospel. And they bring good news because they were sent. And they were sent because they had first received. And they received because they heard someone else proclaim. So it was, so it is, and so shall it be in the Kingdom of God. Thus, I learned that “proclaim” is not so much a nice religious-sounding word that serves as a name for this community—it is the actual witness, mission, and function of the community.
Likewise then, our feet or wheels are enabled to go as they are sent according to the ground that upholds and firmly supports us. The retreat sent me out with renewed appreciation for the blessing that is the ground on which I get to stand and live. It is holy ground. This ground that I have the awesome opportunity to be standing on has been consecrated by the sacrifices, prayers, sweat, tears, witness, and labor of those who have gone before me blazing a path through the Wilderness. Joel’s sermon illuminates the significance of John’s arrest and imprisonment at the beginning of Christ’s (and the Apostles’) ministry. John was the “voice crying out in the wilderness” whose labor it was to “make straight the paths of the Lord.” The path of the Lord became the path of the Apostles and indeed the path of all the Church. John’s labor was a blessing to the Church and made clear the way of the Cross. Blessing has been conferred to the Church as a whole and to us as individuals by this sacred ground carved out as a trail by those whose journeys have established the firm support and witness of a path that is…well, not exactly straight. But most certainly blessed.
I would not have even heard of the retreat or been able to attend on scholarship without the labor and contributions others. Much less would I be who I am without the prophecy, proclamation, and witness of folks like John the Baptist, Joel R. Workin, Bishop Gene Robinson, a transwoman named Rachael St. Claire and countless others through whom I’ve come to experience the grace of God, the integration of my identity, and the incorporation of myself into Christ’s Body. These sinning saints and saintly sinners within my own life boldly proclaimed the good news of a God whose love for us all was far too fierce and jealous for the Gates of Hell or a closet door to keep out (or in). The walls that came tumbling down in the wake of such news, freed me to live in a spirit of openness through which I began to discern a call. The lives of others showed me the love of Christ that overcomes every human-made distinction and division, transgressing every boundary, every wall, every border, every racial segregation, every closet, every assigned gender, every category we use to maintain our idolatrous ideologies about purity.
I can’t help but take off my shoes and commend my feet to go and do likewise for the sake of others receiving what was offered to me at the queer-friendly church I incredulously stumbled into a couple years ago. There I saw bread being broken and heard words that shattered my heart and transformed my life: “Beloved child of God: Behold who you are. Become what you have received.”
Asher O’Callaghan completed his graduate coursework at Iliff School of Theology in Denver and begins at Luther Seminary in fall 2012 .