The Sacred and the Secular, Both/And


by Alex Aivars

Image Description: An Image of Kesha with praying hands on a gray background.

I always love when pop music uses Christian imagery. One song that has stood out in recent years is Kesha’s “Raising Hell.” In the song, Kesha does an amazing job of blending the sacred and secular, using Christian slang to describe secular things, and vice versa. 

“Hands up, witness”

When I’ve heard a favorite song in worship, I’ve raised my hands in praise. When I’ve heard a great song when I’m out dancing at a bar, I’ve raised my hands in appreciation. I’ve witnessed the Holy Spirit in both places. 

“Solo cup full of holy spirits”

At the church I serve, we use wine and grape juice in a cup during communion to signify the blood of Jesus during our worship services on Sunday mornings. Before seminary, either at a party or at a bar, while holding a cup of alcohol, I would have many conversations about God. These conversations helped affirm my calling to be a pastor. Both were and are holy moments. 

“No walk of shame ’cause I love this dress

Image Description: A grayscale photo of Kesha on a black background with the words, “I love this blending of the sacred and secular, using words from each world interchangeably because it reflects my own sense of self.” – Alex Aivars

I love this blending of the sacred and secular, using words from each world interchangeably because it reflects my own sense of self. This speaks to me as a gay Christian. I’ve been told I should be ashamed of my sexuality. I’ve been told my love does not belong in the sacred world. I’ve been told I can’t be a Christian and gay. I’ve been told I can’t be a pastor and gay. But, I have found my sexuality to be holy and good. The Holy Spirit has shown itself in my life, time and time again. I can be both Christian and gay. There is the divine in my love. Yes, I’m #blessed. 

“But I don’t wanna go to Heaven without raisin’ hell”

Jesus raised hell while on earth, flipping tables and sparring with the religious authorities. Jesus was, in fact, the perfect mixing of the sacred and secular, the holy and profane. In Jesus, a profane human contained sacred God. In fact, the two were so well mixed, that you couldn’t parse out which part was secular and which part was sacred. Jesus was both holy and profane, secular and sacred.

“This is our salvation”

After raising hell on earth, Jesus was then raised from hell, from the dead, to new life in heaven. God in Jesus saved us from death, so that we could share in holy, sacred, eternal life. Thanks be to God.

Alex Aivars (he/him) is currently in his first call as pastor of  St. Stephen Lutheran Church in Lansing, MI. Since this is a part-time call, he also develops websites for businesses, non-profits, and other churches. In his spare time he likes to read, hike, bike, ski, and make art out of post-in notes.

A Spark of Flaming Love

By: Anders Nelson


Image Description: A grayscale image of Dolly Parton on a Black background with the words, “fire ignites one’s whole being unapologetically for the sake of discovering the deeper truths held deep inside that only this fire can stir up.”

Fire doesn’t mix well with most things, nor does fire do well at listening to those who attempt to control it. It consumes, it harms, it destroys. 

Yet Dolly Parton knows what it means to feel fire inside you and relish every moment of it. 

For her, fire is not so much a force of destruction but the spark of beauty, the ignition of love, a burning sign of vibrant truth and deep joy. This fire ignites one’s whole being unapologetically for the sake of discovering the deeper truths held deep inside that only this fire can stir up. In a very similar way, the Holy Spirit (in all of her mysterious ways) inspires and ignites us individually and as the whole church to do the work of seeking beauty, love, truth, and joy in ourselves, each other, and our Creator. But despite the hard work of the Spirit, we might find ourselves attempting to put out these fires.

Growing up, wrestling with my queer identity felt like trying to hide a bonfire in the middle of a room full of my family and friends: nobody was willing to call it out and eventually I reached a point where I couldn’t sit there looking at it without saying something. “Hey! Have you all seen this? This is real and this is good. Okay? Okay.”

There’s liberation in seeing those flames as wholly good and not out to burn our lives to the ground. In fact, they might just inspire us towards burning down the things in our lives and our world that need to be burned down. Such discernment and reflection is necessary for the sake of the life of the church alongside the work of queer liberation. And if nothing else, this fire might inspire us to put on some drag, dance in our seminary’s chapel, and truly show the world what it’s all about.

This red hot emotion

Puts fireworks in motion

It looks like the 4th of July

There's no use in fighting

This fire you've ignited

Just stand back and watch the sparks fly

As the season of Pentecost approaches, may the revelatory sparks fly for you as they have for me. May the movement of Deep Wisdom stir up in you some meaningful, revelatory moments. And above all, may the flaming Spirit be with us until we’re all shouting, “Baby, I’m Burnin’!”


Anders Nelson (he/him) is the associate pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Wheaton, Illinois where he’s been serving since the very beginning of the pandemic. He’s subsisted the last year mainly on learning how tasty vegetarian cooking can be, singing hymns and broadway numbers in the shower, and scheduling as many Dungeons and Dragons sessions as possible. 


Pride Devotional: Melissa May

CW: song contains strong language

At 15, I was having a real doozy of a time learning to express my unique and authentic self: I was a bicurious young Lutheran navigating the cliques of straight-laced, almost exclusively white youth in the aggressively heteronormative Mennonite high school I attended. You couldn’t wear tank tops or short skirts, and you were not permitted to dance. Questioning the teachings of the Church or of Scripture was out, as was cursing or considering sex before marriage. 

It was suffocating.

In these walls, which brought me spiritual darkness, a few works of art and passages of the Bible hammered through the barriers to let some light in. One of these artworks was a pop song that came through these walls like a battering ram: Meredith Brooks’ Bitch.

I’m a bitch, I’m a lover

I’m a child, I’m a mother

I’m a sinner, I’m a saint

I do not feel ashamed

I’m your hell, I’m your dream

I’m nothing in between

You know you wouldn’t want it any other way

On the surface, it was wonderful to loudly sing a curse word–I didn’t get to hear many provocative expletives at that time–but then I also realized how liberating it was to own the idea that I could sometimes be rebellious, even mutinous, toward the status quo and still be a sinner-saint child of God. (By the way, I’m convinced that if Martin Luther had been around in 1997, he’d have loved this song). I could question God like the psalmists did, and I could stand apart from some Mennonite customs and not be an awful person or an anti-Christian. 

I’m 39 now, and I recently remembered Bitch and have been regularly rocking out to it. It reminds me that God didn’t make a mistake when I was created: I am an adventurous, boat-rocking queer minister who loves to not only pray and worship but also to examine, question, and disobey when called to do so. And I hope God wouldn’t have it any other way.

Bio: Melissa May (she/her) is a pastor who served for five years in the wilds of northern Canada and western Alaska, and is now taking some time away to rest and work part-time as she interviews for possible new congregational calls. She lives with family and her very well-traveled cat, Mia, in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where she’s looking forward to in-person Trivia Nights and Dungeons and Dragons sessions eventually resuming.

Pride Devotional: Proud Mary

From now through the end of Pride month, members from the Proclaim community (the LGBTQIA+ seminarians and rostered leaders in the Lutheran church) will be sharing songs that have evoked a sense of Pride in their lives. They will reflect on how these songs stirred their spirits, while celebrating God’s creation and offer a dash of Good News in their reflections. Please share these devotionals with your friends, family and spiritual communities!  

Proud Mary
by Lewis Eggleston
Every now and then, we like to do things nice…. and easy. These iconic words send chills down my spine while my heart readies itself for Tina’s five-minute intro that is almost as good as the song itself. 
I started performing “Proud Mary” in 7th grade with the pep band, where I would blat the baseline on my tuba at every varsity basketball and football game. As the years went by, I remember a time or two where I would dip the bell of the tuba and bring it right back up, mimicking Tina’s iconic dance moves, the only thing missing was a sequin number and some killer legs. Fingers crossed that, someday, my dream may still come true. 
Proud Mary. 
For queer folks, these are loaded words. 
As a child when I played this music I surely was not out or “Proud” but reflecting back on the lyrics & her performance of this song, Tina was preaching to me. 
I left a good job in the city
Working for the man every night and day
And I never lost one minute of sleeping
Worrying ’bout the way things might’ve been
As a queer person, that presumably comfy “good job or good life” meant living in a closet where society and the church would still see me as “good”, however working for the “Man”, playing someone I wasn’t, every night and day, is too much and as it turns out, I truly never lost a minute of sleep worrying about the way things might have been, had I stayed in that closet. To help bring this point home, in the words of Joel Workin, “The most precious grace God gives us is the grace to be ourselves. And now, it is time to let grace abound.” Amen!  
This Pride season, this Proud Mary will keep on burning & rollin’ on the river. 
Thanks be to God & Tina.

Lewis Eggleston (he/him) 
is the Associate Director of Communications & Development at Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. He lives in Kaiserslautern, Germany with his husband and dog-child Carla. He was recently approved for ordination for ministry in Word & Service. He spends his free time running/hiking/or singing to the German wildlife.