We know the story of Lazarus. As a seminarian I love learning about John 11:35 “Jesus wept.” As they say: it’s the shortest scripture in the bible. And, the word wept, in the aorist tense, is from the root δακρύω, dakruó, to weep, and is only found in the bible here in this verse.
What’s more, is that this weeping happens after Jesus asked for and was taken to where Lazarus laid in his tomb. Those around Jesus notice this weeping and call out: “Witness, see, how (Jesus) loved (Lazarus).” The word translated as “loved” in this text is translated from Greek, φιλέω, phileó, meaning “warm affection in intimate friendship, characterized by tender, heartfelt consideration and kinship.” This kind of cherishing of someone in Greek would probably include loving someone so deeply, so intimately, that it would be impossible not to kiss them.
Lazarus, a eunuch and his two barren sisters, Mary and Martha, seem to be Jesus’ family of choice, Jesus’ kin. In Bishop Rohrer’s book Queerly Lutheran, it states “Ancient Israelites believed there were more than two genders: male, female, barren women and Eunuchs. (p 63)” Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, now retired leader of Metropolitan Community Churches, shared in her book Outing the Bible that it was possible that Mary and Martha were sisters as much as Maureen and her lesbian partner, Joanne, are “sisters” in the musical Rent; when Maureen famously says in the song La Vie Boheme, “Hey, Mister, she’s my sister.”
Still, Jesus seems to love Lazarus so much that he thanks God, his Father, for hearing Jesus’ plea for Lazarus as the tomb is rolled away. (v 41) Jesus loves Lazarus so much that Jesus wants to be near him after being in a cave for four days (v 39). Jesus exclaims to Lazarus to come out (v 43) so that the crowd standing around Jesus may know that God sent Jesus here for this moment. (v 42). The name “Lazarus” itself is derived from Hebrew, אלעזר, Elʿāzār (Eleazar), meaning “God has helped.”
For the love of Lazarus, for his queer kin, Jesus helped.
The Board of Directors of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries announces the resignation of Executive Director the Rev. Amanda Gerken-Nelson (she/her/hers), effective November 30, 2021. Over the last year, Amanda has discerned a call to serve the church in a new way by returning to parish ministry.
In sharing her news with the Board, Amanda wrote:
‘It has been an incredible honor and privilege to serve as the Executive Director of ELM for the past four years. I have fostered relationships that have both enriched my life and changed my outlook…I have been extraordinarily blessed to work alongside such a passionate Board of Directors and incredibly gifted and dedicated staff. I have enjoyed working and dreaming alongside you all, and I will continue to dream for ELM and support the organization in its new life.”
ELM is grateful for Amanda’s faithful service to the organization over the last four years and the ongoing relationship we will have with her as a member of Proclaim, ELM’s professional community of publicly identified LGBTQIA+ rostered ministers and seminarians. In her tenure as ELM’s second Executive Director, she has shown exemplary leadership. In responding to the controversy over United Lutheran Seminary’s previous president and abolishing the ELCA’s harmful document Vision and Expectations, Amanda has amplified the voices of those most impacted and pushed for change, challenge, and faithfulness. Under her leadership, ELM’s staff structure has expanded, and the ELM Endowment became a granting source for creative, faithful, queer, and justice-based ministry projects. Amanda has gracefully led the organization through an ongoing global pandemic, and over the last year, worked closely with the Board of Directors in the strategic planning process that produced ELM’s new Vision, Mission, and Values.
Her commitment to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries in these uncertain times has been filled with grace and consistency. ELM has long asked the question, “who is not here?” This is a question Amanda often asked of the Board, the church, and the staff. As we move into the future, ELM is committed to continuing its growth into an organization that acknowledges its complicity in systems of white supremacy and racism, focuses on living in an active state of repentance, and does the hard and spirit-filled work of living into being an anti-racist organization. In her discernment, Amanda acknowledged the advent of a time for new leadership to empower ELM to live into its new and renewed identity.
In this time of transition, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries will continue to organize queer seminarians and rostered ministers, confront barriers and systemic oppression, and activate queer ideas and movements within the Lutheran Church. The history of ELM and its predecessor organizations is rooted in the conviction that our call and authority come from God. As such, ELM will continue to support the diversity of queer Lutherans leading the church in and outside of denominational contexts. ELM will continue to push for liberation from the ways bound conscience harms the church. ELM will own our history and work for an intersectional, anti-racist present and future where the full diversity of the body of Christ is honored and their leadership valued.
We wish Amanda, her wife, and child many blessings. The ELM Board of Directors has launched a Transition Team to determine ELM’s next steps. The Board of Directors gives thanks to Amanda for her dedication and commitment to the holy work she has carried out as our Executive Director of ELM. As we continue the work to which God calls us and the discernment that is a gift in this time, we will regularly update you all, our extraordinary community, on our process of transition.
The ELM Board of Directors
Then the people began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
– John 6:41-42
I’ve been thinking more and more about having kids. My boyfriend and I have had a few conversations about the subject.
A little research brings up a host of options for us. Those options include adoption, surrogacy, foster care, to name a few.
With all of these options it will mean that for us to have a child and create a family with kids, it will involve more than simply the two of us. There will still always be at least one more person, maybe even more than one, or an organization, or some other type of legal entity, involved in the creation of our family with kids.
I see something similar in the creation of the family of Jesus.
At the conception of Jesus, yes, there were only two entities involved: God and Mary. When Joseph learns of this pregnancy without him, we are told that Joseph is thinking of leaving Mary. But God persuades Joseph to stay and for them to be husband and wife and raise Jesus as their own son.
This solidifies the family of Jesus. Except Jesus didn’t have only two parents, Mary and Joseph. In the family of Jesus, there were three parents: Mary, Joseph, and God.
God became the third entity in the life and family of Jesus.
Those around Jesus didn’t understand the family structure that included Jesus. Those around him knew Jesus had earthly parents in Mary and Joseph. And yet, here was Jesus talking about coming down from heaven. At one point Jesus even says that he’s the Son of God. This made no sense to them. A person could only have two parents, not three.
And yet, Jesus did indeed have three parents: Mary, Joseph, and God.
For myself and my boyfriend, the creation of a family with kids involves more than two people. Just like in the creation of the family of Jesus.
In our baptisms, we become part of this family of Jesus. God was, and continues to be, always with Jesus, doting on their son. God is always with us as well, doting on us. Because God will never leave us. All of us will always be children of 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.