Queer Scripture Reflections: On Defiance by Vica-Etta Steel

Matthew 15:21-28, Luke 8:43-48, Mark 12:38-44


Let me take this moment to speak of the holy virtue of defiance.

We are called to defy. 

So much of the conversation around Queer people in faith is still centered on a meager handful of passages purposefully interpreted toward harm. Let’s step out of that sandbox of hate. Let’s spend our time, instead, naming the beautiful Queer heart of our faith. Let us defy, as Jesus calls us to defy. 

Do you hear the call for defiance, written into our world in the words of Jesus?

The Woman from Canaan (Matthew 15:21-28)  belittled, dismissed by the disciples with Jesus (“send her away! She keeps  shouting after us”), and ignored by Jesus who tries to walk past without showing notice of her, of her need, insulted by Jesus (“It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”), yet she defies.

She defies the dismissal, the silence, the insults. She defiantly demands justice, demands healing for her child.

And she is heard. 

She is uplifted. Jesus says, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done as you wish.” 

Jesus, moved by defiance. 

The woman, hemorrhaging blood (Luke 8:43-48), defiant at her entire society, defiant at her world that robbed her of what wealth she had once held, pushed her to invisibility – just don’t look at her. And Jesus, walking through crowds, brushing many along the way but none catching his power, and in this space, she comes forward. She takes power from Jesus. She wields that power to heal herself, defiant of the role she was taught to assume.

And her defiance was felt. She came before Jesus’ defiant of her own fear, to name her action. Jesus welcomes her invasion of his power, and welcomes her defiance, saying, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

Defiance uplifted. 

And the widow with the two coins, a minuscule amount, a mite (Mark 12:38-44). Jesus names the harm of the wealthy, “those who devour widows’ houses”, and Jesus shows this woman, oppressed, marginalized, with her two coins to the disciples, the men and women gathered around Jesus. How does Jesus see the coins? How does Jesus show the coins to those gathered? She can’t be holding them meekly in her hands, covered. They can’t be in a bag, hidden. They are seen. From a distance. She is holding them up. She is showing all the wealthy present that she is done with their harm. She is defiant. Defiantly she says to all, “My home, my future, devoured.”

And she is seen. Jesus named her action. A lament of the sin of society that erases people and an awareness of defiance of one who is erased.

Defiance made manifest.

We who are insulted

We who are dying

We who are erased

We are called to the holy act of defiance, the sacrament of defiance. We hold the objects of our oppression, the coin, the blood, the insult made manifest. We speak Jesus’ command to hear, to feel, to see. 

We stand in spirit.

We defy.

Vica-Etta Steel
(she/her) is a woman, queer, transgender, and unexpectedly a faith leader! She attends Wartburg Theological Seminary. She preaches and does outreach at St. John’s Lutheran in Madison, WI. She keeps public Queer chaplaincies at Madison’s Farmers’ Market and in coffee shops as well as on TikTok (@vicavsteel) where she speaks of the voice of God, never silent and always present in the world around us, always saying Love. Vica-Etta is married to her powerful wife, Stella (37 years!). They live with their little dog, Arabella Longbody, their leopard gecko, Snowflake, and many other creatures and plants!

Thank You, Jan & Welcome Janet!

With warm & grateful hearts- the ELM community would like to thank outgoing ELM Treasurer Rev. Jan Peterson, pastor at Augustana Lutheran Church in Omaha, NE, for her years of ministry as ELM’s treasurer. Jan’s kind heart, dedication, and many many skills will be greatly missed. As we thank Jan for her ministry to ELM, we also welcome Janet Katari as she assumes the ELM Treasurer role. 

Janet is excited about joining the ELM Board as Treasurer, because of the strong role ELM has played in supporting queer seminarians and rostered leaders, and because of the extraordinary opportunities for ELM’s future. “Janet has strong gifts for this type of leadership. The ELM Board is pleased to welcome Janet during this season of transition.” ELM Board Co-Chair, Margarette Ouji 

Rev. Janet Katari (she/her) recently started as the senior pastor at Christ Church, Lutheran in San Francisco after graduating from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in 2020. She also serves on the Witness Discipling Team of the Sierra Pacific Synod and has experience as a Mission Developer, staff & board member for non-profits, management consultant, and chemist. Janet’s call to ministry is nurtured by her curiosity about God’s role in the world, a commitment to developing ways to help people find connections to God, and a yearning for God’s justice broadly applied. She moved to the Bay Area in 1991, and she and her partner Carrie have lived together in Berkeley for the past 7 years. Between them, they have four children aged 24, 23, 19, and 15. In her downtime, she enjoys playing viola in a couple of orchestras, learning guitar, enjoying board games with family and friends, and taking her dogs on adventures.

ELM Blog: On Jesus and Coming Out by Alex Aivars

John 2:1-11
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to me and to you? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the person in charge of the banquet.” So they took it. When the person in charge tasted the water that had become wine and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), that person called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee and revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.

In this parable, Jesus is reluctant to show people his true identity. But the mother of Jesus, she knows who Jesus is; she knows his true identity. In an act that both says “it’s Ok you’re not ready” and “but just in case [wink]” Mary tells the servants (with Jesus surely overhearing) to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. Mary wants Jesus to know that if he is ready to reveal his true identity, that is great. But if not, then that is OK as well. 

Jesus then has a choice to make: does he reveal who he really is? Or keep the door closed? It is his decision to make, after all. Mary knows this. This is why she doesn’t reveal who Jesus is.

After deciding for himself that the time was in fact right, Jesus reveals his true identity. He turns the water into wine. And his disciples believe in him. 

In my mid-20s I came out of the closet and revealed my true identity: gay. Many people already knew. When I came out to my sister, I vividly remember her telling me “What took you so long?”

In this parable, I see Jesus keeping his true Savior identity hidden, just as I kept my gay identity hidden into my 20s. In this parable, I see Jesus struggling with whether or not to go public with his true identity, just as I struggled with whether or not to come out publicly as gay. In this parable, I see Jesus not knowing the right hour to reveal his identity as Savior, just as I struggled with the right time to come out to friends and family.

As queer people, we have solidarity with Jesus. For those still in the closet, we know that Jesus kept his true identity hidden at one point. For those now out, we know that Jesus went through a process to reveal his true identity as Savior.

Jesus gets it.

Alex Aivars 
(he/him) is in his second call as pastor of Christ United in Dewitt, MI. Since this is a part-time call, he also develops websites for businesses, non-profits, and churches. In his spare time he likes to dance, be outdoors, travel, and read..  

Claiming the Biblical Queerness: by Mo Goff

“Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan. He said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness?” 1 Samuel 20:30 (NRSV)

For so long, too many in the LGBTQ+ community have been told we are “outside the Kin-dom of God” because of who we are or how we love. Chapter and verse have been abused in the Bible as “proof” we are not God’s children. As valuable as it is to defend against such Clobber Passages, it is just as faithfully essential to seek the queer in the Bible. The more we lean into the Bible’s queerness, the more we can claim it! This passage, 1 Samuel 20:30, is one that I am claiming today because when seen through my queer lens, it shares an all too familiar story about growing up gay in a straight world.

In 1 Samuel 20:30, we find Saul, in a burst of murderous rage, confronting his son Jonathan who has just lied to him—his own father—to protect David. In addition to blaming Jonathan’s mother, Saul confesses to knowing exactly what Jonathan and David have been up to. A couple of chapters previous, in 1 Samuel 18:1, Jonathan declared David to be his soulmate; just before Saul’s outburst itself, Jonathan and David had pledged their love for each other in 1 Samuel 20:17. Jonathan chooses his soulmate over his father, and Saul refuses to accept it, so what did he do? He did what so many fathers who suffer toxic masculinity do, which is to blame the mother… “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman!” 

So, why am I sharing this story with you? It’s because I see my queer self in the scripture. Growing up gay in a different time and in a different place, it was painful not to be straight. It was not okay to be gay. And, whenever the whispers started, they invariably turned to “mama’s boy”, “sissy”, “too close to his mother”, or “his mother must be domineering.” Someone must be at fault for bringing the queer into this world, and it certainly could not have been the men. For my generation, I believe this to be an all too familiar story, and sadly it still happens today. Rather than loving the child, the focus is on who is to blame.

We can see hope in stories like Jonathan and Saul because the Holy Spirit leads us to the queerness in the Bible, and that queerness is liberating. It’s what the Holy Spirit does when it gives us our faith. When we and our LGBTQ+ siblings are told we are “outside the Kin-dom of God” we know it’s not true because we can find ourselves right there alongside all of God’s creation. Best part is, having been led by the Holy Spirit to see ourselves in the Bible, we will continue to find the holy queer again and again. And, for that we can say: Thanks be to God!

Mo Goff (he/him) is a second-year MDiv student at United Lutheran Seminary pursuing ordination in Word and Sacrament under the care of the Delaware-Maryland Synod. Before seminary, he worked in politics and public policy in Washington, DC. He and his husband, Rev. Shawn Brandon, reside outside of Annapolis, MD, with their dog, Lola, and cat, Eve.