ELM Lenten Blog: Colleen Montgomery

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Can I ask you a question?

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. John 3:9

This is one of many questions that kept Nicodemus up at night. In this coming Sunday’s gospel text, Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the night with urgent questions about faith. Nicodemus comes at night because that is when it was safest for him, being seen with Jesus was a big risk for him. He was a Pharisee and they didn’t get along so well with Jesus. However, without hesitation, Jesus listens to him and asks some of his own questions. Because of Nicodemus’ risk in seeking out Jesus and asking his up-at-night questions, he becomes the first person to hear the expansiveness of God’s love. Jesus came so that the whole world could know abundant life and love. 

So, I wonder what’s your up-at-night question? Maybe you have no idea what the answer is so keep trying to puzzle it out. Maybe you’ve got a few possible answers or solutions and you’re up trying to discern which is it. Or maybe you know the answer and are afraid of it, so you let the question linger. 

For those of us in the queer community, the questions that keep us up at night may be about our gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation. Will they ask me my pronouns? What will they say when I come out? Will they like me back? The question that kept me up at night for a long time was: Am I really straight? 

Sometimes those questions stay in the depths of our hearts for a long time. Maybe they stay there forever. My question stayed there for 35 years. Other times the questions come out as whispers, as cries, as bold wonderings. Though depending on who we have taken those questions to, in the night or in the day, we may not have received the type of grace that Nicodemus experienced from Jesus. 

Yet over the course of time, I believe that God sends us to and draws near to us those who embody Jesus’ grace to us. They may not be the people we had hoped would show us grace. They may be unexpected. But their presence with us enables us to trust ourselves more deeply, hear our own voice more clearly, and be able to answer the questions that only we can. Likewise, our presence with them shows them new reflections of God’s love too. 

I’ve been out as bi for over a year. Now I have other questions that keep me up at night. I’m sure you’ve got your list too. In the face of those questions, I firmly believe this: No matter what question keeps you up at night, God can handle it. God’s love is always for you, wherever, whoever, and however, you are. Jesus responds with his own questions and is with you as you listen for an answer, discern what’s next, or even finally accept the answer you’ve been afraid of. The Spirit sends us conversation partners that we can share our questions with through late-night texts over a mid-morning coffee. 

May we always question like Nicodemus so that we can continue to see God’s love in new, expansive, and inclusive ways at all times and in all places.

Pastor Colleen Montgomery (she/her) is the pastor of All Places Together, an online mission development of the Virginia Synod and ELCA, and the Director for Digital Ministries of the Virginia Synod. She lives in southwest Virginia with her husband, Nick, and their dog, Luna. Colleen loves thoughtfully curated playlists and listening to, watching, and reading stories.

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