ELM Earth Day Blog: by Alex Linn

A melancholy Eastertide love letter to camp on the cusp of the summer season

It is my queer agenda to remind people of the world’s beautiful cycle– or maybe that’s just my agenda, who’s to say. 

            I grew up in the American South, North Carolina, a storied land woven into the fabric of history and its people; there’s plenty to say about the checkered saga I was born into, and the garbage that comes along with it, but I did at the very least get a blessing from the place I grew up. A blessing from the years spent at camp out in the woods. 
The Creator loves wholly.  
Even before I loved myself or feigned belief that another person could love a queer me, the substance of the world outside the door would offer up little glimpses of divinity. Moments that screamed the Imago Dei before I even knew that phrase. 
I know you just got the crap kicked out of you in school, but did you see this pattern in this new leaf unfurling? Check out this beetle…
Oh, it happened again… did you notice the resplendent yellow this oak has turned? I’m sorry my dear…
You really weren’t meant for P.E. class were you… have you seen the hawk circling the field? Best not to look at your friend in his gym shorts. 
You seem sad, have you noticed how I’m sad too?
Did you notice that I, too, am dying every day?
Did you notice that we are resurrected with the dawn?
It was in the bosom of the woods where queerness was explored. Where I was always myself with everything I was and could be and everything that hurt and wanted to reject. Conversations with close friends, lovers, and all the things that get lifted up as prayers of laughter in the squeals of kids playing games, broken hearts, and views from dirty windows. These were and are souvenirs from moments long gone and seasons spent in the woods. Beloved, these souvenirs fade with time, but they are not lost because the Resurrected Christ says nothing is truly lost. Yes, die and can decompose, but the star stuff that carries your souvenirs has never been lost since the beginning. 
I can’t quite place the exact memories anymore, and I’m not sure how they slipped, but I carry the embedded feelings gifted by the cycle­– the smell of the first Spring rain, the stark silence of snowfall, the oppressive humidity of July. It’s a kind of creation cycle we honor in our liturgical calendar. One that reminds us in the depths of winter that the light has come into the world, one that reminds us of our dust-to-dust-ness even when Spring is about to get going.
            I think “queer-God talk” and an “eco-God talk” are kind of one in the same. To be queer is, for me, to hold such vast complexity in your being. To think eco-theologically– or whatever– is to bear witness to the vast complexity of another being. That vast complexity both in and out is God’s creation, it’s the image you’re made in. “Let us make them in our image!” A singular yet plural bang of creation that got called good and was loved even when it isn’t at its best.

Alex Winfield Linn, “Winnie” (he/him/his) is a nearly approved candidate for ordination in Word and Sacrament with the Metropolitan Chicago Synod. He is a former camp program director and currently the vicar-in-residence while on his internship year at Luther Memorial Church, and Lutheran Campus Ministries in Madison, WI. When doing ‘Jesus stuff’ isn’t in his purview he enjoys playing games of all varieties, being a lil’ bit cranky, loving his rescue Dalmatian puppy, and inventing creative swear words. 

ELM Earth Day Blog by Michael Dickson

Learning to Love the Crucified Body: Your’s, Earth’s, and Zombie Jesus


It was Earth Day 2022, and I was walking through Central Park in NYC, trying to find a quiet place to play in the dirt. 

Weird idea, I know, but I wanted to put my hand in soil and love the Earth for a second. Earth Day is about loving the earth, right? And love is a feeling/action before it’s a concept, right? Right. So let’s get my hand in some dirt. 

The problem: I was embarrassed. Far more awkward than I expected. So like, I just walk up to the earth, and in full view of thousands of people, put my hands on it and try to love it?   

I really didn’t want to be loving the earth – like, you know – *in public*

So there I was in Central Park, wandering through historic, secluded old gay hookup groves, shamefully looking for a place to sit and love creation.

Awkward and ashamed, I meander through the woods; a patch of woods haunted quite literally for over a hundred years by queer bodies seeking quietly in the dark for a safe space to love another body. 

I promise this is a 100% true story, although tbh I clocked no more than 10% of the irony at the time. I can’t always tell where the shame is coming from right in the moment, y’know?  

For me, and I imagine for many others, the queer journey has been about finding my way out of shame and learning to love bodies

Our relationships with our bodies (and our collective body) are fraught, to say the least. These bodies we are told are wrong, evil, and predatory because of what we do and what we feel with them. Bodies that sometimes even feel wrong, born at odds with ourselves, known one way by us and known another way by the world. The world is so sure it knows us that it doesn’t believe in our ability to know ourselves!

The world refuses to know, to even believe in the life of queer, trans, Black, and brown bodies, even as they are surrounded by those crucified bodies.

They insist in their disbelief, even as the crucified body itself strolls through locked doors into their glorified closet of an echo chamber, eager with good news to share of a different way

And what about our disbelief? What about the 200 crucified species going extinct every day? Do we believe in the life of those bodies, or do we also doubt? 

And for every crucified bird, fish, ape, wolf, raccoon, insect, otter, tiger and other species that will be extinct by 2050 — their crucified Zombie-Jesus bodies haunt our zoos. They are ghosts in captivity, unstuck in time from some Easter future, taunting us with good news of a different way things could be if only we loved this body  

If only we loved this body. 

Bodies are complicated – yes. Difficult? Hard agree. Remember that Zombie, Fish-Eating Jesus is a gory crucified body, probably oozing multiple somethings. But at the same time, it is a resurrected body. A body in motion. A holy body that carries death but also carries life. 

The holy body breaks into our world past locked doors and says “I have good news for you.” Then they guide our hand to the open wound in their side. 

“Behold!” They say. “This is your body.” 

Behold the crucified and resurrected body — this queer little blue zombie fish-eating planet — and love it. 

God invites us to love our flesh and the world around us as the beloved, growing, constantly changing bodies they are. Resurrected life in motion, oozing and flowing, constantly shaped and reshaped by ourselves and the bodies around us in a million ways both beautiful and brutal. 

We are crucified and resurrected, fixed and fluid, extinct and resurgent. We are queer, trans, black and brown bodies like mushrooms in soil: We can be crushed underfoot, but we won’t stop growing, and by morning we shall inherit the earth.  

This is your body. 

Let us lay our gentle hands on that body of earth and learn to love it – openly, without shame or fear. 

The Reverend Seminarian (lol) Michael Dickson(he/him/they/them) is an approved candidate for word and sacrament ministry awaiting call in the North Carolina Synod of the ELCA. Maichel completed an internship at St. Peter’s Church in Manhattan, and now directs social justice and advocacy ministries for the NC Synod and probably other stuff too. Makl likes books and outside and videogames and people and feelings and rewatching Adventure Time.   

Easter Blog by Rev. Sharon Stalkfleet

Trust Broken Reborn as Hope

I have a lot of disappointments these days. I try to make sense of the experience of COVID, as I long for public acknowledgment of this deep loss, yet once again we are moving on, just “getting over it.” COVID is not the only thing we need to mourn. Climate change is taking a toll. I live in Northern California with its devastating fires, where fear rises in me whenever I hear the sound of a fire engine heading up the Berkeley Hills. An attempted coup in our nation’s capital has yet to be adjudicated. Our transgender youth are being targeted again and again, and I am angry at hateful rhetoric and actions towards diverse groups of people as I listen to the effect it has on my Asian American and immigrant friends. I am ashamed to live in a reality where people with brown and black bodies are treated badly, especially young black men harmed and threatened every day by police officers. I am furious at the increased protections for guns by the United States Supreme Court that diminishes the safety of children and youth in schools, abused women in their homes, and supports tools for mass shootings. 

I have seen a lot of change in my lifetime towards equality and less discrimination, including the 2009 ELCA decision towards full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people, the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements and the brave actions of my transgender friends. I envisioned that we would be in a better place. However, resistance towards full inclusion of all people persists and seems to be rising. I am disappointed and angry. As I write this, I am taking account of the times we are living in and questioning how we will move on. 

I wonder what it must have been like for the people of all genders, sexual orientations, abilities, colors, ages, classes, Jew and Gentiles, all diversities who followed Jesus as they saw public opinion sway and eventually turn against him while the powers and the principalities nailed him to the cross and killed him. Was their trust in Christ broken as they mourned?

John Kirvan, author and Paulist priest, reflected on Evelyn Underhill’s words about resurrection in the book “God Hunger.” Kirvan writes, “trust broken must be reborn into hope.” Lessons of distrust have been pounded into us all our lives and are transformed into hope. Our Easter story transforms broken trust into hope with Jesus’ resurrection.  Healing breaks through and we too are raised to a new life. Jesus Christ is risen, risen indeed! 

St. Paul writes, in Romans 5: 1-5 

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (NRSV)

Evelyn Underhill, who knew suffering, writes, “I expect resurrection!” We, in the Proclaim community know resurrection. We have certainly experienced the loss of trust being reborn as hope! In whatever words we use for our gender and our sexual orientation, including our straight allies who read this, together we have moved beyond messages that tell us to distrust our deepest longings and our deepest understandings about who we are and how we are to live out our lives. We have the gift of being gathered together in community in common pain and common hope that has birthed a new life of fully living who we are with endurance and character resulting in love and inclusion. 

Trust broken being reborn as hope, is an ongoing process. It is our Good Friday to Easter experience from which we can trust and hope again and again! This Easter, receive the energy of new life unfolding, let us be revived and rise again.

Resurrecting One, ground our trust and hope in you. Renew our energy, revive us, keep us moving forward from our common pain and in our common hope for a reality that reflects your vision of inclusion and the love of all creation. Instill your resurrection in us and summon the light of Christ to shine upon us, hold us and shine from within us for the world to see. Amen.
Sharon Stalkfleet (she/her) is the 7th Extraordinarily Ordained Lutheran Pastor by 4 ELCA congregations in Oakland and Alameda, CA in 2002. She has served as an outreach pastor to a large nursing home ministry, as a hospice chaplain, and as an intentional interim pastor. Sharon is working on a Doctorate of Ministry focused on Children’s Theology at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. She currently lives as a single person in Berkeley and enjoys walking up into the Berkeley Hills to watch the sunset.

Palm Sunday Sermon by Pastor Micah Louwagie

St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Fargo, North Dakota

Matthew 26:14-27:66 

This week we witnessed yet another mass shooting – roughly the 130th this year – this time at a small, private Christian school in Nashville, TN. And instead of focusing on ways we could prevent shootings like this – such as gun control – a significant number of people have turned their attention toward the shooter’s identity. Instead of focusing on the fact that the number one cause of child death in this country is gunshot wounds, some have chosen to focus on eradicating transgender people as a solution because they have been waiting for an opportunity such as this; they have been waiting for a reason, any reason, to stoke their hatred. 

Today’s Gospel readings take us on a journey from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on a donkey to his crucifixion and death on a cross. There’s a lot packed into these readings, but there is one passage I find particularly striking. It was a long gospel text, so I’ll read the passage again for you: 

While [Jesus] was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived; with him was a large crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him.” At once he came up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you are here to do.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. Suddenly, one of those with Jesus put his hand on his sword, drew it, and struck the slave of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But all this has taken place, so that the scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. 

Marginalized people – those with the least amount of privilege and power – need those who have more privilege and power than they do to physically place their bodies between them and the people, powers, and institutions that are killing them. Yet so often they are betrayed with a kiss. Self-proclaimed allies and advocates will say the right things, maybe give a little money here and there, but when push comes to shove suddenly their hands are tied and they cannot do anything. 

The disciples were afraid to even be associated with Jesus, lest they suffer the same fate. I have observed that it is the people with the most power and privilege who often desert those they are called to defend when those people start getting harassed, beaten, and arrested because, while many of them know they won’t suffer the same fate, they do know that being associated with marginalized people puts their reputation at stake. 

And what is it about this reputation that makes it so precious? What point does it prove to keep a reputation at the expense of other people’s lives? 

What especially angers me is that some of these self-proclaimed allies and advocates know there are people out there who are just waiting for another excuse to justify their hatred. In their recording of Jesus’ journey to the cross, the author makes a point of saying that “the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death.” Those leaders were looking for any excuse, valid or not, to crucify Jesus. And when the crowd shouted to release Barabbas – well, there was their excuse. They would kill the one whose reputation as a teacher and healer and mission of love and dignity was so threatening to their reputation that they needed to kill him in order to preserve their image. 

It is baffling to me that someone’s existence can be so threatening that people decide they need to be controlled, that they need to make laws against them, or even worse, that the people they find so threatening should die. There are a significant number of people who have deemed that the fact that the Nashville shooter happened to be trans is just the excuse they need to call for the eradication of transgender people. Rather than focusing on the fact that we have a serious gun violence problem that continues to go unaddressed; rather than focusing on the fact that six people are dead; rather than focusing on the fact that those staff and children should have been safe in that school and weren’t; rather than focusing on any of this, they have decided they need to cause more harm. 

This isn’t a new phenomenon – it’s been happening. The Holocaust, Japanese internment camps, segregation, forcibly sending Indigenous children to residential schools, migrants being held in cages, the list goes on. Jesus did not die for this. Jesus did not die so that violence could be perpetuated in God’s name. Jesus did not die for access to guns. God Incarnate did not die on that cross so that people could value money, power, and the preservation of their reputation over the bodies and lives of marginalized people. Actually, I think that’s what Jesus died to free us from. 

So why are we still not free? 

Good Friday Blog- Leslie O’ Callaghan

Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me…While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Matthew 26:23, 26

As I write these words, our congregation just departed from the final Maundy Thursday worship service of the day.  A new experience for us this year was that of a hearty eucharist. At the point of the communion liturgy, we moved into another space that had been set with tables spread with oil, jam, and hummus, fruit, wine and juice and an altar laden with baskets of bread. We spent a good twenty minutes sitting together talking about what it is to be the body of Christ after receiving the body and blood together in that space. The food fed us, body and soul, together! I watched strangers meet each other, visitors find new community, and others relax into a bit of celebration as a piece of liturgy took on an embodied life for a while. As we made our way back in for the stripping of the altar, someone whispered, “Can’t we do this every week?!”

As queer leaders in the church, betrayal can be an all too familiar part of our story. The stories that fill our worship spaces on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday can be both reminders of those hurts and soothing balms of Jesus’ love that tucks in around those precious, vulnerable hearts and says, “O beloveds, I AM the one who was with you in the beginning, and I will be with you to the end of the age.” Jesus knew the betrayer was at the table, and bread was still put in their hands. Jesus loved the ones who would flee, deny, look away, and doubt. The love never stops as the whip falls or the thorns press in on his tender brow. Good Friday is good because out of immeasurable hurt, sacrifice, and suffering comes the grace of God pooled at the very foot of the cross.
As I ponder the joy of watching my congregation eat with each other during communion, I wonder what would happen if that were our weekly practice. What if we looked each other in the eye every time we gathered, and when we heard those words, “for you,” we also were looking at the one next to us? That meal might begin to take on a bit more of a corporate y’all! In Matthew 26, all the hard conversations, as well as the words of institution take place “while they were eating.” When we sit down to eat with each other, we have the opportunity to dig into the tough questions, to talk with the ones we might very well hurt or who might hurt us but whom we are called to love as Christ loves. To the end of the age. 

Peace be with you, beloveds.
Rev. Leslie O’Callaghan (she/her) serves as lead pastor at Saint Andrew Lutheran Church in Wausau, Wisconsin. She and her spouse, Rev. Asher O’Callaghan love life with their pup Francis and 3 cats and getting to know the outdoors of Wisconsin.