Devotional by Rev. Amanda Gerken-Nelson
It all started in her red Pontiac Sunfire.
My aunt would come and pick me up in her “cool car” and we’d head to McDonald’s to get some frenchfries. Then, we’d roll down the windows, blast ABBA on the radio, and we’d be off – licking our salty fingers along the way!
When the musical, “Mamma Mia” came out, my aunt saw it at least 10 times – any time it came to town, she was in the audience…twice!
When “Dancing Queen” came on – at the musical or on the radio – suddenly an imaginary piano appeared just above my aunt’s head in time for her to play “ching-ching, ching-ching, ching-ching” along with the piano part in the song – mimicking the choreography of the main characters.
Since my aunt died eight years ago, all too suddenly from complications with her Lupus, every time “Dancing Queen” comes on the radio, I am reminded of her love and playfulness.
And when it comes on at the gay bars, suddenly an imaginary piano appears above my head just in time for me to play “ching-ching, ching-ching, ching-ching.”
And in that moment, I am connected to my wholeness.
God of all love, enfold your beautifully diverse creation in your peace and pride this month as we celebrate our wholeness. Thank you for the gift of loved ones who show us your all-encompassing grace through their love. Amen.
Amanda Gerken-Nelson (she/her/hers) is pretty good at the air piano and at emphasizing “leee-berty” with her brother Paul in the ABBA song “Fernando.” This weekend, as the LGBTQIA+ community celebrates World Pride, Amanda also celebrates her one year wedding anniversary to Tasha. She is grateful to all who have paved the way for her and all gender and sexual minorities to even have a legal option for marriage and a church which would bless her partnership.
Devotional By Jon Rundquist
CW: Language, Self-harm, Weapons
“Does God Bless Your Transsexual Heart?”
This poignant question comes from Laura Jane Grace the leader of Against Me! Laura Jane’s question comes from the perspective of both a transwoman and someone who was once a teenage boy kicked out of a Florida church. She later wrote in her autobiography, “When a church turns you away, it feels as though God himself is rejecting you, saying you are damaged beyond His help.”
This song “True Trans Soul Rebel” has been on repeat in my mind all throughout my journey in seminary and afterward. Yes, this question of God loving my transsexual heart has appeared as well. Or God’s Church. More specifically, the rural congregations of the ELCA. Long before I mostly knew that I was trans, I knew that I was called to serve the rural church. As any similarly called LGBTQIA+ leader in the church, I knew that most calls for such leaders would be offered for urban-suburban congregations, due to the (generally) more frequent occurrences of affirming congregations.
I remained committed to the idea of a rural call, even (twice) committing to candidacy in a rural synod. I was going to be that “True Trans Soul Rebel”. Rogue One’s “Rebellions are built on Hope” has been plastered on my Facebook every time I sit in front of my candidacy committee. The first (and only) tattoo I have is that of a Star Wars rebellion symbol, colored as a trans flag (right). My version of True Trans Soul Rebel.
My most recent joy brought by this song is my 3-yr old singing, “Who’s gonna take you home, tonight / Who’s gonna take you home” every now and then. God’s got this. Wherever this leads, God’s gonna take us home. Coming out of the closet is nothing short of rebellion, and leading God’s church as an out LGBTQIA+ person is truly divine.
Jon Rundquist (he/her/theirs) is a non-binary trans/genderqueer rebellious preacher of the rural Northwoods, where they are a stay-at-home parent and an occasional electronics team member at Target. Jon has many loves, including his wife and two children, and an affinity for sci-fi/fantasy Star Trek/Wars/Gate. Yes, that’s six slashes. She hopes to one day serve in ordained ministry for the God and Church she loves. Rebellions are built on hope after all.
Devotional by Carla Christopher
When I heard Aretha Franklin growl “Pride; A Deeper Love” at my very first Pride just a few months after coming out it gave me LIFE! A church girl turned survivor of conversion therapy and toxic church, being told that I was worthy of love and deserved survival was revolutionary. I twirled, skipped, and danced my way across Bryant Park in New York City with fae boys and stud women still rocking the James Dean look.
As we shared a moment in all our diversity, I knew a oneness that I hadn’t experienced outside of the church. When Aretha told me getting out of bed that morning was a victory worth celebrating, I believed her. She sang that the love in my heart would give me the strength to get through the day, and I needed that strength in those days. I still do on rough days.
It wasn’t until many years later that I realized as strong and confident and empowered as the song is, Aretha isn’t singing to or about herself. She calls out to the people, sure. The world needs to know we are here! She lifts herself up when the world isn’t there to do it. Absolutely! But, she takes a break mid-song to offer thanks to the source of all the luscious, brave goodness that she is, that we are. She asks for the strength to continue on, with the humble beauty of the Psalmist.
Not sure who this prayer is directed to? Give her gospel album a listen. Once the chills have subsided, you will hear that same power in her club anthem.
As you live bold, brave, unapologetically proud today, know that it’s okay if you get tired sometimes. It’s okay if you feel dysphoric today or if you didn’t come out AGAIN in a new space. You’re still here. You’re not going any-dang-where. And you will survive…but that’s another song. For today, we pray to Jesus together – “I want to thank you for helping me see there’s a power that lives deep inside of me. Give me the strength to carry on, always be strong. Pride. A deeper love. Amen.”
Carla Christopher (she/her/hers) is a seminarian at United Lutheran Seminary – Gettysburg and Vicar of Union Lutheran church in York, PA. She is the founder and co-president of the York LGBTQIA+ Resource Center and co-chair of Toward Racial Justice, the diversity task force of Lower Susquehanna Synod.
Devotional by Rev. Anna Tew
The LGBTQIA+ nightlife of Atlanta often represents the best of the South to me. On any given weekend night, especially in Midtown, you can find people of many races, nationalities, ages, sexual orientations, and gender identities and expressions all enjoying the night together.
On one particular evening in 2014, I was standing with my friends who are my family, watching a gorgeous drag queen perform Reba McEntire’s “Is There Life Out There,” and the Holy Spirit descended.
The song tells the story of a young woman from the South who married at twenty, and finds herself feeling trapped. The chorus goes like this: “Is there life out there / So much she hasn’t done / Is there life beyond her family and her home / She’s done what she should, should she do what she dares? / She doesn’t want to leave; she’s just wondering is there life out there.”
Every one of us in that bar sang every word. We sang because Atlanta is a haven for us LGBTQIA+ folk in the middle of the rural South. Because we, too, once felt trapped. Because we, too, didn’t want to leave our homes. Because we did what we “should” for so long before we did what we dared: to be our full selves. We pounded the air with our fists and raised our cups and sang at the top of our lungs as if to say, “We’re still here – hallelujah!”
Sometimes the Holy Spirit appears as drag queen lip syncing to Reba.
Sometimes the love of God swoops in and saves your soul when you least expect it: like at a pub on a Friday night. May the love of God swoop in and save your soul again today: by land, by sea, or by drag queen. There is life out there, friends. There is.
Bio: The Rev. Anna Tew is a 30-something Lutheran pastor serving Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (ELCA) in South Hadley, Massachusetts. A product of several places, she was born in rural Alabama, lived most of her adult life in Atlanta, and now lives in and adores New England. In her spare time, Anna enjoys climbing the nearby mountains, traveling, exploring cities and nightlife, and keeping up with politics and pop culture.
Devotional by Vicar Lewis Eggleston
On their way to replace a stolen coat, “I’ll Cover You” is a song about a romantic love where one person (Tom Collins) acknowledges how very little physical items and finances he has to bring into this relationship and all he can offer in return are embraces, kisses, and undying love for Angel.
RENT has and will forever have a special place in my heart. I was the luckiest boy in the world to play Angel in a production after the Air Force stationed us in Oklahoma. I had just been rejected for a pastoral internship and I thought ministry in Oklahoma would not be possible because of who I was.
Playing this role anywhere takes guts; playing Angel in rural Oklahoma, felt a little “To Wong Fu.” Portraying radical, unconditional love as someone from the margins shakes up the patriarchal system. Sometimes the season tickets holders would complain about the “edginess” of RENT (20 years after its debut on Broadway), some would walk out after the first Act, and some thought Angel in boy clothes was an altogether different character than Angel in girl clothes. Yet, hearts and minds were changed. The number of young LGBTQIA+ people that came up in tears after each performance was staggering. I’ll never forget their stories.
Among those who supported the show, was my mother (Pictured Lower Left Corner with Proud Mom Look). The LGBTQIA+ community often create their own families, not by choice, but by necessity. In celebration of Pride in June and Mother’s Day this weekend, I’m grateful my mother said “I’ll Cover You.” She sheltered me, hugged me, kissed me, loved me, and like Collins I can never repay her for all she’s done for me, except to show her my love and gratitude. I’m thankful for all the Mama Bears out there who choose to love their LGBTQIA+ children. I pray for those in our communities that had to cut these ties so they could survive, that they are embraced by motherly figures who love them unconditionally, and I pray for all the motherly figures out there that shape our world in the way God desires. Amen.
Bio: Vicar Lewis Eggleston (he/him/his) is an Air Force spouse currently living in San Antonio, TX with his husband Mitchell and dog-child Carla. He attended seminary at Pacific School of Religion and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA, and he is currently interning with Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church in Seguin, TX. He’s been an advocate for children’s access to the arts through both museum and symphony educational programming and has worked with homeless individuals and families for the past ten years. In his free time, he loves to attend musicals whilst fighting every urge to sing-along.
By Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer
Thumpa, thumpa was the sound of sugar and salt shakers flying through the windows of the Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco during the 1966 rebellion against biased policing.
Thumpa, thumpa was the vibrating beat behind Harvey Milk’s protest against Coors Beer in 1969.
Thumpa, thumpa echoed from the sound of high heels and bricks during the 1969 raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.
Thumpa, thumpa was the music last heard in 1973 before thirty-one men and women died in the fire at the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans French Quarter
Thumpa, thumpa was heard in the Pulse Nightclub in 2016 before 49 people were gunned down in Orlando, Florida.
Thumpa, thumpa was heard at Ghost Ship in Oakland before the 2016 blaze killed 36.
Standing on the corner of 18th and Castro in San Francisco, with the blaring thumpa, thumpa bleeding into the street that had witnessed the first mention of HIV/AIDs, I shouted “out of the bars and into the streets.” These iconic words of Harvey Milk were a nod to the queeros who had come before me and a literal call to action for the LGBTQ community. After the Pulse shooting, I declared that we not only had to come out of the bars, but out of the congregations, synagogues and mosques to proclaim the love of God to all and to counter the angery lies of those who assumed God could not love the full fabulousness of the LGBTQ community.
Today I want to remind you that just as we have transitioned from Lent to Easter, during the season of Pride we must live boldly and forgive more boldly still. Our extravagantly fabulous life must not only mourn the aches that we carry, but embrace the sound and the rhythm of the thumpa, thumpa.
Let us dance for those who sought the joy and freedom of LGBTQ bars and were met with violence.
Let us dance long enough to decide to keep living. Let us dance for a beautiful generation that was lost to the AIDs epidemic.
Let us dance for those who brought us camp and drag, when all we could muster were tears.
Let us dance because it is our best revenge in a time when our rights are debated.
Let us dance for the liberation we are still marching towards. Let us dance in celebration of the gift that is our sacred sexuality. Let us dance because we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Let us dance in celebration of a God who always joins us in the dancing.
Just as God came to Moses in the burning bush, to Jacob in a wrestling match, Ezekiel in dreams and Hildebrand in visions, may God find you in the thumpa, thumpa. Amen.
Bio: The Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer is the pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church and Executive Director of Welcome – a communal response to poverty in San Francisco, CA. Pastor Megan is an author, artist, activist and educator who speaks and preaches nationally on issues of homelessness, sexuality and gender. Pastor Rohrer was a 2014 honorable mention as an Unsung Hero of Compassion with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, was named honorary royalty and presented a Medal of Tolerance in Indonesia, received an Honorary Doctorate from Palo Alto University, Distinguished Alum award from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, is an award wining historian, musician, filmmaker and was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award in transgender nonfiction.
By Rev. Kevin Strickland
Scripture: John 20:19-31
It’s at the tomb that we discover things about ourselves. It’s at the tomb that we come to make sense of the questions that have bogged us down these weeks of Lent, in our wilderness wandering. At the tomb they all come together in one great, blinding awareness. Locked in the tombs of life, hidden in closets afraid to be our truest selves, or shackled behind doors of fear may feel easier than living in this post-tomb, post-Easter world.
When we lock doors, it is not just to keep things from coming in, it is also keeping things from going out. When we lock the doors of our hearts or of our faith or of our churches from being the nail scarred hands and feet open and unlocked to a world around us, we keep things from coming in and going out.
We belong to the company of the faithful in all times and in all places with the fingers of Thomas, needing to touch our Lord.
We need, we yearn, we groan to embrace the fullness of Jesus’ crucified and risen body, because in our bodies we sense the turmoil of the lives around us: young people who desperately seek discernment and question is church really meant for them, congregation members who wonder whether they will have a job tomorrow, colleagues who are burned out and wonder if their vocation is really cut out for them. Not to mention our own question and needs and that of our family—did Jesus really die and rise? Such a reality seems fantastic, mythical to touch the bodies of today’s world, of our world, or my world.In baptism, we are submerged into God’s nail scarred, tomb laden love.
In baptism, God in Christ reminds us that Easter did not just happen; it is still happening. Christ rose, and so can we from the death of self-doubt, personal persecution, and faithless convictions.
Thank you, God, for Thomas. We needed him in that room at the right moment. It is a healthy, doubting, powerful faith that connects his body to Jesus’ body, and in doing so, our body with Jesus’ own body, scars, wounds and all. With his rising, Jesus didn’t take on a brand-new body without any blemish; his resurrection body was the same one that was nailed to the tree. And that’s how it is with us and with the world around us—scars, wounds, and all.
May God grant us Thomas-like boldness with our faith to step out, unlock, and touch the wounds of those hands and feet that we meet all around us!
Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! Amen.
Bio: Rev. Kevin Strickland (he/him/his) has served as the Assistant to the Presiding Bishop and Executive for Worship since 2014. Prior to this call, he served as a parish pastor in Nashville, TN. He and his husband, Robby live in Chicago with their mostly adorable French Bulldog, Halsted.
By Rev. Lyle Beckman
Scripture: John 13: 3-5, 12-14 (NRSV) Jesus … took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. After he had washed their feet … he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet”.
As a young pastor, I struggled with the Maundy Thursday practice of foot washing. Too many pairs of pantyhose, giggling teenagers and congregants who said “No!” when invited. My own insecurities as a young, gay (closeted) pastor shying away from such intimacy played a role in not fully experiencing the potential in this ritual. Over the years however, I have appreciated it more.
Each Maundy Thursday 75 people living on the streets of San Francisco are willing to trust a group of pastors and seminarians to lovingly wash their feet, dress their wounds and let them be anointed and dressed in new socks. Tears run down faces on both sides of the basin. Love and tenderness are shown. Healing and compassion are offered. Human contact connects us in community and to the divine presence in and around us.
Through Jesus’ example of washing feet, and in his life, death and resurrection, we are shown the depth of God’s love, and invited to share it wherever we can. In our congregations for sure, but in the world as well, which is crying out for words and actions of hope, acceptance, forgiveness, welcome and love. Will you wash their feet?
Bio: Rev. Lyle Beckman (he/him/his) served as the Night Minister for the San Francisco Night Ministry until his retirement in September, 2018. Night Ministry offers spiritual care, counseling and crisis intervention every night of the year from 10:00 pm to 4:00 am, hosts two outdoor worship services and several feeding and educational programs. Beckman is currently serving as interim pastor of Christ Church, Lutheran, San Francisco.
By Rev. Amanda Gerken-Nelson
“And now, it is time to let grace abound! It’s time for gay people to build worshiping communities. It’s time for us to bring God’s good news, and not the church’s bad news, to the LGBTQ [sic] community. It’s time to care for the kicked-out, the runaway, the imprisoned, the friendless, the dying. It’s time to celebrate what has already been done. It is time to remember that we are the church. We celebrate God’s gracious gifts. We proclaim the love, the life, and the grace of God at work within us and our community. We demonstrate the gracious power and glory that is ours when we come out and take the step saying, ‘We are here. We are Gay and Lesbian and Bisexual and Transgendered [sic]. We are friends of Lesbians and Gays and Bisexuals and Transgendered [sic]. We are God’s. We are the kingdom.’ The most precious grace God gives us is the grace to be ourselves. And now, it is time to let grace abound.”- Joel Workin
Often, when in the wilderness, I find myself hungry for wisdom and inspiration.
Because the wilderness can exist in my mind, my body, and my spirit, it can be quite overwhelming – this feeling of emptiness, being lost, disorientation.
In the context of wilderness, I find myself turning to the wisdom of prophets and ancestors as Mapmakers – using their maps to guide me today as I journey further into new territories.
Those whose wisdom and understanding hold a space that is beyond time or place. Whose words and actions are a gentle hand against my back encouraging me and propelling me forward.
As one of the “Berkeley Four,” Joel paved a path for me to enter candidacy and serve the church as an out queer woman when he challenged church doctrine by coming out as gay at PLTS with Jeff, Greg, and Jim in 1987.
Joel never saw the day when the church opened its doors to publicly out LGBTQIA+ pastors and deacons. He died in 1995.
And yet, he did.
Joel had a vision of God’s kin-dom of inclusion and wholeness for gender and sexual minorities and it propelled him in his work and his words.
Joel didn’t have to live in it to know it was possible.
I can only imagine who the prophets and ancestors were whose hand was at Joel’s back.
I count them as my prophets and ancestors too, even if I can’t name them.
God of counsel and wisdom, you have gifted your creation with the words, actions, and hearts of great prophets and sages. Thank you for the comfort and challenge this wisdom encourages and for the reminder that we are always surrounded by those determined to share your love for all. Amen.
Bio: Amanda (she/her/hers) is the Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. She thinks you should know a bit more about Joel:
Joel Raydon Workin (1961-1995) In 1987, Joel came out publicly as a gay candidate for the ordained ministry. Following this courageous and faithful act, Joel’s certification was revoked by the ELCA and his name was never placed on the roster of approved candidates waiting for call. Joel’s ministry continued in Los Angeles, however, at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and as Director of Chris Brownlie Hospice. He and his husband Paul were active in Lutherans Concerned/Los Angeles and Dignity/Los Angeles. The Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholarship Fund was established upon Joel’s death from AIDS on November 29, 1995. In keeping with Joel’s wishes, awards from the fund are used to provide scholarships to publicly-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer seminary students who proclaim God’s love and seek justice for all. The fund is managed by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.
By S. Leon LaCross
“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?” Luke 15:4
It’s easy to write this sheep off as sinful and in need of saving. However, I’m proposing that this sheep is brave. It takes a lot of courage to strike off on your own and do your own thing. As the Joel R. Workin Scholar, I’ve been identified as having a prophetic voice; but I don’t always hear it.
I fall into the trap of doubting myself, self-sabotaging and otherwise getting down on myself. I drift off from my community and feel like a pariah. But just when I think I’ve gone too far afield, when I’ve lost hope, when I start to get my wooly coat caught in the brambles, I’m found again.
I’m reminded that I have a flock of rainbow sheep that want me around. I bump into a queer colleague, sigh too deep for words, and appreciate each other’s struggle. I’m not alone out there.
To get intertextual, we are all in the wilderness, calling out…but we’re not making the roads straight. We’re skipping down the yellow brick road, over the rainbow, and into a brave new day, collecting friends along the way.
Good Shepherd, you tend every flock and gather in your forgotten sheep. Help us to be the shepherds searching for our siblings who have drifted away. Help us to be brave sheep, daring to forge new paths. Be with us in the wilderness and help us to hold space for those who have not yet found their flock. You rejoice with us as we are reunited with our kindred. Tend to us on our Lenten journey. Amen.
Bio: S. Leon LaCross (he/they) is a third year seminarian at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary pursuing a masters in Divinity with hopes to be ordained. His specific academic interests revolve around sex, sexuality, and gender as they intersect with theology. He is an adoring partner to his boyfriend, Noah (he/they), and a part time step-father for Noah’s cat Moxie (she/her) and dog Mr. Pickles (he/him). They enjoy cooking, gaming and gardening together as well as generally trying to become literally the gayest.