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.
During August & September, members of the Proclaim community (queer seminarian & rostered ministry leaders) will be writing letters to their younger queer selves offering life-lessons, guidance, & support.
Image Description: Photo of hand-writtern letters and ink pen with the words “Letter to Myself” in the center with the ELM logo, right of center.
Greetings Beloved Community,
We hope you have enjoyed this blog series on letters to our younger selves.
Every week thousands of people have interacted with each Proclaimer’s letter, sharing both affirmation & gratitude for the insights Proclaim members provided. The vulnerability and bravery shown by each Proclaim member was truly inspiring which has made us ponder, what you would say to your younger self?
As the final chapter on this series, we invite you to participate by answering this question:
What is one piece of advice you would share with your younger self?
We invite you to share your responses on ELM’s Facebook page, our Instagram page, or even on elm.org as a comment to this blog entry!
Click the links below to select where you would like to participate.
Thank you for all the ways you have supported queer ministry leaders during this series and throughout the year!
(CN: mentions of sexual abuse, naming of abuser)
There’s so much I want to tell you, dear one. We’ve had quite the adventure in our almost 30 years on this planet. It’s not been easy, that’s for sure. We’ve had some really, really, rough patches. But I promise you, from where I’m sitting today- things are looking pretty good. No, not everything is perfect- in fact, the world’s pretty messed up. But amidst the chaos of the world, we’re doing pretty good.
So, here’s the thing, Beloved. I need to set something… well, not straight… Let me rephrase it this way. I need to make something clear to you, Beloved. Are you listening? It’s super important.
What happened to you was not your fault. Your relationship with TJ was an abusive one, from the first day he started grooming you in the library. So, let me repeat it: it was not your fault. It’s gonna take you a long time to come to terms with it, Beloved. First, that it was abuse, and then that you weren’t asking for it.
Second: he did not break you. I know, Beloved. It’s so hard for you to trust people right now. And you wonder if this weirdness around relationships is something he caused in you- something he took or stole from you. But it’s not, dear one. Think back with me- on some level, you’ve always known you were different. You’ve always seen friendship differently than others. You’ve always loved others- loved in a way that felt different than what others were describing.
Sometimes, it feels like others are speaking a language you didn’t grow up with. One that you’ve picked up (sometimes a little too well), but it’s something you’ve worked hard to learn. There’s a reason for this, dear one. Most of the world was born speaking Allo. You, however, were born speaking A, but learned to communicate in Allo, because that’s what the world spoke.
This might often feel like a curse, especially as you begin to realize how the differences in the languages permeate seemingly everything. But Beloved, your asexuality- your aromantic nature- these things are gifts. Pure gifts. Yes, you understand relationships through a different context. Your relationships aren’t hierarchical in nature- giving one person emphasis because of some perceived “most important” quality. You love freely and fiercely, and point to the ever overflowing abundant nature of God’s love.
And the best part, Beloved? You’re not alone. There are other folks out there- just like you. Folks who are nonbinary, folks who are asexual, folks who are on the aromantic spectrum. There are folks who speak A fluently, and it is such a joy when we get to speak together.
So, My Dear One, know this: you are beloved and holy and whole- just as God made you to be. All of you- the nonbinary, the asexual, the aromantic- God created, They celebrated, and they named Very Good. I know it can be difficult to believe sometimes. Even I struggle with it- still-. But, right now, it’s okay if you can’t believe it. Because I can believe it for you. You will survive. You will find your people. You will thrive. You are not alone- no, you are never alone. You walk with God, and They delight in you.
Rev. Tobi Fleck (they/them) currently serves as the associate pastor at The Dwelling, Winston-Salem, a faith community primarily for people who have or are currently experiencing homelessness. In their free time, they enjoy playing games with friends, reading young adult fiction, and spending time out in creation.
Dear former self: Queerness and Lutheranism are about liberation. Remember that.
In college, you learned that the “white man in the clouds pulling the strings” didn’t exist. You learned how faith and politics inform each other, and you encountered a daring faith. This faith put grace and justice alongside each other.
You also thought that ministry wasn’t for you, in part because the ELCA didn’t recognize the gifts of out queer leaders. You didn’t fit the expectations for ministry (straight cisgenderedness), though you caught wind that those expectations were about to change. They did.
Beware of a new captivity! Just because “they” let you in the club, don’t think that you have to play by all the unwritten rules. It’s now okay to be gay, but you’re going to hear that queer affirmation is a privilege, not a right. You’re going to be told to be grateful that you’re at the table. This is a starting point; this is not the end.
Broadly speaking, the church still expects its ministers to behave a certain way. We prefer tame clergy, who keep their opinions to themselves and spend their weekend nights reading. Humor is best left to the laity, and some people only care if you’re single so that they can plan that wedding.
Some expectations are good: teaching, preaching, and visiting the sick are part of the gig. So is honesty and integrity, and so is loving your neighbor. But in so many ways, dear baby Joe, you are going to break expectations.
You’re going to be too loud. You’re going to be too opinionated. You’re going to be too casually dressed for this or that event. You may even accidentally bring wine to a Baptist’s installation.
But, as it has been forever, your queerness is an asset. Speaking up makes a difference, especially when people don’t expect it. Being rooted in your self-understanding makes you a better pastor. To be queer is to understand that liberation is at the heart of your life, that morality takes a back seat to identity.
God created you just the way you are. In Baptism, you were made free in Christ. Act like it. Relax. Have fun. Be you.
|The Rev. Joseph Graumann, Jr. (he/him), has been pastor of Saint Stephen Lutheran Church in Marlborough, Massachusetts for five years. He is a native of the Jersey Shore, and he thinks sand in his car is the mark of a summer well spent. Joe is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.|
Dear younger me,
Right now, you are shy and closeted. You aren’t confident or sure of yourself. You feel like a nobody surrounded by lots of somebodies. You’re trying to figure out who you are in this big, wide world. You don’t want to disappoint anyone. You have high expectations for yourself and the person you want to become.
But please, dear one, hear this good news: the person you are is exactly the person you should be. You are unique and full of life. You have deep compassion for others. You are deeply loved. And the fact of the matter is, the world needs you. They need your leadership, your passion, and your creative thinking. They need your voice.
I want you to find comfort in the fact that the Creator has made you just the way you are. That you have been made in the very image of God. That God knit you together in Mom’s womb and that you have been fearfully and wonderfully made.
Remember: You don’t have to change anything about yourself to conform to what other people need. You don’t have to conform to what society says you should be, or look like, or act like. You have been created by God just the way you are. And the way you are is good.
I know you have a lot of questions about yourself right now, and that’s okay. One day, you’ll feel comfortable enough to explore those questions and find the answers you seek. One day, you will find peace with yourself and learn to love yourself for who you truly are. I want you to know that someday everything will make sense and everything will be okay.
I’m proud of who you are now and who you’ll become.
With deep love and gratitude,
Jamie Ulrich (she/her) is a Candidate for Word and Sacrament Ministry in the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod and is currently studying at Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University. She is on internship at Epiphany Lutheran Church in Pickerington, Ohio. In her free time, Jamie enjoys reading fiction, hanging out with her cat, and watching The Great British Baking Show.
The week before this was published I turned 30. A day I didn’t really think would be possible. Not as an ordained pastor. Not married to a wonderful woman. Not serving as an Army Chaplain. Certainly not all of them at once. As I reflect on what I would tell my younger self it is this: the situation now is not how it will always be. You will not always be in a place that feels unsafe to be out. You will not always feel the heartache that your relationship won’t be seen as equal. You will not always wonder if serving in the military or the church openly will ever be possible.
What is impossible is relative. At various points the overturning of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell seemed impossible. The overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act seemed impossible. The overturning of the prohibition on out and partnered clergy seemed impossible. That I would be happy, healthy, and living authentically beyond my wildest dreams seemed impossible. But God shows up in the impossible.
This past Easter I performed my first baptism as a pastor. It was an extraordinary day, not simply because it was my first Easter and baptism as an ordained pastor or because babies in baptismal outfits make my heart giddy. No, it was extraordinary because that nearly two year old boy is a cousin of Matthew Shepard, whom he may well grow up to look rather a lot like. It was extraordinary because I poured water and anointed him with oil while wearing the vestments of Cindy Witt, a proclaimer from the historic roster forced out of ministry because of her sexual orientation and relationship.
I reflected on the lead up to that Easter morning that we, he, his family, and I, were living into possibilities that simply had not existed a few decades earlier. Possibilities I’m not entirely sure any of us really thought might come to pass. And yet, I, an out and partnered pastor, performed a baptism of a little boy whose relative had been tortured and left to die for being the same as me, wearing the stole and chasuble of a pastor who was forced out of parish ministry long before her prime for being the same as me. And yet.
And yet on Easter, the impossible is so near, the impossible is so close to the possible, that the impossible may well walk up and greet us in the unexpected place if we are only willing to go looking.
To my younger queer self: the situation now is not how it will always be. Somedays the impossible may come so near to the possible as to be reality. With God, anything is possible. Thanks be to God.
Chelsea Achterberg (she/her) is a southerner who is enjoying adapting to Colorado life. She currently serves as Pastor at All Saints Lutheran Church in Aurora and as an Army Reserve Chaplain. Chelsea and her wife Mandy enjoy hiking, exploring the west, and the antics of their house rabbit Mosby.