This past week I gave a “temple talk” (short informational homily) at both of our services about becoming a Reconciling in Christ congregation and will be speaking at our annual meeting on the 3rd. Sponsering a forum on Suicide on the 14th because we have had a few over the last 3 or 4 years. The presenter will be talking about the reasons for suicide and LGBT issues are right up there. On the 24th we will have a panel discussion between a couple of members of our congregation (both raised children that were gay) and several students from “Outlook” an LGBT group on campus.
The headline in a west suburban paper of 1954 could have read, “Tragedy strikes a new family.” The eleven year old boy who was found by his family in the bathroom was a victim of apparent suicide. Although new to the area, the boy was a straight A student and a faithful follower of the Lord at Saint Peters Lutheran Church where he was preparing for his confirmation.
But that isn’t what the paper said. The paper never said anything because the suicide failed. The boy who had already saved his mother from a beating and protected his little sister had to survive. Maybe it was that combined with all the guilt that overcame the frustration and confusion that pervaded and agonized his soul. As the blood trickled down on the cream-colored blouse and brown tweed skirt he was wearing, could it be that he knew he couldn’t be found dressed this way? Or maybe inserting the knife for that instant hurt more than all he was already enduring.
Jesus asks Peter, “Whom do you love?” not once but three times. Is this because Peter denied him three times? Of course, Peter’s response is, “You, Lord.” Is turn about fair play? Since Jesus asks, “Whom do you love? Are we allowed the same question? God who is it that you love?
Religious belief can be a good thing. It is the theology that becomes warped. It is very easy to become faithful followers out of fear and guilt. After all, look what happens to God’s chosen people. Freed from the bondage of slavery, they got to wander in the wilderness long enough so that not one of that generation enters the promised land.
God has made “man” as part of his creation but destroys whole cities and even floods the world to rid it of all the evil, saving two of each creature and one human family so that there can be a new beginning.
Was what God created so terribly bad that just about all of it had to be destroyed? Is that the only solution that an all-knowing, ever present, loving God can find?
Remember that boy studying his Luther’s Small Catechism? Look at what Luther has to say about the fifth commandment: what does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not hurt nor do harm to our neighbor in his body, but rather help and befriend him in every bodily need. What does God forbid in the fifth commandment? Answer: God forbids us to take the life of a fellow human (murder) or our own life (suicide). What happens if one knowingly disobeys God’s command? Surely there are sufficient examples, lest you look back and be turned to stone. Is it any wonder then that those who hear of fire and brimstone and little of salvation should wonder who it is that God loves, and if this is God’s love, who wants it!
There must be another answer, an answer that can only come through a maturity of belief and an understanding of “The Word” as a guide for the kind of life God wants for us. Some of those who have been born again and saved look to “The Word” as all that is true, no interpretation required. Pick any verse, any passage, and it will tell you what you must do to live a godly life. You are called to live the Law and not sin. Yes, you are saved, but once saved go and sin no more.
Jumping forward in time, the boy who escaped suicide compensated for his sinful nature by being a man in uniform protecting his country. At 19 he was entrusted with analysis of Soviet missile launches to determine if a counter strike was called for. He married, became a father three times over and tried to set an example for his children by providing for them the best he could, working two or three jobs while going to school, bringing them to church and Sunday school each week. He became a Sunday school teacher, then superintendent, and even a scoutmaster. Trying to build things and not being good at it. Teaching survival skills and going camping, although he hated it. And every once in a while, because he was still slender, he would sneak away, try on his wife’s clothes, and feel at peace until the guilt returned in a flash.
As God created the heavens, earth and all that was on it, God would stop and be pleased, for what God created was good. The creation story continues as God creates humans in God’s own image. God is neither male nor female. God is all, so when God created humans, we look to Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them.” And at 1:31, “God saw all that He made, and it was very good.” It is in chapter two of Genesis that God creates woman, beginning at verse 22. “Then God made woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now the bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man.’” There had been no male and female independent of one another. Woman was taken out of man, implying that originally man in God’s image was indeed both male and female.
The struggle today is for unity, oneness to be whole again and to be in the image of God. Early Native American cultures recognize three genders, male, female, and a third that embodies both male and female. That third gender is revered and treated as a holy one given to teach the ways of life.
Latest scientific findings have shown that gender is determined early in the first trimester. All fetuses interestingly start as female, and it is only through certain antigens that imprint the DNA that we develop males. Not every fetus experiences the same events, so there is a wide variety of development from the fully physical male with full male sex qualities to the fully physical female who embodies all female sex qualities. This leaves room for millions of variations all along the continuum from one end to the other. Surely one could be physically male and posses a female brain where gender lies, or the opposite. As we observe the world that God has made and the vastness of the heavens, all the possible combinations and the greatness of diversity, can we not understand why God would be pleased to say it was very good?
If I were a born again Christian, I might look to Deuteronomy 22:5 where it says that a woman must not wear men’s clothing nor a man wear women’s clothing, and use this verse to prove that those who express any variation in gender are detested by God. What one forgets is that the early Old Testament is an oral history of generations, codified for later progeny, and that it is the story of the coming of Israel. The warning is in part that God does not want the Israelites to take on the religious practices of the countries that they conquered and occupied. Priests and priestesses of the Canaanites and followers of Molech indeed changed clothes as part of their religious ceremonies. That is all part of the early laws such as not wearing garments of wool and linen woven together, nor could they have tassels at the corners of their cloaks. It was okay, however, for parents to bring a rebellious son before the elders so that all the men of the town could stone him to death (Deut. 21:18-22).
Luckily, God has saved us all. As Jesus teaches Nicodemus (John 3:16) , “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Surely, when Jesus refers to the world, He is being inconclusive, for it is whoever believes. In first John 2:2 we read, “He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” We see through this that it is God who acts. God grants us salvation which is nothing that we can do, win, or earn. It is grace. So what does that mean for the seemingly lost boy at the beginning?
When saved, we are told of our salvation and also given a command to go and sin no more. We understand that we can not, even having been forgiven, that we can go about now and live a perfect life. Even Paul says that he continues to do that which he does not want to do and does not do that which he ought. Having faith we are brought to God, absolved of sin, knowing we will continue to sin but will in all earnestness attempt to live a life according to God’s will. Surely, this reconciliation is proof of God’s love for us.
Whom do you love, God? Everyone for all time. God loves each of us no matter what our skin color may be, God loves those of wealth and the poor, God loves those of sound mind and body along with those mentally challenged or weak and infirm. God loves heterosexuals, homosexuals, trans-gendered or transsexual people. God loves those who try to live by God’s teaching as well as thieves, murderers and terrorists. God is like a parent, not liking what we may do at times, but always offering forgiveness and love.
And now how does one respond to God’s love? First, we must consider that that young man caught up in anguish and frustration is not a sinner because he wears women’s clothing. He is in fact living as God has meant him to, continually seeking the oneness that he can only feel when freely able to recognize both his maleness and femaleness. If God gave someone male body, and female gender, then how could this person deny the feminine part that God has made, and whose creation pleased God? Similarly, the same person must live and enjoy his maleness. His entire being is brought together in one body, being like the Lord, by living in God’s image, both male and female.
We are called to love God and to love one another as we love ourselves and as God has loved us. If we return to the Old Testament, Leviticus 19:18 tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus opens the parable of the Good Samaritan when a teacher asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus in return asks what is written in the Law. The teacher responds, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” It is not possible for this person who is trans-gendered to love only part of his or her self and to hate the other part and then do as God commands. There must be a oneness, a wholeness, to be able to love self and so to love a neighbor likewise, and to love God.
How are we to love? We are to love as God has loved us. We must be open to God’s voice. We are all given gifts by God. Some are gifts of healing, some teaching, some prophesying. God equips us all to be witnesses. Michael W. Foss, senior pastor at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Atlanta has stated, “You are the missionaries of the twenty-first century. You will be invited into places and conversations that I as a pastor will never go. If you are willing to take your faith with you and simply be open, God will present possibilities for witness that you cannot imagine.” We have to learn to listen. Listen to what God says and allow the Holy Spirit to enter our lives and guide us.
Two years ago I would never have thought of standing in a college classroom, dressed in a conservative suit with appropriate makeup, jewelry, hosiery and heels telling students of my life journey and sharing with them the depth of my feelings and my faith in God’s plan for me. And now this year, open to God’s call, I’ve been led to explain all of this to the evangelical fundamentalists who thought they might save me from my sinful self. Many times Paul wrote about being aware of false prophets. These people who were about saving souls by cherry picking verses from the Old Testament forgot the overriding message: God loves me as I am so that I can love myself, love you, and love God. I am called to be a disciple–to tell of God’s love and grace. Salvation is not for Jews alone; Paul preached salvation to the Gentiles. In Galatians 2:15, he says, “We who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners know that a man is not justified by observing the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. . . . By observing the Law no one will be justified.” By God’s grace we all are saved, so as a forgiven sinner, by birth in the likeness of God male and female, I am called to share the Good News.
The Good News that I, no longer that suicidal boy, am now prepared to share with you is that Jesus Christ, God’s true and only son, died for me a cross dressing trans-gendered person, was raised and lives forever. It is by grace because God loves me that I am saved. The greatest thing about the Good News is that the same has been done for you and all the world. Indeed, God loves us one and ALL. Rejoice!
I just received this, after learning that a very close relative to me died. I find it interesting that things come to you at moments of despair………………THIS IS THE ANSWER TO WHAT WE IN THE COMMUNITY, HAVE BEEN SEEEKING, AN IT IS TO HER THAT I SAY! CUDOS, AND I AM PROUD TO BE HER FRIEND!!