Before Church in the Cliff opened, Lisa and I went to Cathedral of Hope a few times. One time, during the passing of the peace, I turned and encountered a transgender person. I was taken aback. My mind couldn’t register him or her. I didn’t even know what pronouns to use. Then I had an epiphany: God is like that. We try to contain the world in our categories. It gives us a sense of control. If I can name it, I can control it. But occasionally, our categories are undone. We are out of control. We are confused. We are destabilized and forced to find new ground.
I didn’t know it then, but it was the seedling for this series. I encountered, was confronted by, a person I could not easily label. Since then, I have become deeply suspicious of all these categories and the ways we use them to identify the other. Really, we use them to sustain the boundaries of our own identities. And, in the current debates over family and sexuality, we use them to control at least half the population. In spite of the way that those structures are enshrined in our sacred Scriptures, I think God has something more for us. God always exceeds our categories.
I’m sure this trans person saw my confusion, saw me turn away not knowing what to say. I’m sure that she or he experiences that a lot. I wish so many things for that moment. I wish I could ask him or her how he or she preferred to identify. I wish I could shake her or his hand and wish him or her peace. And I wish I could tell her or him that I saw God that day, that my world shifted and I knew that there were such great possibilities in God’s world that I hadn’t even imagined. I was deconstructed and I could never be the same.
Please join us this Sunday, 11am at the Kessler, as we talk about the way we construct gender and sexuality as a cohesive system of power. Our friend Jann Aldredge-Clanton will share the story of her ordination as a Baptist minister and her passion for inclusive language.