Imago Gay

Episode 31

Lectionary Reading:

2 Corinthians 3:7-4:2

Reflection:

In the ancient Near East (at the same time when the Israelites were active) there were other nations and civilizations with their own gods. In fact, there are creation myths and flood narratives that are very similar to the stories that we read about in the book of Genesis.

Interestingly, the gods of these other civilizations (Babylon, Egypt, Assyria, Akkadian, etc.) act very much like humans. There is not much that would separate them as being “divine” or glorious. They are manipulative, they rape humans, they create humans for slave labor, they are fickle, they are easily outwitted, they get bored, they get tired, they get hungry, they fight with each other.

But, the God of the Israelites is vastly unique in comparison to these other gods. Yahweh enters into a binding contract, electing the Israelite people, a special people unto Yahweh. Yahweh loves humanity, creates them in their divine image, gives them earth, resources, land, water, food, animals, vegetation. Yahweh creates humans for union with other humans and for the purpose of being in community. Yahweh creates the perfect environment for their creation to thrive and puts us in charge as stewards over their creation––stewards of each other and the earth.

The New Testament takes the deep intimacy of God placed onto humanity to another level in Jesus. God decides to wrap themselves up in human flesh to be one with us, to dwell among us, and to position themself with us in full solidarity.

The story in 2 Corinthians is referring back to a moment which took place in the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In this story, Jesus ascends a mountain with three of his disciples, Peter, James, and John. Jesus takes them up the mountain to pray and as Jesus is praying, Jesus’ appearance changes and he becomes a “dazzling white” figure. All of a sudden, Moses and Elijah (from the Hebrew Bible) appear with Jesus and have a discussion with him about his death. It’s relevant that Moses is mentioned because Moses encounters God many times in the book of Exodus, but out of fear, he covers his face during these encounters. Elijah is the only person in the Hebrew Bible who never encounters death. Then, a cloud covers all of them and a loud voice booms and asserts proclaims Jesus as God’s chosen and beloved.

Jesus is God in flesh. And this moment, called the Transfiguration, is a critical moment of God’s solidarity with humanity and empowerment of not just Israelites but Gentiles in the work of God to love all of humanity. In the Gospel of John, Jesus states that “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10, NRSV).

If you’re a Harry Potter movie fan, this very much parallels the scene from Prisoner of Azkaban when a slew of dementors are sucking the soul, happiness, and life out of Sirius Black and Harry Potter.  Just as they seem to be defeated, there is a moment when a dazzling white stag from across the beach immenates and wards off the dementors. After his recovery, Harry assumes that this patronus charm incantation must have come from his father somehow, but he discovers that the source of this patronus charm was his future self.

In a way, the Transfiguration of Jesus, is the appearance of the resurrected Jesus in glory and humility displaying the most badass patronus charm in history.

Just recently in the UMC church, folks within that denomination decided for God’s children that many of us are excluded for being LGBTQIA. What happened here is very much in line with church schisms regarding LGBTQIA people in other denominations like the Presbyterian church and Lutheran church. These people, taking their power to exclude are very similar to dementors in the Harry Potter series. Their sole purpose is to feed off the happiness of their victims, to drain them of life, to empty them of anything and everything that gives them hope, happiness, love, joy, peace, etc.

In the Order of the Phoenix movie, Harry Potter gathers Dumbledore’s army of fellow Hogwarts peers and teaches them how to conjure their own patronus charms. You see, Harry’s power was not just in being the “chosen one,” but in helping his friends conjure and evoke the power residing within themselves all along through the magic and supernatural power of the patronus.

Jesus, does the exact same thing with us, his Queer beloved children and allies. Jesus endows within us the power of his resurrection and life, enabling and teaches us to defend ourselves against oppressive forces, to defend against the so called “dementors” of the world and in the Church, to unite in community against oppressive forces, and to rebuild in strength and community. Jesus is empowered as the living God, but he also empowers his followers and disciples with the same abilities that he has!

Jesus defeats death and evil by the power of his resurrection from the dead. Jesus is God, putting on human flesh, and placing himself in a position of humiliation alongside us. He is humiliated, he is rejected by those most powerful in “The Church,” he is hated, scorned, he feels pain, anguish, he laments, he cries out for justice. He places himself alongside us, alongside the Queer and LGBTQIA community and says I AM WITH YOU AND FOR YOU.

YOU, LGBTQIA, are the Imago Dei. You are the divine image of God. You are salt and light to humanity giving hope, rebirth, life, creativity, imagination, and love. Jesus empowers us to go out into the world and despite our rejection from those who reject the commands of Jesus in the church, by those who refuse to include us, by those who refuse to acknowledge us, we are the chosen ones. You are chosen by God.

We are like Dumbledore’s army. We are not on the offensive, but the patronus charm is an incantation of defense. We are allowed to defend ourselves, uniting and banding together. I saw so many of you on the conference floor of the UMC general conference, so many of you Queer and LGBTQIA folks, allies, banding together, giving powerful speeches, singing hymns, lamenting, grieving. We see you and we are with you, just as God is with you.

And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

Pro Self Care Tip: Grieve, lament, cry, mourn and binge watch Harry Potter. Visit Pottermore.com and find out your Patronus.

Love yourselves tenderly as God loves you.

(Erin’s Patronus = Dolphin; Lauren= Rabbit; Michael= Dragon)

Grace and peace,

Erin Green

Co-Executive Director, Brave Commons