by David R. Weiss
I’m sitting in Goodsoil Central. Outside in the hallway the signs assure me that I’m in Rooms 200C-H at the Minneapolis Convention Center, but I don’t believe them. I’ve read Ezekiel’s “Travel Guide for Exiles” and according to that I’m actually sitting alongside the Chebar river.
First, there are the stoles. Everywhere. Hundreds of them. The room is aflame with their colors. They are the legacy of the countless LGBT persons whose gifts have led them into ministry—and whose calls have been fractured by the fear of their respective churches. Each stole tells a story of gifts denied, of calls stolen (a linguistic irony to be sure!) not just from individuals, but from the whole people of God. This is the palpable anguish of our community, decked out in colors for every liturgical season.
But it’s the prayer shawls that really give it away. For months Lutherans across the country, both men and women, old and young, have been weaving, knitting, quilting, and crocheting prayer shawls for this Assembly. Prayerfully working their stitches toward the day when all of us are welcomed home. The shawls, hundreds of them, too, are simply piled high on tables at the front of the room. Many with tags identifying the person or the community whose love made this cloth as prayerful as the person whose shoulders it will soon wrap.
Starting tomorrow, as the Assembly takes up (yet again) the matter of “us”—debating whether the Bible or the tradition can support the wonders that God is already busily doing in our lives (of which the stoles are just a hint)—we will send some portion of ourselves into deep prayer. Carrying all the anguish of our past and all the hopes of our future into the presence of God, we will wrap ourselves in these shawls. Clothed in this love, we will tend to maintaining a contemplative quiet, steadying the words that others of us will speak in Assembly and enlivening the stories that others of us will tell over meals.
We, who are Goodsoil—gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and ally people of faith—are as yet exiles in our own church. Even as we hold our heads high, even when our hearts are happy and our spirits sound, there is no denying that the policies in place and the attitudes that remain pervasive in too many places mark us as exiles.
But in this room, we are exiles in good company. Besides the wealth of ourselves—and the energy of faith and hope is tremendous here—between the stoles and the shawls we have all the colors of the rainbow in this room.
And in my mind I hear Ezekiel speaking from exile (in chapter 1), “There in Babylonia beside the Chebar River, I heard the Lord speak to me, and I felt God’s power.” In this place where he ought, by all rights, to have felt utterly abandoned, he receives his powerful vision of four living creatures with wings: “The noise their wings made in flight sounded like the roar of rushing water, like the voice of Almighty God.” He describes “wheels within wheels” and “a throne made of sapphire” and “a human-like figure sitting on the throne who seemed to be shining like bronze in the middle of a fire.”
Finally, Ezekiel says of this heavenly figure who meets him in exile, “And roundabout shone a bright light that had in it all the colors of the rainbow. This was the dazzling light, which shows the presence of the Lord.”
Goodsoil. Good company. Here in the land of 10,000 lakes you’ll find us … alongside the Chebar river.
David Weiss is a theologian, writer, poet and hymnist committed to doing “public theology” around issues of sexuality, justice, diversity, and peace. His first book is To the Tune of a Welcoming God: Lyrical reflections on sexuality, spirituality and the wideness of God's welcome (2008 / www.davidrweiss.com). David lives with his wife and children in St. Paul, MN.
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