When I see terms like “flesh” and “sexual immorality,” my stomach tightens and grief rises in my throat. I know I’m entering scriptural territory that has been used for generations to exclude and hate. Sermons on texts like these have forced so many LGBTQI folks to leave churches, carrying trauma in their bodies, wondering if there is a God and if they are loved and whole.
Years ago as a teenager I attended a gathering focused on feminist, womanist, and queer theology. I didn’t yet know I’d end up falling in love with a woman and be called in spirit and body to a vocation of marriage.
At this gathering, a group of young activists and seminarians asked for a conversation with Catholic Worker and scripture scholar Laurel Dykstra. They were tired of having Bible verses condemning their sexuality spewed at them and wanted to know what Bible verses they could use to fight back.
Laurel listened to the pain and then responded, “The Bible should never be used as a weapon.” That was it. The conversation was over. Yes, we were receiving vicious attacks on our humanity, but we were not to return a shot with another shot.
So often, scripture is used as a weapon to harm, exclude, or deny another’s humanity.
So, friends, as we open these pages this week and every week, let us scrutinize the text to understand its historical and cultural context. But let us also take the words that summon justice, liberation, and community, while laying down our weaponized words by the riverside to study war no more.
O God, you know the power of words and the ways they can become flesh. Be with us as we speak out of these ancient, sacred texts. May they honor you and all of creation, calling us to justice, communion, and wholeness. Amen.
This week’s readings open with the dramatic scene of Elijah’s departure. As the prophet is taken into heaven by fiery chariots, his cloak falls to his successor, Elisha—symbolic of the continuation of God’s prophetic work. The psalmist praises the Lord’s mighty works of the past and finds encouragement in them. Paul reminds us that freedom in Christ comes with responsibility. We cannot live to satisfy our fleshly desires. If we live in the power of the Spirit, then our manner of life should stand out and bear godly fruit. In the Gospel reading, Jesus challenges his followers with the cost of discipleship. His statements here may seem extreme, but he is pointing out that we can be tempted to find excuses for not proclaiming the kingdom of God.
Read 2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14. When has fire—real or metaphorical—changed your life? How have you seen God working in this change?
Read Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20. Recall a time when you needed God’s help. Where did you look for God’s encouragement?
Read Galatians 5:1, 13-25. Along with our freedom, we are given a responsibility. How do you use your freedom to serve others?
Read Luke 9:51-62. When have you heard Jesus’ call to follow? What have you had to leave behind to follow the one who has “set his face to go to Jerusalem”?
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