No media available

I’m here today because I am a queer Christian and a Christian queer. I’m here because “queer” and “Christian” are two of the most important threads running through my life—and they are so interwoven that I couldn’t separate them if I wanted to. I’m here because I have had both my most affirming and my most devastating experiences in church communities. I’m here because I know the strange tensions of being Christian in queer spaces and queer in Christian spaces, and never quite knowing how to be my whole self in either. I’m here because this is
often exhausting, and yet, I never want to stop yearning for healing for all of us.

My queerness shapes all my relationships, my self-understanding, my politics, my theology, and in general, how I wish to move through the world. Queerness, for me, means a diverse and chosen community—a family—that is committed to radical inclusion, justice, and the abolition of all false boundaries and binaries. Queerness has fundamentally changed my relationship to Christianity: I believe that being queer has taught me to be a better Christian. Put differently, the main reason that I am still a Christian is because I have found that there is
something very “queer” at the heart of Christianity: a call to resist harmful and oppressive structures, and the breaking down of every binary and boundary that constrains and divides us: those between self and other, human and divine, even life and death.

Now that all of that is on the table, I want to tell you about why the Exodus reading tugs at my queer little heart. The story of Moses in the river is an extraordinary little story about found family—literally, family found among the reeds —and the beautifully messy ways that God wants us to be kin to one another outside of heteronormative structures.

What really gets me is the end, though. “When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.””

You’ve probably noticed that names are really important in the Bible. In the Tanakh, Abram and Sarai become Abraham and Sarah; Jacob becomes Israel. Rabbi Heather Paul notes that, for her Israelite ancestors, name changes were significant moments of transformation—a new name signifies one step on the journey towards greater intimacy with God.

So, names matter—we should pay attention to the meaning of Moses’ name because the story makes a point of showing it to us. Where is the great transformation, here, though? Isn't it interesting that this naming happens, not at the burning bush or at the Red Sea, but here. Isn’t it interesting that Moses’ adopted mother names him after the way in which he came to her? The, arguably, deeply painful and traumatic beginnings of his life—characterized by
danger, hiddenness, and tumbling along the rough currents of the Nile—are what inspire his name. Which, by the way, is a Hebrew name, not an Egyptian one. Why would she do that? Surely it would be kinder, safer, gentler to give him a nice, generic Egyptian name. So it makes me wonder.

Pharaoh’s daughter understands that Moses’ origins are important. They are part of him, and moreover, part of how he got to her. The water from which Moses was drawn—the water of the Nile and the water of a Hebrew woman’s womb— while perhaps a bit scandalous for the Pharaoh’s household, are nothing shameful for Pharaoh’s daughter. I think her choice to name him as she does is a also a choice to love him relentlessly and unconditionally; I think it is a tiny act of resistance against an oppressive empire that enslaved Moses’ people; I think it is a promise to keep him safe; I think it is a commitment to helping him remember and appreciate
where he came from and all the parts of himself.

So too with us and God.

The theme for this Reconciling in Christ Sunday is “Created Whole.” We are, all of us, loved into existence by God, and created completely, utterly whole. From the moment we are drawn from the waters of the womb, we are whole. From the moment God receives us from the waters of the baptismal font, They love us in our entirety. We are, to borrow Paul’s language in the epistle, knitted together into the Body of Christ and the heart of God, and no part of us is left behind in that. We are created whole, we are loved wholly, and nothing in our past, present,
or future ever changes that.

This is true for all of us. But today, I want to focus on the ways in which this is particularly true for queer folks. There’s the relatively obvious: God creates, sees, and loves our queerness before we do. God knew me as the trans, bi adult I would become long before I did—created me as such, in fact. No part of me needs to be left behind in order for God to love me and call me to discipleship.

But there’s another layer, and it’s that one that keeps tugging at me. I think aboutMoses’ traumatic origins — an infant born into an era of oppression and violence, buffeted about on the Nile river with only a basket for protection — and I think about how Pharaoh’s daughter names this trauma as part of his belovedness. She drew him from the waters in his wholeness. A wholeness that she loved.

Likewise, I think about the confusion, the trauma, the fear that my queer siblings experience, both in the institutional Church and in society more broadly. The currents of church hurt are swift and sharp. Nevertheless, time and time again, God rolls up Their sleeves, crouches at the shore, and pulls us from those cold, violent tides of homophobia, transphobia, and queerphobia. We are drawn from the water and held close as beloved children. We are embraced, we are sheltered in the house of God, we are lifted up with pride.

I know that God loves me utterly and entirely for who I am, that They trace the scars on my soul and still name me as beautiful and whole. They enfold my pain into my wholeness without requiring that I leave it behind for anyone else’s comfort. God’s love for me — all-encompassing and undeniably queer — is what helps me stay queer and Christian. It helps me stay in the church and hold together my grief and hope. It is all part of the wholeness of me.
The wholeness that God loves.

I wonder if Pharaoh’s daughter was still alive when Moses performed his miracles and led his people out of Egypt. If she was, I bet she watched him from the shadows of the palace with a tiny, triumphant smile on her lips. If she was, I bet she was immensely proud of him. Because from the moment she drew him from the Nile, she saw him in his entirety—in his wholeness—and loved him, wholly and entirely.

So too for all of us. Every time we live into our identities as beloved children of God, every time we do the work that leads to more healing, more connection, more justice, more transformation, more breaking down of boundaries and binaries, God is proud. Every time we live and love one another in ways that embrace our wholeness — queer folks and allies, as individuals and as the body of Christ — God smiles as They watch us grow into the wholeness that They have seen in us since They first drew us from the water.

I want to leave you folks with one of my favourite queer poems about Christianity. The Bible texts it is reinterpreting are not the ones for this service, but my God does it fit. This is “Jesus at the Gay Bar,” by Jay Hulme.

He’s here in the midst of it –
right at the centre of the dance floor,
robes hitched up to His knees
to make it easy to spin.

At some point in the evening
a boy will touch the hem of His robe
and beg to be healed, beg to be
anything other than this;

and He will reach His arms out,
sweat-damp, and weary from dance.
He’ll cup this boy’s face in His hand
and say,

my beautiful child
there is nothing in this heart of yours
that ever needs to be healed.

Created whole. Loved wholly.

May we all learn to see this in ourselves and in others.