November 26, 2017: “Who Is God?”

Posted on : Nov 21st, 2017 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

One of the questions that appears throughout much of scripture is, “Who is God?”

Moses had a profound religious experience with God.  It’s as close to a face-to-face (read: heart-to-heart) encounter as one ever gets with God.  It pretty much changed Moses’ total life-path.  Then reality sinks in.  Moses said to God, “And when I go back to the people and tell them of this experience, they are certainly going to ask me who you are?”  Ok, Moses used the words, “What’s your name?”  In the ancient world, one’s name defined who you are.  They were pretty much the same.  God answers with one of the most ambiguous, non-defining names.  “Just tell them, “I am who I am.”  In Hebrew those same words also mean “I’m becoming who I am becoming.”  In other words, God can’t be limited by name and God’s very being is evolving, changing, becoming.

Naming, and the power of one’s name, is a most interesting experience.  In many ways today, our names are still a manifestation of who we are.  That is especially true if our names clearly define us as male or female.  The masculine form of my name and feminine form are only two letters different, but those two letters make a world of difference:  Daniel.  Danielle.  Daniel gives me all the power and privilege of being male in a patriarchal culture.  Danielle doesn’t.   And then there is sexual orientation.  When men come out as gay or are even perceived to be gay, they lose their place of power and privilege in our culture.  For women coming out as lesbian, the same is true.  Thankfully, after fifty years of advocacy and justice work, some of this is changing.  But not enough.

The transgender community has experienced the politics of gender identity more intensely than those of us who are cisgender.  According to GLAAD:

2016 has now overtaken 2015 as the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the United States. In 2015, 21 transgender women were killed in the United States, nearly all of them transgender women of color.

In 2016, the deaths of 27 transgender people were reported. That’s a rate of more than two transgender people killed every month. This number does not include transgender people whose deaths were not reported due to misgendering in police reports, news stories, and sometimes by the victim’s family”

Monday of this week was the Transgender Day of Remembrance.  Currently 23 transgender people have been murdered this year.  Almost all of them are transwomen.  Click here for their names.

As we’ve seen in the disproportionate proportion of transwomen who are murdered and as we have seen in the last two weeks with the national coming out of women who have been sexually abused by powerful men in politics, the media, entertainment and just about every other profession, gender and gender identity still play an important role in defining who we are and what privileges we are offered.

There is a growing group of folks, many of them in their teens – early 30’s, who are not defining themselves as either male or female, but both.  The language used for those who do define themselves as male or female is binary.  The language for those who define themselves as both male and female is non-binary.

A few weeks ago, I attended the first national gathering of LGBTQ Christian leaders.  This was the first time Christian leaders in the LGBTQ Christian movement have come together to share our stories, and to record our story for historical accuracy.   At this gathering I had the opportunity to engage in conversation with two transgender people, one who defines himself as a transman, the other who defines themself as non-binary.  It was during my conversations with these great humans that I realized the relevancy of the “who is God” question.  In the Christian tradition, we have created God as a binary male.  That is not how God defines God’s self.  In fact, God is non-binary, and that is exactly how God defines God’s self to Moses.

This Sunday I’m going to share with you some of the insights about God and God’s being that I have gained from non-binary persons.  They have given me a whole new understanding of how we can get beyond the gender identity we have ascribed to God to experience this ever-evolving presence that we know as God.

Blessings!

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scriptures ~

Exodus 3:13-14

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is your name?’ what shall I say to them?”  God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” God said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

Mark 8:27-30

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And Jesus sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

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