Holy Rage

Kaj Munk was a Danish Lutheran pastor and playwrite – and was a strong opponent of the German occupation of Denmark(1940–1945). Several of His plays were direct attacks on Nazism. Despite friends who urged Munk to go underground, he continued to preach against Danes who collaborated with the Nazis.

The Gestapo arrested Munk on the night of 4 January 1944, a month after he had defied a Nazi ban and preached the a sermon at the national cathedral in Copenhagen. Munk’s body was found in a roadside ditch the next morning.

Munk preached and wrote against the injustice of his time. He said, “What is, therefore, our task today? Shall I answer: ‘Faith, hope and love’? That sounds beautiful. But I would say ‘courage.’ No, even that is not challenging enough to be the whole truth.

Our task today is recklessness. For what we Christians lack is not psychology or literature. We lack a holy rage – the recklessness which comes from the knowledge of God and humanity. The ability to rage when justice lies prostrate on the streets, and when the lie rages across the face of the earth – a holy anger about the things that are wrong in the world. To rage against the ravaging of God’s earth, and the destruction of God’s world. To rage when little children must die of hunger when the tables of the rich are sagging with food. To rage at the lie that calls the threat of death and the strategy of destruction peace. To rage against complacency. To restlessly seek to change human history until it conforms to the norms of the Kingdom of God.

And remember the signs of the Christian church have been the lion, the lamb, the dove and the fish, but never the chameleon.”

Munk’s words have been echoing in my brain the last days. The question is whether we Christians in the year 2020 are brave enough to speak against injustice in our own time. In a world burning with racism so many still want to ignore the flames or say that the fire was out a long time ago. However, placid messages of faith, hope, and love are profoundly vacant right now. The word the church needs to be preaching and hearing and witnessing to the world in these days is clear – we need to hear the cry for racial justice. Those of us who are white need to admit the ways we have knowingly or unknowingly been complicit in furthering injustice. And we must speak up in an ongoing lament for and a piercing assault against what we have been. We must vow to do better. Church, the Holy Spirit is summoning us, pointing at her watch, and saying “the time is now”. Speak up now. It is not time for peace, church. Now is the time for holy rage.

May this fire in our nation mold us into something new.  No longer complacent. No longer content with what we have been. Dissatisfied with the futility of trying to be color-blind and instead striving only becoming color-amazed. Let’s be that. Let’s only be content when we get to that brilliant mosaic of color-amazed. Stir us, shape us, melt us, mold us Holy Spirit.

The Gospel According to Queer Eye

The Gospel According to Queer Eye

Although it is beginning its fifth season on Netflix, I had never watched the show “Queer Eye” before this past Monday. I had heard that it was a good show but it wasn’t until I heard there was going to be another pastor from my denomination on the show that I tuned in while I was doing my morning workout on Friday.

The Fab 5

I was blown away. During the entire episode I felt like I was either laughing or crying. The “Fab 5” meet Pastor Noah Hepler from Philadelphia and help him prepare for his church’s 125th anniversary. The show spends a lot of time helping Noah talk about how he came out as a gay man as an adult and how he still struggles to find his voice and feel confidence in who he is. The men help him update his look, giving him a fresh haircut and beard-trim plus some new outfits. The show also shows the sad state of his parsonage, the residence owned by the church, which he lives in. Exposed pipes and mold, the place was in terrible shape. Hepler was quick to say that the church has plans to repair and update the parsonage. (That’s great – but he has been there four years! Come on, church! This tells a story that many of us have heard before – the difficult financial circumstances that so many churches find themselves in. I see on their webpage there is a place to donate to the church if you are so inclined: https://www.elcota.org/?fbclid=IwAR1b9w0ajdJ7wj0eWgJx2MN53vPuq7mfBgHpuxytRMJgoe51yRybCZzm1OA) The Fab 5 end up beautifully renovating a room in the church for him to stay in until his parsonage is fixed up. They also gave the sanctuary and a community room of the church an overhaul with beautiful new paint, banners, appliances, etc. The sanctuary was absolutely transformed – it’s amazing what color can do!

Perhaps most moving of all, they brought in a couple other leaders in our denomination (The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) who also have dealt with the challenges that come with being “out” as a religious leader. The words they shared with Noah were full of grace and encouragement. Bishop Guy Erwin affirmed Noah and his ministry at Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Atonement in Fishtown. The Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer, a transgender pastor, after Noah mentioned how a young man in his congregation had come out recently, asked him if he would ever tell that young man that they didn’t come out soon enough. Noah said, “of course not,” and Rohrer said, “Well then, why do you tell yourself that, child of God?” Noah teared up and said, “I needed to hear that.”

I’ve watched a couple more episodes and each one has been just as moving and wonderful. These men offer not just friendly help to the people they meet – but the opportunity to see their own lives, homes, and futures differently. Sometimes we don’t realize on our own the unhealthy cycles of thinking and acting we have gotten ourselves into. Sometimes we forget that there is so much possibility yet out there. Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Antoni Porowski, Karamo, and Tan France cast their glance lovingly upon the people they meet. Lovingly! They don’t come in and judge or to act as a savior – rather, they draw out the beauty in the people that is already there.

Bobby Berk and Pastor Noah were talking briefly about Bobby’s terrible experience with the church growing up. Like many gay people, he had been made to feel unwelcome and despised by the church. And yet, Bobby came in and transformed the 125 year-old church sanctuary at Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Atonement into such a lovely, warm space. I know it was his job to do it – but there is something profound in his transformation of that place. Imagine how much beauty the Church as a whole has lost over the centuries when it has focused on hate and exclusion? Imagine how much we have missed out on by making anyone feel unwelcome or despised. Pastor Noah spoke words of apology to Bobby on behalf of the Church. I pray Bobby can forgive us. I pray we can do better and no child or adult ever feels unwelcome or unloved in the church.

The word “gospel” means “good news” – and I felt so much good news as I watched this episode of Queer Eye. It’s good news when we are reminded that there are new ways to see things. It’s good news when someone shows us that our story can have a new chapter. It’s good news when there is renewal and welcome change. The Fab 5 are making the world beautiful in more ways than they know.