Handout – A queer reads Isaiah

April 3, 2011: A queer remnant!

Preliminaries
The Bible is compendium, in a wide variety of styles and genre, of attempts by writers, editors, redactors, poets, historians, story-tellers, lawyers, musicians, royal officials, warriors & many more to say something about what it meant to them and to their communities to encounter God

Two basic divisions:
Old Testament / “Hebrew” Bible – longer of the 2 parts, a collection of experiences recounted in a vast array of styles by people, who eventually became known as Jewish, about some of their experiences of coming into contact with God
New Testament – a collection, in a variety of styles (though fewer than the styles found in the OT), of people who encountered God through an experience of Jesus of Nazareth

The prophet Isaiah
“Prophet” does NOT mean “one who foretells the future; rather, “prophet” means “one who speaks on behalf of another”, usually understood in the Bible to mean, one who speaks on behalf of God.

The “book” of Isaiah is actually a compendium of the works of 3 (maybe 4) different persons
Chapters 1 – 39 (some of which includes the work of the scribe Baruch)
Chapters 40 – 55
Chapters 56 – 66

Isaiah, the human being who was responsible for writing (most of) chapters 1-39, lived ~740 years before the birth of Christ, so about 2750 years ago

A remnant
“leftover: a small part or portion that remains after the main part no longer exists”
“end: a piece of cloth that is left over after the rest has been used or sold”
“small portion remaining of a larger thing or group”

A remnant, on the one hand, shares some qualities in common with the larger reality, but on the other hand, is distinctive – in that the remnant is that which remains when the rest is gone

Throughout the Bible, the concept of the remnant is used to denote God’s preference (Deuteronomy 7:6-8) to deal with the small leftovers, that which most people would think unworthy even of notice and certainly unworthy of the infinite, divine God’s involvement, care, protection, and use
(Genesis 6:5-7; 18:32: I Kings 19:4, 18; Amos 3:2, 13; 4:1-3; Jeremiah 21:9; Ezekiel 6:8-9; Daniel 12:1-7; Zechariah 13:9 passim)

Remnant in Isaiah
Throughout the Book of Isaiah the concept of a “remnant” recurs frequently:
Isaiah 1:9; 4:3; 6:13; 10:21-22; 11:1-8; 11:11a, 12; 16:14b; 17:3b; 28:5; 37:31-32; 46:3-4 passim

How to identify the remnant
• OUTCASTS, FUGITIVES: Isaiah 11:11-12 – “On that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that is left of his people,… and will assemble the outcasts …,
and gather the dispersed ….” Isaiah 16:3b – “…to hide the outcasts, to conceal the fugitives.”

• SMALL & WEAK: Isaiah 16:14b – “…the remnant will be small and weak.”

• POOR & NEEDY: Isaiah 25:4 – “…you are a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in distress”

• CRUSHED, DEJECTED: Isaiah 57:15 – “…I dwell…with the crushed and dejected in spirit, to revive the spirits of the dejected, to revive the hearts of the crushed.”

• FORSAKEN, HATED, UNVISITED: Isaiah 60:15 – “…you were forsaken, hated and unvisited, Now I will make you the PRIDE of the ages, a joy to generation after generation.”

• LOWLY, BROKENHEARTED: Isaiah 61:1 – “…bring glad tidings to the lowly,…heal the brokenhearted….”

• DISGRACED & SPAT UPON: Isaiah 61:7 – “…disgrace and spittle were their portion….”

Tasks of the remnant
• WELCOMING: Isaiah 1:9 – “If the Lord of hosts had not left us a remnant, we would have been like Sodom,
 and become like Gomorrah.” (Sodom & Gomorrah – Genesis 18:16-19:29 – inhospitable cities so the remnant will be WELCOMING)

• JUSTICE FOR ORPHANS & WIDOWS: Isaiah 1:17 – “Learn to do good; make justice your aim; redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow”

• PROVIDE RICH FOOD & WINE: Isaiah 25:6 – “…provide for all peoples, a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich good and pure, choice wine.”

• RELEASING THE UNJUSTLY BOUND, UNYOKING THE OPPRESSED, SHELTERING THE HOMELESS, NOT TURNING YOUR BACK ON YOUR OWN: Isaiah 58:6-7 – “…releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked, and not turning your back on your own.”

Consequences of the remnant doing it’s work
• HOLY: Isaiah 4:3 – “The remnant … will be called holy.”

• GLORIOUS: Isaiah 17:3b – “The remnant … shall have the same glory as the Israelites says the Lord…”

• CROWNED WITH A DIADEM: Isaiah 28:5 – “On that day the Lord…will be a glorious crown and a brilliant diadem to the remnant of his people.”

• LIGHT TO THE NATIONS & SALVATION: Isaiah 49:6-7 – “It is too little…for you to be my servant,… I will make a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

April 10, 2011: “Are we the great light?”

A remnant
“leftover: a small part or portion that remains after the main part no longer exists”
“end: a piece of cloth that is left over after the rest has been used or sold”
“small portion remaining of a larger thing or group”

A remnant, on the one hand, shares some qualities in common with the larger reality, but on the other hand, is distinctive – in that the remnant is that which remains when the rest is gone

Throughout the Bible, the concept of the remnant is used to denote God’s preference (Deuteronomy 7:6-8) to deal with the small leftovers, that which most people would think unworthy even of notice and certainly unworthy of the infinite, divine God’s involvement, care, protection, and use
(Genesis 6:5-7; 18:32: I Kings 19:4, 18; Amos 3:2, 13; 4:1-3; Jeremiah 21:9; Ezekiel 6:8-9; Daniel 12:1-7; Zechariah 13:9 passim)

How to identify the remnant in Isaiah
• OUTCASTS, FUGITIVES: Isaiah 11:11-12 – “On that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that is left of his people,… and will assemble the outcasts …,
and gather the dispersed ….” Isaiah 16:3b – “…to hide the outcasts, to conceal the fugitives.”
• SMALL & WEAK: Isaiah 16:14b – “…the remnant will be small and weak.”
• POOR & NEEDY: Isaiah 25:4 – “…you are a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in distress”
• CRUSHED, DEJECTED: Isaiah 57:15 – “…I dwell…with the crushed and dejected in spirit, to revive the spirits of the dejected, to revive the hearts of the crushed.”
• FORSAKEN, HATED, UNVISITED: Isaiah 60:15 – “…you were forsaken, hated and unvisited, Now I will make you the PRIDE of the ages, a joy to generation after generation.”
• LOWLY, BROKENHEARTED: Isaiah 61:1 – “…bring glad tidings to the lowly,…heal the brokenhearted….”
• DISGRACED & SPAT UPON: Isaiah 61:7 – “…disgrace and spittle were their portion….”

Tasks of the remnant
• WELCOMING: Isaiah 1:9 – “If the Lord of hosts had not left us a remnant, we would have been like Sodom,
 and become like Gomorrah.” (Sodom & Gomorrah – Genesis 18:16-19:29 – inhospitable cities so the remnant will be WELCOMING)

• JUSTICE FOR ORPHANS & WIDOWS: Isaiah 1:17 – “Learn to do good; make justice your aim; redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow”

• REFUGE FOR POOR & NEEDY: Isaiah 25:4 – “you are a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in distress”

• PROVIDE RICH FOOD & WINE: Isaiah 25:6 – “…provide for all peoples, a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich good and pure, choice wine.”

• RELEASING THE UNJUSTLY BOUND, UNYOKING THE OPPRESSED, SHELTERING THE HOMELESS, NOT TURNING YOUR BACK ON YOUR OWN: Isaiah 58:6-7 – “…releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked, and not turning your back on your own.”

Consequences of the remnant doing it’s work
• HOLY: Isaiah 4:3 – “The remnant … will be called holy.”

• A GREAT LIGHT: Isaiah 9:1 – “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.”

• GLORIOUS: Isaiah 17:3b – “The remnant … shall have the same glory as the Israelites says the Lord…”

• CROWNED WITH A DIADEM: Isaiah 28:5 – “On that day the Lord…will be a glorious crown and a brilliant diadem to the remnant of his people.”

• LIGHT TO THE NATIONS & SALVATION: Isaiah 49:6-7 – “It is too little…for you to be my servant,… I will make a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

May 8, 2011: Not by appearance, eh?
Isaiah 11
A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
 and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
 the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
 the spirit of counsel and might,
 the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide; 
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
 and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
 he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
 and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 
5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
 and faithfulness the belt around his loins.
6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
 the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
 the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
 and a little child shall lead them. 
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
 their young shall lie down together;
 and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
 and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 
9 They will not hurt or destroy
 on all my holy mountain;
 for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
 as the waters cover the sea.
10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
11 On that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that is left of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Ethiopia, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. 
12 He will raise a signal for the nations,
 and will assemble the outcasts of Israel,
 and gather the dispersed of Judah
 from the four corners of the earth. 
13 The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart,
 the hostility of Judah shall be cut off;
 Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah,
 and Judah shall not be hostile towards Ephraim. 
14 But they shall swoop down on the backs of the Philistines in the west;
 together they shall plunder the people of the east.
 They shall put forth their hand against Edom and Moab,
 and the Ammonites shall obey them. 
15 And the Lord will utterly destroy
 the tongue of the sea of Egypt;
 and will wave his hand over the River
 with his scorching wind;
 and will split it into seven channels,
 and make a way to cross on foot; 
16 so there shall be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria,
 as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt.

As queers reading Isaiah, the 11th chapter is REALLY important.

1.) 11:3 – appearances and hearsay are NOT the criteria that God uses to make judges

In this way, we see that God is NOT LIKE HUMANS who constantly use appearances and hearsay (gossip, crowd-driven and majority-determined) to come to “conclusions” about who’s in, who ought to be “out”, what’s “right”, and what’s “wrong”

When God – Who does NOT judge by appearances and hearsay – has the Divine way, the most RADICAL and AMAZING things happen:

Natural enemies get along: wolves and lambs live together, leopards rest with kid goats, a lion hangs out with a calf, bears graze with cows, nursing children play safely with and around snakes – YIKES! This is what happens when we stop judging by appearances, when gossip stops being the driver for our decisions, when we refuse to let crowd-pressure determine what we ought to do and what’s not acceptable

2.) 11:2 – God makes judgments on the basis of wisdom, understanding, knowledge and strength

God’s ways are not based on appearances, hearsay, gossip, what the crowd thinks

But God’s ways are not based on just “objective facts” either

Facts alone can be hurtful and can lead us to cruel conclusions

Rather God’s ways are based on wisdom

• Wisdom demands that we have knowledge, that is “facts”, but the knowledge/facts are tempered by understanding
• Since God sees and knows the heart, God sees the context of the facts; God understands how and why the facts/knowledge are what they are
• In this way, then, God uses facts/knowledge not to hurt but to help us grow and become more beautiful

But to make judgments based on wisdom, God also has to have strength

When we do not have that Divine Strength, our fear overwhelms us and we succumb to the screaming of the crowd, our judgments drop back into the “appearance-driven mode” and we become destructive

But God’s Divine Strength allows God to stand up against the irrational cruelties of the crowd (which is driven by appearances and gossip)

• When the crowd – largely out of fear and gross misunderstanding – screams CRUCIFY Jesus, or children join in bullying a classmate who is different, or homophobia causes a queer to be bashed – in these and similar situations, God’s Divine Strength allows God not to fall into the trap of fear
• Rather God’s Divine Strength allows God to stand with the One to be Crucified, to take the bullying with the child who is different, to be the queer who is bashed

3.) 11:11, 12, 16 – God saves the remnant, the leftovers, even using that remnant as a signal to all the nations

Rather than seeing the remnant, the leftover, the outcast as despicable and worthless, God clearly sees the beauty and worth of us who are the remnant, of people like us who gossips and those who judge by appearances think of as “trash”

Seeing the facts of our lives with understanding and strength, God treasures us

And God uses US to create that world in which the lion and lamb lie down together

WE are a principal means by which God begs those who judge by appearances to see our beauty and the beauty of the world God has created

August 7, 2011

God’s Ways Are Definitely NOT Our Ways!

God
asks, in Isaiah 43:19, “I am about to do a new thing…do you not perceive it?”

 

The
sad answer is that most of us really don’t perceive the new thing that God is
doing – even really good Christians often miss what God is doing

 

So
what is this “new thing” that God is doing?

 

We
can find the answer in Isaiah 55:8-9:

 

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

nor are your ways my ways, says
the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the
earth,

so are my ways higher than
your ways

and my thoughts than your
thoughts.

 

We might say that the “new thing” that God does is to
let us “in” on the way God thinks!

 

But in order for us to perceive this amazing gift that
God offers to humankind, we have to recognize that the “way” God thinks is
RADICALLY different than the ways we think – the ways that God acts are
COMPLETELY different from the ways we act

 

God’s ways are NOT our ways at all

 

So what does the Bible show us are the ways God
thinks?

 

1. God’s
wisdom is not communicated by human wisdom – I Corinthians 1:17-18

 

2. God’s
wisdom is revealed to us in the Cross – I Corinthians 1:17-25

 

3. God
chooses the low-born, the insignificant, the weak, people whom the world
considers unimportant to be the ones through Divine Wisdom and Divine Presence
is communicated – I Corinthians 1:26-28

 

4. God
tells us not to store up treasures for ourselves on earth – Matthew 6:19

 

5. God
tells us not to worry about what we are to eat or drink or wear – Matthew 6:25

 

6. God
tells us that if somebody hits us we are to offer no resistance – Matthew 5:39

 

7. God
tells us to love and to pray for our enemies and for those who persecute us –
Matthew 5:44

 

8. God
tells us that we can’t serve money and serve God – Matthew 6:24

 

9. God
tells us not worry but to rely completely on God for everything – Matthew
6:31-34

 

10. God
tells us not to judge anybody ever – Matthew 7:1-5

 

11. God
tells us not to lord it over people but rather to become servants of all – Mark
42-45

 

12. God
tells us to act toward other people in the way we would like for them to act
toward us – Matthew 7:12

September 11
The Suffering Servant:Isaiah 52:13-53:12

This passage is the fourth and probably most important in Isaiah (the other three are: 42:1-4; 49:1-6; and 50:4-11) in which God “described” the Servant through Whom God brings salvation to the world.

1. The appearance of the Servant of the Lord

52:14 Just as there were many who were astonished at him
—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of mortals—
15 so he shall startle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
53:2b he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by others;…
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.

The way the Servant of the Lord looks / appears is so unattractive that people want to look away from him
Queer comment: Especially among some gay men, the emphasis on appearance and looks is profoundly contrary to the way revealed to us by the Servant of the Lord; strangely, the emphasis on looks and appearance among many straight women might be thought of as similar.

2. The Servant of the Lord takes the place of sinners

53:4 Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
53:6b and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
53:8b For he was… stricken for the transgression of my people.
53:11b and he shall bear their iniquities.
53:12e yet he bore the sin of many

The Servant of the Lord willingly takes on Himself the sins and iniquities of all God’s people. Rather than running from this fate or complaining about it, the Servant of the Lord sees in his suffering God acting to bring salvation to all people.
Queer comment: If we who are queer can possibly open our suffering, especially the suffering that is imposed on his by homophobic institutions, people, and/or systems, then we will become the ones through whom God brings salvation to the world.

3. How the Servant of the Lord responds to his own suffering

53:7b,d,e yet he did not open his mouth;…
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
53:12e,f yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

The Servant of the Lord, when overwhelmed by violence and oppression, does not lash out, but rather, the Servant of the Lord is silent against the cruelty and accusations, going so far as to pray for those who are hurting him.
Queer comment: When homophobes bash and oppress and hurt us, can we find the interior and spiritual grace to pray for those very same people? If we can, we will become the people who bring God’s salvation to the world. The very acts of oppressing and hurting us will become moments of blessing and salvation both for us and for those who hurt us.

4. The consequences of the suffering of the Servant of the Lord

52:15c,d-53:1 for that which had not been told them they shall see,
and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
53:4b yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
53:5c,d upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
53:10c,d-11a,b,c he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
52:12a Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong

Because of the suffering of the Servant of the Lord and because of the way the Servant responded to his own suffering:
• people will see things and understand things that they have never seen or understood before; these things are, in fact, the revelation of God’s will for them
• people will be made whole
• people will be healed
• the will of God will prosper among all peoples
• people will see light
• people will be satisfied with knowledge
• people will be made righteous
• those who have suffered will, eventually, be among the great and the strong
Queer comment: We who have suffered in so many ways are precisely the ones God is choosing to bring all these gifts, this salvation to people everywhere. Our task, as Christian Queers, is to embrace that suffering, with prayers for those who persecute us.

5. Similarities to Jesus in the New Testament klicka för mera information

52:13 my servant shall prosper;
he shall be exalted and lifted up,
and shall be very high.
Many Christians see this verse as saying that Jesus will be lifted up ON THE CROSS
++++
53:2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
Some Christians see this verse as referring to the years that Jesus spent in Nazareth growing up
++++
53:3 He was despised and rejected by others;
Many Christian commentators think that this verse is fulfilled when Jesus is betrayed by Judas, arrested by the leaders of His Own people, scourged by and crucified by the Romans
++++
53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
When Jesus appeared before Pontius Pilate, He was silent and did not respond to the Governor’s questions, and many people see that as fulfilling this verse from Isaiah
++++
53:8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
53:9b …although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Most Christian Biblical and legal scholars would say that Jesus never did anything that merited death, so His being condemned is viewed by them as a perversion of justice
++++
53:9 They made his grave with the wicked
53:12d and was numbered with the transgressors;
The fact that Jesus was crucified between two thieves is often seen as fulfilling these verses from Isaiah
++++
53:9b his tomb with the rich
53:12a Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man and a member of the powerful Sanhedrin who asked Pilate to take Jesus’ body and who, after having done so, placed Jesus’ body into the tomb which Joseph had had made for himself; this event is often seen as fulfilling these verses from Isaiah

 

September 18, 2011

Our Mother, who art in heaven!

Isaiah 66:7-13; 49:14-15

I.  God has created everything – EVEN language!

  • So,
    all language is inadequate to express fully the One Who created the
    language
  • All
    language about God is approximate
  • All
    language applied to God hints at, suggests some aspect of Who God is
  • But
    no language about God is fully and completely accurate in explaining /
    describing Who God is
  • So,
    we have to be very reluctant to say that the ONLY way we can talk about God is
    this way or that

II.  The language used in the Judeo-Christian
traditions to refer to God has, generally, been masculine

  • God is frequently described as “Father”
  • The New Testament tradition seems to be
    based on the use of the Aramaic word, “Abba” which is perhaps best translated
    as “Dad” or “Daddy” – Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6

III.  The Bible was written and put together in
times and by cultures that were extremely patriarchal and even misogynistic

  • So, while we as Christians believe that
    the Bible is the Word of God, we also have to be aware that the assumptions of
    it’s human authors are embedded in the text
  • Part of our responsibility as
    intelligent, spiritual readers of the Word is to figure out where those
    cultural assumptions may be obscuring the Truth that God wants to communicate
    to us
  • Since God’s love extends to all human
    beings, without regard to gender, we have to conclude that patriarchal and
    misogynistic assumptions impede our hearing the Truth of God’s Word
  • So we believe that God’s Spirit calls
    us to move beyond those temporally and culturally bounded assumptions that say
    we can only call God “Father”
  • There’s nothing wrong with referring to
    God as “Father” as long as we also recognize that, equally, there is nothing
    wrong with calling God “Mother”
  • In fact, knowing that God is our Mother
    may free many of us to know God even more fully
  • Moreover, knowing God as Mother may
    help us see the amazing diversity of insight that the Old Testament Book of
    Isaiah provides

IV.  Some negative female images of God in Isaiah

3:12 My people—children are their
oppressors,

and women rule over them.
                                         The very
idea that WOMEN could rule!!!!!

O my people, your leaders mislead
you,

and confuse the course of your paths.

19:16 On that day the Egyptians will be
like women, and tremble with fear before the hand that the Lord of hosts raises
against them.                       Women are the only ones who ever tremble with
fear!!!!

32:9 Rise up, you women who are at
ease, hear my voice;
    Only women
are at ease & complacent

you complacent daughters, listen to my speech. 
                Men are
never lazy or indolent

10 In little more than a
year

you will shudder, you complacent ones;

for the vintage will fail,

the fruit harvest will not come.

V.
Transitional female images in Isaiah

26:17 Like a woman with
child,

who writhes and cries out in
her pangs

when she is near her time,

so were we because of you, O Lord;

18   we were with
child, we writhed,

but we gave birth only to wind.

We have won no victories on earth,

and no one is born to inhabit the world.

The
writhing and pangs and crying out of a woman in childbirth is likened to what
God’s people do as they long for God’s Presence.  This is not a negative image of female
existence.

42:13 The Lord
goes forth like a soldier, like a warrior he stirs up his fury;
 he cries out,
he shouts aloud,
 he shows himself mighty against his foes.

42:14 For a long time I have held my
peace,

I have kept still and restrained myself;

now I will cry out like a woman
in labour,

I will gasp and pant.

15 I will lay waste mountains and
hills,

and dry up all their herbage;

I will turn the rivers into
islands,

and dry up the pools.

Here the
female image in verse 14 is put immediately after the traditionally male image
of a soldier, but both are applied to God’s caring for the chosen people.

 

VI. God as
Mother!

 

Isaiah 66:7 Before she was in
labour

she gave birth;

before her pain came upon
her

she delivered a son.

8 Who has heard of such a
thing?

Who has seen such things?

Shall a land be born in one
day?

Shall a nation be delivered in one
moment?

Yet as soon as Zion was in
labour

she delivered her children.

9 Shall I open the womb and not
deliver?
 says the Lord;

shall I, the one who delivers, shut the
womb?
 says your God.

10 Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for
her,

all you who love her;

rejoice with her in
joy,

all you who mourn over her—

11 that you may nurse and be
satisfied

from her consoling breast;

that you may drink deeply with
delight

from her glorious bosom.

66:12 For thus says the Lord:

I will extend prosperity to her like a
river,

and the wealth of the nations like an
overflowing stream;

and you shall nurse and be carried on
her arm,

and dandled on her knees.

13 As a mother comforts her
child,

so I will comfort
you;

you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

The imagery
moves back and forth between God being the Mother and Jerusalem being the
Mother

But the
Jerusalem referred to here is the “new Jerusalem” in which God’s Presence is
immediately and directly experienced by the city’s inhabitants

Clearly
female symbols and images are the core of this passage:

  • Labour
  • Giving birth
  • Delivering a child
    (son)
  • Womb
  • Nursing
  • Consoling breasts
  • Glorious bosom
  • Being carried on her
    arm
  • Being dandled on her
    knees
  • Mother

God’s care for God’s people are
presented in the most striking female symbols possible

God acts as Mother to the people She
has chosen

 October 2, 2011

QUEER SINS:

Isaiah 64:7; 63:5; 58:6

For many religious people, “sin” has,
historically, meant something like, “NOT KEEPING ALL THE RULES”

Sadly, this concept is not what the
Bible generally means by “sin”

The Greek word used in the bible, which
is usually translated as “sin”, means something like,

“MISSING THE MARK”

  • Understanding
    sin like this suggests that life is a process of living
  • Along
    the way of that process of living we have certain “marks” to keep us on
    the way which will, eventually, lead us to the place we each need and want
    to be
  • Sometimes
    we miss one or another of those “marks” along the way of living
  • When
    we miss one or more of those “marks”, we find that getting to that place
    where, ultimately, we want and need to be is harder than if we had “hit”
    the “mark”

If “sin” isn’t just failing to keep all
the rules, does this concept (of sin) have any real relevance for us
today?  Especially for us who are queers?

To answer that important question,
let’s look at what Isaiah says “sin” is

Isaiah
64: 7:  “Yet, O Lord, you are our father;
we are the clay and you the potter; we are all the work of your hands.”

  • Sin
    is failing to recognize that God is our Creator, Parent, Father, Mother
  • And
    from that fact, sin is failing to recognize that God is MY Creator,
    Parent, Father, Mother

    • From
      the fact that God is Creator, Parent, Father, Mother of each of us, sin
      occurs when we act toward ourselves in ways that denigrate and dishonor
      our Divine Parentage
  • Also
    from that fact, sin is failing to recognize that God is the Creator,
    Parent, Father, Mother of ALL people

    • From
      the fact that God is Creator, Parent, Father, Mother of all people, sin
      occurs when we act toward any other human person in a way that denigrates
      or dishonors that other person’s Divine Parentage

Isaiah
63:5a-b: “I looked about, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that
there was no one to lend support.”

  • Sin
    is failing to offer support to those who are in need of help

    • A
      beggar on the street
    • A
      single parent with no income
    • A
      gay man who is being bashed
    • A
      lesbian who is being discriminated against in the workplace
    • A
      trans person who is not welcomed because of perceived
      gender-non-conformity
  • Support
    can mean many things

    • Time
    • Physical
      protection
    • Money
    • Prayer
    • Service

Isaiah
58:6-7: “This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound
unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking
every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and
the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back
on your own.”

Sin is identified as having three
components in these verses:

  • Sin
    is perpetuating and/or failing to end unjust and oppressive systems and
    all that yokes people to situations and systems that are unjust or oppressive

    • Sexism
    • Homophobia
    • Transphobia
    • Misogyny
    • Racism
    • Economic
      systems
  • Sin
    is failure on the part of individuals or groups to alleviate the specific
    circumstances of a person’s situation which causes that person, who is a
    child of God, to live without dignity and the basic needs of life

    • Hunger
    • Housing
    • Appropriate
      work
    • Unsafe
      working conditions
    • Access
      to healthcare
    • Access
      to education
  • Sin
    is turning one’s back on one’s own

    • Failing
      to recognize the common humanity and the Divine Parentage that links us
      to every human being
    • Especially
      failing to support and assist those human persons with whom we share most
      intimately

      • Chosen
        families
      • Other
        queers
      • Biological
        families

The chances are REALLY GOOD that each
of us will sin in one or more of these ways, but the GOOD NEWS is that God is
always willing to FORGIVE us no matter how sinful we are!

Isaiah
43:25:  “It is I, I, who wipe out, for my
own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more.”

Isaiah
44:22:  “I have brushed away your
offenses like a cloud, your sins like a mist; return to me, for I have redeemed
you.”

Isaiah
54:9b: “So I have sworn not to be angry with you, or to rebuke you.”

Isaiah
54:10b: “My love shall never leave you.”

So many queers hate God or the
Christian Church, or Christians generally because so many queers have been told
that they have “sinned” for “breaking the rules.”  Sin isn’t about rules.  Sin is about failing to accept God’s love for
us.  Sin is about failing to tell others
about God’s love for them.  Sin is
failing to act in loving ways towards ourselves.  Sin is acting in unloving ways toward other
people – all of whom are God’s precious children.  Those “Christians” who were cruel to queers
were the real sinners.  Our job as
Christian queers to act lovingly toward ourselves and to remind all our sister
and brother queers that God loves them exactly as they / we are!