Embracing The Real Meaning Of What It Means To Be Last.

Gordon Creamer

Today’s reflection is from Gordon Creamer. Gordon is the creator of The Mission Bridge, from which he offers workshops and retreats for adults, seniors, and the LGBTQ community.  He holds a masters degree in Spiritual & Pastoral Care from Loyola University, Maryland. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Ministry at the Ecumenical Institute at St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore.

Today’s liturgical readings can be found here.

Every year as Autumn arrives, I become filled with an incredible joy! This Tuesday’s observance of the Fall Equinox marks the shifting of light in our days, and also on our spiritual level. This time of transition invites us to engage in a period of poignant release: of letting go of what no longer needs to remain with us. So much about Autumn evokes spiritual realities within us: the intentional cherishing of what has passed, reaping of what has come to fruition in the harvest, and the tender experience of loss both from cumulative changes and death. And, within the Christian liturgical calendar, the months of this season call us to remember our beloved ones who have departed from us and gone to rest as we celebrate All Souls’ Day on November 2nd.

For our LGBTQ+ siblings, families and allies, this season becomes a perfect time to explore and affirm the grace God generously gives us on our spiritual journeys with Him. This is a time when we can be emptied and refilled with what we shall essentially need for another Winter on the horizon, where what has died can be transformed quietly and powerfully into new life and something beautiful for God.

Today’s liturgical readings offer a perfect opportunity to seize the moment and contemplate this grace. In the first reading, from the Book of Wisdom, we find an encounter outlined between the just one and his persecutors: “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings.” No doubt, we can be roused by this harsh treatment of the just one because we can tangibly relate to this behavior from others when we have been persecuted for courageously becoming our authentic selves.

These short few verses provide a prophetic window into the frequent discrimination Jesus would come to endure during his public ministry, particularly at the hands of the Pharisees and other religious authorities of his day. They pressed him to see if his words were true (2:17), but in the end Jesus lived up to who he claimed to be and God took care of him (2:20).

The parallel for our LGBTQ+ community lies in the realization that we, too, are marginalized because of who we are. We are also being put to the test as Jesus was to determine our gentleness and patience (2:19). We are essentially being tried, like him, so as to reveal if we are who we claim to be: fabulously dignified individuals created by God as LGBTQ+ humans. But, because as Christians we strive be like Jesus – loving, purposeful, and misunderstood – we must also trust faithfully that God will abidingly take care of us as he did Jesus.

In the second reading, from the Letter of James, we hear an echo of the necessity to live by “pure” wisdom (3:17) which is from above. The overall message of James’ letter empowers us to seek God’s direction for living with others by ordering our passions and bearing the fruit of righteousness through cultivating peace (3:18). James asks “Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?” The chief way to conduct ourselves as Christians and LGBTQ+ people is revealed by James at the outset of his counsel to us.  We must be peacemakers, gentle for certain, compliant to the dictates of the Lord, and consistently full of mercy and good fruits that flow from sincerity (3:17). This directive reaffirms and challenges anyone who commits their life to Christ, but it leads necessarily to a deeper communion with God and with all whom he created in this world.

When we sit with the Gospel text from Mark and place ourselves in it alongside Jesus, we understand more than ever what is ours to do: We are to embrace what it means to be last. Jesus exhorts the disciples (and us) that the first shall be last and the servant of all. He was last and servant of all, and, of course, preeminent in God’s eyes. What does this mean for us as LGBTQ+ people? Being last doesn’t have to feel as negative as it might sound because one day, after the longevity of being last in the Church, we will come to realize that Jesus has escorted us to the place of being first, or closest in the company of Jesus.

What ties this all together then is this notion of being a servant. Like Jesus, we are each called to give our lives in service to him and to the kingdom of God that is being built up. This in no way implies diminishing our just pursuit of being fully included and celebrated as LGBTQ+ members of the Body of Christ. It doesn’t mean giving up the good fight! Not in the least. But, it does demand that we keep our attention ever-focused and the song of liberation in our souls ever-attuned to what we were created for originally: loving service to God and reverencing the interconnectedness we share with everyone, even those who seem to be against us, or those whose fear-laden recourse is anachronistic doctrine.

So, may this Autumn be a fruitful one for you! May it be a holy time of seeking and attaining balance between serving God and advancing our inclusion. Let us not forget that one day, through our humbled station and exquisite service as LGBTQ+ individuals and allies, that we shall accompany Jesus first and forever.

Gordon Creamer, September 19, 2021

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