“COME BACK TO ME”
1. If you are an LGBT person or someone who works for LGBT equality, then you probably have great familiarity with the desert. Working for justice and equality is often a painful, desolate, and discouraging experience, where the temptation to give up, give in, or become cynical and bitter abounds. In light of such roadblocks, how do you flower in deserts where trials, isolation, and dangers await? Do you feel God guiding and caring for you in these spaces? Can you hear the voice of God in the wilderness?
2. Though Lent is a time to mourn the ways we stray from God, it is also a time to remember that we are still loved by God. If grey ashes symbolize a “turning away from sin and being faithful to the Gospel,” what symbol/s could you wear (or keep close to you) as a reminder of God’s unwavering love for you?
3. “Repent” is a word largely associated with Ash Wednesday as a scriptural metaphor to “come-back” to God. With the LGBT community, however, the word “repent” has often been used to condemn their sexualities and gender identities. Given your own unique experience and relationship with God, how do you feel about the word “repent?” What does your “repentance” or “return to God” look like?
4. Verses 15-16 of the passage from Joel, above, suggest Lent to be a personal and communal return to God. As an LGBT person or ally, how can you “gather” or inspire others to “repent” for communal sins (like global warming, human trafficking, anti-LGBT violence, immigration discrimination, etc.) so as to “purify” our assemblies, communities, nations, and world of the wider-reaching consequences of our sin?
5. If you were to incorporate LGBT history and your own LGBT experience into a liturgy for Ash Wednesday, what would help you to remember who you really are and who your God truly is? Some churches have adopted “glitter ashes” to show support for the LGBT community. Would something like this appeal to you? Is there some other symbol or ritual that would aid your prayer? Do you prefer the more traditional aspects of Ash Wednesday?
6. As a LGBTQ person or ally, how have you emerged from the deserts of your struggles? What are some of your personal resurrection stories that speak of a rising from the ashes?
In scripture, the wilderness has always been a place for discovery and transformation. Besides forging vocations like those of Jesus and John the Baptist, the “wilderness” keeps providing more. In 1 Samuel 23:14, the wilderness protects David from the wrath of Saul. In Genesis 21:17-21, when Hagar wanders in the wilderness, God reaches out to her and guarantees her a “great nation” through her son. In Isaiah 48:21, God promises deliverance to the people of Israel during the Babylonian exile.
One modern example of how the “wilderness” has encouraged creativity and inspiration is the poetry and writings of Andrea Gibson who has used their pain and struggles to rise from ashes. Andrea is a poet and activist whose poetry focuses on gender norms, politics, social reform, and the struggles LGBT people face. Andrea uses plural pronouns for self-reference.
After reading about a soldier who was burned to death for being gay, Andrea Gibson wrote one of their most powerful spoken word poems from the perspective of victims of horrific hate crimes.
In the video clip below, Andrea Gibson performs the poem “Ashes.” The text of her poem is below the video.