by Will Hocker
Reflection on Genesis 22.1-14 for Transgender, Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Pride Day
On Transgender, Bisexual, Lesbian and Gay Pride Day — or as some of we older, crotchety minsters of the Good News like to call it — Queer Liberation Day, I can only think to tell you what a queer little boy I was. My parents traveled a lot with their work. When I was free from school on holidays and during those gloriously endless summers-
They really don’t make those any more, do they?
Anyway. When I was not in school I’d travel the Midwest and the Northeast with my parents. My favorite thing to do as got to be 11 or 12 years old was to find a cathedral or large church that was open through the week.
They don’t make those anymore, either.
So. I’d find a church.
My dad took me several times to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Cleveland, Ohio. You know, I’d get there for the 12:10 mass. Then, I’d sit and say the rosary. The side altars beckoned. I never missed the Lady Chapel. Beautiful. Mary standing on an altar of white marble, looking – you know – both perfect and perfectly empty. Above it, the rose window with a dove at its center. That Holy Spirit. Always roosting. Eternally engaged. Always ready to engage anew.
I wanted to be Mary.
No. Not a girl. Not a woman. I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to stop sinning. I wanted my heart to be white as snow, as were both Mary’s heart and her marble. I wanted there to be room only for God in my heart.
I think my joy in the beauty of church art and architecture had something to do with its otherworldliness. It’s not here and now-ness.
Oh. No. A big ol’ Protestant Church just wouldn’t have cut it with me. No iconography.
No out loud, in your face beyond-ness.
Being of this world just seemed so, you know…dangerous. All those sins. Hundreds of them, right? At least to a 12 year old.
Not surprisingly within a year or two of this time, I was quite aware of my gayness. Painfully aware, mostly. Yet I had imagination. I hoped for romance. For a boyfriend.
There was a great Time or Newsweek magazine cover photograph in the early 1970’s of two clasped male hands. It took my breath away. This new idea that gay might be good. That I might be God’s perfect intention, God’s perfect joy, despite how utterly despicable I felt. I would have given away everything to be not who I was.
Except…..There was this boy…..Terry Kavanagh.
I don’t know about you. But, I usually can’t get beyond being appalled that Abraham risks his son’s life for God. Abraham, for all we can tell, soon will take his son’s life in order to demonstrate to God his love for God. Abraham is willing to give it all up for God.
We hear first that Abraham “…chopped wood for the burnt offering and started on his journey to the place which God had indicated to him.” Then, we hear that, “On the 3rd day, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.”
So the first seeing is in Abraham’s mind’s eye. In God’s mind’s eye. The next we hear, Abraham finally sees this place way off in the distance. When Abraham finally arrives, he’s already made it. Even though he doesn’t know that yet. Abraham was not led astray by God. Even in such a queer arrangement: to kill his own son.
I am quite pleased to discover, if only deeply so in my older age, that God does not lead us astray. If only we stop working to behave well. If only we begin listening to the Holy Spirit, who swoops down from the rose window to reside in our very own heart.
The Rev. Will Hocker is pediatric staff chaplain at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, comforter and provocateur, leaning into the interruption of the Gospel.