November 20, 2022


This sermon was preached at Open Table Liverpool for Trans Day of Remembrance, 2022
An audio recording will soon be available here

Epistle: Colossians 1:11-20
Gospel: Luke 23:33-43

May I speak in the name of the Living God, who is Trinity queerer than ourselves.

Tonight, we are gathered in order to remember. We are gathered to remember 390 people whom we know to have died this year, and countless others who have suffered and died at the hands of violent individuals and cultures. We remember them tonight in a mass, the very centre of memory in our Christian tradition, a people who remember Jesus who suffered, died, and rose again.

We remember, in our reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians, the beginning of all things. We remember that that beginning did not simply precede all of the beauty and ugliness, pain and joy, darkness and light, all the queer variety of our cosmos. No, it was also the means and the reason for this very creation. We remember too that this means and this reason were not simply an instrument and a thought, but the very person of Jesus Christ. The one whom we remember tonight.

We remember, in our Gospel reading, that the claim of Colossians is dangerous. The firstborn of this world is the very image of the invisible God. This person, who looks like just a human, claims in his identity something so at odds with his presentation. He, the visible, dying human, is the immortal, invisible God.

We remember what it is to have our identity questioned. “If he is the Messiah”, “If you are the King of the Jews”, “Are you not the Messiah?” The questions are traps, designed to snare him, to make it clear that he is not who he says he is.

We remember what it is to be mocked. Those questions are asked again and again. Humour is found in the suffering. The closer to death he draws, the more they mock his lack of life. Here is the one who says he is the Way, the truth, and the Life, nailed to the spot, dying for a lie.

We remember what it is to die. Jesus suffers the brutal, lengthy death on a cross. The state washes its hands and claims impartiality while the mob and the schemers and even the state nail an innocent man to a tree. Jesus speaks only twice. He prays for the forgiveness of his mockers and murderers and promises paradise to the guilty one beside him.

We remember what it is to be frightened. The very core of the Roman and Jewish identity is challenged by Jesus’ dangerous claim to divinity. It is easy to lash out when our identity is threatened. It is easy to mock and to hate when we think we are being tricked.

We remember what it is to side with the strong. When we are persecuted at the intersection, nailed at the crossing point, it is tempting to turn on those beside us, to desperately seek commonality with the oppressor.

We remember all those of our time caught up in these dynamics. Those of us who make claims about ourselves that disrupt the status quo. Those who are questioned relentlessly. Those who are mocked cruel-heartedly. Those who die from state and schemer and mob. Those who strike out in fear from the top or the bottom.

We remember, and we pray, that we might all be caught up in the story we remember tonight. That through this passion and this death there might come a glorious resurrection. That through this ordeal a Judge might arrive to settle the matter. That with his rod he would shatter and shepherd until peace reigns, and the tears are wiped from the eyes of we who weep tonight.

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