Tobi Fleck (She/Her)
But now, Leah and Rachel and Jacob, hear the word of YHWH- the One who created you, the One who fashioned you, Israel; Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the seas, I will be with you; when you pass over the rivers, you will not drown. Walk through fire, and you will not be singed; walk through flames and you will not be burned. I am YHWH, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your deliverer.
Isaiah 43:1-3a, The Inclusive Bible:the First Egalitarian Translation
One of the things I love about The Inclusive Bible is that it often includes the names of women. How many times have we heard or read in scripture “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” without stopping to consider the fact that this God is also the God of Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel? I don’t know about you, but when I remember the names of our mothers in faith, something changes. I hear these words, the word of Adonai, being spoken to me. To me, a woman. To me, a sister. To me, a daughter. I am not to fear- even when traveling through fire and water, because the One who made me travels alongside me. I am not alone, for She is with me. The creator, redeemer, and deliverer of my people never forsakes me.
But the Church did. Part of my coming out story includes the fact that I identify on the asexual spectrum, one of the identities hidden in the ‘A’ of LGBTQIA+. It took me a long time to find my identity’s name, and during that time of searching, I often felt alone. Even after finding my people, I often felt alone because I found that while the church was willing to name lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and queer folx, I was never named. Even in Proclaim, the professional organization for publicly identified out Lutheran leaders, the initialism LGBTQ (+) was used.
It took me passing through the waters of erasure and the fires of disbelief for me to find the strength to advocate for my community. Through conversations with the Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and the Program Director for Proclaim, the board decided to start using the initialism LGBTQIA+, naming asexual folx as part of the community. And in the year after, three other Proclaimers claimed their identities of asexuality. They had been part of the community, without the community even realizing it. And our community became more complete with their more fully understood identities.
So, beloved ones, who are the ones traveling through fires and floods right now, with only God at their side? Whose identities are being erased, or disbelieved? Whose names do we need to hear? How will their authentic identities continue to complete our communities?
Oh God, you have created each and every one of your children. We give you thanks for names, and all the ancestors of our faith: Sarah and Hagar and Abraham, Rebekah and Isaac, Leah and Rachel and Jacob, and all those others we name now. Strengthen our communities to always be looking for those unnamed, that we may learn their names, speak them courageously, and grow more fully into who you would have us be. We pray this in the Name of the One above all names, Jesus Christ. Amen.