Wonder-fully Made

June 02, 2024
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18; Mark 2:23-3:6

Yesterday marked the beginning of Pride Month. Pride is a month-long celebration of all things LGBTQIA+. For those who identify as LGBTQ+, and for those that love them, Pride is a season of respite made possible through celebration. There is much to be joyful about all year long in the queer/trans experience – and it is delightful to be buoyed up for a few weeks by bold pride and celebration of LGBTQ+ people and identities. We’re even having an official Pride celebration service next Sunday. So why am I jumping ahead and talking about Pride now? Because when I first turned to the lectionary to see what texts were scheduled for us to read and explore today, imagine my surprise and delight to encounter Psalm 139 as one of the selections.

Psalm 139 is a lovely piece of writing that affirms the intricate and wonder-full nature of being a human created by and thriving in the presence of God. It is a text all of us need to encounter from time to time – a reminder that our very beings are known and held in love. And we are not simply held in love, we come from love, we are rooted in love from the moment we begin to take shape in the world and as we live, grow, and become. God creates us with intentionality, knows us intimately, and is present with us on every path we travel.

While Psalm 139 is not specifically a queer text, when you do not have a lot of voices celebrating and cheering you on as a young person, the reminder that God’s creation is good and present in all people, including yourself, is a powerful one. For many young LGBTQ+ folks, this is a very present reality, there is little to no support from their community of who they are as they navigate and begin to identify the layers of authentic identity and become in the world. And voices of support are so very important – even one supportive adult in the life of a young LGBTQ+ person can significantly reduce that individual’s risk of death from suicide.

This is part of why Hyattsville Mennonite Church, as a community, committed to active participation in Allegheny Mennonite Conference during our years of discipline for being a church that openly welcome LGBTQIA+ people into membership. We stayed to be a witness and presence for any people, and especially young people, in other congregations that may have needed a space of affirmation and support available to them – even if they were not able to express their need of that support or ever able to receive that support in person – we stayed as a reminder that, whether their community preached and enacted welcome, or not, there is welcome in the love of God.

Right as our season of discipline was coming to a close, one of the, then, pastors in the conference found passion around inviting conversation and study around the idea of inclusive practices in churches. He was particularly interested in creating a resource that shared scriptural and theological grounds for inclusion in a way that those who were not open to inclusion might be willing to encounter them. I was asked to write a brief reflection on a scripture of my choosing to include in this collection. I heartily accepted the challenge. I have been a part of the Mennonite Church my entire life and I have loved it dearly. I have hoped, prayed, and acted for change in policies and practices within the institutional church for most of that time. I believe that welcome and inclusion are part of how we live God’s love into the world and so the opportunity to invite others into that space of welcome and love has always been a place of possibility that I want to lean towards.

I was given free range choice over what scripture to reflect on for the collection. I had no desire to take on a passage that was already divisive in terms of conversations around LGBTQ inclusion. So what might I choose to reflect in a more personal way, a scripture that would endorse the humanity of people who are LGBTQIA+? I settled on Psalm 139.

God, you have searched me, and you know me. 

A grounded reminder that God is fully aware of who we all are, knows us, we are not hidden from God.

You hem me in, before and behind, shielding me with your hand.

And even though God knows each of us fully, in all our quirkiness and all the things that others would have us believe are not part of God, God is present with us, embracing us, consoling us, and accompanying us through what has been and what is to come.

You created my inmost being and stitched me together in the womb of my birth.

God not only accepts, loves, and accompanies us in all that we are, God created each of us as we are, gifted us with these wonderful layers of humanity, and set us on a path towards thriving life.

For all these mysteries, I thank you – for the wonder of myself, for the wonder of your works, my soul knows it well.

Not only did God create and gift us life, God celebrates all that is life-giving and invites us each to also embrace and celebrate the wonder of who God created us to be, to live into and love every aspect of who we are. For what God creates, and loves, is good.

Those were some of the reflections I dearly wanted to share with any who would be willing to receive them. I desired to offer them as a gift to those who had denied, and sometimes cut off, those who were different from themselves and their expectations of what it is to be human. A gift that might break open their minds and hearts, even a tiny bit, to begin to remember the belovedness of all of God’s creation. And the presence and love of God in the midst of that creation, in all its forms, whether we approve or not. I wanted to offer a reflection on this text as a gift to every person, and especially to those who were in spaces of struggle and in need of a word of support or encouragement to stick with it another day, to remember that God has made each of us and we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

While my heart knew the text I wanted to reflect on and the message I wanted to share. My spirit wasn’t quite as willing to bring it into being. Everytime I tried to write the words down, there was a barrier before me, something that simply would not let me put down in words what it was I wanted to share. That barrier was a mix of trauma and weariness. The more I tried to participate in the project, the more I began to realize that it wasn’t a space of psychological or spiritual safety for me. I was grateful for the work others were putting into their pieces to offer words of challenge and encouragement to those who were willing to hear them or not. As much as I wanted to join in that conversation, I chose to listen to my own internal truth at that moment. To recognize and honor the fact that I was weary, body and soul, from this kind of conversation.

I was like Jesus in the Mark text today, who after trying so hard to invite people to understand that the laws and rules of the faithful community are there to breathe life into the community, not put up walls and barriers in the midst of it, he got weary. Actually the text says he was angry and grieved at the hardness of heart he encountered. What is one to do when, time and again, they point people towards the love of God in action in the world and time and again people question if that is really the love of God they are being pointed to? It can be exhausting.

And Jesus is tired of the conversation, tired of the battle, tired of people continuing to think their ways are God’s ways instead of opening themselves up to the paths God invites them to travel. So Jesus stops arguing, aware that the ears present are not currently willing to hear the words he might have to say, he stops engaging in the conversation for a moment and turns, instead, to action. To the work of healing and liberation. To the living out of that which is life-giving in the world, which is what God is calling us all towards, that is God’s love in action.


To embrace and live out God’s love into the world is to be rooted and grounded in that love. To remember who each of us were created to be and to make space for each creation to thrive as it lives in this world. I didn’t end up sharing my words with that project, however, I did still offer a creative reflection to the collection. Instead of writing a reflection on scripture and inclusion, I created a piece of art that was used for the cover of the collection that was a reflection on the gift of being an inclusive community.

It is a single piece of art made out of 30 small cutouts that are placed in a composition together to create a large image of a tiny seed growing into a large tree.

It is based on the scripture of the mustard seed and it was a piece I actually made to celebrate the impact of 30 years of welcome that this congregation was celebrating at the time. Our welcome started small, the welcoming of one gay man into membership in the mid 1980s was a seed that blossomed and grew and thrived into a community that has been a space of living and thriving and psychological and spiritual safety – a space of belonging – for many, many people of the years.

Just as we are each knit together by the creator, with love woven into the very fabric of our beings, fearfully and wonderfully made, so too are communities created and woven together by the relationships present in their midsts. Actions of healing, connection, and justice are all the work of love that knit us together, strengthening us for the journey as we accompany each other and create space for everyone to thrive. A thriving that happens when we prioritize life and love and honor the holy present within each person.

Everywhere I turned this week I was being reminded of this interwoven web of connection that invites healing, liberation, and the thriving of life.

I read it in an email from Mennonite Mission Network Executive Director Marissa Smucker who reflected that:

“Mennonite Mission Network approaches mission by joining churches, communities and organizations upon invitation. We only go where we are invited by the people in the local contexts and cultures. Through these invitations, we enter relationships with churches, communities and organizations around the world.

We value these relationships, because they enrich us by sharing stories that bring a deeper level of cross-cultural understanding that breaks down perceived barriers and stereotypes. Space is created for transformational experiences, and we are invited to become advocates for justice and to work toward peace. Above all, these relationships reflect, embody and spread the good news of Jesus Christ.”

The interweaving of communities creates space for transformational experiences, justice and peace.

I encountered the message of the power of individuals and communities grounding themselves in the very fabric of their beings in an article Dawn shared, through connection with Life After Release, written by Brandon Sturdivant of the Mass Liberation Movement who believes that addressing personal trauma can help transform the work and lives of Black organizers, and make systemic change all the more possible.

“There are few places where we center healing for Black organizers as part of the work; many of us are fighting systems that are the source of our pain. I believe focusing on healing can give most Black organizers the capacity to truly do the work of abolition and the ability to, step by step, build a new world from the inside out. And I believe that for many of us living in the Americas, going home to Ghana can be a crucial part of that. I, like many other organizers, entered the movement attempting to shrink vast internal wounds by transforming systems outside of me. I’ve found that my work is most impactful and that I am a better ally, comrade, and coalition member when I am actively healing and ridding myself of the internalized effects of forces like white supremacy and patriarchy.”

When individuals are invited to connect with, honor, and celebrate who they are, who they have been created, knit together by God, to be in the world, liberation and transformation happen.

I experienced the gift of the web of community this week as I joined in a panel presentation and community discussion with the City of Hyattsville, planned in part by Anne-Claire of this community to celebrate Pride by talking together about the lived experience of LGBTQIA+ folks and how Allies can help to make welcoming and safe spaces in the community for all. Being part of a community that is willing to stretch, bend, and grow in new ways is love in action.

And I experienced the beauty of the woven web of community and the support it offers to encourage the thriving of life as I delivered food, made as gift of love by members of this community, to Brandon and Lorah, also of this community, who are still adjusting to life as new parents as they welcome and make space for baby Amelia, born last month. When we knit ourselves together in love and service to one another, we remember that we are interconnected and that no matter what journey we are each on, we are not alone.

How each of these layers transforms a community is a mystery, a mystery full of wonder; a mystery that begins with each of us living who we are created to be into the world. We are each knit together by Creator God. Intricately woven, intimately known and loved and set free to live love into the world in and through our relationships with ourselves, each other, and God. This week I spent a lot of time making art as I finished up 9 new pieces of art for another book in collaboration with Joanna Harader like, Expecting Emmanuel, our Advent devotional from the other year, this one will be ready for use during Lent next year. As I worked and worked on creating each piece, I reflected on this scripture, the idea of God as a creator knitting and weaving each piece of creation into being. As I created I recognized the layers of intentionality, effort, energy, and care that I was putting into each creation as it was coming into being. The realization that God, as creator, is as intimately and intentionally present, caring, and invested in our living and thriving…well, Psalm 139 captures it best:

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, a height my mind cannot reach!  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.

For all of these mysteries and for the wonder they offer, I am thankful. May we each take heart in and celebrate the ways God has knit us into being as individuals, may we open ourselves up to the interweaving of life that happens in community, and in and through those connections and relationships may God’s healing, justice, liberation, peace, and love thrive!