Galileo Church

Quirky church for spiritual refugees. Who would Jesus love?

Our missional priorities:
1. We do justice for LGBTQ+ humans, and support the people who love them.
2. We do kindness for people with mental illness and in emotional distress, and celebrate neurodiversity.
3. We do beauty for our God-Who-Is-Beautiful.
4. We do real relationship, no bullshit, ever.
5. We do whatever it takes to share this good news with the world God still loves.

Trying to find us IRL?
Mail here: 6563 Teague Road, Fort Worth TX 76140
Worship here: 5860 I-20 service road, Fort Worth 76119, 5 pm Sundays


Cards Against Humanity: a party game for horrible people” really is an awful game. I’ve heard it described as “Apples to Apples, but filthy.” A player draws a card and reads the incomplete sentence found on it. Other players submit cards with their suggestions for filling in the blank. They’re mostly R-rated, or worse. Hilarity ensues.

We love this game. At least, some of us do. Some of us really just love the thrill of playing it with (gasp!) church friends. At (gasp!) church functions.

I’ve been trying to figure out why, and here’s my best guess: Galileo Church doesn’t have a ritual of confession of sins. But humans need to confess their sins, and CAH fills the gap.

In some churches, the people confess their sins every single Sunday. For example, in the Book of Common Prayer, used by several mainline Protestant churches, this ritual is repeated each week:

The Deacon or Celebrant says: Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.

(Silence may be kept.)

Minister and People: Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

The Bishop, when present, or the Priest, stands and says: Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen.

In Disciples churches like ours, weekly communion can be used as a ritualized confession and absolution. People are regularly asked to think about sins they’ve committed during the communion meditation, and to thank God for forgiveness through Jesus, whom we remember at the Lord’s Table.

But we don’t really do that at Galileo. We could. But our pastor (that’s me) is a little suspect of the power dynamic in such an exchange – making people think about the embarrassingly small and large ways they have not been the persons of God’s imagining, right this minute, as if by thinking about it now we can induce God’s forgiveness in just a second, a transaction that needs our initiative to set it in motion. I don’t believe that. “Forgiven” is a state of being. I’m swimming in it. It has already happened, and it’s happening right now, and it keeps happening. I don’t have to do anything to get it.

(I should say that I grew up in a church where a weekly “invitation” was offered for people to walk to the front of the church and confess their sins out loud. People did it. I did it. It was shaming, and terrifying, and just awful. I could say more about that, but my therapist knows all about it, so I don’t have to.)

So… there’s no point in Galileo’s weekly liturgy where people are explicitly given the opportunity to tell this particular truth about ourselves: that we are broken, that we think ugly thoughts, that we do selfish things, that we ignore all kinds of heartaches that should grab our attention, that we participate in systems that are themselves broken and perpetuating more brokenness. That we are kind of bigoted. And a little bit homophobic. And ridiculously sure that we’re right most of the time. And often jealous. And usually frightened. And daily willing to hurt other people with our words. And rarely willing to take real hits for our beliefs, because most of the time we believe we can’t afford it.

And consequently there’s no point in Galileo’s weekly liturgy where someone says out loud, “It’s okay. You are forgiven. Yes, you. Yes, we’re sure. Thanks be to God.”

The pastor's very own personalized Cards Against Humanity.

The pastor's very own personalized Cards Against Humanity.

And I think that’s why we play Cards Against Humanity with such relish. Because in that game, we are confessing the truth. That we sometimes laugh at people who are different from ourselves. That we know lots of words for sexual (not necessarily sexy) things. That some body parts get us into trouble. That we know way too much about certain celebrities. And when I play my card, and when I win the round so everybody knows it was mine, and they all laugh while I am blushing in triumphant titillation, I feel absolved. I feel like these people of God are saying, “It’s okay. You are forgiven. Yes, you. Yes, we’re sure. Thanks be to God.”

Maybe now I’ve ruined CAH for you? Or maybe now you’ll want to play it more? I don’t know. But if you get a game going, call me up. I’m there – my whole, real, gross, embarrassed, forgiven self.


Originally published July 2013.

This is going to sound ho-hum to some of you, but here’s something I finally figured out after 20 years in ministry with traditional churches: for some people who aren’t “churchy” people, relationships come before worship. I know, right?

See, in traditional (established, historic, existing!) congregations, we already have times and spaces and routines set up for our one true purpose: to glorify God and enjoy God forever. We worship with joy, sometimes, and with lament, sometimes, and with “meh” much of the time. We can always invite a stranger or a neighbor to worship with us because that’s what we’re already doing. “Come on in,” we say, “and bow your head and raise your voice and attend to scripture with us. And maybe afterward someone will invite you to lunch. And maybe then we’ll become friends.” Worship, and then the possibility of relationship.

But what if, for new (potential, possible, lovingly imagined) congregations, we have to reverse the order? Relationships first; the possibility of worship later? What if a new generation of seekers wants to know, before they ever walk into a service of prayer and song and scripture, whether they will have friends there? Whether they will be loved as they are? What if they are not going to take a chance on the established routines of the traditional church, for fear of being rejected (or bored or out of place)? Could we reverse the order so that we make friends first, and then join together in worship of the one true God?

That’s just one of the experiments Galileo Church in Mansfield is working on. We’re spending the first six months of our existence making friends – within the small team we started with, and with the neighbors we’re meeting in our town. For now, we eat and drink together, we talk to each other, we share our life stories, we read the Bible in a way that is inclusive of everybody’s “take.”

Let’s be clear: it’s not worship, not really, not yet. Indeed, some of us are attending Sunday services elsewhere to make sure we remember to engage our whole selves in loving God and praising God’s name. (Thank you, established churches, for welcoming us to your tables.)

We hope that when the friendships are strong enough, and broad enough, the hallelujahs will have built up in our hearts and will burst forth from our throats, and God will receive our worship with joy.

Pray for us, friends. Many thanks, and peace – Katie.


Originally posted July 30, 2013.

They only agreed to meet one time. Seven or eight young adults in their twenties, curious about the conversation I promised, curious to see whether I could cook, curious to know each other. They said yeah, they’d come over to Malcolm’s house on Thursday night.

I wish I could remember exactly who was there. Malcolm, of course, the quietly hilarious engineering student at UTA who asked the guy he rented a room from if we could use the living room for a couple hours. And Kaytee B, the part-time secretary at the traditional church I was serving, with whose innate kindness and generosity I had fallen in love. And a handful of others who were not exactly lost, not exactly found, but kind of in between, wondering what kind of earth they were inheriting, wondering whether God was still paying attention.

I also don’t remember what I cooked for that night in July 2012. The story I tell is “a pot of chili,” but it could have been any of the four or five entrees I started making on a regular basis for Thursday gatherings. It had to be something I could pack in the back of my station wagon, along with the plates and napkins, cups and drinks, serving utensils and silverware. There were no forks in Malcolm’s kitchen, at least not enough for a gathering of any size, so we carried it in and carried it out, every week for what seemed like a long time. A good, very good, long time.

Every week we ate, and drank, and got to know each other a little. I would posit a question for consideration. “What is the state of your physical health? How about your spiritual health? How are those related, or not, for you?” “Are you an ethical monotheist? How do you know?” “Do you find it easier to connect with God when you’re alone, or with people? Why do you think so?” “What does ‘church’ mean to you? What do you like most about that idea? Least?”

The answers were unlike anything I could have predicted. The people sitting around Malcolm’s living room, on sofas or the floor or the giant beanbag called – I kid you not – a “Lovesac,” were disarmingly honest. One night we were talking about contemporary idolatries and I passed around Play-Doh so we could shape our own idols for smashing later. A couple of people formed their credit scores, their credit card woes, their student loans, their vocational anxiety, their relationship blunders. Oh, the honesty! It took my breath away.

After a couple of months someone suggested that we could, if we felt like it, read the Bible together… after all, if this was “church” we probably should crack open the Good Book. I was startled – I had been thinking of Galileo as a side project, a diversion from my church work. But soon after a young woman in the group took a call from her dad during supper and told him, “I can’t talk now; I’m at church.” And it hit me that what we were doing was not a side project, not a diversion, for the people who had come together in Malcolm’s living room. For many of them, it was the singular communal expression of faith of their adult lives. Galileo was their church. And it was going to take more than silverware and chili to keep it going.


Originally posted September 2013.

I’m a refugee magnet. My always-expanding circle of people includes a bajillion women and men who have been tripped up, stepped on, talked about, kicked out, and left alone to the point that they don’t know if they can keep going.

(If you’re reading this and you’re one of my friends, I’m probably not talking about you. You are the exception; you are actually fine. No worries.)

When I say “refugee” I’m not thinking of actual refugees who smuggle their babies across borders in the middle of a war-torn night. If I lived in a different part of the world, maybe. If my life were more open to the literal refugees that end up in the DFW metroplex, probably.

No, the ones who come to me are the spiritual refugees, the ones whose hearts yearn for God, whose minds cling to memories of love shared in families and churches. They are the ones who have been pushed away, pulled away, torn away from the relationships and institutions that once gave them the life they imagined God wanted for them.

They are women whose churches taught them to love God with their whole selves, their hearts and souls and minds and bodies, but then told them they had gone too far. They should not imagine that God wants them entirely, in the servant-leadership of the church, because they are women, and God knows, women are not cut out for this kind of service. Serving food from the church kitchen at a potluck dinner, yes; serving the body and blood of Christ from the table in the sanctuary, no.

They are women and men whose churches cultivated the Spirit of tenderhearted love within them, only to say later that such love is only meant for certain ones, not same-sex ones. They should not imagine that God is the source of that love, the love that wanders outside the bounds of our heteronormative expectations. Suppress it, ignore it, repent of it, exorcise it – whatever it takes to banish that love from your heart. And if you can’t do that, go away. We'll pray for you.

They are people whose churches didn’t or couldn’t make room for them in their difference, like their difference was disruptive, or too big, or too loud – like it was hurting the church somehow to have to live with it. They are people who at some point in the not-too-distant past believed that about themselves – that they were hurting the church they loved just by being the people they are. And so they left. And felt some relief, for a while, just being gone.

Spiritual refugees. Samaritan women minding their own business, drawing water at the well in the heat of the day. Pregnant, unmarried teenagers wondering if anyone will stand by them in their shame. Sick people with diseases so foul or fearsome that no one will touch them. Those who grieve too loudly and too long. Those without means to buy their way back in; those without advocates to fight their way back in. Who misses them? Who wants them? Where do they go?

Not a few of them make their way to me, and now to Galileo Church, because with us they find a place to rest, and consider whether God’s love might still be the realest thing in the world. They find a tight-knit group of former refugees who are no longer homeless, but who count each others’ living rooms and lives as home for their restless, hungry spirits.

I was a refugee once. I could tell you about that some time, if you like. But God and the people of God have taken me in, have brought me home. And now, mi casa es su casa. Come on over.


Originally posted September 2013.

So here’s how I thought the study would go:

1. Read the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20, note how simple they are. Black and white. Don’t do this, don’t do that, and you’re good. So graciously clear.

2. Read Romans 13:8-10, where Paul says, “All the commandments – don’t kill each other, don’t lie to each other, yada yada yada – are summed up in this word: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Note how complicated that is. Love is more than “mind your own business.” Love is not black and white; it’s murky gray decision-making space, obscuring a rainbow of confusing beauty and trouble. It requires more from me than the Big Ten. I can’t just ignore my neighbor (or that stranger or even my enemy). I have to love them. Lord have mercy.

3. Everybody agrees with these conclusions; we finish our beer; we go home.

But here’s how it actually went. First we read Exodus 20, and noted the simplicity of the Ten. “Yes, exactly,” I affirmed.

Then we read Romans 13 and talked about love, and the obligation to love, and the complication of being told to love, etc. etc. etc. We were on the right track, headed directly to the pre-planned station of my imagining.

And then she spoke up, the young woman who hadn’t made much noise all night. Here’s what she said, best I can remember:

“I don’t know if it’s so hard. I was raised to believe the Ten Commandments, you know, in a religious school, and we memorized them. And the whole time I was there, one of the adults there was molesting me, and the other adults knew about it, I’m pretty sure, and they were the ones teaching me the Ten Commandments. And I would have probably killed them if I could.
“But it’s been a while, and what I’ve finally figured out is that when you don’t have anything else, when you can’t do anything else, you can always love. Love is simple. It’s not that hard. You just love, you find a way to love from your heart, and that’s all you need. That’s all there is. Just the love.”

She took a sip of her beer and looked at her hands in her lap.

Nobody breathed for a long time. We probably should have finished our beers in that holy silence and gone home, but of course there are always more words. Words of comfort and confirmation, though she was asking for neither. Words of conclusion and wrapping-it-all-up, though they fell far short. And, after a little while, words that drifted back to our present; a return to the beautiful, breezy night on the taco bar patio with the Bible. And with her, reminding us that it’s not supposed to be that hard. You just love.


I sent the following letter to the editor of the Mansfield News-Mirror after this article appeared, under a different headline, in last week's local paper. The article described recent public demonstrations by members of Open Carry Texas, a group of gun-rights activists that lobbies legislators to relax laws for gun ownership and public carrying. They have "patrolled" Mansfield intersections lately with AR-15s and AK-47s slung over their shoulders.

April 15, 2014

Dear Editor:

Thank you for reporting on the recent appearances of Open Carry Texas on the streets of Mansfield.

The opening paragraph of the article mentioned the “thumbs up, handshakes and honks of approval” the group received as their members patrolled a busy intersection in our town. It would have been difficult to quantify, by contrast, the shock and anxiety the sight provoked in many citizens.

How many parents like myself locked the doors of the car and told our kids not to make eye contact? How many of us were stammering for an explanation for why, in the most prosperous and free country in the world, where we live among the most generous and gentle neighbors we could ask for, some people feel it is necessary to publicly display weapons that are meant only to kill human beings? I’m not usually at a loss for words. But I could not explain this to my kids.

(Reasonable answers were made even more difficult by the apparent minor status of several of the demonstrators. In what world is it okay to put guns into the hands of children? Have we not been paying attention to what frustrated and suffering children can do to each other when they have gun power at their disposal?)

Let me be clear: there is no reason under the sun for individuals to own such weapons. But if they do, in accordance with federal, state, and local laws, there is no reason that they should be carried and brandished in a populated area where every person is just trying to get through the end of the day the best they can. There is no reason to express such hostility toward (and fear of) one’s fellow human beings by using weapons of mass destruction as “fashion accessories,” as suggested by the Open Carry representative quoted in your article.

I would love to see Mansfield law enforcement and government officials deal with this issue head-on. The problem is not whether Open Carry Texas members are distributing propaganda. The problem is that they’re doing it with the potential for menace and mayhem strapped to their backs.

grace and peace,

Rev. Dr. Katie Hays, Galileo Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)


Originally posted elsewhere May 2, 2014.

Today I’ve trimmed up the hedges, cleaned the bathrooms, made room in the fridge for homemade salsa and Mexican beer, and made a run to the liquor store for tequila and margarita mix. And I’ve counted it as ministry. Sure ’nuff work that I’m called to do on behalf of, and alongside, the people of God.

Because here’s the thing. You cannot swing a dead cat in the Bible without running into one of God’s parties. You know how they make that Bible with red letters wherever Jesus speaks? Or the one with green print every time earth and its ecology are mentioned? Or the really hard one with highlighting over all the parts that talk about God’s special concern for the poor? I humbly submit that some publisher should add a new one to the collection: I want a Bible with hot pink confetti sprinkled over all the parties in the Bible.

Hot pink confetti for all the times that God’s prophets predict a big banquet in God’s dining room when God finally gets everything God wants. God’s been cooking all day, and there are enough chairs for everybody – me, my friends, my neighbors, and my enemies. Check out Isaiah 25:6-9 for just one example. Rich food. Aged wines. Yum yum.

Hot pink confetti for all the times God’s people are instructed to bring their first fruits to the altar, the tithe of their herds and crops; and, when they’ve sufficiently submitted those gifts to the priest, they’re instructed to use that stuff to throw a giant party for everybody who doesn’t have stuff of their own, a party to which they themselves are also invited. Don’t believe me? Check out Deuteronomy 26:1-11. “Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and your house!” Tithing = par-TAY! Who knew?

Hot pink confetti for all the times Jesus goes beyond base-level sustenance for the people he loves and feeds them till they’re full, sending them home with doggie bags; or gives them the best drink they’ve ever tasted even when the peak of the party has passed. I don’t have to give you scripture and verse for those. You know them already.

Pink confetti for all the times Jesus describes the “kingdom of God” like a feast, a banquet, a wedding reception, a party you don’t want to miss. Pink confetti for all the times Jesus is accused of eating and drinking too much, celebrating too much with all the wrong people all the dadgum time. “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Matthew 11:19). I say, who wouldn’t want to follow a messiah like that?

So here’s something we count as important kingdom work at Galileo Church: we throw parties. If there’s no reason to have one, we make one up. After Christmas we threw a “We Survived the Holidays” party, because a lot of our friends suffer through holidays with – or without – their loved ones. When it was my birthday, there were no presents (because that wasn’t the point!) but there was lots of cake, and there were lots of people, and we blew off a lot of steam. We all went roller skating one night for no good reason other than it helped us have an intergenerationally hilarious good time. I’m doing chores today to get ready for Dos de Mayo tonight – because, you know, Cinco de Mayo is on a Monday, and that’s a lousy party day.

We do this as a form of kingdom work, because we believe that in the future of God’s imagining, “the shroud that is cast over all peoples” and “the sheet that is spread over all nations” will be ripped away, and God will swallow Death as an appetizer, and all God’s people will be invited to boogie down as tears are wiped away and disgrace is erased from our existence. The table will be laden with deliciousness and no one will be turned away. (This is Isaiah 25 again.)

So we’re doing our part to puuuuullllllll God’s future into our present, one party at a time. This is good work, church. Y’all come on over.


Originally posted elsewhere, June 12, 2014.

Two questions: How do we (pastors, worship planners, worshipers) evaluate music for communal worship, especially as we seek to expand our musical canon beyond the hymnals of the traditional church? And how do I know if the album our worship leader just released is any good?

Using Bryan Sirchio's The 6 Marks of Progressive Christian Worship Music, I evaluate Paul Demer's album Canvas of Sky. In about 3 pages. Take a look.


From: JD
Subject: Bible question. Not urgent!
Date: July 7, 2014 at 8:23:00 AM CDT
To: KH

When sections of scripture are referred to as hymns, poems, songs etc. How is it that we know that's what they are?

It doesn't always seem obvious in the English. I'm guessing it comes through in the original languages.

Any tips? On how to tell various literary devices used in scripture apart? Is this a bigger question than I think it is because that happens to me a lot too.

From: KH
Subject: re: Bible question. Not urgent!
Date: July 7, 2014 at 9:03 AM CDT
To: JD

The expert in our house on this question is actually LBP, and he doesn’t have anything else to do, so I’m forwarding this to him.

(Just kidding, honey. I know you’re working.)

He has done tons of work in genre studies. You’re right — it’s a big question. But it’s answerable. Somebody should write a book about this. (Honey?)

peace — K

From: LBP
Subject: re: fwd: Bible question. Not urgent!
Date: July 7, 2014 at 6:35 PM CDT
To: JD

This is kind of a big question and this response may get kind of big as a result. I don’t mind if you don't. (I often find that work I do in email becomes useful later, so no worries about time investment.)

Maybe the easiest thing to do here is to take one example and work through it. You raise the question of the creation story, so we can use that.

But to begin, I want to point out that I think there are really two issues here:

The first has to do with the presence in scripture of certain passages that are deemed “poetic” and so are formatted in translation with line breaks and indentations that signal “verse.”

The second distinct but related issue has to do with a claim that you may hear Katie or someone like Katie make—namely that we should read a text like Genesis 1 in a particular way because it is really a poem, or at least a “poetic” text.

As to the first of these issues:

When sections of scripture are referred to as hymns, poems, songs etc. How is it that we know that's what they are? It doesn't always seem obvious in the English. I'm guessing it comes through in the original languages. -- JD

The short answer is: We are guessing. No early manuscripts are formatted. In fact, we are guessing about far more than one might imagine. The autographs (originals) and all early copies didn’t even have spaces between words, much less poetic line breaks. Those manuscripts are just a stream of capital letters with no punctuation or formatting of any kind:

So not only are we guessing when we format Philippians 2:6-11 as verse, we are guessing when we punctuate something as a question instead of a statement. For that matter, we are even guessing where one sentence ends and another begins.

But there are guesses, and then there are guesses. Competence in original language diction clears up practically all questions about breaks between words, and competence in original language grammar clears up almost all questions about sentences, questions, and exclamations. It’s even pretty easy to figure out something grammatically subtle, e.g., when a rhetorical question expects a negative or positive response from the implied reader. At this level, knowing the original language well allows someone to parse an undifferentiated stream of capital letters into intelligible words, phrases, and sentences with a high degree of certainty. Guesses, but highly educated guesses.

Still, as you move up the chain of abstraction from letters, to phonemes, to words, to phrases, to sentences, and especially to paragraphs and sections, the guesses become less and less certain, and the guesser benefits less and still less from competence in the original language. The jump to paragraphs and sections is especially tricky because at that level you are making interpretive decisions that depend very little on the structure of the language itself, and very much on the structure that arises out of what the language is being used to *do* in this particular case. The next leap after that is to a decision about the nature of the work as a whole, and this, as Katie pointed out, is a question of genre—the ultimate guess with the highest stakes for understanding. But what I’m trying to point out in a very verbose way is that questions about genre are actually layered on top of a bunch of other questions. And it’s guessing all the way down.

The more I have come to understand about the many educated guesses that get made along the way, the more I have come to appreciate that my ability to read the Bible is dependent upon, and places me in relationship with, and puts me in debt to many generations of scribes, copyists, translators, and interpreters. Even when we read alone, we never really read alone.

Now for the second and much more difficult issue:

I would never have thought of the creation story as a poem. I love it! But I would not have recognized it. -- JD

This is just an immensely interesting and complicated question.

Poetry can mean a lot of things. I’m guessing that you are asking how we know that Genesis 1 is a poem in the structural sense. But when I say that Genesis 1 is poetry, I don’t (in the first place) mean anything that has to do with rhyme or meter, or even verse structure. There is some of that in there--especially the structure part--but that is not the most important sense in which it should be called poetic. Primarily, it is poetic in the sense that it uses language in extraordinary ways because it is trying to tell the truth about something that cannot be directly described using ordinary language in an ordinary way.

I have written a book about the sense in which the Bible as a whole should be read as a kind of poetic testimony. By this I mean that the Bible is concerned with truth, and even “literal” truth (if by “literal” you mean “real,” as most people do), but the most important truths are very hard to tell, and impossible to tell straight. When it comes to such things, one must, as Emily Dickinson insisted, “tell it slant.” Partly, this is because when you try to tell it straight you always end up saying way too much and way too little at the same time. (There is, you see, no non-poetic way to describe the problem with using non-poetic language to talk about God). So, the meta-genre of the Bible is poetic testimony, and this is because the Bible is concerned with the hardest kind of truth to tell. It uses the best and most precise tools available given the difficulty of the task. There is nothing we have learned in a scientific age that makes these ultimate truths more accessible to us, or easier to talk about. There is nothing we know in our modern sophistication that obsoletes the Bible’s poetic way of talking about these truths. In sum: the Bible is an attempt to tell the big truths about life, the universe, and everything; it uses poetry to do that; it is poetic testimony.

This larger question about poetry as the meta-genre of the Bible is interlaced in complicated ways with other uses of the word poetry that relate to the first question, above. In grade school they teach you that poems rhyme. Later you find out they don’t have to. And then at some point you start to realize that poetry is simply every use of language that breaks free from the tyranny of brute materialism and tries to get at the “something more” that ripples beneath the surface of the apparent. In terms of formal literary structure, poetry can mean verse, but poetic uses of language tend to show up most pervasively and powerfully in various forms of story. (Stories are, at root, metaphors that go on and on—all the while opening up beautiful, terrible, and astounding connections between our lives and the characters and events being narrated.)

Even in the case of a story like Genesis 1, there are multiple kinds of “poetry” involved. There is some actual verse in there, and there is a structure born of repetition, which is the most basic poetic devise. But/And in the large sense the entire chapter should be read as a theological story/poem with God as the protagonist, rather than a straightforward descriptive account of past happenings. This is not as hard to recognize as you might think. If it is hard to see, this may have something to do with assumptions about the Bible that have been beat into you from an early age. (I have some experience with this too!) Sometimes the best way to break the spell and get at the obvious poetic quality of the language in scripture is to juxtapose the poetic language of the biblical text with language from another genre that tries for scientific precision. Try this:

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth,  the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. In the afternoon the wind from God was light and variable, 10-15 miles per hour, out of the southwest. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

I expect you felt a little disoriented when you hit the genre shift. That disorientation was not just about encountering words that don’t belong. It was about encountering a *use* of language that is out of place. The problem with non-poetic readings of Genesis 1 is that they pretend that the language is being used like that weather report, i.e., as a precise and dispassionate report of past happenings.

This is getting long, so let’s turn to some details about the passage and see how both senses of the word “poetry” are in play here.

The most obvious clue to the poetic structure of Genesis 1 is the repetition of the phrase: “And there was evening and there was morning, the x day.” Note that these “days” are not being reported in the normal, descriptive way. How infuriating these accounts would be for that meteorologist who tried to slip that line into the prologue above! Why waste ink telling us these days had evenings and mornings? Maybe it would be helpful to know the time of the sunrise and sunset in the location where the purported events happened. But that is simply not the kind of talk we get. Rather, we get, after a highly stylized and infuriatingly vague report about extraordinary happenings, a reminder that this day, like all days, had an evening, and a morning, and that this day finds its significance by being numbered among a sequence of six days in which God made exactly everything.

This is simply not a literal, descriptive use of language. One can very quickly begin to sound like a fool for pointing this stuff out, but there it is. We get three evenings and mornings before we even get a sun! But setting all that aside, we know already that days have mornings and evenings and don’t need to be told it, especially not in reverse order (i.e., “evening and morning”), and, weirdly, *after* all the events of the day have been reported. Perhaps these words function here in some way other than the literal? Yes. Books have been written about how they function, but the function is, broadly speaking, poetic. The phrasing serves to break this entire “poem” up into lovely, memorable units of meaning. To follow just one implication, this makes the story/poem 1) effective as liturgy, with lines for the leader, and a pleasing refrain that everybody can join; such that 2) the story eventually becomes a set piece that is constitutive of the identity of the people who tell it; such that 3) it may be committed to memory by a precocious child who absorbs it without knowing how; such that 4) it may one day be chanted faintly by an old woman on her death bed, speaking her trust in God even as the light fades from her darkening eyes.

These words are not a precise report about past happenings—they tell the secret of God's relentless and ongoing work for order and meaning against the forces of chaos and nihilism. The truth at stake in these words is so much more weighty than some ridiculous attempt to refute modern geology and evolutionary theory with scriptural “proofs" about six, literal, 24-hour days of creation.

Or, to take another example, look at vv. 26 and 27:

Gen. 1:26    Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 
27    So God created humankind in his image,   
                 in the image of God he created them;
                 male and female he created them. 

 Sure, there are clues in the Hebrew that point toward this being composed as verse. But would we really need the versified formatting to know that v. 27 is a little poem? Note that read literally, very little new information is supplied. In the preceding sentence we have learned already that: 1) God made people; and 2) they were made in God’s image. Read woodenly, the only thing being added here is that people come in two genders.

 Why not just write:

Gen. 1:26    Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27 By the way, humankind consists of two genders: male and female.

I tried to put that in a particularly non-poetic way in order to highlight the problem with this way of reading. The same information is communicated, but a great deal is lost, and the loss relates to the poetic function of the language as we have it in the original. Here I mean poetry in every sense. Broadly, it is poetic testimony to the ultimate truth about human origins. On another level, there is rhyme (specifically, a rhyme of meaning between the first and second line, formally called parallelism). There is reversed syntax that causes the reader to slow down and absorb what is being said in a more deliberative register. And there is repetition of information already given, causing us to ponder it anew. Verse 27 as we have it functions to cap the story of creation with a flourish. The language is heightened poetic language even compared to the poetic feel of the larger context. This is a way of saying that everything has been pointing toward this climactic moment. What matters most about this whole story is that we are made by God, that in some mysterious and profound way God has crafted us most carefully of all creation so as to be like God, and that it is as one humanity consisting of both female and male that we collectively image our Creator.

The fact that the lines are broken up as “poetry” is the least of it. But it is true that the structure of the language itself calls for such formatting. This is clear in the original. It is also pretty clear in translation.

Assistant Professor of Homiletics
Brite Divinity School


On July 31, 2014, I was privileged to officiate at the wedding of Margaret Parris and Lynn Parris-Boren, on the beach, in San Diego, with the backing of the California legislature and the Supreme Court of the United States. Thanks be to God.

Psalm 33, selections
Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous.
Praise befits the upright.
For the word of the LORD is upright,
and all God’s work is done in faithfulness.
The LORD loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
and all their host by the breath of God’s mouth.
The Lord gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle;
she put the deeps [of the ocean] in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the LORD;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of her.
For she spoke, and it came to be;
she commanded, and it stood firm.
The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
she frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
the thoughts of her heart to all generations.

The LORD looks down from heaven;
she sees all humankind.
From where she sits enthroned she watches
all the inhabitants of the earth—
she who fashions the hearts of them all,
and observes all their deeds.
Truly the eye of the LORD is on those who fear her,
on those who hope in her steadfast love,
Our soul waits for the LORD;
God is our help and shield.
Our heart is glad in her,
because we trust in her holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.

Tradition has asked us to imagine that David, king of ancient Israel, was the author of all the Psalms, the poem-prayers in the Bible that have been sung through the ages by the people of God. But it’s unlikely that David should get all the credit, for scholarly reasons I won’t go into on a beautiful summer day, and so we have license to imagine who might have held the pen and scribbled these words, the yearnings of the heart laid bare before God.

And so I invite you to imagine that she is someone ordinary, not royalty but regular folk, and because she is a she, she has very little control over her life and what comes next. Perhaps she has been told by her father that she has been traded into marriage in exchange for livestock. Perhaps she has been told by her husband that she has no say in his decision to move the family to another home in a distant place. Perhaps she has been told by her government that as a widow she cannot inherit her husband’s land, that her livelihood will be at the mercy of her sons from now on, if she’s lucky enough to have sons. Perhaps she has been told by her religion that she needs the intervention of a man to bring her petitions to her Creator. Perhaps her whole life has been circumscribed by the limitations set by those in authority over her. Perhaps she is tired of that, and wants to talk directly to God about it.

So she goes to the seashore, maybe the marshy banks of the Sea of Galilee, maybe the sparkling sands of the Mediterranean. She finds a place to sit and be quiet with her spirit, letting God’s own Spirit carry her to a place of remembrance and hope. She remembers that God’s favorite ideas are justice and love, that everything God does is done in justice and in love, as it has ever been and ever shall be. She remembers that the whole wide world is filled with the steadfast love of God; the whole wide world is made of love, because God has made the whole world; God has separated the land from the water, God has bottled the seas and stored up the ocean deeps; God holds it all, and God holds her, in God’s powerful, gentle hands.

And so our poet, with the sound of waves crashing in her ears, comes to the inevitable conclusion: that if God made it all, if God spoke into existence everything that is, then God is in charge, not the human powers that limit her choices and make her feel small. Our seaside poet-prayer says, “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; she frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the thoughts of her heart to all generations.” In other words, it is God alone who can define for us what is true and good and right and beautiful. It is God alone who looks down from heaven, seeing all humankind, fashioning their hearts, observing their deeds. And so it will not be for anyone else to set the terms of justice and love. These are God’s purview, God’s alone. To try and hold back the power of God in these matters – well, you might as well try to hold back the tides of the ocean. Push as hard as you like, for as long as you can. You cannot stop the justice and love of our God.

So says the psalmist, our seashore poet. And so say we all. Margaret and Lynn, plenty of people and plenty of systems have told you what you can and cannot do, who you can and cannot be, whom you can and cannot love. Plenty of times the so-called justice system of our own nation has told you no. Your own kin and your own country have denied the possibility of your relationship. But that denial is as ridiculous as trying to stop the waves rolling onto the sand. If all the citizens of all the states gathered on this coastline and tried to push it back, we could not prevent even one drop of the ocean from making its way to these shores. And in the same way, there is no humanly possible way to stop the love that has grown in your hearts for each other. Because this is God’s world, and God has infused this world with justice and love, God’s favorite ideas. And you are God’s daughters, and God has filled you with God’s own Spirit, the Spirit of justice and love.

And on this day, you will have them both in spades. You will have justice because the tide is turning and no one can stop it now. One state at a time, one court decision at a time, God is bringing the counsel of the nations to nothing and frustrating the plans of the peoples. Thanks be to God! You will have justice!

And you will have love because the Spirit of God has breathed on you both and granted you the best gift in this life: a partner to stand with at the ocean’s edge, remembering God’s steadfast love, hoping in God’s unending justice, believing that God has always meant for you to be the people you are, and the people you are becoming together.

All of us gathered here with you this afternoon are well aware that you’ve been loving each other for a long time, in spite of all the “no’s.” And we don't pretend, even on this day of days, that it’s always in that mushy-gushy romantic way that you have loved each other, though there is plenty of that for this afternoon. Sometimes you love each other in that “grit-your-teeth-and-keep-those-promises-dammit” kind of way. Sometimes you love each other in the “I-hate-you-so-much-right-now” kind of way. Sometimes you love each other in the “don’t-you-know-you’re-breaking-my-heart?” kind of way. Sometimes you love each other in that tender, gentle, “I-forgive-you-and-you-forgive-me” kind of way. Sometimes you love each other in the “after-all-these-years-you’re-still-the-most-amazing-person-I’ve-ever-met” kind of way. These are all necessary flavors of love if what you want is a lifetime commitment. If what you want is to be part of God’s unending justice, and unending love.

And we know that’s what you want. I know because of all the excited emails and texts and phone calls, all the remembrances of your first wedding ceremony, 15 years ago this very hour, all the ways that you have drawn on the promises you made then to get to where you are now. You recited the words of faithful Ruth to her elder Naomi, as she pledged to leave her own home and people and make a new home with Naomi’s people and Naomi’s God. You invited the congregation to join your promises and help you stay married, and they did. You made a home together, and a family, with four-legged children and lots and lots of two-legged beloveds who have enjoyed your hospitality and the openness of your hearts toward all of us. With God’s help you have done all that, and we’re gathered this afternoon to help you say “Yes, please, let’s keep it up, this time with the powers-that-be on our side for a change.” And so we are blessed, our whole little circle here, and many more who are here in spirit, to witness the renewal of your vows and the first day of the rest of your lives spent together.


Lynn and Margaret, before God and in the presence of these friends, you have made your solemn vows to each other. You have confirmed your promises by the giving and receiving of rings. Therefore, by the power vested in me as a minister of the gospel, and, for the first time ever, by the power vested in me by the State of California and by the Supreme Court of the United States of America, I now pronounce you (legally!) married.

You may now enjoy true love’s kiss.

Those whom God has joined together, let no one separate!

I give you Lynn Boren-Parris and Margaret Parris! 


September 4, 2014

On Labor Day, The Diane Rehm Show rebroadcast a show recorded earlier in the year during which panelists discussed the state of part-time work, and part-time workers, in the current U.S. economy. You can listen to the broadcast and check out their excellent infographics here.

(Rehm’s show was prompted in part by a July 15, 2014 article in The New York Times called “A Push to Give Steadier Shifts to Part-Timers”, which you can read here.)

Here’s the gist of the conversation. In an uncertain economy, many businesses track labor costs carefully, making micro-shifts in their labor force by assembling shift-workers like puzzle pieces, and sending them home when there’s not enough work. Many part-time workers don’t know their schedule more than a week in advance; work hours vary widely from week to week; workers are on call to come in at a moment’s notice, and sometimes cancelled at the last minute or even sent home from work without clocking in at all. Many part-time workers find it impossible to schedule college classes, childcare, or second jobs because of the fluctuations in their work schedules. And many part-time workers report retributive scheduling (fewer hours, worse shifts) from their bosses when they ask for scheduling help.

Some municipalities have enacted legislation with part-time workers in mind, and Rehm’s show helps to sort through the kinds of things a government might consider to protect its work force. But as I listened I found myself thinking about the implications of part-time employment for churches, especially in a church that reaches out specifically to Millennials (young adults born after 1980) who hold a large proportion of hourly-wage jobs. Here are the things I’ve been turning over:

1. Hourly-wage workers with varying schedules often do not have freedom to consider Sunday off-limits for work. Our economy runs 24/7, and managers schedule their workers for any day (or night) of the week. It’s a sign of the end of American Christian hegemony that the market considers Sunday to have the same moneymaking potential as Tuesday or Friday.

We could debate whether that’s a good thing, but the fact remains: many of the “spiritual but not religious” young adults with whom we long to share community are not always (or ever) available during our once-weekly worship hour, and thus our invitation (“All are welcome!”) is not really genuine.

What if a church got serious about reaching out to part-time workers? It would have to create several possibilities for worship, community, table-sharing, and pastoral prayer each week, with a variety of possibilities from morning to late night on several days of the week. And that church would have to be serious about “counting” the people who can only come on Thursday, never on Sunday; there would need to be a deliberate repeat of announcements and meetings and celebrations.

At Galileo Church, with an average Sunday worship attendance of only about 45, we offer no fewer than nine weekly opportunities to gather, and one of those is on Sunday evening at 5 p.m. Anybody is welcome at any gathering, and it’s easy to find out where and when they happen. We have a practice of cheering when people come in the door, because it has likely taken some effort to get away from multiple obligations to make it to us. And we keep in mind that for some people, the Tuesday night “Bible & Beer” session on the taco bar patio is the only “church” they’ll get all week. We try our best to make it count, pastorally and theologically and ecclesially.

2. Part-time workers are often unable to commit to an event more than a few days in advance. Traditional churches really wish that everybody would “sign up” – those clipboards go around, or those lists are tacked up on the bulletin board, with such hope that people will say “yes” in plenty of time to order the right amount of barbecue or a big enough sheet cake. Sometimes we just want to know if there will be enough people to make the event happen at all.

But with over 40% of part-time workers reporting that they know their work schedule only one week (or less!) in advance (see Rehm’s infographic at the link above), churches that are waiting for them to commit ahead of time are going to be waiting a long time.

What kinds of alterations might a church make to its ministries if pre-commitment of the membership weren’t an option? At Galileo Church, we use social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, in our case) to announce what’s happening today, this week and next week – not much further out than that. If we need help for those events, we ask for availability and wait for someone to chime in with, “I got this!” in the comments.

We have designed some ministries to succeed without much advance planning. We regularly deliver homemade cookies to part-time, low-wage workers who work on holidays. We announce the date – Labor Day, Christmas Eve, etc. – and ask people to bake cookies at home and bring them to our packing location. Some people come just to pack, and some are happy just to deliver cookies. Baking, packing, delivering – the numbers of people are always sufficient (we can only deliver as many as we bake and pack), so the ministry works every time, and nobody signs up.

3. Hourly-wage workers with varying schedules often have a difficult time knowing how much money they will have from week to week or month to month. They have some idea of how much they earned last year, but their graph of weekly income is all over the place. Recently I was talking in one of our small groups about the practice of tithing and one woman said, “Ten percent of what?” She literally meant that she wouldn’t know what number to use as her base income from which to take a percentage. I gained a whole new understanding of why some of our members give $10 one week, $35 another week, and nothing a week later.

Annual congregational stewardship campaigns not only won’t work for part-time, low-wage, hourly employees; they can be discouraging. Young adults in these jobs are already feeling undervalued and exhausted. A request from the church to make a guess about next year’s giving can exacerbate those feelings. So how does a church teach generosity to a generation that doesn’t enjoy the stability of income that their elders did? (Even when we were broke, we knew exactly how broke we were.)

At Galileo Church we have provided multiple modes for financial sharing, none of which require a person to have cash or a checkbook on hand. (Ask any young adult you know if they have ten bucks on them. No, they don’t.) So while you can swipe your debit card during worship, you can also give online when you get your next paycheck. We’re happy for weekly or semi-weekly gifts of any amount, but we’re also grateful for the larger, once-in-a-while gifts that come through our website.

And every week we provide cards at the Giving Station that declare, “I gave my time and energy to Galileo Church this week,” or “I gave my heart and prayers to Galileo Church this week.” There’s even one that says, “I gave to the world in amazing ways you haven’t even thought about this week.” Before we pass a basket, everybody has a chance to grab a card or two. And everybody has something to share with our church, even if it was a lousy workweek and the tips were especially bad. We believe that by celebrating the beginning gestures of generosity among our members, even those without significant financial resources to share, we promote generosity as a gift of God’s Spirit that grows over time and changes with employment circumstances.

4. Finally, listening to Rehm’s show earlier this week made me want to talk to Christian employers and managers of part-time, hourly-wage workers. If we carry our be-like-Jesus way into our work, we should find ways to treat our employees with loving respect as befits any human created in the image of God. That means developing a humane system of scheduling workers, with or without the government’s intervention, and even if it costs the business some of its profits. The church has a role in preaching to business owners and managers about this, advocating for the low-wage workers on whose backs much of our economy rests, in much the same way that we advocate for the widow or orphan or alien in our land. We do that, right?

To conclude: thinking about part-time and hourly-wage workers as part of our community of care is just one way that evangelism to a new generation is not about replacing the organ with a guitar and wearing jeans to church. The church of the next generation will figure that out, with God’s help. Or die trying. 


a guest post by Kyle Moeller • December 2014

[A note from Katie: Galileo Church is committed to deepening our collective discipleship of Jesus by sending representatives to learning events around the country. Last month we sent Kyle Moeller and Nathan Berry to the Reformation Project, a training conference in Washington, DC, that teaches Christian LGBTQ advocates how to articulate the biblical-theological warrants for LGBTQ inclusion in the church. This is Kyle’s reflection on that experience.]

Originally posted elsewhere, December 6, 2014.

Attending the Reformation Project last month wasn’t exactly what I was expecting; and to be quite honest, I’m not entirely happy about that. I’ve had a few weeks to process my experience and settle back into my normal routine. Except there’s a problem… I can’t settle down. And my routine is f**ked up. Or at least it feels that way. It no longer feels… acceptable. This definitely isn’t what I signed up for, and had I known then what I know now, I’m not sure I would have gone.

What I expected when I agreed to attend the conference on behalf of the church was that I would get some training on discussing biblical texts with non-affirming believers. Cool. I could use that. I expected to come back and report to the church what I learned. Great. Not a problem. The conference will train me to train the church. I expected to spread the word about Galileo at the conference. Consider it done. I mean hell, one person literally screamed, “SHUT UP!” when I told her I go to Galileo. (Alright, so that person has a personal connection to our church [through Jess S.], but seriously, what are the odds that we would run into each other and make that connection?) So yeah, some expectations were met. But some things happened that I didn’t expect.

I didn’t expect to fit in so well with most of these people (for one reason or another). I didn't expect to run into Matthew Vines (founder of the Reformation Project and an author I revere) at a bar; let alone expect him to know who the hell I was. And I certainly didn’t expect to hear Dr. David Gushee call anti-LGBTQ doctrine “a teaching of contempt.” Yet all of those things did happen. And all of those things are certainly terrific.

However, I also did not expect to witness the undying love and devotion a lot of these individuals have for the churches that have turned their backs on them. I did not expect to meet a 60-something, straight, white woman from Georgia who wants to teach her adult Bible study class about inclusivity of LGBTQ people in the church. I most certainly did not expect to be sitting at dinner, exchanging stories with some of the most amazing people I’ve met, only to hear something that completely shook my world: “I can’t know what I know and not do what I know how to do.”

Well, those are all great too, aren’t they? Maybe for you, but not when everything you didn’t expect suddenly becomes everything you absolutely have to fight for. Not when you had a life-plan and before you even know it, that life-plan has completely changed and you’re left wondering, “What the hell do I do now?” Not when you can almost hear God yelling, “Surprise, sucker!” as He shifts everything around.

So I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to piece everything together. I was comfortable with my life and routine. School, work, study, church, repeat. School, work, study, church, repeat. But that no longer feels okay. It doesn’t feel… acceptable. It’s no longer enough for me to feel at ease in my church and in my life, and it’s no longer enough for me to sit back as other churches turn their backs on God’s children. My plans got turned completely upside down.

I’m still trying to figure out where I go from here, but I know it’s not the same place I was heading just a month ago. Had I know that I would have to rethink my future plans, and had I known what I now believe to be God’s calling for me, would I have gone to the conference? Probably not. I wouldn’t have put myself through the trouble right in the middle of nursing school. I wouldn’t have wanted any more stress. Am I happy about all of this? Not entirely. Am I confident that God is calling me to fight this battle? There’s not a doubt in my mind. 



Yep, that's our pastor.

Yep, that's our pastor.

Worship architect. Leadership team member.

Worship architect. Leadership team member.

Leadership team member.

Leadership team member.

Originally posted elsewhere, November 1, 2014. 

Galileo Church aims to “shelter spiritual refugees,” and defines said refugees as “any for whom church has become boring, irrelevant, exclusive, or painful.” In all truth, it’s “boring” that bugs me most about churches I’ve known.

Because while Jesus was certainly not irrelevant, exclusive, or painful in his announcement and embodiment of God’s reign, I sort of get the feeling from reading the gospels that one of his most valuable qualities was not boring. Remember all those times Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John report that “the people were astounded-amazed-astonished at his teaching, for he taught as one with authority, not like the super-boring teachers they’d been listening to and yawning at for countless Sabbaths, world without end, amen”? Or something close to that. Jesus was not like that, not like them. He was not boring.

Yes, the demon-expulsions were probably part of the draw; the formerly sick people going home healthy were pretty good advertisements, too. But even on an idyllic mountainside, with nobody to heal and nothing supernatural to give him a boost, the guy could draw a crowd because he was just…so…interesting.

Which is why I think it’s a high good for followers of Jesus to be interesting, too. Interesting in some of the same ways Jesus was interesting. Interesting because we love all the wrong people, and it causes people to whisper behind our backs. (Like Jesus.) Interesting because we don’t have very much stuff to take care of, and we don’t seem to want any more. (Ditto.) Interesting because we say and do mildly transgressive things all the time – potty mouths, we have, like Jesus. (Don’t believe me? Try Mark 7:14-19. Just try to envision what he’s saying, especially since there’s no word in his language for “sewer”.)

Interesting because we’re funny, or trying to be, in the tradition of the one whose sense of absurdist humor was unmatched. Interesting because, if you saw us party and weren’t looking closely enough, you might call us gluttons and drunkards. We’re not, and neither was he; but if it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for us. Interesting because we can get really pissed off about people taking advantage of other people, and we do our best to fix it when we can, knowing that ultimately Jesus fixes everything so that God gets everything God wants. He’s interesting like that.

And Jesus was also interesting because for as long as they followed him around, they could never quite guess what he was going to do next; what he was going to say; where he was going with this story or that. His punchlines were puzzlers. It apparently wasn’t his goal to make everything as Clear As Possible. Because that would be boring. That wouldn’t make anybody hungry for more; wouldn’t keep anybody on the hook till tomorrow; wouldn’t win anybody’s heart; wouldn’t prompt anybody’s reckless decision to drop everything else to pursue his way of life. Who leaves boats and nets and family for something they already completely understand? So Galileo Church does not aim for clarity or completion in this faith project we’re engaged in together. We’d rather be interesting than sure.

Aiming for “not boring” can be risky. We mess it up sometimes, overshooting the target and ending up somewhere beyond “interesting,” on our way to an embarrassing “uh-oh – that got a little out of control.” But the only way to keep from doing that once in a while is to play it safe. Which is boring. And the gospel just isn’t. It’s just not, and neither was he. And with God’s help, we won’t be boring, either. Now let’s go kick some puppies.

No, see, I didn’t mean that at all. We would never, never kick a puppy. But it woke you up, didn’t it? Maybe that was a bridge too far. But it was not boringThanks be to God.

The Vows Are the Same

Originally posted elsewhere, December 18, 2014.

Yesterday I took a road trip to Marietta, Oklahoma, the seat of Love County, home of the courthouse nearest to Texas that is honoring the marriage equality ruling for that state. I rode in the back seat with another friend who just loves road trips; the two brides occupied the front.

Our plan was this: for me to get registered as a legitimate pastor in the courthouse records; for the brides to procure a license; for us to find a suitable outdoor spot for an efficient but meaningful ceremony; to file the license in the courthouse and get a certified copy so one spouse could be added to the other’s health insurance at work. Simple enough.

When we found the court clerk’s office, it was a little crowded. Another wedding party was ahead of us: two brides, also from D/FW, with assorted relatives. Some of them spoke only Spanish. It was noisy and confusing, so we backed off to wait our turn.

We couldn’t help but overhear, though. One of the brides had forgotten her driver’s license early that morning; they had to return to Dallas to get it; now they were much too late for their appointment with an accommodating pastor the next town over. They could get a license, but they couldn’t get married.

It took only a minute for them to turn to me. “Could you do it, Pastor?” one of the relatives asked. My first response was not my best: “Uhh…” But the Holy Spirit kicks in pretty fast. “Yes, of course,” I said. My friends were nodding enthusiastically. “Of course.”

the pastor, Mildre, and Dayanara

the pastor, Mildre, and Dayanara

In five minutes’ time I had enough basic information to see that it could work. We would need the combined efforts of the cousin and one of my friends to translate the formal English of wedding ceremony into Español. The bride who chose to wear a traditional white dress with no sleeves and a plunging neckline would need to borrow my coat. I would need to think about how to solemnize the occasion without cannibalizing the ceremony I had written for our friends.

In the end, through chattering teeth and joyful tears, Dayanara and Mildre pledged their love and fidelity and mercy to each other in the sight of God and an assortment of witnesses. Josie and Caroline found Spanish equivalents for “cherish” and “honor” and “faithfulness” and “covenant.” It was lovely, and not all that difficult, actually.

Because it turns out the vows are pretty much the same in English and Spanish. And they’re pretty much the same for same-sex couples as they are for any two people who are empowered to pledge their lives to each other, with the help of God and their community, “till death do us part.”

As I said to Caroline and Michala during their ceremony a few minutes later, our fingers and toes freezing but our hearts cozy with romance, “Your marriage is good for us. Your marriage is good for the world.” I’d’ve said the same to Dayanara and Mildre, if I’d thought of it. Because marriage is brave, especially when you have struggled and waited and yearned for it. A double dose of that good stuff is just what the world needed yesterday. Thanks be to God.