After the fire, there was a sound of sheer silence.
After the hail of bullets, the murderous flash of bullet light, the thunder of bodies against the floor.
After the earthquake of hope and joy and life torn from lives.
After the ringing and ringing and ringing and ringing of cell phones as friends and family tried to reach those who were no longer reachable.
A sound of sheer silence, and Elijah the prophet cowering in the cave of a nightclub bathroom.
Why are you here, Elijah?, the Lord said, as if the Lord did not know.
As if the Lord had not mourned every time a servant was slaughtered.
As if the Lord had not charged the last remaining prophet with destroying the gods who offered fertility in exchange for blood and violence and death.
As if the Lord had not heard the proclamation of Jezebel: may those gods do whatever they like to me if I do not tear your life from you.
As if the Lord God had not come down from heaven in a flaming and magnificent burst to proclaim that whatever might try to drown it, freedom and life and freedom and life and freedom and life would fight through.
When the Gerasenes, Gentiles who knew not of the God of Israel, arrived at the tombs, they found the man dressed and completely sane,
and the pig-herders said: This Jesus cast the legion of demons out.
And the people said: Who is this Jesus, this Jewish rabbi?
And the people said: Who is this God which he proclaims?
And the people said: This man has been so violent that leg irons and chains could not hold him.
And the people said: This man has been so dangerous that we have let him live among bones and graves to protect ourselves.
And the people said: This church has been so violent that it has broken our bodies and hearts and told us to be grateful that God might spare us from how we were made.
And the people said: This church has been so dangerous that we have watched it work itself into a frenzy among dead bones, and we have let it go, in the hope we might be safe.
And the people said: You are asking us to welcome home a man and a church who has tried to destroy us.
And Jesus left, but left the man behind, to live into the story of what God has done.
In the sound of sheer silence, the church began to speak, and said:
We mourn you!
We mourn you!
We mourn you!
As if the church had not been demon-possessed.
As if the church had not tried to tear Elijah limb from limb.
As if the church was not complicit in the wind and the fire and the earthquake.
As if the church had not seen devastation and demonization, death threats and suicide, the continual murders of trans women of color — and responded with sheer silence.
As if the church had not beaten and broken the lesbian and gay and bisexual and transgender and queer children of God and stood over their bodies to mockingly say: Where is your God now?
The church proclaims that its demons are gone, but dead bodies lie around it.
Meanwhile, the messenger of God finds Elijah.
Get up and eat, the angel said,
and spread a simple table: a jar of water and a hot bit of flatbread.
Not much. But enough.
Enough to take us back through the wilderness.
Enough to find each other,
to fight for life amid proclamations of death.
To fill the sound of sheer silence
with the powerful resurgence of ourselves.
They tried to bury us.
They didn’t know we were seeds.
( The last lines are from Dinos Christianopoulos, a Greek 20th century poet and gay man. The lines were adopted and used often in the Zapatista movement, a Mexican revolution for social and agrarian reforms in the 1990s.
Image by Oscar Keys through Unsplash. )