Good Friday 2019

My sermon for First Trinity Lutheran Church, Indianapolis, April 19, 2019, where I have the blessed privilege to serve in the absence of our pastor.

My daughter Erin’s exquisite rendering of the Lord’s cross.

“The Impossible”

I suspect you know both of these quotes from God’s Word: “Nothing will be impossible with God,” and, “With God, all things are possible.”

Before the Son of God entered the world in the womb of Mary, the Lord accomplished plenty to fulfill these two promises. The Lord made possible the impossible before the eyes of Israel when they were able to cross the Red Sea on dry ground, when they ate of the manna and quail, and when they drank from the water-giving-rock, not to mention the plagues in Egypt which preceded those miracles.

Not only every active miracle, but every act of mercy was the Lord’s making possible for humanity what was impossible for us, because in our sinful state our hearts no longer pumped the pure love of the Lord. Yet, God so loves the world, and so God the Son entered the world so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life.

Have you ever wondered why it was God the Son who became a human, and not God the Father or God the Holy Spirit? Even more, why did the Son of God need to become the Son of Man, that is, the Son of humanity?

John chapter one tells us that everything that was made was created through God the Son. Colossians 1:16 goes a step further, informing us that everything was made by the Son and for the Son. Hebrews 2:10 asserts the same about Jesus, “for whom and by whom all things exist.”

And that tells you why it was the Son, and not the Father or the Holy Spirit, who came into the world in human flesh, to be our Savior. I like to say it this way: you and I, and all people, and all of this creation, are God the Father’s gift to the Son. Because the Son loves the Father, when you and I, and all people, required redemption from our sins, it was the Son who takes on our human flesh; it was the Son who died.

Why did we need Him to do so? For this, we go to Galatians chapter four, where we are told that the Son was “born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law.” The Savior had to be human because humans had to fulfill God’s Law, and the Savior had to be God because we are incapable of perfectly fulfilling God’s Law.

In this act of becoming truly human, God the Son did what humanity finds impossible. It makes no sense that the Creator could be a creature. For us to grasp how great is the leap the Son of God made in becoming the Son of Man, the best example I’ve been able to conjure is this:

Imagine you have made for yourself, from Play Doh, a little kingdom of people. After forming them, you breathed on them, and they came to life. But, instead of thanking you for their living and moving and having their being, they did everything the opposite. They even took to killing each other.

Appalled at their actions, you still loved them. But, why? You still loved them because you were their creator. And so you did the unthinkable, the thing you had to do for their sake so that you could directly relate to them. You took a lump of Play Doh, you entered that lump of clay, and you fashioned yourself as one of them.

Crazy thought, isn’t it? Recall the first quote of this sermon, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” That was spoken by Gabriel, when he announced to Mary that she would bear the Son of the Most High. Mary wondered how this could possibly be done in her, yet she could have asked a much larger question: how can the Son of the Most High take on human flesh?

How? Because nothing will be impossible with God. Because Mary, and you and I, and all people, are the sacred possession of the Son of the Most High. Because God so loves this world, it simply could be no other way.

And then the Son of God incarnate, who had been given the name Jesus, for He would save us from our sins, was crucified. Jesus died.

Jesus just as eternal, just as all-powerful and all-knowing and ever-present and divine as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, yet when Jesus died on the cross God died.

This just can’t be. God can’t die. Based on God’s being all-powerful and eternal, that is as logical a thought as has ever been spoken. But, here’s the thing about God, in the person of Jesus, dying. The conundrum isn’t that He died. The enigma is that He became a human being in the first place.

Thus, we remember Gabriel’s pronouncement, that nothing will be impossible for God. And so God the Son takes on human flesh. And the moment He did that it became possible for God in Christ to die.

That’s the how. Here’s the why.

The last time I preached, our epistle was from Second Corinthians chapter five. That day, I quoted these two verses: 19: “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them,” and 21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Through the work of God the Son’s Good Friday death, God the Father does not count our sins against us, because God the Son became sin for us so that we might be the righteous children of God.

Now, to the second quote with which I opened the sermon, “With God, all things are possible.” The Lord Jesus said this after the rich young man wanted to know what good deed he must do to be saved. When the Lord’s answer was too much, the disciples asked, “Then who can be saved?” The Lord replied, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

Because Jesus is God, all things are possible for Him, including His bringing Himself back from the grave after dying for the sins of the world.

If Jesus had only died—well, everyone dies, so dying, by itself, would accomplish nothing. Yet, because Jesus did the next impossible-for-us thing—His Easter resurrection—He is a man whose every promise is sure and certain.

And the Lord Jesus promises that which is impossible for you: “Even though you die, yet shall you live,” and, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

And the impossible keeps coming. Scripture says that we are dead in our transgressions and sins. As you have witnessed all too often, dead people can do nothing for themselves. So, as the disciples asked, who can be saved? Nothing will be impossible for God, and through a Word—the Good News about Jesus Christ—faith in Christ has been created in you so that you who were dead are now alive in Christ.

Both the Old and New Testaments confirm that the righteous shall live by faith.

You, friends, are the righteous, the righteousness of God for whom God the Son laid down His life on the cross.

You, friends, are the righteous, the righteousness of God who confess Ephesians 2:8-9 as your own: “It is by grace I have been saved through faith. It is not my work, but God’s gift to me, for the sake of Jesus Christ.”

You, friends, are the righteous, the righteousness of God who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, who takes away the sin of the world. This is your baptism into Christ, attested to in Titus chapter three: “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

You, friends, are the righteous, the righteousness of God who are continually fed upon the body and the blood of the One who declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

All of it impossible for you, but by the Word, through Holy Baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper, all of the Lord’s forgiveness of sins, His gift of salvation from death, devil, and damnation, and the eternal life which will be completed in your own resurrection from the dead, has been made possible in you.

And at the close of today’s service you can depart in peace, trusting Christ at His last word: “It is finished.”

Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ, our Creator and Savior. Amen.


Name change day, take two

On Tuesday, April 16, I return to court, aiming to legally return to Greg, to being recognized as a male, to the person identified on my birth certificate.

Since May 2, 2016, I have legally been Gina Joy Eilers. In August of that year, the judge made official that I was a female.

I thought I would legally be Gina for the rest of my life, or at least until I grew old and decided I wanted to die legally as Greg. As I’ve chronicled, the change in me that occurred in January 2018 was beyond my wildest imagination, and when my new sense of being male stayed and stuck I gradually resumed living as a male.

I’ve not had a whiff of gender dysphoria since early last year. Even going back on a low dose of estrogen in November, which I found I needed for the sake of my muscles and bone strength, hasn’t cause a disturbance in my feeling exclusively male.

Now, I find myself undoing everything I can to resume being a guy.

After changing my clothes and cutting my hair, addressing my name is the most practical thing for me to do. My driver’s license is for Gina. Thankfully, I’ve not had to show it in the past year, and I really don’t want to be in that spot: “You see, officer, it’s like this … “

The same goes for my credit cards. I mind the situations in which I use them. I will employ them when I can swipe or insert, but not when I have to hand them over. Only when Julie’s with me do I allow myself to be in a spot where the card needs to be handed to a cashier, and then she uses her card.

I’ll also have to get my identity changed with Social Security, on our mortgage, my pension, and more. Yippee.

This undoing of a name change is unique enough that I’ve been unable to find any help in assuring I’m doing it correctly. Because I needed a doctor’s letter the first time, I figured I should have one this time. Since I’m not seeing a medical doctor as I was then, I visited the psychologist I saw last spring. He wrote a letter affirming that I’ve successfully resumed living as a guy.

I hope I get the same judge. While I wouldn’t expect her to remember me, at least I could tell her that I was in her court three years ago, and if she has any concerns I can compare and contrast with when I was first in court.

I certainly don’t expect trouble, but this is such a wild card. I am anxious to get it accomplished.

The first time I went to court for my name change, as the group of us awaited the judge’s entrance I broke the uncomfortable silence, saying, “If I ever do this again, someone take me out to the woods and leave me.” It got a chuckle and fostered friendly chatter among us.

Well, I’m doing it again. I wonder if security will allow me into the courthouse toting a tent and a sleeping bag?

Garden Spotlight: Planting Potatoes

Front and center, from 2018: two months after planting, the plants reached full size.
After the plants flower, I finger around them in search of new potatoes, taking care not to disturb the plants. Pulling out the treasures I find, I scrape the dirt back in place and the other potatoes keep growing.

Potatoes are among my favorites to grow. The plants grow large and beautiful. They usually are not bothered by bugs or worms. The first potatoes can be harvested by midsummer. New potatoes have a freshness you can only know when you’ve had them. And the last of the spuds store for many weeks—usually into December—simply by placing them in the basement.

Because potatoes grow in the soil, the ground is more important for these plants than for many. Potatoes benefit from lighter, looser soil. My dad always said they did well where I grew up, in West Michigan, because the soil was on the sandy side.

In Indianapolis, the soil in my garden is the opposite of sandy. It leans toward the clayish side. The first year I grew potatoes, I learned the hard truth of the hard earth: all of my potatoes were small. My spuds were duds.

I am working on my soil, rototilling leaves into the garden every autumn. In my fourth year, the organic material has made the soil lighter and healthier, but it will take several years to dramatically alter the ground. Because I love growing my own potatoes, I don’t want to wait. Last year, I tried to give them a boost. It helped.

I dedicated my compost to the potatoes. I placed each seed potato on top of a pile of compost. Compost is arier. Softer. This allowed the spuds to sprout more easily.

While the potatoes that grew to the sides of the plant still grew into harder soil, overall they did better. I saw an increase in both the size and the yield. They didn’t do as well as my Michigan gardens, but they were better than in 2017.

What follows, in photos, is how on April 9 I planted the first of this year’s potatoes. So that they don’t all come at once, I’ll plant more later.

Our leaves and kitchen scraps go from the bin at left into the composter. Three times a year, the stuff decomposes enough for me to use in the garden.
Top right: I place the tarp under my composter, spilling the contents onto it. The tarp drags easily from backyard to front.
Center: I dug the row a bit deeper than usual, to accomodate a layer of compost.

Potatoes act as seeds. Growth stems from the eyes (circled). Each section of potato needs to have at least one eye or, ahem, it can’t see its way to growing.
I shoveled the compost into the trench so that it was a few inches deep, then placed the seed potatoes 12-15 inches apart.
I barely covered the potatoes. As they sprout and grow, I will continually mound the leftover dirt, which is to the left of the row, to keep growing potatoes from popping above the soil. By not dumping all of the soil on top of the seeds, I hope to keep the ground from compacting too much and getting too hard.

Still a trans advocate (3)

I also have a secular version of the presentation.

On March 14, I gave my second Transanswers presentation. This time, I addressed eighteen pastors and ministry leaders.

They were attentive throughout my ninety minute talk, sprinkling it with their excellent questions and important insights, which brought to blossom the time we spent together.

This is always an area to bring out much discussion.

I mixed in short readings from my book, “A Roller Coaster Through a Hurricane,” which served to enhance my talk and demonstrate what is to be found in the book. I was pleased afterward with how many purchased a copy.

Transanswers is where my heart is, to develop my new career of service and education. Based on the two times I’ve presented it, the need is clearly there.

I expand on each of these to provoke Christians to think deeply.

Might I present to you? To your church? Workplace? School? Group?

How far will I drive to do so? For starters, I will gladly go to the states which surround Indiana. If the occasion is such to entice me further away, I will certainly want to discuss it.

Still a trans advocate (2)

I’ve just been published in a book.

Not my book, but as a guest in another book.

As Gina.

I’m writing about it as I continue to demonstrate that my resuming living as a male changed nothing in my quest to educate regarding gender dysphoria and advocate for transgender persons.

It was a year ago when I received an email from my former therapist informing me that the editors of this book on transgender health and aging were seeking short pieces from older trans persons. The book covers every topic imaginable regarding emotional and physical healthcare for trans persons, and the guest essays provide personal insights into the topic.

At this time last year, I was still living as a female, but I was not feeling female at all. No one, outside of immediate family and a few friends, was aware of what I was experiencing. I knew that if the sense of being male persisted I would be resuming living as a male, and then making it known. Indeed, by mid-April I was going back and forth how I presented depending where I was, then in late May I was back to Greg full time, and on July 9 I made it public.

By the time I decided to submit a piece for the book it was mid-April. I wrote an essay and sent it to the therapist who told me about this opportunity. She sent an encouraging reply, so I submitted my piece.

I submitted it as Gina. I felt a bit disingenuous, not acknowledging what was going on with me. I reasoned that I didn’t know what would transpire, and I was still living as Gina, and I was legally Gina.

In early May, they informed me that my essay would be one of ten included in the book. I was not back full time to Greg, so I left that be. They informed me they would send me a book upon its publication. I received it on March 16.

Regardless of my resuming living as a male, everything I wrote remains true. In the essay, I reflect on an event I had attended in April, mere days before writing the piece. My endocrinologist invited me to a presentation to over one hundred medical professionals of IU Health. A nurse, who has a trans son, gave an excellent presentation, educating about gender dysphoria and one’s being transgender. I then spoke to them for a few minutes regarding my experience transitioning in Indianapolis. Then, I sat with a group for ninety minutes, fielding their questions.

In my essay, I focused on the many doctors trans folks see while transitioning, and the variety of specialists I saw as a trans woman—from two eye specialists, to an oral surgeon, to a podiatrist, to a cardiologist. I stressed that even though my providers all are in the IU Health network, and IU Health admitted they were behind the curve with transgender healthcare, I was pleased to report to them that the care I received from this host of doctors, along with the many nurses, technicians, and office staff I saw, took great care of me.

Transgender persons need good healthcare. They need to know they will be treated seriously, and with respect. And, they need people such as myself, who have been there and done that, who are able to speak up, speak out, and speak loudly, to advocate on their behalf.

Still a trans advocate (1)

I was recently interviewed on the show “The Gays of Our Lives.” You can watch the video or listen to the audio:

Don’t be fooled by the silly take on the name of the old soap opera, Lissa and Avery take seriously their work interviewing a variety of folks to “decipher the gay alphabet and bridge the gap between the older and younger gay community.”

In February, they interviewed a trans friend of mine, who, like me, transitioned later in life, and did so as a public school teacher in the Indianapolis area. My friend told Avery and Lissa about me, and my unique story of having transitioned and then resuming living as a male.

I jumped on their asking me to be on the podcast. I long to show that I remain an advocate for transgender folks. I need to demonstrate that I have not disavowed all things transgender, as one trans woman asked me if I had. I will make and take every opportunity to speak up, speak out, and speak loudly for transgender persons.

I’ve had trans women tell me that what happened to me, when I stopped feeling female, scares them, that it could happen to them. Because they have invested so much into transitioning and finally find themselves whole inside and happy with life, it is a jarring notion to think they could lose it all. Indeed, when it happened to me, for three months it rocked me hard, so I get it.

Thus, the importance of my making it known that I have not gone anywhere. That my resuming living as a male was not a disavowing of all things transgender. That I continue to advocate for issues related to experiencing gender dysphoria and living as a transgender person.

For their part, Lissa and Avery are doing important work by interviewing a host of people from a variety of backgrounds. Their winning personalities make them easy to like, a joy to work with, and a pleasure to listen to.

Thank you, Avery and Lissa, for having me on the show. Keep on keeping on with your good work!

Sugar Wood is sweeeeet!

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If I had a box of caramels for every time I received an email from a person who has been reading my blog for years and is just now letting me know of it, I’d have a lot of sweet treats. In the case of Chana Wood, proprietor of Sugar Wood, I got the caramels!

Most correspondence I’ve had from readers has been regarding issues of transgender. Some of the inquiries I’ve received have been from fellow Christians. But, when Chana wrote to me, it was because I had published my book.

One email led another, led to my going to her website, led to my first taste of her scrumptious delights. Her signature item is this . . .

. . . but there’s more good stuff, each item as good as the others.

I’ve had salted caramel before, but I’ve never encountered it with the salt playing as important a role as it does in Chana’s. When you’re chewing the caramel, and you encounter a crystal of salt, the interruption of salty with sweet is an explosion of flavor.

If one can experience a surprise of joy when chewing on candy, it happens with these:

Chana is a true entrepreneur. She started out as so many folks have, creating in her kitchen and selling locally. Hard work, combined with a great product, has brought success.

Combine a great product with a winning personality, and it becomes easy to decide to purchase from her. I’ve talked on the phone with Chana, and in two minutes I felt like we were lifelong friends. Thus, when my box of delights arrived, and these stickers adorned the carton, Chana shined through:

  • Image one: Note the nifty quote is from the eminent philosopher, Conan O’brien.
  • Image two: This reminds me of the St. Pauli Girl logo and makes me crave a beer!
  • Image three: Cumberland, Wisconsin, is where it all happens.

If you have a bonafide sweet tooth, click the link at the top of this post and make your first easy-to-place order. When you’re there, also make use of the Contact button and tell Chana that Greg sent you!

I’ll send you off with this nifty video from Chana, herself!