The Unknown Bundle

person holding white plastic bag

Janel Apps Ramsey

When we commit all to God, it includes the
Spirit’s guidance in how we care for others.
What is in your unknown bundle?

You walk into the sanctuary on the last night of the revival, and all across the altar are little white bundles held together with twine. They are non-descript to say the least, but awaken curiosity.

You’ve sat through the sermons about sin, salvation, and entire sanctification. But tonight is about the future. Where do we go from here?

You’ve visited or revisited the mountaintop over the last few days. You sang the hymns of your parents and grandparents. Connected deeply into the heritage of circuit-riding preachers calling us to live new lives.

But this next part is the hardest. How do we go back into the world with this new perspective? Will it stick around? Will it wear off? Will I be tempted? Will I stray from the true path? What will happen after this sacred time of encountering the Spirit and refilling my soul?

It’s all so unknown.

You are sanctified and ready to do whatever God would ask—no conditions. Having already committed your life to God, and given everything you know to give, you wonder; what’s tonight about? As you listen to the sermon, you hear the call to do one more thing: give everything that will come in the future.

What will you do with the unknown?
Will you really walk into the new light he offers?
Will you commit to something, even though you don’t know what it is?

Of course, the only answer is yes.

The preacher calls for a response. You stand and slowly work your way to the front. You don’t want to be first, that’s stressful. You don’t want to be last, because that shows a lack of commitment. So you saunter up, tears brimming, waiting to see what God might ask you to do.

You kneel at the altar, on the left, a third of the way from the center aisle. You bow your head.

The preacher instructs you to pick up a bundle and unwrap it. You expect a blank piece of paper in the middle that you’ll either write on or offer up to God in some way.

In your dream, as you are unwrapping it, you see a flash of bright color. You refocus on your bundle, you see a rainbow. A beautiful, bright rainbow flag. What does it mean?

Bitterness seeps into your mouth. This can’t be what you think it is. How could someone propose such a thing? What does this mean?!

The preacher goes on to share about how God’s promise was that he would never destroy us again. He would never destroy humanity from the face of the earth. God made a covenant to love us. That is what God is calling us to do today. God is calling us to join him in not destroying the other, not destroying our neighbors, our family members, and our friends. God invites us to step away from violent action and words, and to join in the covenant to love.

And yes, that thought you had, that it couldn’t possibly be…
The preacher says, that’s part of the unknown bundle.

  • LGB young adults who report high levels of parental rejection are eight times more likely to report attempting suicide and six times more likely to report high levels of depression

To this, God says, I will not destroy you.

  • More than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth (13-24) seriously consider suicide each year in the U.S.—and at least one attempts suicide every 45 seconds.

To this, God says, I will not destroy you.

  • Transgender and nonbinary youth who reported having pronouns respected by all or most people in their lives attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected.

To this, God says, I will not destroy you.

To this, God says, I will not destroy you.

  • Youth who reported undergoing conversion therapy [a dangerous pseudoscientific practice that tries to change someone’s sexual identity] were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide and more than 2.5 times as likely to report multiple suicide attempts in the past year.

To this, God says, I will not destroy you.

Will you join God in saying, I will not destroy you?
That’s the question in this Unknown Bundle.

He does not say, will you join me to a point? He does not say, will you join me a little? He says to our hearts, will you say “I will not destroy you?”

Will you say, to the college student sitting in a dimly lit, once off-white waiting room, waiting for a life-changing medical test, alone—I will not destroy you?

Will you say, to the rejected and tossed aside young man, freezing on an urban street corner in the middle of winter, alone and without family—I will not destroy you?

Will you say to the woman who is blossoming out of the wrong body, who needs help learning to dress her new shape—I will not destroy you?

Will you say to the young person hanging out with friends at a club in Colorado Springs or in Orlando or in Kansas City or in San Diego—I will not destroy you?

I will not destroy you in person or online.
I will not destroy you with gossip or direct abuse.
I will not destroy you by sharing hateful messages.
I will not destroy you with my thoughts, words, or deeds.
I will not destroy you with things I do or things I have left undone.
I will stand in solidarity with life. I will stand in God’s covenant not to harm.
I will not destroy you.

This was the question I had to answer when this bundle was placed in front of me. I always thought I knew this answer. I never expected to change my answer. I never knew how completely transformative it could be to hold the unknown bundle, stare deeply into its colors, and learn to move from black and white, to living in color.

I, like many others writing these essays, was deeply dedicated, entirely (entirely) sanctified, and never ever expecting to leave the Church of the Nazarene. I knew who was in and who was out. I knew the rules. I knew the theology. I helped people find Jesus and find entire sanctification. The only thing I didn’t have was more than 3 generations of Nazarenes in my family line. I was all the way in.

The thing was, I was wrong. I was just wrong. But I’ve learned that the great thing about being wrong is that we get the chance to change. That’s what the unknown bundle is all about. God brings to light the things we can handle now, that we couldn’t handle before. God sets the spotlight on something, and we get to choose to walk into that new light or ignore the Spirit’s prompting.

When that light was put before me, in the form of a friend, I was completely unprepared. But, as I would do for anyone seeking truth and light, when asked to explore the Bible and the texts that are the cornerstones of this battle, I said yes. That’s what you do when someone wants to go deeper. I reached out to a trusted mentor to figure out what resources to use, and I started to read.

For me, as a woman minister, this journey took on extra weight. As I saw the way these texts were used against my gay friend, I also saw the parallel to how a few verses are used against women in ministry. And once you understand the role of cultural and historical context, the limits of when and where something was written, and the fact that the Spirit moves in expansive ways through history, I knew that my view was changing, and I found out that I wasn’t alone in seeing this.

So, I’m asking you right now, will you ask the question? I committed my unknown bundle to God at 18 when I was sanctified at Indian Lake Nazarene Camp in the Michigan District. As I have been willing to ebb and flow with the movement of the Spirit in response to my bundle, I have found a spacious and loving space with God. A spacious place that includes my LGBTQIA+ siblings of all genders or none.

I have met people that worked even harder than I did at being the best Christian they could be who simply needed to be loved for who they were and told that they were worthy of love. They needed people to walk with them through difficult things, to love them unconditionally, and to accept them as the beautiful bearers of the image of God that they already were.

When we cherish the transformation that comes with salvation and sanctification, but demonize an equally beautiful transformation as a person becomes who they truly are, we let hatred, power, and fear override the redemptive narrative of Christ. When we cling to judgment, we feel in control. But Christ calls us to hold our assessments loosely. When we refuse to open our bundle because we fear we might be changed, we self-limit our access to the grace that God freely offers us.

Just because we can’t understand something, or don’t want to, doesn’t absolve us from the harm we cause; especially when it’s brought into the light. Our tradition holds us responsible for things left undone. We can carry this bundle around, bury it, even try to destroy it. But until we’re willing to face it and let it change us, we will continue to fall short of the grace God wants us to experience.

When I looked at this bundle, it became clear—I would much rather be excluded for who I include, than included for who I exclude. Jesus had nothing to say about LGBTQIA+ folks in the gospels and a lot to say about religious people that excluded “others.”

So today, I’m asking you, as you stare at the unknown bundle: Will you allow the Spirit to influence you? Will you engage honestly, deeply, and authentically with the call of this unknown bundle to embrace your LGBTQIA+ siblings?

I know it’s scary. I know it is so unknown. But you’re not alone. There are a great cloud of witnesses surrounding you and we will take this journey with you.

You said yes to the unknown bundle before you knew what was in it.

Now what will you do?

To get started on your journey, I highly recommend the book Changing Our Minds by David Gushee. Dr. Gushee is a theologian and ethicist who has wrestled deeply with this topic. His work is thorough, biblical, theological, and compassionate. I believe this is one of the best ways you can start this journey. If you would like help going through this book, please feel free to contact me at

I would also recommend you check out The Trevor Project,, an organization dedicated to keeping LGBTQ kids alive. The included statistics can be found there.

Rev. Janel Apps Ramsey is the co-director of Brew Theology and co-host of the Brew Theology Podcast (, co-editor of the book Women Experiencing Faith, Chair of the Together Colorado Climate Justice Committee, Editor at Faith Mending (, and member of the Multifaith Leadership Forum. She loves living in Denver with her husband and two cats.

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