Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Manhattan is 13.4 miles long. Any fit person walking at only 1 mph could walk the length of Manhattan in one long day; yet the Book of Jonah says that it would take three days to traverse Nineveh. That is big indeed.
I’ve heard many prophets crying out in the streets of Manhattan, and in the subways. Fred Phelps does it at least once a year, but usually stakes out his speaker’s corner opposite St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, since the cathedral shuts down all day on Gay Pride Sunday.
Most ignore these prophets in Manhattan, and I doubt that a prophet would have more success walking the full 13.4 miles crying out “Forty days more and Manhattan will be overthrown!”
But maybe I should try it. I have great sympathy for fellow prophets -- more with the judgment they pronounce than with the accuracy of their time tables. I tried it once on the No. 27 bus in Newark:
It happened without warning.
One day I just started saying out loud
all the stuff that swarmed inside me.
At first I looked at a person next to me,
and when she turned away,
I looked at the one next to her,
and when he turned away
I looked at the one next to....
But one morning,
in a flash of inspiration,
I realized I did not need to look at anyone,
nor even to wear my funny hat,
that people listened more closely
if I did not scare them,
did not single them out,
but talked just to the air
like any other self-respecting crazy or poet.
I quit staring strangers straight in the eyes
as if each was a long-lost relation
washed up on shore to hear the story
that I alone have escaped to tell.
And it worked. No matter what they
thought they thought about me,
clearly they started listening
to everything I said.
And as I named the evils of these times,
I noticed that people five and six rows away,
or people way the hell to the other end of a line,
would nod, or mutter "Yes, sister."
Then someone else would say, "Ain't it so."
Occasionally I would peek
at those who spoke, and nary a one
actually looked in my direction.
But they listened, and many responded.
A couple of times fellow travelers
put up such an echo that others
muttered as they left,
"Bunch of loonies taking over the world"
These too spoke to nobody in particular.
-- Louie Crew
Appeared first in Hurricane Alice: A Feminist Quarterly 6.2 (Spring, 1989): 3, under my Chinese pseudonym Li Min Hua
Psalm 62: 6-14
Some disagree with today’s psalm, and seek salvation elsewhere:
In property and money alone
my soul in silence waits; *
truly, my hope is in them.
Financial security alone is my rock and my salvation, *
my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.
In wealth is my safety and my honor; *
They are my strong rock and my refuge.
If you could have great wealth without faith, or great faith without wealth, which would you choose?
Does the way that you spend your wealth reflect your answer?
The psalmist puts the choice as a choice between trusting God or trusting other people. The psalmist seems cynical even in giving reasons for choosing God.
Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath, *
even those of low estate cannot be trusted.
On the scales they are lighter than a breath, *
all of them together.
Put no trust in extortion;
in robbery take no empty pride; *
though wealth increase, set not your heart upon it.
The psalmist seems at first to consider seriously trusting in extortion or robbery before rejecting those alternatives. Or perhaps the psalmist assumes an audience of the poor who will feel that extortion and robbery are prerequisites of wealth.
The psalmist devalues those of a low estate and of a high estate alike. Those of a low estate ‘cannot be trusted’; and those of a high degree ‘are but a fleeting breath.’ They will die on you if you depend on them.
1 Corinthians 7: 29-31
Saint is even more pessimistic than Jonah or the psalmist. They said ’You're going to be destroyed.’ ’Don’t trust anyone or any thing.’ Saint adds: ’It is all passing away. Don’t enjoy sex. Don’t enjoy fine things. Don’t enjoy anything!’
Epiphany III is clearly not “Evangelism Sunday for The Episcopal Church”! Yet the gloom and depression set the stage for the Gospel today:
“Follow me and I will make you fish for people."