Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a warrior who gives victory.
The image of God as a warrior who gives victory likely gave more comfort to the original audience than it does to me. Where was this warrior during the holocaust? Do I really want a defender who smites all my enemies? Jesus taught that we should love our enemies and do good to those who do evil to us.
Using Zephaniah’s perspective, we would have an easy formula for separating good people from bad people: good people prosper and bad people don’t. That counters some of the oldest insights of Israel. Job, for example, insists that the misfortunes which have been heaped upon him are not the result of his misbehavior: “Show me my guilt!” he protests through much of the drama (for indeed the book was intended as a play).
Note that writing within a patriarchal context Zephaniah refers to Zion and Jerusalem as “daughters.” Zephaniah names God himself as the “King of Jerusalem.”
With God in charge and on our side…… Enter Bob Dylan. Listen to Buddy Miller’s very powerful video performance of Dylan’s “My name it is nothing“. It is quite a commentary on Zephaniah’s vision of God.
Notice that like many psalmists, Zephaniah abruptly shifts grammatical point of view from talking about God to letting God speak for himself. The third person shifts to the first person. This rhetorical device is a strong way to engage readers and listeners alike, with the effect of overhearing the Almighty.
As a gay male I hear much comfort in what God says:
I will remove disaster from you,
so that you will not bear reproach for it.
I will deal with all your oppressors
at that time.
And I will save the lame
and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
and renown in all the earth.
In 1985 newly elected Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning boldly proclaimed, “There will be no outcasts in this church.” Resolutions D025 and C056 at General Convention in Anaheim this summer did much not only to “gather the outcast” but also to “change their shame into praise.”
The first song of Isaiah is also the first song of Quean Lutibelle.
Surely, it is God who saves me; *
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, *
and he will be my Savior.
Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing *
from the springs of salvation.
That is not for straights only, not for males only, not for whites only, no for the rich only……
Grace is amazing still. If God loves an old quean like me, God can surely love absolutely everybody. She does!
“Let your gentleness be known to everyone.”
Gentleness does not have much purchase for males as our culture emphasizes masculinity.
Thirty years ago I decided to change my default salutation in personal and business correspondence. No longer did I use “Dear Dean Smith” or “Dear Charlotte.” Instead I used “Gentle Dean Smith” or “Gentle Charlotte.” Salutations are generally considered phatic, like “How are you?” One does not expect a review of the health of the one thus greeted. Yet occasionally males have responded, “I am not gentle” or even “How dare you presume that I am gentle….”
“Gentle Dean Smith” and “Gentle Charlotte” sound like Sissy Talk, and that is precisely why I choose them as salutations. I rejoice to let my gentleness to be known to everyone.
Swish, swish, men of America.
Cross your legs only at 90-degree angles.
Your fingernails are getting a mite too long.
That fuchsia shirt might be misunderstood.
You'd better lower your pitches
and say something evil about your mothers.
You smell too sweet and are too polite. Be crude.
Talk about war, not about flowers.
Swish, swish, men of America.
Swish, swish. Swish, swish.
Swish, swish. Bug off.
-- Louie Crew
Swish Summer, 1979. Postcard
Gay Christian [U. K.] 17 (1980): 27
Contact II Winter 1987: 50. Used my pen name Li Min Hua
NABWMT Journal 4 (Summer 1991): 7. Used my pen name Li Min Hua
John the Baptizer calls those in his audienxe a “G*n*r*t**n *f V*p*rs! [censored]” yet they still come to him, including a tax collector and a soldier -- both of whom were commonly considered scum for collaborating with the Roman Occupation
He calls on all to repent, and many do.
Street preachers abound in most of America’s large cities, and in some of the smaller ones as well. Some carry megaphones to amplify their cry: “Repent! Repent!”
Occasionally one of them rides on the No. 24 bus with me going from East Orange into Newark. Usually the prophet stares straight ahead. Often passengers outside the prophet’s line of vision roll their eyes to register the judgment, “Who is this kook?” or “Has this freak forgotten to take today’s medications?”
Not so for John the Baptizer. Luke reports: “The people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah.”
John warns that just being Jewish is not enough to save you when God comes. You must “bear fruits worthy of repentance.” God can make a Jew out of the very stones on the ground it God needs to keep the record straight in his promises to Israel.
John illustrates fruits worthy of repentance: if you have food and clothes, you don’t have to give them up, but you need to share them with those who do not have them. If you are a tax collector, you don’t have to give up your job, but you must not exact a fee for yourself that is not prescribed by your employer. The soldier does not have to quit being a soldier for the occupation, but the soldier must not exact bribes: “Be satisfied with your wages.”
The lgbt person does not have to give up her or his life partner, but must cherish that partner as Christ cherishes the church.
How wondrous to be part of a church where we are expected to turn on our thinking caps!