Monday, March 1, 2010

March 14, 2010. Fourth Sunday in Lent

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Joshua 5:9-12

It is appropriate that the collect asks for “the true bread which gives life to the world” as today also celebrates the day that the Israelites got shut of K-Rations after wandering 40 years in the wilderness.

God had provided the manna to sustain them for the long journey when food was not in ready supply. The manna stopped when God gave them land able to sustain them with crops.

I am intrigued by what God tells Joshua: "Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt."

As slaves in Egypt, the Israelites must have felt disgraced. Like Dalits (the ‘untouchables’) in India today, they had to do all the dirty work of the Egyptians; and if they complained, the Egyptians increased the work. Now 40 years away from that experience, 40 years shut of Egypt, they still wear the disgrace, the sense of shame. Only when their new land provides them produce does the disgrace leave.

We can say to ourselves all we want, “There is nothing disgraceful about who we are,” but when those in power -- whether in the state, the church……-- treat us as disgraceful, stigma has a weight that is heavy and enduring. When treated as lepers, we may learn to make good music with our lepers’ bells, but those bells sustain and mark our persecution, not our liberation.

We who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered understand that dynamic at the core of our being. Daily God provides us spiritual manna for our survival. We long for the day that God and God’s people will roll away from us our disgrace under the tyranny of hetero supremacy.

Psalm 32

The psalmist speaks of spiritual dehydration:

While I held my tongue, my bones withered away, *
because of my groaning all day long.

For your hand was heavy upon me day and night; *
my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

In this particular instance, the dehydration is caused by unrepented sin.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you, *
and did not conceal my guilt.

I said," I will confess my transgressions to the LORD." *
Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

My physical thirst switch is quite unreliable. About 20 years ago it started not to work at some times, and to work quite well at others. At 73, I rarely thirst at all, and when I do, it seems almost too late, so strong is the dehydration.

In contrast, I have found that spiritual thirst strengthens with age, and I can detect the need to confess as clearly as a young person may seek a glass of water when thirsty.

Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, *
and whose sin is put away!


2 Corinthians 5:16-21

What is the ministry of the laity?
The ministry of lay persons is to represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ's work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church.

--From the Catechism in the BCP

Saint Paul also speaks of our ministry of reconciliation:

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Reconciliation is not about our own righteousness, but about God’s. As Christ’s ambassadors, we are to proclaim to all that God does not count their trespasses against them.

I am convinced that God is using LGBT Christians as a new way to make this ancient point, that God loves absolutely everybody. Many who have no feeling one way or other about LGBT people watch closely how the church responds to us as a thermometer to how the church might respond to them. “If the church will let those people in, maybe I can bring my burdens there too.”

Some are not likely to believe our claims that God loves them until, as God's ambassadors, we love them first, “since God is making his appeal through us.”

Many have endured disgrace (because of substance abuse; because of a broken marriage; because of their extreme poverty; because of a lack of education…….). Today you and I can roll away their disgrace by embracing them as with us, children of God, forgiven and redeemed.

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

Only Luke tells this story. How much poorer Christianity would be without it. It is major proclamation about God, who not only welcomes home the prodigal before he could ask to be welcomed, but kills the fatted calf to celebrate a reconciliation of which the prodigal could not even have dreamed.

Some straight people find themselves in the role of the younger brother regarding lgbt Christians. Some insist that God does not love lgbts because, they think, we have squandered God’s gifts and have indulged in sins so egregious that they are not even tempted.

Some lgbt persons have not had loving parents and cannot yet imagine God as welcoming them, especially those exposed to Christians like the elder brother.

Sin is a major part of the work of Lent -- not our mortification, but our redemption, not our separation from God, but our reconciliation with God and with those whom we have not loved as we have loved ourselves.

If you are straight, be reconciled with your lgbt neighbor: find someone very broken, someone who has not been loved and is not very loving, and love that person as your own child. Leave judgment to God. Just love that person. Feed the person. Visit the person. Meet the person’s needs. Don’t pout like the elder brother about this person’s unworthiness. Kill the fatted calf.

If you are an lgbt person, be reconciled with your straight neighbor: find someone very broken, someone who has not been loved and is not very loving, someone who dislikes lgbt people; and love that person as your own child. Feed the person. Visit the person. If the person is in a ditch the victim of thieves, rescue the person and take the person to a hospital. Pay the bill and keep coming back to check on the person’s needs. Don’t pout like the elder brother about this person’s unworthiness. Kill the fatted calf.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.”

Christianity is wondrous and strange. Jesus is wondrous and strange.

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