Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Scripture mentions Jesus; it mentions God the Father; it mentions the Holy Spirit; but Scripture never mentions the Trinity. The Trinity is a creation of the Church in an effort to explain the relationship between the three. The Trinity is a doctrine, a teaching. It proclaims that what you see is what you get -- one God yes, but in three different manifestations. Three, yet one; a mystery.
Notice how some name these three when they begin a sermon invoking them:
- “In the name of God -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit”
- “In the name of God -- Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier”
- “In the name of God -- whose name is ‘love‘, whose name is ‘beloved‘, whose name is ‘lover‘”
The last one is my own creation. The Holy Spirit is often spoken of as ‘lover of souls.’
Lover has special overtone (or undertones?) when used by lgbt persons. A good friend and the wife of a bishop who has taken risks supporting lgbt Christians, once asked me why I sometimes refer to Ernest as my ‘lover.’
In my world a ‘lover’ is someone whom you don’t care enough about to marry, someone who is mainly a sex object. I know that Ernest is more than that to you.
“Ernest and I are not permitted to marry,” I explained. “We would if we could, and in fact, consider that we already have, in the presence of just ourselves and the Holy Spirit.”
Lover is the term lgbt people, like straights, have used sometimes for sex objects, yes, but sometimes to name a partner in a profound and sacramental union.
I am pleased that more and more of us lgbts are using publicly the term that Ernest and I have used privately regarding our relationship, namely marriage, with or without the state’s imprimatur or the church’s imprimatur.
One of the reasons that for a long time I did not use the word marriage publicly was that I did not want to suggest that we are trying to imitate straights' relationships. We are not 'playing at' anything. We are living our vows to God and each other. I was not sure that straights could understand that.
Now that many have heard lgbts use the word, straight folks are becoming more aware of the world as lgbts experience it.
From our marriage on February 2, 1974, Ernest and I have signed notes or signed off on phone messages, as “husband.” Each has also used husband as a salutation, as in “Husband, would you do me a favor when you go to the grocery store….” Each of us has no wife; we use husband to affirm both the responsibilities and the blessings each shares in the relationship. For a long time we used spouse but it is a bit too archaic for a salutation.
However, I hope lgbts won’t altogether abandon the word lover. The Rev. John Rettger, long-time chaplain to Integrity/Minnesota, told me back in the 1980s that he and his wife Eudora had been much blessed and renewed by starting to call each other “lover.” They had picked up on the rich meanings with which their lgbt friends had imbued lover and rejoiced to name in their relationship the endearments the word ports in a full range of registers.
The Holy Spirit is such a “lover.”
Today is the most likely day on the church calendar that rectors will duck the opportunity to preach if they have a curate or an assistant. ‘Let the curate handle the tough one!”
Go for it, curates and assistants. Tell them about the Holy Spirit as ‘lover’ and don’t be afraid even of the erotic overtones. God did not turn out the lights when She made any of our body parts.
When I taught at Chinese University at Hong Kong (1984-87), I sometimes hosted a local lgbt group, providing a safe space for them, an alternative to the bars. Most were not students at the University, and many did not speak English.
One evening a young man arrived an hour early, having written down the wrong time. He could not speak English, and my Cantonese was quite limited. Through a series of hand gestures and pointing at watches, he came to understand that he was at the right place and that the others would come along in an hour.
While I finished preparing the refreshments, he scanned several books and magazines and also looked around the apartment . As I was setting down some crackers and a dip, he pointed to the piano and to my hands; his face formed a question mark.
I pointed to him and to the piano and bobbed my head to say ‘yes, you are welcome to play.’
He shook his head to say ‘no’ and then pointed to me and to the piano.
My piano skills are not much better than my skills at Cantonese. I play mainly hymns, and mainly for myself. I am not accomplished enough to play for a group. I bought the piano to help me in grieving the loss of both parents in the same year. The hymns my parents and I loved enhanced my experience of the Communion of Saints.
I yielded and sat down to play. “What hymn might he ever have heard? Is he even a Christian?” I thought to myself.
I started with something very simple: “Jesus loves me, this I know….”
He sang the first line in Cantonese and tears flooded his eyes. He sang no more and cried as I finished the verse.
Then he pointed to the small crucifix above the piano and then to me and to himself. With gestures he indicated that Jesus did not like either one of us. He pointed again to Jesus and then imitated him as very angry with each of us.
In my broken Cantonese, I said “Baba noi nay” (the Father loves you!)
He shook his head to say ‘no.’
“Baba noi nay!” I repeated. “Baba m’noi ney; Baba mhai Baba!” (‘The Father loves you. If the Father does not love you, the Father is not the Father.’
He manifested great consternation. He looked at me as if to say, “Are you sure???!”
I shook my head praying that I would convey absolute assurance.
Then I played just the treble line of “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.”
At “mine” I pointed to him. His face had the beginning of a smile. Then he started singing the rest of the song in Cantonese, “O what a foretaste of glory divine. Heir of salvation, promised of God, born of his Spirit washed in his blood. This is my story, this is my song, praising my savior, all the day long…..”
"Heterosexuals of 2010 and all who visit via cyberspace, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, this young man and I were not drunk nor seeking sexual congress, as you might suppose. We were waiting for others in his group to arrive for a meeting. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:`In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions.
When the others arrived, he explained through one of them that his Pentecostal Church had kicked him out for being gay and that his entire family scorned him.
His new family did not. Nor did Babba. “Baba m’noi ney; Baba mhai Baba!” The Father is not the Father if he does not love you.”
Psalm 104:25-35, 37
There move the ships,
and there is that Leviathan, *
which you have made for the sport of it.
I think God made lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and the transgendered just for the sport of it! God sends forth God’s spirit, and we are created, and so God renews the face of the earth.
All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ-- if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
How beautifully “Abba! Father!” echoes my broken Cantonese, “Baba noi ney”: God loves you.
How beautifully the passage “we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” is echoed in Fanny Crosby’s hymn which the young man sang, this time believing it, “Heir of salvation, promised of God, born of his spirit, washed in his blood.”
John 14:8-17, (25-27)
Many Christians act as if Scripture literally closed the book on any future revelation that God might give to the world. That belief is a sin against the Holy Spirit, who is alive and well and moving in our world, still revealing God’s self, and still doing so where we least expect it. In the creed, we use the present tense when we affirm, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son and with the Father and the Son together is worshipped glorified.
Wait expectantly for the Spirit’s prompting as we bring news genuinely good to yet another group of hitherto excluded persons.