Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The collect is another red flag, albeit a gilded one, to warn Glenn Beck & Co. that the Episcopal Church is a dangerous place, committed to justice not just in the abstract as a nice idea, but also in the exercise of our ministry: God’s justice is what we are called to minister.
Pee Tee El indeed!
2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15
I particularly like some of the flourishes in the narrative, such as the particulars of how Ahab pouts when he finds that Naboth will not make a deal with him: “He [Ahab] lay down on his bed, turned away his face, and would not eat.”
Jezebel to the rescue! She promises to deliver to Ahab Naboth’s vineyard, and deliver she does, through intrigue and murder.
Note that Ahab wants to strip the vineyard and replant it with vegetables for his private use. Generations in Naboth’s family have tended the grapes. The vineyard has importance for them across time, not just for its value or use in any one generation. Naboth considers the vineyard a gift from God and tells Ahab unconditionally that it is not for sale. “The LORD forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance.”
Ahab is complicit in consenting to let Jezebel take over the Naboth affair. He never offers his formal agreement to her plans; he never asks what her plans are. Presumably he does take her offer: “Get up, eat some food, and be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite."
Only when Elijah confronts Ahab does Ahab understand the price he will pay for the evil that he has done: "Thus says the LORD: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood."
Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven, *
and whose sin is put away!
Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt, *
and in whose spirit there is no guile!
If so, why do many of us Christians have trouble believing that God really has put away our sins?
And what of those who insist that our sins, known and unknown, things done and things left undone…have not really been forgiven?
For example, millions of Christians believe that any lgbt affection and commitment is sinful and unforgivable unless the behavior ceases altogether. Many consider any lgbt ‘act’ as of one kind, equally egregious whether done with a stranger or done in the context of a committed, life-long lgbt relationship.
Is God willing and able to separate from lgbts all our sins as far as the east is from the west, or does that promise obtain only as hetero privilege?
The psalm does not concern itself with the sinless, but with sinners whose sin has been forgiven.
I never come to God’s table trusting in my own righteousness, nor in the rightness of my interpretation of what is or is not right for me to do. I believe that the commitment Ernest and I make to each other and to God is right and good, but I could be wrong about that. I am not wrong about God, whose property is always to show mercy.
When I stand before heaven’s gate, I will not plead that I have been right in my understanding about sexuality or anything else. Instead, I will plead, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
In anticipation of that Great Getting Up Morning, I sing because I am happy. God has already washed away all of my sins, indeed all the sins of absolutely everybody!
Saint makes my point for me, as I make his for him. My righteousness does not derive from obedience to the Law. We are justified not by proper works, but by faith.
I find myself in this story as the woman cleansing Jesus’ feet. For most of its history the church has cast queers like me as prostitutes. Christians who do not so view us are often themselves condemned for being taken in, for exercising cheap compassion. That’s what a majority of the Anglican Communion is saying when it scolds the Episcopal Church:
“If the Episcopal Church had the real understanding of a prophet, they would know who and what kind of people these queers are who claim to love Jesus -- that they are sinners."
Like Jesus, the Episcopal Church is wonderfully kind.
We make his love too narrow
By false limits of our own
And we magnify his strictness
With zeal he will not own.
-- Frederick William Faber