Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This language is not helpful when I look in it for imagery to bring good news to those in my neighborhoods in New Jersey. Most of my students have little or nothing to do with what they call ‘organized religion,’ and they would be singularly unimpressed with a group of people seeing themselves institutionalized as God’s ‘holy temple’ and claiming that Jesus’ chief role is to be the cornerstone of their temple.
“Enough already!” The world has had a glut of the religious parading ourselves before them as better than they are, living and reigning right next to God Almighty.
Does Jesus of the Gospels ever reveal himself as wanting such adulation?
And if we insist on architectural images for ourselves, must they be constructed with the draftiness and discomfort of state rooms with thrones and other paraphernalia?
2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
What grand theater! Small wonder that Elijah shows up generations later at Jesus’ Transfiguration, together with Moses. (See Matthew 17). A prophet’s résumé can’t have better references than those two.
What is especially compelling about the rhetorical stance of the narrative of Elijah’s ’ascension’ is that it (as does the narrative of the Transfiguration), celebrates not an established political figure, but instead, the courageous prophet who dared speak unwelcome truth to established political figures -- King Ahab in the case of Elijah, “sly fox” Herod in the case of Jesus.
Center stage is a humble man being exalted, while his successor Elisha longs not for greater power but for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Into the bargain God also throws Elijah’s magic mantle.
I wish a good poet would write a poem imagining how Elisha slept the night after Elijah’s ascension and in what setting.
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
Why did these verses not survive the editors’ cuts when those who made the lectionary went to work on today’s lections?
3 I remembered you, O God, and I groaned;
I mused, and my spirit grew faint.
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart mused and my spirit inquired:
7 "Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"
10 Then I thought, "To this I will appeal:
the years of the right hand of the Most High."
Did the liturgists object to an over-dose of self-pity in these omitted verses? The parts they chose focus much more on God and God’s faithfulness, not on the psalmist’s sense of being rejected that characterizes the censored material.
Clearly the Book of Psalms would be far thinner if all manifestations of self-pity and all protests of being abandoned were to be excised.
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
This is a superb text to explore through Queer eyes.
LGBT Christians can take heart that God judges us not by negative stereotypes, but by the spiritual fruit we manifest.
For example, in the steady stream of harsh rhetoric attacking lgbts throughout the Anglican Communion for the last 1-2 dozen years, who best manifests the fruits of the spirit -- lgbt Christians or Communion leaders? What “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” have the powerful leaders manifested towards lesbians, gays, bisexuals and the transgendered? Almost none. Instead, they have steadily excoriated lgbts as the least among us, and they have extended similar stigma to any who dare to advocate on behalf of lgbts.
What has fomented the loudest dissention?: They “bite and devour one another” in trying to out-do each other’s rage against lgbts.
Yet which of us, straight or gay, can dare to be comfortable with the erotophobia with which Saint organizes his categories? Are Christians never to gratify the desires of the flesh? Is sex something to be done only in the dark, only quickly and without pleasure, only to produce progeny, and even in that instance, only if we are not able to exercise adequate lust control? (See 1 Corinthians 7:9)
Gay males in particular have taken heavy pelting from what Saint calls “obvious” as the works of the flesh: “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.”
Because we are to many straights the ‘dark other’, some assume that our lives are defined by sensual pleasures which they are denied. From the obscenities which our neighbors sometimes shouted out their windows as they passed our apartments in small-town America, it was clear they thought we must be swinging from the chandeliers or doing orgies around the clock, never seeing us darning socks, taking out the trash, sweeping the study, washing dishes……
One of my far Right adversaries has sometimes referred to me as the “Chief Sodomite of the Anglican Communion.” I teased him a few years ago: “David. I confess that your rhetoric can give a rush that is cheaper than Viagra or Cialis.” In his next reference to me he re-named me as “Sodomite emeritus.” O well.
In the early 1990s I invited to dinner in Manhattan one of TEC bishops most hostile to lgbts. I was glad he accepted my invitation, but disappointed that he insisted on treating me, charging our huge and elegant meal to the budget of the Commission on which he served. During that dinner, he asked me pointedly about the ‘hedonistic life style’ of gay men, as he forked juicy slivers of his New York sirloin followed by toast slathered with foie gras. Several years later he gave me a bottle of single malt, the first I had ever tasted.
It is unhealthy to treat sex as evil and sinful and then “save it for marriage.” Many a marriage has paid a huge debt when people cannot quite shuck the shame with which they have prepared themselves for conjugal relations.
I have long been confused by how people can treat all lgbt sexual relations as alike, making no distinction between a sneaky one-night stand with a stranger and a life-long monogamous public commitment. Saint Paul’s lists in today’s passage can easily underwrite such simplistic categorizations unless we read very carefully and critically.
Yet lgbts are not the only losers to Christian simplistic talk about sexuality. Many bring to heterosexual marriage little evidence of understanding the rich and subtle complexity that mind and body, spirit and sex can manifest when integrated in a whole person.
When I taught in the London slums in 1965-66, one of my favorite pastimes on Sunday afternoon was Speakers Corner at Hyde Park. There was a particularly handsome African male who loved to entertain the crowds by comparing the sensual differences of an African man moving in a crowd and a ’proper’ Englishman moving in a crowd.
I surely am glad that I am queer. It has made me work hard to integrate body and spirit as I might never have been compelled to do were I the privileged straight male that my parents prepared me to be.
William Blake wrote two series of poems, one called “Songs of Innocence” (e.g., “Little lamb, who made thee….), the other, “Songs of Experience” (e.g., “Tiger, tiger burning bright, in the forests of the night….”
My clearest reply to Saint on the “works of the flesh” is to counterstate him in
Watching the Watcher
I watched God when He made
matched it with his own,
checked it out for size,
and for fit and feel
in a dozen orifices;
and I swear
He was happy,
did not draw the curtain,
even blinked in anticipation.
I watched God as She made
measured it with Her delicate fingers,
nudged out a dimension,
added springs, nectar, slush,
rejected the notion
of a finger-like protrusion
self-insertable at the entrance,
purred to experience
for the first time
the joy for which
Eve was being made.
- Panic! Brixton Poetry from March 2000. Used penname Li Min Hua
- Ex Animo from 2002.
- Poetry Super Highway Poet of the Week (May 8-14, 2006).
- Insight 1.4 (1977): 19
- Chiron Review 8.1 (Spring 1989): 11
- Swish Publications 1994, 1997, 1998. 127 pp
This is not a dirty poem. Any dirtiness you see here is dirtiness you have been educated to bring to it. While it is not a vision of innocence, it is not a vision of guilt either. It is song of Christian experience.
When God made each of our parts, God said, “It is good” -- not “it is nasty.”
Christians should be encouraged to have healthy adult sensuality as integral with our spiritual needs, not in competition with them.
Apparently Saint never had experience of mutual, healthy, adult sexuality. Bless his heart. Christianity would have been much richer if he had. I have a long appointment already booked to chat about these things with him.
I was teaching at the University of Alabama when Dr. King was murdered in 1968. In the wake of that assassination, several of us on the faculty organized a silent march on campus to express our grief. We were a small procession, 25-30 folks. The national Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan lived in Tuscaloosa, and the head of the local clan lived right next door to me.
As we processed slowly past Morgan Hall, a young colleague in the English Department spotted me and nervously asked me why we were marching. Clearly he wanted to join us, but asked, gravely, “Will Dr. McMillan likely see us?!” Dr. McMillan was head of our department. “He’s standing about five persons in front of us I pointed out. “Whew!” my colleague sighed and settled in to be a part of the march.
Through the years numerous academics have shared with me their anguish about being in the closet, especially in 1960’s when most lgbts were not ‘out.’
“I’ll come out when I get tenure,” some would say.
“I’ll come out after mother dies,” others would say.
“I’m going to wait until I retire,” still others would say.
But Jesus said, "Let the dead bury their own dead…. No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."