Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
For most of this passage Joel rejoices that God will restore the plenty. He blames God for sending the swarming locust and quotes God claiming to have done so; yet Joel emphasizes that the hard times are gone for good and that the Israelites will “never again be put to shame.”
In his ecstasy for the new prosperity, Joel puts into God’s mouth great expectations:
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
“Even on the male and female slaves,“?!!
Yet again one of our spiritual ancestors dumps his own prejudice on God. “Even on” suggests that Joel thinks it extraordinary, not ordinary, that God would bless slaves with his spirit. From a Christian perspective in the 21st century, one finds it extraordinary that God would bless the slave owners. Mary’s song proclaimed that God is on the side of the humble and the meek, that God sends the rich empty away.
Quoting God is part of the prophet’s job description, indeed, is the prophet’s daily bread. It’s a perilous exercise, however, and from the long arc of history, some words imputed to God seem ill chosen.
Let Aunt Hazel’s tongue do more than speak to this issue. I based her on Ernest’s Aunt Jesse, who really did lick all the Limoges dinnerware before the bishop’s entourage arrived.
Quin Jordan's Prayer
Funny how some white folks
still act like this space
belongs to them exclusively
just because they built it, God,
forgetting it was their parents
who paid the mortgage
which their grandparents had taken out
to build this mound of stone,
wood beams, and stained glass.
They even put your name on the banknote:
saying "Christ's Church, Middletown."
Help me not to worry
so much about them, O God.
Anyway, Miss Simcox
may have changed pews
only so that
she could hear or see better.
I hope that I can give a baptistery
like that one
to the parish in Pinebluff,
someday when I get through dental school
and have established my practice.
I'll dedicate it to the memory
of Great-grandmother Watson,
who bore for her owner
six mocha children
in his slave quarters
and who sat in the balcony
with at least one of them
every Sunday for 30 years
looking down on him
with his sickly wife and mean sister....
Or maybe I should dedicate
the baptistery to the memory
of Aunt Hazel,
who worked in the parish rectory
long after the rest
of the family had turned A.M.E.
They let her worship
only as a servant at white folk’s
weddings and funerals.
Otherwise she couldn't even sit
in the balcony
where once she had sat
with her grandmother Watson
looking down on her white grandfather
who never ever would recognize
those children, the only ones he sired.
Maybe the sculptor can capture
the way Hazel's tongue
moved across the whole china set
of twelve dinner plates once,
in the kitchen, hidden from view,
after old Bishop Caldwell
told her that the colored help
should use only the everyday ware.
And she licked
every one of the finer plates!
It's time everyone now found out,
her tongue in marble
saying "No!" for ever and ever. AMEN
- Plumbline 9.3 (1981): 11-15.
- Thursday Stories 11 (1982): 32-38.
- The Covenant Journal No. 32 (April 2010): 6
This is a model for how to talk to God when everything is going well. Thank God, and name your blessings one by one. Behold God as the benefactor. He actively makes all of these good things happen.
“You make safe.” “You still.” “You cause.” “You visit.” “You water.” “You prepare.” “You drench.” “You soften.”
Caveat: If you are in the middle of a great drought or famine, select a different psalm, or tune out while you focus on a stained glass window.
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
“I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come.”
What an image of fullness and completion, “being poured out as a libation.” Irma Bombeck echoed it:
When I stand before God at the end of my life I would hope that I have not a single bit of talent left and could say, "I used everything You gave me."
Many hoard their treasures, even their graces; but life is meant to be spent, to be used up, not preserved.
Saint mixes his metaphors gloriously:
I have fought the good fight, [the boxer or the soldier]
I have finished the race, [the runner]
I have kept the faith. [the religious devotee]
This is part of his farewell to Timothy. He addresses it to Timothy, not to the gatekeeper of heaven. He is not saying
Let me into heaven because (1) I have fought the good fight, (2) I have finished the race, (3) I have kept the faith.
Saint is still earthbound when he summarizes his life and declares his great expectations:
From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day,
Twice Saint is explicitly generous and gracious to others. The crown will be given “not only to me but also to all who have longed for God’s appearing.” He recalls: “At my first defense no one came to my support; all deserted me”; but he adds, “May it not be counted against them!”
At his first General Convention as Presiding Bishop (in 2000 in Denver), ++Frank Griswold canceled all business during one morning session and following the Eucharist asked all present to spend the time in the work of reconciliation. “If you have harmed someone here, seek out that person and ask for forgiveness….” he counseled.
I was amazed by the steady stream of persons, many whom I did not know, who sought me out to apologize for things they had said about lgbt people. Many apologized for not speaking up when others had made unkind remarks about us.
In no way was I holding these behaviors against them. I understood my role as that of a reverse scapegoat, a surrogate for all the lgbt people whom these folks had abused. It was emotionally exhausting but even more spiritually strengthening to share the good news that their sins had already been forgiven, from the same source of my forgiveness, from the source of everyone’s forgiveness.
So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
When I arrive at heaven’s gate, I do not plan to say, “My name is Erman Louie Crew, Jr. Please let me in because I was right about homosexuality”!
Instead, I shall say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Have heterosexuals struck a better bargain?
I may be completely wrong in what I sincerely believe about homosexuality and homosexuals, but I am certain that I am not wrong about God, “whose property is always to show mercy.”