Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December 12, 2010. Third Sunday of Advent.

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Can I expect God to hear this prayer if I don’t divorce Ernest, my husband of 36 years, and promise to limit whatever sex I might have to the confines of heterosexual marriage?

Have I played a trick on God, saying that I come to God only as I am, not ready to behave as a heterosexual or a celibate homosexual?

I spent most of a day recently trying to track down a small bit of correspondence that I remembered writing sometime between 1985-1995. Since I save every email message that I write and much of the email I receive, the search took me through hundreds of messages from adversaries as well as from friends. Many ‘adversaries’ were themselves friendly, genuinely concerned for my soul, and trying to call me from the brink of destruction. Others seemed only slightly concerned for my soul, but greatly concerned for the souls of those whom they felt I might be leading astray by my witness.

I am still humbled by their challenges. I do not seek to defy God, nor do I wish to lead anyone astray.

I turned 74 on Thursday. I expect to arrive at heaven’s gate not too long from now. I do not plan to bang on the door saying “I am Erman Louie Crew, Jr., and I am right about homosexuality! Let me in! Let me in!”

That scenario seems obscene. It puts me into the position of making final judgments for God. I know already what I will say, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

If you are heterosexual, do you expect to knock at heaven’s gate saying, “Thank you, God, I am not like Louie and Ernest. I have lived in a faithful heterosexual union. Please let me in.”

Are you absolutely certain that your choices for yourselves are God’s choices for me?

We run an even greater risk if we ignore other criteria that Jesus has stated explicitly for the "Great Gittin Up Morning.” He tells us we will be judged by how well we have treated those we consider the least among us. Are we there for them when they are sick, hungry, naked, in prison? For as we treat the least of them, so we treat God.

Ours is a strange religion, where the first are last and the last are first.

My bishop (Rt. Rev. Mark Beckwith) is fond of saying, “The opposite of faith is not doubt; the opposite of faith is certainty.” He points to the many dangers we incur when treat those whose faith differs from ours with certainty that we are right and they are wrong.

I have tried to do what is right in my marriage to Ernest. Through it I have experienced much grace and many other blessings. The sin I see in our marriage is not that I love Ernest, but that I do not love him enough, namely as much as I love myself. For that sin I steadfastly repent and seek amendment of life.

Just as fervently I pray to be forgiven for sins unknown.

Am I absolutely certain that a life-long committed relationship between two of the same gender is right in the eyes of God? No. I have faith that it is, but not certainty.

And even if we are wrong in our marriage, I have faith (still not certainty) that God’s property is always to show mercy.

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us. Amen. Amen.

Isaiah 35:1-10

Isaiah’s vision of safety and joy has few parallels in literature. Note that that he localizes his vision: he names Lebanon, Carmel and Sharon -- places familiar to his listeners. The realm of God is not remote: it’s right here in East Orange where I live, right here in Newark and New York City, both visible outside my study window as I write.

Jesus asks us to pray, “Our Father, may your realm come on earth as it is in heaven.”

George Bernhard Shaw warned, “Beware the man whose God is in the skies.” Jesus gives the same warning.

We too must beware lest we put off working for justice and peace thinking, there will be pie in the sky by and by.

Canticle 15

Mary’s canticle marks her as an uppity woman, a champion of the poor and down trodden. Here she is not docile and submissive, dressed in soft blue and standing silent and beatific. Rather, she is sassy and abrasive.

“In 2000 the United States accounted for only 4.7 percent of the world’s population but 32.6 percent of the world’s wealth. Nearly 4 out of every 10 people in the wealthiest 1 percent of the global population were American.” (Eduardo Porter New York Times, December 6, 2006, Business Sec., p. 3).

Those of us who have ears to hear require huge globs of spiritual ear wax to to be comfortable listening to the Magnificat.

My adversaries frequently complain that I give far too much attention to church politics and not enough attention to the Gospel. Two Episcopal bishops, Bishop Charles Carpenter and Bishop George Murray, joined other religious leaders to write the same complaint to Dr. M. L. King when he was organizing protests in Birmingham. He named them when he wrote his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Why do you need to tell people that you are a “gay” Christian, some ask me: “I don’t say that I am a ‘straight Christian’” they add, to underscore their point.

They seem never to notice the scores of ways they openly and freely communicate they are straight. “My wife and I….” , “When my husband said….” Nor should they feel any restrictions about doing so.

I look forward to the day that husbands kissing each other goodbye
will stand out only because we block the traffic (see Lutibelle Speaks as the Poet)

Louie, queer for Christ’s sake! (See 1 Corinthians 4:10)

James 5:7-10

Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors!

Is this what is meant is meant by Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”?

Did your parents peek through the keyhole to your room, listen to your conversations on another phone, sift through your drawers for evidence of your wrong doing?

Does your heavenly father keep a master computer and the best spy ware in all the universes to keep records of your slightest thoughts and actions?

A lie detector costs only $250-$500 and you can purchase one from Brick House Security Might your parish welcome one as an Advent gift? Would you use it just for the creeds? Should scores be used to validate people for confirmation? Should we put off baptism until one is old enough to be held accountable to the lie detector?

I wish that James had stopped with “Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.“

Watch yes, but be not afraid.

I looked over Jordan, what do I see,
Coming for to carry me home.
A band of angels coming after me,
Coming for to carry me home.

Swing low! Sweet Chariot!

Matthew 11:2-11

Jesus might have visited John himself. If John’s disciples had access to him, surely Jesus did too. After all, they are first cousins, born less than a year apart.

Yet Jesus and John appear not to have been in touch much.

John tells his disciples to ask Jesus whether Jesus is the messiah. Jesus does not say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but cryptically tells them to report to John what they hear and see:

The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.

These are action that might mark the messiah. Jesus intends the actions to speak louder than words. He also is minimizing the risk of publicly proclaiming himself as messiah, lest he forewarn and enrage the Roman occupiers or the indigenous religious establishment.

Jesus seems to know more about John than John does about Jesus. He tells the public that John the Baptist is the one mentioned in scripture as forerunner to the messiah. Yet he does not explicitly name himself as the messiah. Again, he is cryptic, even cagey, likely in response to the political tensions.

It is not clear whether those in the crowds even know that Jesus and John are first cousins. The only time we see them together in scripture is at Jesus’ baptism.

Some see in these texts the suggestion that the disciples of John and the disciples of Jesus might consider themselves rivals. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John is clearly better known and more directly involved in political confrontations. The texts carefully allay such fears and show them as mutually supportive.

Later John is to say that he is not worthy even to unlace Jesus’ shoes. Here Jesus stresses, “Among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist.” This mutual admiration is quite public. Do they intend to calm fears by it?

We have no surviving texts written by John’s disciples, nor do Christian scriptures say more about them. Did they become Jesus’ disciples after Herod had John beheaded? Did John’s disciples continue a separate ministry even after John’s death?

Why is Elizabeth, Mary’s sister, not mentioned again after the birth narratives? She drops out of the scene as inexplicably as Joseph does.

See also

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