O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
It would be hard to be more upbeat than this collect. We would be wise to pay close attention to what we are saying. The collect walks us step by step into greater expectations of God and of ourselves.
In a polytheistic culture, the Athenians had something going for them. The altar of "Unknown God" works like the tombs to the "unknown solder" at Arlington and various other parts of the world. There are so many bodies unidentifiable in a war that we choose one to honor grandly as a surrogate for the others.
In a universe of multiple gods, likely there are many whom we have not yet identified, so we at least modestly honor one as a surrogate for the others.
Saint purposely 'misses the point' intended by those who made the altar. Saint does not believe in multiple gods and proclaims that his God is living, not entombed in shrines made by human hands.
Since we are God's offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.
Saint connects God to us and not to sculptured images and memorials. God "gives to all mortals life and breath and all things." We are God's "offspring."
Paul is an iconoclast to polytheism and asserts that we can glimpse God looking at God's offspring, human beings.
I wish that Luke had given a body count for the congregation and the details of any altar calls. Is his cleverness efficacious in prompting unbelievers to believe, or does his rhetoric work best on those of us who already believe and delight to have him express so well what we have experienced?
Paul directly connects his message of Jesus to something his audience already knows. Often I have heard straight priests preach to gay gatherings with not one word to relate to the specifics of our lives. Often they merely preach what they preached in their own congregations earlier in the week. What huge waste of gospel opportunity.
One of the reasons that I initiated this blog is to provide three years of witness to a queer eye for the lectionary.
The psalmist today is as up-beat as the author(s) of today's collect. All has gone well for the speaker, and the speaker gives full credit to God. True, the speaker has known trouble, has known victorious enemies, has known what it is to be caught in a snare, but when the speaker called on God, God provided deliverance. The speaker feels vindicated and shows gratitude by burnt offerings and sacrifices.
Forget for the moment David's understanding in Psalm 51 that the sacrifices God really desires are not burnt offerings, but 'a broken and contrite heart.'
1 Peter 3:13-22
"Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?"
Well if you are queer, you might begin by standing in most congregations of Christians and pointing to each of them. Some congregations are controlled solidly by those who will harm us. They don't agree that we could ever be eager to do what is good. They believe that all our intentions are perverse.
But if queers suffer even for doing what is right, we are blessed. We should not fear what heterosexists fear. We must not let them intimidate us, but in our hearts we should sanctify Christ as Lord.
For almost three decades in the Episcopal Church queers have been ready to make our defense to anyone who demands from us an accounting for the hope that is in us; and we have tried to do it with gentleness and reverence. Among myriads of examples, you might listen to "Welcome to Samaria" as recorded when I preached during General Convention in 1994, total time just under 19 minutes:
In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.
Open my eyes, Jesus, to see you in those not noticed and not valued by the world.