Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 26, 2011. Second Sunday after Pentecost

© 2011 by Louie Crew
Today’s Lections

The Collect

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.

Matthew 10:40-42

Welcome is contagious, much as unwelcome is.

One priest I know liked to tell his parishioners how unimaginative they are. "I find it incredible than anyone, absolutely anyone, has been willing to worship here 10 or more years," he told them frequently.

Under that kind of leadership, attendance in the large parish dwindled dramatically.

Fortunately he left, and even better, he took his unwelcoming spirit with him.

His successor delights in finding new ways to say every Sunday what a great and welcoming and loving parish they are. Her spirit is contagious. Lo and behold, the parish is thriving again, and the people feel good about themselves and their opportunity to serve others through the parish's outreach.

"Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple-- truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.

Psalm 13

This is one of the shorter psalms. (The shortest is Psalm 117, with only 33 words in some English versions, only 16 words in Hebrew.)

In Psalm 13 the petitioner manifests a sharp mood swing that occurs in many other psalms as well: he moves from being morose to having great expectations.

In the psalm God's actions do not change; the speaker changes assumptions about God's actions. For the first four verses, the petitioner assumes that God has forgotten him. The petitioner asks God to act, but records no action taken by God. Instead, the speaker acts by putting trust in God mercy and saving help.

The psalm is almost a showcase for belief in the power of positive thinking. In the final verse, the petitioner no longer protests being neglected. Instead, the petitioner says, "God has dealt with me richly."

How often to we take responsibility for our own depression and thereby help to reverse it? How often do we nurture our depression and blame God for it?

Romans 6:12-23

Paul insists throughout his witness that good works and right behavior don't change our status with God one bit. We are saved by Jesus' righteousness, not by our own.

Yet Paul does not want us to continue in the sin from which Christ has rescued us.

He reminds me a bit of Miss Havisham in Dickens’ Great Expectations. Miss Havisham does not in any way encourage spontaneity, delight, and freedom for Pip an Estella, yet she wants the children to behave as she assumes they should, so she commands them, "Play!"

That moment is one of Dickens' more memorable captures of perversity. Children's play is not children's play when it is done because it is commanded.

Paul wants Christians to be righteous spontaneously, but when they are not, he deploys passive aggression through which he hopes to prompt them rather than coerce them into right behavior.

To this end, Paul develops a rhetorical construct, insisting that they are still slaves as they were before Jesus saved them. The difference is that now they are (or Paul at least thinks they ought to be) slaves to God rather than slaves to sin.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life." Note that Paul does not say, "For the wages of sin is death, but the reward for sinlessness is eternal life."

As a Gay Christian, I have encountered many who tell me, "God cannot forgive you because you have not left your homosexual relationship. You continue to sin, and your faith in Jesus is null and void until you do."

They may be right, but I am not trembling in fear that they may be.

I do not believe the bible's case against homosexual behavior trumps Jesus' first and second commandments. I do not believe my marriage to Ernest is sinful, though I do sin within the relationship. I do not feel it wrong that I love him; it is very wrong when I fail to love him enough, namely as much as I love myself.

I do not understand marriage as primarily sexual. Sexuality is integral to it, but not definitive of it. That is true of all marriage. Sex does not define it. Sex takes up relatively little time over the decades. Yet sex is not incidental to marriage; it's integral.

Much is at stake in our belief about such matters, but not eternal life. When I stand before God my maker, I do not intend to say, "My name is Louie Crew and I am right about sexuality, so please let me in!"

Instead, I will say, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner."

I am not afraid. God's property is always to show mercy.

Have heterosexuals struck a better bargain?

Genesis 22:1-14

This is one of the most powerful stories in all of literature, and I find it deeply disturbing. No matter how I read it, I do not like it.
  • I do not believe that God goes around telling parents to kill their children. Nor do I believe God told Abraham to do that.
  • I would report to the police any parent whom I knew to be on a mission to sacrifice a child. Almost any police department in the world would arrest Abraham for attempted murder.
  • I resent the patriarchal assumptions throughout this story. Sarah, the boy's mother, is of no account and not consulted by her husband or by her husband's God.
  • The boy's "innocence" is tiresome and I take no delight in the irony when he asks, "But where is the lamb for a burn offering?"

    When he grows up, Isaac is no more impressive. He manifests almost no energy, not even when his parents choose a wife for him. Isaac's twins walk circles around him, and Jacob easily deceives him.

    There are light-weights aplenty in the world, but as a light-weight, Isaac demonstrates no impressive credentials for being revered as an outstanding spiritual ancestor.

  • In A Study in Biblical Psychology of the Sacrifice of Isaac, London 1954, Sigmund Freud impressively explored some of psychological depths that he saw in this narrative. Freud's imagination is richer than that of the father or the son in the narrative.

See also

1 comment:

AnnBarbie said...

All the reasons why you don't like the Genesis story are also good reasons for why it is perhaps best read as the retelling of a profound vision: Other interested characters are either simply not involved (Sarah) or are plastic shells instead of flesh and blood humans (Isaac). It seems all about something internal and symbolic that went on between Abraham and his god alone -- rather than a historic event involving any other human actors.