O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Word has it that God is too busy spending time with real folks in real need to take time out for kingship. God wants us as friends, not as vassals. Nor need we keep an eye out for God to "exalt us."
I prefer Quean Lutibelle's reVision: "God, send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us and prepare us for that place where our Savior Christ has gone before. Amen"
"Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
Small wonder indeed that the disciples, after hearing Jesus' challenge, retreated to a room upstairs in their place of lodging, "constantly devoting themselves to prayer."
If I imagine a video of my life as I expected to live it when I was growing up, it bears no resemblance to the life I have been blessed to live. Observe the young redhead with his heavy bible in front of his mother's azalea's just before heading off to church, where later he became a licensed Baptist minister.
At that time I understood very little about myself or about the nature of the ministry to which I already understood myself to be called. To live my own live, I had to lose that life.
Had I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a public queer, that redhead might have acted on some his early fantasies of committing suicide if puberty persisted in asserting his unorthodoxy. He did not yet know that God loves him "Just As I am without one plea."
How has the script you thought you were given changed?
What about the next act of your drama?
"Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?" We have work to do before Christ comes again, before we notice Christ already here among us.
Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36
I suspect the authenticity of the opening of this psalm:
Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered; *
let those who hate him flee before him.
Let them vanish like smoke when the wind drives it away; *
as the wax melts at the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
But let the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; *
let them also be merry and joyful.
This passage lacks the provenance Rabbi Jesus taught us to expect regarding God claims. The God Rabbi Jesus called Father is not interested in scattering his enemies through a show-down of power. God the Father is interested in loving his enemies into friends. God's wants us to love enemies too -- not only ours but also God's.
The histrionics attributed to God here sound more like the proud imaginings of those who consider themselves more righteous than anybody else.
However, much else in the psalm is in synch with what Jesus revealed of God's priorities: God does indeed take sides, and God takes the side of the vulnerable. God is the "Father of orphans, defender of widows" and "God gives the solitary a home and brings forth prisoners into freedom."
1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ's sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.
When I founded Integrity in 1974, the church spent very little time addressing the issue of homosexuality. And most lgbtq persons in the church dared not speak up lest they find themselves summarily kicked out. For centuries homosexuality had been known as "the love not mentionable among Christians."
That changed when lgbtq Christians started finding themselves in Scripture and with increasing intensity demonstrated that God loves the outcast. Indeed, many straight people will not believe God loves them until they see how thoroughly God can love an old queen like me.
Spreading that ancient Good News and claiming blood kinship with Christ, lgbtq Christians provoke "fiery ordeals" indeed, even unto this day. See, for example, the website of The Westboro Baptist Church, known as 'GodHatesFags.com'. Fred Phelps, their pastor, has picketed many General Conventions of The Episcopal Church. The congregation pickets funerals of soldiers killed in action. Days after 911, Phelps asserted that fags working in the Pentagon and in the World Trade Center had prompted God's destruction of those place.
Peter faced far worse calumny and abuse, yet boldly proclaimed: "If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.."
Ernest and I lived in a tiny town called Ft. Valley, Georgia when I founded Integrity. As a racially integrated couple, we could not have been more visible. If we had announced our marriage in the Atlanta Journal/Constitution, we would not have drawn the attention we received when we took out a joint checking account at Citizens Bank in Ft. Valley.
A national John Birch Society Paper published in nearby Macon accused us of causing a tornado that hit Ft. Valley. Our apartment was stoned several times, We were under heavy threats of other violence. In that context, living with Peter's vision of God, I wrote "A Gay Psalm from Ft. Valley":
Fortunately God used double entendre when Jesus spoke from the cross, "It is finished." His earthly life? Well, no, not if you count the post resurrection appearances; and not if like Thomas, you demand to put your fingers into the holes the nails made.
Does this passage mark the end of Jesus' 'earthly ministry' as he is about to ascend into heaven? Well, what about the time he appeared incognito in Calcutta, or in the South Bronx?
The story is told that a woman working in high finance in New York decided a few years ago that she wanted to spend her summer vacation doing something significant to help those lest fortunate. Months in advance of her time off, she wrote a letter to Mother Theresa in Calcutta offering to spend her vacation time there serving the poorest of the poor.
Anxiously she waited. After two months she began to fear that her letter had been lost in the mail, though she had sent it Express. As the vacation time drew closer, she feared she would not hear anything at all.
Then a letter arrived, with a stamp for surface carriage, in an envelope that had obviously been used for other mail earlier. A dirty, frayed Indian stamp was attached. She tore open the letter to find out the plans for her.
On a small single sheet appeared just two words: "South Bronx."
The Sisters of Mercy operate a ministry for the poorest of the poor only a couple of miles from where she worked in Manhattan.
Has Jesus really departed, or might we find him, where he said we always might expect to find him, among those whom we consider the least -- not just those whom we consider the least in some exotic place on the other side of the plane, but among those whom we consider the least among us?