Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sunday, August 10, 2008: Reflections on the RCL

Today's lections

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
Psalm 105, 1-6, 16-22, 45b
Romans 10:5-15
Matthew 14:22-33


I have always loved Joseph, and dare I confess, in part for his taste in clothes.

When I reached my teens, my father decided that it was time to let me make some of my own choices. He called up his friend Horace Beard, who ran a fine clothing store, and told him to expect me to show up without him and without my mother. He would pay for anything I bought up to a specific limit. When I arrived, an enterprising salesman recognized me as an easy mark for some items that were not moving, and in particular I loved a silk leisure shirt that looked like leopard skin. It was gorgeous and had buttons made out of bone, each slightly different in shape. I also bought a pair of expensive trousers that had no belt loops, but a draw string. They were the only trousers in the store like that.

My parents were excited when I arrived home with my purchases. My father was livid when I took them out of the bags. It was not clear whether he was angrier with Mr. Beard for letting it happen or with me for having such obviously "sissy taste!" as he put it, but since I was nearby and powerless, he took his rage out on me, and took out a bit on mother as well, possibly because he was taught in a college psychology class to blame on the mother any sign of sissiness in a boy. "Mother's boy" was the phrase the bullies used at my schoolyard.

In primary class at the Baptist Sunday School I had wondered whether Joseph's brothers were embarrassed about his cloak of many colors. I was not at all impressed with their reason for sparing his life -- not out of pity on him, much less out of any respect for him, but out of fear that they might have heaven to pay if they murdered him.

This is not the end of the story, of course. The lectionary leaves us with a cliff-hanger. For now, forget what you know about how the colorful sissy fares in Egypt. He's one smart guy.

The Gospel

Have you ever been in a small boat in a big storm? I have, and while it was scary, it was even more: intimidating.

I am not macho, nor have I ever pretended to be. I was taught that the world belongs to macho football heroes, whether or not they use what they have between the ears. I was also taught contradictory myths about fairies: 1) that we are so light and frovilous and inconsequential that we are like fuzz on a dandelion. Poof! And we can be blown away; and yet 2) we are so powerful and malevolent that even the toughest young man is no match for us if we set our eyes and our mind to seduce him.

Too much of my adolescence I wasted trying to find myself in either of these myths, with no adult around capable of confirming my suspicion that I was neither.

Dad and I reached a fine compromise when we went camping and fishing each weekend from the end of school in May to the beginning of school in the fall. While I was an adept fly-fisher, I got no pleasure out of being able to put a fly within 3 inches of where I knew the fish were most likely to snap it. Dad worked the fly rod; I maneuvered the small boat into the most promises nooks and crannies.

Out of college and a long time from our fishing excursions, I rented a small boat on a big lake on a hot day in Texas and brought back fine memories of the many days Dad and I were close in such settings. In the middle of the lake, the water began to churn, and the shore to which I was headed to return the boat, was dark with ominous overhanging clouds I knew that I did not have enough gas to go to the safer shore and then still get back to my car. I decided to make it for the darker shore. The rains hit with such vengeance that I could not see either shore. Water began to enter the boat as it rose and dipped in the tall waves.

45 years later I cannot remember a single detail of arriving at my destination, though obviously I did. I do remember my surprise at the power of the wind and the water. Most of all, I remember my vulnerability.

The Epistle

I keep up with 7,321 anniversaries and birthdays, including anniversaries of ordination to priesthood. Mother was head teller at the bank when she was pregnant with me, and this is a delightful way to live into the fullness of my DNA.

The subject line of my message on the anniversary of one's ordination often is, "A Pedicure to Celebrate the Anniversary of Your Ordination." Once a colleague in the House of Deputies replied, "Why are you offering me a pedicure? I don't get them. The sub-text seemed to be "And I don't appreciate email from you." It probably would not have helped one whit to point out that I was alluding, as does St. Paul in today's reading, to Isaiah 52:7. If you have beautiful feet, it makes sense to respect them, to give them a pedicure. Those who have news genuinely good to tell, have beautiful feet. Go figure.

Be figurative! It's fun! I've never had a pedicure myself. If I did have one, I would want my nails polished deep lavender. But that's not the point.

God gave us imagination but it atrophies if we don't use it.

Those who are embarrassed by miracles would probably rather stay home and read a good book today. Walk on water? Puleeze? And show off doing it? Really! No doubt it makes sense that one who controls all that is, could certainly control the weather. But does God need to do it in the fashion of a magician? Have we lost all sense of wonder at the magic God put into creation itself? How did my boat get to the dark shore?

Even more embarrassed today might be those offended by St. Paul's exclusive claims made for Christianity.

After lunch with the American Anglican Council, I ran into Bishop Bill Swing outside the convention center in Minneapolis in 2003 -- or was it outside the convention center in Denver in 2000? Bishop Swing asked me how things were going.

"I have some good news and some bad news," I replied.

"Give me the good news first," he answered.

"It will not be a long time before conservatives give up on scapegoating lesbians and gays," I asserted. "Privately some of them tell me, 'Louie, you're going to "win" on this one, but not on my watch. My own children are no great lovers of lesbians and gays, but they're embarrassed by the energy I put into the battle. "Their place in society is a done deal. They've always been around. The only change now is that they're more honest. Why do you want to make yourself and our family look like a bunch of bigots?" they ask me. We go on and on about it, but the future is theirs, and they will make your life easier, Louie.'"

"That is good news," Bishop Swing replied, "well at least of a kind. But what's the bad news?" he asked with a twinkle in his eye.

"You are next," I replied.


"Yes. 'Jesus is lord. Jesus is Lord. JESUS IS LORD,'" I said with pronounced crescendo.

"But I believe Jesus is Lord," Bishop Swing replied defensively.

"With your United Religions Initiative you speak respectfully of Buddha, or Allah, of......" I teased. Saint says, "If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

"But I do, and I will be," the bishop replied.

I do too, and I will be too. So will be my friends in Jesus' other folds that we're not supposed to talk about.

Louie/Quean Lutibelle

As a loincloth clings to a man, so I intend that my people cling
to me. It is Yaweh who speaks. --Jeremiah 13:11


Anonymous said...

...reading this blog is such a sweet relief from reading about Lambeth!

Pamela Grenfell Smith

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Louie, this is one of the Gospel stories on which I can totally relate. Peter and I are possibly separated at birth twins--sort of the impetuous type but good hearted. I can imagine thinking "Oh, what the hell, in for a dollar, in for a dime" when asked to get out there with Jesus on the water, but also ending up with the "Oh, @#$%" moment as I started to get afraid.

How many times do we jump into something yet halfway in the middle, think, "uh-oh, this might have been a bad idea...."?????

Despite the fact that Jesus gives us a little bit of the eye roll and sigh, he stays with us anyway!