Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

© 2008 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

How does the Most Rev. Peter Akinola, “Archbishop of All Nigeria” declare his power? How do the primates who are his chief allies declare their power? How did the Lambeth Conference of 2008 declare its power? In each case, by making unwelcome demands on those with whom they disagreed.

I rejoiced in 1998 when bishops of color at last became the majority of the bishops of the Anglican Communion. It was understandable when they sought a way that to flex their new muscle, preferably a way that would cost them little at home, such as an issue about which few at home had any disagreements, but an issue where those who formerly lorded it over them might be brought to task for violating a biblical principle not in dispute in the vast majority of the Communion.

Scapegoats rarely volunteer. They are anointed. Thus lgbts came to center stage.

Talk seriously off camera with almost any “reasserter” and she will tell you that gays and lesbians are merely the presenting issue, not the core concern of those making most of the complaints about lgbts in the Communion. The re-asserters disagree on many issues, including whether to have women as priests and bishops and whether the church should be high, low or broad….. Disapproving of homosexual persons has great utility: it unites the opposition as no other issue does at this time.

+Peter Akinola got his picture on the cover of Time as one of the most influential persons in the world. He and like-mind primates outside the United States initiated their own “anglican” missionary structures, violated historic episcopal boundaries, and consecrated as bishops conservatives who defected from The Episcopal Church to operate in the same geographical territory from which they had left. Meanwhile, they poach people and seize property held by TEC. They hope in the long run to be granted the official “anglican” franchise in the United States.

That’s would formidable power, if not almighty power, if they can bring it off.

Do they show any mercy towards those with whom they disagree? Absolutely not.

In contrast, “O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity.”

Showing mercy requires more power than does exacting the full penalty of the Law.

Exodus 17:1-7

Integrity and Oasis ought to call their float in the next Pride parade Massah and Meribah, “Is the Lord among us or not?

Understandably many in the lgbt community have no time for God or religion, certainly not for the deities in whose name they have suffered fierce bible abuse.

One of the most successful acts at Lambeth, I am told, was the show “The Seven Passages,” in which students from Western Michigan University demonstrated the lives of over 100 lesbian and gay Christians living under the threat of the scant seven passages from scripture used to bully and intimidate lgbt persons.

Few straight Christians have read the short book Leviticus thoroughly and attentively. It’s like reading the U.S. penal code. Not an easy assignment even for lawyers. Perhaps one of the major lgbt Christian distinctives is that many of us have actually had to read Leviticus for our very survival, the whole book, not just the reductions placed in Bible tracts to educate an entire generation as to God’s alleged disapproval of homosexuals.

“Is the Lord among us or not?” the Israelites taunted Moses. “And if so, who would want to have anything to do with him?” ask many lesbians and gays.

Old Opium in a New Sniffer

My silly fairy friend kept the 11 p.m. Vigil
with his Cardex, like a prayer wheel,
mumbling over the names of 435 "holy" queers
and 37 of their chapters,
while 17 candles flickered before a plaster Mary
and lace draped the pokler-chip host,
as if my friend really believed in Resurrection,
or more preposterous, believed that Jesus,
even if resurrected,
would have anything to do with us.

-- Li Min Hua

Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16

Somehow it seems easier to believe in the “mysteries of ancient times,” in the wonderful works God has done” for ancient Israel than it is to expect God to work miracles in our day. If we want great displays of nature tamed, we look to Hollywood.

God got lots of mileage per miracle in the hearts of those who witnessed the Exodus for the Israelites from Egypt. Psalm 78 was written several hundred years after God used miracles to effect their escape, and today, we are at least three thousand more years from the time of the psalmist, and will still be reading the psalm..

“Do it again, God! If you are annoyed that so few worship you anymore, put on a new show that will bring back the crowds.” I sometimes mutter in my prayers, when I think God is nodding off.

“Don’t do that, God,” I interrupt myself. On second thought, I am not sure I want to live with what I pray for, God.

Philippians 2:1-13

In the most crucial moments, Jesus turned down the opportunity to impress us with his Godly power as God had allowed Moses to do. Jesus walked on water to save his disciples in the ship, not by impressing them with his strength, but by showing them they too could walk on water if they brought enough faith to the challenge. Jesus did no miracles to save himself.

[He] did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death--
even death on a cross.

That is Attitude! Let this mind, this Attitude, be in us.

Matthew 21:23-32

The Gospels are filled with trick questions. The trick question in Matthew for today comes from the Israelites’ central committee, disturbed by Jesus’ growing popularity. “By what authority do you do these things?” they demand. If he says, “Because I am the son of God,” the leader will consider him a blasphemer because they are not willing to grant him that authority.

Jesus says he‘ll answer their question if they will answer his, and he gives them a trick question which they are unwilling to answer. “Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?"

"If we say, `From heaven,' he will say to us, `Why then did you not believe him?' But if we say, `Of human origin,' we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet." So they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And he said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

“I do not know” is their face-saving way of saying “I won’t tell you.”

They have reached a temporary stalemate, but we know this part of the drama ends at Golgatha. Temporizing tactics can only delay, not prevent that conclusion.

May we too have Attitude like Jesus. Through Christ we are joint heirs to God’s realm. God has given us equality, even those of us who are despised and rejected. But we must not treat equality with God as something to be exploited, We must empty ourselves and take on the form of a slave, and became obedient to the point of death -- even death on a cross.

Early autumn somehow seems a lot like spring and Holy Week.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

© 2008 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This is not a prayer for the Material Girl!

There is risk in this prayer. It reinforces the false impression that God is not interested in the material world or in things that pass away. God made the material world quite marvelously, and spirituality is integral to it, not removed from it. The Eucharist itself is pointedly material and poignantly ordinary: wine, bread, water, and blessing.

What endures is their connection to things holy.

I like the lofty rhetoric of this collect, but wonder whether Jesus does. Sometimes he urges me to cut to the chase, the way friends do. “Why all this ‘for ever and ever ….. and ever and ever and ever….? Whew. Is that the way you talk to your friends? Am I not your best friend? Don’t use this high-flown rhetoric to keep me at a distance: take the responsibility of being my friend: talk to me like one.”

Exodus 16:2-15

Do not the Israelites have reason enough to complain? They are hungry. They have left the relative comfort of slavery, where they had at least enough to eat and a place to sleep, and are trudging through a wilderness. They trusted Moses and his inner circle, and now wonder whether they will starve.

Suppose Moses had been less anxious. Suppose Moses had said, “We are in trouble, but only so that we can reaffirm the God of plenty. Let us together fill this space with prayer, and I am sure that God will answer.”

And suppose God had said, “I was hoping you would ask. I am lonely and rejoice to work together with you. You have no need to bicker and demand that someone else fill your needs: come to me directly.

“Check out the dew in the morning and the quail I will send you at night. Tip: the quail is delicious when broiled or roasted with garlic. Serve it on toast with yak butter and a mango sauce. And the manna is more like a dumpling than a hard roll. Don’t hoard it. It will rot if you don’t eat it. It will disintegrate to a bitter powder if you try to freeze-dry it.

“All of these good things I have provided you one day at time, so that you will keep in relationship with me every day. The same is true of your portions of my spirit: they are sufficient to the day, but only for the day. You cannot hoard me. I am dependable if you keep returning.”

It is important to slough off the authoritarian culture in which the texts arrive, lest we think the authoritarianism and the patriarchy are the message rather than its shell.

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45

The Psalmist gets it right, and says

They asked, and quails appeared, *
and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.

No bickering here. No complaints against Moses and Aaron.

Writing in a different time and for a more comfortable people, the Psalmist shifts what he hears in the ancient story, just as I have, just as every reader is invited to do. What of the story endures and should be preserved? The essence is not lost if we treat the patriarchy like dross.

Philippians 1:21-30

My friend Tina Machida, sometimes president of GALZ (Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe) told a women’s gathering at the 8th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1998 that her parents, as devout Christians, were distressed when she told them she is a lesbian. The parents hired a straight man to rape their daughter, convinced that she would prefer heterosexuality if she could just experience it.

When the man had done the deed, Tina, in much pain, made her way to the door into a central hall in the family’s small dwelling. She saw her parents hovering near her door. They had prayerfully listened to the entire assault.

What would you write to Tina?

What would you write to Nigerian gay Davis MacIyalla, threatened with prison and at times even with death? Both Tina and Davis suffer because of their public witness that Jesus loves absolutely everybody.

Saint said, “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain”? Is that true for you? Have you suffered for your faith?

Are you not one with others who suffer for the faith? How do we bear one another’s burdens?

The Christians at Philippi know that Saint has suffered, and because of their faith, they are now suffering too.

Saint advises: “God has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well -- since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”

Might we say that to Tina and to Davis?

Matthew 20:1-16

From the Quean Lutibelle version:

Jesus said, "The Queandom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire straight laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the straight laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o'clock, he saw some bisexuals standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, `You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o'clock, he did the same, first with a group of gay men at noon, and with a group of the transgendered at three o‘clock. And about five o'clock he went out and found lesbians standing around; and he said to them, `Why are you standing here idle all day?' They said to him, `Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, `You also go into the vineyard.'

When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, `Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.' When the lesbians hired about five o'clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the heterosexuals came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, `These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' But he replied to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?' So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

Monday, September 1, 2008

Sunday, September 14, 2008

© 2008 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

What does it mean, “without you we are not able to please you”? Without your help we are not able to please you?

Do you have a spouse or a close family member or dear friend you would like to please but find yourself failing time and time again? Is that what Cranmer (if indeed this is Cranmer’s prayer) asks God to remedy?

The second part says the remedy will come when the Holy Spirit directs and rules our heart. When that happens, we will please God. Otherwise, we may be trying to please God by giving God what it would please us to receive, or what it pleases us to be seen giving to God. God has to tell us, but first we need to listen.

My friend Kim Byham loves telling jokes that are hard to “get.” For example, he tells of a man who has a vision while praying at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. In the vision the Virgin Mary appears before the man and commands,

“Build me a beautiful church in this place.”

You miss the joke until you supply extra stress to the word beautiful. Obviously there is already a church in this place dedicated to the Virgin. She is asking for one that is beautiful. My friend Kim thinks that basilica is ugly.

We cannot hope to please someone if we do not know the person well, as if from inside.

Exodus 14:19-31

If you like narratives wherein the good people and the bad people are readily distinguishable as such, you will like this passage. The Israelites are the good people. The Egyptians are the bad people. God shows off with great power and might in rescuing the Israelites by drowning the Egyptians. All who survive are fearful to the extreme, and now believe in God because God has done marvelous things. If not for that reason, it does not hurt to have good theological insurance.

Attention evangelists (literally ‘angels’ or ‘messengers’ with eu -- good messages): you don’t have to give people good news: just scare them into realizing disaster that might happen if they don’t convert.

I admit that I am being unfair reading the text from a perspective not that of the authors, namely the Israelites, who are praising God for their deliverance. Clearly most who read the passage and like it see it as an example that when God is on our side, no matter how strong the enemy, the enemy is no match for God. Many who believe that God created the earth, believe also that God can control it and can alter the rules. I have trouble at glibness in asserting that the creator would operate with national bias in doing so.

For many years I taught “the Bible as Literature” at the University and before that, at a prep school. Students with little or no exposure to theology or doctrine, whether self-defined as believers or atheists, find the character Jesus in Christian scriptures much more accessible than the character God in the Hebrew scriptures. Even when God is on the side of the main mortal characters, as God is with the Israelites in the Exodus, the God of Hebrew scriptures is frequently something of a show off and a bully.

The body count here is gruesome. “Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.”

Perhaps Exodus should be X-Rated?

Psalm 114

Psalm 114 compounds the nationalism and God’s partisanship that we saw in the Exodus by taking a cheap shot, at the foreigners’ way of talking:

When Israel came out of Egypt, *
the house of Jacob from a people of strange speech…

There was nothing particularly strange about Egyptian speech, any more than there is about the speech of my friends in New Jersey when they speak about their “dorters,” although everyone knows that in English spoken properly they are speaking of their “dawtuhs,” as in the “Dawtuhs of the King” -- one of whom asked me on the elevator at General Convention in Phoenix, “Have the qee-uhs arrived yet?” That’s my native accent, and I knew more about them than at that moment they knew about me.

Even inanimate things join the Israelites in the psalm: “What ailed you, O sea, that you fled?” the Israelites personify the Red Sea and tease it for backing off to let them pass unharmed.”

I realize I am a spoil-sport here for reading a text cross-culturally that was not intended to be read that way. I doubt that Jesus intended his insults to the Syrophoenician woman to be read cross-culturally either. However, it is instructive to do so. God is the God of absolutely everybody. Occasionally those who wrote scripture did not carefully reckon with the consequences of their own claims.

Romans 14:1-12

Quean Lutibelle’s ‘translation’:

Welcome those who are lgbt, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Most people are heterosexual and bond in life commitments with persons of an opposite gender. A few people are lesbian and gay and bond in life commitments only with those of their own gender. Some are bisexuals, attracted to persons of either gender; they do not choose their life partner based on gender, but on love. Some have surgery so that their body will match their psychological understanding of themselves.

Those who are heterosexual must not despise those who are not, and those who are lgbt must not pass judgment on those who are heterosexual; for God has welcomed them.

Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your lgbt brother or sister? Or you lgbts, why do you despise your straight brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,

"As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God."
So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Matthew 18:21-35

I have long loved Robert Browning’s “Soliloquy from a Spanish Cloister,” which begins,

G-r-r-r. There goes my heart’s abhorrence.

The monk muttering the whole poem makes it clear at the start he cannot abide the other monk moving nearby.

I hope someday to write a similar soliloquy, titled “465 and Counting.” I would begin by reviewing grievances 455 through 465 which the speaker bemoans yet forgives, with delighted anticipation of the magic number 490 (70 times 7) at which he won’t have to forgive any more.

Such are those more comfortable taking scripture literally than in living into its challenges. Obviously Jesus was using hyperbole to suggest an exactly opposite attitude: there is no magic number of offenses at which we no longer have to forgive.

And another rendering from Quean Lutibelle’s ‘Translation’:

"For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a bishop who wished to resolve a problem with a straight priest who had been brought before him as guilty of keeping soft-porn on his personal computer in the rectory -- pictures of Britney Spears in the buff, a rather too explicit collection of advertisements for female lingerie…….

The matter would not have concerned the bishop had it been purely private, but the parish housekeeper had seen it when her dust cloth accidentally touched the computer mouse and deactivated an innocuous screen saver. The housekeeper was shocked that a priest would be interested in such things and reported him.

When the bishop met with the priest, he confirmed, as he expected that the man was not obsessive in his interests and that the computer was his own, not church property. He advised the priest not to become addicted to images that depersonalized the object of his affection. The two prayed together in thanksgiving for God‘s many gifts, and asked to be responsible and whole in their private as well as their public life.

That priest left, rejoicing not to have been suspended or chastened, but in the evening he learned that a priest down the street had been seen in a gay bar 50 miles away. He became livid and called up twenty colleague in his rolodex to complain about how bad the times had become, that no one held to any high moral standards anymore. He even sent the gay priest three anonymous notes threatening actions against him if he did not resign.

When fellow priests saw how overwrought their straight colleague had become, they commented to their bishop on what had taken place. Then the bishop summoned the straight priest and said to him, `You wicked priest! I forgave you because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had compassion for your colleague, as I had compassion for you?' And in anger the bishop inhibited him from all priestly functions.

So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart."

Sunday, September 7, 2008

© 2008 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

One of the blessings of being outnumbered and despised (declared “lower than pigs or dogs“) is that it is next to impossible to confide in our own strength. I boast not of my righteousness, nor even finally of my rightness in the matters contested in the Anglican Communion, but rather boast in God’s mercy.

I do not intend to arrive at heaven saying, “My name is Louie Crew and let me in because I am right about sexuality!” What a pretentious claim! I have already written the script on the tablet of my heart: "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Have straight folks struck a better bargain?

As best as I can understand, my sin in my commitment to Ernest is not that I love him, but that I don’t love him enough, namely as much as I love myself. I believe God is pleased when any two persons make a life-long commitment to love and to cherish, but even if I am wrong in believing that, I am not wrong in what I know about God: God’s property is always to show mercy.

Micah says only three things are required of us, and one of them is to love mercy. I know some who are merciful in their opposition to me and other lgbts. I would be hard put to identify more than a very few opponents who actually love mercy.

I would not approve of lgbt persons if most lived down to the stereotypes some have of us in the Anglican Communion. I can well understand how those who do not know many lesbian and gay Christians may assess that the Episcopal Church is wrong in its affirmation of lgbt persons -- in consenting to the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire and in proclaiming that some with deeply Christian convictions live them out in same-sex, life-long unions.

What I cannot understand is the vindictive behavior of many who object to the positions of TEC. Nor can I understand the almost complete silence about that vindictive behavior by those who know better and are not vindictive themselves.

I am not persuaded that the vindictiveness is justified when my opponents proclaim, as one of the CANA bishops said to me a few years ago, when he was still a priest, “But you have stolen my church!”

Foremost: The Episcopal Church was then and still now is God’s church, and the gates of hell, nor my errors, nor his, will prevail against it.

Clearly those who seek TEC’s removal from the Communion do not love mercy.

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Exodus 12:1-14

What would a “pass over” be for lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered persons? In the Anglican Provinces of Nigeria or Uganda or Rwanda or Central Africa, where we are sought out, scourged, placed in prison?

There is a “pass over” that I reject: “If you don’t tell, we won’t ask.”

We have many instances in Scripture where good people hide their real identity to escape violence of others -- Moses’ mother hid her baby in a basket last week, and did not reveal herself to Pharaoh’s daughter when the daughter hired her as the nurse to her own son.

Even today, most lesbians and gays cannot hope to survive without a closet in countries that enforce Sharia, where the Christians compete with the Muslims to see who can be harsher. Instead of genuine deliverance, the closet offers only respite.

Well into the 1950s and 60s gay people frequently met one another by coded behavior: wear green on Thursday; cross your legs lady-like, not at 90-degree angles…. That was not deliverance either, and offered an invitation to risk intimacy before knowing each other as whole persons.

In today’s climate, would we bid the angel of destruction to “pass over” us if we placed a small rainbow flag on the lintel or doorpost on the night that God brings a plague on those who condemn us? Or should we place there a burnt palm from the most recent Palm Sunday? The latter would be obscure enough not to alert the enemy. However the rainbow flag might have the opposite of the effect we desire: witness the many slashed tires and graffiti-covered garages of those who display the rainbow flags.

And at the day of reckoning, why must God punish those who persecute us? Would it not be far more a testament to God’s mercy, and our own, for God to change their hearts instead, and for God to change our own, making us more forgivinng, as God for Christ's sake has forgiven us?

Jesus said all will be judged by the way they treat the least among them. Without paying attention, straight Christians routinely ask God to forgive them as they forgive lgbts. That’s dangerous in many instances. It is unwise to pray without paying attention to what we ask.

I realize that it is self-serving for me to ask but, God, but please forgive my enemies, lest I too be condemned for so often praying that you will use the same standard in judging me that I have used in judging them.

Psalm 149

I am troubled by psalms that begin in joy and end in violence. This is but one of several.

I am glad that the lectionary does not stop after ‘the good part’ (up through verse 5), but keeps in view the primitive vengeance of the rest. We should supply our thinking caps with a fresh Duracell:

To wreak vengeance on the nations *
and punishment on the peoples;

To bind their kings in chains *
and their nobles with links of iron;

To inflict on them the judgment decreed; *
this is glory for all his faithful people.

Whoopee! Go for my enemies, God. Inflict on them the judgment decreed! ??

Often in the past few years we have seen documentaries on television showing Muslim children being taught that infidels in the West are demonic. That same process is at work in our own holy book, especially in psalms like this one.

Maybe it would be helpful to say or sing the psalm as usual in your congregation, but have a court jester arrive at the end of verse 5 activating a hand-held siren, played at an increasing volume as the congregation tries to make its way through the rest of the psalm At the end of the psalm, the jester could sit cross-legged near the pulpit, head bowed, until the priest finishes the Gospel and says “In the name of the father, son, and Holy Spirit.”

“Are you sure?” the jester would then ask the preacher. “Does God really want us to wreak vengeance on the nations, to bind our enemies in chains, their nobles with links of iron”?

Romans 13:8-14

"The commandments …. are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’"

What does it mean to love your lgbt neighbor as yourself?

Several years ago at a regional meeting of Integrity in Atlanta, a “blue-hair little old lady” -- the steel magnolia stereotype -- stood up after someone had given a talk and said, “I was wrong the first time that Jesus knocked on my heart and asked me to open to people whom we had always excluded. In my silence I said ‘no’ to Jesus. I have lived to see how very wrong I was. I am enormously grateful that God has delayed final judgment of me and is again knocking on the door of my heart, this time asking me to open my heart to lesbians and gays. God bless you. Thank you for allowing me to be among you. You are a great blessing to me.”

Matthew 18:15-20

Too often people do not follow Jesus’ standard: "If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.”

I am frequently asked whether so-and-so said something or so-and-so did such-and-such. Often these questions are about adversaries, and those asking me want to get some dirt to help win advantage.

Even if know the answer and share it, I counsel, make no fuss about this until you first speak with the person. Maybe I misperceived what happened. Maybe I heard just a part of what was said. Maybe the person did that or said that, but has learned from the experience and would not do it or say it again…. Ask the person first.

Jesus points out, “If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.”

Dr. Cornell West (author of Race Matters) is one of the most articulate persons on the planet. Several years ago when he was speaking at Rutgers, a colleague of mine declared him to be a sexist in something he had just said.

He replied: Given that I grew up in the streets, it would be surprising indeed if I do not still have vestiges of sexism regardless of how hard I continue to work to get rid of them. I prefer to hear what you said as ‘that’s sexist’ rather than “you’re sexist….’ If I hear you saying I am a sexist, I’m prone to jump to my defense. If I hear you saying that what I said is sexist, I’m much more likely to re-examine my comment and revise it if I agree with you. One way of criticizing puts me at odds with you; the other invites us to collaborate in removing the offense.


It’s interesting in the NRSV that Matthew has Jesus say, “If another member of the church sins against you.” You don’t have to know Greek or Aramaic to know that Jesus would never have said it that way. Why? Anachronism may help you discover the answer.