Monday, September 1, 2008

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.

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