Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2009

© 2008 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

Waiting for God‘s Handouts

Psalm 123

With God “enthroned in the heavens” the psalmist watches God's hand closely, expecting a hand-out:

As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, *
and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

So our eyes look to the LORD our God, *
until he show us his mercy.

What can a servant do to attain an employer’s favor? Attend to the employer’s every need and keep your eyes on the employer’s hand for a gratuity.

Watch the eyes of a beggar approaching a friend with whom you are walking down the street. You will often see this same dynamic. The beggar is watching your friend's hand: is any money there? The beggar’s eyes will often move to your own hands before the beggar turns to ask you for help.

The psalmist puts us in the same relationship with God.

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy, *
for we have had more than enough of contempt,

Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich, *
and of the derision of the proud.

Enough already! Indeed.

I stayed away from Lambeth altogether while it happened. It is not a healthy spectator sport. I quietly went off all discussion lists and was amazed at how cleansed I felt. When the Conference ended, I easily sped through a few good summaries to see what I need to know, sans the contempt.

Lgbts have had far too much of the scorn and derision of those proud to think they are better than we are. Lord, I am watching your hand for the most valuable gratuity possible: mercy. Lord, have mercy.

The Collect
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I rejoice that Episcopalians do not have to hang up our minds when we enter. The bible is not a weapon with which to clobber us, but a book to study, even with a high-lighter, not just be told, but to be challenged to think for ourselves about what we read.

When we “inwardly digest,” our own body chemistry alters what we have eaten to appropriate it for our own nurture, for our own spiritual experience, and there is nothing wrong about critical thinking.

I taught the bible as literature at state universities for many years. Sometimes I would begin the course by bringing in a bucket of dirty water and a worn out paperback of the Bible we used in the class.

“Holy Bible” refers to what is in it, not to the binding, the paper, or typeface. In this course, this book will have to compete with any other books that you have studied. What you do privately with it is your own business. In this class, this book must earn its title of ‘holy’ just as we expect any other book to live up to the claims it makes for itself and the claims that others make for it.

We Episcopalians hear more scripture in our worship than do the congregations of most other Christian groups. We hear it in a context of reverence, not a context that promotes the kind of inspection, challenge, and rigor that a student devotes to a chemistry text.

Many of my students in the bible class are atheists, Muslims, Buddhists…… If they take the two classes (Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Scriptures), they will spend a minimum of 90 hours in class and in intense homework. They would have to go to church every Sunday for 26 years to get that much exposure to scripture if the sermon and the lectionary devote at least 12 minutes to Scripture.

My undergraduate classes are demanding, but clearly only introductory. It is small wonder to me that so many Episcopalians, known for more than our share of advanced education, are biblically illiterate.

Coptics who take my classes are somewhat in the position of Puerto Ricans taking Spanish 101: it’s an easy “A” if they do the work because they already have native competence. Coptics do not typically do much evangelism but depend on maintaining their numbers by training their own children. They know that if a generation does not know Scripture, they will die out.

Episcopalians have spent much of the last 50 years cutting back on Christian education in the parish and dismantling most of our college chaplainries. "We have been eating our seed corn," says my friend John Worrell, who for many years was Episcopal Chaplain at Rice University."

Just out of college, I left the faith when I discovered how evil many Christians took me to be. I mistakenly believed that they spoke for God. Yet, because I have academic minors in New Testament Greek and in religion, throughout my career I have taught Scripture. God has used Scripture in a major way to communicate love and mercy to lgbt persons.

Today's collect squares with my own experience: when I “inwardly digest” scripture, I am led to “embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.”

Judges 4:1-7

I do not enjoy the blood and gore of the history book Judges, nor the Israelite tendency to see God as always on their side. Nevertheless, Deborah makes a pleasant break with the steady stream of patriarchs-in-charge. The lectionary often protects our corporate worship from seeing a really strong female, like Jael. Deborah, however, strong herself, foresaw that a woman would overthrow Sisera, the Canaanite bully who oppressed Israel for 20 years. In Atermisia Gentileschi painting we watch as she puts a tent peg through Sisera’s temple

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11

Saint keeps at eschatology. For him, “end times” was not just a metaphor. He expected the second-coming at any moment, as Jesus warned last Sunday, in the night and at the moment you least expect it to happen.

It’s amazing the way that Christianity is still widespread 21 centuries later, with far more adherents than it had in the first 5 centuries combined, with now very few expecting the second coming any time soon. Only after several centuries did Christians start building edifices designed to last for generations after the builders had died.

Matthew 25:14-30

The easy way to interpret this parable is to see the servant as wicked for not at least investing his money with bankers so that he would have something to give his master when the master returns.

“Go to your first national bank and be done with it, lazy man.”

But when Matthew was written and for centuries thereafter, usury (charging an interest on money lent) was a sin big time. See Exodus 22:25-27, Deuteronomy 23:19,20. Nehemiah 5:11, et al.

By not investing the money, the servant was honoring the biblical standard.

That cultural reality makes the easy interpretation patently false. Can you tell this story so that the servant is the obedient character and the owner the disobedient? Or might Jesus have intended still another interpretation? Be sure to try to reconcile all of the details with your interpretations.

See also

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