O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen..
Episcopalians rarely grovel. Our kneelers are often in needlepoint, sometimes even in petit point. Even in asking to get into heaven, we do so with sublime decency and good order. With this collect we acknowledge that Jesus humbled himself to share in humanity, but at the same time praise God for wonderfully creating us and even more wonderfully restoring us when we sin and fall short of God’s plan.
In the Baptismal Covenant we pledge to respect the dignity of every human being. Dignity is not an overlay or an afterthought. It is essence, in the fundamental design of absolutely everyone.
God ended each day of Creation saying, “It is good.”
Imprinted as a Southern Baptist, I find that the Book of Common Prayer often makes me sound better than I feel I ought. The 1928 edition encouraged a bit more groveling, bidding us to approach God admitting to be “miserable offenders,” proclaiming “there is no health in us.” I was bred proclaiming the amazing grace that God could save a “wretch like me.” Some Episcopalians never sing "Amazing Grace."
Even at 5 or 6 years old, I could work myself up into a proper sweat convinced that I was chief of sinners. I recognize there is real danger in thinking of myself more highly than I ought to think. But Episcopal liturgy does me a great service by reminding me again and again not to run the other debilitating spiritual risk of thinking of myself more lowly than I ought to think.
Self-pity is a major risk for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered folk raised in my generation, and for some in the latest generations as well. When we are despised, it takes strong faith to keep focused on the marvel of our creation. It is God who has made us, and not we ourselves. God knows us all by name.
Jesus said, “You must be born again.” As a teenager, I was taught that only heterosexuals have God’s favor, and wrongly I sought to re-wire myself as heterosexual, I was a failure:
Swish, swish, men of America.
Cross your legs only at 90-degree angles.
Your fingernails are getting a mite too long.
That fuchsia shirt might be misunderstood.
You'd better lower your pitches
and say something evil about your mothers.
You smell too sweet and are too polite. Be crude
Talk about war, not about flowers.
Swish, swish, men of America.
Swish, swish. Swish, swish.
Swish, swish. Bug off.
I had to die to the heterosexual life, to lose it, before I could discover the rich life that God made possible for me as the gay person God had made. I had to be born again, not of a new body, but of a new spirit. My salvation came in discovering how lovingly, wonderfully God had made me.
In today's readings, even sourpuss Jeremiah, “the weeping prophet,” eschews lamentation:
I will turn their mourning into joy,He rejoices because God is gathering those who have been scattered, those who have been dispersed.
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
I will give the priests their fill of fatness,
and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty
I will never forget the first Integrity Convention, when for the first time in history over 130 gay and lesbian Episcopalians gathered at St. James Cathedral in Chicago in the summer of 1975. At times it seemed like a great rush of angels wings. We were not alone. We were at the altar together, as who we are, honest to God and honest to one another.
How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts! *
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.
The sparrow has found her a house
and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young; *
by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.
Happy are they who dwell in your house! *
they will always be praising you. ….
No good thing will the LORD withhold *
from those who walk with integrity.
God does not choose us out of great pity, but out of great joy. God’s plans for us began before the foundations of the world! We are not God’s after-thought. We are not late-comers into God’s love, though we are occasionally slow in realizing it. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give all lgbt persons a spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know God, so that, with the eyes of our heart enlightened, we may know what is the hope to which God has called us, what are the riches of God’s glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of God’s power for us, lbgt and straights together, who believe.
Out LGBTs of my generation (I am now 72) often traveled light. Any property we owned was easily portable. I was 62 before I ever bought any real estate. When I came out as gay to my employers, I fully expected to be fired and was amazed when I was not. We were integrating our neighborhood in a small town in rural Georgia, both racially and sexually. We were frequently threatened with violence, but lived largely unafraid. Occasionally a friend would see me walking or jogging at night and insist that I not run such risks.
The Holy Family got wind of a murder plot against all Jewish male new-borns, and fled to Egypt for the first years of Jesus’ life. They returned only when Herod, the mass murderer, had died, and even when they returned, they did not go to Jerusalem, where they would be more visible and at risk, but to Nazareth, more out of the way.
There are approximately 34.5 million refugees and displaced persons world-wide. (See Refugees International.) This number is expected to grow as poverty and violence escalate in the world.
Keep your eye on the child growing up in Nazareth.
Thanks for these reflections. Merry Christmas to you and yours!
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