Monday, February 2, 2009

Sunday, February 15, 2009, Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen..

Drop the self-deprecation and you might get this:

O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because you have given us talent and strength more than we have yet realized, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen..

As a gay male brought up in an extremely conservative Baptist family deep behind the Cotton Curtain, self-deprecation was my daily bread, and it did very little to help me imagine that I am a child that God could care much about. I could keep my secret from my parents, but not from God. There was no one gay in my family or neighborhood to counsel me, nor was I in anyway prepared to accept the messages of my body chemistry.

We need to be very careful in using common prayer uncritically without sensitivity to how the prayer might speak not peace, but trouble. The creation story showed God fashioning us to be his friends, and friends of each other. God does not fashion grovelers, and common prayer should neither fashion them nor encourage those who have learned to grovel at society's bidding.

Surely God has had more than enough awe from some of us than any God who wants to be our “friend” would ever want or demand. When we grovel, we get the posture all wrong. God wants us to stand on our own good feet and look Her in the eye, both of us smiling.

2 Kings 5:1-14

God’s protocol is made clear in today’s lesson from 2 Kings. Naaman, a powerful commander, has leprosy. He learns through a lowly servant that someone in Israel can cure him. He gives expensive gifts to Israel’s king. Since the king is not the one with powers to heal leprosy, he is in private anguish, feeling the request is merely Naaman’s ruse to expose him and start a battle when he cannot effect a cure. Elisha, with the low rank of a prophet, sends a message telling the king to send Naaman to come to him for the cure.

Imagine the grand contrast between Naaman’s finery -- his horses, his chariots -- and the simple home of Elisha. Elisha does not even put himself in a position to grovel. He does not come outside to greet Naaman, but sends word to him, as if in a fortune cookie, to wash himself in the Jordan seven times. Naaman huffs and puffs in agitation at being treated with so little deference or respect, but is indeed cured when he does as Elisha has told him to do.

My husband is a flight attendant and tells about a friend who is a ticket agent for the same airline. His friend is African American, as is my husband. On one occasion a Russian dignitary traveling with his wife and two children on a world tour missed their flight, and Ernest’s friend, the agent had much work to do to meet their complicated requirements. As she typed away, the dignitary said to his wife in Russian, “Dumb cow! She does not know what she is doing!” and “Yipes. She’ll never get it done and it won’t be right when she finishes. Dumb cow; she doesn’t know what she is doing! The agent smiled and kept at her work steadily.

When she handed them the four sets of tickets all revised, the agent smiled and said “Mooooo.”

The dignitary was so embarrassed that she had understood Russian, that he fled to the restroom. The agent told his wife in perfect Russian, that she would have to send the little boy to fetch his father as there are many questions that she by law must ask him about their luggage. While they waited for the dignitary to return, the agent and his wife talked in Russian about the agent’s life growing up in Moscow with her Russian father and her American mother.

To the groveling of all Naamans and other dignitaries, Elisha says, “Moooooo!”

Thanks be to God!

Psalm 30

Growing up gay in Alabama in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s, I wailed at God a lot to make my plumbing over again. God did not budge to do so, and all my own efforts to do so failed.

I cried to you, O LORD; *
I pleaded with the Lord, saying,

"What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit?

God did something much more dramatic, something that I least expected. God loved me just as God made me, and taught me not to scorn or devalue or call unclean the one whom he had made. God did not give me a choice of plumbing, but does give me a choice to be the best gay person I can be, with God’s help.

You have turned my wailing into dancing; *
you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.

Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing; *
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Some straights prefer to argue with lgbts rather than to listen to us. What’s at stake for them is merely winning the argument -- a “perishable wreath” indeed. What’s at stake for those of us who are lbgt is “imperishable.” Our eternal life is at stake. Even if I am proven wrong in my spiritual choices, I have not chosen idly but with full awareness of the consequences of the race.

Mark 1:40-45

Our society and our church have made spiritual lepers out of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people. We lepers have come to Christ saying, "If you choose, you can make us clean."

Christ answers: “I do choose. Be made clean!" Immediately the leprosy leaves us, and we are made clean.

Addenda to Greensleeves

"Why hang AIDS bells on our green tree?"
the State the leper is asking.
"I dare to claim that God loves me
and in this hope I'm basking."

This, this is Christ, the King
whom peasants guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring God laud,
The babe, the child of Mary.

"Your plastic bag is rude and smells,"
the Church the beggar is chiding.
"It's all I have; a manger tells
I'm safe in God confiding."

This, this, et cetera

"Why lie you down before the tanks
we use exporting freedom?"
"The ox and ass to God give thanks
and we are here to feed 'em."

This, this, et cetera

-- Louie Crew

Appeared first in New Verse News,
Sunday, December 17, 2006.

See also

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