Saturday, March 28, 2009

April 5, 2009, : Palm Sunday

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

On Palm Sunday, in March, 1983, my friend Jim Lewis, then rector of St. Andrew’s in Detroit, invited me to preach. Six or seven people walked out in protest. One of them reported to Bishop Coleman McGehee that I had used the ‘F’ word in my sermon. I never do; I was brought up a proper Southern Baptist sissy. Fortunately a recording of the sermon revealed that I had not, but that made little difference to the complainer: he had heard the word in his head, so distraught was he that a gay man was allowed to preach. The bishop wrote him a letter scolding him for bearing the false witness against me.

I cannot now remember for sure the direction of my sermon, except that I would have focused on the readings assigned for Palm Sunday. I always focus on the assigned readings. Given the splendid parade described in today’s gospel, likely I drew on my own experience of splendid parades. Regardless of the parade, however, the gospel turns very ugly, as will this week. If you are anxious to speed through to Easter, you will be even more anxious by Thursday and Friday. We call this “Holy Week” for a purpose. Take time to merge your Passion with our Lord’s.

The Collect

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect will present difficulties to evangelists. They claim to preach good news, that Christ has taken away all of our sin and that we therefore will not have to suffer for those sins, yet in this collect we ask God to “grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering.”

Are we Christians fundamentally masochists? Do we welcome suffering, even ask for it as God’s mercy. Is this kind of spirituality kinky? Should all of our parishes sport a pole in the courtyard atop which ascetics can sit demonstrating their ability to suffer months on end, as they did in the Middle Ages?

I have learned some important things about life through suffering as a gay person, and I am grateful for those insights. I am confident that I would have learned much if I had been unfairly thrown into Sing Sing for 40-50 years as well, but rejoice that I was spared that education.

A professor from the University of Colorado spoke on a panel at the Modern Language Association (MLA) in 1976 about how disturbed he was that so many gay and lesbian writers were coming out and declaring their identity. Their contributions to literature would be reduced, this scholar opined, because many of the insights in their writing were the result of their suffering in secret.

“That’s a great point,” I said in the discussion afterwards, "and I hope you will support a resolution to the MLA to support penalties for heterosexuals so that heterosexual writers and professors can enrich our literature.”

The professor got the last laugh. Later that day he was on the panel that interviewed me for a job at his university.

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Isaiah begins by talking about the importance of tongue and ear to him as a teacher. With the tongue he is able “to sustain the weary with a word”; he uses his ear “to listen to those who are taught.” Communication must go both ways, from teacher to the taught, from the taught to the teacher.

Then Isaiah uses these gifts in the context of his being persecuted. Some have pulled out his beard and spat in his face.

From “Teacher Walks at Midnight”

I retraced my steps.
My fairy powers activated more engines.
Adolescent hecklers each season
sprout as predictably as pubes.

"Faggot!" another rehearsed through his beer
to impress his date
parked in the truck in a dark lot.
"Georgia. HJV 925. County Peach."
I memorized as I neared.

"Do you have anything to say to me?"
I said with my huskiest voice.

One boy mumbled,
"Naw, I ain't said nothing."

"Does anyone have anything to say to me?"

"Git outa here.
Nobody's botherin you,
ya nigger-loving, ass-licker faggot!"
the original mustered.

His tremolo freed me this time.
Back home hot pis glued my pants.

-- Louie Crew
In Midnight Lessons. Samisdat, Brattleboro, VT, 1987.

Psalm 31:9-16

The psalmist continues the litany of sorrows:

I have become a reproach to all my enemies and even to my neighbors,
a dismay to those of my acquaintance; *
when they see me in the street they avoid me.

I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; *
I am as useless as a broken pot.

In the face of such abuse, the psalmist responds

But as for me, I have trusted in you, O LORD. *
I have said, "You are my God.

My times are in your hand;

Philippians 2:5-11

A white priest told me of jogging daily with Desmond Tutu in the early morning soon after Tutu became Archbishop of Capetown. When he moved into Bishopsgate, in a posh all-white neighborhood, Tutu broke the laws of Apartheid, but the police dared not arrest him. On one morning a lovely young blond woman ran past the Archbishop. Then she stopped, turned around, and spat in Tutu’s face has he passed.

When they reached Bishopsgate, Tutu was crying. The priest spoke to comfort him. “Oh, no!” Tutu said in anguish. I am not crying about a little spit. That’s nothing and cannot hurt me. I am crying for that lovely young woman. What a terrible prison she finds herself in, to need to abuse another human being.”

Let the same Attitude [’mind’] be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
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.

Mark 14:1-15:47

This is the longest Gospel of the year. Don’t miss church, and choose one where you are assured beforehand that you will hear the entire text. I hope that you are lucky enough to have a very dramatic reading, possibly with multiple readers.

Modern English drama grew out of performances of this text in the Middle Ages. It began with a simple musical chant “Quem Quaeritus?” (’Whom do you seek?’) that the angel asked the first visitors to the tomb. From parish to parish the fad grew. Instruments were added. More holy mysteries were celebrated. Animals were added, and when supernumeraries became unruly, the performances were moved to the porch, and thence to the church yards.

In hindsight, the move outside was perhaps a mistake. The ecclesiastical authorities gave up authority to control the farther they plays moved from their domain. Miracle plays followed. The same fads were happening in Europe, and some of the miracle plays continue to this time.

Mel Brookes showed that the crucifixion itself can still challenge the aesthetitic sensibilities of the public.

See also

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009. Fifth Sunday in Lent

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

I have long used this collect in private prayer, not limiting it just to this place in the lectionary cycle. The changes of the world seem to become ever swifter and more varied as I grow older, and I do gain comfort in my faith when my heart is more surely fixed where true joys are to be found.

Yet looking at the collect analytically, as opposed to praying it, I am uncomfortable with where it takes me in my relationship with God.

Does this collect pass the buck to God for what is really my own responsibility, namely my own will and affections? Does God ever promise to bring into order our wills and affections? Did God not give us freedom to make our own choices?

What if I do not love what God commands? What if I do not desire the rewards that God promises?

I was brought up by Christians who taught me that homosexual affections are unruly. I prayed fervently that I would desire females, not males. Playboy magazine was founded in 1953 when I was a senior in boys prep school. I remember the enthusiasm with which classmates welcomed it: it did not do a thing for me. Try as hard as I could, I could not obtain the grace to love what others told me that God commanded nor desire what others desired spontaneously with no work at all. My heart was fixed on Jesus, for sure, a Jesus whom I supposed at that time that I offended by not being wired heterosexual. Like saint, repeatedly I cried out in anguish, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Jeremiah proposes a way out that I had not discovered in my anguish: a new covenant rather than the old covenant of the law, by which we pleased God by doing only what we were told. The old covenant failed for everyone, for no one could fulfill it.

The new covenant is written on our hearts; it is granted to us, not something we win by good behavior. No longer do we have to be told to know God: we already do, from the least to the greatest of us. God already has forgiven our iniquity; God already has forgotten our sins.

My Samaritan ancestor once said to a rabbi, “You Jews say we should worship God in Jerusalem. My people say we should worship God on this holy hill. Who is right.”

The rabbi proclaimed a faith truly radical: the place does not matter. The denomination does not matter. The time is coming and now is when those who worship God are the ones that worship him in spirit and in truth. Those are the worshipers that God seeks. Even if they are lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and the transgendered? Yes.

Even those who take sexual life commitments to be wrong if homosexuals make them should take note: God has already forgiven homosexuals even as God has already forgiven you. Like other Christians, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and the transgendered pray, “Forgive my sins, known and unknown.” It is wrong to expect us to pray: “Forgive my sins, known and unknown -- but only if I measure up to heterosexuals‘ expectations for me”?

Psalm 51:1-13 or Psalm 119:9-16

This portion of the longest psalm in the bible models behavior expected under the old covenant:

How shall a young man cleanse his way? *
By keeping to your words.

With my whole heart I seek you; *
let me not stray from your commandments.

It sounds easy to do. Jeremiah noted that that covenant was easily broken.

Hebrews 5:5-10

As Episcopalians we make much of priesthood. As an Anglo-Catholic, I do so even more. Yet Jesus never went before a Commission on Ministry, nor before a bishop. His peers and his enemies recognized him as a rabbi, a teacher, but not as a priest.

If I were into wearing buttons, I’d like one that proclaims: “JESUS IS A LAYMAN” -- Perhaps with a picture of Melchizedek, the enigmatic guy that showed up before Abraham as a priest without portfolio or established credentials. No one ever served Communion more fully than Jesus. It is his body and blood which make it Holy.

And his mother celebrated the first Eucharist for the nine months Jesus was in her womb. What glorious priesthood God ordained her to perform!

John 12:20-33

The Greeks come to inspect Jesus for themselves. Jesus is aware that most do not know his credentials and proclaims this is time for those to be revealed, for him to be “glorified.” With high drama, with a voice that some take to be thunder, God proclaims that he has glorified Jesus’ name and will do so again.

His glorification is decidedly unconventional. It foreshadows his death, his three days in the tomb, and his resurrection.

“Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.” Even lgbt persons? Yes, even lbgt persons.

See also

Sunday, March 22, 2009. Fourth Sunday in Lent

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Through holy mystery, we consume something so simple as bread “that God may live in us, and we in him.”

Numbers 21:4-9

Today’s narrative makes a nice twist on the 2nd Commandment, “You shall not make for yourself any graven images, whether in the form of anything in heaven above or that is on the earth beneath.” Here the Lord says to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.”

They do not worship the talisman Moses has made for them, but use it to exercise control over the real serpent that has bitten them. The man-made ‘poisonous’ snake has voodoo power that destroys the venom of real snakes.

My ancestors were disliked because of their fervor in worship. They shook in ecstasy. Their enemies (especially proper Anglicans) drove them out of England mocking them for quaking in their liturgy.

My ancestors took the poison out of this mockery by embracing the term themselves. Thereby they deprived the term of its venom as did Moses by lifting the snake on a stick. My ancestors were proud to be Quakers when they arrived in the United States, and appeared in the 1640 census of Virginia as “Quakers.”

When my father was finally reconciled to have a black son in my spouse, he, the family historian, teased me: ‘Don’t think yourself a pioneer in the family: your great-great-great grandfather and his two brothers were arrested in Richmond in 1805 for teaching freed slaves to read and write.' They were breaking Virginia's law to follow their conscience.

The family remained Quakers until they were kicked out for mustering in the War of 1812. See The Crew Generations by Erman Louie Crew, Sr., 1965, Montgomery, Alabama: Manuscript in the Archives of the State of Alabama.

The harshest term used for a homosexual person in my growing up was queer. The generation of activists to which I belong did not happily embrace the term, so strong is its poison for many to this day. I remember being shocked when I first heard my friend +Otis Charles refer to himself as a “Queer Bishop.” I had not anticipated the freedom I experience now as a Queer Episcopalian.

That’s what God was teaching the Israelites. ‘Don’t expect God to get rid of your enemies. In this case, I caused the snakes to appear and to bite you, because I was tired of your carping and complaining. Nevertheless, you can have power over the snake if you control it rather than let it control you.’ Jesus was later to say, “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Something as simple as an earring can prompt epiphanies and transformations:


My one earring stores my powers.

It charms my lover into bed.
Worn aisle-side on buses and trains,
it reserves me a double seat
until all others are filled.
On campus it keeps me off all
but the most enlightened committees.
It is 99% foolproof in protecting me
from wasting time on racists.
At times it has made otherwise sane folks
dangle from dormitory windows to giggle,
"Where's your husband?"
Worn with a cap and gown, it wards off
any threat of Respectability.
In class, it assures that students question
what I say and not vainly agree
because of who said it.
In church, it has made stranger priests
spill me a double portion of the Mass....

When I take it off, people take me
for any other mortal.

-- Louie Crew

Has appeared (chronologically):

Mouth of the Dragon 2.1 (1979): 44 79
Cat's Eye 3 (1981): 16
Men Freeing Men . Anthology edited by Francis Baumli. Jersey City: New Atlantis Press, 1985. Page 119
Feh! Journal of Odious Poetry 6 (June 1989), n.p.
Meghdutam online from February 2000.
Otoliths 8.1 (Southern Summer 2008): 25 [Australia]

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

God does not save just the brave and the wise and those who always do things as God prescribes:

Some were fools and took to rebellious ways; *
they were afflicted because of their sins.

They abhorred all manner of food *
and drew near to death's door.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, *
and he delivered them from their distress.

Ephesians 2:1-10

Sin is in our spiritual DNA, Saint seems to say. “All of us once lived among [those who are disobedient] in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath.

God does not wait to love us only after we get everything right. “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”

Salvation is not a gift we make happen by our acts of righteousness. Salvation is God’s free gift to us given unconditionally.

I am amazed a the viciousness with which some pounce upon gay Christians to warn us that God abhors us and that we must repent of homosexuality if we are to be saved.

They cannot separate us from the love of God, and I marvel that they would even want to.

John 3:14-21

This passage contains what is probably the verse known by heart by more people than all others: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone whosoever is straight and believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

Just what part of whosoever is so difficult to understand.

Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and the transgendered have no exclusive claims to God’s love. For right now God is using us as God has used despised groups before us to say with fresh vitality what God has always said, especially to those at the margins, “I love you.”

Many who have no interest one way or another about lgbt folk are watching, wondering whether God could love them. Some are thinking, ‘If the church can welcome queers, maybe God can welcome me.’

God already welcomes you! The church may be slow in learning how awesome God is, but come help us spread that good news.

See also

Sunday, March 15, 2009. Third Sunday in Lent

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Exodus 20:1-17

We do well to reflect long and hard on any rules under which we live, whether or not the rules are voluntary.

The Ten Commandments constitute Moses’ short list. They appeared in the Lectionary as recently as October 5, 2008. See my suggestion on that date about an innovative way to discover what is at stake in them.

Compare Moses’ big ten with Micah’s big three: :

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"
(Micah 6:8)

Compare Jesus’ reduction to two definitive commandments:

A lawyer asked, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" And Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments, hang all the law and prophets.

It’s easy to be glib about short lists. In On These Two Hang I reflect on how demanding Jesus' short list is.

What rules or advice about sex has purchase among Christians in 2009?

Perhaps “Thou shalt not commit adultery” does not resonate with some modern readers because we do not share the context in which it was written. Wives then were property, and the commandment mainly protected the man’s property rights to his wife. It was never meant to apply equally to her rights in him.

Adultery today is used almost synonymously with fornication. Not so then. Moses’ Big 10 do not condemn fornication nor say anything about it.

Many priests tell me that in pre-marital counseling they have not encountered anyone, anyone who is a virgin. What credibility do pastors have if condemning sex outside marriage is their starting point?

“Sex should always be mutually consensual, and the couple have an obligation to protect against producing an unwanted third party”: for over four decades thus counseled a friend who taught at a prominent Friends School.

“Do not have sex with anyone whom you do not respect, and do not have sex with anyone who does not respect you”: thus counseled my father-in-law in the early 1960s when his son reached puberty and had clearly grown up gay.

What would you add? What would you take away?

“Mr. Crew, Mr. Crew, I know it’s late but I must talk with you,” the young boy said at my door to my apartment.

“What may I do for you?” I asked as I pointed him to a chair.

“I have just had sex with my roommate!” he said, clearly aghast.

“Did you enjoy it?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said and broke out in heavy weeping, afraid for his life. When he had calmed, I asked,

“Did your roommate enjoy it?”

The boy looked at me dumbfounded.

“But, but, but…. I don’t know!”

“Well, aren’t you talking to the wrong person?”

That conversation occurred in 1963. The young man did not grow up gay; nor did I assume that he would. I felt it important to encourage the boy to find his own values, not to impose upon him a set someone had prescribed.

It is quite common for a kid to think he’s the only one who has ever had such an experience, and equally common for him to think his entire destiny has been fixed forever based on the experience. I encouraged him to be less anxious, more reflective, and more humble. He had just joined the human race a bit more fully, and he was not alone. Why not rejoice?

How would you have counseled him?

The student surprised me when he showed up thirty-six years later when Ernest and I renewed our vows on our 25th anniversary in 1999. He remembered his trauma decades earlier, and he was grateful that I treated him with respect.

Psalm 19

Click here to hear Hayden's Heavens are Telling on harmonicas with spectacular pictures from the Hubble telescope.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

My colleagues at Rutgers like me but some have a hard time wondering why I would waste any time on the church. One who‘s more direct and blunt than most, said, “Louie, you have a good mind. Most religious people can’t stand gay people, and religion provides the major force for keeping our customs and laws in the Dark Ages. Why would you lend them any credibility? How can you possibly believe their nonsense?” And he is straight.

My lbgt colleagues and friends are sometimes more shrill. Many of those have been cut off from their families by the doctrines to which their families still cling. All have seen families kick out their sons, but show up after the son has died to throw out the son’s lover of decades and take home the loot just for themselves.

One major gay scholar who is a friend was badly burned in his youth by the Anglican Church of Canada, and he’s been especially careful to document Anglican participation in the persecution of gays. See his reproduction of The Trying and Pilloring of the Vere Street Club, to which I pointed in my comments about Micah (above).

I stand convicted. The church does indeed have an horrendous record to this very day in underwriting the persecution of gays. Arthur Dong’s striking documentary Licensed to Kill profiles several men on death row for murdering gays, and almost all of them, even the marginally literate, at some time of another voluntarily refer to the Bible as part of their imprimatur.

I am not an outsider to the faith of the church, simply doing time here to reform it. I am an insider to the faith of the church, here because I believe eternal life to be at stake. The holy texts (only about 6 'bible bullets' actually) suffer badly in captivity to heterosexism, but heterosexists must hold themselves accountable for voluntarily submitting to hate-filled readings.

The message about the cross to us who are being saved is the power of God.

John 2:13-22

Early on the Bishop of Atlanta summoned me for discipline for “disturbing the peace and good order of the church” through my ministry founding Integrity. See The Peace of Christ is Not for Gays in Christianity & Crisis 37.9-10 (1977): 140- 144.

A few priests took his actions as permission to insult me, especially when they were off camera. At a diocesan convention at Christ Church in Macon, the person in charge of exhibit areas, placed me alone in the basement away from any of the traffic, and when I calmly requested a move, he yelled at me. Later in the day I overheard him bragging to a colleague that he had put me in my place.

On the same occasion, the convention dinner was held at a local country club that did not allow black people except as servants, and the diocese bragged that it had made special arrangements for my parish and the few others who had black delegates. We were isolated, and almost no one had anything to do with us.

Today’s text gave me much comfort in those troubled times. It was easy to imagine overturning the tables of the other exhibitors at the parish, or rearranging the tables at the banquet so that the last would be first and the first would be last. I did not act out my fantasies, however. After all, I am an English professor and a Southern gentlemen. But God got to hear the first draft of my prayers!

Years later the bishop repented and we became close friends for the rest of his life. Recalling the earlier struggle, at the 1994 General Convention, the bishop told hundred’s gathered to hear me preach, that I had treated him very gently, but that I had scared him mightily. "Louie, you were merely claiming that God loves you just as much as God loves me. And God does."

See also

Sunday, March 8, 2009. Second Sunday in Lent

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

.O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring bring them us again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I have changed the collect because I am uncomfortable with the point of view maintained by the third-person pronoun. Have not we all gone astray?

We risk self-deception when we point out motes in the eyes of others, especially if we gang up with others in the pews to do it.

Through my 35 years as Ernest's huband, several people have told me that they are praying for me to leave my "homosexual lifestyle." I have not tried to eavesdrop on their prayers, but I suppose they are telling God that He should make Ernest and me abandon our marriage and dump each other.

Perhaps they imagine God will cause each of us to find a woman to experiment on heterosexually, with or without the woman's knowledge of the experiment. And the ultimate proof of God's power, and of the power of their prayers, will be to show that God is mighty enough to plumb Ernest and me all over again, this time doing so precisely as God plumbed the one praying for us.

Such an one can pray today's collect with impunity: the collect dresses up such fantasies and puts a nice Episcopal blue ribbon on them. It requires that Ernest and I "embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Whew! No thanks!

On the other hand, as George Bernhard Shaw wryly said, "You cannnot have too many people praying for you."

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16

Like Sarai, I find myself giggling through some of Abram’s pretensions.

As literary heroes go, Abram is boring. He is a plodder short on spunk. Even as a procreator he lacks fervor and imagination. Only at 99, does Abram have the prospect of becoming the father of many nations. Apparently something like Holy Viagra arrives just in the nick of time.

Abram might have been more interesting paternally if he had raised any of his own sons better. Ishmael gets short shrift, at least in the Hebrew version of his beginnings. (Does the Koran elevate Hagar above the status of concubine?). And from poor Isaac, Abram expects not mature rapport, but unquestioning obedience. When Abram believes himself called to sacrifice his son as a blood offering to Yahweh, Isaac asks dumbly, “Where is the ram?"

In 2009 we would put Abram on trial lickity split for child abuse big time!

However, I do not expect my concerns to be shared by any Jews or Muslims. For them, the texts certify their family history. Each group considers Abram father. For them this is a family affair.

The word ‘Isaac’ in Hebrew is pronounced ‘yit-sack.’ 'Yit-sack' is onomatopoetic for 'laughter'; and if you repeat 'yit-sack' three times with your mouth stretched as wide as you can make it, likely you will hear Sarai's laugh when Abram tells her, decades past menopause, ‘Guess what, honey, you‘re going to be pregnant.'

Psalm 22:22-30

The psalmist also picks up on tribal longevity:

My soul shall live for him;
my descendants shall serve him; *
they shall be known as the LORD'S for ever.

They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn *
the saving deeds that he has done.

How can the psalmist be so sure they will be faithful? We shall see. Likely some will and some won’t.

I’m drawn much more to the psalmist’s assertion:

For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;
neither does he hide his face from them; *
but when they cry to him he hears them. …

The poor shall eat and be satisfied…

If you were suddenly without lodging or food or money or decent clothing in a strange city, who would most likely take you in, feed you, and clothe you? A rich person or a poor person? Who would most likely turn their faces away from you or walk by you as if not seeing you?


One evening I left work by bus to fetch my car at a repair shop. The double-car bus was packed full in the rush hour. Two drunks riveted their eyes on me as the only passenger dressed as middle-class. I focused on the lovely sunset behind them.

“Why are you staring at me, you faggot?” one of the drunks shouted towards me, ribbing his companion, who repeated the question with laughter.

I ignored them and continued to look at the bright red and orange sunset. I could feel tension all around me as others tried hard not to notice the commotion. The driver was a full car away and could not hear.

“He asked you, faggot, why you are staring at him!” his companion shouted, staggering to look me eyeball to eyeball.”

“I am admiring the sunset behind you,” I replied, likely somewhat too prissily, but I was trying hard to be butch.

This continued for several blocks before the two got off the bus.

In a few more blocks, I knew that I was nearing the repair shop, but could not see our location well in the dusk, especially while standing. I leaned to ask two passengers if they could tell me when we got to the intersection I specified.

All at once most in the back car of the bus sprang into action to help me. Clearly they had been offended by what they had witnessed. When we got to the corner I sought, two told the driver to wait while they got off the bus and pointed me to it.

These were poor people at the end of a long day of hard work. They had next to no power to stop the drunks, but they enthusiastically exercised their power to help the one whom the drunks had abused.

Who is your neighbor? The one who treats you neighborly.

Romans 4:13-25

Saint makes Abram, now Abraham, an icon to show how we win God’s favor and obtain God’s salvation. Abraham was considered righteous not because of his accuracy in following all the rules and in doing exactly what God wanted him to do: Abraham's faith was his currency; in God's accounting system, faith equals righteousness.

“Where is the ram?” young Isaac asked when his father plans to sacrifice his son. According to Saint, in faith Abraham trusted God to provide for a substitute for Isaac.

I find that episode gruesome with or without Saint’s gloss.

Saint's main point is that in Christianity salvation is not a reward for obeying God’s law, but instead God’s free gift through Jesus. Our faith in Jesus is reckoned for the righteousness that we could never maintain by obedience.

Caveat: If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered: this doctrine does not apply to you according to many self-described reasserters who are straight. They do not believe that Jesus’ sacrifice can cover the sins of lgbt people unless we denounce being lgbt and denounce all commitments to lgbts. Otherwise, you and I face the full penalties of the law.

Mercifully they are wrong. Bless their hearts!

Mark 8:31-38

Peter wants Easter without Good Friday. Peter reproaches Jesus privately for foretelling his Passion, yet Jesus rebukes Peter harshly, calling him Satan.

Then Jesus assembles the multitude and tells them they too must take up their cross and follow him. He says this even before they have seen him on his cross, but all would know the cross well as the Romans' ubiquitous means of execution.

“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

I knew when I came out that I would lose forever the future that my parents and I had envisioned for me when I was in training for Baptist ministry or that I might have expected as a university professor. I did not yet understand the new life that I would have in living honestly for the sake of bringing the gospel to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered.

The costs are high. At stake is eternal life.

See also