Sunday, March 1, 2009

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

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