.O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring bring
themus 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.'
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.
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!
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.