Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sunday, June 7, 2009. Trinity Sunday. First Sunday after Pentecost.

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Are counting on getting into heaven by confessing the true faith of the eternal Trinity?

Will those get into heaven who never heard of the doctrine of the Trinity and professed only “Jesus is Lord” 100, 200, 300+ years before the doctrine of the Trinity was “ratified” in the creeds?

The thief on the next cross asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus came into his Kingdom. There is no record that Jesus turned to him and said, “Do you want cheap grace?! First you must say after me, wired to heaven’s best lie detector, ‘I believe in one God, the father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only son, our lord. I believe in the Holy Spirit….’ What! Don’t nod off! This is serious business."

Small wonder that some rectors take off for a mini vacation on Trinity Sunday. Easter was a long season. Let the seminarian preach today. She will likely know the latest breaking news regarding the Trinity. And failing that, St. Patrick will bind all of them unto himself when they sing the rousing No. 370. That hymn alone is worth the whole bother of getting up and to church on a fine Sunday in June.

Isaiah 6:1-8

Isaiah rescues the seminarian. This is one of 5 or 6 great ‘call’ stories in Scripture. Liturgy raises it to a high art form, with hot coals, incense, seraphs. The Trinity is not explicit in the passage, but ‘holy’ is said three times, and that three-fold affirmation will have to suffice. Isaiah’s mouth is burned clean with the coals and so he is now clean enough to go for God, to speak for the holy one.

Psalm 29

As the seraphs in Isaiah pay obeisance to God in great splendor, so do those who say the Psalm ‘ascribe to the Lord the Glory dues his name. Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. ….

Romans 8:12-17

Saint strikes rather a different note from Isaiah and the psalmist.. They actively praise God to assure God of the glory God is due. Saint is concerned lest Christians become so obeisant that they forget the purpose of salvation: “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.

Try making a list of all that you are heir to as a Child of God.

Frequently I am asked to speak on panels where people debate whether salvation is even available to a gay person like myself. Yet God refocuses the discussion: Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered are joint heirs with Jesus Christ.

Beware, however, once you understand that you really are joint heir with the lord of the universe, you also find yourself bound with a new way of thinking: let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who did not take equality with God as a thing to be exploited, but humbled himself, even to death on the cross. That’s attitude!

John 3:1-17.

Jesus told Nicodemus that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven he must be born again. Nichodemus asked, “How can that be? Shall I enter my mother’s womb again.” No, Jesus said, Get a life! Get a new one. Be born again by acquiring a new spirit.

A transgendered friend talked to me of the night before her transition.
As a child and as a teenager, for years I would kneel each night by my bed and pray, ‘O God, please let me wake up a girl.’

It never happened, and in college I pretty much abandoned the church since God did not seem very interested in me. Yet here I was in the hospital, and I felt this great need. I knelt beside my bed and prayed. 'Tomorrow I will be a woman. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you.'

See also

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009. Day of Pentecost

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
Acts 2:1-21

Pentecost is the Tower of Babel story in reverse. At Babel the people tried to show their great power by the tower that they built, yet to show the limits of their power, God made it impossible for each to understand what another was saying. Language was used not to communicate, but to block communication. At Pentecost not only do people use different languages, but each hears and understands the other in her or his own language: different languages no longer block communication. It is if at Pentecost the Christians discovered simultaneous translation devices like those now used at the United Nations, but at Pentecost, the electricity and the translations were realized spiritually. Notice the nice touch of the sneerers: they are ever with us. They explain the proliferation of languages as evidence that the speakers are drunk. But someone notices that would not be logical since it is only 9 in the morning. What would Christianity look like to non-Christians if in the twinkling of an eye the world were to hear Christians speaking to one another with one accord, understanding one another lovingly. That miracle has yet to happen. Pray for it, and do your own part by speaking lovingly, patiently of even those Christians who most annoy you.

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Click here for my reading of this text. The text speaks far more powerfully than anything that I can say about it.

Psalm 104: 25-35,37

Far too often people presume that what is dignified must be joyless. The psalmist today uses the delights of creation to proclaim God’s heightened sense of humor and good spirit.

Yonder is the great and wide seawith its living things too many to number, *creatures both small and great. There move the ships,and there is that Leviathan, *which you have made for the sport of it.

Did God turn out the light when She made your body parts? I surely hope not!

When He created you, did God stick up His nose and hold a great distance any of your body parts saying, “Icky pooh!”? I surely hope not!

Creation is not pornographic. Only a pornographic imagination can make it seem so.

Romans 8:22-27

How disappointing that the lectionary makers cut off verse 28, the main point of the passage leading up to it. “For all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to God's purpose.” This was my mother's favorite verse in the bible, and I too have been blessed by memorizing it. It has helped me through many a difficult situation that otherwise seemed bleak and impossible to endure.

John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15

Some who consider themselves as O rthodox take an extremely low view of the Holy Spirit, stressing that the Holy Spirit would never say something new that contradicted or redirected us from what the God in Jesus had already made plain. It must be hard to reconcile those restrictions on the Holy Spirit with Jesus’ purposes for sending the Holy Spirit articulated in John’s gospel today:

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."

Might we expect the Holy Spirit not to guide us into all truth about lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and the transgendered?

Did not the Holy Spirit say something new about slavery and human dignity in the Emancipation Proclamation?

Was not the Spirit of Truth integrally involved in moving towards universal suffrage, especially for women’s suffrage?

Might the Holy Spirit say something new to us today about other children of Abraham who are very dear to Allah? Consider the case of The Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, recently defrocked as an Episcopal priest when she, over a journey of many months, began to consider herself both Christian and Muslim. See The Episcopal Church misses a Gospel Opportunity Yet Again.

Why muzzle the Holy Spirit?

To what truths are we now blinded by our prejudice?

What voices do we still hear as babble and confusion? Might God use the Holy Spirit to give us ears to hear and hearts to understand?

Like the poor benighted lector enthusiastic for the narrative in his readings in my parish, I sometimes have to work hard to restrain myself during the creed when we proclaim “We BELIEVE> in the Holy Spirit, …. .who PROCEEDS, not just proceeded but even now, present tense PROCEEDS from the Father and the son.” It would be much easier to keep Jesus up on that beautiful and safe altar, but Jesus keeps coming down from the cross and insisting on being intimately involved with us right now.

See also

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunday, May 24, 2009. Seventh Sunday of Easter

The Collect
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

I served as co-chair of the committee that nominated our current bishop and as secretary of the committee that nominated his predecessor. I serve currently as secretary of the Joint Standing Nominating Committee on Nominations of the General Convention.

The eleven apostles had a much more efficient process for elections than we do. They prayed and then threw dice. Most episcopal elections cost an enormous amount of money and require about a year or more.

In our own discernment, it is important to remember that Jesus himself did not have a perfect score in choosing the original twelve. That’s why we have today’s reading, recounting how Judas’ replacement was chosen.

Psalm 1

This psalm has attitude, the attitude of one who comfortably lives under all the requirements of God’s law. The attitude is definitive of the Old Covenant.. This psalm all too easily promotes and attitude of self-righteousness. Compare the Quean Lutibelle Revision:

Psalm 1B

Miserable is the person who never talks with the ungodly,
who goes out of the way to avoid sinners,
who never can see life critically.
The self-righteous live by the rules of the elite,
and by these rules are they compulsive day and night.
They are like trees planted in a swamp, moored
in every flood of fashion.
They seem to endure, and whatsoever they perform
is always noticed.
The humble are not so; but are free,
like leaves which the wind drives everywhere.
Therefore, the humble shall not sit to be judged,
nor shall the gentle join the congregation of the
For God knows the ways of them all,
and only the self-righteous shall perish.

-- Louie Crew

Appeared in Voice of the Turtle 5.1 (1981): 3

1 John 5:9-13

The Navigators were an important component of the team for evangelistic crusades of Billy Graham when I came forward in a revival in Chattanooga in 1954. This passage was one of a set of about a dozen bible passages the Navaigators gave to each of us ‘converts.’

I would not have descriibed myself as a convert at the time, but as a Christian seeking renewal.

I memorized the Navigator selections, including this one, in both French and English.

Temoignage = testimony

Years later in taking the graduate school proficiency examination in French, John’s temoignage helped me translate a passage on the examination successfully.

I am uncomfortable with John's claim. It is comforting only if not read critically. You either have Jesus or you don’t. You either are ‘in Christ’ or you are not ‘in Christ.’ You are saved if you are in Christ; you are damned if you are not in Christ.

What about those who have never heard a convincing temoignage on Jesus’ behalf? Does God condemn to eternal damnation all those whom some Christian was too lazy to talk with? I think not.

John has zero tolerance for ambiguity and zero tolerance for ambivalence. I am glad that God, not John, gets the last word.

John 17:6-19

As a rambler, I take comfort that Jesus rambled too. His rambling here suggests emotional intensity to his plea that God will continue to care for his disciples once Jesus has left to be with the father.

See also

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009, Sixth Sunday of Easter

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Acts 10:44-48

The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles.

The heterosexual believers who had come with +Katharine Jefferts Schori or +Frank Griswold or +Edmund Browning or once-upon-a-time ++Rowan….were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered.

Then Peter said, "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?"

Psalm 98

Sing to the LORD a new song, *for he has done marvelous things.


A chief delight in this psalm is the animation of creation to create the new song.

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it, *the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands, *and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,when he comes to judge the earth.

All this is accompaniment to the main prize: “In righteousness shall he judge the world and the peoples with equity.”

You treat God right; you treat your neighbor right. God will treat you right. It’s a deal.

1 John 5:1-6

John stresses, as St. Paul is to do even more radically, that our obedience is a response to God’s love, not a condition we must meet to make God love us. He already has. That's why we want to obey.

John 15:9-17

Jesus introduced a new commandment, superseding all others: that we love one another. What does that love look like?

Jon Bruno, Bishop of Los Angeles, was once a player for the Denver Broncos. Afterwards, he became a policeman. One day on his beat he witnessed a gang shooting in which a 14-year-old killed a 12-year old at point blank range. To Officer Bruno fell the awesome task of telling the victim’s mother. The murderer was not apprehended.

Fast forward a few years. Officer Bruno, is in the same town but now is Father Jon Bruno. The victim’s mother is in his parish.

One night, a young man knocks persistently on Bruno’s door. “Father,” he says, “I must talk with you."

The young man pours out his heart saying that he cannot live with himself, that years earlier he killed a boy at point blank range. Take me to jail, Father," he said.

“First,” Bruno replied, “you must go with me to meet your victim’s mother.”

When they arrive, she greets her rector and the young man and serves them some cookies and tea. Sensing something very serious, she says, “I know that you two did not come just to have tea and cookies with an old lady. What is this about?”

Father Bruno signals to the young man to sit opposite the mother where they are eye-to-eye.

The young man can hardly speak as through tears he tells her what he did. ‘I know that you can’t possibly forgive me, but I want you to know that I am so, so sorry,’ he says. ‘I cannot live with myself, and I have asked Father to take me to jail.’

The old woman stood and went to the window. "It seemed like forever," Bruno said when he told this story. Then she came back and again sat opposite, eye to eye with the young man.

“Young man, you are not going to jail. There is only one thing that you have to do.”

Incredulous, he responded, “What’s that?”

“You have to become my son.”

I believe in the Holy Spirit. I have seen the Holy Spirit happen

See also

Sunday, May 10, 2009. Fifth Sunday of Easter

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections
The Collect
Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Acts 8:26-40

For all of his Jewishness, it appears Philip lacks a proper Biblical education. Does he not know, “He whose testicles are crushed or whose male member is cut off shall not enter the assembly of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 23:1)?

The conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch offers clear evidence that Christianity is not bound by the old covenant’s ban on all sexual deviation.

It is not surprising that it took an angel to convince Philip to get into a chariot with a foreigner, and fascinating that the black eunuch himself would have allowed it. As a castrati, the eunuch would have a high pitched, ‘feminine’ voice. As treasurer of Ethiopia, the eunuch’s splendor contrasted with Philip’s poverty. And the eunuch was doing ethnic studies, reading a Jewish holy book, not just a travel guide.

Instead of relying on the Jewish prejudice he had been taught, Philip seizes the occasion as an evangelical opportunity.

Unlike fundamentalists who think they can understand texts on their own, the eunuch admits that he needs an interpreter to understand Isaiah. Philip interprets the text as fulfilled in the life of Jesus, and based on Philip’s testimony alone, the eunuch converts and they stop the chariot to baptize him on the spot.

Just what part of this story is so hard for Anglican primates to understand?

Again and again Christian scriptures attest to greater inclusion: God loves absolutely everybody!

Psalm 22:24-30

I am not fond of this psalm and am glad that we have so many others from which to choose. This one works mainly as a filler, rather like editors use to fill a page that has a small amount of blank space left. In the psalm the reader becomes God’s toady.

By contrast, Jesus said, I have not called you slaves or servants, but friends. He did not then order them to proclaim that kingship belongs to him. Jesus did not even demand that people bow down and worship him. He gave a new commandment: Love one another.

There is one part of this psalm that I do like, namely the testimony to God’s greatness: “the poor will eat and be satisfied.”

1 John 4:7-21

"Perfect love casts out fear."

Sometimes when I reflect on some of the danger Ernest and I endured as a very public interracial gay couple living in rural Georgia in the first years of our marriage (1974-79), I wonder how in the world we survived the fear:

The vestry asked me to leave the parish, and I refused, based on God’s invitation.. Frequently, especially in the spring, young boys threw rocks at our apartment. Occasionally I had to jump from the road to avoid jeering motorists barreling down on me. In a large regional paper a bishop accused us of causing the tornado which had struck havoc in the white community. On one occasion police jeered when I stopped nextdoor on my motorcycle to mail letters. Frequently people called to breathe heavily or to threaten to murder us.

I am 72 now and can imagine debilitating fear, but I do not remember being afraid, certainly not enough to stop living our lives as we felt called to live them.

We were blessed with an abundance of spiritual humor. When accused of causing the tornado, through an even larger newspaper, the Atlanta Journal I proclaimed, “That’s queer power!” and noted that we took good aim as well, taking the steeple off the white Baptist church, but not the black.

When the police heckled, I drove back and threatened to report them to the FBI. They fled inside. One of them later told me they said, “Sissies are not supposed to stand up like that.”

Mainly I remember from many of those occasions what I can best describe as a rush of angels’ wing.

My love was not perfect enough to cast out all fear, but I knew our abusers were better than they were acting and that I needed to take risks if I expected change to happen.

I could well be wrong in my views about homosexuality. But I am not wrong when I proclaim that those who say, "I love God," and hate their lgbt brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love

Listen to the remarkable story of Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton, recently aired on 60 Minutes. Cotton spent years in prison. Jennifer wrongly identified him as her rapist in police line-ups and in court testimony. He was exonerated when DNA evidence identified someone else as the rapist, someone who had many physical features like Cotton’s. Instead of hating Jennifer, Ron has forgiven her. The two of them have become friends as together they travel the country educating law enforcement officials to the risks of believing that eye-witnesses remember exactly what we see and hear.

John 15:1-8

Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.”

I find it an important discipline to check in 2-3 times a year to see whether I am bearing fruit as a Christian. It’s harder to mark change if I check any more frequently. It is also important not to assume that I can know about the fruit. Elsewhere Jesus tells us that we are the seed bearers: the harvest belongs to the Holy Spirit.

“A young man wrote a few years back asking, "Are you the same Louie Crew who used to live in Fort Valley and had a black lover?"

"Yes," I replied, and asked, "Why do you want to know?"

"I feared I would never find you and I am so ashamed of myself and need your forgiveness. I was a teenager back then. My parents encouraged my brothers and me to call you and threaten you with murder on several occasions. A couple of times when I was with him my father saw you jogging and tried to scare you by revving the engine of his pickup truck and rushing straight at you...

"I grew up gay, and feel horribly guilty. Can you possibly forgive me?"

In the twinkling of an eye I wrote back, "You were forgiven even before you were born, from the same source of my own forgiveness, and the forgiveness of everyone else. I rejoice in your wholeness. May God fill your life with goodness."

He later mentioned that his parents had been reconciled with him and had even welcomed into their home his Hispanic lover.

I believe in Resurrection. I have seen it happen.

See also