Friday, June 26, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009. The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

What an appropriate Collect for the Sunday of the week in which General Convention begins! GC will run from Wednesday July 8th through Friday July 17th. Deputies on legislative committees will be arriving in Anaheim, California for the convention today, as we begin meeting to morrow, to have some of the resolutions ready to send to the convention on the first day.

Please keep us in your prayers. See a collection of prayers for General Convention. See also my General Convention Prayer Calendar and the GC Prayer Calendar just for the current day.

May we indeed be united to one another with pure affection and devoted to God with our whole heart. Unity is not the same as agreement.. The freedom to disagree is a part of the glorious polity of our church. No one, however, has the freedom to live in enmity.

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10

See the headline in the Jerusalem Gazette: SHEPHERD BOY MAKES GOOD!

Who in the House of Jesse would have thunk it? The little pipsqueak whom they used to send to tend sheep in the back fields while his older brothers took on more manly duties, now is the shepherd of Israel, and will serve as King for forty years.

Psalm 48

The Jews proclaim the greatness of God, and identify God’s holy hill as the hill in the center of Jerusalem:

Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised; *
in the city of our God is his holy hill.

Beautiful and lofty, the joy of all the earth, is the hill of Zion, *
the very center of the world and the city of the great King.

Hmmm. I think not. Ask Galileo about the trouble he got into when he refused to acknowledge the earth to be at the center of the universe.

It’s dangerous to stake out God’s real estate for God, because God owns the whole earth and oversees all of us who dwell therein. We are right to consider God at the center of the universe and right to see ourselves as close to God. We are wrong to see ourselves and our geography as at “the very center of the world.”

My Samaritan ancestor raised these concerns when she encountered Jesus at the well, and in what is probably quite heretical when pitted against most formal doctrines of the church, Jesus explained to her that her ancestors and his waste their time in arguing about the proper place to worship God, whether on the mountains where the Samaritans do or in Jerusalem where the Jews do. “God is a spirit,” Jesus tells her, “and those who worship God must do so in spirit and in truth. God seeks people to worship in this way.

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

Saint sees his thorn in the flesh as God’s way of humbling, lest he be “too elated” from having encountered the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus.

What is Saint’s thorn in the flesh? I was surprised when my beloved bishop, Rt. Rev. John S. Spong, proclaimed that the thorn refers to Saint’s homosexual orientation, from which he has several times unsuccessfully sought deliverance.

I rode in the front seat of a convertible when Bishop and Mrs. Spong first rode in New York City’s Gay Pride Parade (1990? 1991?). The parade leaves Fifth Avenue and turns onto Christopher Street just as it is winding down. As we passed what had been The Stonewall Inn, scene of the first gay riots in response to our oppression back in 1969, a young man, as scantily clad as the one at Jesus’ crucifixion or as scantily clad as Joseph when he fled the hetero advances of Potiphar’s wife, came out of the bar and stared into the bright sun and squinted to read the sign on the convertible: “Bishop & Mrs. John S. Spong.”

“Way cool!” the young man shouted, and asked, “aren’t you the bishop who said Saint Paul was a fag?!”

Bishop Spong smiled and shook his head in agreement. “Way cool!” the young man said again.

When I first read this passage in a bible course in prep school, I considered my own homosexual desires to be my ‘thorn in the flesh,’ and I fervently sought deliverance from those desires right through my late twenties.

Saint had a Greek education, and a Jewish kid in good Greek schools might well have been introduced to Greek thorns in the darkness of the night. Such an introduction is always initially painful, and likely the pain continued to define the experience for Saint throughout his life.

Of course we do not know whether Saint was a homosexual person any more than we know Jesus’ hormonal response to his beloved John lying casually with him.

Bishop Spong, given his theory, points to the great irony that Saint, if a repressed homosexual, gives to Christianity the great doctrine of Grace as his personal way of coping with what he considered his infirmity.

Mark 6:1-13

While a senior at Baylor, I had the opportunity to take a course in the “Creative Process” taught by the famous theatre director, Paul Baker.. Charles Laughton and Burgess Meredith were friends of Baker and often came to act in student productions, and I treasure most their appearance in a version of Hamlet based on Ernest Jones’ Freudian analysis. Six or seven actors played Hamlet at once, each speaking from a different part of Hamlet’s personality. The audience sat in swivel chairs turning to see the play on stages all around us.

While in his class, I had the great privilege of being sent to drive architect Frank Lloyd Wright from the Waco airport to the Baylor theater. He was in town to confer with Baker about designs for a theater he was building in Dallas. Wright was 90 or 91 at the time. In the short drive he had me stop several times to pick bluebonnets, at my handfuls of which Wright stared in fascination..

“I have taken these home with me before and weighed them,” Wright said. “The flower clusters weigh many times the weight of the stem which sustains them. O how I wish I could build an arch like that!” he proclaimed.

When we got to the theater, Wright said to me, “Son, learning is like a hand.” He held his before me tightened as a fist. “If you close it, no one can put anything into it. If you open it, you may receive much, but you must examine it all closely to see whether it is really a gift.

I had the privilege of teaching in 1965-66 in Penge, a near slum in the south of London, near the Crystal Palace. Almost every boy left the school at 15, the earliest one could leave, and the school had no vision for educating them. I was not the only English teacher for any of the five classes that I taught, and colleagues organized no meetings to prepare a common curriculum. Punishment was the major fascination of many teachers and students alike. But when I did find ways to break through, ways to tap the intelligence of the lads, I found many to be as exciting in their thinking and as bold in their imaginations as any of my finest students in USA prep schools where I had taught. A big difference was that the lads in Penge for the most part shared their teachers’ low expectations of the enterprise. Many came with their fists tight, and the system lacked Frank Lloyd Wright’s gift to open their hands.

So too when Jesus went to his hometown. “Why the fuss about this tyke?” some might have asked. “He mended our back window when he worked with his dad Joseph, and he built a manger we have in our barn. Prophet? Humbug.”

Only those who have ears to hear will hear.

See also

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sunday, June 28th, 2009. Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Ernest and I have been watching with much interest dvd versions of the TV series The Tutors, although the series does not prompt us to raise our heads high about being Anglican. At the end of the second season, Elizabeth is still a child. Put at its best I might say that to this point we are seeing the church messes at close range, wrapped more in the egos of the powerful than in any manifest concern to God or Jesus -- the very messes that Elizabeth will try to “settle.”

I don’t know who wrote the collect for today, but I like to think it was Cranmer, author of so much of our Prayer Book, setting those in the pew to pray for unity even as he is supporting Henry VIII in his demands that all accept the king as the supreme head of the Church of England or else risk Cheney-like tortures, which have to their credit mainly their ability to get confessions whether or not there is anything to confess.

The Church of England in Diaspora faces much division right now, and well might we pray “to be joined together in unity of spirit.” Heaven help us if the price of unity is that we must sacrifice lgbts as scapegoats to those whose knowledge of lgbt committed relationships no more resembles them than does the heterosexual pornography that, uninvited, floods my spam-detector resemble heterosexual Christian marraige.

Pray for the deputies and the bishops going to General Convention in Anaheim, July 9-17. See my full General Convention prayer calendar and a version just for the current day.

2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27

I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
greatly beloved were you to me;
your love to me was wonderful,
passing the love of women.

What is the Straight Eye for this text?

Even in a closet with the tightest isolation, many a gay Christian has experienced “Aha!” when reading it.

Are black parents pernicious or at least wrong headed when they give their children pictures of a black Jesus?

Are Europeans pernicious or at least wrong headed when they give their children pictures of a Jesus who looks Aryan with blue eyes?

A corollary “Aha!” for lesbian Christians, is Ruth’s pledge:

Entreat me not to leave thee, nor forsake from following after thee. For wither thou goest I shall go, and where thou lodgest, I shall lodge. Thy God shall be my God, and thy people, my people. Where thou diest shall I die, and there I shall be buried. Let naught but death separate thee from me. May God do so to me and more also if I keep not this promise.

Many couples choose to have this read at their weddings. Are they violating the context in which Ruth made her pledge to another woman? Are they wrong to see in this text a full commitment appropriate to marriage?

Psalm 130

I love the passion of this psalm. Observe how both verse 4 and verse 5 use repetition to register fervor:

I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him; *
in his word is my hope.

My soul waits for the LORD,
more than watchmen for the morning, *
more than watchmen for the morning

The psalmist waits for the Lord not in confidence of his sinlessness, but rather in confidence that

with the LORD there is mercy;
With him there is plenteous redemption.

And not just for Israel only, nor just for heterosexuals.

2 Corinthians 8:7-15

The Church in Corinth is undergoing its “every member canvas” smack dab in the middle of our summer. I hope that when he sent this letter Saint had the wisdom to make his appeal in a cooler climate.

It sounds like he is putting Christ Church in Corinth on a guilt trip for not being as generous as they might be. They have not even completed their pledges from last year!

Yet Saint also tries not to suggest that we give because we have to. God loves a cheerful giver, and we who try to prompt others to give want them to do it cheerfully. We do not like to beat our browse and beg for contributions. To encourage Christ Church in Corinth to be generous, Saint reminds them that they have much and that it is out of their plenty that they might give. “It is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need.”

Would we be able to sustain our stinginess to the poor in the Anglican Communion were we to allow ourselves to see their poverty and to see them as not only children of God but our sisters and brothers?

I confess that I am always glad when Stewardship Sunday is behind us.

Mark 5:21-43

In my freshman year as a Baptist training for ministry at Baylor, I decided I should know something of other, more fervent forms of worship. I stood out even in the back bench of a Pentecostal tent revival dressed prepared for a Texas “norther” in my bright green and gold Baylor jacket. At the front the revivalist was surrounded by rickety wheel chairs and crutches abandoned there by those healed in earlier meetings. At times someone in the audience would interrupt him by rapid speech in an unknown tongue, and others would shout fervently, “Yes, sister! Tell it! Hallelujah!”

They were comfortable; I was uncomfortable. I felt very middleclass and out of place. These were humble people, and I did not know where their fervor would lead them.

Then I noticed a young man about my age, two aisles in front of me, very much engaged in the service, very much a part of the chorus of responders when someone spoke in tongues. I noticed that he wore a pair of very thick glasses. On a scrap of paper, I wrote to him, “If you believe in Jesus’ healing power, why are you wearing glasses?” I looked him in the eye when I handed it to him.

I had not meant to be accusatory, only to become more informed. I was shocked when the young man jerked off his glasses and literally stumbled his way forward to the revivalist who was busy laying hands on another. He wept profusely when the evangelist read my note, and I froze when the evangelist stopped all movement, stood tall, and pronounced in a tone Moses might have used for the first reading of the Ten Commandments: “Satan is present in this very room!”

No one wants to be taken in. The emotions that religion taps are the most powerful emotions of all. If we have been hemorrhaging for twelve years and a famous faith healer comes to town, surely we might want to touch the hem of the healer’s garment, especially in a crowd where we won’t likely be noticed. But no one wants the healer to stop the proceeding and say, “Who touched me?”

Even that night in the Pentecostals' tent I would have rushed to sneak to touch the hem of someone who I believed could heal me of the homosexual desires and devices of my heart.

Years later I made my way to the hem of Jesus and was healed -- not of my orientation, but of my sin in calling unclean anything God had made.

See also

Sunday, June 21, 2009. Third Sunday after Pentecost.

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving­kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Samuel 17: (1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49

In this story the power dynamics are almost the reverse of those in the area today. The Philistines have a huge giant who whips the Jews at every turn. Israel’s physical force is no match for Goliath.

Yet today, the biggest power base in Israel is that of the Israelis. They have tanks and guns at the state of the art in the world. Much of their arsenal is funded by the largest and most powerful country in the world, the veritable Goliath States of America.

Moreover, U.S. tax-payers are funding Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine with an aid package worth over $5 billion per-year, every dollar of which must be raised through U.S. government borrowing. Total U.S. aid to Israel equals approximately one-third of our foreign aid budget, yet Israel compromises .001 percent of the world's population and has one of the world's higher per capita incomes.

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by former President Jimmy Carter

Much of that money is used to build a huge wall (not a “fence” as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called it) to keep Israel from her Palestinian neighbors -- poor and segregated.

One of the justifications for the wall from the Israeli point of view: “Little boys [Little Davids?] sling rocks at us. They are a threat to our peace and security."

David, who became Israel’s king most beloved of all, lost much of his innocence, and became for some (like Uriah) more fearsome than Saul ever could have been. Small wonder that God warned Israel when they kept asking for a king, kept putting their hope in great shows of power and might.

Look at where we in the United States have put ourselves by trying to rule as the most powerful country in the world. Our economy is almost bankrupt. Banker and stock-broker, once reasonably respectable employee titles, now threaten to rival gangsta and thug

The Romans too once lorded it over all the known world. They built some great roads and aqueducts, but generally terrorized those to whom they claimed to bring a better civilization. Roman law, like U.S. law, often was great in its protection of folks at home, but quite unjust towards those who are not citizens.

How much better the world will be when we in the U.S., like Romans today, are less pretentious -- fat and old eating pizza and offering minimum threat to the peace of those elsewhere.

Psalm 9:9-20

The Islamic faithful revere Jesus as a prophet and respect their heritage as, like Israel’s, descendants of Abraham. Today’s psalm comes out of a context when the Jews, not the Palestinians, were the underdogs, the persecuted, and it speaks comfortably to the besieged Palestinians.

Keep in mind too that the major Anglican presence in the Holy Land is that of Palestinian Christians, much hit upon by the Israelis who now occupy land that the Palestinians had in most cases held since Rome destroyed the Israeli state in 70AD.

Jesus commands us to love both our Palestinian and Israeli neighbors as we love ourselves. Usually we read the psalms as Jewish documents. Try reading this psalm as a comfort to their Palestinian neighbors:

The Avenger of blood will remember them; *
he will not forget the cry of the afflicted.

Have pity on me, O LORD; *
see the misery I suffer from those who hate me,
O you who lift me up from the gate of death;

So that I may tell of all your praises
and rejoice in your salvation *
in the gates of the city of Zion.

The ungodly have fallen into the pit they dug, *
and in the snare they set is their own foot caught.

The LORD is known by his acts of justice; *
the wicked are trapped in the works of their own hands.

The wicked shall be given over to the grave, *
and also all the peoples that forget God.

For the needy shall not always be forgotten, *
and the hope of the poor shall not perish for ever.

Rise up, O LORD, let not the ungodly have the upper hand; *
let them be judged before you.

Put fear upon them, O LORD; *
let the ungodly know they are but mortal.

Not every creature can experience empathy -- the ability to get outside one’s own experience and experience, or at least imagine experience, from someone else’s point of view. Jesus commands this discipline and at the same time shows how to do it: “As you would that others should do to you, do also to them.”

2 Corinthians 6:1-13

If you are heterosexual, thank you for reading Queer Eye for the Lectionary. I hope it is a way of aiding your empathy. I don’t live in a world segregated from my heterosexual family, co-workers and friends. Indeed, their world it easily accessible, so much so that before puberty I mistook their world as my own.

At this point, many of you are no doubt becoming skilled to anticipate how the Queer Eye will read a text. That’s certainly not hard to imagine with Saint's comment about himself today: “We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see-- we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

Indeed, I find it hard to imagine how straights qua straights can identify with the “we” in this statement. Neither as white qua white nor as male qua male, can I see myself as the “we” in Saint’s statement. In this time and this place, I have no trouble at all as a gay Christian in seeing myself as part of Saint's “we.”

Yet in a sense basic to my understanding of Christianity, if my brother is poor, I am poor too; if my black brother or sister experiences discrimination, I must empathize. If Palestinians suffer, especially if their suffering is funded by my taxes, I must empathize. For in Christ we are no longer black or white, male or female, straight or gay, Palestinian or Jew or ethnically Christian…..

Mark 4:35-41

Master the tempest is raging. We can take our little boats to Anaheim and also surely expect them to encounter a flood of anxiety. So might our enemies. Rebuke the wind. Rebuke our unbelief when we claim we cannot possibly be reconciled. Take us to Anaheim in awe that even the wind and the sea obey you.

See also

Sunday, June 14, 2009. Second Sunday after Pentecost.

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen..

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13

Jesse parades before Samuel the sons whose manner of life he thinks appropriate in the next Kind of Israel, but “the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance -- [on things like physical prowess or sexual orientation] -- but the Lord looks on the heart.

Resolution B033 passed by the General Convention in 2006 will be revisited by deputies and bishops next month in Anaheim. B033 states: “Resolved, that this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” See the official publication of the full resolution.

B033 would not have allowed Samuel to see the son tending sheep in Jesse's fields. B033 attempts to muzzle the Holy Spirit. For three years now every nominating committee has operated under its shadow, as have all voters in two Episcopal elections where gays and lesbians have been knowingly nominated (Newark and Chicago). B033 is stated as an advisor resolution, not in terms binding with stated penalties. It directly inhibits a canon of the Episcopal Church established in 1994:

Title III (Ministy), Canon 1: Of the Ministry of the Baptized

Access to the Discernment Process
Sec. 2. No person shall be denied access to the discernment process
for any ministry, lay or ordained, in this Church because of race,
color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual
orientation, disabilities or age, except as otherwise provided by
these Canons. No right to licensing, ordination, or election is hereby
established. (Page 63)

Things get curiouser and curioser when advisery resolutions are considered to trump mandatory canons.

Should we consent to the consecration of any bishop whose manner of life does not present a challenge to the wider church? Christians are called always to disturb an easy peace, especially regarding who is to be included. B033 condemns The Episcopal Church as our Lord was condemned, not for just ministering to sinners, but being their friend.

In the collect today we ask God to keep the Church in steadfast faith and love [so that we may] minister your justice with compassion.” What is the justice and compassion in B033?

Psalm 20

Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses, *
but we will call upon the Name of the LORD our God


Some put their trust in their heterosexual orientation, *
but we will call upon the Name of the LORD our God

Imagine heaven‘s gate in the context of B033: “Knock, knock. Lord, let me into heaven for I have always behaved heterosexually. I have not sinned as lesbian people have.”

2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17

From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Unless the person is homosexual? Can homosexual persons remain homosexual and be “in Christ.”

That’s what the current furor is all about. To answer the question some introduce an X-rated prayer life. They ask God whether God would bless homosexual acts. They imagine the sexual scene of two persons of the same sex, anonymous and removed from their whole personhood, just the sexual scene; and they then conclude that God would not like that any more than they do.

Lesbians and gays might come to similar conclusions about heterosexuals if we used such a distorting lens. Suppose we drew our notions of what heterosexuals are merely from looking at their sexual scenes, or even at a Shriners’ parade?

That’s what one’s life looks like when regarded from merely an animal point of view -- the human being as the sum of bodily activity. By contrast, what might you see if you regard lesbians, gays, bisexual and the transgendered as new creatures in Christ, loving and serving God and loving and serving our neighbors?

Saint mentions that some see him and his co-workers as ‘beside themselves’ -- bit touched? Crazy? Certainly not ‘with it’ in the cool of the current culture. “If we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.,”

Mark 4:26-34

After more than 35 years of public ministry among and with other lgbt folks, I am convinced that God has a clear purpose in using us that has little to no connection to our plumbing. We are one of the currently despised groups around the world. We are one of the groups for whom human rights are not like the human rights of others, but “special rights.” A few countries kill homosexuals for consensual sexual behavior. More jail us. Almost all tolerate the mockery of us and restrictions on participation….

God’s purpose is to love us so that he might say to all others who consider themselves beyond God’s grace or interest, “I love you too.” Many look at the church and presume they would not be welcome there, “But I am divorced” or “I have abused drugs and my recovery is not stable yet” or “I am poor and uneducated and don’t speak well” ……

Many of these have no more respect for lgbts than do others, yet when they see a church risk some of its capital -- its respectability -- to be in solidarity with a despised group of Queers, they are given pause. Instead of joining the chorus complaining, “That church can’t be Christian!” a few might wonder, “would they welcome me too?”

Would they? Would Jesus?

"Kingdom of God" is understood through the mystery of the seed coming forth in its own good time

"Kingdom of God" is especially like the mustard seed, tiny and apparently insignificant, but behold the huge shrub one tiny mustard seed becomes. Behold the difference between what appears big and what is big, what seems important and what is important.

See also