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.
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.
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.
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