Monday, December 20, 2010

Sunday, January 2, 2011. Second Sunday after Christmas

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Recently I read Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, a brilliant novel focused mainly on Thomas Cromwell, sometime secretary and chief operator for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, thereafter chief minister for King Henry VIII from 1532-1540 and close confidant of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1533-1556. Cranmer wrote many of the collects in our Book of Common Prayer.

Almost all politicians in England in those days were church politicians, given the Church of England’s increasingly tenuous relations with the Church of Rome while Henry, with wife after wife, desperately attempted to sire a male successor to the English throne.

Archbishop Cranmer had wife issues of his own. As a clergyman he had taken a vow of celibacy; yet in “Cranmer’s Box” he secreted his wife as he carted her from place to place. With many other machinations Cranmer served his king and country.

We might find Cranmer’s machinations in some ways encouraging, reminding us that our own machinations do not cut off our access to God nor to language that effects for us candid transport to God.

We have no way of knowing who wrote any one of the collects, but if Cranmer wrote this one, surely he understood the humility God required in sharing Cranmer’s own humanity.

If God can make so great a movement towards us, there is indeed hope that me may, in spite of manifold sins and wickedness, share Jesus’ divine life.

God’s incarnation as Jesus makes Christians’ relationship to God symbiotic, not merely loosely spiritual or a synthetic imitation. The dignity of human nature “wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored” indeed! Come, let us adore Him!

Jeremiah 31:7-14

For weeks we have read Jeremiah’s steady pessimism, his great sorrow at how bad everything has been going. His own name gave us the English term a jeremiad,” which means ‘a doleful complaint or lamentation; a list of woes.'

In Jeremiah 31, the gloom dissipates:

Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;

and again:

I will give the priests their fill of fatness,
and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty,
says the LORD.

God wants us too to experience such an epiphany. Into the midst of all the dolor that we might muster, the baby Jesus arrives as a major counterstatement.

Psalm 84: 1-12

The lectionary gives the option of omitting the last four verses. Please don’t.

Given the grand musical fare and many other events going on in the life of parishes during this holiday season, you might well be tempted to take the shorter version, but please resist. Keep the psalm intact, especially in Episcopal Churches at this time, when the eleventh verse works with marvelous double entendre:

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, *
and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God
than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the LORD God is both sun and shield; *
he will give grace and glory;
No good thing will the LORD withhold *
from those who walk with integrity.
O LORD of hosts, *
happy are they who put their trust in you!

At the 1994 General Convention in Indianapolis, Rt. Rev. Edward MacBurney, Bishop of Quincy, famously complained in the House of Bishops that Integrity, the organization of lgbt Episcopalians, had managed to cut verse 3 when the convention had sung Hymn 645, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is.”

Integrity did no such thing. Both the third and fourth verses of this hymn are marked with an asterisk in The Hymnal, indicating that they may be treated as optional. The liturgist of the day took this accommodation.

The Good Bishop was quite exercised not to be able to sing the words to damn lgbt Christians: “Perverse and foolish oft I strayed.” He seized his bully pulpit to highlight these words about us.

I too regret that the liturgist for the day elected to omit verse 3, thereby denying the Good Bishop and the rest of us an opportunity to hear that phrase in full context:

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
but yet in love he sought me,
and on his shoulder gently laid,
and home rejoicing, brought me

That is good news for lgbt Christians indeed! It is good news for absolutely everybody. “The King of love my shepherd is, whose goodness faileth never. I nothing lack if I am his, and he is mine forever.”

In June 2009, at 81, Bishop MacBurney renounced his orders in the Episcopal Church and joined a breakaway group. I miss him.

Psalm 84 assures Ed MacBurney and all the rest of us,

No good thing will the LORD withhold *
from those who walk with integrity.

Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a

Even Saint is on a tare for joy today! His prayer is a model for all of us concerned for the spiritual health and maturity of our friends and of ourselves:

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.

Yes, God, give us eyes to see all the glorious inheritance you intend for us and for absolutely everybody.

Luke 2:41-52

How did Luke know this story? Most likely Mary told it. It was she who “treasured all these things in her heart.”

Luke stresses, as Mary with the gift of hindsight must have stressed, that she and Joseph did not understand the child’s explanation, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Like most parents, they must have been near panic after three days of searching for him.

“Why have you treated us like this?” they asked him.

Luke stresses, as Mary, again with the gift of hindsight must have stressed, “Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.”

Luke is writing long after Jesus’ adulthood, death, and resurrection. He carefully collects all the stories he can from those close to Jesus. Imbedded in Mary’s memory, if indeed it is her story Luke shares, is her own epiphany:

Ahhh. So that’s what was really going on! At the time I noticed only my own panic about my son. He was really God’s son, on loan to me. And I had nothing to worry about at all.

See also

Thursday, December 2, 2010

December 26, 2010. First Sunday after Christmas

© 2010 by Louie Crew
Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Isaiah pulls out the stops so frequently that you might want to discipline yourself to notice that he has done so here too. That’s likely why those who choose for the lectionary placed this passage for the first Sunday after Christmas.

It’s also a fine piece to illustrate similes and metaphors.

    Selected similes

  • has clothed me in the garments of salvation
  • has covered me with the robe of righteousness….

  • until her vindication shines out like the dawn
  • and her salvation like a burning torch

  • As a bridegroom decks himself….
  • As a bride adorns herself
  • As the earth brings forth its shoots
  • as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up

    Selected metaphors

  • The mouth of the Lord will …
  • You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord
  • and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Notice also the careful periodicity (parallelism).

Less attractive for me is Isaiah’s choice to boast for Jews and Jerusalem to be first place in any line up for God’s attention. Isaiah was writing in the time of King Uzziah, who died in the 740s before Christ.

Jews do not give this passage a Christian reading. They still expect a messiah.

Christians who see Jesus’ birth as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy risk falling prey to an exalted sense of our exclusive importance in God’s plans for all creation. Remember that Caesar is to sack Jerusalem from March through September in 70 AD, a mere 38 years after the death of Jesus. According to Josephus, there were 1.1 million casualties. The conquerors celebrated its capture on the Arch of Titus in Rome.

Jerusalem was outside Jewish control from 70ad until 1948, when the Allied Forces re-established Israel.

Not to be a spoil sport, I remind myself that this “crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord” was short-lived, and even its recovery from 1948 has meant disenfranchisement for Palestinians. I try to remember the current political reality of Israel and Palestine even as I celebrate Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.

Psalm 147 or 147:13-21

The psalm is in synch with Isaiah 61 in singing praise for Jerusalem and for God’s preferential treatment given it.

He has established peace on your borders; * he satisfies you with the finest wheat.

The psalmist asserts an exclusive Jewish franchise on God:

He declares his word to Jacob, * his statutes and his judgments to Israel.

He has not done so to any other nation; * to them he has not revealed his judgments. Hallelujah!

Galatians 3:23-25;4:4-7

For several months this year I used a signature file for email that added to my contact information this quote from today’s reading:

But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian.

The church violates Saint’s claim if it requires lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and the transgendered to live under the law no longer required of hetero Christians. All are justified by Jesus’ righteousness, not by our own. Jesus stretched out his arms on the cross for absolutely everybody, indeed for the whole world.

Saint pushes his claim with legal terms for a Christian’s inheritance:

So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

In Romans 8, Saint went even further:

Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

We are co-heirs with Christ, all of us.

I know that it is uppity of me to say so, but say so I must, not just for lgbt Christians, but also for the health and sanity of heterosexual Christians: heterosexual Christians are flat out wrong when they behave towards lgbt Christians with no respect for the fact that we are co-heirs with Christ.

On October 1st I preached at St. Andrew’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan at a service to honor the 10th anniversary of the Oasis Ministry in that diocese. The Rev. Joe Summers is on the Oasis board, and he retold my story in a sermon titled “Joy” which he preached at The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Ann Arbor, Michigan on October 10th, 2010

Louie was born and grew up in Anniston Alabama, the town made famous because it was there that in 1961 the Freedom Riders were so viciously attacked and their bus bombed. Louie met his future spouse Ernest, an African-American man, in the fall of 1973 in Atlanta. Louie lived in a small town called Fort Valley, Georgia. After courting for five months they were married and then lived together, a gay inter-racial couple in Fort Valley until 1979. When Louie moved to Fort Valley he went to the Black Episcopal Church in town. (At this point Ernest wasn't an Episcopalian). But Louie's growing notoriety led the priest and vestry to ask him to leave. Knowing it was God who had invited him to the church--he couldn't in good conscience. Thankfully, three women on the vestry who had voted against asking him to leave organized the other women in the church to make made sure that each Sunday there was always someone sitting with him.

The priest was furious. Finally, the Bishop intervened and issued a summons for Louie to appear before an ecclesiastical court. William Stringfellow heard about this and arranged for Louie to have a pro-bono lawyer. When they got before the Standing committee of the diocese the lawyer pointed out that there was nothing in the canons that allowed a Bishop to call a lay person before a church court unless they were on the vestry and Louie was not.

The Bishop was clearly humiliated and apologized explaining that he had acted in anger. Later, this same Bishop, went on to sponsor a resolution that stated that marriage is the standard for holy relationships which was then used to discriminate against gays and lesbians in our church for decades.

But throughout this time Louie kept loving and kept praying for this Bishop and the day came when this same Bishop, presided at the Eucharist at a national Integrity gathering and said to those gathered: "For decades Louie Crew tried to tell me that God loved him as much as he loved me but I couldn't believe it. But he was right and I was wrong." [bolding mine – LC]

Later this same Bishop [the late Rt. Rev. Bennett J. Sims, Bishop of Atlanta] wrote in his autobiography how it was coming to know Louie and Ernest that transformed his ideas about sexual orientation and loving relationships.

Love your enemies--how crazy that sounds till you hear something like this.

I treasure +Bennett Sims. He and I became friends long before we agreed about homosexuality. He was generously vulnerable even in our arguments. I was profoundly moved when, at his request, I was a reader at his interment at Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore on August 5, 2006. I hope that I will have his grace to grow and change even in my old age. I hope that I will have his generosity to make myself vulnerable by loving well even those with whom I disagree. I look forward to being with him in heaven.

John 1:1-18

Matthew, Mark and Luke are known as the “synoptic gospels.” syn means ‘alike’ and optic has to do with “seeing.” The synoptic gospels use the same way of looking at a story. Each gives basically a chronological account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Each shares many of the same stories.

The gospel of John breaks out of that mode. While it contains some of the same stories, in John’s book meaning trumps narrative.

John is studiedly, deliberately philosophical. He begins, “In the beginning was the Word….”

The Greek term λόγος ’logos’ appears in hundreds of English words, such as psychology, biology, anthropology, eschatology….” Meaning, ‘the study of’ –-the study of the psyche (soul or mind), the study of living organisms, the study of human kind and culture, the study of the end times….”

John amplifies what he means by λόγος :

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Only then does John get specific and personal:

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. God was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all wrote their gospels before John wrote his, and they steadily focus on concrete details. John privileges abstraction.

In all four gospels, God, the immortal one, the creator, enters creation and takes on our mortality. He lives and dies as one of us.

Recently Ernest and I visited the Grand Canyon. A friend described it as “God’s coloring book.” It is awesome to face in all its grandeur and splendor this physical record of millions of years in the life of the Colorado River in a place relatively recently known as “the state of Arizona.”

“What is man that thou are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4).

Saint John changes that awesome focus to ask, “Who is God and how can we mortals know God?” He answers, “From the beginning, God is λόγος ’logos "The Word.”This λόγος became flesh, as Jesus, and dwelt among us mortals.

Do you believe that?

What does it mean to you?

Merry Christmas.

See also

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December 19, 2010. Fourth Sunday in Advent

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Isaiah 7:10-16

Ahaz is King of Judah and an adversary of the prophets Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah. At one point he wickedly sacrificed his own son to pagan gods. He also added an idolatrous altar to the Temple (See 2 Kings 16).

In this passage, Ahaz refuses Isaiah’s request that Ahaz ask God for a sign. It is likely that Ahaz did not want any outside interference and feared that Isaiah might persuade people to believe God wants them to rebel.

When Ahaz won’t take Isaiah’s bait, Isaiah supplies the answer:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

Christians see this passage as talking about Jesus. Those who chose it for the lectionary for today, the last Sunday in Advent, did not do so haphazardly. “The young woman” (or if you insist on Matthew’s version of the Isaiah text, “The virgin”) is getting ready for the end of this week.

Yet there is nothing in the text itself that forces the interpretation that Jesus is the messiah. Many Jews still expect a messiah but do not view Jesus as the one.

Dr. John Gibbs notes regarding this verse:

The main emphasis of Isaiah 7:10-16 is that "God is with us," which is what the Hebrew word "Immanel" means. God is present not only to the prophet in a special way inside the temple (Is. 6). God "the Lord" over the depth of Sheol and the height of heaven (7:11) is no less present in blessing (7:16; cf. 7:17) within the entire "house of David" (7:13).

A fundamentalist obsession with virginity does not exist in the Hebrew text, for the child's mother appears there as "a young woman" (rather than as a virgin, as the Septuagint Greek has it). Instead, the all-important "sign" is the "son" named "Immanuel." It is by the presence of God in a society that it "knows how to refuse evil and choose the good," and the function of this son is to maintain that distinction within "the house of David.

Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18

One of the great treats of the psalms is that you can find several that will match your need for any occasion. If you are sad or depressed and God seems afar off, today’s Psalm 80 will fit the bill.

O LORD God of hosts, * how long will you be angered despite the prayers of your people?

If you are festive and feeling blessed, Psalm 146 (page 803 in the BCP) will fit the bill: we used it last Sunday.

The Book of Common Prayer manifests this same versatility. When close friends or family are sick or in any other adversity, we can go to church certain that something in the liturgy will speak to their condition and to ours. Just as certainly will we also encounter something in the liturgy that counterstates our condition, that witnesses to the reality of joy even if we are sad and to the reality of sadness even if we are joyful. The liturgy honors our experience but not does not put it at the center of all attention.

Poet W. H. Auden (a gay Anglican) made the same point about contrasting reality manifested in the art of Old Masters:

Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

At any moment what we see clearly and completely in focus may not be the reality seen by the person standing next to us focused on a different part of the same scene.

We desperately need one another.

Romans 1:1-7

These seven verses make up only one complete sentence (129 words). The selection is an elaborate salutation which begins with “Paul…” and closes with: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

In the lead up to this apostolic “hello” Saint lays down his credentials to be addressing gentile Christians in Rome. Note how the passage looks when we break out the grammatically subordinate material and restate it in declarative sentences:

  • I am a servant of Jesus Christ.
  • I am called to be an apostle.
  • I have been set apart for the gospel of God.
  • God planned good news before any of us were born.
  • The prophets foretold the gospel in holy scriptures [i.e., the Hebrew bible, a.k.a. “The Old Testament.”]
  • God’s son Jesus descended from King David according to the flesh
  • Jesus was declared to be the Son of God.
  • Jesus has power according to the spirit of holiness.
  • Jesus’ resurrection from the dead demonstrates that he is the Son of God.
  • We received grace and apostleship through Jesus Christ our Lord.
  • I am called to prompt the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles.
  • I work for the sake of Jesus and in his name.
  • I call you Romans to belong to Jesus Christ.
  • You Romans are called to be saints.

Saint’s 129-word sentence is an elaborate rhetorical set up for the serious concerns he will express to the Romans in the rest of this chapter and in the fifteen other chapters of this long letter.

Today is the last Sunday of Advent. Next Sunday we Episcopalians will be able to use the “C” word that most other protestants have been using since Thanksgiving, some even earlier.

I am not talking about “He knows when you have been good or bad so be good for goodness sake!” We’re not poised for our God to come down the chimney on Friday night. We are poised for God to enter our hearts. Saint’s opening salvo to the gentile Christians in Rome sets us up for the Arrival we will celebrate here on Friday night and all day on Saturday.

This is the beginning of “C” week. One t-shirt puts it flippantly: “Jesus is coming: look busy.”

Matthew 1:18-25

The birthday party which we will celebrate Friday night, Saturday, and all day on Sunday the December 26th and Sunday January 2nd is not a surprise birthday party. Matthew deliberately spoils any surprise effects for the “C” word by beginning” Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way:…”

Matthew uses only 201 words to tell the entire “C” story: compare that with the 129 words that Saint uses just for the salutation in his letter to the Roman Christians.

Matthew’s narrative is lean and pointed. In it he does not duck controversy. Some in Matthew’s original audience surely would have noticed that Jesus’ birth came less than nine months after Mary and Joseph married. Matthew emphasizes that Joseph married Mary because as a religious person he did not want her to be disgraced as an unwed mother. Matthew stresses that Joseph had no sex with Mary before Jesus’ birth. We do not know whether they had sex afterwards. Joseph quietly steps out of the biblical narratives at that point.

The Inn Keeper’s Focus on “C”

The Bethlehem Holiday Inn, 9th Janus, 0001

Joseph Carpenter,

I hereby evict you, effective tomorrow noon, for obvious reasons:

  1. You did not father the baby, as you claimed.
  2. You and your woman have kept up a perpetual racket in our stables, disturbing our animals.
  3. You have wasted hay not required by your small donkey.
  4. You have lured undesirables to the neighborhood, including mephitic shepherds from the hillside, some of whom had the audacity to hide on the roof and sing as "angels." Many of our better guests complained.
  5. This week three rich sissy foreigners (one of them black!), who should have booked in the Inn, slummed out back with you, to avoid paying us.
  6. We hear that Herod is out to get anyone who traffics with parents of new-born boys.

Be on your way back to Nazareth by noon if you know what's good for you. Let's have no more talk or singing of Joy to the World.

Quean Lutibelle’s Take on “C”

There is crying in a stable
on a cold winter night.
There is crying at the bosom
of the lonely world.
A small, red baby
has now seen the light
as the bloody little boy
of a scared young girl.

Joy to the world!

--Louie Crew

“The Bethlehem Holiday Inn has appeared :
  • Whosoever 6.1 (July 2001)
  • Ruach 27:1 (Winter 2007): 25
  • South Jersey Underground Issue #5 (2009
  • Studio [Australia] No. 38 (Autumn 1990): 15. Used penname Li Min Hua
See also

December 12, 2010. Third Sunday of Advent.

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

Can I expect God to hear this prayer if I don’t divorce Ernest, my husband of 36 years, and promise to limit whatever sex I might have to the confines of heterosexual marriage?

Have I played a trick on God, saying that I come to God only as I am, not ready to behave as a heterosexual or a celibate homosexual?

I spent most of a day recently trying to track down a small bit of correspondence that I remembered writing sometime between 1985-1995. Since I save every email message that I write and much of the email I receive, the search took me through hundreds of messages from adversaries as well as from friends. Many ‘adversaries’ were themselves friendly, genuinely concerned for my soul, and trying to call me from the brink of destruction. Others seemed only slightly concerned for my soul, but greatly concerned for the souls of those whom they felt I might be leading astray by my witness.

I am still humbled by their challenges. I do not seek to defy God, nor do I wish to lead anyone astray.

I turned 74 on Thursday. I expect to arrive at heaven’s gate not too long from now. I do not plan to bang on the door saying “I am Erman Louie Crew, Jr., and I am right about homosexuality! Let me in! Let me in!”

That scenario seems obscene. It puts me into the position of making final judgments for God. I know already what I will say, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

If you are heterosexual, do you expect to knock at heaven’s gate saying, “Thank you, God, I am not like Louie and Ernest. I have lived in a faithful heterosexual union. Please let me in.”

Are you absolutely certain that your choices for yourselves are God’s choices for me?

We run an even greater risk if we ignore other criteria that Jesus has stated explicitly for the "Great Gittin Up Morning.” He tells us we will be judged by how well we have treated those we consider the least among us. Are we there for them when they are sick, hungry, naked, in prison? For as we treat the least of them, so we treat God.

Ours is a strange religion, where the first are last and the last are first.

My bishop (Rt. Rev. Mark Beckwith) is fond of saying, “The opposite of faith is not doubt; the opposite of faith is certainty.” He points to the many dangers we incur when treat those whose faith differs from ours with certainty that we are right and they are wrong.

I have tried to do what is right in my marriage to Ernest. Through it I have experienced much grace and many other blessings. The sin I see in our marriage is not that I love Ernest, but that I do not love him enough, namely as much as I love myself. For that sin I steadfastly repent and seek amendment of life.

Just as fervently I pray to be forgiven for sins unknown.

Am I absolutely certain that a life-long committed relationship between two of the same gender is right in the eyes of God? No. I have faith that it is, but not certainty.

And even if we are wrong in our marriage, I have faith (still not certainty) that God’s property is always to show mercy.

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us. Amen. Amen.

Isaiah 35:1-10

Isaiah’s vision of safety and joy has few parallels in literature. Note that that he localizes his vision: he names Lebanon, Carmel and Sharon -- places familiar to his listeners. The realm of God is not remote: it’s right here in East Orange where I live, right here in Newark and New York City, both visible outside my study window as I write.

Jesus asks us to pray, “Our Father, may your realm come on earth as it is in heaven.”

George Bernhard Shaw warned, “Beware the man whose God is in the skies.” Jesus gives the same warning.

We too must beware lest we put off working for justice and peace thinking, there will be pie in the sky by and by.

Canticle 15

Mary’s canticle marks her as an uppity woman, a champion of the poor and down trodden. Here she is not docile and submissive, dressed in soft blue and standing silent and beatific. Rather, she is sassy and abrasive.

“In 2000 the United States accounted for only 4.7 percent of the world’s population but 32.6 percent of the world’s wealth. Nearly 4 out of every 10 people in the wealthiest 1 percent of the global population were American.” (Eduardo Porter New York Times, December 6, 2006, Business Sec., p. 3).

Those of us who have ears to hear require huge globs of spiritual ear wax to to be comfortable listening to the Magnificat.

My adversaries frequently complain that I give far too much attention to church politics and not enough attention to the Gospel. Two Episcopal bishops, Bishop Charles Carpenter and Bishop George Murray, joined other religious leaders to write the same complaint to Dr. M. L. King when he was organizing protests in Birmingham. He named them when he wrote his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Why do you need to tell people that you are a “gay” Christian, some ask me: “I don’t say that I am a ‘straight Christian’” they add, to underscore their point.

They seem never to notice the scores of ways they openly and freely communicate they are straight. “My wife and I….” , “When my husband said….” Nor should they feel any restrictions about doing so.

I look forward to the day that husbands kissing each other goodbye
will stand out only because we block the traffic (see Lutibelle Speaks as the Poet)

Louie, queer for Christ’s sake! (See 1 Corinthians 4:10)

James 5:7-10

Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors!

Is this what is meant is meant by Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”?

Did your parents peek through the keyhole to your room, listen to your conversations on another phone, sift through your drawers for evidence of your wrong doing?

Does your heavenly father keep a master computer and the best spy ware in all the universes to keep records of your slightest thoughts and actions?

A lie detector costs only $250-$500 and you can purchase one from Brick House Security Might your parish welcome one as an Advent gift? Would you use it just for the creeds? Should scores be used to validate people for confirmation? Should we put off baptism until one is old enough to be held accountable to the lie detector?

I wish that James had stopped with “Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.“

Watch yes, but be not afraid.

I looked over Jordan, what do I see,
Coming for to carry me home.
A band of angels coming after me,
Coming for to carry me home.

Swing low! Sweet Chariot!

Matthew 11:2-11

Jesus might have visited John himself. If John’s disciples had access to him, surely Jesus did too. After all, they are first cousins, born less than a year apart.

Yet Jesus and John appear not to have been in touch much.

John tells his disciples to ask Jesus whether Jesus is the messiah. Jesus does not say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but cryptically tells them to report to John what they hear and see:

The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.

These are action that might mark the messiah. Jesus intends the actions to speak louder than words. He also is minimizing the risk of publicly proclaiming himself as messiah, lest he forewarn and enrage the Roman occupiers or the indigenous religious establishment.

Jesus seems to know more about John than John does about Jesus. He tells the public that John the Baptist is the one mentioned in scripture as forerunner to the messiah. Yet he does not explicitly name himself as the messiah. Again, he is cryptic, even cagey, likely in response to the political tensions.

It is not clear whether those in the crowds even know that Jesus and John are first cousins. The only time we see them together in scripture is at Jesus’ baptism.

Some see in these texts the suggestion that the disciples of John and the disciples of Jesus might consider themselves rivals. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John is clearly better known and more directly involved in political confrontations. The texts carefully allay such fears and show them as mutually supportive.

Later John is to say that he is not worthy even to unlace Jesus’ shoes. Here Jesus stresses, “Among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist.” This mutual admiration is quite public. Do they intend to calm fears by it?

We have no surviving texts written by John’s disciples, nor do Christian scriptures say more about them. Did they become Jesus’ disciples after Herod had John beheaded? Did John’s disciples continue a separate ministry even after John’s death?

Why is Elizabeth, Mary’s sister, not mentioned again after the birth narratives? She drops out of the scene as inexplicably as Joseph does.

See also

Saturday, November 27, 2010

December 5, 2010. Second Sunday of Advent

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Why the past tense? Why not accept as a faithful challenge:

Merciful God, now as in all times, you send your messengers as prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us wisdom to distinguish between true and false prophets and grant us grace to heed true prophets’ warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Isaiah 11:1-10

Guess who’s coming to dindin!

Advent is a season of anticipation. Someone is coming.

Isaiah writes many portentous messianic texts. Christians see him pointing to Christ. Jews see Isaiah as pointing to a messiah, but not to Jesus.

Isaiah portrays a messiah who makes the world safe. Even asps, adders, wolves, and leopards will pose no threats.

Isaiah’s messiah will not judge just by fact, not just by what he sees and hears, but by an overriding and abstract sense of justice. The messiah will not be just right: the messiah will be righteous.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth

We have enemies, the wicked; and the messiah will take care of them with dispatch:

He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

Psalm 72 is a political psalm, a prayer for the ruler. Well might we use this psalm to pray or our President:

Give President Barak Obama your justice, O God, *
and your righteousness to Vice-President Joe Biden;

That President Obama may rule your people righteously *
and the poor with justice;

That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people, *
and the little hills bring righteousness.

President Obama shall defend the needy among the people; *
he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

The next verses present a challenge if we say

President Obama shall live as long as the sun and moon endure, *
from one generation to another.

Even the Israelites did not expect their king to live forever. The psalm deliberately employs hyperbole. Given our polity, we might more comfortably say:

May President Obama live out his full elected term(s).

Possibly some people in biblical times balked at the near omnipotence the psalm attributes to “the King” and to the “King’s son.” It is not unreasonable to suspect the psalmist of currying favor.

Romans 15:4-13

When Saint mentions “Whatever was written in former days” he does not refer to Christian scriptures. He has no idea that he is in the process of writing what will become a book of the Christian bible more than 300 years later.

Saint is talking about Hebrew scripture. He quotes Hebrew scripture to approve his own mission to take the gospel to the gentiles. His argument is subtle: “Some think I am doing something outrageous and novel in bringing the gospel to you uncircumcised Romans, but actually I can show you in Hebrew scriptures some instances in which the promises of God seem to extend to gentiles.

Obviously most Jews of his day did not agree with Saint. They thought the messiah would be messiah for Jews alone, but Saint glosses Hebrew scriptures to find support for his point of view.

The first and last first verses of this passage emphasize that “we might have hope,” “that you may abound in hope.”

He is speaking to gentiles, bringing them good news right out of the Hebrew scriptures. “I am not making this up,” he might have added: “it’s in the Book!”

I constantly see in Hebrew and Christian scriptures reasons for great hope for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Christians. Although those who wrote the scriptures did not see us as heirs to Scriptures' promises, like Saint, I find cause for our hope within scripture. Consider these examples:

  • John 3:16 does not say “that whosoever is straight and believes in Him shall have everlasting life,” but “whosoever believes in him shall have everlasting life.”
  • Romans 8:28 does not say “All things work together for good for straight people who love the Lord” but “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord
  • Isaiah 55:1 does not say “Come all you straights that thirst, come to the waters…..” but says “Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters….”
Those heterosexuals who try to seal a bargain just for themselves, cut themselves off from the wonder and majesty of God, who loves absolutely everybody.

Matthew 3:1-12

Don’t you love the rough candor of John the baptizer?! He calls the religious establishment of his day, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, a G*n*r*t**n *f v*p*rs! [censored].

That is not sweet middleclass Sunday School talk. And John says it to Pharisees and Sadducees coming to him for baptism, as if it is the newest trendy way to be Jewish and God’s chosen elect.

Today I suppose these Pharisees and Sadducees would go to Neiman Marcus for kinky Christmas presents -- a jar of gourmet locusts in wild honey, or a camel’s hair coat designed by Polo Ralph Lauren with a wide leather belt.

“G*n*r*t**n *f v*p*rs!” John shouts at them.

Ah, but “We have Abraham as our ancestor” they’re thinking, and he calls them on it.

Ah, but “We are straight,” they’re thinking, and he might call them on it:

“God is able from these stones to raise up children of Abraham.” Do you dare think that God cannot love the lgbt persons whom he has made?!

See also

Monday, November 1, 2010

November 28, 2010. First Sunday of Advent

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Isaiah 2:1-5

Isaiah is clearly a dreamer:

They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

When was it ever so?

What word might you say concerning the days to come for Washington and the United States?

Steadily we make war “to secure the peace” – war which kills thousands and thousands of innocents, who remain largely out of sight and out of mind.

Bob Woodward reports that our President, our commander-in-chief, has been exasperated by the machinations of the military-industrial complex, about which President Eisenhower, himself a General, issued dire warnings half a century ago.

The Romans once ruled the world. They are much nicer folks now that they have abandoned such pretensions, grow fat, and eat pizza.

What a blessing to the rest of the world if we would abandon many of our national pretensions.

The Lord’s House, Episcopal style, is now established in full view as the National Cathedral atop Mount St. Alban’s in Washington. All the nations stream to it from time to time, to eulogize our fallen leaders, to pray for the world in times of crisis….

"Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths."

That would be Advent in deed, not just in words. So be it.

Psalm 122


Pray for the peace of Washington: *
"May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls *
and quietness within your towers.

For my brethren and companions' sake, *
I pray for your prosperity.

Because of the National Cathedral of the LORD our God, *
I will seek to do you good."

Romans 13:11-14

The licentiousness of the Romans persisted even among the Roman Christians. Saint warns them against such behavior by pointing to the end of the world, which he expects soon.

For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.

Why is the flesh so much the enemy for Saint? Rarely does he rant or rage against intellectual sins. Here he closely identifies “the works of darkness” as works of the flesh.

Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.

In my favorite movie of all times, Babette's Feast the title character escapes to Denmark from trouble which she has experienced in Paris. To survive, she selflessly serves for many years a parsimonious Christian sect much dedicated to Saint’s proscriptions against gratifying the desires of the flesh. Their lives are dull and boring, and they are caught up in petty recriminations, trying to preserve the purity espoused by the founder of their sect.

Much of the film is devoted to Babette’s preparation of a scrumptious feast, which she serves devotedly to everyone in the sect – a major break with their bleak purity and unlove. The feast is Babette’s personal gift to them, in gratitude for the safety they have provided her. She also holds close a secret that they do not know. In feeding their flesh, Babette feeds their souls. Little acts of reconciliation begin to break out around the table as they relish the very long meal.

What would you include if you were to re-write Saint’s injunction showing how we me might truly “lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light”?

What works of darkness do you perceive threatening our world right now? How might we put on the armor of light in response to them?

Matthew 24:36-44M

Like Saint and most other Christians in the first century, Matthew expects the world to end soon, without warning. He quotes Jesus to make his point.

I will turn 74 eleven days from this Sunday. Today is my Mother’s birthday, and were she alive, she would be 105 (five percent of the entire Christian era). Such transitions inform how I receive the urgency in Matthew’s text. I might meet my maker at any moment now, with no additional advance warning. I must be ready, “for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

The same is true for you too, be you 6 or 60.

We memorialize Christ’s first Advent anticipating his coming again. “Therefore we all must be ready.”

Poem Found on Cinder No. 3--2000 A.D.

The tree, the sky, and the water were ours,
we presumed, for us to use as we pleased,
as if we had a Visa card or Mastercharge account
in God's name with no payment to make in our generation.

This is a recording is a recording is a recording
is a recordingisa recordingisarec....

-- Louie Crew, 1981

See also

November 21, 2010. Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

In other words, “Clean up our messes, God. That’s why we call you ‘Almighty.’”

What if, instead of praying this collect, each of us committed to spending one hour a day for the next year working at specific projects to end divisions -- in our families, among our friends, in our local community, in our county, in our state, in our nation, and in the world. Take your pick, but commit to stay at it.

  • Do you already have the contact addresses of your congressional delegation? See the Directory of the 111th Congress

  • Have you read, marked, and inwardly digested the gray pages of your phone book?

  • Have you checked the website of your local government to study the announcements and calendar for opportunities that will best engage your talents to influence public discourse and to be informed by it?

I have not stopped talking about prayer; all of these suggestions are part of prayer, as is all specific work towards bringing God’s realm on earth as it is in heaven.

If we are not careful, we can easily allow the sonorous collect to divorce us from God’s work rather than to engage us as God’s collaborators. It is too easy to treat the collect as a tip of the hat to God, as if to say, “Here is your work, God. You do your thing, and I will do mine.”

Jeremiah 23:1-6

As the commencement speaker at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in May 2004, I audaciously told the graduates that I know the foolproof way to become a successful priest: “Feed my sheep!”

All other responsibilities are subordinate to this one, “Feed my sheep.”

Being a successful priest has little to do with building a good résumé, going to the right colleges, getting the plum appointments……

“Feed my sheep” wherever you find yourself, regardless of how long you are put there. Don’t consider yourself stuck.

We don’t choose where we will pick up our cross and follow Jesus.

The ‘acceptable day of salvation’ is always today.

It would be easy to love our neighbors as ourselves if we could just pick and choose them. Instead, God gives them to us, just as they are, and our assignment is to love them as much as we love ourselves.

Appearances of some Christian congregations to the contrary notwithstanding: God’s realm is not a gated community. God loves absolutely everybody.

“Feed my sheep.”

Jeremiah complains, speaking for God:

It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD

Feed my sheep in season and out of season. Feed my sheep.

Canticle 4

Israelites longed for freedom while enduring the Roman occupation. Zechariah’s Canticle proclaims the baby Jesus to be “a mighty savior” someone who will “save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us.”

Those great expectations are a heavy burden to lay on the baby Jesus. Zechariah does mot mean them to be “merely spiritual.’ How could anything genuinely spiritual be ‘mere’? Zechariah expects the spiritual to have political consequences.

I did not understand this when I lived as a presumed heterosexual with male and white privilege intact. Then it was easy to think that Zechariah was a convenient minor character in the drama that secured my comforts. My perception changed when I came out as gay and married a man of color. Previously I did not perceive that I had any enemies, and no one hated any group of which I was known to be a part.

In embracing my wholeness, I embraced the stigma, the hatred, and the enemies. Zechariah’s canticle seemed less like service music for an interlude, and more like what scholar John Searle would call a speech act, a performative utterance that in itself makes things happen.

The Canticle became less like “This is a nice wedding’ and more like ‘By virtue of the authority vested in me…. I thee wed.’ Zechariah’s canticle as speech act initiated the baby Jesus, and can initiate us into core commitment and activity:

In the tender compassion of our God *
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, *
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Christ as King indeed, and us, as Christ’s friends and heirs.

Colossians 1:11-20

Saint picks up where Zechariah left off, imparting not to Jesus, but to Jesus’ heirs, the same power to act:

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance

Guide our feet into the way of peace, O Lord, from this understanding that you enable us “to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.” You place us where our enemies can destroy only our bodies, but not our souls.

Luke 23:33-43

Note what Jesus did not say to the second, empathetic criminal:

"You in my father's kingdom?! Do you believe in some kind of cheap grace? Get real. Now repeat after me, very slowly and clearly, 'I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and .....'"

Nor did Jesus say, “Go to hell!” to the first criminal, the one who taunted him.

Why is it that so many of us Christians have more trouble loving sinners than Jesus does?

See also

November 14, 2010. Twenty Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

How thoroughly Episcopalian! We not only hear Scriptures, but also “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.”

Do we have to critique Scripture as part of the inwardly digestion? I believe so.

While God “caused all Holy Scriptures to be written,” God did not write them, and it is hard to believe that God said everything attributed to God, hard to believe that God considers holy every thing written in Scripture.

For example, does God treat as holy Psalm 137’s petition for vengeance?

O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one,
How blessed will be the one who repays you
With the recompense with which you have repaid us.
How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones
Against the rock.

For a second example, did God inspire this passage from 2 Kings 2: 23-25?

[Elisha] went from there to Bethel and, as he was on his way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, "Get along with you, baldy, get along" He turned round and looked at them and he cursed them in the name of the Lord; and two she-bears came out of a wood and mauled forty-two of them. From there he went on to Mount Carmel.

As an old baldy myself, I have little difficulty considering this passage inspired, but I seriously doubt that it was inspired by God!

We must put fresh Duracell’s in our thinking caps when we read scripture. We must use our traditions and our reason to help us understand it.

The Ethiopian eunuch was reading Isaiah when the apostle Philip joined him in his chariot. He told Philip that he did not understand parts of it. Philip responded that the eunuch needed an interpreter; and then Philip interpreted the text for him. (See Acts 8: 26-40)

Clearly Philip was an Episcopalian, not a Southern Baptist. It is dangerous to believe that Scripture trumps intellect.

We don’t have the option of whether to use our minds: the first and greatest commandment is to love God with them.

Isaiah 65:17-25

Several times through my forty-four years as a professor, I asked students to assume they were God for a few minutes and plan a new design for the human body. You might pause for a moment, and jot down your own new designs.

Some of my students’ suggestions were interesting and in time, predictable – adding an eye in the back of the head; making the body self-cleaning without the heat of a self-cleaning oven; adding the organ of the opposite sex as well as the organ one now has….

Without my prompting, almost all suggestions were merely variations on the bodies we now have. No one proposed starting all over from scratch. Nor did students manifest wide-spread enthusiasm for their classmates’ re-designs, in part because aesthetically the new designs conflicted with what we already know and adjust to. Even current limitations have staying power; they are complications we’re used to.

I did not ask the students to read Isaiah 65 before the exercise, but sometimes invited them to compare Isaiah’s new designs with theirs after they had made their choices. Of course, Isaiah does not limit his imaginings to the body alone, but designs, in the voice of God, new heavens and a new earth.

How would you improve on Isaiah’s designs? How would you improve on God’s original design?

If Philip were sitting beside you as a passenger on a city bus, what interpretation might he give to Isaiah’s designs, and to your designs?

Canticle 9

A friend on wrote on his Facebook page recently:

It wouldn't surprise me if we as a civilization are on the edge of a new Dark Age where Science & Philosophy are hidden away in Monasteries so they won't be forgotten.

We have caused global warming, and we are facing other ecological messes as a result of our abuse of the planet. The earth is fast running out of the fossil fuels on which current way of life depends. Many current military conflicts are driven by competition for the dwindling supplies. Few with great political power are waging peace, and those who try, have a low success rate.

In this context, can we say Canticle 9 with conviction, or only as a fantasy out of touch with our reality:

Surely, it is God who saves me; *
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, *
and he will be my Savior.

Does God promise to save us from the results of our prodigality?

Surely we can “Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things,” but we will be most cynical if we sing praises to placate the Lord, as if to distract God from what we might have done and still might do to remedy our own messes.

For example, all people on the planet could rescue the planet and themselves by committing to reduce the population by birth control to one-fourth its current size within just three generations. We would then have resources aplenty! Why has no one even mentioned such a proposal?

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.

This is not from the Republican platform. This is not from millionaires trying to cut Social Security. This is not from the Communist Party.

A first-century tent-maker wrote this principle and sent it to a congregation of Christians that included shirkers and free-loaders.

How applicable is this to your own household? to your parish? to your diocese?

How does Saint’s principle square with Jesus’?

Obama is not a brown-skinned anti-war socialist who gives away free healthcare. You’re thinking of Jesus.”

— John Fugelsang

Luke 21:5-19

Jesus’ vision of the apocalypse is grimmer even than the ecological disaster which I have considered. Jesus’ view of the end times is replete with violent destruction, “wars and insurrections,” with “great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues, [with] dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.”

Only those who endure to the end will be saved, will “gain their souls.”

See also

Monday, October 25, 2010

November 7, 2010. Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

That’s rather grandiose. I prefer

O God, grant that, when Christ comes we may be good friends of him forever. Amen.

Does Jesus love us as we are, or only if we become purified?

Why did he choose to live with sinners if he had a preference for those who were not?

How much of Jesus’ earthly life did he devote to purification?

How much power and great glory did Jesus seek and relish? Why assume that he wants power and great glory now?

The grander we conceive him, the greater distance we set between ourselves and God. Jesus came to break down those barriers. He did not address God as “Omnipotent God” but rather as “Father.”

Nor does it make much sense to blame our sins of the Devil. When I was child, I had an imaginary friend named “Bowback.” Whenever my parents asked, “Did you do this prank,” I responded, “No, Bowback did it.” When I grew up, I put away that childish attribution. As adults, we need to take responsibility for our actions and not blame them on Bowback, the Devil or any other source.

Haggai 1:15b-2:9

The Episcopal Church had its most dramatic growth from 1875-1915:

For almost 100 years now we have lost rather than gained ground, in terms of the number of our congregations.

Some argue that we have also lost much of our respectability and grandeur. J. P. Morgan used to fund a special, one-of-a-kind printing of the Book of Common Prayer, as the official edition on which all other copies were based, albeit with less gilt, leather, and other “touches.” Mr. Morgan also contributed generously to the building of a ‘bishop’s palace’ for the Bishop of New York so that the bishop could “live like other people.”

We now count far more of ‘the great unwashed’ among our membership, more of the huddled masses ‘breathing free.’ We are no longer “The Republican Party at Prayer”; and there is less cache to the rich of any party to be associated with us. Far more of them spend Sunday on the golf links.

Many of our grand old buildings are now vacant or barely hanging on. A burst boiler or any other major unbudgeted expense puts many of our edifices in mortal danger.

“Who is left among you that saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Is it not in your sight as nothing?”

Is it?

Do we expect God to show up soon to say?:

Once again, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with splendor, says the LORD of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the LORD of hosts. The latter splendor of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts; and in this place I will give prosperity, says the LORD of hosts.

Is prosperity the most reliable measure of God’s presence among us? How high a priority should we give to the real estate of The Episcopal Church? How much time does God spend hanging out in “God’s House” anyway? Whenever I presume to take God into the streets, I find that She has always beaten me there, especially among the poor, the homeless, and the dispossessed.

Psalm 145:1-5, 18-21

The Presbyterians and other Puritans like to proclaim,

Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him [sic] for ever.

Psalm 145 offers a model way of doing that. The grandiosity of today’s collect is muted by comparison.

I refuse to be a consistent sourpuss. I can sing the bass line of Handel with competitive vigor when he borrows from the divine Saint John to proclaim,

Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

--Revelation 5:13

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17

So anxiously were Christians expecting Jesus’ imminent return, that some, in Thessalonica and elsewhere, wondered whether Jesus were already back. Saint cautions them that some conditions have not yet been met for Jesus’ return:

the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God.

Now two thousand years later, if you’re still expecting Jesus’ imminent return, you have Saint’s clear instructions on what you must see first. Or do you?

Theologians use eschatology to name the study of (‘logy’) the last days (‘eschatos’). Clearly Christians in the first century expected Christ to return soon. After More than three hundred years, that expectation still survived and was memorialized in the Nicene Creed:

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

Is Jesus living incognito near you? Have you seen someone who acts a lot like him? Has he used your face from time to time? Are you willing to allow that?

Saint was miffed that some Thessalonians were overly concerned with whether Jesus had already returned. Saint urged them to invest their energies in their mission to spread the gospel: “God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news.” Saint charged them: “Stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.”

Many dissenters in The Episcopal have taken this last verse to name the mission in their dissent. See their website.

Every Episcopalian has in her or his DNA a huge respect for tradition. Consider the old saw,

Question: “How many Episcopalians does it take to put in a light bulb?”

Answer: “Three. One to screw in the light bulb. A second to make the martinis. Another to proclaim how much prettier the old light bulb was.

A stool wobbles fiercely if it has only one leg. Richard Hooker (1554-1600) insisted on three legs for the Anglican stool: Tradition, Scripture, and Reason. We cannot safely obey the first commandment, to love God with our minds, if we think and do only what we have been told.

Often Jesus said, “You have heard that it has been said….., but I say to you.”

Jesus invites us into that kind of discourse as his friends.

Scripture and tradition are profitable for instruction, instruction that rigorously challenges us to look again, to re-think how best to understand God’s challenges to us in our times.

Luke 20:27-38

Mormons believe that in the afterlife every man [sic] is the God of his [sic] own planet. On that planet each man lives with all of his children and with his wives. If he had only one wife on earth, he may have as many as he wants in heaven.

The next time Mormon missionaries knock on your door, invite them in, offer them cookies and a soda, and ask them about that belief.

My friend Kim Byham and I visited the Mormon temple across from Lincoln Center in New York City after it was completed but before it was consecrated. After its consecration, only Mormons would be allowed inside.

It is quite splendidly built. There is no large central meeting space, or at least we were not shown one. Instead, we visited parlor after parlor, some large but many medium or small. A major use of these parlors is for weddings.

Kim asked the pleasant young man who served as our guide, “Since every man will be God of his own planet, how will any man with sons live on that planet with all of his family? Won’t each son be away to serve as God of his own planet?”

“I need to check with one our leaders,” our guide responded. He returned a few minutes later to explain that the person who knows the answer was not on duty that day.

Jesus answers a similar question from the Sadducees: The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection any more than Kim and I believe that in the afterlife each man will be god of his own planet. They tried to expose the ridiculousness of Jesus’ belief in the resurrection much as Kim tried to expose the ridiculousness of the doctrine regarding families of each man as the God of his own planet.

Jesus did not have to check with one of his leaders. He turned the Sadducees’ question on its head in terms as troubling to Mormons today as to most Jews of Jesus’ day: there won’t be marriage in heaven.

So much for family values! As a queer Christian I had best say no more about Jesus’ theology on this point, lest he get tarred with stigmas intended for me and my tribe.

See also

Friday, October 1, 2010

October 31, 2010. Twenty Third Sunday after Pentecost.

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Post Script: And be patient, God, with those of us too fat and/or too feeble to run at all, waddling or crawling our way to your heavenly promises. Amen.

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4

Unlike mere propaganda, Scripture encourages, yes, even enjoins us to have candid conversations with God.

If God is not answering your prayers, if you are a victim of injustice in a system that rewards your abusers, yell at God about it. This passage gives you a model to use, as do many of the psalms.

Listen up, God!

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you "Violence!"
and you will not save?
Why do you make me see wrong-doing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
So the law becomes slack
and justice never prevails.
The wicked surround the righteous--
therefore judgment comes forth perverted.

Behold! The prayer is efficacious! God not only listens, but answers:

Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.

Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith.

Listen up, lgbt folks. Look at your abusers, those who end their own marriages with prodigality but refuse justice for your holy unions . Their spirit is not right in them.

Listen up, you poor and homeless. Look at the greedy legislators who give tax breaks to themselves but remove from you many basic social services. Their spirit is not right in them.

“Look at the proud!” God tells Habakkuk. Really look at them. Read them between the lines. See what they don’t want you to see: Their spirit is not right in them.

Before my husband Ernest became an international flight attendant, he worked as a ticket agent in the Newark Airport. One evening, the airport was packed with passengers delayed because of bad weather. An African American colleague at the counter next to his busily worked away to re-book several flights affected for a Russian couple traveling on a world tour with their two children.

Many others tried to switch to some of the same flights; her task was tedious and hectic. Yet patiently she typed away while the father seethed at the inconvenience.

In Russian several times he told his family, “Dumb cow! She doesn’t have a clue to what she’s doing.”

Still she typed away for the better part of half an hour.

She listened closely to the spirit in him as he oft repeated in Russian, “Dumb cow! She doesn’t have a clue to what she’s doing.”

At last she received confirmation for the new flights that would speed them on their way. As she handed the new tickets to the father, with a gentle smile, she said “Moooooo,” and in perfect Russian she told the mother, “It has been my pleasure to serve you.”

“Mooooo!” The ticket agent’s father was Russian and she had grown up in Moscow.

“Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them.”


There is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.

Psalm 119:137-144

Is this a simple prayer by a humble person? So it seems.

The speaker is a bit like Robert Browning’s Pippa in the poem “Pippa Passes,” who proclaims, “God is in his heaven and all is right with the world,” yet not as glib. The person has experienced ‘trouble and distress.” On occasion, indignation has consumed the person, but not now, not while praying this psalm.

The speaker in the psalm attributes the quiet confidence to life under the law of God: “The righteousness of your decrees is everlasting”

You are righteous, O LORD,
and upright are your judgments.

You have issued your decrees
with justice and in perfect faithfulness.

In relation to that greatness, the speaker asserts a modest claim:

I am small and of little account,
yet I do not forget your commandments.

This is basic Judaic understanding of how to relate to God through God’s law.

The law was not sufficient for Saint Paul and most of the Christian writers. They felt we could not possibly attain salvation through the laws demands. This reading from Psalm 119 invites us to challenge the Christian perspective. It models how to stand in simple faithfulness and certainty before God’s justice and God’s “perfect faithfulness.”

Be a good Jew today, for Christ’s sake! Jesus chose to be one too!

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12

Compare the Queen Lutibelle Version:

Paul, Louie and Ernest,

To Anglicans in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We wish we could give thanks to God for the love all of you for one another, but that love is dramatically decreasing. We wish that we might again boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith, and occasionally we can boast when your endure persecutions and afflictions on behalf of the faith, but too often we see you demonizing other Anglicans, condemning lgbt Christians and threatening them with huge prison sentences, even with death in some provinces. We see you trying to expel from the Communion provinces which have stood on the side of the humble and the meek.

You have become so obsessed with homosexuality that you allow it to distract attention to vital human needs in your own provinces -- where corruption abounds, where AIDS and other diseases flourish, where poverty reeks devastation.

To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make us all worthy of his call and will by his power help us focus ourselves to every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke 19:1-10

Suppose Bernie Madoff had climbed the sycamore tree. Suppose he was so excited to have the celebrity Jesus come to his house to dine that he repented and gave back not only all the money he had stolen, but four times as much.

Suppose BP executives climb the sycamore tree. Might they give not only money to cover the losses due to their mismanagement but four times as much, to improve the health and education available to all affected by the oil spill in the Gulf.

Suppose you and I climb the sycamore tree. What unmerited privileges do we hold at cost to others? Might we not only give to those who are harmed by our bounty, but also four times as much, to extend our privileges to others?

Wee little man up a tree indeed!

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven

Or as slaves knew: “Everybody talkin bout heaven ain’t going there.”

See also

October 24 2010. Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Joel 2:23-32

For most of this passage Joel rejoices that God will restore the plenty. He blames God for sending the swarming locust and quotes God claiming to have done so; yet Joel emphasizes that the hard times are gone for good and that the Israelites will “never again be put to shame.”

In his ecstasy for the new prosperity, Joel puts into God’s mouth great expectations:

I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

Even on the male and female slaves,“?!!

Yet again one of our spiritual ancestors dumps his own prejudice on God. “Even on” suggests that Joel thinks it extraordinary, not ordinary, that God would bless slaves with his spirit. From a Christian perspective in the 21st century, one finds it extraordinary that God would bless the slave owners. Mary’s song proclaimed that God is on the side of the humble and the meek, that God sends the rich empty away.

Quoting God is part of the prophet’s job description, indeed, is the prophet’s daily bread. It’s a perilous exercise, however, and from the long arc of history, some words imputed to God seem ill chosen.

Let Aunt Hazel’s tongue do more than speak to this issue. I based her on Ernest’s Aunt Jesse, who really did lick all the Limoges dinnerware before the bishop’s entourage arrived.

Quin Jordan's Prayer

Funny how some white folks
still act like this space
belongs to them exclusively
just because they built it, God,
forgetting it was their parents
who paid the mortgage
which their grandparents had taken out
to build this mound of stone,
wood beams, and stained glass.
They even put your name on the banknote:
saying "Christ's Church, Middletown."

Help me not to worry
so much about them, O God.
Anyway, Miss Simcox
may have changed pews
only so that
she could hear or see better.

I hope that I can give a baptistery
like that one
to the parish in Pinebluff,
someday when I get through dental school
and have established my practice.
I'll dedicate it to the memory
of Great-grandmother Watson,
I think,
who bore for her owner
six mocha children
in his slave quarters
and who sat in the balcony
with at least one of them
every Sunday for 30 years
looking down on him
with his sickly wife and mean sister....

Or maybe I should dedicate
the baptistery to the memory
of Aunt Hazel,
who worked in the parish rectory
long after the rest
of the family had turned A.M.E.
They let her worship
only as a servant at white folk’s
weddings and funerals.
Otherwise she couldn't even sit
in the balcony
where once she had sat
with her grandmother Watson
looking down on her white grandfather
who never ever would recognize
those children, the only ones he sired.

Maybe the sculptor can capture
the way Hazel's tongue
moved across the whole china set
of twelve dinner plates once,
in the kitchen, hidden from view,
after old Bishop Caldwell
told her that the colored help
should use only the everyday ware.
And she licked
every one of the finer plates!
It's time everyone now found out,
her tongue in marble
saying "No!" for ever and ever. AMEN

--Louie Crew

Has appeared:

  • Plumbline 9.3 (1981): 11-15.
  • Thursday Stories 11 (1982): 32-38.
  • The Covenant Journal No. 32 (April 2010): 6

Psalm 65

This is a model for how to talk to God when everything is going well. Thank God, and name your blessings one by one. Behold God as the benefactor. He actively makes all of these good things happen.

“You make safe.” “You still.” “You cause.” “You visit.” “You water.” “You prepare.” “You drench.” “You soften.”

Caveat: If you are in the middle of a great drought or famine, select a different psalm, or tune out while you focus on a stained glass window.

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

“I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come.”

What an image of fullness and completion, “being poured out as a libation.” Irma Bombeck echoed it:

When I stand before God at the end of my life I would hope that I have not a single bit of talent left and could say, "I used everything You gave me."

Many hoard their treasures, even their graces; but life is meant to be spent, to be used up, not preserved.

Saint mixes his metaphors gloriously:

I have fought the good fight, [the boxer or the soldier]
I have finished the race, [the runner]
I have kept the faith. [the religious devotee]

This is part of his farewell to Timothy. He addresses it to Timothy, not to the gatekeeper of heaven. He is not saying

Let me into heaven because (1) I have fought the good fight, (2) I have finished the race, (3) I have kept the faith.

Saint is still earthbound when he summarizes his life and declares his great expectations:

From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day,

Twice Saint is explicitly generous and gracious to others. The crown will be given “not only to me but also to all who have longed for God’s appearing.” He recalls: “At my first defense no one came to my support; all deserted me”; but he adds, “May it not be counted against them!”

At his first General Convention as Presiding Bishop (in 2000 in Denver), ++Frank Griswold canceled all business during one morning session and following the Eucharist asked all present to spend the time in the work of reconciliation. “If you have harmed someone here, seek out that person and ask for forgiveness….” he counseled.

I was amazed by the steady stream of persons, many whom I did not know, who sought me out to apologize for things they had said about lgbt people. Many apologized for not speaking up when others had made unkind remarks about us.

In no way was I holding these behaviors against them. I understood my role as that of a reverse scapegoat, a surrogate for all the lgbt people whom these folks had abused. It was emotionally exhausting but even more spiritually strengthening to share the good news that their sins had already been forgiven, from the same source of my forgiveness, from the source of everyone’s forgiveness.

So I was rescued from the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Luke 18:9-14

When I arrive at heaven’s gate, I do not plan to say, “My name is Erman Louie Crew, Jr. Please let me in because I was right about homosexuality”!

Instead, I shall say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

Have heterosexuals struck a better bargain?

I may be completely wrong in what I sincerely believe about homosexuality and homosexuals, but I am certain that I am not wrong about God, “whose property is always to show mercy.”

See also

October 17, 2010. Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Jeremiah 31:27-34

Wanting to be just, early in our relationship I asked Ernest to tell me whenever he noticed that I am not doing my fair share of the dirty work.

He refused. "I am your husband, not your parent or police person," he explained gently; "I take responsibility for my contributions and I'd like a husband who takes responsibility for his.

"And domesticity is not 'dirty work,'" he continued. "You will enjoy it more if you rejoice in the blessing of being able to do it."

That’s what God is saying through Jeremiah. God does not want to be our disciplinarian. God wants us spontaneously to know and to do what is right.

Through the Holy Spirit God wants to write his law on our hearts.

Ernest and I celebrated our 36th anniversary on February 2nd, 2010 and rejoiced to take another reckoning of our solemn vow "to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part."

Psalm 119:97-104

I am uncomfortable praying this part of the 119th Psalm.

I have more understanding than all my teachers, *
for your decrees are my study.

I am wiser than the elders, *
because I observe your commandments.

Am I really? I doubt it.

Yet I risk imposing contemporary criteria on the ancient text here. Likely the psalm writer is doing no more than inviting us to live into the internal security and certainty that Jeremiah was later to herald as God’s new way of making covenant with us. Jeremiah’s way of putting it sits more easily with me.

Also, my negative reactions to this snippet from Psalm 119 derives in part from Saint’s derogatory treatment of those whose who strive for righteousness as an achievement by following the law rather than receive righteousness a free gift by from God. Recall the Sunday School acrostic

The psalmist assumes that one can live a righteous life living by the law. Saint did not share that assumption. Earlier, when still Saul, he followed the law and found himself stoning Christians.

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Saint mentors Timothy to live as he has taught Timothy. He reminds Timothy of the importance of sacred texts to “instruct you for salvation.”

Saint also counsels Timothy to “proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable.”

Saint is preparing the young man to “do the work of an evangelist, [to] carry out [his] ministry fully.”

Unfortunately, a part of only one verse in this counsel has often been ripped out of this context and used to make an idol out of Scripture itself.

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…..

Note, when Saint wrote “All scripture,” he could not possibly have referred to Christian scriptures: Christian scriptures did not even exist as such. Nor does Saint imagine that those to come will include this letter itself as part of the canons of the Holy Bible. The canons were not fixed until centuries later, and through processes about which we know very few details.

Christian fundamentalists cite Saint’s claim to justify the Bible’s authority. It is the word of God, they assert, because the Bible tells us that it is the word of God. That is a faith statement, not proof. They would laugh at the same claim if they found it in the sacred texts of another religion.

Does the bible have authority as the word of God? Do all books in the bible have God’s imprimatur? Is the bible closed to any new revelations? Might new ideas that move us beyond, or even contradict some of the ideas in The Holy Bible be the Word of God for our time? Do parts of the Declaration of Independence have that status? Does Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail?

The Bible is not one book, but 66 books, written over hundreds of years for different purposes and for different audiences. Long portions of the bible (e.g., the ‘history books,’ the song books, personal letters, et al.) seem not to speak at all to the authority of the Bible as God’s word. Sometimes when passages do claim to speak for God, they contradict other passages that claim to speak for God.

Many treatises have addressed these questions, and many more will follow. This small text of Saint writing to Timothy cannot bear the burden of proof in those disputes, as interesting (or as distracting) as some might take the disputes to be.

Some of the texts in Hebrew scriptures are problematic. For example, look closely at the details of one of Elisha’s first miracles, narrated in the same chapter that reports Elisha’s succession to Elijah:

He went from there to Bethel and,
as he was on his way, some small
boys came out of the city and
jeered at him, saying, "Get along
with you, baldy, get along" He
turned round and looked at them
and he cursed them in the name of
the Lord; and two she-bears came
out of a wood and mauled forty-
two of them. From there he went
on to Mount Carmel.

2 Kings 2: 23-25

I have never heard a sermon on this text; nor do I expect to. The church politely ignores many passages. Jesus himself said that all the law and all prophecy must be tested against the two greatest commandments: Love God with all your heart, mind (!), soul, and strength; love your neighbor as you love yourself.

As an ‘old baldy’ myself, I admit the story of the she-bears sometimes seems truly inspired to me; but I would not for a moment risk being arrested by calling out wild animals to maul the boisterous adolescents who sometimes jeer at me. Nor do I believe that God inspired this text to guide us in our inter-generational behavior.

Luke 18:1-8

Jesus asks us to consider: If a bad judge will break down when you are persistent in asking for relief, how much more will God, who has actually chosen you as his own, “quickly grant justice” when you ask God for it. “Will he delay long in helping them?”

How long is long? Ask some who spent decades in prison falsely accused, praying for justice. Ask the generations who were born as slaves and died as slaves, still praying for justice.

Ask some devalued for millennia because of gender or sexual orientation.

Luke begins by explaining Jesus’ purpose in telling people the parable of the “wicked judge”: to teach his followers “about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.”

Would you have given the same advice to those at Auschwitz -- not to lose heart?

Marx referred to religion as an opiate. I know that prayer can be a dangerous drug for me. I pray often, and am especially aware of the risks of substituting prayer for action.

Consider this episode which occurred shortly after I moved to New Jersey in 1989. I am glad that I resisted the temptation just to pray that the disruption would cease:

On my way to Integrity, I stopped off in Penn Station for a Big Mac. All of a sudden, two young boys, about 16, started saying in a screaming whisper, "That's a man. That's a man." The person in question, in a lovely red dress but slightly tattered wig and high black stockings, rushed with his tray to the far side of the room, and turned his back on all the commotion. "You need to shave a bit better! That's a man! That's a man! Why don't you buy a new wig! That's a man........"

This went on for at least 20 times. Most of the help behind the counter were in hysterics. Most of the customers were tired old people like me. The heckler and his side kick wore McDonald's clothing, but seemed off duty, not eating, but idling about.

Finally I had had enough. "Little boy," I said.

He was livid as he glared at me.

"Does McDonald's pay you to insult the customers!"

"Why, are you a faggot too!" he screamed.

This delighted the help even more.

"Would you like for me to call the police?" I responded.

"That's a man! That's a man!...." he continued with his litany.

The first person, apparently an assistant manager, called the people by name and said, laughing, "XXX come on now, leave." He kept looking back at the fellow in the red dress, who must have eaten his sandwich faster than a priest can say Mass when he has a hot date waiting for him in the choir room.

Finally the real manager came. I asked him for his name, but he would not give it to me. "That young boy has not grown up and for many minutes now he has been insulting customers. Do you pay him to do that?"

"He works somewhere else, at another McDonald’s."

"So you allow him to sit here insulting customers wearing the livery of your company? Will I have to go for the police to get this to stop? What...."

By this time the entire restaurant was stony silent, and the offender retreated out the door calling me a faggot once again. The manager still refused to give me his name. I shall find it out in the morning when I get all my networks plugged in.

When I walked out the door, I looked like any other fat old bald-headed man.

I can just hear my husband if I dare tell him about it. "Lordy mercy, chile, can't even get out the country more than a couple of months and you go acting like a country bumpkin. Don't you know in the city just to keep quiet and mind your own business?!"

He's right, of course. But I will never forget the kiss which the guy in the red dress threw to me as we boarded separate cars on the PATH train. It was better than all the candles and the incense and the glorious Bach as only a NYC organist can do it.

We queans must stick together, or our tiaras aren't worth a tinker's malediction.

-- Old Baldy, Newark
Originally I posted the text on GAYNET after I got home.

See also