Monday, February 1, 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010. The Second Sunday in Lent

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I am intrigued with point of view in this and many other collects, second person singular in talking to God about third person plural -- “all who have gone astray….bring them again….”

The collect does not say “Be gracious to all of us who have gone astray,” though Scripture tells us that “all we like sheep have gone astray.” Presumably some of those praying the collect see this as a prayer about themselves, a prayer on which they eavesdrop. Yet the congregation does not invade their private space with God. It is corporate worship, not private worship. It is common prayer, not individual prayer.

Even the Confession, although more personal by being grammatically in the first person, keeps a distance from individual prayers. It uses the first person plural, not “Most merciful God, I confess that I have sinned against you….I have not loved you with my whole heart, I have not loved my neighbors as I love myself.” Only in the confessional or in private prayer are we encouraged to pray, “Father, since my last confession I have sinned. I have……”

Corporate worship with common prayer brings us to safety even as we confront our vulnerability. In today’s collect those gathered with us confirm that even in the face of sin, God is merciful, and what’s more, it is God’s glory to be merciful. This is not a contract in which a harsh parent says to a wayward child, “I’ll be nice to you before the rest of the family, but just you wait to see what wallops I have for you in the back room.” God’s property is always and everywhere to show mercy.

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18

Some of the strongest conflicts of our time relate to Jewish claims in this text. They point to it as clear biblical evidence that God chose them, not the Muslims, to possess the Holy Land. Since his wife Sarah is barren, Abraham asks: “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless
You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.”

Abraham refers to his faithful steward, Eleazar of Damascus.

Afterwards, Ishmael, Abraham’s first child is born, through his concubine Hagar. But he has no first-class status either, at least as Jewish scriptures portray him.

Ishmael figures as more important in the Qu’ran, which mentions him a dozen times; but even there he is listed as merely one of the early prophets. In Islamic tradition however, some have elevated Ishmael to be the preferred son. They argue ethat it is Ishmael, not Isaac, whom Abraham takes to sacrifice. Ishmael is not named in the Qu’ran’s account of this episode, but neither is Isaac. See Wikipedia’s account of Ishmael.

Psalm 27

Dominus illuminatio.

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom then shall I fear? *
the LORD is the strength of my life;
of whom then shall I be afraid?

Unlike today’s collect and the Confession, Psalm 27 invites us into the first person singular point of view.

“When evildoers came upon me to eat up my flesh, *
it was they, my foes and my adversaries, who
stumbled and fell.

Many in Africa say that they live close to the life depicted in Scripture. As an out gay Christian, I do too. I know what it is to have enemies: those working to criminalize lgbt people in Uganda proposed the death penalty for some homosexual offenses, and prison sentences for years even for parents who do not report their homosexual children as soon as they find out. “When evildoers came upon me to eat up my flesh” is not much of an overstatement in the context of militant hetero supremacy, yet in the face of it, lgbt Christians and our friends proclaim, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life.”

I readily admit that I do not always wait patiently on the Lord.

Ernest and I spent the first 6 years of our marriage in a tiny town in Middle Georgia, known as Fort Valley. We are a racially integrated couple. We are an ‘out’ gay couple Frequently we were objects of public heckling and life-threatening phone calls, especially when we were accused by Anglican bishop James Dees of causing the tornado that ripped through the town.

When the Atlanta Constitution asked me about Bishop Dee’s accusation, published in the John Birch Society Macon Herald with a circulation of over 100,000 throughout the South, I responded, “Yes, and we took good aim too. We took the steeple off the white Baptist church but not the black one. That’s called ‘Queer Power.’”

The media was not present for most of our neighbors' devilment. Once when I was putting letters into a street-side postbox, several police on the porch of their building next door, cat-called and whistled. “Louise! Hello, Louise.” “Queer!” “Faggot!” “Yoo-hoo! Hi there!…”

Have you ever tried to drive a motorcycle from dead still without revving the engine? It is almost impossible. Try as I might, I ended up sounding like I was driving off in a huff, confirming for them that they had gotten to me. I felt like they were trying to eat my flesh.

Still in their sight, half a block away I did a u-turn, drove back and parked in the lot between the police station and the Post Office. By the time I had dismounted, the policemen had left the porch for inside, and by the time I went inside they were in a back room. As prissy as I could be and loud enough for all to hear, I said to the desk sergeant that I would not stand for public ridicule, that I wanted the incident in writing in case anyone brought harm to me, and that I would file a complaint with the FBI…..”

I was not intimidated as I drove away this time, and I decided not to give the episode more than its due by contacting the FBI. I wanted that resource if intimation ever got worse.

Several months later Ernest called me down from my study while he was doing the hair of several poor women. The father of one of them had dropped by to take her home when Ernest finished, and offered me some white lightning w/ rum.

“You don’t recognize me, do you?” he asked, smiling.

“You’re Deesha’s father,” I answered.

“Yes, but I am also a police officer. Do you want to hear what the men said when you confronted them for cat-calling you a while back?”

“You were not there. They were all white.”

“But I was in the back, and when you drove up and came into the office, they were scared. The biggest bully of them all said, ’But sissies aren’t supposed to do things like that. They’re supposed to take it.’”

Though an army should encamp against me, *
yet my heart shall not be afraid;

And though war should rise up against me, *
yet will I put my trust in him.

Philippians 3:17-4:1

But lgbt Christians' citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

--Quean Lutibelle's translation

Luke 13:31-35

Herod is the king who ordered the death of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist; and at his daughter’s insistence, Herod ordered John’s head brought to him on a silver platter.

It is no small matter that the Pharisees tell Jesus that Herod wants to kill him. The Pharisees are not fond of Jesus either, and likely enjoy being tale-bearers of unwelcome news to him.

“Go tell that Fox!” Jesus says to the Pharisees. He knows fully well that they are tale bearers: “Go tell that Fox!” is not irenic. Jesus also knows that the Pharisees would never have the courage to speak the truth to power.

God does not require us to be pushovers. We don’t return violence for violence, but we are to speak the truth boldly.

Jesus also sarcastically notes that he will be safe for the next three days since he plans to be outside of Jerusalem. The Pharisees exercise some power in Jerusalem themselves, and they have not contributed to making it safe. Jesus speaks the truth to them has sternly as he, through their tattling, does to Herod.

See also


Fr. J. said...

Fr. Jake, you are forgetting the basics of all ancient liturgy. It is the priest praying on behalf of the people. "They" and "them" refer to the congregation presently at worship, not people outside the walls. The proper first person which is never used in these prayers is "I", not "we."

The priest prays speaking in his own voice, not the voice of the congregation. This is true in the collects and the Eucharist prayers, but not the instructions which are addressed to the people directly, such as "Peace be with you," or "Behold the Lamb of God."

Interestingly, in the Roman Rite the Lamb of God continues..."Happy are they who are called to his supper." They in this case can be understood to mean "those" as in "Happy are those who are called to his supper." We might think it out to read, "Happy are WE..." But that would imply a distinction between those present and those elsewhere which would be incorrect. Or, we might think it ought to say "Happy are YOU..." But that would imply that all here present all called to receive which of course is not true if a Hindu is present.

Anyway, person and voice is often misunderstood in the liturgy and has been woefully muddied by modern music which puts the words of the Lord in the peoples mouths or has the people singing to themselves about themselves, etc. etc.

Alcibiades said...

Bless you for this, Louie. After a hard day which also involved receiving a fair degree of abuse from a vicious anonymous fundamentalist I stumbled by here to find myself refreshed, inspired, challenged and renewed.

Thank you with all of my heart.