Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March 28, 2010. Palm Sunday

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Isaiah 50:4-9a

As a teacher, I am intrigued by two points Isaiah makes about pedagogy . First he says,

The Lord GOD has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.

Not “that I may know how to prepare my students for SATs or GREs or LSATs…..” but that I may now how to sustain the weary with a word.

“You’ve never met me,” a woman wrote to me recently, “but I cannot tell you how important to me you were when at a conference of Under One Roof [1990 in St. Louis] you said you wanted to talk about the most important biblical passage for homosexuals, and then you recited John 3:16.”

“You’re the reason I am an English teacher and not still a lawyer,” a former student said greeting me at a poetry reading I was giving in Atlanta 1974.

“How so?” I asked.

“I was not happy has an attorney, and I thought about every one I had ever known asking, which was most engaged in what he was doing. Then I remember how in my 11th grade course you jumped up on a desk, read us a poem, and then said, ‘I wish I had written that poem!’” I knew I wanted to be a teacher.

Isaiah goes on. The teachers job is not only to speak a sustaining word, but also to listen to the students:

Morning by morning he wakens--
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.

As a teacher I learned very early the powerful engagement of reading between the lines of students’ compositions, and to listen for what they reveal when they talk. It is especially important to listen to the source of their discontent.

For example, one of my students in The Bible as Literature was annoyed to find that it was not crip course in which one could talk about loving Jesus and get a good grade. I required lots of writing and analysis, and I expected original perspectives, not something canned from secondary sources. Students had to get my approval on a prospectus for every paper, so that I could spot ’received opinions’ and prompt them to abandon them for something that would demonstrate their own insights. She hated the course, but waited too late to drop it without penalty.

I arrived quite early for every class to enable informal engagement, and I was surprised to find the student quite animated one morning. “What’s up?” I asked as she pointed to her bible at part of the reading for the day.

“Nose rings!” she said with glees. “The wedding scouts brought Rebecca nose rings!” she practically shouted. “You have no idea how much fun I am going to have the next time Mom complains about my nose ring! It’s in The Book! It’s been positive for thousands of years!…..”

“And what are you going to write your next paper about?” I asked.

Her face fell.

“That question should not be a downer,” I gently insisted. “It seems to me your on to something. Why don’t you use your electronic text of the bible and search for many other places where jewelry is mentioned? You might come up with some startling discoveries.”

She beamed, but not nearly as much as she did later when she earned an ‘A’ on an excellent paper. She did not have to find what other scholars had said. She first began with her own insights. Once she had her own point of view, she delighted in comparing her discoveries with a couple of scholars she found who had written on the subject.

The teacher speaks, surely; but the teacher listens, and teaches students to listen to their own minds with greater expectations.

Morning by morning he wakens--
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.

The rest of today’s reading from Isaiah connects with me more personally.

I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.

Teaching at the University of Wisconsin in the 1980s I had a young student who was a rather attractive young man, but didn't have much between the ears. It became quite apparent early in the semester that Robert didn't have much chance of passing the course without some special help. So we scheduled (I offered at any rate) to have him come by my office with every paper he wrote in Freshman English. Bless Robert's heart. He did beautifully. He was there. The next paper wouldn't be that much better (nor is mine necessarily) but we worked and we worked and we worked. And near the end of the semester, Robert got just enough better to pass that course with a C-minus, which was the best we were going to get from Robert. But he earned it, so that he could get out and do the work of the other courses. I was so happy. And he was happy too.

I didn't see Robert for maybe a year or year and a half. Back in those days I was still jogging. It very difficult to jog in the wintertime. But Spring was on its way and the world was, as e.e. cummings says, "puddle wonderful." I was out jogging around the lakes on our campus, trying to miss a puddle here and not slip there. And I looked ahead of me, and I saw Robert jogging through this wet, cold, but wonderfully bright lake area. And I was so happy to see him (That meant that he was still at the University!). I brightened up and I said "Robert!" And at that point Robert spat in my face and said, "Faggot!"

Can you...can you imagine what it would be like to be Robert? Can you imagine what it would be like to be Robert's wife? Forget the spit on my face. Can you imagine what it would be to be Robert's daughter? Coming to your father with a need... any kind of need. Anything that stretched him to reach out to her? What we know as Christians on our journey, Robert so much needs. I knew in the moment that Robert's spit got in my eyes, just as Jesus talks about spittle taking scales off your eyes, that the Roberts of the world are vastly in need of love! We must learn how to speak that love.

Pray for the Roberts of the world.

I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.

Psalm 31:9-16

Before I came out as a Gay Christian, I was embarrassed by many of the psalms because they seemed based on self-pity and paranoia. No one I knew was plotting against me. My country had enemies, but I didn’t.

Only when I came to Jesus just as I am, and said so publicly, could I understand as reality, not a mere paranoia,

I have become a reproach to all my enemies and even to my neighbors,
a dismay to those of my acquaintance; *
when they see me in the street they avoid me.

Then I had full access to the relief the psalm proclaims:

My times are in your hand; *
rescue me from the hand of my enemies,
and from those who persecute me.

Make your face to shine upon your servant, *
and in your loving-kindness save me.

I am blood kin to all Christians. At every mass, we reaffirm that the blood of Jesus flows in our veins.

When any one of my sisters or brothers suffers, is scorned, is abused…, so Jesus suffers, is scorned and is abused. So am I if I have ears to hear and a heart to understand.

Philippians 2:5-11

Our blood kinship with Jesus is not something to be exploited. With him we are in the form of God and given equality with God. Let his mind be in us too: He emptied himself and took the form of a slave. He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.

Luke 22:14-23:56 or Luke 23:1-49

This is the longest gospel of the church year. The church is rarely at a loss to milk it for its liturgical power. In the Middle Ages, liturgical embellishments became so dramatic that authorities required them to be moved to the porch of the church, and that proved counterproductive for those who hoped thereby to control the excesses. Once outside, the pageants grew even grander, especially for the Passion.

Then writers identified more occasions to draw the crowd, not just at the high holy days. Festivals evolved to celebrate various holy mysteries, and others to celebrate various miracles. Even today at places like Oberammergau tourists from all over the world come for a week or more of the Passion Plays.

Modern drama in the west grew out of these experiences.

Liturgy is meant to be enjoyed! Dress up. Add props.

See also

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