Thursday, April 1, 2010

April 11, 2009. The Second Sunday of Easter.

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The collect does not say “Grant that we who have been reborn…may show forth in our lives what we profess by our faith….” In saying the collect, we pray not only for ourselves but also for the whole church. The prayer situates us smack dab in the middle of the Communion of Saints, not only as the ones praying, but also as the ones prayed for by thousands worldwide.

Put another way, the collects asks God to help us “walk the talk.”

Acts 5:27-32

The temple had its own police even in the first century; temple police do not mark post 911 sensitivities.

This translation does not suggest that they are just rent-a-cop security guards, but police. Police do not merely or even primarily secure. They maintain order and enforce regulations.

In the 1970s, I sought and received permission to have an Integrity table in the exhibit area of the convention of the Diocese of Atlanta. Most exhibitors were assigned tables along the main concourse of the building. I was assigned out of sight, out of mind, in the basement. When I attempted to move, a diocesan spokesperson, given police responsibilities for the diocese, ordered me very loudly to remove myself and my information sheets from the main exhibit area and return to the basement where I had been consigned. I did not go gently into darkness, but go I did.

Years later this ’policeman’ wrote me to apologize for the excessive abuse he had heaped upon me, and he asked for my forgiveness. I explained that he had long been forgiven from the same source of my forgiveness, indeed the source of all forgiveness. I had long forgotten his name, but as recently as January of this year he had occasion to write to me about something else, and again he refreshed my memory, explaining that he was the one who had abused me at the diocesan convention.

I rejoice at how Christians redeem symbols of destruction by changing their meanings. Witness the cross, worn in pride for centuries as a mark of our redemption. Compare the effects you might expect if you were to wear a miniature chair of electrocution on a chain around your neck.

Witness Methodists, originally belittled by that name, as if they had a method for everything; now the word names a major body of Christ, and few remember the original insult. Witness those who quaked in their worship (now venerated as Quakers) and those who shook in religious ecstasy (now venerated as Shakers). There is some evidence that even the word Christians was originally intended to insult, calling us the “little Christs.”

poetry with a Small p

I hope that the world I sing about
will not last,
that my verse soon will self-destruct,
requiring too much gloss
to be worth the reading,
That queer, lezzie,
and homophile
will be buried in unabridged
historical dictionaries,
that a homo will be
"a bottle of milk,"
That queanly will survive
only as "venerable,"
That faggot will mean simply
"anyone who demonstrates courage,"
that everyone will aspire
to be a dyke,
or "one who endures and prevails,"
that husbands kissing each other goodbye
will stand out only
because they block the traffic,
that pink triangles will occur
only randomly, and only in linoleum,
quilts, or Christmas paper,
that all these will pass as completely
as our smells at Dachau and Auschwitz.

I carefully remark current social dis-ease
only to destroy it,
not to memorialize it.
Bigotry needs no more monuments.

Louie Crew (1981)

Appeared First Hand 6.10 (1986): 131. Used my penname Li Min Hua

In Acts 5, the apostles actively engaged in civil disobedience. The council had ordered them not to preach in the temple, and yet they persisted in doing so. They claimed to follow the higher orders of God, not the orders of the council.

Witness Gandhi doing the same against the British Empire in India. Witness David Thoreau, who refused to pay taxes in order to resist the Mexican-American War. Witness the non-violent passive resistance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

Gandhi, King, and Thoreau did not whine when arrested. They argued that jail is the proper place for a righteous person when the laws are unjust. Thereby Thoreau prompted his friends to pay his taxes and obtain his release. Thereby Gandhi gained the sympathy of the entire world watching his courage. Thereby Dr. King inspired a whole nation to dismantle segregation in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In Acts the police and others in authority were so outraged that they wanted to kill the apostles, but Gamaliel, a respected Pharisee and member of the council, persuaded them to take no action, to “wait and see,” arguing that if the apostles’ witness is not of God it will not last, and that if it is of God, it will. (That part of the narrative is not included in today’s reading, but follows it, in the same chapter.)

Psalm 150

This the last psalm in the Book of Psalms is one of the shorter. (Psalm 134 is the shortest.) Finality seems implicit in Psalm 150’s brevity and simple repetition. In only six verses, eleven times the psalm proclaims “praise God/him.” The psalm begins and ends with the most biblical of interjections: “Hallelujah!” We are told where to praise him (‘in his holy temple’, ‘in the firmament of his power’); what to praise him for (‘his mighty acts’; ‘his excellent greatness’); and how to praise him (with the ram’s-horn, with lyre and harp, with timbrel and dance, with strings and pipe, with cymbals -- those that resound and those that clang loudly. Indeed, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.”

Revelation 1:4-8

John begins his vision with rhetorical flourish, piling phrase upon phrase in exultation of the Second Coming: “Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.”

I highly recommend that on a lovely spring afternoon you isolate yourself in a place where you can be totally uninhibited. Strip to sackcloth and ashes. There you should declaim the entire Book of the Revelation. Some sherry will help. So will some chocolate covered wild locusts shipped Fed-Ex from Nieman’s in Dallas.

Few are agreed as to what the Revelation to John meant to him, or should mean to us today, but never mind that incertitude. Declaim the written text as if you alone know what it really means.

Allow at least two hours alone in silence after you have finished the declamation.

You need tell no one that you have done this. It will be your secret with God. I assure you that you will never again read the Revelation unaffected by this experience of it. Caveat: it may change you.

John 20:19-31

I am inordinately grateful to Thomas for speaking the doubts of those of us not privileged to have Jesus voluntarily show us his hands and his side.

I am inordinately grateful to the Episcopal Church which respects the integrity of honest doubt enough to have named many of our churches after the doubter St. Thomas -- 145 (1.83%) of our 7,933 congregations (excluding those named for St. Thomas a Beckett of Canterbury).

Alfred Lord Tennyson asserted: “"There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds."

Saint Paul proclaimed that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” but even he bases his faith strongly on his eye-witness experience. Three times in the book of Acts (chapters 9, 22, and 26) he tells how the risen Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus. In 1 Corinthians 9:1 he stresses: “Am I not an apostle?? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” In chapter 13 of the same book, Paul says: “Then he [Jesus] appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”

In Galatians 1:11ff. Paul stresses: “the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Feeling left out? Not had a direct revelation of God to you personally? Jesus speaks to our condition: “[Thomas, h]ave you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

We’re blessed indeed.

See also

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