Thursday, April 1, 2010

April 18, 2010. The Third Sunday of Easter.

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Where might we see Jesus? “In his redeeming work.”

In his inaugural sermon, Jesus quoted Isaiah 11:2 to describe his redeeming work:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Luke 4:18-19

If God had not made me gay, I seriously doubt the eyes of my faith would ever have opened to God’s project, to the redeeming work that he is doing and to the redeeming work that he calls me to do.

Often Christians condemn as a secular agenda the work of releasing the oppressed. Often lgbt persons are told, “Take your worldly agenda elsewhere: we will have none of it; we are here to worship God and to enjoy him forever.” Yes, but….

We must worship God in the beauty of holiness: that beauty, and indeed that holiness, that wholeness, comes in our loving not only God, but also our neighbors, all of them, as much as we love ourselves.

Indeed, “open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work."

Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)

This is my favorite of the three accounts in Acts of Paul’s conversion, right down to the small details.

  • 425 Straight Street, Damascus, Israel

    It seems I have spent my whole life on “Straight Street” without ever noticing a literal street sign. Yet Google turns up about 55 million hits for “Straight Street” and about 20 million for “Straight Avenue”! How appropriate for unmarried epileptic, sadistic Saint, before he was a saint, before he understood Grace, to be quartered on Straight Street. I wonder whether it was actually named “Straight and Narrow Street”

  • Saint must suffer too

    Note the rich “concession” God makes to Ananias when Ananias objects to taking on the mission of visiting Saul. Saul has a reputation of doing “much evil” to Christians; why should Ananias expect Saul will be any nicer to him?

    God tells Ananias to go anyway, stressing: “I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” Subtext “You think Saul has made Christians suffer? You haven't seen anything yet. I will personally intervene to show Saul how much he will suffer.”

    That assurance prompts Ananias to undertake the visit God has asked him to make.

    Notice that in today's gospel from John (below), the resurrected Jesus lets Peter know how much Peter himself will suffer. Being God's disciple carries a price.

  • Something like scales in the eyes

    In my ministry I have often felt bidden too visit those who have persecuted lgbt persons. Many of them have also converted and have described their conversion as “something like scales falling from [my] eyes.”

    In the early 1990s a gnarled lady in her 80s, with blue hair showed up at a national convention of Integrity held in Atlanta. During a break she told me, “I am so glad that God has allowed me to live long enough to be here and to repent before you and others. I was wrong when God sent me Negroes to love; I did not have the courage or the grace to do so. When I meet my maker soon, I want to thank him for showing me Jesus not only in black people, but also in my lesbian and gay neighbors too.”

  • blindness and speechlessness both temporary

    Saul’s blindness may seem forever; Paul’s is not.

    Saul’s fellow travelers “stood speechless,” but afterwards took him to Straight Street.

    Psalm 30

    Despite what Scripture says in another place, God is not the same day after day forever and ever!

    Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

    For God’s wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye, *
    God’s favor for a lifetime.

    Weeping may spend the night, *
    but joy comes in the morning

    Our God is a living god. We mere mortals can persuade God to change God’s mind.

    You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead; *
    you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

    Imagine how much more this verse meant to Paul than to Saul.

    Revelation 5:11-14

    Revelation, Ezekiel, and Daniel are the most operatic texts in Scripture. As choreographer, John can certainly hold his own in competition with Ezekiel and Daniel. This out hollywoods Hollywood, out bollywoods Bollywood, Not even the dance at the finale of Slumdog Millionaire can light a candle to it.

    They numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands

    If your audience would cringe were you to say “hunky dory”, store in your phrase hoard “myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands.”

    John 21:1-19

    Now you see me; now you don’t.

    The narratives of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus emphasize mystery. “Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’” yet the narrator slightly suggests that they may not be so sure as they pretend to be, at least at first.

    Is the same not true of most Christians today? Must we be able to put our fingers in the holes in his hands before we know for sure it is Jesus? How many times? Did we just imagine it was Jesus?

    Peter even puts on clothes for the brunch which the stranger has prepared for them. The stranger cogently reveals himself not by what he says about himself, but by how he talks to them, especially by how he talks to Peter.

    When my mother said to me, “Erman Louie Crew, Jr., you have not yet taken out the trash,” I knew for certain that this was not just a mom talking; this was Mother.

    When Jesus said to Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me” Peter instantly recognized this was not just a sharp guy who had invited them to brunch on the beach: this guy is his Lord.

    Peter knew it by the more formal appellation his Lord used for him, but also by what Jesus required of him, “Feed my sheep.”

    Three times Jesus says it. That’s often necessary when we are spiritually hard of hearing.

    Do you want to be a successful disciple of Jesus? “Feed my sheep.”

    That’s not just for bishops and priests: “Feed my sheep.”

    That’s not just for 'Religious Views" on the Facebook identification form. "Feed my sheep”

    Do we want to behold Jesus in all his redeeming work, as we asked in today‘s collect?:

    Feed my sheep.
    Feed my sheep.
    Feed my sheep.

    See also
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