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

October 10, 2010. Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

© 2010 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

Lesbians and Gays lived by this advice incognito for decades as putative exiles under policies dictated by heterosexuals. We built homes and dwelt in them, and made no announcements. We paid taxes like everyone else. We sought the welfare of the city in which we had been exiled. We even asked God to bless the city. We understood that our welfare comes from the welfare of our neighbors.

Slowly our exile is ending, right in our old neighborhoods. More of us feel safe enough to come out and share our wholeness.

We are not a new people invading from an alien place. We are your sons and daughters, your mothers and fathers, your doctors, lawyers and teachers. In your welfare we find our welfare.

The same is true in the church.

Soon after I founded Integrity, an international ministry of lgbt Anglicans/Episcopalians, the vestry of my parish asked me to leave, and the bishop summoned me for discipline [see The Peace of Christ is Not for Gays in Christianity & Crisis 37.9-10 (1977): 140-144].

Yet more than 35 years later, at long last our exile is ending. Witness the consecrations of Bishop Gene Robinson and Bishop Mary Glasspool. Witness the vote on
Commitment and Witness to the Anglican Communion and the vote on Liturgies for Blessings at General Convention in 2009. Tallies for both resolutions are here.

In your welfare, we are finding our welfare. Thanks be to God.

Psalm 66:1-12

These twelve verses tend to put us on automatic pilot to praise God. However, verses 9, 10, and 11 mitigate that tenor. They remind us that God tries us, tests us, brings us into ‘the snare,’ lays heavy burdens upon our back, lets enemies ride over our heads, puts us through fire and water…..and yet blesses us in the end. I am uncomfortable making God responsible for all our trials, but rejoice to find God present through them.

Addressed perhaps more to us than to God, the psalm reminds us to remember what we promised when we were in trouble and reminds us to pay the vows that we made then.

Thereby, the psalm promotes institutional stewardship. If we have been blessed by the work of God, it makes sense to give to the religious establishment that keeps that work alive.

2 Timothy 2:8-15

Avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening.

Enough said!

Luke 17:11-19

Confidential Memorandum
Leaked from the Anglican Right’s Revisionist Task Force

Don’t dare preach on the Gospel reading today. You will run a big risk of having the homosexual lobby claim that they are in the same position as the Samaritan, that they have come back to thank Jesus when others who have been healed said nothing to the healer.

You will waste your time to ask them whether they have really been healed. They’ll tell you of vague spiritual healing. They won’t claim to be healed of their homosexuality, which is truly a modern equivalent of leprosy in Jesus' day. They rejoice in their orientation, and even seek to be married. Surely you do not want to offer your straight son or daughter to one of them!

Jesus cannot possibly expect us good heterosexual Christians to embrace the lepers. St. Francis was wrong even to try; but then he was a Catholic, so what do you expect?

Do not risk becoming unclean like the homosexuals.

Luke’s passage for today is scriptural meat and should be taken out of the Deep Freeze only by clergy or by students already enrolled in a good conservative seminary with strict admission checks for orthodoxy.

It will not do for us to be risk the sissies’ Gospel that Jesus loves absolutely everybody.

That does not mean we are being hateful. It is God who asks us to shun them. We’re just being wise as adders.


Our neighbor's a fag and bakes good cakes,
as parents are careful to warn children.
But he's just an undertaker,
so there ain't much way
he could harm no living thing.

He even married wunts,
to a widow schoolteacher;
but their maid let out
how the two lived in separate parts
of the house right from the beginning,
and the teacher, being sickly,
conveniently upped and died real soon.

I think those boys were wrong to beat him up
when he wrote the paper about Anita.
A little sugar in his gas tank
or a few discreet breathing calls
oughta been enough to keep him scared
to make another public move.

We ain't got nothin gainst queers, really,
long's they don't do nothin or tell nobody.
We never have let the Baptists
tell us how to run our lives.

-- Louie Crew

Publication history,

  • Quean Lutibelle's Pew. Dragon Disks: Newark, NJ, 1990. Page 30
  • Gruene Street March 1997. An online journal.
  • Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services 7.3 (1997): 106-107
  • Rural Gays and Lesbians. An anthology edited by James D. Smith and Ronald Mancoske. NY: Harrington Park Press, 1997. 106-107
  • Parva Sed Apta 2007. An online journal.

See also