Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 20, 2011. Second Sunday in Lent

© 2011 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

Genesis 12:1-4a

In Hebrew scriptures many characters seem larger than life.

  • Noah foresaw the flood and rescued human beings and animals in an arc.
  • Moses led the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt.
  • Saul built the first temple in Jerusalem.
  • David was a beloved king, a musician, and a strong warrior.
  • Elijah was one of the most respected prophets of all time…..

But what did Abram (Abraham) do?  Why is he ascribed great stature in Hebrew Scriptures?

  • Abraham was a nomad who accumulated a fair amount of wealth.
  • In his very old age Abraham fathered Isaac, who himself is not very remarkable
  • And through his concubine Hagar Abraham fathered yet another son, Ishmael.

Those ‘achievements’ do not compete well with the heroics of many others in the Biblical narrative.  Yet three modern religions trace their lineage through Abraham – Judaism through Isaac, Islam through Ishmael, and Christianity through Jesus through David through Isaac….

In today’s epistle, Saint Paul imputes holy celebrity status to Abraham because he did without question what God asked him to do. He trusted God had good reasons – even when he thought God asked him to sacrifice Isaac.   Abraham’s faith, his trust, was reckoned as righteousness.

 “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him.”

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills; *
from where is my help to come?

Note that the verse ends with a question mark.  Although no punctuation appears in the oldest manuscripts, bible scholars translate the text as an interrogative.

Where does the speaker expect to find his help?  From the hills?   From high places?    No!:

My help comes from the LORD, *
the maker of heaven and earth.

I rejoice that those who compile the lectionary appointed Psalm 121 for the second Sunday in Lent.  It is not penitential.   The speaker does not grovel.  The speaker does not cry out in pain that withers, as the speaker did in the psalm for the first Sunday in Lent.  

If we expect to address our sin and our guilt seriously, as Lent invites us to, we need just as seriously to address the consolation that God offers to us.   In the rest of the psalm the speaker addresses the rest of us, with some of the most comforting words in all the Bible:

[God] will not let your foot be moved *
and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel *
shall neither slumber nor sleep;

The LORD himself watches over you; *
the LORD is your shade at your right hand,

So that the sun shall not strike you by day, *
nor the moon by night.

The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; *
it is he who shall keep you safe.

The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in, *
from this time forth for evermore.

So be it.  AMEN

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

Saint Paul spent much of his early life trying to follow the law to the letter.  In his zeal, Paul was present at the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr.    Yet when he converted to Christianity Paul radically departed from the view that righteousness comes by our right actions.   With that standard, no one can win, he reckoned; we will all fall short of earning our way into heaven if the goal depends on how good or how right we are.  We don’t earn our way; Jesus paid our way for us.   We have salvation by God’s free gift through Jesus.

Abraham’s simple, straight-forward trust of God is not simple for Paul:  it is a means of Grace and is accounted to Abraham as righteousness.

John 3:1-17

Many say to lgbt people, You must be born again!   You are not meant to be lesbian or gay or bisexual or transgendered.   Those are not you.   You must be born again.

Believing those people, many a night through my adolescence I prayed “Make me a heterosexual, God,”    When Playboy Magazine first appeared (1953), I bought copies in an effort to rewire my circuits heterosexually; but it prompted no arousal.  And my involuntary fantasies remained stolidly homosexual.

I felt that God had made me the piece of junk that so many took us queers to be.  

I was like Nicodemus thinking that I would have to go back into my mother’s womb and exit it properly.

“Not so,” Jesus told him.  “Get a life.  Get a new life of the spirit.”

God never made my homosexuality go away but performed a great miracle:  God gave me a new life, a new spirit as a gay person striving to be the best gay person I could be.

John 3:16 is possibly the most memorized bible verse of all time.   It is perverse to read it as, “"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that every heterosexual who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

Just what part of “Whosoever” so difficult to understand?

"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."

Woe unto those who hoard this good news as a private secret.

Nor is it a secret for lgbt persons to hoard privately.   Having experienced so great salvation, let us share the good news everywhere:  God loves absolutely everybody.

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