Friday, April 29, 2011

May 8, 2011. Third Sunday of Easter.

© 2011 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.

Are you better off saying, "The wind is surely shaking that tree" or "Apollo is playing his lyre"?

Most of us don't want to hang around people who say of their various actions, "God made me do it" or "Jesus said that I should talk with you about...." We build clinics to help such people.

One of the toughest challenges when one pursues postulancy toward ordination is to persuade those on the Commission on Ministry that God has called you and at the same time not to suggest to them that you have loony conversations with God. Much of the language you and the COM will use is coded. For example, you'll probably not raise gratuitous hackles if you say "I have discerned that God might want me...." instead of "God told me...."

As Christians, we pray. As Christians we expect answers, at least some of the time...., but few expect God to answer back in human language.

As a member of a COM it will be part of your job to cut through the vocabulary, using it critically, to discern [that word again!] whether the candidate will be a good priest or deacon.

Today's collect reminds us that God is doing redeeming work among us whether or not we notice. Through this collect, instead of asking God to be present, we ask God to "open the eyes of our faith."

Perception is extraordinarily important, and we who have perceived God among us may have lost contact with the wonder of it!

Would any of us be able to stand it very long if we were to become aware of how much God loves each of us? Would any of us be able to stand it very long if we were to become aware of how much God loves each of our enemies and adversaries? God wants us to love them as much as God does. She told me so!

Eucharist is not just play acting. That's not just a wafer or bread bit. That's not just wine. That's the body and blood of the Son of God.

May we become one with the one we receive.

Acts 2:14a,36-41

We don't think of the first century as an era of the mega church. Christianity was hardly a blip on the map of world religions until about the third century, at least two hundred years after it has moved from a Jewish cult. Yet Luke, in his account of Peter's evangelism, credits Peter with 3,000 converts at one altar call. That would warm the hearts of Billy Graham, Alden Hathaway, John Guest, and John Stott.

American slaves took notice too:

If you can’t preach like Peter,
If you can’t pray like Paul,
Just tell the love of Jesus,
And say He died for all.

I personally would prefer a much closer analysis than Luke gives us about these conversions. As he tells it, Peter scares them telling them that they have killed Jesus, whom "God has made ...both Lord and Messiah."

Were all 3,000 guilty as charged?

And even if they were, they seem quite unusual in immediately agreeing and asking: "What should we do?"

While studying for the Baptist ministry at Baylor (1954-58) at least once a month I joined others in the student Ministerial Alliance to visit those incarcerated at the McLennan County jail. We preached and then we talked to the men individually. I made a point to ask each one what his crime was, and on the way out of the jail, I asked the staff why each one had been arrested. Week after we the results were the same: what the men told me and what the staff told me did not match. The men always admitted to something lesser, and in the one exception, when someone admitted to something more grievous, I was convinced that his motive was to hook my interest, not to regale me with a confession.

Were the people in jail in Waco 60 years ago all that different from the murderers whom Peter converted?

Jesus was murdered in part because his murderers were angry at audacious claims that he was the Messiah, and yet this crowd unquestioningly believes Peter when he tells them Jesus is indeed the Messiah.

What more did Paul preach that did not make it into Luke's synopsis? How did Paul open their eyes to their complicity even among those who might not actually have been there?

I have seen others change their minds in great numbers, though they don't always do so in an instant.

I remember in 1961 trying to do something about my racism. I applied for a job in Ghana. The Africa-America Institute, which was doing the hiring, asked those of us who survived the initial screening to go to Atlanta University for an interview. So much had segregation affected my view of the world, I had never even heard of Atlanta University. Nor was I prepared to be the only white person in a room of 100 or more black applicants, and I was one of the only persons there without a Ph.D.

I went to Atlanta University audaciously prepared to bring sweetness and light. Sweetness and bright light turned right on me. If those who educated me had been so glaringly wrong in this matter, how much other ignorance did I have yet to discover in myself?

Peter's congregation experienced his sermon as an epiphany, an awakening to the consequences of actions they had taken trying to protect God from evil heresy. Until Peter spoke to them, they had not seen God in Jesus.

Note what Peter says to Christian converts in his epistle:

1 Peter 1:17-23

Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.

Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17

The selections from Psalm 116 celebrate God's saving act. The speaker talks about the way life used to be:

The cords of death entangled me;
the grip of the grave took hold of me; *
I came to grief and sorrow.

Then I called upon the Name of the LORD: *
"O LORD, I pray you, save my life."

The lectionary skips 6 verses. Our reading picks up at a time after the speaker has been rescued and asks, "How shall I repay the LORD?"

The audience of Peter's letter are in a similar state. Peter's preaching, as Luke records, called them to repent their complicity in the murder of Jesus. In his epistle, Peter lovingly counsels them, and us, to "love one another deeply from the heart."

Luke 24:13-35

Jesus is still into vanishing acts like those Luke describes. Now we see Jesus; now we don't.

It's tempting to expect the second coming to be grand, "on clouds descending," with angels and archangels, and the whole company of heaven.

We're smack dab where the Israelites were at the first coming, fearing heresy if we see God in someone who is a friend of sinners, drunkards and other low life.

Spend some time with those who live on the street, not to bring Jesus to them but to meet Jesus in them. Jesus is already there. He prefers incarnation as those whom we deem to be the least among us.

See also

Friday, April 22, 2011

May 1, 2011. Second Sunday of Easter.

© 2011 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.

Note well: the collect assumes that when we have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body, we do not automatically show forth in our lives what we profess by our faith. We are reborn into that fellowship nonetheless. Nothing can alter God's inclusion.

As the Baptists proclaim, "Once saved; always saved!" The Prayer Book manifests the theology of the Episcopal Church, and we as a church are at one with the Baptists on this one.

Seeing that we are unalterably marked as God's own forever, we may freely ask God to grant that we may show forth in our lives what we profess by faith.

Acts 2:14a,22-32

Peter's interpretation of David is just that, an interpretation. The majority of Peter's fellow Jews then and now do not read David's text as referring to Jesus.

We Christians have for the most part allowed Peter his interpretation of Hebrew Scriptures because it concurs with our own perception of who Jesus is in the context of Judeo-Christian history.

Before Jesus' life, few would have read resurrection from the dead into David's short text:

He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.

The passage is too vague to lead inexorably to that interpretation.

Cynics might add, that the passage is "conveniently vague" for Peter to make his claim. (Or more sympathetically, "conveniently vague for Peter to share his new experience in terms already familiar to his audience.")

Peter contextualizes David's comments in the experience of his life and in the lives of other Christians. There can be no doubt that early Christians saw Jesus' death as not final like David's. David's tomb they can still see, Peter notes, but Christ's tomb is empty. Christ was not abandoned to Hades. His flesh did not rot. He was resurrected.

It would be far fetched to claim that David knew about Jesus. Although Peter calls David a prophet, few then or now see prophecy as David's defining gift. Peter makes the claim to accord with his own experience of Jesus.

Should not all Christians understand scripture in the context of our own experience? How else can if fully speak to us?

Obviously we would be wise to test our individual understanding of scripture against the interpretations others have given and continue to give it.

We also would be wise to test our own interpretation of scripture against Jesus' summary of the law and the prophets in the two greatest commandments:

  • Does our interpretation hold up when measured against the commandment to love God with our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength?
  • Does our interpretation hold up when measured against the commandment to love our qtblg neighbors (or any other neighbors ranked the least among us) as much as we love ourselves?

Psalm 16

Those who compiled the lectionary clearly chose this psalm because of Verse 10:

For you will not abandon me to the grave, * nor let your holy one see the Pit.

Fragments in Hebrew scriptures, such as this verse, suggest the possibility of an after-life, yet Hebrew scripture has no clearly articulated or consistent doctrine of an after-life.

1 Peter 1:3-9 and John 20:19-31

Peter brooks no doubt about Jesus' resurrection nor any doubt about the resurrection of those who believe in Jesus. The resurrection is at the heart of his proclamation.

For Peter the resurrection is the source of all hope: Christ has died, Christ has risen. You and I will rise with him.

Thomas, who loved Jesus no less, is, in John's account, harder to persuade.

Thomas was not present when Jesus made his first post-mortem appearance to the disciples, and they do not persuade Thomas when they claim they have seen Jesus. Thomas demands proof. He wants to put his fingers into the nail holes.

A week later they are all sitting in a room with the doors shut, yet mysteriously Jesus appears without opening a door. Jesus clearly has heard of Thomas' doubts but he does not say to Thomas,

You petty little pipsqueak! After all I have done for you, after all I have been for you, you trust me so little that you want to play Sherlock and conduct an inquest?!

Instead, Jesus says gently, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe."

The Episcopal Church so much respects doubt that we have named two percent of our congregations for Thomas (153 out of 7933).

I highly recommend that over the weeks of Easter you seek out 5-10 persons whom you most respect and ask them what they believe will really happen to them when they die? Keep your own view out of the discussion for at least the first 10 minutes.

Ask them:
  • Will you spend any time in the grave?
  • Do you believe in a literal heaven?
  • What do you expect heaven to be like, and why would you want to spend eternity there, or in any other place?
  • Do you believe in a literal hell?
  • What do you expect hell to be like, and why would you want to spend eternity there, or in any other place?

Store all answers in your heart and ponder them.

See also Wikipedia's article on Resurrection.

See also

Friday, April 1, 2011

April 24, 2011. Easter Day.
© 2011 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord's resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This is the second of three collects recommended. I have chosen it because of the three it most explicitly addresses the effects of resurrection in our own lives.

What would it mean to you to be stirred up with the "spirit of adoption"?

When I was 11 years old, I went with my aunt and uncle to the state adoption agency in Montgomery where they fetched their new daughter. Earlier the couple had come from their country home twice to the hospital in my hometown (Anniston, AL) where my aunt could receive trained medical attention in childbirth. Each time the child was still born. Never have I heard any other wails to match my aunt's in the days she stayed with us afterward. Depression and gloom filled every space.

What a contrast when I saw them coming out of the adoption agency bringing their daughter, truly stirred with a "spirit of adoption."

God has adopted you and me as his children! We need a huge infusion of the "spirit of adoption" that my aunt and uncle manifested. Adoption is not just a sentimental idea: a real child arrives: you and I arrive, and God glows even more radiantly than my aunt and uncle glowed.

Baptism is a sacrament, that is, an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. Indeed, 'God, stir up in us a spirit of adoption that we, being renewed, may not only worship you in sincerity and truth, but may also manifest the fruits of this adoption by loving even our enemies as much as you love them.'

Acts 10:34-43

God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears God and goes what is right is acceptable to God.

Surely not if the person is a low-class Samaritan? Or a queer? Or a homeless person? Or......

Anyone can't really mean "anyone", can it?

All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

Everyone who believes?! No exceptions?!

It should come as no surprise that the Church in India has had remarkable growth among the Dalits (the "untouchables).

It should come as no surprise that Jesus had his first major successes not among the Israelites, but among the Samaritans.

It should come as no surprise that some of the most vital ministries of the Episcopal Church are among tblgq persons, despised in most of Christendom and in most other parts of the Anglican Communion.

It was not just for heterosexuals that Jesus rose from the dead. Alleluia!

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

I love the decisiveness of Psalm 118:

On this day the LORD has acted; *
we will rejoice and be glad in it.

When Ernest and I were down home for his father's funeral in January 1998, we visited his mother's grave and then we visited several places special to his faith journey, most notably the place where he was baptized.

Two years later, when we were in Alabama to lead a retreat for Integrity, we visited the graves of both my parents and the sanctuary of Parker Memorial Baptist Church in Anniston, where I was baptized.

I can well understand why in his darkest moments of depression Martin Luther sustained himself by repeating again and again to himself, "But I have been baptized!"

I have been baptized! I have been baptized!

On the day of my baptism, "the Lord has acted"; I rejoice and am glad in it!

Colossians 3:1-4

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

I urge you to seek out a community sunrise service this year, preferably one outdoors in a cemetery. Arrive before most others, while the musicians and others on the program are setting up. Take members of your family, especially any children.

Sunrise services are some of the fondest memories I have of growing up. They were special. We we weren't just Baptists or Methodists or Pentecostals or Presbyterians or Episcopalians. We were hundreds of Christians gathered in the cemetery knowing the tomb we sought was empty!

Don't worry. There will be plenty of time for you to make it to the 10 o'clock mass in your own parish afterward.

Matthew 28:1-10

Something very special is going to happen at your parish today. You may experience it as powerful and definitely as unlike most other times when you have been there for Easter.

Jesus himself is coming to the service, but he is coming incognito, disguised as one of the other parishioners or maybe as a visitor. If you converse with the person you believe to be Jesus in disguise, you are to make no comments about what you have heard. The only way that you can let Jesus know that you are 'in the know' is by the way that you treat him. Hold great expectations of all, especially of those you have never rated highly before, remembering Jesus' reputation for especially liking the disreputable.

Wait patiently. Observe closely, gently.

All will be revealed, possibly soon and dramatically, possibly long after and subtly.

See also

April 17, 2011. Palm Sunday

© 2011 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

It's fairly standard to consider as spiritually dangerous the self-scourges that many imposed upon themselves as marks of faithfulness in "The Dark Ages." Some whipped themselves. Some sat for months at a time in all sorts of weather on top tall poles.... See Wikipedia's entry for scourge

Do we risk the same spiritual danger if we "walk in the way of [Christ's] suffering"?

Or is our imitation of his suffering rather like a vaccination? Does the imitation inoculate us against the real thing? Is that why in many parishes on Thursday the priest will wash only one foot, rather than two instead of both feet of those who volunteer?

Are these photo-ops which Jesus would welcome, and do you want to worship a God who expects them?

As a teacher, I am intrigued by Isaiah's opening:

The Lord GOD has given me
the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens--
wakens my ear
to listen as those who are taught.

How many teachers would put into their personal mission statement, "My job is to sustain the weary with a word?" Might they be better teachers if they did?

How many students see their wakening as a call to listen? Would they be better students if they did?

Does one diminish what one may receive from a teacher if one holds low expectations to start with?

Do teachers diminish what we have to give if we care little for sustaining the weary?

I relate to the rest of the passage most poignantly as a gay Christian. While I have not been struck nor had my beard pulled for being gay or Christian, I have been spat upon and several times bullies have thrown rocks at our home. Some have threatened to run over me while I jogged, shouting "Faggot! Louise!...."

The rector of my parish in the 1970s refused week after week to share the peace with me, and the vestry sent me a letter asking me to leave.

A bishop summoned me for discipline.

And I have frequently received anonymous, threatening calls, which I memorialized in a meditation:

Breathing Calls I've Received


With mouth open, with vocal chords
on during exhales, off during inhales,
with sounds approximating uh:

inhale, exhale; inhale, exhale;
inhale, exhale; inhale, exhale;
inhale, exhale; inhale, exhale.

Then say softly, as the o in "who"
and sustain through one very long breath:



Say "Hello." Then, with lips fully
closed, rapidly and loudly click
the top of your tongue against your
soft palate. Alternately breathe
loudly through your nose, as

click, click, click.
inhale, exhale; inhale, exhale;
inhale, exhale.
click, click, click...

until the listener hangs up.


Say seductively, softly, with lots
of breath:

"Hi, sweetie. Hey there?
How are you? Hello.
Hi there. You. Yes. You.
Hi, sweetie...."

Repeat infinitely. Allow the person
called to speak briefly at any point,
but answer only with this litany.


Pucker your lips as for a kiss.
Inhale through the pucker
in short, continuous jabs of sound,
until you or the one called
gets too tired to continue.


In a low crescendo of aspiration,
say ah, but do not turn on
your vocal
chords when doing so, as

"ah, ah-, ah--, ah---,
Ah, Ah-, Ah--, Ah---,
AH, AH-, AH--, AH---"

Begin again as often as needed.
Alternate the size of your mouth
to vary the effects.


Burp. Slurp. Hiccup.
Burp. Slurp. Hiccup.


Make a series of clicks,
such as a cowboy makes
when he urges horses faster.
Punctuate rigidly thus:

2 sets of clicks. Silence.
3 sets of clicks. Silence.
2 sets of 7 clicks. Silence.
5 sets of single clicks. Silence.
Repeat indefinitely.

An African American in my freshman honors class at the University of Alabama in 1966 wrote a paper I vividly remember in which she described walking across the campus facing real heckling as well as actions hard to assess. Just three years earlier, Governor George Wallace had stood "in the schoolhouse door" to try to block the integration ordered by the court. He was unsuccessful, but hearts take time to change. 'Did the baseball accidentally come so close?', she asked herself.

She explained that to survive her vulnerable isolation, she fixed a permanent smile to use approaching all strangers, yet she feared her smile might freeze in its mechanical insincerity. Her diction echoed Isaiah's in the presence of enemies:

therefore I have set my face like flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame;

When I founded Integrity in 1974, I was essentially saying:

Who will contend with me?
Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
Let them confront me.
It is the Lord GOD who helps me;
who will declare me guilty?

Many still do not hesitate to declare folks like me guilty, but far fewer now than then. I know in whom I have believed. His property is always to show mercy.

Psalm 31:9-16

But as for me, I have trusted in you, O LORD. *
I have said, "You are my God.

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

Yes, yes, Lord!

Most TBLG persons of my generation (née 1936) can well understand.

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.

Over the years, especially early on, I found that males quickest to avoid me have themselves been gay and deeply closeted. Their avoidance is sometimes my first clue about their closet. Straight men comfortable with their own sexuality have little reason to be afraid of the sexuality of someone else.

Coming into class early one morning in the 1970s, I spotted a young woman scheduled to have an interview that day. She was dressed to the nines and had obviously spent hours preparing her looks to their best advantage.

"You look great, Jennifer!" I complimented her. She smiled, knowing that I was right.

"And you look sharp too, Phillip," I said to the young man sitting next to her.

Indeed, he had spent hours buffing up every day for many months, and he knew that he deserved the compliment. The glee of all the women around him confirmed my assessment, but he looked on uncertain.

"Have I said anything wrong?" I teased.

"Not yet!" he responded with a broad smile.

"Fair enough," I responded. "Now class, turn to page 322...." I continued as soon the bell rang.

Philippians 2:5-11

This passage clarifies the healthiest understanding of humility to be found anywhere in the bible.

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself....

Christ knew that he was in the form of God. He was God's equal. He had nothing to fear from the worst the world might give him.

We Christians who have been marked as God's own forever are also in the form of God. God has made us God's equals. We have nothing to fear from the worst the world might give us.

So are we TBLG Christians in the form of God. We are God's equals, even when most straight Christians in the world have not yet had that revelation.

By baptism each Christian of any sort has been reborn into a new person 'in the form of God' -- even when other Christians sit in fierce judgment.

True humility does not derive from our being worthless, but from our being of great worth. We empty ourselves because we are joint heirs with Jesus. We have equality with the God of the universe! It is from that perspective that we can have "the same mind...that was in Christ Jesus."

It's a mind thing. Jesus' first commandment requires us to love God with our minds.

We have no need to exploit our equality with God. We have no need to lord it over those who persecute us or say all manner of evil against us. We can become obedient even to the point of death knowing full well that we are safe, even privileged in having this mind of Christ.

Matthew 27-11-54

This is the longest reading appointed by the lectionary for the full Christian year. Don't shortchange yourself by slipping into an early service where it is unsung.

Put aside all that could distract you. Plan the rest of your day well before you get to the service, so that you won't be calculating during the service how you will get all your chores done.

Don't look at your watch! Gracefully give it your full attention, Imagine that Matthew himself is the lector. Let the Holy Spirit work on you through it.



Publication History of "Breathing Calls":

  • Queers! For Christ's Sake! From May 12, 2004
  • From August 2010
  • Earth's Daughters 27 (1986): 6. Used my pen name Li Min Hua
  • Talkwork 2 (1991): Side 1 of an audio cassette
  • Fine China: Twenty Years of Earth's Daughters Springhouse Editions, August 1993: 162. Used my pen name Used Li Min Hua
  • Short Fuse Issue #66 (1996): n.p

See also

April 10, 2011. Fifth Sunday in Lent

© 2011 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

So much has this collect comforted me throughout my life that I am reluctant to bring to it the close scrutiny which I have brought to so many others in the Queer Eye series, but I will nonetheless.

The psalm encourages our dependence on God  and asserts that by ourselves we sinners cannot bring into order our unruly will and affections. I believe that we might do a better job with our unruly will and affections if we were less quick to give up and ask God to take care of them.   Do we live into the full integrity that God wills for us if from the get-go we disrespect ourselves this much?

A major part of collect's appeal is the clear way it demonstrates how we might order our lives, not by fixing our hearts on the swift and varied changes of the world, but by fixing our hearts on what God commands and on what God promises.

Ezekiel 37:1-14

This is one of the great short stories of all times -- a vision of resurrection where a field full of bones becomes alive with God's creative magic.   God takes that which has been dead and reconnects the parts. Compare with Quean Lutibelle's rendition:

Then he said to me, "Mortal, these bones are the whole of the Episcopal Church. They say, `Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are living in a post- Christian era and we are cut off completely from our past as Episcopalians and from the great past of Christianity itself.'

Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the God's realm. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act," says the Lord.

Psalm 130

Did Saint Paul somehow tamper with Psalm 130?  It manifests his major theme that we can never please God if we expect to win his favor by our good behavior.

Other psalms stress that only our good behavior in keeping the law will please God. This psalm says that is a hopeless endeavor with which we can never succeed.  

If you, LORD, were to note what is done amiss, *
O Lord, who could stand?

For there is forgiveness with you.

Saint Paul constantly stressed that the law is too difficult for anyone to keep thoroughly, that we are in desperate need of the grace that Jesus effects.  Saint Paul stressed that we cannot be saved by our own righteousness, but only by Jesus' righteousness.

Romans 8:6-11

Saint locates our sin in our flesh.  He's almost obsessed with the notion that loving God means turning away from the flesh.  He offers no way to experience God's love in the flesh.  He arbitrarily separates the mind and the body, and in Paul's equation, the body always loses.

In the preceding chapter, Paul describes himself as split between the mind and the body:  "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do." (Romans 7:19, KJV).  In utter exasperation" he cries out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (7:24).

"deliver me from the body"?  

Is the body the problem?  Is sex the problem?  Is carnal desire the problem?  Are we wise to seek deliverance from the body and its desires?

The author of Genesis had no such contempt for the flesh.  About all of creation, God said, "It is good!"

I disagree with Saint on this issue.  He seems a victim of his own Greek education in the artificial division of the mind and the body.

Poet William Blake wrote parallel sequences of poems, one called the "Songs of Innocence" and the other "Songs of Experience."

An example of Blake's "Songs of Innocence" is

The Lamb

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, & bid thee feed
By the stream & o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight;
Softest clothing, wooly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb.
He is meek, & he is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee  

An example of Blake's "Songs of Experience" is

The Tyger

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

God made both the lamb and the tiger.  Blake encourages us to live within the tension of God's diversity, not to choose just one, the tiger or the lamb.

I believe that God wants us as mature Christians to integrate both mind and body, body and soul, not to dismiss the one to have the other.   I offer my own song of experience, as an x-rated vision of God's loving creation:

Watching the Watcher

I watched God when He made
Adam's penis,
matched it with his own,
checked it out for size,
for accordianability,
and for fit and feel
in a dozen orifices;
and I swear
He was happy,
did not draw the curtain,
never smirked,
but winked,
even blinked in anticipation.

I watched God as She made
Eve's vagina,
measured it with Her delicate fingers,
nudged out a dimension,
added springs, nectar, slush,
rejected the notion
of a finger-like protrusion
self-insertable at the entrance,
purred to experience
for the first time
the joy for which
Eve was being made.

John 11:1-45

This is a Christian variation on the Ezekiel story.  Both deal with death and resurrection.  The bones in Ezekiel's story have long been dry and free of flesh.  Lazarus has been dead four days, and there is a stench, Martha notes, warning Jesus lest in his grief he might not have noticed.

Small boys like to mine this passage for trivia.  "Jesus wept" (11:35) is the shortest verse in the bible.  The syntax suggests the short pulse of one grieving as Jesus is grieving.

But John invites us backstage to appreciate Jesus' mastery of theatrics.  Jesus knows that all he has to do is ask God quietly to bring Lazarus back to life, but he wants those in the crowds to have a richer spectacle,  

Jesus thanks God for "having [already] heard me" but calls out "Lazarus, come out!" for the crowd to hear.  John reports that Jesus indulges in good theater "for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you [God] sent me."

This story resonates profoundly with the experience of many lgbt Christians:

"Louie, come out!"
"Ernest, come out!"
"Hazel, come out!"
"Myrtle, come out!"....

The secrecy of the closet stultifies. Many experience it as being buried alive, being cut off from wholeness, and vitality. It buys 'respectability' at a fearful price of our very wholeness.

"Come out! Come out!" Jesus beckons.

See also