Friday, June 24, 2011

July 3, 2011. Third Sunday after Pentecost. Proper 9

© 2011 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Enrollment dwindled a bit in my courses at Rutgers on The Bible as Literature when students learned that the elective was not an easy 'A,' that they had to write original papers, that in a secular setting I was concerned more with their critical thinking skills than with whether they were believers.

Often on the first day of class I would take an old bible and baptize it in a bucket of dirty water. I'd go to the window, look out in many directions, and report, "No lightning yet."

Then I would retrieve the soggy book, read from its cover, 'Holy Bible," and announce that in this class, the book would have to earn respect in the same way that books in any of their other courses had to earn their respect.

Still many returned to take the second course in the sequence, active Christians as well as Muslims, Buddhists, atheists and others.

"Why are you back for the Christian scriptures when you know from the class on the Hebrew scriptures that you disagree with me fully?" I asked a member of the Plymouth Brethren.

"That's easy," the student replied: "You love the book and you give fair grades when we earn them."

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

Two weeks into the Hebrew scriptures, a young female arrived before class with great excitement about the reading we have in the lectionary today.

"The gave her a nose ring!" she exclaimed. "Oh what fun I had in telling my mama that I am not being an upstart by wearing a nose ring: they were doing it in the bible thousands of years ago!"

Before she made this discovery, she considered dropping the class, claiming she could not think of any thing original to write for her first critical paper.

"Why don't you use this insight as kindling for your paper?" I asked.

"How would I do that?" she responded.

"What other references to jewelry can you find using the online bible? What purposes does the jewelry serve and what attention do the writers give to it?"

She was off and running. Her paper was impressive; for example, she discovered that jewelry came on hard times when prophets tried to explain newly arrived hard times..... Bracelets, amulets, rings, and the like, are easy targets to blame for bad fortune.

Consider July 3rd as 'Nose Ring Sunday.' Wear one to church. Celebrate with Rebekah.

One of the continuing pleasures of reading Scripture is to focus on details which are not in central focus for the narrators.

Psalm 45: 11-18

Not quite up to the pomp and circumstance of the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, but the impulse is the same.

The sad note here is that the king's pleasure gets direct attention: the bride is supposed to get her pleasure vicariously through him, by how much she pleases him. No mention is made of his obligation to please her.

The king will have pleasure in your beauty; *
he is your master; therefore do him honor.

Lutibelle prefers:

You will have pleasure in the king's beauty; *
you are his master; and he will do you honor.

One telling detail that memorializes the psalmist's patriarchal assumptions is the emphasis in "O king, you shall have sons."

Romans 7:15-25

I did not choose to be gay. Until I was 28 (in 1964), I fought it and kept my arousal patterns as a deep dark secret, telling only a few very close friends. During that time I lived in the closet. I disliked myself and I sought to avoid any other gay people. It was a lonely time. By the time I came out, I had had sexual encounters with only six persons, all strangers, when I was drunk and desperate.

I did not understand my own actions. For I did not do what I wanted, but I did the very thing I hated.... I felt it was no longer I who did it, but sin that dwelt within me.

I cried out, "Wretch that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"

Like Paul, I felt that the body corrupts, that flesh is sinful in and of itself. I separated mind and body; I separated soul from body.

And I strove to reject the body as best I could. For years I fervently asked God to take away all my erotic desire.

All my prayers to change my desires failed. At long last, I gave up on God, or so I thought.

Yet God delivered me, just not in the way I had asked.

God sent a live human being into my life who loved me, and I found it impossible not to love him. Very quickly I found that we were attracted in dozens of ways, not just by sex, though sex was integral to our closeness.

We courted for five months and then we married, just the two of us in the presence of the Holy Spirit, using the Book of Common Prayer (1928 version, since it was the only one authorized at the time.)

I was not long into the relationship with Ernest before I realized that our love was transforming me. Instead of separating me from God, our love for each other drew me closer to God. Instead of rejecting sex, I integrated it fully with my mind and my soul.

I had almost died without this wholeness, this integrity. The church still encourages that kind of violence in many places.

When Ernest and I married on February 2, 1974, I did not know another couple who were lesbian or gay, so great was my isolation.

It should surprise no one that when I founded an lgbtq ministry in the Episcopal Church, I named it Integrity, to reclaim what the Church had violated.

I have booked a long conversation with Saint Paul on this matter. I grieve that he was so fully cut off from his own wholeness. He argued that marriage was for lust control only. He more than any other biblical writer promoted the unhealthy notion: "Sex is dirty; therefore, save it for marriage."

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Since today is "Nose Ring Sunday," let it also be an occasion to throw away concern for our good reputation. Jesus notes that the crowds call him a drunkard, a glutton, and a friend of sinners. At the great gettin-up morning, we too will be judged by the company we keep. Jesus' practice turns on its head conventional morality. How much time have you spent with drunkards and gluttons? Do you have a wide reputation of being a friend of sinners?

I don't know much about the righteous, but I know a lot about sinners, being one myself. The sinners that I know are not likely to invite someone to dine with them for a second time if the person tells them how evil they are and reports to the world on their bad behavior. I doubt that Jesus could have earned friendship status with sinners if he came down on them judgmentally. When he met with my Samaritan ancestor at the well, he expressed far more concern about her thirst than about her sin.

For years an Episcopal deacon in Chicago ran a facility for the homeless, and in highly visible gilded gothic script he hung a sign that said, "Love your neighbor today: leave him alone!" From all busybodies and from all who consider themselves better than the rest of us, good lord, deliver us."

Make the church a safe space for sinners, and you will pack the congregation much as Jesus did.

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Even for sissies like me. Indeed, for absolutely everybody!

See also

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 26, 2011. Second Sunday after Pentecost

© 2011 by Louie Crew
Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Matthew 10:40-42

Welcome is contagious, much as unwelcome is.

One priest I know liked to tell his parishioners how unimaginative they are. "I find it incredible than anyone, absolutely anyone, has been willing to worship here 10 or more years," he told them frequently.

Under that kind of leadership, attendance in the large parish dwindled dramatically.

Fortunately he left, and even better, he took his unwelcoming spirit with him.

His successor delights in finding new ways to say every Sunday what a great and welcoming and loving parish they are. Her spirit is contagious. Lo and behold, the parish is thriving again, and the people feel good about themselves and their opportunity to serve others through the parish's outreach.

"Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple-- truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.

Psalm 13

This is one of the shorter psalms. (The shortest is Psalm 117, with only 33 words in some English versions, only 16 words in Hebrew.)

In Psalm 13 the petitioner manifests a sharp mood swing that occurs in many other psalms as well: he moves from being morose to having great expectations.

In the psalm God's actions do not change; the speaker changes assumptions about God's actions. For the first four verses, the petitioner assumes that God has forgotten him. The petitioner asks God to act, but records no action taken by God. Instead, the speaker acts by putting trust in God mercy and saving help.

The psalm is almost a showcase for belief in the power of positive thinking. In the final verse, the petitioner no longer protests being neglected. Instead, the petitioner says, "God has dealt with me richly."

How often to we take responsibility for our own depression and thereby help to reverse it? How often do we nurture our depression and blame God for it?

Romans 6:12-23

Paul insists throughout his witness that good works and right behavior don't change our status with God one bit. We are saved by Jesus' righteousness, not by our own.

Yet Paul does not want us to continue in the sin from which Christ has rescued us.

He reminds me a bit of Miss Havisham in Dickens’ Great Expectations. Miss Havisham does not in any way encourage spontaneity, delight, and freedom for Pip an Estella, yet she wants the children to behave as she assumes they should, so she commands them, "Play!"

That moment is one of Dickens' more memorable captures of perversity. Children's play is not children's play when it is done because it is commanded.

Paul wants Christians to be righteous spontaneously, but when they are not, he deploys passive aggression through which he hopes to prompt them rather than coerce them into right behavior.

To this end, Paul develops a rhetorical construct, insisting that they are still slaves as they were before Jesus saved them. The difference is that now they are (or Paul at least thinks they ought to be) slaves to God rather than slaves to sin.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life." Note that Paul does not say, "For the wages of sin is death, but the reward for sinlessness is eternal life."

As a Gay Christian, I have encountered many who tell me, "God cannot forgive you because you have not left your homosexual relationship. You continue to sin, and your faith in Jesus is null and void until you do."

They may be right, but I am not trembling in fear that they may be.

I do not believe the bible's case against homosexual behavior trumps Jesus' first and second commandments. I do not believe my marriage to Ernest is sinful, though I do sin within the relationship. I do not feel it wrong that I love him; it is very wrong when I fail to love him enough, namely as much as I love myself.

I do not understand marriage as primarily sexual. Sexuality is integral to it, but not definitive of it. That is true of all marriage. Sex does not define it. Sex takes up relatively little time over the decades. Yet sex is not incidental to marriage; it's integral.

Much is at stake in our belief about such matters, but not eternal life. When I stand before God my maker, I do not intend to say, "My name is Louie Crew and I am right about sexuality, so please let me in!"

Instead, I will say, "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner."

I am not afraid. God's property is always to show mercy.

Have heterosexuals struck a better bargain?

Genesis 22:1-14

This is one of the most powerful stories in all of literature, and I find it deeply disturbing. No matter how I read it, I do not like it.
  • I do not believe that God goes around telling parents to kill their children. Nor do I believe God told Abraham to do that.
  • I would report to the police any parent whom I knew to be on a mission to sacrifice a child. Almost any police department in the world would arrest Abraham for attempted murder.
  • I resent the patriarchal assumptions throughout this story. Sarah, the boy's mother, is of no account and not consulted by her husband or by her husband's God.
  • The boy's "innocence" is tiresome and I take no delight in the irony when he asks, "But where is the lamb for a burn offering?"

    When he grows up, Isaac is no more impressive. He manifests almost no energy, not even when his parents choose a wife for him. Isaac's twins walk circles around him, and Jacob easily deceives him.

    There are light-weights aplenty in the world, but as a light-weight, Isaac demonstrates no impressive credentials for being revered as an outstanding spiritual ancestor.

  • In A Study in Biblical Psychology of the Sacrifice of Isaac, London 1954, Sigmund Freud impressively explored some of psychological depths that he saw in this narrative. Freud's imagination is richer than that of the father or the son in the narrative.

See also

June 19, 2011. First Sunday after Pentecost. Trinity Sunday

© 2011 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Can you imagine Jesus asking the thief on the next cross to pray this prayer?

Can you imagine Jesus asking the Samaritan woman at the well to pray this prayer?

Would he even have suggested it to savvy Nicodemus?

Would he have asked it of any of his disciples?

“No!” to all of the above.

Would he ask Christians today to pray it? What do you think?

This prayer is designed to promote an institutional decision made almost 400 years into the Christian era, when the doctrine of the Trinity became official for much of Christendom.

I have no problem with the doctrine, and to the extent that I understand it, I believe in it. I grieve that the doctrine has for centuries been a major distraction from the work of ministry which God has assigned to us, work defined in today‘s gospel text, tempered with Saint‘s injunction in the epistle.

It makes good sense to maintain an institution well. Given the huge battles -- whether we like them or not -- that did arise, and still potentially divide us, we Trinitarian Christians have something at stake in the institutional endorsement of the doctrine. I am not ready to go to war with Unitarians, however, nor with other groups for whom the doctrine is merely a nice antique.

I view the Trinity as a handy metaphor for how God manifests God's self in different guises. God will go on doing that whether or not we formalize God’s behavior as an official doctrine.

Note: the authors of this collect would have us "worship the Unity." That's different from worshiping the doctrine itself. They also took care to write “by the confession of a true faith” rather than “by the confession of The True Faith.” For such wiggle room! I am grateful, not for myself, but for those who feel they need it.

Genesis 1:1-2:4a

Where did you come from? Who were your parents? Who were their parents and who were their parents' parents?...

How did we get here as human beings? How did all living creatures have life? Whence come all inanimate things?

Does the Genesis narrative trump or otherwise negate in any way what science has to say about the world’s origins or the origin of the species thereon?

Many of us asked these questions less inhibitedly when we were children. The author of Genesis gives a set of answer through the creation narrative. Similar narrative proliferated the ancient world. Likely the Israelites first heard this narrative while they were captives in Babylonia and adopted it and adapted it in accord with their own understandings.

Try forgetting this familiar creation narrative and write your own.

Will God be a part of your narrative? Will you give to male human beings the supremacy explicit and implicit in this narrative?

Do you have any changes you would like to see to the human body?

  • An eye in the back of the head, for example?
  • Androgyny for everyone?
  • Any changes to the plumbing?
  • Any more controls, or any reduction of controls, on how the plumbing might be used?
  • Would you design ways to make it easier for surgeons to correct all physical problems when they arise?
  • Would you keep the immune system as it is?


The psalmist proclaims, "I am marvelously made!” Is that true of you? Is that true of every human being? Is it true of every creature?

In Genesis after each major act of creation God looks upon what God has created and proclaims, "It is good."

On making snakes and other animals of prey, did God say, "Good!"?

Did God turn out the lights when She made our private parts? Is She squeamish about such things? Should we be?

The Genesis narrative does not show evil until Adam and Eve sin. Evil becomes their fault, not the fault of the creator. The narrative does not put the full blame on the Adam and Eve, however. It reveals Satan and God both as supernatural. Enter the snake.

Do you believe there is a Satan? As fully, more fully, less fully than you believe there is a God? Genesis takes sides between the two. Do you? On what basis?

Genesis exalts human beings over other creatures: it says that God gives us dominion over them. Scripture does not specify any constraints for that dominion. We have the power to annihilate species, and our rates of doing so have dramatically increased in the last 100 years. In your creation narrative, would you try to constrain human abuse of creation?

In Genesis God commands human beings to be fruitful and multiply. From the second decade of the 21st century, the human beings have obeyed that commandment with a vengeance. In your creation narrative would you encourage prodigal procreation?

Our planet is running out of resources, exponentially within the last 100 years -- fossil fuels being one of the more notable examples, with huge consequences for ecological balance (note well ‘global warming‘). Current discourse touts looking for alternative sources of energy as well as for ways to reduce our dependence on energy; but almost no one has promoted a cheap and 100% effective way forward:

If the human population effected a reduction to just 25% population growth for the next four generations, most of these problems would disappear.

Has heterosexuality run amok?

Given reality on the planet in our times, we should reward heterosexual couples who choose to honor creation by not procreating. We should encourage communal structures, such as universal education, that give to many besides one's parents major roles in nurturing the young.

In meeting strangers, I find they frequently ask, "Do you have children?" "Yes," I sometimes answer. I have been blessed with between 4,500 and 5,000 children in my 44 years as a teacher.

During the time that students are my charge, I typically spend more hours with them, and certainly more "quality time" than their parents. They share with me ideas many would never share at home. They are maturing....

The same might be said of adults to whom the young apprentice themselves. We would reduce birth significantly by encouraging lgbtq people to live openly as lgbtq. At present, in most of the world, we risk far less persecution if we pass ourselves off as heterosexual. Many of us beget and beget before we come to terms with our primary orientation.

Several decades ago China instituted a policy of one child per family. "Professor," one of my brightest students told me when I taught in Beijing in 1983-84, "I believe our policy is still insufficient. It perpetuates our national consumption of far more than the earth can long sustain. I love my country so much that I am committing to having no children, so that all children will have an even better chance at a plentiful life."

Canticle 2

A Song of Praise Benedictus es, Domine

Blessed art thou, O Lord God of our fathers; *
praised and exalted above all for ever.
Blessed art thou for the Name of thy Majesty; *
praised and exalted above all for ever.
Blessed art thou in the temple of thy holiness; *
praised and exalted above all for ever.
Blessed art thou that beholdest the depths,
and dwellest between the Cherubim; *
praised and exalted above all for ever.
Blessed art thou on the glorious throne of thy kingdom; *
praised and exalted above all for ever.
Blessed art thou in the firmament of heaven; *
praised and exalted above all for ever.
Blessed art thou, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; *
praised and exalted above all for ever.

In Welcome to Samara, a sermon which I preached during General Convention 1994, I noted that when I fled the Baptist religion to become an Episcopalian, I was not altogether certain that I believed in God. But Episcopalians provided me a prettier way to pray to God. This Canticle would have come to mind then, even as it does now, as one of many important examples. Enjoy its rich cadence of anapests, tripping off the tongue, especially in the repeated

"Praised and exalted above all forever"

Scanned: / v v / v v / v v / v

Almost 50 years after confirmation (10/29/61), I wonder whether God wants all the adoration that I enjoy giving.

I doubt that God is very upset when we lose our faith for stretches of time. God never stops believing in us. God never stops loving all creatures.

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Saint is often much wordier. His brevity here is refreshing, advice aplenty for most of the auspicious church wars:

Agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

When I try to greet my adversaries with a holy kiss, most of them reject the kiss as unholy, alas.

Matthew 28:16-20

The Great Commission we all share as Christians is to make disciples throughout the whole world. We are to baptize the new disciples. We are to teach them to obey every commandment Jesus gave, the first and greatest of which he said it to love God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and the second, which he said is "like unto it," that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Are we also to teach them to reject Buddhism, Islam, Humanism, Hinduism......?

Does the Great Commission command or implicitly endorse holy crusades of the murderous sort Christians undertook in the Middle Ages? -- or does it endorse America’s current, often murderous crusade to bring its vision of democracy to all nations?

Does the Great Commission endorse confiscation of Arab property to use for new settlements in Israel?

This text, as have many others, has been plundered to support religious intolerance and so-called 'holy' wars.

Contrast Saint's counsel: "Agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. "

See also

June 12, 2011. Day of Pentecost. Whitsunday.

© 2011 by Louie Crew

Today's Lections

One way I use to help me understand a text is to look at the text writer-to-writer.

  • What assignment did this writer receive or give to herself?
  • How might I understand the same task in terms of my present time, place, and culture?
Questions like these make me an active participant, not just a passive recipient of Scripture.

For example, in teaching English composition, I have often distributed blank index cards, 10 per student, with these instructions: "Do not put your name on the cards, but on each card put the same 5-digit code, preferably with alphabetical and numeric digits. That will help me get all of your cards back to you even without knowing the identify of the writer.

"Next, on each card, write quickly, and without much reflection, the first 10 things that come to the top of your head when asked to list something you would feel guilty doing. Put a different one of these behaviors on each of your cards."

Once they have completed that part, I ask them to stack their cards in descending order of which behavior would make them feel most guilty, next most guilty.....least guilty. Once they have stacked them in this order, I ask them to assign '1' to the 'most guilty' card, '2' to the "next most guilty..." and '10' to the 'least guilty' card, putting these numbers in the top left corner of each card.

Once they have completed that part, I ask them to stack their cards in descending order of which behavior they find "most tempting" ...."to least tempting".... to "not tempting at all." For example, some might have said they would feel most guilty if they murdered someone but might want to say "not tempting as all" for this and several of their other behaviors.

Once they have stacked the cards in this order, in the top right-hand corner of each card they assign "A" to the "most tempting" card, "B" to the "next most tempting"..... I tell them to use "X" for each card they designate as "not tempting at all."

Then I ask them to put their gender as M or F circled at the bottom of all 10 cards.

Then I ask them to put within a circle at the bottom right-hand corner of each card the number of times they have attended a religious service within the last 30 days.

That done, I collect the cards, shuffling cards from all students together as I gather them.

Only then do I tell them that they have just re-written the Ten Commandments.

Once we sort the class' cards, we can discern the ten commandments they most held in common and compare their list with Moses' (or God's) list.

You will notice that they have given other variables (gender, participation in formal religious worship) that could lead to further revelations for the group, as would study of the number of "X" cards.

Had I begun saying, "Rewrite The Ten Commandments" the results would have been quite different. Behaviors reported through the assignment I give rarely have many matches with Moses. Most do not even think of Moses, yet they are taking the same assignment that Moses undertook.

Once I take them to Moses' list, they are ready to be actively engaged by it. That's one of the great benefits of giving ourselves the same assignment the writers of scripture gave themselves.

Assignments parallel to the writing assignments the authors of today's lections undertook:

Today commemorates the original appearance of the Holy Spirit. Write a prayer for a group or an individual to pray that either talks directly to the Holy Spirit or talks to God about the Holy Spirit and what you want God to make possible through the Holy Spirit and you. What are your top priorities? What is your major wish-list of gifts you want from the Holy Spirit? Do you want to compliment God with some verbal bowing, or do you want to talk to God as your friend?

Write as if you are competing to write a prayer that of all prayers produced by the class will be only one to be published in a prayer book. What will make your prayer stand out?

How specific can you become before your prayer works only for you but not for others who might want to use the prayer?

How general can you become before you are so bland and imprecise that the prayer says nothing of substance?

Only after you have written your collect, look at the collect assigned for this day and compare.

Do not be to quick to give top score to the collect in the Prayer Book. What in your collect would make the collect in the BCP better? What in the BCP version might make yours better?

The Collect

O God, who on this day taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending to them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Acts 2:1-21

Humorist Mark Twain was asked "Do you believe in infant baptism?" Twain responded, "I not only believe in it; I have seen it happen!"

Obviously Twain was fudging, entertaining both those who practice infant baptism and those who eschew infant baptism. By "believe in" the questioner means, "Do you hold a theological position that supports infant baptism?"; but Twain answers taking a different and equally valid meaning of "believe in," namely "does it ever happen?"

Today we are celebrating the Holy Spirit. Maybe it's too easy for us to say, as we will in the Creed just after the sermon, "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life....."

Show what is at stake if we believe in the Holy Spirit. Show the Holy Spirit happen.

We are not Luke, the author of Acts, and we were not present at the original Day of Pentecost, so our details will not seem initially to bear much resemblance to Luke's narrative.

In 150 words or less write a narrative about human beings that coherently leads up to the otherwise surprise final sentence: "I not only believe in the Holy Spirit; I have seen the Holy Spirit happen."

In other words, use that as your last sentence and make sure that it is a convincing conclusion to your narrative.

Psalm 104:25-35, 37

Do not look at this text until you have written your own psalm.

Your psalm will have at least 6 verses. The first and the last of your verses should be these from today's reading:

O LORD, how manifold are your works! * in wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.

Yonder is....

[in this second verse and in all the other verses that you add, illustrate God's creativity by describing several specific creatures that God has made. Freely show how God interacts with the creatures. Have some fun here. God is having some fun with them.]


[This one word is to be your last verse. Obviously the verses you create should lead up to this word as a fitting conclusion.]

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13

Obviously we are not all alike, nor does God expect us to be.

Don't read Paul's text until you have written your own, giving yourself the same assignment:

In a passage about as long at Paul's (207 words) describe in detail the different spiritual gifts of 4-8 friends of yours, especially as those different gifts enrich not only you but also others within the group. End your text with Paul's phrase "All these are activated by one and the same Spirit."

John 20:19-23

Take a peek this time. Unlike the earlier exercises, this time read the text before you write your own. It's shorter than most readings:

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

Your assignment is to write a narrative about this same length (121 words) in which you describe how you or someone else literally breathed on someone else in a transforming way.

You might have been administering or receiving artificial respiration. Or it might have been the first time you kissed someone with your mouths open. Or it might have been heavy breathing after a rescue mission.....

If you have never had such an experience, make one up. If an experience you had holds no power for you or for others, add convincing details that will give it power.

Use your imagination. Seek to give a deeper truth than mere factual accuracy. That's what the writers of the Bible did as well.

Your narrative does not need an explicit relationship to John's. Although his text is your prompt, no reader of yours needs to know that.

See also