Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Blessed are the lesbians and gays

This is what Jesus might have said if he had been in the 21st century, not that it changes much. At least, this is as far as I can take last Sunday's readings. This set of Sunday readings took me time to digest.

The two Old Testament readings provided by the common lectionary that until recently covered all major denominations are both gamechangers on their own:
  • 2 Samuel 7:1-14a suggests the notion that God will build David a house, rather than the other way around. See how this upends the human perspective on worship and doing things for God?
  • Jeremiah 23:1-6 is, appropriately, a jeremiad against all in authority or trust ("the shepherds who shepherd my people") for destroying and scattering God's people. Would that every church read that and took it to heart!
The reading from the epistles, Ephesians 2:11-22, echoes the message I think is best said in Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." I have been moved by this, but in thinking about this post dismissed it as too obvious, too uncontroversial in this day and age.

Instead, I was going to write a post I was tentatively calling "Slow down, you move too fast," borrowed from the 1966 Simon & Garfunkel song "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)." It was in a commercial just a few years ago:
Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feeling groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feeling groovy
Paul Simon never explained to me what he had originally in mind, but I first heard the words as satire, a dismissal of the "hippie" and "movement" fashion.

Taking the song at face value, it might echo the sentiment of the gospel reading, Mark 6:30-34, 53-56, especially Jesus' request that his disciples "Come away ... and rest a while." The text helpfully adds the explanation, "For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat."

The gospel story has Jesus himself going off into the desert for 40 days and nights, giving rise later to an entire monastic tradition. The Jesuits still have a tradition of calling their members to 30-day silent retreats.

Certainly, summer days would be the appropriate time for this message. Go off and rethink things, re-create yourself. Still, not enough.

So I waited in my imaginary desert, looking for inspiration until from the pulpit I heard a reference to the Episcopal Church's General Convention decision, on July 10 to "bless" same-sex couples. Now, the word "blessing" is an Anglican ambiguity straight from central casting, even though proponents made clear that the policy is not meant to set up an equivalent to matrimony, whom some regard as a holy sacrament, even within the Anglican communion.

The preacher pointed to the Pauline universalism in Ephesians as an example of how differently from us God sees the world. The sermon isn't posted as I write, but if and when it is, it will be posted here. In brief: We see races and nationalities and sexes and sexual preferences; God sees "my children" or as Jeremiah put it, "my people."

That may be a seemingly necessary message for the First World, to which the quintessential moral issues raised by Christianity all have to do with the kinds of sex of which others partake. If we go by the gospels, however, Jesus had exceedingly little to say on the subject in general, nothing concerning homosexuality.

But Jesus did speak about the human order. When he pointed out whom God blesses, he didn't start with the most privileged of his time, the emperor and senators of Rome; nor those most wise and devout, the rabbis and priests.
In classic gospel fashion, Jesus up-ended the human scale of values and started with the poor. In his discourses he went on at length about injustice and about the woes heaped upon the rich. In a society in which legal theft goes unchallenged, that is a much more needed message.

"Blessed be the gays and lesbians" is just a first step to realizing that our human order needs to be set on its head, or scrambled, before we can begin to see how God sees.

1 comment:

  1. "before we can begin to see how God sees"

    A good change from "WWJD?" If people would only _try_ to look a things differently. No stone on earth would be thrown.


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