Thursday, June 12, 2008

Scribes and such

The Third Sunday After Pentecost this year featured a gospel reading from Matthew…specifically Matthew 7: 21-29….another “Let’s grab her by her shirt collar and pin her against the wall” reading:

Jesus said. "Not everyone who says to me, `Lord,
Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of
power in your name?' Then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.'
"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and
acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell-- and great was its fall!"
Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

Whoa! So much for the comfort zone of Christ! It’s not enough, folks, to say you are a believer. You have to act like one. You have to model the behavior of treating all people with fairness and love and equality…all the things you want for yourself, you must be willing to shower on another. Going through the motions won’t cut it with God.

OK, so you think that’s what grabbed me?

Well, yes, it did. But it was really the last line that brought the message home for me as a queer Christian:

“...for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”

This statement actually made me take a deep breath, and promise myself I wouldn’t cry. Not that I think of myself as a scribe or in the role of a scribe in Jesus’ time. Nor do I see myself as having the authority of Jesus. But as a queer Christian, I found myself reflecting on Jesus’ statement, “I never knew you.” He says this in answer to those who would challenge him that, “Hey, c’mon, man! I’ve been casting out demons in your name, and speaking on your behalf. How come I can’t get into the kingdom of heaven.” And the reason for the denial that Jesus gives boils down to, “Dude: you have said ‘Lord, lord’, but you haven’t heard my words and really acted on them. You did all the flashy stuff, but there is no substance there to back it up.”
Contemplating this passage, my mind races back in time to those moments in my life where I have encountered the “Christians” who condemned me to Hell. I remember the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbigay Equality. As our parade of “others” rounded one of the street corners, I could hear a low din of noise, like a growling sound. It was our crowd of otherwise joyous, smiling people encountering this huge 15-foot banner that seemed to rise up from the sidewalk. It was black, with red, white and yellow lettering, flames painted at the bottom.

“Repent or Burn!”

The sidewalk preachers were out in force, with megaphones, screaming at us the false prophecy that “Jesus hates fags!” And the otherwise happy-go-lucky crowd of “others” retaliated with drums and a really simple chant:

“Fuck you!”

Even my Republican mother, who had joined me and my friends for this march, got into the spirit of confrontation: she flipped them the bird!

And while it felt good in the moment to scream at these poor, misguided maniacs…in 15-year-hindsight, it saddens me that the scene went down as it did. Not just for the fact that this group of people felt compelled to protest our march by spreading lies about the real meaning of God’s redemptive love, but because, once again, the modern-day scribes, who cling so tightly to the words of Leviticus and the apostle Paul, were the public face of “Christianity” for queer Americans.

So, as I listened and re-read this passage from Matthew, I wondered about those who mouth the words of prayers in the name of Jesus…and then defile those same prayers with actions against the gay community. I wonder if they can’t see the hypocrisy of claiming to live by the commandment to “love thy neighbor as you love yourself”, while signing a petition to ban gay marriages or “the substantial equivalent thereof”. On what kind of foundation have they built their faith and trust in God when the mere presence of gay Christians in leadership roles “tears at the fabric” of their communion with us? I believe those who condemn me for my sexual orientation lack any authority on the matter, and are akin to the scribes of Jesus’ day who were so dutiful about “the law”, but failed to find the meaning behind the law they said was so important.

“Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of truth.” Psalm 31:5

Thanks be to God, the one who loves us all in abundance.

1 comment:

Earthmuffin said...

I am reminded of the fact that so many "sidewalk preachers" forget the words that are the "preamble" to the Lord's Prayer: But when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full." The "reward" as I see it is satisfaction of their own ego, that they are "seen" by people as "being holy." They're just out to impress people. Isn't it funny, they had sidewalk preachers so long ago. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose, eh?