What a weekend! Let's see, there was the two-and-a-half hours of Rosh Hashana on Saturday, plus the hour and ten minutes today at St. John's, and then this evening, I participated in a "cyber communion" via the blog SisterFriends-Together for about a half-hour. It was both an intimate and connected experience, proving once again that our minds and bodies have limits, but not God's. And I bet God *loves* the internet for the way some of us in the blogosophere are utilizing it to celebrate and break down the various boundaries between us! :)
So much time spent in worship from Hebrew to Home Office should have worn me out, right? No. That's not how this brain in my head works. Instead, I am thinking on the passages that were read today during our services. And how those words from Scripture from so long ago feel so immediately relevant to my life on September 20, 2009.
Our readings began with the Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:1; 12-22. The tone is one where the "ungodly" get to do all the talking, and specifically, all the talking against those who profess belief in God. Among the points the "ungodly" make, they say of our present existence:
"Short and sorrowful is our life."
This sounds a lot like what I and my friends in high school used to say: "Life's a bitch. Then you die."
But the passage goes on. The "ungodly", so angered and irritated by the 'righteous', devise to plot against such a person.
"He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God's child, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture, so that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, hew will be protected."--Wisdom of Solomon 2:15-20
Apparently, according to my Harper-Collins Study Bible, this passage was seen by some in the early days of Christianity as "proof" or foreshadowing of what would happen with Jesus Christ. That's one interpretation. I'm sure that many today who hear these words also hear "Jesus" in the description. But I'm queer. So what I hear is the plotting that some make in attacking, even with physical violence, a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person. That phrase, "manner of life" appears in writings of bishops and other church officials when coming up for the appropriate euphemism for "You uppity queers". In this passage, I hear the voices of those with wicked intentions, people of prejudice egged on by recording artists like Buju Banton who sing songs about killing gay men. I hear the blessing of the Church in Nigeria to attack LGBT Anglicans encouraged by misogyny and homophobia of the leaders.
This would be "my" modern day hearing of this passage.
What is the answer then? Fight back? Well, yes... but not with a baseball bat. But with delving deeper, getting quieter in our hearts and minds, trusting even more in the ultimate power that has promised again and again never to leave us. In the Letter of James, which was our second reading this morning... we get "schooled" on the need to resist the devil (or taking a bat across the head of our enemy) and draw nearer to God:
"Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind."--James 3:13-16.
Finally, we get a very clear directive in Mark's gospel that should make any gay person realize that we are very much included in God's kingdom. The disciples (who Mark treats as the biggest bunch of idiots on the planet) have engaged in an argument about "I'm the greatest!" "Nuh-uh, I am!". So, Jesus lays it out for them:
"'Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.' Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in the arms, he said to them, 'Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.'"--Mark 9:35b-37
Important to note is that in the world of Jesus and the New Testament, children were among the weakest, the very bottom of the hierarchy, the powerless. Given where our LGBT community stands in this country in the struggle to gain the right to get married, to be left alone and not bothered by more constitutional amendments to curb our rights... I'd say we aren't sitting pretty. We may not be totally powerless, but we sure don't get no respect from most of our elected leaders! And so I look here to Mark, and I see self-righteous, self-important disciples trying to assert who is "the best". It certainly has to be one of these guys. Jesus "chose" them, right? But then Jesus, in a 'teaching moment' with the disciples, lifts up the one that is outside the others experience and says, "Be like one of these. And if you welcome this 'other' you welcome God."
Let that be a reminder to all of us who want to be the judges of who is in and who is out. God is the one who knows who is a goat and a sheep, not any of us. The people who are at the bottom today may very well be the ones who are first in the eyes of God. So, treat everybody... including the one you may not like... with respect and dignity that comes with being a child of God.
Aren't you glad I spent so much time in worship this weekend?