Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Spirit of Power and Love, Not Cowardice

 It's always a crapshoot, really, what is going to reach out and grab me on any given Sunday in our Episcopal liturgy.  Sometimes it's the hymns.  Sometimes a line in the psalm.  Often, the Gospel has something to say to me.  But today, it was the Epistle reading, the beginning of the Second Letter to Timothy, that was tapping into the deepest recesses of my heart and saying, "Hello?!  Do you hear this?! Do ya?! DO YA?!"
As a lesbian, I am pretty much a failure in that I don't hate Paul.  Most women, especially lesbians, really don't like the saint and his letters which contain most of the "clobber" passages used against the LGBT community, and lots of misognystic language that some scholars say are not Paul's words, but stuff that got added in later.  I used to rail against Paul.  Then I started learning, studying, reading, marking and inwardly digesting and realized that the things I didn't like about Paul had little to do with him or what he expressed, and everything to do with how others have used his words in ways that have been damaging, and abusive.  I think many of the very early Christians would be appalled to think that their words were being used to put up barriers between people and God!

There was definitely no barrier with the Epistle lesson and me today.  I held back tears as I listened to this letter which contained words for me, as much as it was ever meant for someone named "Timothy":

I am grateful to God--whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did--when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. 

Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel,relying on the power of God,  who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us. --2 Tim 1:3-14

Listening to this felt as if I was sitting with any number of spiritual advisors I've had over the years.  These are essentially the same words, although transformed into a more 21st century language, that they've been saying to me all along, not only about my queerness converging with my Christianity, but with my sense of call and what I must do to follow where God is taking me.  Most importantly, it is the reminder that this "holy calling" isn't so much about me; it's about God, and what God needs to have happen in the world.  And, apparently, God desires to be seen and known through a crew-cut, leather-jacket-wearing lesbian.  If this were my script, I would never have cast me in this role.  But then, that would be the script in which I'm God, and I get to have the final say on what goes on.  And I learned about six years ago that I am not going to be allowed to write this play, but I am going to have to accept the role of lead in it, and the words will be given to me.

Hopefully, that will be the case tomorrow.  I am due to have a conversation about my call that will give me the next scene in this unfolding drama called, "My Life."  I have been wondering if it's too late to call in a body double.  Something tells me, yes--it is too late.  And--no--there will be no big fish to swallow me whole, either.  And, as terrified as I am, I hear Paul's letter reminding me that I have been given "a spirit of power and love" not cowardice.  That, along with Luke's mention today of the faith the size of a mustard seed, is what I need to take into the conversation I'm going to have.

Prayers are welcomed, too.


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