The Daily Office, December 31

December 31, 2006

From today’s Daily Office, a huge theological statement, and a great rule of life for all of us to imitate:

John 15:15:

Jesus said, “You judge by human standards; I judge no one.”

j

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Preparing for the Future

December 28, 2006

Now that we are reveling in the present moment of Christmastide, I thought I would share with you this transcript of a luncheon at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry.

It is entitled “Preparing a Future for Queer Theology” and was delivered by Mark Jordan of Emory University.

It is a little academic, but I think it highlights some of the current challenges we face not only in the Episcopal church but in the church catholic as we try and make room for all at the table while we are being marginalized.  Sometimes the struggle is even against ourselves as we just try and hold our ground for the advances we have already secured.

Read the article here.

j

Contrary to the rational and (in my opinion) non-spiritual view of the post-enlightenment God, I believe things happen for a reason.  I believe that God actively works in the world to bring about God’s reign.  This, of course, calls into question our own free will to do what we would do, because if God is actively working in the world then how can we be making our own decisions?

Well I also believe we make our own decisions.  I believe in free will.  Maybe God just knows what decisions we will make and uses them to the advantage of his purpose.  The difference between free will and God’s intervention in the world is a holy mystery to me, but a tension I live with because the alternatives don’t work for me.

So when George Bush was reelected in 2004, I wasn’t as disappointed as others.  I was disappointed, but I knew that there had to be some purpose in it somewhere.  My suspicion was that the neo-conservative movement had to finish running its course completely so that the culture could completely exhaust itself of the fear-based thought that sees things in black and white terms.  Doing so would then allow a new movement to come afterwards that would allow a truly value-based culture– one that sees things not in surface morals like drinking, sex, sexual orientation, and so forth, but in deep relational morals:  how does drinking, sex, money, sexual orientation, power, greed, and so forth affect relationships- our ability to live with ourselves and each other on this planet.

I think we are close to that point.  The mid-term elections certain showed signs of a change in the air, and I really bring all of it up because I just read this article by Andrew Sullivan which summarizes it quite nicely, I think.  It talks not so much about where we are going as where we have been, but it still leaves one with a sense of hope, I think.

It is also one that ties into where we are in our church.  Some see it as a time of crisis in the Anglican Communion.  I see it as a time of rebirth, of reawakening.  “The darkness of the tomb or the darkness of the womb?” A quote from an author I can’t remember right now.  I think it’s the latter.  The whole world moves towards an understanding that things just aren’t as simple as we’d like them to be.  It is that nuanced understanding that Sullivan speaks of– that tension between free will and predestination– that grey space between black and white– that allows us to move forward into the messiness of our journey with God.  And to live in that tension means that there is a constant energy propelling us forward into the future, into God’s future.

What a fitting advent message.

j

Waiting for Peace

December 20, 2006

It’s Advent.  I think Advent is a hard time.  We’re supposed to be waiting, maybe even penitent.  But all the world around us is busy.  I know, I know, we’ve all heard sermons on this for almost four weeks now.

I was reading the daily office for today and realized that since week 4 of Advent is also Christmas Eve, we don’t read some of the lessons for Advent that I really wanted to.  Having no patience for this– even though it is a time of patience and waiting– I skipped right to the part I wanted to:  Isaiah 11.

A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
   and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
   the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
   the spirit of counsel and might,
   the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
   or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
   and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
   and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
   and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
   the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
   and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
   their young shall lie down together;
   and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
   and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
   as the waters cover the sea.

What a lovely picture.  We wait for a time of peace.  We wait for a time when the domesticated animals lie down with the wild beasts, for a time when the animosity of the wilderness is in perfect harmony with the tranquility of the shepherd’s field.

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David and Jonathan

I’ve been working on a paper in my Bible class for several weeks on the Old Testament story of King David and Jonathan.

It was an easy choice for me, since scholars have long debated whether or not David and Jonathan were involved in a gay relationship or not.

The passages in this text are lovely.  For example, when the couple meets, the text says, “the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Sam 18:1).  There are many other examples.

If you aren’t familiar with the story, you can read all of the relevant passages here.  Some of it may not make sense, because the story covers the last half of 1 Samuel and the first part of 2 Samuel and I have only included the passages relating to Jonathan, but I think you can get the basic storyline.  It is also repeated in a synopsis below.

I am copying the text of my paper below as well.  It is a seminary paper– not a sermon– so it may not be completely readable to a lay audience.  Maybe someday I will have the time to rewrite it.  I thought since I have done the work that it wouldn’t hurt anything to throw it up here, so feel free to ask any questions that it raises for you or make any comments.  It references and presupposes that you have read several other scholarly works on our couple, so just follow along as best you can…

Oh yes, one last thing… I retain all copyright privileges on the content (as I do with everything on the blog).  Thanks!

David and Jonathan: Interpretations of a Cryptic Relationship

            We know that the Bible rarely presents a clear and precise picture of life in antiquity when we look at it with an historical hermeneutic.  The nuances, the innuendo, the possible intentions and motivations of the authors and the sociological and anthropological context of the times seem to morph the words right in front of our eyes.  Add to that historical hermeneutic a current experience of living life as a gay person in modernity or post-modernity, and the picture becomes even more complicated–  particularly when examining a story like that of David and Jonathan.  When we look at what the deuteronomistic historian has given us in this story, we find that we have a broad lens through which we can view David and Jonathan, because applying a gay and historical hermeneutic simultaneously yields a rich, wide, and ultimately inconclusive picture of this couple.
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The Ascent of Love

December 12, 2006

SunriseRecently in one of my classes, I have discovered a new passion for some of the early patristic and medieval fathers of the church.

I think it is fair to say that we have lost some of the passion of the tradition of the church– the “orthodoxy” of the tradition has been masked by the tearing away of the spiritual passion that the enlightenment brought to us.  Looking at St. Bernard of Clairvaux, for example, we can see that one of the founders of the Cistercian order had a lot of passion.  Orthodoxy in this sense is very appealing.

Bernard describes an “Ascent of Love,” in which we go through a journey of spirituality that ascends through four higher and higher stages of love, each building upon the prior.  No stage of love is bad– it is a journey.  There is nothing wrong with being at the first stage, or the second, or so forth.  Each stage is just a successive gift from God and is valued as such.

The first stage is the love of the self for one’s own sake.  In our current modern culture, this may sound selfish, but that is not Bernard’s intent.  Again, there is nothing wrong with this first stage of love.  It is a gift from God, just as we are a gift to ourselves from God.  It is only with this love of self that we are able to fully love our neighbor.  This should not be confused with inordinate love of self– it is intended as true and honorable self-love– integrity.

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I thought this was funny.

Jesus Answers Half the Prayers at Roulette Table

Warning: there is a little profanity from the “eyewitness”, so if you’ve got kids around you may want to listen to it later.

j