The Heart’s Burning Fire


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This Week’s Sermon Was Drawn From the Following Scripture

Genesis 21:9-13

Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.”The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him [Ishmael] also, because he is your offspring.”

 

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No shirt, no shoes…

About four years ago, when I saw Calvary’s announcement that you were looking for a pastoral care minister, the little hairs on the back of my neck stood up, telling me to go for it; this just might be a real “call.” In my circumspection, I called on my friend, Rev. Susan Ashton who used to work in Calvary’s basement, for the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, and I asked Susan, “Do you think Calvary would be a good fit for Lou and me?”

“Well…” she paused and thought. “They’ll love Lou, but you—you should invest in an iron.” I say this as one who did not press he clergy shirt this morning. I come “just as I am without one plea,” and although some may not like my shirt nor my shoes, nevertheless we will have a good service.

Biblical Framework for Equality: Shalom

This past Wednesday night, Rev. Janie Spahr preached in our chapel and told us to be aware of domination systems, systems that benefit the rich and wear down the poor, systems that intimidate those who “have not” in favor of those who “have.”

In old Hebrew Bible parlance we call this whole process shalom, which, on the surface means peace. Scratch a little deeper, and shalom actually means to be made whole, as in the legal sense, as in the cultural and, yes, even the political sense[1] Shalom requires equality. I don’t understand why pointing this out is so controversial, but naming systems of domination and the hypocrisy inherent in such systems is what got Jesus crucified. Jesus loved the prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, the disabled, and he empowered women. Jesus preferred the losers of the domination system: the outcasts, the scapegoats. This is the very foundation of our theology.[2]

Because we follow an itinerant Jewish prophet—a person “of color”— we speak up to demand that “Black Lives Matter” in response to the horrific video of Philando Castile’s[3] murder was made public just this week.[4]. Please do not criticize me for bringing up this troubling truth until you have watched the video with the little four-year-old girl trying to escape the crime scene, in hopes of saving her mother.

Because we follow Jesus, an unmarried thirty-something-year-old, we speak up when when we witness discrimination in the name of family values. We demonstrate the truth of the Savior who began his life as a political and spiritual refugee. That’s why I have never hidden who God created me to be. God and I worked out that deal: my pledge to continue coming out until LGBTQ people are no longer shunned nor shamed and are finally regarded as the children of God that we are. So, I have more or less let the chips fall where they may, because in the end, when my time is over, I want to stand before my Maker with my soul intact, with “nothing on my tongue but hallelujah.”[5]

Hagar & The Handmaid’s Tale[6]

Concerning other people, the Bible says some nasty things.[7]  Most gay people can quote the so-called “clobber passages”[8] easily. I could also quote 1 Corinthians and ask all of the women here without head-coverings just what you think you’re up to. Surely your husbands commanded you to wear a head covering to this service of prayer.[9]

How many of you have watched The Handmaid’s Tale[10] on Hulu?  Based on the dystopian novel of Margaret Atwood,[11] The Handmaid’s Tale was inspired, partially, by today’s reading from Genesis. Atwood interprets the ancient story of Hagar more brilliantly than any biblical scholar because she applies the story, quite loosely, to systems of domination, unjust systems that we are currently ignoring because they feel like too much.

Please read the whole Hagar & Sarah story later this week in the middle of the book of Genesis. Spoiler alert: if you’re looking for traditional biblical family values, you’re going to need a Venn Diagram for this one. Father: Abraham. Sarah’s son: Isaac. Hagar’s son: Ishamel, which actually means “wild ass”. Ishamel is Mohammed’s ancestor. Yes, that Mohammed,[12] Islam. Turns out, the Muslims are our cousins. Don’t we all have cousins that require some extra understanding? I’m pretty sure that I am that cousin in my family. When I tell my Georgia people what I’m doing in San Francisco, I cannot imagine what goes through their minds, except “Well, bless those poor ole Presbyterians’ hearts.”

[1] William Swartley, Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdemans) 2006, 30-33.

[2] “A Fully Biblical Liberation Theology” Christianity Today, October 14, 2011, accessed online at < http://web-static.nypl.org/exhibitions/1969/daughters.html> (June 22, 2017)

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Philando_Castile

[4] Mitch Smith, “Video of Police Killing” in The New York Times, June 20, 2017, accessed online at <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/20/us/police-shooting-castile-trial-video.html> (June 22, 2017)

[5] Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” was sung later in the service by our very fine staff tenor, Peter Webb, as his farewell to Calvary. “Nothing on my tongue but hallelujah” is from Cohen’s song. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKrkEOlyJo8>

[6] The Handmaid’s Tale, general information: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale> (June 26, 2017)

[7] Tony Kriz, “Seven Lies Christians Tell” in Christianity Today, 2014, accessed online at <http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2014/february-online-only/seven-lies-christians-tell.html> (June 22, 2017)

[8] Evangelicals Concerned Inc., accessed online at < http://ecinc.org/clobber-passages/> (June 24,2017)

[9] Jeremy Gardner, The Head Covering Movement’s 2016 website, accessed online at < http://www.headcoveringmovement.com/beliefs-purpose-values> (June 22, 2017)

[10] Jennifer Vineyard, “Margaret Atwood Annotates Season 1 of The Handmaid’s Tale” The New York Times, accessed online at <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/14/watching/the-handmaids-tale-tv-finale-margaret-atwood.html> (June 22, 2017)

[11] The Handmaid’s Tale: Biblical Inspiration, Annie Inez blog, accessed online at <https://mahtpresentation.wordpress.com/biographical-info/political-backround/biblical-inspiration/> (June 22, 2017)

[12] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishmael_in_Islam

 

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