Reflection - 26th February 2017
...for LGBT Songs of Priase
Scripture - various (see below)
[There is no audio version of this reflection.]
Reading from Psalm 139 (paraphrased)...
O God, You created us in our inmost being.
You formed us in our mother’s womb.
When we were woven together, we were not hidden from You.
Your eyes saw our unformed bodies.
You saw all our days before one of them came to be.
We praise You, because we are wonderfully made!
Ruth & Naomi
Reading from Ruth 1: 14-18
Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. So she said, ‘See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.’ But Ruth said, ‘Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die - there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you!’ When Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.
The Old Testament account of Ruth clinging to Naomi is frequently read at heterosexual weddings; the Hebrew word used for Ruth clinging to Naomi is the same word used elsewhere in the Bible for a woman clinging to her husband. The book tells of how Ruth marries Boaz and becomes pregnant, but the narrative ends unusually with the child attributed not to the father, but to Naomi. That child, Obed, is recorded as the grandfather of Israel’s King David. Centuries later, Jesus’ own ancestry is recorded and contains the very same child who was brought up in this loving relationship between two women.
David & Jonathan
Reading from 2 Samuel 1:23-26
Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles,
they were stronger than lions.
O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,
who clothed you with crimson, in luxury,
who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.
How the mighty have fallen
in the midst of the battle!
Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
greatly beloved were you to me;
your love to me was wonderful,
passing the love of women.
The account of the relationships between David, Jonathan and Saul makes little sense if they are taken as purely platonic. The writer of 1 Samuel deliberately mentions David’s good looks before both Saul and later Jonathan. The account includes the depth of love between David and Jonathan and the physical affection they share. Jonathan’s gifts to David are lavish, as generous as lover’s might be; and Saul’s anger makes more sense if it is read as sexual jealousy. David’s song of sorrow we have just heard read finishes with David’s declaration that his love for another man, Jonathan, was “wonderful, passing the love of women.”
“There is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
Reading from Matthew 19:11-12
But [Jesus] said to them, ‘Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’
Reading from Galatians 3:26-28
...for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
Human relationships and the understanding of gender in the ancient world were different to those in our times. Jesus’ teaching in Saint Matthew’s Gospel which refers to “eunuchs” has been taken by some Bible commentators to refer not only to both gay men and women, but also to trans-people. The Gospels contain a few accounts of people doing tasks outside what might have been expected for their gender: the man carrying water who let the room to Jesus and His disciples for the Last Supper; and even Jesus Himself who washed the feet of His disciples. Nevertheless, the core of the teaching in the New Testament can be found in Saint Paul’s words in his letter to the church in Galatia: “There is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”
The Roman Centurion and his 'servant'
Reading from Matthew 8:5-13
When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralysed, in terrible distress.’ And he said to him, ‘I will come and cure him.’ The centurion answered, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this”, and the slave does it.’ When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.’ And the servant was healed in that hour.
The Gospels contain accounts of Jesus meeting many people; except for Pontius Pilate at Jesus’ trial, the only account of Jesus meeting a Roman is this story, where the centurion seeks healing for his servant. The Greek word used for servant (pais) is the very same word which is used in other Greek writings of the time to refer to a younger male-lover. The centurion was crossing a significant social boundary in seeking the help of a Jewish religious figure. In those days, servants or slaves were property and readily replaced, so clearly the servant was clearly very dear to that centurion. Jesus’ also crossed the social divide, reaching out not only to a non-Jew who was one of the occupying forces, but also to one whose gay lover lay dying and needed Jesus’ healing touch.
All Bible readings from the New Revised Standard Version (Anglicised) NRSVA