It is not the day of
when the despair sets in.
Surrounded by family
the grief of death and burial
enmeshed with the comfort of companionship
sustains and carries
and finally surrenders to the sleep
that is too weary any more
It is the second day,
the lonely wait
the empty dreams and hopes
that have now been removed;
Crushed and broken
we sit in the dust
and wonder where God is
in the separation and isolation,
in the emptiness and desolation.
When your child lies in some field,
buried before his mother,
what strength is there any more
Unpack the travelling bags,
the tokens and signs
from troubled nights long ago
when the only cries were an infant
disturbed by the strangers.
Oh what we would give for the company
the tokens of meaning
and love and purpose;
instead all that is left is a ruined blood-stained robe,
so divided and gambled over
that nothing even remains to mop up any more,
Hand the gifts over.
Hand them over to your namesake;
a younger woman can face the new dawn.
Take the gifts that have ended up as false prophecies;
so much for the king, prophet and priest.
All that is left is to anoint one last time,
one ultimate gift that can have any hope of purpose.
Mother, your time has passed,
all the promises now gone
and the last of the signs and wonders removed from your sight.
Give up the perfume
for you have nothing any more
And Jesus entered the temple, saw those who sold and bought in the temple, and he sat back and told them that God loved them.
And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Oh gosh you’re right, I’ve committed the cardinal sin of offending you, even though everything I said was completely true (me being the Son of God and all).”
And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there, but made sure first the inn was Millenium Development Goals compliant.
Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
When the disciples saw it, they balked, saying, “How incredibly judgemental are you or what? Who made you God that you can decide whether the fig tree did anything wrong?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, the fig tree was a metaphor for the fruitlessness of some who claim to be fruitful but actually..” But he didn’t get any further because two of his disciples mentioned that they were founder members of the Fig Tree Christian Fellowship and it was utterly prejudiced and bigoted of Jesus to be so literalist in his observation that the fig tree had no fruit. “How do you know it doesn’t privately bear fruit?” asked Judas who promptly wrote and celebrated a liturgy of repentance from ficuscaricaphobia. And Jesus gave him one of those looks.
The Authority of Jesus Challenged
And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “Really, I read it in the Bible, but I’m starting to appreciate that it should just be viewed as a Bronze Age religious text, perhaps with some snippets of inspiration. On reflection though it’s really clear most of it is just people’s opinions, so actually all I’m doing is sharing my opinion.”
“That said, I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you something that will make you feel good. What’s more important? Telling people the truth or making them feel nice?”. So they answered, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Good grief, a moment ago you were dead certain you knew that what I was doing was wrong, yet now you aren’t prepared to tell me what you think is actually correct. What are you? Unitarians?”
The Parable of the Two Sons
“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “Well the first, but if he points out to the second one that he hasn’t done what the Father asked him to do we’ll call him a hypocrite and make sure that we completely obscure the message of grace and repentance that your parable is trying to teach.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, you don’t like anyone being told they’re sinners do you?”
The Parable of the Tenants
“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “Tell them that he loves them?”
Jesus said to them, “Er no, not exactly”.
John, the disciple who Jesus loved, said to him, “Dude, I’m planning on writing that ‘God is love’ and you’re putting a real downer on that by constantly telling us what God’s love looks like. Can you not just leave it to us to decide what it means for God to love people without ruining it with all this holiness and sin rubbish? I mean, the stuff you talk about, I like to do that so it can’t possibly be sin. I can’t believe in a God who would…”
But before he could finish Jesus had vanished in a cloud of anthropogenised theodic illogicality.
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them, but by that time the men who claimed to be Jesus’ disciples had pretty well undermined the parables and turned Jesus into just a nice bloke who told everyone just to be nice, so they wondered why they had thought up the idea of killing him in the first place.
This piece has been doing the rounds. It’s really rather wonderfully provocative.
OK, let’s step back. What does any of this have to do with views on marriage? Well, I know that we’ve had years of criminally one-sided media coverage, cowardly political leaders and elite cultural views that have conveyed to you that the only reason anyone might think sexual complementarity is key to marriage is bigotry. You may have even internalized this message. You may need to hold on to this belief for reasons of tribalism or pride. But in the spirit of Jon Stewart’s poster shown up at the top, which reads, “I may disagree with you but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler,” let’s go on an open-minded journey where we seek to understand the views of others without characterizing them as Hitler-like. It’s difficult in these times, but we can do it.
OK. We probably already understand relationships have value, right? Assuming we’re not sociopaths, we do. So what is the difference between marriage and other relationships? There’s no question marriage has been treated dramatically differently than other relationships by governments and society. Why? Is it that it features a more vibrant or emotional connection? Or is there some feature that is a difference in kind – that marks it out as something that ought to be socially structured? We usually don’t want government in our other relationships, right? So why is marriage singled out throughout all time and human history as a different type of recognized relationship?
Well, what singled it out was that sex was involved. Sex. Knocking boots. The bump and grind. Dancing in the sheets. Making the beast with two backs. Doing the cha-cha. And so on and so forth. And why does that matter? Well, there’s precisely one bodily system for which each of us only has half of the system. It’s the one that involves sex between one man and one woman. It’s with respect to that system that the unit is the mated pair. In that system, it’s not just a relationship that is the union of minds, wills or important friendships. It’s the literal union of bodies. In sexual congress, in intercourse between a man and a woman, you are literally coordinated to a single bodily end.
In every other respect we as humans act as individual organisms except when it comes to intercourse between men and women — then we work together as one flesh. Coordination toward that end — even when procreation is not achieved — makes the unity here. This is what marriage law was about. Not two friends building a house together. Or two people doing other sexual activities together. It was about the sexual union of men and women and a refusal to lie about what that union and that union alone produces: the propagation of humanity. This is the only way to make sense of marriage laws throughout all time and human history. Believing in this truth is not something that is wrong, and should be a firing offense. It’s not something that’s wrong, but should be protected speech. It’s actually something that’s right. It’s right regardless of how many people say otherwise. If you doubt the truth of this reality, consider your own existence, which we know is due to one man and one woman getting together. Consider the significance of what this means for all of humanity, that we all share this.
Now if one wants to change marriage laws to reflect something else, that’s obviously something that one can aim to do. We’ve seen the rapid, frequently unthinking embrace of that change in recent years, described one year ago in the humanist and libertarian magazine Spiked as “a case study in conformism” that should terrify “anyone who values diversity of thought and tolerance of dissent.” Perhaps there should have been a bit of a burden of proof on those who wanted to change the institution — something beyond crying “Bigot!” in a crowded theater. Perhaps advocates of the change should have explained at some point, I don’t know, what singles out marriage as unique from other relationships under this new definition. What is marriage? That’s a good question to answer, particularly if you want to radically alter the one limiting factor that is present throughout all history. Once we get an answer for what this new marriage definition is, perhaps our media and other elites could spend some time thinking about the consequences of that change. Does it in any way affect the right of children to be raised by their own mother and father? Have we forgotten why that’s an important norm? Either way, does it change the likelihood that children will be raised by their own mother and father? Does it by definition make that an impossibility for whatever children are raised by same-sex couples? Do we no longer believe that children should be raised by their own mother and father? Did we forget to think about children in this debate, pretending that it’s only about adults? In any case, is this something that doesn’t matter if males and females are interchangeable? Is it really true that there are no significant differences between mothers and fathers? Really? Are we sure we need to accept that lie? Are we sure we want to?
Alphege of Canterbury
who raised up your servant Alphege
to be a pastor of your people
and gave him grace to suffer for justice and true religion:
grant that we who celebrate his martyrdom
may know the power of the risen Christ in our hearts
and share his peace in lives offered to your service;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Aber mit der Heimat
geht man immer herum,
durch die Welt,
dort und dort
No one could describe
the Word of the Father;
but when He took flesh from you, O Theotokos,
He consented to be described, and restored the fallen image to its former beauty.
We confess and proclaim our salvation in word and image.
Kontakion of the Triumph of Orthodoxy