Thursday, February 18, 2010

Going back to take back Jesus

"Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning
Our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty!
God in three persons, blessed Trinity!"

Hearing this song - let alone singing it - took me way back. I’m talking way, way back. They didn’t even sing "Holy, Holy, Holy" in the Catholic church when I was a young teenager. They sang it there when I was a little boy, when my parents felt I was old enough to take to Mass. I’m talking my Grandma’s Catholic church.

And this was the second time in recent months that the song was being sung. It was quite a jolt for me, after years of being at home in a silent, universalistic, unprogrammed Quaker meeting and even with me being as Christo-centric as I tend to be.

What was even more jolting was that the song was being sung, full-throated and whole-heartedly, by a room full of GLBTQ folks. Make that a church full of GLBTQ folks. Lead by a very out and very strong lesbian pastor.

I have been visiting - "sojourning," as I announced to my meeting - at a Metropolitan Community Church, and it has been quite eye-opening, to say the very least.

Moving is more like it - powerfully so. I have written several posts here about Jesus and his message of radical love and inclusiveness, of loving the other and even one’s enemies, have been hijacked and distorted by Christian conservatives and fundamentalists to, among other things, oppress the queer community. The M.C.C, a Christian church founded by a gay man to minister to the GLBTQ community, boldly reclaims Jesus and points out his true, original message of love for and to all. Although I see Jesus more as a teacher and model than as a virgin-born, resurrected savior, as posited by the M.C.C, I am deeply inspired by how the church not only takes back the Christ-centered language as its own but also so plainly illustrates how it also specifically affirms same-sex love.

Even so, I wasn’t prepared for the next song on the recent Sunday morning:

"Jesus loves me, this I know,
Though my hair is white as snow.
Though my sight is growing dim,
Still He bids me trust in Him.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me,
For the Bible tells me so!"

Wow! A bunch of gay men and lesbians singing that the Bible tells them that, yes, Jesus loves them. A bunch of queer folks singing "Yes, Jesus Loves Me," which I always thought of as a conservative, Southern Baptist, that-old-time-religion song (we didn’t even sing it at Mass). That’s some powerful stuff. Not only that - it’s power.


  1. It was a long time ago, John, but I had a similar experience at an MCC service in Boston.

    The one that got to me was a Baptist hymn, "Just As I Am-- all I can remember is (I think):

    Just as I am,
    Without one plea,
    But that thy blood
    Was shed for me.

    Even tho I wasn't big on the blood atonement thing, then or now, the sight of all these folks, who all had their stuff about "Just as I am," (hey, me too, okay?) laying it all out there and feeling that Jesus would accept them and love them if no one else would; well, it was something. Not only inspiring, but, one might add, theologically sound too.

  2. Oooh... takes me back too. I was raised on those old hymns, and even made some special arrangements of them "back in the day".