I’m getting ready to leave for a couple of nights camping with friends, but I wanted to post this poem before I head out (note: I’ll moderate comments when I return).
This past Sunday was the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul. I find it strange that these two, most famous apostles have to share the same day. For the most part, my upbringing in a Pentecostal/Evangelical/Fundamentalist tradition (I know, it was as confusing as it sounds) kept the focus on Paul. Hell, Paul was probably more important to us than Jesus.
So, last year, when this feast day rolled around, I chose to explore more about Peter–namely, I was captivated by the recurrence of animals in many of the important stories in his life. It seems fitting to me that this more earthy apostle would be the one through whom God brought the early Jewish-Christian believers to follow God’s gracious lead rather than insisting on abiding under the ancient holiness codes.
Oh, I know that Paul played a part in this too, but for a moment, I wanted to linger with Peter–the disciple who was often brash, rushing out ahead, and who made bold declarations about Jesus. There’s something accessible, something human enough that it can hold the embodied reality of our lives in a less dualistic/platonic fashion.
Holiness in the life of Peter is full of lilts and jolts. It is less about dramatic conversion from persecutor to church planter and more about a guy who gets his feet dirty and every day needs them washed–but such living doesn’t make him unclean.
Again, I’m coming at things sideways. If you’ve been reading my previous posts in the series on Queering the Christian Table, then you’ll know that this is often my way.
I believe that there are logical, rational conversations that can be had about God, the Bible, Theology, and human sexuality. But God, the Bible, Theology and human sexuality, held apart from human bodies, in all our mammal experience, is a pointless conversation.
We are, in our bodies, the points of this conversation–anchored in the experiences of life in this world. The notion of a relationship with God is a notion of relationship between source of life and life itself. Any conversation that doesn’t honor the lives we have been given in our very bodies is an absurd abstraction.
And this is why I find Peter, and the animals that are always around him, to be a helpful guide into how to talk about my understanding of sexuality and my understanding of Jesus. Like Peter said, we can only bear witness to what we have seen and heard.
For the Feast of Saint Peter 2012
let yourself be led where you do not want to go—
fingers stained by scent of nets,
toes wrinkled with decades of sea,
taxes paid in coin from mouth of carp.
what other apostle is prepared
to witness such divine profanity:
sheet slung low and full
with hooves and claw and feathers?
would any of us know ourselves so well
if the voice of heaven commanded,
Call no thing unclean which I have made holy?
perhaps, like me,
you believe you should say,
“Lord, this can never be”
and before the cock crows a final time
you may be asked
to deny your own
division of crawfish and pigeon
perhaps you will not know what to do
but go out upon the waters,
throw in your line, and wait
to be overwhelmed with fishes.
so when you crawl, hauling
your catch through surf, unclothed,
be ready for the animal question:
Do you love who you say that I am?