Sunday, May 25, 2008

What’s the Use of Worrying?

Today's sermon was delivered by Charlie, who started out with a caveat, saying that today's lessons were used in the past to keep people from questioning authority. At that point, I knew I was being given the go-ahead to be a critic. It was suggested that the "do not worry about tomorrow" bit in Matthew 6 was used in the past to pacify those suffering privations caused by poor governance. Charlie seemed to say that these verses have been used to drug people into inaction. When Charlie said that "Marx was right, religion is the opiate of the people," I shrunk in my seat. Not exactly the best choice of words for Memorial Day. If I had been medicated, I would have smiled and "let it pass," for "today's trouble is enough for today," (Matthew 6:24-34 ). I wanted to shout "Marx was wrong, wrong, wrong, and history and our servicemen have proven it so!" The United States has never had a National Religion to serve as a mouthpiece of the powerful to keep the masses placated with warm and fuzzy scripture readings. What we should be saying on this day is, "Bless the slumber of all those who died for our freedom, so that we would not have to worry about the KGB, kangaroo courts, about how or where we will live, or about what we will eat, wear, or speak." How do today's readings relate to Memorial Day? I have to think of the soldiers, sailors and airmen in the field, what do today's scriptures say to them?
After this brief bit of trouble, I almost packed it in, but was rescued by a thought of an old tune...

Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag,
And smile, smile, smile,
While you’ve a lucifer to light your fag,
Smile, boys, that’s the style.
What’s the use of worrying?
It never was worth while, so
Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag,
And smile, smile, smile.

Charlie also spoke of the religious maturation of people. Paul had gotten to the point where he did not even judge himself (1Corinthians 4:1-5). In other words, Paul was not going to waste time bashing himself for his sins, but if there was anything "against" him, "It is the Lord who judges me." To Charlie, part of religious maturation is to know when to be silent. He is right, and I guess that I have not got religion yet, as this blog proves.

I really was ready to be silent today, I just was not given the chance. Where was anything said about Memorial Day? I know that Memorial Day has been a contentious issue in the South ever since it was forced upon us by the Union (see Order 11 ) following the War of Northern Aggression. In my day, it was not a school holiday, while Confederate Memorial Day was always remembered. Enough water has passed under the bridge, and the National Holiday Act of 1971 changed the meaning of the day, but Charlie reminded us today about the terrible conditions in South Carolina after the war, after the Union troops had taken all the livestock and the people had to worry about starvation. Still, I don't think this was the reason we dissed Memorial Day.

Since we did not recognize in church today those who gave the supreme sacrifice, I would ask for a moment of silence at this time.

Our Bishop has asked our clergy to be silent, but not for the above reason. David Virtue got a scoop and published this warning letter here. I guess Bishop Henderson thinks the clergy may lack the spiritual maturity to keep their mouths shut on the matter of St. Christopher's breakup in Spartanburg. The Bishop may be assured that Charlie kept his silence today and tried to stick to the scriptures in his sermon. But my question is this, will we hear any of our upstate clergy question authority about the Bishop's warning letter? If we do not, then the whole thesis of today's sermon will have to be thrown out. We will rewrite the scriptures that tell us that we have nothing to fear from such earthly concerns.

If this post upsets anyone, you must be needing a dose of conservative happiness (see earlier post). Refusing that, I will kindly rewrite your scriptures to read, "Worry about what you say, about what you will wear, and where you will pray, take out your troubles from that old kit bag, and scowl, scowl, scowl."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Shake the Dust Off Your Feet?

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

"Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you."

May I add, always depart from one another with a holy kiss.

Trinity Sunday should be about the things that hold us together. As expected, we will not hear word one about the defections from T.E.C. that are starting to hit closer to home. See the following discussion about St. Christopher's Episcopal church in Spartanburg breaking up and being reduced to mission status. The people there have voted with their feet and pocket books and left T.E.C. To the uninformed, this is unthinkable. The uninformed will say that the priest has led these people astray. Do not expect anything good to be said about their departure. No, they will get a holy "kiss off." And what about those that remain? The church will become a "mission church." This means that you and I will be paying the bills until and if they become self sufficient. Around here, being reduced to mission status is like a temporary stay of execution. My guess is that St. Christopher's property will be on the chopping block in 3 years.

And why are whole dioceses leaving the Episcopal Church? Perhaps it has something to do with a failure of leadership. Years of weak, careless leadership have emboldened people to get out of the pews and battle the powers that be in TEC. After years of struggle with TEC and trying to steer the ship back on course, have these revolutionaries now taken the approach of walking away from the field of battle by forming alliances with other Anglican Bishops and renaming their churches? Have they given up? My opinion is that this should be viewed as a leaving out of frustration at not having had any impact in changing the course of TEC over many years of staying engaged in a decent Christian attempt to be heard rather than viewing this as a cowardly retreat. In a good Christian fight, when people don't listen maybe we should shake the dust off our feet and depart as we have been instructed to do(Matthew 10:14).
Could South Carolina be the next battleground? Why is Bishop Henderson steering us towards the failing national church? With the election of Mark Lawrence as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina is the other half of the state preparing to go South? You should take the time to review the visit our Presiding Bishop made to the other Episcopal Diocese in South Carolina. The summary should read "What we have here is a failure to communicate," or as I like to say "a failure to renunciate" meaning the PB and the TEC elite should cast off their wayward agendas and come back to a place us common pew sitters can understand.

After a lifetime of living, giving, bleeding Episcopalianism, and several years of studying the decline of the Episcopal Church in America (TEC), I have not seen any effective attempts by our leaders to stop the decline. Rather, it appears that our current leaders are doing everything they can to hasten the process (example).

Unfortunately, Since the election of Katherine Schori as Presiding Bishop of TEC we have seen a frightening attempt to create some sort of American Episcopal Union to counteract the growing confederacy of Anglican churches in the US. The "Federals" are busy rewriting the rules. Revisions to the canons (as one example)have been proposed which sound to many like an attempt at centralizing power.
The National Church supporting lawsuits against people who want an Anglican bishop shepherd them is another example of a powerful national organization that has lost its senses. Christians suing Christians! Blasphemy! Strike the capital letters and we have "christians" suing "christians."
Add to this the trial of Bishops who had the gall to confirm persons in the new Anglican dioceses (read it here). What a waste of our resources for our National Church Leaders to pursue an 80 year old retired Bishop. Next thing you will hear is an attempt to nullify the confirmations.
It appears that we are headed for a clash between the forces from above (the "National" Church) and the forces from below (the people, who by definition are the Church). As long as the people remain uniformed or apathetic expect the bizarre agendas of our PB to continue to dominate the field. Whenever things coming down from above run into things coming up from below, a big mess usually winds up on the floor for you know who to clean up.
What will we in EDUSC do when it comes time to choose a new Bishop? What questions will we want the candidates to answer? (Here are some samples) Are there any questions that we would be afraid to ask? What questions will we be allowed to ask?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

To Dream the Impossible Dream

Today's service brought another glaring example of our politically correct expurgated Episcopal Church lectionary. By openly declaring that we would not read,

"Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more."
from Psalm 104:35 (KJV) aren't we conceding to the ruling priestly class that they know what is best for us lowly pewsters? An informal poll performed today (by yours truly, a "pew"ster survey) revealed unanimous support for reading the forbidden passage and letting the Spirit do His work. Am I dreaming, or was this a hidden message to prepare us for the sermon?

Fr. Dunbar delivered today's sermon. He started with the O.T. reading from Joel and the prophesy that all will have the spirit poured out on them much to the consternation of the priestly class. This vision that God will become accessible to even those lowly male and female slaves must have sounded offensive in its' day, and if written today in reference to our P.B.
and the ruling elite of TEC would certainly lead to Joel being banished to the outermost fringes of the w.w.w.
Fr. Dunbar then skillfully led us though the Pentecostal Gospels before returning to Joel's prophesy that in that time ,
"your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions

As I read this, I think this is one of those forgotten positive messages of the Bible. After faith, hope, charity, love, redemption, and resurrection, we forget that after being born anew, we are really children (in Christ), and as such we are given freedom to imagine and to dream. The ruling elite must not forget the power of the Spirit to imbue us with dreams and visions, and must not ignore the truth that the Spirit extends to all who believe, even the lowly, despised, but ever-cheerful conservatives (see previous post).

"And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star

Maybe I am just tilting at windmills...

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Have you Hugged a Liberal today?

This article helps explain why "liberals" are unhappy. Of course the article in essence bashes "conservatives" for they are apparently only happy because they "rationalize" (code word for wrong thinking) inequality.
"To justify economic inequalities, a person could support the idea of meritocracy, in which people supposedly move up their economic status in society based on hard work and good performance. In that way, one's social class attainment, whether upper, middle or lower, would be perceived as totally fair and justified."

Note the word "supposedly" interjected in the above quotation from the article by Jeanna Bryner of This is one way to say "the whole idea (merit based achievement) is bogus" without openly putting it into print.

Liberals don't have the rationalization resources of conservatives and therefore have to bear the full load of guilt for others lack of achievement...

"Our research suggests that inequality takes a greater psychological toll on liberals than on conservatives," the researchers write in the June issue of the journal Psychological Science, "apparently because liberals lack ideological rationalizations that would help them frame inequality in a positive (or at least neutral) light."

Now, I bring this article up because I have become critical when I hear our anointed ones preaching unhappiness from the pulpit. I have even tried going positive in hopes of being an instrument of change. Alas, this research suggests I am doomed to failure as unless we can help the poor, sad liberals to rationalize away their concerns and join us in conservative bliss, they will never experience joy. Let's analyze this further. I must be rationalizing in some way. Hmmm... sad liberal've got it, in typical conservative rationalization, "They must help themselves!" But you reply, "How can they pick themselves up by their bootstraps?" "You can't expect them to do it by themselves?"
The answer is "With the Lord's help, they can do it." Indeed the Bible's tales of resurrection, redemption, freedom, grace, faith, hope, and charity are wonderfully positive messages. Preach the Gospel, be positive even when exposing painful truths. Take a conservative stance, people will be happier! We are not abandoning the despondent liberals by taking a conservative stance. Rather, I would rationalize that we are just trying to rescue them from their sorrow.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

John 17:1-11 NMCRV

Today's sermon was delivered by Mary Cat. She began by describing the journals she has kept over the years and the prayers written therein. As she explained, writing and keeping a journal have been her favorite methods of keeping, organizing, and understanding her thoughts and prayers.

When Mary Cat spoke of her journals, I naturally thought about bloggers. Blogs are a form of on line journal with the difference that blogs are available for public viewing and comments, whereas journals are usually personal to the point of being kept under lock and key. All of our personal thoughts, or our penciled thoughts kept in journals or on blogs, are raw and unrefined until they have been sharpened by the helpful comments of others. Putting your sermon in print before delivery has been suggested in these pages as a helpful way of providing clarity and shortening our parish's services. Likewise, our Bible study, sermons, and prayers need editing. The problem is, often these personal thoughts and ideas when shared collide with the ideas of others, and we sense hurt or experience conflict. Should we keep those thoughts secret, and also keep our prayers private, just between us and God? Or should we open our journals and our inner selves to others? Is preaching or blogging a form of exhibitionism? What did Matthew 6 have to say on the subject?

After revealing her personal secrets, Mary Cat then paraphrased Jesus' prayer in John 17:1-11. Now, I think Mary Cat did a pretty good job with her paraphrase, but I wonder what John would have said? When we read or study the Bible, our minds do this kind of paraphrasing all the time and we are usually totally unaware of the process. This type of exercise is different from translation and can be helpful for some, but there are dangers when you share your personal paraphrasing with others;
"...if he is right, it can be a useful tool, but if he is wrong, and we believe it, he has done us no favor by making his error understandable!"(Warren Wilcox, Versions of the Bible: Their Strengths and Weaknesses)

So when we paraphrase the Bible in public, we must be very careful to not insert new meanings lest we lead others astray.

P.S. Any guesses as to the acronym in the title of this post?