Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Marriage Revisited, and Revisited, and Revisited...

This from the Christian Science Monitor on the Nigerian man with 86 wives. He claimed God gave him the authority, and...
"'If God permits me, I will marry more than 86 wives. A normal human being could not marry 86 – but I can only by the grace of God,' a defiant Bello Masaba told The Christian Science Monitor during a recent prison interview. 'I married 86 women and there is peace in the house – if there is peace, how can this be wrong?'"

I have heard that before, the "if there is peace, how can this be wrong" bit. Sound anything like the argument we have in the US over same sex marriages?

And where does he get the money to keep such a household? Is it a sign of a miracle? Or maybe he's the guy I sent my money to in order to get my lost inheritance.

But talk about too many cooks in the kitchen! I think there may be something miraculous here in that there is peace in his house. Perhaps God's grace is at work here, but it has run afoul of Islamic law. Mr. Bello Masaba will have to divorce 82 of his wives soon or move. How unfair to have to choose which to keep and which to divorce, besides, where could he move?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Let Barking Dogs Bark


Fr. Foss delivered today's sermon on Matthew 22:34-46. You remember, the two commandments upon which all the law and prophets hang. As he said, "that's all there is to religion folks," or some such statement, I thought that I heard echoes of classical liberal theology as discussed earlier this month by Robert Easter over at Sanctifusion where he wrote,
"At the 'core' of Liberal Theology is 'reductionism.' Classic Liberalism took Jesus' words, 'on these hang all the Law and the Prophets,' concerning what we variously call the 'Summary of the Law,' or the 'Jesus Creed,' and reduced all they saw 'Christianity' to mean down to simply 'Go to church and act nice.' and relegated all the rest to the 'details' bin to be sorted out later.

I was not disappointed, as Charlie went on to tell us that everything else was just "stuff." And we all know, "stuff" is not worth arguing over. The next part of the sermon contained an underdeveloped story about neighborly love. Charlie gave a personal story of his neighbor's dog that barks day and night.

Charlie assumes that the dog barks because it is not loved properly by its owners. Or perhaps the neighbors were not loving part of God's creation, the dog, properly. Our readers should be reminded that Fr. Foss is more of a cat person and not a dog person. I don't blame Charlie if he is mad at his neighbor (he did not come out and say it, but isn't this an indirect dig against his neighbors. It is sort of like calling them bad parents is it not?). I wouldn't blame him if he went over and told his neighbor to shut the dog up, but Charlie did not address the loving your neighbor part of the story. I mean, it is hard to show love to your neighbor when their dog keeps you awake all night. I might be tempted to resort to violence myself. Alas, the barking dog issue was left open ended, but I got the impression that bad owners create barking dogs, which provides me with a connection for the next bit.

Next Charlie started dragging out the "stuff" we are supposed to not fight over, like Bishop Gene Robinson. Charlie told the tale of the Roman Catholic who could not see joining the Episcopal Church because of all the fighting and name calling going on over the divorced, homosexual Bishop of New Hampshire. My question is, what kind of Church is one that deliberately creates a situation which is guaranteed to cause such a conflict? A Church that puts a barking dog in the yard next to your bedroom window? The truth is, that because the owners at 815 Second Avenue did not show the proper love for Gene Robinson, or for their neighbors, he remains the annoyance in the backyard. Of course the same holds true for other forgettable noise makers such as Bishop Spong, etc. I now have a new found pity for Bishop Robinson. I also know why it does no good to ask him to be quiet. He can't be quiet because he is the victim of poor training and poor ownership. I guess I need to keep knocking on the owner's door at 815 and tell them to shut the "stuff" up.

As I commented earlier at the Sanctifusion blog,
"The old saying was 'The devil is in the details.' Perhaps that is why it is easier to toss the details into the can. 'Oooh, oooh, we can't go there because you know who is in there.'
Armed with Christ, we can go there, and conquer all those pesky details."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Moving Moment

Lord thank You for guiding the hands of that truck driver yesterday. Or maybe You woke him/her from sleep as the rig started across the median. Maybe You steered those 18 wheels safely down the grassy middle, away from those of us in the oncoming lanes. Maybe You kept me from swerving or braking too hard. "Maybe" nothin, it was You. Forgive me for those minutes where I did not think of You. Forgive me for first thinking of myself, my reflexes, my driving experience, my vehicle maintenence. If not for You, none of those would have been.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Smells and Bells

Today was a big day at ECOOS. It is probably a once in a lifetime event for most pewsters to be present for the dedication of a church. Well, that's what Bishop Duvall did today as we officially moved into our renovated sanctuary. Today's sermon was delivered by Bishop Duvall. I think the theme would be "What makes a place holy?" As he described Nashotah House Seminary and how the sanctuary gave off a sense of holiness as well as the scent of years of incense, I could not help but sniff around and think, "It still smells a little bit like molecules of floor finish, stain, and polyurethane floating around in here." Oh well, we didn't have incense, but maybe we could still count this as a smells and bells service. I appreciated him, or was it Charlie, recognizing everyone present including those baptised, married and even those buried here. And of course Bishop Duvall delivered one of his famous stories in the course of his sermon.

Like most good sermons and services I left with more questions than when I had when I entered the sanctuary.

What makes a place holy? Is it our prayers and supplications?
What makes it a place that can transform sinners? Is it a formal dedication?
Do we need a place at all?

We moderns tend to keep God's place separate from our everyday lives. It becomes a place to visit on Sundays or holidays. Shouldn't every place be like the place Jacob named Bethel?
"How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."

Jacob found that place in a dream, but the place was made by God. The choir nailed down the answer to my question when they sang Brukner's "Locus Iste"
a "Gradual for the Dedication of a Church."

"Locus iste a Deo factus est,
inaestimabile sacramentum,
irreprehensibilis est."

"This place was made by God,
a inestimable holy place.
It is without blame."

There you have it. It is not a place made by man at all.

I did learn something else new while listening to that story from Genesis. I discovered the name of the Lord. It is right there in Genesis 28:11-19. Missed it? Try again,
11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder* set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And the Lord stood beside him* and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; 14 and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed* in you and in your offspring. 15 Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’ 16 Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!’ 17 And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’
18 So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19He called that place Bethel;* but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

Give up? Maybe you never watched "Airplane."

God to Jacob, "Don't call me Shirley."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Shakedown Cruise

Today the Pewster is taking the day off and I was promoted to O.O.D. I was told the Pewster was busy solving the global financial meltdown, and was asked to complete the ship's blog.

This Sunday the faithful crew of ECOOS was mustered into their newly renovated sanctuary. All the wood and brass was glistening, reminiscent of a fine sailing vessel. Today served as a shakedown cruise for the sanctuary. Next week Bishop Duvall will take her out on the maiden voyage. The waters seemed calm today, and when Fr. Charlie Foss delivered the sermon, I am afraid that I drifted off and missed whatever point was being made. Knowing that the Pewster would be upset, I set about to interview some of the crew in the galley following the service. Here are some of the results.

Wallace Hartley: "What was the sermon about?"

Purser: "Capitalism?"

Wallace Hartley: "Is capitalism good or bad?"

Purser: "Both, I think."

Moving on, I looked for an opinion regarding any operational changes.

Wallace Hartley: "Did you notice any problems with today's service?"

Boatswain: "We seem to have an ancient memory that we are supposed to kneel after the Sanctus. You know, it has been so long since we have been able to kneel. The Officers crossed us up by using Eucharistic Prayer C. There is no written order to sit, stand, kneel or anything after the Sanctus. The crew was obviously confused. I hope the mass kneeling is not taken as a sign of mutiny."

Next, I ran into the cook.

Wallace Hartley: "Why are there no cheese doodles?"

Cook: "We heard that the Pewster would do that 'Liar Liar Pants on Fire' dance if cheese doodles were around because of a dare someone posted. The crew voted unanimously to hide the doodles."

Lastly, I encountered the Yeoman.

Wallace Hartley: "What are you writing?"

Yeoman: "This is a list of things that need repairs before the Bishop arrives."

Wallace Hartley: "Anything serious?"

Yeoman: "The air conditioners need to be fixed before next summer."

Wallace Hartley: "Anything else? I mean, things that might scuttle her. My friend the Pewster has been keeping a list, and I need to know if he left anything out."

Yeoman: "Yeah, can we maroon the Pewster on the next deserted island?"

Sensing that I might soon be in the scuppers myself, I headed for the gangway, but before I could make my escape, I was stopped by a mysterious, shadowy figure.

Wallace Hartley: "Who are you, and what are you doing here?"

Mysterious Shadowy Figure: "You can call me 'Deep Pew,' and I have the scuttlebutt on where this boat is headed."

Wallace Hartley: "But I don't want to know; get away from me Jonah!"

Deep Pew: "I heard the rector say that we are firmly anchored with both feet on the Rock. Beware, the Admirals are calling for the ship to be moved to the shifting sands. The ship will get grounded and then be at the mercy of the winds and waves of secular culture."

Wallace Hartley: "Reasserter."

Deep Pew: "Post your spyglass on the horizon Master Wallace."

With that, Deep Pew vanished, leaving me thinking that every church needs its officers, cooks, yeomen, boatswains, lookouts, its Jonahs, and even its mutineers grumbling in the brig. Maybe it's those Admirals in the funny hats that we need to watch out for.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

God 3 - Presidential Candidates 0

Last night I caught some of the "debate" with the President wannabes. I also watched the gloom and doom from the MSM about the current swing of the financial pendulum. I was keeping score looking and listening for God talk. I wasn't the only one that noticed that the subject of God did not make its omnipresence known during the debate. As this article at Get Religion points out, there were other witnesses keeping score, but here is my tally.

Presidential Candidates: Zip.

What about other experts?

First off, we have our good friend the President of Iran.
"Ahmadinejad blames lack of piety for credit crunch".
"God willing, a global government of justice will be set up with the resistance of Iranian people as the flag-bearers (of the movement) led by Imam Mahdi."
Easy for him to say, awash in oil, saving money on dry cleaning, 1 point for God

Next, a few words from the Pope.
Pope Benedict XVI says the global financial crisis show the futility of money and ambition.
"now with the collapse of big banks we see that money disappears, is nothing and all these things that appear real are in fact of secondary importance."
He didn't say God or Christ, but I know where he is coming from, 1/2 point for God.

And finally a lot of words from the Archbishop.
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury,
"And ascribing independent reality to what you have in fact made yourself is a perfect definition of what the Jewish and Christian Scriptures call idolatry. What the present anxieties and disasters should be teaching us is to 'keep ourselves from idols', in the biblical phrase."
Overall the article reads more like a lecture on economics, and he does bring the Bible in at the end, but it was a long haul to get there, 1/2 point for God.

Overall, God is in the lead 3-0 (I gave God 1 extra point because He always starts in the lead). The next question is how the current financial market will affect...THE PLEDGE DRIVE!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The N...nth Commandment

Fr. Dunbar gave today's sermon and used as his theme the 9th Commandment, you know the part about not bearing false witness. Narrowing the 10 commandments down and focusing on just one can be enlightening. As a nefarious, "in your face that's what he said" type of blogger, I have to always worry about the corollary command, "Thou shalt not be too honest." Or the other, "For heavens sake, don't write anything that might offend someone!"

Having discovered that it is impossible to not offend at least one person somewhere when expressing my personal opinions, I have been guilty of breaking both corollary 1and 2 on occasion.

The recent Vice-Presidential debate and the conflicting reports from the various news media pundits provided us with many challenges to the Ninth Commandment.

Isn't it interesting how different witnesses can present radically different stories about the same event, and none would be considered guilty of breaking Commandment #9 if they felt they were presenting the truth as they saw it.

The truth as we see it is that which is viewed through our unique lenses, presented to our unique individual brain wiring and chemistry, and interpreted through the filters of past experiences and preconceptions.

To focus on the truth of a subject is to do away with all the lenses, filters, memories, etc. This is something more likely to lead to inner peace than reading blogs or listening to politicians "debate" can ever do as blogging is wired into the www and it's infinite resources of truths and untruths, and politicians are... well, I can't write the words right now for fear of corollary 1 and 2, so listen instead,

She is forgiven.

p.s. I hope the letter was from her Auntie.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Mixed Moral Choices

A discussion at Stand Firm this week had me seeing red.

Does anyone have a problem with the following?

As a Christian who is privileged to be an Episcopal priest and equally privileged to be President of the New Jersey chapter of the Religious Coalition of Reproductive Choice, I couldn't be more proud of my church for its compassionate, pro-life stand.

Yes, I said PRO-LIFE. Even a quick read of the official position of TEC will leave no doubt that we, as a church, are supportive of the life of the embryo / fetus, the life of the mother, and the life of the family.

I am proud of my church that it, like I,and like many, many Episcopalians abhor abortion as a method of birth control - which is crystal clear after reading our position on abortion and our funding of the RCRC (let those who have ears, hear . . . and intellect, think).

I am proud of my church that we have resisted the emotionally manipulative pictures of abortion and pre-term abortion which are tragically necessitated by the harsh realities of those involved.

I am proud that my church does not use equally horrific pictures of heart or other organ transplant procedures, coronary artery by-pass, or gruesome laser eye surgery to deter decisions about these life-saving and life-giving surgical measures.?

I am proud of my church that, in an age that continues to devalue the life of a woman, where even as I write this, some women in? developing nations are undergoing. . . hmm.... what is is the term our brother Don used . . . ah, yes . . ."gruesome" . . . female genital mutilation so that she will remain "faithful" to her emotionally insecure and socially and spiritually immature husband because she will no longer be able to "enjoy" intimate, sexual relationship with him and therefore will not be unfaithful (as he will, undoubtedly be - but, that is blessed as socially-sanctioned and economically necessary polygamy), respects the dignity of every woman to make a choice about - and, control over - what is happening in her own body - including the embryonic life therein.

I am proud of my church that every woman - yes, including the life of a woman who is a priest, married or not, - can make the painful, awful, life-determining decision about whether or not she can make a commitment to the embryonic life she carries in her body, depending on the opinion of her physician and pediatrician, her assessment, based on the opinion of the probability of the support of the father of her potential child, and the ability of her family and community to support her decision.

I am proud of my church which understands that issues of grinding poverty and poor access to quality health care and education for women, coupled with the debilitating effects of racism, sexism and heterosexism. supports the . . . what was the term our brother Don used . . . ah, yes . . . "inhumane"? . . . decision of a woman to determine the direction of her own life.

I am proud of my church which understands that the advance of diagnostic procedures still falls far behind the information needed to make a timely decision about the lifelong commitment to a new life, necessitating the "pre-term" (aka "partial abortion"), which, at this point in time, is perfectly legal and, therefore, cannot be called "murder" - any more than the execution of a profoundly retarded person who has committed murder.

I am proud that I, like so many, many LGBT people and our straight allies, have chosen to be foster parents to - or adoptive parents of - the live, full term, delivered human lives of those "defective" children which our heterosexual brothers and sisters have chosen not to abort, but not to take responsibility for, except to depend on the fiscal generosity of "the State" and "the kindness and generosity of strangers."

I am proud of those adoptive parents who have made the life-time commitment to "someone else's child" which includes, as we have just gone through (in August, while I was at Lambeth), serious surgery to replace the retina of our beloved Katie who was 'slugged' by another profoundly handicapped (male) adult child because she resisted his sexual advancement and is now permanently blind in that eye. We adopted her at age 4. She's now 30. She is, and forever will be, our child, even though she was birthed, but not aborted, by another women and her husband.

I am proud that The Episcopal Church supports the sex education which is championed by NCRC to avoid pregnancy in the first place, including the choices of abstinence, birth control, and, if tragically necessary, abortion.

I am proud that The Episcopal Church respects the "dignity of every human being" in our baptism covenant and prays, during that baptism, that the child receives "the gift of wonder of all of God's creation."

I am proud of The Episcopal Church and our baptismal covenant, which is not replicated throughout the World Wide Anglican Communion and, perhaps, ought to be.

What greatly distresses me is that there are those who would triumph the simplicity of their own state of sin so that others might feel guilty about the difficulty and complexity of the reality of their own morality.


(the Rev'd Dr) Elizabeth Kaeton

As I commented at S/F,

I think the point of her ramble is that she thinks it is harmful to pregnant women to be presented the facts of abortion. I think she is saying that these women’s “own morality” is confused, and it is wrong to do anything that might cause “guilt.”

The problem does boil down to a confused and ungrounded morality for which the unborn must suffer.

Unfortunately, as these comments point out, it appears Rev. Kaeton has a case of moral confusion as far as being both pro-life and President of the NJ wing of the RCRC.

There is no confusion as to RCRC'c position on abortion as their web site says,

"RCRC was founded in 1973 to safeguard the newly won constitutional right to abortion"

More quotes from Elizabeth Kaeton can be found here
At General Convention, 2006, a proposal to rescind this affiliation was debated in the Social and Urban Affairs Committee. John Vanderstar, a lay deputy from the diocese of Washington and Executive Council member, defended the affiliation. The Rev. Canon Elizabeth Kaeton of Newark testified, “While abortions may not be favored by local churches, we are deputized to follow the Holy Spirit, not the wishes of the folks back home.”

The Holy Spirit favors abortion?

So the Rev. Kaeton (AKA the Swan of Newark) is Pro-Life and Pro-abortion, and was also instrumental in ensuring ongoing funding of RCRC by our Church.

Are you "proud" that the Episcopal Church helps fund the RCRC with your money?