Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Carnival 1 : Lent 0

The following letter came via snail mail the other day, and I have carefully transcribed it as I believe it means something, but I need help in figuring it out. Some background information may be helpful. For the past several years ECOOS would have a weekly gathering during Lent on a weeknight such as every Wednesday or Thursday during which various educational or devotional programs would be put on by the rector. A simple meal would be provided by one or more of the parishioners. Attendance would usually start out with 10-12 persons and would decrease each week as the weather improved and Easter neared.

"February 19, 2009

Dear Members and Friends of the Church of Our Saviour,
Since I have come to Our Saviour, I have seen that many traditional Lenten practices of the Church of my youth have changed. Fewer people take upon themselves a Lenten fast or attend mid-week services and meals. Fewer people attend Holy Week observances. I, personally, believe that these changes have been consequences of the facts that 1) so many women have entered the workforce, and that two-worker families just don't have the amount of time to spend on anything that they used to when women, by and large, stayed home; and 2) young people are far busier in after-school and job opportunities than ever before.

Those developments are not going to change anytime soon, so I have come to accept the loss of traditional Lenten activities as a fact of life in the contemporary Episcopal Church and in our parish. That does not mean, however, that I believe any less in the worth of observing what the Church calls a 'holy Lent.' What it means is that we have to do it in perhaps different ways, with less busyness and more intentionality.

First and foremost, what we do as Christians in the Catholic tradition is to worship at God's altar every Sunday. Therefore, more than any other discipline, I bid all of you to keep holy the Lord's Day and attend the divine liturgy. If you have become slack in your worship duties, Lent is the set time to practice in your life what you say with your lips.

With this letter you will find a sheet with all of the major events of Lent and Holy Week that we have planned. You will also find a purple copy of a new rite that the clergy of our Catawba Convocation have come up with in order to respond to the pressing economic woes of our community, state, country, and world. We have many resources in the Book of Common Prayer to address such a condition in the world, and that is where this rite has come from.

We shall pray this short prayer service each Wednesday in Lent after Ash Wednesday, at noon in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. It is intended to give folks time and space in which to pray for those who are unemployed or fearful of losing their jobs, those who have to do the unpleasant task of firing people, those who have lost income or security, those who are fearful of losing their job, those who have friends or family suffering during this deep recession, or those who wish to pray for our elected leaders as they seek to serve their various constituencies. The form is enclosed so that even if you cannot attend the service on Wednesdays, you can use it elsewhere at work or at home, with others, with your family, or by yourself."

My initial impression was that, for the game of Lent, score one for culture (carnival), nil for the Church (Lent). Later, I wondered if it was the team that dropped the ball, was it the fans, the cheerleaders, was it the coaching staff, was it the owner, or was it the League Commissioner?

The most depressing thought I had was that maybe the game just can't compete with the distractions of the world anymore.

Pieter Bruegel's "The Fight between Carnival and Lent," 1559

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Service with a Smile

Today was the day for the annual Chili Cook-Off at ECOOS. All proceeds going to the Rev. Ronal King's Food for the Poor. This year $1000 was raised, and the Rev. King was left praisin the Lord! Amen!

Today's sermon was delivered by the Rev. Mary Cat Enockson who focused on the ministry of service and steered clear of controversy, or so I thought. I was a bit surprised by the dark hand of Deep Pew that reached across the crock pot just as I was about to dive into a pot of "19 Spice Italian Chili." I was handed a note written in a shaky scrawl, and sent a wink of that one shriveled eye. I knew that I had probably been beaned by a screwball.

"What is the difference between a religion of charity and care for the poor, and the Episcopal Church?" Pew had written on the back of a service bulletin.

I thought, and thought some more, and thought back to the sermon looking for answers. But Pew had vanished in a Pepto-Bismol blur before I could belch out a response.

So I sat pondering the question, and retasting the chili.

We did hear something in the sermon about seeing Christ in the faces of those who serve. Those faceless individuals who work nights at the shelter for battered women, surely, that must be one difference.

Or maybe not. As Christians are called to love, to serve, and to "proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake." (2 Corinthians 4:3-6) That is what we heard in today's lessons, and it is one of those strange things we do. To serve others as a slave for Jesus' sake is uniquely different. Followers of the Lord such as the Rev. Ronal King walk the walk and talk the talk. That must be what Pew was getting at.

Cynically, I have to admit that Pew was probably thinking about the Episcopal Church in its un-christian dealings with disgruntled parishes and Dioceses. In its propaganda, revisionism, "unworkable theology" and lawsuits, the Episcopal Church has become the Master rather than the slave. 815 has become the "evictor," locking congregations out of their church homes and forcing them to seek the shelter of foreign Bishops. Rather than helping feed these homeless ones, your pledge plate dollars are going to the pockets of 815's attorneys whose task is not to transfigure but to disfigure our Father's places of worship into "$properties$" for dispute.

Dropping my spoon, I looked at the Rev. King and realized that the poor will always be with us. The poor attorneys at 815 need us to feed and cloth them, so chip in, have a chili fund raiser, and don't forget to lower the car windows when you drive home.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

In Comicus Veritas

This from Professor Howdy (I had to make a couple of changes),

Everyone has a personality of a cartoon character.
Have you ever asked yourself what cartoon character
do you most resemble?

A group of investigators got together and analyzed
the personalities of well know and modern cartoon
characters. -

The information that was gathered was made into
this test:

Answer all the questions with what describes you
best, then add up all your points at the end and
look for your results.
Write you answers on a piece of paper numbered

1) Which one of the following describes the
perfect date?
a)Candlelight dinner b) Fun/Theme Park
c) Painting in the park d) Rock concert
e) Going to the movies.

2) What is your favorite type of music?
a) Rock and Roll b) Alternative c) Soft Rock
d) Country e)Pop f)Classical.

3) What type of movies do you prefer?
a) Comedy b) Horror c) Musical d) Romance
e) Documentary.

4) Which one of these occupations would you
choose if you only could choose one of these?
a) Waiter b) Professional Sports Player
c)Teacher d) Police e) Cashier.

5) What do you do with your spare time?
a) Exercise b) Read c)Watch television
d) Listen to music e) Sleep f)Blog.

6) Which one of the following colors do you
like best?
a)Yellow b)White c) Sky Blue d) Dark Blue
e) Red.

7) What do you prefer to eat right now?
a) Snow b) Pizza c)Sushi d) Pasta e) Salad

8) What is your favorite Holiday?
a) Halloween b) Christmas c) New Year
d) Valentines Day e)Thanksgiving.

9) If you could go to one of these places which
one would it be?
a) Paris b) Spain c) Las Vegas d) Hawaii e) Hollywood.

10) With which of the following would you prefer to
spend time with?
a) Someone Smart b) Someone attractive
c) Someone who likes to Party
d) Someone who always has fun
e) Someone very sentimental.

Now add up your points and find out the answer
you have been waiting for!
1.) a-4 b-2 c-5 d-1 e-3
2.) a-2 b-1 c-4 d-5 e-3 f-5
3.) a-2 b-1 c-3 d-4 e-5
4.) a-4 b-5 c-3 d-2 e-1
5.) a-5 b-4 c-2 d-1 e-3 f-5
6.) a-1 b-5 c-3 d-2 e-4
7.) a-3 b-2 c-1 d-4 e-5
8.) a-1 b-3 c-2 d-4 e-5
9.) a-4 b-5 c-1 d-4 e-3
10) a-5 b-2 c-1 d-3 e-4

(10-16 points) You are Garfield: You are very
comfortable, and easy going and you definitely
know how to have fun but sometimes you take it
to an extreme. You always know what you are
doing and you are always in control of your life.
Others may not see things as you do but that
doesn't mean that you always have to do what
is right. Try to remember your happy spirit may
hurt you or others.

(18-26 points) You are Snoopy: You are to have
fun and you are very cool and popular You always
know what's in and you never are out of style.
You are good at knowing how to satisfy everyone
else.You have probably disappeared for a few
days more than once but you always come home
with the family values that you learnt. Being married
and having Children are important to you but only
after you have had your share of fun times.

(22-28 points) You are Arnold: You have lots of
friends and you are also popular always willing
to give advice and help out a person in need.
You are very optimistic and you always see the
bright side of things. Some good advice: try not
to be too much of a dreamer if not you will have
many conflicts with life.

(29-34 points) You are Sponge Bob
Square Pants: You are the classic person that
everyone loves. You are the best friend that anyone
could ever have and never want to loose. You
never cause harm to anyone and they would
never not understand your feelings. Life is a
journey it's funny and calm for the most part. Stay
away from traitors and jealous people then you
will be stress free.

(35-42 points) You are Charlie Brown: you are
tender, you fall in love quickly but you are also
very serious about all relationships. You are a
family person. You call your mom every Sunday.
You have many friends and may occasionally
forget a few Birthdays. Don't let your passion
confuse you with reality.
(43-50 points) You are Dexter: You are smart
and definitely a thinker. Every situation is fronted
with a plan. You have a brilliant mind. You
demonstrate very strong family principles.
Maintain a stable routine but never ignore a
bad situation when it comes.

Guess what I got,

Sunday, February 15, 2009

God the Mother, Jesus the Daughter, Lord I am so Confused

I thought I had laid this issue to rest with my previous posting of 02/11/09, but I am forced to go back there because of what was said today at church.

After hearing today's readings from scripture, I was a bit surprised at the direction taken in his sermon by the rector today. He started with the mystery of the Trinity, but he only compounded the mystery by giving a lengthy pitch for something that reminded me of Mary Daly's version of things (see previous post). One thing he said was that he loved the idea of the "Christa" the female on the cross,

(from EdwinaSandys)

and that he saw in our Trinity window's central panel,

an ambiguous Christ that could be either male or female.

Er, excuse me Fr. Foss, but I think "she" needs a shave.

If all this is much ado about nothing, and we cannot use images to imagine the Godhead, then why did it take 22 minutes to say just that? And why would he slip in a little "she" when talking about God later in the sermon? Perhaps he hoped to show our visitors from the Winthrop Chamber Singers how thoroughly enlightened we are at ECOOS.

My guess is that it was done just to stir up the curmudgeons in the congo.

And what was that he said about Jesus breaking "every" law? I think I can count 10 that He kept.

Fortunately, after the sermon, everyone stands and says the Nicene Creed with all of its wonderfully patristic words. I was glad to say the creed today with my fingers uncrossed, respecting the faith handed down to us by our ancestors, the apostles, martyrs, and saints, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

After the service, I had to return to the sanctuary. As I examined the Trinity window, looking for the divine feminine, a shadowy figure came up from behind. Yes, it was Deep Pew "itself."

"What do you think," I asked.

"Looks like a girl I used to date in college," Deep Pew replied.

I laughed, turned, but Pew had vanished into the now empty sanctuary.

There are times when you have to laugh to keep from crying. Crying because of the gender subversion being fed to us simple pew sitters. For what reason? To what end? Laughing because you understand the aims, and the foolishness of it all.

Of course gender subversion is part of the residual contamination from the "Feminist Theology" of the seventies and its ongoing struggle to eliminate the masculine.

In "The Christa: Symbolizing My Humanity and My Pain" by Julie Clague, we hear the usual attacks on the masculine in trying to describe these artistic approaches to revisionist Christology:
"Since the mid-1970s, some artists have portrayed Jesus Christ in female form (sometimes referred to as the ‘Christa’). The depiction of a female Christ crucified is a particularly controversial representation that challenges theological orthodoxies and upsets the gender symbolism ingrained upon the Christian cross. The controversy and ecclesiastical censure that such works often provoke indicates the emotive power of gender subversion. This study provides a detailed account of five images of the female-Christ form in art, considers their function as theological symbols, and assesses their contribution to feminist theology. It will be suggested that the Christa offers a subversive feminist strategy of representation. And—while such representations do not remove the unanswered theological difficulties associated with divine suffering, the problem of evil and the mystery of salvation—the graphic portrayal of female suffering powerfully exposes the reality of the cross as a site of patriarchal violence."
Feminist Theology, Vol. 14, No. 1, 83-108 (2005)
DOI: 10.1177/0966735005057803

So, I left today smiling, having learned that there is no male, no female, no sin, no Hell, and that all is one and one is all.

"Reality is one, or Ultimate Reality is One, or Reality is ultimately One."
(Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on the related language of science and religion in a speech to the National Press Club on 12/16/2008)

Just another brainwashed pewster, U.P.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Breakdown of the Family Analogy

Earlier, I pondered the deletion of the masculine from traditional Christmas carols, then I read about the proportion of "fatherless" children in our nation (possibly around 31% according to census reports), and more recently the story of in-vitro fertilization taken to the extreme in the case of the unmarried woman with first six and now 14 children. I no longer wonder about the diminution of "God the Father." After all, what is a "Father" these days? If the analogy of God the Father were to be described as a father in the modern sense, then 31% of the time He would, at the worst, be a distant, irresponsible creator, fertilizing willy-nilly, a creator whose lustful self-centered-ness would present us with a very difficult God to argue in favor of in the face of rising secularism.

I, being a dinosaur, understand "God the Father." The Bible is fairly clear on this topic. Do not forget that the term "Abba" is the form used by Jesus and also by Paul in
Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15, and Galatians 4:6.

In Mark 14:36,
"And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt."

In Galatians 4:6,
"And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father."

And in Romans 8:15,
"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."

But today, in American culture, the presence of fatherhood is diminishing. To whom will the children of God cry, and how did we get here?

Mary Daly's 1971 "After The Death of God the Father" did not foresee the death of the two parent household as an unintended consequence of the liberation of women, the sexual revolution, and the Great Society, but she did predict the downfall of the Holy Trinity when she wrote,
"An effect of the liberation of women will very likely be the loss of plausibility of Christological formulas which come close to reflecting a kind of idolatry in regard to the person of Jesus. As it becomes better understood that God is transcendent and unobjectifiable-or else not at all it will become less plausible to speak of Jesus as the Second Person of the Trinity who 'assumed" a human nature. Indeed, the prevalent emphasis upon the total uniqueness and supereminence of Jesus will, I think, become less meaningful. To say this is not at all to deny his extraordinary character and mission."

(Arianism Alert: Arianism: "A heresy which arose in the fourth century, and denied the Divinity of Jesus Christ." (Catholic Encyclopedia).)

I can't forget that one of the goals of radical feminism was to eliminate the "patriarchal" references in Christology. It is clear that what they consider patristic includes the Holy Trinity. Would such a theology be workable? Would it be Christian? Has Mary Daly's anti-Trinitarian new age Arianism appeared in a pulpit near you?

So who has been critical of the recent multiple birth single mom? The MSM for one. I watched the mother's interview dissected by a female Psychiatrist on the Today show the other day. The conclusion was that there was some serious pathology evidenced in the mother's interview. I am sure that the Psychiatrist would come to the same conclusion about me if she were to read this blog.

Earlier this week the mother said that there is but one sperm donor for all 14 children, and that he indicated that he would help in some way. What a guy, and what a great father figure.

Recently I sat in slack jawed disbelief as a man openly bragged how he was now "rid of" his 4th wife. He made this comment in front of his teenage nephew. This was not an appropriate occasion to say anything to the man, but I would have appreciated an opportunity to understand the young nephew's impression and discuss a traditional lifestyle option. I still recall my grandfather teaching me that birds and humans were the only creatures that mate for life. That was quite some time ago mind you, but that kind of grandfatherly instruction can no longer be given. In fact, there may be a shortage of grandfathers in the future due to the increase in fatherless children. To update my grandfather, humans have the potential to mate for life, and I believe this is the model that the Bible teaches us. When we fall short of our potential, we are called not to boast, but to beg forgiveness, repent, and sin no more.

Alas, Zoology lecturer Dr Raoul Mulder, of Melbourne University has reported: "Swans, it seems, like humans, fall a bit short of that idea of lifelong fidelity."

So is there still a place for the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in a world where people don't believe in ghosts, have never met their fathers, and children are raised to live in the mixed up world of boyfriends, step-dads, and the soon to be blessed gender blendered confusion? Is God the Father dying or being killed?

I could not resist posting this last Mary Daly quotation from the 2007 "Feminist Hullaballoo,"

“We are in the presence of multiple, swirling presences. I sense them here. They are our foresisters. We are creating the archaic future through biophilic connectedness…

The red of nemesis is here. We can’t stop now. We have overcome.

And we do not need any penile injections to be effective!”

Willy Nilly's on the juice again!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Draconian Budget Cuts

Today was the day for our annual parish meeting. The usual highlight of which is the discussion of the annual budget. For the past several years expenses have mushroomed to $621,137.77, but pledged income for 2009 came in at only $425,000.00, a drop of $62,000 in pledges. That drop and the $21,862.12 deficit from 2008 had to be addressed by the finance committee and the vestry. `

Two crucial questions come to mind when faced with financial problems.

1. Where can a church cut costs?

2. How can a church raise more money?

As far as cutting expenses goes, the Finance committee and vestry looked around and made the difficult but not unprecedented decision to cut $40,000.00 from the pledge to the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, and the wise decision to slow down the extra payments on the mortgage to the tune of an additional $38,500.00.

There were voices of protest from the congregants regarding reducing the pledge to the Diocese, and the accusation that these cuts are "Draconian" rang out. Another voice declared that the Diocese was doing such a good job keeping parishes together without the problems of departing parishes faced by other Episcopal dioceses. As these voices were powerless in face of such overwhelming budget numbers, they did not have to be corrected at the time, but I do have a few thoughts on both matters.

I think we are being generous to the Diocese of Upper South Carolina by pledging to send them $40,723 in the first place. A Draconian cut would have been to send them $0.00 this year. Such a move would not be unprecedented, as suggested by another voice from today's meeting. This church has found it necessary to withhold the diocesan pledge in the past.

As to the voice expounding on how well the EDUSC has held things together, I remind them that two parishes left EDUSC in 2008, St. Christopher's as noted here, and St. John's North Augusta as noted here.

A recommendation from the floor was approved by a narrow margin for the vestry to send any end of the year surplus in 2009 to the diocese to make up for the "shortfall." I am aware that one person objected because they were afraid that the next Bishop of the EDUSC might try to lead the diocese towards SSBs and a new BCP.

Not addressed at the meeting was my second question. How can a church raise more money? I would like to stake my position on this matter. If you preach the Word of God, it will come. To be perfectly honest, we have been good at preaching an alternative word and not The Word. This alternative Gospel continues to gnaw away at the faith once received from the Apostles. This may be the beginning of a difficult next few years for the Diocesan budget as well as for the budgets of many individual parishes. Hopefully folks will not place the entire blame on the economy. When they do so, they might take the time to reflect how to grow the Church. After all, what are on the true expenses of the Church? The words of Paul in today's reading (1 Corinthians 9:16-23) give a clue as to what to include in the budget as far as spreading the Gospel is concerned.
"If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe betide me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel..."

"...I have become all things to all people, so that I might by any means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings. "

I thank Draco and his co-workers for the time and effort spent to present to us a balanced budget for 2009.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Fight For Your Children

How a story is worded and presented by the author has a profound influence upon the reader.

This particular story hit the blog waves Jan. 28, 2009 and caused a minor flap. It was the story of two children in the U.K. being raised by their grandparents. In a remarkable example of age discrimination, and after two years legal wrangling, the children were taken from their family and put up for adoption.

So how old were these decrepit people? 59 and 46 according to the report.

Maybe there are other reasons that these grandparents were unfit.

Perhaps it was because the grandfather was a "farmhand." In that case this is class discrimination.

Maybe it was because the grandmother has "diabetes" and the grandfather has "angina." In that case it is health discrimination.

The article only mentions the age of the grandparents as the reason. They were "too old."

There must be more to the story. Did the writer present all the facts, or just selected facts to gin up our emotions?

You can imagine the outrage racing across the www.

I don't think the outrage has anything to do with the fact that the children are to be adopted by... read it here...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

An Unclean Spirit

"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight."
C.S. Lewis-"The Screwtape Letters."

"The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn."—Luther

"The devill . . the prowde spirite . . cannot endure to be mocked."—Thomas More
(Preface to "The Screwtape Letters")

Today's sermon was a real stem winder from Fr. Foss. Is it just me, or do Super Bowl Sunday sermons really tend to run into overtime? Because of the length, and because my foot went to sleep around halftime, I will focus on the first quarter of the sermon where I wanted a challenge flag thrown out.

We started with the problem of demonic possession. This stems from the Gospel lesson from Mark 1:21-28 where Jesus casts out an unclean spirit from a man in the synagogue. Charlie assumes that we post Enlightenment humans can no longer believe in demonic possession (score one for Screwtape), and judging from the sounds of approval from the congregation, most in attendance feel likewise. Charlie was right to bring out the cultural and historical context of this miracle, and that people of the day certainly believed in unclean spirits, but to not provide a counter argument to the discredited demon puts the weak among us in danger. I come to this conclusion from the second reading, 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 which bears repeating,
"Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him."

"Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘no idol in the world really exists’, and that ‘there is no God but one.’ Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist."

"It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge. Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. ‘Food will not bring us close to God.’ We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling-block to the weak. For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols? So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed. But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall."

In my opinion, when your preacher has got that demon thing figured out, and feels that this is like the food sacrificed to idols, an ancient belief, long discounted, a table from which no harm comes, he should:

1. Be very careful when expounding about this liberty.
2. Don't let us weaklings see you biting into that meaty subject.
3. Better yet, swear off of it.

How did these readings affect you? Did they raise the following questions?

1. Could demons exist?

2. Did Jesus cast out demons?

3. Do Episcopal Bishops perform exorcisms without crossing their fingers?

4. Is evil just in the mind of man?

5. Does God or the devil care who wins the Super Bowl?

6. Shouldn't demons rejoice in negative answers to questions 1, 2, and 3, and a positive answer to question 4?

My guess is that the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment thinkers have done Wormwood's work for him.

Let the game begin!