Friday, December 31, 2010

Preaching the Word 1, Preaching Social Activism 0


In this article at the NYT, Sam Dolnick reports on the differences between two Methodist congregations who share a common building. You see, one congregation is dwindling while the other is soaring. Granted, there may be demographic changes involved, but the reporter nailed it when he describes the two ministers,
"Mr. Laporta, 55, hails from a church tradition of social action. He attends rallies for rent control and calls for immigration reform in his sermons. He says Mr. Peng ignores the plight of the illegal immigrants in his congregation.

Mr. Peng, 48, focuses more tightly on Scripture. 'The people need the Word,' he said. He contends that Mr. Laporta has left his members spiritually hungry. 'If the congregation needs to learn the policy, they can read the newspaper,' Mr. Peng said. 'That’s why their congregation doesn’t grow.'"

Read it here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Walkin in a Doggie Wonderland

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy; Psalm 126: v 1-2

This year, Rock Hill had a white Christmas for the first time in decades. The snow fall came late on Christmas night, but some of us had to venture forth to check it out (and to take care of business).

                                                         (Taken 12/26/2010)

Walkn' In A Doggy Winter Wonderland
by Unknown Poet

Dog tags ring, are you listenin'?
In the lane, snow is glistenin'.
It's yellow, NOT white - I've been there tonight,
Marking up my winter wonderland.

Smell that tree? That's my fragrance.
It's a sign for wand'ring vagrants;
"Avoid where I pee, it's MY pro-per-ty!
Marked up as my winter wonderland."

In the meadow dad will build a snowman,
following the classical design.
Then I'll lift my leg and let it go Man,
So all the world will know it's

Straight from me to the fencepost,
flows my natural incense boast;
"Stay off of my TURF, this small piece of earth,
I mark it as my winter wonderland.

"...our mouth was filled with laughter..."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lessons Learned?

One good thing about being an pewsitting Episcopalian is that even though you are not encouraged to do so, you just might develop a desire to study the Bible and Christian traditions. This is because you might walk away from the average worship service with a nagging feeling that something wasn't quite right. If you try to put a finger on it, you will usually find the source of the problem in the sermon.

Take Christmas Eve/Christmas Day 2010 for example. We learned:

1. The Holy family was like our dysfuctional families of today.
I think the Holy family functioned perfectly well thank you very much. If dysfunction were present, Joseph would have dropped Mary like a hot potato. In addition, the proof of the pudding is that since everything went according to God's plan, the family functioned perfectly.
1. a.) John the Baptist was like the crazy uncle in every family.
My uncles are not crazy.
2. Jesus was a good Jewish rabbi.
"Good" Jewish rabbis don't get crucified for blasphemy.
3. Paul was a rabbi.
No, he was a Pharisee.
"I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee..." (Acts 23:6).
4. Jews and Christians have hated each other for 2000 years.
A strawman used to support the rest of the revisionist lesson.
5. Isn't it wonderful that we have recovered our Jewishness?
I never knew that we had lost it. Didn't I read somewhere something about an Old Testament? שָׁלוֹם
6. Mary had more children after Jesus.
7. Isn't it wonderful that we have recovered our Catholic roots?

Those last two are contradictory.

The denial of the perpetual virginity of Mary destroys the preacher's argument that we have recovered our Catholic roots.

People argue that the mention of Jesus' brothers in certain passages indicates that Mary had more children, but tradition has held otherwise, and our preacher is pitting himself against some formidable opponents.

"In A.D. 380, Helvidius proposed that Mary had other children because of the 'brothers' in Matthew 13:55. He was rebutted by Jerome, who was arguably the greatest biblical scholar of the day. The Protestant reformer John Calvin seconded Jerome: 'Helvidius has shown himself too ignorant, in saying that Mary had several sons, because mention is made in some passages to the brothers of Christ' [quoted by Bernard Leeming, Protestants and Our Lady, 9]. Martin Luther agreed with Calvin that Mary was always a virgin, as did Ulrich Zwingli: 'I esteem immensely the Mother of God, the ever chaste, immaculate Virgin Mary' [E. Stakemeier, De Mariologia et Oecumenismo, K. Balic, ed., 456]."

The verses in question:

Matthew 13:55-56
55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”

Mark 3:31-34;
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?”

Luke 8:19-21;
19 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”
21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those ...

John 2:12
After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.

Acts 1:14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

Cousins, brothers, whatever the case, if you bring the subject up as a statement of fact, you should be clear to point out that there are differences of opinion on the subject.

Ah well, another lesson learned.

Twelve Days of Christmas by Tee Jules

I have always held that the twelve days of Christmas start on December 26. For that reason I have been holding back on posting this, one of my favorites, until today.

(There is nothing wrong with your new computer. The volume is low on the video, so set your sound level or put on those new headphones.)

To translate:

1 A Crawfish in a fig tree

2 Voodoo dolls

3 Stuffed shrimp

4 Pousse cafes

5 Pouldeau

6 Cypress knees

7 Fleur de lis

8 Crabs a brewin

9 Oysters stewin

10 Pirogue paddles

11 Duck decoys

12 Shotgun shells

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Il est né!

(From the Family Tree)

Il est né le divin enfant,
Jouez hautbois, résonnez musette.
Il est né le divin enfant,
Chantons tous son avènement.

Depuis plus de quatre mille ans
Nous le promettaient les prophètes,
Depuis plus de quatre mille ans
Nous attendions cet heureux temps.


Une étable est son logement,
Un peu de paille est sa couchette,
Une étable est son logement,
Pour un dieu quel abaissement.


O Jésus, ô roi tout puissant,
Tout petit enfant que vous êtes,
O Jésus, ô roi tout puissant,
Régnez sur nous entièrement.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Resolving Dissonance

“We were communicating emotions and ideas with grunts, groans, chants, and hums well before we were enunciating complex ideas like the ones we're sharing right now.”

-- Mark Jude TramoNeuroscientist/Neurologist
Harvard Medical School, Mass. General Hospital

When I heard the news of the death of Captain Beefheart on December 17, 2010, another bit of the past rose to consciousness, and also came to a resolution.


No, not Beefheart's passing, I meant that I am thankful to put certain memories to rest.

Some memories of interpersonal discordance remain troubling to this day, but the least of these pertain to differences over Beefheart.

Perhaps he was too avant garde, or maybe I was too conditioned to the melodies and harmonies of the 1940 Hymnal, but I never did "get it."

Perhaps a taste of his work might help you to understand:

I am sorry for all negative things I said about his albums, but the sound still goes against my grain.

I can only presume that other minds appreciate these sounds in ways unimaginable by primitives such as myself.

This is not unlike the problem of resolving conflicts between the reasonable, structured, and understandable musings of a conservative mind and the bizzare twists and convoluted effluent of a liberal one.

I wanted to watch William F. Buckley Jr. and "Firing Line," while my friend wanted to watch Jimmy Carter's State of the Union Address.

My mind still can't get around that State of the Union Address.

Similarly, theological differences are hard to harmonize. The Church has never fully come to grips with how to hold these dissonances together and sing the Lord's praises as one voice.
Resolving such dissonances is usually too difficult for the Church, and it is nearly impossible for the average human relationship.

"Relationship," that buzzword of the decade, fails.

Sadly, my late friend marched to the beat of a different drummer than I, so we went our separate ways.

Some differences are insurmountable. The earthly resolution seems to come through the distance of separation.

I pray the Lord both their souls to keep. May light perpetual shine upon them.
"He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear" - Isaiah 11:3
Maybe someday, after this body dies, they will explain it all to me, and maybe then I will understand what I thought to be so dissonant, and finally, at long last, it will resonate within me and I will "get it."

Until then, my opinion of his music remains unchanged.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Looking Forward to the Festival

On this the last Sunday in Advent, we sang our final refrain of "Saviour of the Nations Come" as we looked forward to the anniversary of our Saviour's birth. How we came to celebrate Christmas on December 25 is another story, but one I have heard is that ancient pagan festivals were conquered by Christ and given new meaning by men. All this so that we might be brought to celebrate His life instead of false idols, sacred poles, and the worship in the high places that so bedeviled our ancestors.

A while back, while researching the obscure details of the statutes of the church of Toul, I had a chance to stumble upon The Burlesque Festivals of the Middle Ages (pp155-158) and found the following that might pertain to this time of the year (excerpted, minor corrections made, and highlighting added).

"In the first ages of Christianity, when—a persecuted sect—it trusted to the force of individual conviction for its converts, these latter, in joining the religion of the Saviour, gave up at once all their old superstitions and prejudices. But when, in course of time, it became established as the religion of the state, the mass of the people soon disbelieved in the power of their old gods, and accepted the faith of the emperor. Churches took the place of temples, and the statues of their idols were thrown down and broken without much repugnance. But there was a host of old superstitions, customs, and observances, intimately connected with the old idolatry of the people, which were so deeply rooted in their habits and social life, that it was not an easy thing to persuade converts made under such circumstances to consent to their abolition. In fact, the Christian teachers found an advantage in chewing forbearance in the great religious revolution in which they were engaged, and they were wise in not shocking by a too abrupt change the deeply rooted prejudices of so many ages. It was their policy to substitute gradually Christian festivals in the place of pagan ceremonies ; and thus, amid the most riotous feasts and processions of the ancient ceremonial, new names and new objects kept the popular mind fixed to a better faith. In course of time, however, as the church itself became corrupt and its ministers venal, these popular excesses, which had at first been tolerated from necessity, were encouraged by the very persons whose duty it was to discountenance them ; and, during the middle ages, at certain periods of the year, even the holiest places became the scene of riotous festivals, which recalled in many of their characteristics the most licentious of the feasts of antiquity. It is true that these pseudo-Christian ceremonies were condemned by the better and wiser of the ecclesiastics, and that they were repeatedly proscribed by the councils of the church ; but these condemnations were either merely formal, or they were rendered ineffectual by the supineness and backwardness of those who ought to have put them in force. Too congenial with the general laxity of manners which characterised the feudal period, these ceremonies increased in force and intensity during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, until they became so great an object of public scandal that they could no longer be tolerated. Yet in Catholic countries, such as France, and Italy, and Spain, they continued to be observed in a suppressed form until the great dislocation of society produced by the French revolution at the close of the eighteenth century.

Among the Romans the latter part of the month of December was devoted to the noisy and licentious festivities of the Saturnalia. In the earliest times of Rome this festival had been restricted to one day in the middle of the month ; but the period of celebration was afterwards extended to seven days, and it was followed by a multitude of other festivals of the same character, called, from the circumstance of their commencing in the Calends of January, the feriae Kalendarum, which were continued during the month of January, and were but just closed at the time of the somewhat analogous festival of the Lupercals in February. This answers precisely to the period extending from the festivities of Christmas to the time of the carnival of modern times, of which the Roman festivities were undoubtedly the prototype. The resemblance between the old and the modern observances is too strongly marked to be easily mistaken. During the seven days of the Saturnalia masters were placed on an equality with their slaves, and all classes and ranks and even sexes were confounded together by disguises and masks, under cover of which were enacted a thousand different follies and extravagances. These were precisely the characteristics of the joyous festivals of the middle age. A curious coincidence is perhaps worth pointing out. It is well known that at the Lupercalia the Luptrcals ran about the streets in a state of nudity : a similar practice characterised the Saturnalia...

A theological writer who lived in 1182, Beleth, informs us that, in his time, in the archbishopric of Rheims and in other dioceses in France, at the festival of Christmas the archbishops and bishops and other high ecclesiastics went to play at various games with the inferior clergy in the religious houses. We trace this custom among the clergy, called by Beleth Decembrian liberty, in other writers. In the Saturnalia a mock king was elected by lot, who ruled at the festival. The practice of choosing mock officers, under the names in different places of kings, popes, abbots, was retained in all the burlesque festivals of the middle ages : in some parts a king is still chosen on the twelfth night. Public gambling was allowed at the Saturnalia. It is probable from the extract from Beleth that it was practised even by ecclesiastics at Christmas in former days, and from this custom we seem to have derived that of playing at cards at that period of the year. It is not necessary to point out the libertinism of speech and action which characterised the old as well as the modern Saturnalia.

These latter were chiefly prevalent in the countries which have derived their language and customs from the Romans, such as the French, Italians, and Spaniards, and are not found to have prevailed so generally among the purer Germanic tribes. The English festival of Christmas is of Saxon origin, and consisted chiefly in eating and drinking ; the mummery and masquerading, as well as the few burlesque festivals we shall have to notice as belonging to England in the middle ages, having been apparently imported from France. "
This year, I hope to not get so caught up in the modern versions of these festivities that I lose sight of the gift we should stay focused on this season: the gift of His incarnation, and His promise of our salvation.

Share the perfect gift this Christmas...

Only a few days left to find it...

Try it on for size yourself...

It will only cost you...


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Excellent Analyses of +VGR's Teaching

In today's lectionary reading from 2 Peter 1-10 , we are warned about false teachers. In that vein, I would call to your attention the following:

David Fischler at The Reformed Pastor completed a 5 part series reviewing Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson's series of articles for the "On Faith" column in the Washington Post. I commend the reviews to all who have to face these arguments both in the Church and in the world.

Here are links to the posts.
Gene Robinson Teaches the Bible
Gene Robinson Teaches the Bible 2
Gene Robinson Teaches the Bible 3
Gene Robinson Teaches the Bible 4
and finally,
Gene Robinson Teaches the Bible 5

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Glimpse a Geminid

There is still time, if you are brave enough to lay on the cold ground (18 degree (F) here), to see some Geminid meteors. I spotted 20 in 30 minutes just now despite my neighbor's street lamp and my moderately light polluted site. This seems like an unusually good year for this meteor shower. I stayed pretty warm thanks to a proper ground pad, good hiking boots, a blanket, and layers of clothing. I was a little anxious about the sounds of something large walking past me in the woods, but it was probably just a deer and not anything interested in making a meal of a half frozen stargazer playing dead on the ground.

If you missed them, you can try again next year.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

In the End, It was not a Monster

For her sermon today, Mary Cat related the Advent season to reading a familiar story, one in which you know the ending, over and and over again. The book she chose to use as an illustration was one of her favorites, "The Monster at the End of This Book."

Not being familiar with the story, my mind drifted to the first time I heard one of my favorites, "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." It was in fourth grade, and Mr. Andre, the Physical Education teacher/Assistant to the Assitant Headmaster/Assistant for Religious Education/and Assistant to Fill In Anywhere Else, a man I never trusted very much, chose this C.S. Lewis classic our listening benefit. At first we all thought we were a bit too old to be read to, but I came to look forward to this weekly break in our routine. For a youngster who was too young to recognize the religious themes, the monster near the end of this book had to be the death of Aslan at the hands of the witch. So, when we ended one week's reading at that horrible point, this young mind was left wondering, "Why did he have to die?" Pondering this over a long weekend, the tragedy felt all the greater, and is forever etched in my memory. I also remember the mixture of confusion, pleasure, and relief at Aslan's return when the story concluded with Mr. Andre's next reading.

I clearly remember Mr. Andre questioning us and instructing us on the meaning of Aslan's sacrifice. The "monster" was explained and was no longer to be feared.

Reading the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe again and again always seems to bring some new insight. I have the entire series in audio format which I have been through twice. Last night, the cinematic version aired on network TV. I watched the whole thing, enjoyed every minute, and was moved in ways I had not been moved before. I wonder how first-timers felt? Can film ever take the place of the experience of the written word?

Most of us have been through more Advents than Narnias, but despite knowing the back of the book, much can be gained by being open to hearing previously missed undertones, rejoicing at the new insights, and listening for the voice of calm of the author as He tells his familiar story again, and again, and again.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

It Is Not That We Grow More Conservative... is that the Church grows more liberal.

A copy of a recent short article by Tim Funk in the Charlotte Observer was thrust into my pocket the other day at coffee hour. I did not see the hand behind the missive, but after taking the clipping back to my underground lab and having it analyzed, I think I can identify the tell tale imprint of that old denizen of the dark, Deep Pew.

The story is about the retirement of the Rev. William Wood from First Presbyterian Church in Charlotte after 27 years as their pastor. During that time the church grew from 1200 members to 2200, "revenues" have gone from $600,000 to 6 million dollars, with this all occurring during a period of decline in the Presbyterian Church that parallels the decline in T.E.c. and other "mainline" denominations.

So what made First Pres. in Charlotte different?

Could it have been the preaching?
"William Rikard, a lawyer who served on the search committee that brought Wood to First Presbyterian, said he's (Wood) lived up to his early promise."

"'We saw a young minister who was full of energy and a willingness to preach with force and vigor,' Rikard said. 'He started that way and he has finished that way.'"

Or was it because Wood did not yield to the pressures of the modern age?
"Wood has his critics. Some have not forgotten that, though he welcomes gays and lesbians into the church, he voted in the 1990s to keep the ban on non-celibate homosexuals as clergy in churches affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA)."

Or was it his stance against secularism?
"At Davidson, first as a board member and later as an ex-board member, he fought a proposal that eventually allowed the election of non-Christians to the governing body at the school founded by Presbyterians."

Oh, you say, he sounds like a preacher who has grown too conservative over time. To that Wood answers,
"A lot of the leaders in the Presbyterian church have become so liberal," he said. "I have stayed in the same place."

We in T.E.c. often say the same thing, that the church's leftward drift makes us look more and more curmudgeonly with the passing years while in reality we haven't changed. Tensions occur when the left pulls so hard against the Bible (which does not move) that the people in the pews become confused and begin to wander. Such tensions require the strong arms of a preacher who teaches the simple truths to be found in the Bible to rein in his flock and to gather in the lost, especially during this time of increasing secularism, worldliness, and religious pluralism.

Having witnessed first hand the inevitable decline that occurs when the Word of God gets stripped of its power by being preached as the word of man, I am left to wonder if the mainline denominations, apart from a handful of stalwarts like the Rev. Wood, have sown the seeds of not only their own destruction, but also the destruction of the birds who happen to build their nests in those swaying branches of Christendom that do not root themselves on the solid rock that is the witness to our salvation.

Vic Van Den Bergh heard a question/statement this past week that he posted as I was finishing up this piece. It is as applicable to any denomination as it is to the CoE.
"Why don't those people who are the leaders of our denomination keep to God's Word and why don't they help (and protect) us ordinary people from having a line that just keeps on moving! Surely," they said, "What we believe must be constant and so those in leadership should be helping us maintain our consistency, not keep changing that which we believe to accomodate others or make us acceptable to others!"

Instead of redrawing increasingly vague, wavy lines, I was reminded what leaders are supposed to do and say,
"We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."
Winston Churchill
Never surrender, and just maybe the invasion of universalisecular-pluralism can be stopped, and guess what might happen then????

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Advent Pageant: Lessons Missed

Today's service at ECOOS was a departure from our tradition in that the children of the parish put on an "Advent Pageant." This required some imagination on the part of both the creator, the music director, and the observer to keep us in the spirit of Advent without slipping into Christmas. While the children did a great job with what they were given, and the congregation was pleased with the results, I have to note the omissions that were made to the service because I am left with the feeling that something was missing.

The Psalm was one of the first things to go.  Todays' Psalm was going to be an expurgated version of Psalm 72, so I shouldn't complain too much. According to the lectionary, we should have heard Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 ,
1 Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.

2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.

3 May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.

4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

5 May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.

6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.

7 In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

18 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.

19 Blessed be his glorious name for ever; may his glory fill the whole earth.Amen and Amen. 

Nice, but incomplete. Here are the missing verses including, as expected, an imprecatory one,
8 May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

9 May his foes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust.

10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.

11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.

12 For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.

13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.

15 Long may he live! May gold of Sheba be given to him. May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all day long.

16 May there be abundance of grain in the land; may it wave on the tops of the mountains; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field.
Ah well, sacrifices must be made, but wait, there was another cut made in the reading from Isaiah 11:1-10 which was printed in the bulletin sans verses 3-4, 5.5, and 7-9. Here is how it came out as edited,
1 A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist...
6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
That sounds sweet. I am so glad the children were protected from some of the harsher language. Since most readers of these pages are older, I present the missing verses here,
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

5.5 and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
Good thing they left out verse 8 or we might have heard another Freudian slip, but what is wrong with having the kiddos learn a little bit about the fear of the Lord and what happens to the wicked?

Alas, poor Paul, Romans 15:4-13 got cut altogether.
4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6 so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
‘Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
and sing praises to your name’;
10 and again he says,
‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people’;
11 and again,
‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples praise him’;
12 and again Isaiah says,
‘The root of Jesse shall come,
the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.’
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I am sure we could have editted out that mention of circumcison in v.8.

Gone also was the entire Nicene Creed as well as the Confession of Sins.

I didn't hear any complaints, but IMHO those are so very important that their omission must be noted.

Thankfully, I had a private confession with the Lord before the service, but I always worry about coming to the Lord's table unrepentant.

Apart from that and getting doses of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," and "Go Tell it on the Mountain" a few weeks earlier than expected, I should be thankful for the two blessings of today: no sermon, and the service was over in an hour.

Did I miss anything?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Should Sermons be Recorded?

I used to think sermons should be recorded until I came across something that c. michael patton at Parchment and Pen posted and described as the single greatest YouTube video ever. I suppose it might be... if you are a teenager.

I think the preacher meant to say "Lot went to pitch his tents."

It kinda reminds me of the time our Headmaster misread something in his morning announcements that were being broadcast over the intercom throughout the school. I remember that he was supposed to say, "Teachers may pick up their ditto 'sheets' at the office," but it didn't exactly come out that way.

Maybe our minds are in the gutter most of the time. Is it only our desire to please others keeps us from letting people see our inner thoughts? Can a prayerful life control the tongue? I guess none of us is perfect, and the inner thoughts that slip out can not only make people laugh but can cause people to cry as well. I think James had something to say about that,

"Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you realize that we will be judged more strictly,  for we all fall short in many respects. If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also.
If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide their whole bodies.
It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot's inclination wishes.
In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions. Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze.
The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna.
For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God.

From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers."

James 3: 1-10

Sunday, November 28, 2010

God is Not a Cosmic Killjoy

The Very Rev. Canon Robert Munday's article "A Call to Radical Christianity" in the Winter 2010 Anglican Digest contains some notions that in the past would not have been considered radical.
"Christian teaching on sex is quite simple and to the point: sexual relations are appropriate only between a man and a woman who are united in Holy Matrimony. We don't believe this because we are prudes, and God didn't command this because he is a cosmic killjoy. God's way of holiness is the way of wholeness-protecting us from destructive behaviors and relationships. We should also be radical in noting and eschewing the rising emphasis upon androgeny in our culture today. Our differences as males and females should be joyfully appreciated. In a world that has lost the wonder of sexuality, the Church needs to value the beautiful, God-created diversity of men and women as equal in worth and yet different." (p.49)
 read it all  
(The Anglican Digest is edited by the Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall S. Harmon of Summerville, SC.)

The Dark Side of Hope

After chanting our way through the annual 1st Sunday in Advent's Great Litany, confessing many sins, and beseeching the Lord to hear us many, many times, for our sermon today our preacher chose to focus on the future house of God (because nobody really wanted to hear one more word about sin). While it is a good a joyous thing to contemplate a world without war (...imagine all the people, living life in peace...), your preacher might choose to ignore some big chunks of the Bible readings for today in order to persuade us that all will be well. For a clue as to how this is done, I have italicised the verses that he can expound upon, and I have struck through the portions of scripture he might ignore.

Isaiah 2:1-5
The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Romans 13:11-14

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Matthew 24:36-44
‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
Did I miss something or was there no mention in today's sermon of the Gospel message of the necessity for watchfulness lest ye get swept away?

I am sure that there is a better way to tie all these readings together. I liked the Archer of the Forest's sermon for today at his blog Costly Grace, where he focused on Christian hope and urges us to,
"Strengthen hope through prayer and strengthen it through the reading of spiritual works like the Bible and other spiritual works. (Chicken Soup for the Soul doesn't count.)

Strengthen hope by actively remembering to live with confidence in newness and fullness of life.

Strengthen hope by looking toward the coming of Christ in his glory."
Certainly we should hope and work to be ready for the time that the Son of Man returns, because it sounds like there will a time of peace for those who are ready, but there will also be a time of woe for those who are not prepared. Why do we need an armour of light if there is not danger in the darkness? This is the dark side of hope: in order to hope for something better, one has to first recognize that one's current state is lower than that future, hoped for, Kingdom.

Even though we sleep dreaming of the Kingdom, we dare not forget the thief in the night.

I am afraid we must keep our swords at the ready.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Indaba Vino Veritas

There are some questions that really need answers. Yesterday, I learned that Bishop Gene Robinson (who really, really will retire, ...well... maybe... in 2013 after the liturgies for same sex blessings get the okay from General Convention 2012) has evidence that the Archbishop of Canterbury has been abducted by aliens. The story was in the Times, but since that link is not open ($$$) you have to go to "The Mail Online."

"Controversial American Anglican bishop Gene Robinson condemned Dr Rowan Williams for failing to stop internal rows over the ordination of women and gay priests.

The Bishop of New Hampshire said: 'I pray for him 'I have clergy friends who literally studied at Archbishop Williams' feet and who have said to me it is almost as if aliens have come and taken Rowan away from us.

'They have left something that looks like him but we don't recognise him any more.'"

Read more:
You might think that the question that demands an answer is whether or not +VGR's assertion is true. One look at Rowan William's photo at The Mail might make one wonder. Sorry, but the real question is this, "How can we resolve this issue in an Anglican manner?"

I know, let's "Indaba."

 For those of you unfamiliar with this "indaba" scheme, the idea was initially foisted on the bishops of the Anglican Communion when they met at Lambeth in 2008.  Instead of arguing over pointless resolutions, the bishops were supposed to sit down and talk. In T.E.c. circles the word "indaba" is still floated around, often with a certain reverential spirit. Here is an explanation from the A.C.O. vault.
"In Indaba, we must be aware of these challenges (issues) without immediately trying to resolve them one way or the other. We meet and converse, ensuring that everyone has a voice, and contributes (in our case, praying that it might be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) and that the issues at hand are fully defined and understood by all.
The purpose of the discussion is to find out the deeper convergences that might hold people together in difference and come to a deeper understanding of the topic or issues discussed. This will be achieved by seeking to understand exactly the thinking behind positions other than my own.
For Indaba to work, Indaba on day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4 etc should be seen as interrelated even if their themes differ. The whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts.
At the end of each Indaba session the discussion will be summarised seeking to honour each of the different voices that have been heard. These written summaries will help to shape the communications coming out of the Lambeth Conference."
As currently practised by T.E.c. and the AoC, no truth or consequences ever come from the "Indaba Process, " and therefore it would be the perfect way for The AoC and +VGR to come together with deeper convergence and to become a greater whole.

For that to happen +VGR might need to get an invitation to Lambeth next time.
On the other hand, they might do just as well with a few cases of this:

(Personal Photo: I saw this at Trader Joe's in NYC, and don't ask what I was doing in the wine section).

I wonder if aliens drink... wine?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Truth or Consequences

Today we celebrated the last Sunday after Pentecost: The Feast of Christ the King. We were fortunate to have Fr. Diggs to fill in for our regular clergy. Fr. Diggs delivered a very good sermon based on the Epistle, Colossians 1:11-20

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

and the Gospel, Luke 23:35-43.

And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’
Fr. Diggs, in speaking about "conversions," pointed out the contrast in the two criminals' statements to Jesus as they hung on their crosses and the "death bed" conversion illustrated by criminal #2. The fact is that the second criminal recognizes Christ as King when he affirms that Jesus will enter His kingdom.  The second criminal accepts the Lordship of Jesus. As Fr. Diggs told us, we either accept this as the truth and will be with Christ in Paradise, or we don't accept Him and must face the consequences.

Today's sermon gave us a rare taste of Biblical exegesis with an orthodox slant. I guess this is what happens when you stick to the Scriptures.

When the cat's away, the orthodox will play...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fall in Upper SC

Fall is late this year in our neck of the woods. I took this picture on Nov. 10, 2010.

When I get a chance to get out and look around, I usually like to pause and listen to the rustle of the leaves as the squirrels forage in the daytime, listen for the deer and owls in the night, and breath in the fresher, drier, haze free air. Fall comes with so many memories of the past, both happy and sad, yet a sense of inner peace always seems to come as well. I am brought to a state of balance with that which is living in the here and now and that which has gone before me into the larger life.

I also love to look up and see the clear blue Carolina skies by day,

 and the appearance of the winter constellations, whose stars seem to stand out much more vividly, by night.  

Sorry, no pictures of the night sky, but I did get a chance to stretch out and do some stargazing from my dark sky cavesite this weekend. I was treated to naked eye and binocular views of the Andromeda galaxy (which, when zoomed in, looks a bit like this sketch by Messier),

The mouth of my cave is perfectly situated to view the star clusters in Auriga as it rises in the eastern sky,

I am trying to fatten up on these days and nights and prepare my cave for the winter months.

Thank You Lord for this time of year.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

William Law on Worship

Today's public worship service at ECOOS was as good as it gets. Even as I bask in the good feeling, I know that there is more to "it" than a pleasant Sunday morning at church. I think the words of William Law say it well.

Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (h/t Anglicat)

Author: Law, William (1686-1761)

Chapter 1
Concerning the nature and extent of Christian devotion.
"It is very observable, that there is not one command in all the Gospel for public worship; and perhaps it is a duty that is least insisted upon in Scripture of any other. The frequent attendance at it is never so much as mentioned in all the New Testament. Whereas that religion or devotion which is to govern the ordinary actions of our life is to be found in almost every verse of Scripture. Our blessed Saviour and His Apostles are wholly taken up in doctrines that relate to common life. They call us to renounce the world, and differ in every temper and way of life, from the spirit and the way of the world: to renounce all its goods, to fear none of its evils, to reject its joys, and have no value for its happiness: to be as new-born babes, that are born into a new state of things: to live as pilgrims in spiritual watching, in holy fear, and heavenly aspiring after another life: to take up our daily cross, to deny ourselves, to profess the blessedness of mourning, to seek the blessedness of poverty of spirit: to forsake the pride and vanity of riches, to take no thought for the morrow, to live in the profoundest state of humility, to rejoice in worldly sufferings: to reject the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life: to bear injuries, to forgive and bless our enemies, and to love mankind as God loveth them: to give up our whole hearts and affections to God, and strive to enter through the strait gate into a life of eternal glory."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NYC: A Stage I Went Through

                                  View from the Top of the Rock

During a recent business trip to NYC, I was given a few hours each night to myself. All of my friends told me about the wonderful Broadway shows, and how I should take some in while I was there. Glancing through the listings revealed the expected amount of fluff along with some potentially dangerous stuff. I had almost decided to stay in my room after reading what was running "on Broadway:"
The Addams Family
American Idiot
Anything Goes
Billy Elliot
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Brief Encounter
Donny & Marie: A Broadway Christmas
Driving Miss Daisy
A Free Man of Color
Good People
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
In the Heights
Jersey Boys
La Bete
La Cage aux Folles
A Life in the Theatre
The Lion King
A Little Night Music
Mamma Mia!
Mary Poppins
Memphis: A New Musical
The Merchant of Venice
Million Dollar Quartet
Mrs. Warren's Profession
Next to Normal
The Pee-wee Herman Show
The Phantom of the Opera
The Pitmen Painters
Promises, Promises
Radio City Christmas Spectacular
RAIN: A Tribute to The Beatles On Broadway
Rock of Ages
The Scottsboro Boys
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
Time Stands Still
Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Musical
West Side Story
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

The Pee-wee Herman Show!!???

Off Broadway, some of the subjects were even more questionable,

All-American Girls
Ana en el Tropico (Anna in the Tropics)
Angelina Ballerina The Musical
Angels in America: Part 1
Angels in America: Part 2
As Is
Avenue Q Times Review
The Awesome 80s Prom
Banished Children of Eve
Black Angels Over Tuskegee
Black Tie
Blue Man Group: Rewired
Boom Town
The Break of Noon
Bromance: The Dudesical
Brothers From the Bottom
Church Girl
Circus Incognitus
Cirque du Soleil: Wintuk
Critical Mass
Dancin' in the Streets
Danny and Sylvia: The Danny Kaye Musical
Dear Edwina
The Deep Throat Sex Scandal
Devil Boys From Beyond
Dietrich and Chevalier: The Musical
The Divine Sister
Dona Flor y sus dos Maridos (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands)
Egg and Spoon
El Beso del Adios (Kiss Bessemer Goodbye)
El Insolito Caso de Miss Pina Colada (The Preposterous Case of Miss Pina Colada)
Emergency Used Candles
The Extraordinary Ordinary
The Fantasticks
First, Do No Harm - The Tragedy at Memorial Medical Center
The Flying Karamazov Brothers
Freckleface Strawberry
Freud's Last Session
Fuerzabruta: Look Up
Fyvush Finkel Live!
The Gazillion Bubble Show
Girl Talk: The Musical
Imagining Heschel (A Man Can Come Too Late)
In the Wake
In Transit
John Tartaglia's ImaginOcean
La Casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba)
La vida en los Esclavos Unidos
The Language Archive
The Libertine
The Little Foxes
Love Divided By Times Three
Love, Loss, and What I Wore
The Memorandum
Midnight in Havana
Miss Abigail's Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage
Murdered by the Mob
My Inner Sole
Naked Boys Singing!
Nearly Lear
Nevermore: The Imaginary Life and Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe
The New York Gospel Stars
Notes From Underground
Perfect Crime
Perfect Harmony
Phantom of the Opera
Photograph 51
Potato Needs a Bath
The Red Shoes
The Ride
The Science of Guilt
The Screwtape Letters
Shells Cocktail Hour
Shelly Garrett's Beauty Shop 2010
The Sneeze
Spirit Control
Squirm Burpee Circus: A Vaudevillian Melodrama
St. Nicholas
Steve Cohen's Chamber Magic: A Demonstration of Modern Conjuring
That Hopey Changey Thing
The 39 Steps
Three Men on a Horse
Three Women
Through the Night
Tigers Be Still
United Solo Theatre Festival
Way To Heaven (Himmelweg)
Wish I Had a Sylvia Plath
Zero Hour

A subject of interest popped out and struck me while glancing through the hotel's "Things to do in NY" magazine (you know, one of those little advertising gimicks that never contain anything of any redeeming social value). While "Notes From Underground" had a promising title, guess which one I chose?

(Hint: it was not "Naked Boys Singing!")

(Insert theme from "Final Jeopardy")

Scroll down...

Keep scrolling...

Keep scrolling...

Don't you hate blog games like this????

Here it is...

I wonder if anybody guessed?

This play was a dramatic rendering of CS Lewis' classic book (which I had read several years back). I really enjoyed this presentation, in part because it brought to life the very real presence of a tempter in our lives. It also showed a contemporary audience the cosmic battle over souls that we so often deny in this day and age. As far as the battle goes, we know Who will win, but poor "Uncle" Screwtape is doomed as he will never be able to figure out God's strategy. Screwtape holds fast to his hypothesis that God must have something up His sleeve when He says that He loves us "hairy creatures."  God can't really mean that! The penultimate schemer, Screwtape is incapable of understanding God because Screwtape only understands scheming and understands "purpose" to mean something that is driven by selfish desire. Agape is incomprehensible to these tempters.

Oh, but they do understand temptation.
"Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour." 1 Peter 5:8
Since that night in NYC, I have been more aware of the voice of temptation, and the power of God's love to make the tempters howl in pain.

So while it might have been tempting to check out "The Deep Throat Sex Scandal," or worse "The Divine Sister," I'm glad that I listened to the voice that told me that I needed a dose of CS Lewis.

The audience appeared to love it.

It received a favorable review from me.

And a good one from the NYT too.

Sorry Wormwood, we know you are out there.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Will There Be Any?

Today, we read a lengthy list of memorials of those who have gone before us into the new life.

Appropriately, today's Gospel reading was Luke 20:27-38,

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.’

 Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’
Thinking of all my loved ones, I decided to focus more on this reading by doing a little lectio divina.

In practicing lectio, I noted that the words, "like angels" jumped out for me. During meditatio, these words helped me appreciate the mystery as well as the promise of resurrection, and helped me get past trying to figure out just what being like an angel will be like for those considered worthy. Oratio is the time to pray, and I found myself praying a prayer of thanks that God would grant us such a wonderful future.
Even so, my old mischievous self couldn't help but drag into conciousness the prayer found in an old Jerry Jeff Walker song from Walker's Collectibles, 1974.

Will There Be Any up in heaven
Will There Be Any I've got to know
Will There Be Any up in Heaven
Lord before I go I've got to know
Well, we're on our last legs as you can see Lord

so we're down to the bendin' end as they say
we just wanted to check out and find out
is everything gonna be in the middle
not too far, not too short, not too big,
not too early... right on time.
is everything gonna be right up... there.

Will There Be Any up in heaven
Will There Be Any I've got to know
Will There Be Any up in Heaven
Lord before I go I've got to know
I hope they were asking if there will be any Lone Star beer, but I kinda doubt that was what they were thinking.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Joy of the Miserable Sinner

H/T The Priest with no name.

In an article at, Alan Wilson gives an excellent summary of what we have lost since most of us don't make the old confession anymore. You know, words like:

ALMIGHTY God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honour and glory of thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. - 1928 BCP

I have been told by priests in the Episcopal church that all of that bewailing stuff is for the birds, after all, "We have been baptised."

Alan Wilson scores some points with me when he writes,

"The Book of Common Prayer is full of miserable sinning. When, from the 1960s on, use of Cranmer's eucharistic rite began to fail, the reason often given was distaste at the way he went on about sin. What relevance could such gloom possibly have to a world that was not on the brink of damnation, but a cheerful future built of tower blocks, holidays on Mars and driving to work in your own personal hovercraft? Congregations did not care to think they were miserable sinners once they had twisted to the hit parade, tasted instant mash, feasted off Formica and actually seen Wombles and hot pants."

Wilson's concluding paragraph might provide some defense against wombley spined clergymen,

"Cranmer's God 'desireth not the death of a sinner but rather that he may turn from his wickedness and live'. 'In all time of our tribulation, in all time of our wealth, in the hour of death and in the day of judgment,' his radical sense of fallibility could perhaps be a source not of depression, but realism, humility and hope." 

And joy!

Read the rest at,

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lectionary Boo Boo: No Scary Verses Allowed This Halloween

Lectionary edits have become a recurring theme here.

Our O.T. reading today was Habakkuk 1:1-4,2:1-4

Removed from the reading was part of the prophesy, the fate that awaits those who do not follow God's commandments.

5 Look at the nations, and see!
Be astonished! Be astounded!
For a work is being done in your days
that you would not believe if you were told.
6 For I am rousing the Chaldeans,
that fierce and impetuous nation,
who march through the breadth of the earth
to seize dwellings not their own.
7 Dread and fearsome are they;
their justice and dignity proceed from themselves.
8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,
more menacing than wolves at dusk;
their horses charge.
Their horsemen come from far away;
they fly like an eagle swift to devour.
9 They all come for violence,
with faces pressing forward;
they gather captives like sand.
10 At kings they scoff,
and of rulers they make sport.
They laugh at every fortress,
and heap up earth to take it.
11 Then they sweep by like the wind;
they transgress and become guilty;
their own might is their god!

12 Are you not from of old,
O Lord my God, my Holy One?
You shall not die.
O Lord, you have marked them for judgement;
and you, O Rock, have established them for punishment.
13 Your eyes are too pure to behold evil,
and you cannot look on wrongdoing;
why do you look on the treacherous,
and are silent when the wicked swallow
those more righteous than they?
14 You have made people like the fish of the sea,
like crawling things that have no ruler.

15 The enemy brings all of them up with a hook;
he drags them out with his net,
he gathers them in his seine;
so he rejoices and exults.
16 Therefore he sacrifices to his net
and makes offerings to his seine;
for by them his portion is lavish,
and his food is rich.
17 Is he then to keep on emptying his net,
and destroying nations without mercy?

The Epistle reading for today was 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4,11-12

So what happened to verses 5-10?

This is evidence of the righteous judgement of God, and is intended to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering. For it is indeed just of God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to the afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be marvelled at on that day among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

It should be obvious that those verses contain taboo words. "Judgement", "repay with affliction", "flaming fire", "vengence", punishment", and "eternal destruction" are possibilities to which the average Sunday visitor to church shouldn't be exposed.

Stripped of this language, the letter loses its punch. Read how the Word was presented in church (I left in the verse numbers and added a "..." so you can see where the imprecatory verses were removed).

1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring....
11 To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfil by his power every good resolve and work of faith, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

When you serve fluff, you are killing God's people with kindness.

Mountain Witches

Great Aunt Eliza used to pass along lots of mountain "witch stories" to the children. My mother in law remembers one short tale of the witch who was visited by a local girl who wanted to have a "fortune tellin." The witch told the girl that she would find her fortune, but that she must not pick up anything from the woods during her journey home. Along the way home, the girl passed up blackberries, pretty flowers, and all sorts of forest treasures. As she neared the edge of the woods, she saw a beautiful white broach on the path. She felt that it should be okay to pick this up and pin it on her dress since it probably didn't belong in the witch's woods to begin with. She proudly wore the broach all the way home. When she entered her house, she ran to show her mother her treasure. As her mother approached, the broach melted and turned into bird droppings ruining her nice dress and earning the girl a switching.

The moral of the story?

Don't go a witchin, for you might get a switchin.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wasting Away Again in Resolutionville, and the HoB Redefines the Birth of the Church?

I am not a fan of "resolutions" introduced at conventions or other such gatherings. The typical resolution put forward is a non-binding statement designed to make someone feel good while accomplishing absolutely nothing. Witness the last convention of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina where somebody from St. Martins in the Fields presented a resolution urging politicians to stop negative campaign ads.
BE IT RESOLVED, That the 88th Diocesan Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Upper South Carolina calls those who seek election to office, those who support candidates for office and those who will be affected by the elections and subsequent actions of the General Assembly, to put aside partisan politics; refrain from unnecessary or inappropriate personal attacks upon the character of those running for office; be guided by our Lord’s call for justice for all and heed the wisdom of our founding fathers who sought “to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”; and reach out to find workable, honorable and lasting ways to weather the current storm and do justice by and for all the citizens of this state, most especially those who are dependent on their more fortunate brothers and sisters for a helping hand.
I have not seen any change in either the quantity or the quality of negative political ads showing up on my idiot box since this resolution passed with only a smattering of "No" votes.

Why not resolve that the Church pray for God fearing, peaceful, and intelligent political debate? That's right, make a resolution that the church can put into action by doing what it is supposed to do. Doh!

One problem that Upper SC has set itself up for by passing this type of resolution is that they have opened the door for more and more convention time in the future to be taken up by not just silly resolutions, but crazier ones by the bucket load. I fear that next year we will have a resolution about keeping the retirement age in France at age sixty, and another about "hate crimes." Two years from now we will have one about "gun control," another about spaying and neutering your pets, and another about non-celibate gay clergy. Yes, I am suggesting that the domino theory might apply to church politics.

People should be discouraged from making inane resolutions. I am afraid that our convention's "Yes" vote will encourage not only more of the same, but worse sounding resolutions on things that cannot even be imagined by this lowly pewster.

Taking it up a notch, for another fine example of how purple breasted church people fritter away their hours, let's take a look at a theological resource that was recently approved by our House of Bishops at +Waldo's first visit with that august body on Sept. 21, 2010. First consider it totally out of the original context (which I will explain below). The opening words say it all,
"The church was born out of the passionate conviction of a growing number of people that, united with the crucified and risen Jesus in baptism, and empowered by the same Spirit that empowered him in his humanity, they could welcome one another, and everyone else, just the way Jesus did. They rightly discerned the social critique embedded in Jesus’ own total availability to others, and, beginning with the admission of the Gentiles and the blurring of distinctions between slave and free, rich and poor, they organized themselves as a community geared to transform Jesus’ personal example into a collective way of life that could challenge prevailing cultural and social norms."
This was the preamble to a resource for the church to use on the issue of "illegal immigration." A resource that is of zero use whatsoever. The preamble however, is useful to study because it can help to explain why the church has lost its way.

Would someone please explain to the bishops the story of the birth of the Church? What about the shocking news that death has lost its power? Who could believe that God had lived and died for us? Who wouldn't want to share the good news that God loves us this much? What led people to give up their lives for these outrageous claims?

The bishops' preamble makes the birth of the Church seem sound like the birth of a political party, inspired by a really great guy. They might as well have written, "We march in solidarity under the banner of ____(insert name of a great guy)." What were the Episcopal bishops smoking when they wrote/signed on to this one?

As a commenter at T19 opined in stronger words than mine,
 "...not only is this document an expression of humanism, as suggested. Its avoidance of the real reason for 'Church', as the object and agent of the Divine Plan of Cosmic Salvation, is not just a mistake. It is damnable!"
I agree.

I wonder if our Bishop voted "Yes" when this thing came up?

U.P., sipping a glass of cabernet...
(Not a fan of wasting away in "Resolutionville")

Sunday, October 24, 2010

How Many Times a Day Do You Check Your E-mail?

Part of the reason for my edginess last week was the pressure of a compressed work schedule in anticipation of a conference in NY, NY. I hate to leave the comfort of my cave, but I usually wind up all the better for it. I should be getting back today, so here is a post that I had prepared for last week, but I wound up getting too upset on 10/17/2010 to publish it.

I heard this today as I prayed in silence with friends during lunch break.

"How many times a day do you check your e-mail?"

Not, "How many times a day do I check my e-mail?"

This occurred as I was thinking about the times I have felt God's presence, or seen Jesus' face, heard him whisper in my ear, felt his beard, smelled his breath.

Then I had a fleeting thought about why those times seem so few and far between.

Why doesn't God "pop up" more often? (You've got God!)

Then the voice came...

"How many times a day do you check your e-mail?"
Oops, I have been ignoring You haven't I?
The answer to the question seems obvious, and it is this, "More times than I stop what I am doing, sit down, and seriously pray during the day."
According to AOL's 2008 survey, the average email user in New York checks personal email 4 times per day. Meanwhile, they also check work email over 3 times in a given weekend.

We go to church once a week at best.

I think I will sign off now and compose some e-mails to God. If I keep sending them, He will e-mail me back (Luke 18:1-8) of that I can be sure.
(After  typing this, I checked the lectionary for 10/17/2010, and guess which Gospel lesson popped up?)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sheathing the Sword

Most of the time, I am calm in situations that might cause others to panic. This is most likely due to a comfort level that has grown from careful study and practice for those situations. On occasion, events conspire to put me in the place of discomfort and trial. At these times, I just might get sharp, snippy, sarcastic, or just plain mean.

This past week has been one of those weeks. Making too many plans, working too hard, sleeping too little, praying less than seriously.
The other day I  found myself at a table of church people, and we had just been asked by our Bishop to discuss several questions. Most of our group appeared to be satisfied with talking about other things, but one person appointed him/herself to be moderator, and, interrupting the pleasant conversations, this person started trying to get us to answer the assigned questions. At the onset, our moderator let everyone know where he/she was coming from. A self described liberal with different views from those people in the Diocese of South Carolina, (sort of like saying, "Some of my best friends are from there..") his/her soft spoken sweetness very early on started to take me out of my comfort zone. During his/her discussion about how wonderful it was that +Waldo was welcoming of diversity of opinion, someone pointed out to him that there was, in fact, a person of diverse opinion, a "conservative," at the table. Guess who that might have been? After that, eyes and comments seemed to become increasingly directed towards your lowly sleep deprived pewster. Some of these comments, while innocuous sounding to most "liberal" or "moderate" church goers, grated like sandpaper on my ears. When the "conversation" got to the point of becoming a one-handed love fest over how wonderful it was to pay taxes, and that this somehow justified how our diocese sends $418,181 in taxes to T.E.c. in spite of the need to trim $200,000 from the diocesan budget (which several missions were bemoaning), I felt that our moderator must not be allowed to go on unchallenged, after all, he/she was in the discernment process and needed to experience a little "diversity." Despite all my study and practice in listening to these people, I could feel my right hand reaching to draw out my sword and go on the attack. I had forgotten that neither verbal arguments, jousting, or open battle will ever help this type to change their world view. Like the chemically dependant, they have to hit rock bottom, in this case by sending money to 815, before they can even begin to see the need to change.

On this occasion, I could not stop myself from taking a few swipes at the ear of my "moderator." While I may have felt that I was just tilting at windwills at the time, later on he/she did move to another table.

I am sorry, Lord. I thought I was defending you from the sweet kiss of a so-called friend. Now I understand that you do not need my sword.

That type makes its own rope.
Why You let the Church drain the life from itself, I cannot fathom.

Must the Church die in this way in order to be reborn?

I will sheath my sword, but I still left wondering why your followers have swords to begin with. 

Let your Church's ear be healed.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Free the Hostages

During the announcements at today's church service, our rector expressed his pleasure at how our Bishop, +A. Waldo, presented his argument yesterday at the Diocesan convention of Upper S.C. for continuing full economic support of T.E.c. in the face of a $200,000 shortfall in the diocesan budget. To summarize, the rationale is that you have to send T.E.c. money so that they can continue to support the needy Native American tribal missions in S.D. and so that money can go to the Episcopal Church in Haiti. 


Unlike our rector, I was not pleased when I heard +Waldo using these Churches as hostages. After all, he was saying in a way, "Pay up, or the hostages will die."

As with much of what he says, it was said oh so nicely.

Shame on you Bishop. Why don't you present viable options for those who disagree with T.E.c.'s use of 21 million dollars of our money to sue other Christians in the secular courts, or the use of T.E.c. dollars to support radical pro-abortion groups such as the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice?

I am posting some links to the Churches in need so that people might donate directly if they wish to prove that if people stop funding T.E.c., these churches will not die. God will not let them die. In fact, they just might find themselves set free from dependancy on T.E.c. and its agenda.

The Gifts of Bread and Water Cange Haiti

Or you can contact one of the missions in S.D. below.

South Dakota Mission Offices

Cheyenne River Episcopal Mission
The Reverend Les Campbell, Interim Priest-In-Charge
PO Box 533
Waubay, SD 57273

Mission Office (Cheyenne River Episcopal Mission)

PO Box 80
Eagle Butte, SD 57625
Lower Brule and Crow Creek Missions
The Rev. Liz Powers, Priest-in-Charge
209 S. Main
Chamberlain, SD 57325
Contact her
Pine Ridge Mission (including Corn Creek District)
The Very Reverend Craig West, Supervising Presbyter
PO Box 532
Martin, SD 57551
Contact him
Rosebud Mission and Bishop Hare Center
The Very Reverend John Spruhan, Priest-In-Charge
PO Box 257
Rosebud, SD 57570
Contact him (I love his e-mail address)

PO Box 188
Mission, SD 57555-0188
Habitat for Humanity 856-2665
Sisseton Mission
The Reverend Charlie Chan, Priest-In-Charge
716 7th Ave W
Sisseton, SD 57262-1248
Standing Rock Mission
The Very Reverend Rob Schwarz, Priest-In-Charge
806 3rd Avenue W
Mobridge, SD 57601-2011
Contact him
For those interested in helping the Episcopal Church in Haiti in general,

Bureau diocésain

Mgr Jean Zaché Duracin
Tél. : (509) 257 16 24
Email :

Adresse Haïti :

Eglise Episcopale d'Haïti
BP 1309, Port au Prince

Adresse USA :
c/o Lynx Air
P.O. Box 407139
Fort Lauderdale, 33340

Task Force Commission
Emergency Help
The Rev. Canon Ogé BEAUVOIR,
Phone: 011 509 3752 8725
011 509 3788 0892

Or for other world wide missions contact,
The Anglican Relief and Development Fund