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,