Saturday, December 31, 2011

In Case You Missed Them: 10 Blog Posts From 2011 (This Blog)

Blogger has been generating counts of page views and comments for who knows what reason, and since this is a non-profit blog, the data is of no particular use to me, but for fun I have listed the top ten posts from 2011 (just in case you missed them). Page view count rank appears to be affected more by keywords in the title (which explains #1) or images with the exception of #2 "We Need to Talk, You Must Listen" which was linked at the popular "StandFirm in Faith" site.

Comment counts are affected by comment moderation (currently turned on), my comments, follow ups, and if the post has been cross posted elsewhere in which case comments might appear at the other site.

If I were to rank my personal top posts, I would go for things that I had the most fun with, and in that case "We Need to Talk, You Must Listen" would be #1.

FWIW here is what Blogger came up with:

Top 10 for page views

1. The Rapture Predicted For May 21, 2011
2. We Need to Talk, You Must Listen
3. Canon to the Left of Me
4. The Road to Sainthood 
5. Why My Mother Would Have Cancelled My Subscription to the Episcopal Church Publishing Catalog
6. Now This is How You Settle a Church Dispute
7. Your Pledge Dollars at Work: The Episcopal Church Socialist League
8. First Theological Council For Upper SC
9. Theological Principles? on Liturgies for Blessing  Same Sex Couples
10. Solstice Liturgies, Chasing away Dragons, Werewolves, Dragons, and Christians

Top 10 for comments:

1. Reflections from the First Theological Council of  Upper SC
2. Why My Mother Would Have Cancelled My Subscription to the Episcopal Church Publishing Catalog
3. What Would the Resurrection Be Without the Ascension
4. The Road to Sainthood
5. First Theological Council For Upper SC
6. More Druids In Upper SC
7. Kanuga Gives Me the Kreeps
8. We Need to Talk, You Must Listen
9. Canon to the Left of Me
10. (Tie) The Rapture Predicted For May 21, 2011
                SCLM: You Get What You Voted For

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Don't Throw Out That Old Computer, Make a Roboband!

Many of you may have gotten a new computer or some other form of electronic gizmo for Christmas. If you are like me, you have a collection of old computers, printers, cables, hard drives, floppy disks, and assorted computer parts laying around somewhere. In researching last week's post "Solstice Liturgies, Chasing away Dragons, Werewolves, Darkness, and Christians," I was checking out YouTube versions of "The House of the Rising Sun." and came across this unique version which shows just what you can do with all that old equipment.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Shopping: A Journey Through the Amazon (.com that is)

After our Thanksgiving travel debacle, I  resolved to reduce my driving during this the holiday season.
This year I entered the electronic jungle instead of going to the mega-mall in search of the perfect gift.

As it turned out, I discovered that online shopping is a trip in itself.

You would be surprised at what is out there. Here are some examples of the high quality items I was exposed to (warning, not all of these are suitable for children or liberal Democrats):

How about the perfect morning pick me up?


Toilet Mug (and that is not a description of anyone's visage)

Yodelling Pickle (Are you sick and tired of trying to teach your pickles to yodel? Pickles can be so stubborn)

Canned Unicorn Meat (Excellent source of sparkles!)

Bill Clinton Corkscrew (Pop your cork with Bill Clinton's generous talent)

Senility Prayer Stoneware Plaque Ornament (Grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked.)

Sippie Wine Glass (A great gift for ageing wine drinkers)

The Hillary Nutcracker (The perfect partner for the Bill Clinton Corkscrew)

Genuine Squirrel Underpants (Squirrel Briefs For squirrely lawyers?)

Girl Squirrel Underpants (We don't discriminate when it comes to squirrels)

Runny Nose Soap Shower Gel Dispenser (Ugh)

And last but not least,

Nunzilla (Say your prayers, Catholic school survivors!)

Now get back to your lessons or I will sic Nunzilla on you!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Solstice Liturgies, Chasing away Dragons, Werewolves, Darkness, and Christians

"Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. 
     I am afraid of you, 
lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain." Galatians 4:10-11 (KJV).

St. Paul's words to the Galatians might come to mind, silently echoing in your head as you read today's post.

It is becoming quite fashionable for churches to host or to sponsor celebrations of the various equinoxes and solstices, and in spite of the ancient warnings, these "liturgies" appear to be spreading. I had been trying to forget the spring equinox service and the summer solstice worship held at an Episcopal church in Columbia earlier this year, but a friend recently sent an e-mail about the winter solstice goings on in their diocese. Intrigued, I did a quick search and turned up a number of these services of which I give to you as a sampler.

First we have, Chasing Away the Dragons of Darkness from: St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, Casper (Wyoming) by: The Rev. Canon Tristan English

St. Stephen's announces plans for Annual Chasing Away the Draghons of Darkness liturgy. St. Stephens Episcopal church, along with St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Fairbanks, Alaska, will hold it's annual Service to Chase Away the Dragons of Darkness on Dec. 21st at 7 p.m.

The service will include a short liturgy and then we will go outside to bang pots and pans, ring bells, and toot horns to chase away the darkness of winter. Dec. 21st is the winter solstice and is the longest night of the year. A reception of warm beverages and treats will follow. St. Stephen's is located at 4700 S. Poplar St. in Casper.
Banging pots and pans is supposed to scare away bears, not the darkness. The only banging you might hear if you read further is the sound of my head banging against the wall. For a "thinking church" that might object to the very idea of a God capable of stopping the day to think that banging metallic kitchen utensils can cause the sun to change its course is a little amusing. If only banging pots and pans could change the direction the church is taking.

Next we find Saint Anne's Episcopal Church (MN),
Winter Solstice Celebration Wednesday, December 21, 7:00 pm
Honoring the darkness, welcoming the light A service of readings, singing, silence and lots of candles Followed by a bonfire and walking the labyrinth.
Honor the darkness???? Is this a Christian church?

And you can't forget the grandaddy of them all, The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine NYC Dec 15, 16, 17 2011

The first time I played in the Cathedral, it was empty and dark. I had come to New York that evening in 1979 to try the acoustics of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Playing to myself, I listened as each note resounded through the 7-second reverberation of this vast and cavernous space. It was like playing in heaven. A year later the Cathedral hosted our first winter solstice. Over these 30 years, the event has evolved into a theatrical celebration that inhabits the entirety of this great space. Of all the places I’ve played in America, only two could host a concert on this scale: the Grand Canyon, and this Cathedral.

This year, our 32nd annual show, will feature a special program by the dynamic Forces of Nature Dancers, as well as other special guest musicians. For me this solstice celebration is an ever-renewing thrill — whether watching the sun gong ascend 12 stories with its player to the vault of the Cathedral; or hearing the “tree of sounds” as it slowly turns, reflecting a myriad of lights from its hundreds of bells, gongs and chimes.

Please join us as we celebrate the return of the sun. We celebrate not only the rebirth of the sun, but the community of life on earth.
Talk about the house of the rising sun! Bow down before the Sun Gong, New Yorkers!

Not to be left out, here in South Carolina, the druids are busy at work once again for the "Winter Solstice Service" Thursday, December 22, 2011 5:30pm Outdoor Chapel St. Michael and All Angels'Episcopal Church Columbia SC

And don't forget the kiddies, they must be initiated into these sacred rites. Leave it to the Diocese of Mississippi Grace Church-Canton to rename the Christmas season,
Winter Solstice 8 days from now December 27, 2011 5:00 pm until January 1, 2012 12:00 pm Camp Bratton Green, 1530 Way Rd., Canton, MS 39046 Come enjoy camp in the winter! Winter Solstice is open to Senior High youth (grades 9-12). This is a camp week in mid-winter with songs, play and a big New Year’s Eve Dance to celebrate the New Year. This camp provides a safe place for youth on New Year’s Eve. Campers arrive on December 27th and depart on New Year’s Day.

This last one may not be part of the solstice celebration but still takes the prize. This comes to you from St. Alban's Episcopal Church - Albany, CA

 Sunday, January 29, 2012, 7:00 pm St. Alban’s Episcopal Church 1501 Washington Ave., Albany

Lycanthropos: The Werewolf in Story and Song
Tim Rayborn presents an eerie look into the enduring fear of werewolves, a belief which induced terror on moonlit nights from the Middle East to the Balkans, from Italy to Ireland. In music and story, he will perform tales of shape-shifters from Greek and Roman sources, the Lai of Bisclaveret by Marie de France (late 12th c.), the Icelandic Volsunga Saga, the frightening true stories of Peter Stumpf (16th-c. Germany), the Beast of Le Gevaudan (18th-c. France), and more

Just shoot me with a silver bullet will ya.

And for fun, check out what the Unitarians are up to,

Wednesday, December 21, 7 pm A Solstice Spiral Meditation in our Parish Hall (Join us at 6 pm if you’d like to help build the spiral – bring some greens if you have them) In a circle of 25 to 40 people, we will each meditatively walk the spiral with an unlit candle while savoring and perhaps letting go the year’s experiences, light the candle from the chalice, and lay it somewhere along the spiral as we return to welcome the coming year. Unitarian Universalist Society of Fairhaven Unitarian Memorial Church 102 Green Street, Fairhaven, MA.

I respect the honest uncertainty of the Unitarians; they are just not sure where along the spiral to lay those candles.

I might worry more if they were as certain as the above mentioned Episcopal churches appear to be of the power of labyrinths and solstices.

How easily we are led astray by these false teachers who gamble with our souls.
"If I had listened to what mama said,
I'd be at home today,
but being so young and foolish poor girl,
let a gambler lead me astray..." House of Rising Sun (1937) - Georgia Turner

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How Not to Prepare the Way

I thought Advent was about preparing the way for Christ to enter the world, and today in church we did read about the Annunciation in Luke 1:26-38.

 One important Standing Commission of the Episcopal church however, believes Advent is about preparing for same sex blessings. This is what they wrote,

"In this season of Advent when we are to be preparing for Christ’s coming, we invite you to reflect upon your own experience of 'being prepared.' How were you prepared for a marriage or for a blessing? What preparation or counseling did you receive? What do you remember, whether it was 1 month ago or 25 years ago – what sticks with you? Or if you are someone who prepares couples, what is most important to you? What works or does not work, so to speak?
Later this spring the full SCLM report will be published for General Convention and the recommended resources will be part of that report. However, we invite you to engage now with your own experiences preparing for either same- or different-gender life-long relationships."
Over at T-19, the following picture was shown and reported as having made the rounds in TEc circles (although not to this corner of the circle) ,

This is sick folks. A plague has come upon this house.
"And he that owneth the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, It seemeth to me there is as it were a plague in the house:" Leviticus 14:35
The priest will come and judge this house. If the signs of plague have not gone away, this house shall be torn down and its blocks scattered.
 ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ 2 Samuel 7:7
 We are building a house with walls of flesh upon a foundation of human desire. Such a house makes us feel good, but such a house cannot stand.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Post Thanksgiving Travelling Blues, Or Why I'll Be Home For Christmas

This year we made the trek over the mountain to grandma's house for Thanksgiving. I hate travelling during holidays for the simple reason that everybody else who hates travelling during holidays is... you guessed it,  travelling. This results in lengthy traffic jams packed with  not so cheerful holiday travellers. The combination of loads of vehicles loaded with battling adults and children, or as I witnessed, couples attempting public displays of affection while driving, leads to the inevitable accident.

Due to two separate incidents both of which closed the interstate system completely (in both directions), our usual post Thanksgiving 4.5 hour trip home took a record 7.5 hours this year. I (for one) remained peaceful and calm throughout the time parked on the highway, and I took time to pray for the accident victims, their families, and the brave helicopter pilot who had to land close to a steep downhill grade in order to save the victim in accident #2. I also gave thanks to God for protecting us and for bringing us safely home. The long delay wasn't all that bad; we were even able to stop for dinner at our favorite BBQ place in Gaffney, SC which I would not have done if we had not been so delayed.

Incident 1:                  Note the absence of traffic in the opposite side of the interstate.

Incident 2:                       At the Green River Gorge on I-26.  The sign wasn't kidding.

I have vowed to stay home for Christmas, and next Thanksgiving too.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Recommended Advent Message From +Dan Martins

One thing that helped me to recover from last week's pain from the "Birthing the Christ Within" was the Advent message from Fr. Dan, who is now +Dan Martins the 11th Bishop of Springfield. Here is a taste:
...To accept limitless diversity in what we say about God is tantamount to accepting belief in many gods. It is latter-day polytheism.

...The God whom Christians worship is Triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a far cry from the generic God that our culture approves of. We would never have invented a God like this; we only know Him because He has chosen to reveal Himself to us.

One of my sad observations about the Church in these times is that we have a tendency to reduce Christian faith to the lowest common denominator. For many people I meet—and I’m not talking about people off the street, but people I met in my role as a priest, and even now as a bishop—their religion can be summarized as “believe in God and be good.” That’s not enough! That’s settling for way less than the fullness of Christian truth. We have become disconnected from our own tradition, our own inheritance.

Read it all at Confessions of a Carioca

“Believe in God and be good,” now isn't that something that you have heard before? Yes, that can be the first step to believing in many gods.

How many are afraid to say, "Jesus is Lord!"?

I am glad to see an Episcopal bishop call that out.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Birthing the Christ Within: An Opportunity to Awaken the Seven Charism Centers Within You

I understand that there are a number of different ways to pray, as well as a variety of aids to prayer. Where do we look to discover those things that might help make us a more prayerful people? I would think that we should turn to scripture for clues. Jesus would go off alone, or to a mountain, or would commend us to gather together as two or three to pray to our Father. Singing hymns or songs, or praising God with music might be another example that we can have confidence in, but we have to be very careful when examining novel prayer practices to ensure that they are Christ centered and do not contain elements that might tempt ourselves or lead others to follow a false teaching. Most of the time, you can easily spot the danger before you test the practice, but what if the practice is endorsed by the Church?

The following announcement came in our recent Diocesan e-mail newsletter, and be forewarned, you can't make this stuff up.
An advent reflection through sacred sound and Silence

Sunday, December 11, 2011
1:00- 4:00 pm
St. Timothy”s Episcopal Church
900 Calhoun Street, Columbia
Please call to register: 765-1519

Pamila Lorentz MSW, RN, LMBT, an ordained peace minister of The Beloved Community and Sound Healing Therapist, will facilitate a three hour advent workshop inspired by Isaiah 43:1 “I have called You by Name…You are mine” . This workshop will guide you in learning sound healing techniques to respond to God’s call to each of us, for the preparation and re-birthing of the Christ Consciousness within.

Through enhanced listening to the harmonic tones of traditional tibetan and crystal singing bowls; you will have an opportunity to open the seven charism centers contained within your physical and spiritual body. Each center, or chakra, reveals a gift that will deepen your understanding and relationship with Soul.

In this workshop you will learn:

How to Create a Heart Resonant Field
How to Awaken the Gifts of Soul You Were Born With
How to Claim the 7 Charisms Contained Within You

Rev. Tula Henson RN, BSN, BHA, MDiv. will lead a guided meditation for “Birthing the Christ Within”. This will be followed by a period of silence when you will be invited to visit the sanctuary, journal or create a soul collage to take home with you.

In order to experience the full vibration of the singing bowls, it is recommended that you dress comfortably for lying on the floor. You may want to bring a sweater or shawl to wrap yourself in, and a towel, blanket, or yoga mat to lie on, with a small towel or scarf to cover your eyes with. Please bring a journal or notebook for notes. Water, tea and coffee will be provided.

Your gift of a donation is welcomed.

Singing bowls?


Midwives in the nativity scene?

Endorsed by the Diocese?

Would someone please provide me with a scriptural reference.

This sounds like somebody trying to put a Christian cover on a non-christian practice, and if you are willing to buy it, I have a genuine Ralex watch I would like to sell you.

(I saw this outside a market in Turkey)

If you are still not convinced, don't go, because you can skip the class at St. Timothy's, and get your heart into resonance with the crystal bowls by listening to the video below,

(WARNING: According to the narration, this may open up a resonant center near your unmentionable areas.)

Could someone please forward this to the person who is supposed to be shepherding their priests?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Absence of Fear in Lectionary Readings

In studying the lectionary edits, this lowly pewster has noticed a tendency for the editors to cut verses from the psalms that teach us about God's judgement, wrath, or anger, and instead teach us about God's love for his people. I have concluded that a steady diet of this is not healthy for the average pewsitter whose only exposure to the Psalms is what he/she hears a couple of Sundays a month.

 Today's readings contain a perfect example of the kind of verse that gets left on the cutting room floor. 

Today's Psalm was Psalm 85:1-2,8-13. Read it and consider its effect as edited.
1 Lord, you were favourable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you pardoned all their sin. Selah

8 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.

12 The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps.
I am left with a warm and fuzzy feeling except for the problematic verse 9,
"Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,".
Why should I fear Him? Certainly nothing in the selected verses would give me any cause to fear God. The psalmist knew better; read the full text of Psalm 85 (I have highlighted the missing verses).
1 Lord, you were favourable to your land;
you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
2 You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you pardoned all their sin. Selah

3 You withdrew all your wrath;
you turned from your hot anger.
4 Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation towards us.

5 Will you be angry with us for ever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
6 Will you not revive us again,
so that your people may rejoice in you?
7 Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

8 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.

12 The Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him,
and will make a path for his steps.
I wonder if the subliminal message being conveyed to the typical Sunday morning pewsitter, "We have no need to fear the Lord," is contributing to the decline of churches that use these Lectionary selections? After all, what is the beginning of wisdom?

Stumped? Try,
Psalm 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Proverbs 15:33 The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.

Funny how, on a Sunday where we hear about John the Baptist's cry for repentance, we are left to wonder why we should repent in the first place.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How You Were Diverted

It was 10 years ago today that George Harrison passed away.  I am afraid that his spiritual quest led him away from Christ, although he may have believed otherwise. In fact, I suspect that Mr. Harrison may have believed that Jesus was but one of many avatars that come to us throughout the ages as an incarnation of the deity.

The following is the opinion of Jesus-is,

George Harrison clearly believed in a New Age god, i.e., that all gods are one. In sharp contrast, the Word of God states that the Godhead was manifest in the flesh of the man, Jesus Christ (1st Timothy 3:16). Colossians 2:9 states... "For in him [Jesus Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Biblically, Jesus Christ is the Son of God (John 3:16). Islamic Muslims, who worship Allah, openly DENY that Jesus is the Son of God. Clearly all gods cannot be one as Mr. Harrison states.

Harrison, as do other New Agers, believed that each soul has the potential to become divine through such practices as yoga and chanting. Harrison believed that "god perception" (what he termed "Krishna consciousness") was possibly only through personal meditation, and chanting "Hare Krishna" repeatedly.

Tragically, George Harrison rejected the Word of God and Jesus Christ. Harrison's 1971 song MY SWEET LORD, is a song of praise to the Hindu god, Krishna. In fact, Harrison admits that he did that to trick people. In his 1982 interview with the Hare Krishna organization he stated...

"I wanted to show that Hallelujah and Hare Krishna are quite the same thing. I did the voices singing 'Hallelujah' and then the change to 'Hare Krishna' so that people would be chanting the maha-mantra-before they knew what was going on! I had been chanting Hare Krishna for a long time, and this song was a simple idea of how to do a Western pop equivalent of a mantra which repeats over and over again the holy names. I don't feel guilty or bad about it; in fact it saved many a heroin addict's life."

Poor George. I once made up a term, inclusive exclusivism, to leave the opportunity for each soul to encounter Christ at the time of judgement, and to be given one last chance to accept Him as Saviour.
I don't really know if that is a possibility or not.

Do all notes lead to the same chord?

For lots of reasons, my piano gently weeps.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Portents and Percentages

One problem with raising political questions from the pulpit is that it causes the mind to wander away from the mystery of God's saving grace and raise questions in the mind such as, "Where did he come up with that?"

Such was the case today as our preacher began to expound on Mark 13:24-37.

24 ‘But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
26 Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. 27Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

28 ‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

32 ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’

I know that there will always be people who try to interpret the signs in the heavens as signs of the time of the second coming, and those who are unemployed in our current economic downturn might be more inclined to look to these soothsayers and place their trust in someone other than the Almighty, but do people really have more confidence in a communist form of government than they have in our Unitrd States Congress? At least that's what we heard today in the sermon.

I guess that if people do not have faith in God's plan, then they will seek out or create false idols such as communism to solve their problems.

But communism over Congress? Really?

Distracted, I turn to Google.

I found a possible source for our preacher's statistics at the Lebanon Daily News where we read,

"You know you've fallen pretty far when the number of Americans who approve of your performance is less than the number of Americans who would like to see the country become communist.
On the floor of the Senate a few days ago, Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet revealed only 9 percent of Americans polled approved of Congress' performance; 11 percent want to see the country adopt a communist form of government.
On a chart he presented to accompany this revelation, Bennet showed how Congress' approval rating has dropped through the years. The chart looked like a rendering of a mountain precipitously flowing down into a sea."
11% of Americans want to see the country adopt a communist form of government? I don't buy it, but it might be a portent in the heavens.

With Congress' approval rating at 9%, can you trust a Congressman to present accurate numbers on such a question?

Maybe he meant 11% of his constituency.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Oneness Stole

I thought I had seen everything, but the "Oneness Stole" proves the old adage that the universe is stranger than we can imagine. You can see it by clicking here. On it are the following symbols:

The Christian Cross
 Star of David - Judaism
 Triple Treasure - Buddhism
 Yin/Yang - Taoism
 Star/Crescent - Islam
 Om - Hinduism
 The Oneness Symbol

Dad always said, "No tool designed for multiple functions can preform as well as a single tool designed for a specific job."

Needless to say, his workshop had a whole lot of single use tools.

I guess this "onenes stole" would be the perfect gift for a minister who is trying to cover all the bases, or one concerned with the unique claims of the faiths symbolized in this "all in one" accessory? Instead of illustrating that all religions point to a universal truth (which is what I think the stole is trying to do), doesn't it it make a mockery of their individual beliefs by forcing them into a false unity?

There really is only one tool designed for oneness that we must have in our workshop.

"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6).

 And if you don't want to shell out $177.75 for the stole, you can get the oneness car magnet for $4.00.

 May the stole be with you.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How Not to Determine What is Morally Good

I was considering that question when today's Gospel reading from Matthew 25:31-46 came up and the answer seemed clear, at least to me.
31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
God is the ultimate judge of righteousness. He alone determines who is to be one of the sheep at the right hand and who will be the goats on the left. He holds what is morally good, but when I encounter moral questions in this life, where should I look for the answers?
 I know the following quotation is taken out of context, but can you speculate as to the source of the following conclusion?

"...what is morally good -- that is something that must instead be determined by the community's wider values."*

I would guess a moral relativist, or a maybe a secular humanist, or perhaps an atheist. It could not have come from a Christian...right?


I was shocked when I considered the source, and the fact that this was posted on the Episcopal News Service.

I must have been under the mistaken impression that I should be looking to Christ to help point the way to Goodness, to Truth.

I guess I was wrong.

In the future, when confronted with a moral question, I will conduct a poll, or maybe I will hold a convention and vote on a resolution of the community. Isn't that how the Epsicopal church determines the will of God?

After all, no community has ever opted for immorality before, have they?

*Ask for the Rt. Rev. Mark S. Sisk bishop of the Diocese of New York. 

h/t T19

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Forgiveness and the Pederast: A Flaw in the Theology of Forgiveness?

Last week, the sports world was rocked by the story of allegations of sexual abuse made against a Penn State assistant football coach that resulted in the firing of that coach's superior, Head Coach Joe Paterno.

Public opinion seems to be pretty much unanimous about the inappropriateness of pederasty in this case.

The public still seems divided over the question of how one should deal with a coworker or close friend when such behavior is suspected. Some think that the Head Coach should have called the police when he first heard of the accusations, and others feel that it was sufficient that he reported the accusations up the chain of command.

When it comes to sexual acts with children, the secular world is full of talk about judgement, protection of others, and punishment.
The Church however, tends to view the individual through the lens of forgiveness, and this is where the Church's vision gets blurry.

It was the scandals involving the Roman Catholic Church that most recently raised public awareness of the question of reporting, the problem of passing the buck, and the problem of allowing the pederast to persist in their chosen "ministry."
From reading the Epistles, it seems that sexual immorality has always been a problem in the Church. Ever wonder why, in two thousand years, the problem has not been solved (except perhaps by redefining what is "immoral")?

Take the Episcopal church for example. Fr. Bede Parry was a Catholic monk and was removed from his monastery because of multiple acts of sexual misconduct. Score one point for judgement to the Catholic Church. But were those accusations passed on to the police? Fr. Parry applies for work in the Episcopal church and is accepted by the then Bishop of Nevada, +Katherine Jefferts Schori. It is widely believed that Fr. Parry's sordid past and proclivities were known since after his acceptance into the church, he was supposed to be placed away from temptation in his new position in TEc, but that word seemed to have been forgotten somewhere along the way. Fortunately, we have no further accusations against Fr. Parry from his time ministering in TEc. The case in a nutshell can be found at the Anglican Curmudgeon's blog.

Was the acceptance and placement of a potentially dangerous priest into the Episcopal fold an act of Christian forgiveness? Or was it an act of stupidity?

Another factor in the equation is a fear of rendering "judgement" among modern day Christians. We can all agree about judging the pederast as a danger, but when we fail to act appropriately upon that judgement we put others at risk. Of course, there is risk involved when speaking up and trying to act against threats to the congregation. I remember what happened to Beverly Moore back in 2005. She was placed among the excommunicated for reporting her concerns about a sexual predator in the church (my comments and links here).

Maybe there is a also broken theology of Christian judgement, but I suspect a flawed theology of forgiveness is at work in the passing along of problematic priests to unsuspecting congregations.

Here is how it works:
Priest A (a female) has a problem, let's say a dalliance with a parishioner.
Bishop A hears about it and calls Priest A in to talk about it.
Priest A confesses and pledges to never do it again.
Bishop A sends Priest A to a shrink and appoints a spiritual counsellor.
Bishop A gets reports from the shrink that Priest A might do it again.
Priest A does well for a few years and applies for a position in another diocese under Bishop B.
Bishop A reports to Bishop B the earlier issue with Priest A.
Bishop B sits down with Priest A and is convinced of Priest A's repentance.
The flawed theology of forgiveness then enters into the equation and Bishop B hires Priest A.
Priest A has a problem, another dalliance with a parishioner...
Another parish wrecked,
And the cycle repeats...

A flawed theology of forgiveness assumes that the loving response to the individual sinner is to accept them as truly repentant and restored. The flaw may stem from a belief in the inherent goodness of people, a rejection of the Doctrine of the Fall. This leads to a reluctance to pass judgement and to speak the sentence, "You're fired.," or, in the case of Fr. Parry, "We cannot hire you."  A person who recognizes their fallen state should be able to accept such a sentence, but many will take it as a sign of rejection and lose faith. Such a time is a spiritual hinge point that must be handled properly. The easy way is to hire the offender with provisions, the harder way is the "tough love" approach.

A proper theology of forgiveness must include the need to protect others from the risk of the individual falling back into sin as well as the restoration of the individual to Christ. I feel that, under a proper theology (although I am not the one to work out the details), certain individuals will not be permitted to participate in active ministry. Is that denying them their rights?

The Church's unwillingness to protect the body of Christ and society as a whole leaves the responsibility of protection to be acted upon by somebody else. Since the Church can't act, the task has been passed to the civil authority, and as a result of passing along this responsibility, the authority of the Church is weakened further.

+Katherine Jefferts Schori should have refused to accept Fr. Bede Parry into ordained ministry in the Episcopal church. That would have been consistent with the existing Canons of the Episcopal church (see the Anglican Curmudgeon's most recent analysis here). The fact that she did not follow the Canons of the church and put innocent children in peril is inexcusable. There are procedures in place for dealing with clergy who violate the Canons of the Episcopal church. Will Bishop Henderson give her a pass, or will he act?

My bet is that the flawed theology of forgiveness will be invoked, and Bishop Henderson will then probably just ask her to write a report for him on 1 Corinthians Chapter 5.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bishop Fitz Allison (DSC ret.) Takes on Apostasy and the Current Bunch of Heretics

At today's church service we were blessed with the presence of retired Bishop Duvall who gave a very good sermon touching on the message of God's wrath contained in today's scripture readings, and the salvation we may find at the time of trial when as Bishop Duvall puts it, "As I stand there with my head hung low facing the judgement seat of God, ready for my sentence, I feel an arm around my shoulders, the arm of Jesus, who says 'This one's with me.'"

Such sermons are rarely spoken these days in the Episcopal church. We are more often treated to vague interpretations and extra-scriptural speculations some of which can be traced back to heresies that have infiltrated many Episcopal seminaries and minds of unsuspecting Christians in formation. 

I once incurred the wrath of the rector when I protested against a planned "Faith Formation" series based on a book by Marcus Borg. When I called Borg a heretic, I pushed one of the rector's buttons. Fortunately, I was not alone in that protest, and that "Faith Formation" event was never held. 

Nor am I alone in my belief that modern "theologians" like Borg are the purveyors of false and heretical teachings.

An excellent article from the retired Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina puts it far better than I can. Read it all here.

+Fitz takes on the modern heretics, Crossen, Borg, Spong, and the current Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church. Here are some excerpts:

"Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan are two remarkably popular theologians who teach a version of Christianity that reduces the Christian faith to contemporary secular assumptions. For Crossan, Jesus was an illiterate Jewish cynic. No Incarnation no Resurrection. The Easter story is 'fictional mythology' (p. 161,Jesus a Revolutionary Biography). Borg claims that Jesus was only divine in the sense that Martin Luther King and Gandhi were divine.  Borg dismisses the creeds (p.10, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time) Jesus was a 'spirit person,' 'a mediator of the sacred,' 'a shaman,' one of those persons like Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Mohammed, et al. (p. 32)"
The teachings of Borg and Crossen have been insanely popular in the Episcopal church for a number of years. It is obvious that their beliefs have infected much of the leadership of the church as Bishop Allison points out.

"Christian faith, but not secular faith, now effectively banned from schools, colleges, and universities, has been relegated to the private and subjective arena.  The result is the growing popularity of any who eliminate from Christian faith all that secular trust finds incompatible: miracles, the radical nature of sin and the consequent radical nature of grace, transcendence, holiness, and our human desperate need for God’s initiative action in Jesus.
The consequence of this secular replacement of Christianity over the years is that otherwise educated people can be bereft of any substantial grasp of scripture. One glaring example is Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori who tells us that Marcus Borg 'opened the Bible to me.' (Acknowledgements A Wing and a Prayer). The Christian creed’s affirmation, to which she has repeatedly sworn, (but Borg negates) is that Jesus Christ is:
'the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made . . .'” 
"Borg has not opened the scripture for Bishop Jefferts Schori but closed its revelation of Jesus’ divinity."  
How did we get to this sad state of affairs? What makes false teachers so attractive? Is it because their supposed wisdom lets us off the hook and relieves us of the responsibility of checking their assertions against scripture? Off the top of my head I can rattle off a dozen or so other causes, but I think it ultimately boils down to what scripture teaches us about our fallen state. We are a stiff necked and stubborn people. We are too quick to wander off the path, and we are too quick to worship whatever new false idea or idol someone cooks up. If all this sounds a bit like historical doctrine, well, yes it does, and the fact of the matter is that today the historical doctrines are ignored, or reduced to a muddled mess by endless pages of theological argument, and the end result is a church with no foundation, a church that is fertile ground for heresy.  
"One must ask how such apostasy has come about in the Episcopal Church.  One answer is given by the new bishop of Connecticut, Ian Douglas.  He accurately claims, 'The Episcopal Church does not readily think in terms of doctrine.' As one thinks carefully about this statement the spiritual pathology of TEC becomes apparent."
+Douglas has it partially right. The Episcopal church readily thinks in terms of doctrine but usually comes up with an answer that a doctrine can be interpreted in many different ways by different individuals at different times. Or, as Bishop Allison points out:

"The Episcopal Church does indeed think in terms of doctrine: doctrines of litigation, abortion, divorce, sexual behavior outside of marriage and all kinds of current politically correct doctrines, as well as teachings that Jesus is reduced from the Son of God to a 'subversive sage.' (p. 119, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time)
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church personifies this sad reduction, this shrunken Jesus, this betrayal of Christian faith. Her claim that 'salvation is attained by many ways – Jesus Christ is a way, and God has many other ways as well. . .'(italics provided) (Interview, Time Magazine, July 10, 2006) is a violation of her ordination and consecration vows regarding the church’s creed (p. 519, Book of Common Prayer, , 1979). It is also sadly bereft of the Good News that salvation is never attained but freely given to those who believe. As to her belief in eternal life, she is unsure it exists and she contends that Jesus was more concerned with heavenly existence in this life. (Arkansas Democratic Gazette, Jan. 7, 2007)"

As we read these strong words of warning from +Fitz Allison, one has to wonder why the Borgs and the Schoris of the Episcopal church have not themselves been accused of "Abandonment" and referred to the disciplinary team (headed up by our former Bishop of Upper SC,  +Henderson). 

Oh, I forgot, Bishop Henderson is too busy investigating the charge of "Abandonment" leveled against someone who is the antithesis of the heretics cited above. Heretics run rampant while those who protest are charged with abandoning the church. This church has demonstrated in prior times of trial that it cannot effectively charge anyone with heresy. In fact, such a charge would seem to be a positive feature on one's resume and could quite possibly lead to election to a high position in the church (to say nothing of the money generated through the sale of books and from being out on the speaker's circuit). Unable to fight heresy, heresy reigns, and heretics and apostates reign terror on those who oppose them.

Bishop Duvall remains on the speaker's circuit, but his generation is fading away. Who will be available to preach to future generations of Episcopalians?

I am afraid the future of TEc belongs to the Borg collective.

Captain Picard, where are you?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Flower Fadeth

We have been blessed with a warm sunny November thus far. Under clear Carolina blue skies and temperatures in the upper 60's and low 70's even the azaleas have been fooled as evidenced by this pink ruffle in the yard.

Sorry for the blurry picture, but there was a large unruly animal tethered to my other arm as I tried to steady the cell phone camera.

The leaves on the surrounding trees are turning red, gold, Volunteer orange, and those leaves will be falling soon to become my annual Black Friday lawn chore (although this year the last of the leaves might wait to be cleaned up on Christmas Day). The azalea in the yard shows that life and beauty pushes despite what we know to be the approaching signs of winter.

"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever." Isaiah 40:8

Sunday, November 06, 2011

For All the Saints

We celebrated All Saints' Sunday today and a couple a lines from a very short sermon got me to thinking about the process of sanctification. Our guest preacher concluded his sermon by saying, "all saints are sinners and all sinners are saints." Perhaps he should have said "all saints were sinners" which might have kept me from wondering.

I understand that sanctification comes not through the works of the saints, but from a gift of a merciful and loving God. As baptised Christians, all of us can partake in the process of sanctification, but most of us fight it. I mean that we seem to take one step forward and two back, but even so, we are still being changed into something new. Will that something new be that which others recognize as saintly? Judging by the numbers of acknowledged saints (subtracting some of those in the Episcopal book of "Holy Men and Holy Women") and dividing that by the total number of baptised Christians who have come and gone over the centuries leaves each of us with an impossibly low probability of becoming that kind of saint. Perhaps the bulk of us can pray that God will keep helping us to see the need to die to sin, and He will see Christ growing in us and transforming us.

On this Sunday we recite a long list of the dearly departed. Names are submitted by the congregation and printed in the bulletin. I do not contribute to this list because I don't want to add any stumbling blocks to the impatient. My list this year includes ten names. If we average 100-120 people in attendance on Sunday, and each has ten people in mind, then the list to be read aloud would include 1000-1200 names. I will print my list here just by the first letter of their first names: L, O, M, D, L, E, MJ, M, J, and B.

That said, many of us have been blessed to be in the presence of some of those unacknowledged saints whose faith in Jesus was such that the evidence of their faith shone through and spread to others. All of these that I have known have also humbly acknowledged their sinfulness and were ever so thankful for everything that God has given them, both the good and the bad.

"They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus' will.
You can meet them in school, on the street, in the store,
in church, by the sea, in the house next door;
they are saints of God, whether rich or poor,
and I mean to be one too."
("I Sing a Song of the Saints of God"-Lesbia Scott)

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Diocese of Minnesota Resolves to Defeat Marriage Amendment

My excuse for covering all things Minnesota this week is that my grandmother was from Minnesota, and I still have some great aunts and other assorted nuts living there (and nuts don't fall too far from the tree).

From the Star Tribune comes this story.
"Members of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, which held its annual convention over the weekend in Minneapolis, passed a resolution opposing the marriage amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriage.

The church is joining other denominations and non-profit organizations in signing the 'Resolution against the Constitutional Amendment to Ban Marriage for Same-Sex Couples' as prepared and presented by Minnesotans United for All Families.

That group is trying to defeat the amendment set for a vote on the November 2012 ballot, which would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman."

“'The Episcopal Church in Minnesota has always stood with the marginalized,' said Bishop Brian N. Prior, IX Bishop of Minnesota, said in a released statement. 'Regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender orientation or immigrant status, Episcopalians in Minnesota have always embraced both the Gospel mandate of love of neighbor and the Baptismal Covenant imperative to respect the dignity of every human being.'”
Bishop Prior obviously thinks that to hold true to the Biblical standard of marriage is unloving and disrespectful.

I think that he is not holding true to the Apostolic faith, and in so doing, he is unloving and disrespectful.

Do not forget that our Bishop Waldo fell from the Diocese of Minnesota tree, and wait till you hear who has taken over his last church.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Your Pledge Dollars at Work: The Episcopal Church Socialist League

From the Diocese of Minnesota, where they had to get their fireplaces going early this week, comes this interesting use for church buildings:
The "Episcopal Church Socialist League" will meet on Nov. 7, 2011 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on-the-Hill. An Episcopal Socialist League? What will they come up with next?

The announcement states,
"This group has grown organically at St. Paul's out of a deep desire to ground the transformation of society both in the liturgical life of the church and her rich history in this area.
Our next meeting will be on Monday, November 7th at 7:15pm at St Paul's Episcopal Church on-the-Hill. All are welcome to come bring their ideas on what action they would like to see the ECSL engage in this upcoming year"

I could not find this event on the on-line church calendar for St. Paul's church on-the-Hill, but after a perusal of their web page, I would not doubt that the Episcopal Socialist League will meet and will be welcome because the church's home page advertises (among other things) "Radical Hospitality," and
"We relish a good debate and a great vegan meal, or a BBQ in the summer. We engage in mission with our sister congregation El Santo Niño Jesus. We are learning still, after better than ten years, what that means to be brothers and sisters in Christ. Come learn with us.

The people of St. Paul's have a strong tradition involvement in peace and social justice issues rooted in our heritage as an progressive Anglo-catholic parish in The Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota(see Justice).

We also are a people who believes in excellence in worship (see Worship). We know from our tradition that there are many ways to worship and so we offer Solemn High liturgies with chanting, incense, and full choir as well as simiple contemplative liturgies in a wide range of styles. Festive receptions often follow our liturgies as a place to meet and greet.

Our vision as a Christian community is rooted in four areas:

+ Radical Hospitality+

+Inspiring Worship+

+Spiritual Formation+

+Passionate Advocacy+

These areas are the tap roots of our life in Christ. Because life is a process, we are learning what this mission means one day at a time. Want to know more? Come and see!"

Blessings & Peace,The Rev. Mark Thompson, Vicar

The web site has links to recent blog posts which include "Read up on "homosexuality and the Bible" - Fr. Neil" which left me rolling my eyes when I read,
"Finally: Romans 1:24-27 gets inordinate attention in all discussions of "the Bible and homosexuality," and almost always is read as Paul's theological diagnosis of the homosexual "condition." I think that reading is fundamentally wrong. I've discussed the passage in two books (Liberating Paul [1994; 2006], pp. 192-94, and The Arrogance of Nations: Reading Romans in the Shadow of Empire [2008], 75-83), and in summary form in this 2003 column on "The Apostle Paul and sexuality" at The Witness online (click here).

What do other scholars think about that argument? One attempt at rebuttal, from Robert A. Gagnon, is here (to which I will respond in another post). Since the publication of The Arrogance of Nations, I've heard from other scholars (okay, a total of three so far) who find the argument "completely convincing": "it convinced our whole graduate seminar on Romans"; "it blew my socks off." That argument was the hook for the brief mention of my book in Lisa Miller's cover story on gay marriage, "Our Mutual Joy," in Newsweek, Dec. 15, 2008. But of course being mentioned in Newsweek only guarantees that I'll be vilified by a wider circle of conservative Christians--not that I'm right.

Grace and peace,

Fr. Neil" (2009)
I would bet dollars to donuts that Robert Gagnon would destroy this guy in a debate, but the "occupy St. Paul's on-the-hill" crowd would probably not let that happen.

I do not doubt that St. Paul's on-the-Hill is full of loving people who are unaware that they have been occupied by not only socialists but by Biblical revisionists.

I hope the Socialists will confine their activities to polite debate on the scriptural basis of socialism and not say a single word that might suggest that the church on-the-Hill endorses a political party or candidate. After all, that might jeopardize the tax exempt status of the church.

Good luck with the stewardship campaign St. Paul's-St. Paul, Mn! From the stats it looks like you are going to need it!

After 3 blog posts in 2 days, the socialist in me tells me that I shouldn't put in any more hours of work on this blog this week.

Yes Virginia, There Really is a Boogerman

"People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering."-St. Augustine.

Teacher: "What do you want to be when you grow up Robbie?"

Robbie: "I want to be the Boogerman!"

Classmates: "Guess who has a new nickname?"

That was the case for Robert Palmer who would carry that nickname throughout his lifetime and beyond.

It was my intention a few years ago to hike the Boogerman Trail in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. I just couldn't resist the name.

Marti Davis at had this to say about the area of the trail,
"This area is named for one of the first hardy families to populate the rich but remote Cataloochee Valley. According to Ken Wise, author of the irreplaceable 'Hiking Trails of the Great Smoky Mountains,' a Confederate deserter-turned-Union renegade raider entered the valley near the end of the Civil War, seeking out suspected Confederate sympathizers Levi Shelton and Ellsworth Caldwell. Kirk's marauders proceeded up Caldwell Fork and whipped the women, who nevertheless remained silent. Undaunted, the Union renegades waited until dark, then followed the women to the lair of their mates and executed them. They were later buried on a hillside overlooking Caldwell Fork Trail.

The story behind the Boogerman Trail's name is a far less grisly story that begins on the first day of school for a local boy, painfully shy Robert Palmer. When the teacher asked his name, the tongue-tied Palmer finally blurted out 'Boogerman,' and the name stuck and he was christened 'Booger' Palmer. He later left the crowded farmland of the Cataloochee Valley to seek a lonelier home place along the trail that now bears his name."

Back in '96 we camped at Cataloochee the night before hiking the Boogerman. The forecast was typical for a Smokey Mountains camping trip, so we were prepared for wet weather. Intermittent drizzle did not slow us down as we hiked to Boogerman's place. We did take shelter briefly in a tree. I did not take any pictures because of the rain, but others have photographed that tree, and here is one I found at flickr,

Part of the trail from the campground was also a horse trail so our boots took on a pleasant natural "flavor" as we tried to dodge the barn apples before angling off onto Mr. Palmer's trail.

We never found the Boogerman, but we did spot a fragment of a cast iron pot in one of the creeks and imagined this as being one of Boogerman's very own cooking pots. Just what did he like to cook, little boys and girls, or maybe possum stew?

We also found a crawfish by the creek. I wonder if Booger ate those?

Here are my original notes from back in 1996:

This trip to the Boogerman trail looked like a complete rainout from the forecast, but I hoped we would be lucky and only get rain at night.
We left Rock Hill at 4:30 p.m. We took exit 20 from I-40 and had to turn right not 200 yards off the interstate toward Cataloochee campground. It was getting dark by this time and the road turned into a gravel one that snaked up the mountain for what seemed like an eternity but eventually emerged on a ridge where there was a paved 2 lane road. A few more miles and we were relieved to find the campground after entering the park. It was after 7:30 when we arrived and we had to set up our tents and make some hot chocolate. This time we set up a canopy over the tents to keep out the rain which was a good idea since it rained pretty hard that night. One side of the canopy pulled loose but we stayed dry. Every time I woke and heard rain, I had to make sure that it really was rain hitting the side of the tent since one of the kids had been known to obey the call of nature standing inside the tent.

The next morning, the rain had stopped. After a breakfast of bacon and pancakes, we hiked 0.8 miles down Caldwell Fork trail to the junction with the 3.8 mile Boogerman trail. Passing through a rhododendron thicket we noticed several good walking sticks. We passed several downed trees which appeared to show the face of the Boogerman formed by “natural” processes smiling at us. We found his farm land and an old cast iron pot. There were several crawfish burrowing in the path near here. As we left this bottom land we stopped at an old split rail fence to eat lunch and take some pictures. We then set off on our homeward leg, and it started to rain hard after we found a large stone wall.

It rained the rest of the way back to camp. When we joined Caldwell Fork trail again we had 2.8 miles downhill to go on a horse trail that had numerous mud holes and at least 12 footlog creek crossings. We learned what a Fraser magnolia was and what “barn apples” were. We found that a poncho will keep your upper half dry only if you wear the hood. Even though one kid walked straight through every puddle, my boots were just as soaked as his when we got back to camp. The hike was 7.4 miles, took 5 and a half hours, and the F.i.L. commented that not once did the children complain. They seemed to enjoy it all the more because of the circumstances. After the hike the F.i.L. took a nap while we got dry, and hid out in my tent because it was still raining and getting colder. We practiced our knots while before starting a pot of soup when the rain slowed down. The rain stopped before sundown, and we decided to try to build a fire. Anyone can start a fire with dry wood, but it takes a real scout to start one with wet wood. Not even the F.i.L. could not get it going until N1S pointed out the “fat wood” that he had brought along. This helped immensely, and allowed us to dry wood over the new fire. We toasted marshmallows, and warmed up by the fire before going to bed. We all slept well that night.

We got up at 7:30 a.m. and ate a good stack of pancakes before driving home. We had quite a mess of wet camping equipment, boots, and clothes to dry out once we got home.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pride and The Lectionary Editor

Today's supply priest gave a very good sermon on the subject of "Pride" based on Matthew 23:1-12.

I was thinking about how our pride shapes how we read the Bible. We tend to ignore the parts that we don't like and focus on the parts that please us.

Many times the lectionary does this for us by presenting us with the expurgated Bible as has been pointed out on this blog as well as over at the Churchmouse blog.

Today's lectionary provided another cleaned up Psalm for the Sunday masses. This time, Psalm 107 felt the chopping block. The result was a "psalmette" that left me feeling warm and fuzzy, and I don't do warm and fuzzy. This is what we read:
1 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures for ever.
2 Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
those he redeemed from trouble
3 and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
4 Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to an inhabited town;
5 hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.
6 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
7 he led them by a straight way,
until they reached an inhabited town.
33 He turns rivers into a desert,
springs of water into thirsty ground,
34 a fruitful land into a salty waste,
because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.
35 He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
36 And there he lets the hungry live,
and they establish a town to live in;
37 they sow fields, and plant vineyards,
and get a fruitful yield.
Lots of good vibes in that one, but I was left wondering about verses 8-32 and why they got left out. After all, they contained the following,
8 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.

9 For he satisfies the thirsty,
and the hungry he fills with good things.
10 Some sat in darkness and in gloom,
prisoners in misery and in irons,
11 for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
12 Their hearts were bowed down with hard labour;
they fell down, with no one to help.
13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress;
14 he brought them out of darkness and gloom,
and broke their bonds asunder.
15 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
16 For he shatters the doors of bronze,
and cuts in two the bars of iron.

17 Some were sick through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress;
20 he sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from destruction.

21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
22 And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.
23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the mighty waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.

25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their calamity;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he brought them out from their distress;
29 he made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.

31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.
Granted, Psalm 107 might seem a tad bit too long for a Sunday morning service, but it looks like the part that was cut is the part containing lots more great reasons why we should be so thankful to the Lord.

Verses 9-16 give us a recitation of the reasons for the distress of the people: Thirst, hunger, imprisonment, hard labour. Bless the Lord who relieves all who so suffer.

Verses 17-20 describe the sickness the people suffer as a result of sin. This would be an obvious choice for the lectionary committee to cut because it is not at all in keeping with the modern world view. I like it, and think we are sick with sin, and therefore I see no problem with presenting this subject to the Sunday morning crowd.

Verses 23-30 give us a wonderful premonition of Jesus calming the stormy sea. I really think that should have been heard.

Verses 31-32 conclude that because of God's great deeds of saving grace we are to shout about it in the congregation, not cut it out and leave it to some lowly blogger to dredge up in a half forgotten part of the web.

To be fair, Psalm 107 goes on for five more verses at the end, but the only objectional lines are the "negative" things God does to princes and wickedness.
38 By his blessing they multiply greatly,
and he does not let their cattle decrease.
39 When they are diminished and brought low
through oppression, trouble, and sorrow,
40 he pours contempt on princes
and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41 but he raises up the needy out of distress,
and makes their families like flocks.
42 The upright see it and are glad;
and all wickedness stops its mouth.
43 Let those who are wise give heed to these things,
and consider the steadfast love of the Lord.
At the risk of repeating myself, when we cut and paste the scripture to either make worship more pleasurable or in order to direct the message rather than let the message direct us, we are guilty of the cardinal sin of pride, and we are giving people a watered down version of Christianity which does them no favors.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Would Glasses or a Hearing Aid Help?

This past Sunday, at about minute 15 of the announcements, I lost all sense of being in church and in the presence of the Lord. I forced myself to close my eyes and ears in order to shut out all the thoughts of the places I had to go and the things I had to do that day. It worked, but I had to keep coming back to these old tried and true methods of quieting the mind in order to get through the rest of the service. Today's Gospel reading, Matthew 13:10-17, is helping me get back in focus.
Then the disciples came and asked him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ He answered, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that “seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.” With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says: “You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn— and I would heal them.” But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.
The disciples were blessed to be in His presence, but not everyone who met Jesus saw or heard Him at the time. How do we obtain those blessed eyes and ears of which Jesus speaks? We like to think that one of the problems with modernity that keeps us from hearing God's call is the incessant noise of the information age. Even to those of us who do not have ADHD, work and the distractions of the ever increasing sources of entertainment available to please us can effectively drown out the voice of God. No, glasses or a hearing aid would just amplify the noise.

 Should we blame the computer, the television, or the bloggers for our walk apart from the Lord?

 What if we follow John Prine's advice?
"Turn off the T.V. Throw away your paper. Move to the country. Build you a home. Plant a little garden. Eat a lot of peaches. Try an find Jesus on your own." - "Spanish Pipedream" John Prine 1971
I am not sure if that would work either, but it might be a good start. Maybe it isn't the noise from the world that is the problem, maybe it is us, and we shouldn't blame the world because we don't connect with God. Maybe the problem lies between our ears. But just in case, would somebody please pass me the peaches?