Sunday, July 29, 2012

Homemade Barley Bread and Goldfishes

After today's service, during which we examined the "signs" of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes as well as John's version of Jesus walking on the water, at coffee hour we were treated to barley bread and Goldfish crackers. In a miraculous turn of events, there were several baskets of crumbs gathered by the clean up crew.

Oh yeah, the story of the feeding of the five thousand was not about food for the stomach!

I think the point got across.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Married in the Eyes of the Lord, not the Church

The elderly couple sitting across from me explained their different last names by saying that they were married in the eyes of the Lord, and that was sufficient. Pushing them a little, I asked if they had a church wedding. They responded in the negative, and brusquely told me that the Lord didn't require that either. We agreed that their's would be what we call a "common law marriage." I was meeting with them for an unrelated reason anyway, so I took note of their social status and moved on. It seems to me that co-habitation is more or less the norm these days, but I found this couple's reasoning a bit different from what I had heard in the past. Later, I wondered how pastors respond when a new couple comes to their church and presents themselves to him/her in this manner? Does it make a difference if they are young or old?

What if one is a singer in the park?

"My old man
He's a singer in the park
He's a walker in the rain
He's a dancer in the dark
We don't need no piece of paper
From the city hall
Keeping us tied and true
No, my old man
Keeping away my lonesome blues"
Joni Mitchell 1970 Blue

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Lectionary Pump Fake

A pump fake in basketball or American football is where the guy with the ball does something that would be completely illegal in the game of baseball. In the pump fake, the ball handler starts the motion of making a pass in one direction, pulls back and then does something else such as shooting or dribbling the ball or running the football.

Since we have been following the curious ways that our Lectionary splices and dices Holy Scripture, I was almost faked out by today's Gospel reading, Mark 6:30-34,53-56 which comes out like this,
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

(Then jump ahead to Healing the Sick in Gennesaret)

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

Yeah, something is missing. Shall we say the bread and butter of the subject. Why do this.

The reason this is a pump fake is that next week we get to hear John 6:1-21 and the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on the water.

I don't get it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Notes on SSB Rite

In comparing and contrasting the marriage rite used in the Episcopal church for "opposite sex" couples with the same sex blessings that were recently approved by its General Convention (click here to read the whole thing), check out some the suggested readings for the new liturgy, and in particular read the ones that differ from those used for opposite sex couples.

There is the obligatory reading from Ruth, one that has been used in Lesbian "marriage" ceremonies before.

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:16-17

Never mind that the main plot in Ruth is to get her married off... to a man! I guess it wouldn't work to include Ruth 4:13,
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.

Nah, she was just faking it.

And what would the author of Ecclesiastes have to say if his words were co-opted for use in this rite?
 9 Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

He would probably say, "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity."

And what would Paul do if he saw his letter to the Galatians carved up so as to omit  verses 15-21 (as it is suggested to use Galatians 5:14, 22-26)?
15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. - The omitted verses (NIV)

I guess most couples will pick the next choice because it so fits the theology.
21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 1 John 3:18-24

Show me where He commanded us to love one another in that way.

One line from a suggested Gospel reading gave me a chuckle (when considered out of context).

38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. Luke 6:32-38  NIV

Sorry, but my mind must have been in the gutter, Episcopal church General Conventions tend to do that to me.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Servings from the Platter

Today's reading from Mark 6:14-29 presented us with the gruesome image of John the Baptist's head being served up on a platter for Herod's daughter.

Caravaggio (Wikipedia)

Today, I will serve up the remains of the Episcopal church as a gift of its recent General Convention. Every three years, the church dances around in convention and some new body part winds up being delivered to Herod's child. This year gave us a pretty horrific vision. By the time they finished with GC 2012, and I put it on a serving platter, you might need a forensic pathologist to tell what the unholy mess was to begin with.

Let us pick through the leftovers to see if any sense can be made of where this church is headed.
Leftovers from the Integrity (gay activist group within TEc) "Eucharist" included the following prayer,
“Spirit of Life, we thank you for disordering our boundaries and releasing our desires as we prepare this feast of delight,” the offering prayer began. (Image Here)
Leftovers from the House of Bishops vote on same sex blessings included,
 "Bishop Michael Vono of the Rio Grande rose in support of the resolution, urging the House to vote in favor of the resolution as it was the 'Jesus thing' to do 'for our time.'”  (AnglicanInk)
"Bishop M. Thomas Shaw of Massachusetts stated his state was the first in the country to authorize gay marriage.  He noted the progressive stance of his diocese on gay and lesbian issues had led to “'significant growth recently, in thanks to including all people.'”  (AnglicanInk) (Actually his diocese shrank (T19) significantly from 2007-2010)
 ...the Rt. Rev. W. Andrew Waldo of Upper South Carolina said he was in favor of the “full inclusion” of gays and lesbians into the life of the church, but the “theological rationale” offered for gay blessings was “weak.”  “I want to vote ‘yes’ but cannot,” he said. (AnglicanInk)
 Yes, I am paying the last guy's salary. What an idiot... I am.

Way out in left field leftovers:
"Right after that, we considered a resolution that would invite the church membership to read the Bible in 2013. You ready for this? The committee that presented the resolution recommended that we reject this resolution. They claimed it was redundant. In debate, a deputy urged the resolution's defeat and said, 'We are in favor of the Bible, but we don't want just anyone reading it. They might get wrong ideas.' Oh yes, she did say that!" "Deputy Farrell of North Carolina saved the day. He said, 'I would not like to pick up USA Today and find a headline that says the Episcopal Church is not in favor of reading the Bible. We'd best pass this resolution.'" We did, by the way. Passed it handily. -John Burwell+
Way, way out in left field you can find the Presiding Bishop dishing it out,

“The Episcopal Church is healthy, it’s becoming healthier, and it’s poised for an even more significant impact on the world around us. There’s no stopping us. Watch out world. We’re coming.” Presiding Bishop Katharine Schori

And lastly the only food I could pick from this carcass were,
"This General Convention action is unbiblical, unchristian, unanglican and unseemly. It will further wreak havoc among Anglicans, and indeed Christians, in North America and around the world.
By making this decision, The Episcopal Church moves further away from Jesus Christ and his teaching. It thereby makes it necessary for the diocese of South Carolina to take further decisive and dramatic action to distance itself from this false step.
We in South Carolina must differentiate to stay loyal to Christ, but also to keep our own parish members and not hinder the mission of Jesus Christ who loves all and transforms all by the power of the Holy Spirit to holiness of life, a holiness which has a clear shape agreed by Christians East and West throughout 20 centuries."
--The Rev. Canon Dr. Kendall Harmon is Canon Theologian for the Diocese of South Carolina and convenor of his blog (and he makes this statement for himself)
"These resolutions in my opinion," said Bishop Mark Lawrence, "are disconcerting changes to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Episcopal Church--to which every bishop, priest and deacon is asked to conform. More importantly they mark a departure from the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them, therein making it necessary for me to strongly differentiate myself from such actions." 
 Differentiation may be possible in the other diocese in the state, but what about us up-staters stuck as we are with a bishop who will not let his yes be a yes or his no be a no?
"Each General Convention is an opportunity for another wave of TECers to see the light, to distance and detach and differentiate, and to stop sending money to the corrupt leaders that are currently in charge." - Sarah
Call them corrupt or call them idiots, but take the money away and there really will be no meat left on the bone. If God could raise dry bones and clothe them with flesh, will he ever raise up these remains and breathe his Holy Word into the carcass of the Episcopal church?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Parable of the Bad Shepherd: Wallowing in the Mire

We are all familiar with this two thousand year old parable,
“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:4-7, NRSV)
Modern people might have a problem with making an analogy between a lost sheep and "sinner." "Sinner" sounds so judgmental, and "Sin" itself has lost its meaning. You see, nowadays, the concept of "sin" is open to interpretation. The very notion of "Sin" is frequently brushed aside as another relic of the past. Even those who accept that there might be such a thing as generic "Sin" still try to re-classify specific behaviors that were previously held to be sinful into things that can first be considered an acceptable alternative lifestyle and later morph into a full blown blessing. With that in mind, let us see how the old parable might be rewritten to live into today's context.

You have in your flock many sheep. When you discover one missing, which one of you does not go out in search of the missing sheep? Which one of you, when you find that the lost sheep has discovered its authentic self as a pig, and is happiest when wallowing in mud, does not say, "Let me bring the rest of the flock here so that they too may wallow in the mud"? And when he has done so, he calls his neighbors, saying to them, "Rejoice with me, for I have found that sheep prefer to be pigs, and are happiest when they can wallow in the mire. Join us." Just so, that which was once considered sinful may now be considered blessed. (UP 7:11/12a)

I don't think my modern parable will hold up very well unless I add a follow up to the inevitable question, "Teacher explain this parable to us."
Do not do as this shepherd has done. For the owner of the sheep will come at sheep shearing time. Noticing that there are but few sheep in His pasture,  He sets out searching for the shepherd. Then the owner will find what appear to be pigs wallowing raucously in another man's sty and the lost shepherd watching over them. "They do look happy," the owner thinks, "But this is not the pure spring of water in which I had intended for them to bathe." And then He calls them, but because of their squeals of pleasure, they can not hear Him, and they can not follow His voice. He will then seek out the remnants of His flock that stayed in His pasture. I tell you, there will be more tears in heaven over the lost sheep and the lost shepherd than all the tears shed by man shed over all of time. (UP 7:11/12b) 
Sigh... this explanation will probably be rejected by various scholars as the work of some later redactor because modern studies have shown that sheep really are happiest when you let them wallow in the mire.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves
and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is
faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and
purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we
have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his
word has no place in our lives.” (1 John 1:8-10; NIV)

Sunday, July 08, 2012

A Verse of Advice for Reasserters at GC2012

I read a good post on the ongoing General Convention of the Episcopal church by the man who could have been our bishop, John Burwell +. His observation about the lack of praying in Christ's name bears witness to how far TEc has gone off the path. Read it here.

If I were to give John Burwell any advice (not that I could), I would suggest taking a cue from the liberal activists' playbook, and create a scene. Conservatives generally don't do this because we are too polite, and we are under the impression that rational argument will sway the libs to the right way of thinking. That never works. They won't listen.  At best the lib will give the impression that they have listened, then smile and thank you for the information, but at worst... well you probably have seen the worst, but they eventually resort to name-calling as they run away and declare victory.

The moral of the story is that the conservative voice is not welcome in this "welcoming church," and TEc hears you with fingers stuck in its ears all the while as it sings "La dee da..."

From today's readings,
If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ - Mark 6:11
Now, this sort of performance art might go unnoticed by the current majorities in TEc, but as one of Christ's commands, it should be followed.

If you don't do some shakin, you'll be left with sand in your shoes...

Addendum 07/11/2012

Looks like they did it! Walked out of GC after trying to be heard. Read it here.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

This Church Will Bless Anything

A few years ago, I was talking to someone about something or other when she asked me what church I attend (a common question in these parts). When I said, "The Episcopal church," she promptly quipped, "Oh, that's the church that blesses animals." You see, the local paper had published a picture of our "Blessing the Animals" which is done on the Feast of St. Francis. At the time I jokingly replied, "Yes we'll bless anything."

Now, as we in the Episcopal church are on the eve of sanctioning the blessing of same sex relationships, I find that I was not joking, thus affirming Johnson’s First Law of Episcopal Thermodynamics: every joke you make about the Episcopal Organization eventually comes true.

If we can bless same sex bedroom activities, why not bless everything and anything while we are at it?

Guess what? We may be able to after the 2012 General Convention of the Episcopal church which begins this week
On page 328 of the Episcopal Blue Book (the little book of business for Deputies and Bishops attending GC 2012) you can find the proposed "Litany for the Planet" which contains prayers for everything including,

On eukaryotes and prokaryotes, archaea* and viruses; on microbes of endless
variety, the complex and the simple,
Creator, have mercy.

H/T Hod Rod Anglican who raised the question as to whether or not the Church will be asking for God to have mercy on the Aids virus if this prayer is adopted. As I commented at his blog,

"So when someone sneezes and you say, "Bless you" will that mean you are blessing the viral particles or the person?
I guess they will want mercy bestowed upon the remaining vials of smallpox too.

Needless to say, I think this prayer has some bugs in it.

If it is passed by GC2012, then we will have a problem with competing prayers because in the 1979 BCP we already have,

"O God of heavenly powers, by the might of your command you drive away from our bodies all sickness and all infirmity: Be present in your goodness with your servant N., that his weakness may be banished and his strength restored; and that, his health being renewed, he may bless your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord." 
So who should we pray for God to have mercy upon, our team or the microbes'?

And what about those pesky times when the Lord healed lepers? Lord have mercy on Mycobacterium leprae? Well he certainly didn't demonstrate it there.
The kids are going to hate to hear the prayer for the bugs when a pimple breaks out on the tip of their nose the day before the prom. Are we to expect teenagers to pray then for the Lord to have mercy on their corynebacterium acne?

Will the Acne Bible have to be banned?

Lord have mercy.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Occupy 815

The past few weeks have seen some scary goings on in the Episcopal church. We had the draft budget for the next triennium thrown into confusion by a last minute separate proposed budget put forth by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who has no authority to present a budget, but that isn't going to stop her. Then we have the complaints filed against nine bishops of the church which must have passed her eyes on the way to the Inquisitor's desk.

All this in a church that is dying by degree; one that is preparing to sacrifice its children upon the altar of Moloch as it gets ready to authorize rites for same sex couples next week in General Convention 2012.

All these things have the expected effect on those of us opposed to the death march of Shori and GC. We cry at the loss of the innocents, we shake our fists at the apostates, but in the end we are forced to deal with the ashes left in her wake.

Of course, the Presiding Bishop just presides over the House of Bishops and can't be blamed for all the evil going on in the church today.

Or can she?

You see, the Episcopal church has made the argument in court that it is a hierarchal church and therefore the courts should stay out of any property disputes in TEc. Some courts have bought this argument, others (the Supreme Court of South Carolina) have not.

In a hierarchal church, when bad things happen, the buck has to stop at the top. The PB might argue that General Convention is the top, but she is not acting that way.

So if she is going to act like the head of the church, let her take the heat from the new movement that I am announcing today, the Occupy 815 movement.

This movement, in keeping with the precedent set by the other Occupy group, does not really need a mission statement or a clear listing of its beliefs.

All we need is a T-shirt.

And maybe a good folk song.

H/T you know who.

It is too late to rally the troops to protest outside General Convention next week, besides, there probably won't be much press coverage of our failing denomination.

It'll probably be too hot anyway.

I think I'll just occupy my cave.