Sunday, March 26, 2017

David & Leonard (sermon 20170326)

The Lord is my shepherd. 
David: shepherd king! Why David? 
Why David?

Now, I've heard there was a secret chord 
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing hallelujah

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” The old Sunday School story that begins today, with our mental pictures of David the Shepherd Boy, who slays Goliath, David the psalmist of whom the Israelites chant “Saul has slain his thousands but David his ten thousands,” David faithful friend of Jonathan, David at whom Saul threw a spear and nearly killed him - - stories of David the Shepherd King go on and on, and we rejoice in them. 

But David grows up, doesn’t he, grows up out of cute shepherd boy: and be sure thy sins will find thee out.

+++.  +++.  +++

In church history the 4th Sunday in Lent is Rose Sunday, Mid-Lent Sunday, Laetare Sunday, Rejoice Sunday, Refreshment Sunday (in England “Mothering Sunday,” their Mother’s day). Centuries ago the pope appointed Rejoice Sunday (named after Laetare, the first word in the introit to the Latin Mass, from Isaiah 66:10, 
“Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,
    all you who love her;
rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her— 
that you may nurse and be satisfied
    from her consoling breast;
that you may drink deeply with delight
    from her glorious bosom,” 
and the pope declared Laetare Sunday to momentarily ease Lent’s onerous penitential burden of no music, no flowers, fish but no meat, substituting rose pink for the deep violet colors of reproof and reproach, no Gloria in Excelsis. And alleluia, hallelujah is neither sung, nor chanted, nor spoken, but forbidden. 

Some of the old “forbids” hold on, we never sing or say the alleluia in Lent, some rectors do not allow church weddings during Lent. But more and more over the years, the church so melds with society that “anything goes” and Lent is just another season of changing liturgical colors. I’ll admit, I was surprised when my Central Pennsylvania bishop scheduled my priest ordination for a night during Lent. But my Lenten ordination turned out beautifully. From the florist we ordered a thousand daffodils and Linda decorated our church altar with a thousand yellow daffodils, it was splendid, fragrant, magnificent; the church was jammed, not even standing room, two Roman Catholic bishops came, one later a cardinal, and I planned the liturgy, which to my rector’s consternation included not only renewal music for the first time in that conservative parish, but, especially for the first time, a woman parishioner as one of the lectors, breaking the ice in an old male patriarchal stronghold. March 1984, 33 years ago this month! I was 48 years old. I am not 48.

I don’t know about you, but looking at myself, I have changed greatly in those more-than-three decades. And not just the scary old fool whose face I shave in the bathroom mirror. Recently I read an article about a sixty-plus-year personality study that tracked individuals from age 14 to 77, maybe you read it? The study concluded that we change completely in that time, not only the cells of our bodies (which apparently completely change over a seven year cycle) - - but this longest of all studies of human beings, found that our personality, who and what we are, changes completely in those decades from our teens into our seventies. So I have changed, I’m now not even the person and personality I was that March 1984 evening my Pennsylvania bishop laid hands on me praying God, “make him a priest in your church.” And reading today’s Bible story, I have an inkling how David the Shepherd Boy felt after Samuel anointed him King, because ordination changes what and who you are. It was profound, as St. Paul and John Bunyan, “Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners”. 

Before we are ordained, Candidates for Holy Orders must be examined by a psychiatrist of the bishop’s trust and choosing, but instead of talking about myself, when the psychiatrist, a Roman Catholic, told me he had always wanted to be a priest, I got him talking about himself instead of me our whole session, and he gave me a good report (can you imagine giving Tom Weller a good report, the Chief of Sinners - - all it showed was that he didn’t know me). I thought I’d put one over on the Shrink, the Bishop and the Church, but the opposite turned out true. Beginning that ordination night, God put one over on me: as the bishop and elders lift their holy hands from your head and step back, you realize that you no longer belong to yourself, but now belong to God “whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.”

And yet human creatures, we sin again and again.

“The Lord is my shepherd,” it certainly was so with David, whom God and Samuel called in from shepherding in the field to anoint David king. Reading wonderful old Sunday school Bible stories over the course of my lifetime, I see God loving David his poet, psalmist, musician and shepherd-come-king even more than Abraham. Moses the Egyptian Prince had a whine of annoying God in the extreme; but between God and Abraham, and between God and David, nothing but pure love, deepest mutual affection. Scholars have called Abraham“God’s old drinking buddy,” but from the time David is chosen and anointed, he comes closer than anyone else in the Hebrew Bible to Son of God, later whose throne only Jesus could fill.

But unlike Jesus who was tempted but did not sin, King David, David beloved Son, sinned wickedly and mortally, and on Rejoice Sunday, we remember: 

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the hallelujah

So, Leonard Cohen again this morning as I profane Lent with hallelujahs, and a naughty reminder of David and Bathsheba, [after Adam and Eve, the apple and נָחָשׁ “nawcawsh” the serpent], our lusty, romantic old sin story of David breaking all the rules tells who and what we are as children of darkness, not light, and it happened in Lent. Listen:

11 And it came to pass, in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried at Jerusalem. ~ ~ ~
2 And it came to pass one evening, that David walked out upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. 3 And David sent and enquired after the woman. And was told, she is Bath-sheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite. 4 And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her; and she returned unto her house. 5 And Bathsheba conceived, and sent and told David, I am with child. “You have impregnated me.” (2 Samuel 11, 12).

you know the story:

David wrote a letter to Joab, and shamefully sent it by the hand of Uriah himself. 15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the battle, and draw back from him, that he may be struck down and die.

And it happened just that way. Over against the commandments of God, David compounding mortal sin upon mortal sin. 

Confronted with his crime and sin, David himself said, “The man who did this deserves to die,” and Nathan the chaplain said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; 8 I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. 11 Thus says the Lord: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. 12 For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan said to David, “The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die.”

David’s story is offered to you, Christian, to own your personal sin as you look inwardly this penitential season of Lent: 

You say I took the name in vain
I don't even know the name
But if I did, well really, what's it to you?
There's a blaze of light in every word
It doesn't matter which you heard
The holy, or the broken hallelujah

In the life and sin of David, the Bible tells a shocking, lusty, murderous old story for one reason and one reason alone: to show, in the face of David’s repentance, the amazing grace of God’s love: creation, sin, judgment, repentance, and then forgiveness, absolution, restoration, which is redemption, which is Easter itself, hallelujah.

Outside the Gospels of Jesus Christ, there is in all scripture, no greater story of God’s love than David the Shepherd King. For all David’s sin and God’s displeasure, the Lord loved David. Although, in accordance with the prophecies of Nathan, justice followed David all the days of his life, the Lord loved David, never left him, never abandoned him.

The David story invites you to claim it as your story. On this spring day of Lenten rejoicing as we Rejoice for Jerusalem and recall God’s choosing David as his anointed, we celebrate that even David’s most monstrous crimes, most deadly sins, were not beyond the saving grace of God’s love. For all his sin and its consequences, David repents, and God forgives: Easter comes for David, David has his Easter. And Easter will come for you. We have in the Bible all these pages upon pages upon pages of the life and times, blessings and sins of David the Shepherd King, “the Lord is my shepherd,” so that you even you, can see that God is gracious and merciful, quick to forgive the sins of those who are penitent. So, David:

I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch.
I’ve told the truth, I didn't come to fool you.
And even though it all went wrong
I'll stand before the Lord of song
With nothing on my tongue but hallelujah

Sermon in Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, Panama City, Florida by the Reverend Tom Weller on Lent4A, Sunday, March 26, 2017, Rejoice Sunday.


So well, okay then, very good. Never use “very” and never respond or open a conversation with “so” or “well” or “okay” lest one reveal that one has vanished into the ethers of mediocrity: as it is, they will realize it soon enough in due course. What am I especially happy about this Fourth Sunday in Lent - - which parishioners who are at church later this morning will find out is Laetare Sunday or Rose Sunday, Rejoice Sunday, Mid-Lent Sunday. As preacher this morning, “homilist” (a word I despise), I have Children’s Time, and I am going to give each child a noisemaker. 


And if, because it’s Spring Break and families are away and there are only a dozen or fewer children, each child may get two. Two noisemakers. Don’t mess with me. We don’t want to upset Bubba.

Our old time Sunday School Bible story that I first learned to love as a child visiting East Hill Baptist Church in Pensacola with my grandfather and cousins, is a David story. Really, the first one in mind. God has, well, it’s from 1 Samuel 16, isn’t it, and the storyteller calls him יְהֹוָה so it’s The Lord, The Lord tells Samuel his prophet and judge, that he is disillusioned (would the Russian word be хандра? IDK) with Saul as king, and replaces him with David the ShepherdBoy. As today’s first reading, it’s a great way to begin Laetare Sunday; but like Lent that resumes in full purple reproach tomorrow, David the Innocent falls into sin with everybody’s favorite Bible story of seduction, lust and murder. Count them: how many commandments were broken? 

For anyone who didn’t hear it in Sunday School as a child, Leonard Cohen gives us a hint:

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the hallelujah

Bathsheba: Jean-Leon Gerome, French, 1824-1904, pinched online

Saturday, March 25, 2017

his nose ran unchecked

A-gruntin and a-rootin and a-groanin

It'll quit terreckly

a razor-backed hog with warts on its face and horns coming out behind its ears snorted

no hog to scoot down

Poor nasty little thing

alternately to smolder and to blaze

not white trash, just common

And wona these days I know I'll we-eara crown

thin leathery old woman in a cotton print dress. She and Claud had three sacks of chicken feed in their pump house that was in the same print

+++.  +++.  +++ 

Touring a defense aircraft plant years ago, I commented aloud that the A-10 was the ugliest airplane that had ever cursed the skies. An ill-timed if true remark, as a man in the group showing me around had served in its design, and took great offense. I'll never do that again. 

Temptation is to misspeak (for a priest who should sit mildly by lest he offend) myself politically, and call up phrases from such as Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Revelation,”

“Go back to hell where you came from, you old warthog.” 

Politically incorrect, socially obscene and humanely inhumane, Flannery’s stories are amazingly right on for their situs, scraping and revealing, as they do, the bottom of the sociopolitical barrel of ignorant, prejudiced, certitudinous humanity that we are, untermensch.

Yesterday, Friday, I watched television, bemused not amused, as a petty would be tyrant was taught a lesson that was far beyond his ken.

+++.  +++.  +++

In woods around her the invisible cricket choruses had struck up, but what she heard were the voices of the souls climbing upward into the starry field and shouting hallelujah.

with apologies to everything and everyone of common human decency

Friday, March 24, 2017

Friday the 24th Nonsense

Often said over its soon seven years, +Time is neither journal nor diary. Starting October 2010 with CaringBridge to keep folks posted after being told I had two to five months to live, it emigrated to a WebLog heißt +Time the day I left Cleveland Clinic in February 2011 with refurbished heart and new lease on life, as mental aid to physical renewal: exercise the brain. Little personal history, lot about cars, some about Panama City and StAndrews, bit of Bible study from my position down the dusty trail, now and then a thinly disguised political rant, occasional disdain of standard Xn theology far off the beaten path in the briar patch but never so frank and bold as to have my diocesan come for my collar. 

During sabbatical however, the constant urge to give it up in favor of reading books where I felt impoverished, take up a new hobby, improve my German or NTGreek, try Hebrew again, learn the Russian alphabet anyone who knows a little Greek can master wacky,

watch a few old films acclaimed as classics, in lieu of MLP go sit on a Bayfront bench in the park below 7H. But a person upon whom I depend keeps forbidding it lest the brain atrophy even further, so I write; rubbish, I write, post. My nonsense with a capital N.

Same temptation this morning: turn it off. But I’m threatened: no breakfast. So, write. Today's blogpost is dedicated to a sausage patty and a simmering pot of speckled cheese grits from Callaway Gardens.

Last evening watched Casablanca yet one more time again on TCM, memorizing the movie script to lip-synch from the pulpit one Sunday. Looking at two things. Friday comics in the PCNH, read them all except Frank & Ernest, and the lectionary readings for the upcoming Sunday. Also, all this gardenia week, struggling with disabling, excruciatingly white-faced sciatic pain, so far taken forty million aspirin, read forty thousand websites advising how to respond, treat, cope. Wee hours call of Father Nature took more than ten minutes to get there including several debilitating collapses enroute, by far worse than those kidney stones of yore. Time for some of my Navy language, I’ve had this before and with the aspirin, profane language was the only helpful remedy, to so blaspheme creation as to scorch the earth and sear the Tempter's beard. This morning reading Russian socioeconomic life in 19th century so as better to understand Pushkin, Eugene as well as Alexander himself. Of an old man reading about life in imperial Russia: my God, he really does have absolutely nothing to do, get a life, self, buy a motorcycle or take up skydiving. 

64°F and windy at 7H. Windy enough to tip over heavy potted azaleas.

On our way to Tyndall this week we caught a charming old sailing ship just docking and being secured. 


Thursday, March 23, 2017

half shell

The week before Christmas, son Joe’s company sent him from their headquarters office in Winston-Salem out to Everett, Washington on a project for the aircraft interior his company had designed, manufactured, and was installing in new Boeing jetliners. I went to the Seattle and Puget Sound area many times during my last Navy tour in WashDC and later when I worked my own consulting firm, always loved being there. Beautiful geography, romantic ferry rides, and incomparable seafood even for me, coming from the Gulf coast of Florida. 

Joe’s back in Washington State again this week, at Renton this time, on another project with Boeing for interiors on another client’s order for new jetliners. I encouraged him to try the oysters this time, and last evening he sent me the menu for an oyster bar and cafe he was eating in with friends. Frank had told me how they do it out there, and I am intrigued, an oyster bar will offer oysters from several bays or inlets, priced by market and demand, I reckon, maybe $5 each. Prices on the menu Joe sent last evening varied $3 to $3.50 per oyster depending on the source, or $25 per dozen.

I love oysters however they are set in front of me, half-shell is my favorite, but fried, stew, casserole, in gumbo, baked on toast for breakfast. Or, with an oyster knife, which I have here, and a proper glove to prevent damage to my hand, you can hand me a sack of oysters and send me out back, and I’m good for the evening, don’t bother me. 

Last night Joe had a sample of every oyster on the menu, he told me, and by the shell designs I could tell there were different types. In life, I’ve had Apalachicola oysters, oysters from Mobile, Louisiana, Texas, Chesapeake Bay, the Pacific West Coast. Also Sydney Rock Oysters to my heart’s content, and perfect oysters in Colchester, England. What do I put on them? Salt if needed, and a touch of tabasco on about every third one. When available I locally buy West Coast oysters at WalMart, they're good and about half price of "Apalachicola" oysters. The best local area oysters? Well, the most important factor may be the company you clink an icy mug of beer with before digging in, and currently for me it’s Stinky’s out 30A.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Eugene & Uncle Half-Dead Codger

Later than usual this Wednesday morning out here on 7H porch, and there goes the Navy heading out for another day’s victory at sea. Do I wish I were aboard? But yes, yes, of course. 

Breakfast, oatmeal with walnuts and major splash of my maple syrup. I like food I can taste. Heavy dark dry red wine such as cabernet, malbec, shiraz/syrah, durif/petite sirah. Dark bread made with sticks and bakery floor sweepings. Strong cheese. Dark maple syrup I have to special order because stores only sell Grade A; my maple syrup would be Grade C but that they’re not allowed to retail it. I’ve ordered maple syrup from Vermont, Michigan, and this jug is from Wisconsin. 

Projects, I like a project. Yesterday a friend’s email sent me back to Russian literature, poetry this time. On sabbatical I read some Russian novels old and new, watched a few Russian flicks, read a bunch of Russian short stories. Read, through and after sabbatical, A Gentleman in Moscow, an American book I loved but that’s situated in Moscow over a couple generations. 

Now sabbatical is over I’m still there part time. So, this is poetry, Pushkin, specifically Yevgeny Onegin. Poor Onegin, what an alphabet loser, he inherits an estate from an uncle (read poem’s first stanza below to see what an ass Eugene is), he spurns a lovely girl who’s swooning over him, later flirts with his best friend’s fiance and gets into a duel in which he kills his friend, the fiance quickly dries her tears and marries some soldier (probably better anyway as her fiancé was a shy poet and this new guy’s a dashing young military officer), years later Onegin comes across the flirty girl again but now she is married to an old prince who is a general, and she tells Onegin to get lost. Read it twice last night, taking another read through later today. Pushkin has an unusual meter to the poem, almost a novel length sucker, and I’m going to see if I can discern its nuances in the English translation.  

"My uncle, a most worthy gentleman,
When he fell seriously ill, 
By snuffing it made us all respect him,
Couldn't have done better if he tried.
His behaviour was a lesson to us all. 
But, God above, what crushing boredom 
To sit with the malingerer night and day
Not moving even one footstep away.
What demeaning hypocrisy 
To amuse the half-dead codger,
To fluff up his pillows, and then, 
Mournfully to bring him his medicine;
To think to oneself, and to sigh:
When the devil will the old rascal die?" 

What’re we watching this morning: it’s one of three things. WaterTag, or TugChess, or simply boys playing Boat.

POD: TAFB for another haircut?



Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Sleepin’ in th’ shade …

1242 hours. Navy heading in so as not to be late to happy hour. BTDT.

On 7H porch, open MacBook. Screen’s too dark. In upper left corner, tap little black apple. Tap System Preferences. Tap Displays. On Built-in Display window, slide Brightness bar all the way out to the right.  

Except for evidently having slept in a wrong position all the previous night and waking in immovably excruciating hip pain Monday mornin— first happened 1993 after my father died and I started coming over from Apalachicola to PC on Sunday evenings to look after my mother and take care of Kristen until Wednesday mornings every week, and the old bed must’ve been really bad for sleeping — and unable to walk, Monday turned out excellent for me. Late, light breakfast then off to visit with a friend from ten to four including drive over to Stinky’s way out on 30A for oysters. Perfect, and I had my “usual,” about a dozen fried oysters on a bowl of leaves, with their house dressing. 

What kind of leaves IDK, all the leaves were whole which eating them turns me into a grazing goat or cow chewing a mouthful with ends of leaves sticking out both sides of mouth, left hand holding napkin to cover mouth while finger of right hand stuffs leaves into mouth. One oyster was easily three inches long, all the rest also nice size, in my own old days in the fish house, we would have called them “selects.” Forgot to snap and text the pic until several oysters were gone. Haven’t taken Linda to Stinky’s but one of these days.

Who wants to cut out, go. Who wants to nap, doze. Who wants to scan an octogenarial diary read on, NOYB, it’s uncle bubba letting the dancing fingers type whatever slips out. Asleep at 7:58 last night, up at 10:56, back to sleep, up again at 1:55, second time unable to return to sleep because of the gardenia pinched nerve, up to browse the web, four aspirin at 2:20, browse, doze. Four aspirin about ten. What I’m noticing about the ancient sailor who once was busy but now is lost, is that he’s no longer the driven workaholic daily accomplishing things, but has lapsed. The tugs, barges, pipes, cranes dredging just off 7H porch, I’m good watching and dozing. There was a day. There was a day, but goofed off all morning, this afternoon still finished being busy and rather like it this way. Sleepin’ in the noonday sun. Howyagonna getchur day’s work done? Never getchur day’s work done. 

p.s.  Suspended this blogpost yesterday because it was stupid, but Linda said not stupid, so here it is, read it anyone who will.