Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dead?


Death of God

With apology to self (to self because I meander this for myself as part of contemplating where the hell I am in life, not for any reader) for the typical wandering that ensues, I press “PUBLISH” anyway. 

Today is “Holy Saturday” of the so-named “Holy Triduum” of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday that precedes Easter Day, the Day of the Resurrection. To me, HS is an interesting day to contemplate that theologians in their [our] smoky mist of lofty haze actually know nothing. What they [we, because “theology” means “discussion about God, a word about God, study of God” and we become theologians ourselves when we -- deign or dare -- to enter the discussion whether it’s with a spouse, as Linda and I sometimes do, or in Sunday School class or Tuesday morning Bible study] do (sorry about the lost antecedent, but that’s why I added the bold brackets) is speculate, argue, debate, agree, and mostly disagree. I say “disagree” because those who “do theology” with me generally disagree with me altogether. And I say “do theology” because theology is not a shiny product like a new Buick, it’s a process more like what goes on in the Buick assembly plant. Thank God theology is not a product, because if it were, it would be the Deacon's Masterpiece, that one horse open shay.

A theologian from my seminary tradition would assert that, given the promise “where two or three gather in my Name, there am I in the midst of them,” (Matthew 18:20) God comes present in and as the theological discussion itself. (Rather intimidating, eh?, and you don’t even have to invoke the Trinity or open with prayer, God simply comes present, so mind your language)*. In my observation and experience and reading, professional theologians, those who write the books and textbooks and argue back and forth with each other in lofty language and various tongues, most notably German and English, and whose essays printed in journals nobody reads but themselves and whose books are bought only by seminarians who can be compelled to buy them, speculate boldly, with much confidence, even arrogant bluster. It may also be with wisdom, but (Hebrews 11:1) it’s still speculation, and it’s faith not knowledge. So don’t feel blown out of the water by any pompous theologian. 

Why do we do this, why do we do theology, why do we like to talk about God? I don’t know. One of my favorites, Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), 
who wrote that within each of us is “a sense of the infinite,” might say that our penchant for doing theology is the spark of the divine. 

So then, Holy Saturday and the Death of God, eh? Theologically, on this day, God is dead. Jesus Christ, true God and true man, died yesterday on the Cross and today lies dead in the tomb. Were you there, had you been there, to roll back the stone on Holy Saturday, you would find a dead body lying in cold darkness. For Christians, that dead body was/is God. I’m trying to avoid being trite or simplistic, God is dead. Not so much in the Altizer & Hamilton sense, but in the stone cold dead body sense. Anyone who has, as I have many times, gone into the viewing room at a funeral home and gazed on the embalmed corpse of one once known and loved laid out in a casket knows the horrific realization that “that isn’t him.” I still visit Greenwood Cemetery about once a week, still drawn there by old feelings of loving friendship even though I know that wasn’t them that I buried, because I had that sickening realization before the lid was closed and we followed the hearse to the grave where I said the words. It’s the same with the theology of Holy Saturday: God is dead. God -- isn’t. Then the dawning: who’s in charge? Why are those stars still twinkling? Who will hear my prayer? Abandoned. No, not abandoned, we did this to ourselves; it’s more like having killed the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Yes, Sunday is coming, and Sunday solves it theologically, but that doesn’t answer the total stillness of Holy Saturday. We are forbidden to say Mass on this day, why? I reckon because the Mass takes us to Calvary, which is over and done, but it’s more than “respect for the Holy,” it’s that today there’s nobody to hear, come present, bless and consecrate. 

Is this nonsense? Everything I write and say I castigate as “my nonsense” because I realize that it‘s all speculation, contemplation, that I have chosen to be, as Steve Jobs said, “trapped by dogma, living with the results of other people’s thinking” ... letting “the noise of others‘ opinions drown out (my) own inner voice.” So, Holy Saturday: God is dead? Or, was dead that sabbath day and right through until that early dawn of the First Day of the Week when the women came to the tomb?

What does this mean for me, to me? For spiritual observance, this is a day when, until the sun goes down this evening, there is no one to hear my daily devotions or answer my fervent prayers. What about Brannon today? Well, closet transubstantiationist that I may suspect myself to be (the Body of Christ; the Blood of Christ), still and all I do know that we are not really there, Christ is Risen and God is Alive. I am neither Marcellus Gallio nor Demetrius, nor the Beloved Disciple. I may be more like Malchus. But this is not Jerusalem that Passover Sabbath of AD 33, I am not there, and God is not dead, I am simply remembering and commemorating and trying to live into it. Was God dead that day? I wasn’t there, I don’t know. I’m contemplating, speculating. My mind may say no but my heart says yes. It’s not knowledge, it’s faith: the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) It’s part of the Mystery of Faith, which I find untenable, but I can preach it.

W+ 

* Invariably, this takes me to a 1970 Spring morning at sea off Vietnam when I stood on the flight deck and watched as our Marine helicopters landed and tough Marines carried terrified little Vietnamese children to our ship’s hospital below decks, where our wonderful Navy doctors, plastic surgeons, would work to repair some of their horrific war wounds. A missing cheek, half a nose, ear gone, a stump for a hand, a mangled foot, and my heart prayed that no one would say “Oh my God,” or “Holy Jesus” or “Jesus Christ” and bring God present to see what our war did to his little folk. It was my first living sense of the Good Friday trembling rage of God the Father as he beheld what we had done. That line in one of Martin Bell’s stories about The Great Silver Wolf when Nenshu the messenger comes to report and the Wolf takes in the reality: “The boy had been crucified.” What I learned over the next several weeks, beside witnessing the skill of our Navy doctors, was that Marines aren’t as tough as I had thought, coming up with teddy bears and such for the little children. I guess you had to be there. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring Break in Jerusalem


Spring Break in Jerusalem

Today is Good Friday. The Christian world celebrates -- or rather honors, observes -- the trial, condemnation, crucifixion and death of a man called Jesus of Nazareth during the days of the Roman Empire. A Galilean Jew who had come down to Jerusalem in Judea for the Passover festival, he apparently had crossed both the Judean authorities in the Temple and the higher Roman authorities by having attention drawn to himself as too visible, too outspoken during the festival season. It was dangerous, not a safe time to stand out in the crowd.

Thousands of outsider visitors were in town for the annual celebration, and all the authorities, civil and religious, were on edge because there was always trouble of some sort from the crowds. Not from residents. Jerusalem itself, the year-rounders, were generally comfortably settled into life as usual under calm Roman rule. But passions of nationalistic fervor ran high among the crowd “returned home to the Jewish fatherland,” and there was always trouble of some sort. Special tension with stirrings of rebellion to overthrow Roman rule and reestablish the ancient throne of David and glory days of Solomon. It was tradition, part of annual revelry: reliving the old dream. 

The old dream. The outsiders always brought it in. And there can be no sensible doubt that it was fortified by wine. Nothing is as mighty to a drunken mob as itself empowered by alcohol, or as noble as its cause empassioned by inebriation, or as obnoxious to the year-rounders. And so, every year at Passover, Roman military presence was beefed up in Jerusalem, including the Roman governor himself arrived from his seaside palace in Caesarea, to make sure the crowd did not get out of hand. 

Every year there would be major trouble of some sort, and usually several crucifixions. Very popular, crucifixions served both the Roman purpose of cowing any uprising, and the local authorities' objective of keeping order. And, not coincidentally, crucifixions were attractions of bloody excitement, the crowd of spectators jeering as soldiers whipped the condemned through the streets, not unlike bloody gladiator fights and feeding enemies to wild animals in the Roman coliseum. Anyone who has been to American ice hockey will understand that the game is boring and the crowd is not happy unless and until there is blood on the ice. 

This is the usual perverse human scene. Any resident of my own hometown, Panama City, Florida, knows not to go to the beach during spring break. The police are beefed up, they are everywhere, ubiquitous, and not amused. The crowds are obnoxious drunken young fools. There are wet t-shirt contests, bloody fights, beer guzzlings; and of the young showoff males leaping like Tarzan from one high-rise hotel balcony to the next, someone usually plunges to his death on the pavement below.

One of my daily email arrivals is delanceyplace.com with an extract from some book or other. This one, copy and paste from yesterday, is apt and good. Scroll down!

TW+

Today's selection -- from Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore. At the time of Christ, Passover was a religious observance that brought Jews from throughout the world back to Jerusalem and turned the city into a colorful, teeming and dangerous spectacle:

"At Passover, Jerusalem was at its most crowded and dangerous. ... In the Upper City, across the valley from the Temple, the grandees lived in Grecian-Roman mansions with Jewish features: the so-called Palatial Residence excavated there has spacious receiving-rooms and mikvahs. Here stood the palaces of Antipas and the high priest Joseph Caiaphas. But the real authority in Jerusalem was the prefect, Pontius Pilate, who usually ruled his province from Caesarea on the coast but always came to supervise Passover, staying at Herod's Citadel. ...

"Josephus guessed that two and a half million Jews came for Passover. This is an exaggeration but there were Jews 'out of every nation,' from Parthia and Babylonia to Crete and Libya. The only way to imagine this throng is to see Mecca during the haj. At Passover, every family had to sacrifice a lamb, so the city was jammed with bleating sheep -- 255,600 lambs were sacrificed. There was much to do: pilgrims had to take a dip in a mikvah every time they approached the Temple as well as buy their sacrificial lambs in the Royal Portico. Not everyone could stay in the city. Thousands lodged in the surrounding villages, like Jesus, or camped around the walls. As the smell of burning meat and heady incense wafted -- and the trumpet blasts, announcing prayers and sacrifices, ricocheted -- across the city, everything was focused on the Temple, nervously watched by the Roman soldiers from the Antonia Fortress. ...

"The towering, colonnaded Royal Portico [was] the bustling, colourful, crowded centre of all life, where pilgrims gathered to organize their accommodation, to meet friends, and to change money for the Tyrian silver used to buy sacrificial lambs, doves, or, for the rich, oxen. ...

"Crucifixion, [the favored form of public execution in the region], said Josephus, was 'the most miserable death,' designed to demean the victim publicly. Hence Pilate ordered Jesus' placard to be attached to his cross --KING OF THE JEWS. Victims could be tied or nailed. The skill was to ensure victims did not bleed to death. The nails were usually driven through the forearms -- not the palms -- and ankles: the bones of a crucified Jew have been found in a tomb in north Jerusalem with a 4.5-inch iron nail still sticking through a skeletal ankle. Nails from crucifixion victims were popularly worn as charms, around the neck, by both Jews and gentiles to ward off illness, so the later Christian fetish for crucificial relics was actually part of a long tradition. Victims were usually crucified naked -- with men facing outwards, women inwards.

"The executioners were experts at either prolonging the agony or end­ing it quickly. The aim was to not kill Jesus too quickly but to demon­strate the futility of defying Roman power. He was most probably nailed to the cross with his arms outstretched as shown in Christian art, sup­ported by a small wedge, sedile, under the buttocks and a suppedaneum ledge under the feet. This arrangement meant he could survive for hours, even days. The quickest way to expedite death was to break the legs. The body weight was then borne by the arms and the victim would asphyxiate within ten minutes."


Jerusalem: The Biography (Vintage)
Author: Simon Sebag Montefiore
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Date: 2011 by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Pages: 105,6, 112

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cantaloupe & Spontaneous Wednesday


I love life spontaneous. I like living life on the spur of the moment. While I studiously avoid starting a paragraph, much less an article, in the first person singular, just this once I'll do it as a symbol of spontaneity. Why do I avoid “I”? Because it marks one as self-centered and one’s conversation and writing as egotistical, and one's being as boring. (Humpty Dumpty would say, “yes, one, but not two, two can do it”. But HD is correct if for no other reason than that two would begin with we not one). But as I was saying, why not begin with “I”? "I" reminds me of the insufferably egotistical author who, having bored an acquaintance to death for half an hour at a cocktail party, said to his object, “But enough about me, I’m tired of talking about me, let’s talk about you, I want to hear about you. What did you think of my latest book?”

That’s where the “I word” takes me. But I do love life spontaneous. Fairly different, Linda likes everything planned, organized and working from a list. Her desk is like her life. I can’t even get to my desk. Which bothers me not at all. I didn’t realize it about myself my years in the Navy, because at sea there was always a sailor to keep things orderly; and on shore duty my secretary never let anything lie in my In Box or on my desk very long. But on 2 Feb 1978, the day after I retired from the Navy and set up a desk and business office at home, I realized that life was going to be chaos, as it has been so ever since.

Yesterday on the spur of the moment, we drove over to Pensacola to visit a friend of three decades, Mary Virginia Robinson. After many long and vigorous years of life in Apalachicola, and in the Trinity Church choir, and as cashier and senior vice president at the local bank, and as church treasurer at my recruiting 25 or so years ago after she retired from the bank at age 65, Mary Virginia is retired to Pensacola, where Fred and Frances live. The retirement home where she lives is top notch, and at -- I believe she’s 93 -- MV looks great and carries on as lively a conversation as ever. In fact, we arrived just at lunchtime, unplanned, unexpected, but to her absolute delight, so the staff moved her into the executive dining room for our visit, and served her lunch there. Baked chicken breast with mushroom gravy, red beets in a separate bowl. Ice tea, a glass of milk, and a slice of key lime pie. So vigorous was her happy chat with us that she only managed to eat a quarter of the chicken and beets, but she did sip the tea, and she ate every bite of the pie. Mary Virginia has been a dear friend for a long time.

After we retired from parish ministry, 1998, MV began dropping by here from time to time when she was in town, usually with a plastic grocery bag of recent issues of The Living Church magazine, knowing that we didn’t subscribe but enjoyed keeping up with goings-on in the Episcopal Church at large. From 1984 through 1998, every week when the weekly magazine arrived in her post office box, she had read it at the stand up table in the post office -- which was also where she paid her bills the instant they arrived, while also visiting with friends who came to the post office to get their mail -- read The Living Church latest issue, then drop by the rectory and give us that latest copy of the magazine. MV did not approve of waste, including the waste of only one person reading a magazine, and she told me that we should not subscribe. She gave up herTLC subscription several years ago, but in the years she did come by the house, if we weren’t here, she enjoyed visiting with my mother, and mama always enjoyed MV. If nobody was home at our house, we always knew Mary Virginia had been by when there was a plastic grocery bag of The Living Church magazines hanging on the back door knob.

Spontaneously then, leaving the retirement home after visiting MV, the traffic on Davis Hwy was too heavy to turn left, we turned right on Davis, drove north to the next light, turned right, drove to 9th Avenue, south on 9th Avenue to Cervantes in East Hill, and west on Cervantes, across the bridge to East Pensacola Heights at Bayou Texar (ta-HAAR), up the hill, left at the light, left at Strong Street down to the bayou and to the Oyster Barn.

Actually, that wasn’t quite our route, spontaneously, one block before Cervantes, we turned left onto E. Strong Street and drove through the East Hill neighborhood and past the house at 1317 where my mother grew up, and where I so dearly loved visiting my Gentry grandparents and cousins who lived there. The modest little house where my grandparents moved about 1914 is no longer as huge as it was when I was a child. But there was the sidewalk around the block where I learned to skate and to ride a bike (we had dirt roads and no sidewalks around Massalina Bayou in the Cove when I was a boy, where Robert and I walked last Tuesday morning). The corner at 13th Avenue and E. Strong Street where in my early years there always sat parked an enormous sedan from the late 1920s, a car with the wooden spoke wheels.


At the Oyster Barn, which is out on a pier we had a booth right on the bayou. The OB, BTW, has marks inside showing the water level for various hurricanes over the years. We had the mullet dinner, and I had two dozen steamed, the second dozen in honor of Madge, who telephoned me from the HNEC church office just as my oysters were arriving at table. Lovely, large oysters, but not Apalachicola oysters, and not salty, I had to add salt, but WTH I can take a lasix this morning, eh?

A spontaneous day, thence home, cup of coffee, a quick nap, and off to Stations of the Cross at HNEC. 

Fruit for supper: a dozen bites of whatever you call that orange melon, I never can remember the name of it. Pills, early to bed.


TW

Cantaloupe, that’s it. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Making All Things New


 All Things New

It isn’t possible for Holy Week to become real for me until, after the horrific Palm Sunday gospel, for which no forgiveness should be pronounced except from the Cross, I watch Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ. It takes me to Jerusalem, from the Mount of Olives right through to the Place of the Skull. The movie is excessive only in the vicious, bloody beating, the time focused on it, the utter savagery of man’s hatred of man. 


But when it came out nearly a dozen years ago, Pope John Paul II viewed it and said, “It happened just that way.” I believe so, yes. Just that way. Oh my God.


Artist’s license is taken in the film story, yes, but neither more nor less than the four evangelists take in their presentation of the gospels. John’s gospel has intricate detail of what Jesus said, moves the events back a day so that Jesus, proclaimed as the Lamb of God at the beginning of John's gospel, dies the day before Passover, on the day the lambs are slaughtered, sacrificed as the Lamb of God. The Synoptics have it so that the Last Supper is the Passover meal. There are lots of detail differences, but as the pope said, it happened just that way. I cannot truly be there unless and until I live again through the horror of Gibson’s film. I did that last evening.

The artist’s license, which is so rich, includes the female demon hovering over Jesus at the Mount of Olives. She vanishes when Jesus crushes the serpent with his foot, but reappears here and there, sometimes drifting at the back of the crowd. And among the demons tormenting Judas.


Who is she? I’m thinking Isaiah 34:14, Lilith, the night hag of the wilderness, who terrorizes the darkness. 

The film’s flashbacks are incredibly moving. Early, Mary comes out to ask Jesus if he is hungry -- it seems to be lunch or suppertime -- and he, the carpenter's son, a worker in wood, is making a table, a dining table for a rich man (he hasn’t made the chairs yet). But it could also be a table for the Lord’s Supper, the Altar of Sacrifice. 

Carrying his Cross through the streets of Jerusalem, Jesus stumbles and falls. Desperate in the crowd, Mary sees him fall. 


The flashback comes of the time he fell as a little boy and she rushed to him, gathered him lovingly in her arms, and held him close. He was her baby. 


He will always be her baby. Mothers are like that. So are fathers, some of them. So are Papas, grandfathers. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us. Pray for me.

In Gibson’s film, the Beloved Disciple is shielding and protecting and helping Mary. She asks him to help her get to Jesus. One of the times he falls, she is able to rush to him, and their heads come lovingly together, perhaps for the last time. 


To me, the most overwhelming moment in the movie is when he says to her,

“See mother, I make all things new.”


The horror of the irony is almost unbearable.

The scenario on the hill is excruciating, to watch, to visualize, to imagine, to be there. 


I will be so glad when this -- week -- is over. 



Perhaps most foreboding, terrifying, is the God's Eye View, as the sky darkens and the earth begins to tremble.


Sunday is coming. Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus. Come.

TW+

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mind At 3:33


Whoever knows me knows a strange person (I'm leaving the "very" out). Juxtaposed, whoever knows not a strange person knows not me. Not to say "weird" but strange. Eccentric may be more apt, my homiletics professor at Gettysburg told me, "You have an eccentric preaching style, but it seems to work for you, so OK" so OK, it's more than style, sadly, it's my being. Thunderstorm and here I lie sitting up in bed drinking a mug of coffee, in a beloved Papa mug which I won't allow downstairs lest something happen to it. From one of Linda's keurigcups, the coffee is a bit weak because I forgot to add a spoon of crystals from the Luzianne jar that's here by the upstairs coffeemaker just for this moment. But, OK. What does the mind do. The door is open, and I'm enjoying the vigorous thunderstorm. Not violent, but vigorous. It'll be good for the yard, eh? What does the mind do? It uses the eyes to stare at the digital clock: 3:33. 


Mine is red, not green, but 3:33. What time of day could fill up, light up, the most of the little digital bars? Well, 8:88 of course, but we have no such time (maybe we shouldn't be in such a hurry). In fact, the middle position can't go higher than 5, can it. 8:58 leaves two digital bars blank in the middle position, so not 8:58. Try 8:18, nope, not by half. Let's just go up. 8:28 leaves two unlighted. 8:48 leaves three. Try going down. Yep, it's 8:08, see? 


Only one blank bar. BTW, that's not my watch. Since being retired in 1998 I no longer wear a watch or carry a calendar, I use my iPhone instead, and at 78 (which leaves four bars blank, which is obvious to anyone who knows me), the Mind is stretched to keep up with the gardenia phone, wallet, and keys, not even to mention that one of Linda's assignments every time I walk out the door is to ask and make sure, "are you zipped?" But 8:08 is the max. However, it's too late, no point lying here watching for that exciting moment, it's hours away. 

Well, maybe weird is the word.

Holy Week brings intriguing juxtaposing. Why and how juxtaposing, juxtapositioning, juxtaposition? Well, “how” because we lay Him in the tomb and seal it, then have Him alive for Last Supper, once for Bread and Wine, then for the Humility of Servanthood as He washes feet, then, agonizingly, we try Him again, condemn Him, and make Him carry the Cross to Calvary again. And “why” "juxtaposing"? Why, because I said so. Because I said so, just like between Humpty Dumpty and Alice:

'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'


'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'

So, right, who is in charge, the word or the speaker, who is to be master? I agree with Humpty Dumpty. As the speaker, one mustn't allow oneself to be slave to the words one uses, the speaker must be master of the words he uses, the words don’t even get a say in it. If a word doesn’t want to mean what I choose it to mean (“certainty” is an example), I may whip it into shape. Americans have done that with “hopefully,” which now means not what it wanted to mean, but what we chose and choose it to mean, how we worked it. Even “hopefully’s” defenders have given up and come round, though they get five points each time they use "hopefully" classically, but three points off each time they use it vulgarly.   

"Belfry" is another example. As Anu Garg said last week, belfry was originally "berfrei" a watchtower. But because the watchtower had bells, people thought it was belfry, and wanted the word to be "belfry," and the word had no say in the matter. Which must be somewhat humiliating, but who cares what words think. Anyway, Humpty Dumpty is right, we must be the master. However, unlike most of us, HD is not only right, he’s fair, as he goes on to explain to Alice that when he makes words do more than ordinary work, he pays them extra. In fact, he says they come round on Saturday to collect their wages, which he seems to find rather annoying. HD is also a fair poet, as he showed Alice.

The outrageousness of the whole conversation, which I love, is what makes it so insane, ridiculous, and potentially funny. However, I have tried using it to be humorous with people, and it never works, nobody ever understands and I always come off feeling like HD after his fall. One reason is that I tend to ramble in both thoughts and words. Speaking of which, Humpty Dumpty is quite proud of his beautiful cravat, a gift of the king, actually, and was offended when Alice asked if it was a belt.   


But about that juxtaposition. 

Never mind, it’s brillig, time to knock off ships work and finish calculating these HNES financial aid applications before going to walk with Robert.

If the thunderstorm clears. And if I can get my mind off the Love, and the Humility, and the Cross.

W  

Monday, April 14, 2014

Only In America


The Heart of America

Although nothing should surprise one in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, it nevertheless surprised me to read this morning of the shooter at the Jewish Center, that the KKK and its pathetic anti-semitism are alive and well in America. A contemptible, hate-filled 70-something shouting “Heil Hitler” and gunning down three people, including a boy and his grandfather, and a woman. Not in the South, either: Kansas City, the heart of America. In the South we have our own detestable bigots breathing hate grounded in religious-based certitude. 

According to the media, the Reverend Adam Hamilton of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, a suburb of Kansas City, said the two male victims were members of his church -- a mild irony. An irony that reminds, some weeks ago a group of Syrian rebels raided a hospital, dragged a patient out and cut off his head, only to discover that he was one of their soldiers. Nothing is as certain as hate. Nothing is as hateful as certainty.

An extreme irony is that, according to this morning’s media, at a theater near the Jewish Center, a production of “To Kill A Mockingbird” was scheduled for yesterday afternoon. Only in America.

The heart of America: to begin Holy Week with ironic hatred. Whether to laugh or cry. I think, cry.

TW+

Sunday, April 13, 2014

From Florida to Montana


Another lovely spring morning, we slept with the door open. 65F outside and 84%, fair and not foggy, the flashing light directly across the Bay from Calhoun Avenue is clear. Facebook is not one of my things, but most days while posting a link to my nonsense I scroll down six inches or so to see what’s going on beyond my daze. There yesterday, a picture of John’s boat at Shell Island, with a note “it’s that time again” but beneath it a note from a cousin, “not in Montana,” so I check her weather: 23F at the moment.

April is often our best month, spring weather with azaleas and dogwood in  bloom, citrus casting their fragrance all around. Azaleas are done for the season and the dogwood has gone from white flowers to full green leaves, but lemon and grapefruit trees are aromatic. There’s one citrus tree way down front that has never bloomed or given fruit, and it’s in line of sight between the kitchen window and the Bay, I may cut it down this year, if it doesn’t have a bird’s nest, which it sometimes does. It reminds me of the fig tree Jesus cursed. What happened to the fig tree? Depends on which gospel you’re reading, here it wilts instantly from fiery wrath of the Word, there it’s wilted when he comes back by a day or so later. And the parable fig tree where the owner says cut the damn thing down but the gardener says let me put some manure around it and give it special care and see if it produces fruit, otherwise cut it down this time next year. OK, anonymous citrus, you get a reprieve.

All my girls are here this weekend, ten people at the dining room table for steak yesterday noon. Ray, who chefs at fancy restaurants, cooks the most perfect steak, beautifully criss-crossed, it’s an art he has, I cannot do it. SEARING HOT grill, tenderloin this time, psssst psssst flip it psssst psssssst, take mine off, spoon of homemade mac&cheese, spoon of green beans, glass of Argentinean Malbec, look around the table at those I love and give thanks for them and this moment. Fifty years ago my father was sitting at this very place at table in this very room, a hundred years ago my grandfather was sitting in this very spot. Next? My state of mind looks like a day to day weather map, when my girls are here it’s Florida Gulf Coast where life is perfect; by two o’clock this afternoon it’ll be April in Montana.

Palm Sunday, Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem according to Matthew 21. A literalist, Matthew somewhat ludicrously visualizes Jesus riding into town astride two animals, a colt and its mother to make sure Zechariah 9 is fulfilled. In real life, Matthew must have been either a brick mason or a diesel mechanic, he sure as heck was no poet. And he doesn’t read the Hebrew Bible, he’s reading the Greek language Septuagint, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion; proclaim it aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, the King is coming to thee, just, and a Saviour; he is meek and riding on an ass, and a young foal.” If Matthew had read the NRSV he’d have got it:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!
    Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!
Lo, your king comes to you;
    triumphant and victorious is he,
humble and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

After the joyful entry of hosanna, hosanna, we descend into the horror of the Passion Gospel and, the Savior sealed in a tomb, leave in despair.

Bubba understands the transition. 

The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday.

W+