Monday, March 30, 2015

March Monday

Another wonderful weekend, with Tass and family here. Why does a house full of noisy girls make PapaDad so happy, I must be nuts. But no, I am nuts, about them. The downer hits as they start packing up after Sunday lunch, takes its nosedive as they drive off, stirring memories of leaving Tassa at college so far away. That leaving turned upside down.

If there’s an up side, it’s Jeremy leaving tea in the brown betty, best tea imaginable, hot or cold. Hot with a touch of milk. Cold just ice, never sugar. A large glass last evening with a bowl of cold green peas and lima beans, teaspoon of mayo stirred in, supper outside on the porch looking out over my Bay. Clear and cold, light corduroy jacket. By then the armada of Sunday afternoon sailboats retired. 

Now Monday in Holy Week, those lights way out on the dark Bay must be a shrimpboat. Yesterday in Sunday School we discussed the Christ Hymn in Philippians 2, our Second Reading for Palm Sunday, Year B. The hymn's been misunderstood and misused by the Xn Church all these centuries, as a high christology assertion of the divinity of Jesus. It’s only such if taken out of context. 

With six other letters, Philippians is uncontested as a genuine letter of Paul, but scholars aren’t sure whether Paul wrote the hymn at 2:5-11, or maybe borrowed it to make his point in the context calling the Philippians to be humble as Christ was humble. That’s what the verses are about, part of his call to humility, that’s all; but theologically the Church has made it more and other. If Paul wrote the hymn, the christology is not meant to be high, because Paul was a thoroughgoing monotheist Jew for whom the notion of a divine human being would not surprise the Greek world around him but would blaspheme the God of the Shema. Even if Paul did not compose the hymn the christology is still not meant to be high, because Philippians was written maybe about 50 CE, perhaps half a century before the Holy Spirit had inspired Xn theology to that christological height asserted in the Gospel according to John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So I would say that anyone who insists the hymn is meant to assert the divinity of Christ must consider it a later addition to Philippians, and I’ve never read a scholar who suggested that; it's too perfect in the letter, beautifies and perfects the entire epistle. 

Theologically, some scholars say the hymn reflects Christian adoption of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah; some say it contrasts Christ the Second Adam (as Paul writes) with the First Adam of Genesis. Maybe both.

At any event, the hymn as Paul uses it was not meant to assert the divinity of Christ. Mind, anyone lurking to bring heresy charges against me, I am not teaching that Christ is/was not divine, the Nicene Fathers settled that for the Xn Church some seventeen hundred years ago; I am saying that Paul did not teach it. At least, not here in Philippians.

Of his letter to Philippians however, scholars do show persuasively that the letter as we have it is not a unity but three -- a thank you note for a kind, helpful and much appreciated gift of money brought by Epaphroditus; a warm letter from prison (perhaps in Rome but not sure), that includes not only the Christ Hymn but Paul's call to rejoice in Christ; and a sharp tirade warning against those who teach that Gentiles coming to Christ must first be circumcised into Judaism.

Monday, a walking day. Come August, I may look back appreciatively on this extra cool spring that we are having. 

Kona and a stuffed egg.


Sunday, March 29, 2015

in a Plane

With all that Life Is Good (and I do affirm that life is good and still good, and good nevertheless and notwithstanding, and anyway), one who has lived into life and through life and knows (as my dog or cat does not know) that this is it and it’s about over and done, might wish that life could have been lived in a day and age and planet, galaxy, universe of beings brained for goodwill and lovingkindness. That is to say, instead of having lived with, among and as creatures, animals, things, godlike humans whose basic drive is reptilian -- are we created in God’s image, or is our god imagined in our image -- would have lived in a Plane without hatred, Newtown, racism, Holocaust, greed, My Lai, selfishness, Shock & Awe, thinness of being, ISIS, certainty. A world with mentality so dark as to slam an airliner filled with happy schoolchildren into a mountain leaving parents and the world bereft, but a world still not ashamed, because in the ages of man, we have learned nothing but to grapple for our rights.

That where is imagined, I reckon, in our dreams, in the passages from Isaiah and Revelation that Christians read to each other, and like to hear, at funerals and feel temporarily soothed and assured. Except that I don’t mind the physical pain and death, and the three score years and ten of Psalm 90. It’s the disappointment, isn't it; it's the sadness, the cosmic pain of what we do to each other, the realization of what we could have been and done.

Maybe next Time. There.

Beyond the Eastern Sea with Reepicheep.

After The Last Battle.

TW +Time   

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Tom 'n Jay

How do I come across these things, it happens as I search for -- not answers, there are no answers only findings, opinions, views, conclusions of scholars who devote their lives and earn their livelihood from exploration and sharing and publishing, and publishing mandatory new editions with colored pictures replacing black and white graphs -- as I search, sometimes feverishly lest +Time run out before I know everything, to find out whatever is to be found and contemplated. Maybe the joy of the search is an answer to the nonplussingly obtuse question “What difference does it make?” 

Yesterday in searching for sumpmnother about Anthony Bloom I found The Satirist with Dan Geddes’ review of The Book of J by Harold Bloom. Actually, it’s Harold Bloom working over J translated by David Rosenberg; it looks to me like David did the work and Harold the thinking. What they did was browse the Pentateuch, cull out everything by the J writer, which Rosenberg then translated from Hebrew into English. The result, with J freed from E, P, D and the Redactor, is a fellow who comes across as mischievous, self-contradictory, somewhat irrational and self-defeating, obstructionist, Geddes uses the word impish. I might add machiavellian, self-centered and arrogant, confounding, capricious, sometimes inhuman and rather maliciously seems to enjoy it. But as Mr. Beaver said, "Safe?! Who said anything about safe? Course he's not safe. But he's good." Geddes writes such an intriguing review that I ended up doing two things. I subscribed to The Satirist free online (if I don’t like it or if Geddes overwhelms me I’ll cancel) and I ordered a penny copy of The Book of J, hard-cover, very good condition, via Amazon. 

What the hell am I doing ordering a book? Leaving Apalachicola seventeen years ago, I orphaned more than half of my personal library of beloved books, not easy for one to whom each book is like a child; and just now moving from eighteen rooms to three I parted with 95 percent of the rest, there’s no room here for a new book. No, there is room in my mind, and when I’m not reading it I’ll keep it here by my chair under my coffee cup. When I’m done I’ll take it to the office or to the church library.
 My Tuesday morning Bible Seminar folks seem as curious as I am, and this Fall 2015, God and +Time willing, I may want to start again with Genesis if I can find my copy of Understanding Genesis (Sarna), which along with Christine Hayes’ lecture transcript is my best reference for it, and use Bloom also as a new POV on Jay.

An example of J’s complex nature is He pats out a mudpie and breathes life into it to create Ish, a mud doll, an earthling; cultivates Ish as a walking buddy; fixes up a lovely garden for Ish to tend, farm and feed himself; has him live in a world with talking animals like Narnia; plants a tree with luscious fruit right in the middle but tells Ish not dare even touch it, then when Ish is tempted and tastes it anyway goes into a rage and punishes Ish all out of proportion to his sin. He thwarts not only Ish, but Himself. That’s Jay alright. 

Even my middle-school seventh graders “got it” eight or ten years ago when we were studying Genesis, when they asked, “If He didn’t want Adam to eat the apple, why did He plant the tree in the middle of the garden in the first place?” The only correct answer is “Exactly!” Yep, that's Jay.

And the difference it makes is the search and discovery v. being content with knowing not and knowing I know not, which as the 1940s radio song said, "It pays to be ignorant."

Hey, BTW, ich heiße Tom, not to be presumptive and I should have asked earlier, but may I call you Jay? I have another buddy named Jay who is equally puzzling, maybe it’s the Name. Like me, he’s obsessed with the flashing green light across the Bay. Like you, he too is somewhat of an enigma.


Friday, March 27, 2015


It has degenerated to a diary, hasn’t it, a daily rehearsal of personal nonsense, tripe and trivia that no longer lights even my own fire. Time to give it up, but gradual or bam? It's a habit addictive as the morning cigarette I never smoked. 

Sitting here on my balcony gazing left, east, the eye tripped first by Mabel’s brick house (nineties, Mabel has been relocated to Tallahassee against her will and fuming), then by Landmark (sticking farther out into the Bay than private property should be permitted), then bounced to the clouds by the city skyline. Friday is dawning, no red in the east, no orange or yellow either, but some thin clouds are white because the sun is shining on them. Cool and pleasant out here, out here and up here, promise of a sublime spring day. 

Tuesday I missed Cardio Chuck, and again this morning because today I must think and do, whereas I come home from Chuck’s sweaty, enervated and collapsing for a nap of untold hours. There was an age when rigorous exercise was energizing, no more. Even the Monday and Wednesday walks are tiring, only the company, conversation and shared memories inspiring.

Okay, I’m a fool for Signs, you know so much, you are so wise, you translate it, what does this sign mean: inexplicably, my picture of a 1916 Hudson touring car 
has popped up on the screen. 

And suddenly, dawn.

I love this place and time.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Crumples and Dies

Crumples and Dies: Eschaton, the End of the Age

“Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.” (Mark 13:31-33 KJV)

Probably no immediate cause for alarm, but startling to read what evidently is the far end of Time, which isn’t going to last forever as blithely we thought. And apparently the Father isn’t the only one who knows when after all: scientist have a yardstick on Time, the stable earth, the deep salt sea.

Tucked away in Delanceyplace this morning, an extract from The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science (Natalie Angier 2007), discussing yoctoseconds and zeptoseconds. “By contrast, our seemingly indomitable Earth has completed a mere 5 times 10 to the 9th power orbits around the sun in its 5 billion years of existence, and is expected to tally up only maybe another 10 billion laps before the solar system crumples and dies. ... In a very real sense then our solar system is far less 'stable' than particles like the heavy quark.” 

I’ve wondered what this seaside stretch of St. Andrews, Florida from Frankford Avenue to Bayview Avenue was like two thousand years ago when those feet in ancient time were walking upon England’s mountain green. And I often wonder what it will be like in a hundred years, and a thousand and ten thousand: peace and goodwill, or will earth and sky be dark and hopeless as Cormac McCarthy graphically has it in The Road, unspeakable savagery and the sea gray and lifeless, even my Bay. Or green and lush, taken over by vines and growth, crumbled, disintegrated, swallowed up and gone as in that TV miniseries Life After People. After eons, unearthed by curious alien pilgrims from a far galaxy. 

But I see my house, in even better shape today than when first built over a century ago, still standing in 2115 and looking out across St. Andrew Bay, beyond Davis Point and Shell Island, to the sea. And remembering.

To Puddleglum and the children in the underworld on Aslan’s quest for Rilian, "That is old Father Time, who was once a King in Overland. Now he has sunk down into the Deep Realm and lies dreaming of all the things that are done in the upper world. Many sink down and few return to the sunlit lands. They say he will wake at the end of the world."

T +Time and counting

The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

opaque, translucent, transparent


A haven, the Episcopal Church is to me an interesting phenomenon among religious groups, characterized by the quip “you don’t have to check your brain at the door.” It’s a community where thinking is encouraged, not forbidden, even the Nicene Fathers are up for the turkey shoot. They are in fact my favorite target, but as the affirmation is “We believe” not “We know,” and restored from Credo to Πιστεύομεν I can hold them up and join in speaking for the church.

This is not a church where one can be muted, silenced, as I’ve seen done to prominent and brilliant RC theologians who didn’t toe the line, some of whose books I have and have read.

Good walk this morning, not our longest, but 57 minutes including two brief sitdowns. With the new construction, the courthouse will soon be out of sight from 4th Street Bridge. But then, if memory hasn’t failed, when I was a boy the county jail was there, so it isn’t as though we’ve always had a pristine view of the courthouse. What I remember is, from our house the other end of Massalina Bayou near Hamilton Avenue, hearing the sirens go off at the county jail and the bloodhounds start barking and howling when there was a jail escape, and my mother running out into the yard to shoo us inside, then shutting and locking all doors and windows. That was before air conditioning, too. Seems to me the escapees were usually short on planning, and apprehended under the bridge.

Pause on the bench on Tarpon Dock Bridge, view of the Bay.

Heresy, the minority view, fighting over which many good men murdered each other in early days of the church -- WTH it wasn’t just the early days, Queen Mary burned at the stake English bishops including our hero Tom Cranmer who had helped her father Henry the Eighth I Am I Am and her half-brother Edward the Impotent escape from Rome -- indeed, the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church have split with judgment and bitter hatred in my own generation over sexuality issues deemed heretical by some -- is pretty much an archaic notion in American mainline Xnty these days. Although this morning I read a piece in Christianity Today by an outsider-looking-in slamming our Presiding Bishop

“In her opening address to the Episcopal Church's recent General Convention, the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the church's presiding bishop, made a special point of denouncing what she labeled "the great Western heresy"—the teaching, in her words, "that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God." This "individualist focus," she declared, "is a form of idolatry."”

So, okay, the Hebrew notion of salvation was not personal, an individual keeping the Law and being as sure for heaven as if you were already there a la modern evangelicalism that says accept Christ and when you die do not pass Go, go to heaven, go straight to heaven; but that in the end God would save his people Israel, and as in the soteriological cycle that’s manifested throughout the Book of Judges, perhaps before the end.

I did like this piece, lifted as I recall from RevRay’s FB page. It seems to contrast with our Constitution and Canons I.17.7 that says “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church” notwithstanding that the Celebrant has invited the people saying, “The gifts of God for the people of God.” Truthfully, we are not really as welcoming as we like to pretend where an unbaptized hungry person is not a person of God. Neither are we as welcoming to Sunday visitors and guests as we like to pretend, when guests are not greeted at the Peace nor engaged ad incorported at coffee hour.  

Anyway, I don’t remember who was credited with writing it, but this is spot on.

"Eucharist is presence encountering presence--mutuality, vulnerability. There is nothing to prove, to protect, or to sell. It feels so empty, naked, and harmless, that all you can do is be present. The Eucharist is telling us that God is the food and all we have to do is provide the hunger. Somehow we have to make sure that each day we are hungry, that there's room inside of us for another presence. If you are filled with your own opinions, ideas, righteousness, superiority, or sufficiency, you are a world unto yourself and there is no room for "another." Despite all our attempts to define who is worthy and who is not worthy to receive communion, our only ticket or prerequisite for coming to Eucharist is hunger. And most often sinners are hungrier than "saints."

+++   +++   +++

Browsing about heresy this morning looking for the name of Bishop James Pike, who was censured by the church a couple generations ago for his heretical views and writings (Pike would be mainstream Epsicolopian today), I came across an article by Beth Moore in her article, “When A Big God Escapes Us.” She’s recalling the church of her childhood. “All who filled the pews had secrets. Though my family’s could have qualified for daytime television, I know now that no one there was what he or she seemed.”

I certainly am not what I seem, not what you see, not what you think or hope I am. GOK and Kyrie eleison. But at least in TEC I can be translucent.

On the way home from our walk in the Cove and around Massalina Bayou, I stopped at the house for a cup of coffee on my beloved front porch, visited MLP for a few minutes, then donned my new gardening gloves and took joy in snatching potato vine out of the azaleas. About gone, but they were lovelier this year than ever in my memory.

Finally, what set me off on a blogpost venture into heresy and creeds about three o'clock this morning was the thought for the day in Anu Garg's; but after my morning walk I neglected to return to it as my base. A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it. -Flannery O'Connor, writer (25 Mar 1925-1964). Creeds, theology, doctrine and dogma notwithstanding, it calls to mind my own vernacular slogan, "Just because you believe it, that don't make it so."


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Anonymous and Not Proud

Nobody, myself included, gives a hoot, gosh-darn or worse about the social political inclinations of some fool preacher; and as my call and mission supposedly are not stirring up hate and discontent, but spreading peace, tranquillity, and blessed assurance, I try to keep my mouth shut. Biting my tongue doesn’t always work, sometimes I have to excuse myself and pretend I need to go to the men’s room. My early morning rule is Type First Read Later Think Never, but it doesn’t always work: my mistake today was checking email for replies from members of our Tuesday morning Bible Seminar, and scrolling down Gmail getting caught by NYT Today’s Headlines and CSM Daily Newsletter.  

Life or death for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Of Boston residents, 62% favor life in prison, 27% death. All my life I have struggled that my convictions about capital punishment come out of my Southern heritage rather than my church’s position on capital punishment. When captured a couple days after the atrocity, the boy looked like a confused teenager. Now I’m back to my terrible deadly damnation of anyone who hurts or kills a child. In relief and reality, as a priest I’d never be kept on jury for a capital crime anyway, for which I’m thankful. 

Iran’s hard-liners show restraint on nuclear talks with U.S. because the supreme leader wants to find a negotiated solution. Peace with compromise, even peace for a time, will let many Iranian children grow to adults. Iran was once America’s friend, and will be again in time. Germany, Japan, Vietnam. More Buicks are made and sold in China than in the USA. Iran is fighting ISIS. Congress, stop kissing up to Netanyahu. WH, stop pouting about him.

Afghan militia leaders, empowered by USA to fight Taliban, inspire fear in villages. Problem without solution. Americans as a mindset think there’s a solution to every problem: there isn’t. No matter what we do, it will be wrong. Further, why save a nation whose mentality is self-righteously to beat a young woman to death because of a rumor she trashed a book. There are places in the world where their justice is more evil than any conceivable crime.

Seven children killed in a Brooklyn fire reportedly caused by leaving a hotplate burning all night and day so as to keep Sabbath by not building a fire from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. One wonders what deity is pleased by criminal stupidity. Religious extremism abides. 

Politicians starting to declare as candidates for the 2016 presidential race. Oh God. Here we go again. Eleison. I still say my solution is best and will solve much. A constitutional amendment for senate, house and white house. One term and go home scot free with a full pardon. Two terms and then to the wall.

My problem is that, in this new bedroom sleeping on the other side of the bed than I did the last 57 years, I now get up on the wrong side every morning.