Monday, February 28, 2011

Depressed and Crabby?


DEPRESSED AND CRABBY?
The welcome back to church yesterday was overwhelming: smiles hugs and loving words, applause and a sustained standing ovation. Others seemed as happy and relieved as Linda and I to see me alive and well, and my gratitude is beyond expression.
+++   +++   +++
While I was in hospital after surgery, Linda and Joe attended a Cleveland Clinic session to help families understand what is normal for patients in the six months or more of recovery that will follow. They heard some advice on exercise and diet but what they brought back interesting was that patients recovering from open heart surgery often get depressed and frequently are crabby and irritable.
As I understand it, depression often comes because recovery takes so long, progresses so slowly. I can’t visualize this happening with me. Being basically a sorry, lazy soul anyway, I am content to exercise prescriptively, tire easily, and couch-potato expertly. Yes, it’s necessary to step-by-step up the stairs and to saunter round the block instead of vigorously. But vigorous and step-lively will return slowly. Moreover, last October I was given two to five months to live and then I experienced myself deteriorating rapidly, literally daily: I wasn’t supposed to be alive today! I was supposed to be dead now! I am unendingly mindful of that. Linda was supposed to be giving my L. L. Bean shirts and pants and my SAS shoes to charity this morning and deciding when to get the children and grandchildren together to scatter my ashes. But every morning I wake up! “Hey! I showed up again today! Thank you, God!” My gratitude for life is so intense that I cannot imagine one second of depression! So it takes six months to get back to battery? So what! Relax and enjoy! Life Is Good. 
Besides, it is helpful to me as priest and pastor to experience what others experience in life, and though I wouldn’t have chosen open heart surgery I’m content to have done it and share the experience with others.
On the other hand I look forward to being crabby and accepting no blame. I’ll do that when the happiness fades.
But the happiness won’t fade. Creation is good, very good. Life Is Good: Very Good Indeed! Thank you, God. 
TW+


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Happy Easter!



From Merry Christmas to Happy Easter!
An old song I like is Paul McCartney’s “On The Wings of a Nightingale” sung by the Everly Brothers. In the album that appears on YouTube from time to time, Don and Phil Everly, seemingly in their late teens or early twenties, are walking through a junk yard looking at old cars. Finally they stop right in front of The Ultimate Find: a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible. It looks like aitch but when they finish it’s the most gorgeous ride imaginable. All through the video they are singing “On The Wings of a Nightingale” and as the song ends they are happily taking the restored Chevy for a spin. I don’t know which I like better, McCartney’s song or the classic Chevy. 
Yes I do, but that’s not my point this morning.
Two months ago, on Christmas Eve, Father Steve suggested I be the Celebrant at the main service, picking up at the Offertory, and I vested to do so. Unfortunately, that evening I was having such chest pains that I was popping a nitro-glycerine pill every few minutes! It came on again as the Offertory was being sung, and I was not able to preside at the Altar. I did take another pill and served a paten (photo above) but the pill wore off and the angina returned before the plate was empty! 
A month after Christmas Eve I was refurbished like that ’57 Chevy -- a difference being that Don and Phil restored the entire car beautifully inside and out, while I have only been rebuilt mechanically -- I'm the same old Junk Yard Bubba on the outside. Another month has passed and in that happy +Time I am recovering on schedule, and so at Holy Nativity this morning we plan to resume where we left off Christmas Eve. For the first time since Christmas I will vest for both services, and at the eight o’clock service I am to pick up at the Offertory and be the Celebrant at the Altar. To me the hope-fulfilled and promise-come-true of this day and hour and life outshine even the Easter mornings as a child when we opened the front door to find magnificent Easter baskets on the front porch. 
Immensely grateful to Father Steve for all that he is to us at Holy Nativity as our rector, and for all that he has been to me personally through this as my pastor, I look forward to being Home Again this morning!
And seeing that every Sunday is a celebration of The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Son of God and God the Son, I wish you
Happy Easter!
Father Tom+


Saturday, February 26, 2011

I believe ...



I believe ...

Somewhere toward the end of Ordinary Time I started rising at two or two-thirty in the morning. At the time it was very good for reasons I don’t need to repeat. The new habit lasted through Stoppage Time in Cleveland and was good then also. It’s still holding, though I might rather reclaim my years long enjoyment of waking promptly at four o’clock for coffee upstairs with Linda. But it’s +Time and I’m not the one with the whistle. As I start blogging It’s two-thirty-two and I’m downstairs by myself and no longer with coffee but a cup of decaffeinated tea steeping. Nevertheless, Life Is Good.
Currently I am reading a book by a seminary professor and theologian who requires his students to figure out their values and their way of life, what it is that they therefore truly believe, and to sort those beliefs into a statement of their personal theology. Doing personal theology is common in EfM but I am having a new go at it based on his model. My initial predawn effort is immature and amateurish, but who cares, I’ll blog it anyway.
What do I believe ...
About God?
About Jesus?
About the Creeds?
About the Church?
About Salvation?
About Theology?
I am a Christian who believes that God is whoever or whatever God says God is, in and as God’s Word. Thus, when Moses asks “Who are you” God retorts (Exodus 3), eyeh asher eyeh, “I am that I am.” More freely translated it’s “I am whoever or whatever I say I am whenever I say so,” which expresses the divine nature more than it gives a title or proper name. God is whoever or whatever God says God is from time to time depending on God only. And does the divine nature change over ages and in eternity? I don’t know, God knows, but I believe that God speaks to every situation as God chooses.
And so if God is whoever or whatever God says God is, God is also whoever or whatever led Israel out of Egypt; God is whoever or whatever Jesus called Abba, Father, Daddy, Papa; God is whoever or whatever came present in the tomb Easter morning and said “get up, Son.”
I am a Christian who believes in Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God, the Christ, whose earthly mission was to show and tell us what is important to God and how human life is to be lived. Thus Jesus corrects the certitude of the religious down through the ages. 
I am a Christian who believes that the heart and soul of Christianity is not in Creeds, not in what I profess to believe about Jesus Christ; but rather in what I do, how I live because of what I believe. The Creeds are crucial benchmarks that define orthodox faith so that orthodoxy holds and does not stray into diverse heresies. But the creeds are not unassailable sacred cows, they are human documents subject to study discussion challenge question and debate just as the Bible itself is subjected to study discussion challenge question and debate. Of the two main creeds of Christian orthodoxy, I believe that in settling the Nicene Creed the early bishops in the General Councils made theological assertions about Jesus that are beyond human knowing. I believe the Baptismal Covenant, which contains the Apostles Creed and Personal Vows, is more appropriate for liturgical use, to keep Christians constantly mindful that belief has obligations, consequences. As the Letter of James scoffs, “even the demons believe.” Belief from which action does not flow is not salvific but is meaningless and worthless. I believe that the liturgical creed should reinforce “believing therefore doing.”
I am a Christian who believes that the Church is the body of belief and the assembly of believers. I reject the popular notion that “I can worship God as easily on the golf course as in church,” because the framework and body of the Church are essential to the perpetuity of the Gospel, which without the Church could die in a generation. Proclamation, Hearing, and Celebration in assembly keep the Gospel alive in human life. 
I am a Christian who believes that salvation is achieved here and now by learning, through the worship, teachings and gifts of the Church, how to live the life of Christ, and doing my utmost to live so, though I constantly fall short. The life of Christ is the Way of the Cross, a way of love and sacrifice; to walk in that Way is to step into the kingdom of God (or as Matthew has it, the kingdom of Heaven). As for securing and guaranteeing eternal salvation, I do not believe that I can save myself by claiming a belief system, but that eternity, whatever it may be, is in the hands of God alone, and that God’s power to save is not determined by doctrine or dogma but by God alone.
I am a Christian who believes that theology should be a fun amateur sport for everyone. Theology is for ordinary people to enjoy figuring out what they personally believe and how it affects their lives and how it compares/contrasts to the life and teachings of Jesus. Professionalized by academes and made intimidating for laypeople, theology is not meant to be abstruse, intellectually baffling propositions argued among professors with their heads in the clouds, and laid on ordinary people as what they are supposed to believe. Theology is for everyone. Theology for amateurs is a prime focus of Sewanee’s program of theological education by extension called EfM, Education for Ministry. I cannot commend EfM highly enough for the inquisitive and curious Christian.
Enough of my nonsense for the early Sabbath darkness.
Praise God this morning by putting on your right shoe first.
TW+
Thanks for the sunset, RevRay.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rambling Rant Complete With Apology



RAMBLING RANT COMPLETE WITH APOLOGY
Seems like a time of apocalypse now doesn’t it. In the Middle East popular rioting against abusive government, already toppling a couple of governments, threatening and frightening the others including Saudi Arabia; currently in Libya fierce opposition to a crazed dictator, reports of unconscionable shedding of blood. In the southern hemisphere, earthquake with death, injury, destruction on a monumental scale in Christchurch, New Zealand. To many folks on the scene it may seem like the end of the world is at hand. New Zealand is a country where EfM is a big thing in the Anglican Church, and those of us on the EfM mentors’ listserve are reading almost daily conversation from and about EfM colleagues in New Zealand concerning the nightmare. Father Steve is in Haiti where a year ago a catastrophic earthquake caused the loss of over 300,000 lives, injured hundreds of thousands more, and left over a million people homeless, many of whom are still homeless, without sufficient food, shelter, clothing and hopeless.
Over fifty years ago my ship USS CORRY visited Port au Prince, Haiti on a liberty call as a break during our intense training at Guantanamo Bay, and I was overwhelmed with the poverty I saw in that nation’s capital. It was an epiphany of what happens under the rule of ruthless dictators whose interest is power and their own wealth and not the welfare of their people. With caring government and universal education Haiti might have been so different today. In the Middle East it could have been so in Iraq also but it wasn’t and now chaos. Saudi Arabia may be in line for uprising, though it seems to be a kingdom where immense oil wealth is being used to improve the situation of ordinary people, but apparently, because there is unrest, not soon enough or fast enough. “Too little too late” comes to mind. 
In due course abusive governments will fall violently to the people because only violent popular uprising can bring them down. We understand, because of our own Revolution and Independence. It is still happening, and will and should where government is about itself and not about its people.
Still, it isn’t The Eschaton, though religious extremists may enter the Book of Revelation and come out proving that all this was prophesied. It isn't the End of Time it's humans correcting human evil on one hand, and the experience of Acts of God on the other.
“The poor you will have with you always,” Jesus said, and it is still manifestly so in our day and age of great wealth for some and obscene poverty for more; and notwithstanding scientific marvels capable of overcoming almost any social ill. There is poverty anyway and not only overseas but in the midst of us. Ultimately the obscenity of extreme difference is what brought down czarist Russia: God help them for the horror that replaced their arrogant imperial family with even worse. One never knows when evil is overthrown what will take its place. That very unknown is fearsome in the Middle East right now even as we begin another Friday.
What can an Ordinary Christian do? Anyone who reads this will, with Baptismal Covenant in mind, know better than I what to do. Speaking for self, in Apalachicola we established and managed programs to help the impoverished in our community whether they were chronically poverty-stricken or just in extremis for the day because of hand-to-mouth lifestyle. Not just food but shelter when asked, a tank of LP gas when asked, a paid electric bill when asked. Clothing when asked: our Penny’s Worth consignment shop made a nice profit for the church but never charged people who were down and out. 

There’s an odd and interesting culture. Every morning state authorities checked Apalachicola Bay to determine whether it was bacteriologically safe for harvesting, and the announcement came over Oyster Radio whether the Bay was open or closed that day. When “the Bay was open” for oystering there was sufficiency for the most part. When “the Bay was closed” my Food Pantry was besieged by noon because people needed food for supper that night. No one was ever turned away. The ministers in the community had rules, including a limit of one visit in a month to anyone’s Food Pantry or for a food coupon to the Red Rabbit Supermarket, but to my mind, rules are hiding places for those who lack confidence in their own judgment. In fourteen years, not one single person was ever turned away from the Trinity Church Food Pantry even if they were frequent visitors, even if I had seen them earlier in the week. 
What can an Ordinary Christian do? Some years ago when Kristen was part of the Holy Nativity Episcopal Church youth group, instead of making their annual summer trip to North Carolina Appalachia to rebuild porches, put floors in shanties, and put new roofs on homes, the youth group stayed in Panama City and did major work, including new floors and new roofs on homes way out Hamilton Avenue, to help very poor, helpless, hopeless people. Our kids were very proud of their work. And I was very proud of Kristen.
The poor are indeed always with us. Unfortunately and inconveniently for us, the Sermon on the Mount, the Letter of James, and most personally our Baptismal Covenant make it impossible for us to ignore them wherever they may be.
Finally, I apologize for the Rambling Rant. It just came over me and in the predawn darkness I didn’t take time to clean it up.
Peace anyway.
Fr. Tom+

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Are You As Good As Your Word? The Perfect Faith Document



Are You As Good As Your Word?
Glorious things of thee are spoken,
   Zion, city of our God!
He, whose word cannot be broken,
   Form'd thee for His own abode:
On the Rock of ages founded,
   What can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation's walls surrounded,
   Thou may'st smile at all thy foes.
Epiphany Season is time to discover and realize what Jesus is about so that the lightbulb comes on in your head. This year the Gospel teaching during Epiphany, both the Sunday Lectionary and the Daily Office Lectionary, is from Jesus in Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount. It is key Scripture for understanding the mind of the Savior, whose teaching is not about what we are to believe (that’s a later aberration of the early church fathers in their obsession with creedal hairsplitting); rather the mind of Christ is about how we are to treat each other. This means that the essence of Christianity is not the belief statement that we stand and say every Sunday in the Nicene Creed but the promises that we make in our Baptismal Covenant, which is the perfect faith document. 
Quite simply, this perfect faith document works like this. First we say what we believe as Christians and then we say what we promise to do as Christians about what we profess to believe as Christians. If we are truly disciples of Jesus, this is the proper sequence of things -- “I believe ... therefore I will ...” Because I believe, I promise. As the Letter of James says, even demons believe, it’s what you do about it that matters. And so --
The Baptismal Covenant

Do you believe in God the Father?
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
   and born of the Virgin Mary.
 He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
   was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
  and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
  the holy catholic Church,
  the communion of saints,
  the forgiveness of sins,
  the resurrection of the body,
  and the life everlasting.
Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship,
   in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
I will, with God’s help.
Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever
  you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
I will, with God’s help.
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good
  News of God in Christ?
I will, with God’s help.
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving
  your neighbor as yourself?
I will, with God’s help.
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, 
  and respect the dignity of every human being?
I will, with God’s help.

Remember, Baptized Christian: you promised. You promised. Are you keeping your promise? Are you as good as your word? The hymn says of God, “He whose word cannot be broken.” How about you? Are you keeping your word? Lent, coming up soon, is the time to focus consciously, deliberately on what it means to keep your word, your promise, your side of your Covenant with God -- and to get busy doing it.
TW+
P.S. Health report! With deliberate care I am able to go up and down the stairs now. Last night for the first time since October 16, Linda and I slept in our upstairs bedroom, and with the door open and a slight Gulf breeze wafting in.

Photo: sunrise over North Bay. Thanks, RevRay!



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Every Day is +Time





My heart treatment experience left me with great confidence in the local cardiac community, the cardiologists and heart surgeons of Panama City. They have a fine reputation and I am told that from year to year they only have to send out of town three or four cardiac cases that like mine are so complex that they need to be seen by a major center. With me the doctors were very clear about what they would do and what they had decided to refer, and so earned my enormous respect and trust.
+++   +++  +++ 
Church friends have been asking both by email and on CaringBridge GuestBook when I can eat normally again, when we can go out for dinner, to their homes, to restaurants. What can we say?
For starters we can say “yes qualified” and “now qualified.” Unfortunately the qualifiers are heavy. So a good response is “Yes-But and Now-But and with a Be-No List.”
We can’t leave my mother home alone anymore; someone must be here with her round the clock. Except when we have a CNA or other trained and qualified person here with her, we can’t leave the house. The situation keeps changing, and the latest is that we can’t even leave her in the room alone because she gets up and walks, sways, falls against the wall, falls backwards if there is no one to catch her, is determined to walk and get about on her own and cannot remember not to do so. At the moment we have an off-duty CNA coming two mornings a week, and we need to expand that and are looking to expand for more daytime hours and days. But it must be an experienced and qualified nursing-type person in case she falls and because of the personal assistance she requires. Blessedly, at present we do not need anyone here overnight. But for Linda and me, getting out to visit friends or even to keep doctor appointments or a haircut or beauty shop appointment requires planning and scheduling -- which means we no longer can do things on the spur of the moment or even  “next week.” As for evenings, the CNA who comes says that with advance notice she should be able to come on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. So that’s the first major qualifier.
The other qualifier is the Be-No List about what I cannot eat, both short term and long term injunctions! Just look at the list -- and this for a Panama City Native whose favorite meal was a fried seafood platter with so much piled on it I needed a go-box!
Permanent life-long there will Be-No
No fried food, none, nil, zero, zilch
No salt-added in cooking
No salt added at the table
No coffee (not even decaf, which still has caf) 
No caf tea, iced or hot
No shrimp, lobster, crab
No ham bacon sausage
No cream soups gravies or sauces
No cheese except occasional Swiss
Low fat ice cream only, and that sparingly
Light on the desserts
No heavy meals; eat light
Ain’t that a helluva note? 
Temporary injunctions there will Be-No
No chocolate until April
No wine until April
No riding in the front seat until April
No driving a car until April
Kindhearted and hospitable friends reasonably may have second thoughts about getting involved with the likes of us!
But I can honor any Be-No list.
After all
Every day is a beautiful day
And
Every day for the rest of my life is +Time.
TW+

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

IN FLORIDA WE HAVE CAMELLIAS



IN FLORIDA WE HAVE CAMELLIAS
DON'T NEED A PENNSYLVANIA GROUNDHOG
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one;

All things bright and beautiful ...
It’s in-between-time. Camellias have been lovely, red, white, pink, mottled, my favorite is a bright red with single petal flowers, one grafted plant has white blossoms on some branches pink blossoms on others. Most special: a white-blossomed plant just beside the front steps. For years it languished with various problems including white fly infestation. At Bill Lee’s recommendation Linda applied to all the camellias a cygon treatment that she sprayed on each leaf and poured on the ground around each plant. Worked a miracle. This winter the white camellia was loaded with healthy blossoms for the first time in years. The treatment worked well on all the camellias, most noticeably on the white one. Linda said it’s a White Empress.
We don’t need any Pennsylvania groundhog to proclaim winter is over. When the camellia blossoms wilt, turn brown and drop to the ground, spring is at hand. It’s in-between-time.
The narcissus are standing erect proud fragrant and white, crowded together and peering round like a family of meerkats.
In a pot, the calamondin orange tree has stayed loaded with fruit all winter. One tall grapefruit tree has three fruit, too high to reach with a pole. Maybe they’ll drop, they did last year, they're pink. The ruby red grapefruit trees are showing buds.
I’m no fan of bridal wreath but it will soon explode with growth and cover with tiny white blooms. The English dogwood also, but the blossoms are larger and beautiful.
Linda has several large gardenia bushes, sprouting buds to cover with blooms: nothing smells better than a gardenia blossom. The Japanese Magnolia is loaded with buds already opening for spring. 
Azaleas are shooting out and getting a hint of buds. There are a few year-round bloomers but most are springtime beauties. The yard is magnificent when they are all in full bloom, including antique pale pink ones that have a light but heavenly fragrance. Bill Lee helped Linda root cuttings from those wonderful old plants. The only other ones I remember were in the front garden of Trinity Episcopal Church, Apalachicola. I hope they’re still there.

Only problem with the azaleas is the impossibility of keeping the rapidly growing potato vine out. Can't do it.
The lavender wisteria vines think everything within tentacle reach is theirs to strangle. With clippers I am their avowed enemy whack whack whack. Better behaved is a beautiful red wisteria Malinda gave Linda, growing up the west side of the front screen porches. 
Also from Malinda to her mom, the little magnolia tree gives a few magnificent, fragrant blossoms. Smaller tree than grandiflora but the bloom is equal. We planted a grandiflora in the front yard of the rectory in Apalachicola. Last time we were there it was flourishing.
All my growing up years my Pensacola grandparents’ carport was covered with red bugle vine -- or trumpet vine -- I loved. A few Christmases ago TJC1C2 gave me several in pots and I planted them here and there. Climbing palm trees. Climbing the carport. Healthy and beautiful. Someone said they attract hummingbirds. In early summer morning sunshine, trumpet vine blossoms bursting out of the tiptop of a tall tree look like the tree’s aflame.
With incredibly long sharp thorns the bougainvillea will cover the arbor in the side yard, climb the screen porch, and bloom elegantly red all summer. Our entryway in San Diego was covered with yellow bougainvillea that Linda planted. This one brings back the memory. Flowers do that. 
So also mandevilla, lush pink blossoms on a vine, a gift of our Patty some years ago. 
All things bright and beautiful.
In-between-time. 
TW+

Myself? At my first follow-up visit the cardiologist was as delighted with my condition and progress as I am, and the home health agency discharged me as no longer qualifying for home physical therapy care. We expect to be at church this coming Sunday morning. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Only God Can Make A Tree






Trees
I think that I shall never see 
A poem lovely as a tree.
  
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
  
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
  
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
  
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Growing up at At Cove School in the 1940s we sometimes had to select and memorize a poem and recite it aloud in class. “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer was popular for that, especially among the girls. It stuck in my mind, surfacing when I walk around our yard of many trees. They are not “mine” but part of property that is eternal. I am their steward of the hour. We lived in Southern California 1969-1971 during Navy years, and how different the landscape was, fewer trees by far. Summer 1971 we came home from California on PCS leave enroute to our next duty station in Ohio, and we were struck by how overgrown with trees Panama City looked -- delightfully, beautifully so. 

Our yard is filled with trees, especially cedars and oaks. Of some dozen, not one tree is perfect, but each one is a gift. Cedars, oaks, couple of pines down front on the Bay, loquats we brought from Apalachicola, a tiny magnolia with fragrant blossoms; grapefruit trees Linda's mother planted by getting up from the breakfast table going outside and punching seeds in the ground and now we have delicious ruby reds in season; eucalyptus, dogwood. Well, OK, even the palms, which after all do signify Florida --
-- several summers ago the avocado tree produced the most delicious avocados imaginable but each winter since has frozen and had to be cut back; its leaves are lush and shady and we hesitate to cut it down; and who knows but it may bear again someday; Linda started it from a seed in a glass of water in the kitchen window -- Linda started it, God grew it --
-- on the Bay down front the ancient cedar is hideously torn and deformed on the Bay side by violent storms but lovely from the street side and a faithful ground holder against the hurricane’s tide --
-- a century ago Alfred played under the spreading hickory that Ivan toppled, Hurricane Season 2004. It blocked all view of the Bay from the upstairs porch and I had guilty relief mixed with sadness -- I would never ever have cut it down, but it was an Act of God --
-- others, one enormous oak, mostly cedars, also downed by storms. Opal et.al.
My grandfather walked under these trees. As a boy my father climbed in these trees. My grandsons climbed in these trees. Their steward, I would never cut one down. May they all be here to shade and please generations to come. And for children yet unknown to climb in. 
A tree is a gift. A gift of God.. 
Only God can make a tree.
Monday: Peace.
TW+
Cedar: internet
"Trees" by Joyce Kilmer, 1886-1918

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Beatitudes and Woes



Beatitudes and Woes
Mountain or Plain? Standing or Sitting?

Gospel for Today: Matthew 5:38-48
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also...

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you ... 

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
+++   +++   +++
Long as I’m musing this early Sunday predawn I might as well muse a Sunday School Lesson. Two questions to start then: where was Jesus for this Sermon, on a mountain or on a level place? And was Jesus standing or sitting as he spoke?
The gospel for today is two teachings from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” which is not, as is commonly supposed, just the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) but runs three chapters of teachings or sayings, Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7. The Beatitudes are only the opening lines of the sermon. We call it the Sermon on the Mount because of Matthew’s introduction:
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Matthew marks the close of his Sermon on the Mount with a conclusion at the end of Matthew chapter 7:
And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Many don’t realize that Luke’s gospel has the same sermon, at Luke 6 through the first verse of Luke 7. Each gospel writer collects various teachings, sayings of Jesus into their sermon for orderly presentation. The fact that the sermon appears in both Luke and Matthew but not Mark (or John) causes Bible scholars say the gospel writers got their material from the so-called “Q Gospel” or simply “Q.” (“Q” is for Quelle, a German word that means “source.” Q is a constructed document made up of sayings in both Matthew and Luke but not in Mark). Luke being shorter suggests that Luke’s sermon might be closer to the original words of Jesus than Matthew’s expanded version. At any rate, it’s the same Sermon, reported differently by the two different gospel writers.
Luke’s version is called the “Sermon on the Plain,” again because of Luke’s introduction; and as you will see, Luke has Jesus standing to speak while Matthew has him sitting to speak:
LUKE 6
And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, ... And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, ...
Although those two differences, mountain or plain, sitting or standing, may be trivial, there are differences of substance. Matthew’s presentation is much longer. Matthew’s sermon begins with eight Beatitudes, qualified somewhat (e.g,, “in spirit”). (Beatitude is from Latin and is translated “blessed” or “happy.” As in “he had a beatific smile!”  The New Testament Greek word is μακαριοι -- makarioi -- which does not mean blessed in a sanctified sense, but happy, content). The difference of substance is that Luke, as well as four of the “blesseds” that Matthew presents, also quotes Jesus saying four contrasting “woes” or curses or damns. (Lk 6:20-26). So:
And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, 
Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. 
Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.
Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. 
Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.
Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

While competent scholars generally concur that both Matthew and Luke had Q as their source for the Sermon, scholars are not unanimous about Luke’s source for the “woes,” and many conclude that they did not come from the lips of Jesus.
Finally, as with Matthew, Luke marks the end of his Sermon on the Plain (Luke 7:1):
Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.
Sunday School class discussion questions:
Both Matthew and Luke are reporting the same Sermon, which scholars say is based in the so-called “Q Gospel.” Luke includes the “Woes” but Matthew does not. Why do you suppose Matthew does not have them? Why do you think Luke includes them? Does the inclusion or omission of the “Woes” seem to serve the agenda of either gospel writer? Do you prefer the sermon with the Woes or without? And do you think Jesus actually said the Woes, or not?
Go in Peace!
Tom+