Thursday, June 30, 2011

Good Intentions

Good Intentions
Romans 7:15-25
15 What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. 16 So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary. 17 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! 18 I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. 19 I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. 20 My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. 21 It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. 22 I truly delight in God's commands, 23 but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. 24 I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question? 25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. (The Message)
From Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans, our Second Reading for Sunday, July 3: Proper 9. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions unless God intercedes through Jesus Christ. 
My weight is down thirty pounds from last October, but I intended it to be down forty pounds by now. The road to Hell. My exercise program was intended to be vigorous by now, but is still only a half-mile morning walk -- the road to Hell. Speak, Lord. 

The Lord speaks not from the sky but through people. John sent me a book, Younger Next Year. The cardiologist has me starting cardiac rehab, a gym program with heart monitors, one hour, 8:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday starting Monday, July 11. My good intention is for it to be the kick-off for regular morning gym. Like St. Paul, my intentions are good. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. 
Yesterday was our fifty-fourth anniversary. June 29, 1957. Our wedding was the first at Holy Nativity. A new church, a mission of St. Andrew’s Episcopal, Holy Nativity was only two years old, a concrete block building with a concrete floor and metal folding chairs. In years to come, our three children were baptized at Holy Nativity. Coming home on leave during the twenty Navy years, we always returned to Holy Nativity. In the past thirty years we have served four parishes, and now after various retirements I’m on my third “tour” as priest associate at Holy Nativity. We intend to stay.  
My good intention for Fall 2011 is a mid-week Bible study. Starts Tuesday morning, September 6th. Gather 9:45 a.m. for coffee or tea in my office conference room at Holy Nativity. Bible study 10:00 to 11:10. All are invited and welcome, from any church or no church. So far, ten people have emailed me to put them on the list. That’s my intention for Fall 2011. Kyrie, eleison.
TW+ in +Time
    

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rebekah? Who Are Her People?

Rebekah? Who are her people?
Genesis 24, our Old Testament reading for July 3: Proper 9, is the story of Abraham sending his servant back to the old country to find a wife for his son Isaac. The servant is not named, but tradition calls him Eliezer of Damascus (Genesis 15:2). It’s a delightful story in which we watch God’s plan of salvation for Israel unfold as the servant encounters Rebekah, granddaughter of Abraham’s brother Nahor. She and Isaac would have been, what, first cousins once removed?


After meeting Rebekah at the well, Abraham’s servant goes home with her and is welcomed by Bethuel her father and her brother Laban, who consent for Rebekah to go. Given the choice of now or later, Rebekah consents to go now with the servant as he leaves to return to the house of Abraham. Rebekah and Isaac become husband and wife. 
As the saga unfolds in later chapters, the children of the union are the twins Esau and Jacob, with their fraternal jealousy and bickering, stirred by parental favorites; with Isaac’s naive dotage, Rebekah’s shrewd conniving, and Jacob’s scheming, covetous greed. In due course, we shall hear more of Rebekah’s brother Laban, who proves as cunning as his sister, and almost as sneaky as Jacob whom God later renames Israel. For all her shameless duping of husband and betrayal of first son, the beautiful Rebekah is destined to become the mother of Israel.
Who are her people? Whoever or whatever they are, it seems to run in the family. 
Genesis 24: enjoy the story.
Tom+  
Painting. Rebekah at the Well. Michael Deas, USA, c.a. 1997

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

First Church

First Church
Discussing church names over the years, my minister friends who were Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian have acknowledged there was a prestige factor in being appointed or called to be pastor of “First Church,” as in First Baptist, First Presbyterian, First United Methodist. Seems right, because First Church was the original church of that denomination in town, and often but not always the largest and wealthiest, with the most programs, most children. Not always, Second Baptist Church, Houston being one of the largest churches in America; but usually. 
Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Episcopal churches don't use the term "First Church," our churches are frequently named for saints or for church festivals or seasons. Some are named after people or families. Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church, Houston. Wallace Memorial Presbyterian Church Panama City. Meade Memorial Episcopal Church, Alexandria, Virginia. R. E. Lee Memorial Episcopal Church, Lexington, Virginia. Driving across Long Island years ago I passed the Infant Jesus Catholic Church. There are Advent Episcopal Churches, but apparently no Lent Episcopal Church. Resurrection Episcopal Churches, but no Crucifixion Episcopal Church, though there are Calvary and Mount Calvary Episcopal Churches. 
Looking around, there does seem to have been something of a custom at one time. Christ Church.
Here in my possession from the early 1800s is a package of sermons preached by my great-great-grandfather George Weller. He carefully hand-scribed each one in ink, stitch-bound each one and folded it to make a small book. On the front cover he noted where each one had been preached, and the dates. CC Memphis. CC Vicksburg. And others. CC being Christ Church. 
We seem to have had a custom of naming the first Episcopal parish in a town Christ Church. Christ Church, Pensacola. Christ Church, Mobile. Trinity Episcopal Church, Apalachicola was chartered as Christ Church, Apalachicola. St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Panama City was originally Christ Church, St. Andrews, founded when St. Andrews, not Panama City, was the principal town here on St Andrews Bay. 
Any historian can correct me, but the story goes that British loyalists settled St. Andrews during and after the 18th century American revolution; while Panama City was founded much later (originally as Harrison, Florida), during the late 19th century. When Panama City merged with St. Andrews and Millville, about 1909, members of the Episcopal parish, largely St. Andrews residents and “loyalists,” did not like the way the merger went, did not want to lose St. Andrews from the church name, so changed it from Christ Church, St. Andrews to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Panama City.
That’s not necessarily history, so it’s offered this morning as heilsgeschichte, holy history, family folklore. A campfire story.
TW+


Monday, June 27, 2011

This Too Shall Pass

This Too Shall Pass
Before passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 women did not have the right to vote in every state, only men. 

In my growing up years, women could not serve on a parish vestry or as delegates to diocesan conventions or General Convention; or acolytes, lay readers, ... And though there were women "deaconesses," women could not be ordained. Then they could be deacon. Then priest. Then bishop. Then presiding bishop.

In 2003 an openly-gay man was elected bishop in the Episcopal Church, approved by General Convention, and consecrated. I objected strongly, and wrote so, not because the man was gay, but because it seemed sure to scandalize a large part of our church worldwide, especially churches in so-called “third world” countries where culture and certitude seem so different from ours. I thought it would cause schism in the worldwide Anglican Communion; and it has to some degree, though not the total collapse I expected. Obviously, it isn’t all over, and there have been realignments and may be more, but the hysteria is over and life goes on. The term “gay bishop” no longer sets world and Church ablaze, several more have been elected, approved, and consecrated; and the Episcopal Church goes on with Christian mission.
To my sadness, one thing I observed during our church’s most recent travail was vehement hatred of gay and lesbian people on the part of some, both in America and overseas, which I had not realized until all this opened up. My own slow realization over the eight years since 2003 is that I don’t really care to be in a church with those folks anyway, or in communion with them, Anglican or otherwise, don’t care to be in a Christianity part of which is hatred. Not to mention certitude.
Years ago I worked with a fellow naval officer whose reaction to every catastrophic crisis that put the admiral in a frenzy was “this too shall pass.” It always did.
My 2003 feeling about gay bishops is done. It isn’t an issue with me anymore. This too has passed.
What brought this chain of thought to mind? Last week’s major news coverage about the New York legislature. New York has joined Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C., in allowing same-sex couples to wed. Certitude and hatred may be seen in the issue; but, counter to prophetic hysteria, American marriages and the American family and the American way of life have not been destroyed in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont or Washington, D.C. It won’t happen in New York either. 
In due course, the frenzy will subside in New York, and life will go on as usual.
This too shall pass.
Tom+

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Uncle Heber


Uncle Heber
That’s my Uncle Heber in cope and mitre on the very center of the front cover. The Living Church for June 19, 2011 has a wide-spread three-panel open-up cover of high church bishops gathered for the 1926 Catholic Congress in Milwaukee. In the thick and looking most regal, the Right Reverend Reginald Heber Weller, Bishop of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Apparently respected and well-liked by those who knew him, he was elected bishop on the first ballot at age 47, consecrated 1900, Suffragan twelve years, Diocesan 21 years, retired 1933. One of my grandfather’s brothers, Uncle Heber died in 1935, the year of my birth. 
We have a photograph of Christ Church, St. Andrews (later St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Panama City), about 1915. The congregation are gathered in front of the church. Lots of my family were there. Uncle Heber, visiting from Fond du Lac, is in the photo along with two of his brothers, my grandfather A.D. Weller and the Rev. Charles Knight Weller. Their father, the Rev. R. H. Weller, was rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, Jacksonville, Florida at the time of the Civil War. That day of the photo, Heber and Uncle Charlie would have been guests here in my house. My grandmother was probably here at home frying chicken for Sunday dinner.


My grandfather was very fond of Uncle Heber, once spent a year with him and his family in Wisconsin. That would have been about 1890, Pop was about seventeen. He told me about taking a young lady for a long sleigh ride across snowy fields that winter. She was about sixteen. They stopped the sleigh, and it was the first time he ever kissed a girl.
  
Here in my custody is a package of Weller family memorabilia. Several things, including Uncle Heber’s communion set. A baptismal bowl. Early 19th century hand-written sermons of my great-great grandfather, the Rev. George Weller, marked to show where he preached each one, and the dates. A chalice and paten given to Uncle Heber in 1918, passed along priest to priest in family generations, now in my stewardship, used from time to time over the years at Easter, Christmas, and family baptisms. 
No one is smiling in the 1926 photo spread, looks a grim assembly. Stern. Mirthless. Taking themselves quite seriously? 


Behind Uncle Heber and standing on either side of him are two deacons in dalmatics, solemnly holding his cope back. Pontifical. Sober. Somber. Grave. Dead serious. catholic. Catholic? Uncle Heber is buried at Nashota House seminary in Wisconsin.
Say “Cheese,” your lordships.
TW+

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Psalm 13

Psalm 13 Usquequo, Domine?
1 How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
4 Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
5 But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
6 I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me. (KJV)
Psalm 13 is one appointed for tomorrow, Proper 8, Sunday closest to June 29.
A psalm of David, it’s a powerful lament in an interesting but not unusual style for Hebrew poetry. David lamenting, perhaps, that King Saul hates him and is trying to kill him. In the end The Lord delivers David from danger and David gives thanks. Or perhaps David gives thanks knowing in faith that The Lord will deliver him.
In the Genesis reading for tomorrow, Abraham takes Isaac up the mountain to kill him and offer him to God as a burnt offering. At the end, God speaks and saves, and Abraham named the place Adonai-Jireh, The Lord provides.
From time to time over the past year and more, Joe has emailed me about his friend Ross whose son Eric, 16, was fighting leukemia. In his CaringBridge posting on Friday, Ross wrote 
Mary and I prayed next to Eric, knowing that our young warrior was facing the last battle in this 18 month challenge. Eric began to pray and recite Jeremiah 29.11 which says "For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future". After some very extensive praying he turned to Mary and said "It is time for me to go" and it was at that moment that we knew that it was time for us to release our child to God for ever. ,,, On June 23, 2011 at around 7am, with his Mother and Father by his side, Eric was called home to be with God in Heaven for eternity. As sad as it was to witness, there was a calm peace about him leaving. No more suffering, no more pain, no more treatments. No more needles. No more tubes. An end to transfusions, and fluids fed to him through his veins. ... He was a true blessing from God.
Psalm 13 ends nightmare with peace. Not only for David and for Abraham. For Eric, a faithful young warrior. For everyone who prays to The Lord for deliverance. Perhaps for someone who reads it today and claims the promise.
Sabbath: Shalom.
Tom+

Friday, June 24, 2011

Now this is a drill, this is a drill ...

At Holy Nativity we are using Track One in the Revised Common Lectionary. In Track One we hear a good old-fashioned Bible story for the Old Testament lesson. The story for this Sunday is from Genesis 22: God tells Abraham to take his son Isaac up on the mountain, kill him, and offer him as a sacrifice, a burnt offering. 
This horrifying story is called The Sacrifice of Isaac. Or more correctly The Near-Sacrifice of Isaac, because God stops the murder just as Abraham raises the knife to kill the child. Many scholars regard the story as the scandal of the Bible -- that God would demand such a shocking thing, the sacrifice of an innocent child; that Abraham would actually do it, as the story proves; that the death of Isaac whom God for so long had promised to Abraham and Sarah, would render meaningless the covenant between God and Abraham, God’s promise of many heirs.
And what about the boy's mother? Hebrew scholars point out that after this horrific nightmare, Sarah never spoke again.
We take the story as commending the faith of Abraham, who obeyed God no matter what. For 21st century people, that may be a difficult rationalization to swallow.
Some understand the story as God forbidding child sacrifice, which was practiced in that day and age. That’s not much help.
Some say that Abraham expected God to stop it at the last minute, so didn’t really intend to kill the boy. That destroys the integrity of the story and sets Abraham’s faith at naught.
The story does begin by saying, “God tested Abraham.” That may suggest to the reader that “Now this is a drill, this is a drill,” as announced on a Navy warship before continuing, “General Quarters, General Quarters. All hands man your battle stations.” It may indicate that God was only testing to see if Abraham was really all that obedient; that God meant all along to stop it before Isaac was hurt. That may help morally for the story itself; but it makes God seem a sadistic tormentor, which is not helpful, and it takes Abraham beyond the pale of immorality.
Jewish midrash suggests that when God said, “Take your only son,” Abraham the father of Ishmael and Isaac pointed out, “I have two sons.” And that when God continued, “Isaac, whom you love,” Abraham replied, “I love them both.” 
The pathos of the horrendous demand, as father and son make their way up the mountain, is ineffable, unbearable, indescribable. 
Nevertheless, for all the scholarly criticism of this appalling story, it is to me the most moving event in the entire Bible, short of Good Friday. The story is Messianic. The NRSV translation misses it. But the language of the King James Version and of the Revised Standard Version is poignant beyond words, poignant unto tears. 
Isaac the innocent son asks his father, “Where is the lamb?”
And Abraham replies, “God will provide himself the lamb, my son.”
God will provide himself
the lamb
my son.
To me as a naval officer and a Christian, this gut-wrenching story of Abraham and Isaac is something else altogether and far beyond. This is a drill for General Quarters. A drill for Father and Son. My heart and mind take me beyond the scholars’ condemnation of this damnable event; far, far beyond any midrashic commentary on the appalling behavior of God and Abraham. The story is not only for us on the outside looking in, but God's test for God himself: God knows the faith of Abraham; can God himself be as faithful?
Genesis 22 is God’s drill for Calvary.
A metaphor for Good Friday:  
God will provide himself
the Lamb for sacrifice
my Son.


Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those who are called to the supper of the Lamb.

Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof. But speak the word only and my soul shall be healed.
TW+

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hamburger and a Glass of Dry Red

A loaded up hamburger is a favorite meal. The angus patties at Sam’s are about six ounces each, cook beautifully, and are much to my taste. Now in +Time though, Bubba cuts one in half, enjoys half this meal without cheese anymore, with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Chianti, Malbec, Zinfandel, ...  
Enjoy the other half tomorrow. A glass of red.
Besides “I’m alive!” another bit of good news at Cleveland was “You are anemic: eat beef. Eat protein.” It didn’t take long to overcome the anemia. Steaks, hamburgers. The problem with beef is still and nevertheless cholesterol, animal fat. 
Joe lives in a warm, friendly neighborhood in Winston-Salem. Friends and neighbors get together all the time for supper, barbecues, cook-outs. Recently the couple across the street had Joe over for hamburgers. A vegan, Claudia cooked and served Black Bean Burgers. Joe recommended them, so Linda bought a package of Morningstar Farms Spicy Black Bean Burgers. 
We each had one for lunch yesterday, cooked like a hamburger. Fixed up like any hamburger, they were tasty. If Linda hadn’t told me what it was, it would have passed for beef. Mine was even pink, looked a bit rare. Must have been the red peppers or beets.


Put mine on a whole wheat bun.
Glass of dry red.
Hold the chips. 
TW+

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Auburn

The Auburn

My mother no longer remembers exactly when. But sometime after they married in June 1934 and before or soon after my birth in September 1935, my parents’ car broke down. They were visiting my mother’s family in Pensacola at the time. Jobs were scarce, and they had to get back to Panama City so my father could get to work the next day. 

The earliest job I remember my father having was at the old ice plant. Nothing is there now, the property is vacant, but in the middle 1930s there was an ice plant way back behind Paul Brent Gallery, between West Beach Drive and the bay, where platted but unpaved Mercer Avenue curves around and ends. In my earliest memory my mother and I went to the ice plant to pick up my father from work. Then the Great Depression, he was being paid seven dollars a week and glad to get it.
When their car broke down in Pensacola, my parents left it someplace to be repaired, perhaps Pensacola Buggy Works, the old Chevrolet dealership and garage. Having two cars, my grandparents lent them a car to drive home to Panama City. It was an Auburn sedan.



From the time of his first Maxwell touring car in the early 1920s until his death in 1976, my grandfather Walter Henry Gentry drove nothing but Chrysler cars. Maxwells, then when Walter P. Chrysler took over, Chrysler, Plymouth, DeSoto. But one year, as the story was told to me, a friend from whom he bought cars moved to selling Auburns. My grandfather bought one. It would have been 1934 or 1935.



My mother is having difficulty communicating, but she remembers old times, and so to have a conversation with her yesterday I asked her again about cars, specifically about the Auburn. It was a sedan, maroon and cherry red, she said, a beautiful car. Two-tone cars in those days generally had the body painted one color and the fenders painted the other color. Dark maroon fenders and a cherry red body. Love of red cars is imprinted upon my soul, which tells me that I may have been along on the trip that time my parents’ Chevrolet broke down in Pensacola and they borrowed my grandfather’s Auburn to drive home to Panama City.



That trip home in the Auburn nearly put my parents in the poor house. The story was told to me many times during my growing up years: the Auburn got six miles per gallon. A hundred miles from Pensacola to Panama City at six miles per gallon equals seventeen gallons. Times perhaps ten cents per gallon, equals a dollar seventy. That was a hefty chunk out of seven dollars a week salary. Plus, they had to drive it back to Pensacola the following weekend.



Soon after that, my parents bought a new Chevrolet, a 1935 Master DeLuxe coach (two door sedan) from my father’s Bay High School classmate Bubber Nelson. This was not it:



Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg stopped making the Auburn with the 1936 model year. As my mother remembered yesterday, it was a beautiful car.  



Wodenstag.
Tom 


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wandering through Ordinary Time

Ordinary Time
Digress a bit with me this morning. Wander down a tangent.

With the rash of Principal Feasts behind us (Easter Day, Ascension Day, The Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday), the Church now moves into the Season after Pentecost. In the Roman Catholic and some Protestant Churches it’s called Ordinary Time. 
To define Ordinary Time, go on line and look it up. Google this morning yields About 26,100,000 results in 0.15 seconds. George Washington would be amazed.
For Sunday readings during the Season after Pentecost the Revised Common Lectionary provides a choice (BCP 896, in the most recent edition of The Book of Common Prayer, which is not the one in the pew racks of most churches):
This lectionary provides two patterns for the Old Testament reading during the Season after Pentecost, beginning with Proper 4. In one pattern, the Old Testament and Gospel readings are closely related each Sunday; in the other, the Old Testament is read in semi-continuous fashion throughout the season, and the readings are not paired with each Sunday Gospel. Congregations may choose each year whether to use the semi-continuous Old Testament readings or the readings that are related to the Gospel, using as well the psalm associated with their choice of Old Testament reading. They should remain with that pattern for the entire lectionary year and may make a different choice in another year. 
Sundays of Ordinary Time are given a Proper number that relates to the date of the upcoming Sunday. Thus, June 26 is the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (2nd Sunday after Pentecost) Proper 8. Depending on the congregation’s choice of pattern, the Old Testament readings will be either Genesis 22:1-14 and Psalm 13 or Jeremiah 28:5-9 and Psalm 89:1-4,15-18. 
With either pattern, throughout the summer the second readings will be from Romans; and because we are in Lectionary Year A, the Gospel readings will be from Matthew. 
Curiosity gets the best of me. In the second pattern, why does the lectionary omit Psalm 89 verses 5-14? Only the sages who prepared the lectionary know for sure. Sometimes there’s a particularly nasty passage they wanted to avoid. Sometimes the piece is overly long, so they selected only the most relevant verses. Psalm 89 has 52 verses. The author is said to be Ethan the Ezrahite, a descendant of Levi. Ethan was a singer in King David’s time. He evidently was considered very wise, because the Bible says that “King Solomon was wiser than anyone on earth. He was even wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite.” (1 Kings 4:31).
Psalm 89 is a bit of a puzzler. In the King James Version it begins with a verse that many know as a beloved praise song:
I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.
The psalmist praises The Lord for anointing David as king and for establishing a covenant with David and his seed for ever. Everything is promising and hopeful for David. Selah. Then at verse 38 it all falls apart and the psalm becomes a lament. The Lord has become angry with David, turned against him, is using his enemies to bring him down. Toward the end of the psalm Ethan the Ezrahite offers a most pitiable lament
Lord, where are thy former lovingkindnesses, which thou swearest unto David in thy truth? 
We can perceive the ups and downs of almost every life in the turbulent fortunes of David the king. Psalm 89 is recommended reading this morning, top to bottom.
Psalm 89. A maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite.
TW+ 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Some Tiny As Bugs

“I hate war,” FDR said in an August 1936 speech at Chautauqua, NY. Most everyone hates war, but war technology is fascinating, modern technology, developing technology, technology of the future. Defense research and development has ultimately given the world marvelous things. Weather satellites, GPS, medevac helicopters, Google Earth, jet aircraft, communication and TV satellites, ... the list is endless. NYT this morning has an article on drone aircraft, in use and in R&D. Predator drones, and intelligence drones, drones the size of birds and bugs. Drones in skies over Afghanistan and Pakistan, controlled by operators in the United States. Not yet fully operational, there is one that can land on a windowsill. An “aerostat” transmits videos from twenty miles away of insurgents planting IUDs. The use of drones reportedly is so effective against insurgents in Afghanistan as to warrant accelerated troop withdrawal. 
This is a religious blog, a theology blog, a prayer blog, a Bible blog, a my life and local history blog, a reminiscence blog. But it’s a personal blog, and the NYT article is what captured my fascination and imagination this morning. 
For one who hates war, war is inevitable, war will happen, war will come, like it or not: advanced defense technology is far better than American troops overseas, and body bags, and hearses backed up to cargo planes bringing flag-covered caskets home. And another war memorial naming, honoring and blessing yet another generation of young American heroes.
Pax
TW+ 


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit


Trinity Sunday
Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of thy Divine Majesty to worship the Unity: We beseech thee that thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see thee in thy one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
During his children’s homily, the minister always asked the little children a question to which the answer invariably was “Jesus.” But one Sunday morning he asked them a riddle. “It’s grey and furry, lives in trees, eats nuts, and has a bushy tail. What is it?” 
The children’s mouths dropped. They looked at each other in shock. Nobody spoke.
The minister asked again, “Come on, you know! What’s gray and furry, lives in trees, eats nuts, and has a big, bushy tail?”
Still no answer. Finally one child hesitantly raised her hand. “I know the answer is supposed to be ‘Jesus,’ but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me.”
There are those in other religions who think Christians worship three gods. Standing on the outside looking in, that seems a fair and reasonable viewpoint. If the Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God as the Athanasian Creed (BCP 864-865) asserts, it sure sounds like three Gods to me. Even though the next line tries its best to set the world straight: And yet they are not three Gods, but One God. 
How can this be? 
Standing on the outside looking it, it makes no sense whatsoever. Nevertheless, the Church insists, three Persons, one God. And for explanation, the Church throws the cloak of mystery and invisibility over it just as happens in Harry Potter. But the Church believes the Trinity is true, perhaps just as we in the audience believe Harry, Ron and Hermione are concealed under the cloak of invisibility, unseen by Professor Snape.
All analogies, all metaphors about God are invalid, including my analogy above. But as humans with a living God, we have hardly any other way to define God. Unless we are classical theologians speaking loftily in tortuous and stratospheric logic. A Christian lives with mystery, enigma, riddle, metaphor: it's incomprehensible. 
It is to me.
Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
TW+

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sabbath


A Collect for Saturdays
Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Our prayer for Saturday acknowledges today as the Sabbath, a day of rest established by God as a gift for God’s people.   
And on the seventh day God finished His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it He rested from all His work which God in creating had made. (Genesis 2)
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is a sabbath unto the LORD thy God, in it thou shalt not do any manner of work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested on the seventh day; wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Exodus 20)
The Day of Pentecost, which we celebrated last Sunday, is from the Jewish festival Shavuot, which commemorates God giving his people the Torah and the Ten Commandments. The commandments are not burdensome, but God’s gift of love. To keep them is a joy and privilege that identifies the people of God and makes them special. The Sabbath is part of the gift.
A day of rest from the work that we do throughout the week, the Sabbath is meant by God for our benefit, health, and enjoyment. In honoring it, we are given a day of peace, respite, rest and relaxation. As Jesus said (Mark 2:27), we were not made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for us. It’s God’s gift of love. In keeping Sabbath, we live into the godly image in which we are created, becoming more like God.
Shabbos. Shalom. Peace.
TW+


Friday, June 17, 2011

Bread


Ezekiel Bread
Take thou also unto thee wheat, and barley, and beans, and lentils, and millet, and spelt, and put them in one vessel, and make thee bread thereof. Ezekiel 4:9a
spelt - Native to southern Europe, where it's been used for millennia, spelt is an ancient cereal grain that has a mellow nutty flavor. The easily digestible spelt has a slightly higher protein content than wheat and can be tolerated by those with wheat allergies. Spelt flour, available in health-food stores, can be substituted for wheat flour in baked goods. Food Dictionary online
Linda and I love different kinds of bread. Charlie Lahan’s Carousel has incomparably scrumptious heat and serve bread, sitting on a table in the aisle just east of the wine section. The bakery at Publix has delicious whole wheat bread baked right there in the store; it’s too perfect to toast: plain with “butter,” or with a smear of Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise and a thick slice of ripe red tomato. 

Back by the meat section, Grocery Outlet has a tall stand where the bread man puts loaves of Pepperidge Farm bread that is overstock from other stores, always selling for 75 cents a loaf. My favorite is the Very Thin 100% Whole Wheat, 40 calories per slice, which isn’t always there. 

In the refrigerator of the health food section at Publix there are four different kinds of “Bible bread” certified organic by Food For Life Baking Company. Their Ezekiel 4:9 and Genesis 1:29 bread is heavy, thick and good, 80 calories a slice, no sugar, old-fashioned feel and taste, warmed or toasted. One trusts that the baker follows the ingredients though not the baking style that God ordered the prophet at Ezekiel 4:9, but don’t ask.

Open heart surgery got my attention. The Cleveland Clinic dietician lectured me sternly that what I eat really and truly does determine how long I live, mind the food pyramid. Lots of grain. Little or no fatty food, absolutely no fried except cheat with one fried chicken drumstick a month. Never add salt at the table. Sugary dessert once a week. We’ve got to get that Blue Bell “Summer Berries” ice cream out of the freezer, but how to get rid of it? Doesn’t help to eat a bowl or two when Linda goes to the store, because she doesn’t get on the scale with me. The Brits were here this week and with Linda’s cooking I gained three pounds: it will have to drop quickly.
Crick update. Yesterday at a routine appointment with my primary care physician we asked about the painful crick in my neck, hoping for a prescription. His prescription: “It will go away.”
Coffee this morning. Fresh Market’s dark French Roast, whole bean, decaf, freshly ground and brewed. Doesn’t have the caf wake-up jolt but the taste is the same.
Tom+

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Crick


Crick
In my vocation, Sunday afternoon is like a miniature end of Advent-Christmas or end of Lent-Holy Week-Easter Day. Time for a nap. Unfortunately, and for my first time ever, last Sunday’s nap ended with a crick in the neck.

First ever crick in the neck. Despite minor pain meds it has not abated. Not in the least. Can any good come of a crick in the neck? That is the question.
Going on line with “crick in the neck” yields 905,000 results in 0.08 second. Probably should get busy reading. 
This morning’s thunderstorm is a surprise. On radar it’s a tiny spot that can’t last long, but there’s more out there. Jeremy and his brother Tim took J’s kayak out in the bay yesterday, intending to go again this morning. Tim and Lizzie are from England, Tim works in London. We love having everyone. Tass, Jeremy, Caroline, Charlotte, Tim and Lizzie are here for a few days, leaving this afternoon and stopping at Marianna Caverns on the way home to Tallahassee. Saturday, Tim and Lizzie are flying to Chicago to visit a few days. Chicago? Exploring the USA slowly summer by summer, my destination would be San Francisco or Seattle. Or the Grand Canyon. Chicago? But they do have tickets for a Cubs/White Sox game.  Then home to England where baseball is not played. 
Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet.
When the little girls are here Linda cooks bacon for them. We don’t eat bacon here and they never eat bacon at home, so breakfast at Nana’s house is a treat. Caroline (8) and Charlotte (6) go to Holy Comforter Episcopal School in Tallahassee. Spring a year ago, riding home from the last day of school to start summer vacation, they cried. Yes, cried. 
When family are here, Linda cooks a big supper. Tuesday evening it was two kinds of spareribs and a dozen different BBQ sauces, cole slaw, Nana’s special potato salad, and lemon icebox pie with a glop of whipped cream. Wednesday, cioppino loaded with shrimp, grouper, crab meat, on rice, pasta salad with avocado and cherry tomatoes, pineapple upside-down cake with vanilla ice cream. Today, fried chicken.
Fortunately, the crick in the neck hurts too much to get on my bathroom scale and look down at the number. So, the answer is yes.
TW

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Not A Rice Paddy

The Vietnam War was an insidious time when one never knew who was friend and who might hate you. This morning your Vietnam barber chats amiably and smiles warmly at you while shaving your neck. During the Viet Cong raid tonight he cuts your throat. The America venture in the jungles and rice paddies of SouthEast Asia was a new and different sort of war for us, never knowing who was friend or enemy.
NYT top news headline and photo this morning. Pakistan Arrests C.I.A. Informants in Bin Laden Raid
When speaking from the pulpit and writing public expressions, many in the priest business take care to separate church and state, stand back from left and right, red and blue. A minister’s convictions may be as strong as those of the most outspoken politician, but every priest lives among beloved friends and neighbors on all points of the spectrum. It wasn’t always so with Isaiah and the other prophets of doom, but the calling of ordained ministry is the love of God, to preach it and to live it. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” He preached. With friends and neighbors across the spectrum, a minister’s sermons and writings that take sides in political issues are more likely to be incendiary than conciliatory, hurtful than helpful. “Stick to the gospel,” friends and neighbors advise when we disagree. “Preach it,” they say when we agree.   


This morning’s photo and infuriating headline from Pakistan brings to mind the Vietnam barber. That isn’t a rice paddy. Or is it? Insidious is alive and well. And some "friends" are not.
Peace anyway.
T

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Of A Broken Heart

Of a broken heart. 
Yesterday afternoon the phone rang, a daughter calling to tell me her father had died. We were friends, same age, a month apart. We met in Grief Support Group, shared many long evenings together. I came as priest and facilitator. He came with a broken heart. Three months earlier his son had died suddenly, shockingly. Two years before that, his wife had died after a long, suffering battle with cancer. The sum of his loss was incalculable. The burden of his grief was unbearable. For himself, he was inconsolable.
If for himself he was inconsolable, for others who came to Grief Support Group from time to time, he was a listener and encourager. He listened closely to people’s loss stories and ongoing grief experience. He shared his own grief in ways that were helpful to others and to me. 
He shared colorful memories. He had lived a remarkable life of many adventures, with a wife he worshiped and with whom he had raised beautiful children they adored. He was a great story teller with fascinating tales to tell, enjoyed telling them, told them well. As a fellow sufferer in grief, he was also an encourager for others. 
When he graduated from Grief Support Group he joined one of my Bible study groups and was again a worthy contributor and participant. 
He tried to strike up with old friends from high school and later, but it never sparked. He had been so in love for so long, and was so devastated at his losses that there was no starting anew. Strikingly handsome as a youth and young man, he was a pilot from an early age. He met a beautiful and extraordinarily talented girl. At about age twenty they eloped to another state in a small plane that he borrowed from a friend. He went to university and earned degrees. Years later, fulfilling a dream, he became an airline pilot, captain and executive, and his stories about travels and marriage were many and delightful. He was a true romantic. Together they loved music, song and love. Daughter and son. In time, grandchildren.
The death of his son, and coming so soon after her death, put him farther down in spirit than anyone I have ever known. He tried hard, but found recovery from grief impossible, time not healing. Even music not healing. Eventually he stopped. Stopped trying. Stopped associating with others. Stopped leaving his apartment. Stopped eating. Stopped hoping. Stopped letting time work its slow miracle.
His spirit stopped breathing. 
His broken heart stopped beating.
And my phone rang.
Time To Say Goodbye. 
One of their favorites, to hear it, to sing it with Brightman and Bocelli.
When I'm alone I dream of the horizon and words fail me.
There is no light in a room where there is no sun
and there is no sun if you're not here with me, with me.
From every window unfurls my heart the heart that you have won.
Into me you've poured the light,
the light that you found by the side of the road.
Time to say goodbye.
Places that I've never seen or experienced with you.
Now I shall, I'll sail with you upon ships across the seas,
seas that exist no more,
it's time to say goodbye.
Time to say goodbye. And to pray it.
Depart, O Christian soul out of this world, in the name of God the Father who created you; in the name of God the Son who redeemed you; in the name of God the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you. May your resting place be in the paradise of God, may your company be his saints and holy angels, and may you realize the reasonable and holy hope of eternal life with those you love.
Go in peace.
Tom+