Friday, September 30, 2011

What's for pudding?

After a consumingly busy day, Thursday evening was all happiness. We went by HNES for the annual spaghetti dinner. Imagination was in full swing, starting with the welcome tables in the covered walkway. 
Auditorium, cafeteria, chapel was decorated beautifully, dim lighting, tables with white cloths and lighted candles. A presentation of most elegant desserts. Everyone was beaming smiles and welcomes. Linda and I got “take out” but may be able to stay next year! That school is close to my heart, dearly loved, dearly, dearly loved, yesterday, today and forever! At home: tasty spaghetti, glass of cabernet, and OMG that yeast-roll and finally that cupcake.
Some mornings, especially late in the week, my blog post is later than usual because earliest when the mind is working, before it shuts down completely, attention is on sermon preparation. On looking back over what was “prepped” it’s not clear that the mind was working after all, but it’s cut, print, and that’s a wrap anyway and see you Sunday morning.
Then before going on to the blog, check email obsessively, NCAA football rankings, Anglican Communion News Service, NYTimes, and Washington Post headlines -- Anwar al-Aulaqi, Solyndra, Lutheran pastor appointed dean of Anglican cathedral in Canada, Go Gators. Dessert,

For pudding this morning: Calvin and Hobbes.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stand Tall

Proper 22    The Sunday closest to October 5
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to
hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire
or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy,
forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid,
and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy
to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus
Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the
Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This is the Collect of the Day for Sunday, October 2. It is found among the autumn collects in the Latin language Leonine Sacramentary, which was attributed to Pope Leo I, about 450 AD and is therefore among our oldest prayers. Appearing in every Latin sacramentary since, it was in Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s first, English language, Book of Common Prayer, 1549, and has been in our American prayer books ever since. So, it’s quite ancient in human terms and now thoroughly Anglican.
There are theological elements in the collect. One is in the address, which asserts God’s readiness to hear our prayers and God’s generosity beyond our asking. Another is in the petition, which asserts our human worthlessness. The first assertion is indeed my experience and view, that God hears us and is generous. But the second assertion seems self-abasing and medieval. We are not unworthy to approach God in prayer, not at all. We are made worthy not by our own works and merits, but through Jesus Christ:
We give thanks to you, O God, for the goodness and love
which you have made known to us in creation; in the calling
of Israel to be your people; in your Word spoken through the
prophets; and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus, your
Son. For in these last days you sent him to be incarnate from
the Virgin Mary, to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world.
In him, you have delivered us from evil, and made us worthy
to stand before you
. In him, you have brought us out of error
into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.
We are Episcopalian, Anglican. Lex orandi lex credendi -- our theology, what we believe about God is found in what we do and say and sing and pray when we worship. We are worthy. We believe -- that God has made us worthy. We say so right there in the words of our Eucharistic Prayer. 
But then, that's what the collect says too: we are made worthy through the faith of Jesus Christ.
Get up, get up. In grateful humility, stand tall before God.
Ladies, keep your hats on.
But, gentlemen, Uncover, TWO.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus

Paul to the Philippians (KJV)
Letter 3. Warnings, Advice. 3:1b-4:3
To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.
 2Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.
 3For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
 4Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
8Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death, 11If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
12Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
15Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
17Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. 18(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
20For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
1Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.
 2I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. 3And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.

Many Bible scholars - and many Bible students, myself included and perhaps the folks in our Tuesday morning Bible study - perceive Paul’s letter to the Philippians as a composite of three letters. “Letter 3” is printed above because our second reading for this coming Sunday is extracted from the context of Letter 3 -- the blue print being that extract. The quaint, archaic King James Version  may be somewhat awkward to the modern reader, but for literal word for word accuracy, KJV may translate Paul to Philippians more correctly than later, theologically-driven and socially-influenced translations, including the RSV and NRSV. The KJV is the historic Bible of Anglicanism anyway, and is always welcome in my life.
At any rate, Paul is warning members of his little church at Philippi not to listen to the so-called “Judaizers,” who are coming in after Paul has left and telling folks that to follow the faith of Jesus and worship the God of Israel they must submit fully to the Law of Moses, including circumcision. In excited, vivid language Paul writes to set them straight: everyone, Jew and Gentile alike, is invited and welcome into the saving faith of Jesus Christ under the one, true God. 
If we were to take a single verse from the Sunday reading, perhaps it might be Philippians 3:14: I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus and ask ourself quietly, privately and prayerfully this morning whether we are listening for God’s word about our own high calling in life. The prize in this life might be praying “Whatever you say, Lord” and submitting to the will of God, and realizing surprising relief, peace, satisfaction and joy. To the extent I have done this, I have found it so in my own life. Others may find it so as well.
The prize hereafter, by faith is eternal life.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Burial at Sea

Burial at Sea 
At St. Thomas by the Sea, my office door was always open on a clear cool day to let the salty breeze come in, and so that we could hear the surf crashing a block away. On one such day some years ago, a parishioner came to discuss his burial preferences. Always a meticulous man, he had specified his funeral liturgy from the first hymn, the particular Burial Office, the Eucharistic Prayer and all the Bible readings, to the closing Navy hymn. 
A dedicated member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary for many, many years, both in Michigan and in Florida, he asked that his ashes be spread at sea from a Coast Guard vessel if possible; otherwise, interred in the memorial garden beside St. Thomas by the Sea, Laguna Beach.
Weldon was a healthy, vigorous man whom I knew and relied on from the time we first met at Grace Church, PCB in May 2000, right to the time of his accidental fall and subsequent death in August 2011. His funeral service abided by his wishes precisely. Yesterday, the United States Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary honored him with burial at sea, sending him off gloriously. It was a beautiful Florida morning under a deep blue sky lined with magnificent white clouds, and a nearly calm sea with slight breeze. One large USCG vessel escorted by two smaller USCG craft and one CG Auxiliary boat, took us out into the Gulf of Mexico three miles off the coast beyond Panama City Beach, where we spread Weldon Faull’s ashes into the deep:      
I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord;
he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live;
and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

I know that my Redeemer liveth,
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth;
and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God;
whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold,
and not as a stranger.

For none of us liveth to himself,
and no man dieth to himself.
For if we live, we live unto the Lord.
and if we die, we die unto the Lord.
Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.

Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord;
even so saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labors.
O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our
prayers on behalf of thy servant Weldon, and grant him an
entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of
thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth
and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now
and for ever. Amen.

Psalm 139  Domine, probasti

O LORD, you have searched me out, and known me. *
    You know my sitting down and my rising up;
    You understand my thoughts long before.
You are about my path, and about my bed, *
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
For lo, there is not a word in my tongue, *
    but you, O LORD, know it altogether.
You have beset me behind and before, *
    and laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful and excellent for me; *
    I cannot attain unto it.
Where shall I go then from your Spirit? *
    or where shall I go then from your presence?
If I climb up into heaven, you art there; *
    if I go down to hell, you art there also.
If I take the wings of the morning, *
    and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there also your hand shall lead me, *
    and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, Peradventure the darkness shall cover me, *
    then shall my night be turned to day.
Yea, the darkness is no darkness with thee,
but the night is as clear as day; *
    the darkness and light to thee are both alike.
As the ashes are cast into the sea:
UNTO Almighty God we commend the soul of our brother Weldon, and we commit him to the deep; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; at whose coming in glorious majesty to judge the world, the sea shall give up her dead; and the bodies of those who sleep in Jesus shall be changed, and made like his glorious body; according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.
Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord:
And let light perpetual shine upon him.

May his soul, and the souls of all the departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you and give you peace. In the Name of God: Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 
Back at the pier as we departed the ship, Margaret said, “Weldon would have been proud.” Indeed he would have been. He was well and honorably sent off. Thank you, Harry Sweezey, for arranging it. 
Many thanks to the men and women of the USCG and CG Auxiliary who loved, respected, and ultimately so proudly honored this dedicated man.

Monday, September 26, 2011

10 -> 613 -> 2

Exodus 19 and Exodus 20:1-20 (NRSV)
At the third new moon after the Israelites had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day, they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain. 3Then Moses went up to God; the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites: 4You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, 6but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.’
7 So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8The people all answered as one: ‘Everything that the Lord has spoken we will do.’ Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord. 9Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.’
When Moses had told the words of the people to the Lord, 10the Lord said to Moses: ‘Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes 11and prepare for the third day, because on the third day the Lord will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12You shall set limits for the people all around, saying, “Be careful not to go up the mountain or to touch the edge of it. Any who touch the mountain shall be put to death. 13No hand shall touch them, but they shall be stoned or shot with arrows;* whether animal or human being, they shall not live.” When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they may go up on the mountain.’ 14So Moses went down from the mountain to the people. He consecrated the people, and they washed their clothes. 15And he said to the people, ‘Prepare for the third day; do not go near a woman.’
16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, as well as a thick cloud on the mountain, and a blast of a trumpet so loud that all the people who were in the camp trembled. 17Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God. They took their stand at the foot of the mountain. 18Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently. 19As the blast of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses would speak and God would answer him in thunder. 20When the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, the Lord summoned Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. 21Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down and warn the people not to break through to the Lord to look; otherwise many of them will perish. 22Even the priests who approach the Lord must consecrate themselves or the Lord will break out against them.’ 23Moses said to the Lord, ‘The people are not permitted to come up to Mount Sinai; for you yourself warned us, saying, “Set limits around the mountain and keep it holy.” ’ 24The Lord said to him, ‘Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you; but do not let either the priests or the people break through to come up to the Lord; otherwise he will break out against them.’ 25So Moses went down to the people and told them.
And God spoke all these words:
2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; 3you shall have no other gods before* me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, 6but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation* of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. 9For six days you shall labour and do all your work. 10But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. 11For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
12 Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.*
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.
17 You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
18 When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid* and trembled and stood at a distance, 19and said to Moses, ‘You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.’ 20Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.’ 
Our first reading for Sunday, October 2 is not all the above, but selected verses from Exodus chapter 20 (Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20, in blue above), God giving Moses the Ten Commandments. There was a time in the church when the rubrics required the Decalogue to be read every Sunday morning as the beginning of the liturgy for Holy Communion. With the coming of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, the requirement was eased to require reading it once a month. The 1979 prayer book sorts the Decalogue off by itself (BCP 317-318), and the rubrics now say that it may be said either during A Penitential Order (which some parishes use during Lent), or instead of the Summary of the Law in Holy Eucharist Rite One. 
It’s probably well to hear the Ten Commandments from time to time so that we at least know what they are. It’s a wonder there aren’t Twelve Commandments, twelve being a significant holy number of Israel. Maybe there originally were twelve and Moses talked the Lord down to just ten, we don’t know. Or maybe all twelve wouldn't fit on the tablets.
At the end of the Exodus reading for next Sunday, instead of cutting off where the Ten Commandments end at verse 17, it goes on with verses 18-20 -- about the thunder and lightening, and the trumpet, and the mountain smoking. That could be rather startling unless the hearer knows the scriptural setting. 
The scenario is described in Exodus chapter 19. Having been delivered from the Egyptians, the Israelites are now in the wilderness about three months. They’ve come to Mount Sinai, awesome mountain of God. Some have speculated that it’s an active volcano, but we don’t know. Regardless, it’s fearsome, and God is there. From now on, the children of Israel will be not merely a class of slaves and servants, and not tribes of wandering nomads, but a people. They will be the people of God, who here starts to give them laws for living. The rabbis say that there are 613 laws in Torah. These first ten are prime. Jesus summarizes them all as two: 

Jesus said, "The first commandments is this: Hear, O Israel:
The Lord your God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your
God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your
mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: Love
your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment
greater than these."   Mark 12:29-31


Sunday, September 25, 2011

You're Not Supposed To

You’re not supposed to do that. And certainly not that way.
Though no canons or rubrics, there was a time when we had rules about certain things because -- well, that’s the way we have always done it -- we insisted that was the way it was supposed to be done. Who knew or cared whether they were universal in the Church, or just something that had grown up locally. 
Women were not supposed to come to church with head uncovered. Arriving sans hat, God forbid, you must spread a handkerchief over and pin it to your hair.
Arriving at your pew in the nave you were supposed to kneel and say a prayer of private devotion. Even if you arrived during the processional hymn -- which could be quite awkward and odd, putting the kneeler down on the toes of those who were standing and singing.
If you arrived after the Confession of Sin you were not supposed to receive the Sacrament.
You were not supposed to receive the Sacrament more than once in 24 hours.
You were not supposed to chew the communion wafer, but let it melt on your tongue. 
You were not supposed to touch the chalice, but let the minister guide it to your lips and serve you.
Returning to your pew from the Altar rail you were supposed to walk with your hands folded and your head bowed. 
Arriving in your pew from the Altar rail you were supposed to kneel and say a prayer.
After the recessional hymn you were supposed to wait kneeling until the Altar candles were extinguished. 

If there was consecrated Bread or Wine left after the service, Altar Guild must work in silence, because you are not supposed to speak in the presence of the consecrated Sacrament.
Some of the customs probably had pious origin, others perhaps just busybodies. But we like to do things the way they are supposed to be done. Even obsessively. In the Preface to the First Book of Common Prayer (1549), which is reprinted in the 1979 prayer book as a historical document (BCP 866) there is a discussion of the Bible lessons that are to be read in worship. Whether stern chastisement or tongue in cheek, a concluding sentence speaks of our obsession with rules. “Moreover, the number and hardness of the Rules called the Pie, and the manifold changings of the service, was the cause, that to turn the Book only, was so hard and intricate a matter, that many times, there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out.” 
Odd folks we are, when busyness is our business and the rules about what and how to do are more important than the doing of.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Psalm 78: of Asaph

The psalm that we say, sing or chant on Sunday mornings is meant to affirm the Old Testament reading in some way. We may enjoy the whole psalm; or, as tomorrow when the Exodus reading is about God giving the people water in the wilderness, the psalm is quite long and so we sing only a relevant portion. Psalm 78 rehearses the salvation history of the stiff-necked people of Israel from the time of Jacob, through the exodus from Egypt and grumbling travail in the wilderness, and the shifting of God’s favor from the tribe of Joseph to the tribe of Judah, to God’s choosing the shepherd boy David as king. 
This psalm, along with several others, is called a psalm of Asaph. A little exploration (see 1 Chronicles 25:1f below) tells us that Asaph was one of three men whom David chose to be his ministers of music in worship. They and their families seem to have been composers, poets, and accomplished musicians. Sometimes, as with Psalm 78, their psalms wove long stories about the children of Israel and their relationship with God. Long sessions of choir practice must have been required, and their productions must have been marvelous to behold. 
Seeing the thinly-veiled flattery at the end, it doesn’t take much imagination to reckon that this worship psalm was meant to be sung while King David was in the congregation.
Psalm 78 (The Message version is not set for singing, but makes a great story)
An Asaph Psalm
 1-4 Listen, dear friends, to God's truth, bend your ears to what I tell you. 
   I'm chewing on the morsel of a proverb; 
      I'll let you in on the sweet old truths, 
   Stories we heard from our fathers, 
      counsel we learned at our mother's knee. 
   We're not keeping this to ourselves, 
      we're passing it along to the next generation— 
   God's fame and fortune, 
      the marvelous things he has done. 
 5-8 He planted a witness in Jacob, 
      set his Word firmly in Israel, 
   Then commanded our parents 
      to teach it to their children 
   So the next generation would know, 
      and all the generations to come— 
   Know the truth and tell the stories 
      so their children can trust in God, 
   Never forget the works of God 
      but keep his commands to the letter. 
   Heaven forbid they should be like their parents, 
      bullheaded and bad, 
   A fickle and faithless bunch 
      who never stayed true to God. 
 9-16 The Ephraimites, armed to the teeth, 
      ran off when the battle began. 
   They were cowards to God's Covenant, 
      refused to walk by his Word. 
   They forgot what he had done— 
      marvels he'd done right before their eyes. 
   He performed miracles in plain sight of their parents 
      in Egypt, out on the fields of Zoan. 
   He split the Sea and they walked right through it; 
      he piled the waters to the right and the left. 
   He led them by day with a cloud, 
      led them all the night long with a fiery torch. 
   He split rocks in the wilderness, 
      gave them all they could drink from underground springs; 
   He made creeks flow out from sheer rock, 
      and water pour out like a river. 
 17-20 All they did was sin even more, 
      rebel in the desert against the High God. 
   They tried to get their own way with God, 
      clamored for favors, for special attention. 
   They whined like spoiled children, 
      "Why can't God give us a decent meal in this desert? 
   Sure, he struck the rock and the water flowed, 
      creeks cascaded from the rock. 
   But how about some fresh-baked bread? 
      How about a nice cut of meat?" 
 21-31 When God heard that, he was furious— 
      his anger flared against Jacob, 
      he lost his temper with Israel. 
   It was clear they didn't believe God, 
      had no intention of trusting in his help. 
   But God helped them anyway, commanded the clouds 
      and gave orders that opened the gates of heaven. 
   He rained down showers of manna to eat, 
      he gave them the Bread of Heaven. 
   They ate the bread of the mighty angels; 
      he sent them all the food they could eat. 
   He let East Wind break loose from the skies, 
      gave a strong push to South Wind. 
   This time it was birds that rained down— 
      succulent birds, an abundance of birds. 
   He aimed them right for the center of their camp; 
      all round their tents there were birds. 
   They ate and had their fill; 
      he handed them everything they craved on a platter. 
   But their greed knew no bounds; 
      they stuffed their mouths with more and more. 
   Finally, God was fed up, his anger erupted— 
      he cut down their brightest and best, 
      he laid low Israel's finest young men. 
 32-37 And—can you believe it?—they kept right on sinning; 
      all those wonders and they still wouldn't believe! 
   So their lives dribbled off to nothing— 
      nothing to show for their lives but a ghost town. 
   When he cut them down, they came running for help; 
      they turned and pled for mercy. 
   They gave witness that God was their rock, 
      that High God was their redeemer, 
   But they didn't mean a word of it; 
      they lied through their teeth the whole time. 
   They could not have cared less about him, 
      wanted nothing to do with his Covenant. 
 38-55 And God? Compassionate! 
      Forgave the sin! Didn't destroy! 
   Over and over he reined in his anger, 
      restrained his considerable wrath. 
   He knew what they were made of; 
      he knew there wasn't much to them, 
   How often in the desert they had spurned him, 
      tried his patience in those wilderness years. 
   Time and again they pushed him to the limit, 
      provoked Israel's Holy God. 
   How quickly they forgot what he'd done, 
      forgot their day of rescue from the enemy, 
   When he did miracles in Egypt, 
      wonders on the plain of Zoan. 
   He turned the River and its streams to blood— 
      not a drop of water fit to drink. 
   He sent flies, which ate them alive, 
      and frogs, which bedeviled them. 
   He turned their harvest over to caterpillars, 
      everything they had worked for to the locusts. 
   He flattened their grapevines with hail; 
      a killing frost ruined their orchards. 
   He pounded their cattle with hail, 
      let thunderbolts loose on their herds. 
   His anger flared, 
      a wild firestorm of havoc, 
   An advance guard of disease-carrying angels 
      to clear the ground, preparing the way before him. 
   He didn't spare those people, 
      he let the plague rage through their lives. 
   He killed all the Egyptian firstborns, 
      lusty infants, offspring of Ham's virility. 
   Then he led his people out like sheep, 
      took his flock safely through the wilderness. 
   He took good care of them; they had nothing to fear. 
      The Sea took care of their enemies for good. 
   He brought them into his holy land, 
      this mountain he claimed for his own. 
   He scattered everyone who got in their way; 
      he staked out an inheritance for them— 
      the tribes of Israel all had their own places. 
 56-64 But they kept on giving him a hard time, 
      rebelled against God, the High God, 
      refused to do anything he told them. 
   They were worse, if that's possible, than their parents: 
      traitors—crooked as a corkscrew. 
   Their pagan orgies provoked God's anger, 
      their obscene idolatries broke his heart. 
   When God heard their carryings-on, he was furious; 
      he posted a huge No over Israel. 
   He walked off and left Shiloh empty, 
      abandoned the shrine where he had met with Israel. 
   He let his pride and joy go to the dogs, 
      turned his back on the pride of his life. 
   He turned them loose on fields of battle; 
      angry, he let them fend for themselves. 
   Their young men went to war and never came back; 
      their young women waited in vain. 
   Their priests were massacred, 
      and their widows never shed a tear. 
 65-72 Suddenly the Lord was up on his feet 
      like someone roused from deep sleep, 
      shouting like a drunken warrior. 
   He hit his enemies hard, sent them running, 
      yelping, not daring to look back. 
   He disqualified Joseph as leader, 
      told Ephraim he didn't have what it takes, 
   And chose the Tribe of Judah instead, 
      Mount Zion, which he loves so much. 
   He built his sanctuary there, resplendent, 
      solid and lasting as the earth itself. 
   Then he chose David, his servant, 
      handpicked him from his work in the sheep pens. 
   One day he was caring for the ewes and their lambs, 
      the next day God had him shepherding Jacob, 
      his people Israel, his prize possession. 
   His good heart made him a good shepherd; 
      he guided the people wisely and well.
Here’s the background about Asaph:
1 Chronicles 25:1f (The Message)
The Musicians for Worship
... David and the worship leaders selected some from the family of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun for special service in preaching and music. Here is the roster of names and assignments: From the family of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asarelah; they were supervised by Asaph, who spoke for God backed up by the king's authority. ... Asaph, Jeduthun, and Heman took their orders directly from the king. They were well-trained in the sacred music, all of them masters. There were 288 of them.
Wow, what a choir! Sabbath. Right shoe first and praise the Lord. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Red Snapper

My birthday party idea was to take the family to Captain Anderson’s for dinner, but it didn’t work out because Charlotte was ill. So Linda and I went last night. 

Arriving  just as the doors opened at four-thirty, we were the first to enter and were seated at a window table. 

At the table next to us were twin baby girls with family, parents, grandparents. The little girls were quiet but curious, looking around at everyone. Dressed identically, one had a pink bow in her hair, one a yellow bow.
Having had my September allotment of fried food (a Popeye’s chicken drumstick my birthday weekend), fried was not on my menu last night. Which mattered not, because both Linda and I are in a rut there. Her favorite is the Grouper Imperial, a serving of broiled grouper topped with as much lump crabmeat as there is grouper under it. 

Mine is the whole Red Snapper broiled over flames. In the past my meal included a side order of fried oysters to go on top of my salad, but those days are history. We shared a bowl of the crab soup and I spooned mine over my tossed salad then crumbled crackers on top. 
Originally the restaurant really was Captain Anderson’s, an owner and operator of party boats here. Mrs. Anderson taught at Bay High when we were there early 1950s. The last time we saw and visited with her, she was our hostess at the restaurant the summer we arrived home from Japan.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Christ Hymn

Philippians 2:1-13
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was* in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
   did not regard equality with God
   as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
   taking the form of a slave,
   being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8   he humbled himself
   and became obedient to the point of death—
   even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
   and gave him the name
   that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
   every knee should bend,
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
   that Jesus Christ is Lord,
   to the glory of God the Father. 
12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (NRSV)
Our second reading for Sunday, September 25, 2011 (Proper 21, Year A) is lifted from the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul is exhorting the members of his church at Philippi to live humbly, valuing others more than themselves, and he offers Jesus as the example of ultimate humility. 
The section at verses 5-11 is called the Christ Hymn, long a topic of discussion and conjecture among Bible scholars and students. As with many things scriptural, there are more questions than answers -- which makes Bible study so fascinating. We don’t know whether the Christ Hymn was already in use in the developing church -- such as something being sung at the Lord’s Supper, or whether Paul wrote it himself. If Paul wrote it, did he write it for this particular letter or was it something he had written earlier and decided to insert here because it fit so well? In particular, how did Paul mean the Philippians to take it? Did Paul mean it theologically or simply as part of his exhortation to the Philippians to be humble? And is my own conclusion about the Christ Hymn what I came in already believing and am determined to go out having proved to my own satisfaction, or is my mind open?
In the context of the letter, Paul is simply encouraging his friends at Philippi to a life of humility. Some scholars set up a credible formula that shows Paul using the Christ Hymn to  contrast the obedient humility of Jesus (the “Second Adam”) with the disobedient arrogance of the “First Adam” of Genesis. Others insist that the Christ Hymn is Paul’s assertion of the eternal existence of Christ with and as God, as a couple of generations later John writes in the Prologue to his Gospel. A factor to bear in mind is that Paul was a monotheistic Jew who believed that the end of time was imminent, as evidenced in God’s raising Jesus from the dead (the first of the general resurrection); and that the only way to be saved in the judgment to come was to be under the lordship of the God of Israel, which Paul believed was open to Jew and Gentile alike through the death of the Son of God, who died for the sins of all. Paul believed that his calling was to bring Gentile pagans under the lordship of the one and only true God, the Creator of all things. Having come under the one God through the obedience of his Christ, one should then live humbly, waiting patiently for the End. Paul to Philippians is no theological treatise, but a loving letter of encouragement.
Is it anachronistic then to understand Paul and his Christ Hymn with John and his Prologue and the later Christology of the Church? After all, even with Paul as a precursor, the Church took several hundred years to fight out and settle its Orthodoxy -- which is not invalidated by finding that Paul predated and may not have shared our Christology of God the Son. In any event, may we nevertheless legitimately lift the Christ Hymn out of context and interpret Paul's words to the Philippians as God’s word to us about the Son? Certainly, this is something the Gospel writers themselves do in exploring the prophets of the Old Testament and perceiving messianic prophecy. Christ is there for the discovering.