Monday, October 31, 2011

It's Just Me

One thing about a weblog instead of social media like FaceBook is that it’s not a forum, it’s just out there, take it or leave it and mostly it’s left. Cynicisms, personal religious aberrations, social oddities and political eccentricities can be said without encountering anonymous snark. A blog post is a wave in the ether. During the 2008 political campaign lots of extremist fringe material was passed around by email and my email address was on some lists. It'll start up again soon. Comments back and forth were always certitudinous, and often ugly, hateful, bizarre lunatic element, threatening, unnerving, alarming, even frightening. My response was back away, learn a lesson about exposing self to anonymous strangers.
People who respond anonymously are like a driver well-mannered among friends and neighbors who behind the wheel honks insanely and finger salutes anyone who annoys. On line road-rage: e-rage. He who knows not and knows not he knows not, he is a fool: shun him.
On my blog, my post is my person who doesn’t need to agree with anybody on anything and usually doesn’t.
Contemning certitude
Fearing power
Distrusting government
Favoring protest
For the underdog

Pax. Or pox.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Run Without Stumbling

Proper 26    The Sunday closest to November 2
Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your
faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant
that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly
promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for
ever. Amen.
When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble. Proverbs 4:12 (KJV).
During our “Harry Potter Year” at Holy Nativity Episcopal School we had a family who did not want their child exposed to the witches and wizards. Rather than have one student sent to the library during Religion & Ethics classes, we decided to offer an elective Senior Bible Seminar open to eighth graders only, and in addition to regular religion class. I had wanted and intended to limit it to six students, eight max, but half the senior class signed up, making it somewhat unwieldy for a round-table seminar; but nevertheless. Everyone knew there was a refrigerator in my classroom, and snacks were help yourself; however, the students actually were eager, enthusiastic and noisy about Bible study. 
We studied several Bible books that year, including Proverbs, which the students themselves chose. The book has an interesting structure that one misses if just thumbing through pointing to bits of choice wisdom. A focus of Proverbs is a father teaching wisdom to his children, with wisdom personified in sharp contrast to folly personified. That’s what’s going on in Proverbs 4:12 above, lifted out of context: if you run the way of wisdom you will not stumble.
The Bible is filled with wonderful promises of God; and though today's ancient collect doesn’t say, what it probably has in mind is the promise of justification through the faith of Christ, and salvation into God’s everlasting dominion at our last day.
Which always brings to mind a favorite “good old” that was often on the hymnboard on Sunday morning when I went to East Hill Baptist Church, Pensacola, with my grandfather and Gentry cousins. “Standing On The Promises of God.”
My students in that Senior Bible Seminar are college freshmen this year. May God bless and prosper each beloved one.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Walking the Talk

Scott Olsen & Mohamed Bouazizi
Trinity Wall Street & St. Paul’s Chapel
St. Paul’s London v. the Bishop of Buckingham
Giles Fraser, Fraser Dyer, Alan Wilson
Amendment 1 - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
At last the truth can be told. Arab Spring sets the stage for vivid contrast showing that, unlike oppressive lands of the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere, Americans with OWS grievances against the established order can assemble and demonstrate without being brutalized by repressive government. 

Tomorrow’s gospel, Matthew 23:1-12 is about walking the talk.
And where is God’s Church?
At last the truth can be seen
In the News. 


Friday, October 28, 2011

St. Andrews

My father used to tell me that as a boy he walked seven miles to school, seems to me it included barefoot in the snow. He exaggerated a bit: it’s exactly one mile from my house, where he lived as a boy, to St. Andrews School. Of course there’s no snow, but barefooted is credible to me, who shed shoes the first week of May each year and didn’t put them on again until Tuesday morning after Labor Day to head for school. 
In his day St. Andrews School was a wooden building, two story, apparently, two classrooms up and two down. His brother Alfred would have gone there too, and likely sisters Evalyn and Ruth. Alfred did attend a private school in Anniston, Alabama for awhile, reportedly not his best experience. We have one of his textbooks here: he wrote his name inside the front cover, Alfred Daniel Weller, Jr.
St. Andrews was dirt roads then, what roads there were, woods behind our house, my grandmother’s cow grazing free, ambling home at milking time. And there was a water tank for the house. My father said an engine ran the pump to fill the water tank on a tower. It was his chore to start the engine and keep the water tank filled.
My grandmother always kept chickens here, for eggs, and I remember watching her ring a chicken’s neck. It ran round in circles briefly then dropped. Mom picked it up, plucked it in a flurry of feathers, scorched the pinfeathers, cut it up and fried it for dinner. Alfred drowned in January 1918 and a couple years later the family picked up and moved to Ocilla, Georgia. We drove through there once, about 1948, and my father pointed out the garage where Pop had been the Ford dealer. After two or three years in Ocilla, about 1923, they picked up again and moved down into Florida, where Pop tried real estate. My father remembered that whenever they moved, Mom had chicken coops sitting on the running boards and tied to the car fenders. Leaving Ocilla, they had a Model-T Ford and a Hudson touring car. Eleven years old by then, my father drove the Model-T that trip. No highways, just hilly dirt roads, two ruts through the woods. Chicken coops strapped on again.

Pop didn't like real estate, or was not successful in it, and they eventually moved back up to Valparaiso, where Pop was in the seafood business again, then to Pensacola. After some ten years away they returned home to St. Andrews. It's all reasonably dateable in that my father attended Pensacola High School, where he met my mother, but graduated from Bay High, class of 1931.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Yes, We'll Gather At the River

Joshua 3:7-17 The Message (MSG)
 7-8 God said to Joshua, "This very day I will begin to make you great in the eyes of all Israel. They'll see for themselves that I'm with you in the same way that I was with Moses. You will command the priests who are carrying the Chest of the Covenant: 'When you come to the edge of the Jordan's waters, stand there on the river bank.'"
 9-13 Then Joshua addressed the People of Israel: "Attention! Listen to what God, your God, has to say. This is how you'll know that God is alive among you—he will completely dispossess before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites. Look at what's before you: the Chest of the Covenant. Think of it—the Master of the entire earth is crossing the Jordan as you watch. Now take twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from each tribe. When the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the Chest of God, Master of all the earth, touch the Jordan's water, the flow of water will be stopped—the water coming from upstream will pile up in a heap."
 14-16 And that's what happened. The people left their tents to cross the Jordan, led by the priests carrying the Chest of the Covenant. 
When the priests got to the Jordan and their feet touched the water at the edge (the Jordan overflows its banks throughout the harvest), the flow of water stopped. It piled up in a heap—a long way off—at Adam, which is near Zarethan. The river went dry all the way down to the Arabah Sea (the Salt Sea). And the people crossed, facing Jericho.
 17 And there they stood; those priests carrying the Chest of the Covenant stood firmly planted on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground. Finally the whole nation was across the Jordan, and not one wet foot.
A favorite hymn, one nearly always included in my liturgies for Holy Baptism, was “Shall We Gather At the River.” Folks in churches we have served know my love for water in worship; often asperges in the entrance rite, shaking holy water over the congregation during the processional hymn as Sunday worship begins; always River Jordan water for baptizing, and sprinkling the blessed water from the baptismal font over the people after a baptism.
In the Bible Story for Sunday, God commissions Joshua impressively and grandly, crossing the Jordan River from the wilderness into the Promised Land almost identically as forty years earlier God had commissioned Moses in the exodus from Egypt, crossing the Red Sea into the wilderness. The parallel is meant to be clear: as God was with Moses, God is with Joshua. 
If Moses was God’s caring pastor to the children of Israel those years in the wilderness, Joshua is the strong military commander God needs to lead Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land. Because our Season after Pentecost is coming to an end, there is not time ahead to read the Bible stories about God with Joshua as through the summer and fall we have read the stories about God with Moses. Advent, a new church season is at hand, so we won’t be sharing the ancient excitement. Joshua and the twelve stones that are there to this day. Joshua fights the battle of Jericho. Joshua at Ai. Joshua commands the sun to stand still. And many more. Both mighty and terrible, dreadful and glorious, they are there for the adventurous to explore. 
Tom+ in +Time

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Doone: someone who is "out to lunch"

A spoof is unconditionally a good thing, all things religious deserve a spoof, everything political deserves a spoof. Otherwise we think we are it and we are not. Even though R-Rateable, the recent spoofs parodying Hitler on YouTube were outlandishly imaginative and funny.   
Though the Occupy Wall Street movement won’t last long because it seems to be noise without mind and voice, it’s a good thing because gross and growing economic inequality and consummate greed warrant protest. But also because it shows the world peaceful protest in free and democratic lands, over against the massacres that began peacefully as the Arab Spring. The church is aiding and abetting OWS but we shall see what governments do about the demonstrations -- most likely nothing because the crowd went home for lunch. 

It was a criminal outrage and is excruciatingly painful to remember, shouldn’t be necessary even to mention our own Kent State Massacre and those fairly peaceable but reasonable and vigorous protests that changed the face of the nation -- or to recall the view expressed by someone, perhaps anonymous, that all government is all ways all bad, which Kent State proved. When political, financial, social, and religious institutions go bad they can only be brought down by the victims, and it begins with peaceful protest, either hopefully or angrily or both. In America, the right to peaceful protest is as central as the right to bear arms. 
If legitimate peaceful protest doesn’t bring about change, it may, can -- sometimes should, will, and must -- escalate beyond peaceable. 1776, Women’s Suffrage, Civil Rights, Vietnam War, Arab Spring, ... OWS? 
Nevertheless, anything that takes itself seriously deserves a spoof. Even the bag over the anonymous, incognito OWS's head shows spoofable mindlessness. And who better to spoof than Doonesbury, who spoofed Dan Quayle with a feather instead of a head, Bush with a Stetson as "all hat and no cattle," and even helped spoof The Donald off the stage of presidential hopefuls with swirls and swirls and swirls of absurd and outrageous comb-over.

Just kidding.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sip of Coffee

Arising early is my good way to start the day. On a scale of good better best, it might be better if the bladder weren’t so insistent, persistent and regular in watching the clock; but having its own alarm, it lights up inevitably within a quarter hour of three o’clock in the morning. Up, back to the warm, snug bed for a futile effort to keep the mind blank and drift back off. Never happens.  
Up happily, glide as quietly downstairs as a creaky hundred year old staircase permits. This was my Uncle Alfred’s staircase, was it so creaky then? Check the WiFi relay. To the kitchen. Click on the coffee pot, grab a large mug, open the fridge, fill the mug a third full of 2% milk, into the microwave to heat for 77 seconds while the coffee pot warms. 
Mug under the spigot, punch the middle button to grind 1 coffee and the right button to grind 2 small coffees. Fresh Market, Tallahassee or Destin, have the best local area selections of decaf whole bean. Cover the mug and head for the family room. Coffee on the lamp table, lamp on click click click to high. Green light shows the MacBook is charged, pick it up, head for the recliner next to table, lamp and coffee. Recliner back, MacBook open, glasses on. Sip of coffee. WiFi comes up reasonably reliably, check email first.
Kristen is taking a religion course at college and lovingly tolerates Papa “helping” by email. This morning’s email from her warms my heart, sharing a homework assignment. ENS email says, among other news, Executive Council has notified General Convention that the church is unable to adopt the Anglican Covenant, leaving the decision to the 2012 General Convention; also that Bertram Herlong, retired Bishop of Tennessee, has died at age 77. A Florida native, Bert grew up with us at Camp Weed in the early 1950s and later was a year ahead of me at the University of Florida. 
After early morning email comes thought about what to write and post on my blog this morning. Nothing comes to mind except that in the Bible story from Joshua for this coming Sunday, God is starting to fashion his new servant Joshua in the image of his old servant Moses. Maybe that will be the topic for tomorrow. Or maybe not.
TW+ loving +Time

Monday, October 24, 2011

Never Stop

One of the fun things to do in Bible study is interesting research. My personal library is fairly decent, but the computer and internet age makes it really fascinating and practically unlimited. The only limit is time, there are thousands, millions of things available and one can’t possibly read all of it. Furthermore, when there is one topic and seven scholars you end up with at least eight opinions or more, because nobody agrees with anybody on anything, much less everything.
Preparing for Sunday School and for Tuesday morning Bible study is enjoyably demanding. Lots of research needs to be done, both for my own enlightenment and pleasure and also because the people who come are no dummies, they question and challenge. 
Among my current favorites, very basic, useful and helpful, are the writings of Bart Ehrman, professor of religious studies at Chapel Hill, and the lectures of Dale Martin, professor of religious studies at Yale. Both are New Testament scholars. When studying Old Testament, other writers and scholars are needed of course, and there are plenty of those too, including favorites.
In my seminary days, and later including in EfM studies, my loves were the Hebrew Bible, the Gospels including Thomas, and Revelation. The epistles, especially Paul, including the letters themselves, lectures about them, and textbooks about them were for me unendurably boring to screaming tears. But this past spring and summer methinks well it’s a new life that I never expected to have. Let’s do something new and different. Let’s tackle Paul and his writings and the other NT epistles, and maybe offer a related Fall 2011 Bible study to share with friends and neighbors. It has been and is totally engaging and compelling. Especially the continued searching and reading, and the meetings with interested, enthusiastic and questioning folks in classes.
On our last day of class at Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, our theology professor told us never to stop reading and studying. That advice has been singularly helpful to me lifelong.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday School

Sunday School!
This morning’s plan is to pick up again with the little Red Book that General Convention has authorized for use in the Church, Enriching Our Worship. We have already looked at the three new Eucharistic Prayers in EOW, searching out the oblation, the anamnesis, the words of institution, and the epiclesis -- proving ourselves true Anglicans! Today we shall begin with the two new post-Communion prayers in EOW.
Laying EOW aside then, let’s explore two of today’s readings from The Lectionary for Year A. The Deuteronomy 34 selection concludes our travels with Moses as he dies and is buried, a controversial story involving crime and punishment and the inscrutable mystery of God the Father.
To close, time permitting, we’ll look into the Gospel reading from Matthew 22, in which Jesus confounds those who hate him and delights those who love him. God the Son also can be quite inscrutable!
Sunday School, this morning, 9:15 in the Mary Stuart Poole Library.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Summary of the Law

Matthew 22:34-40 (KJV)
 34When the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.
 35Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
 36Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
 38This is the first and great commandment.
 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
The first half of our Gospel for tomorrow morning, these verses from Matthew are commonly called the Summary of the Law. In the first, Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, “... thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” In the second commandment he quotes from Leviticus 19:18, “... thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (KJV). 
It is to me the essence of the Gospel, such an essential part of our liturgy that I was appalled in 1976 to open the newly arrived Book of Common Prayer (Proposed) and discover that it had been omitted from the entrance rite in The Holy Eucharist: Rite Two. Taking some liberties with the rubrics, which didn’t say not to, my practice was to add it back into the entrance rite, using the form from Mark 12 that is authorized in the Penitential Order: Rite Two (page 351). That proved unnecessary though, because the rubric at page 359 authorizes precisely that as the introduction to the confession of sin, which then dovetails beautifully:
Confession of Sin

A Confession of Sin is said here if it has not been said earlier. On
occasion, the Confession may be omitted.

One of the sentences from the Penitential Order on page 351 
may be said.
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  
The Deacon or Celebrant says

Let us confess our sins against God and our neighbor.

Silence may be kept.

Minister and People

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
May this Sabbath be such an occasion of blessing to God, self, and neighbor, however, that the Confession may be omitted.

Friday, October 21, 2011


19881221 103 at 31000

Justice and Vengeance collide
or merge.

20111020 - yesterday in Sirte. 

The brother of a 103 victim said,
“I’ve waited over twenty years for this day.”

With only memories, Nicole’s mother
said, “My grief will be relieved when
I’m no longer part of this world.” 
Justice, allowed to be sweet,
is not.
Justice can be satisfying at best.
Vengeance is not allowed to be sweet
in civilized society,
only bittersweet.
But as society is not civilized,
may Vengeance be Sweet?

Mad Dog of the Middle East,
begging for mercy, 
shot by one of his own,
with his own golden pistol?
(a) Vengeance? 
(b) Justice?
(c) mercy?
(d) Bittersweet?
(d) Sweet?
(e) All of the above?

Blessed are the merciful
for they shall obtain mercy.
Arab Spring
Summer and Fall.
Winter, Spring, ...

T 20111021

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tuesday Mornings

Tuesday morning Bible study has been going well. Eighteen or twenty folks signed up with the understanding that nobody could come every time and that there always would be several folks away. And that our studies would only be a week or two each so that no one who missed a session or two would feel left behind on returning. Participation has been steady at a dozen round the table, a perfect group. A long, drenching rainstorm this week did keep several more away.
We have been looking at the work of Saint Paul, epistles of the New Testament. Three of them got us started, with two sessions each on Philippians and First Thessalonians, Paul’s loving letters, then Paul’s angry missile, Galatians. Great stuff. For this week we decided to have a look at a letter that internally says it’s from Paul but that many modern scholars say is almost incontestably pseudonymous, not by Paul: Ephesians. The writing style isn’t Paul’s usual. Considering what is known of Church history and the development of the Nicene Creed, the Christology seems post-Pauline into the developing theology of the Church a generation or two later. Nevertheless, as well as reflecting what we Christians believe today, Ephesians is perhaps the loveliest writing in the New Testament. We will continue with Ephesians next Tuesday, probably finishing, and ready to move on to something else the following week. 
Several thoughts have come up in the group as to what to do next. One is to look at several more of the short epistles, those that are short enough to be read and discussed in two sessions (e.g., not Romans, not Corinthians). Another is to compare and contrast the history of Paul as presented in Luke’s book The Acts of the Apostles with Paul’s own statements in his seven undisputed writings. Another that’s always popular but longer is again to read and discuss The Revelation to John, the Apocalypse. That might be interesting as we move toward and into Advent, which itself has the apocalyptic and eschatological tone of the Second Coming.
TW+ in +Time

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Sometimes waking comes slow. Sometimes the early morning thought choices are too much, too many. Trace caffeine in the decaf isn’t quite enough to stir the brain. The urge is to try just one cup, just one cup, just one cup of regular in the a.m. 
Give it up, Self.
Email first. Personal stuff. Shipment notification for Joe’s birthday gifts. Exchange with Kris about her religion course. NYT and Washington Post. Headlines. op-eds, debate. Anglican Communion News Service, “Occupy” protesters welcomed at St. Paul’s, London. Automotive News, new body plant at Sterling Heights for the next Chrysler Dodge midsize sedan on a Fiat chassis. myucomics, Doonesbury this morning. Online Vacation Deals. Lectionary A weblink. Psalm for Sunday is a favorite, a portion of Psalm 90 to respond to the OT Bible story of Moses’ death, poor fellow. Best read of it: The Message.
Most interesting this morning. NYT op-ed. Yes, this blog avoids political, WTH tack it on anyway.
Great thing about Anglicanism? Scripture, Tradition and Reason. No brains checked at the door.

Pizza? Bon appetit.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


This morning Gilad Shalit was released by Hamas in exchange for more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody. Many of the Palestinians being released were convicted of horrendous crimes, and it is understandable that families of Israelis whom they murdered or hurt are outraged that they are being freed. Vengeance and the wish, even need, to punish are normal human feelings, even divine feelings, that we hold as part of our godly image. 
In our Bible story for this coming Sunday, God takes Moses to the top of the mountain and lets him look at the Promised Land, then Moses dies, biblically reported (Deut 32:51) because of his sin at Meribah. If it sounds like capital punishment, so be it, that's what it was. The Bible mandates the death penalty for many crimes, sins; but many of the released Palestinian prisoners owe their lives to the fact that capital punishment is generally illegal in Israel.
From another viewpoint entirely, the value that Israel places on one of their soldiers, Sgt. Shalit, is enormously and blessedly all out of proportion to the numbers in the prisoner exchange going on this morning. In an age of war by suicide bombings, this could be a better and more hopeful world if everyone and every nation put such value on one human life.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bound for the Promised Land

Deuteronomy 34:1-12 Common English Bible (CEB)
Moses’ death
 1 Then Moses hiked up from the Moabite plains to Mount Nebo, the peak of the Pisgah slope, which faces Jericho. The LORD showed him the whole land: the Gilead region as far as Dan’s territory; 2 all the parts belonging to Naphtali along with the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, as well as the entirety of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea; 3 also the arid southern plain, and the plain—including the Jericho Valley, Palm City—as far as Zoar.

 4 Then the LORD said to Moses: “This is the land that I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I promised: ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have shown it to you with your own eyes; however, you will not cross over into it.”
 5 Then Moses, the LORD’s servant, died—right there in the land of Moab, according to the LORD’s command. 6 The Lord buried him in a valley in Moabite country across from Beth-peor. Even now, no one knows where Moses’ grave is.
 7 Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eyesight wasn’t impaired, and his vigor hadn’t diminished a bit.
 8 Back down in the Moabite plains, the Israelites mourned Moses’ death for thirty days. At that point, the time for weeping and for mourning Moses was over.
 9 Joshua, Nun’s son, was filled with wisdom because Moses had placed his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to Joshua, and they did exactly what the LORD commanded Moses.
 10 No prophet like Moses has yet emerged in Israel; Moses knew the LORD face-to-face! 11 That’s not even to mention all those signs and wonders that the LORD sent Moses to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh, to all his servants, and to his entire land— 12 as well as all the extraordinary power that Moses displayed before Israel’s own eyes!
Beginning with the Sunday School story of Moses and the Bullrushes, every Sunday morning for the last two months we have been reading from Exodus, the adventures of God with Moses, prince of Egypt. Our Bible story this coming Sunday finishes the episode. As God’s servant, Moses has led the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt into the wilderness, bound for the Promised Land. At last the end is in sight, both for the exodus and for Moses. 
An exciting new chapter in salvation history demands new leadership. God leads Moses to the top of Mount Pisgah, where there is a wonderful vista, and shows him Israel’s destination, the land He promised to Abraham so long ago.
Moses dies there, still strong and healthy for his age. But it’s time. By the laying on of hands, leadership passes to Joshua. 
We shall soon see God confirming Joshua by blessing him in the same ways that He blessed Moses before him. As life goes on. 

Bound for the Promised Land.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Caesar's Coin

Matthew 22:15-22
King James Version (KJV)
 15Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.
 16And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.
 17Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
 18But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
 19Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
 20And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
 21They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.
 22When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
Some will remember the attacks on his Roman Catholicism when John F. Kennedy ran for President in 1960, charges that the Pope would become a major power in American politics. Others may recall early in the 1968 campaign when George Romney was a contender for the Republican nomination, his opponents stirring in that he was a Mormon. During the 2008 campaign, much was made of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Now, predictably, as the 2012 campaign gathers steam, contenders will scratch desperately to blemish each other. We are hearing that Mitt Romney is a Mormon. 
In my vocation, I have known and worked with Mormons, including folks in elected public office. Not to overly generalize, but my observation and experience has invariably seen them at the pinnacle for patriotism, love of country, devotion to family, neighbor and God, and service to community. 
At the bottom of the political and religious barrel are those who piously make great show of their own “faith” and trash the religion of others. Jesus encounters them as Pharisees. 


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Seeing Patty

Seeing Patty 
Glenna recently was diagnosed with two aneurysms and scheduled for corrective surgery that sounded horrendous. During procedures leading up to the surgery, she was found to require three coronary artery bypass grafts before the abdominal surgery could be done. Glenna’s attitude was bright, that she was ready for whatever might come. "And if I die," she told Joe, "it just means I’ll see Patty sooner." The open heart surgery at Kettering Hospital in Dayton went well.
Stopping by Joe’s house in Winston-Salem enroute, Lauren drove to Dayton from Raleigh this week to take Glenna home from hospital and care for her as she recuperated and looked forward to the next surgery. Glenna went home Wednesday and had a pretty good day Thursday. 
Joe called us Friday morning to say that Glenna died overnight. We are sad, for Glenna who was such a bright soul and who was dearly loved by family. For Lauren, who lost Patty her mother two and a half years ago and now will miss her grandmother terribly. For Joe, who loved Glenna as a second mother. For Glenna’s three sons, Lauren’s uncles, Patty’s brothers. We are thankful for Glenna’s life, and that Lauren was there to see her off into the promise and to her holy hope.
Give courage and faith to those who are bereaved, that they may have strength to meet the days ahead in the comfort of a reasonable and holy hope, in the joyful expectation of eternal life with those they love. 
And we are thankful that Glenna is no longer bereaved. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Green Is Not Decaf

Green is not decaf.
Thursday afternoon we had coffee and a bite of pumpkin nutbread -- not a habit, the coffee habit is morning only, but just a from time to time occasion. My coffee is always and invariably decaf anymore. My last cup of regular was after the post-surgery fibrillation event, when the surgeon told me to drink only decaf and even that not for a month.
My usual lights out is about nine o’clock, but this morning at one o’clock the eyelids still wouldn’t  close. The light was on: Linda lying here reading a Diana Gabaldon novel. 
Another light came on. The total  awake feeling was familiar, from of old. That afternoon cuppa was not my usual from my magic coffee machine, it was a Keurig cup. 

"What color was the label?"

"Green. Isn’t green decaf?"

"No, orange is decaf, green is regular."
Finally asleep at one-thirty, awake at seven-twenty.
Labels signify. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Your Assignment

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 (Common English Bible)
  1 From Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy. 
   To the Thessalonians’ church that is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 
   Grace and peace to all of you.
Thanksgiving to God
 2 We always thank God for all of you when we mention you constantly in our prayers. 3 This is because we remember your work that comes from faith, your effort that comes from love, and your perseverance that comes from hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father. 4 Brothers and sisters, you are loved by God, and we know that he has chosen you. 5 We know this because our good news didn’t come to you just in speech but also with power and the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know as well as we do what kind of people we were when we were with you, which was for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord when you accepted the message that came from the Holy Spirit with joy in spite of great suffering. 7 As a result you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The message about the Lord rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia but in every place. The news about your faithfulness to God has spread so that we don’t even need to mention it. 9 People tell us about what sort of welcome we had from you and how you turned to God from idols. As a result, you are serving the living and true God, 10 and you are waiting for his Son from heaven. His Son is Jesus, who is the one he raised from the dead and who is the one who will rescue us from the coming wrath.
This coming Sunday, we begin reading First Thessalonians. Paul may have written many letters to the churches he founded and visited, but we only have seven letters that are undisputedly from Paul himself. First Thessalonians is said to be the first letter we have by Paul, and is also said to be the oldest document in the New Testament. Scholars disagree on time and place of writing, some say written from Corinth about 51 A.D.
As with all of Paul’s letters, First Thessalonians is occasional, that is to say, it was written for a reason or reasons. If we explore that a little bit before reading the actual letter and hearing the Sunday Snippet, the letter is clear instead of murky. It isn’t murky at all if you know what’s going on.
As our first and oldest Christian document, First Thessalonians does a couple of things. First, it sets the format and standard for all epistles that follow, whether Paul wrote them or not. 
Second, it crosses a threshold and signifies change. The good news about Jesus was being passed along informally by word of mouth (which is how the Gospels got started, as oral traditions). That has now changed: First Thessalonians shows the first establishment of churches with formal organization and authority: these folks at Thessalonica look to Paul as their leader and he has gone on to establish more such churches in other cities. 
Paul had come to Thessalonica with his companions, perhaps rented a room, plied his trade, got to know folks. He told them that the end of the world was at hand, and with it the terrible wrath of God. Everyone would be raised into the air and judged, and sent to either punishment (not defined) or blessing. The blessing would be eternal life in the kingdom of God that would follow. In order to be saved and receive the blessing, you must be under the lordship of the God of Israel. Jesus had been sent as the Son of God, crucified to take on himself the sins of all, raised from death by God, taken into heaven to be with God; and would return at the judgment to be Lord of God’s everlasting kingdom.

Paul taught that you don’t have to become Jewish to come under the God of Israel, just hear and accept the good news. Abandon your pagan ways of idol worship and place yourself under the God of Israel, the only true God, the Creator of all that is. All are welcome and invited. But you must decide and change right now, because the wrath of God is at hand, Jesus’ return is imminent, and tomorrow may be too late. 
Paul tells this to the Thessalonians with whom he comes into contact. Those who believe Paul, and are interested, start meeting every week under Paul’s leadership, for a meal and to pray and worship the God of Israel, possibly to read from the Hebrew Bible, and to hear more about Jesus -- maybe share some of the oral stories going round that later will be collected into the gospels. This little group is the beginning of what we call the house church.
Paul gets them started, then moves on to another city to start over. But he wants to keep in touch, he wants to come back for another visit, and he wants to be sure his little Thessalonian church stays on track and faithful.
Word comes to Paul that the members of the Thessalonian church are being harassed, even persecuted by their neighbors. Why? In those days, everybody was expected to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods to keep them satisfied and from becoming angry. If your neighbor won’t worship this pagan god and the god gets angry, the angry god will punish everyone. And if you refused to sacrifice to Caesar, the authorities would come round up everybody in the neighborhood and their families and that could be the end of you. So, no wonder the neighbors were upset.
Paul sends Timothy to check on them and make sure they’re not “falling away” from God and the salvation offered through Christ Jesus, and returning to their pagan ways.
Timothy returns with a good report, tells Paul that the folks at Thessalonica are hanging in there. He also brings the sad news that some of the folks in the Thessalonian church have died, and that those who are still living are afraid their dead loved ones have missed out on the kingdom of God. 
So, Paul writes a letter 
  • praising the Thessalonians for accepting his good news about the salvation available, from the coming wrath and judgment, through Jesus, and asserting his, Paul’s, authority as God’s messenger;
  • praising them for continuing in spite of harassment, 
  • encouraging them to continue in the faith;
  • assuring them that they need not worry about those who have died, because they also will be raised at the time of the coming End Time and saved into God’s kingdom; 
  • encouraging them as to how to live as God’s people;
  • and sending them his blessings
That’s what First Thessalonians is about. Paul praises, encourages, and assures the Thessalonians. Eschatological and apocalyptic, Paul is certain that the End Time is coming, and his letter is just as assuring to us as it was to them that God will give us the victory over death.
First Thessalonians is short enough to sit down and read this morning, all in one reading as Paul meant, and just as it was read to the folks at Thessalonica. For anyone willing to accept it, that’s the assignment. It’s not possible to understand this wonderful and historic letter by hearing just the Sunday Snippet.