Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christopher John Francis Boone

Christopher
Being well beyond absentminded, it’s generally best for me not to borrow books, because they never get returned; and months or years later when the owner asks to have the book back, it’s nowhere to be found. Yesterday though, during visiting time before Bible Study, a friend handed me the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. A short novel by Mark Haddon.
Our Tuesday Morning Bible Study group gathers between nine-forty-five and ten o’clock to visit, have coffee and a biscotti. At ten-oh-five on-the-money we begin with open prayer then get down to business. So people can depend on it for lunch or other plans, we stop at eleven-fifteen sharp.
The novel looked intriguing, so I opened it upon arriving home at eleven-thirty; put it down for lunch at twelve; picked it up again at twelve-twenty; put it down reluctantly at two-ten to leave for an appointment; upon arriving home, helped Linda assemble the Christmas tree; opened the book again at three o’clock; laid it aside twenty minutes for supper; finished it at nine-twenty. It was a can’t-put-down.
Christopher is autistic, not mildly so. He knows all the countries of the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7057. The novel is his narrative, a murder mystery. When it opens, he is 15 years and 3 months and 2 days old. He cannot stand to be touched, nor the color yellow. An English boy living in Swindon, he is preparing for his math A-level, for which he feels certain of getting an A grade.
At Bible Study next Tuesday, I’ll return the book; but it was so captivating that I ordered a copy to be here in the house for Joe when he comes for Christmas. And two other Mark Haddon novels, A Spot of Bother and Boom!
This morning: six-monthly dentist appointment.
TW
   

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hear What Our Lord Jesus Christ Saith

And the Second Is Like Unto It
The grimly enthusiastic election in Egypt following violent post-revolution demonstrations in Tahrir Square makes one wonder whether we need some such to stir Americans to the polls. In federal elections from 1960 to 2010, the percentage of eligible voters who actually cast a ballot ranged from a high of 63% to a low of 36%. With its protest of extreme greed, Occupy was a move in the right direction, though timed poorly, far too early to be effective or influential. In fact, it wasn’t timed at all, was it, just erupted somehow out of Arab Spring, to be put down without gunfire, evaporate, and folks go home for a beer and mind-numbing television. One presidential aspirant said they should go home and get jobs, an incredibly stupid remark in an economy with over 9% unemployment. 
On the hate side, Illegal Immigrants is being made a campaign issue. A suggestion has been to erect an impenetrable physical barrier at the southern border and station armed troops to enforce. Folks need to remember the Iron Curtain, Berlin Wall, and Cold War when people were willing to risk death to escape Communist countries. Nobody ever died trying to escape the United States of America, this is where people risk life to get in, we need to remember that. It also behooves us to remember that we are one and all a nation of immigrants: generous lovingkindness would become us.
This is not and will not become a political blog, God forbid, but it is most extremely distressing that the administration is vigorously expelling illegal immigrants who are parents of American born children, leaving thousands upon thousands of frightened children in foster care and as wards of the government. Walt Kelly and Pogo again, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The most hopeful comment from a presidential aspirant to this point is far, far from the demented crowd: that we should not disrupt homes by seeking out and deporting people who are settled in America long years, working, going to church, paying taxes, raising little children who are constitutionally American citizens. One may hope the comment was substantial and not shallow political opportunism of the moment.
Someone else pointed out that illegal immigration is not a political issue but an economic issue of supply and demand: who are these people who are willing to risk their lives to live in America? Who indeed. They are the folks who rake our yards, mow our lawns, clean our homes, take care of our children.
Economic. Naive perhaps but nevertheless and like it or not, for Christians it also is a Second Great Commandment issue.   
TW+

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sons of Korah



Psalm 85  A psalm of the sons of Korah


1
You have been gracious to your land, O LORD, *
    you have restored the good fortune of Jacob.


2
You have forgiven the iniquity of your people *
    and blotted out all their sins.


3
You have withdrawn all your fury *
    and turned yourself from your wrathful indignation.

4
Restore us then, O God our Savior; *
    let your anger depart from us.


5
Will you be displeased with us for ever? *
    will you prolong your anger from age to age?


6
Will you not give us life again, *
    that your people may rejoice in you?




7
Show us your mercy, O LORD, *
    and grant us your salvation.


8
I will listen to what the LORD God is saying, *
    for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
    and to those who turn their hearts to him.


9
Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, *
    that his glory may dwell in our land.


10
Mercy and truth have met together; *
    righteousness and peace have kissed each other.


11
Truth shall spring up from the earth, *
    and righteousness shall look down from heaven.


12
The LORD will indeed grant prosperity, *
    and our land will yield its increase.


13
Righteousness shall go before him, *
    and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.
For the upcoming Sunday, December 4, 2011, Advent Two, Year B, we have Psalm 85, a song of the sons of Korah. They seem to have been a family group who were designated, perhaps by David around 1000 BC, to prepare, perform and lead music in worship. The group must have carried on somehow, because this psalm is said to date from about 520 BC, after the return from Babylonian Exile. God who had punished the people by handing them over to the Babylonians had later freed them to return home to Jerusalem. Nearly a generation has passed. Rebuilding is going slow. The city and its walls and the temple are still in ruins. Canaanite neighbors have conducted raids. There has been a drought, the crops have been terrible, and there has been some famine. Things are not going well. The people are disheartened. 
Psalm 85 reflects the situation and appeals to God for help: You have given us our land back, but are you still so angry? Will you not bless us again with the salvation of prosperity so that we may praise you joyfully? It’s a community psalm of lament, isn’t it.
Today, the Sons of Korah are an Australian musical group who bring an inspired presentation of the psalms. Some of their music, very listenable, can be heard on line. In 2008 they had an album, “Rain,” and currently they are introducing a new album, “Wait.” They will be in concert this week, December 1 and 2, at St. Jude’s Anglican Church, Carlton, in Melbourne, Victoria, and the new album will be on sale.
My Australian travels in the late 1970s and early 1980s always included a week or more in Melbourne, with Sundays exploring worship in different Anglican parish churches. Melbourne has half a dozen or so Anglican parishes, and my visits were long ago, don’t remember whether St. Jude’s, Carlton was one of them. May well have been though.
TW+
P.S. Here we go again. It might be my nature but it surely is not my place to judge the lectionary framers as idiots, but here we do indeed go again. For Sunday, they have cut verses 3 through 7 out of Psalm 85, gutting it of its being in order to repurpose it. Bubba is not pleased.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Second Coming


       THE SECOND COMING
    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.
    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
William Butler Yeats, 1919
Advent has begun, this is the First Sunday of Advent. In our Gospel reading, Mark 13, Jesus is apocalyptic, hearkening toward the cataclysmic event of the Eschaton and his Second Coming. As the class agreed last time, this will be our topic in Adult Sunday School class this morning. 
TW+

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Advent: Second Coming

Advent: the Second Coming
Clayton Sullivan is a Bible scholar and retired professor of philosophy and religion at the University of Southern Mississippi. He came to my attention about 1993 with Jesus and the Sweet Pilgrim Baptist Church -- a charming, quirky fable of divine visitation, jealousy, poverty, prejudice, wealth, murder and salvation. And yes, damnation too. 
The Second Coming is at hand, and this time Jesus and Simon Peter return as Jewish women to visit a little backwoods church in the town of Clearwater, Mississippi. Dr. Sullivan’s lovely tale comes to mind again as the church heads into Advent with its personality disorder of focusing on the Second Coming while thinking of nothing but Christmas. 
Not dreaming of a white Christmas though.
Speaking of which, and on the mundane front, Amazon.com are offering snow shovels this morning. Of sundry designs. Our last snow shovel was joyfully left behind when we moved from Pennsylvania to Apalachicola. 
That was 1984 and we haven’t needed one since. Although when shoveling leaves into the wheel barrow, it always occurs to me that a snow shovel would be better than a garden spade.   
On my table here ready to open and begin reading, Rescuing Jesus from the Christians. Another Clayton Sullivan book, but not fiction, a serious one written for laypersons. Clayton is a Southern Baptist whose life has been devoted to exploring the historical Jesus and what his life and ministry were really about. Not sure whether in this book he rescues Jesus from the fundamentalists or from ancient doctrines and dogma of the orthodox creeds. After this? Perhaps another Clayton fiction, Why Beulah Shot Her Pistol Inside the Baptist Church.
Thanksgiving Day here in our household, family gathered for the turkey feast. Homemade cranberry relish. Oyster dressing. Squash casserole. Pumpkin pie. My prayer of thanksgiving is for those I love, this year especially my mother and Linda, for life, children and grandchildren.
TW+

Friday, November 25, 2011

No Nonsense

Right after the Penn State monstrosity broke, the Bleacher Report linked to a Charles P. Pierce essay* that stirred my sympathy, causing me to look into Pierce a bit further and even order a penny used copy of his book Idiot America from Amazon.com. So far, at least from the Intro through Chapter 2, Pierce is scathingly right on and my kind of entertaining. The front cover has George Washington in the saddle on a charging tyrannosaurus rex, waving his sword. Every sermon and book needs a subtitle, and this one’s is “How Stupidity Became A Virtue In The Land Of The Free.” Although printed in the upper right hand corner of the front cover my copy says “National Bestseller,” probably not to be recommended for most folks.  
In his book Pierce offers three great premises, and the second one really catches my eye. Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it
In the Pentagon long years ago I worked with a Marine Corps major then lieutenant colonel who taught me the best lesson of my life so far. Earl and I were working on an assignment together, doing a special audit for the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Financial Management. At the time I was a thirty-year-old Navy lieutenant commander with a probably unhealthy and undue respect for the flag officers whom we were auditing for the Secretary. As Earl and I were discussing our findings one morning, I mentioned something the admiral had told me. Turning to me, Earl said in no uncertain terms, “Let me tell you something, Tom Weller: just because the admiral said it, that don’t make it so.” It’s been a great lesson, valid in all walks of life, applicable not only to admirals but to generals, bishops, professors, bosses, preachers, politicians, presidents, and even to writers and authors, ancient and modern. My own rendition and motto is "Just because you believe it, even believe it fervently, even believe it with every fibre of your being, that don't make it so."
Earl was a crusty, no-nonsense character with no tolerance for fools, especially high-ranking fools, of whom there are many. Many, many, many.

Throughout Washington in those mid-1960s days before cell phones, signs were posted in every Navy office reminding everyone to let people know where we could be reached if needed when we were out of the office: “God knows where you’re going; but does your secretary?” Two or three times a month when the weather was right, Earl would close his desk drawer and make for the golf course. Rushing out the office door he would tell the secretary, “Hey, honey, sump’m ‘bout the Pentagon.” When Earl got calls that day the secretary said truthfully, “He’s not here, sir. He left in a hurry and said something about the Pentagon.”
TW   


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Nonsense

Morning. Up. Close porch door.
Downstairs. Check WiFi relay. Kettle or brewer on. Milk in mug. Coffee or tea. Light on. Open MacBook. Read email, weirdo comics. xkcd. the Perry Bible Fellowship. Anglican Communion News Service. Michigan Today. Episcopal News Service. NYTimes.com. Bleacher Report. The Institute for Creation Research. Automotive News. Washington Post.
Open Lectionary B, scroll down to November 27, 2011, 1st Sunday of Advent, Psalm 80, Isaiah 64, 1 Corinthians 1, Mark 13. Nothing ignites.
Motor Trend magazine, subscription from James at HNES magazine sale. 2012 SUV of the Year. Land Rover Range Rover Evoque. Getoutta here. Ever needed a Land Rover serviced under warranty? You have to go to the dark side of the moon to find a dealer. In my first issue of Motor Trend, the car to covet was the 1950 Chrysler New Yorker sedan, tested by Walt Woron. 
Open Mac Pages document and start typing. Gingrich? Yuck. Sandusky? Barf. Here’s one -- Federal crackdown on state-authorized medical marijuana: not War Between the States, War ON the States. IRS bullying state-licensed dealers. DEA agents attacking licensed growers with assault rifles and chainsaws. Is Congress looking to slash the federal budget? Get serious. Only a moron could miss this one. We have met the enemy and he is us. Now we know why states need well-regulated militias.
Chaos in Tahrir Square and on the streets of Cairo. Nobody loves a military dictatorship and Arab Spring goes on. 
For years we had a huge family gathering every Thanksgiving Day. 
Last year, thinking it was my last TG, we changed and celebrate on Saturday so Malinda can be here. Malinda. Tass & J, C1, C2. Kris. Joe is in Dayton with Lauren and Patty's family. Ray is in Orlando. Nick in Michigan. Chili today, turkey Saturday. Thanksgiving for health, doctors, life, love, friends, prayers, safe travel, Cleveland Clinic, HNES, HNEC, TEC, USA, God. Add your own.
Time for an hour on the NordicTrack.
TW

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Isaiah 63-64 and Mark 13

Isaiah 63:7 - 64:12 (NRSV)
7 I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord,
   the praiseworthy acts of the Lord,
because of all that the Lord has done for us,
   and the great favour to the house of Israel
that he has shown them according to his mercy,
   according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
8 For he said, ‘Surely they are my people,
   children who will not deal falsely’;
and he became their saviour
9   in all their distress.
It was no messenger
* or angel
   but his presence that saved them;
*
in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;
   he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. 

10 But they rebelled
   and grieved his holy spirit;
therefore he became their enemy;
   he himself fought against them.
11 Then they* remembered the days of old,
   of Moses his servant.
*
Where is the one who brought them up out of the sea
   with the shepherds of his flock?
Where is the one who put within them
   his holy spirit,
12 who caused his glorious arm
   to march at the right hand of Moses,
who divided the waters before them
   to make for himself an everlasting name,
13   who led them through the depths?
Like a horse in the desert,
   they did not stumble.
14 Like cattle that go down into the valley,
   the spirit of the Lord gave them rest.
Thus you led your people,
   to make for yourself a glorious name.

15 Look down from heaven and see,
   from your holy and glorious habitation.
Where are your zeal and your might?
   The yearning of your heart and your compassion?
   They are withheld from me.
16 For you are our father,
   though Abraham does not know us
   and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O Lord, are our father;
   our Redeemer from of old is your name.
17 Why, O Lord, do you make us stray from your ways
   and harden our heart, so that we do not fear you?
Turn back for the sake of your servants,
   for the sake of the tribes that are your heritage.
18 Your holy people took possession for a little while;
   but now our adversaries have trampled down your sanctuary.
19 We have long been like those whom you do not rule,
   like those not called by your name. 
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
   so that the mountains would quake at your presence—
2 *as when fire kindles brushwood
   and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
   so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
3 When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
   you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
4 From ages past no one has heard,
   no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
   who works for those who wait for him.
5 You meet those who gladly do right,
   those who remember you in your ways.
But you were angry, and we sinned;
   because you hid yourself we transgressed.
*
6 We have all become like one who is unclean,
   and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
   and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
7 There is no one who calls on your name,
   or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
   and have delivered
* us into the hand of our iniquity.
8 Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
   we are the clay, and you are our potter;
   we are all the work of your hand.
9 Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
   and do not remember iniquity for ever.
   Now consider, we are all your people.

10 Your holy cities have become a wilderness,
   Zion has become a wilderness,
   Jerusalem a desolation.
11 Our holy and beautiful house,
   where our ancestors praised you,
has been burned by fire,
   and all our pleasant places have become ruins.
12 After all this, will you restrain yourself, O Lord?
   Will you keep silent, and punish us so severely? 
In the years 597 and 587 BCE, according to tradition, Jerusalem and Judah fell to the Babylonians, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, and the rulers and upper class of Judah were carried off into exile in Babylon. Without the Temple worship, Judaism changed greatly during the exile as there was tremendous struggle to deal with what was perceived as the absence of God and God’s abandonment and punishment of his people. But the people of Israel actually prospered in Babylon, and when Babylon fell to the Persians and the Jews were given permission to return home to Jerusalem in 538, many were settled prosperously in Babylon and declined to return to a ravished land that lay in ruins. 
Much literature originated during the exile, including not only the exotic prophecies of Ezekiel but many psalms (see Psalm 137), canonization of the Torah, apocalyptic material including possibly parts of the Book of Daniel, and other works including parts of Isaiah.
Isaiah 63:7 - 64:12 is a lament, a psalm that, even though it’s part of what is commonly called the post-exilic “Third Isaiah,” some scholars think was written during the exile. Regardless of dating, it bewails the discouraging nigh unto hopeless devastation that has befallen Jerusalem, and cries out for God to return to his people and save. 
The blue font above is taken out of context to be our First Reading for this coming Sunday, November 27, 2011, which is the First Sunday of Advent. The lectionary uses the Isaiah segment to complement the gospel reading from Mark, which scholars commonly call the “little apocalypse,” Jesus prophesying the Eschaton, the end of time with the destruction of everything and the coming of the Son of Man. It is not clear to all scholars whether, in this section, Jesus is speaking of himself personally or of the Son of Man who is the cosmic figure associated with Daniel chapter 7. Either way, it seems threatening, ominous, portentous. And whatever, a serious reader should read the entirety of Mark chapter 13 and not just verses 24-37 that the lectionary framers designated for the Sunday reading. Lifting unnecessarily out of context seems not far from proof-texting, which we profess not to countenance. Read the whole thing, both Mark 13 and the psalm of lament at Isaiah 63-64: the Word of the Lord is not a burden, but a joy. 
TW+ the Crotchety 


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

For Traveling Mercies, Thanks Be to God

Since about age thirteen my life has centered on children, babies, baby girls in my case. Growing up I always wanted a baby sister. Parker had a baby sister, Philip had a baby sister, life should allot me a baby sister. We did very well actually with my mother’s two sisters having baby girls who from time to time were brought over from Pensacola to stay with us for a weekend, or a week, or even two to three weeks. My part in their care included doing everything for them, even proprietarily so, a cherished part of growing up years. Before Linda and I married, we were agreed on four children, and the sooner the better for me. To my lifelong joy, Malinda arrived the week of our first anniversary, and life has been blessed ever since. Malinda, Joe, Tassy.
As life goes on of course, one finds out that sons and grandsons are beloved just as daughters and granddaughters, and this has been one of my wondrous lessons of life. So, Nicholas, Ray.
Not looked forward to, was always the day and stage of life when there would no longer be a child at home to dote on. No baby needing a bottle, or changing, or snuggling, or reading a story at bedtime. Or telling, as in “Tell me about when you were a little boy.” My darkest hour, no it lasted an eon, began when Tass went away to college in Virginia, nearly a thousand miles away. As she grew up and I had to let her go, even to university in England, I knew the edge of despair, as perhaps many doting fathers do. But then when Tass was twenty, Malinda told us she was pregnant. With a girl. She and her husband divorced some six months before the baby was born, and my heart took over. Total love and absolute ownership. 
The dark, chill, early January morning that Kristen was born, Joy laid her in my arms and my heart was gone, utterly besotted! Another little girl to adore! When she was still very tiny, I was allowed to adopt her as my very own. Which is why when people ask us, “How many children do you have?” people raise their eyebrows when I answer, “Linda has three, I have four.”

She’s a college freshman now. When she was in high school I mentored her driving lessons, hours every day, total patience to help her have confidence and develop skill. She’s an excellent driver. But when she’s on the road between PC and Atlanta I have a day in the fires of Hell, don’t I. Monday morning, a day earlier than expected, she had her last class and drove home, arriving safely for the Thanksgiving holidays, surprising me completely and saving me from Tuesday in Sheol! Home safe, thanks be to God.
Linda and I leave in a few minutes to drive to Tallahassee, where two more granddaughters, Caroline and Charlotte, are looking forward to our attending Grandparents‘ Day at Holy Comforter Episcopal School. 

For traveling mercies, thanks be to God.
Papa in +Time 



Monday, November 21, 2011

Mystery of Faith

Advent looms with its dualism, eclipsed by the Black Friday to Christmas Eve shopping frenzy and the December 26 return and exchange (save your receipt). But Advent is Christmas v. Cosmology. Genesis v. Revelation. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. When? How? Historically or metaphorically? Scientifically or spiritually? Will the Eschaton come on clouds of glory with the holy angels, with the breaking of the Seventh Seal, with a bang or a whimper? When? Paul thought imminent; in the generations after him the Church backed off, organized, and started making permanent arrangements. Now only Harold Camping climbs a mountain to gaze at the sky. Camping, and those who take LeHaye and Jenkins as something other than lucrative, sensationalist fiction. 
Nevertheless, Advent proclaims both the Manger of Bethlehem and the Second Coming. So does the Eucharist in the mystery of faith:
 
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
We remember his death,
We proclaim his resurrection,
We await his coming in glory;
We celebrate his death and resurrection,
as we await the day of his coming.
And the Nicene Creed:
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. Are we serious? After Newton are we still serious? We Anglicans study Scripture, enjoy Hawking, and abide peacefully in the mystery of faith.
TW+

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rainy Morning

For those of us who live in houses, hardly anything is more soothing and peaceful than waking to the sound of rain. In some houses the sound is too muted to appreciate; but ours is a style called American Foursquare. A large box with a hip roof and a center attic dormer, it was popular from the 1890s into the 1930s. 
Rain drips or pours off the dormer onto the roof directly over our bed, a magical design for happy drowsing. When the weather is right we have the upstairs porch door open and the bay breeze wafts in. All in all, Life Is Good at 2308.
Our adult Sunday school lesson this wet and rainy morning will be from the Book of Judges. Last Sunday we read and lightly discussed about the first half of the book, because in the Lectionary our First Reading was from Judges. For this morning we agreed to finish up Judges. Besides the cyclical theme of creation, sin, judgement, repentance and redemption and the list of the major and minor Judges of Israel, the book has quite a few interesting stories, some of them legends of famous heroes of Israel. A few of the stories are children’s Sunday School quality, others are R-Rated at best. This morning we’ll be reading some of those that are for mature audiences only. Mary Stuart Poole Library, 9:15 a.m.
The rain will have passed on over by then.
TW+

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Figurehead

Figurehead
Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’ (Luke 17:20-21, NRSV)
Jesus said "It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, 'Look, here!' or 'Look, there!' Rather, the Father's kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don't see it." (GThomas, logia 113).
A friend in a church we served was death on the notion of king, kingdom, lord -- denouncing the terms as not only blatant male chauvinism, but subtle or not so subtle, conscious or unconscious, willful or witless continuation of patriarchalism, and of authoritarianism in general. Use of king, kingdom, lord has been eased in liturgical revision. And sensitive Bible translations use the term “reign of God” or “realm of God.” On that basis, instead of Christ the King Sunday, tomorrow might be Christ the Sovereign Sunday. Doesn’t work well with Handel, but ... 
We have no king in America. No king, no queen, no sovereign. Yes, we are fascinated by majestic pageantry and by the princes and their celebrity, swarm them and swoon when they come with their brides to visit. But we don’t have a king, don’t want one. Not even a figurehead. 
We have one anyway, a figurehead Sovereign who is even safer and less threatening than a real one. It isn’t meant to be so, in fact, we take the oath of allegiance in our baptismal vows. If our word is true, He is real, is Lord, is King, is Sovereign; and if His word is true, He is Sovereign not of some age to come, but of the here and now, today, this morning, tomorrow and Monday. 
His Word is clear: Matthew 5:1-12. Even Luke 6:17-26. He is Sovereign wherever those with ears to hear do the Father’s will. Could He be more Sovereign in Occupy this morning than in the Church? In outrage than in Happy Valley? 
Is He King of kings and Lord of Lords, or is it just a song? Are our baptismal vows for real or for church. Perhaps a figurehead is what we want. 
TW+    

Friday, November 18, 2011

Reign of God

“King of kings and Lord of lords” Sunday is upon us, but it may be a couple weeks before flash mobs spring up singing it to the astonishment and delight of ... whoever happens to be there and is blessed enough to be caught up in it. Regardless how splendid a presentation of Messiah in a concert hall, “Hallelujah Chorus” is best when it surprises, the reign of God suddenly breaking into human life.
The reign of God is not a future eternity, it’s here and now and now and then, a sudden shower on a summer afternoon, a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day, someone laughing, the eye of a storm, a child home safely, a family gathered. 
That is the kingdom. Jesus said * "It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, 'Look, here!' or 'Look, there!' Rather, the Father's kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don't see it."
May you see it, may you happen to be there and be caught up in it today. 
TW+ 
* Gospel of Thomas, logia 113 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Christ the King

Christ the King Sunday was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as a way of countering what the Church saw as growing secularism in the world, so that we finish up the old liturgical year with a grand acclamation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Since being implemented in the Roman Catholic Church, the observance has spread to Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Moravian, United Church of Christ, and perhaps other churches. In at least one Scandinavian Lutheran Church it’s still called the Sunday of Doom because the old lectionary was centered on the day of final judgment.
The psalm choices for the day are from Psalm 100, which old-line Episcopalians call the Jubilate, and Psalm 95, the Venite. In the age when we had Morning Prayer every Sunday we alternated between the two as the Invitatory Hymn from Sunday to Sunday, always singing them in the incomparable harmony of Anglican Chant. My hope, not to say expectation, is that in Heaven the liturgical renewal hasn’t struck, that they are still singing only Anglican Chant there, and that those like me who couldn’t sing harmony in this life will join the heavenly chorus with lusty voice in the age to come.
By the Grace of God, they may also be using the Coverdale Psalter.
TW+
Jubilate     Psalm 100
Be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands; *
    serve the Lord with gladness
    and come before his presence with a song.
Be ye sure that the Lord he is God; *
it is he that hath made us and we ourselves;
    we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
O go your way into his gates with thanksgiving
and into his courts with praise; *
    be thankful unto him and speak good of his Name.
For the Lord is gracious;
his mercy is everlasting; *
    and his truth endureth from generation to generation. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No Innocence

Late afternoon and early evening TV for me usually are given over to study and seminar prep during soup operas and Ghost Hunters. ButThird Reich: The Rise and Third Reich: The Fall aired on History Channel last evening. What these things document is vital to see and know for generations and ages to come, because no society of human beings is exempt including our own. Power creates bullies. And leaves indelible shame.
The personal side of the documentary is darker to me than just viewing history. In my growing up years, the English origins and heritage of my family name were a source of peace and pride, deepened by the generations-long family tradition of Episcopal clergy. Last year came the stunner: the “English origins and heritage” were a fancy, apparently of my grandfather’s brother, an Anglophile -- from whom we had a faux “family tree” going back to emigration from England before the Revolutionary War. It was a source of pride in heritage and also an assurance of innocence during World War II. 


Last year it came to me that the facts were very different. Not at all English, my Weller ancestors were Alfred Daniel (1872-1964), Reginald Heber (1828-1903), George (1790-1841), George (1757-1825), Andreas (born 1721, Furthen, Hamm Kreis, Westfalen, Germany, died 1769 in Waldoboro, Maine), Hans Heinrich (b. 1679 who may have died in Broad Bay, now Waldoboro Maine), Lorentz (d. 1690 Dillenburg, Germany), Johann (d. before 1678, Westfalen), ...
Not rational for the revised heritage so to distress except for having grown up during WWII when our anti-German propaganda was formative and rampant. May 1945 newsreels of liberated concentration camps. William Shirer. Documentaries like Third Reich: the Rise and Third Reich: the Fall. MS St. Louis. Claims “We didn’t know” and “We were lied to” that to this day ring hollow: they knew, were sympathetic and complicit, watched and did nothing, were summoned to the thousands of concentration camps in Spring 1945 to bury the millions of murdered. Guilt infested society, population, each one. My cousins, my kin, my own flesh and blood. The guilt and shame that spill over into my generation are inexpressible, unspeakable. It may take the rest of my life to work through it.

A trip at least to the c.a. 1533 church my ancestors would have attended seems possibly healing. Former St. Georg now Evangelische Pauluskirche, Südstrasse, Mann, Westfalen, Deutschland  
TW

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It's All About The Bible

In our Tuesday Morning Bible Study today we will read and talk about Second Thessalonians. The group is in control of their own destiny and this is what they chose. Our focus for the Fall Season has been the letters of Paul -- that is, those letters that are short enough for two sessions -- to be read in one session and discussed at least a bit; then to finish the discussion the next session if need be. Among the undisputed Pauline letters, that limited us to First Thessalonians, Philippians, Galatians and Philemon. Well, actually, Philemon is not entirely undisputed; but the opposing rationale, while interesting and intriguing, is somewhat off the wall, though not to say lunatic fringe scholarship. We also have taken on the three disputed letters Ephesians, Colossians, and today Second Thessalonians. 
What we are doing, as well as the joy of reading this wonderful correspondence and discussing the situation going on in the first century, is looking at the eschatology and Christology of each letter to try and understand Saint Paul and also to see why some scholars say three of the letters were not from Paul’s mind and time. It’s great fun, and nobody has to agree with the scholars!
In Sunday School these days we have been focusing on the Old Testament reading series for each Sunday, most recently Moses, Joshua and the judges. Next Sunday we will finish up Judges and then take on something strange for Advent.
TW+

Monday, November 14, 2011

In Haste!

Monday morning begins earlier for some than for others. Today it began for me with rising at three a.m. for you know what, then inability to get back to sleep. This does not bother TW, who loves getting up before the chickens and coming down for tea or coffee (PG Tips this morning) and to contemplate the day before it pounces on me. When we lived in Apalachicola, if my day started this early it would literally be in time to hear the roosters start crowing. But then Apalach is Apalach. 


Upon opening my email something showed up from Kristen asking for family history information, a timeline, to help with a Sociology project that's due Thursday. Having just done a personal history timeline for our EfM personal spiritual autobiography, this caught my imagination immediately and occupied the mind until this very moment when a friend emailed me, "No blog this morning. Everything alright?"


So that's it for today. Unless anyone is interested in my personal and family timeline merged with world and national history.


Tomorrow then.
TW+

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Resurrection City

We returned from Japan in 1966 to a Navy assignment in Washington, DC. Along with my first ship, a destroyer, and Naval Station, Mayport, Florida, it was easily my most enjoyable tour of duty, in part because of the work and in larger measure because my commanding officer was in every way the best man I ever worked for in my Navy years. We lived just outside the Beltway in Annandale, Virginia, across from a huge empty field, a long ago farm, where we used to walk. About this time of year, or maybe a bit earlier, we would hear geese honking and look up to see their V-forms in flight headed south. It was probably always the same flock of geese on an instinctive route. 
My office was in the Navy Annex just west of the Pentagon. Downtown across the Potomac River was Main Navy, a huge old building, long gone now. And my memory is no doubt faulty, but behind Main Navy and to the west was an enormous park. In 1968 the park became the center of a huge protest movement against poverty. 

Tents went up, shipping crates were fashioned into living accommodation, a city grew up, a tent city that became known as Resurrection City. In size, spread and duration, it may have been the mother of all protest movements. 
My recollection is that Resurrection City was there for so long that it seemed to become permanent, even with their own “city hall,” and that the people there were, if not welcomed, treated civilly and as Americans with both the constitutional right to peaceable protest and with a demonstrably righteous cause. 
Resurrection City comes to mind this morning as police move forcibly to evict Occupy protesters in Portland and elsewhere. 
TW+
Apologies for using someone else’s photographs. No offense intended.