Sunday, July 31, 2011

I REMEMBER MAMA

I Remember Mama
Homily at the funeral of my mother, Louise Gentry Weller. 
Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, Panama City, Florida.
Saturday, July 30, 2011. The Reverend Tom Weller
John 14:1-6a. Jesus said, Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. (KJV)
With the gospel promise in mind, I shall remember my mother; in the Name of God: Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit.
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Mama is now but a memory, and very different memories for each of us. Maybe some things I remember from life with her will stir your own memories.
In my earliest memory, I am two years old, at Dr. Roberts Clinic a few blocks from here, to have my tonsils out. When surgery was over, my father brought me a vanilla ice cream cone. I took one lick, felt nauseated, and mama ate my ice cream.
Riding in the back seat of our 1935 Chevrolet, looking up at my mother’s long black hair, always fixed with a bun in the back, I asked, “How old are you, Mama?” She said, “I’m 29.” That was seventy years ago. I was five.
Three months before Pearl Harbor, the evening before I started Cove School in September 1941, Mama called me into the dining room to say, “Bubba, you’re starting school tomorrow. What do you want them to call you?” Bubba at home and around the neighborhood, I did not want to be Bubba at school. Thomas Carroll Weller, my father was always called Carroll, but I did not want to be “Carroll,” and that was long before Johnny Cash sang “A Boy Named Sue.” I said, “How about Tom?” Mama said, “No, it can’t be Tom. In high school I had a boyfriend named Tom, and your father still hates him.”
Dead set against being the Cove School Bubba, and not wanting to hurt my father’s feelings, I stuck myself with “Carroll, Carroll, Junior” all my growing up years. Johnny Cash was right, and it lasted until my first day of class at the University of Florida where I was enrolled as Weller, Thomas C. Jr. 
Away from home, and Tom at last.
Cleaning out closets and drawers recently, Linda came across a picture of mama and a tall, handsome teenage boy. On the back was written, “Louise (16) and Tom (17).
So, there really was a boyfriend named Tom.
You can bet, my father never knew that photograph was in the house.
Mama’s lifelong hobby was sewing. She was truly an artist with needle and thread, did exquisite work, and there were years when she made money at it. She made beautiful clothes for the little girls in our family, including the Malone and Abney nieces. She took a course in doll-making, made the dolls, cast the heads, painted the faces, and sewed beautiful clothes for them.
When I was in college, Mama made my shirts, and students on campus would stop me and ask where they could buy a shirt like mine.
Throughout our growing up years mama did all of her sewing on her beloved Singer sewing machine, black trimmed with gold. It eventually gave out and had to be replaced. Twenty five or thirty years ago she bought a fancy new model that she liked, and used it for many years. By the time it was beyond repair, that model was long obsolete. But for Christmas some years ago we bought her a computer, and she started shopping eBay. Besides clothes, books, and Weller pottery that she collected, she discovered her favorite old sewing machine model offered on eBay. Lots of them. There’s nothing like plenty of a good thing, and she would bid as the only bidder, and sewing machines began arriving at the house. Some of them worked, some did not. If one worked for a while, it soon broke down. She’d buy more on eBay, and Linda or Gina would take the broken ones to a shop in Lynn Haven to be fixed -- again and again. The man at the shop tried valiantly to keep her old worn out used eBay sewing machines running. But eventually he said, “Ma’m, these old machines are long years out of date, you cannot get parts, and the electronic element is worn out and cannot be repaired. Please, please don’t bring any more of these here, I cannot fix them.”

Soon after that, Mama stopped sewing. By then, her eyes were pretty dim anyway. 
She was an avid reader, read seven or ten novels a week, and losing her eyesight was tragic for her.
For long years Mama was an Atlanta Braves fan. She knew everyone on the team, all their stats, their life history, where they came from, and their families. She had favorite players, and grieved when a favorite was traded. A true Braves fan, mama hated the New York Mets. She watched every Braves game on TV, and as her hearing faded she turned the volume louder and louder. Eventually it was impossible to stay in the house because when was a Braves game playing full volume.
Mama was a gardner, and she learned to graft camellia plants. Several of the plants in our yard she grafted, and they thrived. One of her grafted camellia bushes has two entirely different kinds of blossoms: on one side of the bush, white blooms with a touch of pink -- bright red flowers on the other side. That camellia suddenly up and died about three weeks ago, I cannot explain it.
My mother was my encourager and defender all my growing up years. She taught me the things a mother should teach a little boy. To say “Yes, Ma’m” and “No, Ma’m.” How to brush teeth. How to knock out the toothbrush. How to floss. To wash my face and comb my hair before coming down for breakfast. To drink all my milk. To tie my shoes. To tell time. Later, how to balance my checkbook. Taught me to select and purchase my clothes. Helped me with homework and made me as perfect a speller as she was.

During my years at Cove School and Bay High, mama was always there for me. As a freshman at Bay High, I was very shy and reserved -- and, seeing my reluctance to speak out in class, bombastic American History teacher Bill Weeks gave me my first “C” for the first grading period of ninth grade. Shortly after that, my mother met him during Parents’ Night. Of me, he told mama, “He’s average.” My mother exploded, exploded, “He is not average,” and let him have it with both barrels. Apparently she was so hot that other parents left the room. The next day at school Mr. Weeks said to me, “Your mama really set me straight last night.” From then on, both in American History as a freshman, and years later in World History as a senior, Mr. Weeks graded me straight “A’s” -- not for excellence of work: for fear of my mama.
Mama grew up Southern Baptist, and taught me Bible verses and hymns. She sang with me, and had a very sweet voice when she was young. She encouraged me in piano. From my earliest years, she never let me forget that the Weller family was loaded with Episcopal priests and a bishop, stirring in me a sense of calling, a vocation. God does not only speak through prophets of old.
Nevertheless, when I was little and misbehaved it was still “Go pick a switch.” It better be a sturdy switch too, with a few leaves on the end of it to sting the legs and bare bottom.
In 1950 my father bought a second car for the family. A Plymouth woody wagon, it was mama’s car. But later as a junior and senior at Bay High I wheedled her out of her car and drove to school several days a week, about the only student with a car at Bay Hi in that day and age. She was always loving and generous with me.
Summer 1955 I arrived home from University to learn that my church membership had been moved from my beloved St. Andrew’s Episcopal to some new mission Episcopal church on Bonita Avenue in The Cove. A concrete block building with dusty cement floors, folding chairs, and surrounded by sand and dirt, scrub oaks and palmettos. They hadn’t even decided yet whether it would be Nativity or Holy Nativity. My mother was among the most active early members in every way. Father David Damon will bear me out.
When a family member did well, Mama was happy with us. When there were problems, she agonized over us. She kept in mind which grandchildren liked what food. Anytime Walt and family were coming, she would bake blueberry muffins. My mother and father helped raise the Thompson grandchildren, John Carroll and Teresa, and considered them their own.
In 1978 I retired from the Navy and went into my own business. Mama said, “I always thought when you retired from the Navy you would go to seminary and be a priest.” I said, “No, Mama, you know I decided against that years ago, I’m not doing that.” If God and Mama can be prophetic together, sometimes God and mama also have the last word.
Mama left eleven grandchildren, twenty-one great grandchildren, and a great-great grandchild. The generations after her have many, many cousins because of her. The grandchildren called her Grandmama, or Nanny. The next generation said “great-grandmama.” When Kristen was very small and could not say Grandmama, she said Bama, and it stuck. She may have been Bama, but there was no “Roll, Tide” at her house. She was a raving Seminole fan.
+++   +++   +++
If I’m sad to be up here this morning, my mother is not sad. It was time. When my father died in 1993, mama was 81. She bemoaned that she was in good health, and feared she would live to be a hundred without him. To her chagrin, she almost did: she was ninety-nine years old.
+++   +++   +++
“In my Father’s house are many mansions. 
I go to prepare a place for you.”

What will it be like? What will it be like?
I’m remembering all those worn out sewing machines she bought on eBay that would not run.

In C. S. Lewis’ story The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe there is a winter scene when Father Christmas in his sleigh piled high with gifts arrives victoriously back in Narnia after a hundred years away. There are gifts for each Pevensie child, a sword and shield for Peter; a magical horn, and a bow and arrows for Susan; and for Lucy a dagger and a healing cordial made from flowers on the mountains of the sun. He tells Mr. Beaver, “When you arrive home you will find your dam repaired.” Last, he gets to Mrs. Beaver, who loved nothing more than sewing. She had agonized at having to leave her beloved sewing machine behind as they hurried to escape the vicious wolves of the White Witch. No sooner had they escaped than the wolves broke into the Beavers‘ house and smashed everything including her sewing machine. Father Christmas says, “And for you, Mrs. Beaver, a brand new sewing machine. It will be waiting for you when you arrive home.” Mrs. Beaver is ecstatic, thrilled beyond words.
I’m thinking that a heavenly Father Christmas met my mother at the Gate of Heaven, and said, “For you, Mrs. Weller, a brand new sewing machine. It’s waiting for you in your room in the mansion.”
My father was waiting there too. And she’s having a jolly good time. 
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Susanna said mama wanted us to have a party when she died. After the service this morning, we’re having a lunch with nice wines. Do come join us in Battin Hall.
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And now, as you remain seated, or stand, or kneel, in peace let us pray to the Lord. 


Friday, July 29, 2011

Sad for me, posting to my +Time blog has ended, at least for now. Post for yesterday explains why. Anyone interested in reading may find me at CB. TW+

17424

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Good folks kindly invite me to be friends on Facebook and other social networking sites, and I generally accept if I remember; but basically I don’t “do” sites other than my blog. Rational or not, my concern has always been risk of privacy invasion and of having spyware, bugs, viruses and such planted in my computer. But it would be naive of me to assume that my postings anywhere on line, including Blogger are seen only by friendly faces.
At the bottom of my +Time blogspot is a link for Comments, and when someone posts a comment, Blogger notifies me by email. Yesterday there was this comment:
pastedGraphic.pdf
i j said...
Dawn,Jang,Nawaiwaqt,Express Jobs ads in http://allpkjobz.blogspot.com Pakistan with all paper admission,careers and Classified Ads
The hyperlink is to a website about jobs in Pakistan. It may be some computer-generated posting, but it was unsettling. Paranoid? As someone said, just because I’m paranoid, that doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me.
My CaringBridge postings began with the grim prognosis that followed my visit to the ER and cardiac unit at BayMed last October, through the risky wait for surgery at Cleveland Clinic. CaringBridge is a site for keeping people informed about an illness, and my postings had become other than that; so upon leaving Cleveland I switched from CB to Blogger. It has been good exercise, similar mentally and emotionally to a gym workout physically. But seeing that my blog has attracted creatures from the dark lagoon, I’m switching back to CB for a time and half a time. Maybe I can comfortably return to +Time after skipping a beat.

From my generation





to yours
T

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Amazing Love

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. (Romans 9:1-5, NRSV)
Twenty five or so years ago there was a house on U. S. Highway 98, at Highland View just west of Port St. Joe, a little bungalow with a front screen porch, across the highway from St. Joe Bay, back a bit, facing the road and bay. A family lived there, not anyone I knew, but God knew. One night the house caught fire. Everyone got out apparently, until the young mother realized that her five year old daughter was still in the burning house. She broke loose from those around her and dashed back into the house to save the child or die with her. The house collapsed and they both perished in the inferno. The burned out ruins sat there for a long time, always to me in passing, a memorial to love that is deeper than life itself.
It is not all that unheard of to read or hear that a parent has died saving or trying to save a beloved child. And only one who is a parent could know the intensity of the love in which each child is cherished; love that is indescribable, beyond telling. It is close to “Love divine, all loves excelling,” Charles Wesley’s hymn. Wesley gets near it again in his incomparable salvation hymn “And can it be that I should gain.” The first verse ends, “Amazing love, how can it be, that thou, my God, shouldst die for me.” It was truly parental love.
This is the intensity of love that Saint Paul expresses so passionately in our second reading for the upcoming Sunday, July 31, Proper 13A. He anguishes that Christ is not accepted by his own family, from whom Christ comes and to whom Christ belongs. Paul says that he himself would willingly be cut off from Christ if that would bring those he loves to Christ. That’s amazing love.
TW+

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jacob Israel


Genesis 32:22-31 (The Message)
 22-23 During the night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.
 24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn't get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob's hip out of joint.
 26 The man said, "Let me go; it's daybreak."
   Jacob said, "I'm not letting you go 'til you bless me."
 27 The man said, "What's your name?"
   He answered, "Jacob."
 28 The man said, "But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it's Israel (God-Wrestler); you've wrestled with God and you've come through."
 29 Jacob asked, "And what's your name?"
   The man said, "Why do you want to know my name?" And then, right then and there, he blessed him.
 30 Jacob named the place Peniel (God's Face) because, he said, "I saw God face-to-face and lived to tell the story!"
 31-32 The sun came up as he left Peniel, limping because of his hip.
Here is Jacob, in our Bible story for this coming Sunday (Proper 13, Year A), having departed from his years with Uncle Laban, now headed back toward his home country to meet with his brother Esau. Rightfully, he is dreading the wrath of Esau even after all these years, and he knows that Esau is coming toward him with a large company. So, during the night he has taken his own family, and servants, and all that he has, across the river where they will be safe if Esau’s forces attack while it is dark.
Jacob is alone now as a mysterious being appears and wrestles with him throughout the night. Neither one can overpower the other. As day begins to break, the stranger must leave, stirring mystery about who he might be. Perhaps it’s the angel of God, even God’s own self. For the ages, mystery becomes wonder as the stranger changes Jacob’s name to Israel (Isra-El: struggled with God), and disappears into the dawn.
We are meant to perceive that Jacob, now Israel, has truly had a personal encounter with God, struggled with God all night long. Perhaps in prayer, perhaps in conscience, perhaps in a vision, a dream; but nevertheless. That he is left with a limp suggests that the encounter was real, very real indeed.
The wonderful story tells us how and why Jacob came to be called Isra-El. And now we also know why this place is called Peni-El, which means I have seen God face to face and lived to tell about it.
Dawn brings a day of peace for Jacob.
May dawn also open a day of peace for you.
And may all Israel have peace in your lifetime.
Shalom.
TW+ 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Everybody's Got A Laughing Place


Everybody’s got a laughing place
a laughing place to go ho ho.
Take a frown, turn it upside down
and you’ll find yours, I know ho ho.
My Laughing Place is under the cedar tree down front on the Bay .
A place to take my children when they were little.
There’s a picture around here of my father and me and Joe, down there when he was very small, sitting on the beach, digging in the white sand. Nearly fifty years ago.
It has been a frequent place over the years. For whatever. Laugh or cry. Sad or happy. Think. Anticipate. Remember.  
My Laughing Place beckoned several times a day October through January during the risky wait for Cleveland. One nitro walking down, one sitting on the log under the cedar or standing, one walking back up to the house. Don’t need the nitro anymore: MLP cured that.
Several pines are there, tall and block the view from the house but they earn their living, everything that grows down there holds on to the land during storms. Palms and palmettos. Tall reedy grass. Weeds. Water oaks my father planted. 
That deformed old cedar. After every hurricane there’s damage to trim off. This side is bad enough, the Bay side is hideously beaten. But it’s the main thing about My Laughing Place. Stand under. Lean against. Sit under.
Like last night, Sunday evening. Contemplating, meditating. Remembering. Week's Mind. Not melancholy, bit wistful. Sunsets do that. Sunsets, dusk. Who stood there a hundred years ago today? Alfred. Mom and Pop. Maybe my father was there: July 1911 he would have been one month old. Who’ll stand there in July 2111? I’ll be there. My Laughing Place.
Everybody’s got one.
TW+ 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Passing Through Things Temporal

Proper 12    The Sunday closest to July 27
O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom
nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply
upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we
may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not
the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth
and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.
Our collect (a strange Anglican word for a certain type of prayer) doesn’t only mean that we are to, as Saint Paul says, live in the Spirit and not in the flesh, so that we can be gifted with eternal life. It’s for here and now also. I’m thinking especially of my planning for fall Bible study. My tendency has always been to focus on what’s called historical criticism, perhaps to the detriment of experiencing a blessing from it. It’s the difference in what’s edifying and what’s sanctifying. What theologians might call didache and kerygma.
It's time for me to rethink that.
It’s also good advice for homiletics, the preacher.
TW+

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Woops

Woops, did it again, sorry.


Worked on sermon for tomorrow instead of writing my blog post.


In any event, the main message: we have heard that some folks thought my mother's funeral was today, and we wanted to correct that. The funeral is NOT TODAY, but NEXT Saturday, July 30th. 


My second blog post for yesterday explained that, and we put a reminder notice on the church door yesterday.


Sabbath. 
Tom

Friday, July 22, 2011

Obituary and Funeral Service

This is the obituary my sister and I wrote and ran in the Panama City News-Herald for our mother. It will appear again NEXT FRIDAY. I’m taking this opportunity to remind folks that the funeral service is NOT TOMORROW, July 23, but NEXT SATURDAY, July 30th, eleven o’clock in the morning, at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church. A light lunch will follow in Battin Hall.
Long time Panama City resident Louise Gentry Weller died Sunday, July 17, 2011 at Community Health & Rehabilitation Center, Panama City, Florida at the age of 99. Born May 7, 1912 in Bluff Springs, Florida to Mamie McClammy Gentry and Walter Henry Gentry, she grew up and attended schools in Pensacola. During her years at Pensacola High School she met Thomas Carroll Weller; they married in 1934 and moved to Panama City, where she lived the rest of her life. She was a member of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church and later with her family a charter member of Holy Nativity Episcopal Church. 
Besides family, her joys in life included cooking, sewing, knitting, crocheting, doll-making, quilting, and gardening; and in years past she had been an active member of the Panama City Garden Club. Predeceased by her husband, parents, brothers Wilbur Gentry and Charles Gentry, and sister Edna Gentry Abney, she is survived by her sister Mildred Gentry Malone of Pensacola; son Thomas Carroll Weller, Jr. and wife Linda of Panama City, daughter Gina Louise Weller Webb of Panama City, son Walter Gentry Weller and wife Betty of Denham Springs, Louisiana, by grandchildren Malinda Louise Weller Kelly, Joseph Peters Weller, Cathlyn Weller Spinks (Jeremy), John Carroll Thompson (Joy), Teresa Thompson Goff (Kinney), Andrea Webb Workman, Susanna Webb Bergenroth (Brandon), Leslie Foster, Walter Gentry Weller, Jr. (Ramona), David Michael Weller (Toni), Donna Weller Watson; by 21 great grandchildren, one great-great grandchild, and many nephews and nieces. 
The family are most grateful for the attention and kindnesses of all the folks at Community Health and Rehabilitation Center, and those at Covenant Hospice, all of whom were so supportive and helpful the last few weeks. 
For the convenience of family members coming from various places out of state, the service will be delayed until eleven o’clock Saturday morning, July 30th, 2011 at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church. Family ask that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Holy Nativity School Foundation, Student Financial Aid, 205 Hamilton Avenue, Panama City, Florida 32401.
Tom

Confession

Confession

We Confess
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.
I Confess 
I confess to Almighty God, to his Church, and to you, that
I have sinned by my own fault in thought, word, and deed, in
things done and left undone; especially __________.  For these
and all other sins which I cannot now remember, I am truly
sorry.  I pray God to have mercy on me.  I firmly intend
amendment of life, and I humbly beg forgiveness of God and
his Church, and ask you for counsel, direction, and absolution.
They are not the same. The Roman Catholic Church knows this better than we seem to. We Confess is a general, corporate confession that includes the sins of the Church and the community, nation and culture as well as our own personal sins. It is an easy shield to hide behind, recite it with the crowd, hear the declaration of absolution, and head for the Altar rail. Nothing actually had to be faced and dealt with. Nobody knows but me. The priest waved the sign of the cross over us and I got by again. But it satisfies some Churches, including ours, well enough to admit me to the Altar rail to receive the blessed Sacrament.
I Confess is personal and private. If I am thorough and honest with self and confessor priest, it becomes deeply personal between me and the Holy Spirit. I can come away washed and clean indeed, and head for the door, again to try living out my Baptismal Covenant, my life in the Way of the Cross. 
In our Church there is a saying about I Confess. “All May, None Must, Some Should.” We might ought to reconsider that.
TW+

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Comeuppance at Dawn

Comeuppance at Dawn


Genesis 29:15-28 The Message (MSG) 
14-15 Laban said, "You're family! My flesh and blood!"
   When Jacob had been with him for a month, Laban said, "Just because you're my nephew, you shouldn't work for me for nothing. Tell me what you want to be paid. What's a fair wage?"
 16-18 Now Laban had two daughters; Leah was the older and Rachel the younger. Leah had nice eyes, but Rachel was stunningly beautiful. And it was Rachel that Jacob loved.
   So Jacob answered, "I will work for you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel."
 19 "It is far better," said Laban, "that I give her to you than marry her to some outsider. Yes. Stay here with me."
 20 So Jacob worked seven years for Rachel. But it only seemed like a few days, he loved her so much.
 21-24 Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife; I've completed what we agreed I'd do. I'm ready to consummate my marriage." Laban invited everyone around and threw a big feast. At evening, though, he got his daughter Leah and brought her to the marriage bed, and Jacob slept with her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as her maid.)
 25 Morning came: There was Leah in the marriage bed!
   Jacob confronted Laban, "What have you done to me? Didn't I work all this time for the hand of Rachel? Why did you cheat me?"26-27 
"We don't do it that way in our country," said Laban. "We don't marry off the younger daughter before the older. Enjoy your week of honeymoon, and then we'll give you the other one also. But it will cost you another seven years of work."
 28-30 Jacob agreed. When he'd completed the honeymoon week, Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. (Laban gave his maid Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maid.) Jacob then slept with her. And he loved Rachel more than Leah. He worked for Laban another seven years.
This is our Old Testament story for Sunday. Jacob has left the household of his father Isaac, escaping the wrath of his twin brother Esau. He has made his way to the family home country of Haran, to the home of Laban, his mother’s brother. Not wanting Jacob to marry trashy Canaanite women as Esau has done, Isaac told him to marry a daughter of Laban. Indeed, marrying within the extended family was a custom. On his mother Rebekah’s side, Jacob and the daughters of Laban are first cousins. On his father Isaac’s side, Jacob and Laban’s daughters were (subject to correction) first cousins twice removed. 
Jacob is married to a daughter of Laban alright. The wrong one. Hearing the story sixty-five or seventy years ago in Sunday school, we were outraged. Our sympathy was with Jacob the Hero. He has been tricked into marrying the other girl by his own uncle, his mother’s brother. Laban has cheated his own nephew and we are appalled. 
Oh? Oh, really? 
Laban has looked lovingly after his first daughter.
And here is Jacob, the Scoundrel of the Old Testament, who twice cheated his twin brother Esau, who lied to and cheated his father Isaac, who now is on the lam to escape Esau’s vengeance. Any sympathy for Jacob is misplaced. Justice is done: at long last, Jacob has his comeuppance. He has enjoyed a blissful wedding night in a dark tent with the gorgeous love of his life. Only to discover at first light of day, that he has deflowered the ugly one. In fact, he has probably already begat Reuben. 
Jacob has been cheated?? Self-righteous, he is outraged??!!
Generations later, making their way across the wilderness with Moses, this old story is told around the campfire again and again. And the Children of Israel roll in gales of laughter. It’s their favorite story. And it’s All in the Family.
Tom+


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Black and White and Gray

Black and White and Grey

A duty assignment early in my Navy years was as a student in the Master of Business Administration degree program at the University of Michigan. One MBA requirement was two graduate courses in accounting. Having not enjoyed (to put it mildly) my accounting courses at the University of Florida five years earlier, my first summer in Ann Arbor before the fall semester was invested in cramming graduate accounting textbooks before taking the placement exam. It paid off by exempting me from all accounting courses, thus greatly enhancing my enjoyment of Big Blue and studying under several professors of world-renown. 
Our first snowfall the autumn of 1962 was in October and the last snow was the middle of May 1963. From May to October, the ground was white, the sky was grey, and the trees were black. To a native Floridian, a bleak picture. But summer was incredibly delightful; and much to my enjoyment, part of it was even spent in a month-long indoctrination course at Ford Motor Company headquarters, manufacturing and assembly plants. Malinda was four just as we arrived in Ann Arbor and Joe was two that fall. Having lived previously in Newport, Rhode Island, Linda and I were able to cope with and even enjoy the Michigan winter. But it did stretch on and on. 
My favorite course in the university’s MBA curriculum was a semester of business ethics. There were lectures by an excellent professor, a ton of reading, several papers to write, and a term paper as well as an exam. One thing that stuck with me was a new definition and realization of pornography. And the illustrative example that hit me hardest was a front page newspaper photograph of a little girl who had just been struck by a car while riding her bicycle.
Pornography is from Greek. It means evil writing. It isn’t sexual pictures and texts, it’s evil, sheer evil. Evil is wanting to look at a photograph of an injured or dead child. Evil is publishing such. There is a market. There is a purveyor, and a consumer. 
The Murdoch news empire scandal has brought back my Michigan days. A pornographer may be obscenely wealthy, arrogant, prominent and influential, eighty years old, own politicians and police executives, testify before Congress and Parliament about his innocence and humility, and have his photograph spread around the globe. 
And have millions of eager customers.
TW+

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

John 8:7

John 8:7
In the old days of the wild west, indeed in the South even in my early lifetime, justice was sometimes administered by mob. Lynch mob. Are we still there?
In accordance with constitution and law, a jury of her peers tried her and found her not guilty. Now the mob is upon her. Lynch mob. All Christians, for sure.
Scholars are not agreed about the source and origins, but at John 8:1-11 there’s the story of Jesus and The Woman Caught in Adultery. If guilty, the penalty is death by stoning. Her accusers ask Jesus to judge. He bends down and writes in the sand. He straightens up and judges not the woman, but the lynch mob. “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” He bends down again and writes in the sand. 
Shamed, the mob crept away one by one.
The great human sin is the arrogant certitude of self-righteousness. We are still there. We will always be there. If Bible and Gospel are eternal truth, let lynch mobs creep away in shame. 

A Christian is one who participates in the mind and soul of Jesus Christ.

Write in the sand.
TW+ 


Monday, July 18, 2011

Sunset: A Wonderful Beginning


This was sunset over St. Andrews Bay the evening of the last day of life on earth that I shared with my mother. Today is my first day of life without my mother. Yet, to lose a parent is the most natural thing in life: it is life as the Creator meant life to be. 
Yesterday, Sunday morning, a friend wrote me, “Life is fast, fun, frequently stressful, sad then happy. So much is known, more is unknown. One thing is certain - the end is really a wonderful beginning.” 

To that, Amen!
Early on Sunday morning my mother went to her wonderful beginning with prayer, blessing, thanksgiving and commendation. 
We are delaying the funeral service to accommodate family so that all who want to come may conveniently do so. It will be at eleven o’clock, Saturday morning, July 30th, at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, Panama City.  
O Lord, support us all the day long,
until the shadows lengthen,
and the evening comes,
and the busy world is hushed,
and the fever of life is over,
and our work is done.

Then in thy mercy
grant us a safe lodging and a holy rest,
and peace at the last.
Amen.
TW+

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Louise Gentry Weller
May 7, 1912 - July 17, 2011
The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth --
The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
Until eternity.
    --Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
The call came from Community Health & Rehab Center just as I was driving off to church this morning. Please don’t be sad for our family. It was time. When my father died in 1993, mama was 81. She bemoaned that she was in good health, and feared she would live without him to be a hundred. To her great chagrin, she almost did. She was ninety-nine.
Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world
In the Name of God the Father, who created you;
In the Name of God the Son, who redeemed you;
In the Name of God the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies you.
May your resting place be this day in the paradise of God. 
May your company be his saints and holy angels.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May he make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious unto you.
May the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon you
and give you peace
this day and throughout the ages of ages.

Bubba

Flaming Swords


Flaming Swords


It has been several years since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was in my lap, therefore some details had slipped my mind, and the British English dialogue is not always easy to understand (and one can’t say “huh?” and have it repeated), but HP7 Part 2 seemed quite faithful to the book. It did seem to me that in the final battle there was something about a mirror reflecting the wand’s ray so that morally the Dark Lord's death was self-inflicted -- signifying for Harry, if not innocence, at least not guilty. Not sure though.
Two hours and ten minutes is a long time to sit still, but there’s no sitting still anyway, and the seats at The Grand Theatre Pier Park are comfortable. Can hardly wait for the DVD.
In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the first book and movie, The Fellowship of the Ring were my favorite. In C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, the first book and movies, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe were my favorite. Just so with J.K. Rowland, my favorite is still and all Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The magic was new and so more surprising, and it all begins with delightful innocence that can’t ever be again.
This is not a sermon, whoever wants a sermon must go to church this morning; but the innocence that can never return is the same in modern fantasy fiction as it is after Genesis chapter 3. In the Garden of Innocence, the deed is done, eyes and minds are opened, good and evil become known. Innocence evaporates and there is no going back. That’s why the cherubim are there with flaming swords, isn’t it: no return.
The Peace of the Lord be always with you.
TW+

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Today I Have Begotten You

Acts 13:13-25, today’s New Testament lesson from the Daily Office Lectionary, has the verse “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” 
http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/devotions/bcp/?date=2011-07-16 (if it opens on Jul 15, go forward a day to Jul 16. Depending on your computer settings you may be able to listen to it as well as reading it)
Luke, the author of Acts, is quoting from Psalm 2. The verse is quoted again by the author of Hebrews (5:5) in presenting Jesus as high priest, a “priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”
Furthermore, the ancient manuscript Codex Bezae has the verse at Luke 3:22. The scene is the Baptism of Jesus, in which the heavens are opened, the Spirit descends upon Jesus as a dove, "And a voice came from heaven, You are my son, Today I have begotten you." This is a variant from the customary reading, “You are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased.”
It presents interesting doctrinal and theological questions. When did Jesus become the Son of God? Or even, When did Jesus become God the Son? which is not the same theologically. It also surfaces interesting questions for Bible study: What did Luke originally say? What did Luke intend it to mean? Were there early doctrinal, theological issues about the Bezae variant? Why was the Bezae not the finally accepted version? Does my study Bible make reference to the Bezae version, and if not, why not? 
Further, in that there’s a difference among the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke), what did the voice actually proclaim? 
The hysterics may not like it, may not even be willing to face it, but among the four gospels, the questions, “When did Jesus become the Son of God?” And more powerfully, “When did Jesus become God the Son?” -- those questions find different answers in the various gospels. In Mark, the first gospel, the answer seems to be “at his baptism.” In Matthew and Luke with their Nativity narratives, the answer seems to be “at his conception in the Blessed Virgin Mary.” In John, the answer is clearly “from eternity” -- which is the theology asserted in the Nicene Creed.
The Daily Office Lectionary for today, wandering off the path and down the trail to Codex Bezae, stirred this morning’s blog post. Codex Bezae could support a theology that God adopted Jesus at his baptism. What's the truth?
This is an example of why Bible study in a group is so intriguing. 
My Fall 2011 Bible Study gathers at 9:45 on Tuesday morning, September 6, 2011, in my office at the parish house and office building of Holy Nativity Episcopal Church. 1011 E. Third Street, across from the church. All are invited and welcome.
Tom W+ in +Time 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Daily Office Lectionary for Today

Mark 3:7-19 

A Great Crowd Follows Jesus
Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.
The Twelve Apostles
13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (ESV)
As well as Psalm 31 and Psalm 35, which support David in his travails, all three readings in today’s Daily Office Lectionary are great stories. Continuing to flee from King Saul, David makes his way to Nob, where he takes the bread of the presence, then on to Gath. From First Samuel, it’s all part of David’s grand story about the goodness of David, especially contrasted to Saul, who proves to be insanely murderous.
At Acts 13, Paul and companions sail from Paphos to Perga, then travel on to Pisidian Antioch, where Paul teaches about Jesus to his fellow Israelites and to “those who fear God” (φοβούμενοι τὸν θεόν fearers of God or “God-fearers” were Gentiles who worshiped in the synagogue). 
A couple of significant things happen in the gospel reading from Mark chapter 3. One is the Markan theme about nobody from start to finish realizing that Jesus is the Son of God. In Mark’s story, the exceptions are Jesus himself in the beginning, and at the end the Roman centurion in charge of the crucifixion. But also the demons whom Jesus casts out, which happens in today’s reading. The others who know, of course, are Mark the Evangelist; but especially Mark’s audience, who are meant to see clearly who Jesus is, thinking how dim those around him were not to have recognized him, and be inspired to proclaim him to others. We could also notice that the strange, even mysterious, "Markan Secret" shows up at Mk 3:12.

The other significant thing that happens in today’s reading from Mark is that Jesus appoints the twelve apostles. From gospel to gospel The Twelve are slightly different, are not the same in each gospel. 
Tom+