Saturday, June 30, 2012

Faith and Power

Jesus and the Daughters
Mark 5:21-43
The Message (MSG)
A Risk of Faith
 21-24After Jesus crossed over by boat, a large crowd met him at the seaside. One of the meeting-place leaders named Jairus came. When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees, beside himself as he begged, "My dear daughter is at death's door. Come and lay hands on her so she will get well and live." Jesus went with him, the whole crowd tagging along, pushing and jostling him.
 25-29A woman who had suffered a condition of hemorrhaging for twelve years—a long succession of physicians had treated her, and treated her badly, taking all her money and leaving her worse off than before—had heard about Jesus. She slipped in from behind and touched his robe. She was thinking to herself, "If I can put a finger on his robe, I can get well." The moment she did it, the flow of blood dried up. She could feel the change and knew her plague was over and done with.
 30At the same moment, Jesus felt energy (Gk.δυναμιν) discharging from him. He turned around to the crowd and asked, "Who touched my robe?"
 31His disciples said, "What are you talking about? With this crowd pushing and jostling you, you're asking, 'Who touched me?' Dozens have touched you!"
 32-33But he went on asking, looking around to see who had done it. The woman, knowing what had happened, knowing she was the one, stepped up in fear and trembling, knelt before him, and gave him the whole story.
 34Jesus said to her, "Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you're healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague."
 35While he was still talking, some people came from the leader's house and told him, "Your daughter is dead. Why bother the Teacher any more?"
 36Jesus overheard what they were talking about and said to the leader, "Don't listen to them; just trust me."
 37-40He permitted no one to go in with him except Peter, James, and John. They entered the leader's house and pushed their way through the gossips looking for a story and neighbors bringing in casseroles. Jesus was abrupt: "Why all this busybody grief and gossip? This child isn't dead; she's sleeping." Provoked to sarcasm, they told him he didn't know what he was talking about.
 40-43But when he had sent them all out, he took the child's father and mother, along with his companions, and entered the child's room. He clasped the girl's hand and said, "Talitha koum," which means, "Little girl, get up." At that, she was up and walking around! This girl was twelve years of age. They, of course, were all beside themselves with joy. He gave them strict orders that no one was to know what had taken place in that room. Then he said, "Give her something to eat."
One of our Bible stories for tomorrow is Mark’s good spell about Jesus, Jairus, the Bleeding Woman, and Talitha. It’s not about raising the dead (Jesus said the little girl wasn’t dead), it’s a story about faith and power -- two stories actually, with one squeezed into the other perhaps as a literary device to show that precious time is being lost. Jairus comes to Jesus in faith, and so does the Woman. In both stories, faith triggers the release of healing power. In the Woman’s case the release is unintentional on Jesus’ part, so his statement, “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole” (KJV) is true. Talitha, who had no faith, was saved by her father’s faith. 
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus‘ miracles are not magic spells shot from the end of a wand, but works of power (δυναμιν) triggered by circumstances, sometimes Jesus’ compassion, sometimes faith. δυναμιν is power, energy: dynamo, dynamics, dynamite.

Friday, June 29, 2012

June 29, 1957

Linda and I were married 55 years ago today, June 29, 1957, the first wedding at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church. Officiating was the Reverend David R. Damon. Some years later David and Olive accepted a call to a parish in Jacksonville, but he began with us at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, as an engineer at the Navy base, going to Sewanee from there, and returning to Panama City after ordination. 
Graduated from the University of Florida a few weeks earlier, I had already been sworn into the Navy as an Officer Candidate Seaman Apprentice and, a week after our wedding, headed off from Panama City airport to Officer Candidate School, Newport, Rhode Island, a four month school leading to commissioning as Ensign, USNR. Life at a Navy school was interesting and different, living in a dormitory of four-man rooms, with great camaraderie among the young men in Charlie Company. All of us were 21 years old and graduated from college within the past month, me with the deep, strong southern drawl of which I was totally unaware until the laughing began, the only OC from the South. Never having lived beyond Florida, Newport in July was, to me, like living in a windy refrigerator. Years later we returned to the Naval War College in Newport, and the refrigerator door was still open. 
Father Damon had grown up in nearby Kingston, RI, where his father had been a professor at the University of Rhode Island. He still owned the family home there. The first floor was rented, but the second floor had been converted into a comfortable apartment, complete with kitchen and an old electric range on which three of the four solid cast iron burners still worked. Late August 1957, Fr. Damon arranged for Linda and me to have the upstairs of his Kingston house, and my brother Walt and his friend Mike drove Linda from Panama City up to Rhode Island for our first home. As they drove through New York City, our 1948 Dodge had an electrical problem halfway across the George Washington Bridge during rush hour traffic, and Walt and Mike pushed the Dodge the rest of the way across. But they managed to arrive safely in due course in Rhode Island. 
Liberty Call at OCS was every Saturday morning to Sunday evening. I rushed to the ferry landing, rode the ferry across Narragansett Bay to Jamestown, where Linda and the green Dodge always were waiting for me at the ferry landing. 

Then across the island to the incredibly high, narrow, steep, scary two-lane Old Jamestown Bridge, home to Kingston and exploration of Rhode Island, clams and lobster.

During the pre-commissioning physical examination, Navy physicians detected my heart murmur and, instead of allowing me to be commissioned after graduation, sent me to the U. S. Naval Hospital, Newport, for a month of extensive tests and evaluation. New England winter was coming on, it was too far to commute daily between Kingston and Newport, and Father Damon to the rescue again, found an old family friend in downtown Newport with a room to rent in her home. We lived there, 42 Rhode Island Avenue. 

My "first snow" was waking up there on a frosty December 1957 morning and hearing absolute, total silence outside until a car crunched by in the fresh white snow. I opened the window, scooped up a handful of snow from the porch roof, and turned around toward Linda still half asleep in bed, armed with my first snowball. 

The middle of December Navy cardiologists cleared me medically and I was commissioned Ensign, USNR. We loaded up the Dodge and headed home on Navy leave for Christmas in Panama City, with news for prospective grandparents.

Malinda was born June 25, 1958, baptized at Holy Nativity by Father Damon, with David as her godfather.


Thursday, June 28, 2012


If nothing posts online in the next few minutes, several kind and caring souls will email asking whether everything is OK. One morning during my tenuous period Oct2010 - Jan2011 when nothing went up by 0430, a friend anxiously contemplated calling 911 and sending the EMS to 2308WBD. So this is hurried, not careful or reasoned.
The early hour mind is fairly clear and may browse email, NYT, TWP,, NHC, TWC, internet; this morning, desktop files that haven’t been explored lately. Lectionary B for Summer 2012 has us in 2Corinthians, and my interest in Paul is his christology, on which there is scholarship online, some good; the right-wing runs to rubbish. A year or more ago a friend sent a piece by Richard Bauckham, opened again this morning and read partway before realizing the passage of time. “Paul’s Christology of Divine Identity.” Though I still may not agree with Bauckham, it’s excellent and stirs the mind.

Yep, OK. 

Pills, treadmill, breakfast, dress and to office. Late afternoon, a Youth Lector instruction and practice session.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Psalm 130 for Sunday

1 שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלֹות מִמַּעֲמַקִּים קְרָאתִיךָ יְהוָה׃
2 אֲדֹנָי שִׁמְעָה בְקֹולִי תִּהְיֶינָה אָזְנֶיךָ קַשֻּׁבֹות לְקֹול תַּחֲנוּנָי׃
3 אִם־עֲוֹנֹות תִּשְׁמָר־יָהּ אֲדֹנָי מִי יַעֲמֹד׃
4 כִּי־עִמְּךָ הַסְּלִיחָה לְמַעַן תִּוָּרֵא׃
5 קִוִּיתִי יְהוָה קִוְּתָה נַפְשִׁי וְלִדְבָרֹו הֹוחָלְתִּי׃
6 נַפְשִׁי לַאדֹנָי מִשֹּׁמְרִים לַבֹּקֶר שֹׁמְרִים לַבֹּקֶר׃
7 יַחֵל יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶל־יְהוָה כִּי־עִם־יְהוָה הַחֶסֶד וְהַרְבֵּה עִמֹּו פְדוּת׃
8 וְהוּא יִפְדֶּה אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵל מִכֹּל עֲוֹנֹתָיו׃
Psalm 130
A Song of Ascents.
Out of the depths have I called Thee, O LORD.
Lord, hearken unto my voice;
let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
If Thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
For with Thee there is forgiveness, that Thou mayest be feared.
I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in His word do I hope.
My soul waiteth for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning; yea, more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD; for with the LORD there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption.
And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

130  De profundis

Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice; 
    let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

If you, LORD, were to note what is done amiss, 
    O LORD, who could stand?

For there is forgiveness with you; 
    therefore you shall be feared.
I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him; 
    in his word is my hope.

My soul waits for the LORD,
more than watchmen for the morning, 
    more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, wait for the LORD, *
    for with the LORD there is mercy;

With him there is plenteous redemption, *
    and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.
No matter how we cut it, it’s a Hebrew psalm. Regardless which of many English translations we prefer, we’re still looking at a translation, not the words of the poet. The first English above is a Jewish scholar’s translation online. The second is the BCP version appointed for our reading in church this coming Sunday, July 1st. As with all the psalms appointed in the lectionary, Psalm 130 is meant to respond to the Old Testament reading for the day, and it does that reasonably, in sympathy with David’s lament (2 Samuel chapter one) over the death of Saul and Jonathan. 
The psalm can be appropriated personally, and eerily fits this particular week when many in Bay County are reeling emotionally in sympathy with families at the untimely deaths of dear ones. The psalm is unlike many personal laments in that, although hopeful, it does not end with a joyful burst of spontaneous praise to God for deliverance in answer to the plea. Maybe that makes it especially suited to our hearts and minds at the moment.
The Message version below is a bit free for my taste and preferences, and the psalmist might be astonished. But many folks may prefer it.
Psalm 130 The Message (MSG) A Pilgrim Song
     Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! 
Master, hear my cry for help! 
   Listen hard! Open your ears! 
      Listen to my cries for mercy. 
    If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings, 
      who would stand a chance? 
   As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, 
      and that's why you're worshiped. 
    I pray to God—my life a prayer— 
      and wait for what he'll say and do. 
   My life's on the line before God, my Lord, 
      waiting and watching till morning, 
      waiting and watching till morning. 
    O Israel, wait and watch for God— 
      with God's arrival comes love, 
      with God's arrival comes generous redemption. 
   No doubt about it—he'll redeem Israel, 
      buy back Israel from captivity to sin.
TW+ in +Time

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Distraction: a thing that prevents one from giving full attention to the main focus. Diversion.
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)
People go about life, and Earth continues to spin regardless, notwithstanding, and nevertheless. 
Dickinson. Distractions ease the moment, and the memory of them lasts a lifetime. Irrelevant, nonsensical details. My mother was out on an errand when I arrived home after school Thursday, January 23, 1947. The maid called me into the kitchen and asked, “Did you know your grandmother died today?” It was a crushing shock that brought on wracking sobs. When my mother sped up the driveway in our blue 1942 Chevrolet Fleetline Aerosedan 
a few minutes later, she was upset because, knowing my closeness to Mom, she had told the maid not to tell me. Though odd and, especially, irrelevant, distractions divert, protect, shield. That is the first of that long weekend.
The funeral was at Wilson Funeral Home, then located on McKenzie Avenue across the street from the court house. Family sat in a side room and I couldn’t see who else was there until they came up to Mom’s open casket directly in front of us. St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church rector, the Reverend George Elton Sauls, officiated. Afterward, we drove to Pensacola, and followed Wilson’s white 1941 Buick hearse slowly westward along Belmont through the charming old arched gatehouse. E.G., my father’s sister Evalyn, had flown home immediately from Washington, DC and had borrowed our car for the funeral drive to Pensacola with aunts, cousin Ann, and Pop, my grandfather. My mother, father and I went in the dark green 1941 Plymouth Special Deluxe sedan with “suicide doors” that my parents had borrowed from my mother’s brother Charles for the day. Ruth, from Pensacola, drove her own car, a black 1941 Plymouth business coupe.
After the graveside service, family dispersed within Pensacola, E.G., Pop, Ruth, Marguerite and Ann to my Aunt Ruth’s house on Mallory; my mother, father and I to my Gentry grandparents‘ house on E. Strong, where my mother grew up. When we arrived, my grandmother was frying chicken for our supper. On the drive home to Panama City I was in the back seat alone and listened as my parents discussed inviting Pop and Ann to live with us, to me an exciting prospect. Monday morning I was back at Cove School, sixth grade. Friday, January 24 had been my sister’s ninth birthday: did we have a celebration? Can’t remember.
My sharpest memory of that long weekend is of strangers, other people, cars passing by on the street, children laughing and playing, people walking by blithely as though nothing had happened, as though Mom had not died, oblivious to my overwhelming sadness. It was my first experience of the death of someone close and dear, my introduction to the huge, painful lump of grief that swells in upper chest and throat and will not go away, and stays for weeks and weeks and seemingly forever; and of the obliviousness of creation around me. It was part of my maturing into human life as it is and was meant to be. 
This is in my mind as I read Rev. Ray’s Facebook postings about Madison Hair, and agonize with David Smith’s family about the tragic death of niece and cousin Carly over the weekend, and now with the Husfelt and Maclean families about Drew and Allison’s fatal accident that claimed Drew’s life yesterday. 
As we grieve so terribly, all around us life goes on oblivious to our anguish, as though nothing had happened. Madison’s parents and Carly’s parents and Allison and the Maclean and Husfelt families will experience, painfully, sometimes incredulously, that the world keeps turning, children keep playing, adults still go to work, cars and trucks speed past, planes fly overhead, news, weather and even cartoons are still on TV. In time, very soon, it will seem as if everyone else has forgotten, because people are laughing, talking about going to the beach, looking forward to the weekend, off on summer vacation, thankful that TS Debby was no worse here, wondering if there will be a hurricane, and life goes on. 

That life goes on may be the only balm. The sunrise after the storm may be the shield that keeps us going until our own time; and the sunset, as RevRay says, a promise for tomorrow.

Upper picture: down front at my house.
Lower picture by the Rev. Ray Wishart: thanks, Ray for all you are and all you do.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Get Busy

2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Good News Translation (GNT)
7 You are so rich in all you have: in faith, speech, and knowledge, in your eagerness to help and in your love for us. And so we want you to be generous also in this service of love.
 8 I am not laying down any rules. But by showing how eager others are to help, I am trying to find out how real your own love is.9 You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; rich as he was, he made himself poor for your sake, in order to make you rich by means of his poverty.
 10 My opinion is that it is better for you to finish now what you began last year. You were the first, not only to act, but also to be willing to act.11 On with it, then, and finish the job! Be as eager to finish it as you were to plan it, and do it with what you now have.12 If you are eager to give, God will accept your gift on the basis of what you have to give, not on what you don't have.
 13-14I am not trying to relieve others by putting a burden on you; but since you have plenty at this time, it is only fair that you should help those who are in need. Then, when you are in need and they have plenty, they will help you. In this way both are treated equally.15 As the scripture says,
         The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.
Facing a question or problem and being indecisive about what to do, people sometimes put the Bible in the lap, close the eyes, open the Bible and point to a verse. The sought answer may be right there at the fingertips. If not, the custom is to do it over and again until a verse “fits.” Or until we find an answer we like, or one that rationalizes whatever we wanted to do in the first place.
Here’s one of our lessons for Sunday, July 1, as our Second Reading continues to work through 2 Corinthians. It is not often, in my experience, that a Sunday reading can so obviously be lifted out of context directly into almost anyone’s life situation. But this one can, urging us to generosity and kindness in whatever is going on in life, and to finish things that we have started and allowed to lapse. So, vice versa for a change, here is a ready answer seeking a problem or question, instead of the other way round.
My use of it may be to straighten up my desk and do the things in my “in box” there. Or, one of my bad habits is to have several books going at a time, read partway through a book and put it down, open and read some of another book, and another, and another, and never get round to finishing any of them: maybe this bit of Scripture will encourage me to finish some of the dozen or so half-read books in various rooms of the house here, or in my Kindle library, where Walden and many others are enjoyed but unfinished and will open to wherever I left off. In my hospital room at Cleveland Clinic, January 2011, I was reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Kindle will open it where I left off then, several chapters from the end.
Or maybe the 2 Corinthians reading will inspire me to get back to something useful instead of procrastinating. Potato vines in the azaleas. Mess in the storage attic. Hebrew. Syllabus and lesson plans for Fall 2012 Sunday School and Tuesday morning Bible seminar. Sermon for this coming Sunday.
From a historical-critical perspective, Second Corinthians is thought to be a composite of some six different writings. This piece (all of chapter 8), seems to be part of a letter Paul is sending along with Titus, authorizing and commending Titus to organize a collection of money, maybe to help the church in Jerusalem. Can’t tell what, if anything, this segment has to do with other parts of Second Corinthians. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Madi & Friends

Early Morning
Heart and prayers with her family and friends, especially with my dear friend Rev Ray, as Madison sleeps and peacefully slips away into God’s eternity. 
The most terrible thing in life is to suffer the loss of a cherished and beloved child; and the most difficult part of ministry is being with friends and family through a child’s dying and death. It’s wrenching to go through the internalization that brings flooding back all the other times through the years. 
In a months-long, searing ministry course called Clinical Pastoral Education, we are trained, educated, practice over and over these experiences with real people, patients and their families and friends, and with a small group of colleagues under close supervision, in hospitals and other institutions, so that when we face the situations on our own we find ourselves fairly confident and competent in the darkness.
Madi, as her friends call her, was in a car crash, with unsurvivable injuries. She will bless many others with living gifts of life and sight.
My prayer, adapted from our prayerbook, is always, and is now this early morning for her
Depart in peace from this world, dear Christian soul, in the name of God the Father who created you, in the name of + God the Son who redeemed you, in the name of God the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you. May your resting place be in the paradise of God, and may your company be His saints and holy angels. May the Lord + bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you, the Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon you and give you peace, now and throughout the ages of ages. In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Life in the nineteenth century likely was challenging and interesting enough without seeking entertainment in the newspaper serial stories of Charles Dickens and others. But reading The Pickwick Papers while traveling on the treadmill keeps the eye off the clock’s creeping second hand. So far, The Pickwick Papers with Samuel Weller and the Pickwickians, Great Expectations, Little Dorrit, maybe another freebie. Also MacBeth and Hamlet and Walden free online and enlarged on the iPad screen for easy reading enroute. To where? Are we there yet? How much longer?
The three-week dining room adventure was finished Thursday morning, with new plumbing in the bathroom above it, a new ceiling, new paint in dining room and adjacent living room, cleanup (the dust throughout the house may never all be), ceiling lamps replaced, furniture back. Pictures rearranged. Dining room rug could not be cleaned, a permanent casualty. 
Life goes on. And whether it does or not, earth will spin and revolve, sun and moon will rise and set, the solar system will do whatever it has been doing since Genesis 1:1, and our Milky Way galaxy will collide with Andromeda as the universe continues to expand. 
Earthshaking to worry about: will my property insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London cover any damage to my house when the earth collides with an Andromeda sun, how much will my deductible be, and will that claim cause my premium to rise?
The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one;
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all

Friday, June 22, 2012

Hang In There

2 Corinthians 6:1-13 (SV)
As co-workers of God we implore you not to let the gift of God’s favor go to waste. As scripture says:
At the right time I heard you;
on a day of deliverance I came to your aid.*
Look! The right time is now; see, today is the day of deliverance. We try to avoid offending anyone in any way so that no fault will be found with our work. In every way possible we present ourselves as God’s agents -- by great endurance, under heavy pressure, in anguish, and in distress, by beatings, imprisonments, riots, by hard work, sleepless nights, going hungry; by our sincerity, understanding, and long-suffering, by our kindness, with a spirit of integrity and genuine love, by speaking the truth and by God’s power armed both for offense and defense with weapons of justice, whether honored or dishonored, blamed or praised; labeled “deceivers” we are really truthful, “unknown” though really well known, “at death’s door” and look, “We’re alive!” Punished, but not put to death, in pain we’re always joyful; impoverished we enrich many, owning nothing we have everything.
Corinthians, we have been completely transparent with you. Our hearts are wide open to you. Your difficulties are not with us but with your own deeply felt predispositions. I appeal to you as my children: open up your hearts in response.
  • Isaiah 49:8
Paul is having trouble with the folks in his church at Corinth, who seem to have rejected his teaching, his authority, him personally as friend and pastor, in favor of latecomers who discredited Paul and taught a false gospel. Here he writes defending his message, his authority, his honesty and integrity, and his lovingkindness. This part of the letter, our Second Reading for this coming Sunday, is plaintive, pleading sadly. Many scholars feel that with this letter Paul won the Corinthians back. 
If that’s the historical setting, we still and nevertheless face the question of what-to-do with this bit of scripture, which is part of the lectionary series that has us reading through Second Corinthians this summer. My inclination is to leave it out as prayerbook rubrics allow, but there are reasons for including it, and so we shall. What then to do with it? Preach on it? Ignore it? Comment briefly in passing during the sermon? Procrastinate deciding that until walking down the aisle in procession Sunday morning? 
In one kind of group Bible study, we would cover this passage as part of our historical-critical exploration of Paul, the genuine letters of Paul (this is one), his relationship with the church at Corinth, the letters he wrote to them, and 2 Corinthians specifically. We would have fun with our reading and discussion, and we would come away with good understanding, enlightened.

In another kind of group Bible study, a devotional approach, we would open the passage to God’s presence and perhaps come away with a sense of having received a word of knowledge from the Holy Spirit or of being blessed spiritually, devotionally, helped, encouraged, comforted in some way. That probably needs to be the preacher’s purpose in the pulpit too.
What’s here for us? It's so situs im leben that it's hard to think outside Paul's anguish. We might try a different Bible translation, one that takes us out of Paul’s situation into our own day and age and personal lives. The Message (TM) frequently does that well and often can be helpful in claiming a passage as our own:  
2 Corinthians 6: 1-13 (TM)
Staying at Our Post
 1-10Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don't squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us, 
   I heard your call in the nick of time; 
   The day you needed me, I was there to help.
Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don't put it off; don't frustrate God's work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we're doing. Our work as God's servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we're beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we're telling the truth, and when God's showing his power; when we're doing our best setting things right; when we're praised, and when we're blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.
 11-13Dear, dear Corinthians, I can't tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn't fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren't small, but you're living them in a small way. I'm speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!

Hang in there. Life is such a blessing, don’t waste a minute of it. Live it well. Always do the right thing. Be kind and generous and loving, a blessing to others. Even when life gets rough, really tough, hang in there. Hang in there right up to the last, the end, the very final moment. Life Is Good, and It’s A Beautiful Day. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Honorary Rary

Congressional Citation
Students in an MBA curriculum at the University of Michigan fifty years ago were required to take at least one course in Government. Professor D. Maynard Phelps (1897-1993), was much renowned, had served with the State Department during WWII, later on various commissions for German reparations, was a professor at UM for forty years, the biblical very long time. His papers now are filed at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. Dr. Phelps was character, scholar, sage. He professed by lecturing in a packed auditorium. The only lecture hall more overflowing in my college years was when Robert Frost visited the University of Florida each year, or it may have been twice a year, stopping off during his travel between New England and his winter residence in Florida, to read and discuss his poems: not even standing room inside, rapt crowds attending loudspeakers outside. 
Professor Phelps’ annual Pearl Harbor Day Lecture in December, “How Different It Will All Be Tomorrow,” overflowed the auditorium, but other days were as fascinating. In a lecture about the legislative branch one morning, he asserted, in my hearing, that the sole roles of Congress during wartime are to fund the war and harass the President. In a half-century watching since that morning, I have seen that borne out literally and unfailingly by an institution of tall, fat, short and skinny, self-important little men. 
Imagine being cited for Contempt of Congress. Not so high an honor as the Gold Medal, but it’s got to be way up there with such recognition. There’s no doubt in my mind that I myself qualify for it, but then, I don’t have the Attorney General’s visibility.
Congress has been commended for the superlative distinction of being the most contemptible institution in America. Still, we don’t need term limits for Members of Congress, but we do need a constitutional amendment honoring them: Any eligible person may be elected to and serve out one term in Congress and then go home empty-handed. Any eligible person may be elected to and serve out a second term in Congress; but the day after completing the second term, is to be awarded a Joint Congressional & Presidential Letter of Commendation and Appointment as an Honorary Rary, chauffeur-driven to Andrews AFB in a limousine, fitted with a solid gold parachute, escorted into a military airlift plane, flown out high over the Atlantic Ocean, and, as the cargo door opens, tipped through the clouds into the sea as a military honor guard of all five services stands at attention and a bugler plays “It’s a long way to Tipperary.”
It would rank among the nation’s highest honors.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Theodicy and the Collect

Theodicy and the Collect
Proper 7    The Sunday closest to June 22
O Lord, we beseech thee, make us have a perpetual fear
and love of thy holy Name, for thou never failest to help and
govern those whom thou hast set upon the sure foundation
of thy loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who
liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever. Amen.
This collect for Sunday, June 24th dates to the 8th century Latin Mass and has been prescribed for use in our worship ever since, including in Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s 1549 Book of Common Prayer and right up to the present day. Being a people of Tradition, and resistant to change as in -- How many Anglicans does it take to change a lightbulb? What do you mean change? My grandfather gave that lightbulb -- there seems no question but that we will go on saying it. Regardless. The word “fear” holds on long years, centuries, after its meaning has changed in common understanding and usage, but we like quaint, and we don’t mind archaic even though we have to pause and explain every time. It’s still the prayer for this coming Sunday’s eight o’clock Rite One; but at least and at last, “fear” was updated to “reverence” for the contemporary language Rite Two settings in the 1979 prayer book:
Proper 7    The Sunday closest to June 22
O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your
holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom
you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
So much for updating language; the collect has more significant theological, experiential, existential issues, even a time warp of naivete and fear between 8th and 21st centuries. It may test what we are willing to face up to, acknowledge, admit “faithwise,” as well as to reform liturgically. Quaint and archaic may cause to stumble, any Christian who is struggling, hurting, praying, grieving, and for whom “you never fail to help” is not seen to be born out in harsh reality of life and death. 
It’s a nice prayer for Sunday morning though, isn’t it, and we’ll say it anyway, won’t we. We've always done it that way.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

God be with Ye

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, 
    according to thy word;
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 
    which thou hast prepared before the face of all people,
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles, 
    and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost:
    as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Choir sang the Nunc dimittis to close our worship every Sunday morning in my growing up years. Always a capella, the same haunting Anglican Chant harmony. The tune, the harmony, their singing, is still and always part of me.
Another that will never leave is the close of Sunday worship at First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville my freshman year at Florida. We always sang “God be with you till we meet again.” 
  1. God be with you till we meet again,
    By His counsels guide, uphold you,
    With His sheep securely fold you,
    God be with you till we meet again.
    • Refrain:
      Till we meet, till we meet,
      Till we meet at Jesus’ feet;
      Till we meet, till we meet,
      God be with you till we meet again.
  1. God be with you till we meet again,
    ’Neath His wings securely hide you,
    Daily manna still provide you,
    God be with you till we meet again.
  1. God be with you till we meet again,
    When life’s perils thick confound you,
    Put His arms unfailing round you,
    God be with you till we meet again.
  1. God be with you till we meet again,
    Keep love’s banner floating o’er you,
    Smite death’s threat’ning wave before you,
    God be with you till we meet again.
Lots of congregations sing that as their amen song when they leave each other on a Sunday morning. Sentimental or not, it signifies life’s uncertainty. We sang it at Trinity, Apalachicola the Sunday morning our local national guard unit was to leave for Desert Storm. Oddly, coincidentally, their vehicles rolled by right outside the church windows even as we sang.
Brightman and Bocelli ...
Time to say goodbye.    
Paesi che non ho mai
veduto e vissuto con te,
adesso sì li vivrò.
Con te partirò
su navi per mari
che, io lo so,
no, no, non esistono più,
it's time to say goodbye.
Time to say goodbye. Places that I've never seen or experienced with you Now I shall, I'll sail with you upon ships across the seas, seas that exist no more, it's time to say goodbye.
Goodbyes need to be said. Or sung. Whispered, murmured, prayed. Our closing prayers at campfire every 1940s and 1950s summer evening at Camp Weed are Anglican classics still and always. One is said to date from the fifth century, the second from John Henry Newman, an Anglican priest before becoming a Roman cardinal. 
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night, for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
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.

With his sheep securely fold you. Put his arms unfailing round you. Smite death’s threatening wave before you. God be with you till we meet again. 
In heart and mind this early morning, someone who is closer than a friend.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tipped Chalice

About this time twenty-eight years ago, we were looking forward to our move from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Apalachicola, Florida. We were packing up and, seeing that we would be moving from our larger three-story house on the bank of the Conodoguinet Creek into the much smaller rectory of Trinity Episcopal Church, we were deciding what to take with us and what not, giving away things, trying to get organized. 
Each summer for years, Linda and her mother had been going to Highlands, North Carolina, to participate in a week long oriental flower arranging seminar at the Stone Lantern, an oriental shop established and owned by Ralph DeVille more than half a century ago. And they were heading off to that, returning the Sunday before our departure for Florida. Joe was in the Army, Malinda was working at a nursing home in Harrisburg and not moving to Florida with us. It would be Linda and me and Tass, who was twelve at the time and looking forward to seventh grade at Apalachicola High School (grades 7 through 12).
We had had an interesting search process. One parish in the eastern end of our Pennsylvania diocese had called us, and they and we had been looking forward to our moving to Mount Joy and settling into their rectory, a quaint stone house next to the charming old stone church. Anticipating our arrival, they had made all sorts of kind arrangements for us, including for Tass at their school, and were devastated when we turned down their call. But I had to come home to Florida and, when the opportunity rose, could not decline the call to Trinity, Apalachicola.
What was on my mind this morning, for some reason, was the search process with another church in our Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, over on the western side of the diocese. We had been to visit those folks and look at their church, a lovely, ornate Anglo-Catholic, high church parish. Adjacent to the church and joined to it as part of the large structure, the rectory had no yard or garden, but fronted right on the sidewalk. It had been common, not at all unusual, for the rector or a member of his family, upon coming downstairs early in the morning, to find that a vagabond, many different ones over the years, had raised the living room window, climbed inside, and was asleep on the sofa. How those men knew that this was acceptable at this particular house, is beyond me; they apparently have a communication system of their own that far pre-dates the computer age. 
We never had a chance to find out though. On the following Sunday, their vestry and search committee came to our parish, Mount Calvary, to hear me preach (a regular part of the search process), I wasn’t the Celebrant for the Eucharist that morning: assisting the Celebrant, I served the chalice. The head of the search committee, who was also the Senior Warden, was wearing a frilly white blouse. She sipped from the chalice, handed it back to me, and I dropped it, spilling a full chalice of port wine all down the front of her blouse.

Definitely not parapraxis, a Freudian slip on my part, it may have been the work of the Devil; but I like to think it was the hand of the Lord. In any event, they turned me down and called another priest to be their rector. We declined the kind folks at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Mount Joy, and headed home to Florida.