Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Nother for Congress


If It Ain’t One Thing, It’s A Nother
Now and then someone tells me they don’t see how I can get up and write something new and different every morning, that they would run out of things to say. Not so. There’s always something or nother.
An Episcopal priest is handed numerous things to think about and write about and talk about, preach about. 
To begin with, there’s the Lectionary. It offers four new and different preaching possibilities for every Sunday morning: Old Testament, Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel readings. There’s no possible way to use up all the sermon topics, so why waste them? Blog about some of them. This week, King David's affair with who-is-that-woman-taking-a-bath-down-there-knowing-the-king-is-watching. What a tramp. No wonder Uriah didn't go home to her.
There’s the Collect for the Day, a different prayer to open each Sunday morning. In classical format the collect has an address to God that is a theological assertion ripe for commentary; a petition that may reflect a hope for today or an anxiety of the Middle Ages; and a closing in the name of the Trinity. It may date back into the earliest centuries of the Christian Church. All sorts of things to muse on.
The Nicene Creed is a nitpicker’s heaven for blogging.
Not to mention the seriousness with which they take themselves at Episcopal Church General Convention every three years, most recently Indianapolis 2012.
Panama City and Bay County and St. Andrews Bay and Cove School are the center of my being, born and bred here, Brer Rabbit in the briar patch. Sitting down and reading or thinking about something that’s going on may take me back half a century to some memory or other. Just start typing. Remember the USO at the foot of Harrison Avenue?
Let me tell you about my operation.
Twenty years as a Naval officer, living here and there, including service during the Vietnam War and life in two warships. Admirals? full range, brilliance to idiocy. Remember the midnight exercise during RefTra in GTMO when, because Ensign Weller the cryptographic officer dozed in the crypto shack all night long, USS CORRY was the only destroyer in the squadron to get a Secret message to the bridge on time and had the highest ratings? Worst Christmas Day of my life? Aboard USS TRIPOLI off Yankee Station during the Vietnam War.  
In the news: London 2012, the Olympic Games, our swimmers falling back. Assad in Syria. GOP hoof in mouth disease in Palestine. Nothing to blog about?
My mind is cluttered with car stuff, cars of the nineteen-thirties and forties that were on the streets during my growing up years. Am I the only one in the universe who knows the crucial facts that will make all the difference when St Peter asks the entry questions at the Golden Gate? Name the common and singular difference in the 47 and 48 Buick and the 46 and 47 Dodge? Anyone? Anyone? The color of the steering wheels. Difference between the 47 and 48 Fords? There is no difference. What was the Plymouth radiator cap emblem and hood ornament? Anyone? The sailing ship Mayflower headed for Plymouth Rock.
The world is at war and on the brink of -- what? Self-destruction, murder, mayhem and the futility of economic waste, inhumanity, and political insanity; and we’re overdue for a hurricane. Nothing to write about, are you kidding me?
Finally for blog posting, last of all and at the bottom of my list, election year: once again, the fools are out in full force. It is impossible to continue breathing and ignore politics even though this is sworn not to be a blog for political sarcasm. Nevertheless, my solution for America’s ills is a constitutional amendment for congressional office: serve one term and go home, serve two terms and go to the gallows. 
Out of work, Nother? Run for Congress, you’re as qualified as the incumbent Bozo.
T

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Bread of Life


John 6:24-35
24... when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ 26Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs (σημεια), but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’ 28Then they said to him, ‘What must we do to perform the works of God?’ 29Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ 30So they said to him, ‘What sign (σημειον) are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” ’ 32Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is that which* comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ 34They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’
35 Jesus said to them, ‘I am (εγω ειμι) the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. 
Our gospel lesson for the upcoming Sunday continues Jesus’ “Bread of Life” discourse with the signifying features that we noticed in the beginning of John chapter 6 yesterday morning. The people have been fed, bread and fish, a creating event that signifies who Jesus is. All they can think about is filling their bellies, that they got a free meal; while Jesus tells them that they are overlooking the signs (σημεια). The signs of what? The signs of who Jesus is.
And who is he? 
John’s gospel is a masterful composition. First Jesus says that the true bread comes from heaven, from God. Then he says that he is that bread that comes from God, the bread of life. Most significantly perhaps, in saying that, Jesus refers to himself using God’s Name: I AM.
I AM the bread of life.
It is not simply predicate nominative in a compositional sense. It is the essence of John’s theological assertion about Jesus.
Who is Jesus?
I AM -- the Bread of Life. 
TW+

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Who's That Woman Bathing Down There?


Short and sweet this morning, eh? Up at four a.m. -- a bit late -- for coffee and to check over sermon notes for eight o’clock and ten-thirty -- and now it’s five-seventeen and counting --
Ryan Lochte and the Gold -- looks as if Phelps maybe should have rested on his golden laurels and sat this one out. But, as he said, today’s another day. Go r, w & b. But no tooth grills allowed.
On the home front, this morning we’ll read more of the Sunday School Bible Story of David. And this is not David’s most shining moment: David’s affair with Bathsheba, wife of his faithful soldier Uriah. The most shameful event in David’s life. It could be the basis of a finger-wagging sermon, except that Saint John’s gospel story of Jesus feeding the multitude in the hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee outshines almost all other stories in the Bible.

See you in church!
TW+

Saturday, July 28, 2012

MIND THE GAP


Word was, UK had no intent to compete with the Chinese opening ceremony extravaganza of four years ago; but as it turned out, London outdid everyone ever. Incredible. And, of substance. Not only lights and color and a parachuting queen, but meaning, Message.
Tops: hospital beds with children, dancing medics, pride in their National Health Service, blending J. K. Rowling, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, nightmares, and peace. In an election year, it stirred for me that America finances a decade of two heinous wars running at the same time, birthing hatred for generations to come, killing hundreds of thousands of humans, and saddling present and future with astronomical debt, yet makes a political battleground of providing health care for our own people. History will judge in the story of our Rise and Fall.
With tickets to some events including a soccer match, Tass, Jeremy, Caroline and Charlotte are flying to London next week, staying with his parents, who are looking forward to seeing the grandchildren. In the past when they went, Linda, Paint, Kristen and I went to Tallahassee to babysit their cats, but they are between pets at the moment. Their promise to the girls: a kitten upon returning home from visiting grandparents in England.

Two kittens are better than one.
TW

Friday, July 27, 2012

ἐγώ εἰμι


Thunder in early morning hours. iTitan on the iPad shows thunderstorms coming across from the west. Most of it is out in the Gulf of Mexico, but listen for sounds of rain. 

Starting this Sunday, July 29th, for five Sundays we will be reading through the Gospel according to John, Chapter 6, in which Jesus talks about himself as the Bread of Life. However, the story begins not with talk but with action. Jesus is walking in the hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee. People crowd him. He wonders aloud about feeding them. One disciple says, “No way,” another disciple says here’s a boy with his dinner pail, just some bread and fish. Jesus takes it, gives thanks for it, and feeds everyone. Afterward, more action. He goes for a walk while his disciples get in their boat and shove off, heading home for Capernaum, rowing. Wind comes up, stirring heavy waves. Jesus walks out toward them on the surface of the sea. The disciples in the boat are terrified. Jesus assures them, “ἐγώ εἰμι,” I AM. 

More thunder. Early morning of a beautiful day. God is present.


Tom+

Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Happy!"


Several years ago a delightful “ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN” “church sign war” circulated online. Supposedly an exchange between churches across the street from each other, running over several days or weeks, it was huge fun even though it was a spoof, as snopes.com pointed out, likely created on an internet church-sign-generator. For one thing, all the signs and scenes are identical, including the white car and red SUV parked down the block behind the “Our Lady of Martyrs” church sign; the same two cars would not have been parked in the same exact spot and relationship for days or weeks on end! OK, so it was a spoof, got me! But I loved it!
In the spoof, the Catholic Church pastor was teasing the Presbyterian pastor across the street, who was taking it quite seriously and became more and more upset and incensed as the series progressed. It elicited interesting discussion in many homes, including mine, some of it serious, some lighthearted. 
Our religion is a strange thing that we humans tend to take seriously and humorlessly and don’t appreciate others poking fun at us; though we may enjoy poking fun at ourselves. Bookshelves are filled with volumes of Jewish Humor compiled by Jewish authors. A generation ago when The Book of Common Prayer was being revised, we Episcopalians loved the “How many Episcopalians does it take to change a lightbulb?” jokes to which there were as many answers as there are answers to “knock-knock, who’s there?” Or the Baptist jokes -- as in “Why won’t Baptists commit adultery standing up?” “Because people might think they’re dancing.” It’s OK for me to remember that one, because half my forebears were Southern Baptist.
We may wonder, “Do dogs go to heaven?” and children often ask a parent that question when a beloved dog or cat dies. Or a goldfish or hamster, because our pets are very dear to us, and may be so dear that we cannot imagine an eternal happiness without them. But the question is raised by God’s children of all ages. Do dogs go to heaven? What’s the answer. 
Better perhaps, what are the answers (plural)? And, they depend.
There are dogmatic churches in which the theological authority prescribes not only the answers, but the questions. (This is not for me). A church that officiously and grandly takes it upon itself to ask “Which creatures have souls and which do not?” is not unlikely to proclaim that only humans have souls and therefore only humans qualify (or disqualify themselves) for heaven. My preference is to do my own thinking, thank you very much.
In a church that leaves it to each individual not only to work out the answers but to raise the questions, the pastor who is asked “Do dogs go to heaven?” likely would respond, “What do you think, what do you hope, what do you want to believe?” Because whether beloved pets -- dogs -- cats -- gerbils -- go to heaven may be very important to a bereaved person; and may be just as much a matter of faith as other tenets of doctrine. Here is where comes the scriptural answer to the question. Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” My faith, my things hoped for may be different from my neighbor’s, yet is just as valid. And things not seen may include Love, which Saint Paul tells us (1 Corinthians 13:13) is even greater than Faith and Hope. So if my faith, what I hope for but cannot yet see, includes enormous Love -- Happy -- my dog who grew up with us and whose death so devastated me when I was a teen -- Happy greeting me, leaping up and down joyfully, jumping up on me and licking my face exuberantly as I walk through the gates of heaven, what’s that to you?!! It certainly sounds like heaven to me.
And this time I won’t say, “Down, Happy!”
Tom+

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Great Thanksgiving


The Episcopal Church currently has nine authorized Eucharistic Prayers (The Great Thanksgiving) for celebrating Holy Communion. Our oldest dates from Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s first Book of Common Prayer (1549), Rite One, Eucharistic Prayer I in the 1979 prayerbook, which we and many parishes use regularly for the eight o’clock service Sunday mornings. Like it, Rite One, Eucharistic Prayer II (p.340) is in traditional language. Prayer II shifts from the sacrificial tone of Prayer 1 to more celebratory. It seems little used; and quite frankly, why the Church cast a new prayer in Elizabethan English escapes me.
There are four Rite Two prayers, A, B, C and D, in contemporary language in the prayerbook. Each is different, has a different history and, if one digs a bit, somewhat different theology, because the theology is found in what is said. 
From 1998 and authorized again by General Convention 2012, Enriching Our Worship 1 adds three more Eucharistic Prayers, designated 1, 2 and 3. During the summer at Holy Nativity, we have been using these prayers at ten-thirty worship on Sunday mornings -- 1 and 2 so far, and we’re using EOW1 Prayer 3 on July 29th and one more Sunday of our summer educational sabbatical! 
All nine of these Eucharistic Prayers have the standard features that we have discussed in Adult Sunday School, Confirmation Classes and Bible Seminars. Opening dialogue and, in varying sequence, rehearsal of salvation history, words of institution, epiclesis (invocation of the Holy Spirit), oblation (the offering of the bread and wine), anamnesis (recalling -- literally, “not forgetting”), closing with a doxology of praise. Anglican theology of the Reformation departs from our Roman roots in that our eucharist is offered as a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving instead of offering the Mass as Christ’s original sacrifice. 
On my mind this morning, looking forward to using EOW1 Eucharistic Prayer 3, is something that even most clergy don’t notice. The other eight prayers all contain this rubric:
At the following words concerning the bread, the Celebrant is to hold it, or to lay a hand upon it; and at the words concerning the cup, to hold or place a hand upon the cup and any other vessel containing wine to be consecrated.
but Prayer 3 omits it. The omission is meant to ease away from the popular notion, theology, that something about the Celebrant’s touch is what consecrates the bread and wine, makes them holy, transforms them into the Body and Blood of Christ. Rather, that transformation happens as the gathered community gives thanks and celebrates with Christ present in the midst of us. There is nothing theologically “magical” about the priest touching things.
Further to this, Prayer 3 does not call the priest the Celebrant, as the other eight prayers do, but the Presider. Why? Because the Church’s theology is that the People are gathered to celebrate and are therefore in fact the celebrants; the priest is but the presider for the occasion.
This subtle shift could in time ease over into the issue of Lay and Diaconal Presidency of the Eucharist, which is advocated by the Diocese of Sydney, Australia, not elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, at least as yet.
TW+  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yesterday and Today


Adjective is a noun, how does one use adjective as a verb? Adjectivize? No? Who says?
This font is Casual. My most customary font has been Helvetica because of wanting a sans serif font but needing one with an italics setting, which Helvetica has. Recently though, something I read adjectivized Helvetica with the word Ubiquitous, which is making me reexamine my box of fonts, because I won’t even drive a Ubiquitous car. My favorite serif font may be American Typewriter, but it also has no italics setting for logical reasons: with typewriters there were just so many striking keys, so we underlined when we needed to italicize.
Anyway, Casual can’t replace Helvetica for me, because it has no italics slant. Not to mention that it robs any writing of any hint of seriousness; and cannot use Comic Sans MS, which the type world so scathingly scorns. Options: either take time to search and experiment or ask Jeremy.
Yesterday was busy: out of town trip in driving white rain, exhausting time with lawyers, evening hospital call with Holy Communion, home by 8:40, light supper with small glass of Italian dolcetto (not sweet, it’s quite dry and dark), asleep at ten p.m. Awoke just now at 6:03 a.m. This is the first time sleeping so late in -- what? -- years? Maybe the dolcetto did it, seldom or never have wine with supper. But -- the cardiologist said -- a glass of red wine a day --
My thought for this morning’s posting had been to engage a bit of Anglican eucharistic theology, but another time perhaps. Got to stop, want to be in the office by eight o’clock, and taking another priest out to lunch at noon.
It’s a beautiful day.
TW+ 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Treadmill Time


Some days are ...

On my retiring from the Navy in February 1978, a job offer came from a “beltway bandit,” one of many firms working government contracts around Washington, DC. With less than a dozen associates, this was a small firm doing business with various Naval systems command headquarters. They had a new contract in my field, so I worked that one with them then went off on my own. The firm’s founder and owner was a brilliant fellow who wore Supp Hose socks and drove a dark blue eleven-year-old Cadillac Sedan de Ville that he had ordered new without air conditioning (a waste, he said, open the windows). He never read the morning newspaper and driving to work mornings he never turned the car radio on, because he did not want his focus and frame of mind disturbed by depressing news about which he could do nothing. 
His approach to the day imprinted me to an extent. My mother would tell bad news at the breakfast table, until I learned to say kindly, “Mama, there’s nothing I can do about that, and it’s so sad that it will depress me for days, please don’t tell me that.” This also defines almost all television news, such that my TV time is zilch except for the weather. On the bright side, Joe introduced us to Turner Classic Movies on TV, which are great, free, no commercials. Round up the usual suspects.
The Syrian government will fall and be replaced with far worse. Hardly anything is more evil and despotic than religious certitude of any flavor.
In a nation with subtle but rabid despotism of our own, it’s pointless asking why the mental case next door who is part of no well-regulated militia may own automatic weapons even though he murders again and again and again.
Wrenching as the clock passed 5:08 yet one more time again, to muse that a century from now GBM will be history, a disease of the past. I still cannot believe the little sign on that fresh grave. Faith confronted and challenged. 


Though destined to be touted as unduly severe by sports pundits, NCAA sanctions will be far, far less than Penn State warrants, because the only apt sanction is bulldozers.
For over a year now we have been captive clients of a legal system that is based not on service, promptness, commonsense, or justice but on billable hours. However, it now looks like closing out my mother’s estate may be on the horizon instead of somewhere over the rainbow. Shades of Charles Dickens.
Life may be hell, but it’s still preferable to the alternative: every morning so far, I wake up and say, “Hey! I showed up again! Thank you, God!”
Oh, look! An email from a widow in Africa whose husband was murdered by his political enemies. She has $3.2 million in a bank account that she needs to disburse to someone trustworthy before she dies of the cancer that has destroyed all her inner organs and she doesn’t have long to live. She has chosen me as beneficiary. 
Treadmill Time.
T



Sunday, July 22, 2012

Noah & Sons, Pty. Ltd.


Noah & Sons, Pty. Ltd.
And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31 KJV)
At the end of each of the first five days in the first creation story, God looked at what he had done and saw that it was good. Then at the end of the sixth day, God looked at all that he had done that week and saw that it was very good, the divine imprimatur on creation, symbolizing God’s pleasure in what He has done. 
Some generations later, as we know, God becomes disillusioned,
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them. ” (Genesis 6:5-7)
and we have the story of Noah and the Flood, God destroying everything and starting over, a partial Re-creation, with the occupants of the Ark; and our ancestry becomes not Adam but Noah and Sons. 
Without going into etiological elements of the stories, one looks around and wonders why God did not start completely over with a totally New Creation rather than with Noah, whose generation went south immediately. “Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it” comes to mind.
Nearly a generation ago, 1993, Christian feminist leaders, including from Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian and other churches in the United States, held a “Re-Imaging Conference” in Brazil. Father of beloved girls, my views are sympathetic, and it looked good to me until reports started coming back. The conference was a “Re-Imaging” (not Re-Imagining) of God as radically feminine; and the re-imaging including changing God’s name to Sophia. All well and good except that (a) God already named self YHWH (“Being”), and (b) Σοφíα means “wisdom” in Greek. Obviously they would choose a girl’s name for the Divinity, but to name God “Wisdom” poses at least a couple of theological and experiential issues. For one, “... God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am ... this is my name for ever” (Exodus 3:14,15), so there is no human right to change God’s name unless one is starting over with a new and different god. Principally, though, to name God “Wisdom” limits God’s characteristic to being wise, asserts wisdom as God’s nature, which is historically, experientially problematic. Aside from the fact that the Bible says God is Love, even God’s own self has recognized God’s mistakes in judgment and tried -- too lovingly -- and inadequately -- to correct them, viz., Noah and the Flood and the succeeding thousands of years of human history. Thus, Σοφíα is hardly an apt name for God. The re-imaging-ists blew it. Perhaps if God had truly re-created instead of trying to patch things up with Noah, human history would not have been at that movie theater in Colorado the other night.
In The Bible according to Mark Twain, God is sitting around with his advisors contemplating what to do with the mess of Man that he has created. One of the advisors present, Satan, says, “I’d drown the whole mess of ‘em and start over.” Satan wouldn’t have excepted Noah & Sons.
In spite of all that has come to pass in human history, we might be thankful that God is not Wisdom, but Love.
TW+

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Gospel for Sunday, July 22nd


Mark 6:30-34 King James Version (KJV)
30 And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. 31 And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat. 32 And they departed into a desert place by ship privately. 33 And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him. 34 And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.
Mark 6:53-56 King James Version (KJV)
53 And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the shore. 54 And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him, 55 And ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard he was. 56 And whithersoever he entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch if it were but the border of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole.
Life goes on, thank God, and there’s our gospel for tomorrow morning. Several things come to mind. First, every sentence begins with “and” (Greek “kai”) which is not good form in English composition; the KJV is shown because it translates Mark's NT Greek faithfully word for word. Second, unlike last Sunday’s gospel in which King Herod had the head of John the Baptist chopped off and delivered to the banquet on a platter, this gospel is actually Good News. Third, here’s another case of the Lectionary framers skipping over something: what did they leave out, and why?
Mark’s use of “and” is somewhat unique to him as a way of stringing sentences, thoughts, actions together. He begins 410 of 678 verses with the Greek conjunction “kai.” It’s called “parataxis,” a writing style of placing thoughts together loosely connected. What comes to mind is Linda’s string of pearls that we bought in Japan fifty years ago: there’s a tiny knot between each pearl and the next pearl. There are other peculiar features to Mark’s writing, but this one is the most noticeable. Why does he do it? Wasn’t a good writer? Intends to give his story a sense of breathlessness? It’s a good subject for someone’s PhD dissertation, eh? Maybe not: been done.
After last Sunday’s horrific gospel, this one is entirely Good News. Someone dear and faithful pointed out that I made a liturgical gaffe last Sunday. Instead of a sequence hymn, we are singing a Gospel Acclamation Alleluia before and after the gospel reading some Sunday mornings. Why? Just to experience an ancient practice that was meant to herald the presence of Jesus in our midst and speaking to us in the gospel reading. It should be done selectively, though. Last Sunday, unfortunately, the gospel ended with John getting his head chopped off and his disciples coming to bury the headless body, and we immediately sang “halle, halle, halle-lujah.” I noticed it as we were doing it and thought, “Uh oh, that don’t sound right, do it!” But my mind was on the bishop’s “Pastoral Letter,” and it was already sung, and I just let it go. Sorry. The trendy saying is, “My bad.”
So, what did the Lectionary framers skip this time? Last time they left out the gruesome verse of Samuel in which the innocent young shepherd boy David takes Goliath’s sword and whacks off his head; from what have they shielded us this time? 
Actually, there’s valid reason for skipping over Mark 6, verses 35-52. There, Jesus feeds the five thousand and then walks on the sea. We’ll read that story next Sunday morning, from John’s gospel, chapter 6, when we begin a five-week series of reading what scholars call “the Bread of Life Discourse.”
Shabbos: shalom.
Tom+

Friday, July 20, 2012

C029, A049, 5:08


C029, A049, 5:08
Anglicanism stands on Scripture, Tradition and Reason?? Anything else??
Jesus was constantly confronted by people who were obsessed with Tradition, with keeping and enforcing their religious laws, views, opinions and certainties. He was appalled that their Tradition was more sacred to them than love. 
The obsession is still with us in the Church.  Sometimes we are thick and oblivious unto inconsistency and blindness. Sometimes we are a blessing, sometimes we miss a WWJD opportunity to be a blessing. Sometimes we seem incomprehensibly simple.
It is becoming increasingly common across the Episcopal Church to invite and welcome everyone who seeks a deeper understanding of Christ to receive Holy Communion, notwithstanding the explicit provisions of Canon I.17.7 (No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.). The Church is divided on this, and it has been a subject at several General Conventions, including resolutions (never approved) to delete Canon I.17.7 and open Communion to everyone.  As a parish priest, I always had Open Communion, a practice of hospitality by which I have seen many people feel welcomed and loved and come to Christ and eventually to baptism. I also have experienced the feeling of the door slammed in my face by Roman Catholic priests announcing that Communion is open to all members of the Catholic community and all others please remain seated. And seen notes in Episcopal parish Sunday bulletins saying that all baptized Christians are welcome to receive Communion. One slams the door negatively, one slams the door positively; but as to slamming doors, a door slammed is a door slammed.
Open Communion is consistent with Scripture and WWJD: when Jesus “Took, Blessed, Broke and Gave” the bread, he fed everyone present. Jesus never made baptism the price of being fed a bite of bread. Neither should his Church which loves the Summary of the Law at least liturgically.
Nevertheless, last week, General Convention of the Episcopal Church approved resolution C029: “Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that The Episcopal Church reaffirms that baptism is the ancient and normative entry point to receiving Holy Communion and that our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to go into the world and baptize all peoples.” The rationale: -- Tradition
Sin is whatever is more important to us than love. For Jesus, that was Tradition.
The same General Convention passed resolution A049 approving liturgy for blessing same-sex unions even though one third of the Episcopal Church and most of the Anglican Communion oppose this as being against -- Tradition.

Our inconsistency with Tradition renders ludicrous our claim to stand on Reason. We are -- circle one:
  1. Simply oblivious
  2. Obliviously simple
  3. All of the above 

Sin is whatever is important to us that is not important to God.
We humans get upset with the damnedest things. We don’t realize the shallow depth of our worldly obsessions until someone we love is dying and dies; and then concerns of this world are exposed for -- the New Testament word is σκύβαλον -- that they were all along; and we realize that nothing is important but people. God is Love, but we make our obsessions and traditions our god. Thursday evening a week ago I asked a hospice nurse to come into the room and check heartbeat. She did so: there was none, and she gently removed the oxygen tube. As I walked out of the room with her, she glanced around for a clock. I looked at the time on my iPhone and showed her. It was 5:08. 
C029 and A049 have come and gone and I could not possibly care less, because I will do what I believe is right regardless. 5:08 stirs my hurt, anger, outrage twice a day, and there is nothing in this world that I can do. 

TW+

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Winning Entry. Late But Winning

Tass and Joe on Joe's Ducati



Pricey Fruit, Cheap Vacation


Monday, a sheet of ice twice the size of Manhattan broke off from the Greenland glacier. An opportunity. Homestead waterfront property, tourist resort with igloos, offshore gambling. Airport for small planes flying out from the mainland. Mine glacier ice-cubes for sale to prestige restaurants. As it drifts south and melts thinner, shift the business to ice fishing.    
A vacation is a state of mind, and my vacations are spent at that oceanfront hotel at Waikiki Beach where the Navy sent me for a week's TDY in 1966, sitting in the breakfast cafe watching the waves and surfers while sipping coffee and enjoying half a papaya. Linda gets them for me at Publix. 
At Bill’s funeral, Fred told something that rang a bell. In a restaurant, pay two or three or four dollars for iced tea when ice water is free? When Fred told it, people laughed, but I nodded my head, been ordering water only for years. Dr. Oz said order it without lemon though, because GOK where the lemon was stored in the kitchen, and what crawled over it during the night and did what on it, and what somebody did with their hands and fingers before they picked up the lemon, cut your slice off, and stuffed it on the rim of your glass: a series of lab tests on lemon slices on glasses of ice water in many restaurants proved super grossening: you do not want those floating and swimming around in your beverage, crawling around your mouth and throat, and colonizing your stomach and intestines. Ice water, no lemon.
Kristen’s bill has come from Emory University, send donations care of the poorhouse. TG, debtors prisons still exist only in Charles Dickens. Dickens himself spent time in debtors prison as a child, which explains their prominence in his writing. Debtors prison culture of everybody coming and going except the “resident” -- family and friends in and out daily to visit, off to work, going for groceries and ale, just make sure to get out before lockup at night. No photographs or ID cards, the gatekeepers memorized the face of each “resident” immediately on incarceration. Some families lived there, children born and growing up in debtors prison. Pathetic, but apparently a fact and facet of life, not the torment, shame and disgrace in which Bernie Madoff will spend the next hundred and fifty years.
Last week was so overwhelming emotionally that I didn’t even think to get a picture of Joe, Joe’s Ducati, Joe on his Ducati, Tass on Joe’s Ducati, Caroline in her new cap -- Caroline loves wearing caps. Her newest cap is adorable, and so is she wearing it. The girls nearly always open a restaurant while they are here, writing menus on paper and on a chalkboard, cooking in the playroom that was mama’s sewing room, finding you wherever you are in the house, taking your order, and serving you in doll house dishes. My order: blue tea and mushroom ice cream. Charlotte waits, Caroline cooks. No calories, fat or salt.
Year’s Mind July 17. Up at three, early prayers and meditation, read, write Nonsense and post on +Time, read NYT, WP online, comics in PCNH, office and phone calls, lector training, hospital visit, glass of Australian Durif with lunch of rutabagas and okra, nap through violent thunderstorm, stop for gasoline, supper at Gene’s Oyster Bar: free ice water no lemon, dozen (13) steamed oysters, one softshell crab, four sides of mullet. Barstools no tables, no plastic; cash or local check only. Asleep by nine o’clock.
T+ in +Time

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Traditional


Proper 11    The Sunday closest to July 20
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our
necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have
compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those
things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our
blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the
Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Composed for the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, (presumably by Cranmer himself) this lovely, familiar and beloved Collect of the Day for Sunday, July 22 would hardly express the theology and faith of a 21st century progressive Christian. But the Church means it to help us gather our hearts and thoughts in unity for worship; and we Anglicans who cherish quaint old medieval things are always reluctant even to put Tradition on the shelf, much less flush it. So we say it, use it, pray it. No harm done, though this Collect for the Day does not set the tone for what is to follow, as the Collect could and perhaps should.
My liturgical and theological preference for this coming Sunday is one of the alternative collects that the Church has authorized for use in place of the prayerbook collects for the Season after Pentecost, and we will be opening our ten-thirty worship with it:
Beloved God, as we approach your Presence, guide and stir us with your Holy Spirit, that we may become one body, one spirit in Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
Last week and this Monday, I appreciated working with the pastor of First United Methodist Church down the street from HNEC, and learning some things about their Sunday morning use of their magnificent new facilities. The family life center on the west end has a wonderful gymnasium, set up for basketball and all sorts of things. On Sunday mornings it’s worship space. They have two services, both at ten o’clock and drawing about equal crowds. The traditional service is in the sanctuary. In the gym they have their contemporary service, informal, no vestments, the younger pastor told me that he wears flipflops, sometimes no shoes at all. I love it.
Years back, before I went out to St. Thomas, Laguna Beach to be their priest for five years, I was working toward offering some such worship service in the auditorium at Holy Nativity Episcopal School, thinking it might appeal to neighborhood folks who wouldn’t even think of darkening -- or lightening -- the door of a --- shudder -- church.
TW+ 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Year's Mind


Year’s Mind is the sacramental observance, remembrance, of someone’s date of death or date of burial. Roman Catholic, it also is a common Anglo-Catholic observance that Linda and I will honor in some way today. An old Jewish tradition is that those we loved live on through us and our memories of them.
Louise Gentry Weller
May 7, 1912 - July 17, 2011
Year’s Mind
July 17, 2012
Sunset over St. Andrews Bay July 17, 2011

TW+

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ducati


Ducati
Early spring 1976 the Navy transferred us from Washington, DC to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. School was not yet out for summer vacation, so I went up first, hundred miles north. The U S Army graciously gave me a room in their BOQ at Carlisle Barracks; Linda, Malinda, Joe and Tass stayed behind in Fairfax until summer vacation started and the contractor finished our new home on the Conodoguinet Creek; and it was an easy two-hour-plus drive home to Virginia on Friday evenings and back to Pennsylvania on Sundays. 
At first, Joe was not happy with the idea of the move, but he came up for an impressive tour of Cumberland Valley High School, which was several miles out Cumberland Pike, due west of our new neighborhood. Joe is a sociable person who makes friends immediately and adapts quickly, and by the time fall came, he was settled in, happily riding the school bus with new friends. Once, a few years on, when he arrived home from school later than usual and I asked why, he said he had stopped at the Honda dealership. Being a lifelong car nut, this seemed perfectly normal to me, who had stopped almost every day at one car dealership or other, walking home down Harrison Avenue during my Bay High years. At some time long years later, when Joe was on his third or fourth Harley, he told me it had been the Honda motorcycle dealership.
Joe lives in Winston-Salem but usually comes to visit at Christmas and for a week or so in July. He has traveled by plane or driven his Ford F-150 pickup truck, extended cab, 8-foot box, 4x4, and said he would drive this year, leaving details to parental assumptions. But when I arrived home from church Sunday morning a week ago, he was just getting off a Ducati. 
It might have been pretty much OK to me, but I keep no secrets from Linda, for whom son on motorcycle still has his mom totally on edge, and he did spend some time in hospital years ago after being hit by a car at an intersection. Joe had told only Tass that he would be coming down from NC by motorcycle. Tass, Jeremy, Caroline and Charlotte came over from Tallahassee for the weekend, and Tass got a ride on the Ducati before Joe headed back to NC yesterday morning as I drove off to church. He stopped in Atlanta overnight with Lauren’s parents, heads on home to W-S this morning.
Tom hanging on in +Time

Sunday, July 15, 2012

nonevent


Because this week General Convention of the Episcopal Church approved trial use of liturgy for blessing same-sex relationships, bishops have sent out “pastoral letters” to be read in all services this morning. 
Not only us, this is an issue in every mainline denomination, every single one. But this cannot possibly be a subject about which God is losing either sleep or sheep. For God is Love.
If General Convention had solved the problem of theodicy, it would warrant a pastoral letter stirring up the congregation.
T+

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Amen


Life & Sabbath
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 
Lord God of our Fathers, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel, God of Moses and the Commandments, God of Mary, God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: blessed art Thou, O Lord our God. Thy lovingkindness sustains the living, Thy mercies give life to the dead. Holy art Thou, Holy is Thy Name, and Holy are those who praise Thee. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Host, heaven and earth are filled with Thy glory.
Now, before the morning light, and as it dawns, lift me from cares, concerns and worries, to enjoy and honor the coming day, even to bless it as I am blest.
Life glides by silently or races noisily, stirs waves washing ashore, and is gone. Overhead a bird screeches. I sit stunned. Nearby a woman weeps. Life goes on. Sabbath comes. Amen, so be it.
Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, the Holy One, Who has given us the gift of life and this day of rest and peace.
May the Lord bless us and keep us,
May the Lord make His face to shine upon us and be gracious unto us.
May the Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon us
And give us peace.
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 
T in +Time

Friday, July 13, 2012

Alfred & Bill


Alfred & Bill
Maybe we don’t often think about the fact that we have our life because of a certain other person. Much less does a sense of gratitude permeate our being as an ongoing thing. My uncle Alfred died at age eighteen, drowned in the wreck of the twin-masted fishing schooner Annie & Jennie when she hit a violent squall while transiting the Old Pass, on a bitter cold winter night in January 1918. My father, who was six years old at the time, remembered his brother’s casket resting beside the fireplace directly in front of where I’m sitting at this moment. My grandparents were so devastated by the death of their son, that in a couple years they left this house in St. Andrews, and moved up to central Georgia to get away from the sea. Over the next ten years they moved several times, penultimately to Pensacola, where my father met my mother, and they were neighbors in East Hill, friends, students together at Pensacola High School, sweethearts in a courtship that continued after my grandparents ultimately returned to St. Andrews, and my parents. If Alfred had not been aboard Annie & Jennie and died that night, my parents would never have met, and I would not exist. I have my life because of Alfred, and the sense of it never leaves me.
Soon after retiring from parish ministry in 1998, Linda and I became involved in the project to renovate the old Cove Elementary School (where I was a student first grade through eighth grade graduation, 1941 to 1949), to serve as Holy Nativity Episcopal School. The renovation project was daunting, major, seemingly almost impossible. In charge was Panama City native Bill Lloyd, recently retired Professor of Finance at Auburn University. Bill and his brother Rayford grew up in a pretty blue house at the NW corner of Cove Boulevard and Third Street, just around the corner from the Massalina Drive house where I grew up in the Cove and where, half a generation apart, we all had walked the two blocks or so to Cove School.
So impressed was I with Bill and the task he had taken on, that I soon started showing up at Cove School every morning to help. Tear up carpet, remove dropped ceilings and lighting fixtures, take out partitions, scrape paint from windows, replace broken window panes. The part of the job that was most time consuming for me over the next nearly two years was reglazing nearly every window in the building, Hamilton Avenue front side and playground back side. Some days, Bill would bring a ladder and work next to me, and we would talk all afternoon,  partners in scraping and glazing. The tiny group of people who are the Holy Nativity School Foundation somehow came out of the Cove School project in a friendship bond that has been unique in my life. 
Sunday, October 17, 2010, after another summer of working vigorously dawn to dusk five days a week, on yet another renovation project at Cove School, by then named by the Foundation, the Bill Lloyd Building, I was taken to hospital and diagnosed with heart issues that would kill me in “two to five months,” the doctors agreed, and “inoperable” they concluded. One doctor told me that facing such a grim prognosis I should look around to see if a major medical center would consider taking me for open heart surgery, “Cut you open, fix everything, and put you back together.” Long story short, I was accepted by Cleveland Clinic, the number one heart institute in the nation; but by then, two and a half months into my two to five month allowance, I was in no shape to travel from Panama City to Cleveland!
However, Foundation friends Rayford, Mary and Bill had taken me on as their project! As my Cleveland Clinic appointment loomed near, Bill and June Lloyd informed me that I would be flown to Cleveland in the corporate jet belonging to the company in which they are partners. January 18, 2011 three hours and forty five minutes from Panama City, Florida to Cleveland, Ohio. Incredible surgery at the hands of the world’s best. February 4, 2011, four hours from Cleveland to home at last, home at last, thank God Almighty, home at last!! Bill Lloyd is in my heart and mind, from our latter Cove School days, as one to whom I owe my life. Because of Bill, I have my life. The awareness, the sense of it, my gratitude never leaves me.
William Pitts Lloyd. April 16, 1948 - July 12, 2012

Tom+ in +Time, grateful

  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Indianapolis?


Indianapolis?
General Convention 2012 convened July 5 and runs through today. In the news is that they approved the trial use of liturgy to bless same-sex unions. This was not unexpected and should surprise nobody.
My particular interest in General Convention has been the resolution to amend the canon that authorizes various translations of the Bible for use in our worship. The resolution proposed to add the new Common English Bible and The Message. From reading convention updates, it appears to me that the Common English Bible is still in the running, and that The Message has been struck from consideration.
The season finds me serving Holy Nativity Episcopal Church as Summer Priest while our Rector is away on sabbatical. There are two sides of this for me; first, that I am glad to be in +Time, alive and well and able to do this for the Rector and also for the parish; and also that taking on this honor is making my summer busier than usual. Enough busier with day to day ministry, that what the Episcopalians in Indianapolis are doing has been of marginal interest to me here on St. Andrews Bay.
TW+ 
  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Upstairs


Upstairs
Linda doesn’t snore, but she has a snore room on the opposite corner of the house in case anyone else does.  Apparently nobody snored last night, because she was still in bed asleep when I awoke just now. Heading downstairs for coffee, I stopped on the way and crawled into her snore room bed, thinking not to disturb her by creaking the stairs and not to disturb Joe, whose bedroom is near the kitchen.

When Kristen was little, this was her room, with twin beds, and she and I slept in here. In the wee hours one night some years ago, I woke to the sound of driving rain, and constant lightning and thunder without intervals approaching from the west. Thinking “tornado,” I grabbed Kristen and ran downstairs to an agreed and designated “safe room” in the center of the house. It turned out to be a straight-line storm, quite violent, that drove a path about a mile wide as I recall, and caused substantial damage around town.


Built by my father's parents in 1912-13 for a family with five children, this house has been changed since then. Originally there were two bedrooms upstairs on the east side, and on the west side a large open room with a pool table. During WW2 the upstairs was converted to two apartments, each with kitchen, bedroom and bath; and a shared back hall opening onto outside metal stairs, which we call the fire escape. December 1962 we were home on Navy leave, and my father and I took out partitions, but it seems to me the upstairs kitchens were still here at the time, sinks, cabinets, gas hookups for stoves, linoleum floors.
Downstairs has been added to, but not changed. The Massalina Drive house where I grew up had fourteen steps in the enclosed staircase, this house has eighteen steps, open bannister stairway down into the dining room. 
Our bedroom was Alfred’s room in the nineteen-teens. It opens onto the upstairs front porch, which is screened now but originally was open. One warm summer night forty-five years ago we were home on Navy leave and sleeping in that room. No air-conditioning, and the windows and screen door were open. I got out of bed and walked out onto the upstairs porch, asleep and dreaming. My dream was that we were on a river steamboat that had just run aground on the riverbank. I leaned over the railing looking at the riverbank and decided to jump off the boat onto the bank, waking up while still leaning over the railing.
T in +Time