Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Proper 21    The Sunday closest to September 28
O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing
mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we,
running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of
your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who
lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for
ever and ever. Amen. 
At least one scholar says that the phrase “mercy and pity” literally translates “sparing and showing compassion,” which sounds like a very good God. Dating from the earliest centuries of the Church, the theology of this collect for today is that God’s almightiness shows not most powerfully in the magnificence of creation, but in lovingkindness. This sounds like a very good God indeed.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Empty Tomb

Yesterday’s readings were from the Gospel according to John, of course, as always at a funeral; but the epistle was from 1 Corinthians 15, which always stirs to mind the significant differences between Saint Paul and the gospel writers. Not that Mark, Matthew, Luke and John themselves agree, there are interesting differences among them also. But a funeral, like Sundays, is the Day of the Resurrection all over again. It’s Easter, and nowhere in all his writings does Paul mention the empty tomb that is meant to be so startling in all four gospels -- and also in some cultures, notably England, where decorated empty tombs are seen everywhere on Easter morning. 
So, why doesn’t Paul mention the empty tomb? The answer, at least partially from a historical critical point of view, might be that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15 a generation before the gospels were written; and in the case of John, perhaps two generations before: Paul hadn’t heard about an empty tomb, that story came along later in the oral tradition that the gospel writers used to assemble their evangelical stories about Jesus. 
Did the gospel writers know about Paul, and specifically did they know about 1 Corinthians? The similarity between what Paul says about the Last Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) and what Mark says about it (Mark 14:22-24) could suggest that the synoptic writers may have known Paul’s writings. And they may have wondered why Paul doesn’t mention an empty tomb, especially seeing that Paul knew personally Simon Peter and James the Lord’s Brother. If they knew the empty tomb story, indeed, experienced it personally themselves, wouldn’t they have told Paul? And if Paul had heard it, especially from Peter and James, it’s so powerful and significant that he wouldn’t possibly have left it out, would he?
Anyone who studies the Bible intelligently discovers that there may be differences between Historie, documentable history as we understand it and insist upon, and Heilsgeschichte, holy history of the developing relationship between a people and their God; and that holy history develops in and over time. So it needn’t bother an intelligent Christian to wonder if the empty tomb story came later for whatever reasons of gospel agenda; how else to testify concretely and credibly to the resurrection of Jesus? 
But if the empty tomb story came later, after Paul, the resurrection appearances did not, in fact, they originate with Paul (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Mark as originally written has no resurrection appearances, but Matthew, Luke and John do have. And the unrecognized Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-22, especially v.16), and the unrecognized Jesus cooking breakfast on the beach (John chapter 21, especially verses 21:4 and 21:12), not to mention that some didn’t recognize Jesus on the mountain (Matthew 28:17) -- all this is consistent with Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, where he says we do not bury the body that is to be, but that God raises up a body that He chooses, and that just as there is a physical body (which dies and is buried) there is a spiritual body. Paul does not say that there are then no bones still buried, or ashes still scattered. He says that later there is a spiritual body and that it is as God decides. 
But what does Paul mean then at 1 Corinthians 15:50-54? 
We can discuss that in Sunday School class.
But not tomorrow morning. In Sunday School tomorrow morning we’re talking about the Gospel according to Mark.
Link to 1 Corinthians 15 (NRSV)

Friday, September 28, 2012

1950 Chrysler

Motor Trend for October 2012 reports the death of Walt Woron (1921-2012). Walt was my first and all-time favorite automobile test driver. 

Summer 1950, the Greyhound or Trailways bus was taking me, age 14, from Panama City to Pensacola for my appointment with Dr. Bell, the only orthodontist in the area.

On arriving in Fort Walton the bus turned left down an alley and halted beside a drugstore, their bus stop in the little town, for a ten or fifteen minute rest stop and to let off and pick up passengers. Inside the drugstore was a magazine rack, and on the rack was a Motor Trend magazine, my first knowledge of such a publication. 

On the magazine cover stood Walt Woron beside a 1950 Chrysler New Yorker sedan that he had road tested and reported on. One picture inside had the car leaning heavily into a high speed turn. It was the start of a lifelong addiction. That magazine is in my car trunk here in Joe’s room. 

Because of two Walts, Walt Woron, and Daddy Walt, my grandfather Walter Gentry, who always drove Chryslers and Plymouths and ultimately Imperial, first a Maxwell then the 1924 Chrysler six touring car. Daddy Walt bought a new, black 1950 Chrysler Windsor sedan after my grandmother's light blue 1949 Windsor sedan (which he had presented to her on Mother's Day in 1949) was hit and demolished.  

and also because at that time my father was buying only Chrysler products from Karl Wiselogel at W&W Motors on Harrison Avenue, Dodge and Plymouth cars for the family and Dodge trucks for his business, Chryslers were the cars of my dreams. 

Actually, my father had switched from Chevrolet trucks to Dodge trucks after World War II when Bubber Nelson was not able to get him the Chevrolet truck he needed for his fish business. 

When that happened, and he also switched to a Dodge car and then a Plymouth station wagon, I knew that my Buick hopes were dashed forever. 

Just then, summer 1950, W&W Motors, although they were a Dodge-Plymouth dealer, had on the showroom floor a brand new, medium blue 1950 Chrysler New Yorker sedan. It is the first car I ever remember lusting for. 

That Chrysler sat there for weeks, and every time we were at W&W for car or truck servicing, I sat in it, circled round it lovingly, imagined it roaring up our driveway and coasting silently into the garage. Both my mother and I wanted it. On one trip to W&W I persuaded my father to at least look at it. Glancing only, he said dismissively, “I think that car’s an eight.” “Of course it’s an eight,” thinks I, all hopes dashed, “it’s a Chrysler New Yorker.”

Chrysler had two lines for 1950, a six and an eight, both flat head engines. They had distinctive front grills; at least the chrome under the headlights was different, and the different Chrysler name or insignia in center front. 

Also, the Windsor and New Yorker had "lavalier window cranks," very elegant in that day before every car had electric windows. Royal and Saratoga had a plain knob.

The six was offered as a Royal and an upper series Windsor.

The slowest, most lumbering car of all time was surely the very long, very heavy Chrysler Royal or Windsor flathead six cylinder eight passenger sedan with tip-toe shift.

Chrysler Eight was offered as a Saratoga, and the upper series New Yorker, and also as the top of the line Imperial.

The Chrysler Imperial for 1950 was distinguished by the new full wrap-around rear window on the sedan. 

A 1950 Chrysler full line, full color, fold-out brochure was pinned to the wall beside my bed all that year. 

Rest in peace, Walt, both of you.


Thursday, September 27, 2012


Gospel Safety Touchback Touchdown
It would have been hilarious in elementary school touch football. 

It would have brought outraged parents storming onto the field at the end of a high school game. If this had been the final play in an Alabama-LSU game, there would have been hell to pay. Professional football? Even President Obama said it was stupid. 

There’s got to be a sermon in there. The ref on the right as a Christ figure saving the receiver doesn’t work for the defensive player who clearly (?) intercepted the pass. But it could work anyway if Tim had been QB. Or if it had been the Lions and the Saints. 

Thursday’s gospel is that referees and NFL have reached a deal to get the pros back on the field tonight.

All for now. Bubba has a homily and a sermon to write before the sun comes up!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Listen or Lick

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10, 20-22 Good News Translation (GNT)

7 ... the king and Haman went to eat with Esther 2 for a second time. Over the wine the king asked her again, “Now, Queen Esther, what do you want? Tell me and you shall have it. I'll even give you half the empire.”
3 Queen Esther answered, “If it please Your Majesty to grant my humble request, my wish is that I may live and that my people may live. 4 My people and I have been sold for slaughter. If it were nothing more serious than being sold into slavery, I would have kept quiet and not bothered you about it; but we are about to be destroyed—exterminated!”
5 Then King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who dares to do such a thing? Where is this man?”
6 Esther answered, “Our enemy, our persecutor, is this evil man Haman!”
Haman faced the king and queen with terror.
9 Then one of them, who was named Harbonah, said, “Haman even went so far as to build a gallows at his house so that he could hang Mordecai, who saved Your Majesty's life. And it's seventy-five feet tall!”
“Hang Haman on it!” the king commanded.
10 So Haman was hanged on the gallows that he had built for Mordecai. Then the king's anger cooled down.
The Festival of Purim
20 Mordecai had these events written down and sent letters to all the Jews, near and far, throughout the Persian Empire, 21 telling them to observe the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar as holidays every year. 22 These were the days on which the Jews had rid themselves of their enemies; this was a month that had been turned from a time of grief and despair into a time of joy and happiness. They were told to observe these days with feasts and parties, giving gifts of food to one another and to the poor.
This coming Sunday is my turn to preach, and my practice is to read and contemplate all four of the Bible readings that the Lectionary appoints for the Sunday, and decide which one to preach on. Or sometimes they can all be wrapped into the sermon, our bishop likes to do that. But, together with Haman, I’ll be hanged if I see how my sermon for this coming Sunday can be based on this reading from Esther, who could possibly wrench a sermon out of a story about an evil man like Haman (you have to read the rest of the Book of Esther to understand what was going on), and who wants to preach about a man being hanged. But it’s Wednesday already, and high time to think about what to say from the pulpit on Sunday morning. “Children’s Time” is fairly easy, the kids know that Miss Beverly and Father Steve love them, and that they can usually count on Father Tom to bring candy or cupcakes or sometimes ice cream or American flags or something noisy to toot as they leave to go to their Sunday School class.

Would folks rather listen or lick? And why should the kids get better than the adults? Instead of a sermon, we’ll get the ice cream truck to come and we’ll have a treat. The one below is small enough to putt-putt down the aisle behind the choir during the processional hymn. And Haagen-Dazs was always a favorite anyway. C'mon on down, folks. Tom's buying.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012


This moment always has me wondering what it’s like, though I’ll find out soon enough for myself. Alone, it’s always and only alone, there’s no other way. Though I suppose it could be like Rushdie’s plane explosion in The Satanic Verses, two men floating down and talking together.

After tests and heart catheterization on Wednesday, October 20, 2010 cardiologists told us my heart issues were inoperable and gave me two to five months to live. My thought while still in hospital that evening was exactly as above -- what’s it like, what will it be like, it happens to each one of us and there’s no way around it, what’s it like? As a priest I’ve been through dying many times with other people and always wondered what it was like. Now I’m about to find out for myself, I’ll keep a journal to log the experience and observe myself, have myself as my own object. My journal was started that evening. Within a day or so, at a friend’s pressing, it became my daily CaringBridge posting, then, upon leaving Cleveland, my +Time blog. It’s now well past time to give it up except that it’s my equivalent of Linda’s crossword puzzles, a mind activator and enlivener. 

Now three-quarters of the way through, 2012 has been for me a particular year of wondering. What goes through our mind when we know we are dying? In my case three months of my two-to-five months went by, October 20 to January 24, waiting for my surgery appointment, during the latter part of which it was day to day, as I said yesterday, pill-to-pill. There were things to hope to do one more time but not worry about if it didn’t happen, because it was beyond my control. Thanksgiving, to which everyone came with the same certainty that I had. A walk with Linda to show her exactly where to scatter. Those two movies, Narnia and Potter! Christmas. One more walk through Cove School, the Bill Lloyd Building. Still another two-pill walk down front to My Laughing Place to be under my cedar tree and by the Bay at sunset, and two pills back, don’t let Linda know! The experience with every friend and loved one (except Linda who had no choice but to listen) that nobody was willing to talk about it; and after all, it’s uncomfortable to talk with a dying person about a future in which you know you’ll be there and the dying person will not. The realization and prayer every single morning, “Hey! I woke up again today! Thank you, God!” Then get up immediately so as not to waste one second of life. 

But that wasn’t quite it; what I wondered about was the actual moment of dying: what would that be like? Would it be like simply not waking up from surgery that was a total no-dreams blackout, fading into oblivion? Would I move through that tunnel into the light? If so, what then? Mindful of C.S. Lewis and The Great Divorce, would it be like getting off the bus? Would the bus arrive at dawn, as in Lewis' story, or at sunset? Who would meet me? Mom? In Lewis' story, a couple of -- spirits -- are met by someone they hadn’t cared for in this life. There was an obnoxious boy in high school whom I rather detested; he played trombone in the Bay High Band and we’d fought in one of the practice rooms one day, and to finish it off, when I got him down I’d grabbed a flower pot and dumped the contents, flower, dirt and all, in his face, surely he’d not be waiting for me when I got off the overnight bus to Heaven. Could happen.

It didn’t happen for me then, because friends and loved ones and surgeons gave me +Time. So, I’m still wondering.

My wondering all came flooding back tonight when my retired Navy commander buddy Paul called a few minutes after midnight:

Bobbie Hunt 
October 1936 - September 2012 

What was it like, Bobbie? What’s it like? Go with God and the Saints in Light.


Monday, September 24, 2012



Upon becoming school chaplain the end of 2002 and looking around at what was going on, it was immediately obvious to me that our students were less than enthusiastic about coming to religion classes; and small wonder. For one thing, the priest who had been teaching previously had unusual views of Scripture for an Episcopalian such that, teaching from Genesis for example, she had taught the children that God had required circumcision because of His displeasure with the male body. Further, in observing the classes, what came to my mind was my own excruciatingly boring Sunday School classes as a child growing up, forty-five minutes to an hour of sheer agony every Sunday morning. Something had to be done, but what?

Working with the Head of School, we hired several religion teachers in succession, then finally when a successful one resigned to move to Texas, the role fell on me, who had never taught children. During my search for ideas, Time magazine had a cover piece about teaching 13-year-olds and keeping them enthusiastic. Among other things, it strongly recommended snacks. This led to an era of several years in which my token salary was spent on ice cream from the grocery store at Cove Shopping Center, and at the Krispy Kreme doughnut store on 23rd street and the donut shop across from Bay High School on Harrison Avenue. 

Sure enough, as Time said, walking into chapel, and down the hall into my classroom, behind a tall stack of doughnut boxes, created enthusiasm. But something was needed for the time after snacks. The idea came to mind of using one of my own interests, as a child and still, of Christian based modern fantasy fiction. It occurred to me that C.S. Lewis had characterized his Chronicles of Narnia as “pre-evangelical,” and that his seven books, and the movies from the BBC series some years earlier, could make for interesting class time. It proved so successful that we featured Lewis the first year for middle school Religion & Ethics classes, then J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings the second year, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books and movies the third year. 

During my pre-Fall planning the Spring and Summer of 2005, something that came up was a new Hollywood production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. to be released in theaters on December 9, 2005. A huge poster advertising the movie was put up in my classroom, and we announced that the semester final exam for all three middle school classes would be attending the movie together on the Friday followed by discussions in each class the following week. Those three years were as successful, enjoyable and enthusiastic a series of classes as I have ever taught, and left me with years of happy memories.

They also left me somewhat addicted to modern fantasy fiction movies, Lewis, Rowling and Tolkien. After my October 2010 hospital episode and during the last weeks of my Ordinary Time while waiting for my appointment at Cleveland Clinic when life was literally day-to-day and nitroglycerin pill-to-nitroglycerin pill, my only fear was that Ordinary Time would run out before the screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on November 19, 2010 and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on December 10, 2010. But I made them both. Leaving the theater that evening after Dawn Treader and with heart and mind full of that happiest of all happy afternoons taking seventy-five middle schoolers to see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe exactly five years earlier to the day, my thought and prayer was, “OK now, Lord, whatever you say!” 

Ordinary Time moved into Stoppage Time and on into +Time, and there has been another Harry Potter movie. And now the spirit of Tolkien returns: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. World Premiere in New Zealand on November 28, 2012, and in American theaters on December 14, 2012.

Can’t wait. Hang in there, +Time.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

James and the Collect

Sunday, September 23, 2012
Proper 20    The Sunday closest to September 21
Grant us, O Lord, not to mind earthly things, but to love
things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among
things that are passing away, to cleave to those that shall
abide; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and
reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.

James 3:13-4:3, 7-8 King James Version (KJV)

Two Kinds of Wisdom
13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
Friendship with the World
Ch 4. 1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
4 Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. 5 Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? 6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
Sometimes there is discernible link between the Collect for the Day and one of the Lectionary readings. Sometimes the discerned link is real, sometimes it’s fancied, forced or imagined. Either way, the collect for this morning does seem to relate to the reading from the Letter of James -- which many scholars see as not a letter in the usual sense (as the letters of Paul are truly letters), but perhaps a sermon ranging across several topics, two of which are addressed in the verses appointed to be read this morning and to both of which the collect is relevant, caring about things heavenly rather than things of this earth. Actually, the collect seems more closely linked to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount,
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt , and where thieves break through and steal : But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt , and where thieves do not break through nor steal : For where your treasure is , there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 KJV)
which we heard every Sunday in the parish where I grew up, because it was the minister’s standard offertory sentence.   
It’s too early to say much intelligently but not too early to say too much, so one additional thought. My curiosity is always piqued when the Lectionary skips over verses. In the James reading above, the verses in italics are omitted, why? As it turns out, the reason is obvious: it’s because the people in the congregation are being called adulterers and adulteresses, so leave it out even though the content of it is a strong and valid part of the message, and relates even more clearly to the collect. Nobody likes to be called names though, so omit it. 
Make that two additional thoughts. In the omitted, italicized, verses of James above there’s the theological assertion, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.The same exact verse is found at 1 Peter 5:5, and some scholars think the author of the Letter of James called on 1 Peter as a source for writing down what he had to say (and citing Scripture or what will become Scripture is legitimate preaching practice). In any event, it strikes me as peculiar that the framers of the Lectionary gave us a Collect for the Day two weeks ago that specifically calls on that verse from James, when we were reading from James, and yet omitted that verse of James from the appointed readings. Here’s that collect, for Proper 18, September 9:  
Proper 18    The Sunday closest to September 7
Grant us, O Lord, we pray thee, to trust in you with all our
heart; for, as thou dost alway resist the proud who
confide in their own strength, so thou dost not forsake those
who make their boast of thy mercy; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
It’s just me, needing to find something to pick at.
TW+ in +Time

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Any Dream Will Do and Wandering

Any Dream Will Do and Wandering

“Any Dream Will Do” is a moving song in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which our beloved Junior Choir presented one Sunday morning at Mount Calvary Episcopal Church, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, under choir director Dianne Morningstar. My sadness about that Sunday was then and always will be that I missed it. Tass was in the Junior Choir, and missing her performance was difficult and painful for me, and required a heart-stretching choice. We were in the “call process” and had just received a call to be rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, that we were looking forward to, and that I was scheduled to accept the following week. But that week in the Spring of 1984 I was teaching a graduate course in Defense Weapons Systems Acquisition Management at the University of North Florida. The day before class, I had called on Bishop Duvall at his office in Mobile, Alabama to discuss the vacant pulpit at Trinity, Apalachicola. As our conversation ended the bishop said, “Next time you are down from Pennsylvania, I want you to go visit the folks at Trinity, Apalachicola,” and I responded, “I can’t do that, Bishop; I have a call to be rector of a parish in Pennsylvania, and I’m going to accept it next week. So it’s basically now or never.” Bishop Duvall picked up the phone and arranged for me to visit Trinity and meet with the vestry on the Sunday, before I returned home to Pennsylvania. The Apalachicola visit resulted in my being called to Trinity, where we lived and served fourteen years.   

Outrage and riots about a film insulting prophets are absurd, but any excuse will do. The violence in fact ratifies the film. And there is nothing special about prophets, they are neither more nor less human than anyone. In anger, the prophet Elijah proclaimed a drought that lasted three years (1 Kings 17). When insulted by a bunch of boys who called him “Old Baldy,” the prophet Elisha called fierce mother bears out of the woods and the bears tore forty-two boys to pieces (2 Kings 2). Even though the battle was over and king Saul had befriended Agag his defeated former enemy, the prophet Samuel hacked Agag, defeated king of Amalek, to bits (1 Samuel 15). Prophets are human and are themselves right offensive. So, offending a prophet is usually a good idea. 

It is telling that the recent and ongoing riots and murderous violence which were ostensibly because a film insulted a prophet were not replicated when a French magazine ran offensive cartoons about the same prophet. It tells that the outrage and violence were actually anti-American hatred. The film was just an excuse. Any excuse will do.

One of many things I found out as a parish priest was about people who quit the church: they always have to have an excuse, but any excuse will do. In one church we served, where The Peace was unusually warm and friendly, I had made it my practice during The Peace to stroll up and down the aisle and touch as many people as I reasonably could -- at least those I could reach from the center aisle, I generally didn’t go up and down the side aisles greeting people. One couple whom I had worked hard bringing into the church, including visiting them in their home a couple of times, suddenly stopped coming. After a few Sundays of missing them I inquired about them. It turned out that they had quit because “Father Tom doesn’t shake hands with enough people during The Peace.” When folks decide to “quit the church,” any excuse will do.

It’s the same with hating America. When it comes to rioting and demonstrating and violence against America, hating and murdering Americans, any excuse will do. Hearing that some low-life American ex-con made a cheap movie offending a prophet is as good an excuse as any, you don’t even need any facts. Any excuse will do.

Looking back nearly thirty years now, in spite of all the wonderful things that happened later and have happened in my life since then, I still have regrets and great sadness about missing that Sunday morning performance of Joseph and seeing and hearing my beloved daughter as part of it, singing

“It was red and yellow and green and brown 
And scarlet and black and ocher and peach 
And ruby and olive and violet and fawn 
And lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve 
And cream and crimson and silver and rose 
And azure and lemon and russet and grey 
And purple and white and pink and orange 
And red and yellow and green and brown 
Scarlet and black and ocher and peach 
And ruby and olive and violet and fawn 
And lilac and gold and chocolate and mauve 
And cream and crimson and silver and rose 
And azure and lemon and russet and grey 
And purple and white and pink and orange 
And blue”

And singing “Any Dream Will Do.” My sadness at missing Tassy’s performance that Sunday morning always comes to mind when anything reminds me of the songs. Looking back nearly three decades, would I make the same choice? Would I do it again?  


Friday, September 21, 2012

Ticked Off

A state of the art Apple IIe was my first computer, purchased in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1983 for business and personal use. Together with the Apple printer and double floppy drives, it cost $3,200 in an era when $16,000 was an outrageous price for a new Cadillac. That Apple computer came to Florida when we moved to Apalachicola the summer of 1984, and served as the church computer as well. Until we arrived, they were using a typewriter and a mimeograph machine to prepare and copy Sunday bulletins; the typewriter may have been an IBM Selectronic with the changeable ball, not sure.

We went through several Apple IIe computers at Trinity Church, which I bought because such luxuries and frills were not compatible with the parish budget or vestry frugality. In time we switched to PCs, first with DOS with which you learned a bunch of commands such as control-P for print, which is still good, then with Windows and scroll-down menus and pictures to click on. When we moved home to Panama City in 1998, my Apple IIe computers came with me because loads of my stuff was stored on the old Apple floppies. At some point those computers started giving trouble, and I found an almost brand new Apple IIe computer identical to my first one on eBay for $5.00 plus shipping. It’s still set up and operable but hasn’t been touched in several years. 

My replacement computers over the next ten years were PCs with various editions of Windows, being a cheapskate, always refurbished ones. There were constant struggles with some virus or other malware, and episodes with BSOD, and bad words; and so when a virus or other malware ruined my last PC in 2009 it seemed time to return to Apple, reportedly not as susceptible to viruses and such. My still being cheap, and having a perfectly good monitor, the replacement was a refurbished Mac Mini, which is the size of a book instead of a monster, and works as well as the most powerful desktop PC that ever took up space beside my desk. 

Then when my trusty and beloved Sony laptop -- given to me as a farewell gift by the loving folks at Grace Church when we left there the end of 2001 -- gave out and would no longer go online and the Geek Squad told me to quit spending money on it, it was replaced with a refurbished MacBook and my repentance and return to Apple was complete. No viruses in three years and reasonable satisfaction.

Until yesterday morning, when my email program refused to work. Turns out my MacBook wasn’t alone. Checking out a troubleshooting site disclosed that an Apple security update on Wednesday evening fouled not only my email program but lots of other folks’ as well. Working for hours through suggested remedies yielded no correction or satisfaction. Apple mail isn’t working for me except on my iPad; on the MacBook it’s necessary to go through Google to get my and through Knology to get email addressed to

Frustrating, Apple. 
Bad words at you, Apple. 
To get theological about it, let Apple be anathema.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why Not

OK, so here’s from ABC news yesterday

Was Jesus Married? Old Papyrus Mentions ‘Wife’

We’ve seen Islamic right-wingers streaming and screaming into the streets, rioting and burning and murdering over perceived offenses, let’s see if the XnRt go ballistic about this, Jesus married? Bearing in mind that the Nicene Creed, which like it or not is the central statement of Christian orthodoxy, says that Jesus “was made man,” or as the new restored version has it, “became truly human.” Being made man, becoming truly human, would include all of it, no?, puberty, adolescence, youthful maturing, eh? With all the implications that are unthinkable for the Great Unthinking. “Otherwise” is not truly human, is it. A wife? Can’t hardly get no more manly and truly human than having a girlfriend and desiring to -- marry her.

Comes to mind Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal (Christopher Moore, Harper-Collins 2004). The adventures of Josh and Biff gets tiresome at times, but absurdist humor, a good spoof, though not as delightful as Jesus and the Sweet Pilgrim Baptist Church by Clayton Sullivan.  

... truly human ... surely even the darkest theologians or most dour puritans in their pietistic straitlaced prudery wouldn't deny Him life’s greatest joy and blessing of love


Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Psalm 1 King James Version (KJV)

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
Appointed for next Sunday, Psalm 1 is one of several my mother encouraged me to memorize as a child. Psalm 1, the 23rd Psalm, Psalm 121, and there were others. Mama grew up Southern Baptist, in a home where church was a regular part of life, including Sunday evening Baptist Training Union with “Sword Drills” in which youthful contestants rushed to see who could be first to find and read aloud a verse of Scripture. In all my churches there have been parishioners who also had known that raising, and who cherished the scriptural soaking that one finds in Episcopal worship. The Bible, as we say, is chock full of quotations fromThe Book of Common Prayer
Psalm 1 is good, and memorable, but it does have a cautioning and condemning negative side that keeps it from being a first choice. Among my favorites are Psalm 121, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,” and our two Invitatory Psalms for Morning Prayer, from Psalm 95 (Venite) and from Psalm 100 (Jubilate Deo), sung to one of the Anglican Chant tunes of old. There is surely a section of Heaven for us. 
All the material that came out of the mid-20th century liturgical renewal and reform also is good if it is varied so it doesn’t become dull rote. The only prayerbook exceptions are Eucharistic Prayer II in Rite One (which is a ridiculous take-off on Cranmer), Morning Prayer Rite Two (which to an old-timer seems to mock the real thing), and Burial of the Dead Rite Two, which is so banal that it might have been written by an over zealous Roman Catholic seminarian trying to impress his revisionist bishop.
Psalm 121 stands as my all time favorite:
Psalm 121 King James Version (KJV)

1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
2 My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.
3 He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
4 Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
6 The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.
The old ways were best.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Time Out

It’s early morning, but not too early. Thundering over the Bay out front, maybe there’ll be rain, this summer -- which officially fades into fall this week -- has been wet, which has been good, but also humid, too muggy to have doors and windows open. In fact, the windows don’t open any longer, or haven’t been in years.

Having a cuppa, Fortnum & Mason tea that Kate sent from England, and that TJC1C2 brought back for me. F&M’s Piccadilly Blend, with a splash of milk, delicious, perfect.

Email reminded me of a couple of birthday e-cards, so opening those was birthday all over again. One included a view of the Sydney Opera House and brought back exciting memories of very early mornings, window seat, QANTAS flight circling in light clouds, over homes, their red tile roofs obviously wet from early showers, over the Opera House and magnificent Sydney Harbor. That was a common experience for me in the late 70s and early 80s, when either the Australian Department of Defence or an Australian industry client flew me down for business or to conduct seminars on doing business with our defense industry and Department of Defense. 

The other e-card played “Happy birthday to you” and reminded me happily of years at HNES, having the birthday blessings for the children at chapel every Wednesday then singing to them, “Happy birthday to you.” And of course the second verse, “May the good Lord bless you.” Happiest time of life and ministry.

In all this happiness, there’s no sound of rain yet, but the thunder grows louder and nearer, so the power cord is disconnected from the MacBook. What comes to mind is yesterday afternoon, heavy, funeral of an 18-year-old boy. A son, a brother, obviously loved by many sobbing friends. Tragedy of the worst kind imaginable. Apparently there had been an angry argument in the house, and he stormed out into the yard with a gun and shot himself. For those he left behind in a moment of rash anger, there is no way back forever, especially for his Mom. On the way home I was thinking about all he missed, love, fun; children and grandchildren who will never be: he took their lives as well as his own. The officiating minister was a kind and gentle blessing as he talked to the chapel filled with teenagers about signaling Time Out if ever life seems too hard and heavy to go on. Time Out to ask for help. Or simply to wait, give it a moment.     

Bible Seminar this morning. All are invited and welcome. We’re starting the Gospel according to Mark. In my office Through the Garage at Holy Nativity Episcopal Church. Gather NLT 10:00 a.m. and convene with prayer at 10:05.

Yes, heavy rain now. Very heavy. A regular old fashioned earen-splitten-louden-boomer.

And now fading. Gone.

Tom+ in +Time   

Monday, September 17, 2012

Worrying about the MADness


Soon after 9/11 we saw some discussion and articles about how to reach peaceful accommodation with the extremists. One response, from the other side, said that hatred of us is so vehement that the only possible peaceful solution would be our moving to another planet. World affairs since then, and recent, current, have rather borne that out.

In the News. Seven to ten billion dollars for updating 400 B61 nuclear bombs, more to figure out how to mount the B61 on the F-35. At least another five billion to modernize our W78 and W88 warheads. Top of the News, with an estimated 75 to 400 weapons in his own nuclear arsenal, Israeli PM Netanyahu harasses the American president to define the point after which the U.S. will take military action against Iran’s nuclear program. 

Military analysis generally focuses on capability not intent, but a state that denies the Holocaust and calls for the death of another nation makes intent also a factor.

Two nuclear weapons, atomic bombs, have been used in war, and they in fact stopped a war; but since experiencing the horrendous results, moral restraints have been in place and mutually assured destruction a psychological deterrent. Once, inevitably, another nuclear weapon is used, moral restraints will disappear. Not unlikely, the inevitable first user may be extremists, terrorists or irrational government. Or preemption.

The Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union was high tension including a time when people were building and stocking bomb shelters, even arming them to protect against neighbors. Fiction such as Alas, Babylon and On the Beach and The Day After kept us mindful of the dangers, cautious and rational. Times are changing, have changed. Not military, political, economic, guided by reason nor tempered by fear, but driven by hatred, the new foe seems beyond irrational, their issues nonnegotiable. Risking political incorrectness, some might say we are seeing religion at its worst.

Others might insist that worst isn’t even yet in sight, that on a bad, worse, worst scale of one to ten, we are only at a three and darkening. That this time will be different: that there will be no nuclear deterrent to suicidal, irrational hatred. That we must update our nuclear arsenal for response. Or preemption.

Or move to another planet.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Son of Man

Today’s Gospel
Mark 8:27-38 King James Version (KJV)

27 And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am? 28 And they answered, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets.
29 And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ. 30 And  he charged them that they should tell no man of him.
31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.32 And he spake that saying openly. 
And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. 33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.
34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. 36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? 37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
We have a powerful and memorable gospel reading this morning, centering on Peter’s confession that Jesus is the messiah long awaited by the Jews, in Mark’s Greek, ο χριστος, the Christ. They still don’t quite get it, though (it’s in Matthew’s gospel, written perhaps as much as a generation later, that Simon Peter says “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (MT 16:16)). Every written document has a message to tell, and an agenda, and part of Mark’s agenda is that even those around Jesus didn’t realize who he was (the Son of God). And as we know, the messiah was expected to be a political figure who would restore the throne of David. So, Peter’s shock that Jesus goes on to say that he is about to be killed and rise again, is understandable.
This gospel reading has interesting elements, including Mark’s repetitive, almost annoying, use of “and” to connect thought after thought after thought. And there’s the “Markan secret” of Jesus constantly saying, “Don’t tell anybody,” after which of course the word about him usually was spread like wildfire.
Jesus proclamation about us carrying our own cross is memorable enough and has inspired many hymns in the Church; but perhaps the most powerful and stunning thing in today’s reading is what he says at verse 38, about those who are ashamed to confess him, and especially about his coming again in the glory of the Father with the holy angels.
A bit subtle in the reading, perhaps because we are used to it and pass on over it, is Jesus’ use of the term Son of man. He does this variously in the gospels, to mean a human being, to refer to himself a bit obliquely instead of saying “I” or “me,” but here to link himself to the cosmic figure whom Daniel prophesied (Daniel 7:13-14),
“13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
The allusion seems quite clear.