Sunday, March 31, 2013

Old Rugged Cross

Old Rugged Cross  
The nostalgia is long gone, over and done, but for years after we retired in 1998, my sentimental feeling this time on Easter Morning, as well as on Christmas Eve, was that Easter and Christmas did not happen anywhere in the world but Trinity Church. It isn't so: the dozens of children at Holy Nativity make up for anything and everything and are the ultimate crown on every Sunday morning!
At Trinity, Apalachicola, our Holy Saturday was spent with Linda decorating the Altar with Easter lilies stacked miles high in her “mechanics,” racks we made for the purpose. Lilies at Easter, poinsettias for Christmas Eve, poinsettias over the Altar and the Altar itself covered with fat candles of many sizes, flaming brightly, strikingly lovely. Easter and Christmas, Linda had done the same with the Altar at our church in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Easter was most especially special because of the huge cross we’d built with beams from the old house our Methodist neighbors and dear friends Dick and Laura Macy were renovating, the house across the alley that was rumored to have served as a hospital during the Civil War. Dick and Laura had been Presbyterian, but moving to Apalachicola where there was no Presbyterian church, and Trinity Episcopal not having a minister when they arrived in town, they joined the Methodist church. I believe that some time after Linda and I retired from Trinity, they left First UMC for some reason and came on over to Trinity. Dear folks, lovingly remembered, long dead. 
Linda had done the Lent and Easter cross for years at our church in Harrisburg and wanted to continue; so when I told Dick that we wanted to make a large cross, he brought two old beams from his house. I cut them, made the Cross, and it was perfect. Rustic, rough and rugged, aged more than a century to an antique, silver gray. We used that Cross all our fourteen Easters at Trinity.
Through Lent the Cross would have been in front of the church, plain and ugly. Holy Saturday Linda would decorate it breathtakingly beautiful with fresh spring flowers that she had ordered and selected. Beautiful pinks, whites, purples, yellows, and greenery, three huge Easter lilies always prominent. We kept it hidden away out of sight until just before dawn Easter morning. Then while it was still dark and damp and chilly, we would go out in our pajamas, lugging the enormous Cross down the sidewalk to out in front of the church, and lean it there for all to see as our Easter proclamation, 
Christos Anesti 
Alithos Anesti
It was magnificent, the most beautiful thing in town every Easter all our years there. When we retired we brought the cross home to PC. Probably much the worse for years and wear, it may still be standing out behind our tool shed.
Christ is Risen!
Truly Risen!
Welcome, happy morning!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Good Friday Sermon

God Will Provide Himself 
the Lamb for Sacrifice

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Almighty Father, have mercy upon this thy family for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was betrayed, and in accordance with your will delivered into the hands of sinners, and suffered death upon the cross
+++   +++   +++
... God tested Abraham, and said, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Mori′ah, and offer him there as a sacrifice upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; and he cut the wood for the sacrifice, and arose and went toward the place of which God had told him.

On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place afar off. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” And Abraham took the wood for the sacrifice, and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. 

So they went on both of them together. 

And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for sacrifice?” Abraham said, “God will provide Himself -- the lamb for sacrifice, my son.”

So they went on both of them together.

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up as a sacrifice instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place   ִי ְרִי ְר ֶא ה  ְי ה ָו ה  ַה ה ּו א  as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” (Genesis 22)

+++   +++   +++

To scholars in every generation, the story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son Isaac is the most shameful event in our Salvation History --
that God would demand such a horrific thing, testing or not;
that Abraham would commit such an atrocity. Atrocity of intent and will which began the moment he left home with knife, and fire, and wood, and his son, and his intent -- atrocity through three days' travel -- atrocity that did not cease till the angel spoke.

Granted, the point is that because of Abraham’s obedience God justified Abraham as righteous. But scholars agree, the end does not justify the tale, neither God nor Abraham, both shadowed by indelible shame. 

I have discussed this in many Bible study groups. In any discussion group the question is always, “What did Sarah, Isaac’s mother, think of all this? What of the boy’s mother?"

Rabbis also tell us that when God said, “Take your son, your only son,” Abraham, ever obedient but never meek, corrected God, “I have two sons.” And when God said, “Isaac, whom you love,” Abraham said, “I love them both. I love both my sons.”

Etched in the annals of shame, the story of Abraham’s three-day trek to Moriah to sacrifice Isaac changed forever the image of Holy Family: the fiercely protective father and the meek, submissive mother. Because Sarah was excluded from any consideration or involvement -- and the rabbis tell us that after her shock of this outrage, Sarah never spoke to Abraham again.

There is a story from the Nazi Holocaust, maybe you read about it right after the war years ago. One morning the Gestapo came into a Jewish Ghetto to round up Jews to take to the concentration camp. They began by grabbing all the children playing in the street and cramming them into a van. One young mother ran out horrified that her three children had been grabbed, all three of her babies. She began screaming at the Gestapo officer, “Give me my children. give me back my babies.” Gazing at her with contempt, the German officer smirked and said, “Very well, madame. You may have one. Choose. Choose One.” As she stood there stunned, the van rolled away with all of her children forever.

+++   +++   +++

Wednesday evening we walked the Way of the Cross. The fourteen Stations are mostly scriptural -- events lifted from the four gospels and the words of Paul -- though some of the references are far more ancient than Good Friday, coming from Psalms and Isaiah. And at the Thirteenth Station when the body of Jesus is placed in the arms of his Holy Mother, there is an allusion to the Book of Ruth, “call me Mara,” the bitterness of Naomi the widow, bereft of her husband and her two sons. Naomi’s daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabite, a Gentile woman, becomes the great-grandmother of David the anointed king -- David, king and forerunner of Jesus the anointed, Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords, Son of Man, Son of God, God the Son, the crucified one -- Himself the Lamb, son of Mary.

This day consecrated to Jesus could as well be consecrated to Mary, his blessed mother; and to all mothers throughout the ages who have suffered and grieved for their sons.
+++   +++   +++

17th century English Puritan theologian Richard Baxter wrote a hymn, “Christ leads me through no darker rooms than he went through before.” It was in our 1940 Hymnal but has been deleted, some here may remember it. Now largely out of congregational use, it’s included in the booklet Songs in the Night, or, Hymns for the Sick and Suffering:

Christ leads me through no darker rooms
Than He went through before;
Whoever into God's kingdom comes
Must enter by this door.

He seems to have been speaking to mothers, the mothers of sons: Sarah furious with Abraham for his outrageous obedience and treachery. Naomi, bitterly so generations later when her sons Mahlon and Chilion die during the family’s exile to Moab in a time of famine -- as part of God’s plan of salvation. Divine sacrifice of innocent sons.

And now into that Holy Family of Abraham and Sarah, Naomi, Ruth and David, comes Mary, mother of Jesus. When Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the Temple the prophet Simeon blesses the little boy and says to Mary, “a sword will pierce your own soul also.” And fill your heart with bitter pain. It has come. It has come.

Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ -- sees a mother’s love for her son, love from the time the angel Gabriel came, through the years of his childhood into adulthood. That time he stayed behind in the Temple and scared his mother half to death. And today, on his way to the Mount that the Lord has Provided, in a scene that is also captured in our Stations of the Cross, Jesus falls, nearly crushed by the weight of his Cross, and Mary in the crowd rushes out to him in the cobblestone street. As she kneels down lovingly to comfort, he says, “See, mother, I make all things new.”

“See, mother, I make all things new.” It is a climax and high point of the story, the moment of truth. “What is truth?” scoffs Pontius Pilate? This is Truth: “See, mother, I make all things new.” This is why we are here today, at the Cross with Mary the mother of God.

+++   +++   +++

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests, with the elders and scribes, and the whole council, held a consultation; and they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him to Pilate. And they all condemned him and said, “He deserves to die.” When Pilate heard this he brought Jesus out and sat down on  the judgment seat at a place called Gabbatha. Then he handed Jesus over to be crucified.

God did not spare his own son,
But delivered him up for us all.

My Father? 

Here am I, my Son. 

Behold, here are the fire, and the wood, and the knife. But where is the lamb for the sacrifice? 

God will provide Himself -- the Lamb for sacrifice, my Son. The Son of Mary.

Holy Father, we thank you that you have delivered up your only Son to release us from the dominion of sin and death.

Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Absolving Pontius Pilate

“... For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” (John 18)
Anthropologists and philosophers define postmodernism as denying that absolute objective truth exists, as asserting that truth is subjective and varies as we see things. This is not whether the sun and moon exist. Nor is it Plato defining a table, but it may be his Cave in that how one sees the shadows on the wall depends on where one is sitting in the cave, and when I nap or blink my eyes or sneeze compared to when the man chained next to me blinks his eyes or naps. Or sneezes.
Just so, religiously, how we see, know and experience God, our Truth, may depend on when and where we were born and raised. And our Truth may change. My Anglican Christian Truth will not be the same as my fundamentalist Christian neighbor’s Truth or as my Muslim neighbor’s Truth or my Jewish neighbor’s Truth, or my Hindu or Buddhist friend’s Truth. Or my Yankee friend’s Truth. Or that fool Texan. My septuagenarian Truth isn't even the same as my own college sophomore Truth. Postmodernism would deny that there is an objective truth to be known once I am unchained and released from the Cave, because that cannot happen, at least not in this life. I am and always will be chained.
Contemplating this notion makes me a Doubting Thomas about my other Truths as well. My political views vs yours, and they are not the same. My views on gay marriage, legalizing marijuana, gun control, immigration, capital punishment, racial equality, gill nets and classroom sizes and fast trains in the constitution, it’s for quadruple-double-dog-dee sure that you and I disagree on those issues, and we will never agree. Which of us has the Truth? 
Which of us has Truth? Our Truth depends on so many factors that certitude becomes blind arrogant folly. Our greatest folly is that we hate each other because of our Truths.
Pilate had a point.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tetsujin Nijūhachi-gō

Blaupunkt radios from Germany were big sellers and cheap in the Navy Exchange when we lived in Japan, 1963 to 1966. Interesting, shiny bent wood designs and sitting on little peg legs, they were modern looking for the day, and the sound was good. Now and then there are similar items on eBay, not that we’re interested, there’s enough stuff in our house already.

Soon after arriving, we bought an AM/FM/SW table model Blaupunkt with short wave band. It sat on a corner table in our dining room and was the radio we turned on that Saturday morning in November 1963 when Bev Hatchett, a neighbor across the cul-de-sac, phoned to tell Linda that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. Friday afternoon in Dallas being Saturday morning in Yokohama.

When that call came from Bev, I turned on the Blaupunkt and rushed across the room to turn off the little black and white TV with rabbit ears, on which Malinda and Jody were watching a favorite Saturday morning Japanese cartoon Tetsujin Nijūhachi-gō.

That Blaupunkt got good reception on the short wave bands, and I enjoyed listening to Radio Peking and Radio Moscow, which came on evenings and into the wee hours, starting and ending with The Internationale and broadcasting in English. Both stations broadcast simplistic, childish hogwash propaganda that was entertaining, even amusing.

Radio Peking always heaped lavish praise on Chairman Mao, Premier Chou en Lai and Vice Premier Chen Yi, told us what they were doing and saying and where they were going for various events, and viciously slammed the United States and other “running dogs” of capitalism. Little did any of us on either side of the Bamboo Curtain know that within fifty years the American government would depend on Chinese wealth as a source for borrowing money and that more Buicks would be manufactured and sold in China than in the United States.

It all goes to show, doesn’t it! International economic and industrial interdependence is good for world peace because it mutually affects national interests. If we had exchanged nuclear bursts with the Chinese during the height of the Cold War, no rich Chinese capitalist businessman would be driving his Buick LaCrosse home from work this evening. And I wouldn’t be typing this nonsense on my made in China MacBook.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Wednesday in Holy Week
O Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior gave his back to
the smiters and hid not his face from shame: Give us grace
to take joyfully the sufferings of the present time, in full
assurance of the glory that shall be revealed; through the same
Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with
thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The DoD decal on my windshield is more than admission to military bases; it and the primary ID card in my wallet are outward and visible signs of an inward and personal being of which those who have them are never unmindful. It was gratifying to see General David Petraeus emerging humbly from his exile. As a leader and a man he has been held up beside General Eisenhower, a comparison that is not unfair to either one. Different circumstances might have seen him going higher as Ike did in our time. It could be both well and refreshing to see other than ambitious politicians at the top for a change.

Although fellow naval officer John McCain evolved into an enormous disappointment.
Shades of Saddam. At first a character from The Three Stooges, the egomaniacal Li’l GeeMoe of PRNK is bent on picking a war to prove his masculinity. Like every other strutting Mussolini, he will bring on deaths of many innocents with his own death. The situation is escalating to dangerous, critical. May not many places be in smouldering ruins before we are done with his vanity. It’s time to stencil his homely face on a PGM, but it is not time for another shock and awe debacle.
Frank, for traveling mercies.
Supreme Court continues same sex marriage hearings. Both reasoned and rabid advocates on both sides. It is our nature to evolve. And to resist change. And to be impatient. Also has become our nature to cram our convictions down each other’s throats to end a conversation. The Constitution is whatever the Supreme Court says it is, for the moment, from time to time, also evolving. If they dismiss, society and culture will deal with it over time. With folkways and mores inexorable is the mate of evolving.
The words are great this morning. OK for potpourri, but my favorite is salmagundi. And mixing it up, goulash stirs memories of the food service line at the Univ of Florida in the mid-1950s, scrumptious, incomparably delicious Hungarian goulash.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday Whatever

See the USA in your ... Buick

Personal spiritual reading for Holy Week 2013, Were You There? by Ross Saunders.

The paper's here.

Holy Week news of the instant

North Korea orders artillery to target US. forces. Li’l GeeMoe has a death wish. 

U. S. Supreme Court takes up gay marriage. Fred Phelps moves across the street to hide in a closet over there. 

Italy’s highest court overturns acquittal of Amanda Knox. Devastation in Seattle.

GM to offer refined Buick LaCrosse this summer for U.S. and China markets. Buick sells four times as many Buicks in China as in the USA. But my Buick was made in Germany.

Convenience store in Franklin County, Mississippi keeps pickled pig lips in a jar for sale next to the cash register. Presumably, the opening at the other end of the pig goes into the scrapple as -- pork parts. Bon appetit. Tuck in.

Death penalty demanded for Puxatawney Phil, who lied about spring yet one more time again. 


Predawn at 2308 looking toward WBD 

Monday, March 25, 2013


Often and widely misunderstood over the centuries, The Revelation to John is not a prophecy for the ages about the end of the world as we know it, but an apocalyptic writing, which it was not uncommon in that day and age (c.a. 90 AD?) for someone to write to encourage and give hope to (and even scare the daylights out of) people who were suffering through a time of great trouble, oppression, torment and fear. With some disagreement about what was going on at the time, argument because of uncertainties about the document's date, and who was Roman emperor at the time, and the story's christology, and the disintegration of Jewish Christianity that was underway for various reasons, a likely situs may be the persecution of Christians by officials of the Roman Empire after Nero (54-68 AD), during the reign of Vespasian (69-71 AD) and/or Domitian (81-96 AD). 

Revelation is a book of frighteningly vivid imagery and symbols, much of the imagery (such as The Beast) and symbolism (such as 666) having been intended to shield the author’s meanings, which would have been treasonous and brought on the death penalty, from Roman authorities. The agenda of encouragement and hope, which is also meant to be threatening, is threefold. Those who are doing the persecuting will be conquered and their punishment will be dreadful. Those who give in to the persecutors and abandon the church and faith of Jesus Christ will suffer fiery retribution for their apostasy. Only those who are faithful and true through the tribulations will be saved and victorious forever. Studying and discussing Revelation can be like sitting in a 3-D movie theater and participating in John's vision as the images rush fearsomely past and over you.

Revelation (the actual name of the book is Apocalypse -- αποκαλυψις ιωαννηου) begins with an anonymous person named John in exile on Patmos, now a pilgrim and tourist spot but then a godforsaken island in the Aegean Sea just off the coast of what is now Turkey. One visualizes John living alone in a cave and doing his best to stay alive and keep warm as he writes by candlelight, or rather by the light of an oil lamp, olive oil. John is writing to people who are terrified, being cruelly persecuted because of their faith. Or perhaps because they refused to make the state’s required obeisance by throwing a pinch of incense in the fire at an altar to Caesar. 

The treatment of Christians in time of the Roman persecutions is well known and does not bear rehearsing here.

This one John writes that he had a vision in which he is lifted into heaven, the throne room of God, the presence of Jesus Christ the Lamb who was crucified, died, resurrected, ascended and now rules with God; and has been told by Jesus what is going to happen to the persecutors and to those who fall into apostasy, and the glorious victory of those who remain faithful and true. It’s a scary, nightmarish tale. 

In deciding what writings of many dozens to include in the New Testament canon of scripture, the Church faced much conflict about whether to include Revelation (and there were at least two other apocalypses under consideration). Against it were that the imagery is horrific. And one is hard pressed to see the loving Christ of the gospels. And the book stirs up a frighteningly vengeful sense of getting even with one's adversaries. Also, the author is not known. What may have been deciding is that, the author calling himself John, tradition grew up that this was John Zebedee, the apostle. Fifteen hundred years on, Christians, including Martin Luther during the Protestant Reformation, were still saying that Revelation should not be in the canon. But it is. And it makes a great read. And seeing that it’s part of our Bible, we are bound to explore it.

We have it to explore in our Sunday School and Bible Seminars for the Easter Season 2013, because during that time our Sunday Eucharistic Lectionary has us reading from Revelation. We'll be reading Revelation using the new paraphrase translation The Voice, because its wonderful story-telling presentation is so clear, and because its writers put us in the picture with a side narrative just about every time the scene shifts.

We’ll start it in Sunday School on April 7 for seven sessions. And in our Bible Seminars on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 9 and 10, also for seven sessions. No signing up is needed for Sunday School, but folks who are coming to the Bible Seminars are kindly asked to email me and let me know. 


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Palm Sunday Introspect

Introspect: the Sunday of the Passion

Half a century ago this very spring, an ethics course at the University of Michigan defined pornography for me. Porno (Greek, evil) and graphy (Greek, writing). The case was a front page newspaper headline and photograph of a little boy on his tricycle who had just been crushed under the front wheel of a car. It may have been news for many, may even have sold newspapers, but in a way, and to an extent, the event ruined my life. 

The abiding horrific image. And not only of the little child, but of what people can be, and are. And can do. Even what entertains us.  

My memory and the debilitating mental image of standing on the flight deck of USS TRIPOLI that day off Vietnam, now seemingly a hundred years ago, watching as our Marine Corps helicopters landed and brought aboard for medical treatment in our ship's hospital, a dozen or more little Vietnamese children who had horrendous injuries and war wounds -- is another.    

When we were growing up, my mother, God rest and forgive, would sometimes take hold of the story of a terrible tragedy and harbor it in her mind, and she would tell it and tell it and tell it again and again off and on for years. Even when I said, “I remember your telling about that,” she would go ahead and finish the story, at least the horrible part. At some point later in life I learned to say gently, “Mama, there’s nothing I can do about that, and hearing about it will only make me sad and depressed,” and she would stop.

There must be something wrong with my being that can’t handle terribleness, that suffers the anguish of each horror personally. When there is nothing to be done about it but weep, my usual thing is either turn off the television or quietly and quickly leave the room. It’s happening at the moment. In Georgia someone has murdered a baby. I glimpsed the headline in the New York Times online and purposely avoided reading more. But it occurred to me that it would be on TV and I would need to make a point of turning away. And sure enough there it is, and the young mother weeping, and the tiny boy's smiling picture, and there is nothing I can do but weep with her, and nowhere I can go but sadness and terrible, deep depression, about this, and about what we are, have become, are becoming. 

Even my own moral view of what a moral and just society should properly and scripturally do to those who commit such cruel, senseless, unspeakable atrocities, far, far down beneath and beyond draconian, takes me so far down that I understand the Great Flood and think that, with God, I’ve had enough, too much, and It's Time.

A parishioner who is a special friend shared this deeply poignant video with me. 
Watching it, it came to me that the murdered infant was The Christ Child Come Again, and that now it can never happen forever.

Palm Sunday: Sunday of the Passion


Saturday, March 23, 2013


There’s a piece in the Washington Post this morning about a polyamory movement in the Unitarian Universalist Church. In a paragraph down lower in the article there’s the statement that the UU have no dogma -- by which they meant that as far as belief goes it’s everyone for him/herself; what the UU have is not a clutch of squinty-eyed people obsessed with whether the person in the next pew believes the right thing or whether the neighbors need a camera over their bed; what the UU have is community, a community of openminded folks who are in favor of -- well we used to call it mankind but the word today, still a little awkward to me is -- humankind. Humanity.

I like that. Episcopalians also have no dogma, not all of us realize that; we do not have dogma, but we do have doctrine. Dogma is belief that is laid down by church authority that, if you don’t believe it you are not in good standing. Doctrine is commonly held belief of the Christian body at large. The RCs have the dogma of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, for example. And the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. Some Baptists and others that I have known have dogma about literal scriptural inerrancy and things like the seven day creation story, and are against things because the Bible says so. Homosexuality and same-sex marriage, for example, because they found a verse in the Bible. I’ve often wondered if they’ve read Deuteronomy 21:18-21, that’s a killer verse. 

The Episcopal Church has no dogma. Our theology is worked out in Scripture, Tradition and Reason, and is found in what we say and do and sing and pray when we worship, and more importantly in how we live as we walk the Way of the Cross. Our doctrines are the beliefs that are generally held in so-called “mainline” Christianity, the Resurrection of Christ is one, the Virgin Birth of Jesus is another. The Trinity is another. And the Nicene Creed lays it out fairly well and compatible with our ancient heritage. But as we say, we don’t have to check our brain at the door when we enter church, so if anyone is a Doubting Thomas about any of it, come on up for Communion regardless, because we are not big on certitude or on self-righteousness or on judging others, and who knows what the person kneeling next to you believes, much less the priest saying the Mass and giving out the wafers. 

In my years as a parish priest in fact, I found that UU members who moved to our town and were looking for a loving church community always liked us and made good Episcopalians and fit comfortably into our community.

Only once in my years did someone come to me after visiting our church, told me he loved it, really felt comfortable; but before he joined he wanted a list of what we believe so he could make sure it fit what he believed and what his last church believed. I didn’t have a list for him, but it wouldn’t have fit anyway, he needed dogma and we don’t carry, sell or preach that.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Colchester: No Maybe To It

No Maybe to it

We are all aging, but surely no one else is growing this old. The heart episode two and a half years ago put me in a different mode when other things arise; e.g., poor night vision, so visiting the eye clinic to get a new eyeglasses prescription only to find out the problem was not eyes but droopy eyelids keeping out half the light. Eyelid muscles stretched with age, surgery required to tighten them so the lids will stay up for better vision, but surgery required advance approval by the cardiologist. What next?

Next actually was a haircut, then late lunch at Hunt’s Oyster Bar for two dozen steamed. They do it so well that I no longer miss raw oysters on the half shell. After the first one, two drops of Tabasco into the empty shell then dip each oyster in Tabasco, dip in lemon butter, pop in mouth. Don’t share these with anyone but Kristen.

My best oyster experiences. Nicked from the iced gallon bucket in our fishhouse in the 1940s. Sometimes those were Apalachicola oysters, sometimes Chesapeake Bay oysters. The Chesapeake oysters were always shipped down to us by train, arriving at the BayLine depot where Beach Drive meets Sixth Street.

Sydney rock oysters on business trips down under in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. Apalachicola oysters from July 1984 through September 1998. 

Possibly the most delicious, oysters in Colchester, England, early spring 1995. Linda, Tass, Jeremy and I visited the town one morning and, for a surprise for me, Jeremy popped into a fish and chips shop and asked that they have oysters for me when we returned for lunch in a couple hours. The shells are more curly than American oysters, and several came home with me. A highlight of the trip and a happy permanent memory. Colchester oysters: maybe the best ever. 

Judging by Charles Dickens, oysters are, or were, big in England. Oysters from the Thames, oyster stands scattered all over.

But yesterday for four o’clock lunch, steamed at Hunt’s is as good as it gets. Not sure whether they're serving Apalachicola or Louisiana oysters these days. Doesn't matter. It's all good.


Thursday, March 21, 2013


Well alrighty then, so these blog postings are discursive, jumping from topic to topic sans connective; it’s how the brain works at this age. At least it knows when to use a comma, when a period/full stop, when to engage that most useful of all punctuation, strong comma or weak period, the semicolon.

Yet, too many semicolons is like excess exclamation points: hints of insanity.

If worrying were my responsibility, it might be about Li’l Moe in NKorea, a hysterical would-be bully playing army, who loves his picture posing on a horse or leaning over a wall gazing intently through binoculars. 

Li’l Moe is ranting more and again this morning. Instead of fawning, his generals should either arrest him and put him in the nut house or send him over to one of our armed forces staff colleges where he can learn that warfare is no longer about parading tanks, missiles and nukes and standing on a dais saluting grandly. Li'l Moe continues to dress understated like Hitler; but when he promotes himself to GeeMoe and starts bidding on Gaddafi’s old zoot suits on eBay it may be time to put his name on a drone.

Discursing from NK missiles ...

NASA’s answer to a large incoming meteorite: pray. Old wisdom says be careful what you pray for, you may get it. In Harry Golden’s day, Yiddish wisdom in the lower east side garment district of New York was don’t say anything that might make the Evil Eye take notice of you. The Bible promises the earth will not again be destroyed by flood, James Baldwin says The Fire Next Time. Praying against meteorites could remind Adonai Elohim of Genesis 6:5f and 6:12f.

Harry Golden said the wise life insurance salesman, not wanting to scare his client to death that the Evil Eye might take notice of him, worded his sales pitch carefully: “If, God forbid, anything should happen, wishing you long years, your family would be protected, wishing you a hundred and twenty years.” It may not be wise to start praying against meteorites. If I were God these days I would not look down and smile.

201303211250 cardiologist 201303211530 haircut. 


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Looking Back

Today is the final session of our current Bible Seminar, when we’ll finish reading and discussing The Acts of the Apostles, Luke’s sequel to his gospel. We’ll read Acts chapters 27 and 28, Paul under arrest and boarding a ship for Rome to make his appeal to Caesar. It’s late into the autumn of the year, and the winter storms of the Mediterranean Sea are an ominous danger. Luke tells a great story of Christianity’s beginnings, of which we in our generation are simply another chapter.

Linda, Tass and I arrived in Apalachicola, Florida the last week of July 1984, where I was to be the Vicar of Trinity Episcopal Church for the next fourteen years. It’s an old historic church, in one of Florida’s early towns, with a quaint and interesting history. Our first week there, I read the history of the parish, the church building’s origins in the white pine forests of New York state, being cut and brought down the eastern seaboard in sailing ships, offloaded in what was then the third largest American port on the Gulf of Mexico, assembled, constructed with wooden pegs and no nails. That week I looked over the list of priests who had been there over the years, including a couple whom I had known early in my own life. 

Barnum McCarty was my first counselor at Camp Weed, Junior Boys camp when I was ten years old, Barnum was seventeen. That’s a separate story perhaps, but a paragraph will do for now. In 1946 Junior Boys was two weeks, east of Carrabelle in what had been army barracks during World War II, just ended not even a year earlier. It was my first time away from home and I was excruciatingly homesick, looking every day for letters from my mother and Mom, my grandmother, who did not let me down. I was not only excruciatingly homesick, but excruciatingly modest, refusing to take a public shower even Saturday, the one evening of the two weeks that they ran the hot water heater. After all, twice a day we ran down into the Gulf of Mexico for a swim, a hundred boys in bathing suits wading out into the water sliding our feet to scare the stingrays away, and they did scoot ahead of us in hordes. 

OK, it’s two paragraphs then, and this part has been told here before. Modestly shunning the public shower, I figured sea bathing was sufficient. That welcome Saturday morning that my parents finally arrived for me in our 1942 Chevrolet Aerosedan, I joyfully climbed into the front seat beside mama, who promptly rolled down all the car windows to let out the permeating fragrance of unwashed boy.

This story does have a closing: that first week in Apalachicola, late July 1984, wandering the premises of Trinity Church, contemplating the names of those who had gone before me, it sank in that I was just one more in a long line of priests serving this parish, and that in due course I also would be gone, added to the list, and others would come and go in the years ahead. It may sound maudlin, but it isn’t at all, because I didn’t really believe the “future” part, that was then, this was now, this was it, and in my heart this long line of priests simply culminated in the present with me here as priest and pastor. Of course, that present was now nearly thirty years ago.

In retrospect, it seems a bit egocentric, but it’s the way we are. We have our being in God’s present and have the sense that this is it. But we are really just moving through. As the psalmist says, “So soon passeth it away and we are gone.”

It’s the same with me here in Alfred’s house a hundred years on.

And from the day Saint Paul boarded ship for his voyage to Rome, it’s the same with each of us in God’s service in the Church. Here today, ...


Tom+ in +Time again 
this first morning of Spring 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pint o' Bitter

Pint o’ Bitter

Lots of heavy wave action going on down front this morning. Still too dark to see, no ships passing, no wind either, tidal maybe.

“If our situation were better than this, we would surely remember that day when the Americans came to free Iraq and gave us the chance to build a better future,” Mr. Shimari said. “But the Americans didn’t give us that chance. They did all the things possible to ensure that Iraq is going to be ruined.”

Baghdad man on the street this tenth anniversary of the Iraq War, with enormous crimes against humanity we left everything worse unto hopeless, instead of loved and admired we are more hated than ever in our history, and the war criminals are arrogantly at large.

From HuffPost today, the essay of the hour, day, year:

And this letter in which truth is totally honest truth:

62° at the moment, no breeze, enjoying my downstairs front porch, screened no bugs, waiting for Linda’s newspaper to be thrown. Once the paperboy on a bicycle, or walking with his bag hung over his shoulder, today newspapers are thrown from cars. Deliciously fragrant out here with grapefruit and lemon blossoms. Spring 1954 at the University of Florida was my first experience of citrus, orange groves blooming on campus and the sweetest smell under heaven. Already disappearing, in the next generation newspapers will be an anomaly. News and comics are more instantly and readily online.

On my way to HNEC yesterday morning, Tarpon Dock Bridge was open for boats so I detoured onto Park Street past McKenzie Park to Luverne, right on 4th Street, across the 4th Street Bridge over Massalina Bayou, right on Bonita Avenue. Old stomping grounds when Cook Ford showroom was on Harrison Avenue and their service entrance and sign at the back on Park Street. 

Some local history buff will prove me wrong, but I’m remembering this sign back there.

And these cars in the showroom after WWII

And these a couple years later

Drizzling, newspaper tossed from speeding car, lasix kicking in.


1946 Ford station wagon, fordor sedan, convertible
1949 Ford tudor sedan, station wagon

Monday, March 18, 2013


Several innocent souls read my nonsense, and not unlikely what they’re looking for is words of holiness from the holy man, not his rants into his political or social extremism. Nor his peculiar curiosities and phobias.

Astronomers (in my next life my destiny is either astronomy exploring distant galaxies and beyond into the multiverse, or meteorology chasing hurricanes and tornadoes, not theology BTDT) have found out that stars were formed much sooner after the Big Bang than was previously known. Fascinating to contemplate.

Less fascinating and singularly unilluminating, even appalling if one lets it be so, are the inane and certitudinous Comments one reads by scrolling down under online news. It’s possible to find God in cosmological exploration, but not in mindless religious certitude, which is like crawling into a garbage can, curling up, and pulling the lid down tight. What do I love most about Anglicanism? Scripture, Tradition and Reason: we don’t check our brains at the door, and I can peek out into the cosmos.

Why the above rant? Wandering around in this morning’s news, and just came from there. Quit scrolling down into the Comments: they are maddening. Better, keep Marcus Aurelius in mind: dismiss maddening absurdities as irrelevant and passing. Even entertaining, amusing.

Or the absurdities may actually have it right. In which case, turn off the lights and go home.

"Certitudinous" always comes up with a red line under it, but it’s my own personally coined word. When using PC I taught my Dell to recognize it; can't teach Mac anything, so it can redline and be hanged.

Elsewhere in the news this morning: bat eating spiders. 

Anyone who doesn’t see this and know to stay out of bat caves is even more dense than Bubba.


T+ in +Time

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Our gospel for this morning! Here we are with Jesus in Bethany, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. He is in the elegant home of Lazarus, a beloved friend and prominent, even wealthy, local resident who has invited Jesus and his traveling companions to dinner. It is a special evening, Martha has prepared a wonderful meal of roast lamb with vegetables and thick gravy and loaves of homemade bread. The house is fragrant with delicious smells. Mary does something gracious and extraordinary. Instead of the usual custom of offering the guests fresh water to wash their feet after their trip, she breaks open a large jar of expensive ointment and rubs Jesus‘ feet with it. In an instant everything changes, and the stage is set, not only for Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, but changes for all time forever. Just outside the door and over Calvary’s Hill, waits the Cross in the shadows of the evening.       

John 12:1-8 The Voice (VOICE)

1 Six days before the Passover feast, Jesus journeyed to the village of Bethany, to the home of Lazarus who had recently been raised from the dead, 2 where they hosted Him for dinner. Martha was busy serving as the hostess, Lazarus reclined at the table with Him, 3 and Mary took a pound of fine ointment, pure nard (which is both rare and expensive), and anointed Jesus’ feet with it; and then she wiped them with her hair. As the pleasant fragrance of this extravagant ointment filled the entire house, 4 Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples (who was plotting to betray Jesus), began to speak.
Judas Iscariot: 5 How could she pour out this vast amount of fine oil? Why didn’t she sell it? It is worth nearly a year’s wages;[a] the money could have been given to the poor.
6 This had nothing to do with Judas’s desire to help the poor. The truth is he served as the treasurer, and he helped himself to the money from the common pot at every opportunity.
Jesus: 7 Leave her alone. She has observed this custom in anticipation of the day of My burial. 8 The poor are ever present, but I will be leaving.