Saturday, February 28, 2015

kebar enash

Mark 8:31-38 Common English Bible (CEB)

31 Then Jesus began to teach his disciples: “The Human One [or Son of Man] must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and the legal experts, and be killed, and then, after three days, rise from the dead.” 32 He said this plainly. But Peter took hold of Jesus and, scolding him, began to correct him. 33 Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, then sternly corrected Peter: “Get behind me, Satan. You are not thinking God’s thoughts but human thoughts.”
34 After calling the crowd together with his disciples, Jesus said to them, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. 35  All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me and because of the good news will save them. 36  Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? 37  What will people give in exchange for their lives? 38  Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this unfaithful and sinful generation, the Human One [or Son of Man] will be ashamed of that person when he comes in the Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

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That’s the gospel reading for tomorrow, the Second Sunday in Lent, the Common English Bible. A scholarly translation, the CEB was published in 2011 as a comfortable Bible for most English readers, and General Convention 2012 authorized it for liturgical use in the Episcopal Church. Because among other things Lent is a season for learning something, we are using the CEB during Lent this year, with the people invited to notice and tell how they feel about it. There is a common, I think unfortunate, sense that the Bible must “sound holy” like the King James Version did to our 20th century ears because it was in English that sounded and was ancient, quaint, out of date. We may like to think the more mysteriouser and the more elusiver the more holier; but like the CEB today, when published in 1611 the King James Bible was the contemporary, everyday spoken English of the realm.

At any event, there’s Mark's term τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου (LXX υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου, which may help or hinder understanding of the source) that CEB renders “Human One” or alternately “son of man” that Jesus uses often, what’s it mean? In my mind it calls up a figure Daniel saw in his dream, or “night vision.” It’s at Daniel chapter 7, quite vivid, a dream that Revelation John may have had in mind in describing his own apocalyptic vision. In fact, I think Revelation John had just read Daniel 7 before going to bed, and had nightmares about it all night long, thus our book The Revelation of John. In Daniel's dream, he first sees “the ancient one” or the “ancient of days,” whom we are to recognize as God, the One God. Next steps forward a figure whom Daniel calls “kebar enash.” (LXX υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου)The footnote says it’s an Aramaic idiom literally “like a son of man” that actually means -- as all idioms mean something at least slightly different from the literal words to those who understand the expression because they are native to the language -- means “like a human being.” For some reason, the expression fascinates me such that it always takes me off on a tangent, which is my terrible habit whether writing or talking, I just cannot stay on subject. 

Why would an Aramaic idiom be used at Daniel 7:13 but Hebrew “ben adam” commonly used in other instances, including by Daniel? How did Jesus understand the term? Did he mean it to refer to that mysterious figure whom God in Daniel 7 sent forth empowered for eternity? And if so, did Jesus have himself in mind as that figure? Or was it a common idiom that those around him, who also spoke Aramaic natively, would understand as “man” or “human” without having to have this discussion every time? Or was the idiom commonly used, by the folks of that region whose native language of the day was Aramaic, to refer subtly, modestly or obliquely to oneself, or just to mean "people"? Have we made it something mysterious that was never intended? That Jesus never intended, or more specifically that Mark never intended? Or was it intended? Remembering that it’s Mark Evangelist’s story just as the words and thoughts and meanings of Tom Sawyer conversation are Mark Twain’s story. That, my thought process, is not irreverent or trivializing, it’s an intellectual aid for exploring the story: how did Mark intend for me to understand what he quotes Jesus saying? Or the other Mark and the other Tom.

In this case, I think Mark, who in my view -- if not the most eloquent with his Greek starting almost every sentence with "and" and in practically every thought rushing me forward with "immediately" -- was the most clever of writers, Mark means me to stir the Son of God with the Son of Man and come out inevitably and inescapably with Jesus.

Here's the Daniel 7 passage:

Daniel 7:13-14 Common English Bible (CEB)

13 As I continued to watch this night vision of mine, I suddenly saw one like a human being[Aramaic kebar enash (like a son of man) is an idiom that means like a human being]
    coming with the heavenly clouds.
He came to the ancient one
    and was presented before him.
Rule, glory, and kingship were given to him;
    all peoples, nations, and languages will serve him.
His rule is an everlasting one—
    it will never pass away!—

        his kingship is indestructible.

Over the years, I've diverted the attention of many, many Bible study classes to this topic, and it still fascinates me.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Bubba did not write this rubbish

World I live in stirs again my settled soup of longing to have lived life in some prior age. Pick any generation free of wars and hatred, set me down and forget me, I’m gone. Was there ever such, or have we always been human?

Or anyplace where the rest of the world doesn’t happen. 
No TV. No WWW. 

Even Grovers Corners, where we learned about life and love and death and contemplated eternity and the meaning of it all, was defiled by the world.

What stirs my soup -- ? watching TV news with my first cup of coffee. Big mistake. So horrific I have to put milk in it. The news not the coffee; the Kona is this morning’s link to sanity. 

There goes the Navy, just out my window, steaming out for another day’s hard work at sea. Okay, not steaming, it’s a small craft. Sailing, then. They leave this time every morning M-F and return at the end of office hours. I could go for that sea duty, is there an officer on board that vessel? 

Morning’s problem. 45F cloudy, weather is depressing, maybe that’s my problem. And a cold: sniff, sniff, honk. Outrage, horror. ISIS. “Barbarians” doesn’t say it. Conscienceless, amoral sub-humans. Disgust at my own view of how to settle them and it isn’t trying to nice them out of it. Due process be damned. Leaving to join them: instantly per se lose all constitutional rights and when arrested at the airport dealt summarily as wartime spies. Need leaders who realize our vital national interest is at stake and aren’t indecisive until ISIS horror spreads to the local shopping mall. 

Vanilla Ice, your hat is too big, lose the earbobs and tuck your shirt in.

Who sang it? 
When? at our graduation? 
Where? in the USO? 
Thanks for the memories
that Cove School has brought us
the things you have taught us ...
The teachers, and ...
We thank you, so much ...

In the news: eight foot nine inch catfish, caught last Thursday on hook and line. 

Underway, shift colors.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mr. Weller's little boy

The St. Andrews Buoy 
St. Andrews, Fla, Dec 30, 1909
The St. Andrews kids are all envying Mr. A. D. Weller’s little boy, who received a handsome hand-mobile for a Christmas gift. (page 2 in the gossip column “Legal Drift”).

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Opening email after arriving home from church last evening, I was overjoyed to find two from Mike McKenzie. Introduced here on my blog before, Mike is the dentist in Atlanta who lived here when his family owned my house during the 1940s after WW2, and whose family’s and his wife’s family’s roots in the community are at least as deep as mine, deeper. From time to time Mike sends me pictures, documents (e.g., copy of the deed when my grandparents sold this house and moved away), and photocopies of pages from the early 20th century St. Andrews Bay News. The two emails last evening include both pictures of several early St. Andrews and newspaper pages, including 1915-era pages with articles about “Mayor Weller” when my grandfather A.D. Weller was mayor of St. Andrews. 

And the February 20, 1923 item about Mom and Pop, Ruth, our father, and Marguerite leaving the previous Saturday to move to Ocilla, Georgia. EG would have been away at college by then, I had forgotten that. 

I will be adding all of this to the blue thumbdrive Mike sent me a few months ago, and from time to time will share the pics and information as blogposts.

Browsing online this morning, I googled my grandfather’s name and the first thing that popped up was the item above in The St. Andrews Buoy, a newspaper published here, every Thursday, subscriptions one dollar a year. Mike introduced me to the SABNews, but until this morning I wasn’t aware of the SABuoy. It came to me from the digital library at the University of Florida. For family history, it tells that Mom and Pop and Alfred were here in 1909, several years before the house was built. I'll have to go back to other data Mike sent me to see when the family were last recorded at home in Pensacola before moving to St. Andrews. Also here would have Evalyn (born 1904) and Ruth (born 1907), but not yet our father (1911) or Marguerite (born August 7, 1917 just five months before Alfred’s death). At the time, I suppose, the family was living in the blue house later moved across to the SE corner of Calhoun and 9th. 

For personal interest I’ve tried this morning to find a picture of what Alfred’s “hand-mobile” must have been that had the other kids so envious. He was ten years old that Christmas and, as my father said so many times about Mom and Pop, “the apple of their eye.” A picture of Alfred is here in our sitting room, over a painting of my house, his house built in 1912/1013, and beside the model of the Annie & Jennie that Joe built for me. But he would have been sixteen or seventeen in the picture. This line from the St. Andrews Buoy is the first time I’ve read Alf being called “Mr. Weller’s little boy” which stirs memories of Mom and Pop and has me quite sentimental this morning. I do understand loving a child as they loved Alf, as they called him. That love never fades, never goes away.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Y-o-u-u TOM!

He was very real. Still is actually, and you can know and love him. If you want to know Tom Sawyer, and who his friends and enemies were and his love and hate relationships with them; and about the girls Tom was smitten in love with; and how Tom thought, his attitudes and emotions and quirks, and how he nearly always got the best of his adversary, and how he aggravated and charmed his relatives; and the social customs and mores of the age that Tom lived in, you must read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Having read him a dozen times, I last read him four years ago in my Cleveland accommodation looking out over Lake Erie, frozen solid. Mark Twain was his pen name, Samuel Clemens his “real name” but we know Mark T. better than we know Sam C. so they are equally real. And he swears most of Tom's adventures really happened.

“Real” is what we see and perceive anyway, and what we remember, that Oldsmobile in the garage out back and the fun I had driving it, more than “real” is some recorded or more likely unrecorded “historical facts.” "Real," "Truth" is like an iceberg, most of it never seen. And much of it, seen or unseen, is perceptions and assumptions; not to mention "certainty." There’s far more about any man (anthropos, human, or υἱοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου)  than is seen anyway, and we can never know everything about anyone or anything. My parents, even my siblings, heavens even my spouse, those gentle folk don't know the TomW whom I know and sometimes hide or hide from. Who knows ... ? The Shadow knows. God knows. Mark knows. Norm knows. And don't believe everything you hear.

Here I am traipsing down some dusty side trail yet one more time again, but everything I’ve remarked above about Tom and Mark and Sam, and remembered but didn’t comment on about Huck, is also true of our religious figures. Maybe I won’t say “characters” lest people take me irreverent, though I’d rather others consider me irreverent than consider myself naive or stupid. We don’t know our religious characters at all except as we read in books. We know zero about Mark the Evangelist, but there is a lot of tradition about Mark, which we enjoy taking in. Not to say “swallowing,” not to say that at all. But we truly have no idea who “Mark” was, the gospel given that name is anonymous, makes no claim to ownership. Someone named it "Mark" maybe a hundred years later and tradition has developed a credible biography for Mark anyway.

And we know Jesus only as Mark tells us about him. Mark first and oldest; well, Mark in the canon of Scripture, many of the older stories of and about Jesus may have turned up unembellished in the so-called “Gospel of Thomas” -- if you don’t know that collection of Jesus’ stories and sayings, scholars call them "logia," (unlike “Mark”, “Thomas” actually does claim authorship) that’s not my fault: you could have been coming to my Bible classes these years and seasons and Tuesday and Sunday mornings. Same with "Secret Mark."

Besides our Four there are many other gospels about Jesus, and we’ve read and discussed some of them in classes. Only four are in the “canon of scripture” though, Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. Don’t let it bother you that I suspect it should be “Lazarus” instead of “John.” And speaking of the Beloved Disciple, what ever happened to Mary Magdalen? Does Mark know? Or Andrew Lloyd Webber?

And Jesus. The Lord Jesus Christ, bless him as he blesses us, Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Capernaum. Calling fishermen immediately away from their fathers' boats, telling parables, feeding, healing, controlling nature, and flommoxing the religious certitudinous, I never saw the beat of him; the Man of Calvary who what he says from his Cross depends on who remembers and is telling his story. We only know Jesus as he is revealed to us in Scripture -- by authors of the several New Testament books, in particular the evangelists who wrote our four canonical gospels. We know him the same way we know Tom Sawyer, through the stories about him. Were it not for the stories, told about him, repeated and spread over the forty years after his death, then over the next half century and more written down for particular audiences for particular reasons, and read and heard and copied and spread round to more and more people over the decades and centuries and nations, we'd not know Jesus at all. And even so, scholars insist that we know the Jesus of faith and the Christian church, but not "the historical Jesus." 

Interestingly, very interestingly, the stories are not all the same, and the evangelists’ memories and telling and use of even the same stories is not all in synch. But that’s good, see, because they tell us about him from various perspectives. How many times did he go to Jerusalem? When did he drive the moneychangers out of the temple? Not unlike witnesses who come into court to tell the jury just what they saw and heard, no two stories are the same; so the jury has to decide what to believe. Or the believer. Or merge, conjoin, as two completely different Christmas stories merge for a third Christmas story that lets magi, sheep, camels and shepherds crowd into a stable around a manger. The four gospel writers heard about and perceived and related their Jesus stories differently. Paul has still a different take on him. So do the authors of the other New Testament books, in particular those claiming eyewitness standing as “Peter” does. The stories are fascinating, with intriguing historicity versus heilsgeschichte. 

In the Episcopal Church we like to explore these things without leaving our brains and common sense at the door. Read, explore, discuss, get some laughs and some tears, enjoy being together for the exploration, claim Jesus’ promise that when two or three gather in his Name, he is there in the midst of us; and no question cannot be asked or chased. I’ve done a lot of things in life, and at this advanced and hopefully advancing age, my favorite is Bible study with other people -- with the motto I’ve carried for forty years (which in the Bible means “a long time”) from the lintel over the library door of one of my theological seminaries, “Seek the Truth, Come Whence It May, Cost What It Will.” 

Seeking, I may never uncover all “Truth” but Bible study is like any journey: getting there is half the fun. Matter of fact, in life itself, getting there is all the fun. Speaking of which, I wonder what ever happened to Becky Thatcher. Oh, and to Amy Lawrence, jealous, angry, and brokenhearted.

You Tom!
I never did see the beat of that boy!
Y-o-u-u TOM!


Tuesday, February 24, 2015


What am I doing? Not to be profane, but what the hell am I doing? I am trying to live into Lent, and it is proving to be requiring and demanding. Lent for me has not always been so: there was a time in my life, most of it actually, when Lent (which is the annual springtime season of concentrating on making myself clean enough, pure enough, sufficiently worthy, to participate in the Easter celebration) when Lent was giving up something I liked (a Hershey bar a week for example, which would have cost me five cents, a nickel a week), and as my spiritual discipline prayerfully dropping into a “mite box” one day at a time the five pennies a week that I supposedly otherwise would have spent on the chocolate bar. So that on Easter morning I could bring my mite box to church heavy with its pennies, its “mites,” and stuff it into the mite-box cross as part of the church’s Easter collection for the poor. 

That’s still a worthwhile devotion of focused sacrifice. But it only skirts Lent, it doesn’t get at the heart of Lent, which is about God and me and our covenantal relationship. Here’s what, in the Ash Wednesday liturgy, the church demands of me. “I invite you --- in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word.” But you see, it’s not really an invitation, if it were that, I would RSVP my regrets. It’s not an invitation at all, it’s a gentle statement of what the church requires of me: turning my self-centered life around and going in the opposite direction; prayer, which okay, I can do a little more of that; giving up uses of time and resources that do not bring me closer to God or my neighbor; and quite frankly, Bible study. All of this is turning me on my ear this week: 

  • preparing for and leading this morning’s Bible Seminar at church (we’re studying the Gospel according to Mark and today we’ll be delving into chapters 12 and 13. Which have Jesus in Jerusalem making no friends with the civil and religious authorities), and for me as the seminar mentor there’s a lot of prep involved just as in painting a room most of the work is in the prep, getting the room washed and scraped and sanded and puttied and primed and ready to paint, it’s a lot of time and work for me. It’s my favorite thing I do, mind you, but it’s a lot of digging.

  • preparing for Wednesday evening, in the 5:30 service, leading the brief discussion about the lectionary readings for next Sunday, Lent 2, Year B. There are three readings and a psalm to consider and think of what to focus on before I stand up front and make a fool of myself on Wednesday evening.

  • preparing the Lenten program that follows after our soup supper Wednesday evening. I’ll be talking about your Lenten Obligation, what the church requires of you, including participating in Holy Week services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Do most people even know we have liturgies and special services on the Thursday and Friday before Easter? God help us. 

  • thinking about my sermon for this coming Sunday, it’s my turn in the pulpit, what shall I preach about? Contemplating that task and preparing. Anyone who thinks this isn’t an exercise in Lenten discipline needs to get to the station earlier, because you’ve missed the train. 

  • preparing our adult Sunday School lesson for this coming Sunday. Blessedly, Mike and I share leadership of the adult SS class, and he has graciously consented to take the lead this week. I’ll still have to prepare, to support his plan, but it’s far less demanding to assist. And cope (ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω). 

This week I am especially thankful for Mike.

TW+ in the Lent of +Time

Monday, February 23, 2015

Light and Dark

Seven o'clock last evening I took a plastic bag along the outside walk to drop down the garbage chute. Looking north, St. Andrews was white with fog. Still foggy this morning, but now looking south across where the Bay was, all creation is white. Inside it, within it, my Bay window is like the window seat of an airplane flying through a cloud, it's that thick, close, immediate. Can whoever is piloting this thing see, because not one navigation light is visible, green nor even the red light just off my balcony.

Yesterday began, ended, and was peculiar. Truth, life and all days are peculiar, what made yesterday so? Dozing off about six or seven o’clock Saturday evening, I rose, stumbled to bed, crashed. Linda apparently left and went to her “snore room,” I say this because when I woke at 1:15 a.m. and realized that I was “up for the day” she was gone. 1:15 is not a good start to begin with, though the three hour Sunday afternoon nap was good. Not refreshing, but oblivion. Perhaps as the universe may be after Time, eh? 

After nap I opened MacBook and read in a Washington Post article that we should be drinking five cups of coffee a day, for health and alertness. With another cup of Kona I contemplated “what is it that keeps me sane?” Well, coffee, my own little Seattle Coffeehouse clunking and whirring and grinding and steaming out hot and black, aromatic and clear into my tempered glass cup. And chocolate. Like coffee, I do not take chocolate lightly. I take chocolate darkly. On a shelf in the pantry is my box of thin crispy Dark Chocolate Stars. And a box of paper thin dark chocolate concaves, or convexes depending on which side you look at before placing on the tongue, they’re styled Belgian Chocolate Thins. And a box of Triple Dark Chocolate Ginger Cookies. And a package, so severely rationed that I won’t even shake the package because I dread finding out how few remain, of Dark Chocolate Truffles. Gospel, the good news, is that Linda does not like dark chocolate, and she prefers a cup of Keurig to my magic machine coffee. Coffee and chocolate, ingredients for sanity. As for giving up chocolate for Lent as many do, Lent can go to hell, I’m just trying to make this Kona last and ration out this dark chocolate until Jesus Comes. Even so, tarry, Lord.

And oysters. I’m trying to keep my vow, my marriage vow. I’ve not given up oysters for Lent either, not happen. My vow -- having seen a friend flatline in the ER after eating raw oysters, it was years ago and he eventually recovered, but he had a liver problem, which I do not -- extracted from me by my spouse, my vow was not to eat raw oysters again until I hear my terminal illness diagnosis, in which case I will be at Gene’s or Hunt’s or across the street at Captain's Table. Because of the vow, it has been years since I sat down to a tray of my favorite food, gray things on shells, nowadays I eat them steamed, lightly steamed. Kona, cocoa, and oysters on the half shell lightly steamed. 

My recipe for sanity. 

I wouldn’t mind being 19 again either. Or 39, I remember it well as Maurice Chevalier sang. But here I am 79 and counting.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Second Reading

1 Peter 3:18-22 (NRSV)
18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
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Although my preaching preference (I am not preaching today) generally is to base on either the Gospel or the Old Testament reading, this morning’s reading from First Peter might be interesting to develop as part of a theology and doctrine of Baptism. It would tie in: the gospel is Mark’s account of the baptism and temptation of Jesus, which is noticeably different from the other three gospel stories. In the Genesis reading, God (it’s from the “P” account) establishes covenant with us and promises repeatedly, almost apologetically, that he won’t destroy the earth with a flood again -- which is just as well, because it didn’t work: God’s idea in the Hebrew adaptation of the ancient great flood story was to destroy humanity’s wicked sinfulness, but it reignited immediately the little Ark crew disembarked; evidently, sinfulness is just our nature, give it up, Pantokrator.

At any event, those two readings, Genesis and Mark, about water and washing away sin, sandwich the First Peter reading, which obviously was selected by the Grand Viziers of the Lectionary because of the shared sense. They didn’t expect us to use it for our preaching text. But it could frame a decent Sunday School discussion.

For reasons, including its use of the Septuagint, reputable scholars doubt that the exquisite letter is the composition of the illiterate (Acts 4:13) Galilean fisherman. Others of integrity are convinced by its claim of eyewitness to Jesus, so I suppose authorship is reasonably arguable. 

But for discussion I like the part quoted above (NRSV) that’s our appointed reading for today, the First Sunday in Lent. My view of the soteriology asserted in the passage has already been discussed. And I do not believe that we are saved (whatever exactly is meant by that) by baptism; in fact, despite their solemn intonement of the Baptismal Covenant, a significant number of those who come to be baptized seem to regard it as a cultural custom and are never seen in church again, so I don’t think they believe it either. Rather, baptism is a holy mystery of initiation into the Christian church -- mysterion, sacramentum though not in a gnostic sense and not necessarily in the sense of the unnamed rich youth who is resurrected by Jesus in Secret Mark and who apparently later in Mark flees the Garden of Gethsemane in his birthday suit, having perhaps been prepared for baptism. 

But I do like the part of First Peter’s theology of baptism that he states as “an appeal to God for a good conscience.” And not only a good conscience (thought), but (deed) the life of love toward neighbor that is promised in the “I will, with God’s help” that the baptism candidate covenants before being washed.

Appreciatively having sipped my Kona while the fingers tripped lightly over the MacBook keyboard, it’s time for either breakfast or a short nap.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

... is dream

Chilly this morning, still dark, a stiff breeze. Wind in the face looking out into the blackness reminds me of being on the bridge of my first ship, a WW2 destroyer, at night. Underway, the wind was invariably too stiff for comfort, would sail hats away, generally forced the bridge watch to be inside. Our new skipper, a commander who knew ships, summoned the chief engineer to his cabin and ordered him to fabricate and install a -- he called it a "venturi," a long concave shield across the front of the bridge deck, to direct wind up and over. The chief did as ordered, but under protest and insisted on a written and signed order. A new ensign, I asked why he didn't simply follow orders, why so formal. He told me about NavAlts and ShipAlts, that ships were not the property of the skipper, and alterations had to be directed from higher authority, generally from BuShips, as it was called, in Washington. A NavAlt referred to all ships of a class, a ShipAlt to a particular hull number. But the captain insisted and the venturi, which had already been installed on many ships and on all new ship design, was effective, did the job, made the outside bridge comfortably usable.    

A really pretty view from our balcony Friday evening: during the sunset, Venus and Mars in conjunction with the Moon in the western sky. Jupiter with its four Galilean moons in the east, visible all night as it makes its transit. 

Does Jupiter know it’s making a transit, I’ll bet not. Jupiter probably thinks it’s just out there floating around the sun with its solar system speeding through the universe as part of the Milky Way galaxy . Nope: we are the center of creation and you are just transiting earth’s night sky, get over it.

For supper we had pizza, shared a small thin crust cheese pizza. Linda’s half was plain. My half had the olives stuffed with anchovies that Kristen and Joe picked out for me on their Christmas shopping trip. Also a half tin of double layer sardines; “double” guarantees they’ll be tiny. With a glass of cabernet sauvignon from -- Grocery Outlet, we call it Bill's. OK, two glasses. Afterward, a cup of coffee because we had a thin slice of fig cake, also a Christmas gift that we’ve been hoarding and rationing out. 

This may be reading like an imbecile’s Facebook post, but it’s going someplace. The someplace is with the ship that left port and headed out to sea as I stood on the porch in the chill night air leaning against the rail, watching and waxing sentimental, rehearsing my history of standing on deck and watching as a port moved by and into the distance, my face into the freezing wind. Simply memories, it’s no longing for the sea. 

Truth, it could be a longing for the youth who sailed, and for the adventures that lay behind him, ahead of him waiting to be lived, now cherished in life’s twilight. 

“Life’s twilight” do sound maudlin, don’t it. Well, it ain’t, it's just this place where I am. Would I go back? To some of it. How far back? What do you think, mind your own dreams. Would I change anything? What if I would, I can’t, so it makes no difference, does it. Besides, My Laughing Place is only a stroll away. Or a dream, all I have to do is dream.

St. Andrews Bay: black velvet with a sprinkling of diamonds and an emerald. If you can’t see it, or don’t understand, too bad.

Rather than the bridge of a warship, this place is like being at sea with a balcony stateroom. Something melancholy being at sea when the sun goes down. Or romantic: the sunset creates doggerelists of the worst order. Mind wandering, the Navy was insane to put women in warships. I got along with a tape-deck in my stateroom, a tape-deck, a tape of The Archies, “Sugar, Sugar,” and others including one of Andy Kim, “Baby, I love you” also the Everly Brothers with their full repertoire, and earphones. It was 1969, remember. A female in officers’ quarters, in the next stateroom? I don’t think so. 

Diocesan convention is meeting including this morning to elect a bishop. I thought there were four candidates, maybe one dropped out, Linda said there are three, she’s checking online. Retired, I care as much anymore who is elected bishop as I do who is appointed Chief of Naval Operations. Saw a pic of Fr. Anthony wearing the tippet I gave him years ago when he was a deacon working with me at St. Thomas. I loved that tippet, but with waves and colorful fish swimming across, it seemed just right for a marine scientist, which he is. 


Friday, February 20, 2015

Some like it

What a miserable winter I could say, and I do say, although Michigan loved ones who visited yesterday say it's -28 at home this morning. It’s still miserable here anyway, and with light wind coming off the Gulf, bitter. I would say raw, but raw involves damp cold, and at least it isn’t drizzling. What’s going on? This is the longest winter here in my memory, what’s going on? Is this the other side of a climate change coin? 

Don’t say global warming.

Some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it skiing in Colorado. I like it looking across Shell Island into the Gulf of Mexico. 

Our diocesan convention is underway in Mobile, Alabama. Tomorrow they elect our next bishop from among four candidates, three winners and one loser. Election takes a simple majority in both “orders,” lay and clergy. Then the election goes churchwide to be ratified.
 Being a bishop brings to mind Mark Twain’s comment about being tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail: if it weren’t for the honor of the thing, I’d rather walk.

Honor goes a long way when you get a pointy hat, a purple shirt, a stick, and free lunch every Sunday.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Will you?

For several years, every day’s email brings “Days of Praise,” a free online devotional from the Institute for Creation Science, Dallas, Texas. I like having some devotional thought, but’ve never really gotten into my own Episcopal Church’s “Forward Day by Day” publication although I’ve always found it excellent, good writers, thoughtful people, always heartfelt, often moving, sometimes scholarly. No, I enjoy having a different take on things as long as it isn’t downright stupid like the utterances of pseudo-religious politicians who are so desperate to blend with their intended electorate that they go out of their way to embrace ignorance. Sadly, they have become the tail wagging the dog of my political heritage.

See, it’s so easy in writing to wander down a thorny trail. But I was talking about “Days of Praise” and their writers. Even though I seldom to never entirely agree with them, they are scholarly and educated, with, as I’ve mentioned before, Greek and Hebrew that far exceeds anything I hope ever to equal. I can and have and do learn from them. My chief difference is my view that their “research” is not to “seek the truth, come whence it may, cost what it will,” but to prove their own beliefs, like so many who are captive of their own certainties. Which means it’s not research but like a difference between exigesis and eisegesis in Bible study. Yet, now and then I enjoy them anyway, and I highly respect their knowledge.

At any event, I was taken with their essay of February 11, 2015, and’ve had it sitting on my computer desktop in a folder titled -- well, I won’t tell the title, because it’s a barnyard word for what male cattle of the field may leave behind, somewhat irreverent and marginally inappropriate for a man of the cloth, let the reader understand. Not to mention moving myself out onto the precipice of heresy. Anyway, here’s their Feb 11 essay, titled “For Our Justification.” 

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February 11, 2015
For Our Justification
“Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4:25)

We rejoice greatly in Christ’s resurrection, knowing that He has promised that “because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19). But it is also very important to realize and remember that if He had not been raised from the dead, we would still be lost sinners, separated eternally from God. He was raised, Paul reminds us, “for our justification.”

The immensity of the load of sin which Christ bore with Him on the cross is beyond comprehension. He had to “taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9), for He was the offering “for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Since “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), were it not for the infinite power, as well as the infinite love, of both the Father and the Son, such an infinite weight of sin would seem impossible to overcome, so Christ would die forever, and we would be lost forever. How could we ever know that we had been forgiven and that He had paid the awful price that would suffice for our salvation? How could we ever be acquitted and declared righteous before God?

That is exactly what the resurrection of Christ assures! “By the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Romans 5:18). His infinite righteousness has more than balanced the terrible weight of “the sin of the world,” and He was able to take it away (John 1:29). Although the wages of sin must be death, “the free gift is of many offences unto justification” (Romans 5:16).

This gift of total and eternal justification is free because of His love, but even a free gift must be accepted before it can be possessed. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). HMM

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It’s a very good homily or short sermon, it’s just that I disagree with it. It seems entirely orthodox, so much that if I were to preach it on a Sunday in Lent or Good Friday I would see heads nodding all over the sanctuary and get compliments as people made their way out after. I just don’t agree. Coming upon me at the start of Lent, it’s the difference in what the Church has taken from Saint Paul and what I believe likely to have been the mind of the elusive “historical Jesus.” 

The distance between Jesus of Nazareth and the Jesus of Paul’s teaching is a chasm, not a crack in the sidewalk. The subsequent writing, teaching and dogmatizing church notwithstanding, I do not believe the Man on the Cross understood himself as HMM’s essay visualizes. He would have been astonished. 

And HMM is a far distance from what my father used to say -- in response to the question “Are you saved?” -- that “We have a religion to live by, not a religion to die by.” My father was right, at least as I understand Jesus Christ who came to show us the values of God for living a human life on earth, not a check list for getting into heaven. 

Still, scanning our eucharistic prayers, and reading our Collects for Lent (BCP pp. 217-221) where bits of Anglican theology are embedded, I reckon I need to give this a lot of thought this Lent, because I may be wrong as usual.

Although I believe the mind of Christ is far better found in the "Will you?" questions of our Baptismal Covenant than in anything the Church has read out of Saint Paul.



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

and wash your face

Hopefully anticipating our hour walk this morning. Wednesday schedule is walk then breakfast, whether it happens depends, like everything else in life. One factor is always the weather: raining, we cancel. I’m up for walking in near-freezing temperature, as about 32F at the moment. We’ll see. Including the Monday/Wednesday walk, the exercise program is part of my fight to stay alive long enough to ring in the Second Coming. Tuesday/Friday it’s work up a sweat at Chuck’s Cardio, but cancelled yesterday because. Mistake of taking the carvedilol sooner rather than later, extreme dizziness even though taken with two scrambled eggs and toast. Whine, whine.

Someone said getting old is for the birds. I’m finding it’s for old men. I’m 79. Here’s my picture at 19 just home from my sophomore year at UFlorida. It was 1955, I arrived home from Gainesville with my first crew cut, and mama hustled me off to Olan Mills to immortalize it.
My next crewcut was the second day of Navy OCS, Newport, Rhode Island, summer 1957. Navy barbershop, half dozen barbers zipping through a couple hundred college graduates in about thirty minutes. They left one long hair on the back of my head, ridiculous and I jerked it out. I wish I had that hair back.

Actually, this was going to be about Ash Wednesday, wasn’t it. The drum I beat on Ash Wednesday is the ludicrosity of our hearing this gospel verse from Matthew 6:16-18 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” and then parading about with ashes smudged on our foreheads. 

But I’m not going there this morning. Get your ashes 

and show off all day for all I care. You have your reward: people will notice.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Seldom do I do this, only once in a great while do I print a sermon, and always hesitantly. But our Tuesday morning Bible Seminar is studying the Gospel according to Mark (NRSV) by reading through, picking apart, and discussing, and this my homily from a couple weeks ago is sort of an introduction to the subject. TW+

Homily Sunday, 1 Feb 2015
Didactic: teaching on the Gospel
Mark 1:21-28

21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He[a] commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Our homiletics professor at Gettysburg Lutheran, my theological seminary, liked to identify two kinds of preaching, two types of sermons, homilies:

Kerygma is a sermon that proclaims Christ crucified, Christ is risen, Jesus saves. And not only in the sermon; as a worshiping congregation, we proclaim the mystery of faith in Eucharistic Prayer A: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again, a kerygmatic acclamation that might well have come from the mouth of Saint Paul himself. Kerygma is the church’s proclamation of Christ and his saving grace, which is indeed the central purpose of our four gospels, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, to proclaim Christ.

Didache is teaching. It may be a teaching sermon. Or any teaching, the Catechism in our Book of Common Prayer is didactic, a teaching in question and answer format. If I stand here and tell you about the Gospel according to Mark, and Mark’s agenda, that would be didache, a didactic sermon, a teaching. And guess what! That is what I intend to do, a few minutes to learn a bit about Mark, his gospel, which is his proclamation about Jesus Christ, and his agenda, Mark’s agenda. So, stay awake, you may learn something.

Agenda, by the way, is not a dirty word that means Mark has a sleazy scheme for putting one over on us; “agenda” simply is a literary term that focuses on what Mark intends to convey to his audience, and how he does it, and (in my view, most clearly in Mark’s case), what he hopes those who read and hear his good news will do about it. Mark’s agenda is to stir your strong reaction to action.

So, this is a didactic homily about the Gospel according to Mark. And anyone who has been in my Sunday School class or in Tuesday morning Bible Seminar with me has an idea what I’m going to say, because it’s my favorite theme.

Mark has an agenda then, a gospel to proclaim, and as an evangelist, Mark means to have some solid response from you, his audience. The pericope, the little Bible Story, the snippet from Mark that is our Gospel lesson for this morning, is the beginning of Mark setting up that, his agenda. In the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus casts out a demon, an unclean spirit. Setting the stage for his entire gospel, this is the very first thing Mark reports Jesus doing, his very first act of ministry. And for Mark, the important thing to notice in the story is not to marvel that Jesus is a miracle worker who can cast out demons (which Mark will develop as his gospel goes along), but three things.

First, that the demon knows who Jesus is, and this will be the case again and again in Mark’s story: the demons know that Jesus is the Son of God. Nobody else in the story seems to know.

Second is what scholars call the “Markan Secret,” or the “Messianic Secret;” and it is that Jesus shushes them, orders them not to tell who he is or what he has done. And this also will be the case again and again in Mark’s gospel, not only with demons, but also with almost everyone Jesus heals: be quiet about who I am (to the demons), be quiet about what I have done for you (to those he heals). Why so hush-hush?! Scholars have for nearly two thousand years been arguing about the Messianic Secret -- whether it comes from Mark, or from Jesus, or even from the Early Church, and what is the reason for it, and nobody truly knows. You may speculate all you want, and anything you think or say about the Markan Secret is ground that has already been covered, a field has already been plowed numerous times since Mark first wrote his gospel about 70 AD. We just don’t know “why?” At any event, the first instance of the Markan Secret is in this morning’s gospel: Jesus rebukes the demon “Be silent.” If you’ve never noticed, start noticing, because every detail is significant.

A third element of Mark’s agenda also begins to show up right here up front, in Chapter One, in Jesus’ very first act of ministry: and it is that those around Jesus have no idea who he is. They have no idea, and they never figure it out, never. All the way through Mark’s gospel, those who are closest to him, even his disciples, four of whom Peter and Andrew, James and John, he has already called by the time this first little story about the demon happens, even the disciples, the twelve apostles, even Mary Magdalen and all the women who love and follow Jesus never see who Jesus is, they never understand, they never, ever “get it.” That’s part of Mark’s agenda -- to make sure that you notice their dimness and that you do get it, and to stir your frustration that they don’t see what’s so obvious..

Mark is not running down the apostles around Jesus, he is not calling them stupid; Mark is an evangelist, and his agenda throughout his gospel, is evangelical: to proclaim Christ and show you that even though you get it, you understand who Jesus is, because it’s obvious, it’s made perfectly clear to us (for one thing, because Mark and the Church tell us right up front -- “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” -- nobody inside the story understands.

So, at this point, who knows then, who knows who and what Jesus is? Well, obviously, God knows. Mark the evangelist knows, otherwise he would not be telling the story, would he! And you know. You know because Mark tells you right up front, remember? “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus knows -- and Mark makes sure that we know Jesus knows by the way Mark describes Jesus‘ baptism, “and a voice from heaven, “thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”. And, again, the demons know. God knows, Mark knows, you and I know, Jesus knows, and the demons know. Nobody else knows who Jesus is.

Mark’s agenda is to develop in his audience of two thousand years ago, and in you the reader and hearer of his gospel this morning, the realization that nobody around Jesus sees, understand, perceives who Jesus is, and when Mark is done, his agenda climaxes in your frustration that everybody inside the story is so uncomprehending, so dense, so thick, not to say “so stupid.” Listen to how Mark develops his ingenuous agenda.

Mark chapter 4. One evening Jesus is out in a boat with his disciples, in the Sea of Galilee. A violent storm comes up. Fierce wind and towering waves. The boat is being swamped and is about to sink. The disciples are frightened. They look around and notice that Jesus is back in the stern, sleeping along peacefully. They wake him up, “Lord, we’re all fixin‘ to drown, ain’t you scared? don’t you even care?” Jesus stands up, looks at the raging sea, shouts out “siopo! pefimoso” Silence! be still! and instantly wind and sea go calm. Seeing this, the disciples are terrified of him, saying, “who is this that even wind and sea obey him?” Mark wants you to see, not so much that Jesus is in control of nature, (you might expect nothing less of the Son of God) but that his disciples do not understand who this man is that they have chosen to follow.

In Mark chapter 6, right after Jesus feeds five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two small fish, he walks on the water, and the disciples don’t understand who he is, they just don’t get it

  In Mark chapter eight, right after "dunamis," the work of power where he feeds four thousand people with seven loaves of bread, the disciples are out in a boat, and Jesus along with them. Jesus hears them bemoaning that they forgot to bring bread to eat, all they have in the boat is one loaf of bread. Astonished, frustrated with them, Jesus says Why, with me out here in the boat with you, are you worried about having only one loaf of bread to eat? Didn’t you just see me feed five thousand people with practically nothing? And how many baskets of food were left over? The disciples say “twelve.” Jesus says, and when I fed the four thousand, how many baskets were left over? And the dense disciples say “seven.” And Jesus says, “Don’t you get it, don’t you understand anything??” And they shake their heads, still they do no get it. 

Jiminy Christmas how dense can they be.
It happens again and again in Mark’s gospel, Mark recording stories, incidents, occasions that happen that Mark reports to show you that nobody around Jesus realizes who he is.
From beginning to end of Mark’s gospel, nobody understands Jesus. Yet one more time again, God knows. Mark knows. You and I know. Jesus knows. And the demons know (which is why and how Mark uses this opening story today). Finally, at the very end of Mark’s gospel, an astonishing thing happens: a Gentile, the Roman centurion in charge of crucifying Jesus, realizes who he is. “Truly, this man was the Son of God.”

The gospel and situation rise to climax. Jesus is taken down from the cross and buried. That was Good Friday, as we call it. On the third day, Sunday morning, women who loved Jesus go to the tomb to anoint his dead body with oils and fragrances. But the tomb is empty. There a young man, we are to understand that he is an angel, tells them that Jesus has risen from the dead and will meet them in Galilee. 

Even then the women do not realize who Jesus is. Not even then!They are so terrified that they run away and say nothing to anyone. They don’t say nothing to nobody! That’s the absolute bitter end of the gospel as Mark tells it. That’s Mark’s climax, his clincher, his “gotcha.”

Mark’s agenda is that you and everyone who hears and reads his proclamation, will be so frustrated that nobody inside the story could see who Jesus was, when it was so clear and obvious to you -- that you will be so frustrated tha you immediately jump up and rush out to proclaim Christ yourself.

Mark’s gospel is evangelical good news that calls you to proclaim Christ crucified and risen. 

Now do you understand?

Monday, February 16, 2015


Blow the trumpet in Zion;
    sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
    for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near—

a day of darkness and gloom,
    a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness spread upon the mountains
    a great and powerful army comes;
their like has never been from of old,
    nor will be again after them
    in ages to come.

Ash Wednesday for me begins with sirens, sudden and unexpected, sirens wailing and long like the old time air raid warning to take cover immediately, or the long undulating siren that tells of an approaching tornado. It was the biblical forty years ago, one of the most effective, no it was chilling, Ash Wednesday services I ever attended. At our parish in Pennsylvania. The rector regarded liturgy as art and an opportunity for his creative genius, which was very real, and we had theater, emotional, shuddering drama. The Ash Wednesday evening that began in the shadow of darkness and apprehensive silence, as, seemingly from hundreds of miles away, a siren began from grinding, deep groan, rising slowly to its high pitch and holding, steady, screaming. Fear, shivers down my spine and a sense that it was too late forever, my mind expecting a distant flash, the muffled thump of an explosion, the shock wave, and to be swept away by the blast of nuclear wind. The Day of the Lord.      

Fire devours in front of them,
    and behind them a flame burns.
Before them the land is like the garden of Eden,
    but after them a desolate wilderness,
    and nothing escapes them.

They have the appearance of horses,
    and like war-horses they charge.

As with the rumbling of chariots,
    they leap on the tops of the mountains,
like the crackling of a flame of fire
    devouring the stubble,
like a powerful army
    drawn up for battle.

Before them peoples are in anguish,
    all faces grow pale.[a]

Like warriors they charge,
    like soldiers they scale the wall.
Each keeps to its own course,
    they do not swerve from[b] their paths.

They do not jostle one another,
    each keeps to its own track;
they burst through the weapons
    and are not halted.

They leap upon the city,
    they run upon the walls;
they climb up into the houses,
    they enter through the windows like a thief.
The earth quakes before them,
    the heavens tremble.
The sun and the moon are darkened,
    and the stars withdraw their shining.
The Lord utters his voice
    at the head of his army;
how vast is his host!
    Numberless are those who obey his command.
Truly the day of the Lord is great;
    terrible indeed—who can endure it? 
Yet even now, says the Lord,
    return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
    rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
    for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
    and relents from punishing.
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
    and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
    for the Lord, your God?
Blow the trumpet in Zion;
    sanctify a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
    gather the people.
Sanctify the congregation;
    assemble the aged;
gather the children,
    even infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
    and the bride her canopy.
Between the vestibule and the altar
    let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.
Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord,
    and do not make your heritage a mockery,
    a byword among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples,
    ‘Where is their God?’”

Joel 2 comes present. With the international news every day, there is a growing sense, of gathering doom, that the Day of the Lord is indeed at hand, and what will be left is ashes. Ashes and bones. Ashes drifting across barren land in chill wind. Not the first time in heilsgeschichte that evil has been a tool of the deity.