Thursday, March 31, 2016

Not Thursday

Here’s that once in a blue moon coffee with a creamer. Chocolate the same, this bar 72% and I may eat two squares instead of one. Perfect coffee & chocolate are both dark and black. White coffee doesn’t set off the chocolate well. No matter. No, it does matter, but here we are. Creamer coffee: drink it while it's hot, because cold it's revolting.

69F 76%. Bay bedroom sliding-door open a foot overnight. Awake, Linda heard the shrimp boats, asleep, I did not. I don’t care, but because she likes the bedroom pitch black dark, the hall door is closed at night. When I opened it at dark 2:30, wind 13 mph shut it so forcefully I wondered what’s open on the Beck side. Nothing. Bathroom vents? Tiny daylight crack around the Beck door?

Mail from “Life Line Screening.” Learned my lesson in 2010: had their most thorough screen thinking the chest pains might be an issue. Nope, tests showed amazing health so I let it go. This letter goes also, into the bin.

Thursday: had calendared today as a time-off day of rest after Lent, Holy Week, and busy Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of Easter Week but it’s not going to work out, and Friday’s booked. Maybe next week? What would I do with a rest day though? In my past, which don’t ask about, it’s none of your dandelion business, I named Monday my day off. People knocked at the rectory door anyway, someone said, “Tom doesn’t mind if you call him on his day off,” and really, I didn’t, including parishioners needing to commiserate, transients needing food, shelter, gasoline, a flat tire fixed, a tank of propane, or a motel room for the night and could they borrow my Strong’s Condordance, so July 1984 to July 1993 I had zero days off. This isn’t a whine BTW, just remembering. July 1993 my father died and mama lived in the big old house alone so I forced the issue: Sunday afternoon drive to Panama City, return to Apalachicola on Wednesday morning to resume my wonderful workweek with the Wednesday evening Bible study and dinner in the rectory great room. Moments Make Memories and I still see Ina Margaret bursting through the front door and heading for the kitchen hoisting a platter piled high with piping hot fried mullet she’d just netted at Indian Pass, cleaned and cooked. OMG. Anyway, memories. 

And those years I got to raise Kristen. She's coming over for roast leg of lamb tonight.

Recently sold my 2002 SUV and bought the 2006 car of my dreams. Well, what the hell, everybody has his/her dream car and a Cadillac V8 station wagon was mine and at eighty I’m gardenia well entitled. Low mileage creampuff, less than a fourth the price of a new one ten years ago and they aren’t even made anymore, get it while it’s hot, and it is hot. At any event, the Sirius radio people called to say they’d turned on the Sirius XM basic for my free trial. I tried it: unfortunate. The classical music stations are no longer “basic” but “upgrade” and I’m too cheap to pay their outlandish tariff. Bummer, almost everything else on the basic forty-thousand station list is rubbish, so back to my CD. Well, XM does have a “love” station and a passel of hillbilly music stations, so I saved a few. Same ole same ole: whiny music leaves me melancholy because moments make memories and it’s time to let it all go. 

Go where? Anyplace in this scalded rabbit that runs as promised. Northstar V8. Lookout, world, here he comes, there he goes. Not your grandfather's Oldsmobile.

Well, those Oldsmobile V8s also were hot, one of them still parked in that garage out at the back alley, door ajar, waiting for Bubba to ride. I had two cars there but God or somebody stole the other one while I was dreaming. Some bright morning you'll notice an Olds Cutlass zooming across the heavens. 

Nevermind. Sunday readings feature DThos1.0 in John 20 and, terrifyingly, a peek into Revelation with stinging horned beasts and lake of fire. 


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Stassen for President

Senator Texyak, the folks here have asked you several questions this evening, and my question is why have you never answered even one question but instead have wandered off into the ether, waffling and serving up a ration of skybalon and meaningless blather as though we were morons?

Bill, thank you for that question, it’s an important question, and I’m going to answer it by nonstop taking about anything and everything else that crosses my mind. That question was important to my parents, and in fact it’s why they came to this country legally as legal residents to claim the benefits of the American constitution and bill of rights, and to work for equal opportunities for every man and woman in this great land. And my father, because of the very issue that concerns you and me and every law abiding American this election year, immigrated here from Lower Cubovia and took a job scrubbing toilets with a toothbrush in the garment district of East Mamivia Beach. Because of Hubamacare and Hollowie’s alliance with the big banks, he didn’t have a raise for seventeen years and nobody ever criticized my mother and the sniveling cowards better stop talking about my wife, but when I’m president I pledge to you that this will be my first priority my first day in office right after the carpet bombing, because my parents knew that their son could be president of this great land, and I intend to stand up for the American people.

clap clap clap clap, cheer, cheer, clap, clap, clap.

Herr Dröumpfht, why have you made the election campaign a farcical international humiliation that has deteriorated into irrelevancies about your opponent’s wife even though your series of wives have to be imported from foreign lands?

Bill, thank you very, very much for that very, very important question, and even though I have by far the most delegates it's tremendous and, it's amazing, very, very fantastic, they love me and I love them, millions upon millions more votes than my lying opponent, who is not even an American and we’re suing him for telling very, very false tales out of school, and my father was very, very proud of me because I only borrowed a million dollars from him which I paid it back and have built it into a jillion quadrillion dollar net worth and very, very important cash flow, which is fantastic and I'm very, very wealthy and am going to make America wealthy, but we have a 5.5 quadrillion dollar trade deficit with Mexico and we are importing Buicks from China when Americans are losing jobs, which is a very, very serious issue, and I’m going to stop it by building a tremendous sixty foot seawall up the west coast, which will be beautiful and China is going to pay for it, but he started it because my wife is smarter and prettier than his and she doesn’t try to mess up my hair, but when I said my campaign manager didn’t rough up that lying woman who was trying to hit me, we didn’t know there were security cameras all over the room taking pictures and my answer was very, very truthful, and the three main issues facing America today are security, security, security, which is a tremendous problem and very, very serious, but everybody else including Japan and South Korea and the Europeans let us pay for their defense, which is very, very serious and a tremendous problem which I’m going to make them pay, why should we go broke protecting those very, very wealthy nations, and before I nuke the Muslims for trying to sneak into our country, I’m going to bring our troops home because nobody is more for guns than I am, and so everyone can develop their own nuclear arsenals while I make America great again like it was after The War when we were in the majority and women and blacks knew their place.

clap clap clap clap clap clap

Governor Casey, you have managed to stay above the 

Harold Stassen, your day has come, where are you when we finally need you?


Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Mark 16:1-8, 9-20 
Matthew 28:1-20
Luke 24:1-53
John 20:1-31, John 21:1-25

These are the canonical post-resurrection stories to be read, discussed and enjoyed in our Bible Seminar this morning. Seventy minutes, 10:05 to 11:15, is hardly time to do the material justice, especially including, in John the possible two endings and my notion about Lazarus; Luke’s eucharistic actions, tie to Jerusalem, and two Ascension accounts; Matthew’s transfer to Galilee; and Mark’s so-called “long ending” with its harshness and snake handling.

As well, if there’s time, or maybe we’ll make time, the passion and resurrection account, including the talking cross, in the non-canonical Gospel of Peter. 

Come one, come all.

DThos+ mucking along ignorantly

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Monday

Above: Easter Monday one is entitled. Early morning walk, but 100% humidity got to me so attempt at a nap, didn’t work, no matter. Sunset last evening:

Easter Monday breakfast of thick brown gravy over carrots and animal parts. Bit of leftover lambshank, bit of beefsteak, bit of connecting tissue. At the commissary I intended to buy sirloin steak but that was distinctly ribeye, too fatty. 
Breakfast dessert. Mama used to make lemon blueberry cake that we sweet-toothers loved, Gina brought me four slices that were left over from the Easter brunch at church, delicious.

What am I doing. Messing around with Greek noun and pronoun declensions, but don’t be impressed: I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, they changed all this since I was in seminary decades ago. Or maybe I just rusted, how do you say "rustoleum" in Greek? Maybe that is Greek. Or Latin IDK.

Bible Seminar tomorrow morning. We’ll spend this Easter Week session on post-resurrection appearances in Matthew, Luke and John (why not in Mark?). Next week we’ll start reading and discussing Revelation, which comes round in the lectionary during the Easter Season every three years. I like Revelation, in fact I like Revelation more than any Paul except 1st Thessalonians and Philemon, the rest of Paul is too longwinded.

Easter Monday looking out the Bay bedroom door from 7H:

Never mind me, on this new operating system I can't figure out how to "straighten" my photos.


Sunday, March 27, 2016


Christos anesti!

Every day is a beautiful day, including especially a rainy Holy Saturday with nothing on calendar but nap, coffee on the porch, toast with fig preserves. Lamb shanks for dinner with thick brown red wine gravy they stewed in, cooked carrots, a garnacha from Spain, the label says Aragon, remembering the first wife of Henry VIII. I should have read and studied, but was lazy. Supper: avocado sandwich on extra thin whole wheat bread, water, pills.

Friday we watched one of the larger ships we've seen enter port, three tugs. Not being here at 7H at the time, I got a picture of it from St. Andrews Marina as it rounded the bend. Pic is fuzzy but who cares. Three large ships are in port now, I'm guessing she is Seaboard Chile V38, general cargo, from Kingston, next port Houston.

Easter day, snap of the hauntingly fragrant pink azaleas we brought from the house. Linda's cuttings, these were from azaleas I would have planted at our Cove house in the 1940s, that mama transplanted about 1962 after they moved to the old Weller homestead in St. Andrews, the old family place. Do I miss it? 

Here at 7H the electric bill that came yesterday is $97 versus $300, the homeowners insurance is $400 versus $9,000, the view here is 7th floor instead of ground and I can see all of St. Andrews Bay at once, last summer no mosquitoes up here, somebody takes care of the grounds, plumbing, roof, instead of dashing from carport to door in the rain, there’s an underground garage and elevator to our door and covered walk. Latter Day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses never knock. For that matter, neither does anybody else: we can wear pajamas or underwear all day and sometimes do so. So what do we miss? Can I get back to you on that?

Happy Easter. 

Alethos anesti.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Behold the Lamb of God

Himself the Lamb

“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” … (Genesis 22:2 RSV)

“Then Abraham put forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.” (Genesis 22:10 RSV)

In my mind’s eye, my mental picture, Abraham stands ready, knife raised. He has Isaac by the hair, head pulled back ready to slit open the boy’s throat and spill his blood on the altar for the glory of God. I am sickened. Appalled, sickened.

And the very last thing, the farthest from my mind, what I absolutely do not want to do on this Good Friday reading Genesis 22, which scholars call “The Sacrifice of Isaac,” I do not, will not, I refuse to rationalize God or Abraham for this obscene outrage against the dignity of the human creature, and against humanity itself, the slaughter of an innocent, a child, much less as a blood sacrifice to the glory of God. 

Nor will I embrace the waffling stupidity that God never intended to go through with it, what a load of it, a bucket that itself while seeming to “let God off the moral hook,” in fact is a blasphemy that would rob God of integrity, make God untruthful, a trickster, a manipulator, a liar, untrustworthy. I promise you: God was not “tricking” Abraham. This was for real.

And so, if you are appalled that God would demand such a perversion of love, I would say, yes, including with many horrified rabbis over the ages, yes, it’s the last and final straw, the ultimate story in scripture that could make one an atheist, an enemy of God who, generations later in salvation history, orders Joshua as the Israelites go from Canaanite village after town after city in their conquest of the Promised Land, that God orders Joshua to slaughter every living thing, men, women, children and animals, as “cherem,” a blood sacrifice and offering to God. And worse yet, the story at Ai of Achan and his family and cattle (Joshua 7). I AM: Adonai Elohim, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob/Israel, and the God of Moses: If you are horrified at God and that Abraham would go through with it, so am I as a loving father and Theophilus, lover of God. The story at Genesis 22 breaks my heart, pierces my very soul.

Other than Isaac the intended victim, who up until this moment trustingly adores his father, in this Genesis nightmare the only Innocence is waiting in the shadows, in the background, at home behind the scenes: Abraham’s wife, Sarah the boy’s mother whom, the rabbis tell us, after this barbaric offense against human decency and parental love, never spoke to Abraham again.

The pathos-laden story stands on its own. And that the sacrifice was called off at the last moment saves neither Abraham nor God.

But no, wait: there’s more, far, far more, because Genesis 22 is a story that we Christians have to “read backwards,” for it does not, does not begin as you heard, with God’s horrifying command “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and offer him as a sacrifice to me.” The Genesis 22 story actually begins where it ends, in Jerusalem, at The Place of the Skull. It begins — at the end, as God the Son says, “It is finished.”

Holy Week builds an existential crisis not only for the characters in the story — God the Father, Jesus the Son, and (as in the story of Abraham), mother Mary whom, in accord with prophecy, a sword is to pierce her soul — but a crisis also for us who stand watching helplessly, sickened as the story moves inexorably; we cannot stop it. In the film, in the movie The Passion of the Christ, there is a scene when Jesus, struggling under the weight of his cross, stumbles and falls onto Jerusalem’s rock hard cobblestone street, the weight of the cross nearly crushing him as it comes down. From the crowd, Mary rushes toward him, her mind flashing back to the time he was a little boy, when he fell and she rushed out to scoop him up and comfort him in the safety of mother’s arms. But destiny has come with brutal force and she cannot save him now. As Mary drops to her knees at his side, Jesus murmurs to her, “See, mother, I make all things new.” And in that instant, I know my salvation is assured.

The holy, telling moment in the Genesis 22 story that we call “The Sacrifice of Isaac” — which is not about Abraham and Isaac at all, but about God Himself, is when the little boy asks Abraham, 

“My father?”

“Here am I, my son.”

“Behold, the fire, and the wood. But where is the lamb for sacrifice?”

And Abraham, obedient, bewildered, devastated, brokenhearted, Abraham’s unknowingly prophetic response rings down through the ages of ages, 

“God will provide Himself 
the Lamb for sacrifice, my son.”

“God will Provide Himself the Lamb.” Shema Yisrael, Adonai Elehenu, Adonai Echod, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God the Lord is One: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is none without the others. Inseparable, Indivisible, Incomprehensible, One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. None is the Other, and Each and All are God, and God is the Lamb. 

In the opening of his gospel, John the Evangelist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God. What he means by that is illusive, a mystery until the very end of the story, when Jesus is slain on the day the lambs are slaughtered for the Passover. Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: behold the Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world: God has provided Himself, the Lamb for sacrifice.

In accord with prophecy, He dies, God Himself dies, dies in horrendous agony, torn and bleeding on the Cross, God the Lamb of God sacrificed for your sins, that where He is, there you may be also. In the great and terrible plan of salvation, taking your place, dying your death, that you might live, God provides Himself, the Lamb for sacrifice.

In a cold moral universe, the Genesis 22 story of Abraham, Isaac and God is beyond the pale, irredeemable. But the story — which blessedly does not end in the boy’s death — the story is not a tragedy, the story is prophecy: God will provide Himself, the Lamb. Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.

+++   +++   +++

Good Friday homily in Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, Panama City, Florida, March 25, 2016, the Rev. Tom Weller. Text: “The Sacrifice of Isaac,” using the Revised Standard Version. Genesis 22:8a “Abraham said, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” Artist’s license: preacher’s discretion. The text actually seems to read "God will provide לּ֥וֹ to himself a lamb," "he shall see to it for himself" but the preposition does not show in the ambiguous RSV and does not need to be assumed. Further, that the LXX εαυτώ is dative (not accusative) does not show in the RSV and so does not bother me.

The Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain Francisco De Zurbarán’s Agnus Dei, c. 1635-40 The Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world

Friday, March 25, 2016

Friday: good one

Not raining, lightning in the Gulf offshore but not raining. Weather radar shows last night’s storm passed to the east, trailing clouds south of us, clear and no rain coming. Is this the same storm that gave Colorado a blizzard earlier in the week? 66F 96% looks good for the Friday morning walk and day at hand.

Kona hot and black, first half of the chocolate square on the tongue. For the church, today is Good Friday with its busyness that could tax an old man but also seems energizing. In the early 1950s, Roman Catholics and Episcopalians could leave school at noon to attend three-hour services commemorating the Lord’s time on the Cross. I’d go but not stay the three hours. 

Our fourteen years at Trinity, Apalachicola, we had the noon to three o’clock service, always one of the year’s best for me. Part of the liturgy, homily, more of the liturgy, another homily, liturgy, homily until two-thirty when we walked the Stations of the Cross. Between segments I would go to the rectory next door, leaving people in the church for prayer, and coming and going. That was the custom. Dear years and happy memories. 

Last bit of chocolate gone now. Into the bloodstream? 

Good Friday: places to go, calls to make, homily to preach, promises to keep.

DThos+ still mercifully in +Time+
How long, Lord?


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Maundy: go for it

62F 91% wind at 9 mph this 201603240437CDT. Not using things or knowledge, it fades, use it or lose it, although I might still be able to ride a bicycle. I was trying to remember how zulu time works, i.e., what zone we are in, but it’s too early, neither the chocolate nor the coffee have kicked in, and too late here in +Time+

Looking east, full moon rising last night, noticeably not a perfect circle, maybe that clip off luna's right edge was the minor penumbral eclipse, IDK. Lovely on the porch, cool for sitting out in the wind. Still at my house, μη γενοιτο, I’d sit on the back screen porch, not on the Bay side this morning.

Things keep changing around me, but then transition is the name of life, my life anyway, always that feeling from Navy years of waiting for PCS orders. Going back to 1957 this morning, 1958 and ’59, remembering various duty stations, if starting over I’d be a surface warfare officer because it was the destroyer duty that moved me to stay in the first place, the Navy can have the rest of it, I’d like my life back. No this, because life is for adventure and service, joy and satisfaction, not for playing it safe

Why am I there when it’s Maundy Thursday here in St. Andrews. Because life is short, and we haven’t much time, and you can’t get it back.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Spring 2016? Spring this morning? Maybe, Time says so but I’m not sure, certainly wasn’t spring Monday morning, bitter walking along the Bay in the wind, too bitter to pause for a sit-down on one of the E.BeachDrive benches, gaze across the Bay out the Pass and remember how it was, current slang is “back in the day,” where eighty year old men go to hide.

The blog has wandered there before, as does the mind, into Time, and it isn’t so that all we have is the Present. In the Narnia chronicle The Silver Chair, Poe, Eustace, and Puddleglum the marsh-wiggle are led captive through Underland. Herded along toward their destiny of finding Prince Rilian in the mission Aslan has laid on them, they come upon a very old man lying asleep in a crevice. Asking who it is, their captor and escort tells them, “That is old Father Time, who was once a King in Overland. Now he has sunk down into the Deep Realm and lies dreaming of all the things that are done in the upper world. Many sink down and few return to the sunlit lands. They say he will wake at the end of the world.” 

I loved watching those Narnia, Lord Of The Rings, and Harry Potter movies with my students, all of whom, including my Kristen, headed off into Time and left me here dreaming.

“Film is an art that plays tricks with time. A movie is a fixed, finite, relatively short experience — a hundred minutes or so in a given viewer’s life — that can span years, even centuries. The phrase 'real time,' sometimes applied to movies that match their internal and external chronologies, expresses a wish and a delusion. In reality, as on screen, time compresses, expands, doubles back on itself and even, now and then, appears to stop.”*

In Apalachicola we had guidelines, well they were rules, weren’t they, let’s face it, for folks from out of town who wanted to stage their wedding ceremony in our beautiful setting, quaint old town and lovely historic church building. One rule was that no artificial music could be used, so no bringing in CDs or even synthesizers, only real music, live music. Our musicians, a couple to whom I gave the final say in what could be played, were quite sophisticated about music and could be judgmental and intolerant with young lovers planning their wedding. I remember the man’s reaction, I’ll call him Dr. Boddfer to guard his privacy, the day a couple said they wanted a friend to sing “The Rose.” Well, they had him, because it wouldn’t be a Bette Midler CD, it would be a friend singing a cappella. But he raged at me later, “it’s the worst kind of music.” I didn't respond, rather liking it:  

Some say love it is a river,
that drowns the tender reed.
Some say love it is a razor,
that leaves your soul to bleed.

Some say love it is a hunger,
an endless, aching need.
I say love it is a flower.
And you it’s only seed.

It’s the heart afraid of breaking
that never learns to dance.
It’s the dream afraid of waking,
that never takes the chance.

Its the one who won’t be taken,
who cannot seem to give.
And the soul afraid of dying
that never learns to live.

When the night has been too lonely
and the road has been too long.
And you think that love is only
for the lucky and the strong

Just remember in the winter
far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed that with sun’s love
in the spring, becomes the rose.

Of the old man, Aslan later says, “While he was dreaming his name was Time. Now that he is awake he will have a new one.” I don’t know. Maybe. We'll see. Or maybe we won't.

We wouldn’t be human if we lived in a creation where all we had was the Present, which may be where Adam was before Eve noticed the snake and ate the forbidden fruit. There’s that promise, which changed over the ages as we came to believe in the future that we think we want after this. The promise is tenuous at best, and beyond the pale, “the veil” as Harry Potter has it, we can’t come back. Not so here in Time where, and thank you Everly Brothers, all I have to do is dream. 

Is life delusion, or fantasy? Neither. It's something we do to ourselves in Time. Maybe it is spring.

DThos+ in whatever +Time+ really is

* From an online review of the movie “45 Years” taken from the short story “In Another Country,” which is where Time really is anyway.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

To Go or Not To Go

Along with a copy of The Five Gospels by the Jesus Seminar, and my seminary text by Kurt Aland, Synopsis of the Four Gospels that has the Greek on the left page and the English on the right page, and a stapler, a thumb drive, an extra MacBook my old one that I try not to use any more, and the “ear buds” that tap into the edge of the computer so I can listen to music without driving Linda out of the room, on the smooth and made up bed in our extra bedroom there’s a leaflet about a one-day event in Pensacola next month, sponsored by Baptist Hospital Department of Pastoral Services, “Clergy Health Fair.” Having read it and somewhat found myself, I may go. Or not, I usually don’t do these things. But it says, and I agree, that clergy as a group are “consistently twice as sick as our lay counterparts,” and that “this sickness includes obesity, diabetes, psychosomatic illnesses, depressive disorders and even suicide.” Last evening I was contemplating returning to one of the Jesuit personally guided silent retreats such as those I did several summers ago, I think it was 2012. I’m sensing that it’s time, time again to go for all that it offered and maybe stay a bit longer this time and receive more of what is offered than I bothered receiving last time. I’m thinking to clear the calendar and go. And the pastoral and priestly pressures of the Holy Week schedule seem to underscore that it’s time.

I cheated last time, didn’t I: used my cellphone, wrote and posted my blogpost every morning, even in the places where electronic devices were for good reason forbidden. In Mobile I got the internet password I wasn’t supposed to have by tricking a departing student. In Louisiana, my spiritual director gave it to me innocently, but I had already figured out a way around it. At the retreat center in Georgia, I simply used the Verizon 4G network that was available out there in the boondocks. We’ll see, I’m still thinking on it. 

We’re hosting dear old friends, neighbors, for lunch in our new home, and I’m leaving now to go get them at their home down the shoreline.

Pax &c.


Monday, March 21, 2016

uh oh

It’s been over a week now, and still not okay. CDT that is, daylight savings time. I don’t know what the alphabet daylight savings time is all about, it hasn’t saved me one gardenia sunbeam of daylight, not one. Even though an early riser, make that early riser, I don’t like this, not at all, whoever thought up daylight savings time should be wakened even an hour earlier and hanged at sunrise without a cup of coffee.

This morning, counter to all resolutions, I did open email and scroll down before letting the fingers trip lightly over the keyboard toward the destination of a fairly coherent blogpost. There they are again. I’m not into hurting folks’ feelings, and I keep meaning to say it but forget while saying something about cars, or early Panama City, or the old ice plant here in St. Andrews, or the red and my green navigation lights spread out on the Bay, or the religious challenge at hand, or God help us, the political landscape; but it keeps falling through the cracks. So here: please don’t invite me to join LinkedIn or Twitter. I’m not ignoring you, but FB is all I can deal with, and I really don’t even “do” Facebook, all I do is daily post on FB a link to my blogpost, which I’ve done ever since that morning my CaringBridge site wouldn’t start, not even with a push. So, lacking a daily automatic distribution system, I started posting the Facebook link. But Twitter and LinkedIn I don’t do at all, so thank you anyway. I guess Twitter and LinkIn are social websites, at least of sorts, and I'm not social. In fact, were this a journal or private diary instead of a site open to the public, I’d commiserate with myself about my personality, shy, an introvert, not sociable except as I force myself to be, and that not comfortably or easily, but miserably, self-consciously. No small talk here. But I don’t want people to know that about myself; in fact, there are many, many things I don’t want people to know about me, don’t even want myself to remember and face about me. But then this is Lent, even worse than ordinary Great Lent, this is Holy Week, and I have to face them: the introspection unto repentance deepens so that after next Friday’s Death of God, and in next Saturday’s theological Absence of God from Creation, I can in total loneness collect myself and reassemble my Being sufficiently purified to welcome the Dawn of Easter Day without fear. 

Now I’ve said more than intended, wandered outside my meadow into my swamp. Dragons. Leviathans. Screech owls. Satyrs and beasts. Wild things and things that creep. Nevermind, it’s none of your business. Go away.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

You. Satan, Judas, and You

Palm Sunday sermon in Holy Nativity Episcopal Church, Panama City, Florida, March 20, 2016. The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke. The Rev. Tom Weller.

How could this happen, how, HOW could this have happened, have you seen movies, films, pictures showing and telling how hideously the Romans tortured, brutally executed criminals by crucifixion? And a man flogged before crucifixion — not covered about his loins as artistic modesty has it, but bloody naked, flayed and bleeding, sinew, bone, veins and arteries laid open by sadistic scourging with a whipping instrument having bits of metal that tore out strips and chunks of flesh left hanging and bleeding.

Then as for the agony of the cross itself, some years ago, if you were here, Father William, physician turned priest, described in excruciating detail the nightmare of death by crucifixion, the suffering, the gasping, the crushing and grinding, the searing pain, the physical, mental and emotional horror. How could this have happened, how could this happen to the Son of the Creating God, hoe logos ton theon, Himself the Divine Word whose utterance brought all things into being? How? HOW? Surely this cannot have been the will and work of God himself?

Luke 22 Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death. Then Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray Jesus to them. They were pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented to betray Jesus.

So Satan entered into Judas, Satan: the superhuman enemy of God, the one who consorted with God about Job: this outrage was not merely the act of man. And creedal, liturgical, doctrinal, dogmatic, scripturally the will of God, the work of God. Theology of the Church, doctrine of the atonement — this unspeakable bloody sacrifice was the offering of God the Father: that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption, who made there, by his one oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world. So, the blood sacrifice of Calvary was in accord with God’s plan of salvation: God offers himself, God the Father of justice and truth Himself Incarnate for the redemption of your sins, that you may be in paradise with Him. “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”

How could this happen. How?

God has no hands but our hands to do his work today;
God has no feet but our feet to lead others in his way;
God has no voice but our voice to tell others how he died;
God has no help but our help to lead them to his side. And to the foot of his cross.

With no hands but our hands, God’s plan of salvation enlisted human treachery, the greed of Judas Iscariot, who himself also was called and sacrificed for your salvation. Judas who, by one gospel legend, was so remorsefully repentant for his betrayal of Jesus, that he flung the pieces of silver back at the temple authorities and rushed out and hanged himself. Judas Iscariot, by the Word and Hand of God fully as sacrificed as the body and blood of the Son, and gracefully as forgiven and embraced at heaven’s gate as any man who ever lived, and died to sin, and was born again. 

Every gospel writer, Mark, Matthew, Luke and John tell this story one way or other, and every story is perfectly told by its evangelist, the gospel writer. Each one is different, and if you puzzle, “But which one is true, which version is true?” the answer is “Whichever gospel you are reading is true, they all ring true.” And it may occur to you that they are all about you anyway; so take your pick, or choose them all, because you are there, just find yourself, it’s about you.

Of the four Passion Gospels, I may least appreciate the story according to John, which we shall read Good Friday, appreciate it the least of all, I may like GospelJohn the least because John zeroes in on poor Judas Iscariot and makes him the bad guy and a thief; none of the other evangelists castigate Judas that way. Someone in my Tuesday morning Bible Seminar said, “I think Judas got a bad rap.” I’m not a lover of Judas Iscariot, whom the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” calls “damned for all time,” but I don’t hate Judas either. Some New Testament scholars have said Judas was not an actual person, but a metaphor, a symbol of all Judeans, who betrayed Christ, who, as Gospel John has it, “received him not.” But that’s not how the storyteller tells his tale, nor how he means us to hear it. Judas was a trusted disciple, perhaps the intellectual among The Twelve, all of whom Jesus loved and called, each to his own destiny. Some to oblivion, some to the cross. And the penitential, horrific, tormented end of Judas Iscariot convinces me that if Jesus forgives me, if my sins are forgiven, just so with Judas Iscariot, who may welcome you at heaven’s gate. 

I don’t know why one gospel casts Judas Iscariot so irredeemably, but “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone,” and I’m certainly dropping my stones and, red-faced and embarrassed, creeping silently away, what about you?

Because the gospel is about you, this obscene account of our brutalization of God is about you.

Except for the extreme violence, which is too sadistic and all too real, one of my favorite films, movies, is The Passion of the Christ, I try to watch it at home alone once each Lent as an offering and sacrifice of my Time. I’ve done so again this Lent, watched it Friday morning a week ago. In the film there is a demon, satanic evil personally present: a demon who taunts Jesus as he prays on the Mount of Olives, the demon who Scripture says “entered into Judas,” the demon who later taunts Judas in his anguish about what he has done, the demon still later drifts along mingling in the back of the crowd as they shout and laugh at Jesus struggling, stumbling naked through the narrow streets of Jerusalem toward Calvary bearing his Cross and your sins, for your salvation. And lurking not so subtle in the background: Satan the face of evil, the being of demonic cruelty and hatred, Lilith, demon of Jewish folklore, Lilith the terrifying Night Hag of Isaiah 34 in the desolation of thorns and nettles and brambles, the habitation of dragons and wild beasts, of satyrs and vultures, Lilith entering and possessing the heart and mind of Judas Iscariot for the bloody New Covenant of God. Lilith/Satan, the super-human enemy of God driving Judas insane; and then Judas, horrified at what he has done, his ungodly mission accomplished, Judas Iscariot driven to suicide in the wilderness of life, hanging, burst open by Beelzebul, lord of stinging, swarming flies.

    Judas Iscariot on his earthly mission for God, forgiven and embraced in the life to come. If you cannot believe that for Judas Iscariot, how dare you believe it for yourself. For as our passion hymn confesses, “Ah, holy Jesus, I it was denied thee, I crucified thee.” ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Because the gospel is about you, with your rope — and your mallet and handful of nails. You there at the Cross throwing stones, and epithets mocking the Son of God. Yes, you, enjoying the show.

Shockingly: your sins are forgiven. You and Judas, your sins are forgiven. In this ghastly sacrifice, your sins against God, and against yourself, and against your neighbor, are wiped from the Book of Life. Your slate is clean. 

This is what the Holy Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is all about. In a moment we will place a tiny wafer of bread in your hand and proclaim to you, “The Body of Christ.” You are forgiven before you kneel at the rail; forgiven before you start down the aisle to the Altar: your coming for the Bread and Wine is merely your acceptance of Unconditional Grace, as the Body and Blood of your Savior touch your lips and are absorbed into your being. 
The Body of Christ, 
the Blood of Christ.

Tell me the old, old story. The old, old story of Jesus echoes around this room with the grace of God: Your sins are forgiven. Forgiven.

God the Father, God the + Son, God the Holy Spirit bless, preserve and keep you. The Lord mercifully with his favor look upon you, and wash you clean in the Blood of Jesus Christ.