Saturday, October 21, 2017


Arriving yesterday before we could check in at the hotel, we stopped by Trinity Church to pick up the key that was waiting for me, then parked on the riverfront downtown, 

ate a salmon sandwich brought from 7H for a light lunch, afterward returning to the church to wander around inside, reminisce a bit not overly or maudlin, snap pictures, head to the hotel and have a rest before the wedding rehearsal.

In our time here, my entering Trinity Church was always the back door, through the sacristy. So my first glimpse was never the beautiful gothic-style inscription “The Lord is in His Holy Temple.” at ceiling level over the front wall and that strikes who enters the front door, 

but the one over the balcony that probably most worshipers and visitors never notice. It was lifted from the Book of Common Prayer, Psalm 93 of the Coverdale Psalter

Thy testimonies, O LORD, are very sure: * 
Holiness Becometh Thine House for Ever. 

which always kept me mindful of what is expected, required, demanded of a clergyman regardless of all others. 

There’s a hymnboard set up for Sunday morning worship, Rite Two at 10:30 tomorrow, 

snapped with reminisce of my indescribable joy of grandson Nicholas visiting me summers, Christmas vacations, and spring breaks when he was growing up, and every Saturday evening Nick and I would go into the church and change the hymnboards. I think of the evening, we were getting him ready for bed, he exclaimed, “Granddaddy! We forgot to change the hymnboards.” In those years before he and his mom moved from Florida to Michigan, he was Granddaddy’s Boy, loved beyond imagining.  

And the shuttered side windows on the west side of the church there were, and always are as sure as the Gloria Patri, wasp nests. Maybe they prefer the west side because of the sun’s heat, IDK.

Which brings to mind my one great sadness in being a priest has been and is, the almost inevitable cost of a friendship in working with people, couples or individuals who come to me with troubles, for help, pastoral counseling, friendship. My priest mentor in Pennsylvania cautioned me to expect this, that it would happen, that almost every time I ministered with people working through problems, before it was over, one or both would hate me, it would be exceedingly painful and impossible to understand, but always to remember that this is inevitable and I don’t need to understand, just keep on. Seemingly almost always so, it first happened to me during my years here in Apalachicola at Trinity. Nonetheless, to juggle a favorite proverb, Tell the Truth, Cost What It Will. ὁ ἀναγινώσκων νοείτω.

Early morning, predawn, daylight hasn’t yet begun to break beyond this screen porch facing east: a man in a boat glides along Scipio Creek emptying his crabtraps one by one. All I can see is a light in the darkness, red heading upcreek, green as he glides back down. 

Wedding this evening, five o’clock.

Saturday dawns


Friday, October 20, 2017

began at the end

My greatest moment of freedom began at my end of many long years of hiding, on September 14, 1980, the day I started seminary at Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg. It was my forty-fifth birthday. Something, a feeling, of surrendering to one’s destiny. Giving in. Of letting loose, letting go. Some, not necessarily I, might say letting go and letting God. That day was like putting on my name, and realizing it was who I had always been and now I was real. Maybe like the velveteen rabbit.

That seems, but for me actually is not, a stretch for a start to this morning’s thought process about our OT lesson for day after tomorrow, this coming Sunday morning. We’re still in Exodus. Moses is asking to know better יְהוָ֔ה whom, at great risk, Moses has been trusting. I remember the first quiz in my Old Testament class at LTSG: in each of a series of questions, we were given a word or two to identify. One question was “God’s behind.” Which seemed to me, a totally beginning novice at fooling around with God, blasphemous. That we could contemplate in human terms, and even humorously, the body parts of The Holy One, God’s privates. Thirty-seven years later I’m nearly okay with it, still a little edgy, but I’ll take the risk of going too far. In fact, I sometimes manage to do that in our Sunday School class, sort of beyond the penultimate double-dog dare of my youth, the triple-dog dare that got Flick’s tongue frozen to the flagpole in “A Christmas Story” with Ralphie, the Old Man, and his 1937 Oldsmobile. I too was "an Oldsmobile man" in more cars and ways than one, from my middle thirties right through my forties.

At any event, below, preceded by our Collect for the Day, is the good old time Bible story. It’s about God’s glory, isn’t it, God’s glory, a moving, shifting, changing notion. As the Collect avers, In the NT and for us Gentiles, God’s glory is Jesus. But with Moses and for the Israelites, on this occasion at least, God’s glory is the Full Moon, אֲחֹרָ֑י - - 
the hind side, back part, afterward, away, back, backs, backward, behind, hereafter, hindquarters, rear, rear parts   

The Collect
Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Old Testament Exodus 33:12-23
Moses said to יְהוָ֔ה the Lord, “See, you have said to me, ‘Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 

He יְהוָ֔ה said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And Moses said to יְהוָ֔ה him, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.”

The Lord יְהוָ֔ה said to Moses, “I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Show me your glory, I pray.” 

And יְהוָ֔ה he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, יְהוָ֔ה ‘The Lord’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he יְהוָ֔ה said, “you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.” And יְהוָ֔ה the Lord continued, “See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my behind; but my face shall not be seen.”

DThos+ at risk

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Saints & Signs

Outside on 7H porch, easily the clearest night in a million years, Orion in my face, and Sirius, brightest being in our sky, patiently, brilliantly, obediently below the Hunter. A tug rumblingly, chug chuggingly pushing her barge past and round the bend to head north toward Hathaway Bridge and on I suppose, unless they’re stopping at the Port west terminal, but more likely they’re making along the intracoastal waterway, will pass Mary Esther later this morning. I’m adding tugboat captain back to that list of next life possibilities. 

Again the weather, almost as autumnal as this time yesterday, 64° and 80%. Weather online says wind at 5 mph, but up here at Level Seven it’s blowing steady higher than that.  

Anu Garg this morning with hagiology, easily recognizable as word and holy, he says study of saints, the saints. Who else has saints? Anyway then, Hagia Sophia, Saint Sophia, Holy Sophia cathedral mosque in Constantinople now Istanbul, Turkey. And also, Τρισάγιον is the “trice holy” that may be sung to open the liturgy in place of the Gloria in excelsis or the Kyrie eleison. Looks like “trice hagion” to me with an expelled aitch and a hard gee, but I once heard Marion Hatchett drawl “try-sajun” and it’s been said that if Marion said it that’s it. Marion sounded like Alabama, or was it Mississippi?

Thursday, today, a mental work day, thought for sermon at Trinity, Apalachicola this coming Sunday. After walk tomorrow morning, we’re driving over for a long weekend of wedding rehearsal Friday evening, supper with friends from back when, wedding Saturday evening, staying overnight and supply priest Sunday morning, then back home to 7H. 

I could tell, had a strong sense, realization, on that first arrival afternoon in July 1984, that I was about to become, and would forever only be, just one more name in a long list of priests there, and so it has become and is. The tug of StAndrews and of Cove School and of the Bay, I understand; but there’s something about Trinity Church that claims the heart and won’t let go. An owning that goes both ways, it’s been with me since I was, probably, nine years old, but can’t describe. There’s another word for Anu Garg: ineffable.

Speaking of whom, his

Life is mostly froth and bubble, / Two things stand like stone, / Kindness in another's trouble, / Courage in your own. -Adam Lindsay Gordon, poet (19 Oct 1833-1870)

Holy God, 
Holy and Mighty, 
Holy Immortal One, 
     have mercy upon us. 


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

bee-loud glade

Clear blue and cloudless, 55° 69% a perfect fall morning on the Florida Gulf Coast. I’m looking across StAndrewsBay over Shell Island into the Gulf of Mexico on a day so perfectly fall, autumn, that we had oatmeal for breakfast, steel-cut or some such variety. A little crunch, and I like mine varying, various depending on day and mood, sometimes lots of stuff, this morning salt and pepper and a pat of butter. Fall won’t last, though, maybe a couple of days before summer returns and shifts back and forth with cool versus too warm and muggy until cool settles in. Maybe a few hours of winter a day or two along in January, then in March some bitter cold windy days only describable as "raw." So raw that this coming March I may go visit the mountains on the far side of the sun, a great-grandfather has a small cabin there, of clay and wattles made.  

Ah, but today …

Driving out to Laguna Beach late this morning to change water into wine and lunch with a fellow clergyman. Episcopal clergy are all the same except for the occasional one who effects frilly cuffs, a sleeveless red vest, ankle-length like Joseph’s long coat of many colors, purple shirt, big stick, throne and palace. Say sir. I like my bishops as far distant as I liked my admirals.

Early, the pelicans will continue splashing down below until they’ve had their fill of mullet. Skilled and smart enough, I could throw a net for some too, but I’ll visit a fish market soon for a couple long ones heavy with red.

Fall is Time to remember long ago, filching oysters from a bucket, and pulling strips of salt mullet with my brother. And I can see "where" from here. Sometimes nothing else matters.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

with the Olds

62° 72% and sitting here with open sliding door onto 7H porch, perhaps fall has come at last. 

What for sure has come at last is news from the astronomy community that deepens our knowledge of our universe, about binary neutron stars colliding, 

that renews my ongoing high anxiety indecision about whether in my next life to be a Navy fighter pilot or a weatherperson or an astronomer or, ἰδού, a shepherd in the hills keeping watch o’er flocks by night and lasering wolves that come close. 

My dream is that between incarnations there’ll be enough time to come ashore as a category 5 hurricane. For sure, I’ll be driving that 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme hardtop coupe across the night sky. 

This week a beloved asked me, “Papa, of all the cars you’ve owned, what was your favorite?” My answer usually has been that new red 2001 Tahoe we bought on 9/11; but all things considered, let the reader understand, I have to go with the Olds.

See, ἰδού, it’s Tuesday and already I’m anticipating Friday’s drive back into my Twilight Zone.

Reading assignment:

Pics. Sunset 16Oct2017 PB407 and 7H. Artist’s notion neutron stars colliding. Dream car still in my garage out on the back alley, door ajar, ready to go, and I’ve got a ticket to ride.


Monday, October 16, 2017


75° 89% cloudy, no sky visible, just clouds. Maybe the humidity is the reason early morning felt too close to sit on 7H porch after gazing round. Out the Beck Door for PCNH and to the rail to look over StAndrews, gunshots, loud, not rapid but ten or a dozen, close by, about 3:15 no sirens following.

Friday wedding rehearsal. Saturday wedding. Sunday morning great adult SS class, good scripture basis and lively discussion, don’t like the tables crowded though so will ask for another table in the library classroom; and with new carpet installation need to sort furniture back to home spots, not a problem and maybe change something. Noon, nursing home visit with communion. Pleasant newcomers’ gathering yesterday afternoon, hosted by vestry and staff. Home to bed, might have been asleep by seven-thirty, not sure. Maybe it was eight-fifteen, IDK.

Today: walk, pills, nap, shower, breakfast, staff meeting, flu shot. Graveside service this afternoon. First day of the rest of my life. 


DThos+ shuffling along in +Time+ 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

asked, was given

In a judgmental, self-certain, divisive, hate-filled, morally sinking age of shakily doubtful political correct can it be possible there was any good at all in us, to be remembered and to celebrate? What of Leonidas Polk, military academy graduate, Episcopal priest and bishop, primary founder of Sewanee, and CSA general. What of Robert E Lee. What about my great-grandfather R H Weller, rector of StJohns Episcopal Church, Jacksonville, Florida, whom family lore says was arrested and jailed for hiding Confederate troops in the basement of his church during the Yankee invasion of Jacksonville. What that we were proud of must we now be ashamed of. What of our memories and the memories of my grandfathers and the stories they told me, what can we remember and what must we forget. What should we not tell our grandchildren after-all. What about when the tide changes. What of the CSA soldier whom tradition credits with the “Confederate Soldier’s Prayer” that a friend brought back to my mind just this week. What about the tiny CSA flags I photographed marking graves in that Jesuit cemetery in Louisiana, what about the grave markers themselves, and shall their graves be disinterred and dishonored. While politically correct cleansing Leftists among us are busy and self-importantly obliterating kneeling cushions, statues, stained glass windows, and renaming parishes, high schools and streets, I’m wondering: if they ever get ahold of a TimeMachine and can go back, many of us and them will never have existed at all, what will happen to/with our Beings or does it even matter. It’s not always safe, good or wise to reimagine and reimage the past, it could come alive. 

For a Sunday morning, here’s that prayer 

Author Unknown,
(Attributed to a battle weary C.S.A soldier near the end of the war)

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve;
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life;
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

throw him out

11 “… when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:11-14 NRSV

Years ago, it might have been 1984 or 1990 but I think was 1987, when The Parable of the Wedding Banquet came up as the Sunday gospel reading, I remembered that when it had come up in the previous lectionary cycle three years earlier, that I’d heard people whining about how cruel and unfair of God, to be so concerned about what some guest wore to the banquet that God would condemn the poor soul to the hell of outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. God was unkind and unfair, they thought and said.

So this time (dating it in my mind, because of friends who were there at Trinity, Apalachicola for the first time, I’m pretty sure it was Fall 1987), I tried turning-the-tables on my congregation. Instead of the colorful, fancy vestments, alb, chasuble and stole, that we priests wear Sunday mornings, in the opening procession I came down the aisle wearing a gray suit with white shirt and suitable tie. Sure enough, members of the congregation were surprised, even shocked, stunned. What the … !?! Fr.Tom knows full well what is expected of the priest and celebrant in an Episcopal Church on Sunday morning. What the hell is he doing here dressed like that?

A lesson of my sermon that morning was that, whereas three years earlier they had been so judgmental of the King (God) in the parable for condemning the banquet guest for being improperly dressed, this morning they, like the King, were judging me for not being properly vested: either they were hypocrites or perhaps now they could better understand the King’s point of view about someone desecrating the Feast, failing to meet expectations and requirements.

My point was made, they “got it” that God was not so wrong for judging after all, or, if God was wrong for judging then, so are they wrong for judging me now. It’s your parable, the parable is about you, find yourself, identify how this parable applies to you, make up your own mind and take action. 

An "un-Jesus-ish" hard saying like the allegorized parable just before it, Matthew 22:11-14 may be an add-on by Matthew or the early church, about people who come to church for appearance sake, or for business connections, or other worldly reasons, but do not believe the gospel or try to walk the Way of the Cross as their way of life, or tithe; and so are kicked out of the church.  

Whatever; during the choir’s offertory anthem that Sunday, I did go to the adjacent sacristy and change to proper vestments for presiding the Eucharist.



Friday, October 13, 2017

Sorry, I can't make it

Like last Sunday’s story “The Wicked Tenants in the Vineyard,” this Sunday’s story “The Wedding Banquet” seems to have been allegorized by the early church and Matthew with his agenda. Jesus’ point contrasts the welcoming generosity of the Kingdom with those to whom their daily business is so overridingly important that they turn down their invitation and give up their place to others. Again as before, Matthew’s allegory resorts to anger, terrible threats, violence and destruction that seems less like Jesus and more characteristic of Joshua and the Israelites obliterating cities and residents of Canaan, or even of the horrific story of Achan at Ai. I’m glad not to be preaching.
Anyway, here’s Matthew’s story:    
Matthew 22:1-14 Once more Jesus spoke to the people in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests. 
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
DThos+ somewhere way downstream in +Time+

Thursday, October 12, 2017

neither changeless nor unchanging ,,,

and certainly not dispassionate.

Beginning defiantly and ending with an apology, that few who click on this blogpost and see that it starts with a Bible story will bother to read it bothers me not in the least!  

Exodus 32:1-14 (RSV) The Golden Calf
1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron, and said to him, “Up, make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” And Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made a molten calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down; for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves; they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them; they have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people; 10 now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; but of you I will make a great nation.”

11 But Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does thy wrath burn hot against thy people, whom thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them forth, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou didst swear by thine own self, and didst say to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.’” 14 And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do to his people.


There is far, far more in our Old Testament reading for Sunday than the title “The Golden Calf,” which focuses on the sin of the Israelites, normal human beings who have simply given up on Moses, assumed he was dead or had abandoned them, and resorted to their own devices to meet their need for a god, in an age when families and peoples fabricated their own household gods. For indeed, the essence of the story focuses on the quintessence of יְהוָ֑ה the Lord himself; not some sloppy sentimentality about “see how merciful is our God of grace and God of glory,” but the heart, mind and soul of him, his Being: he is not dispassionate, he can love and feel jilted; he can be offended; he can rage, fulminate against perceived insult; he can be tempted; he can think to do evil; he can be talked out of it; he can be persuaded to look in the mirror and see himself; he can see things from another’s perspective; he can learn from us; he can see how foolish he will look if he acts precipitously in a fit of anger; he can realize that he is wrong; he is not certitudinous, not changeless and unchangeable, he can change his mind; he can repent as surely as anyone appearing before a priest for confession, penance and absolution. Theologically, this story, to me, has always been an epiphany of Good News about our God, indeed a theophany in which God shows himself, his true nature, the glory of the Lord. When I’m getting dressed this morning I will say as I always do, but with renewed earnestness, Right Shoe First and Praise the Lord.

Like many a sermon that reaches a good stopping place but goes on and on anyway, RSF&PTL seems like a good stopping point, but I’m not quite finished, either with Trinitarian God or with myself. At Mark 1:40-45 there’s the story of Jesus being confronted by a man with leprosy. In the setting, Jesus has been busy, is tired, exhausted, he needs to get away and rest, but always the needy come banging at the door, ringing the rectory doorbell at the most inconvenient time. I know how it is to be worn out with God’s people, I’ve had transients bang on my door at two o’clock in the morning wanting a motel room, a tank of gasoline, a bag of food, “holy alphabet moley,” I’ve murmured awakened from sleep to a banging and ringing at the front door downstairs, “gardenia it to heliotrope.” Just so, in the case of Mark 1:40-45, our English translations cave in to what is to me the obviously rethought and edited Greek manuscript that says Jesus was filled with compassion (σπλαγχνισθεὶς), which is certainly what we prefer to think, read and hear in Sunday School; but some few, at least the NIV, go with what a reasonable NT scholar would regard as not unlikely Mark’s report of the original tradition, later edited to reflect what we prefer to know, that Jesus was ὀργισθεὶς, angry, indignant, lost his temper, momentarily enraged and showed it, blew up at the man who was bothering him. So that, ἰδοὺ, see, lo, behold and look: like father, like son, even Jesus can lose patience with us.



with apology but not regret for missing a blogpost yesterday, busy from dawn to dusk, and exhausted when done, I was helping a loved one with the purchase of a new car from my favorite dealership. TW+

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Water Street cnr Avenue D

White, white outside, sheer, solid white, nothing to be seen. Looking straight down from 7H porch, there’s the shoreline and thick line of seaweed washed up high from HNate’s weekend storm tide. Otherwise thick fog. 

Sunday morning, high storm tide in Apalachicola as well: riding around Our Town before returning to PSJoe for church, the thick seaweed line was up in the road at Ten Foot Hole and water still covering the road where it goes round under the bridge and becomes Water Street. The usual road blocks to stop “traffic” from going there, and pickup trucks going around the roadblock and splashing through the water anyway. In Apalachicola, you don’t tell nobody what to do. 

Did I love the quaint, tumbling down fishing village more in 1940s and early 1950s when I first knew and loved it, or mid-1980s through the 1990s when we lived there; or more now twenty years on in its next life as a beautifully spruced up shopping boutique? Apalachicola’s history began as the third largest shipping port on the Gulf of Mexico, mainly cotton coming down the river to be loaded on sailing ships heading far away. Next, and through my lifetime, as a fishing village, source of the best oysters. Now, oysters basically depleted, lovely little shops, seafood cafes, hotels and B&Bs. 

For me, Apalachicola has childhood memories, and teen memories, and my ages late-forties, fifties, early-sixties memories, no seventies memories but now eighties experience, and I love it period, lifelong. Weekend crowds of people and cars when there’s no place to park are good for the new type of business, but it’s best when the crowds are gone and there’s not a soul to be seen, as was so when we arrived in town forty-eight hours ago for our briefest visit yet.

Apalachicola still has the same magic it did a summer day in July 1984 when we drove up and parked in front of the rectory to stay. I remember saying, “Home! I don’t care if I never leave Franklin County again.”

7H is perfect for us, but in retrospect, if we were closing on sale of The Old Place this morning, we might take the cash and run, escape to the Forgotten Coast and never come out. 

The engine block goes with this car. Good luck changing those plugs.


This may be a TAFB day, as I've been told that I'm getting a haircut.  

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sunday On the Road

Okay, I’ll begin a sentence or conversation with okay but generally not with well or so; and one singularly avoided word is very, which signifies intellectually, a prejudice of mine long years before hashtagveryverypotusbelieveme slithered out of the shadows into the gloam. 

Once, mentoring a vocational deacon, I wandered round the church listening while he practice-preached. When he voiced a phrase very, very, very touching I stopped him and said very is the most overused word in the English language, and the more you say very the less touching it gets, take out every very and say quite or most or some such. He changed it to one very, but preaching it the following Sunday had his way and it was very, very, very, touching.

Movies, films, a friend put me onto a new genre. Saturday evening before going to bed I watched Vernon, Florida after having driven through there earlier in the day. This might be a film for which I could say very very very - who hasn’t watched Errol Morris, a shame, tune in and turn on. 

Also found White Springs, Florida, home of Fat Belly’s cafe. Hamilton County. I had been thinking of High Springs just out of dry Alachua County, where my KA brothers used to carry a fistful of currency to buy the grain alcohol for the party.

Yesterday we left 7H on time, heading east to PortStJoe at 5:22 in pitch black dark, rain and wind, only car on the road nearly all the way cross town, Linda driving, windy on Tyndall (Dupont) Bridge. Careful but watching the time to arrive StJamesPSJ a half hour before the eight o’clock service. All okay parking in church parking lot at 7:25/6:25 Central still not completely light as yet. 

We waited ten minutes alone, then decided to check if any sort of notice was posted on the front door. Yep. No Wednesday healing service in October, no eight o’clock service in October. Morning Prayer on October Sundays except October 8 when Fr. Tom Weller would be there at eleven o'clock. Okay, so I evidently wasn’t listening when the rector asked me to supply, no doubt he told me eleven o’clock only; so we’re three and a half hours early. Who has been in PSJ three hours early on a tropical-stormy Sunday morning? We drove on over to Apalachicola, noticed several cars at Trinity for the eight o’clock service, drove around Our Town a bit. 

Obviously a Model-T, this relic has the corpse of a four-cylinder Ford motor. 

Had coffee and shared a blueberry turnover at Apalachicola Chocolate Shop, on the way out of town stopped by friends’ home and invited them to have supper with us when we are back for a wedding in two weeks, drove back to PSJ arriving half hour before eleven o’clock service. 

Checked out mic system, changed battery, scoped the church for my moves. Seventeen people present counting Linda and me, which lowered sermon formality to a chat from the pulpit. Pleasant visit including dear friend of three and a half decades, and a widow who after the service said she and her husband used to drive over to Trinity, Apalachicola to hear me preach. 

Kind words count.

Me inexplicably exhausted after the service, we headed home, watching hard driving rain out on StJosephBay as we cleared Gulf County en route to 7H. May God bless us everyone.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Vineyard (homily)

Lighten our spiritual darkness we beseech thee, O Lord, and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night of the soul; for the love of thy only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. 

You may be seated.


Jesus often calls on Scripture in his teaching, and the parable he told here has its origin with the beloved’s vineyard at Isaiah 5*, an alternate OT reading for today. Regardless of the gospel introduction though, Matthew’s allegory of “The Wicked Tenants in the Vineyard” is not the clean, simple parable that Jesus told (which you can read in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, and I shall read at my ending this morning). Matthew’s allegory is a figuration in which we can do our favorite exercise of assigning names to characters and symbols, a trick that is never valid with a parable; because a parable is about you

So that you understand (and I’ll come back to it), the parable Jesus told was allegorized by Mark, Matthew, Luke and the early Christian church more than half a century after Jesus died, at a time when the Church had begun derogating Jews as enemies, perhaps even “Christ-Killers” already, and seeing Christianity as God’s successor to Judaism.

Allegorized as Jesus never intended, Matthew's story has Jesus retrospectively prophesying his own torture and death, to the everlasting damnation of the Jewish people. Matthew’s agenda does this pointedly, to put the “fear of God” in Jewish Christians, who are abandoning Christ and the church for reasons that will see the original Jewish-Christian church disappear before another century passes.

If my seeming criticism concerns you, a scholarly look at Matthew’s gospel is not new to Episcopalians, and if it is new to you, consider Sewanee’s excellent EfM course, where you may become as educated in the Bible as any seminary student. Our church’s theology stands on Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, in which intelligently to study God’s Word is a call not only of clergy but of every baptized Christian. 

The original parable that Jesus told before Good Friday and Easter was not adorned by Mark’s later setting of Jesus in Jerusalem confronting hostile Temple authorities; or still later by Matthew’s complete allegorization to make Christians the good guys and Matthew’s Jewish opposition the evil ones (though throughout history we humans do relish self-righteous indignation and outrage against those who differ from us). Jesus, on the other hand, never resorts to vicious threats of capital punishment unto death, and he tells a parable and abruptly stops so you the listener can contemplate how it applies to you - - not how it applies to someone else, but how it applies to you

Here, you see, you are to discover yourself: the tenants in Jesus’ parable are you. Or you might find yourself in the hated unscrupulous landlord. Or in the naive father. Or the son. Or in the parable’s condemnation of evil on both sides. Jesus does not intend you to look across the aisle and shake your head at them or your fist at them, because it’s not about them, it’s to, for, and about you. In fact, Jesus’ parable could be read and heard to begin Lent as we pray our Ash Wednesday liturgy:

We confess to you, Lord, our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Unfortunately, those Ash Wednesday prayers become mindless rote, uttered and forgotten while the taste of pancakes, butter, sweet syrup and fat sausage still lingers on our tongues. 

Jesus’ story is not about long ago, it’s about human life today. It’s about our national darkness. It’s about a peaceful morning for beautiful, innocent little children at Sandy Hook School. It’s about a nation divided. It’s about an evening concert in Las Vegas. It’s about Americans after a storm, suffering in Puerto Rico and feeling hopeless. It’s not against foreigners and some strange religion, it’s about you, it’s about me, it’s about us, mindlessly oblivious to ourselves and our selfishness that is antithetical to the Love Commandment of Jesus; selfish, greedy, covetous, grabbing and murdering the Son. Where are we going as a people of God! How can we still see ourselves as God’s chosen! What is becoming of us? Are we so absent to the Love of God and our Baptismal Covenant?

Looking at the gospel reading again - - fifty years after Good Friday & Easter Sunday, Matthew’s church of Jewish Christians faces a theological and leadership crisis that is causing Jewish members to abandon the church and return home to basic Judaism. Matthew’s agenda is to fight that crisis. But, erringly, Matthew recasts Jesus’ parable so that instead of examining ourselves as Jesus always means with a parable, Matthew enflames indignant outrage and pointing fingers at Jews, stirring generations and centuries of ethnic hatred. But no indeed, Jesus' parable is about us!

This week, our bishop was so overwhelmed by horrendous national news, so swallowed up in the darkness, the shooting of innocent human beings by sheer evil, that in place of our post-Communion prayer, he offered the Prayer of St. Francis. It’s at page 833 in the Book of Common Prayer, and, following our bishop, we also shall do that this morning. I remind you:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

So now finally, hear the parable that Jesus most likely told (GThomas65):
(Jesus said) Someone owned a vineyard and rented it to some tenants, so they could work it and he could collect its crop from them. He sent his slave so the tenants would give him the vineyard's crop. They grabbed him, beat him, and almost killed him, and the slave returned and told his master. His master said, "Perhaps he didn't know them." He sent another slave, and the tenants beat that one as well. Then the master sent his son and said, "Perhaps they'll show my son some respect." Because the tenants knew that he was the heir to the vineyard, they grabbed him and killed him. Anyone here with two ears had better listen!

Jesus’ parable is not about wicked Judean tenants, or greedy absentee landlords, or vicious evil two thousand years ago: this parable is about us, you today, here, now, this morning. Anyone here with two ears had better listen.


Homily in StJamesEpiscopalChurch PortStJoe, Florida on Sunday, Pr22A, 08Oct2017. Text Matthew 21:33-46. The Rev. Tom Weller

* Isaiah 5:1-7
Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song concerning his vineyard:
My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He dug it and cleared it of stones,
and planted it with choice vines;
he built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
he expected it to yield grapes,
but it yielded wild grapes.
and now, inhabitants of Jerusalem
and people of Judah,
judge between me
and my vineyard.
What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I have not done in it?
When I expected it to yield grapes,
why did it yield wild grapes?
And now I will tell you
what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
and it shall be trampled down.
I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;
I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.
For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
he expected justice,
but saw bloodshed;
but heard a cry!