Monday, July 30, 2007

Eternal Rest Grant Unto Him, O Lord

...and let light perpetual shine upon him.

Today the Diocese of Indianapolis announced that the Rt. Rev. Edward ("Ted") Jones, IX bishop of Indianapolis, died on Saturday after a lengthy illness. ENS has an article as well. Bishop Jones retired in 1997 after serving the Diocese for 20 years. I knew Bishop Jones a little bit. I was received by him into the Episcopal Church on Pentecost of 1997, in what I believe was his last Episcopal act before retiring. I and the four others who were ordained to the diaconate with me were privileged to invite him to preach last June in Indianapolis. His sermon was warm and inspiring.

O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day our brother Edward. We thank you for giving him to us, his family and friends, to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn. Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Most merciful God, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding, deal graciously with Anne and the Jones family in their grief. Surround them with your love, that they may not be overwhelmed by their loss, but have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

May the souls of all the faithfully departed, in the mercies of God Almighty, rest in peace.


On Separation and Diminishment

Readers will know I don't comment too much on what's going on the wider church. It seems like I and my parishioners have enough to do just trying to live our daily lives in faithfulness to the mind of Christ. But I do keep up pretty regularly with current events in the Anglican Communion, and read lots of lbogs of differing points of view. Fr. Tony Clavier, a former bishop in the American Episcopal Church (now the Anglican Province in America) is rector of a parish in Morgantown, WV. He is well qualified to comment on the impending whatever-is-going-to-happen, it seems to me. He writes:

...I am haunted by the old story which suggests that when people leave the church, even because of persecution and suffering, they weaken both the church they leave and that which they erect.

That the loss of people like Campion, Baxter, Wesley, Newman, those who formed the Reformed Episcopal Church over here - and thus made evangelicalism now something which seems new and alien, weakened Anglicanism is surely apparant. That Methodism and Reformed Episcopalianism lost something important in separation may even be admitted by their adherents occasionally.

To which I responded:

I was struck by your point that separation diminishes both those who separate as well as those being separated from. It resonates with me strongly. I imagine that's what St. Paul would have said and did say. It seems that separation is going to happen. I wish it wouldn't. I wish it didn't have to. Perhaps there has been too much sin against the other among all sides to remain together at the moment. And yet, as Bishop Whalon (among others) has pointed out, heresy can be healed. Schism (his words in context) almost never is.

Pray for the church. "I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one." John 17.23.


There's a Castle Outside New York

It's called Lyndhurst Castle, and it's just up the Hudson from Tarrytown, about a half-mile from the Tappan Zee Bridge. It's the former Gould suburban mansion, complete with Conservatory and Carriage House. At one time the Conservatory was known as having the largest metal framed greenhouse in the world. We went on Saturday and got there just in time for the 3:30 tour. There really isn't very much to the house, although it is decorated nicely for the periods. I'd have to say the exterior is more impressive than inside is. But it's definitely worth a see if you are in the neighborhood.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Quiz: I'm a Dedicated Reader

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Literate Good Citizen

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

Fad Reader

Book Snob


What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Hat tip to Chris Coucheron-Aomot.


The Proper of the Day: Pentecost IX

Today is the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost. We move today from the prophet Amos to the prophet Hosea, who likes to use symbolic actions and names to illustrate the Word of God to the people. Check out "have a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom." We also continue reading from Colossians. In the Revised Common Lectionary, which we use at Trinity and is mandatory beginning this Advent, the interesting portion was optional today. We are exhorted to not let anyone condemn us in matters of food or drink or religious festivals because of Christ's victory over the powers and principalities of the universe, and not, as we might expect from someone from the Pauline school, because of our freedom in Christ, although that's at work here too. It's worth a read, especially when you consider that the Book of Common Prayer calls for a slew of just such festivals, both Principal as well as Major and Lesser. And following up on what service means in the Parable of the Good Samaritan two Sundays ago, and putting into proper context service grounded in the Word in the vignette of Martha, Mary, and Jesus last week, we now learn one way to concretely ground our service in the Word in the very words of the Lord's Prayer.

(Above: Gillis van Coninxloo: Mountain Landscape with River Valley and the Prophet Hosea)

And of course, as we always do, we thank God for all God has done in Christ we when celebrate God's very presence among us in the Holy Communion. It was poignant to pray the Lord's Prayer today, and then to go out to live that prayer in our daily lives. Thanks be to God!

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

I Liked Them Both

(Warning: Possible Spoiler alert)

Well, it's been a week since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released. I got my copy from a hunky UPS guy (do they have to audition, or what? Seems like all UPS guys are good looking. Maybe it's the uniform?) about 10:30 AM last Saturday. I got through about half of it on Saturday and finished it about 2:30 AM Monday morning. And this past Wednesday evening I watched the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. So I really got a dose of HP this week.

As you can guess, both were good. I gave Order of the Phoenix a 6 out of 10. I can't help but wonder if my vote would have been different if I had seen the movie before Deathly Hallows came out. As it was, I found myself thinking differently about certain characters like Snape and Draco Malfoy than I might have otherwise felt. I appreciated that Harry is older now - he looks like he's lost a lot of weight. I was moved by the scenes with Dudley in the beginning with the Dementors. I still can't get why Unvle Vernon is so cruel to Harry. The rest of the movie was pretty good, too. Professor Umbridge was just right, I thought. My one quibble is over the set up to the invasion of the Ministry of Magic by Harry and his friends. They decide to do it, and next thing you know they're in the main lobby of the Ministry. Yes, we saw it at the beginning of the movie when Harry had to go to his hearing, so we knew what it was, but at the same time, there was a lot that the book included that was missing. It's hard of course, to watch a movie after a book and completely forget the book, so I don't really know how much my own memory interjected into my view of the movie. Even so, I could have used a little more explanation on that part.

And Deathly Hallows? I read it once through all at once, and read the final chapters again in the midweek. And just this evening I read an extensive discussion over at Slate magazine. I liked it - the book, that is. I was pleased at how the whole relationship of Snape to Harry was explained, although I agree that the pacing of the final battle sequence was awkward. And I also think that the explanation of how Voldemort was finally able to die and the whole explanation of the prophesy's meaning to be a bit strained. The first time I read it, I was not reading for detail, so I didn't think about it too much. But the second time through some of the details started to get untidy, at least to me.

A few commentators have opined that the epilogue was not helpful, while others liked it. I found myself emotionally complete when I read the epilogue, although I also think it would have been fine to not have one. Certainly from a marketing and sequel view point, it might have been better not to have an epilogue - lots more room to have follow up books and movies and what not. Now of course, we know about Harry and Ginny and Ron and Hermione and Draco and some others too. That's now canon, and we have to live with it.

My most moving moment: when Harry buries Dobby the house elf. Least favorite: the whole hiding-in-the-tent sequence in the first half of the book.

BTW, I've heard the view that Harry's sacrifice at the end of Hallows is somehow Christ-like. In some ways, yes, but since I have seen not one shred of reference overt or otherwise to Christianity, much less any religion, in the entire HP corpus, I can't agree that it's "Christ-like."

What did you think of either Deathly Hallows or Order of the Phoenix, or both?


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Turning Things Upside Down

This is pretty cool, and pretty right, too:

Hat tip to Purl and Java.


The Proper of the Day: St. James the Apostle

Today we commemorate the major feast of St. James the Apostle, not to be confused with St. James of Jerusalem. This James is the brother of John, and both were fishermen, the "sons of Zebedee." Peter, this James, and John his brother were the disciples' "inner circle" that were granted the vision of the Transfiguration and who waited with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. James the Apostle is first apostle to be executed, in Jerusalem by Herod. The only martyrdom of an apostle recorded in the NT is that of James, recorded in the Acts of the Apostles 11:27-12:3. There's a tradition that James' body was carried to Spain, but there is no real evidence of that.

It's intriguing to me that both Offices and the Eucharist for this day include readings from Jeremiah. Jeremiah, of course, had a hard life as a prophet, and was eventually killed in Egypt. He preached during the last days before Jerusalem was conquered by Nebuchednezzar. I wonder about the implications of associating James with Jeremiah. Dieing for the Word is one obvious example, of course, but James did not apparently have a long ministry - it's calculated he was executed in about AD 42, perhaps nine or so years after the Ascension. Jeremiah, if the superscript of his book is correct, lived through the reigns of sev eral different kings of the Southern Kingdom before it fell. Still, there's some interesting ideas in those passages worth further exploring.

It's James and his brother John, who ask, through their mother, for thrones on the right and left of Jesus, prompting him to remind all the disciples, and us today, that true Gospel leadership is self-giving, not self-serving. Worth a thought in these days of what seems to be a lot of self-aggrandizement on the part of the seperatist factions within the Anglican Communion.

O gracious God, we remember before you today your servant and apostle James, first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ; and we pray that you will pour out upon the leaders of your Church that spirit of self-denying service by which alone they may have true authority among your people; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.


Monday, July 23, 2007

More on the Feast of S. Mary Magdalene

I've been thinking about Mary M all day. I was not able to attend the Eucharist today, but I did observe both the Morning and Evening Offices. At MP we read from Zephaniah ("Shout, O Daughter Zion!") and Mark (Mary M witnesses the Crucifixion and discovers the Empty Tomb.) Evensong gave us The Song of Miriam from Exodus ("Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously") and a wonderful, if dense, ode to the consolation of Christ from 2 Corinthians 1. The Offices give us several different suggestions about thinking about Mary M - and I'm not even including the proper Psalms (116 in the morning, 30 and 149 in the evening). So why is it that I can't seem to get into this feast? What is it that leaves me cold this evening?

I think part of what I'm struggling with is how observance of this feast has in some way edified me or lifted me up or helped my ongoing transformation/continuous conversion to the mind of Christ. I know that, at a minimum, merely observing the Offices is a good discipline (whence we also get the word "disciple") and that I should not expect any particular insight or result. Praising God in the daily round of prayers is reason enough to do the Office. So then why am I bothered that nothing seemed to happen today? Isn't thanking God for the witness of Mary M enough? Why not?


Con Law 101

From today's NYT:

The Constitution does make the president “commander in chief,” a title President Bush often invokes. But it does not have the sweeping meaning he suggests. The framers took it from the British military, which used it to denote the highest-ranking official in a theater of battle. Alexander Hamilton emphasized in Federalist No. 69 that the president would be “nothing more” than “first general and admiral,” responsible for “command and direction” of military forces.

The founders would have been astonished by President Bush’s assertion that Congress should simply write him blank checks for war. They gave Congress the power of the purse so it would have leverage to force the president to execute their laws properly. Madison described Congress’s control over spending as “the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”

Read it all. Congress is certainly well within its intended authority to use the power of the purse to affect the President's foriegn and military policy. That's the whole point.


Another Good Summary of Anglican Thought

Last week I posted an interview with Terry Mattingly, who offered a good basic overview of Anglican Christianity and the current divisions. Here's another, coming from a more catholic perspective, that I also find I resonate with. An example:

For example, in terms of Real Presence in the Eucharist you’ll find me somewhere between Transubstantiation and Ubiquitous Presence (the more proper understanding for the mischaracterization of Lutheran Eucharistic teaching often under the terms “consubstantiation” or “impanation”). But I know of those of a more Reformed bent who cannot accept either the change component of the former, nor the suffused presence of the latter, but rather the finite Resurrected Body is made present to us by the Holy Spirit and the Verba. And I know enough about Patristic teaching to know that all three of these have seeds in the Fathers. I prefer to leave the mechanics largely unexamined, perhaps sometimes out of sheer laziness and other times simply because the “how” is not something we can adequately explain in the media we have as finite creatures.

Read it all. Hat tip to Tobias Haller for linking to it.


The Proper of the Day: S. Mary Magdalene

Today is the Major Feast of St. Mary Magdalene. We remember her among other reasons as "Apostle to the Apostles," because it is she who first announced the Resurrection to them. In some icons (such as at right) she is seen holding an egg:

Tradition relates, that in Italy Mary Magdalene visited the Emperor Tiberias (14-37 AD) and proclaimed to him about Christ's Resurrection. According to tradition, she took him an egg as a symbol of the Resurrection, a symbol of new life with the words: "Christ is Risen!" Then she told Tiberias that, in his Province of Judea, Jesus the Nazarene, a holy man, a maker of miracles, powerful before God and all mankind, was executed on the instigation of the Jewish High-Priests and the sentence affirmed by the procurator Pontius Pilate. Tiberias responded that no one could rise from the dead, anymore than the egg she held could turn red. Miraculously, the egg immediately began to turn red as testimony to her words. Then, and by her urging, Tiberias had Pilate removed from Jerusalem to Gaul, where he later suffered a horrible sickness and an agonizing death.

From this, the miracle of Mary Magdalene, the custom to give each other paschal eggs on the day of the Luminous Resurrection of Christ spread among Christians over all the world. On one ancient hand-written Greek ustav, written on parchment, kept in the monastery library of Saint Athanasias near Thessalonika (Solunea), is an established prayer read on the day of Holy Pascha (Easter) for the blessing of eggs and cheese, in which it is indicated, that the Hegumen (Abbot) in passing out the blessed eggs says to the brethren: "Thus have we received from the holy fathers, who preserved this custom from the very time of the holy apostles, wherefore the holy equal-unto-the-apostles Mary Magdalene first showed believers the example of this joyful offering."


Almighty God, whose blessed Son restored Mary Magdalene to health of body and mind, and called her to be a witness of his resurrection: Mercifully grant that by your grace we may be healed of all our infirmities and know you in the power of his endless life; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

I made a big error today...

I've been so busy today that I forgot to check my starters for this evening. Turns out Toronto's Roy Halladay pitched an awesome 9 IPs for RFSJ III with a 0.00 ERA and I had him benched.

Oh well. The reality is that I need to at least begin thinking about keeping starters benched on a regular basis. All my pitching staffs are 'way over their maximum IPs for the season, and so I need to make sure that only 1 or 2 (at most) starters actually start per day.

Still, it hurts not to see that performance.


The Proper of the Day: Pentecost VIII

Today we read from the prophet Amos, who had some pointed things to say to the capitalists of his day, from Colossians, that ode to the cosmic Christ, and from the Gospel of St. Luke and the familiar and yet maddening story of Mary and Martha.

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

I'm Either Ron Weasley...

...or Severus Snape! Who put this quiz together, anyway? I don't believe it! I would have thought I was a Hermione, frankly. and why, if Ron and Severus are tied, doe this quiz generate Snape's summary and not Ron's? Hmmph!

You scored as Severus Snape, Well you're a tricky one aren't you? Nobody quite has you figured out and you'd probably prefer it stayed that way. That said you are a formidable force by anyone's reckoning, but there is certainly more to you than a frosty exterior and a bitter temper.

Ron Weasley


Severus Snape


Remus Lupin


Sirius Black


Albus Dumbledore


Hermione Granger


Harry Potter


Ginny Weasley


Lord Voldemort


Draco Malfoy


Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...?
created with

Tell us who you are!


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Sorting Hat Sorts Priests, Too!

Also in honor of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and reprised from Rebel Without a Pew (dated July 8, scroll down to get the original post), here's the Sorting Hat's take on the clergy:

Ravenclaw: You delight in the intellectual aspects of ministry: the study of theology, the crafting of sermons, the assimilation of vast knowledge regarding church history, polity and tradition. Your study is your sanctuary--it is here that you feel the presence of God. Your keen mind penetrates to the heart of ethical and ecclessial dilemmas. However, the relational aspects of ministry can be hard for you. You have to drag yourself out of your study to connect to people on an emotional rather than intellectual level. You have a limited amount of social energy, so you have to focus it carefully and pace yourself. Alternate careers: Professor, author, librarian.

Hufflepuff: Hufflepuffs loooved their Practical Theology classes at seminary. Your greatest delight in ministry is the actual tasks of ministry: pastoral care, visitation, organizing programs, recruiting volunteers, managing the organization. You know where the church furnace is located and could fix it in a pinch. You are generally quite popular with your congregation for your hard work and availability. However, your focus on the practicalities of ministry sometimes keeps your from seeing a grander vision, a bigger picture. Your congregations will be solid and healthy, but will seldom make the news for taking daring stands or developing cutting edge ministries. Some folks will exploit your willingness to work hard, so you have to guard against early burnout. Alternate careers: Director of community center, chef.

Gryffindor: You are attracted to the ministry because it offers a context for your need to be involved in a heroic quest: Defending the Truth, Working for Justice, Spreading the Gospel; Building God's Kingdom. You are willing to take a stand, be part of an embattled minority, sacrifice everything for The Cause. Your ministry is inspiring. As a charismatic leader you can motivate your people to great undertakings. However, you are easily dillusioned with the petty realities that inevitably crop up in congregational and denominational life. The day-to-day routine of running a church can make you tired and frustrated. You have absolutely no patience with church politics or polity and can become enraged when you run smack into it while on your quest for Truth and Justice. Alternate careers: missionary, non-profit founder, social work

Sytherin: You have incredible entrepenuerial skills. You look at a swath of farmland on the edge of the suburbs and get that Megachurch gleam in your eye. You can size up a congregation or community and immediately identify who has resources and connections that can be tapped for the success of your latest project. You may scorn denominational structures and rules, but you know how to use them to promote your mission---or to take down your enemies. Members of your church are grateful for the growth and money you bring to your congregations, but deep down they may feel that you don't care about them personally. They may hesitate to approach you with problems, feeling that you only want to hear "success stories". Alternate careers: business owner, Archbishop.

What sort of priest are you? Or, what sort of priest do you have in your parish? And what do you think *I* am? Tell all in comments!


The Sorting Hat Sorts Churches!

In honor of Book VII being shipped this weekend, see what you think of these:

Ravenclaw Churches
The church member who first uttered the sentence, "Let us appoint a committee to study the matter," surely was part of a Ravenclaw church. These congregations love to discuss, ponder, debate and contemplate. Once in a great while they might actually get around to doing something. Lay theologians and bible study lovers thrive in these churches. They like scholarly preaching and can sniff out a theologically incoherant argument from miles away. If they receive a huge bequest, they will likely use it to endow an annual lecture series.

Griffyndor Churches
These are cause driven churches. While other congregations also address current issues, in Griffyndor congregations issues are THE focus. These churches are animated by commitment to some kind of crusade: anti-war, pro-life, inclusion of GLBT persons, converting the lost, justice for the poor, saving the traditional family---you will find these congregations across the entire theological/political spectrum. These churches are very exciting places to be and you are never in doubt about what they stand for. However, since members of these congregations are nearly required to think alike, the spiritual growth that comes from seeing Christ in "the other" is often lacking.

Hufflepuff Churches
Think Jan Karon's Mitford congregation. Deep down, we all probably wish we had a Hufflepuff church in our lives. These congregations are not particularly intellectual or activist. They are ordinary places where ordinary people can experience the love of Christ at work in their lives. These churches are comfortable rather than exciting or stimulating. They have the best pot lucks. The same person has probably been directing the Christmas Pagaent since 1972, but if you go into emergency surgery, the pastor will be in the waiting room when you come out--not buried in her study, not marching on Washington. Because they are traditional and conflict averse, these churches have a hard time adapting to rapid social and cultural change. They thrive on stability and may not survive if their community changes drastically.

Syltherin Churches
These churches sincerely believe that we bear the best witness to the gospel if we employ the very best tools the world places at our disposal: imposing physical plants, state-of-the-art technology, a staff of hard working ministry specialists, and the best mass communication access money can buy. Syltherin congregations attach much importance to quantifiable measures of success: numbers, money, market share. They are convinced that nostalgia for quaint, old traditions is getting in the way of proclaiming the good news in a world where secular forces are arrayed against the faithful as never before. They challenge the rest of us to re-think old ways and strive for excellence, but they can also get so caught up in the tools of the culture that the culture captures them after all.

Reprised from Rebel Without a Pew and dated July 8, 2007 (scroll down to find the original post).

What sort of church do you have? Tell us in comments!


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Two Funnies

Anyone know what he wants on his 'wich?

This just gave me a chuckle - I love silly self-references like this:


Monday, July 16, 2007

The Proper of Yesterday: Pentecost VII

Yesterday was the Seventh Sunday After Pentecost, and in this Year of Luke we heard the very well-known Parable of the Good Samaritan. I was filling in at All Saints' Hoboken. Here was my sermon. I welcome your comments and feedback, as always!

May only God’s words be spoken, and only God’s words be heard. Amen.

I recently had an experience that was rather troubling to me. You may recognize similar encounters in your own lives. I was coming home from an evening in the City. It was perhaps 11 PM or so. As I was unlocking the door to my apartment, a man dressed in slacks, a nice shirt, and a tie came up to the porch. He startled me a bit when he spoke to me. He told me that his car had broken down in the next block and he was trying to get some money to take the Light Rail and PATH back to Newark where he lived. I was in my collar, and he asked if I was a priest. I said yes, and he went on to tell me he was Catholic, had gone to St. Peters’ Prep in high school and asked if I could help him out.

Now remember it was 11 o clock at night and my key was literally in the door. I was not in the most comfortable of situations. I did something that was perhaps foolish – I got out my wallet and pulled out a bill - a five, I think – and handed it to him, telling him the light rail was down the block. He walked quickly off, and I got inside and locked the door as fast as I could. I just wanted him to go away as quickly as I could get him to do so. I was relieved when he went off in the direction of the light rail.

Now I can imagine what some of you are thinking. Was I nuts? How could I possibly have done that? How could I have believed his story? It’s almost exactly like the ones the you hear downtown. You know, I need bus fare to get to Philadelphia or Boston or Memphis or wherever. Or my family was burned out of our home. Could you help? I admit I was very skeptical about my friend’s story. I could have said I’m sorry I have nothing for you and sent him on his way. Of course, I was in my collar after all. That’s did make things a little different, at least from my point of view. I felt like I had to do something.

Why was that? Why did I think it was important for me to do something in this situation? Well, it’s because I am informed in my thinking by today’s Gospel, the very well known, perhaps even famous, Parable of the Good Samaritan. Many of use have heard it countless times. A lawyer asks Jesus about how to inherit eternal life. They have a theological discussion, and the lawyer actually has the right answer from Jesus’ perspective. The lawyer, being a good lawyer, then asks what’s actually a very reasonable question: Well, who is my neighbor then, that God commands me to love so much? Jesus tells the story of how a man was robbed and left for dead on the dangerous road between Jerusalem and Jericho, which was a good day’s journey away. A priest passes by and ignores the dieing man, and then a Levite, who also looks the other way. A Samaritan comes along, and he rescues the poor victim, and goes out of his way to take care of him, even spending two day’s wages to make sure the man would get decent treatment at the hotel. And then Jesus turn’s the lawyer’s question around: He doesn’t ask if the man who was robbed was a neighbor, he asks who was a neighbor to the man? And the lawyer answers that it is the Samaraitan who is the neighbor. Jesus then gave the famous command: “Go and do likewise.”

Jesus is saying to his listeners then and to us today that the important question is not who our neighbors are but how we act toward them. He de-emphasizes the object of the love we are to show and instead emphasizes how we are to show it. By turning the question around, Jesus seems to be saying that it’s more important to deal with one’s inner motivations then in quibbling who should receive the love we’re commanded to show. What’s important is being a neighbor, and in the context of the parable, being a neighbor to one in need.

My sense is that this is pretty important. Jesus hung out with all sorts of folks considered undesirable in his day, as I’m sure you know. Especially in Luke’s Gospel, women, Samaritans, Romans, slaves, all seem to get special notice in teaching and in action. In short, every person and group that traditional Jewish culture of the day – or sometimes even Jewish law – said was outside the pale were the kinds of people Jesus pointed to as enjoying God’s favor just as much as the Chosen People of Israel did. And notice that Jesus spent no time commenting on how dumb the robbery victim was for taking the road alone. His hearers would already have known it was dangerous. Jesus himself took that road on the way to Jerusalem, passing through Jericho on the way. Jesus very particularly critiziced the priest and the Levite who did not stop to help. Remember, though, that on one level it was perfectly understandable why the first two passers-by didn’t stop. Their work, their vocations, their very reasons for being, called them to be ritually pure so they could serve in the Temple without offending God. Even to touch a dead person was to make a priest of a Levite ritually impure and unable to serve for perhaps a week or more. So given the victim’s injuries, one might have cut the priest and the Levite some slack. But Jesus didn’t. In fact, he picked one of the most hated ethnic groups he could have to show the contrast between all three of them. Samaritans were considered barely better than Romans by Jews. Samaritans and Jews didn’t mix, and Jews considered the Samaritan beliefs in the Torah only and that it’s OK to worship Yahweh on Mt. Gerazim and not only in Jerusalem to be essentially heresy. So for Jesus to show up a Jewish priest and a Levite with a Samaritan would have been startling for his listeners. And to top it off, Jesus has the Samaritan go overboard in generosity – showing mercy, as the Scripture has it. And so the lawyer is commanded to go and do likewise – be like the Samaritan and bend over backwards in generosity.

And of course we, who are followers of Jesus and want to imitate him, want to go and do likewise too. But it doesn’t seem so easy in 2007. Maybe it wasn’t so easy in Jesus’ day either. We have to dig into the parable to get the nuances of who was who and why they might have acted like they did. But the command and the sentiment seem clear. Go and Do likewise. No need to investigate the worthiness of the recipient of your giving. No need to check and see if he or she really needs it. Jesus did not have the Samaritan teach the victim how to be more aware of one’s surroundings in dangerous situations or to give him judo or tae –kwon-do lessons. Maybe that came later. What the Samaritan did first and foremost - which Jesus clearly commends here - is take care of the man’s immediate needs for medical attention, safety, and lodging. The rest of it can come later.

In the Sermon on the Plain, which is Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus says this: Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again” (Luke 6:30) And again: give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Luke 6:38) Here is a specific teaching that says very straightforwardly to give to anyone who asks. Don’t ask questions, Jesus seems to be saying, don’t worry about if the person is worthy or not. Just do it. And in Luke chapter 12, Jesus tells the crowd and us not to worry about stuff, because God already knows we need them. Rather, he says, “Instead, strive for God’s  kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”

And that, my sisters and brothers, is a tall order. If we give like that, pretty soon we’ll be out of resources ourselves, right. The poor will still be poor and the scam artists will be rich and won’t give anything back when we ask for it, because they sure aren’t going to follow the Gospel. So what, is Jesus crazy or what?

I could stand here and contextualize away and maybe suggest that the context of the Sermon on the Plain was about being radically open in spirit and didn’t necessarily mean to just dissipate one’s resources in giving. I could point out that the Samaritan, as good as he was, didn’t check the robbery victim into the Westin Hotel and give him an unlimited credit card. He did what he could, as far as we can tell. And all of that would be true and would be reasonable conclusions to draw. At the same time, the tone of the Parable here, coupled with the stuff from the Sermon on the Plain and the later teaching on worry, does lean in an unmistakable direction of giving generously, even radically. The whole Gospel of Luke does, actually. Luke’s Gospel is the social Gospel in many ways, because in it Jesus is constantly showing an awareness, an openness, a mindset toward those less fortunate in his society. And it seems to me that’s what we can take from today’s parable too. One’s giving starts from the heart and is habit forming. When one actively cultivates a habit, an awareness, an openness to the other, that’s actually living out the Good News that God loves all people. If God loves me, then I can turn around and do that too. So Jesus encourages us to be neighbors for the other by helping out, by giving of what he have, perhaps even radically. It doesn’t necessarily mean we have to go bankrupt ourselves. It doesn’t mean that we ought not be wise with our resources as we live in to that new mindset. It does mean that a steady habit of giving will transform each and every one of us just as much as, even more so, than those we give to.

So that’s why I gave money to someone who may well have not needed it. I didn’t do it for him, although I do hope he really did have a broken-down car. But I did it more for me. I’m trying to cultivate a mindset of giving and openness to the other, in the same way that Jesus gave so much for me and for each of us. It isn’t easy at times – I’m only human, after all. But actively working towards my own transformation – a continuous conversion to the mind of Christ that today’s parable lays out for us – will allow me to do my own little part to make God’s economy real today. So I hope that man used the money well. If he did, great. If he didn’t, there’s not much I can do. But I’m going to try to keep giving to whomever asks. I’m going to try to be the neighbor that God calls me to be.

In the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Amen.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Shenanigans at St. Thomas?

St. Thomas Fifth Avenue is the premier Anglo-music parish in the US. Its Choir of Men and Boys is world-renowned and with good reason. The rector there was formally accused of some misdoings last fall. The Diocese of New York investigated and found nothing wrong. However, The Advocate has got some good background. An excerpt:

In December 2006, nine gay Episcopalians filed a complaint against the rector of New York City’s St. Thomas Church alleging that he made derogatory comments about a fellow clergyman’s homosexuality. It was one of 16 charges leveled at the Reverend Andrew Mead, leader of the prominent Episcopal congregation at the corner of Fifth Avenue and West 53rd Street whose wealthy, influential parishioners include Newsweek editor Jon Meacham and Standard Oil heiress Minnie Mortimer—who married Oscar-winning screenwriter Stephen Gaghan at the church in May. Among the other accusations in the complaint: that Mead paid for cat litter for his own cats and “large quantities of alcohol” out of St. Thomas’s kitchen budget; and that the rector, while dressed as Santa Claus, forced female employees to sit on his lap to receive presents at a staff Christmas party.

The complaint, signed by 12 people altogether, was investigated by the New York diocese’s governing committee this spring and ultimately dismissed, the matter declared formally closed at St. Thomas’s 11 a.m. Sunday service on May 20. For the gay complainants, it was a “crushing defeat,” in the words of one, Bruce Gilardi—and the final straw in a series of questionable events at St. Thomas since Mead arrived over a decade ago. “If the church feels it can sweep us under the rug,” says Gilardi, an entrepreneur who had attended the church regularly since moving to New York in 2000, “then that’s an indication that this isn’t a place for me anymore.”

Read it all, and pray for the church.


A Blog and a Rant

I just discovered Jared Cramer's Scribere Orare Est. Check it out for yourself. He's an excellent writer and well worth checking in on from time to time.

He is friends with another blogger friend of mine, The Postulant, who writes in his blog Ember Days a very moving post about a recent Eucharist he attended. I encourage you to read it. It comes from a place of deep pain for him and for many, but it is in our pain that truth often emerges, it seems to me.

Both blogs are listed in All Sorts and Conditions of Sites at the left as well.


Anglicanism explained?

Terry Mattingly is a journalist who writes a weekly column on religion.

In an recent interview, he said this:

The heart of the Anglican compromise boils down to putting St. John Chrysostom and John Calvin in the same pew. But neither one of those men want to be there. There are things on which they do not agree with each other, and they would not compromise. And yet the Anglican compromise tried to have both sides of a Protestant and ancient equation be equal. You simply can’t pull that off.

I think he has it mostly right. Read the whole interview here.


The 2007 Baseball All-Star Game

For the 11th year in a row, the American League has won it again, this time 5-4 over the National League. Box score from the New York Times:

NL Boxscore MLB-American vs. MLB-National

MLB-American «0000210205100
MLB-National «100001002491
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:J.Beckett(1-0) L:C.Young(0-1) S:F.Rodriguez (1)
HR: AME- I.Suzuki (1), V.Martinez (1), C.Crawford (1) NAT- A.Soriano (1)

Ichiro Suzuki CF3132001001.000
Torii Hunter CF200000000.000
Francisco Rodriguez P000000000.000
Derek Jeter SS301000000.333
CC Sabathia P000000000.000
Mike Lowell 3B1110000001.000
David Ortiz 1B200000000.000
Justin Morneau 1B200000000.000
Alex Rodriguez 3B301000000.333
Justin Verlander P000000000.000
Grady Sizemore RF-CF100000001.000
Vladimir Guerrero RF300000000.000
Johan Santana P000000000.000
Victor Martinez PH1112001001.000
Jonathan Papelbon P000000000.000
JJ Putz P000000000.000
Alex Rios RF000000000.000
Magglio Ordonez LF200000000.000
Carl Crawford LF211100100.500
Ivan Rodriguez C201000000.500
Carlos Guillen SS200000000.000
Placido Polanco 2B100000000.000
Brian Roberts 2B210000010.000
Danny Haren P000000000.000
Manny Ramirez PH100000000.000
Josh Beckett P000000000.000
Jorge Posada PH-C301010000.333
Jose Reyes SS413010000.750
JJ Hardy SS000000010.000
Barry Bonds LF200000000.000
Cole Hamels P000000000.000
Derrek Lee 1B201000010.500
Carlos Beltran CF311001001.333
Orlando Hudson 2B100000011.000
Ken Griffey RF201200001.500
Aaron Rowand CF200000001.000
David Wright 3B301000000.333
Freddy Sanchez 3B100000000.000
Prince Fielder 1B100000010.000
Chris Young P000000000.000
Francisco Cordero P000000000.000
Matt Holliday PH-RF200000001.000
Russell Martin C300000001.000
Brian McCann C100000000.000
Chase Utley 2B200000000.000
Takashi Saito P000000000.000
Carlos Lee PH100000001.000
Billy Wagner P000000000.000
Trevor Hoffman P000000000.000
Dmitri Young PH1110000001.000
Jake Peavy P000000000.000
Brad Penny P000000000.000
Miguel Cabrera PH100000001.000
Ben Sheets P000000000.000
Alfonso Soriano LF311200101.333

E_P.Fielder. LOB_MLB-American 5, MLB-National 9. 2B_J.Posada, J.Reyes. 3B_, C.Beltran. HR_I.Suzuki (1) off C.Young, C.Crawford (1) off F.Cordero, V.Martinez (1) off B.Wagner, A.Soriano (1) off J.Putz. SF_K.Griffey. SB_A.Rodriguez (1), J.Reyes (1), D.Lee (1). GIDP_D.Jeter. DP_National League All-Stars 1 (J. Reyes, C. Utley and P. Fielder).

Danny Haren2.021112039-254.50
Josh Beckett (W 1-0)2.010002030-180.00
CC Sabathia1.01000009-50.00
Justin Verlander1.021100021-139.00
Johan Santana1.000002010-90.00
Jonathan Papelbon1.010002017-140.00
JJ Putz0.222211124-1427.00
Francisco Rodriguez (S 1)0.100020014-60.00
Jake Peavy1.010000016-90.00
Brad Penny1.00000007-50.00
Ben Sheets1.020000014-90.00
Cole Hamels1.020000010-70.00
Chris Young (L 0-1)1.012210115-918.00
Francisco Cordero1.011100115-119.00
Takashi Saito1.000000013-90.00
Billy Wagner1.022201115-1018.00
Trevor Hoffman1.010000022-130.00

T_3:06. A_43965.
Umpires_Home,Bruce Froemming; First, Charlie Reliford; Second, Mike Winters; Third, Kerwin Danley.