Friday, August 31, 2007

Creepy Crawlies!

Courtesy of today's NYT, here's an article and pic about a multi-acre spinder web with millions - yup, millions - of spiders.....

[Shudders] Yikes!


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mother Teresa: Saint or Atheist????

Also in today's NYT, (and reported in Time magazine as well this week) is a commentary about the new book of Mother Teresa's letters to confessors and confidants. It turns out she suffered from what spiritual authors term the "dark night of the soul" for decades. This has ignited some debate, apparently, about whether Teresa was really an atheist and simply could never bring herself to admit it. I have not read the book, just the excepts from the NYT and Time, but I have to agree with Fr. Martin that it doesn't seem to be a question of not believing in God, but that, as Fr. martin writes:

Even the most sophisticated believers sometimes believe that the saints enjoyed a stress-free spiritual life — suffering little personal doubt. For many saints this is accurate: St. Francis de Sales, the 17th-century author of “An Introduction to the Devout Life,” said that he never went more than 15 minutes without being aware of God’s presence. Yet the opposite experience is so common it even has a name. St. John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic, labeled it the “dark night,” the time when a person feels completely abandoned by God, and which can lead even ardent believers to doubt God’s existence.

Perhaps the writings of Mother Teresa will be a 21st-century addition to the library of the other great Christian mystics, and all the more interesting because she was not a contemplative, but was active and deeply involved in the very poorest of the poor.


"Occupational Hazard...."

I love the headline writers of the New York Times. They can be so dry. Here's a piece in today's op-ed section that I knew very little about. It turns out that our mandate from the UN to occupy Iraq is due to expire again in December, and the current government there is in no mood to ask for an extension. Unlike the op-ed writer, I don't see this kind of an exit as humiliating in the slightest; I was more intrigued by the legal considerations. I wonder if President Bush would observe such a request? After all, if Iraq is sovereign and doesn't want us, why should we be there? Is sovereignty in name only?


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Stool is Really a Ladder?

Practically ever since theologian Richard Hooker first wrote, Anglicans have talked about the three-fold authority of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. That was the order of the words I learned them in. Fr. Tobias Haller in his excellent blog In A Godward Direction has written an interesting analysis of what Hooker really wrote in his Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Fr. Haller writes:

Hooker’s Stool or Tripod is one of the great myths of Anglicanism, at least as far as the attribution of it to Richard Hooker. Hooker would have been quite surprised to see some of the explanations of this principle expounded in his name.

It's worth a read - he suggests a ladder is a better image than a stool or tripod even tricycle. I quite like the image myself. In the past I've referred to Lutherans (and perhaps Reformed) as being Sola Scriptura - Scripture only; Roman Catholics and perhaps Orthodox as Scripture + Tradition; and we Anglicans as Scripture + Tradition + Reason. I may have to rethink my shorthand.


Monday, August 27, 2007

The Quality of Time

Very often, Anglicans Online's weekly essay is terrific. They are always thoughtful and gentle. This week's is, I believe, sublime:

For our part, we're unable to treat time spent in bookshops, museums, churchyards, or fleamarkets as anything but open-ended. In what Kathleen Norris has called 'quotidian mysteries', we enter a kind of supra-chronological time that can't be measured — much less planned — on a clock. This richly textured, expanding, refreshing time is magnified in worship beyond even the loveliness of occasions outside church walls when we browse and meander without recourse to our watches.

Read it all.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XIII

On this Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, we begin a series of readings from the prophet Jeremiah, and today we read about the prophet's call and commission from God. The book of Jeremiah records in prose and poetry the last years of Jerusalem as an independent city and capital of the Southern Kingdom of Judah before it was conquered finally in 586 BC. If the dating of the prologue is accurate, Jeremiah records events from about 627 BC to 586 BC. We continue to read from the Letter to the Hebrews, and the excerpt today compares the vision of God that Moses and the Israelites saw on the mountain during the Exodus to the new Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, and the "innumerable angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven." And I today's Gospel from Luke, we hear the story of how Jesus healed a crippled woman on the Sabbath while at a synagogue. The official who kept saying "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day." brought a bit of a grin as I was proclaiming the Gospel today. How protective we can be about our worship and customs, and how blind we can be to change and growth!

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory 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.


Friday, August 24, 2007

The Proper of the Day: St. Bartholomew the Apostle

Today Christians remember St. Bartholomew the Apostle, one of the Twelve. Not much is known of Bartholomew, and even the details of his life are sketchier even than for others of the Apostles. It's believed he preached either in India or Armenia, of whom he is patron. One of Manhattan's larger Episcopal Churches, St. Bart's on Park Avenue, is named in his honor. I like the he's a bit anonymous. We don't know much about him, but we honor him for the spirit of Christ in him. Can you do something good for someone anonymously today?

Almighty and everlasting God, who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach your Word: Grant that your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Is Christ The Way? A Way? The Only Way?

Fr. Jake, in his excellent blog, has posted a reflection on what proclaiming the Gospel in a pluralistic world means to him right now. I was edified by his post and the comments which followed.

Read it all and see for yourself.


Yup, they really do that!

At the Indiana State Fair, which just ended on Sunday this year, they really do serve all sorts of things fried - Oreos, Snickers, Twinkies, you name it. And here's proof!

And the prices are reasonable, too! I do wonder what Deep-Fried Pepsi is, though....

Hat tip to the NY Times.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Summer Sunday Funnies

Some funnies as the silly days of summer are upon us....

The new testing paradigm rears its ugly head yet again....

Going to the beach.....

This could really save some time!


Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XII

On this the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, we continue to hear from the Book of Isaiah, and today it's God comparing Israel to a grape vine that he carefully cultivates, but to no avail; when God expected justice, he instead "saw bloodshed, righteousness, but heard a cry." The reading from Hebrews continues the discussion about faith from last Sunday, and culminates in the wonderful passage, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses...let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us." I was struck by that in light of today's Gospel reading:

Jesus said, "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided:

father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

He also said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, `It is going to rain'; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, `There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"

In my sermon today, I tried to note that Jesus, on the journey to Jerusalem, knows what he is getting himself into. Hence, the urgency and stress under which he labors. And He has been warning the disciples - and us - these past several weeks about how our relationships in the world need to be rethought in light of the Good News of God's forgiveness. Relationships with possessions (the Rich Fool), money (the birds of the air), time (watch and be ready!) and today family may all be impacted, Jesus says. The division that Jesus is talking about here - the separation, if you will, is that which arises because the world, and even members of our own families at times, will not want to hear the Good News and act on it and will in some cases actively prevent us from doing so. The division that happens is not anything that Jesus does - for he is indeed the Prince of Peace, the One who says "Peace be with you!" - is when other people, especially those who are close to us, may separate themselves from us when they see how we are beginning to internalize the Good News and allow it to permeate our own actions and behaviors. Jesus is not telling us here to forget the Commandment to honor our parents. Rather, he is pointing out that even our families may reject us when we begin to act out the Good News toward them. No one is forced to accept the Gospel, and many people are comfortable in their old unreconciled lives. They don't want and don't welcome the challenge of the invitation to live differently, to live a life reconciled to God and to enact that reconciliation in our relationships around us. That's a threat, and sometimes, unfortunately, those who feel threatened will retaliate. That's my sense of Jesus is getting at here. He's not dividing anyone, but nonetheless, divisions will happen.

What to do? Today's Collect calls God to give us grace to "follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life," and the author of Hebrews exhorts us to "run with perseverance the race set before us." Before we set out or continue on that journey with Jesus, each of us can come to the Table and be nourished with true Bread and the true Cup that strengthens us for that journey, one which may well result in division and rejection by others. And then we can go out into the world, prepared for that division, knowing that our traveling companion is Jesus himself, who will never leave us no matter who we might meet along the Way.

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


PS - anyone know how to do paragraph formatting in blogger?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Quiz: Which Theologian Thinks Most Like You?

Turns out I agree with Moltmann most, and I've only read a little of his writings (he admits with shame):

You scored as Jürgen Moltmann, The problem of evil is central to your thought, and only a crucified God can show that God is not indifferent to human suffering. Christian discipleship means identifying with suffering but also anticipating the new creation of all things that God will bring about.

Jürgen Moltmann


Karl Barth


John Calvin


Martin Luther


Paul Tillich


Friedrich Schleiermacher


Jonathan Edwards




Charles Finney




Which theologian are you?
created with

With a nod to the Barefoot Priest. I also wish there were some Anglican theologians listsed - we do have them, like Rowan Williams. Richard Hooker, etc.

Which theologian most thinks like you? Report back in Comments!


Baseball Update

It's been a long time since I've reported on how my teams are. Of course, you can always check for yourselves, since the links are in the All Sorts and Conditions of Sites section, but just in case:

RFSJuniors, my first and favorite team, is now solidly in third after a long run in second place. Hitting was working really well in the first half of the season, as was pitching. I made a few changes, including trading away Prince Fielder to the first-place team in the league. But what has happened is that hitting has declined somewhat and I pitched too many innings too early. Remember the maximum 1250 IPs for the season? With six weeks to go I 'm going to run out of innings to pitch before the season ends. I'm down to one starter per day maximum, even if more than one are scheduled to pitch. I don't expect to get back to 2nd, although that would be nice.

RFSJ II is in 4th place in its league. Their hitting never materialized like I thought it would. Pitching, however, is pretty good. Once again I have to watch my total IPs, even though I'm not nearly in the same predicament as RFSJuniors.

RFSJ III is in a dismal 10th place out of 12. I was doing well in the pack, 5th, 7th, 6th, etc., but with a drop of 1.5 total points I fell a lot. The problems there are runs, average, and ERA, all of which are dreadful. I don't expect much to happen with this team. In a way, because it was free (no sign-up fee, which means I don't get alot of the background research like my other teams do) I sort of have been free to be more daring. This is what happens, perhaps!

I am starting up 1 fantasy football team and one NCAA football pick-em team. I'll report on them when the seasons begin. Go Bucks!


Windmill Alliance To Hold Gala Celebration

This went out today - RFSJ

Press Release

Joseph Doria and Peggy Simpson-Baber
To be Honored at
The Windmill Alliance's Gala Celebrating “The Miracle on 5th St.”

BAYONNE, N.J., Aug. 17 – Bayonne Mayor Joseph V. Doria and Marguerite (“Peggy”) Simpson-Baber will be the guests of honor at a gala hosted by The Windmill Alliance, a longtime Bayonne nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting the area’s disabled and disadvantaged.

The gala will take place Sept. 28 beginning with cocktails at 6 PM at the Chandelier Restaurant in Bayonne. The Hon. Doreen DiDomenico, Hudson County freeholder, District 1, will be the event’s mistress of ceremonies.

The Windmill Alliance’s “Miracle on 5th Street” campaign will raise nearly $ 4 million to expand and upgrade the existing facilities on the 5th Street campus, in order to complete the organization’s long-term site plan. The Windmill Alliance seeks to recognize outstanding members of the community who share the Alliance’s mission of respectfully and effectively serving those who are disabled or disadvantaged. Doria and Simpson-Baber were chosen to be honored for their valuable contributions in this area.

The Hon. Joseph V. Doria, Jr. is serving his third consecutive term as Mayor of his hometown, Bayonne, a position to which he was first elected in May 1998. He was reelected in 2002 and in 2006. Doria served for nearly a quarter century the New Jersey General Assembly, first elected in 1979. Doria was elected Speaker of the Assembly by his colleagues for the 1990-1991 legislative session and served as Minority Leader from 1992 to 2002. On June 9, 2004, Doria was unanimously chosen by the Democratic County Committee members from the 31st Legislative District to serve as interim Senator following the untimely passing of Jersey City Mayor and Senator Glenn D. Cunningham. On November 2, 2004, Senator Doria was elected to serve the remainder of the unexpired term, which ends in January of 2008.

Peggy Simpson-Baber spearheaded the opening of the Busy Bee program, which offers multi-disciplinary early intervention for young children with developmental challenges. The program, which opened in 2002, is a collaborative effort by the Bayonne Medical Center, Bayonne Board of Education and the Simpson-Baber Foundation for the Autistic. Mrs. Baber is the founder and Chairman of the Board of trustees of the Simpson-Baber Foundation. The Foundation is a registered charity dedicated to educating the public on the spectrum of Autism and providing educational, social, and recreational opportunities to children with Autism. She is the former Director of Financial Services for the Katharine Gibbs School in Montclair, and is currently employed by the Bayonne Board of Education as a teacher in the Autism Program. Mrs. Baber has served as a trustee and treasurer of the Bayonne Medical Center Foundation, a Director of the Bayonne Chamber of Commerce, and a Director of the Bayonne Town Center. She is currently serving as a Commissioner of the Bayonne Local Redevelopment Authority.

The Windmill Alliance serves nearly 40 persons with developmental disabilities in its Windmill Center day program and up to 15 in its Windmill Residence supervised apartments program. The HIGHWAYS thrift store and counseling service is open five days a week and provides new and almost new clothing and home furnishings as well as a food pantry and crisis counseling on site. The Alliance employs 32 people with an annual budget of $1.5 million.

The Windmill Alliance, Inc. is a ministry of Trinity Episcopal Parish in Bergen Point, the Rev. Gerard A. Pisani, Jr., Rector. To purchase tickets, or for more information, please contact the Rev. Robert F. Solon, Jr., executive director, at (201) 858-4460 or


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Proper of the Day: St. Mary the Virgin

Today is the Major Feast of St. Mary the Virgin, Theotokos and Mother of Our Lord. Theotokos means "God-bearer" in the Greek and was proclaimed a title for Mary by the ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. The other title considered at the council was Christotokos, or "Christ-bearer," which many apparently preferred. The council decided on Theotokos because it says more about the nature of Jesus Christ than it does about Mary herself.

The Collect for the Day (a "collect" is simply a form of prayer that "collects" the thoughts or themses of the day and has a specific structure) implies what for the Roman Catholic Church is dogma, but for Anglicans is adiaphora:

O God, who have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

In the Roman rite, and acknowledged in Anglo-Catholic circles, today is actually the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, where it is believed that she was bodily assumed into heaven and did not, as I understand it, physically die. This belief is adiaphora ("something indifferent") for Anglicans because it was not a decree of one of the first five ecumenical councils and so Anglicans are free to acknowledge the belief, or not. Many people throughout the centuries have taken great comfort and strength and growth toward God via a devotion to the Blessed Mother, and I think we as Anglicans must at least recognize that such devotion has been part of Christian tradition that we need to respect. As a matter indifferent, it's up to the individual to discern how much, if any, of a devotion one wishes to engage in; one's salvation does not depend on whether one accepts the Assumption or not.

My own view is that the Mary feasts of the BCP (The Annunciation, The Visitation, and the Feast of St. Mary) strike a good balance. The first two feasts are grounded in Scripture itself. The third (today's) is the traditional day of the age-old festival in Mary's honor, and we kept the hint of its provenance in today's Collect but shifted its emphasis toward Mary's entire life and especially her role as Theotokos. We did not keep a feast of the Immaculate Conception in December because that is also adiaphora, although there's nothing to prevent it, and some Episcopal parishes such as St. Mary the Virgin in Manhattan will. Growing up in the Lutheran tradition, as I did, I confess to a bit of suspicion about the cult of the saints in general, in that devotion toward a saint may tend to take away from one's devotion to Jesus. (Pope John-Paul II's idea of Mary as "co-redemptrix" was perhaps the quintessential example.) Over time, though, I've come to understand there can be different kinds of devotion or worship, and to acknowledge the role the saints have had in Christian tradition over time and really from the very earliest times. So in Evening Prayer, I always include Mary in my list of saints in the final petition of the Suffrages, along with my personal patron, St. John the Evangelist, and any other saint being commemorated that day. And I am personally persuaded that Theotokos is an acceptable title for Mary and one which I can use as well.

So in the spirit of Theotokos, who points not to herself but to the One she bore, let us take the words of Mary at the wedding in Cana to heart when she advises the steward, and us, "Do whatever He tells you!"


Update: The Mad Priest has done it again (scroll down a bit and you'll see what I mean...)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Some New Thoughts On An Old Topic

My friend and seminary classmate Fr. Matthew Moretz has posted a new addition to his video blog. Oddly enough, it's on the topic of sin. We probably don't talk enough - in the right ways - about sin, although we confess every Sunday and receive absolution from it as well as strength to resist it in the Eucharist. But check it out and see what you think. Which of the premises "sin = ________" resonate most with you?


Sunday, August 12, 2007

When YouThink You Have the Answers

Years and years ago, my parents owned a copy of the Good News edition of the very 1970s edition of The Living Bible, a paraphrase of the Bible based on the ASV and RSV. This particular edition had cool 1970's-esque pictures of young people in front of every book - think the original movie version of Godspell ans you'll get the idea. This edition also had a little section in the front with suggested Bible passages for various events and moods: "When you're happy," "When you need to make a decision," etc. I was so impressed that I made a copy of these notes and stuck them in my own confirmation Bible, which was a hardcover NIV. I still have them, and that Bible, too.

I ran across the following on Fr. Tobias Haller's excellent blog In a Godward Direction. In honor of TLB's lists of "When you..." suggestions, here's his, which I have entitled, "When You Think You Know All The Answers:"

  • Those in the position to understand the scriptures sometimes don’t, and those with the authority to interpret them are sometimes wrong.
  • Sometimes those who are sure they are doing God’s will are working at cross-purposes with God.
  • God still somehow makes the best of things. Sometimes these things are amazing and completely unexpected and unbelievable.
  • So God takes a long time to do so — from a human perspective. (“A thousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone...”) Even though David’s words had been sung for fully a thousand years, they only came to realization in Christ, and then were seen (by those with faith to believe) to mean something different from what people thought they meant all along. Much of the world still rejects this interpretation, even after 2,000 more years.
  • Jesus came to bring liberation from sin, which obedience to the law of Moses could not accomplish.
  • This too may take a long time to sink in.
  • There is abundant evidence to show that the church has changed, developed, and evolved in many of its teachings over time, not just on moral questions but on doctrine. (A clear articulation of the Trinity and the Incarnation took about 400 years. The canon of Scripture itself remains unsettled to this day between the various branches of Christendom. There are many acceptable theories concerning the Atonement.)
  • Scoffing is not an appropriate response to the possibility of a new understanding of God’s purpose or plan. A humility that admits one may be mistaken, even after having believed something to be true for a long time, or with great personal conviction based on one’s own experience, is advisable.
  • We don’t have all the answers. God does. And even though God has revealed much, we still dare not claim to have understood perfectly — our knowledge is as partial as our love is imperfect.
  • It appears there is a relationship between our ability to love one another and our ability to understand one another.
  • God commanded the former. Perhaps we should work on that as a way to accomplish the latter.
Well worth pondering. God and God's plans for us are so much more than we can possibly imagine. To think all is, was, and ever shall be - to us humans at least - seems hubristic at best.


An Emotional Moment

It's the practice at Trinity Parish to communicate children who are baptized whenever they first reach for the Body as long as their parents agree. Well, today I had the experience of that happening. A toddler, call him Thomas (not his real name) is about 18 months old or so and this week just started learning to walk. Today at the Communion Rail I was all set to give Thomas a blessing, as I usually do. He had a big grin on his face and appeared to be reaching for the Host I was holding up for his dad, who had him in his arms. I looked at Todd (also not his real name) , Thomas's father, and asked him in a look if I should give Thomas the Host, Todd whispered yes, and so I had the joyful and very powerful experience of giving Communion to a Christian for the very first time. I have to tell you, I was more than a bit overtaken by the moment. I felt honored and privileged to be present at such a momentous occasion. I pray that Thomas will always reach for the Sacrament with joy, and will come again and again to the Table to be nourished and strengthened by it.

Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the joy and care of children: Give us calm strength and patient wisdom as we bring them up, that we may teach them to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XI

Today is the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, and on this day we listened to excerpts from the prophet Isaiah, the letter to the Hebrews, and from the Gospel of Luke. The Isaiah lesson is part of a small 2-week interlude, as week after next we begin several lessons from Jeremiah. Hebrews is news this week but we will be visiting that letter as well over the next few weeks. The lesson from Luke is a continuation of last week's lesson, and in it Luke continues to talk about our relationship with money but also turns toward an almost Advent-esque set of advice about being ready for the final coming of the Realm of God. Fr. Jerry urged us in his sermon to be ready and to be wary of the things on our lives that are taking the rightful place of God. I'm not quite sure why the Isaiah lesson is stuck in there in between amos and Jeremiah, but there it is.

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Thursday, August 9, 2007

Mango Madness!

So yesterday that big storm blew through the Northeast. It was so powerful it caused a tornado in S.I. and Brooklyn and at least one death in NYC as well. It also caused us at Crossroads to lose all electric power from about 4 AM Wednesday morning until about 5:15 PM. So we had some interesting times. Many of the campers (and thus the counselors too) were up when the storm first hit around 3:30 AM, and many didn't get back to sleep any time soon. It was a long day!

Unfortunately, the kitchen lost some of its refrigeration as a result, and there were some mangos that Dave the cook had been saving but had gone bad. apparently there was a sign on them but the many of the counselors - all of them, actually - were tired from the early morning and didn't see the sign. Those mangos got eaten by the counselors! Now in this area of the state there's a mold floating around that reacts oddly with mangos, since they are not native to this area. Eaten mangos with this mold on them can cause really strange sysmptoms that vary widely. Some people develop a fear of grass. Others can get really very very tired, or think they are animals or something, such as ducks or moose (meese?) or worse. Occasionally, it's even been observed that victims will only respond to certain stimuli, such as speaking only from Bible verses or in other languages such as Czeck. Universal symptoms include a fear of loud noises and of being touched, and a loss of motor control causing the victims to be unable to open doors.

As it turns out, our poor counselors were afflicted with many of these symptoms last night. Many of the campers were understandably concerned, since the symptoms got really bad after dinner. Jonathan our camp director explained to the campers that the only known cure - he confirmed it on the Internet, of course - is to immerse victims in bleach or chlorine, because that instantly kills the mold. I was called in to help console some of the campers who were getting quite upset. Severla of the campers suggested the pool, which maybe had enough chlorine in it to kill the mold. We all thought that was the best approach, so I was able to watch each cabin go find their counselor, deep in the throes of mango Madness, and try to get them, without touching them or yelling loudly, to the pool. The various symptoms made it difficult for some of the cabins to communicate effectively, but eventually all the counselors were urged to get to the pool and go into it.

Thank God, everyone made a full recovery! Of course, none of the counselors remembered anything of their ordeals, and so each cabin had to tell them, to much disbelief and incredulity indeed!


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

I've Gone to Camp

This week I am serving as visiting chaplain at Crossroads Camp and Conference Center, in North Central NJ. Crossroads is a joint operation of the Diocese of Newark and the New Jersey Synod of the ELCA. It's a great opportunity for kids to have time int he woods and the lake and stuff, and also to experience again some of the enthusiasm that I remember when I was a counselor at the YMCA Storer Camps while I was in HS.

Best experience so far: the campfires! some of the songs I know from back in the day, and lots are new. I'm finding, though, the I don't move quite as quickly as I once did.....


Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Proper of the Day: The Transfiguration

On Monday we celebrate the Major Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. It's been observed in the East since the fourth century, and in the West since the Middle Ages. In this feast we recall when Heaven and Earth are met together in a single moment, and we look forward to the time when that will be more than a mere moment in time but will be for all people and all times. In the Episcopal Church, we also observe this event on the Last Sunday after Epiphany as well, making it possibly the only moment in Christ's life observed more than once in the church year except for the Resurrection itself, which we of course observe every Sunday on the first day of the week.

It's also the anniversary of the first and so far only use of the atomic bomb, by the United States, against Japan, when Hiroshima was destroyed by a single fission bomb on August 6, 1945.

O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The Proper of the Day: Pentecost X

This evening begins The Tenth Sunday After Pentecost, with readings from Hosea, Colossians, and Luke. The Gospel is the Parable of the Rich Farmer, who pulls down his barns to build bigger ones, intending to live on easy street for awhile. But God has other plans for him, and all the farmer's own planning ends up for nought. In the words of Jesus, "so it is for those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your
Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without
your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Here's my sermon for today, As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

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

I saw in the newspaper yesterday that the financial markets have been getting quite roiled up, because of the all people defaulting on their home mortgages. It turns out that some people whose credit was less then stellar got some pretty good deals two or three years ago. You know, the adjustable rate kind. Now, their interest rates have risen because of those rates have indeed adjusted, and adjusted upward. So what started as an easy monthly payment to make has become something in some cases much more difficult. Defaults and foreclosures are on the rise, and the ripples are being felt all through the economy.

It’s not just nationally either. Right here in Bayonne, we find ourselves getting squeezed by higher property and income taxes, even though our incomes haven’t risen by nearly the same amount. We’re certainly facing it in our parish ministry, the Windmill Alliance. Costs for things like electricity, insurance, and gas continue to rise, and our payment from our major granters, such as the State of New Jersey, have not kept pace. Perhaps some of you have felt the pinch too, directly or indirectly. Times don’t seem to be very easy for many of us, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

It’s not so different now than it was in the day of Jesus. In fact, it was probably worse. In the United States there is, at least for the moment, a middle class, but in Judea where Jesus was living and preaching there wasn’t one really. You either were rich or poor. And poor could be pretty poor. And there weren’t very many rich people around. In fact, Scripture consistently reports that it was mostly the poor who followed Jesus around to hear what he had to teach and to witness the amazing things he did. Very often his teachings seemed directly on point, immediately applicable to the ordinary lives of the ordinary people of the time. And just as applicable to you and to me. But today’s story seems different. This isn’t a story about the poor. It’s a story about a rich farmer. In fact, I’d venture to guess the vast majority of the people listening to the parable would not have gotten it, or certainly wouldn’t have thought that it applied to them. A rich farmer? Ha! All the farmers I know are living hand to mouth. A good crop? Hasn’t happened around here in years. What’s big J talking about anyway? Maybe he’s been hanging with the scribes and Pharisees too much. Yeah. He couldn’t possibly talking about me. I can hear folks in the crowd thinking just like that.

And maybe that’s a thought that crossed your mind as you heard the Gospel being read, too. I have to tell you, though, I’ve been troubled by this passage all week. Two lines keep coming to mind: first, Jesus introduces the parable: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” And at the end, Jesus says, “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” It’s pretty similar to something from the letter to the Colossians that we heard earlier: Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).” Did you catch the word “greed” twice? I did. Try this on: “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, which is idolatry.”

Greed is idolatry. Yikes. What’s this about?

Idolatry is, as you might remember, the worship of false images, things that aren’t God. Remember the Golden Calf? That was an idol, an image. It wasn’t God. One reason it was prohibited to make an image of God in the Ten Commandments was because it’s too easy for us humans, because we’re tactile and use our physical senses, to transfer our worship of an invisible God to a visible something else. But more broadly, idolatry is really anything that takes the place of God in our lives. It doesn’t have to be a statue or something like that. It can be something else, like a person or a place or even an idea. What Jesus is reminding us here, I think, is not that wanting stuff is necessarily sinful. We all want stuff and we want to be comfortable. My wants include decent internet access and my stereo. Yours might be something completely different. My sense is Jesus isn’t talking about those things. My stereo is not going to get in the way of God in my life. What Jesus is alluding to here are the attitudes that take hold of our lives that take our energy and attention away from God. These are the deeply held beliefs and habits of action that turn us away from God, or somehow interfere with our relationship with God. Remember that God loves each of us, you and me, unconditionally. We try to love God back unconditionally as well. Our first response to God’s love is to acknowledge it and then secondly to do something about it. But anything that takes us away from recognizing God first in our lives becomes an idol. Anything that we find we want more than God is greed, which as the author Colossians tells us, is idolatry.

Let me give you by way of confession a very personal example. I stand before you convicted of idolatry. I can see it in my own life. It’s not possessions as in stuff that are my idols. Moving from a big house in Indianapolis into a very small room at General Seminary cured me of that. I had to give a lot of stuff up. I got it all back when I moved to Bayonne, but I found myself not needing much of it anymore and found I could give much of it to Highways. I hope when you have stuff you no longer want or need you will consider that too. But throughout my time at seminary, although I didn’t have a lot of stuff, there was something else I never gave up. I never gave up my own idol, which was financial security. You see, I have been very blessed in my life in so many ways, and one of the most significant for me is that I have always pretty much been secure financially. I’ve never really had to worry about my housing or food or clothes or insurance. I’ve worked hard for it and it’s very very important to me. There isn’t anything I won’t do, to improve, or at least maintain, my ability to keep a roof over my head, food on the table, and all the rest, more than simply waiting for the next paycheck. In fact, I realize that I will do almost anything legal to ensure I don’t lose the financial security I’ve been able to build up. I don’t need to go into all the details, but let me – with some degree of shame – give you just one: I have never in my life been without health insurance. And in fact, I know in my heart of hearts I will do almost anything legal to ensure I keep it. That, my sisters ands brothers, is idolatry, pure and simple. Because the truth is I’m not sure I would work so hard to keep my relationship with God as I would to keep my relationship with health insurance. For me, that’s an idol in my life, because I essentially treat it as more important to me than God, and that, it seems to me, is what Jesus is warning us about.

My friends, I hope you don’t thinking I’m bragging. That’s not my intent at all. That’s not at all what I’m trying to get at Many of you have shared with me your own situations, and I am well aware that they are in many cases far more difficult than anything I have had to face in my own life. In my reflecting on this Gospel in my life, I realized that, although as a priest I’ve dedicated my life to the proclamation of God’s everflowing love in Jesus, I’m not immune. I’m no paragon of perfection. I have an idol – for me it’s financial security – right in my own life. That is the barn that I want to tear down and make even bigger. That is the thing that I now know I have to struggle with in my spiritual journey with Christ. I try to follow Christ daily, but I have this big heavy chest that I’m carrying that is in weighing me down in ways I am probably not even aware of yet, slowing me down and distracting me from following Jesus as closely as I otherwise could.

Now that I am aware of my idol, what can I do? I think the key her is Jesus own words: , “So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” It’s being rich towards God that is the way to leave one’s own personal idols behind. First, I’m going to confess my idolatry. I did it publicly to you just now, and I will offer it up with all those things that trouble us when we make our community confession in just a few minutes. And I’m going to listen with new ears to the words that Fr. Jerry will declare in response, that our sins – even greed, which is idolatry – are forgiven in the power of Jesus. Then I’m going to join with Jerry and all of you in the great thanksgiving of the Eucharist for everything God is doing in my life and your life, where God comes among us again in the Body and Blood of Jesus, becoming one in us as we are already in him. And then I’m going to try to take to heart the words we will pray after Communion and go out and do the work God has given me to do, to be a faithful witness of all Jesus is doing in my life and in the whole world. This week, now that I’m aware of it, I’m going to try to reflect on what idolatry means in my life and how I can move toward really having God first in my life. And I’m going to look at my own patterns of giving and stewardship, to see how I can better be be rich toward God rather than storing up treasures for myself. I don’t have any answers for that part yet. Feel free to ask me in the weeks and months ahead how I’m doing. And if you have any constructive wisdom, I hope you’ll share it with me.

My friends, I still have no idea exactly why Jesus chose to tell the parable of the Rich Foolish Farmer to a crowd of people who perhaps had little idea of what he was talking about, instead of to some of the rich folks we already know Jesus also spent time with. I’m just glad I was able to hear something in it that affects me. I’m not proud of what I’ve learned about myself, but I stand in full confidence that God’s love for me is not diminished one iota by my self-discovery. So I join with the author of Colossians, who encourages me to strip off my old self with its practices and day by day cloth myself with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of my creator, God the Almighty. May it be so for all of us.

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


Thursday, August 2, 2007

Random Funnies

I totally relate to this, since my seminary debt began in February. I owe so much I will basically pay it off about when I retire. The Church Pension Group has promised to do something about seminary deby, but so far I haven't seen much.....

With all the Harry Potter mania, I thought this was especially apt:

I went to the beach last week. Beaches are a mixed blessing for me, since I'm prone to skin cancer and the doctor says I in particular should just stay in t-shirt and shorts at the beach, with SPF a zilllion sunblock.....

Boy, did I feel like this when I finished the last Harry Potter book too....