Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bush the Terrorist?

Francois Furstenberg, Professor of History at the University of Montreal, writes in the NYT:

And though 18th-century France may seem impossibly distant to contemporary Americans, future historians examining Mr. Bush’s presidency within the longer sweep of political and intellectual history may find the French Revolution useful in understanding his curious brand of 21st- century conservatism.

And this:

Though it has been a topic of much attention in recent years, the origin of the term “terrorist” has gone largely unnoticed by politicians and pundits alike. The word was an invention of the French Revolution, and it referred not to those who hate freedom, nor to non-state actors, nor of course to “Islamofascism.”

A terroriste was, in its original meaning, a Jacobin leader who ruled France during la Terreur.

How ironic!


The Proper of the Day: SS Simon and Jude

Today the Church observes the Major Feast of Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles. We don't know too much about either of them; it's possible that Jude is the author of the Letter of Jude in the New Testament, but we really don't know one way or another. St. Jude, of course, is the patron of last resport, and apparently this is so because you wouldn't want to think of him to closely with Judas Iscariot, so you'd go to all the other saints first and then to St. Jude as the last on the list.

The First Lesson at Morning Prayer today from Isaiah contains this wonderful line:

For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little.

It's actually repeated again a few verses later. The NRSV footnote helpfully adds, "Meaning of this verse in the Hebrew uncertain." Indeed! It was always great fun to hear this lesson read aloud at seminary; even the the lector often couldn't get through it without grinning. I wonder what it sounds like in the original language. Do you have other fun passages in Scripture that are particularly good when read aloud? Let us know in the comments.

O God, we thank you for the glorious company of the apostles, and especially on this day for Simon and Jude; and we pray that, as they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so we may with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XXII

Today the Church celebrates a Feast of Our Lord in the Eucharist and readings from Joel, II Timothy, and Luke. The passage from the prophet Joel contains the vision:
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
In the second letter to Timothy, St. Paul is lamenting his own predicament and defending his ministry and promising that the "crown of righteousness" will be reserved for him and by implication for all of us after we ourselves have each ben "poured out as a libation." A libation is a drink offering, where the offeror literally ours out a chalice onto or in front of the altar. Most of the uses of the word "libation" int he NRSV come from Jeremiah, which we just finished reading last week.

And today's passage from Luke is the famous Pharisee and the Publican, or Tax Collector. You know the one, the one who says, "Lord, I'm glad I'm not like that tax collector over there." I know I am often guilty of that same feeling. I need to be aware of who it is I am marginalizing by my own holier-than-thou mentality. Even if I don't express is publicly, I sometimes think it. I think we all do. Jesus calls us to remember that in God's economy, none of us are better than anyone else. Salvation is purely a gift of God and we can't earn it - it's freely available to all, which means we are all equal in God's eyes. That's the Good News - God really doesn't look at us with our own attitudes and our own value systems. And thank God, too - can you imagine if we actually got what we all deserve? But in Jesus of course we don't. We get God's own limitless and all-forgiving love for each and every one of us, whether we sometimes act like a Pharisee or sometimes like a Tax Collector.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Some Good News from the Courts For A Change

This was the case of the young man who was sentenced to ten years in prison....

ATLANTA, Oct. 26 — After more than two years in prison for having consensual oral sex with a fellow teenager, Genarlow Wilson shook the hand of a warden Friday at the Al Burruss Correctional Training Center in Forsyth, Ga., and smiled shyly as he walked into the arms of his waiting mother and young sister.

Read it all here.


Music...and Dancing!

Researcher Daniel Levitin wants to know:

THE fall concert season has begun at music halls around the world, and audiences are again sitting in rapt attention with their hands folded quietly in their laps. Does anyone besides me find this odd? ... Most of us would be shocked if audience members at a symphony concert got out of their chairs and clapped their hands, whooped, hollered and danced — as people would at a Ludacris concert. But the reaction we have to Ludacris or U2 is closer to our true nature.

I don't know how Ludacris is (although I do know U2), but I think it might be fun to sing along with a Mozart symphony. Or how about Beethoven's Fifth? Da Da Da Daaaaah!

Read it all here.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

This is just so wrong

From today's New York Times:

HOUSTON, Oct. 24 — The presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the target of a rising national outcry a month after turning away the last appeal of a death row inmate because the rushed filing was delayed past the court’s 5 p.m. closing time.

The inmate, Michael Richard, was then executed for a 1986 sexual assault and murder — the last person to die in Texas while the United States Supreme Court reviews the constitutionality of lethal injection. (Full article here.)

This is a travesty, that it has come to this, that a technicality of timing - because of a computer problem!!!! - is all it takes to kill a man. It doesn't matter that he is innocent or not, this was a clear and undebatable miscarriage of justice. "Sorry, I can't help you, I've got to go have my evening cocktail now, too bad the office is closed, he'll just have to die. Come back on Monday."

The only good news is that there appears to be a de facto nationwide stay of all executions while the US Supreme Court examines the constitutionality of the current lethal injection regimens.

I pray for the time when there will be no executions in the United States. As a Christian, how can I believe and preach about God's forgiveness for any and all sin and then allow the state to take away the opportunity for those who have sinned mortally to repent?


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I Feel Old

I'm watching Aliens on TV. I just realized it was made in 1986 - that's 21 year ago. Oi!


Pray for California

The fires in California have been beyond devestating - nearly 1 million households now affected, and you can see them from space:

Holy Lord, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, Have mercy upon us.

And after you pray, put your prayer to good use and consider a donation to Episcopal Relief and Development, which is even now moving to provide aid and comfort.


The Proper of Yesterday: St. James of Jerusalem

Yesterday in the West the church celebrated the Major Feast of St. James of Jerusalem. (I'm observing it today because I read my calendar incorrectly.....) There are at least three and possibly up to 8 persons named James in the New Testament, and we commemorate three of them: James son of Zebedee, who was in Jesus' "inner circle" along with Peter and John; James son of Alphaeus, one of the Twelve, often called (sadly for him) the Less; and James of Jerusalem, often called the Just.

James of Jerusalem is also called the Brother of Our Lord. He may well have been a blood relative of Jesus. He's considered to be the first bishop of Jerusalem, and therefore in a sense the first Christian bishop. He was the acknowledged leader of the Jerusalem congregation, and even the Pharisees admired him for his adherence to the Law and his good works. James was executed in 62 AD, and he may also be the author of the Epistle of James, but the book itself doesn't say.

I was struck at Morning Prayer by the line in the Song of Zechariah, "Through his holy prophets he promised of old * that he would save us from our enemies." The first lesson just before this was a lament from the prophet Jeremiah about the plot against his life, and then comes this line, and then the excerpt from Matthew about being a sheep among wolves, and that the one who perseveres to the end will be saved. James is a martyr, of course, and that word has the connotation of one who dies for the faith. But "martyr" really means simply"witness." In that sense, we are all martyrs when we witness to the faith. Each of us does that in different ways because we each have differing skills and abilities and talents. James did it unto death, and there are many in 2007 around the world who are also doing that. But I wonder what James has to say to us in the New York metro area in 2007? How am I being a witness to the Good News? How are each of us? To what degree, if any, are we giving anything up for the faith? It seems to me that to intentionally witness implies, to some degree, a choice not to do something else with one's time and energy and money at that moment. There is, I think, a positive commitment in witnessing. It means not merely doing good things, but doing good things for a reason, in response to the Good News, and that implies some sort of positive proclamation of one's motivation.

I'm mindful of Jesus's admonition in the Sermon on the Mount, of course: don't trumpet your good works on the street corner. But what I'm thinking about is how we deliberately mold our lives to specifically witness to Jesus, or just do it in a haphazard sort of way, or don't think about it at all. St. Francis is said to have said, "Preach the Gospel at all times - use words if necessary." That's good, but those who see one's Gospel-preaching actions, even without words, need to be able to receive the Good News in those actions and have the opportunity to react to it that way. I wonder how many of our actions, good intentioned as they are, are really effective witness?

Grant, O God, that, following the example of your servant James the Just, brother of our Lord, your Church may give itself continually to prayer and to the reconciliation of all who are at variance and enmity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Ministry Opportunity Needed

As some of you might know, much of my work at Trinity Parish and The Windmill Alliance (WA) is as Executive Director of the WA. We do a lot of really excellent work, and I am so proud of the staff we have. Unfortunately, the State of New Jersey has not honored its own regulations in what they are supposed to pay us for the work we do with our developmentally disabled clients. WA is a provider agency for the Division of Developmental Disabilities, and there are, on paper at least, some rather clear rules about payment for services rendered and all that. To make a long story short, we have been working with the State to remedy a funding shortfall that has been going on for some time. It does not look likely that it will be remedied, and we need to balance the 2008 budget. As Executive Director, I recommended that one of the things we should do is cut administrative overhead, and that it should be me. The Rector and President reluctantly agreed.

So I'm deep in the throes of looking for a new ministry opportunity. Fr. Jerry has graciously said I can stay as long as I need to, but I am well aware of the bottom line we need to solve. I'd appreciate your prayers and more importantly, your leads! Please click on The Proper of the Day Archive (also in the sidebar) for my current resume and Church Deployment Office profile. I love the Northeast but I am willing to consider any location.


Don't Confirm Mukasey

Frank Bowman of Slate magazine notes the following:

The Constitution conferred on the Senate the power to reject presidential nominees not merely, or even primarily, to keep rank incompetents from federal office. The appointment power is one of the weapons granted Congress in order to protect the political structure and human values enshrined in the Constitution itself from presidential encroachment. If a nominee for attorney general, however smart, sincere, and capable, refuses to disavow torture and espouses an anti-democratic, anti-constitutional doctrine of presidential hegemony and congressional subservience, he should be rejected. If the Senate is foolish enough to ratify the replacement of a bumbling toady with an accomplished apostle of the gospel of executive supremacy, it will deserve every snub this and future presidents inflict. But the rest of us deserve better.

His conclusion, along with that of Jed Rubenfeld (who practiced under him and know his jurisprudence) in today's NYT, is that Judge Mukasey must go.

My thought: there may by be no one who can stand up to this President's imperial view of executive power that he will actually nominate. Perhaps I am informed by my understanding of Episcopal Church polity that power at every level, parish, diocese, and national church is formally divided between clergy and laity. Of course I am also informed by the intent of the Founders themselves: presidential power was never intended to be absolute; just read the list of grievances in the Declaration of Independence for a refresher.

Senators should reject Mukasey as a warning shot and then use the considerable power of the purse to ensure Justice Dept. hands are kept clean when the budget is passed. Let Bush veto it if he wants to. Let's have a real fight about executive power. It's gone too far, and it's time to debate it out in the open, not in undisclosed locations under so-called "top secret" rules.


Monday, October 22, 2007

College Football Week 8 Results

Well, the good news: Ohio State is still No. 1 after a b it of a squeeker against Michigan State. On to #24 Penn State on Saturday.

The other news: I picked 9 of 16 correctly in last week's games. You might recall I picked every favored team to beat its point spread as an experiment to see what affected point spreads have on a purely random selection. I'm not sure of any conclusions, but it seems the point spread serves the same purposes as a handicap in golf - it allows teams not as good as other teams to still compete, at least in the eyes of the betting parlors. So now it kinda makes sense to some degree. Without the point spread, a pure pick-who-will-win scenario will almost always favor the higher ranked teams, and that's who a savvy bettor should always pick to win. The point spread serves to even the odds. I wonder why it took me so long to figure this out? I guess I had to do the experiment to see what is probably clear to every other fan of college football out there!

I will post this week's picks when I actually do the selection. Any suggestions?


Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XXI

Today the Church observes a Feast of Our Lord, and we also wrapped up a long Jeremiah cycle, and continue reading from 2 Timothy and Luke. The passage from Jeremiah 31 contains the great "New covenant" promise:

The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt-- a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, "Know the LORD," for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

The phrase "new covenant" is a haplax legomenon - it's completely unique in all of the Hebrew Scripture. But we hear the phrase every time we attend the Eucharist. This passage is very significant because Jesus, at the last supper, makes the incredible claim that he is the embodiment of the New Covenant promised by Jeremiah. In Jesus we know God, he says, and it's in Jesus that God forgives our iniquities and remembers our sin no more:

"This is my blood of the New Covenant, given and shed for all for the forgiveness of sins."

The days are not surely coming - in Christ they are already here!

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.


Friday, October 19, 2007

College Football Week 8

As an experiment, I selected every favored team this week to beat their point spread. Last week I got about 50% right, and I've averaged 50% over the course of the season thus far. Not every favored team will beat its assigned point spread, of course, but I wonder what percentage actually do. I mean, does point spread mean anything otherwise?

We'll see.....


From the Ministry of Transport....

This just goes to show, the British do love their Anglican Chant....

h/t to bls.


More on "Humilty, Grace, and Freedom"

I've been thinking about Dr. Cassidy's speech at St. Chad's Durham earlier this week, which I recommended already below. At one point, he says:

I say this because the only good reason I can think of for asking the Episcopal Church to hold back, or to turn back, is if gay members of that church authorise their church to do so, by saying that they are willing as a group to suffer continued exclusion, at least for the time-being. In other words, unless we excommunicate sexually active gay people, they are part of our church: it is not up to us to exclude them from such things as episcopal governance, for they are us -- unless we have classes of membership, say a class for the more righteous and a class for the less righteous. But if we don't segregate people in such ways, it would be for them to decide sacrificially to exclude themselves as the cost of being part of a worldwide communion that cannot or will not change any time soon - if that's the right thing. I realise that even asking the question in such terms is difficult, but that's what is being asked.

This has touched me a bit. I don't know what to say. At what point does the radical nature of the Gospel bump up against the natural fallenness of humanity? St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians, talks about not eating meat sacrificed to idols, even though there's no moral problem with it that he can see, if it will hurt the conscience of another member of the community by doing so. It's an admirable suggestion and in so many ways exhibits the self-sacrifice of the Cross (and Paul's own ode to love in Ch. 13, especially, "Love never insists on its own way"). But Paul is unfortunately silent on how long that should go on, or if there's ever a teaching moment to say to the conscience-burdened brother or sister, "You know, there really no reason for you to be upset. I've been bending over backwards in honor of your conscience for a long time now, but I don't see any movement or even any willingness to explore other ways of thinking about this from you."

Should we have waited for conscience-burdened slaveowners to come around? How about women? "You know, those fallen men just aren't ready to talk about this yet. Could you just wait for a while?" I hear what both Dr. Cassidy and St. Paul are trying to say, and I keep coming back with "justice delayed is justice denied."

And my own situation is of course mixed up completely with this. Should I renounce my orders, or at least abstain from exercising my sacerdotal functions? Granted, that the commotion seems to be about bishops, not priests and deacons at the moment, but still. And what does that mean vis-a-vis the Baptismal Covenant to ask some people, who are called into the Body of Christ just like anyone else, to voluntarily not use some of the gifts that God has given them to build up that body? The ministry of baptized GBL Christians is OK except when they are ordained? They can use all their gifts except if those gifts are in ordained ministry?

I just don't see how, try as I can to "walk a mile in their moccasins," that exclusion of anybody for innate God-created characteristics, based on nebulous passages of Scripture, can be justified.


I Thought I was Anglican....

Eucharistic theology
created with
You scored as Orthodox

You are Orthodox, worshiping the mystery of the Holy Trinity in the great liturgy whereby Jesus is present through the Spirit in a real yet mysterious way, a meal that is also a sacrifice.













How do you score? (Hat Tip to Ember Days.)


Thank God It's Friday!


Thursday, October 18, 2007

On Anglican Comprehensiveness

The Rev. Canon Dr. Joseph Cassidy spoke recently at St. Chad's College, University of Durham, on Anglican ideas, ethics and thought. An excerpt:

[A]t the heart of what attracted me to Anglicanism, was a kind of institutional humility, even a kind of potential holiness, that I find compelling. Despite a few loud voices now and then, Anglicans do not pretend to be the epitome of the Church. They - we - don't think that Anglicanism on its own is the future of Christianity, though we trust that God may bring unity to his universal church by building on a few things that Anglicans have learnt over the centuries. We don't claim infallibility for our bishops or archbishops. Even though we can do so, we don't tend to excommunicate people for holding on to erroneous doctrines. We allow all sorts of people to call themselves Anglicans simply by being on a parish role, or less, no matter which church they were baptised in.

It's a really excellent article and I commend it to your attention.


The Proper of the Day: St. Luke the Evangelist

Today the Church celebrates the Major Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist. He is credited with writing the third of the four Gospels and also with the Acts of the Apostles. He may have been one of St. Paul's companions as well, as part of Acts is written in the first person ("We went.." rather than "They went"). St. Luke is also the Patron of Physicians, since the tradition is that was a physician or healer himself.

I was struck by the first lesson at Morning Prayer today. It's from the prophet Ezekiel, and narrates the stream of the water of life that will flow from the Temple and give life. an abundance of trees will grow on the bacnks of this nourishing river, and the leaves of the trees "will be for healing." The imagaery of the New Garden of Eden, the reversal of that which was lost, was profound.

Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to declare in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son: Graciously continue in your Church the same love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of your Name; 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.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I got skunked!

Well, Week 6 of the NFL season is over, and none too soon for me, either. I got soundly thrashed, 124-56, by Nuclear Blast. I learned a lot though. I did not realize until it came upon me the significance of the Bye in the NFL. At least once in the season each NFL team, and thus all their players, are off that week - it's called a "bye" for reasons that escape me. Last week I had several top players, including all my RBs either Bye'd or injured. So I actually competed with fewer players than I needed to. Problem was that it did not seem to make sense to pick up one of the available free agents as a substitute, because then I'd have to drop one of my better players, so I just went without. If I play this game next year I will need to take Byes into account as I examine my roster.

However, I am still 3-3 so far this year, better at the moment than several other teams. This week I play Cohrs Lite, which is currently 2-4. I have no Bye'd players scheduled this week, so that's a ray of light.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Ohio State Is Number 1!

Wow. Last week's No. 1 and No. 2 teams both lost. That hasn't happened in a while, so the sports reporters tell us. But it does make last week's No. 3 now suddenly the No. 1 team in the country! Go Bucks!

It turns out that I didn't do so hot last week - exactly 10 games of 20 predicted correctly. For the season I am 78 of 154. That's basically 50% - what you'd expect if I were randomly selecting the teams. However, since this arrangement is based on point spread and not strictly random, it turns out that in the world-wide rankings I actually gained - I am now 7,032nd in the world, a gain of 2,090 places. Amazing that being right half the time is so rare, actually. And in the Fans of Ohio State and in the Fans from New Jersey subgroups I gained as well. Huh.

I will post next week's picks closer to the weekend. You can be sure I will watch the OSU game on TV if I possibly can!


Sunday, October 14, 2007

More on Going to Lambeth

A while back I was contemplating whether our Bishops should go to the Lambeth Conference, the every-ten-years soiree hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury. I decided they should. Here's an absolutely right-on reflection by an English bishop about going to Lambeth or not. Recently there have been some other comments by English bishops suggesting that bishops should actually stay away. I don't agree, so you'll have to find those links yourself. But here's Bishop Alan, the Bishop of Buckingham:

Someone asked me if I’m going to the Lambeth conference.

Yes, because I’ve been invited. Since 1867 it’s been the Archbishop’s personal bash. Does it have to be a Big Boys Business meeting for it to be worth my while? I am just not self-regarding enough to mind. If Rowan wants a Vatican Council Theme Party, fine. If he wants to partay by showing us his Simpsons Videos, fine. It's his party, not mine. There is a self-important little prat in me who feels business meetings matter more than parties. Jesus disagrees. The Sanhedrin has business meetings on Thursday nights. Jesus has a meal with his friends. This is a matter of substance as well as style. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer says how grievous and unkind a thing it is, when a man hath prepared a rich feast, decked his table with all kind of provision, so that there lacketh nothing but the guests to sit down; and yet they who are called (without any cause) most unthankfully refuse to come.

Read it all here. Hat tip to Thinking Anglicans.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XX (Again!)

I've learned something about Blogger. When you prepare an entry for posting later, you can't post other entries afterward, or it screws up the order of posting. So I drafted the Proper for Pentecost XX on Friday, with the intention of posting it on Saturday night or Sunday morning. Of course, I proceeded to post some other trivialities during the day on Saturday, and so when I "activated" the entry for Pentecost XX, it did not go to the top of the list, but followed the chronological order of when I created each posting. Arghhh.

In other words, scroll down a bit to find the entry for (or click) The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XX. This entry includes a guest sermon that I commend to your attention.


The New Monday Night Service....

I think this has real potential. Not quite sure how to do the Gospel Procession though - maybe as an I-formation?

Here's a preview.


A Common Word Between Islam and Christianity?

I ran across this because I get email news feeds from the ELCA, and a recent one mentioned that the Rev. Mark Hansen, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA and current President of the Lutheran World Federation, made an official reply to a document sent to all of Christianity's leaders from 138 Islamic leaders and scholars. I was surprised that the Anglican news services haven't picked this up yet. The open letter begins (with the usual apologies about formatting):

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

A Common Word between Us and You

(Summary and Abridgement)

Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.

The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity. The following are only a few examples:

Of God’s Unity, God says in the Holy Qur’an: Say: He is God, the One! / God, the Self-Sufficient Besought of all! (Al-Ikhlas, 112:1-2). Of the necessity of love for God, God says in the Holy Qur’an: So invoke the Name of thy Lord and devote thyself to Him with a complete devotion (Al-Muzzammil, 73:8). Of the necessity of love for the neighbour, the Prophet Muhammad r said: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself.”

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ u said: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. / And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. / And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

The entire open letter is here. It bears a careful reading. I think there is a good basis for future understanding. I confess my own lack of trust, not in the 138 Muslim leaders who signed this, but in the fulfilling of it. The fact remains that there are no Christian terrorists who target Muslims merely because they are Islamic. There are, of course, Christian terrorists who target other Christians; the IRA and The Troubles come immediately to mind. And God knows that Christianity's hands are dripping with the blood of the ages. Just think of the Crusades. But I think it a curious omission that neither the word "terror" or "violence" appear directly in the English text of the Open Letter. The theological basis for commonality according to the Letter is the Summary of the Law that Jesus articulates, for example at Mark 12:29-31, and similar injunctions in the Quaran. And clearly the Second Commandment "Love your neighbor as yourself" enjoins violence against one's neighbor. At the same time, I wish the Open Letter had repudiated violence maore clearly. Maybe it does and I just need to read it again.

Do take the time to read the Open Letter.


PS - Bishop Hansen's reply is more irenic, and studied, than mine.

The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XX

We observe the Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost today, continuing the Jeremiah and Timothy cycles as well as the following Jesus on his nine-chapter journey to Jerusalem in Luke's Gospel. Although I didn't preach today, I would like to pass on the sermon give today by the Rector of Christ Episcopal Church in East Orange, the Rev. William Guthrie (with the usual apologies regarding formatting):

Text: “And he was a Samaritan.” (Luke 17:16)

I do believe that this short text, this short verse, this short sentence, from today's gospel reading is very instructive in dealing with some of the more insidious examples of racism that we have witnessed in the past several weeks in different parts of this country.

First of all, we should notice that Jesus healed ten lepers of their diseases but only one came back to thank him for being restored to wholeness and health. Perhaps, the other nine had genuine excuses why they couldn't return to give thanks but the fact remains that only one—a Samaritan—returned to express his gratitude at the feet of Jesus.

That is a lesson in itself but this morning I am not going to focus on this man's gratitude but on his nationality, his ethnicity, his race, if you will. In those days Samaritans were looked down upon, especially by the Jews, as being less than pure racially. They were in a sense country bumpkins, unsophisticated and uneducated, and had the audacity to claim their own center of worship.

This was a far cry from the days when Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel following the division of the country into two parts on the death of King Solomon. The northern kingdom of Israel broke away from the southern kingdom of Judah with its capital in Jerusalem and established its own capital in Samaria—something for which they were never forgiven by their southern countrymen.

Eventually, the southern kingdom of Israel was overrun and destroyed by the Assyrians in 721 BC and their peoples were sent into exile—at least those who were not killed or massacred. Thereafter the Assyrians settled people of all kinds in that area and the Samaritans intermarried with them—thus loosening their national identity and undermining their racial purity—at least in the eyes of their Jewish brethren in Judah and Jerusalem.

Contact with these half-breeds as it were was forbidden and any social intermingling was expressly ruled out under Jewish purity laws. As a matter of fact, custom dictated that if you were traveling along the road and a Samaritan came along you were to go to the other side of the road less the very air from his person pollute you as you walked by.

And yet, Jesus in at least three instances praises the Samaritans with whom he comes into contact or through whom he told his stories—thereby teaching us that we are not to exclude from our midst the dispossessed, the downtrodden, the left out, and the left behind. All are welcome at the Lord's table, particularly those whom society ostracizes and looks down upon.

In today's gospel reading, it is the Samaritan—the one who is ostracized and looked down upon—that returns to give thanks for his healing and is commended by Jesus for so doing. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, it is the foreigner, the stranger, the social outcast, who is commended by Jesus for doing something to help the victim who had been robbed and beaten and left for dead on the roadside.

When Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman at the well, his own disciples were amazed that he was in conversation with a woman from Samaria, whose reputation was besmirched by having been married again and again and again. In those days, no woman dared approach a Rabbi, let alone speak to him. And certainly not a woman from Samaria of doubtful reputation. It was unheard of and that is why his disciples were so concerned and so amazed.

And yet this conversation eventually led to the woman's salvation and she became an evangelist (a bringer, a messenger, of good news) in that she brought her entire village to Jesus so that they might come to believe in him—not through the woman's word as before but because of what they had heard from the lips of Jesus himself.

I mention these three incidents because I wish to make a point that Jesus through his message and action shows us how to treat those who are foreigners and strangers among us—those whom we tend to look down upon, those whom we ostracize as a nation or as a church, those who are different from us in terms of race, or ethnicity, or nationality, or sexual orientation, or status, or gender, or age, or by any of the things that tend to separate from one another.

Over the past several weeks, our country has been shocked by one incident after another of overt racism. During the summer, we heard of the “Jena Six” at a high school in Jena, Louisiana. A group of white teenagers had hung nooses on a tree and taunted black students in the process. It was a despicable reminder of lynching in the South when white mobs would literally gather for a picnic at a place where a black man was going to be lynched or hanged by a rope from a tree.

Then we heard of a young African American woman kidnapped by a group of white people in West Virginia and held hostage in a trailer where she was tortured and subjected to the most inhumane treatment at the hands of her captors. Even the local sheriff said that he had not seen anything worse and more degrading in all his working life.

Then we read of a black police officer on Long Island who found a noose in the precinct where he worked because he dared to challenge long established prejudices and to speak up for his rights as a human being and as a police officer. Then we heard of a college professor who found a noose hanging on her office door in the Department of Psychology at Columbia University in New York (Columbia University of all places) because she dared to speak out and to challenge others about their racial and gender biases.

I now gather that there have been similar incidents of this kind around the nation so much so that a definite trend can be seen by those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. The civil rights gains of the 50s and 60s are being slowly eroded before our very eyes and a disgusting return to racist and bigoted attitudes and practices are now an alarming trend in a country that is supposed to value the dignity and integrity of every human being.

Swastikas and other signs of hate are more and more to be seen on the doors of Jewish synagogues and the grave stones in Jewish cemeteries. These are dreadful reminders of an era in human history that others of a similar mindset and disposition would like to foist upon us once again if we do not wake up from our long deep slumber and see what is happening in the world about us and around us.

My sisters and brothers, we have to teach our children and grandchildren continually that each of us is created in the image and likeness of God and that our inherent dignity as human beings come from the hands of a loving and compassionate Creator. No one is to be treated with less respect and less dignity because of his religion, or her race, or his age, or her gender, or his nationality, or her ethnicity, or his sexual orientation, or her color.

In a society that sometimes deliberately and intentionally challenges these values, we must teach our children and grandchildren that every human being is infinitely precious in God’s sight and is to be affirmed and respected and celebrated—as much as Jesus himself praises the Samaritan in today's gospel reading, and in the parable of the Good Samaritan, and in the story of the Samaritan woman at the well—outcasts even in Jesus’ time but recognized and praised and affirmed by Jesus himself.

We, his followers and his disciples, can do no less. We must always strive to do more. But we can do no less than to honor and respect the outcast, the stranger, the foreigner, in our midst and remind them that they too are created in the image and likeness of God and that they also are to extend these same courtesies and respect to us and to our children if we are to live together in this beautiful land as one people and one nation with one destiny, whose national motto is: “Out of many, One.”



Friday, October 12, 2007

The Furnace Works!

After an unseasonably warm September, it's finally getting cool. Last night it dropped to 54 degrees, and today the high is 60. I tried the furnace last night, and it works. I may have to turn it on again this evening as well. It's about time. I've been waiting for autumn to arrive, and it looks like it's finally here.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

College Football this Weekend

Here are my picks for this weekend's games. In this "pick-em" league, you have to decide if the favored team is going to win by more than the "point spread" listed by the major sports sites. The point spread is the number of points difference between the winning team's score and the losing team's. So it doesn't matter if the score is 21-7 or 54-40; the point spread for that game is 14 points. Last week I picked 9 of 15 correct, which places me in 8,607th place overall for the season so far....


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

This is pretty funny.....

Kudos to Captain Sacrament, where I saw it first.


Football Update: Week 6

I think this is the first report I've given since the season started. I'm running one Fantasy NFL Football team this season, and it's been very instructive. RFSJuniors (original, huh?) is currently fifth in our league, with a 3-2 record. The way it works it that, like in fantasy baseball, each owner assembles a roster made up of real actual players. You get a quarterback, 3 wide receivers, 2 running backs, a tight end, a kicker, and a defensive squad for each game. And each player you own accumulates performance based on what he does on the field. This is converted to "fantasy points" so that players can be compared within categories, and performance can be easily added up.

So each week, Juniors "plays" another team in the league. The performance of my team is compared with the performance of my opponent, drawn from the real NFL games played that week. The fantasy team with the most points at the end of the week (which always begins on Tuesday morning and so includes the Monday Night Football game) wins that week. So this past week my players accumulated a total of 77 points to my opponent's 48, so I won. We're now preparing for Week 6, and we go through Week 16.

Well, it does pass the time.....


PS - Go Bucks! Beat Kent! (Poor Kent - last meeting in '02 the final was 51-17)

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Two More....


Sunday Afternoon Funny


The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XIX

On this Nineteenth (XIX'th?) Sunday After Pentecost, we celebrate the weekly remembrance of Our Lord's Resurrection, hearing from Lamentations, II Timothy, and Luke. The passage from Lamentations is a lament over the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 587 BC. Because Lamentations is traditionally thought to be written by Jeremiah the Prophet, it follows him in the Christian ordering of Hebrew Scriptures. We'll continue to hear from the Jeremiah cycle as it turns from woe and destruction to joy and hope as prolepsis for the Great Hope of the Christ.

Today's Gospel is another one of those that, after it is proclaimed, everyone wonders how it can possibly be Good News. I preached today, and definitely wondered about that myself.

I find myself in the same sandals as the apostles. They’re on their way to Jerusalem with Jesus. He had already predicted his own death and resurrection twice, so maybe they were getting a bit worried about what was going to happen. And sometime during the journey, Jesus says this to the disciples, which is not part of today’s appointed reading but necessary, I think, to understand what’s going on:

Jesus said to his disciples, “Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”

I think those commands of Jesus – for they are commands, not suggestions – are at least as hard, if not harder, than our own Baptismal Covenant to live up to and live in to. And it seems the disciples felt the same way, because in the very next verse, where we pick up in our Gospel, they said to him, “Increase our faith!” I’d ask for my faith to be increased too if I heard that! Jesus’ next words are also more than a bit of a puzzle: “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. It could mean that the disciples must not have had any faith at all. After all, if they did, there’d be all kinds of greenery flying through the air across Galilee, right? But I’m not so sure. After all, it’s in Luke’s Gospel just a few chapters before that we read that Jesus deputized the Twelve to teach and heal, and that they brought the Good News and cured diseases everywhere. And the 70 reported in great fervor that even the demons submitted to the Lord’s name. So it’s a bit odd to me that all of a sudden Jesus would be chiding the disciples because they didn’t have enough faith.

What I do think Jesus is saying here - talking more to us than to the disciples themselves – is meant to be encouraging. Our own faith, although it may not apparently be enough to uproot trees and sending them flying through the air like the Whomping Willow in Harry Potter, is enough to do remarkable things anyway. And that faith is going to be enough to get the job done. Look at the conclusion of that very strange little parable of the farmer and the slave, which is unique to Luke. Jesus says, “So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!" Do you hear the prophecy here? “When you have done all that you were ordered to do.” Jesus is telling us that indeed we will get done all that we have to do, because otherwise we would not be able to say, “We just did what we were told.” And the sense of the word “when” here is actually “whenever” as in “every time you do so.” In other words, each time you have done all that were ordered to do, say, “We’re just doing our job.” We wouldn’t be able to do so if we didn’t have the tools to do the job, which is the faith that Jesus gives us. And so our faith, as tiny as maybe we sometimes think it is, is enough, right now, to get the job done, whatever that is, in our personal lives and the lives of our communities.

So there is Good News, hidden in the angst of everyday life and fear about measuring up. Luke is reflecting the very real problems and issue in our lives, but points out that our own faith in Jesus, however shaky, is always enough, because it's God doing the really hard work anyway.

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


PS - Sorry about formatting problems. Can anybody help?

Monday, October 1, 2007

What did St. Paul Know About Jesus?

Dr. Dierdre Good, professor of New Testament at General Theological Seminary, has posted a useful summary of what the Apostle Paul seems to have know about Jesus. Remember, the undisputed Pauline epistles were written in the 40s and 50s AD, and the first Gospel chronologically was Mark, and not written until the 70s. So Paul didn't have any written traditions about Jesus, just verbal ones. In essence, Paul has the first Gospel, embedded in his letters.

Here's an excerpt from Dr. Good's blog:

Let's take the first question: what does Paul know about Jesus? Paul knows that Jesus descended from David "according to the flesh" (Romans 1:3) so Paul knows that Jesus was Jewish. From the same passage, Paul knows about Jesus' resurrection. Paul's gospel of God describes God's designation of Jesus as Son "in power, according to the spirit of holiness" by his resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4). As we know, Paul has an encounter with the resurrected Jesus. He describes it in Gal 1: "God was pleased to reveal his Son to (or "in") me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles (1:16).

Read her entire summary here.


Baseball Update: October 1

Well, the regular season ended last night, and an ignominious ending it was for the Mets, wasn't it? Here's how each of my teams fared this year:

RFSJuniors ended 4th out of 12. For a long time I was 2nd in the league and looked to stay that way, but beginning in late July two other teams made concerted moves to overtake me and succeeded. In addition, my hitting, which in the first half of the season was going very well, slid somewhat in the second half of the season, and it was just enough to drag me down, even though I ended up second in the very valuable Stolen Bases category. My original goal was to finish in the top half, but I really would have liked a trophy, whic hyou only get if you are in the top three. I think it was trading away Prince Fielder just at the trading deadline in August that sealed it for me.

RFSJ II ended 5th out of 12, and I was relatively pleased with that. I was in the middle or slightly above in all categories, and although I wish hitting was better, given some of the power hitters I had, it wasn't too shabby overall. I think acquiring Barry Bonds didn't help me too much overall, however, and I notice that I think he's been dropped by San Francisco for next year.

RFSJ III finished tied for 7th out of 12. At one point toward the end of September, I was in 11th place, and two of the three teams who had made no trades, implying an abandoned team, wre ahead of me in the standings. (Apparently, this often happens in the free leagues.) So finishing as high as I did was gratifying. Although I won the Wins category, I lost both ERA and WHIP and had pretty poor hitting as well. So all in all it wasn't too bad.

I definitely will only play one team next year. I got too distracted by playing three teams, and ended up neglecting all of them. It's possible I could have staved off my drop in Juniors had I paid more attention, but I didn't. I also want to explore using another platform, like ESPN, for example, for my fantasy ball. I need to think about pitching more as well, in terms of how I use starters. Essentially, for the last three weeks, I didn't start any starters because of the innings-pitched limits. In a full season, you can only pitch a total of 1250 IPs over all your pitchers, and I reached 1200 IPs by early September. So I had to bench most of my starters, leaving just releivers to pitch, who only use 1 or 2 IPs per outing. Good news is that saves on ERA, bad news is it doesn't help in Wins except rarely.

So, all in all, somewhat disappointing, but I did make all my initial goals. Better luck next year!


What if Worship were like Pro Sports?

Hat tip to An Inch At A Time.