Friday, November 30, 2007

The Proper of the Day: St. Andrew the Apostle

St. Andrew, a fisherman and the brother of Peter, was the first apostle to be called by Jesus in John's gospel, and so he is accorded the first place in the calendar, as the church year in the West begins on the Sunday closest to Andrew's feast as the First Sunday of Advent. Andrew is one of the very first evangelists, if not the first, because he went to go get Peter and brought him to Jesus. He also brought the Greeks to see Jesus in John 12, and of course found the lad who brought he bread and fish for the feast in John 6. He's the patron of both Scotland and Russia, interestingly enough. On this Major Feast we celebrate the witness of Andrew and how he connected people he knew with Jesus as we honor his memory and pray that we may do likewise.

When was the last time you personally invited someone to come to church with you, or to just come to social function or do some outreach? If you haven't, why not?

Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give to us, who are called by your Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Daily Office Experiment for Year A

This liturgical year I am trying something new for the Daily Office. The new Lutheran worship book Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW) has a daily lectionary that is explicitly tied to the Sunday readings. A Psalm and two readings are provided for each day except on Sundays, when it is assumed believers will attend Sunday worship. The weekly cycle begins on the Thursday before the Sunday in question; Thursday Friday and Saturday are designed to prepare for the upcoming Sunday, and Monday through Wednesday are designed to reflect on the past Sunday.

I thought this was kind of interesting and so I'm going to try the following, as an aid to my own sermon preparation. I am going to read the morning office from the BCP Lectionary, using two readings: the Hebrew Scripture Reading, and then two days worth of the Apostolic Writings selection or two days worth of the Gospel. This way, I get the entire cycle of the lectionary in one office and also keep up with all the readings. In the evening, I'm going to use the ELW lectionary, beginning an entire week in advance, so that on Monday I will read Thursday's designated readings, on Tuesday I will read Friday's, and so forth. My goal is to gain a whole week of reflections as I prepare for the upcoming Sunday sermon, even if I am not preaching that Sunday. There's a slight problem with the Psalm, as ELW designates a single Psalm for Thursday-Saturday and another for Monday-Wednesday. I think I'm going to use the BCP Psalms for Evening Prayer, because the seven-week cycle I use just doesn't seem to work only half-time.

Tell me what you think. So I'll let you know how it goes!


Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Proper of the Day: Last Pentecost

Today is the Last Sunday after Pentecost, reckoned as Christ the King Sunday in much of the West. This theme is quite recent, having been promulgated by Pope Pius XII in 1925. The RCL observes it, as does the BCP and the Lutheran lectionary. Many others do too.

I'm still visiting my parents this weekend, and so I worshiped at Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Toledo. They offer a festive Eucharist very much styled after that of St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San. Francisco. I enjoyed much of it a great deal, and the sermon was very much along the lines of the stained glass widow to the left. I do wish there had been someone to greet me and explain what was going to happen as I walked in, and that the full-text program would also give some worship notes about moving from the vestibule to the chair and then to the Altar.

The choir did a very nice drone during the Eucharistic Prayer itself. I found myself wishing the music for that was also in the program - I'd have liked to participate in that as well.

Some of this is my own shyness at visiting places I'd never been, but since we've all been talking about welcoming folks, I think it's OK to report the not-so-good along with the good.

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Pretty Cool Hobby

My Dad and Mom and their dog have a hobby call "geo-caching." It came about when the Clinton Administration allowed non-military access to the global positioning satellites (GPS) in May of 2000. According to The History of Geo-caching:

On May 3, 2000, Dave Ulmer proposed a way to celebrate the demise of [scrambled access to the satellites]. He hid a bucket of trinkets in the woods outside Portland, Oregon and announced its location in a posting made to the USENET newsgroup sci.geo.satellite-nav. This announcement is remarkable for laying out the essence of the hobby that is still in place today. It's all there. The container. The trinkets. The log book. The rule of take something, leave something, sign the logbook. Dave Ulmer invented geocaching in one fell swoop in that newsgroup posting.

Within a day, the original stash had been found. Within days, more stashes had been hidden in California, Kansas, and Illinois. Within a month, a stash had been hidden as far away as Australia. The hobby was fast on its way to being a worldwide phenomenon.

Essentially, what you do is use a hand-held GPS receiver (see right)- very similar to the ones on cars - to find items hidden by other people. You are told the directions or the actual coordinates in latitude and longitude (for example, my parents' house is at: 41' 40.519N, 83' 37.992W) and your GPS receiver tells you where to go. As the Geo-caching FAQ notes:

It is deceptively easy. It's one thing to see where an item is, it's a totally different story to actually get there.

So I helped my dad hide a new cache yesterday. Most geo-cachers use a site called, obviously enough, to record their caches and announce new ones and contribute to forums about geocaching and all that. You (unfortunately, to my mind) have to have an account on the site to see most things, but the official record of the new cache is here (create an account to see it all). My parents have found 1509 caches others have placed, and have placed 21 of their own (see their log page here). They traipse all around NE Ohio and SE Michigan on the hunt, and when they visited me in Manhattan a year or so ago we found two in Central Park (there are more than that there, of course).

So it's kind of a fun thing, and it was wonderful to participate in what my parents like to do too. We got out and tramped around a bit, and I am thankful for being able to do so.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Proper of the Day: Thanksgiving

In the Episcopal Church, Thanksgiving Day is a Major Feast and not simply a secular one. Today we pause to give thanks to God for all the good things God has done for us. I wonder how many people ever actually realize that when one gives thanks, one does so to the One from whom all things come in the first place? I suppose one can express gratitude generically, as in, "Isn't it great that we have all [insert whatever is pleasing at the moment]" without really considering where it comes from or what the best use of it all is. But that rings so narcissistically, so self-centeredly, because it almost sounds liken "We got ours."

Even today's First Lesson at Morning Prayer, repeated in the Eucharist in the RCL (but not the BCP) makes this point: the Israelites, when they come into their lands appointed for them, are to go to the Temple and offer first fruits back to God. The key phrase is right in the first verse: "When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you." They didn't take it, they didn't earn it; God gave it and is in fact still giving it - note the present perfect in the English. And today's Gospel is so apt (here I agree with the RCL choice): " You are looking for me not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you....I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." Jesus reminds us who will stuff ourselves with bread from the earth that no one lives by bread alone, that He is that which can and does satisfy our true hunger.

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Traveling Today

I'm off to Toledo for several days for the Thanksgiving holiday. It's a straight shot west on I-80, I wonder what the traffic will be like?


Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XXV

On this Second-to-Last Sunday After Pentecost we celebrate the good things God is doing and continue to look forward a little. Today’s lesson from Isaiah sets out God’s vision for the redeemed world. Some view it as only happening at the eschaton, that is, sometime (depending on what you believe about the Cecond Coming, the Parousia) in the future. I personally think it’s a vision of a world we can have right now if we really want it and allow the Spirit to transform us and the world around us. We also continue to read from II Thessalonians. Paul (or a disciple of Paul) tells his readers not to assume the End is coming soon,, but to get to work. Apparently, some folks had quit their jobs and were sponging off of others because they assumed that Jesus was to return very very soon and so there was no reason to do anything but wait. And in today’s Gospel, the disciples are told of what might happen in the future but that most of all to take courage and not doubt the Spirit, who in typical Lukan fashion will be with them when they are called to testify.

However, today I was particularly struck by the Collect, one of my favorites:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Here’s what I offered at Trinity Parish today:

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

“It is well with my soul.”

What a wonderful reminder. We all need that, I think, in this time. Strife and uncertainty are all around us. In my life, perhaps in your lives. In Bayonne. In New Jersey, and certainly our nation and the world. Even today’s Gospel seems to wonder whether it’s all going to come crashing down and what we can do about it.

I recently have gotten introduced to Facebook. Who knows what Facebook is? Maybe you or perhaps some of your kids or students have Facebook accounts. Facebook is an online networking site, where you can link into the Facebook accounts of all your friends and keep up to date with them on a very frequent basis. Hour by hour, even minute by minute if you want to. And there are all kinds of little gizmos and gadgets you can play with too. You can take political quizzes. You can send drinks to your friends – virtual drinks, of course. You can play various games with them. You can cast Harry Potter Spells on them. You can sign up for all kinds of causes and groups that interest or energize you. Of course you can send them email and messages in all different kinds of ways. You’re encouraged to get all your friends to do these things. And they can do them back to you, and literally hundreds of other things besides. It’s really an incredible thing. There are nearly 54 million Facebook accounts so far, and it might get to 200 million by the end of the year. A recent study found that the average Facebook user spends 18 minutes a day on Facebook, and I can report for a fact that it’s really easy to spend far more time than that!

Now I know that like lots of other things in my life, my fascination with Facebook will probably wane. It’s really cool right now, and it seems like most of my graduating class at seminary discovered it just about the same time I did. We’ll all keep up with it for a while, but at various times many of us will fall back and not sign on as often as we once did, and we won’t keep up with all the gadgets and gizmos and goings-on of our friends. It probably won’t get to be much of a habit.

I was reminded of Facebook recently when I was doing something else that I initially began and is now a habit, and that was reading the Bible. Some of you know that part of my own spiritual life is to recite Morning and Evening Prayer in the Anglican tradition every day. Part of the service includes one or two readings from the Bible, and there’s a regular schedule of readings that takes you through the entire New Testament in a year and much of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, over two years. It’s a habit I began many years ago, and one that has been a great source of joy and challenge in my spiritual life.

Our collect for today gets into the value of the Bible as part of our life in Christ Jesus, too. We pray, “Grant that we may hear the Scriptures, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.” Those words aren’t just flowery language from the time of Archbishop Cranmer, who wrote this prayer for the first Book of Common Prayer. Each word has value and meaning, and it’s worth a little time, I think, to reflect on them:

Hear them. Most people for a long time couldn’t read, and so the only way they learned the Bible was by hearing it read to them, and by learning about Bible stories in sacred art, like statues, tapestries, and stained glass. Nowadays, even though nearly all of us can read, we still publicly read the Scriptures in the context of our worship. There is value in not just reading but hearing the Bible. Every worship service in the Book of Common Prayer contains at least one excerpt from the Bible, and in reality most of the entire Eucharist service is drawn from the words of the Bible itself. We Episcopalians are actually one of the most biblical of denominations. We include four Scripture readings every Sunday in a specific order, far more than many other denominations who claim to be biblically based.

Read Them. Our prayer begins to shift a bit from public worship to private devotion. Reading anything is what individuals do, and reading the Bible is no exception. Not only do we hear it read to us, but then we can, if we wish, read it for ourselves. There are all kinds of ways to pick out what to read. Forward Day by Day is based on the Daily Office cycle of readings I already mentioned, but you can just start at Genesis chapter 1 and go through to the last verse of Revelation if you want, or even simply follow the Sunday reading cycle. The point is to crack open the book – books really, because Bible means “books” plural – and do more than hear them once on Sundays.

Mark Them – Get our your pens and pencils and online markup tools, and dig right in. Write in your bible. Underline stuff. Write notes to yourself. Ask questions. Draw lines. Get into it. That’s what we’re encouraged to do, to really pay attention to what we’re reading. And remember, back in 1549 books were very very expensive, and few people had any at all. The Bible was the Word of God back then just as much as it is today. Write in a Bible? It was a radical suggestion back, then, and I’ll bet it’s a radical one for some folks now. Well, you should see Fr. Jerry’s Bible – I think there are more marks than printed text! And that’s as it should be.

Learn Them. Next we pray to learn the Scriptures. Get to know what’s in the Bible and where. I strongly suggest the use of one of the excellent Study Bibles that are available. They have introductory articles about each book of the bible, along with maps and notes for nearly every verse, all kinds of cross references, and useful indexes in the back to look up terms. Biblical scholarship has really taken off in the last several decades. If you really get into it, you can get a bible dictionary or a concordance, or go online to several very useful websites as well. Did you know, for example, that the book of Isaiah, from which we got our first reading for today, is actually two and possibly three different books that were edited together at a later date? There’s all kinds of stuff like that, that can really change the way you read the Bible if you let it.

Understanding the Scriptures means far more than simply reading what’s on the printed page and taking it at literal face value. We Episcopalians take Scripture very very seriously, but we’re careful not to take it all literally. At the ordination of every deacon, priest, and bishop takes, we say “I believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary for salvation.” We don’t say that every word is equally necessary for salvation, just that everything we need for salvation is already there.

I’m reminded of the story of the Ethiopian slave in the book of Acts. He’s riding along in his chariot, reading the Bible, and Phillip asks him if he understands what he’s reading. The slave replies, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” I am not saying, as some do, that there is only one official interpretation of the Bible. And I am not saying that you shouldn’t read the Bible unless you’ve gone to seminary first. But what I am saying is that the Bible has got some really hard passages in it. It has stories, myths, sacred history, songs, violence, sex, moral codes, you name it. It takes time and energy to sort it out, and it’s a lifelong thing. No one ever gets it completely. There’s always more. And it’s OK to read something and realize you don’t understand it right then. There’s a lot of hard or weird or just strange stuff in the Bible. Even St. Augustine, one of the Doctors of the Western Church, is reported to have confessed there were large parts of Scripture he read and just put aside for a while until he was ready to read them again.

Inwardly Digest Them. I always get a chuckle out of this line. I picture myself taking pages from my bible and chewing them one by one. It’s not a bad image, really. Deuteronomy says, “The word is very near you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.” And of course the Word itself is Jesus, and in the Eucharist we take Jesus the Word in our mouths and in our hearts. It does no good to have the Scriptures in your head if there is no room for them in your heart. And so we need to make the effort, as individuals and in community, to really internalize what the Bible is saying. There is Good News there, but letting that Good News sink in and really change us, really transform us, takes time and takes practice. You can’t assume that reading the Bible once will do it. You’ve heard me say tell the story that when I began to read the Bible regularly, I was transformed. I stand before you now, ordained in this parish, as a direct result of beginning to seriously read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Scriptures in my own life. And who would have thought this is how I’d end up! But God’s grace is abundant, and I wouldn’t have known it and felt it except for beginning the Daily Office in Lent those years ago. If God can break through to me, the IT numbers and budgets guy, God can and will break through to anyone!

That’s an awful lot to digest about the Bible, if you’ll pardon the expression. Those five phrases are a great summary of how you can not only read the Bible, but let it help you transform your own life to the life that God wants for you. But I think there is a word in that collect that is even more important: the word “that.” We do those five things: hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, so that we might embrace and hold fast the Good News of Jesus Christ. We do those things because the Bible itself points to Jesus, who is the Word of God and who is the Good News. The Bible contains the Good News but it is not, of itself, the Good News. Remember the ordination oath? The Bible contains all things necessary for salvation. But it is not salvation by itself. Jesus is. The Good News is that Jesus reconnects us to God when we have become disconnected, and not only to God, but to each other and to ourselves and to the natural world. It’s just like how Facebook connects us to our friends. That’s the whole point of the Bible. That’s what happened to me. I got connected to God through the Bible and prayer. The Bible’s job is to remind us of the Good News and teach us about it and encourage us to live it out in our daily lives. Each of us is already reconciled to God and each other in Jesus. Our sins are already forgiven. God can’t love us any more than God already does. The Bible doesn’t do any of that. God does. Remember the song? Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so. The Bible doesn’t love me. Jesus does!

My sisters and brothers, you can tell I think regularly reading and meditating over the Word of God is a very good thing. It’s so easy to let the noise of the world drown out the still small voice of the Good News. The word of God is living and active, but the word of the world is even more active if you let it. I want to encourage each of you, in your own way, to regularly hear the Scriptures, read, mark, lean and inwardly digest them. I think it’s so important that if any of you don’t have a Bible, or want a study Bible, please don’t worry about the cost. Come see me personally and I will make sure you get a good bible to read. I think it’s that important. I want you to be reminded of the Good News not just on Sunday but every day if possible, and the Bible is a great way to do that.

But don’t forget, the Bible, for all its value, is only a tool. It can, if you let it, be like Facebook. Facebook can be a wonderful plaything, a time waster, a fun way to pass the time. But the true value of Facebook is the links to our friends. It’s those connections that gives Facebook its ultimate value. Facebook by itself is practically useless. But if you understand it and use it to its best purpose, to keep us connected with those who are close to us, it’s like the pearl of great price. The Bible is like that, only better. You can let the words go in your eyes and go back out again. You can turn it into an idol. But if you let it be what it is meant by God to be, to connect you to the Good News that is Jesus, than it’s not just a time waster or simply an intellectual exercise. When you connect to the Good News, it will change your life like it changed mine, and will begin to transform the lives of those around you. And that change, that transformation, is indeed powerful. Read again the vision of Isaiah in our first lesson. That’s what God promises us – a new heaven and a new earth, because of the power of the Good News in our lives and in the life of the world. We live in a society that so desperately needs that Good News, that transforming vision. We not only proclaim that there will be a time when there will be no weeping, no distress. We make it happen, each in our way, when we ourselves connect to the Good News through the Scriptures and the Sacraments and all the other ways we connect with God. And once we’re connected, just like Facebook only better, we can connect and reconnect with those around us, and with ourselves and even with the natural world, and by doing so transform it and us and everyone around us. The Bible has the Good News, it’s Facebook squared, because in it we see ourselves as God sees us and as we can be, and our friends, and the world around us. Most of all, we see the Face of God himself.

My friends, it is well, it is well, it is well with our souls!

May these words be in the Name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. Amen.


PS - the explanation of the picture of The Four Evanglists is here.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Quiet Day at General with the Martyrs

Today at General Theological Seminary in Manhattan, the Center for Christian Spirituality hosted a Quiet Day, offered by GTS alum the Rev. Jay Rozendaal. We spent time thinking about Christian martyrs, perhaps an odd topic, but not if you think that November is, as I've mentioned, a sort of mini-season of its own, wedged between All Saints' and Christ the King Sundays, that celebrates those who have died and looks ahead to the end and to the death of all things. We contemplated the first martyr, Stephen, and explored some of the issues around martyrdom and what it means. I was struck by the fact that martyrs seem to be nonviolent and hopeful. We struggled a bit with the tentative observation that there do not seem to be any Christian martyrs who killed themselves for the faith, but allowed others to do it. Of course, the word "Martyr" comes from the Greek and originally meant merely "witness," and of course that's what St. Stephen did. It only later came to connote one who dies for the faith.

At the conversation at the end we talked about "white martyrdom," which originally meant the ascetic practices the desert fathers and mothers took on after Christianity became legal and "red" martyrdom ended for a time. We noted that in this post-Constantinian age, that the little martyrdoms of confronting the culture from a Christian perspective are growing. Fr. Jay made the, to me, astounding point that of the estimated 45 million Christian martyrs since the Ascension, perhaps 26 million - certainly more than half - occurred in the 20th century. I was really taken aback by that observation, and I will try to follow up on it. But the fact remains that there are Christians right now in this day and age who are being persecuted, some unto death, for their faith. Martyrdom is not something quaint and far away - it is very near to us right now.

Almighty God, who gave to your servants boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Recent Funnies

I knew there was something wrong with those birds.....

I sent this to my Hunter College students...I wonder if they found it funny, or just truthful ? (Click image to enlarge)

Remarkably topical, no? (click image to enlarge)

I remember this well from my own IT days:


Football Update: Week 11

Well, RFSJuniors did win last night, but so did Nuclear Blast, so I remain in 5th place in the league. I should be happy, right? I mean, I have never played fantasy football before, and I'm in the top half of the league. And you're right, I'm pleased. But it's funny how one always wants to do better in these sorts of things. My original goal last season in baseball was to finish in the top half of the league - and I did. I finished 4th. But I was second for most of the season, not sliding slowly downward until August. And there were a few glorious days when I was actually first in my league. I liked that and found I wanted more of it. And so I find myself gently scheming to get in the playoff bracket in my football league. I'm not sure I can do that, but we'll see.

In College news, I continue to do really really well by doing nothing but always picking the favored teams each week. Even though Ohio State lost, I ended up 12 for 21 for the week, or 57% correct. However, in the rankings I am now 442nd worldwide (from 438th) and 31st in the Fans of Ohio State group and a truly mystifying tied-for-14th in the Fans From New Jersey group. So on one level the point spread system is working - most of the time, the effective odds are about 50-50. But what is strange to me is how bad people must be at picking teams to win. Do people do so mostly emotionally? Yes, I will always pick Ohio State to win, but they also are nearly always favored to do so. I mean the point spread data is right there. Or maybe people think they can do better than the point spread. However, the data seem to indicate they can't.



Monday, November 12, 2007

I'm rooting for SF

Seattle plays San Francisco tonight on Monday Night Football. I wouldn't normally have a preference because the Colts aren't playing. (2 losses in a row. Come on guys!) But in Week 10 of my fantasy football league, the No. 4 team Nuclear Blast is losing badly to IndyRocks, and RFSJuniors is currently winning against the No. 2 team Ribeyes. If both Juniors and Indy win tonight, I will move up to 4th place and be in the playoffs if I can hold on. And it all hinges on the Seattle-SF game tonight. Nuclear Blast has the Seattle defense, and if SF beats them soundly, Blast will probably not win tonight.

So go 49ers, beat the Seahawks!


Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XXIV

On this Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Pentecost, we are reminded that our purposes in life, the telos of each one of us, is not bound to this age alone. The exceprt from II Thessalonians reminds the readers that "the day will not come" right away, no matter what they may have heard. And Jesus speaks quite forthrightly of an end time where the dead "cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection." This time between All Saints' and Christ the King perhaps ought to be its own season, because it tends to be when the Church focuses at least somewhat on the "dead who die in the Lord" and what that means. Even the Daily Office lectionary appoints the Book of Revelation for late October and early November in both years.

Of course, we also celebrate that Christ is not just Lord of the dead, but of the living. He comes to us every time we proclaim his death until he comes again (how's that for a little paradox!) in his Body and Blood. It puts new meaning into the verse, "The Word is very near you" indeed! (Extra credit for whoever can identify where this verse comes from....)


Saturday, November 10, 2007

They Lost...

...28-21. The announcers say OSU has no chance at the national championship now. I don't see why not. LSU and Oregon each have a loss, and they are for today at No. 2 and 3. It may the strength of OSU's schedule this year - commentators seem to be saying the Big Ten is not that strong of a conference, and that SEC, for example, is better.

We'll see.



Illinois is beating Ohio State 28-21 with 3:38 to go. It does not look good.


Friday, November 9, 2007

"So that we may delight in your will..."

This evening while reciting Evening Prayer, I was struck by the phrase "so that we may delight in your will," which is part of Confession. The entire sentence is:

For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us,
so that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your holy Name. Amen.

Delighting in God's will. I think it struck me because I'm not feeling that way right now. I am confident that it is God's will for me to move on from my current position, but I am feeling very alone and scared at the moment. As the prayer from Thomas Merton goes, "I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot be certain where it will end." I am very much in that place right now. God's will is unknown to me at the moment, and it's really hard to take delight on something I only know at the moment as unknown and scary.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Job Search Update

As you may know, I'm actively searching for a new position, with my Rector's blessing. I have some opportunities in early stages, but nothing definite as of yet. As always, I would appreciate your prayers that both I and any potential congregations will truly listen to the Holy Spirit's voice as we discern our future together. And please keep those leads coming. You can link to my resume and CDO profile in the sidebar - please feel free to distribute widely! And thanks in advance.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Football Update - Week 10

Well, RFSJunior Football is above .500 - we're 5-4-0 going into Week 10. This week we play the No. 2 team in the league, Ribeyes, who are 7-2-0. The next few weeks are crucial if I intend to make it into the playoff bracket, because I need to be in the top 4 teams in the league to do that and right now I am No. 5 with 4 weeks to go. The good news is that many of Ribeyes' starters are off this week (their teams don't play and so neither do they) and they will have to start backups who aren't as good. So I may have a chance to win.

Some interesting developments in my NCAA Pick-em league. For the past few weeks I have consisted picked the favorite team in each game to beat the appointed point spreads. I expected to do about 50%, because the point spread system is supposed to handicap the stronger teams so that lesser teams can play them. (The lower the point spread the closer the teams are considered to be in strength. A zero point spread team would essentially mean even odds - a toss-up.) And in fact I have been doing about 50%; 9 of 16 correct in Week 8; 8 of 15 in Week 9, but then 14 of 20 last week. And my relative rankings have climbed consistently over the last three weeks: This week I am 638th overall in the entire league, 60th in the "Fans of Ohio State" group, and an astounding 18th in the "Fans from New Jersey" group. 18th place puts me in the top 50 - woo hoo!!!!! What's interesting is that the point spread system failed last week - the advantage still went strongly with the favorite team. I'm going to pick all the favorites again this week and see what happens. I may not be 18th, 60th, and 638th for long!

Go Bucks! Beat Illinois!


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Can Someone Help Me Out?

I'm usually fairly good at figuring things out, but for whatever reason I cannot fathom this cartoon at all:

Anybody have any ideas?


The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XXIII

In many parishes today is All Saints' Sunday, because it's permitted to transfer All Saints' Day (Nov. 1) to the following Sunday. We did that at Trinity Parish today, so see my entry for Nov 1 here for thoughts on All Saints'. We had a glorious celebration, I have to say. The hight point for me was remembering all those enshrined in our stained glass windows within the Prayers of the People.

In other parishes that observe All Saints' on its day, today is the Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost. We continue our overview of the Minor Prophets, today hearing from Habbakuk, who complains to God about the injustice of the world. God replies:

Write the vision;

make it plain on tablets,

so that a runner may read it.

For there is still a vision for the appointed time;

it speaks of the end, and does not lie.

If it seems to tarry, wait for it;

it will surely come, it will not delay.

We also begin a short series from the Second letter to the Thessalonians. November of every year is sort of an "end times" theme, and both letters to the Thessalonians deal with what's going to happen in the future. They were concerned because, early in the Christian movement, believers thought Our Lord was on his way very soon, i.e., within a few years. At Thessolonica, some of the believers had already died and the Lord had not yet returned. They wrote to St. Paul for some advice, and he wrote back in I Thes. and possibly in II Thes. Today Paul, or possibly a disciple of Paul writing under his name, greets the Thessalonians and encourages them, because they're being persecuted in some way. More on that in coming weeks.

In the Gospel, we hear of Zaccheus, who, because he was short, climbed a tree to see the Lord as Jesus was passing by. Zee has a conversion experience when Jesus says he will have dinner with him tonight. That's extraordinary in and of itself because Zaccheus was not only a tax collected but apparently a chief tax collector. Remember that tax collectors were hated by the Jewish people because they collected money - extorted it, in some cases, from their fellow Jewish people and then turned it over to the hated Roman overlords. So this is a powerful story indeed that demonstrates that "it is necessary" for the Lord to dine not only with Zee, but with all who are lost. "For the Son of Man came to seek out and save the lost," - even the tax collectors.

Who are the tax collectors in our society, those who are hated by many? Undocumented aliens? Muslims? Gay people? Mormons? Who is the Lord calling us to reach out to? Is the Lord calling out to each of us? Would we be converted if Jesus had dinner with us today? Many of us dined with the Lord in the Eucharist today. How was that a converting experience for each of us?

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Friday, November 2, 2007

The Proper of the Day: All Souls' Day

This observance is more formally known as All the Faithful Departed. According to Lesser Feasts and Fasts:

In the New Testament, the word “saints” is used to describe the entire membership of the Christian community, and in the Collect for All Saints’ Day the word “elect” is used in a similar sense. From very early times, however, the word “saint” came to be applied primarily to persons of heroic sanctity, whose deeds were recalled with gratitude by later generations.

Beginning in the tenth century, it became customary to set aside another day — as a sort of extension of All Saints — on which the Church remembered that vast body of the faithful who, though no less members of the company of the redeemed, are unknown in the wider fellowship of the Church. It was also a day for particular remembrance of family members and friends.

Though the observance of the day was abolished at the Reformation because of abuses connected with Masses for the dead, a renewed understanding of its meaning has led to a widespread acceptance of this commemoration among Anglicans, and to its inclusion as an optional observance in the calendar of the Episcopal Church.

I never could quite figure All Souls' Day out, for the very reason that LFF states. I do think it's very cool to have a day of memory for those who died in the past year in the parish, for example. And I miss my relatives who have died, too. It's a good way to remember where we've come from and where we will one day go.

O God, the Maker and Redeemer of all believers: Grant to the faithful departed the unsearchable benefits of the passion of your Son; that on the day of his appearing they may be manifested as your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Proper of the Day: Feast of All Saints

On this day, the church celebrates the ministry in the world of all the Saints who have lived among us. This is a Principle Feast of the Church, on the same level as Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday. The Litany of the Saints is often said or sung today, and in some congregations those who have gone before in the prior year are remebembered as some of the Saints now in God's greater glory. The Gospel for today is traditionally the Beatitudes (this version from Luke:)

esus looked up at his disciples and said:
"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
"Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
"Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
"Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
"But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
"Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
"Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
"Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets

"But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you."

That's what we're all called to do by Christ. Those who seem to have been able to do so more than most of us we have called Saints, and we find them in every generation, even now. When I think about this, it seems like all I can do is join the heavenly chorus and sing "Praise to God! Alleluia!"

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.