Wednesday, April 30, 2008

What Spice Are You?

Your Score: Salt

You scored 50% intoxication, 0% hotness, 50% complexity, and 25% craziness!

You are Salt! You may be bland, but life just wouldn't be the same without you. You're plentiful and you come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours. You bring out the flavour in whatever you touch and have been the world's best preservative for millennia. You rock.

Link: The Which Spice Are You Test written by jodiesattva on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test
View My Profile(jodiesattva)

Thanks to Grandmere Mimi!


Wednesday Funnies

(Click on any image to enlarge.)

So recently I've had a lot on my back too...

If only - where are the gurus when you need one?

OK, so I was feeling a little creeped out by the spring bugs...

Welcome to the 21st Century!


PS - one of my cartoon sites has apparently spiked their cartoons with something that causes Blogger to not allow my to upload them. (I pay for email feeds that come daily.) So I have a number of very funny cartoons I might not be able to share any time soon, but I'll try to figure something out.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Disturbing on a lot of levels

The NYT has an article today about how a ground-breaking school in NYC that would have taught Arabic, similar to other schools that teach in various foreign languages, including Chinese, was shut down by opposition fearing it was promoting terrorism.

Battle in Brooklyn A Principal’s Rise and Fall
Critics Cost Muslim Educator Her Dream School
Published: April 28, 2008
The fight against a school in Brooklyn was led by an organized movement to stop Muslim citizens who are seeking an expanded role in American public life.

I'm disturbed by what appear to be the massive assumptions that were made throughout. We Christians are called to "respect the dignity of every human being" and I think, at a minimum, that means accepting people at face value without making assumptions, without profiling or stereotyping. And face it, we Christians are in the minority too. This may be a nominally Christian nation, but the key word is "nominal." The values of society at large - witness this purge! - do not match the values we espouse as Christians.

Read it all here.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

I want this.

I find myself really envious. Here's an article in today's New York Times Magazine about younger gay men in their 20s and early 30s who are getting married. I want this too. I'm 41 and I want a relationhip that will last the rest of my life, too. I've been through it once - we took vows and everything - and I was devestated when it didn't work out. And I see friends and former boyfriends always with a date - it seems so easy for them!

LAST NOVEMBER IN BOSTON, Joshua Janson, a slender and boyish 25-year-old, invited me to an impromptu gathering at the apartment he shares with Benjamin McGuire, his considerably more staid husband of the same age. It was a cozy, festive affair, complete with some 20 guests and a large sushi spread where you might have expected the chips and salsa to be.

Read it all here.


The Proper of the Day: The Sixth Sunday of Easter

As always, the community gathers on the first day of the week, the Lord's Day, for nurture and sustenance and community and to renew connections to God, each other, and ourselves. In Eastertide on this Sixth Sunday of Easter we continued to hear from the Acts of the Apostles and the First Letter of Peter. And in the Gospel we continue to read from John, this time the very enigmatic metaphor of Jesus as the Vine. We're the branches, Jesus says, and in what I suspect is typical Johannine hyperbole, those branches that aren't making grapes get cut out and burnt. The others get pruned (the same Greek root also means "cleansed") so that there can be even more grapes. There's always so much we can say about the Johannine Easter images, but this week I had food and hunger on my mind:

St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, Vernon
The Sixth Sunday of Easter (BCP) 2008
Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 148; 1 Peter 3:8-18; John 15:1-8
The Rev. R. F. Solon, Jr. Vicar

May these words be in the name of the True Vine, Jesus our risen Lord. Amen.

This past week you may have heard that the United Nations has declared a food emergency globally, and has requested an additional half billion right now in order to help purchase food needed in those areas where it is scarce. Apparently, it’s a combination of high fuel prices, bad harvests, and the instability of the value of the dollar that has led to this situation. Many are blaming the US for a lot of what’s going on. I admit to having somewhat of an understanding, at a high level, of everything that’s happening, but I also confess that I haven’t felt too much of the pain that millions are facing now. The price of beans for the Sudan, for example, was around $200 per ton less than two years ago and is now $1100 per ton. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen any prices in the A&P quintuple. So listening to the news on this has been a bit theoretical. Even in this age of global connection, it’s kind of hard sometimes to really feel affected.

And yet, we have been affected, there’s no doubt. I’m sure you’ve noticed, as have I, that the prices of dairy products have gone way up in the last few months. I happen to like eggs and cheese a lot, so I definitely have been aware of the rising prices. And at least one store I was in recently had a big sign up in the dairy case, explaining that the costs had risen beyond the control of the store and they were sorry they had to raise their prices. And I’ve noticed what seems like a few more calls than earlier from folks locally, who need food and are hoping we can help. I’m always pleased that I can invite them to our food pantry, but almost always they also want to know if I can help with dairy or meat. I feel uneasy when I can’t help, although sometimes I can if we have food cards from A&P at hand. The Sparta Ecumenical Council Food pantry confirms this. Where they used to give out 15 or 20 bags of groceries a week, now it’s more like 90 or a hundred. And you will have seen the insert we’ve been putting in the bulletin about ways to help right here in Sussex County. So the global food crisis is definitely affecting us here as well. It’s not just something we see in the news. It’s real and it’s personal.

I’m reminded of all this not only because I drive past the Super A&P regularly. I don’t know exactly how much food there is in there at any given time, but I imagine it’s enough to feed the entire township of 25,000 people for several days or even longer. But this Sunday, the Sixth Sunday in the Great Fifty Days of Easter, has traditionally been know as Rogation Sunday. Now, it has nothing to do with how long the hair of the disciples was or anything like that! Rather, it’s because in the gospel for today, Jesus says, “ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” The word “ask” in Latin, the language the Church used for hundreds of years, is “rogare.” And the next three days, the three days before Ascension Day, are called the Rogation Days, or the Days of Asking. It was traditional that on these days there were special celebrations of the Eucharist to pray for the harvest that, even this year when everything is so early, is just being prepared and planted. It originally came about nearly 1700 years ago in what is now France, when there were severe food shortages in the area. Sound familiar? The practice eventually spread throughout the Christian west. And even our own Book of Common Prayer offers liturgies for these days. On Monday is the commemoration for fruitful seasons, on Tuesday for commerce and industry, and on Wednesday for stewardship of creation. I used to think of the Rogation Days as quaint, hardly needed in the 20th and 21st centuries. We’ve solved hunger, right? Well, now I’m not so sure.

I think there’s a real tension within our spiritual lives regarding asking God for things. True, every Sunday we pray for all sorts and conditions of people in the Prayers of the People. And we have special celebrations like the Rogation Days and Rogation Sunday that are designed to encourage people to pray for their needs. And there are several passages in Matthew, Luke, and of course John that all seem to encourage us to “bring it to the Lord in prayer.” “Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find, knock, and the door will be opened.” is a famous passage from the Sermon on the Mount. And of course in the Lord’s Prayer itself we are told to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Last week, you might recall we heard, “I, Jesus, will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” And today, from John, “ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Asking God for our needs seems like a reasonable, even laudatory, thing to do.

The tension, the problem is, of course, that often it seems that, no matter what the Gospels seem to promise, we often, even usually, don’t get what we ask for. And there is a strand of Christianity that even goes so far as to suggest that if you don’t have all the material things in life – because surely that’s what everyone wants and what God wants for you too – then you must not be a good Christian, because God rewards good people in this life with abundance, and does not reward those who don’t deserve it.

The problem with this is that it turns God into a giant ATM machine. It implies that you only have to be good enough, only have to pray enough or in the right way, to get what you want. It takes God’s grace right out of the picture. Salvation becomes something you can earn if you just pray hard enough. But of course, that isn’t how God works at all. In every one of the passages that encourage us to ask for what we need, ever notice that’s only about the needs of this life and not the wants? We’re never encouraged to ask for more than what we need. And the Gospels are very very clear about what excessive stuff can do to one’s life with God. When we orient our lives towards things we can’t orient them toward God.

More than that, Jesus actually reminds us that God already knows that we need the things of this life. And that, for me, begs the question: why pray at all? God already knows everything. He doesn’t need me to tell him that I’m hungry, or that my best friend is ill and needs healing, or that my job might be ending and I’m worried about how to pay the bills.

I think there are at least two answers for this. The first one, the simple one is, “Because Jesus told us to.” And he did. “Give us this day our daily bread” is a prayer we Christians pray all the time, even in the midst of our Eucharist when we thank God for what God is doing in Jesus in our lives. We pray that because Jesus commanded us to. And we who claim to be followers of Christ try to do the things he commanded. Not because we’re in trouble if we don’t, but because we know that Jesus, the embodiment of Wisdom incarnate, intends only the good for us in the things he asks us to do.

The other reason is perhaps a bit less obvious. We pray because in doing, so we practice orienting ourselves to God. We don’t pray because God needs it, we pray because we do. In all our prayer we are, consciously or not, renewing our connections to God thought Christ. We often pray more frequently when we can sense that our connection is weakened or fraying.
Sometimes, like on Sundays, we pray in thanksgiving as well as intercession. Sometimes all we can do is cry out to God in anger or frustration or fear or sadness or simple begging. Sometimes our prayers might be for things more than our daily needs. I’m pretty sure that God really doesn’t care too much whether or not my Mets win this series against the Braves, but I sure would like them to. And that new whatever it is you’ve had your eye on? Perhaps you’ve asked God for that, too.

I truly believe that, at its most basic level, in the act of prayer itself the content doesn’t much matter. What’s most important is that in the act of prayer we are consciously reaching out for God. We are aligning ourselves with God when we pray, and in doing so, we open ourselves up to God’s will and purpose for us, even when we don’t know it.

Notice I didn’t say that what we pray for doesn’t matter at all. It does. In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Jesus is telling us that the prerequisite for asking for whatever we wish, is each of us being first in the mind of Christ and having Christ’s words in us. What are those words? We hear them a bit later in this chapter of John. Christ’s words are that we are to love one another as he has loved us. Then we are abiding in Christ and then his words are abiding in us. If we are truly loving one another, if we are truly always seeking the best of the other knowing that he or she is doing the same, then what we ask for is going to be for things that are needed by those we are in relationship with, those people we are loving. And God will be pleased to do that. That’s the kind of prayer – prayer on behalf of others – that God gets into. We aren’t going to be asking for the new car, or the next version of the cool but expensive video game, or anything like that. We will be asking for food, and clothes, and shelter, and stability, and health, and wholeness for those whom we are trying to love as Christ already loves each of us. That’s the more excellent way. That’s the good fruit that Jesus alludes to in his metaphor of the Vine and the Branches. Our prayers for others become the seeds in us of the good fruit we will eventually produce. As Jesus said, “My father is glorified in this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.”

And there are two really good examples of what that good fruit looks like, those spiritually delicious apples and pears and plums and oranges. Recall that we’ve been hearing from the Acts of the Apostles during Eastertide. We do that every year, to remind us in vivid picture, with real people doing real tings, that in the season of new life that the Church was once new and experienced that new life directly. The sacred story of what the first generation of apostles said and did is meant to inspire and ground and encourage us. They started with nothing, and look at what fruit they bore! Can you imagine what Christ’s new life can do for this community of St. Thomas’s?

And we also continue to hear from the First Letter of Peter. Today we heard, “Now all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called-- that you might inherit a blessing.” Now those are some very specific ways to recognize the good fruit that Jesus invited us to be. Aren’t sure if you are living out a fruitful life in Christ? Check the list. Do those things describe you? If not, time for more prayer. If they do, don’t rest on your laurels. Pray for more!

My friends, prayer is important. In fact, it’s critical to a renewed life in the Lord. The Good News is that God can and does take all our prayers and makes good use of them. Even if you’re afraid your prayers aren’t worthy, that they aren’t selfless enough, don’t worry too much. Yes, we have lots of guidance about what are better ways to pray. And it’s good to examine ourselves and see what and how we are praying. But God has big shoulders. God can take whatever we pray. Whether it’s for our needs, those of others, or seemingly more blasé, like that new computer or hitting the lottery, remember that God did ask us to pray. Our prayer first and foremost keeps us online with God, connected to him even in the midst of this ever-more-dangerous world that wants nothing more than for us to forget God and lose our connections to him. And so we pray. This week we pray for our own needs and the needs of the world in the traditional Rogation Day prayers. Hunger is on the rise, in the entire world, here in the US, and especially right here in Sussex County. It is a good and noble thing to pray for those needs, even for the billions of people we will never see otherwise. Yes, God knows what we need before we ask. But it is the asking itself, and especially who we are asking, that’s the important thing. That asking, that rogare, our prayers, are the seeds of the good fruit we are already becoming. And as Jesus tells us, “Our Father is glorified in this, that we bear much fruit and become his disciples.”
We - you and I, this community of St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church - are the good fruit that can feed the hungry world, this hungry nation, this hungry township. Won’t it be wonderful to see what kind of good fruit each of us will bear in the days and weeks to come!

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Proper of Yesterday: St. Mark the Evangelist

(I was ready with this post early, and then forgot to post it! Go figure.)

On this day the Church remembers with joy the work of St. Mark and the Gospel that bears his name. There are several references to a Mark in the New Testament, and if they are all the same person, he was indeed a busy person, accompanying Paul and Silas on their travels. From Lesser Feasts and Fasts:

"An early tradition recorded by Papias, Bishop of Hieropolis in Asia Minor at the beginning of the second century, names Mark as the author of the Gospel bearing his name. This tradition, which holds that Mark drew his information from the teaching of Peter, is generally accepted. In his First Letter, Peter refers to “my son Mark,” which shows a close relationship between the two men (1 Peter 5:13). The Church of Alexandria in Egypt claimed Mark as its first bishop and most illustrious martyr, and the great Church of St. Mark in Venice commemorates the disciple who progressed from turning back while on a missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas to proclaiming in his Gospel Jesus of Nazareth as Son of God, and bearing witness to that faith in his later life as friend and companion to the apostles Peter and Paul."

Although Mark is the second Gospel in the New Testament, it mostly likely was the first one written, that is, written down. It's believe that both Matthew and Luke had copies of Mark when they wrote their own Gospels, along with other sources as well. There's all sorts of data and analysis regarding this "two-source" hypothesis that goes a long way to explain various inconsistencies and differences in detail. It's interesting to know, but in the end I am always struck by the faith of the Gospellers, who took it upon themselves, in a time when writing was relatively rare, to record the sacred story of Jesus for others to know too. Even though some of Paul's writings probably predate Mark, it's Mark and the other Gospels that we get our primary understanding of Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection.

If you have an hour (and that's all you will need!), the best way to honor Mark is to read his Gospel, start to finish. It's the shortest and in some ways has the most punch. Since there isn't a lot of teaching in this gospel, and only a few parables, see if you can discover what Mark is saying about Jesus by how he portrays the Lord and his work. And feel free to comment back here - I'd love to hear what you find!

Almighty God, who by the hand of Mark the evangelist have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


More funnies

While I'm contemplating my sermon for tomorrow (click any image to enlarge):

Buddhist wisdom from the young - perhaps he's a reincarnation?

Think this would work in Sunday school?

Oh, if it were so!

Haven't had this in my receiving line yet....

When I was in Information Technology I preffered Cheetos and a Diet Dr. Pepper, but this would get me in a pinch as well...


Saturday Baseball and Funnies

Well, RFSJuniors has been doing pretty well this last week or so. Yesterday I dropped five points in the standings from 2nd to 5th. It's still early in the season and swings like that are still fairly common, albeit becoming less common now. Today my ace Tim Hudson and the Atlanta Braves are playing my Mets in Queens. It's one of the few times I want the Mets to not do well. I was mildly annoyedthat both Chipper Jones (2b) and Yunel Escobar (3b) are not starting for the Braves today. Had I had some warning I could have adjusted my lineup. Now I'm going to lose 8 or 10 at-bats. I haven't been pleased with Yahoo Sports in general this season, and this is just one more reason.

Some funnies for a Saturday afternoon:

This could be fun - I love putt-putt!

How true!


Congrats to Brother Boniface!!!

I have known Br. Boniface Copelin, O.S.B., of St. Gregory's Abbey near Oklahoma City, for nearly twenty years, off and on. Back in the day in Columbus, Ohio, it was Boniface (Timothy then, before he returned to the monastery from where he'd been on leave) who was my buyer's agent when I bought my first home, a lovely little townhouse condo in the German Village section. It was in an excellent location, and had I stayed there longer I could have made a good amount in equity on it, since it was a half-block from what became a very hot area of town, with lots of new shops and all. I really loved it there, too. I often wonder what would have happened if I had not taken the job in Indianapolis, which in doing, I believe, put my directly on the path to eventual ordination myself, although I didn't know it at the time.

So Boniface nee Timothy helped me buy that condo, and within a year I had moved to Indianapolis and we fell out of touch. I had heard he had returned to the Abbey, this time for good. He looked me up via email one day several years later, while I was still in Indianapolis before the Great Move to Manhattan, and we've stayed in contact ever since. I attended his robing and taking of final vows at the Abbey in 2004, I believe it was, and it was a joy to see him then.

Well, Br. Boniface has been in Rome these past few years studying for the priesthood himself. (Hey, I wanna study in Rome!) And this past Sunday, April 20, he was ordained to the sacred order of deacons in Christ's Holy Catholic Church. I really wanted to surprise him by attending, but it just was not going to be. I'm going to make arrangements to attend his presbyteral ordination in August (At the Abbey, in Oklahoma) and that will be fun too.

Here are some pix that Boniface sent just this morning.

Here's the Abbot, Br. Lawrence, presenting Br. Boniface (left) to the Bishop:

Br. Boniface is being examined by the Bishop:

Br. Boniface becomes a deacon!

The Deacon, the Bishop, and the Abbot

I'm so pleased and proud for Boniface and for the Church!


Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Different Statue of Liberty

My uncle Kevin sent this to me (click on image to enlarge):


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I wish it didn't have to be

The death penalty is still legal in this country in 26 states. I wish it didn't have to be. The recent Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of lethal injection was a logical, if sad, outcome.


I hope this is funny...

In this season of Passover, I thought this was hilarious. But, is it really, or is it just in bad taste to make fun of someone's religion? Please do let me know.


Wednesday Funnies

For when you're feeling non-specific (click image to enlarge if needed) ....

Kids say the smartest things!

I've always wanted to meet him too! All my dentists have, strangely, been part of thr e"four out five." What's up with that?

Well, it was funny when i downloaded it....

More myseries of nature explained....


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day

Today is Earth Day. It's not a Proper of the Church, but perhaps it should be. One could always use the Rogation Days propers for Earth Day, especially For the Stewardship of Creation:

O merciful Creator, your hand is open wide to satisfy the
needs of every living creature: Make us always thankful for
your loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the
account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards
of your good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with
you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.

Lesson from Hebrew Scriptures: Job 38:1-11, 16-18

Lesson from the Christian Writings: 1 Timothy 6:7-10; 17-19

The Holy Gospel According to Luke (12:13-21)

I'm not sure these Scriptures have much to do with stewardship of creation. I would have picked Genesis 1:1-2:2 for the first lesson, followed by Psalm 104, maybe all of it. I'm not sure about the Second Lesson either; nothing comes to mind specifically, except perhaps for 2 Corinthians 8-9. That passage, however, is more about supporting the community rather than anything else. For the Gospel, I would *not* pick any of the Matthean or Lukan "worry not" pssages, because I think in these days we do have much to worry about. And the suggested Gospel, also from Luke, seems to speak more about one's attitude toward wealth than anything else. Now it may well be that we Westerners' thoughts on what it means to have stuff is exactly what we have to combat in order to think Godfully about creation. Certainlly we have to always think about what our realtionship to our stuff is, and that starts with the realization that none of it is really ours.

Here are some Prayers for Creation that are good for reflecting on our role in what God has first made. The Sisters of Mercy have written a Novena for Creation that is meant to be prayer over nine days.


Monday, April 21, 2008

The Proper of Yesterday: The Fifth Sunday of Easter

Yesterday the Church began the fifth week of the Great Fifty Days of Easter. As always, we gathered on the first day of the week to experience Word and Sacrament. We continued to hear about the Acts of the Apostles, this time to hear about Paul and Silas on their journey in Thesalonica, whose first letter from Paul we are also reading in the the Daily Office. (the picture at left is of "Midnight Song" of Paul and Silas in prison, singling praises to God. It's from Tom White studios.) And we continued to hear from the First Letter of Peter, as he writes to console and lift up his hearers of the first century and us in the twenty-first. And in the Gospel he heard again from John, as both Thomas and Phillip inquire about Jesus and his relationship to the Father and to us.

At the 10 AM service, we were really glad to welcome Christopher Patrick Tuitt into the household of God in the sacrament of baptism. We did a sermon for the children at that service. We talked a little bit about sports teams and how sometimes when we weren't playing too well or there were lots of people there we had to sit out sometimes. And we also noticed that we usually have to take a bath after practice of after games. We spoke about how baby Christopher is going to get a bath in our very own tub too - the Font, but that his bath was special because it only had to be done once, and that he will never have to sit out on God's team. At the 8 AM service, I reflected on the First Letter of Peter in the following:

St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church, Vernon
The Fifth Sunday of Easter at 8 AM (BCP) 2008
Acts 17:1-15; Ps 66:1-11; 1 Peter 2:1-10; John 14:1-14
The Rev. R. F. Solon, Jr., Vicar

May these words be in the Name of the Cornerstone of our faith and our life. Amen.

I might have mentioned at one point or another that I attended a boys Roman Catholic high school, St. Francis de Sales in Toledo. My father went there and there was never much doubt that I would go there as well. I remember that summer before, when I was a “rising freshman,” that I started to get anxious about going to school. Not the academics – I was pretty sure I’d be able to handle that part. But I was really worried about everything else. Fitting in, finding where everything was, learning the traditions. And there were a lot of traditions. It used to be that freshmen wore beanies, those little caps like what the Pope wears, except they were St. Francis blue rather than Holy Father white. And woe betide any frosh who lost his beanie or worse, allowed it to be taken from him. Frosh had to wear them at games and any public school event, so I’m told, for the entire school year. I was soo thankful that particular tradition had been discontinued some time before I was accepted. But there were a lot of other things I was worried about. Some stuff we learned at freshman orientation and registration, like how to sing the alma mater, the school song, which I can still sing from memory. It was good that the faculty and administrators took some pity on us and helped us out a little bit.

But other things you just had to learn on your own, like where all the classrooms were, and that Room 102 didn’t exist. It was a sort of running joke about getting called to Room 102 – apparently some poor frosh would actually wander the halls during homeroom period, looking for that room, while his homeroom proctor went along with the joke by gladly writing him a pass to Room 102. Pretty funny, in retrospect, but worth a lot of razzing for anyone who didn’t catch on. And there was some hazing, too, mostly from the upperclassmen making fun of anything and everything that we frosh said or did. We all desperately wanted to fit in, all 202 of us in our class. It was palpable, and many of us did a lot of regrettable things that we thought would help at the time.

One time that stands out in my mind was our first football rally. It was held in the gym and each class had its own section in the stands. However, that first rally, they had the freshmen assemble behind the curtain of the stage on another set of risers. We needed to make more noise than any of the other classes so that we could join the rest of the school in our own stands. There was a palpable sense of excitement as we whipped ourselves to a near frenzy, shouting the cheers we had been taught until the curtain finally opened and we literally jumped off the stage, ran across the gym floor, and pounded into our rightful section as the incoming class of 1985. It was a fantastic moment. I had a lot of good and a lot of painful memories in high school, but that was one of the better ones. Maybe you can recall other moments in your own high school, college, or work life.

And we all want to fit in, right? It isn’t just at high school. Go to any public sporting event and the same thing happens. We’re asked to rise and sing the National Anthem before the game begins. If it’s a baseball game, there’s the 7th Inning Stretch and everyone sings “Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” If you’ve never been to a game before, you have no idea what’s going on, how to fit in. Other sports have their own traditions. And when we start a new job, we know there’s much to learn and we hate being the newbie. We can’t wait until someone else is hired and we aren’t the newbie anymore. It seems like it’s a part of human nature to initiate people into the group, to somehow prove one’s worth. Sometimes it’s by relatively innocuous things like learning the school fight song. Sometimes the initiation is harder, as perhaps when one is admitted to the bar to be a lawyer. But there is often this tension of starting off outside and wanting to be in, to be accepted. Depending on what it is, we’ll do practically anything to get in.
And then, glory of glories! We’re in! No longer an outsider, now one of the insiders. We learn the secret handshake. We’re told there is no Room 102. We get the swiper card that lets us into the managers’ lounge. Whatever it is, we’re no longer out, no longer with our faces to the window, looking in. We’re where we so wanted to be! Part of the few. No longer just one of the crowd. Special. Set apart. Chosen.

That’s what the first Letter of Peter has been getting at during this Easter Season. We’ve been hearing excerpts from it throughout the Great Fifty Days of Easter. It was probably written from Rome in the latter decades of the first century, probably by followers of Peter who used his name to lend credibility to the letter. That was pretty common in those days, kind of like using “Webster’s” in the title of a dictionary is today. The purpose of the letter is to assure its hearers, both then and now, that we’re different. Special. Set apart. Chosen. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” says the author. That’s pretty special. There’s not much more “in” than that! “Once you were not a people, but not you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Cool, huh? No more harassment, no more initiations, no more having to proof ourselves to God. We’re in!

But the First Letter of Peter simply doesn’t congratulate us on making it in. It’s nothing any of us did anyway. We’re saved by the grace of God, a present to each of us, because God loves each of us and doesn’t want anybody to be out. That’s the Good News, that anyone who realizes God loves her becomes a part of that same chosen race and royal priesthood. But part of what Peter was saying is that then, as now, the wider culture doesn’t get it and often sees us as the outsiders, not the insiders. We Christians are treated as quaint, as wimpy, as out of touch with the world as it is. Then, Christians were harassed because they didn’t participate in the public ceremonies in honor of the Emperor. Now, we’re made fun of because we actually come together on Sunday mornings to participate in Word and Sacrament. And we could be sleeping in! Don’t we know better? We should just get with the program. Go play golf. Or read the Sunday Times and then go to brunch. Or whatever.

But see, here’s the rub. We are different, we Christians in the 21st Century. It used to be that pretty much everyone was a Christian in this country, at least nominally. You got baptized, you went to church, you got married in that church or your fiancée’s church. It was expected. When you did all that, you fit in. Everyone did it, and, like not knowing the national anthem at a ball game, you were seen as odd if you didn’t.

Boy, times have changed! We who gladly claim the name Christian now have a steep row to hoe. We still baptize our children, we still come to Communion, we still participate in the life of our worshipping communities. But now, ironically, we’re seen as the odd ones. It’s the rest of society that sees us as unusual, as different, as outside and not in. Nationally, less than twenty per cent of Americans have ever even been in a church.

Peter assures his readers in the first century, and us in the twenty-first, that we are indeed special, beloved in God’s eyes. He wants us to continue to do those things that show our specialness, too, to “proclaim the mighty acts of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light.” We come together to worship, to serve, and to socialize, not to earn God’s mercy, but to display it. We try, as Peter asks us, to “rid ourselves of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander” because those are the values of the world. Here, in this space, we can practice being that chosen race, that royal people that holy nation, to and among us here at St. Thomas’s first. We know it’s darned difficult, and becoming more so, to act in the world as those who have Good News. But here, among those of us who are brothers and sisters in Jesus, we can and we must. The values of the world, Peter tells us, are not our values. We rejected off when we were baptized, and every time we renew the covenant of our baptism. The Risen Lord who gives us a newer life in his own new life also gives us the power to act with newer life toward those around us right here in this community.

Being on the outside is hard. Being on the inside, when everyone else thinks you are on the outside, is even harder. In this season of Easter, of newer life in Christ, my prayer is that each of us will let that newer life infuse our hearts and our souls and our minds, so that each of us may contribute to building this spiritual house of St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church into a physical house of joy, worship, service, and community.


Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thursday Funnies

Enjoy! (Click on any image to enlarge)

You know, I don't eat spam, but I do often work from home, and I've wondered where all that stuff comes. Maybe I'd better go clean out my fridge....

I've wondered what they do on the mound....and I'll bet sometimes this isn't too far off from what they talk about!


With the candlebra in the drawing room....

The more things change....


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

For Shame!

St. Thomas Fifth Avenue, the doyen of fashionable Manhattan parishes and a center of Anglo-Catholic culture and the English choral tradition, is spending $20 million to repair and clean its stained glass windows. And it's financing this by selling some of its air rights. (Air rights are important in vertical cities like New York, because zoning laws limit how high you can build. You can sell or transfer airspace you will not need to someone nearby who would like to build higher. Here's a good overview of air rights for background.)

I was really rather upset when I read this. In the midst of a major recession, when thousands of people are losing their jobs and thousands more just in New York need all kinds of help, St. Thomas decides to spend $20 million on stained glass windows? And not even from it's own endowment, which is considerable? I can't believe it. It would have been much more of a Christian witness to spend $20 million on emergency housing, or to donate to Episcopal service agencies like the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. or even decide to spend equal amounts on outreach and the fabric of the church. But windows and only windows?

Don't get me wrong. I believe that "worshipping the Lord in the beauty of holiness" is a sacred duty. But the Oxford Movement churches of London in the 18th Century combined exquisite worship with a deep commitment to the poor in their areas. I don't see much of that happening at St. Thomas.

Extremely disappointing!


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

You Know You're An Episcopalian If...

You might be an Episcopalian if...

…you recognize your neighbor, or rector, in the local liquor store and go over to greet him/her.

…if you have totally memorized Rite I, Rite II and the first three episodes of *The Vicar of Dibley*.

…if while watching the movie “The Madness of King George” you’re able to recite with the King, when he undergoes “surgery,” the Collect for Purity

…if words like: “vouchsafe”, “oblation”, “supplications”, “succor”, “bewail”, “wherefore”, “dost”, “meet”, and “very” (in its archaic sense) are familiar to you even if you don’t have a clue that they mean.

…if you can pronounce “innumerable benefits procured to us by the same.”

…if hearing people pray in the language of “jesuswejus” makes you want to scream.

…if you can rattle off such tongue twisters like: “..who made there by his one oblation of himself once offered a full and perfect sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the world” and “Wherefore, O, Lord and Heavenly Father, we thy people, do celebrate and make here, with these gifts which we offer unto thee, the memorial thy Son hath commanded us to make…” without missing a beat.

…if someone says, “Let us pray” and you automatically hit your knees.

…if the word “Sewanee” puts a lump in your throat.

…if you catch yourself genuflecting or bowing as you enter a row of seats in a theater.

…if your choir director suggests discussing something over a beer after choir rehearsal.

…if, when visiting a Catholic Church, you are the only Ah-men amongst a sea of Ay-mens

…if your covered dish for the potluck dinner is escargot in puff shells.

…if you think the most serious breach of propriety one can commit is failure to chill the salad forks.

…if your picnic basket has sterling knives and forks (entree, fish, salad and cake).

…if you ever find yourself saying, “Oh, but we’ve never done it that way before.”

…if you know that a sursum corda is not a surgical procedure.

…if you don’t think Agnus Dei is a woman.

…if you know the difference between a surplice and a cotta…and the appropriate use of each.

…if you know that the nave is not a playing card.

…if you know that the Senior Warden and the Junior Warden are not positions in the local prison.

…if your friend said “I’m truly sorry…” and you replied, “and you humbly repent?”

And finally….

…if you reach a point when you’re not sure about anything theologically but you still feel completely at home at the altar rail and somehow know you’re meeting God there, even though you can’t begin to understand how.

(Thanks to Elizabeth Kaeton....)


Monday, April 14, 2008

Baseball Update

Well, the baseball season is about two weeks old now, and my NY Mets are in third place in the NL East, while the Yankees are actually in last place in the AL East. Will wonders ever cease?

Apparently not, because my own fantasy team, the RFSJuniors, is actually in first place in our league, for the second day in a row! No one is more surprised than I am, especially since as recently as last Wednesday or so I was 10th out of 12 in the league. But my hitters are starting to hit (I'm leading the league in batting average) and my pitchers are doing very well this past week, with 7 wins and 4 saves and currently a very good ERA as well.

The season is very young, so anything can happen. And my league mates aren't going to sit still for this, of course. However, a key point in Fantasy Baseball is that good performance early in the season is critical. A single win, save, home run, or stolen base can move one up or down in the standings. As the season moves on, it will take a lot more sustained performance in order to move up in the standings. Over the weekend I acquired Corey Patterson, who got a lot of stolen bases last year and is off to a good start with Cincinnatti, and Chad Cordero, the closer for the Nationals who just got off the disabled list. Once Atlanta's Rafeael Soriano gets off the disabled list too, I'll have four closers in my pitching roster, which should really help with both ERA and of course saves.

Most of my team is off today, and they deserve the rest!


Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Proper of the Day: The Fourth Sunday of Easter

Although Sundays are work days for me, I am finding I really do look forward to when our community gathers for worship in Sundays. Today was such a day. The second Sunday of the month is even longer, because our Executive Committee meets after the 10 AM service. And it seems that recently I've not done a good job of getting my sermons done in good time. I had a draft done last night, but as has been usual I needed to get up a little earlier to review and revise it before our first service. But that's kind of OK too. I'm finding it's a tremndous joy to able to preside at the Eucharist with the people I'm called to serve with. As It told someone today, I really really like giving Communion to children. It's such a joy. I know they only have the vaguest knowledge about what it is they're doing, but that's OK. We;re sowing seeds that may take decades to come to fruition.

Here's my sermon for today. As always , even if I don't remember to say it, I welcome your comments and feedback. I can't do better with out it.

St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church, Vernon
The Fourth Sunday of Easter 2008 (BCP)
Act 6:1-9,7:2a,51-60; Ps 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10
The Rev. R. F. Solon, Jr., Vicar

May these words be in the name of the one who is the Gate to eternal life. Amen.

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. On this 4th Sunday in the Great Fifty Days of Easter, we always reflect on the image from John’s Gospel of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the one who leads the sheep to safety and who knows the names of each of us. There have been probably thousands of paintings and other art of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Some that are very good, and some that are, if you’ll pardon the expression, pretty smarmy. Those are the ones that kind of get on my nerves, because it’s clear from the Gospels that Jesus was anything but smarmy. Look at the images included in today’s Gospel. Thieves. Bandits. Strangers. Sounds to me like being a good shepherd was pretty dangerous work. It’s not just all sweetness and light. It’s hazardous sometimes.

I admit to taking a bit of a risk here with you today. I know many of you grew up in this area, and probably know something about sheep and shepherds and all. I admit that, as a city boy, I don’t know very much about it all. I think the closest I’ve ever gotten to a sheep is at the state fair. So I don’t want to go and make too many comparisons to sheep, because I imagine you can set me straight about what sheep are really like. And it’s kind of interesting that this particular image has been so prevalent in American Christianity. In this diocese alone there are no less than four parishes named Good Shepherd, including our own closest Episcopal neighbor over in Wantage. It’s always struck me a bit strange, because Christianity itself arose in the cities, not the countryside. The ancient patriarchs of the early Christian churches are named not after countries or regions of the Roman Empire, but after the principal cities the churches found themselves in. Jerusalem. Antioch. Alexandria. Constantinople. Rome. And it’s also clear, for example, that the ministry of that great evangelist the apostle Paul, whom we got a very brief introduction to this morning, did his work in cities. But this deeply agrarian image, this figure of speech making Jesus to be a good shepherd, as if there are bad ones too, has been part of Anglican Christianity since the Reformation.

But there’s another image that is placed right alongside the idea of the Good Shepherd and seems equal to it. And that’s the image of the gate itself into the sheepfold. Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.”

Now gates are openings in fences or other barriers that can be open or closed. They allow one to easily enter or exit the enclosure or the wall or whatever is being blocked off. Gates are something I get. Cities have gates! When I was growing up in Toledo, many of the customers on my paper route had fences and gates that I had to go through to deliver the paper. My own back yard had a big gate that I had to make sure stayed closed whenever our dog was outside. And like many of you, when I was younger, I read in Scripture about the gates of the city of Jerusalem and other ancient cities that had wall around them. When I was older, I encountered gates of a different sort – the departure and arrival gates at airports. And of course this past week those kind of gates have been on our minds a lot, with all the confusion and chaos resulting from the inspections that American Airlines and so many others are having to go through.
And there is another set of gates that we are asked to consider as well. As some of you might know, our Bishop has identified four Gates of Hope that he asks us to reflect on as we stand with the Risen Christ. He characterizes gates as essentially thresholds – spaces and times that are both before and after, in and out, new and old. Gates are places of choice, of opportunity. Mark identifies these Gates of Hope as the core values within our diocesean life together, and here they are:

1. Worship: "Enter your gates with thanksgiving; go into God's courts with praise." (Psalm 100.3)

Worship gathers and grounds us as individuals and as a community. Worship has the capacity to quicken the souls who come through the "gate of holiness" - and transform us into disciples of hope as we re-enter the world.

2. Spiritual Formation: "Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel." (Ephesians 5.19)
Spiritual formation is a commitment to live more intentionally as a person of faith -incorporating disciplines that brings into alignment one's interior and exterior life.

3. Justice/Nonviolence: "And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love Kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)
Justice is the insistence that the gates of hope are open - and not hidden; and that the gates are open in equal measure for all. Foundational to the witness of justice is a commitment to non-violence - which is the resistance to a system, practice or ideology that creates victims

4. Radical Hospitality: "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13.2)

Radical hospitality means that all are welcome all the time. Radical hospitality means that we will not only welcome the stranger; we will seek out the stranger -- and work to develop a process that transforms us all into neighbors.

Bishop Beckwith has put together some questions for reflection that he has asked each congregation to examine. I’m going to ask our webmaster to link to them on our web site, and our next newsletter will print them as well. The idea is that each of us can take hold of something from each of these gates as a common reflection that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves.

I will be working with the Executive Committee to reflect on how the diocesan Gates of Hope might match with our own four parish goals. I see a lot of overlap at first glance. It’s my hope that we can find ways to incorporate the diocesan core values of worship, spiritual formation, justice and nonviolence, and radical hospitality, into our own dreams of energizing for growth, developing inreach and outreach, enhancing Christian education, and becoming a parish. I welcome your own views as well, either to me or to any member of the Executive Committee.

Today Jesus invites us to travel through him to the new living that he offers to everyone. He invites us to think of him as a gate. When we stand in a gate, we can go in or not. We can open the gate and enter, or close the gate and walk away. It can be really hard to decide to go through a gate. Sometimes we know what’s on the other side. We’ve been there before, or a friend or relative is right there to guide us. Other times, it’s not so easy. Growth is good, but there are growing pains too. Any time we move toward something new, even when we know it’s completely right for us, it can be frightening. There’s real risk in entering in to something potentially new, possibly different.

My friends, it’s my deep hope and prayer that each of you will see yourselves and this parish as going in and up and through, rather than out and back and behind. I’m convinced that Jesus indeed is our gate. He promises that we will find safe pasture. With his love and with his strength, we can, as a parish, claim the new living that we’ve worked so hard to articulate. We’ve done a lot of work at seeing what St. Thomas’s is called to be and what to do to get there. And no question about it, to achieve our vision and goals will take time, and effort, and money. And we know how much that risk will be, too. We’ve taken a risk of $45,000 in our budget this year. It’s $45,000 of expenses that we aren’t at all sure we know will come from. That’s the risk we undertake as we stand at the gate of our future. Can you see through that gate, the gate of Jesus, what we will look like, at the vision that Jesus has in store for us? Today is the first step in make our vision a reality. Today Jesus invites us to simply step through the gate.


O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

The True Anglican Way

One reason I am an Episcopalian and therefore an Anglican is because our approach is characterized by a certain generosity of spirit toward one another. We can profoundly and roundly disagree on almost everything, but we come to the Font and the Altar together to be finally in indissoluble communion one with another. So I've been dismayed about much of the goings-on in the Episcopal Church (e.g., the Diocese of San Joaquin) and the wider Anglican Communion. Thus, it's been good to read a rather nice summary of what has been traditional Anglican thinking.

An excerpt:

Following the first approach, and contrary to much reporting, there are Anglo-Catholics, Evangelicals, conservatives, liberals, radicals, and everything in between — all knowing where they stand, but, in generosity of spirit, acknowledging the different but faithful approaches to the Bible, tradition, and reasoning that there are legitimately other than their own.

These people believe that the Church is a Noah’s ark, where every animal has to budge over in the straw to let someone else nestle down. This is a Church where friendships count for more than sound-bites, and which understands that something of God is shadowed every time a believer forgets that Christian faith is an exercise in humility. This has been the Anglican spirit at its best — with a resistance to over-definition of doctrine, in preference to worshipping together in common prayer.

That's me too!

Read it all here. (Thanks to Susan Russell for the link.)


Saturday Funnies

So Windows has always had problems.....
What goes around comes around....

I'm a sucker for Sad Puppy Eyes myself, but this is a bit over the top:

Speaking of Sad Puppy Eyes:

I remember I always loved visits from my aunt Patti, who was very much the free spirit and whom I'm reminded of here. I wonder if my parents knew? (Dad, it really wasn't that bad!)


Friday, April 11, 2008

The Dryer Saga Endeth!

For lo, the dryer spins merrily and with heat, drying the clothes! Thanks be to God and thanks to Lee from Starks Appliances in Augusta, NJ, who called ahead this morning, was here on time, and got everything working. Excellent service and I commend him highly!


You're Invited!

The People
St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church
invite you to their
Celebration of New Ministry
on the occasion of their call to
The Rev. Robert F. Solon, Jr.
as their Vicar.

The Rt. Rev. Mark Beckwith
Bishop of Newark
will preside and preach.

Saturday, May 10 at 10 AM

Festive reception to follow
The Color of the Day is Red

307 Route 94
Vernon, NJ 07462

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Kudos to the Archbishop of Canterbury

ACNS 4386:

In response to reports of violence and threats towards Christians involved in the debate on human sexuality, the Archbishop of Canterbury has given the following statement:
"The threats recently made against the leaders of Changing Attitudes are disgraceful. The Anglican Communion has repeatedly, through the Lambeth Conference and the statements from its Primates' Meetings, unequivocally condemned violence and the threat of violence against gay and lesbian people. I hope that this latest round of unchristian bullying will likewise be universally condemned."

Some background is here. I had not known that there were Christians actually threatened other Christians with murder. No matter how much we disagree on any issue, we are, as we have been singing this Eastertide during the Breaking of the Bread, one body, because we all share in the one bread. Therefore there can be no excuse for this kind of behavior - it's akin to blasphemy.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tuesday Evening Funnies

Like the Saturday Evening Post, only funnier, and the coiver art isn't nearly as nice....

My friend Jay is a researcher who deals a lot with brain scans - I hope he's never had to deal with anything like this....yuch!

The sad legacy of global warming....

Well, people do pray for lots of different we know what God is really into. Too bad it isn't baseball; my team could sure use some divine intervention!

This one is just a little odd, but somehow appropriate, as I keep finding ladybugs in the Vicarage lately...


Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Proper of the Day: The Third Sunday of Easter

On this Sunday, we gather to know the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Today's Gospel is the story of the road to Emmaus, in which two disciples fail to recognize Jesus walking along with them until he breaks bread with them at the evening meal. As I said two weeks ago, it's an incredible story, with lots of meaning. Here's what I offered at St. Thomas's today:

St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church, Vernon
The Third Sunday of Easter 2008 (BCP)
Acts 2:14a, 36-47; Ps 116:10-17; I Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35
The Rev. R. F. Solon, Jr., Vicar

In the name of Him whom we know in the breaking of the bread. Amen.

It’s hard to believe that it’s April already! Now, maybe the weather we’ve been having is completely ordinary for this time of year, but it has seemed a bit cold to me. You who are longtime residents of this area will have to tell me if this is all to be expected, or if it’s out of the ordinary. But it was really nice to have a fire going last Thursday, let me tell you. I just haven’t gotten to know what the weather patterns are like yet. I won’t understand them instantly – it will take time and simply living here for a while yet.

If you read my blog at all, you may know that one of things I like to do is play Fantasy Baseball. I’m not much of a baseball player for real - about the only thing I’m good for is pinch running. But I enjoy Fantasy Baseball a lot. I was first introduced to it years ago by some college buddies who were really into it. What you essentially do is pretend you are a baseball team owner. You have a roster to fill – pitchers, catcher, infield, outfield, and you can select from any real major-league baseball player you like. You don’t have to pick them from the same team. Then, over the course of the real season, you accumulate the actual statistics that the players you own earn as well. So since I own NY Yankees pitcher Mike Messina, when Mike does well, so do I. We compete in a league of eleven other teams and compare our statistics to each other, for bragging rights. Last year I finished fourth out of 12 in my best league, and so far after one week of regular play I’m in 8th place out of 12.

You can imagine that, with over 800 players in both leagues, that there’s quite a lot of information about all the players. You can go to any sports website on the Internet or look in the newspaper, to see that. The keys to winning Fantasy Baseball have a lot to do with learning who the better players are. That takes time and patience and a good familiarity with the stats and what they mean. Coming to recognize that Atlanta starter Tim Hudson is a more desirable pitcher than, say, Mets middle reliever Andy Heilman isn’t something that happens instantly.

And of course, we’re in the middle of a process that that is taking a lot longer than a single season of Major League Baseball. What’s dominating the talk shows now, and will be for months to come yet? The Presidential election news. Perhaps you, like me, have been enthralled with the both the coverage and the race itself. February and March have certainly been exciting – for the Democrats for sure, but even the Republican nomination wasn’t exactly dull there. The office of the Presidency is so important that running for it is a full-time job for at least two years or more, and many of us take very seriously the duty to get to know the candidates - to recognize the one we will select to be the next President. That doesn’t happen instantly – there’s so much information on TV and the newspaper and the internet to wade through. It takes time and patience, and nowadays, a lot of judicious discernment about what to listen to and what not.

In this age of you-can-have-it-all-now, there are lots of things worth doing that take patience and perhaps repetition. Some things just don’t come right away, no matter what the ads on TV may promise. And so it’s perhaps a bit surprising at the instant gratification that we heard in today’s Gospel from Luke.

This is one of my favorite resurrection stories. It’s the appointed Gospel for the evening celebration of the Eucharist on Easter Day. It takes place in the afternoon and evening of the first day of the week, the day of Resurrection itself. Two disciples are walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a town about seven miles away. They’re talking with one another about the events of the past week, and probably consoling each other as well. It’s possible they are two of the seventy disciples that Jesus sent out earlier. In any case, as they’re walking along and discussing things, a stranger whom they don’t recognize comes up, apparently on the way to Emmaus as well. He asks what’s going on, and they tell him, although wondering a bit how he could not know what’s been going on.

And the irony of the story is, they don’t recognize the fellow traveler as Jesus! The scripture says their eyes were kept from recognizing him, almost, perhaps, as if it were deliberate. Maybe, but maybe not. It’s clear from other resurrection accounts that lots of people didn’t recognize Jesus when they first saw him on that Easter day. So it’s entirely possible that two disciples who were perhaps in the second rank – they weren’t among the Twelve, after all – might also have not figured out who the resurrected Jesus really was. In any case, this stranger clearly does know what’s going on after all. He proceeds to explain to them from the Scriptures all about how it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and be killed and then rise again. By this time they’re near their destination, and the two disciples prevail on Jesus to stay with them, for evening was at hand and the day was past. So he does. At supper with them, he acts as host, and takes bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. That’s the moment they finally recognized him, and then he apparently vanished.

For those two disciples, it wasn’t until Jesus broke bread with them that their eyes were opened and they realized who it was with them. Breaking bread in community was, from very early on, the primary thing that the earliest believers did together. Luke records in today’s passage from the Acts of the Apostles that “Day by day, as they spent much time in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts.” What happened that evening in Emmaus is nothing less than the forerunner of our Eucharist. In a few moments we, too, will break bread together. We too will know the Lord Jesus when we do so. In fact, we do more than that. We first gather to hear the Word in Scripture, just like Cleopas and his friend did on the road, and then, just as they did, we gather around a real Table to eat and drink of the Body and Blood of Jesus. This is the communion of the Body of Christ, and we are all one body, even though we are many, because we all share the one bread.

It was easy for those disciples sitting at table to recognize Jesus, because he was there in a real and physical way and was recognizable as a person. It’s not always so easy for us, two thousand years on. We know and trust in our senses that Jesus is truly present with us in this moment, but because we’re human, that trust can take time to build. Time and patience. Can you remember the first time you were told what was happening at the Altar? Perhaps it was with bread, perhaps it was with hosts, perhaps grape juice, perhaps wine. Whatever and however and whenever it was, were you instantly able to discern the Risen Lord right there? Did your heart, as did the hearts of the disciples on the road, burn within you at that very instant?

I think for most of us, and definitely for myself, the honest answer would have to be no. I remember getting that it was bread and that we were sharing the same meal that Jesus and his disciples did. But I had only the vaguest inkling that it was something more than mere bread. That took time, and learning, and repetition, and patience before I began to come to that understanding. Unlike for Cleopas and his friend, it was not instantaneous for me. And perhaps it hasn’t been for you either. Knowing the Lord Jesus in the breaking of the bread is perhaps the closest we will ever come in this life to being with Him. Some of our brothers and sisters in faith place great stock in the moment of conversion, when one almost physically feels the Lord Jesus enter one’s heart and soul and body. I do not doubt for a moment that’s true. I tend to think that conversion happens continually. The Lord Jesus enters each one of us anew every time we come to the Table to break bread together. But we Christians are humans, too, and we’re slow and stubborn and we’re distracted by the bread and wine of the world. So sometimes when we come for the true Bread of heaven, it doesn’t always sink in what’s really going on.

And my friends, that’s OK. What we participate in each Sunday will work its conversion on each of us, whether we are aware of it or not. Jesus, I expect, knew this full well, and that’s one reason why he gave us the Eucharist in the first place. Jesus knew that faith is not necessarily immediate. It comes over time, and we need reinforcement and support and repetition for it to take hold. It’s no coincidence that in one of our Eucharistic prayers, we ask “Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal.” Strength and renewal are things that have to be resupplied – they fade over time. And so we catholic Christians celebrate the Eucharist as often as we do not because God needs it, but because we do!

We come together Sunday by Sunday to learn the Holy Scriptures and to break bread in just the same way as our two friends on the road did. We are their spiritual descendants. We haven’t had the luxury of seeing the risen Lord in the flesh. But in a way we are more fortunate – we see Him every Sunday in the breaking of the bread.

Some things in life are truly instantaneous. Instant coffee. Sending an email. Turning on a light. But other things, like learning weather patterns, discovering who the good baseball players are, or participating in our democratic processes, are not. Our friends on the road had an advantage we do not: they saw the Lord Jesus alive right in front of them. It takes us a bit longer sometimes. Our own eyes, though no fault of our own, are frequently kept from recognizing him when he’s right in front of us. I invite and encourage all of you, all of us, to break bread frequently in Christ’s name, for that is how we know him best.



Friday, April 4, 2008

Friday Funnies - TGIF!

I still have a stock I've saved up, so I hope you enjoy (click on any image to enlarge)!

I'd say I laughed out loud, but then I got worried....

Isn't that amazing? One day it just happens? You have a completely normal conversation with a parent, and then it dawns on you....

"Mrs. Maestro" (my GPS) is a life saver, but she can be extraordinarily annoying at times...

This is soo true - school is completely backwards. We force kids to do their own work and work in large open spaces, and then send them into offices where we expect them to collaborate strongly on everything but stick them into tiny cubicles. What's up with that?