Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Proper of the Day: The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

On this Major Feast we commemorate The Visitation of Elizabeth, the mother of St. John to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. This is where the phrase "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb" is placed in Luke's gospel. Luke also has Mary utter the Magnificat immediately in response, that great evening hymn to God and God's mercy to the downtrodden and the poor. The Magnificat is really a fine piece of liberation theology. Read it closely sometime (it's today's Gospel reading). There are some great verses regarding the casting down of the proud and the lifting up the lowly. What would that mean in today's Western society that glorifies the rich and ignores the poor except during elections?

I was struck last evening by a meditation on the Visitation by Ambrose of Milan (339 - 397 AD) :
Let Mary's soul be in each of you to proclaim the greatness of the Lord. Let her spirit be in each to rejoice in the Lord. Christ has only one mother in the flesh, but we all bring forth Christ in faith."

That evokes for me images of the Eucharist, taking Christ into us and then bringing him forth again in our lives. Rejoicing in the Lord is something we don't allow ourselves to do much. We get overwhelmed by the powers and principalities of the present day, by the cares of the world. We forget the absolutely overwhelming joy of the grace we have in salvation. That's why we have so many reminders, both in our Sunday worship and in the appointed daily cycle of prayers too.

This morning the appointed Psalm was 72, one of the "royal psalms" perhaps used at the coronation of kings of Judah or Israel. Today, as I sang it, I felt quite like Elizabeth, or even the archangel Gabriel, announcing what would be in a prophetic and poetic imagery:

That he may rule your people righteously * and the poor with justice;
That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people * and the little hills bring righteousness;
He shall defend the needy among the people * he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor;
He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure * from one generation to another.
May his Name remain for ever and be established as long as the sun endure; * may all the nations bless themselves in him and call him blessed.

I love the echoes (or previews) of Magnificat in this psalm! Here's the first movement of Rutter's Magnificat, which I really love and perfectly captures Mary's joy and wonder - and Elizabeth's and ours too - at what is happening.

Father in heaven, by your grace the virgin mother of your incarnate Son was blessed in bearing him, but still more blessed in keeping your word: Grant us who honor the exaltation of her lowliness to follow the example of her devotion to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Friday, May 30, 2008

Baseball Update

Well, RFSJuniors is in third place in the league. (Let me know if you can't get to the link.) I'm a bit surprised to be doing this well. but my starting pitching is pretty good and my ERA is holding up, although it dropped a lot this week and is not likely to rebound - it generally just keeps climbing over the course of the season. The hope is that everyone else's ERA climbs faster than yours!

My hitting is not that effective, although I have the highest batting average in the league, my home runs and RBIs and stolen bases are pretty low. I have some excellent batters who just aren't producing right now. Maybe it means they aren't so excellent after all.

I'm going to try to trade starters for stolen bases. We'll see what happens.

But I'm enjoying third place for as long as it lasts!


Thursday, May 29, 2008

He said it better than I did

More on the Jeep/Dodge campaign to subsidize gas prices, in The Washington Post on Memorial Day:

An ad on the air this weekend really framed the enormity of how far we are from responding to our generation’s “unfinished work.” This weekend only, you can buy a new Dodge and the company will subsidize your gas costs for 3 years. So Dodge wants to sell you a car you don’t really want to buy, that is not fuel efficient, will further damage our environment, and will further subsidize oil states, some of which are on the other side of the wars we’re currently fighting. And on top of it, Dodge is willing to subsidize your purchase with borrowed dollars since the company is currently drowning in debt.

Imagine that happening during the Civil War. Imagine that happening during World War I or II. Imagine celebrating Memorial Day in those days with such limited attention to honoring the dead that companies would get away with ignoring the fundamental struggle in which they’re giving their lives. The planet be damned, the troops be forgotten, the economy be ignored: buy a Dodge. Imagine.

It's never too late to contemplate Memorial Day. Read the entire excellent article here.


War Stress's Take Toll on Military Chaplains

From this morning's NYT:

Just as it has claimed so many other members of the military, the war in Iraq has taken a toll on chaplains. Although they do not engage in combat, chaplains face the perils of war as they move around Iraq to visit troops. None have been killed, but some, like Chaplain Brunk, have been wounded. Many report post-traumatic stress disorder and other stress problems.

In the past year, the Army has begun to recognize those problems among chaplains and is ensuring that those suffering from stress disorders receive medical treatment at military hospitals.

The work these people do is tremendously difficult, far harder than parish or chapliancy work stateside. I served as a civilian member of the Department of Defense for seven years and had the opportunity to work with many uniformed members. I greatly respect what we ask them to do. If I had been younger when I began the ordination process, and if don't-ask-don't-tell had not been in place, I might well have thought about the chapliancy corps.

Pray for our military chaplains and all those whom they serve.

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Sobering Assessment

Suddenly, it seems, we're getting hit from all directions.

Energy and food prices are soaring. The housing market continues to collapse. Government revenue is falling, and taxes are rising. Airlines are jacking up fares and fees while reducing service. Banks are pulling credit lines. Auto companies are cutting production once again. Even investment bankers are losing their jobs.

The tendency is to see these as separate developments, each with its own causes and dynamic. Fundamentally, however, they are all part of the same story -- the story of the global economy purging itself of large and unsustainable imbalances that for a time allowed many Americans to think they were richer than they really were.

There's lot's more - read it all here. I think the idea that for too long we Americans have been lioving beyond our means is fundamentally correct. Correcting that is and will continue to be painful.


Wednesday Funnies

Click on any image to enlarge, and enjoy!

One should be careful about how one speaks....

I like both kinds of Monks....

It's hard enough to manage one's own spirituality, but now this!

If only!


Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Dayton National Cemetery

Today is Memorial Day, the unofficial start of Summer but also the day when we remember those men and women in uniform who died in the service of the country. I think it's sad that the Episcopal Church does not have a designated proper for this day, either for the Daily Office or the Eucharist. There is an Office of the Dead, and several votive propers For The Departed, and a single thanksgiving For Heroic Service, but that seems to be it. The Church of Canada BCP references Remembrance Day, but uses the proper For the Faithful Departed as well. The CofE doesn't have anything specific, as far as I can tell, and my paper copy of Evangelical Lutheran Worship doesn't have a proper either.

I wonder why that is? I realize that there is some tension in Christianity on the issue of war (well, in some circles of Christianity, that is), but I can tell you that I got some feedback when some of my own parishioners didn't think we were observing Memorial Day enough in yesterday's worship. (For the record, we named the veterans we know in our cemetery in the Prayers of the People and concluded with the Prayer for Heroic Service. At a parishioner's request, we went off the program just before the dismissal to sing "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" as well.) At the same time, we have propers for all sorts of occasions, why not today?

Here's an attempt:

Collect (for Heroic Service, BCP p. 839)

O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy. Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines. This we ask in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

First Lesson: 1 Chronicles 11:15-19

Three of the thirty chiefs went down to the rock to David at the cave of Adullam, while the army of Philistines was encamped in the valley of Rephaim. David was then in the stronghold; and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem. David said longingly, “O that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” Then the Three broke through the camp of the Philistines, and drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and they brought it to David. But David would not drink of it; he poured it out to the Lord, and said, “My God forbid that I should do this. Can I drink the blood of these men? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.” Therefore he would not drink it. The three warriors did these things.

or 1 Chronicles 11:26-47:

The warriors of the armies were Asahel brother of Joab, Elhanan son of Dodo of Bethlehem, Shammoth of Harod,i Helez the Pelonite, Ira son of Ikkesh of Tekoa, Abiezer of Anathoth, Sibbecai the Hushathite, Ilai the Ahohite, Maharai of Netophah, Heled son of Baanah of Netophah, Ithai son of Ribai of Gibeah of the Benjaminites, Benaiah of Pirathon, Hurai of the wadis of Gaash, Abiel the Arbathite, Azmaveth of Baharum, Eliahba of Shaalbon, Hashemj the Gizonite, Jonathan son of Shagee the Hararite, Ahiam son of Sachar the Hararite, Eliphal son of Ur, Hepher the Mecherathite, Ahijah the Pelonite, Hezro of Carmel, Naarai son of Ezbai, Joel the brother of Nathan, Mibhar son of Hagri, Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai of Beeroth, the armor-bearer of Joab son of Zeruiah, Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite, Uriah the Hittite, Zabad son of Ahlai, Adina son of Shiza the Reubenite, a leader of the Reubenites, and thirty with him, Hanan son of Maacah, and Joshaphat the Mithnite, Uzzia the Ashterathite, Shama and Jeiel sons of Hotham the Aroerite, Jediael son of Shimri, and his brother Joha the Tizite, Eliel the Mahavite, and Jeribai and Joshaviah sons of Elnaam, and Ithmah the Moabite, Eliel, and Obed, and Jaasiel the Mezobaite.

Psalm: 56 Miserere mei, Deus

Have mercy on me, O God, for my enemies are hounding me; * all day long they assault and oppress me.
They hound me all the day long; * truly there are many who fight against me, O Most High.
Whenever I am afraid, * I will put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust and will not be afraid, * for what can flesh do to me?
All day long they damage my cause; * their only thought is to do me evil.
They band together; they lie in wait; * they spy upon my footsteps; because they seek my life.
Shall they escape despite their wickedness? * O God, in your anger, cast down the peoples.
You have noted my lamentation; put my tears into your bottle; * are they not recorded in your book?
Whenever I call upon you, my enemies will be put to flight; * this I know, for God is on my side.
In God the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust and will not be afraid, * for what can mortals do to me?
I am bound by the vow I made to you, O God; * I will present to you thank-offerings;
For you have rescued my soul from death and my feet from stumbling, * that I may walk before God in the light of the living.

Second Lesson: Ephesians 6:10-17

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The Gospel: Luke 12: 4-7

Jesus said, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authoritya to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. 7 But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. "

Preface of Commemoration of the Dead.

What do you think? If not these collect and lessons, what might you use? Maybe we can put a proper together and use next year - I know here at St. Thomas's that would be welcome, maybe even as an ecumnical service before the parade starts at noon.


On the Perils of Blogging

On the front page of thew NYT Magazine this week (which I wish the Times would publish on paper and send out - I'd pay for it!) was a provocative article about blogging and pouring one's entire life out online. I'm not sure whether it's an excellent piece of writing or merely a very long exercise in mental masturbation, but it was catching enough that I read the entire thing. Maybe it's a generational thing, but I know for a fact my own blog pales in comparison to others in its dearth of really personal stuff. Partly it's because I'm quite introverted and even the anonymity of the Internet doesn't shield me from my discomfort at opening up my life to all and sundry. I'd like to think, too, that partly it's because I'm perspicacious enough to realize that too much detail - even for someone as mundane as me - isn't necessarily a good thing to be spreading around. One never knows, after all.

But the reality is the Internet has changed everything. The comments on the article (when I read them there were over 1100) alternated from abusing the author to praising her for her candor to decrying what the Internet has become. And until we get the Next Big Thing, blogging is Here to Stay. People younger than I am think nothing of spending a lot more time than I in front of the laptop, blogging away. It's a wonder they have time to actually live a life to blog about!

I know I sound old and dated. Oh well!


Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Proper of the Day: the Second Sunday after Pentecost

Today is the first 'green" Sunday in a long time. The period between the First Sunday after the Epiphany and Ash Wednesday, and again from the the Day of Pentecost until the First Sunday of Advent, is sometimes called Ordinary Time. In this case, it's not because its mundane and you don't have to come to church, but because the Sundays were counted in an "ordinal" fashion, hence "ordinary time." So today is the Second Sunday after Pentecost. I personally like the older English term for this season, Trinitytide, but in reality, Trinity Sunday is one of the Principle Feasts and not an entire season, so I reluctantly concede the point. At St. Thomas's, we sang Lord have Mercy rather than Glory to God, and included the Confession for the first time since Good Friday. We also used some different service music and will continue to do so for several Sundays. There's so much variety in the service music of the Hymnal, and our choir is excellent at leading the congregation in singing, so it's fun to explore some of what's there.

We didn't announce it, but today we also made the switch to the Revised Common Lectionary, mandated by General Convention to take place after the First Sunday of Advent on 2007. The RCL, as it's called, is what most lectionary-based (i.e., we have a set schedule of Scripture that we follow Sunday by Sunday) denominations use. It's ecumenical in that lots of folks, including Lutherans and Presbyterians and Methodists, also use it. Here's a nice explanation from the Office of Music and Liturgy. We were helped in that two kind donors donated a new Gospel Book and new Lectionary Book for use at St. Thomas's, and using the RCL lessons. For the first time in a very long time, our lectors don't need inserts for the lessons, and neither do I when I proclaim the Gospel! Yay!

Today's Gospel was a difficult one, in my opinion. Here's what I offered today. Some of it is in outline form, so you will not get the full effect of what I actually said. I struggle with fully-written-out sermons. I prefer them myself, but I'm told I'm more engaging when I work from notes. We'll see how things go.

St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church
Proper 3A 2008 RCL
Isaiah 49:8-16a; Ps 131; 1 Cor 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34
The Rev. R. F. Solon, Jr., Vicar

In the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity, Amen.

Lots going on in the world.
· Gas prices.
· Groceries
· Recession.
· Job uncertainty.
· In Manhattan at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen….

Is Jesus nuts? Telling us not to worry? Not to plan for the future? Don’t think about tomorrow? So no insurance? No investments? Not supposed to think about retirement?
· Old Lutheran belief about insurance.

And what’s with this birds of the air and lilies of the field. When was the last time he studied nature? Birds die, all the time. Lilies last a few days, and they die, too. What kind of an assurance is this?

“Strive first for the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

A conditional statement? Not really. Look at the reading from Isaiah. That’s his vision - his preview, if you will, of the KofG. Listen to it what it looks like…

Because we in the US don’t have kings, we might call it Gods Economy in today’s language. If each of us both individually and as a community strive to live as God would have us, there will be plenty to go around. We have glimpses of that right now. I had breakfast yesterday morning with IHN, and there was more food than you could possibly imagine. Same as on May 10 at our Renewal of Ministry. And look at out food pantry. It’s overflowing with gifts! There actually is plenty. When each of us uses our talents, treasure or time on God’s behalf, then the world becomes a better place - right now. God’s economy is advanced, right now.

What Jesus is saying is, Avoid the gut wrenching, all –consuming worry, the kind that tears you up inside, that makes your stomach sour. It’s not good for you. Plan yes. Make investments, yes. Do all the right things financially, absolutely. But keep your eye on the main prize. Keep first things first, Jesus is saying. Ps 131 – the absolute calm of mother and child. The child instinctively knows where its mother is and how to eat. There’s a suggestion here of us being like a child in our trust in God. Orientation to God, and everything else will be OK.

Not easy. This is 21st C America. We’re living in the toughest times we’ve seen in nearly twenty years. It’s hard for many of us. We’re constantly told that what’s important is more and more and more.
· Jeep/Dodge ad about 2.99 per gallon for three years.

This week, pause for a few minutes each day and ask yourself what you worry about. What is it in your own life that takes absolute priority over nearly anything else that you think about? What is it that takes the place of God in your life? I can tell you what it is for me. And I say this with trepidation, because today’s Gospel convicts me. But I wake up every morning and think about our financial situation here at St. Thomas’s. I worry about where we’re going to get the money to finish out the year. And I know in my heart of hearts that’s not the main thing. The main thing, that which God is calling us to do, is to fully be the Episcopalian presence here in Vernon. It means concentrating on the goals we have set for ourselves. Because Jesus promises that if we seek the Kingdom first – what God wants us to do – then the other things, like financial stability – will be given to us as well. That goes for me personally, you personally, and this congregation as well.

But I confess my own doubt and fear about this. I hear and read what wonderful Good News Jesus is saying to me today, and frankly I’m a little skeptical. I’m one of those of little faith that Jesus is talking to! So for me, I need to come to the Holy Table and thank God for that singles greatest thing that God has done, the gift of reconciliation by Jesus. Compared to the salvation he makes real for me, what are my worries worth? And then with that eternal assurance, I need to confront my fears, my worry, about our deficit of $45,000 and instead think about how to be even more hospitable and open as a parish, and how to work on inreach and outreach, and ways to strengthen Christian education. And I hope you are thinking about this things too. When you have ideas, or just want to talk about out goals, I hope you’ll give me a call, or if not me, another member of the Executive Committee. All our names are listed on the back of the bulletin. We welcome your thoughts and suggestions.

My sisters and brothers, The Good News is the best news there is, but it isn’t necessarily the Easy News. It may be hard to see in the midst of the economic and civic strife we face. But it’s there. Do what God is calling you to do, as individuals, as families, as members of St. Thomas’s, as Christians. None of us may be able to quite see how that will advance God’s economy, but we see previews of it even today. Hold on to those previews. I can’t promise you that God will give you everything you want. But I believe that in God’s economy, all of us will have everything we need, by God’s grace and by the actions of each of us, following God’s will for us in our lives and in the life of this community. I’m holding on to this promise for dear life.


Grant, O Lord, that the course of this world may be peaceably governed by your providence; and that your Church may joyfully serve you in confidence and serenity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Wouldn't that be interesting!


Caption Contest: So what were they really talking about?

So now you can all channel your inner MadPriest: Caption Contest: what's the best headline for this picture?


Friday, May 23, 2008

I'm of mixed opinions on this

The Rt. Rev. Paul Moore was Bishop of New York from 1972-1989. At one time he was also Dean and Rector of Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis, my home parish. He was considered a true liberal man and one who did much for the Church and society. He was married twice, and had several children. He also led a double life as a bisexual man. This was revealed in a biography of Bishop Moore released in March by his daughter, Honor Moore. An except was included in The New Yorker a few months back and The New York Times has reviewed it today.

One hesitates to review a reviewer rather than the book, but I haven't read the book yet. But I think the reviewer does a fair job of reflecting the conflict arising from Ms. Moore's "outing" of her father when he did not wish that to happen. Now, I personally thinking outing a politician who is voting against measures designed to protect GBL people from discrimination, etc., is fine. But for most people, even most public people, one's sexuality is one's own business. And I would argue, from what I know of Bishop Moore's record, that he was a staunch advocate of gay and lesbian people in and out of the Church. he ordained the first openly gay woman, as I understand it. So as far as I'm concerned he doesnt deserve to be outed. If Ms. Moore has demons to exorcise, seems to me that its better doing so privately with a therapist than publicly via a book.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Thursday Funnies

Here's a new set. Click on any image to enlarge, and enjoy!

Ah, the horror!

Hmmm, coming right on Trinity Sunday too - I wondered about the author.

Ya gotta get The Godfather to get this one....

I'm thinking of getting a dog, and I do love my New Yorker!


Monday, May 19, 2008

Get Your Sunset Fix

From the website:

Eternal Sunset endeavours to ensure you can enjoy the sunset live from any location, at any time. As the sunset moves westward, Eternal Sunset continuously tunes into different webcams, chasing the sunset around the globe. This service is currently provided through the use of 257 west-facing webcams across 46 countries.

Eternal Sunset is a virtual space where time is passing but where the daily cycle of day and night has come to a freeze at sunset; a space where the sun is always going down but never goes under. Complementing the increased efficiency and productivity associated with the internet, Eternal Sunset celebrates the romantic beauty enabled by that same technology.

Ever since I discovered Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis, and then was priveleged to live it four evenings a week while at seminary, I have had a special fondness for the setting sun. Now I can get my sunset fix no matter what time Evensong happens to be!

O gracious light, pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven; O Jesus Christ. Now as we come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behond the vesper light, we sing your praises, O God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices, O Son of God, O Giver of life, and to be glorified through all the worlds.

Here's a nice setting of O Gracious Light (Phos Hilaron) courtesy of Chantblog.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Proper of the Day: Trinity Sunday

On this final Principle Feast for a while, we celebrate the Mystery of the Undivided Trinity. Ever thought about that phrase? Logically, it's an oxymoron. But that's where the mystery part comes in! It's the only one of the Seven that's based on an idea, rather than an event in the life of Jesus and the church.

Without further ado, here's what I offerred at St. Thomas' today. I do welcome your feedback and comments!

St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, Vernon
Trinity Sunday 2008 (BCP)
Genesis 1:1 – 2:3; Psalm 150; 2 Cor 13:5-14; Matthew 28:16-20
The Rev. R. F. Solon, Jr., Vicar

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

How often we hear those words! We open our worship with them, we receive a blessing at the end with them, and nearly every prayer we utter, including the climactic Eucharistic Prayer with its Great Amen, ends with them. Many of us cross ourselves when we say them. It’s one of the most common phrases we Christians use. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Trinity means “three” and on this Principle Feast of the Church, we celebrate and especially honor the three-in-one and one-in-three, the Holy and Undivided Trinity.

But how can one God be three? How can there be three persons in one God? How is it that God the Creator can be unique from the Son our Redeemer and the Spirit who Inspires us, and the Son be unique from the Father and the Spirit, and the Spirit be unique from the Father and the Son? I could just throw up my hands and say, “Well, it’s a mystery, on to the Creed!” But of course the Creed has three sections in it, each one corresponding to, you guessed it, one of the three Persons of the Trinity. So that’s not very much help at all.

At the ten o’clock service this morning I’m going to talk to the Sunday school kids about the Trinity. I probably should be approaching this with fear and trepidation, since preaching on this particular Feast is supposed to be hard. The duty has traditionally been given over to seminarians and junior curates. Bu, fool perhaps that I am, I’m going to wade right in, and I’m going to say something like this:

Here’s a cup of water with some ice in it. Pass it around, but don’t drink it because I didn’t make enough for everyone. But go ahead and stick your fingers in it. Feel how the water is wet but the ice is hard? Did you know that ice is actually water? When you go home today take an ice cube and put it in a bowl. Come back in about ten minutes or so and the ice will be gone but there will be water in the bowl. Water can actually be take three different forms. If it’s really cold we call it ice, and it’s hard, and if there’s enough of it it’s strong enough to hold up a person. Most of the time water is a liquid – it’s wet and runs all over everything if you’re not careful. Liquid water is so powerful that it made the Grand Canyon – ask you parents to show it to you on the Internet. And when water is really hot, it’s called steam and most of the time, steam is invisible. Steam is really strong too – it can push a person down, and it can move a gigantic ship through the water, and do all kinds of other very useful things.

So whether it’s a liquid, a solid, or what we call a gas like steam, it’s still water. Do you see in the cup how there’s ice and some water too? I couldn’t bring steam with me, because it’s so hot it burns. But God is kind of like water. We know God the Father, who created everything. I know it was long, but today we heard the story of creation just now, and it’s God who called everything into being, including you and me. The Bible doesn’t tell us how – we have science for that. But it does tell us who, and that’s God. God our Creater and Father is like liquid water – it’s everywhere. And you know Jesus, right? He is God too, just like God the Father. But he’s also unique from God, because he was once a human being just like you and me. You might think of Jesus as like ice – still water, but a different form of it. And have you heard of the Holy Spirit? That’s like steam – really hot and can move anything. But it’s still water too. So the Father, our Creator is God, and Jesus is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. Just like ice, and liquid and steam are all water. What do you think of that?

Now, depending on what the kids say, I might talk a little but about what a mystery is. We can’t completely describe God as water, or as any other analogy either. Ultimately, of course, our thinking of God as three-in-one and one-in-three is kind of our best guess. True, we get a lot of help from Scripture, of course. Today’s first lesson is the story of creation itself. It has not only the direct action of God the Creator in it, but hints of the Holy Spirit as well. “A wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Older translations translate that word “wind” as Spirit, God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit. And in the second lesson, at the end of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he uses an explicit Trinitarian greeting. That letter was probably written no later than two generations or so after the Ascension, about AD 57 or so, and so we know that very early on, believers began to discern that there were multiple aspects to the one God they worshipped. And of course, the end of the Gospel of Matthew contains the Great Commission, where we are commanded to make disciples in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The best guess for Matthew is around AD 80 or thereabouts, maybe three generations after Jesus lived and walked among us.

No matter when all this was finally written down, it’s quite obvious that we began describing God as the Undivided Trinity early on. The most difficult controversies in the early church were held over the nature of God and what this Trinity thing is all about. All three Creeds that we say are a direct result of those battles. You know the first two, the Apostles Creed that we use at baptisms, and the Nicene Creed we recite on other Sundays. Ask me about the third creed over coffee.

Now the history of we got “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” is all very nice. But what’s vitally important, what’s most important, is what Trinity says about God and about us. What it means, very simply, is that God is Love, or better yet the Lover from whom the whole universe burst forth in the force of that Love. But even before the universe began, the Lover had the Beloved, because Love, like a spoken word, must come out and be separate from that which loves. And it is Love itself that - envelops - the Lover and the Beloved and binds them together in the never ending and ever-deepening relationship of one to another. The Trinity simply is our expression of the God that is Love, the eternal Beloved who always existed, and the Spirit of Love itself. And when you think about it, you can’t really say what’s the beginning, which came first. You can’t have a Lover without Love. You can’t have Love without a Lover. And having a Beloved means there is One who Loves. It’s all about relationship, about being in relationship and wanting to be in relationship.

We – the members of St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church - are in essence enveloped by that same Lover, Beloved, and Love that binds them. Because it binds us together too. We are part of the great circle of Lover, Beloved and Love. We who are the body of Christ here in Vernon Township become one with Christ and so we too feel the power of that all-encompassing Love of the Beloved. We, you and I, are drawn into the never ending dance among the Three Persons of the undivided Trinity, the dance of life itself that existed before time and space, and will exist long after both time and space have ceased to be.

And we can take the Trinity as a model for our own lives as well. We know, because we have felt and continue to feel it, that the Three-in-One is always with each of us, loving us with that total love that forgives absolutely everything, no matter what. In our baptism we are incorporated into the network of the Trinity. That network of love will never break and we will never be cast out of it. But sometimes, the love we try to model to others isn’t always enough. We try to imitate it, but we still get angry, frustrated, upset with each other. We sin, sometimes horribly, against one another, the earth, ourselves. Although our relationship in the network of the Trinity is forever, our own relationships with one another sometimes are not. We try to love and sometimes, perhaps often, we fail. I have had personal and professional relationships bend or break, even after much struggle to work things out. I know some of you have as well. But let me tell you, throughout the pain and anxiety and struggle that I have felt in the past and perhaps you have felt as well, I’ve always known, in the depths of my mind and my heart, that God stills me and still loves all those others whom I have hurt or have hurt me. Our brokenness, too, is drawn into that network of Love that is the Three-in-One. That has been a great comfort and even joy. The Good News after all, isn’t complicated. It’s pretty straightforward. There doesn’t have to be much mystery about it. Lover. Beloved. The Love between them. And we’re part of it, permanently. That’s the Good News in a nutshell.

On this day we celebrate this great mystery of Three-in-One, the Undivided Trinity. You and I, each of us, are bound up eternally in that network of love. I invite you to think of all your relationships as also part of that same network. Not just your relationship to God, but also your relationships to your family and friend and stranger, and the physical world around you, and your own inmost secret self. How can you model that love between Creator, Word, and Spirit, in your own life? How can you show the same love that you receive from God in all your relationships? Where are the threads of your own network of love frayed, bent, or broken? Can you use the unbreakable threads of the love that holds you to God to tie back together those that aren’t so strong? You’re being here is a start, because the Body and Blood of our Eucharist repairs those bonds and makes them strong again. Not the bonds to God – those can never be broken, can never bend. I’m talking about the bond to other people, to the earth, and to your self.

Enter in again to the love of Lover, Beloved, and the Love that binds all of us to God and to each other. Feel the mystery of the Trinity in your heart and soul, and then leave this place and draw others into that same mystery. As Jesus commanded, make disciples, first of yourselves, and then each other, and then even the world is not too much! We might not be able to describe the Trinity, but each of us can certainly live it.


Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

PS - thanks to Elizabeth Kaeton who came up with the water analogy!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"The Bible is not a Science Book"

I missed this earlier in the week, and actually only found it when this editorial cartoon said "Vatican says it's OK to believe in aliens." This was actually part of a wide-ranging interview with the Vatican's astronomer. The far more important quote is:

The Bible "is not a science book," Funes said, adding that he believes the Big Bang theory is the most "reasonable" explanation for the creation of the universe. The theory says the universe began billions of years ago in the explosion of a single, super-dense point that contained all matter.

But he said he continues to believe that "God is the creator of the universe and that we are not the result of chance."

Well said, Fr. Funes! The Bible contains Truth, but is not Factual in many senses. And it is God's word. But it is Jesus who is The Word.


A Tradition: Saturday Funnies

Hmmm, I think somebody doesn't quite get the picture, although there is the Thummin and the Urim (point to the first person who identifies them correctly....)

OK, this was just funny....but you have to be of a certain age and a bit of a computer geek (sigh) to get it....

Shades of algebra and calculus.....I loved it!

Oh dear, they have me pegged....

I love Red and rover, and this was just cute!


Friday, May 16, 2008

A Site Update

I can't believe I did not have Episcopal Cafe linked in the sidebar, but it is now. It has news and commentary and excellent spiritual discussion on matters of the day. Check it out.


Marriage Equality Gets a Lift!

(Jim Wilson/The New York Times)

The California Supreme Court decided yesterday that the state's "separate-but-equal" scheme for civil unions was unconstitutional based on the California Constitution. This is pretty big news, because A) California is the most populous state in the US; and B) the California Supreme Court is considered to be the most influential state supreme court there is - it's decisions get cited more frequently than any other state supreme court:

(From the NYT) The California Supreme Court, striking down two state laws that had limited marriages to unions between a man and a woman, ruled on Thursday that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

The 4-to-3 decision, drawing on a ruling 60 years ago that struck down a state ban on interracial marriage, would make California the second state, after Massachusetts, to allow same-sex marriages.

The decision, which becomes effective in 30 days unless the court grants a stay, was greeted with celebrations at San Francisco City Hall, where thousands of same-sex marriages were thrown out by the courts four years ago.

I myself am of mixed mind about the term "marriage." First I'd like to find a partner or at least someone to date regularly! After that, something forever and of course monogamous. I don't know if I want to get married per se. Have my relationship blessed by the Church? Yup, absolutely. I know there are lots of gay and lesbian folks of all ages who want marriage in all its forms, including the name itself. I absolutely respect those who do, and I wonder at my own ambivalence. I want all the same legal protections as a man and woman who marry; I just want them for me and my guy. I'm not sure why I'm hesitant to call it marriage per se. It's not that I do not believe in loving and monogamous lifelong relationships; I most definitely do. And I want the church eventually to witness and bless my relationship whenever it happens. I think I'll need to explore it more and reflect on it. The Cal. SC decision is a good impetus to do some of that work.

In the meantime, read it all here.


A Late Mothers' Day Tribute


Thursday, May 15, 2008

AIDS Walk is This Sunday

No long speech or recital of the facts here. I simply ask you to contribute what you can, if you haven't yet done so, to the 2008 AIDS Walk by using the secure donation button to the left. Episcopal Response to AID will use whatever is raised to make grants to Episcopal/(Anglican) organizations in New York and New Jersey who are doing direct AIDS ministries.

Thank you!


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Somebody's Not Quite Getting It

So I'm watching the Mets play the Nationals this evening and Vargas, the new Mets pitcher, is doing OK but not great, although it is 0-0 in the 3rd. Anyway, an ad comes on for Jeep - they're pitching a "2.99 Gas Guarantee." I'm sure there are details involved, but the gist of it is they will somehow subsidize gas when you buy a new Jeep and make sure your net cost is no more than 2.99 per gallon for three years, 12,000 miles per year. Seems like a nice idea, huh?

Except that the whole point of higher gas prices right now is not because anyone is hoarding, but because demand has increased. And, of course, Jeeps are big ole things and guzzle a lot of gas. So when it is now clear that climate change has and is happening, Jeep is encouraging us to buy those big gas guzzlers and just keep on our profligate ways.

That's just so wrong on so many different levels.


PS - I just sawa Dodge add with the same pitch. Sigh.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Baseball Update

A sample box score.

Well, RFSJuniors is currently in fifth place. This year I have a feeling my team will be in the pack. I will strive hard, as I've said, to stay in the top half. This morning I entered into a trade agreement to take Hunter Pence and Brandon Lyon for Vladimir Guerrero. I have to drop Braden Looper to keep my roster complete. It will definitely increase my saves, which I will need in order to stay competitive. Although my offense is weak, it can't hurt much more to trade away a marquis player like Guerrero (he's a "can't cut" player, meaning I can never drop him for a free agent; the only way to get rid of him is to trade him away), since he hasn't been producing too much and Hunter has. So it seems like a fair trade - and if it isn't, oh well. I'm still having a good time!


Monday, May 12, 2008

The Proper of Yesterday: The Day of Pentecost

This past weekend was a busy one for me. In a joyful ceremony presided over by the Bishop of Newark, the Rt. Rev. Mark Beckwith, we at St. Thomas's renewed our ministry in Vernon and Sussex County and I was inducted officially as Vicar, although I began my ministry here on March 3. My good friend C. Davies Reed, Associate Rector at St. Christopher's in Carmel Indiana, served as deacon for the Eucharist. He and I have managed to attend every ministry-related function either of us has had, and it's my hope we can continue that. I was grateful, too, that several friends from Trinity Parish in Bergen Point attended as well. Afterward, we had a festive reception in the community room, and there was more food than I have ever seen at a chruch function, ever! it was wonderful. My Dad is in from Toledo and it's been nice spending time with him. We've been doing some exploring and geocaching and generally having a good time.

Yesterday, of course, was The Day of Pentecost, the Fiftieth Day and the last of the Great Fifty Days of Easter. We celebrated it fully and honored the mothers, mothers-to-be, and mothers-in-spirit as well. Because I was a little tired, I did not fully write out my sermon, but the part I ad-libbed I leave as an exercise for the reader :-)

St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, Vernon
The Day of Pentecost
Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 104:25-32; 1 Cor 12:4-13; John 20-19-23
The Rev. R. F. Solon, Jr., Vicar

Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.

May these words be in the Name of and under the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

This is Pentecost, the 50th Day after Easter. “Pente” means five, like Pentagon, the five-sided headquarters of the Defense Department. It’s one of the Principal Feasts of the church, and it’s the day when we especially remember and celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. Luke records that it was on the fiftieth day that in a very real way the disciples were filled with that Holy Spirit. It was a physical thing that everybody could see, and could hear, too. Folks from all over the Roman Empire could hear the disciples speaking in different languages about Jesus. And in fact, for a long time in the church, the ability of speaking in tongues, as it’s sometimes called, was considered a sign that someone was truly saved. The apostle Paul wrote about speaking in tongues to the believers at Corinth in today’s second lesson, and mentions speaking in tongues as one of the gifts of the Spirit that the believers there showed.

Some Christians even today actively seek these spiritual gifts. Some wonder why so few people seem to have these gifts in this day and age, that they seem to have died out after the first few generations. Some thought that since it was promised that believers would have those specific gifts, when it didn’t seem to be happening, some concluded they weren’t truly saved. How can we be Christians when none of us to my knowledge have seen a tongue as of fire descend on anyone like it happened on the fiftieth day? What’s wrong with us? Hasn’t the Holy Spirit, the Advocate that Jesus promised us, not come to us after all? Are we just deluding ourselves into thinking that we are reconciled to God in Christ when in reality we’re not? What about this Holy Spirit anyway? How do we know this is for real?

My friends, I am convinced that the Holy Spirit is indeed active and working in our lives, in your life and my life. We are indeed brothers and sisters in Christ, united with God and one another forever. I know this with every fiber of my being. Now, I have never spoken in tongues nor performed miraculous signs of healing. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that The Spirit is in this place. Let me tell you how I know. It’s the story of how I came to be called here. Now I know that yesterday, many of us helped celebrate the renewal of our ministry here at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church. Part of that was my official induction as your Vicar by the Bishop, but you’ve heard me say that yesterday was not about me. It was and is about us. So keep that in mind as I tell how I know the Holy Spirit is moving – because it’s me that got moved in the process!

[Recount story of call from June of 2007 until March 3.]

So that why I know a little about the Holy Spirit, because I felt her at work. But it might be natural to think, yes that’s all well and good, but you’re a priest and you must get special training or something to have been able to figure all that out. I don’t believe that to be true. Just because I’m ordained doesn’t give me any special access to the Spirit. It’s just as hard for me as for anyone else. But the reality is, it isn’t that hard. It may not have been so obvious to you, but I’ll bet you can think of instances in your life that seem in retrospect to clearly have been God working. And I think that, when that’s the conclusion you come to, it’s often indeed the case. The best way to double check what you’re thinking and praying is to ask others about it. Just like it took– deliberately, it’s supposed be this way – the search committee and the Executive Committee and the Bishop, and me, to agree that this call seems to be of God, any time you think you feel the Spirit moving in your life, it’s good to ask others about it. The Holy Spirit will always inspire you to actions that are for the building up of your own self and the community you live in. The Spirit is never a negative thing. She never tells you not to do something. She urges you on and up toward more positive things, the things that are of God and not of evil.

You may also be wondering what gifts the Spirit has given you. St. Paul wrote in today’s excerpt one list of spiritual gifts that he and the Corinthian believers discerned were of the Spirit. Just because we don’t see some of those same gifts manifested in 2008 doesn’t mean the HS is inactive. It just means, as we look around, that the gifts needed in our communities in AD 2008 might be different than those needed in AD 68. St. Paul noted: "All gifts given by the Holy Spirit are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses." Why should we think that what the Christian believers in Corinth needed would be the same that we Christian believers in Vernon need now? What might some of these gifts look like today in your life?

I can see many of them at work powerfully right now on this community. I see gifts of organization. I see gifts of hospitality and welcome. I see gifts for building and construction. I’m aware of gifts of generosity in time and money. I see gifts of comfort and healing. As Bishop Mark noted to our credit yesterday, I see an overall gift of energy and passion for this worshipping community. I know many of you want to continue to offer what you can for the good of this parish. I’m going to suggest a practical way to do so.

As many of you remember, we have set for our selves five goals for this parish for the next few years.
- Energize for growth. That’s hospitality. If we want to attract new members we have to create new patterns on how we think about the next person who walks in the door.
- Inreach and Outreach.
- Christian Education.
- Becoming a parish.

The Exc. Comm will be meeting for a mini-retreat in June so we can do some deep thinking and praying and planning about how we want to go about reaching these goals. I have suggested that a way to keep us focused on these goals is to form some what I am suggesting we call commissions. A “commission” is to “mission with.” That’s what “co-“ means, after all. Commissions are groups of members interested in offering their gifts in a particular area. In addition, Commissions can be, well, commissioned, that is, formally recognized and charged with performing the work they’ve undertaken. We’re talking about having a commission for each goal, splitting inreach and outreach because those are pretty big by themselves. A lot of work still needs to be done on this idea before it’s ready to roll out. After all, remember that when you think the Spirit is working, it’s good to check with others. The Exec. Comm and I will be depending on the Holy Spirit to guide us as we test whether this is a positive way to begin to realize the great potential that I firmly believe exists here. I believe we can achieve parish status within two years. We have, after all, the greatest gift there is, the gift of the Spirit’s presence in, with, and among us, here at St. Thomas’s. Like the spiritual goes, I know the Spirit is in this place!

In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Notice the order here. Jesus greets us with peace, and actually gives us his peace before sending us out to do the work he has given us to do. I am mindful that there are lingering tensions here among some of us at St. Thomas’s. I’m starting learn some of the details and the history as I continue to get know you a bit. As Bishop Mark pointed out so well yesterday, all communities have tensions and disagreements. However, remember that Jesus gives us a command – as the Father has sent me, Jesus says, so I send you. But before we can be sent, before we can fully be the beacon of life and hope for this township and Sussex County that I’m convinced Jesus is indeed sending us to, we must accept and embrace God’s peace first. We cannot move ahead if we are divided. And so I invite you to continue to reach out in the power of that same Spirit to others with whom you might have had a disagreement in the past. It’s hard work, and if you need me to help, please come talk to me. I don’t expect us to never disagree or even fight. It’s not conflict itself that is a problem, it’s how we deal with conflict that reveals whether we’re letting the Spirit really work in our lives or not.

Mt brothers and sisters, I know the Spirit is working here! And I invite you to awaken or re-awaken to that same knowledge and begin to let the Spirit work in your own lives. Each of you here today is making a wonderful continuing step by your presence, by being in community one with another and worshipping at this Altar. Even when we do so at more than one time, we do so at one Altar. Let that be for us a symbol of the unity we already share, as fellow members of the household of God in Jesus. The work of the Spirit is not always as a tongue of fire that appears instantly and causes you to do miraculous things. That was right for that age. For us here today, the Spirit’s work is more often quieter and more subtle. On this fiftieth day, let’s be glad for the work of the Spirit that brought us together, and that powerfully inspires us in our parish goals. We’ve got much to do, and by the power of the same Spirit, I know we can do what we have set out to do. Because that’s of the Spirit, and that means nothing will be impossible for us.

Here's a wonderful song celebrating the power of the Spirit:

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

We Must Never Forget

Recently, the photo album of a Nazi officer who served a Auschwitz, the death camp, was uncovered in Frnakfurt and donated to the American Holocaust Museum in Washington. there was an extensive article about it in The New Yorker a few months back, and The New York Times has produced a slide show about the album, with background, and pictures.

It's bizarre how ordinary-looking people can perpetrate such horror on the world.

Check it out here.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

AIDS Walk Is Coming Up!

As many of you know, the 2008 AIDS Walk is on Sunday, May 18. AIDS is still a worldwide, national, and local epidemic in the Greater New York area, and I am asking your support for Episcopal Response to AIDS, for which I serve as Treasurer. Our goal is to raise $70,000 for grants to Episcopal organizations doing AIDS-related work for this year, and my personal goal is $1000. I'd very much appreciate if you would take five minutes and click on the link to the left and make a secure online donation. Any amount is helpful and will be beneficial!

If you've already done so, I thank you and you will receive confirmation from me directly.

Thank you very much!


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Did You Know?

As an Xer, I am one of the first of the cross-Internet generation. I actually remember a time before the Internet. As I look around the vicarage, I realize a lot of aspects of my life haven't changed. I don't have robots cleaning for me, althogh Roomba and his colleagues do exist, and I still cook over gas using real meat and vegetables and all that. Paper books still exist and are in no danger of going away. I still watch a big TV in the evening. I still have a toaster and sit on furniture from my grandmother's house and I have a car that runs on gasoline. In many ways my life hasn't changed from when I was growing up in Toledo.

And yet the Internet has changed the world, in ways we do not yet even have much of a clue about. Here's an excellent video called Did You Know that asks some very pointed questions. Unfortunately, there's one question it did not ask that I think continues to be relevant today. What question do you think needed to be asked and wasn't? I'll tell you my opinion after you've weighed in.

Check it out:


More funnies

Courtesy of Grandmere Mimi. Perhaps I can get some of them to write my upcoming sermons.

Wisdom from first-graders.


Tuesday Evening Funnies

Is it envrionment or heredity?

Of course that's what they do! that's why courthouses often have inside courtyards!

This seemed funny at the time....

I don't get it. Anybody?

May is a very important month in Indianapolis. In their honor, here's one for Race Month:

And a rare treat - a video, this one courtesy of a friend:


Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Proper of the Day: The Seventh Sunday of Easter

Can you believe that Eastertide is seven weeks old already? I can't. It feels like Easter was just yesterday. But no, it was Ascension that was actually three days ago, not Easter. Time flies, even during the Great Fifty Days. Although today's Gospel is from my favorite Gospel chapter, John 17, I found myself reflecting more on absence and presense than anything else. Here's my sermon for today:

St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, Vernon
The Seventh Sunday of Easter 2008 (BCP)
Acts 1: 1-14; Psalm 47; I Peter 4:12-19; John 17:1-11
The Rev. R. F. Solon, Jr., Vicar

May these words be in the Name of our Risen and Ascended Lord, Amen.

Hello, My name is!

Those stickers they make you put on at conferences and stuff. I hate those. Maybe I’m just getting crotchety, but I don’t necessarily want to say Hello to everyone who passes by. It seems like it’s a bit forward. I’m naturally shy, especially in big groups, and so to be forced to greet each person, even if it’s the sticker and not me personally, gets my ire up.

Of course, names are really important. Most of you know I’ve been working on learning all of your names. It’s a slow process, even with the picture you all have so graciously given me. You have all been uniformly patient with me as I work on this. And it’s so important for each of us, isn’t it? Calling someone by name honors them. None of us like to be called “Hey You!” or “You there” or even worse epiphets. We can hear our name spoken aloud even from across a crowded room. Each of us has a name and it’s ours. It’s a shorthand description of everything there is to know about us. More so than an identification number, which may indeed be statistically unique but isn’t very human, we’re proud of our names. Our name denotes who we are. Robert Francis Solon, Jr. That’s my name. Sure, I have a title, also. Many of us do. Titles communicate function or rank or both, but ultimately it’s one’s own personal name that is the important thing. Behind Her Royal Majesty, Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, is plain old Elizabeth Windsor. That’s the name God know her as, and it’s our names that God know each of us through baptism by as well.

And we believe that names are so important that when we pray for people in our worship, we name them. Yes it takes a little time. But ours is a solemn duty, to recite the names of those who cannot be physically present with us. We do this either in the Prayers of the People or within the Eucharistic Prayer itself, the more ancient placement in Christian liturgy. When we do so, when we remember them in this way, we make them present even if they are hundreds or thousands of miles away. We know, [as we have been singing,] that we are one body because we all share in the one bread. And very early on, within just a few generations of the Ascension that we observed on Thursday, Christians began to take the Holy Communion to the sick and others who could not be present. If they can’t be with us, the thinking went, we’ll go to them, because we’re all part of one single community. Naming those in the liturgy who cannot be with us makes them present in our hearts and minds, and then we, or our representatives, make ourselves present to them later when we bring them Communion.

This naming of names, this connecting us to those who are absent, does not only extend through space. It extends through time, as well. Not only do we name those who are ill or travelling or otherwise can’t be with us today, we are always invited to name those who are cannot again join us in this earth. We pray every Sunday for those who have died, named or un-named. We don’t do that to intercede for them to God, because we already know God is doing for them far better than we can ask or imagine. We do so because our connections to our honored dead don’t end at the time of death. We believe we will be with them in our own times, and we rejoice that they are in the nearer presence of God already. In the Creed that we will recite in just a few moments, we affirm the communion of saints as a present reality. Our naming of them makes them in some sense present to us now, even though we know that presence is transitory at best.

One of the most profound ways I’ve ever seen to honor those who have died is done at the monastery of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, where I’ve gone on retreat. On the anniversary of the death of every monk of the order, the superior reads out his obituary at the end of Compline, the night service, before the monks retire for the evening. The last line is always, “We pray for our absent brother.” Absence implies and is in some ways the opposite of presence. To be absent means something temporary, like in school, when you’re marked absent, everyone knows you’ll be back again.

This Sunday, the Seventh Sunday of Easter, is a little strange because on this day we observe that Jesus is no longer with us physically. According to the Acts of the Apostles, on the 40th day after his resurrection Jesus was taken up to heaven. That 40th day was this past Thursday. The Ascension is a Principle Feast, one of only seven, including All Saints and Pentecost, because it is by removing his physical body from this universe, Jesus completes the Incarnation by not only uniting God and humanity here on earth, but also by bringing humanity to God in God’s nearer presence. The Ascension says that the Incarnation wasn’t just one way, but both ways. Not only God-meets-humanity, but humanity-meets-God as well.

But at the same time, we acknowledge that in a real and physical way Jesus is not with us. He is, like our honored dead, absent from us. And so we remember him. We remember who Jesus was and what he did for us while he was with us. We remember him every Sunday first in the reading and meditation on Holy Scripture and what it says about Jesus and how that makes sense in the world today. We do it secondly in the Holy Communion itself. In fact, we’re commanded to do so. “Do this in memory of me” is what Jesus asked the disciples to continue at the Last Supper. And it is that special remembering that makes Jesus present to us. It’s similar to how our brothers and sisters who are not with us either in space or in time are absent to us, but our naming them does not make them present except in our hearts. Our naming of Jesus, our remembering what he did for us, does make that once-for-all action real, right here and right now. What we are about to do at the Altar brings forward from 2000 years ago to today that same salvation, so that it continues to work inside us, even as we take into ourselves the very Body and Blood that Jesus first gave for us.

Remember the Where’s Waldo books? In these books for children, readers are invited to find Waldo in the pictures of intricately drawn people. Sometimes it’s easy to find him, sometime’s it’s not. This Sunday might well be called “Where’s Jesus?” Sunday. We, like the disciples, look for him but he’s not here. We celebrate that he is not only absent, but also present. He is not physically here in body, but he is physically here in you and me, who are his body and blood. It’s a strange season, this period of Ascensiontide. Jesus promised his disciples that God would send his Holy Spirit in place of Jesus, and that’s what we remember next Sunday at Pentecost. But right now, we’re on the cusp. Jesus is not here, and the Holy Spirit has not yet arrived. And yet we celebrate Jesus being right here in our midst all at the same time.

Our names make us who we are. The naming of names is powerful. In some societies one has a public name and a private name that one give to only one’s closest friends and family. For us Christians, our names identify us to God and to each other and to ourselves. Our names, when spoken, make us present when we’re absent, and we honor those who are not or cannot be present with us, by naming them in the midst of our worship. We name the name of Jesus in the same way. We make him present by and through his name, and his presence then infuses each of us, so that we, each of us, become little extensions of him. Our very lives, the day-to-day stuff we do every day, becomes a proclamation of the Good News. And so, although we don’t all go around wearing “Hello, my name is” stickers all the time, those around us can see Jesus’ name in our names. It’s Jesus’ name, after all, that is inscribed on us when we are sealed by the Holy Spirit at baptism. That name is an indelible mark on our very souls that names us as belonging to Jesus, now and forever.

Names are powerful. I invite you to let that power work in your life so that, even though Jesus is not here, everyone will see and know that he is here, in each and every one of you.

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.


Saturday, May 3, 2008

God Dropped the Paint Can

A real place outside Bakersfield, CA. Thanks to Jerry Pisani at Trinity Parish.


Baseball Update

Well, RFSJuniors is in 8th place, after dropping all week. I made one error on my part by benching one of my pitchers who was scheduled to pitch. We did great and got the win but it didn't accrue to me. It's the risk I run - first time I've had more than two pitcher start in one day. We're only allowed 1250 innings pitched over the course of the season, and last year I really blew my IPs out and had to bench most of my starts throughout September. This year my rule has been no more than two starters per night, and of course the first time that happened, all three of them did really well.

What's really been hurting is my hitting. Very bad this past week. Average is low, not so many RBIs or HRs and precious few - 1, I think - stolen base. So that has really hurt. I've got some good players, but they aren't hitting well. I only hope that changes. I'd like to move back into the top half of the league if I can.

Well, hope springs eternal. I'm gonna go look at the waiver wire, to see which players I might be able to pick up who would be good to have.


More Saturday Funnies

I laughed out loud. Anyone get the joke besides me? (Bizarro is getting a bit dated, I admit):

I wonder what kind of eggs I would have gotten.....tell me in the Comments!

I don't get it. No really. Can someone exlain it to me?

Oh, the power of beans!


Saturday Funnies

American Idol meets Ceasar....

Makes sense to me (click to enlarge if needed):

Ladies, don't get mad....


Friday, May 2, 2008

It Was Really Cool!

In Eastertide at St. Thomas's we're using Eucharistic Prayer D because it's the most ecumenical of the prayers in the Prayer Book. Last evening, during our celebration of the Ascension, was a very cool moment. There's a line in the prayer that thanks God for the ministry of Jesus who "to the poor proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners, freedom, to the sorrowful, joy." What was excellent and wonderful and very joyful was the fact that a member of our congregation who had been incarcerated and who had been released just the day before. Last evening was the first time he had been in church for several months!

I almost wept.


The Proper of the Day: SS Phillip and James

SS Philip and James, from the Breviary of Martin of Aragon

Today we remember the ministry of the apostles Philip and James, two of the Twelve. Their feast day is normally May 1, but got bumped by yesterday's Feast of the Ascension. I've always considered Phillip quite the Anglican evangelist because he keeps bringing people to Jesus, but always in a "come and see" way, rather than a push-Jesus-in-your-face way. His way is to invite people and let them make up their own minds and hearts. He did that with Nathaniel in John's Gospel, and also brought the Greek speakers to Jesus when they wanted to see him.

It turns out there a lot of people named James in the New Testament. The one we commemorate today is one of the Twelve (James the Less, son of Alpheus) but not the same as James of Jerusalem, the brother of Jesus. We know nothing about him. There's also a James the Greater who is the other James listed among the Twelve who is a member of the "inner three" of Peter, James, and John. Today's James is not him, either.

Phillip is patron of hatters and pastry chefs, among others, while James is patron of fullers and pharmacists.

Almighty God, who gave to your apostles Philip and James grace and strength to bear witness to the truth: Grant that we, being mindful of their victory of faith, may glorify in life and death the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Proper of the Day: The Ascension of Our Lord

Ascension Icon from Orthodox Wiki

Today is actually one of the seven Principle Feasts of our Church, which makes it rank as high or higher than Sundays. We celebrate one of the strangest mysteries of the Gospel, the truely bizarre claim that Jesus, after his resurrection, did not die a natural death again, because how could he? "Christ, being raised from the can never die again; death has no more dominion over him." It's reported in Mark and Luke that in the presence of his disciples, Jesus was somehow taken bodily from them into heaven and "now sits at the right hand of the Father."

This is an observance that has taken me a long time to live in to. I think it's becoming a favorite for two reasons. One, it's neglected by most Christians. Frankly, it's inconvenient enough at Easter to have all that "raising from the dead" language going on. But now we have to do this bit about him rising into heaven? I think it strains the incredulity of most people. The RCC transfers this feast to Sunday next, rather than observe it on its 40th day, which is today. Many denominations, even if they have it on their calendars, don't observe it. But I think it's telling that it is considered by Episcopalians as on par with Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost. We're supposed to face up to the incredulity of it and talk and discuss and pray about it, and finally, celebrate it even if we don't undestand it. We'll do so at St. Thomas's tonight as 7:30 PM with Lessons, Carols, and Eucharist for the Ascension.

The second reason I like this feast is that it completes the Incarnation. Jesus, the Word, who was with God from the beginning, became a real human being to be with us for a short time in this world. Then, after rendering death meaningless, he took his humanity with him into the next world. He didn't leave it behind, but completed the joining of God and humanity in heaven. I finally realized this a few years ago when, at Seminary I believe, we sang hymn 215 "See the Conqueror mounts in triumph!" from the Hymnal. Verse three was what finally gave me a clue what the Ascension was really about:

Thou hast raised our human nature on the clouds to God's right hand;
There we sit in heavenly places, there with thee in glory stand;
Jesus reigns, adored by angels, Man with God is on the throne;
mighty Lord, in thine Ascension, we by faith beyond our own.

Sometimes - often! - those hymns say it far better than I can.

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.