Tuesday, December 08, 2009

quote of the Day

"The trouble with a kitten is that when it grows up, it's always a cat."-- Ogden Nash

Monday, December 07, 2009

My book is published!

So, my book "An Uncomfortable Bit of Rope and Other Essays on the Binding of Isaac" has been published through Createspace.
It will be on Amazon.com soon, or so they tell me. So that's pretty exciting!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Somalia wants a surge

"Somalia's prime minister has called for an international peace plan like the new US strategy for Afghanistan, saying it would be more effective and far cheaper than current efforts to combat the country's problems of piracy and armed opposition."

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Archbishop to Pope: "Here We Stand!"

So, in response to the Pope allowing married anglicans to become Roman Catholic priests Archbishop Rowan Williams has declared that the barrier of unity amongst Christians is the Roman Catholic ban on female clergy. Archbishop Williams is essentially saying celibacy isn't enough, recognizing that the Holy Spirit calls women to the ministry of word and sacrament is a non-negotiable. He is saying, as Luther did so many years ago, "Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me." To which I respond, "Amen!"

Friday, December 04, 2009

Luther’s take on the third commandment and the protestant work ethic

“Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy… Wass ist das?... We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching or God’s word, but instead keep that word holy and gladly hear and learn it.”
Notice what Luther does, he moves Sabbath from chronos to logos, from time to word. He de-centers Sabbath praxis into theological doxis, action into theology/thought.
One of my understandings of Sabbath is that it is a time of rest. Now, resting in God’s word is good, but I genuinely think humans are less neurotic and more whole/holy when they have a day off. In short Sabbath is about more than preaching and Word.
When a shift like this occurs it leaves room for people to abuse themselves and others. “Sure I work 90 hours a week, but I make sure to read my bible before I go to bed.” “I pay my millworkers almost nothing and they live in squalor, but on the plus side I’ve built a Methodist Church for them.”
I’m respecting God’s word, but not the rest that God’s word recommends.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

“we will see what becomes of this dreamers dreams.”

I remember during the election many on the right dismissed the President as a dreamer, an idealist who would give away the country to foreign leaders if he thought it would make them feel good. Some one the left assumed Obama would be Kucinich-lite, a dreamer that would bring an impractical peace.
Well, now we see what is becoming of this dreamers dream. Obama is straight up Chicago knife fight. He’s a realist, he was very concrete, almost callous, about weighing economic considerations over against humanitarianism.
I was very impressed that he mentioned the arguments of those who disagree with him, as well as that he defended his decision to deliberate and assess strategy before taking action.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sermon: Prepare to be Unprepared

Greetings in the name of Jesus!
Today is the first day of the season of Advent, which also means it is the first day of a new year on the Christian calendar.
And so I would like to begin by greeting you, brothers and sisters, with the words, Happy New Year!

Celebrating the New Year in November seems awkward,
it seems out of step with the order of the secular world.
That’s the point.
While commercial America has been preparing for Christmas sales since the day after Halloween
it is in these four short Sundays before Christmas that we prepare to commemorate the coming Christ Child.
Additionally we prepare our hearts and minds for Christ’s coming again.
For the next three Wednesday’s we will, along with Holy Nativity Episcopal, be meeting at 6 o’clock to prepare ourselves for Christmas through a common meal, a bible study, a discussion, and worship.
Advent is a time of preparation.
Yet, I hear in today’s scriptures,
and in the collective wisdom of God’s faithful people from this and every age,
the words, “Prepare to be unprepared.”
Let us pray.
Lord God, prepare the lips of the preacher, prepare the hearts of the hearers, that the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts may be acceptable in your sight.
“Prepare to be unprepared.”
I must admit when I read about God’s interactions with people in scripture I sometimes say to myself, “I could do better than that.”
If I’d been Monoah, Samson’s father, I would have known I was entertaining an angel in my midst.
If I was Zecheriah I would have known enough not to talk back to Gabriel.
I look at Judges chapter 13 and know that throughout scripture encounters with men of God often become encounters with the Angel of the Lord, which in turn become encounters with God.
So when Monoah’s wife describes the man of God she met as, “like an angel of God.”
When the man’s first words to Monoah are the same as God’s first words to Moses, “I am,”
when the man of God says his name is “too wonderful”
I am truly baffled as to why he wasn’t prepared to encounter God.
Yet, in response to my smug self-assurance I can hear Monoah’s voice being cast across centuries and millennia. I can hear him saying, “Prepare to be unprepared.”
I look at the opening of the Gospel of Luke and am annoyed at a priest who is surprised
No more than that! terrified! when the LORD acts in the LORD’s sanctuary.
I am dismayed at his doubt directed toward Gabriel’s words.
Has he not read of Sarah and Abraham bearing Isaac,
Hannah and Elkanah bearing Samuel,
and Monoah and his wife bearing Samson?
How could he not have been prepared for God’s action
Yet, I can hear an answer to this too.
I can hear Zecheriah’s voice transcending the barriers of space and time. I can hear him saying, “Prepare to be unprepared.”

Prepare to be unprepared because human reality is contingent and human nature is not inclined to prepare.

Human reality is contingent. We are not masters of our own destiny and we cannot know our future.
Other than in the present—in this very moment—we are blind.
Take for example Rom Houben.
In 1986 he fell into a comma and only recently re-awakened.
Imagine all the things he could not have known,
all the contingencies he could not have expected. There was no way he could know history would turn out the way it has.
In 1986 Afghanistan was occupied by the Soviet Union,
now America occupies Afghanistan and the USSR no longer exists.
In 1986 the Mir was launched,
now it’s a charred piece of charcoal in the bottom of the South Pacific.
In 1986 Desmond Tutu became the first black Bishop in the Anglican Church of South Africa,
now he’s an archbishop and one of the most respected clergymen in the world.
In 1986 the Oriels played in Memorial Stadium, the Baltimore Sun wasn’t the only newspaper in the city, and 100,000 more people lived in Baltimore than do today.
Or lets hit a bit closer to home.
Since it is our New Year let’s think of all those things we were unprepared for over this last liturgical year.
A year ago the son of a former president and a descendent of the 14th president of the United States was still in the White House.
Now the son of a Kenyan economist and an American anthropologist holds the office of president. Prepare to be unprepared.
Who would have thought there would be an attempted student led revolution against Iran’s government?

Who would have thought North Korea would be declared “a full fledged nuclear power?”
Who had even heard of H1N1 a year ago?
And who would have thought Michael Jackson would be dead?

A year ago we didn’t know how the ELCA would vote on the sexuality study.
We didn’t know Bishop Knocke was going to retire.
For that matter about a year ago I sent a friend to sneak a look at the worship services of a Lutheran church I applied to do internship at.
She said St. John’s looked like the perfect place for me and couldn’t wait for me to come.
That was St. John’s Lutheran Church in Seattle Washington. Prepare to be unprepared.
But even if we knew what to prepare for we wouldn’t.
No, its not in our nature. Humans are ambiguous, confusing, dizzying, creatures—even as we are declared daughters and sons of the living God.
We are like a child who knows his homework is due in the morning, but assumes there will be a snow day,
even though its only November.
We know it is right to prepare, but would just as soon tell the teacher that the dog ate our homework.
Its like we have a civil war going on inside us.
It is this conflict within us that Martin Luther King Junior called the “schizophrenia of man.”
It is this conflict that author William Falkner says, “alone makes good writing, because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.”
It is this conflict that Jungian psychologists call the “realization of the shadow self” and Freudians discuss as the interaction between the Id and Superego.
Robert Lewis Stevenson personifies this conflict in his book The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Reformer Martin Luther said of this conflict that we are Simul Justus et pecator, simultaneously justified and sinner.
The Apostle Paul writes, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” In the beginning—at the start of Genesis humanity is made from dirt enlivened with God’s breath. We are a mess of mud and spirit.

And where does that leave us?
If we aren’t able to prepare because we don’t know what to prepare for, and we don’t want to prepare anyway?
We’re in the same place Monoah and Zecheriah were. We have to prepare to be unprepared.
We turn to God. We let go and let God.
Like Monoah we will entertain angels unaware. We will run into situations where our burnt offerings become vehicles for messengers of God to kiss the face of heaven.
Like Zechariah we will have lots cast for us that will lead us to the Holy of Holies and God will be there. We will at times be silenced by the strength of the promise of God.
Don’t mishear me now.
I’m not saying we don’t prepare in this time of preparation—this advent of the Christ.

I’m saying in our preparation we need to be ready for God to do whatever God’s going to do.
In this time of Advent prepare for Christ by entering his word, by reading his scriptures.
But know its scripture because it speaks of God’s faithful actions and God’s faithfulness.
In this time of Advent prepare for Christ by partaking in communion, by eating the bread of heaven and drinking the cup of salvation, and by hearing the most melodious words a pastor can say, “for you.”
But know its God’s promise that makes this meal marvelous.
In this time of Advent prepare for Christ by vigorously remembering your Baptism.
But know its God’s declaration “this is my beloved child” that makes it so.
In this time of Advent prepare for Christ by acting with justice and mercy—as Christ’s body in the world.
But know that as we act God is saying to us, “I was hungry and you fed me.”
In this time of Advent prepare for Christ by loving one another and bearing one another’s burdens.
But know always hear the words of Christ, “where two or more are gathered in my name, I am there.”
In this time of Advent prepare for Christ by sharing the good news.
But know whose news it is.

Yet, on this Advent, even these things, scripture, sacraments, solidarity, and evangelism,
even the birth of Samson and John in barren wombs cannot prepare us for what is to come.
In this barren world, shackled by sin, death, and the devil, we await the birth of God’s son even as we await his return.
Prepare to be unprepared!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Quote of the Day

"We need you Dick!"
--A Republican at a rally that former Vice President Dick Cheney attended.

I don't know, I just can't see Cheney winning the presidency. However I would love to see him and Palin squaring off at a debate.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A shameless plug for one of my friends

So, one of my friends is in the graphic arts business. She recently did the cover of my upcoming book. I'd recommend her to anyone who wants custom printed wedding/christmas cards etc.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Some drug related deaths back home

"Wind River Reservation, Wyoming (CNN) -- On a warm summer night last June, James Gardner gave his daughter permission to sleep over at a friend's house, something he almost never let her do.
Ohetica Win, a member of Wyoming's Northern Arapaho tribe, was a tall, striking 13-year-old who looked much older. Gardner had lived most of his life on the Wind River Reservation and he didn't trust many people there...."

Quote of the Day

"What takes place in the church happens vicariously and representatively as a model for all human beings."--Bonhoeffer's Ethics.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Reservoir Turtles this video mash-up is pretty sweet!

I don't know, something as hip as early tarantino and my early childhood mooshed together is just sweet

Friday, November 13, 2009

quote of the Day:

"When a movement, which claims to fight socialist fascism in the name of freedom, promotes the ideas of a former KGB agent as a way to offer some intellectual heft to its arguments, it becomes increasingly difficult to lend that movement any credibility whatsoever. But these are the same people who insist on comparing health care reform to the Holocaust, so perhaps credibility just isn't what they're going for."--Matt Compton

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bonhoeffer and psychology

“In the former (the spiritual community) unsophisticated, nonpsychological, unmethodical, helping love is offered to one another; in the latter, psychological analysis and design.”—Bonhoeffer, Life Together
When I read through Bonhoeffer, as well as CS Lewis, I often am struck by the genuine fear of psychology expressed by these Christian thinkers. For that matter Thomas Merton sort of dismisses the unconscious as just not as important as the moderns seem to think it to be.
I wonder, initially, why that is. Some of me just assumes it is a generational thing. At the time utter belief in psychology as a cure for sin—the way to sanctify and perfect humankind—was a genuine dream of some. Further, fascist regimes, using the power of suggestion and the appeal of mass communication and mass propaganda, seemed to be successful in changing masses of individuals into collective mobs. So, in that sense I can see where there is a real fear, if not hatred, of psychology.
Additionally, accepted too readily psychology can have a way of dismissing individual powers and rooting out mystery.
Finally, especially regarding Merton’s tradition, I have heard Catholics claim that all psychology does is invert the “right” understanding of humans, assuming base passions are subtler, and therefore impossible to control.

Oh, on a side note some readers may have noticed a lot of Bonhoeffer lately. I am currently using "A Year With Dietrich Bonhoeffer" as part of my daily devotions.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The republican party is eating itself

While I'm stating the obvious am I the last person to find out Brett Favre is now a Viking?
Seriously though, I wonder if its a good thing--forcing ideological purity upon party members. I mean right now the democrats, having not done that the last two election cycles, are having some troubles with so called "blue dogs" who are trying to strip healthcare reform of its teeth in the name of moderation and keeping their seat in districts that leaned McCain in '08.
So, from the perspective of effectiveness is it better to loose seats in congress, but have lock-step control over those congress-people you do have, or to have a lot more folk of your party in congress but have intra-party squabbles?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Sermon:A Tale of Two Widows

A Tale of Two Widows

The title of Charles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities refers to the Cities of London England and Paris France. This book focuses on the city of Paris, but in doing so it often shines a revealing light upon London. In some ways, Paris becomes a sort of fun house mirror that Dicken’s uses to look at his own country—England. When Dickens points out how Paris is similar to London that changes how the reader looks at London, because she first looked at Paris. When Dickens points to examples of how Frenchmen act differently than Englishmen his English readers are forced to stop and think about that part of themselves.
Today I hope to shed light on our two stories about widows by looking at the similarities and differences we find between our lesson found in Mark and our lesson found in first Kings. So today I wish to tell a Tale of Two Widows. A Tale of Two Widows.

It was the best of times and it was the worse of times, it was the age of powerful prophets, it was the age of smug scribes. It was the book of Kings it was the Gospel of Mark. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we were in Sidon, we were in Jerusalem, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us—in short, the period was so much like today that you could make direct comparisons between this story and your everyday life.

There was a man of God from Gilead named Elijah. His king and queen had committed apostasy, they worshipped other gods, including a god of rain. So Elijah opposing the royal family as well as this rain god stopped the rain, causing a drought in the name of the one true God.
After this he was commanded by God to go into hiding. So he went and hid in a ravine in his home turf. There he was fed by ravens. Now, I know ravens are rather impressive creatures—as long at they’re not trying to kick field goals—but this was an uncomfortable way for Elijah to live. This was especially the case after the drought became so severe that the runnels of water in his ravine dried up and he had nothing to drink.
It was at this point that Elijah left that ravine and left his homeland, for God had given him a new command. He was to go to the hometown of his queen—yes the queen who he had opposed, the queen who was persecuting him. Once there he became a stranger in a strange and dangerous land and he was told to throw himself upon the mercy of a widow there.

In Jerusalem there was another religious figure, a scribe. He was one of those scribes that are always found in the company of the chief priests in Mark’s gospel. He was a high up official connected to the temple. In fact, because of this connection to the temple he didn’t have to pay taxes to Rome. He had, to put it into modern parlance, a tax-exempt status. Elijah may have had to travel from place to place for the sake of his religion, but the scribe had found a permanent fixture next to the seat of power in Jerusalem.
Sometimes scribes such as he were described as a collector of pious opinions instead of dispensers of religious reasoning. On a good day they were theologians captured by the academic ivory tower, on bad days they were pundits—glenn becks, lou dobbs, michael moores, and rush limbaughs.
Despite such characterizations of his profession he was pleased with himself—and enjoyed others acting pleased with him too. Oh how they liked his fine clothing that marked him off as a religious bigshot, oh how they enjoyed tipping their hat to him in the marketplace, and saving him a particular seat in the synagogue. Oh, and his prayers—they were so fine.
Of course, between his tax exempt status, his putting himself above others, and his occasional dabbling in secular law—sometimes making profits off of contracts, deeds, and wills—someone had to pay a little more, someone had to pay for his lifestyle.
Recently an itinerant religious teacher from Galilee, you know the kind, some rabble rouser from the sticks by the name of Jesus, had looked at this lifestyle and called it, “devouring the widow’s house.”
And this kind of accusation was one of those things that strikes at the heart. Even a heart long covered by finery and riches…status and excess. It was this accusation that kept the scribe up some nights. You know those cold and lonely nights when the wind howls against the gates of Jerusalem and your toes just can’t get warm underneath the covers and you get to thinking about where you fit into the wider world.
On those nights he would find himself unwrapped of religious robes, and filled with the sneaking suspicion that he was no different than those widows his life style devoured. Though he had hid it well, despite all that he had brought around him—all he had strived to build up around him—the piety and economic power, the moral clout, and the perceived popularity, despite all of that he was just another beggar before God.

And accusations such as, “you devour widow’s houses,” rightly shakes a person up.
After all being a widow is hard. You have lost the one you love—the person whose life has been so intertwined with your own that you sometimes don’t know where your life ends and theirs begins.
In Genesis we read about two becoming one flesh—well, a widow’s lot is to find wholeness again after loosing a part of themselves.
And in the ancient world, more so than our own, being a widow involved a total loss of access to power and the benefits of patronage. The ancient world was a world in which men unequivocally ruled—and in a society where men rule loosing access to your man means total dependency upon the kindness of strangers.
So, an accusation of hurting someone who is both emotionally vulnerable and socially stigmatized—the lowest on the totem pole, can shake a man, even one such as the scribe.
And then there was also the religious background to this accusation. For the scribe’s God, as well as our own, is a God of creation, the psalmist affirms this, yes. But ours is not some creator who crafted creation and then walked away from it.
Ours is not a creator only, ours is a Sustainer, a lover of His creation. Our God is a God who executes Justice for the oppressed. Our God is a God who gives food to the hungry. Our Lord is a Lord who sets the prisoner free. Our Lord opens the eyes of the blind, lifts up those who are bowed down, loves the righteous, watches over the stranger and orphan, and Yes! Yes, ours is a God who upholds the widow while ruining the ways of the wicked. And so that’s the kind of accusation that keeps the Scribe up at night.

In both Sidon and Jerusalem these faithful women give out of their poverty. At Jerusalem the widow “gives her whole life.” She had something like 94 cents to live on, and she threw it in the collection plate!
And at Sidon the widow is literally preparing her last meal. She is wandering about to find sticks to create a fire to cook her last meal, a meal of a cake of oil mixed with rough grain.
Now anyone who has tried to replicate this recipe knows you end up with a melted spatula and some dry tasting goop. Hardly a wealthy feast or a decent last meal.
Then this stranger, this Tishobite man comes upon her, a Sidonese woman, and asks her for all she has, for her last handful of dry tasting goop. And she gives it to him!
These two women give their all. The rich young man that Jesus told to give away everything he has couldn’t do this, but these widows—like Nike—just do it! The disciples are willing to do this, but then get caught up on reward and greatness and glory, but these widows just do it! Jesus talks about giving to caesar what is caesar’s and God what is God’s—that is give your whole self! And all these religious folk just stand there scratching their heads befuddled, but these widows just do it!
As Jesus says, “this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury, because she gave out of her poverty.”
Both these widows gave out of their poverty. In that we find similarity between the two. But listen as well to the differences.

The widow in Jerusalem likely would have heard the teachings of this new holy man who recently showed up. She may have heard that this Jesus is a man who supped with strangers and sinners, filled the hungry with good things, healed the sick, hung out with the destitute.
She may have heard that he loved people more that piety. That he said, “the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” That he put healing above rules about holiness. And that he quoted liberally from the book of Hosea, “God demands mercy, not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, not burnt offerings.”
And perhaps she knew that he smashed up the temple saying, “my house should be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” She probably heard him denouncing the temple scribe for devouring widow’s houses.
And yet she gave.
And this holy man Jesus pointed this widow’s actions out to his disciples. And I believe that he lauded the widow. I believe that commended her. I believe he, like his father in heaven, is a lover of widows in general and this widow in particular. At the same time he also lamented a religious system that destroys widows. A system in which those that practice false piety get tax breaks and faithful devotion ends in poverty.

In Sidon, on the other hand, we see Elijah coming to the widow with a word different than that of the temple scribe. He brings a word of promise and a word of comfort.
“Do not be afraid,” he said.
“The jar of meal will not empty and the jug of oil will not fail,” he said.
And it is said that the widow’s jug and jar did not fail. In fact, it fed her and her household, and Elijah too.
The clear difference between the Scribe and the Widow in Jerusalem and Elijah and the Widow in Sidon is that the Widow and Elijah are in the same boat. They are two hungry people kneeling at the same city gate. Elijah is a persecuted foreigner looking for a bite to eat and the widow is on her last legs preparing her last meal. Both are sustained only by the never-ending bounty of the Lord’s unfailing cup and all sustaining meal. In a real sense both are widows.

And when we look at London in light of Paris, Jerusalem in the light of Sidon, Park Heights in light of the Gospel, we see some interesting things.
In the tale of Two Widows we hear afresh a warning about practicing a piety that is only as long as our robes. I was recently at Sinai hospital—I was wearing my collar of course—and was about to get onto the elevator when a woman asked me to stop and pray for her mother. I have to admit I was in a hurry and my first inclination was to get on that elevator and back to my office to prepare this sermon. But when you’re dressed up like a Christian you should expect to be called on to pray, otherwise you’re just wearing long robes.
In the tale of Two Widows we are reminded afresh of the focus of our faith, for ours is a God of the Widow and our Messiah is the one who observes and takes note of the widow’s situation! The Park Heights Community-wide meeting was this last week Thursday, and there was a general sentiment amongst the local politicians that budgets are tight and some of their promises to lift our community out of her Widowhood are going to be once again postponed. And that’s why St. John’s is here—it’s the third line of our mission statement—to serve our community—for ours is a God of the Widow.
In the tale of Two Widows we are reminded that we are all beggars. No matter how much time, talent, or possessions we present to God—be we pastors or council presidents, on internship here or people planting their butt in a pew for the first time—we are all beggars.
In the tale of Two Widows we hear the prophetic words of Elijah even as we make them our own, “Be not afraid.” The economy improves, but jobs don’t seem to be coming back, the gun violence so common here in Baltimore has popped up on an army bases and in an Orlando office building. “Be not afraid!”
In the tale of Two Widows we are reminded that it is God who sustains us with our daily bread. In fact today the confirmation class will be learning about God’s love present to us in the sacrament of the altar—holy communion, that all sustaining meal and unfailing cup that we shall partake of shortly. God sustains us with our daily bread.
And so ends my tale of two widows.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Quote of the Day

"This division of the whole of reality into sacred and profane... creates the possibility of existence in only one of these sectors: for instance a spiritual existence that takes no part in worldly existence, and a woldly existence that can make good its claim to authority over against the sacred sector. The monk and the cultural Protestant... represent these two possibilities... We try to stand in the two realms at the same time, thereby becoming people in eternal confict, shaped by the post-Reformation era, who ever and again present ourselves as the only form of Christian existence that is in accord with reality."--Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics

Monday, November 02, 2009

Proof abandoned vehicles are bad

So, every day I drive Wabosh to Coldspring. For the last week there has been an abandoned car just smack dab there in the right lane. I've seen the cops messing with it, but no one has taken the initiative to move the darn thing.
Today there was a smashed van abandoned behind the abandoned car.
I guess that proves entropy is alive and well in city maintenance.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

One man's cultural holiday is another man's child abuse

"Tehran, 1979: As Kamen wrote in 2005, "On Nov. 4, 1979, just a few days after Halloween, militant Islamic students took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Various parts of the embassy were still decorated with ghosts and goblins and other scary stuff. So when the hostages were taken to a room with decorations, the Iranians asked what this was all about. One hostage explained, apparently closing the culture gap. "You do this to your children?" a confused militant asked."

If your faith kills widows it probably isn't faith

As I think about my sermon for next week I would draw my reader's attention to an article entitled "Widow's Mite, praise or lament," in Catholic Bible Quarterly issue 44 from 1982 on pages 256-265.
The author looked at all exegetical works he could find and noted that almost all of them assumed Jesus was praising the Widow and then went on to talk about tithing.
Then the author goes on and points out that isn't anywhere in the text. Jesus points out the poor widow has given more-- in fact she is giving her whole life to the temple. A little earlier he scourged the temple, right before this he said it was bad that scribes devour the houses of widows. Then the very next thing that happens is Jesus points out that the temple is about the be destroyed.
I'm just sayin', if your faith kills widows is ain't faith.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bonhoeffer objectifies a fool

"One feels in fact, when talking to him (the fool), that one is dealing, not with the man himself, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like, which have taken hold of him."--Dieti B.

Friday, October 23, 2009

"fashion" is absurd

While I'm stating the obvious am I the last person to find out Brett Favre is now a Viking?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Palin is Goldwater and Huckabee is Reagan

First off, no aspersion cast toward Barry Goldwater in this post.
I think that the cultural conservative movement that has built up around Sarah Palin will fail. It might energize the Republican base enough in 2010 to gain some seats, but if Palin runs for President, she's going to loose to a much better organized and competent incumbent, if she would even make it out of the primary.
That said a more eloquent and sophisticated (yes, I'm describing Huckabee in those terms... I know... I know) purveyor and popularizer of Palin-ism could make it in 2016.
Its like the dynamic between Goldwater and Reagan. Goldwater re-oriented his party greatly--into the party of small government, states rights (and all the horror that can entail), and militant anti-communism, and he got creamed in the general election.
From the eviscerated bones of Goldwater's platform and party Reagan communicated these same ideas in a more popularized form.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Quote of the Day: Andrew Sullivan

"If you want to switch churches, prejudice seems a pretty poor reason for doing so."--Andrew Sullivan.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A canonical reading of Psalms

So, as some folk know reading things in light of where they are in the canon is sometimes seen as a repudiation of textual criticism and part of a slippery slope toward literalism, fundamentalism, and ultimately primordial nihilistic chaos. Others simply think we've got these darn things in the order we do for a reason--because someone thought they made sense there.
Well, as I read the psalms in the morning and the evening I was recently struck by the placement of Psalm 88 and 89. Psalm 88 is kinda a downer, ending "My friend and my neighbor you have put away from me, and darkness is my only companion."
Then, the very next words we have, in Psalm 89 are, "Your love, O LORD, forever will I sing; from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness."
I guess, I like how these two psalms are placed one next to the other--the tension of abandonment and the promise that God will never abandon the house of David is kind of beautiful.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My first sermon at St. John's: A Child Called It

A Child Called It

Today we find Jesus back on his home turf, Galilee, and in his home city, Capernaum. There he teaches the same message that he did last week in Caesarea Philippi. Last week we heard of Peter rebuking him for his description of the coming hardship, betrayal, death, and ultimate vindication of the Son of Man.
This week, it seems that the disciples get it. It seems like the disciples accept his message. It seems like they’ve learned their lesson.
But, it only seems this way. If we go on the way with them to
Capernaum, if we go down that road, we run into an argument. The
argument we find on the way was, “who is the greatest?”
Now, this phrase, “on the way” could be descriptive. In which case it is locating the disciples argument in space and time—they were on a road while arguing. Which is fair enough.
But when I look at this event on the page I note the location of this phrase, twice used, in quick succession. The first “on the way” and the second “on the way” practically rub up against one another like cricket legs. Their close quarters cause my mind to ruminate on this phrase’s significance.
And as I ruminate on this I find a similar phrase found in other
in Luke and Acts. “The Way” is used by other writers as a name for the followers of Jesus—“The Way” in fact was one of the earliest names used for Christians.
So, if we hadn’t noticed that those arguing about greatness were
disciples of Jesus that point is subtly re-enforced.
Simply put Christ’s calling to the cross and Calvary puts fear into the parts of the church that yearn for greatness. Luther once wrote, the cross,
“cures our desire for glory and power not by satisfying it, but by extinguishing it.” The disciples are afraid of their want and need for glory being extinguished!
Just as Jesus did not foretell his death on but one occasion, neither does he make this point but once.
So we move from cross and glory stood next to one another in order for cross to critique and extinguish greatness, to Christ’s words to all twelve of his disciples,
“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
And what would this look like?--what does this look like?—when we people of the way reject vying for greatness, reject firsting the first and lasting the last, reject being served. When instead we first the last and serve all?
Do we perhaps become more inclusive? Do we become more ecumenical—no longer being swayed by the glory of denomination?
Do we look past the divisions within the body of the ELCA created at churchwide? Do we look the divisiveness of churchwide straight in the eye?
Do we look outside our walls and quietly, yet with confidence born of our own struggle take our faith to the streets? Do we engage more deeply with those already inside our walls?
As most of you know I’m new here, so I don’t know what firsting the last will and does look like here at St. John’s.
But I do know Jesus goes on and gives us and the rest of his disciples a concrete example of the last—a small child.

Reading this example plainly our imaginations conjure up images of gentle Jesus welcoming a child.
Oh yes, a child—unfettered by fear, lopping through the Swiss Alps, blond hair tossed by a gentle wind, maybe a yak bleating in the background—a distant yodeler calling to say all is well, all is okay.
That ain’t what Jesus is talking about. This idealistic and idealized “Sound of Music” expression of youth that has permeated much of western culture—is a very new image of children—an image foisted upon modern minds by the Philosopher Jean Jaque Rouseau when, in 1762, he published his book Emile. In this book he recommended that everyone should move to a farm, unswaddle their children, and let them run around naked.
Yet Rouseau himself could not live up to his own ideal standards. Instead of raising his five children he had them all committed to an insane asylum so that he could get back to philosophizing.
I’m sure this insane asylum was a brutal playground for Rouseau’s children. I also feel that the image of a child in an insane asylum more accurately portrays the life of the child who Christ embraced.
Look with me at verse 36 in todays gospel. You will notice the child is not referred to as he or she. Instead the child is an it. An object, not a person but a child called it.
In the ancient world infant mortality was a constant—kids died all the time. So there was no sense in assigning name or gender to a child until you were sure it would live.
Further, within Roman culture the first year of a child’s life was… sort of a trial run. The child lived at the whim of the family patriarch—the pater familias.
It is for this reason that there are so many ancient stories about “foundlings”—children taken from their home by their father… or more often by their father’s servant, and left out in the wilderness to starve or succumb to the elements. Oedipus—that famous man who killed his father and married his mother did so because he had been left out in the wild, but survived, and therefore knew neither his mother nor his father. The founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were said to have survived their abandonment by being taken in by a she-wolf.
And I think anyone who has gone through high school PE knows that even today there is still as much “insane asylum” involved in being a child as there is Rouseau’s nude yodeling in the alps.
I know that growing up with a heart condition childhood wasn’t a bed of roses. I felt like I was the doctor’s personal pincushion. When the doctors would rattle off statistics about my likelihood of survival I often felt like Han Solo from the movie Star Wars—stuck in some impossible situation as C-3P0 announced, “The odds of survival are 725 to 1.”
I don’t think this anxious, existential, insane asylum aspect of childhood is unique to me.
I think about my first walk around the neighborhood. Mother Glenna, Deaconess Jane, and I were hanging out with the men who throw horseshoes after work and a young man darted by us all. Then a police helicopter appeared in the sky. Then police cars and a paddy wagon zoomed up Pimlico Road.
By the time the three of us got to where the commotion was the cops had one of the young men Mother Glenna knows well subdued on the sidewalk—because he had been fiddling with the motorcycle abandoned by the shooter. I imagine being on the receiving end of the cops like that makes you feel like an it.
Even today there is an essential itness to childhood.
And Jesus embraces the its of the ancient world on many occasions. Jesus is really serious about interacting with and helping children. In Mark’s gospel alone Jesus—Told Jairus’ little girl, thought dead, to “get up.” Jesus threw the Syrophonician woman a crumb by ridding her child of a demon. And in the verses just previous to today’s exchange about welcoming “one such child” Jesus, to a father’s cry of “I believe, help my unbelief” makes a son to stop seizuring, to speak, and to stand up!
And this is something his disciples continued. We were known in the ancient world for our ethic toward the least of these—the orphan, the widow, the sick, the lame, and the child. We were known for our stand against infanticide. In fact, this Christian tendency to be tender toward children, was noted by of all people Karl Marx, who analyzed religion in general and concluded it was simply poor people responding to their oppression, once wrote, “We can forgive Christians much, for they taught us to love our children.”
And even today this ethic of service to the least of these is still alive in Christ’s body, the church. It is manifest in the Roman Catholic position on abortion and the Unitarian’s OWL program. It is found in Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries. The ELCA’s Malaria initiative and the hunger appeal.
And even here in this church, here at St. John’s, we follow Jesus. Between the programs run across the street at the Pimlico Road Arts and Community Center and the Pimlico Road Youth Program down the street next to Holy Nativity over 200 children from the community are being cared for—are being embraced by this Christian community.
For that matter I’d imagine being hungry, and being addicted, both can carry a certain stigma—and can lead to a certain amount of it-ness. And we are ministering to that reality too, with our food pantry and the NA meetings that go on in our basement daily.
Isn’t this a wonderful expression of the ELCA’s motto, “God’s work, our hands.”
In serving the “its” the stigmatized and disempowered, “a child such at this,” we are doing a great thing. But let us press a little deeper, maybe connecting Jesus’ words about how in doing this type of welcome we are in fact welcoming him, and in welcoming him welcoming God—connecting them to his words about his own death.
Jesus is saying we find God in the it! This is the very definition of “Theology of the Cross.” Finding God in the last place we would look! The eternal subject, the creator of all objects, is found as, and in, an it!
God is found in the tentative, weak, fleshy, person of a child—a child called it, it the son of Mary. It, this son who points to his coming death. It this man dead on a cross!
Oh yes, the itness of Christ, “cures the desire for glory” extinguishing it that he may “exult us in his mercy, giving us a home.”
In the cross we are stripped of any pretention and this image of God as it, as child, is flipped as it is revealed to us. At the foot of the cross we are moved from despair about our own itness into confidence in God’s mercy and solidarity with us.
Not only am I entertaining God by welcoming a child called it—I also become that child—taken in by God, held in the weakness of his mighty grace, embraced not because I earned it, not because of any merit of my own, but because that is the thrust of God’s heart!
And because of this I can not help but sing:
He’s done so much for me, I can not tell it all.
He washed my sin away, I can not tell it all.
He walks and talks with me, I can not tell it all
He gave me victory, I can not tell it all
I can not tell it all, I can not tell it all
Amen and Alleluia.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

All the King’s Men 1949—All the King’s Men 2006

Well, I’ve watched both versions of one of my favorite books, All the King’s Men. The newer one is of course prettier and more stylized, but I would say the 1949 version is more faithful to the book.
Further what is at stake for the characters is more clearly apparent in the 1949 version. You can see how goodie-two-shoes Willie Stark became the corrupt and philandering man he became. Further, the pain caused by his philandering, both to his wife, Lucy, and to his personal assistant, Sadie, who he first cheated with, is much more apparent. True, we don’t get to see Stark’s dalliance with the stripper on skates as we do in the 2006 version, but we do get to see Sadie’s grief over being rejected and replaced by Willie on account of her looks.
Overall I would say the 1949 version gets the story right. It does not just focus on Willie and Jack’s relationship (the point of view character and Willie’s muckraker), but on the myriad of emotions and drives of all the characters.
The only superiorities of the 2006 edition are the foreshadowing of violence by “sugar boy,” Willie’s hired gun, the inclusion of Jack’s question about Willie winking at him when they first meet, and highlighting the Judge’s affinity for model catapults and other ancient projectile weapons.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The testimony of a traditionalist who is not leaving the ELCA

David Yeago: In the Aftermath

Reflections Following the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly


I’m writing for those who share with me the conviction that the actions taken by the Assembly on human sexuality constitute a theological, ethical, ecclesiological, and ecumenical disaster of immense proportions. I’m not going to make the case for viewing those actions in that way; that has been done repeatedly and very capably by others in the debates that preceded the Assembly. I am writing for those who are already convinced, whom I will call traditionalists....

Click the link, read the whole thing, its pretty good.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My Baltimore Baptism

Well, when I realized I was coming to B’more I prayed to God that I would be shaped and changed by my experience here. Prayers are being answered I suppose.
So far I’ve seen the aftereffects of a shooting and the massive show of force by the police that followed (including what nearly was the wrongful arrest of a youngster), and the further alienation of the neighborhood toward the cops that followed. I’ve turned a man away from the church doors who was asking for money. And now I’ve been mugged less than 12 feet from my apartment.
One of my parishners said it best, “this is your Baltimore Baptism.”

I just got mugged

About all I know right now. Kinda sucks.

a correlation a cause does not make

Map A: A map of American vices
Map B: A Map of what denomination holds sway where.

Friday, September 11, 2009

When the personal is political the people perish

So we've got some nut jobs out there...
Tiller was killed because of abortion, Pouillon was likely killed for the same reason just on the opposite side of the issue.
Rep. Wilson acted like a twelve year old at a middle school assembly, people send out political "humor" and rumor that could be construed as hate speech.
I don't know, but one guess would be that it involves the way Americans have come to perceive themselves. They perceive some part of their self as a political thing. Our partisan identity and our personal identity have merged. What our party affiliation is impacts the soul. The personal is political and the political personal.
It would be downright stupid to kill someone because of an opinion they hold that is different than my opinion, but if this opinion is more than an opinion, if it is a shard of one's soul, then that's a different story. If I am a child of the light because I'm "blue" then those who are "red" are children of darkness.
Its like we've knocked apart the door between cosmology and ideology.
I don't know. I'm sure its always been like this and I'm just showing my naive youth, but seeing people killing and hating other people for any reason just digs into me in a bad way... and you all know I'm fairly partisan.

Apparently it is the parents who are smoking pot

More Americans over age 50 are smoking marijuana than ever before. Are my parents among them?
By Daniel Engber
At the time, Mom's question caught me by surprise: "Have you ever tried marijuana?" she asked, sloshing her coffee around in a mug as we stood together in the kitchen. My mind went blank. Could this be the fabled "drug talk" that parents are supposed to give to their teenage children? If so, why was I getting it at 30?
It turned out my mother was less interested in my drug use than her own. When I told her I'd smoked pot in college, and a bunch of times since, she took the news in stride. The thing was, she and my father were hoping to score some weed. Did I know anybody?
... and it goes on, ending...
My parents didn't seem perturbed by this doctor's warning. Nor were they put off by my cautionary tale about the 65-year-old grandma who'd recently been caught with 33 pounds of premium marijuana in the trunk of her car. I tried to nag them, but they were pretty mellow about the whole thing.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

What do you do with the Sob Story?

This evening a man came to the door of the church with a sob story and asking for 7 bucks for bus fare. He sounded legit, but I’ve heard a lot of people looking for certain amounts of money for bus fare, especially back in Eugene the homeless (and anarchist… coincidence? I think not) capital of the US.
Well, firstly I didn’t have 7 bucks on me, but secondly I wasn’t sure if he was legit. So I went in and explained the situation to the church musician. He saw the number one concern in that situation to be my safety (which is good sense).
So we went back out and all we could offer the man was a prayer.
Seems like weak sauce to me.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

My first prayers at St. John's

With the whole people of God in Christ Jesus, let us pray for the Church, those in need, and all of God’s creation.
Gracious Father, we pray for the Church universal. Fill it with all truth and peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in need, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it.
We pray especially for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as we struggle to remain faithful to you and to one another despite our clashes of conscience regarding the ordination of homosexuals in chaste and publically accountable relationships. Speak to us Lord your words Ephetha, that our ears may hear where those we disagree with are coming from and open our mouths that we may speak gracious and meaningful words to one another.
Lord in your mercy—Hear our prayer
Caster of creation, sculptor of worlds, we thank you for this planet and all living things on it, fish and fauna, creeping things and all kinds of creatures. For forests and plains, cities and barren places. We pray that we might be better stewards of our home here.
Lord in your mercy—Hear our prayer
King of Kings, we thank you for our elected leaders and we pray for them as they discuss sickness and health. May they act wisely and justly.
Lord in your mercy—Hear our prayer
Healer of our every ill we hear the magnificent images of wholeness in Isaiah’s description of his people’s return to the Promised Land. Yet so many in this city, this country, and this world can only say to you, “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And so we lift up their cries to you.
The cries of those victims of violence, of shootings and arsons. The cries of the unemployed, the homeless, the imprisoned, the sick, depressed, lonely, shut in, addicted, and mentally ill. The cries of those trapped by social and economic forces—the cries of folk whose countries are war zones and their governments repress and even kill them. Lord we lift to you all those in need.
Lord in your mercy—Hear our prayer
And Lord, at this time I ask this assembly to raise any concerns to you either aloud or in silence.
Into your hands, gracious God, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your mercy; through Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Dr. Timothy J. Wengert on a biblical foundation for the decision in Minneapolis

1] If there is one rule we need to follow in the wake of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, it is this: Do not break the eighth commandment (against false witness) in order to defend the sixth (against adultery and other sexual sins). Both those who supported the changes in policy and those who did not need to remember this. We must speak what we know and not cast aspersions on those who disagreed with us. Luther’s comments on the eighth commandment in the Large Catechism are helpful here. Even when forced by one’s office to speak out, one must not lie or distort the truth.

[2] In light of some implied (and explicit) attacks on the decision, however, it is also necessary to make one thing clear. The change in policy was grounded in Scripture. In fact, the calls for justice toward gays and lesbians in committed relationships and the recitation of examples of healthy same-gender relations, as important as these are to some folk, finally do not in themselves constitute a complete standard for changing church policy, since even calls for justice must for Christians be grounded in and normed by sound interpretations of Scripture as God’s Word for us....

And it goes on. I'd read it, Dr. Dubya is good folk, thinks things through,tries to be fair.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Cats... in sinks

Its good to know my cat isn't the only one who has a sink fixation. Seriously, if I'm in the bathroom she's either in the sink or the tub.
In other cat news I took Simul to the vet today, she was a hell raiser, took out half the veterinarian staff and got her ears cleaned in the process.
Oh, and the whole Vicar thing is going well so far. Right now I'm contemplating the role of the police in an inner-city context. More on that later.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A british take on Edward Kennedy

Chasing phantom “I am”s

I have recently been reading the Gospel of John and finding the phrase “I am” all over the place, as one should when reading John. Now I like the phrase “I am” that Jesus uses, because among other things it lets me go off on a riff/set piece about the Divine Name when preaching. So I look for this phrase.
Now in Greek the phrase is “Ego Imi.” The versions of this phrase that stick in my mind the most is Jesus’ “I am the bread of life” and his threefold use of this phrase at his betrayal in chapter 18.
As I was reading the passion account I noticed firstly Peter’s direct parallel to Jesus’ threefold use of this phrase at his betrayal, as he said, “Ouk Imi.” Then I noticed Jesus’ response to Pilate “Basileus imi”--you say “I am a king.”
Then I saw the phrase “I am thirsty.”
“Of course, even at Christ’s death he is proclaiming his divinity/lordship in the Gospel of John!” I said to myself. But when I looked up the phrase in Greek.
Jesus in fact says, “Dipso.”
All this to simply say its important to not get overly carried away with English translations of things. I remember a professor of mine telling me a story about going to a service where a pastor preached a whole sermon on a word that wasn't there in the Greek.
Sometimes our own theological/cultural lenses get in the way of the actual text. And sometimes we just want to be able to go off on one more “I am” riff in a sermon sometimes around Easter.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Two thought experiments

Well, as most of you know the ELCA has voted on a social statement on sexuality that, among other things, lifts Vision and Expectations exclusion of homosexuals in publically accountable monogamous relationships. I was at Churchwide Assembly, where this was voted on, as a visitor for the first couple days. I got a taste of the arguments that CORE and Lutherans Concerned were using.
With all that in mind I have two thought experiments:
1.What if we had been arguing these things in a homo-normative society about the inclusion of heterosexuals in the ministry? Think of all the examples of bad heterosexuals and bad heterosexual relationships in the Bible. I mean Solomon forsook his religion in the name of women. Ruth trades sex for status. Jesus said if you even look at a woman with lust in your heart you’ve committed adultery.
And you say you want these people as pastors? Not only that you want these people to… marry? To reproduce?

2. What would the argument look like if, in two years time, we try to re-bottle (re-closet?) this, that is undo the ministry recommendations? Would we use the same arguments? Would CORE talk more about personal experience and Lutherans Concerned talk more about the Bible? What would shift? Was this a Pandora’s box moment or an experiment?
I know a lot of folk seem to think progress is inevitable, that once something is normalized it is normalized permanently. I think people who think this haven’t read history. I think the progress of 2009 could be wiped out in 2011. Actions cause re-actions, etc.
At any rate, think about these things, and if something interesting comes up post!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I've arrived

Hello all. Its Chris, the wandering Scandinavian. I’ve recently
completed my 7,XXX mile drive from Philadelphia to Baltimore… by way
of Eugene Oregon. Along the way I managed to stop and see an old
roommate in Ohio, high school friends in Wyoming, pastors in Colorado,
Church friends in Montana, and a ton of Bishops in Minneapolis where I
attended the first three days of the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly.
Additionally, I picked up a cute little hitchhiker in Wisconsin, no
not a new girlfriend (though that would have been nice), but a little
black and brown barn kitten I have named Simul—short for the Lutheran
phrase “Simul Justus Et Pecetor,” at the same time saint and sinner.
I start my internship at St. John’s Lutheran Church on Tuesday. I’m
pretty excited. So far I’ve met two members of my intern council and
had dinner with them. They both seem nice. I’ve unpacked and am kitty
proofing the apartment, and that’s about it for me.
Hope this email finds you all well.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

And for those who think Scandinavians can't dance....

They're right. I start at minute 1:03.

To be fair to myself though I'd had a LOT of free Augsburg Fortress coffee.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

When all you've got is a hammer everything is a nail

So... its been a while since we've had an administration for which visible diplomacy was used. So I'm a little rusty, is what just happened in Myanmar and what happened in North Korea what traditional diplomacy looks like?
On a side note I wish Bill Richardson had swept in and got me out of this Motel Six last night... heck I'd have settled for Dennis Kucinich.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Is Russia a great danger?


So my friend Kevin and I were talking about how we're "writers" who never write. So in order to fix that we gave one another writing prompts and wrote.
Here was the prompt Kevin gave me:
The environmental movement has failed. The ecosystems of the Earth are tipping into chaos. Hurricanes, droughts and freak ice storms ravage the land. Only a small band of colonists on an experimental space station orbiting the Earth are safe, but their resources are thin. The future looks bleak, but somehow the diverse colonists from the dying Earth must find hope.
And my 30 minute free write (please forgive me the cursing--when earth is dying and people aren't acting as expected I allow for some cursing):
“I can’t go on.”
Teresa looked up from her pillow, “Fuck you Frank. Fuck fuck fuck. I thought you’d be the last person to experience The Sickness.”
“Why? Because I grew up out here? Out here alone on a space station? Is that why I shouldn’t care that The Earth is dying?”
Teresa sighed and pulled herself out of the small Wall-Cot the two had shared that night. She wrapped her arms around Frank’s chest. He was wearing a white wife-beater—it had been washed often enough that it was a few shades darker than the interior of his Living Pod-- and boxers with little green space men with cowboy hats on them.
“I really can’t. Mom told me stories of The Earth, everything we learned from our virtual classes was based around the assumption that my generation would eventually leave Nimbus. Time is based off of Pacific Standard.” he was crying, his words came out elongated by the intake of his breath, “It’s like heaven to me. Its like heaven is eating itself because the angels rebelled.”
Teresa hugged him tighter. She ran her fingers through his short spiky black hair. “Frank. Frank, earth is… well its dying. Its as good as dead. And what you cry for as an angelic reality the rest of us see as… as home. My sister was in Tampa when Hurricane Thomas leveled Florida. My mom and dad might or might not be alive after the freak scorching of the great plains… I should be the one with The Sickness. I should be the suicidal one—trying to throw myself out a space lock to get home… to die with the rest of our kind.”
Frank pulled away from Teresa’s ever tightening embrace, “You’re the captain Teresa, you can’t break down. I just serve slop three times a day. My Earth, the one escape from Nimbus, is gone. The best I can ever hope for is serving re-processed food to your crew.”
“I don’t have time for this,” Teresa turned away from Frank, so he wouldn’t see her tears. She picked up her zuite-suit style uniform off the glowing white floor, stepped into the silver leg holes, pulled, and the uniform zipped itself up into one whole cloth uniform.
“Pod nine, open,” she said. It complied, every commandable part of Nimbus was auto-locked to Teresa’s voice.
She walked passed the doors to the twelve other pods in the Male quarters. Three, Four, and Seven were empty, their occupants had succumbed to The Sickness. Randal and Nate had both thrown themselves out of space locks. Tanisha had managed to snag Randal with one of Nimbus’ collection arms. He was stored in a freezer. Nate was floated away—slowly toward the blue orb that he called home—even as it’s ecosystem destroyed itself. She didn’t even want to think of how the ship’s botanist, Alphred Whitecliff had killed himself.
She returned to the Female quarters. Only one of the pods was empty. Alice had been Nate’s lover.
“Captain’s pod, open,” The pod to Teresa’s left swooshed open and the floor and walls began to glow.
She entered, pulled out her Wall-Desk and Wall-Chair and sat down. “Close door.”
“Any messages?”
“Two messages Captain.”
“Message one. Captain Dartanian, this is Commodores Perry and Wilson. We have some… rather bad news. After the destruction of the Southern United States and Northern Mexico by Hurricanes, Althea, Thomas, and Winston congress was dissolved by President Barnheart. The European Union and the Russian Confederacy have contacted the two of us and are asking us to join them in an attempt to stop this grab for power. We are about to declare the United States Space Fleet as an enemy of Barnheart’s tyranny.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

And the children shall guide thee

Well, even as the adults of the ELCA prepare to descend on Minneapolis and get grouchy and self-righteous about inclusivity/purity let us pause and look at what our youngin's did in New Orleans.
A few" quotes:
"We're humbled. Humbled at their generosity. Humbled at the sight of so many young people traveling so far to do so much hard work during their summer vacation. Humbled that the "Katrina fatigue" felt by so many Americans was replaced, for a few days, with an enthusiasm even some of us find hard to muster some days. Regardless of your faith, or lack thereof, these excited young volunteers were an inspiration, and just one of them accomplished more good than all the preachers and politicians in the world who saw Katrina as either perverse justice or crass opportunity."
"How do you thank someone for helping rebuild your city? It's a question with which we've all wrestled during the past four years, and the answer is: You can't.But the simple act of buying a stranger a breakfast said "Thank you" in myriad ways: Thank you for coming. Thank you for caring. Thank you for your sweat and your optimism, for your curiosity and bravery in traveling to a place so unlike your own home. And, when many in the rest of the country seem to have "gotten over" Katrina and can't understand why we can't, perhaps the real message was: Thank you for not forgetting."

Christopher Hitchens gets all sentimental

Monday, August 03, 2009

Simul Joy Halverson

Well, as some of my readers know I'm a dog person. I got a poodle, woofer, when I was very young and a had a yorkie-poodle, Baby, from 4th grade until a year after I graduated college. I tell people I was raised by a yorkie-poo, my parents called Baby my sister... so understand I'm a dog person.
Two weeks ago I was in Wisconsin with my good friend Kate, we were driving back from Dave's Falls and saw a sign for free kitties. We stopped, because Kate likes kitties. One of them, a little black kitty with blond/brown markings started following me around, headed toward the car when we started to go... And it did the irresistible puppy(kitty I suppose) eye thing. So unfair... Then I did the dumbest thing I've done in a while, I named the thing.
And so... well, I'll let someone else tell the story (from Kate's email):
I talked Chris into getting a kitten instead of another little dog that a 15yo blind cat missing a leg could beat up. He found one when he was here and named it Simul Justus et Peccator which is Latin for simultaneously being a saint and sinner (can you tell he's a big Lutheran dork?). He got confirmation from the people in charge of his housing in Baltimore this year to have a pet and today I went back to the house w/the free kittens and picked up little Simul for him. She's spent most of the evening hiding under the TV cart sleeping on top of all the electronic spaghetti, but I thought you'd like a picture anyway. There are some adjustment issues w/the 3 kitties right now, but they'll have to deal until Chris comes back through in a couple of weeks. She's very cute! And likes to cuddle and purr.

So I present to you dear readers Simul Joy Halverson:

Sunday, August 02, 2009

700 dead in Nigeria

The variety of local extremism pushing against the global status quo--nation state etc is strange. I wonder if linking extremists ala "War on Terror" is helpful or not. Seriously, I tend to prefer taking on extremists on a case by case basis--more police actions less military interventions, but the broadness of these movements--local yet popping up in many locations--makes me just wonder how all of this should be thought about.
If we lump all islamic extremists/practitioners of terror together and deal with them the same we loose the advantage of being able to play them off of one another and give them a nation state like status. Any action any where can fall under the banner of Bin Laden, he becomes prime minister of terror.
On the other hand the global nature of this thing does indicate that what is going on is not just a bunch of local grievances being expressed through violence.
A few thoughts. Fewer answers.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

People of color and colorful people

So, I’ve been on the road for 18 days now. I’m in Eugene Oregon, where I did my undergraduate.
I remember back to first coming to Eugene from Cheyenne. It was a study of night and day—going from a dry brown/grey conservative Wyoming town to a wet bright green radical college town. One of the things that struck me at the time was how much racial diversity there was/seemed to be compared with Cheyenne.
As I passed through Cheyenne last week I noticed a few more non-white folk than I remembered from growing up—not a lot more, but a few.
Now that I’m in Eugene I can’t say the same thing. There doesn’t seem to be any more racial diversity here than last time I was here. In fact, I looked around the U of O campus a few times and said to myself, “man there’s a lot of white folk here.” Eugene may have cornered the market on colorful people (e.g. Frog—the itinerant joke book salesman), but does not seem to have done quite as well with people of color. I bring this up because Eugene and the U of O pay great lip service to fostering diversity of all types, including race.
I’ll be interested in reading census figures when they come out in 2010 to see if my brief subjective perceptions have any founding in statistical objective reality. I wonder if racial diversity has grown more in Eugene Oregon or Cheyenne Wyoming since the last census.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

He's traveling on

Well, for those of you not on facebook you might not know what's what.
I've got 34 (33 now) days between leaving Philadelphia and internship in Baltimore. So I decided to take the long route between the two cities--going through Eugene Oregon on the way.
Today I'm in Toledo--tonight in Chicago. If Luthermatrix is a little barren for this time you know why.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Kindle

So I've looked at the kindle every now and again and thought about buying one. To have as many books as I wanted all stuck on one little light weight screen sound really awesome. The main problem I have with it is that I already own TONS of books, and they aren't transferable to the kindle. In other words I have already invested a lot in "dead tree" form media.
Also you can't buy "used" electronic books. So kindle books will always cost the same, give or take.
Just a thought as I avoid finishing my last paper before internship.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Two unfortunate quotes to introduce the Methodist-Lutheran "Full Communion"

"We're all trying to get to heaven, so I see no problem with Lutherans helping us out,"
"Members said their biggest adjustment is Strommen's "Lutheran style" of prayer. She often turns her back to worshippers to face a large cross.

So Methodists are under the impression they can earn their way into heaven with a little help from their friends. Lutherans act as stale pre-vatican two priests... doesn't sound like putting our best feet forward.
That said "To have a Lutheran congregation of six and a Methodist congregation of four in a town of 200 is plumb stupid."
Last week TEY worshiped at a methodist church here in Susquehanna. It was a contemporary service, the pastor preached about freedom, mentioning--knowing a cadre of Lutherans had joined him-- "As we know Christian Freedom is pretty important to Lutherans too." It was a really good sermon--if it had been given at Tabernacle he would have got a lot of Amens. The main complaint of the scholars was that the pastor dressed "like a magician." In other words he was wearing a very snappy vest instead of vestments. I didn't really like the music--felt a little too much like "Jesus is my boyfriend" music, but I'm sure a contemporary Lutheran service would look much the same.
And that's about all I know about Methodists right at this moment. I have to go and lead morning worship.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

What if the whole Neo-con thing is working?

Hitchens supposes that the current fight for democracy happening in Iran could be based on Iran having Iraq as its democratic neighbor. The despotic dominoes that would start falling in the name of democracy once a representative government was established in Iraq are now falling. In a sense America wasn't wrong for invading Iraq for this reason (of course if you remember that wasn't the reason we invaded Iraq) only impatient.
Key Quote:
"They have seen the way in which national and local elections have been held, more or less fairly and openly, with different Iraqi Shiite parties having to bid for votes (and with those parties aligned with Iran's regime doing less and less well). They have seen an often turbulent Iraqi Parliament holding genuine debates that are reported with reasonable fairness in the Iraqi media. Meanwhile, an Iranian mullah caste that classifies its own people as children who are mere wards of the state puts on a "let's pretend" election and even then tries to fix the outcome."

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Jesus and the multi-verse… or “Varieties of Jesus versus the Consistency of God”

So right now I’m a mentor for TEY (Theological Education with Youth) a really cool program of the ELCA that engages young adults on a high theological level. The event I’m mentoring is “Summer Academy” where our scholars (the young adults) study college level courses for two weeks at Susquehanna University. The mentors get to sit in on the classes!
One of the classes deals with science and religion. We’ve been dealing with quantum mechanics and “Multiverse theories.” One of these theories posits there are a near infinite number of universes based upon the idea that (I may be botching this—I’m a mere bible student after all) we can only know the probability that an electron is in any one space at any one time and therefore it is possible that electrons are in all these probable places at once, just in different universes.
The implication of multiple universes, at least within some of these theories, is that near identical versions of us are doing near identical, yet perhaps different, things in these alternate universes (think “Sliders”). Some of these differences are small, maybe even non-existent, others are large—think super-intelligent grasshoppers.
So my question related to all of this is whether slightly different Jesuses could still save the world (worlds?). Could there be a world in which Jesus is fallen? CS Lewis posits a soteriology in which a Narnia world is saved by a Lion version of Jesus—Aslan. In another work he wonders if our world alone experienced “The Fall.” Yet it still bothers me—what of a world in which Jesus was beat by Joseph as a child and goes all Alexander the Great on us? A world where Mary was never born? A world where Judas never betrays Jesus?
If there are near-infinite variations of universes for electrons to be reside in within the bell-curve of possible electron movement, which leads to a near-infinite histories/lives it is possible Jesus the man would be “passed over” (I know this isn’t orthdox language—in fact it is rather adoptionist, but dealing with this type of speculation I think it is appropriate) as Child of God? Would God come in another form or person? Save in a different way? As Judas or Paul, Buddha or Muhammad, Joan of Arc or Steve Jobs? (on a side note I’d feel more comfortable with an Aslan or even a grasshopper savior than a non-Jesus human… I imagine that speaks to my own biases in some way)
Or, do we assume that the once-for-all-ness of Christ’s atonement in our universe is cross-universal? That seems rather like navel-gazing—imperialist even—but I’m not sure.

A new look and new links

Well, I found out that a few of the blogs etc. I've linked to in the past are dead or extremely different than when I originally linked to them. Thus I've weeded out some links and added others to better reflect that which I find on the internet that engages my intellect.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

protestors "winning" but I'm not convinced

Check out the above amazing link--protestors beating back riot police. At the same time I'm still skeptical and think this will end up like the monks in Burma.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Today is going to be a bloody day in Iran

I think post-Friday prayers things are going to get ugly. Andrew Sullivan is keeping track of what's what there.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hmmm... I don't know what to make of this

According to the website
"Born Again American is committed to the rebirth and re-expression of citizenship through informed and thoughtful activism. It is an initiative of Declare Yourself, a national non-partisan, non-profit (501(c)3) organization dedicated to increasing young voter participation and civic involvement. Declare Yourself’s on-line voter registration tool has been used by almost four million people since 2004. Declare Yourself grew out of the 2003’s Declaration of Independence Road Trip that toured an original 1776 copy of the Declaration to schools, town halls, and other locations all over the country."
Sounds interesting, the music was fairly compelling and diverse. They seem to be against outsourcing, beyond that it is fairly unclear.
Take a look.

Friday, June 12, 2009

President Obama can't get a break

Remember all those rumors that Obama was a manchurian candidate--a closet muslim intending on taking America down in the name of islamo-fascism... well now he's being accused of being a manchurian candidate--intent on taking America down in the name of the Jews!
Sigh. I think our president represents "otherness" to some folk, and the bias of what is behind said "otherness" comes out in conspiracy theories.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

In case you missed the "Semi-Arian"

The link sends you to the April fools edition of the Seminarian. I did a few of the articles. I was fun to write. Fun to read... so read it!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A faithful meditation on torture

In light of the release of information about interrogation techniques used against suspected terrorists discussion of torture has re-emerged in the public sphere. I believe the voice of religious faith deserves to be heard regarding this issue. I can speak only as a young Lutheran seminarian, but let me speak.
One of the cries of Martin Luther, my faith’s namesake, was “Sola Scriptura” by word alone. The word from Christian scripture that continually comes up for me regarding torture, and the current construction of a “clash of civilizations,” are the words of Jesus, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
Another concept dear to us Lutherans is “vocation,” that is an understanding that what we do, what our work is, is sacred—a pastor’s vocation of word and sacrament should be as spirit filled as the vocation of a prison interrogator. Determining the sacredness of one’s calling is not a simple task. We must ask what the effects of our actions and the effects of the absence of our actions would be. If a “dirty bomb” is stopped from going off in Sydney Australia because an interrogator water boarded someone is that holy? After all preservation of life is highly laudable.
As far as my own personal piety I turn my eyes to the cross, which the man who I believe to be the incarnation of God died upon. We tortured Jesus and the approved Roman means of torture, and ultimately, execution killed him.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer—a theologian who attempted to kill Hitler, an act the rightness of which is still debated and could likely shed light upon acts of violence done for a greater good—said after Kristallnacht that only those churches who wept for the Jews deserved God’s grace. Echoing this I believe if I was not horrified by torture and did not see a glimmer of Jesus in the eyes of a Muslim man put in a stress position I could not call myself faithful.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I think Obama is wrong on this one

It isn't that I want our troops to be in greater danger... obviously. That said these pictures are of actions committed in the past, thus I believe owning up to this past will in fact create less danger for our troops in the present. Transparency about our wrong actions is a strong Mia Colpa that could indicate to people in Afghanistan and Iraq that we take our mistakes seriously and we intend to do the right thing...
Lets look at it from the angle of a potential insurgent. You've been taken over, you've not had consistent electricity for a long time, the toppling of the dictator didn't make things utopians. These westerner soldiers have been controlling your country for too long now. You've seen some torture pictures from Abu Girab (sp), you've heard about people flushing the word of God down toilets like its poop.
Then those who occupy your country elect a new guy, one who claims to not want to continue occupying your country. You pause and reflect waiting to see if this is for real.
He begins to open up about the use of torture. That seems good to you, maybe his other claim, that he really IS trying to get our of your country, is true. Then all of a sudden he decides not to show these pictures of torture... he reverses himself! Then you start to think, perhaps he will reverse himself on this whole occupation thing too...
I don't know, I guess I should give the president the benefit of the doubt, but to me it seems like a flip-flop and an indication to the world that we're maybe not as confident in rule of law and the idea that the truth will set us free as we should be and often claim to be.

The church I'll be doing my internship now has a working website!

So here, in all its glory, is St. John's on Pimlico Road!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The ship my mom would have been serving on

So the swine flu has become a little more real to me. Because of a Swine Flu outbreak on the USS Dubuque my mom likely won't be heading up a medical mission--or at least won't be doing so on that ship.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sermon: Of Sheep and Shepherds

This was my last sermon at Tabernacle, which I preached today.
Of Sheep and Shepherds

Today we hear a portion of Jesus’ last public teaching, as recorded in the Gospel of John. It is a confession of sorts, a confession of who he is. But in order to confess, one needs a crime or a cause. This kind of thing is sort of a double movement, from infraction to admission.
So what kind of crime did our Christ commit? To gain the background to today’s reading we need to go back quite a ways. This is because the Gospel of John relishes long discourses about the nature of spiritual matters. Back in chapter nine a blind man was given sight by Jesus and the religious leaders of the time question the nature of this miracle, they ask the blind man and his parents to bear witness to what has happened and eventually call Jesus onto the carpet. And so Jesus confesses who he is.
And this double movement from crime to confession, healing to announcement, is not unlike Peter and John’s actions outside Solomon’s Portico as found in our reading from Acts—For they too had healed a man “Lame from birth,” and then were questioned by the religious authorities. They wanted to know how such a thing was done. Peter and John state clearly that Jesus Christ is the center of salvation—that the rejected stone has become that which holds up the whole building.
Likewise the confession of Jesus is this: “I am the good shepherd.” Previous to this statement he had made similar pronouncements, “I am the bread of life” “I am the light of the world” and right before today’s reading “I am the gate.” These “I am” phrases are bold pronouncements. They are phrases found on the lips of Jesus only in the Gospel of John. A gospel, as I said, very interested in inquiring about the deep and spiritual nature of the events surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. It is most probably the last of the gospels written, written after a time had passed, after the author had had time to reflect extensively on the reality of Jesus and the events portrayed in the three other canonical gospels. And so I believe the weight of the words, “I am,” is entirely intentional.
What do I mean by this? What weight hangs upon the words, “I am?”
“I am” can be seen as a pronouncement of divinity. The etymology of The Divine Name, that is where The Divine Name comes from, is strongly linked to this phrase. When Moses is receiving his commission to free his people from the bondage of Pharaoh, he asks, in essence, “who are you?” And the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob answers, “I AM WHO I AM.” Only God has a reality without contingency. Only God is source of all that is. As is often pointed, out only God can say I am and put a period.
And if that was not enough Jesus is not only the “I am” but “The Good Shepherd.” Again this image evokes the divine. For example, in Ezekiel chapter 34 God is declared to be the true shepherd over and against the “shepherds of Israel” who have been feeding upon the sheep instead of strengthening the weak, healing the sick, binding up the injured, and seeking the lost.
And more to the point the psalmist wrote:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his names sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
This description of the LORD as shepherd is all-encompassing, as is the LORD’s providence. Because of God’s shepherding we can claim to want nothing. We can claim to be provided for as sheep. Yet this Psalm blows up that metaphor. It explodes it, reshaping what it means for the LORD to be a shepherd. Not only does the LORD pasture, lead, restore, and comfort, but the LORD also acts as a host to us the guests. In the ancient Near East if you are someone’s guests you couldn’t be troubled by anyone as long as you resided in the hosts house. This is why, for example, we see Abram and Sarai quickly bringing water to wash feet and fetching food for the three men who appear to them in Genesis 18.
Yet, perhaps I discard the root image of Shepherd too quickly, especially with regard to what it means about us. If the LORD is our shepherd, we are sheep. Now, I don’t know how many of you have experience with sheep, after all we’re kinda in the city here. In fact, it is very likely none of you here raise sheep in your spare time.
But it wasn’t so over in Saffron Walden, that tiny English town I lived in for a year. I’ll always remember Jane. She had greying to white hair and was always graciously offering me tea. She was the town post-mistress, but additionally she weaved with a loom, and had her own source of wool… her sheep.
I remember one time she let me meet her sheep. Now, when we think of sheep we often think of those white cotton-ball like animals we have children make as a Sunday school project. Yet when I met them in real life they were smelly, loud, and didn’t appear to be that smart. And if you look up the word Sheep in the Anchor Bible Dictionary it will affirm the experience I had with Jane’s sheep—it will tell you much the same thing. It says sheep are, “nonaggressive, defenseless, and in constant need of supervision.” That’s us, that’s humanity!
There was once a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon that describes us well. In it two sharks lay on the beach stuffed, like they’d just finished a Thanksgiving meal. One says to the other, “I can’t believe it, no horns, so claws. They’re like spam!” We’re like spam to the Devil and all his empty promises; we’re easy prey, we’re vulnerable, we’re easily led astray. And that’s why we need a Good Shepherd, to protect us from carnivores, to protect us from the wolves Jesus speaks of.
And there are some wolves out there—Sin, Death, and the Devil. Addiction, depression, and loneliness. Economic hardship at home and violence abroad—violence at home for that matter! New strains of flu, questions of torture, and temptations of all sorts.
And Jesus proclaims himself as the proper protector against these things saying, “I am the Good Shepherd.” He does this over and against the “hired hand,” who runs away. Now, most commentators take their cue from Ezekiel 34 where God is compared with the current leadership of Israel, and assume that these “hired hands” are the Pharisees that Jesus is talking to.
I don’t think we can be so quick to assume this. If this is forshadowing on the part of John, if he is pointing toward something that is going to happen in the future, we would then assume the Pharisees will run away sometime in this Gospel. But we know our gospels don’t we? Do the Pharisees run away when things go south? No. No, those that run away when the wolf comes are Jesus’ disciples.
Now, it is of no small consequence that I, on my last official Sunday here, am talking about the disciples, fleeing. I am in a sense fleeing here—a very orderly and expected fleeing—planned by the seminary from the moment I arrived here—but fleeing none the less.
Why do I bring this up? Because of some sort of repressed guilt at leaving Tabernacle? No, I just want to point toward Christ. I’m not the Good Shepherd—I don’t have the ability to lay down my life and take it up again—I’m just a hired hand—fleeing. I’m an impermanent fixture in the church—I’m fleeing. Whereas Christ is permanent.
For that matter Pastor Rogers isn’t the good shepherd, Bishop Burkat isn’t the Good Shepherd. Bishop Hanson isn’t the good shepherd. As today’s gospel is saying, even the disciples aren’t the good shepherd. Jesus is the good shepherd, for he lays down his life for his sheep.
That is not to say Christ’s actions, his laying down his life for his sheep, are not a model for us—all of us, not just clergy—for his actions are archtypical and exemplar. In the first letter of John he writes that we are to love one another as Christ loved us and so, “we ought to lay down our lives for one another.” Through the use of a rhetorical question he gives us an example of what it means for a Christian to lay down her life for another. He asks, “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuse to help?” Christ, in parables and miracles exemplified this self-giving love. In his story of the good Samaritan and in his multiplication of loaves of bread.
And today I can think of a few places where we can show love. Tabernacle is inviting in some new, and new-ish, members. Sisters and brothers show them love.
At the synod and national assembly when we’re discussing matters of human sexuality we ought to show love. Now I admit I’m a partisan on the side of full inclusion of gay-folk into the life of our church, but I still hear John’s words ringing forth to me and to the whole church. Lay down your life, don’t let your ego and your agenda get in the way of the love of Christ.
We ought to put the best construct on the motives of those brothers and sisters we disagree with. We ought to recognize they are acting out of their conscience just as we are. We ought to reside in love for one another, we ought to be constantly laying down our lives, we ought to be freely giving of all we have to one another, we ought to be healers of this world!
Of course ought does not imply can. As I said in my first sermon here we are at the same time both sheeps and goats, saints and sinners. We are sheeps and hired hands, all of us—we’re like spam.
We will fall short. But the good news is that as it is written in today’s epistle, “God’s compassion is greater than our hearts.” We are all sheep of the same fold, one flock of the same Shepherd. Christ has healed us, he has lay down his life for us and taken it back up again that we may not fear death, but live into eternal life in Him. He says to us, “I am the Good Shepherd.” And we say, “The LORD is our shepherd.”
Amen and Alleluia.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Mocking God?

According to some folk the video I made in my Dead Sea Scrolls class here at seminary, "constitutes a mockery of God's authority and righteousness."
I'm going to have to give that a think.

How the U of O feels about its rivals

Apparently we watched too many episodes of Braveheart.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The times they are a changing

Well, looks like Pontiacs are done and a lot of folk are going to lose their jobs.
We aren't out of this thing yet folk... not that many thought we were.
Sigh, I really like my Sunfire... and more importantly a lot of people liked being able to work to earn their living.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fun with Stats

I've not posted in a long time. Sorry about that... and now this post is less than intellectually rigorous... oh well.
So... taking a short view of history THIS describes the pirate killing tally of our current president compared with those previous. Taking a longer view of history THIS describes the pirate killing tally of Obama.
I admit in point of fact this kind of thing is rather morbid, especially if you think of pirates as third world folk for whom piracy is the only good way to make a living... Such is the culture we live in. Such is the way we define the other.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Maybe some Justice for Darfur

The International Criminal Court has finally put out a warrant for the arrest of Omar al-Bashir. They are charging him with war crimes and crimes against humanity. However they are not charging him with Genocide.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Kitten Found Stuffed Inside Marijuana Bong

This is just plain stupid.
"Kitten Was High-Strung" Owner Allegedly Told Officers.
“The cat appeared to be very lethargic, somewhat in a sleeping state,” Jarrett said.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

This happened two block from my church

Scary stuff.

"Nazis" 0 Hitchens 1

I never know how to take Christopher Hitchens. I read his "Love, Poverty, and War" a couple of years ago. The essays were filled with a matter of fact radicalism that is both appealing and appalling.
The latest news about him that I'm linking to tells of him tagging a Syrian Social Nationalist Party commemorative plaque and then getting assaulted and escaping the assault. A very Hitchens thing to do.

Civility in Parlament

Anyone who has watched the thrashing MPs put one another through will appreciate the tenderness with which G. Brown gives condolences to his opponent.
My own thoughts and prayers go out to the Camerons.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Transfiguration Sunday sermon

This is the sermon I preached this last Sunday, the names of congregation members have been removed.

Transfiguration Sunday sermon

Now, it is common practice, or so I’ve noticed, for preachers the world over to begin their sermon by mentioning how confusing, or bizarre, or mysterious the passage they are preaching on is. I think we do that to impress, to make sure that folk know what we do is challenging, to let you know we aren’t just making this stuff up. Yet, at the risk of falling into that pattern I have to say Transfiguration Sunday is a hard Sunday to preach on.
In fact, this Thursday I went to the seminary’s chapel because this text was to be preached on there. I was hoping to hear a sermon to clarify what exactly happened to Jesus on that mountain and what it means for us today. I expected the brilliant mind of a Wangert, or Gafney, or Heen to enlightened me about this text, to give me some sort of base with which to preach my own sermon today.
Yet, when it came time for the sermon something odd happened. Instead of a preacher three seminarians came out and danced for several minutes while holding candles—this liturgical dance somehow represented the transfiguration. Apparently even in that tower of theological learning nothing more profound could be said with words than could be said with waivering flames.
There is of course a traditional way of dealing with Christ’s transfiguration. In it the focus is shifted off of Christ and onto Peter… shifted onto his idea of making three booths, three tabernacles, for Jesus, Elijah, and Moses to dwell in. Peter is lampooned for this tabernacleing and told to get on down the mountain, to leave mountain top experiences behind. Then of course the congregation is told the same message. In essence, if I preached such a sermon today I would be saying, “Tabernacle, quit tabernacling, go down the mountain, go out of this church and into the community.” …And that wouldn’t be a bad sermon.
But being told to get off the hill when we are clearly in the valley makes no sense. The vocation of a preacher is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m afflicted.
I have a confession to make to all of you. In the last two weeks the number of funerals I have attended in my lifetime has doubled. Maybe I should have told Pastor Rogers about this fact, but I kept reminding myself that funerals are a huge part of one’s call to ministry and I need to get used to it. One pastor friend of mine has done three funerals in the last three days.
Now older folk, you know people over thirty, often come up to me and say things like, “Chris, you’re an old 25.” Or “Chris, because of the things you’ve dealt with in your life you’re the oldest 25 year old I’ve ever seen.” But I’ll tell you these last couple of weeks, reflecting upon the nature of the ministry God’s called me to, I’ve felt humbled, I’ve felt like a fairly young, inexperienced, 25.
This is not to say the services haven’t been amazing, because they have. The former mayor came and spoke about Mr. K, and at least as impressive in my eyes those that road Mr. W bus came to see him home. Lutherans from time to time talk about the importance of “vocation” and about “the common priesthood” how a father changing his daughter’s diaper is as holy as a priest performing a mass. And I believe these two men exemplified this in their lives.
Yet, I would still maintain we are afflicted. As Elisha lost Elijah so we have lost W and K.
Now when I say that you have to understand I’m not saying we lost them in a permanent sense, no more than Elisha lost Elijah in a permanent sense. As Pastor Rogers made very clear we don’t do funerals we do homecomings. Yet they aren’t physically here with us anymore, and that can be hard.
So my question today is what can Christ’s Transfiguration say to Elisha? What is the good word today for this prophet as he cries out, “My father, my father!”? What does it mean to those in mourning that God revealed His son on a hill?
In order to unpack the meaning of the transfiguration to Elisha I would first have to get him up to speed about the large movements of history that had happened between his time and that of Jesus. I would have to tell him the sad story of the Assyrian dispersion of the ten tribes of Israel, of the first destruction of the temple and the exile of the Judeans to Babylon. I would have to tell him of the return under Cyrus, the rise of Alexander the Great and how that brought a global culture to the Middle East. I would also describe for him the Maccabean rebellion against the Greeks and the subordination and occupation of his homeland under the Romans.
Only then could we begin to read this passage of the Gospel of Mark together. We would note together that Jesus takes his three disciples up a high mountain after six days. This would click in his mind as a similar situation to that of Moses in the 24th chapter of Exodus. There Moses dwells on Mount Sinai for six days under the cover of a cloud until the LORD shows up like a devouring fire.
Then Jesus is transfigured. That is, to be changed in form. The same word, as a noun instead of a verb, is found in that famous verse of Phillipians chapter 2, “Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” From that we can get an idea of what it means that Jesus was transfigured. For a moment Christ was filled with that which he had emptied himself of, the very form of God. And he was wearing a glistening garment whiter than any cloth seen before or since.
Now I have no experience seeing Jesus in his fullness, but I think I had an experience that contained at least a sliver of a shadow of similarity to the experience of Peter, James, and John.
About a month ago a friend took me to see the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. Now this musical has a special place in my heart. Growing up I probably watched the 1973 filmed version of it several dozen times. It wouldn’t be saying to much to say that that movie played a decent sized part in my spiritual journey. I would say I am as familiar with Tim Rice’s account of Jesus’ last days as that of Matthew or John.
So it was to my great surprise about a month ago that Ted Neeley, now 65 years old, the actor who played Jesus in that 1973 video that I watched all those times, was reprising his role right her in Philadelphia. No longer was his voice limited by TV speakers and his actions by the small size of my TV screen. He was there in flesh and blood. Likewise I believe, for the three disciples the Christ, for a moment, was present with them in an unlimited way.
An imperfect analogy for transfiguration I’ll admit, but you get the idea don’t you Elisha, the totality of Jesus’ Christhood appeared to those three disciples.
And then comes something that our prophet friend would find very interesting, Elijah and Moses appear! Elijah the preeminent prophet and Moses the Law Giver. So, Jesus, in his transfiguration, is surrounded by representatives of the Law and the Prophets—two thirds of Hebrew scripture.
Peter, in his astonishment, says something that even the author comments is done without thinking, done out of fear. He blurts out, “can I build three houses for you guys?” And perhaps Elisha can understand being overwhelmed by events; after all fiery chariots can be a surprise.
But if what has happened so far is overwhelming what happens next takes the cake. A voice from heaven, the voice of, as today’s psalm says, “The Mighty One” the one who’s voice summons the earth, who dwells in a tempest and devouring fire, the one that the heavens can not help but declare righteous, says, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”
This is not the first time these words have been used in this gospel, nor the last. At the start of Mark’s gospel, when he is being baptized by John, Jesus is told that he is God’s son, and at Jesus’ crucifixion the Roman centurion declares, “surely this is the Son of God.”
And I believe that is where this whole thing is going Elisha. I believe the transfiguration is pointing toward the cross. After all the event described previous to it is Peter rebuking Jesus for predicting his own death. The end of today’s lesson speaks of the Son of Man rising from the dead.
What I am trying to say is the unemptied, glorified, Christ appears to Peter and James and John in order to affirm the emptying of himself. Affirm his coming death. Affirm what kind of Messiah, what kind of Christ he is. To affirm the cross.
The cross, foolishness to the gentiles and a stumbling block to the Jews. It is written those that hang upon a tree are accursed, thus God’s anointed, God’s saving act, is accursed—a cursed messiah. And so we needed the shining moment of the transfiguration to not be shaken by Calvery, because Christ on the cross is God in the last place we’d ever think to look. And yet that’s exactly where God is.
And if we think about it that's been the way of things for a while. Those that have been coming to my Genesis bible studies know this. We looked at chapter 12 last week. Abram, in his cowardliness and fear of Pharaoh all but pimped out his wife Sarai. Sold into Pharoah’s court, not a place you’d expect God, yet God was there with her and protected her. Later Sarai throws out Hagar and Ishmael, leaving them in the desert to die. Not a place you’d expect God, yet God was there with them. Moses, a man raised in the culture of his people’s oppressors, kills a man and runs away. Not a place you’d expect God, yet God was there with him.
And I haven’t forgotten you Elisha, God was with you when you were in that barren city of Jericho,
provided oil aplenty to the widow, cured Naaman with common water.
And God has been in other unlikely places—with the shepherd boy David, on the ash-heap with Job, in the belly of a whale with Jonah, in a lion’s den with Daniel.
And you know he’s with us here too. He was with us when we buried Mr. W and Mr. K—yes a graveyard is a strange place, but Jesus has been there, and God is there. I remember the last time Mr. B preached he talked a little about his experience of heart surgery. Now Open-heart surgery is something he and I share, we’re both part of the zipper club. Operating tables and hospital beds feel like the last place we’d look for God, but He’s there!
You know some people don’t like communion wafers so much, they say they take too much faith. Not only do you have to believe Jesus shows up in bread and wine, but before that you have to believe the little wafer is bread. But it is in these common, unexpected things, bread, wine, water, and word that we find God.
And with that I come back to my original question: What can Christ’s Transfiguration say to Elisha as he looses Elijah? My answer is this. Jesus was transfigured not for glory but to testify to his dwelling amongst us. To testify to his life, death, and resurrection God’s promise fulfilled for us.