Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer #54 [Anticipated]

Let's look at the debits and credits associated with this particular pursuit.  In over fifty summers, I've sustained a damaged rotator cuff, torn thumb tendon, strained Achilles tendon, sprained ankle, simple orbit fracture, cracked palate, demolished molar [a surf board hit me in the side of the face; not my board, some teenager's], two black eyes [not at the same time], bloodied noses, sprained elbow, jellyfish stings, and forty-eight sixty stitches in various parts of me. Not to mention sunburn [although not since the early 80's], dehydration, ear infection, various minor abrasions, contusions, lacerations, and a profound sinus irritation. Oh, and a barracuda once gave me a dirty look.

One moment sliding diagonally across the face of a perfectly caught wave makes me want to do it all over again.

From The Dawn Patrol, by Don Winslow:

"The physicists call it a 'energy-transport phenomenon.'

The dictionary says it's 'a disturbance that travels through a medium from one location to another location.'

A disturbance. It's certainly that.

Something gets disturbed. That is, something strikes something else and sets off a vibrations. Clap your hands right now and you'll hear a sound. What you're actually hearing is a sound wave. Something struck something else and it set off a vibration that strikes your eardrum.

The vibration is energy. It's transported through the phenomenon of a wave from one location to the other.

The water itself doesn't actually move. What happens is one particle of water bumps into the next, which bumps into the next, and so on and so forth until it hits something. It's like that idiot wave at a sports event - the people don't move around the stadium, but the wave does. The energy flows from one person to another.

So when you're riding a wave, you're not riding water. The water is the medium, but what you're really riding is energy."

Good God, this is a must-read article:  Nuns host gnarly surfing contest in NJ  [BTW, no one actually says "gnarly".]

I'm Guessing That HBO Won't Be Shown In Australia

Aussies to be fined for swearing

The Visitation Of The Blessed Virgin Mary

Today's feast is remarkable for a number of reasons [as captured in Luke 1:39-56], however it is in a literary sense that I appreciate it this year.

The Visitation marks when Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptizer, and Mary, the Bearer of God, meet as kinswomen.  Elizabeth senses her son, John, still in utero, leap for joy at the occasion.  Mary thus offers what has become known as The Magnificat:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.
The literary aspect is found in this meeting's significance, as it is the moment when, figuratively speaking, the Older Covenant is introduced to the Newer Covenant within the developing context of scripture.  Elizabeth is aged and thought to be barren, but is pregnant with he who would be, in essence, the final prophet of the Older Covenant.  Mary may be as young as fourteen or fifteen, and carries in her he would bring us into the Newer Covenant.  Their three months together, with Elizabeth presumably teaching Mary the "womanly arts" that were passed through the generations by Jewish women, signifies that overlapping exchange that marks the connection between Judaism and its Christian expression. 

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

Another Doomsday Prediction [Secular Version]

Will Global Warming Make the Earth Uninhabital Within 50 Years?

What can we do to avoid this Doomsday?  Pray harder?  Nah, pay more taxes = Doomsday averted.  Yay!

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Divertimento For The Federal Holiday

From A Song For The Season, by Mark Steyn -

Memorial Day in America – or, if you’re a real old-timer, Decoration Day, a day for decorating the graves of the Civil War dead. The songs many of those soldiers marched to are still known today – “The Yellow Rose Of Texas”, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”, “Dixie”. But this one belongs in a category all its own:

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored…

In 1861, the United States had nothing that was recognized as a national anthem, and, given that they were now at war, it was thought they ought to find one – a song “that would inspire Americans to patriotism and military ardor”. A 13-member committee was appointed and on May 17th they invited submissions of appropriate anthems, the eventual winner to receive $500, or medal of equal value. By the end of July, they had a thousand submissions, including some from Europe, but nothing with what they felt was real feeling. It’s hard to write a patriotic song to order.

At the time, Dr Samuel Howe was working with the Sanitary Commission of the Department of War, and one fall day he and Mrs Howe were taken to a camp a few miles from Washington for a review of General McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. That day, for the first time in her life, Julia Ward Howe heard soldiers singing:

John Brown’s body lies a-mould’ring in the grave
John Brown’s body lies a-mould’ring in the grave…

Ah, yes. The famous song about the famous abolitionist hanged in 1859 in Charlestown, Virginia before a crowd including Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson and John Wilkes Booth.

Well, no, not exactly. “By a strange quirk of history,” wrote Irwin Silber, the great musicologist of Civil War folk songs, “‘John Brown’s Body’ was not composed originally about the fiery Abolitionist at all. The namesake for the song, it turns out, was Sergeant John Brown, a Scotsman, a member of the Second Battalion, Boston Light Infantry Volunteer Militia.” This group enlisted with the Twelfth Massachusetts Regiment and formed a glee club at Fort Warren in Boston. Brown was second tenor, and the subject of a lot of good-natured joshing, including a song about him mould’ring in his grave, which at that time had just one verse, plus chorus:

Glory, glory, hallelujah
Glory, glory, hallelujah…

They called it “The John Brown Song”. On July 18th 1861, at a regimental march past the Old State House in Boston, the boys sang the song and the crowd assumed, reasonably enough, that it was inspired by the life of John Brown the Kansas abolitionist, not John Brown the Scots tenor...as far as I know, this is the only song about a real person in which posterity has mistaken it for a song about a completely different person: “John Brown’s Body” is about some other fellow’s body, not John Brown the somebody but John Brown the comparative nobody. Later on, various other verses were written about the famous John Brown and the original John Brown found his comrades’ musical tribute to him gradually annexed by the other guy.

Sergeant Brown died during a Union retreat: when the enlistment of Colonel Webster’s Twelfth Massachusetts Regiment expired in July 1864, only 85 of more than a thousand men were left to return home to New England....Huge crowds in Boston greeted the survivors with cries to sing “John Brown’s Body” but, as one report commented, “the brave heroes marched silently to their barracks and the ‘Websters’ passed into history.”

When the lads from the Boston Light Infantry cooked up their John Brown song, they used an old Methodist camp-meeting tune, “Brothers, Will You Meet Us?” So where did that come from? Well, back in the 1850s, a Sunday school composer, William Steffe of Richmond, Virginia, was asked to go and lead the singing at a Georgia camp meeting. When he got there, he found there were no song books and so improvised some words to one of those tunes that – like most of the others in those pre-copyright days – was just sorta floating in the ether. Steffe’s lyric, like the original John Brown song, had one verse – “Say, brothers, will you meet us?” – and one chorus: “Glory, glory, hallelujah…”

And somehow this combination – an improvised camp-meeting chorus with an in-joke verse about a Boston Scotsman – became the most popular marching song of the Union forces, the one bellowed out as Sherman’s men marched through Georgia in 1864...But, whatever the tune’s origin, when Julia Ward Howe heard the song for the first time that fall day, “John Brown’s Body” was already famous. She loved the martial vigor of the music, but knew the words were “inadequate for a lasting hymn”. So her minister, Dr Clark, suggested she write some new ones. And early the following morning at her Washington hotel she rose before dawn and on a piece of Sanitary Commission paper wrote the words we sing today, casting the war as a conflict in which one side has the advantage of God’s “terrible swift sword”:

I have seen Him in the watchfires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps…

She finished the words and went back to bed. It was published in The Atlantic Monthly in February 1862. They didn’t credit Mrs. Howe and they paid her only four dollars.

Julia Ward Howe came from a distinguished lineage. Her forebear Richard Ward was Royal Governor of the British colony of Rhode Island and his son Samuel Ward was Governor of the American State of Rhode Island. Her husband, like his friend, the poet Lord Byron, had played an important role in helping the Greeks win independence from the Turks. Mrs Howe herself wrote many poems, Broadway plays and newspaper columns. But “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic” is her greatest achievement. Henry Steele Commager called it “the one great song to come out of the Civil War, the one great song ever written in America”.

Whether or not that’s true, most of us understand it has a depth and a power beyond most formal national songs. When John F Kennedy was assassinated, Judy Garland insisted on singing it on her TV show – the producers weren’t happy about it, and one sneered that nobody would give a damn about Kennedy in a month’s time. But it’s an extraordinary performance. Little more than a year later, it was played at the state funeral of Winston Churchill at St Paul’s Cathedral. Among those singing it was the Queen. She sang it again in public, again at St Paul’s, for the second time in her life at the service of remembrance in London three days after September 11th 2001. That day, she also broke with precedent and for the first time sang another country’s national anthem – “The Star-Spangled Banner”. But it was Julia Ward Howe’s words that echoed most powerfully that morning as they have done since she wrote them in her bedroom in Washington 140 years earlier:

As He died to make men holy
Let us die to make men free
While God is marching on.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day in Roxbury means at least a couple of things, from the fun of our very particular town parade to the quiet witness of small American flags sprinkled throughout the three cemeteries.  Below is the collect for today:

Lord God Almighty, who have made all peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and peace: Grant to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sometimes the old poetry teacher in me comes out, too.  Below, A.E. Housman's "Here Dead We Lie":
Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

[For Jeff and Scott, who were young; and for those of the 1/4th Marines who fought the good fight and kept the faith.  "Whatever It Takes."]

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Sixth Sunday Of Easter

This week we "beat the bounds" of our faith, learn to conjugate the verb rogare, and consider Paul's adroit moment with the Greeks at the Areopagus.

The lections may be found here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Virginia 2, Ohio 1, Connecticut 0

Amazon.com Reveals the Most Well-Read Cities in America

Gee, Thanks

VA changes position pastor's invoking 'Jesus' in public prayer

A few years ago I was asked to give the Memorial Day invocation at an auto race track [it shall remain unnamed].  The young person who issued the organization's invitation asked that I not mention God in my prayer.  Yeah, that didn't happen.

Well, This Is An Interesting Observation

Click here if you wish to read the entire article.

As the stunning and overwhelming response to Prime Minister Netanyahu in Congress showed, Israel matters in American politics like almost no other country on earth. Well beyond the American Jewish and the Protestant fundamentalist communities, the people and the story of Israel stir some of the deepest and most mysterious reaches of the American soul. The idea of Jewish and Israeli exceptionalism is profoundly tied to the idea of American exceptionalism. The belief that God favors and protects Israel is connected to the idea that God favors and protects America.

It means more. The existence of Israel means that the God of the Bible is still watching out for the well-being of the human race. For many American Christians who are nothing like fundamentalists, the restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land and their creation of a successful, democratic state after two thousand years of oppression and exile is a clear sign that the religion of the Bible can be trusted.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Crackpot Christians Aren't The Only Ones Predicting The End Of The World

Maybe it's just me, but there seemed to be an anti-Christian undertone to some of the excessive press coverage of the radio preacher who habitually predicts the end of the world.  To ridicule him was for some, by extension, an opportunity to ridicule all Christians.

Actually, predicting the end of the world seems to be a common activity, not to mention a frequent story topic in the media.  Courtesy of an Australian columnist, Tim Blair, here's a gathering of environmental predictions of Doomsday.  By the way, these sometimes come at a cost, in terms of raised taxes and strange, mandated light bulbs, as opposed to some crackpot on the radio whose ramblings are free.

Go to this page to find the highlighted links from which these dire predictions come.

• 1992:
There’s still hope for saving the planet from ourselves … 10 years left.

• 2005:
We can only have a few years left, maybe a decade, to change societal attitudes towards progress before we have “lit the fuse” for inevitable environmental catastrophe in later decades.

• 2006:
We may have as little as forty years left before global warming passes a tipping point.

• 2006:
Larry David says, “You know, Al is a funny guy, but he’s also a very serious guy who believes humans may have only 10 years left to save the planet from turning into a total frying pan.”

• 2006:
The world only has 10 years to develop and implement new technologies to generate clean electricity before climate change reaches a point of no return.

• 2007:
Scientists say eight years left to avoid worst effects

• 2007:
The scientific consensus is that we’ve got only ten years left to address global warming.

• 2007:
EU, US agree 15 years left to avert climate disaster.

• 2008:
We have only seven years left to peak global emissions before facing escalating dangers of runaway global warming.

• 2008:
The Stern Report said we’ve only got eight to eighteen years left to significantly reduce global emissions or risk costly and irreversible damage to the planet.

• 2009:
We have, at best, 100 left before a new, far more dangerous phase of global warming begins … With at best 90 months left on our clock.

• 2009:
Barack Obama has only four years to save the world. That is the stark assessment of NASA scientist and leading climate expert Jim Hansen.

• 2009:
Runaway climate change is almost inevitable without specific action to implement low-carbon re-industrialisation over the next five years. The point of no return is estimated to be 2014.

• 2009:
Tim Flannery, the well-known Australian environmentalist, was on CBC Radio the other day to issue more alarms about global warming. He was more pessimistic than ever. “It’s now or never,” he said. “We have about 20 years to address climate change or else our entire future is in jeopardy.”

• 2009:
Prince Charles flew to Chile yesterday with a dramatic message for world leaders on global warming: “You have just eight years to save the planet.”

• 2009:
Gordon Brown said negotiators had 50 days to save the world from global warming and break the “impasse”.

• 2011:
The Climate Commission report says the world has at best 10 years to cut carbon emissions or it will face dangerous atmospheric warming and sea level rises.

I Never Knew She Was In The Army

Major Jane Austen manuscript up for sale

Doesn't really matter, as I still find her un-readable.  Sorry, British film makers.

Archaeological News

This should be of particular interest to those who participated in our Lenten series as we discussed the contribution of satellite imagery in the discovery of hidden sites.

Egyptian pyramids found by infra-red satellite images

This Week's Jesus Watch

Corpus Christi woman's son finds face of Jesus in her homemade tortilla

Saturday, May 21, 2011

It doesn't happen very often, but I notice that my enthusiasm has waned a bit, so I'm taking a break from the weblog for a day or so.  Or a week or so.  Facebook, too.  I don't know, maybe longer.  Evs.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Rite Of Christian Burial

The Rite of Christian Burial will be offered for Mary Smeriglio, mother of Michael and grandmother of Emily, at Christ Church on Saturday, May 21st at 11am.

Give to the departed eternal rest,
Let light perpetual shine upon them.
May her soul, and the souls of all the departed,
Through the mercy of God
Rest in peace.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

This Is Like Something From The Epistle To The Galatians

SF Circumcision Ban To Appear On November Ballot

Is it just me, or is San Francisco getting a little weird?  Um, weirder.

Not Today's Best Headline

Woman missing since she got lost

Another Reason I'm Glad I Grew Up When I Did, Part II

Hand-Holding Controversy At Pompano High School

Really, even in Ohio in the late 1960's, one could still stroll down a school hallway hand in hand.  Given the nightmarish world in which kids are now forced to live, I'm fascinated that any school felt it had time to get worked up about this.  Does anyone actually teach reading, writing, and arithmetic anymore?  Or is it all just social engineering?  [Yes, I'm a crank today.  So be it.]

Another Reason I'm Glad I Grew Up When I Did

School playground duty outsourced to 'recess coaches'

Back in my day [words I thought I'd never say], we were allowed to invent our own games and regulate our own behavior.  It taught us much, actually, that would be of great use in later life.  Of course, we were also coordinated enough not to have to wear helmets when riding bikes.  Or have seat belts in cars, either.*

[*Some folks who don't get either irony or satire (sirony? ironitire?) generally write scolding e-mails to me after comments like those above.  Fortunately, they're usually only clergy.]

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Fourth Sunday Of Easter

This week the apostles see what truly defines the word "awesome", Peter speaks of the value of doing what is good, even if the result is derision and punishment, and Jesus gives the teaching that will establish his metaphoric nature for the entire life of Christian art.  All this plus what I learned in Scotland and Saudi Arabia and the voice I heard during the Bishops' 5K.

The lections may be found here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

If Current School Rules Were Applicable In My Day, Forget The Handcuffs. My Principal Would Have Executed Me. Maybe Twice.

I proffer these recent incidents:

Suspension for teen who accidentally took pocketknife on bus

Controversy Over Suspension Of 2 Easton High Lacrosse Players

Shelton High senior has a date, but can't go to the prom

Read them all and appreciate what remarkable martinets school administrators have become in recent years.

[A "martinet" is defined as 1. A rigid military disciplinarian. 2. One who demands absolute adherence to forms and rules.]
"It is a great consolation for me to remember that the Lord, to whom I had drawn near in humble and child-like faith, has suffered and died for me, and that He will look on me in love and compassion."

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Third Sunday Of Easter

This week Peter discovers his voice and some remarkable events occur on the road to Emmaus.  All this plus Amanda's cockroach and The Outer Limits.

The lections may be found here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Busy, Busy Month Of May

Okay, so far this month we have participated with our Christian brothers and sisters in a community ecumenical experience last Sunday, produced a marvelously fun and successful charity concert for wounded veterans, and, for the second year in row, served as the community host for the National Day of Prayer.

Before the month is over, we will also have participated as the returning double-victors in the Bishops 5K for Children, celebrated the first sacrament of Confirmation at Christ Church in fifteen years, and taken our traditional role in Roxbury's Memorial Day parade.

However, the next event that requires our aid and participation is the Bone Marrow Registration Drive, as organized by our own Cindy Turner [whose designer shoes and other items may be perused and purchased through the link found way below] that will be held in our parish house on Thursday, May 12th from 3:30pm to 6:30pm.

Odds 'N Sods

'Monstrously Big Ant' Fossil Found in Wyoming

Just like in one of my favorite childhood monster movies.  Well, not just like it.  Actually, not like it at all, but still....

Guitarists' Brains Swing Together

Which may explain why playing music in an ensemble may aid in cerebral healing, both physical and emotional.  Also, why all guitarists prefer my guitars.  [Okay, that was a facetious comment.  It's really just guitarists of distinction who prefer mine.]

Hopatcong woman charged with trying to overflow toilet

What isn't against the law anymore?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

National Day Of Prayer

As Christ Church became the community host site for the National Day of Prayer last year, we are once again offering a brief ceremony of prayer and thanksgiving on the Great Lawn of the parish on Thursday, May 5th at Noon.

This is the Day's 60th anniversary, by the way, as it was first officially recognized by then-President John F. Kennedy.  Should anyone try to convince you that this is some exercise in ideology by a bunch of fire-breathing conservatives, I would highlight that this year's honorary chairman is President Barack Obama and the co-chairman is Governor Jerry Brown of California.  Only someone demented would consider either a "righty" [or JFK, for that matter].

What we practice is beyond political ideology, anyway.  Besides familiar features such as the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord's Prayer, we will also hear a selection of scripture readings taken from the inaugurations of former US presidents. 

So, please join us on Thursday at Noon on the lawn.  If it's raining, we'll be in the church, naturally.


Our unofficial team, the Shepaug Mets [AA], will be playing at Firehouse Field this evening at 6pm.  Remember that Christ Church aided in the upgrade to the field so that the team, which is coached by two of our parishioners and boasts another three parishioners on its roster, can play safely and properly.  [The newspaper article about our donation may be found here.]

This is an excellent way to support the young people of our community and remind everyone of Christ Church's commitment to Roxbury and its kids.  The Mets schedule may be found here.

[Above is a photo of Rocky Colavito.  Why?  Because it's Rocky Colavito, that's why.]

Well, Here's Our Reaction

I spent yesterday wincing a little bit about the posturing of politicians [from both parties, thank you], the chest-thumping celebrations of college students who are not military veterans and were still wandering around elementary school ten years ago, and the sanctimony of some of my fellow clergy who, for some reason, felt it necessary to use websites and the social media to lecture and scold their fellow citizens, accompanied by select quotations from politicians, philosophers, and civil rights leaders. It's odd how many of my ordained colleagues don't use scripture passages to frame their public thoughts these days.

While it was coincidental, Christ Church spent late Sunday afternoon putting on a series of performances both polished and charming to raise funds for guitars for music therapy programs for physically and psychically wounded veterans. It served as a pre-emptive antidote to the next 24 hours. I especially wanted those who performed and donated and those who listened and donated to know that we exceeded our goal of $1200. As of this morning, the total is roughly $2000. This translates into 14 guitars instead of ten; which means 2-4 more "anchors" for music therapy programs.

I've already ordered the guitars that are to be un-altered and will be ordering the parts to begin work on the customized guitars today. I want to get them complete so that I may take at least some of these customized instruments to the vets in person.

The reason that I'm writing this post, outside of the obvious, is that, given the coincidental timing of the death of a terrorist [You want a scripture passage? Try Hosea 8:7], I found our humble and quiet fund-raiser to be an almost perfect public response to the recent events. We found our own unique Gospel-centered path, and that makes us what we are as Christ Church.

All of the performers with all of their styles were great. I am especially indebted to Greg Cava, Judith Kelly, Emma Cava, Mike Patterson, and Martin Meyer. These are people who regularly stand before audiences and offer their considerable talent. To have them gathered in one congregation is phenomenal. To have them give of their time and talent challenges even my notorious verbosity. I am touched, a little speechless, and deeply indebted to you all. This includes Marty Meyer, Josh Jordan, Erik Henry and the Shoe Poppers, too. You all made my smile.

More to the point, you have done something that is beyond words and, dare I say, beyond even music. You have directly addressed a terrible need in our society in a way that is particular. Jesus could not have hoped for more even from those who walked beside him in his earth-bound ministry.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Concert Recap

I'm deeply appreciative of the talent shared by Judith [whose 'Summertime' was particularly sublime], Greg [nice going, dad], Emma [what a blues voice], Mike [what key were we in again?], the Shoe Poppers [yes, they have a name], Josh [bass amps start around $200 btw], Marty [young man with a horn], and Martin's selection from 'Blood on the Tracks' as accompanied by Erik [Michael], who made such glorious sounds on that guitar.   Also, seeing old friends from St. Paul's, Huntington was the icing.  I sure know some marvelous folks, don't I?  Thank you, Lord.