Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lenten Wave #39

"God walls the sea with sand. God clears the air with storms. God warms the earth with snow. He exalts us to heaven by the stumbling-block of the cross." - Christopher Wordsworth

Friday, March 30, 2012

Lenten Wave #38

"God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand. If you understand you have failed." - St. Aurelius Augustine

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Speaking Of Waves, An Obituary Of Note

Heart attack claims surfing great

MP battled not just the waves, but also schizophrenia.  The fellow thought to be the world's greatest surfer actually considers MP to be the world's greatest surfer.  He was only 59.

Lenten Wave #37

"Wanna find the perfect wave?  Stop looking for it." - Hoodoo Bob, who is always good for some wisdom.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lenten Wave #35

Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one's weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart. - Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, March 26, 2012

Amazing What Gems Are Found In A Book Review

And I guess it ought to be mentioned, quite apart from the question of whether anything Krauss says turns out to be true or false, that the whole business of approaching the struggle with religion as if it were a card game, or a horse race, or some kind of battle of wits, just feels all wrong - or it does, at any rate, to me. When I was growing up, where I was growing up, there was a critique of religion according to which religion was cruel, and a lie, and a mechanism of enslavement, and something full of loathing and contempt for everything essentially human. Maybe that was true and maybe it wasn't, but it had to do with important things - it had to do, that is, with history, and with suffering, and with the hope of a better world - and it seems like a pity, and more than a pity, and worse than a pity, with all that in the back of one's head, to think that all that gets offered to us now, by guys like these, in books like this, is the pale, small, silly, nerdy accusation that religion is, I don't know, dumb.

A hat-tip to Jack Gilpin for the link.

What A Secular Easter Looks Like

Easter egg hunt canceled because of aggressive parents

This Washed Up In South Carolina


Lenten Wave #34

"How else but through a broken heart may Lord Christ enter in?" - Oscar Wilde

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Speaking Of Waves

Fishing boat lost in Japan tsunami reaches Canada

Lenten Wave #33

I will put my law within them—write it on their hearts!—and be their God. And they will be my people. They will no longer go around setting up schools to teach each other about God. They will know me firsthand.... - Jeremiah 31:33 [from today's lections].

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Fifth Sunday In Lent

Jeremiah offers prophecy as to the new covenant to come, the Hebrews learn of who appointed Jesus, and the Greeks get interested in this new rabbi who is both anarchic and orthodox at the same time. All this plus what happens when you paint a hearse blue instead of black.

The lections may be found here.

The Feast Of Gregory The Illuminator

When I attended the General Theological Seminary in New York City, beginning thirty years ago [!], the institution also served as the eastern seminary for the Armenian Orthodox Church in the US. Due to the many similarities between our branches of Christianity [Celtic Christianity is older than the Church of Rome; Armenia was the first nation to convert, before the Roman Empire did], it was a handsome fit. Also, the Armenians, many of whom were enjoying their first stay in the United States, were great friends and classmates as they were gregarious, generous, and full of life.

Two things I learned about them: they have a remarkably low regard for the Turks [see "Armenian Genocide"] and a terrific veneration for St. Gregory the Illuminator. The former is a matter of history, the latter of history and faith:

In the 3rd Century, Armenia served as a buffer state between the empires of Rome and Persia, and was often caught between the empires' competing needs and wants. Gregory was born circa 257. While an infant, his father pro-actively participated in politics by assassinating the King of Persia; family friends carried Gregory away for his protection to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he was baptized and raised as a Christian.

About 280 he returned to Armenia as a missionary and anchorite, where he was originally treated severely. Eventually, by patience and through sound preaching and example, he brought King Tiridates III and his people to the Christian faith.

A generation later, Gregory was consecrated as the first bishop of Armenia. He died about 332.

Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in your saints, and who raised up your servant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world, and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Lenten Wave #31

I said to my soul, be still, and wait...So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. - T.S. Eliot

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Jesus Sighting! Again!

Woman sees image of Jesus in power meter

The Feast Of James DeKoven

A growing trend in the Episcopal Church is "innovative liturgy". In my curiosity, I attended a conference by that title of couple of years ago. [In my line of work, it's important to be "hep".] There, I learned that the liturgical traditions of the Church were a burden and unimportant in the life of the congregation, that having a loose, extemporaneous feel to the liturgy was preferable, and that the celebrant should wander around the altar and sanctuary with a facial expression like that I once saw on a surfer in Barbados after he had been hit on the head with a coconut.

Personally, I've found that there are a great many things that one may do with liturgy that work, as long as the congregation understands why one is doing those things. That's something I learned from today's subject.

If you have ever travelled eastbound through Middletown on Route 66 [not the fabled one that begins, or ends, at the Santa Monica Pier, but the more prosaic namesake that laces across the Nutmeg State] and have come to a stop at the intersection of Route 9, there is a house that sits on the right side of the road named DeKoven House. You may note that there is an historic plaque on it that cannot, alas, be easily read from the road. That's a pity, because it is significant in the life of one of the most important Episcopalians in our ecclesial history.

Connecticut's James DeKoven was born in 1831 to a prominent maritime family and ordained at the age of 24. His early service to the Church was as a professor at Nashotah House, an Episcopal Church seminary in the wilds of 19th century Wisconsin. Later, he would also serve as Warden of Racine College, an Episcopal college on the frontier.

What makes DeKoven special, at least in the eyes of clergy such as your rector and the shrinking number of his compatriots in liturgy and theology, is that he was a champion and theological apologist for those who believe that the more intentional the Celebration of the Holy Communion, the more purposeful its experience and result.

For example, DeKoven emphasized the "real presence" of the Christ in the bread and wine, not in some superstitious sense, but as an obvious reaction to the teachings of the New Testament. To highlight this understanding, DeKoven resurrected for the American Episcopal Church practices such as bowing, kneeling, the use of candles, the making of the sign of the cross, and the "manual acts" engaged by the celebrating clergy [as seen every Sunday behind the altar at Christ Church].

Naturally, true innovation is so prized in institutions that DeKoven was labeled a "ritualist", slandered a dozen different ways for his "Romish" practices, and twice denied the office of bishop, despite having been elected such by the Dioceses of Wisconsin and Illinois, respectively. That notion of respecting the dignity of every human being can be a fickle thing.

However, his liturgical theology carried with it a logic and, not to be discounted, great ability to use non-verbal imagery to carry those understandings that are beyond words. Hence, he is recognized on this day for his contribution to our common life and, like many of the true innovators of the Church, his providential avoidance of the limitations of the office of bishop.

He died at the age of 48, after teaching that day's classes at Racine College.

Almighty and everlasting God, the source and perfection of all virtues, who didst inspire thy servant James de Koven to do what is right and to preach what is true: Grant that all ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may afford to thy faithful people, by word and example, the knowledge of thy grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

How Does the Brain Secrete Morality?

Pondering the neuroscience of moral platitudes, free will, and sacred values.

Europe's Oldest Hate, Now With New Ingrediants

The events unfolding in France, where what officials there describe as a "serial killer" has been targeting Jews and soldiers, reminded me of this article that was written, to my surprise, now three years ago.  While Europe has never been the warmest place for Jews to live, it appears that anti-Semitism in its extreme form is beginning to spread along with changing 21st century demographics.  Click on the block quote below to go to the original article [Standard warning to those of gentle politics: it may be from a source that doesn't always agree with you.]:

In Toronto, anti-Israel demonstrators yell “You are the brothers of pigs!”, and a protester complains to his interviewer that “Hitler didn’t do a good job.”

Lenten Wave #30

La natura รจ l'arte di Dio   [Nature is the art of God]  - Dante Alighieri

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chicks Dig A Guy In Uniform

Needless to say, the conference was successful.

Lenten Wave #29

“Give me a spirit that on this life's rough sea
Loves to have his sails filled with a lusty wind,
Even till his sail-yards tremble, his masts crack,
And his rapt ship run on her side so low
That she drinks water, and her keel ploughs air” – George Chapman

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jesus Sighting!

Cleaner finds image of Jesus's face in pub floorboards

Vegemite Is Better, Anyway

New Zealand has run out of Marmite

If you have never had either, you don't know what you're missing.

As A Connoisseur Of Fine Gibberish, I Declare This Nonsense First Rate

An NYU professor gently explains the nature of his seminar:

The violence that is poised between humanitas and inhumanitas speaks to the metaphysical ordering and phantasms of everyday political terror. Are practices of political aggression separable from the Western metaphysical divide between human and animal, and what are the ideological utilities of this divide? Are acts and discourses of inhumanization how philosophical anthropology (and all anthropologies are ultimately philosophical and political) confesses itself, not as theorem or disciplinary taxonomy, but as a political culture with the most severe material criteria and bodily consequences?
When you take out that second mortgage on your house to get your child through college, remember that this is what you're paying for.  Throw in a couple of references to Jesus [or, better, the "event of Christ"] and this guy could be a bishop.

This link courtesy of an old friend Down Under.

Lenten Wave #28

“By having a reverence for life, we enter into a spiritual relation with the world. By practicing reverence for life we become good, deep, and alive.” – Albert Schweitzer

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's The Photo You Have To Check Out

Click here: Sweden moving towards cashless economy

Donated Food May No Longer Be Given To NYC's Starving

In conjunction with a mayoral task force and the Health Department, the Department of Homeless Services recently started enforcing new nutritional rules for food served at city shelters. Since DHS can’t assess the nutritional content of donated food, shelters have to turn away good Samaritans.

I will share something that I have learned over the course of three decades of ministry: Ignore the dang government.  It wasn't our idea as practicing Christians to allow a stray remark made in one of Jefferson's letters to become this inflated fetish called "separation of Church and state" [Which ignorant students think is in the Constitution.  Of the United States, that is.  Yeah, I know, a $250,000 education doesn't buy much in the way of smarts these days.]  But, if this separation is to be, then let us by all means embrace it by separating ourselves from government programming and oversight.  It is just as easy to hand out food, guerrilla-style, to the homeless and the starving.  By the time any round-rumped official hears of it, the food is already disseminated and, likely, the evidence has vanished.

Here's the thinking from a bureaucratic microbe:  "DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond says the ban on food donations is consistent with Mayor Bloomberg’s emphasis on improving nutrition for all New Yorkers."

Yep, nothing says "nutrition" like denying nutrition to the starving.  Well done, Seth.  You make me want to read Orwell's 1984 again, just for laughs.

Lenten Wave #27

"The waters are rising, but so am I. I am not going under, but over."
—Catherine Booth, co-founder of the Salvation Army

Sunday, March 18, 2012

More Like Reductive And Perverse

A Massachusetts school principal is renaming "St. Patrick's Day" with "O'Green Day" in an effort to be "inclusive and diverse"....

If we purge all Christian names from the American lexicon, the world will be made perfect. Seriously, "O'Green Day"?

I Sense A New Liturgy On The Horizon

Bride Marries Herself. Should More Singles Throw Solo Weddings?

The Fourth Sunday In Lent

A few years ago, I tore down an old shed on our property down on Long Island Sound. It seemed to be mostly made of rotten wood, so I didn’t think it would take too long or be too arduous. Besides, there’s nothing like wielding a crowbar and 20 pound sledgehammer on one’s day off.  I also was able to swing a Halligan, which usually just resides in the trunk of the car, a leftover from service with a volunteer fire department.

It turned out I was a little optimistic, as the shed was much sturdier than I thought. What should have been a morning’s work turned into a full day. Somewhere near sundown I managed to get the last joist undone, and also managed to drop a roof beam on my head. Jenni mentioned that this was the third head wound that I had received that year, as both the boom on our sailboat and some teenager’s runaway surfboard had also given me some dents. As I noted how my head was gradually becoming a relief map of my misadventures, Jenni volunteered, “I think you’ve lived your Lent for this year.”

One of the many lost traditions in Christianity is to be found on the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Much like its parallel Sunday on the Third of Advent, this is a feast day that serves as a type of “gasket” during the season of intention and, in ancient times certainly, had developed around it a variety of particular practices.

The Fourth Sunday in Lent [again, it is a Sunday in Lent rather than of Lent, as all of the Sundays are feast days celebrated outside of the dour intentions of Lent], is variously known as Rose Sunday [as is its Advent counterpart], Refreshment Sunday, Mid-Lent Sunday or, the most unusual of all, Mothering Sunday. The latter title did not refer to one’s mother, but to one’s ‘mother church”, as it was the tradition to return to one’s home congregation, and distant family, on this particular Sunday.

Other traditions that developed around the Fourth Sunday in Lent involved clergy wearing rose-colored vestments, the use of flowers on the altar, and the baking of special cakes or loaves of bread, as the traditional Gospel reading for this day was the feeding of the five thousand. In our English-based tradition, it was the only day during Lent when the sacrament of marriage could be offered.

All of this was done to remind worshippers that prayerful intention and amendment of life are not to be left to one particular season, anymore than the celebration of the Resurrection is to be left only to Easter. We live our Lent many times during the year and, we hope, live the Resurrection even more often. In our pattern of faith, while we find moments of Lent and moments of Easter, each extreme is experienced as part of a journey that is always a dynamic blending of the two, so it is the totality that matters, rather than the fragments.  That way, the rich and various experiences of our lives, from the daunting to the fulfilling, always form parts and portions of the whole, as do all of the seasons of the Christian year in their glory.

Lenten Wave #26

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. - John 3:16 [from today's lections].

[A word about the photo:  it's a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that someone placed on the bottom of the ocean at the Palancar Reef in Mexico.  It's about 15-20 feet down and the shot is askew as I had neither breathing gear nor buoyancy compensator, so I was having difficulty maintaining my position  Next time, I'll be prepared.]

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Egyptian Christians Continue To Struggle

300 Muslim Lawyers Storm Egyptian Court, Prevent Lawyers for Christian From Entering

It's hard to believe that just thirty years ago, Egypt's minister of finance was a Jew.

If You Wish To Read One Article About The Archbishop Of Canterbury, Try This One

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams could not heal church's rifts

I doubt that anyone could, or can. As the Anglican Communion is the last remnant of the British Empire, its time may have come.

Lenten Wave #25

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me. 
                                                                                                     - from The Lorica of St. Padraic

Friday, March 16, 2012

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Amish Arrested After Buggy Hits Cop Car

More action from one of my former parishes.

Best quote: "Police say several other buggies fled the scene."

Princeton Seminary Now Has 50,000 Volumes From Its Library On Line. For Free.

Click here:  Theological Commons

Lenten Wave #22

“To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and flow of the tides, to feel the breath of a mist moving over a great salt marsh, to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of year, to see the running of the old eels and the young shad to the sea, is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.” - Rachel Carson

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lenten Wave #21

"Do your little bit of good where you are; its those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” - Desmond Tutu

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lenten Wave #19

So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn't God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation. - 1 Corinthians 1:20-21

[As found in today's lections.]

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Third Sunday In Lent

This week we are reminded of The Law in all of its simplicity and power, the Corinthians hear Paul proclaim, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart" [always liked that verse], and Jesus enjoys toppling some tables and chairs; not to mention tossing a mess of coins in the air, which always sounded like fun to me.

All this plus who did you lend it to?  The lections may be found here.

Lenten Wave #18

“The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but deliverance from fear” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, March 9, 2012

An Obituary Of Note

You may have never heard of him, but he was funnier than almost anyone.

Always remember, "I was right about the comet."

I'm Glad Ours Is Paid For

Banks foreclosing on churches in record numbers

Lenten Wave #17

“Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God.” - George Washington Carver

Ditto beaches and waves.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lenten Wave #16

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.” -  Mother Theresa

I have one quibble.  Some of us can find God in the deafening noise of the surf.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Och, Aye!

Seventy foot wave heading towards Scottish coast

Lenten Wave #15

I've always found surfing competitions abstract. It's like holding a prayer competition. The activity is insular, dependent on what the individual surfer thinks is important matching what some judges, sitting comfortably under a canopy on the beach, think is important.  I don’t know exactly how you can judge a surfing contest, as what may appear to the observer as the clumsiest moment in wave riding is actually something of sublime experience to the surfer. As is a common expression in the surf community, “The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.”

I remember the first time I achieved a life’s dream of actually riding within the tube of the wave, the so-called “green room”. I lasted about three seconds before being crushed by the wave and held on the bottom as if by a giant hand. When I was done coughing up the water, something made more difficult by the fact I was also laughing with joy, I felt like the best surfer on the beach. The others, the ones who were able to stay on their boards, might have disagreed, but I know there was no one happier than I was. 

In prayer, we offer up what we identify as important to God. Like my style on the waves, I feel as if all of my prayers are clumsy.  Yet I always receive an answer. When I pray, whether leading a congregation, or with them, or in those few, quiet moments on my own, I know the happiness that Christians can know. It doesn’t matter what others think, or what I think of my spiritual abilities. God has granted me a way to know happiness and, with others, be lead to being the best Christian I can be.  Sometimes, when there is no one around to judge me a lunatic, I even give a joyful laugh.

- an excerpt from Reading Water, which I really hope gets finished and published this year.  Other excerpts may be found here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Will there ever be a TV show that portrays Christians as normal, decent, struggling and complicated human beings?

This isn't a link to some rabid, conservative website. The author is the son of the founder of the Episcopal Church's "think tank". NYT and NPR people can feel safe.

At Least They Aren't Hiding It Anymore

There has always been a section of the self-described progressive community that, well, I don't know how else to phrase it, HATES practicing Christians. Usually it's been kept to mutters in faculty lounges, newsrooms, and the salons of the artistic class. I guess those muttering days are coming to an end. The other day I heard a Washington Post reporter on MSNBC openly lament that freedom of religion is included in the US Constitution, and now this from a syndicated radio host named Mike Malloy:
"MIKE MALLOY (04:56): They keep being killed, you know, their God, if this is where they want to look at it, keeps smashing them into little grease spots on the pavement in - uh - uh - in - in, you know, in Alabama and Mississippi and Arkansas and uh Georgia and, uh, Oklahoma, you know, the Bible Belt. [imitates "preacher" voice] 'Where they ain't going to let no goddamn science get in the way -it says in the Bible, blah blah blah blah blah!

So, according to their way of thinking, you know, God, with his omnipotent thumb, reaches down here tonight and so far tonight has smashed about 20 people into a grease spot on Highway 12 or whatever the hell highway they live next to. It's sad, it's so sad for this kind of nonsense."
It's sad, alright.

Lenten Wave #14

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." - Albert Einstein

Monday, March 5, 2012

Another Lenten Wave

“The waves are like life, man. And I don’t mean that like in those books about surfing. Waves aren’t about metaphysics or Eastern religion or Californicated gibberish. Everyone tries to apply some deep meaning to life, too. They create massive organizations to define it. Folks have tried throughout history to apply meaning to it, and life resists it. Life is just life. That’s why it’s like the waves. All of that verbiage, all of those words to try to turn a wave into something mystical, and the wave just is. You can tell me about energy and gravity and moon phases and [stuff], but I don’t care. I know it’s just a wave. You just ride it. Like, it’s just life, we just live it. And even when we think it’s over, we still ride it.”
                                           - Stash, a surf bum [never did get his last name, but the story is found here].

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Limited Black Market Appeal, I Would Think

Saint's ancient heart stolen from Dublin cathedral

Lenten Wave #12

"If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That's not a holy promise; that's a business deal...This is why the fulfillment of God's promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God's promise arrives as pure gift. That's the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them."
                                                                     - from Romans, Chapter Four [as found in today's lections]

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Second Sunday In Lent

Of Wesley's "oysters" and Shackleton's advert we will hear; not to mention how God's will trancends limitations for Abram and Sarai, for Paul and hapless Peter. The lections may be found here.

Lenten Wave #11

The desert is beautiful," the little prince added. And that was true. I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs and gleams.... "What makes the desert beautiful," said the little prince, "is that somewhere it hides a well...."
                                                                         -Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944), The Little Prince

Friday, March 2, 2012

About Time, Too

Museum of British Surfing will open in April

Lenten Wave #10

The King of love my shepherd is,
whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his,
and he is mine for ever.

Where streams of living water flow,
my ransomed soul he leadeth,
and where the verdant pastures grow,
with food celestial feedeth.

Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
but yet in love He sought me,
and on his shoulder gently laid,
and home, rejoicing, brought me.

                              - verses 1 through 3 of the hymn "St. Columba"

Thursday, March 1, 2012

I Feel The Same Way About Oxford Ethicists

The article, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says newborn babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life”.

I'm assuming that these fellows need some more grant money, so they published something they think provocative.  Otherwise, I would suggest that they not use the word "moral" when they don't know what it means.

I did appreciate this reaction from one of their critics:  "Referring to the term "after-birth abortion", Dr Stammers added: "This is just verbal manipulation that is not philosophy. I might refer to abortion henceforth as antenatal infanticide."

No Surprise, Really

Meetings can lower IQ, make you brain-dead

We Made A Bunch Of Guitars For These Folks Last Year

Maybe we should have made some bats, too.

Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team Thriving

An Interesting Change To U.S. Army Religious Policy

Well, at least in the Afghani theater of ops:

"...unless your military dog tags identify you as of the Muslim faith, you cannot obtain a copy of the Quran from the military chaplain."

Lenten Wave #9

"It is one thing for the living water to descend from Christ into the heart, and another thing how--when it has descended--it moves the heart to worship. All power of worship in the soul is the result of the waters flowing into it, and their flowing back again to God."
                                                                                                                                            - G.V. Wigram