Saturday, November 30, 2013
Half of my family have left for home and the other half are out on the golf course, giving me a few minutes to tidy up and do things like look for the Advent candles. I know they're in here somewhere.
And speaking of Advent, it's time to put the blog into quiet mode for the season. I'll still be posting regularly but changed the layout to something more austere for Advent.
May you find your Advent candles as you prepare yourself for the season of preparation!
Before we get to Advent tomorrow, here's one of my favorite pieces: Ralph Vaughn Williams' Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus, played by the Camerata Chicago.
This piece was composed for the 1939 World's Fair in New York and made its debut at Carnegie Hall, played by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult.
The first variant some of us know as the tune Kingsfold, which was adapted by Vaughn Williams for a couple of hymns. The one I like best begins "When Jesus left his Father's throne, he chose an humble birth... " So it seems like a good lead-in to Advent.
May your preparations for that holy season be blessed.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Today is the day known as Black Friday here in the U.S. It's all about shopping and unbelievable crowds all looking for bargains offered by merchants who are looking for profits to end the year. I hope you are enjoying your day and not out in the stampede, even as I understand the desire for bargains.
I was fortunate to be in New York last week while there was still quite a riot of color in the trees around Central Park. This small maple tree adorned the sidewalk next to an apartment building on the upper east side. All of them have probably all shed their glory now after wind and rain and storms have come through.
And this is the end of our Friday fall color break series as Advent begins on Sunday, and with it comes a new Friday series.
Blessings for the coming season of Advent.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
(My sermon from Thanksgiving Eve at Bruton Parish Church. The lectionary readings are here: http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearC_RCL/HolyDays/Thanks_C_RCL.html)
Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
At the end of my second trip, I realized that I was in the slow checkout line. Great, I thought. It was already getting late - would I have time to unload and put away all this food and still have a few minutes of leisure time before bed? Perhaps you know how it is in the slow checkout lane. The racing mind, irritation slowly rising inside, doing the exercise of trying to imagine the lives of those in front of you, of the cashier, so that you don't get mad at them for holding you up.
I checked out the People and US headlines. Perused the gum selections. Then I noticed the cart in front of me was being unloaded by two young girls, their father standing near by. I watched. They were buying paper products - cups, plates, napkins. They were worried that they might not have enough money. They used a gift card supplemented by a little cash. They came out with $2 to spare. I guessed they were providing the paper products for a school or community celebration and had either raised money or were on a budget set by someone else.
I noticed that the cashier was taking his time showing them the receipt and how the gift card worked.
Finally, it was my turn. I started unloading and was paying a lot of attention to trying to get everything out of the cart and onto the conveyor belt. Yet the belt wasn't moving. Sigh. Why wasn't the belt moving? Let's go, people!
Finally, I got everything out and moved to the end of the counter to start putting the bagged groceries back in my cart when I realized why the cashier was so "slow." He was carefully selecting what to put in each bag so that it would be full but not too heavy, and the groceries were organized by type so that when I unpacked the bags, I'd have all the items of each type pretty much together.
Advent isn't here yet but I can see that yet again, I going to want to pray for patience. I'm going to want to practice intentionality again. Im going to want to continue to develop the eyes to see God's work in the world around us and to appreciate the people through whom God works. I'm going to want to more regularly come down from my cruising place of 40,000 feet up (where I can see my beloved big picture) to appreciate the details in life, the fine work that unsung people do every day because they care.
So here's to being in the slow line.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Saturday, November 23, 2013
This is the Agincourt Hymn by John Dunstable commemorating the Battle of Agincourt (1415) in which the English forces commanded by Henry V routed the French even though they were vastly outnumbered. If you've seen Shakespeare's Henry V (the recent Great Performances Henry V on PBS starring Tom Hiddleston was superb) you know this battle as the centerpiece of the play. Apparently the Agincourt Hymn has gone through several variations, both in tune and in words, and is based primarily on an English folk tune. But this one is the one I know, and this recording features Michael Murray playing the organ at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York City.
The Agincourt Hymn is also the tune for the beautiful and majestic hymn O Love How Deep, How Broad, How High. Here's a lovely arrangement (by David N. Johnson) of that hymn featuring trumpet player Timothy Moke and organist Charles Luedtke.
The hymn has five verses, all lovely (you can look it up in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982 at 449) but the last verse is this: All glory to our Lord and God for love so deep, so high, so broad; the Trinity whom we adore for ever and for ever more.
Friday, November 22, 2013
O God of searing truth and surpassing beauty, we give you thanks for Clive Staples Lewis, whose sanctified imagination lights fires of faith in young and old alike. Surprise us also with your joy and draw us into that new and abundant life which is ours in Christ Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Read more about C.S. Lewis here.)
Thursday, November 21, 2013
I'm in New York for a couple of days. So here's a mythical creature that is part of the larger sculpture next door to the Cathedral of St John the Divine. This might be a winged unicorn or it might be a dragon or it might be something that I don't know the name of. I am glad for all the public art in our large cities. Enjoy.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
O God of ineffable mercy, you gave grace and fortitude to blessed Edmund the king to triumph over the enemy of his people by nobly dying for your Name: Bestow on us your servants the shield of faith with which we can withstand the assaults of our ancient enemy; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
(Read more about this 9th Century martyr here.)
(Read more about this 9th Century martyr here.)
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
I have been thinking about "wisdom" lately. Particularly "conventional wisdom."
The world is changing rapidly in so many ways. I listened to a radio program this morning on what climate change means for farming and how people in North Dakota have an additional 10 to 12 days of growing season now, which significantly impacts what they grow which in turn impacts what we eat and how much it costs. There are both positives and negatives associated with these changes. Vineyard owners in upstate New York are thrilled; corn farmers who are experiencing extra heat that scorches the crop are disheartened.
Of course we all talk about how technology is changing the world and how we live in it. And with those changes come both positives and negatives. News travels so fast now. People are so hooked into their electronic devices (I am the first to plead guilty to this cartoon as an accurate depiction of my own "hierarchy of needs"). We can see what is happening everywhere almost instantly; we can stay connected with friends far and near and even have face to face (via FaceTime or Skype) conversations with them from across the globe.
But sometimes it seems that the positives of these changes are overlooked. One of the things I often hear is about how young people are just not learning how to communicate any more.
My experience is that young people are communicating more than ever. Most are avid users of social media and texting and instant messaging. They are talking with people all day! Isn't that communicating? Sure, it may not be the way "we used to do it," but that doesn't make their methods any less valid.
Further, young people are learning how to deal with the problems of their world in ways that make sense to them. Those ways don't have to make sense to everyone to be valid and useful. "Progress" is generally not about meeting new problems with old solutions.
So where does conventional wisdom come in? Is such a thing even valuable any more?
Merriam-Webster defines conventional wisdom "as the generally accepted belief, opinion, judgment, or prediction about a particular matter." I'm not sure if there have ever been too many matters in which there is one generally accepted belief, but even if there have, I'm not sure there are many such matters now. And when you get to opinions and predictions, well, the internet has certainly given everybody who has an opinion a very public place to state it. And the self-publishing aspect of the internet means that the lines are very blurred between "expert opinions" and just "opinions" that may be circulated.
On the other hand, public debate is always necessary to a society such as ours. So our phones and computers and tablets are now portals into every debate imaginable. It may be messier and kind of frustrating, but in the end, I think it's brilliant. Voices that were not previously able to be heard are now accessible. That doesn't make all voices equally useful, but that's where discernment comes in. (An unexamined opinion is not worth having, to mis-quote Socrates.)
There is, no doubt, wisdom of the ages. There's a reason why we still read Shakespeare and Jane Austen and Plato and the Bible. But there are new voices to be heard as well that offer wisdom for now. And those voices may well not be conventional. They may come to us via instant message.
I say "yay!" and "Thanks Be to God."
Almighty God, by your grace your servant Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and honored Jesus in the poor of this world: Grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble, in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
(Read more about Elizabeth of Hungary here.)
Monday, November 18, 2013
This is pretty cool. Watch as an icon of Hilda of Whitby emerges step by step in this video. Hilda was a very important figure in the early church, and although there are many who wished she had used her power to help keep the Celtic expressions of Christianity alive in England at the Synod of Whitby rather than acquiescing to enforce the Roman customs, the fact remains that she was a very powerful figure, male or female, in the Church in the 7th Century.
(P.S.: Hilda's feast day is November 17th. Since that date was on a Sunday this year, however, her feast was transferred to the first available open date, which is today.)
|(This is not actually a statue of Hilda.)|
O God of peace, by whose grace the abbess Hilda was endowed with gifts of justice, prudence, and strength to rule as a wise mother over the nuns and monks of her household, and to become a trusted and reconciling friend to leaders of the Church: Give us the grace to recognize and accept the varied gifts you bestow on men and women, that our common life may be enriched and your gracious will be done; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Read more about Abbess Hilda of Whitby here.)
Sunday, November 17, 2013
I don’t know about you, but I tend to get a little anxious when Jesus starts talking about wars and insurrections and false messiahs and the destruction of the temple, and how our relatives are going to betray us to the authorities.
And sometimes I get confused when Paul announces what sounds like a mandate to close down all the soup kitchens and food pantries, making me wonder if he even knew the story of the feeding of the 5,000 after all, or if we should all take our contributions back from the local food pantry, not to mention cancel our harvest basket programs.
There has to be some context here! And, of course there is.
Once upon a time there was a young church in Thessaloniki, the Roman capital of Macedonia, a church that Paul had planted and to whom he wrote the very first letter we have in the whole New Testament only twenty or so years after Jesus’ death.
The folks in this community were particularly concerned about the second coming of Christ. This was a great expectation of the Thessalonians, and probably all of the early Christian communities; in Paul’s first letter to them, he goes to some length to explain and reassure them that their relatives and friends who have died will still be part of the great resurrection when Jesus returns. They really don’t need to worry about that.
But meanwhile they do need to worry about doing their work within the community and setting a good example. Paul himself set a good example, working night and day, he says. The Thessalonians don’t want to be considered some kind of odd sect, he suggests, but they do apparently keep to themselves, so that they do not depend on the outside world.
It seems, however, that at least some of the Thessalonians decided that since Jesus was going to come back any minute anyway, and since they were all saved anyway, then they would just sit back and wait in leisure, letting others take care of things. And, because in his first letter Paul explained that Jesus would return like a thief in the night (and so they needed to be ready), some of them were compulsively examining every potential clue to see if in fact Jesus is in the process of coming back - could this be a sign? How about that? Is Jesus back yet, is he, is he, is he?
And so Paul had to write a second letter, in which he reiterated several of his points from the first. Perhaps he had overstated the issue about Jesus’ imminent return, since time has passed and Jesus still had not come back.
Paul told them pretty much what Jesus says in Luke today - that the gathering of the faithful will not come before there are some big events that are cosmic in scope. It’s not going to be subtle. They really won’t be able to miss it.
Meanwhile, however, he warned those who are continuing to sit back and wait for the big day without contributing to the community to avoid spending their time getting into everybody’s business. And so he called down the slackers, which is where our passage today comes in. We all are to work to build up the community, not to simply wait in leisure for Jesus to come back.
So there’s our context.
Paul is not saying that we should not feed the hungry unless they get jobs. That would go against the grain of everything the Old Testament (Paul’s Scriptures) and Jesus (Paul’s Lord) are about - caring for the most vulnerable among us - feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, showing hospitality to the resident alien and the traveler. That would be like saying we only assist people who do not need help.
Paul is saying, do your work, don’t be a busybody, don’t sit around and let others take care of you, don’t neglect doing your part in building up the community, because you’re “busy” waiting for Jesus to come and save you personally.
The early Christian communities did tend to keep to themselves. They lived somewhat separate from society and took care of their own.
Our world, however, is not very much like the world of first century Roman Macedonia. We do live in the world, and we are not separated like a funny sect. The church has evolved. It has grown beyond tiny communities anxiously searching the heavens for signs of Jesus’ return and has over time discerned its call to be his hands and feet in the world, not just inside the church but for the whole community, as far as we can reach, and even beyond our own reach. We are able to do this as part of the larger community of The Church.
While we all know that institutions can spend resources on self-maintenance and even become corrupt, it is also true that through institutions we can deliver many good things to many people. Together, we are stronger than we are alone; together, we can do so much to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and shelter the stranger.
There’s great hunger out there; people need to be fed in so many ways. Families trying to escape poverty, addiction, domestic violence, homelessness need not only food but classes to teach them how to be self-sufficient. There are mentally ill folks who need dinner on Wednesday nights and who also hunger for friendship and community. Homeless people need peanut butter sandwiches and also the human touch provided by those who wash their feet and give them clean socks. Children hunger for relationships with other children from all over the world so that they can learn how much they have in common with people of other faiths instead of learning to demonize them. Women in poverty hunger for the means to feed their families and become productive members of their communities.
And so, our context (unlike the Thessalonians’) is this: We live in a world where people are hungry, suffering from hunger of every kind. And Jesus says, whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me. Let’s not sit back and wait for Jesus our personal savior to make things better.
Let’s work together to make our world better in his name.
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
This is a lot of fun. Here's a Tiny Desk Concert featuring Gary Burton, the great jazz vibraphonist, playing with guitarist Julian Lage.
The three songs in this set are Out of the Woods, Remembering Tano, and an impromptu called "Tiny Desk Blues." Along the way you'll learn some stuff about the vibraphone, too.
Friday, November 15, 2013
|Reredos at Christ and St Luke's, Norfolk VA|
V. Show us your mercy, O Lord;
R. And grant us your salvation.
V. Clothe your ministers with righteousness;
R. Let your people sing with joy.
V. Give peace, O Lord, in all the world;
R. For only in you can we live in safety.
V. Lord, keep this nation under your care;
R. And guide us in the way of justice and truth.
V. Let your way be known upon earth;
R. Your saving health among all nations.
V. Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten;
R. Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
V. Create in us clean hearts, O God;
R. And sustain us with your Holy Spirit.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
|The Lady Chapel at Christ and St Luke's, Norfolk VA|
V. Save your people, Lord, and bless your inheritance;
R. Govern them and uphold them, now and always.
V. Day by day we bless you;
R. We praise your name for ever.
V. Lord, keep us from all sin today;
R. Have mercy upon us, Lord, have mercy.
V. Lord, show us your love and mercy;
R. For we put our trust in you.
V. In you, Lord, is our hope;
R. And we shall never hope in vain.
Monday, November 11, 2013
Sunday, November 10, 2013
|Brewer Fountain on Boston Common|
O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Saturday, November 9, 2013
Lou Reed died the other day. He was 71. Back in the day (1967) his band The Velvet Underground released its debut album, which wasn't much of a hit then but is now considered one of the most influential albums of all time. Perhaps it was ahead of its time. Someone described their music as "beauty meets noise" and their songs deeply explored themes that other bands just hinted at. It's kind of funny to me that his biggest hit was Walk on the Wild Side which was upbeat and jaunty look at the what was really an underground world filled with addicts, transvestites, and hustlers.
The Velvet Underground was originally linked with Andy Warhol, who hired them as the house band for his studio The Factory and featured them in his Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia production. Warhol was their manager for a couple of years, and he designed the album cover for their first album, which featured a peel-able banana. The band fired him as their manager, though, because they felt he wasn't really working to get them gigs (which he wasn't).
Anyway, the band consisted of singer and guitarist Reed, John Cale (who plays the viola here but also guitar), Maureen (Moe) Tucker on drums, and Sterling Morrison on guitar. Cale and Reed had a pretty intense relationship and the band ended up breaking up in 1970. Reed and Cale went on to have solo careers.
In 1993, the Velvet Underground got back together for a European tour. It was meant to be a worldwide tour, but they broke up again before they got to the United States, again because of tensions between Reed and Cale. This video is from the show in Paris in June, 1993. The song is Venus in Furs, which was also the name of an 1870 "trash book" (according to Reed) by Austrian author named Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Pretty kinky stuff, actually, and this song is considered by some to be a sort of originator of the punk genre, at least in terms of the "punk look" with studded dog collars and lots of leather. Cale's dirge-like droning viola still sounds great, giving the song an slightly exotic undercurrent, and Reed's always just-a-little odd voice was still strong.
Enjoy (but not too much).
Friday, November 8, 2013
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
This "guy" is on display a few blocks from his school.
I can't decide if it looks more like a penguin or the character Gru from the Despicable Me movies.
And no, it's not taller than the apartment building behind it. But it's pretty big.
Almighty God our heavenly Father, you declare your glory and show forth your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth: Deliver us in our various occupations from the service of self alone, that we may do the work you give us to do in truth and beauty and for the common good; for the sake of
him who came among us as one who serves, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom: Enlighten by your Holy Spirit those who teach and those who learn, that, rejoicing in the knowledge of your truth, they may worship you and serve you from generation to generation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
This is a detail from a window at Christ and St Luke's Episcopal Church in Norfolk, Virginia. I was there on Saturday at a lovely service of repentance, reconciliation, and healing which was designed by a commission of the Diocese called "The Repairers of the Breach." One of the purposes of the service was to acknowledge the sins of the Church during the time of slavery, and of the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras, and the continuing sin of racism today. The Gospel of the day was Jesus telling the disciples that the truth will set them free. It was a meaningful service and while it didn't end racism it was a good thing for us all.
I came upon this window as I was walking to the reception after the service and I was so struck by the face of the man who is not enjoying this sermon. It just leapt out at me as I turned to face the window. I rather like how he adds to the gathered group and can't help but wonder if he is modeled on someone in real life, as is sometimes the case in commissioned religious art.
At any rate, what do you think he is thinking?
Monday, November 4, 2013
Almighty God, who created us in your image: Grant us
grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace
with oppression; and, that we may reverently use our freedom,
help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice in our
communities and among the nations, to the glory of your holy
Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Sunday, November 3, 2013
Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Saturday, November 2, 2013
Here's a great performance featuring two of my son's former teachers (Gordon Vernick on flugelhorn and Kevin Bales on piano) and another bandmate (Robert Dickson on bass) plus Dave Potter on drums playing On Green Dolphin Street at the Velvet Note Acoustic Living Room in Alpharetta, Georgia.
O God, the Maker and Redeemer of all believers: Grant to the faithful departed the unsearchable benefits of the passion of your Son; that on the day of his appearing they may be manifested as your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Friday, November 1, 2013
Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one
communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son
Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints
in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those
ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love
you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy
Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.