Bastille Day

Terror in Nice.  Jesu, Mercy. Mary, Pray.

Arise, children of the Fatherland,
The day of glory has arrived!
Against us tyranny’s
Bloody banner is raised, (repeat)
Do you hear, in the countryside,
The roar of those ferocious soldiers?
They’re coming right into your arms
To cut the throats of your sons, your women!

To arms, citizens,
Form your battalions,
Let’s march, let’s march!
Let an impure blood
Soak our fields!

What does this horde of slaves,
Of traitors and conspiratorial kings want?
For whom are these vile chains,
These long-prepared irons? (repeat)
Frenchmen, for us, ah! What outrage
What fury it must arouse!
It is us they dare plan
To return to the old slavery!

To arms, citizens…

What! Foreign cohorts
Would make the law in our homes!
What! These mercenary phalanxes
Would strike down our proud warriors! (repeat)
Great God! By chained hands
Our brows would yield under the yoke
Vile despots would have themselves
The masters of our destinies!

To arms, citizens…

Tremble, tyrants and you traitors
The shame of all parties,
Tremble! Your parricidal schemes
Will finally receive their reward! (repeat)
Everyone is a soldier to combat you
If they fall, our young heroes,
The earth will produce new ones,
Ready to fight against you!

To arms, citizens…

Frenchmen, as magnanimous warriors,
Bear or hold back your blows!
Spare those sorry victims,
Who arm against us with regret. (repeat)
But not these bloodthirsty despots,
These accomplices of Bouillé,
All these tigers who, mercilessly,
Rip their mother’s breast!

To arms, citizens…

Sacred love of the Fatherland,
Lead, support our avenging arms
Liberty, cherished Liberty,
Fight with thy defenders! (repeat)
Under our flags, may victory
Hurry to thy manly accents,
May thy expiring enemies,
See thy triumph and our glory!

To arms, citizens…

(Children’s Verse)
We shall enter the (military) career
When our elders are no longer there,
There we shall find their dust
And the trace of their virtues (repeat)
Much less keen to survive them
Than to share their coffins,
We shall have the sublime pride
Of avenging or following them

To arms, citizens…


What do I have in my bag of Trix(R)?

As a child I used to love finding the prize at the bottom of the cereal box.  Inthose days of yore the prizes are actually pretty good. Who could not resist a slimy stretchy hand or a wall climber?  It was  the prizes that determine the type of cereal I would beg mom would buy each week.  If Sugar Smacks® had a better prize than Froot Loops®, then of course I would Dig ‘em®!  I believed that the prize helped make the cereal taste better and maybe even allowed for a more meaningful encounter between me and my potential breakfast.

It wasn’t until my cynical teens that I figured out it was simply a marketing gimmick designed to sell cereal. It was quite a surprise to realize that the major brands did not really care for much more than selling cereal to the unsophisticated child who would demand that mom buy the right kind.  Oh well, as a child, like a child.

This came to mind as I was preparing for the Pentecost liturgy this week, as I was reminded of all the gimmicks I have either seen used, or to my shame, have used on that day.  Readings in foreign languages? Check. Doves on fishing poles flying through the congregation? Check.  Red Balloons? Check. Sharing of Bid Red Gum and Atomic Fireballs to give us tongues of fire? Check. Shaking of key rings simulating wind chimes to symbolize the wind of the Holy Spirit? Check.

Now, each of these were designed to make the liturgy more “meaningful” and allow for greater “participation” in the meaning of the day.  In the end, they were nothing more than an attempt to be cool, or hip, or sell the service as something different and unique. Thus, they said much more about the promoter than the day, and subtly promulgatged a belief that the the power of Pentecost could not be known without a little help from its friends. Frankly, however, the real inspiration behind them was not to make the liturgy meaningful, but a belief that the liturgy could not speak for itself or had no real power, and needed us to jump-start a “meaningful” (read “emotional”) experience through our “creativity”. 

So what could possibly be wrong with reading the lessons in other languages?  Nothing, if a significant number of your members speak that language.  Otherwise it is just a show of how learned the clergy and members are (hey, read the Gospel in Greek!), or a calling out that we have one or two who actually know a foreign language.  Of course, we then forget that most won’t actually hear the lesson in their native language, which was kind of the point of Pentecost to begin with as, “we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God” (Acts 2.11). But, hey, why should we have intelligibility when foreign, or ancient, languages are so cool and fun? 

As for wind chime keys, remember that entrance of the Holy Spirit was not like a soft summer breeze, but was “a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house” (Acts 2.2).  Mighty rushing winds don’t make soft tinkling sounds, they overwhelm.  We aren’t being tinkled on Pentecost, we are being rushed over and changed.

No, none of those for me this year.  I believe that the Liturgy itself speaks the importance of this day for us as believers.  We do not need to add gimmicks to increase its meaning or emotive impact.

However, if you desire to find the full meaning of the Liturgy and be challenged/changed by it,  just do what the Church has done throughout its history.  What is that you ask?  Well, pray throughout the week for your mindful attendance, your fellow Christians’ attendance, and your clerical leadership.  Pray that the clergy are filled with the anointing of God in bringing the homily and presiding over the liturgy.  Conduct a self-examination to see where sin is operative in your life, is keeping you from living the Gospel life, and bring that with you to the confession.  Read holy works, Scripture and others, throughout the week and mediate on the readings for the Sunday.  Remember that you are not just celebrating a Sunday in May, but Pentecost, or Trinity, or Proper 15, and if you have to miss remember that you are not just missing a Sunday, or a service, but a particular Sunday and say your prayers.

We do not need gimmicks to worship.  We simply need to be prepared.

Although, if I could figure out a way to light foreheads on fire….

No es muy frio o muy caliente

“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matt. 5:37 ESV)

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!” (Rev. 3:15 ESV)

Our Lord spoke quite a bit about the power of choices and keeping things simple.  Unfortunately, we have a way of complicating the obvious and trivializing the momentous.  One of the greatest ways we do this is by our presence, or lack thereof, in the church of our choice. 

Yes, I said it. While I would like to believe that the marketplace, or politics, do not rule which church we attend, they do.  We are truly American Post-Modern Individualist consumers and whatever we desire, we can find a church that provides it or teaches it.

The problem is that we treat churches like a brand of soft drink bought at the local convenience store, when it should be treated more like a house.  The soft drink is designed to be consumed in one sitting and meeting a single “need”.  The home is an investment in something solid. This requires constant investment and maintenance, but done properly it will last for generations.  I could not imagine changing a home as quickly as I do soft drinks.  Choose a home and stay as long as it meets your need for shelter. Feel free to choose based on the style and structure, and whether your family and all your stuff will fit in it.  However, once the choice is made, make a vow for a little stability, as far as it depends on you. Above all, resist the temptation to keep an alternative house always at the ready, for then you will never really be at home.

This  came to me as I was considering how to respond to a request to sojourn at St. M’s from a very nice couple, associated with another (not Episcopal) congregation in the area, who are at odds with the lead pastor. What they desired was not a respite period, but for welcome only on the days when this particular pastor was the lead in the service. In no way is this healthy, for either party.

So, my advice would be to make a choice to offer up their dislike in prayer through the power of the cross and continue to attend their current church, or make a clean break.  Taking a week or two off each month to attend another service to avoid that pastor is not healthy for them or the congregation. The Church is a place where real relationships exist, including bad ones that we need to work through, and where the Body is made poorer by our absence.  Be in or out. Don’t limp between two opinions. Let your “yes” be “yes”. Don’t be lukewarm.

That being said, there are times to make changes.  Not, all relationships can be healthy. Sometimes we want different worship styles, or more and different programs.  Sometimes a Methodist realizes he is actually an Anglican!  However, if you find yourself to be in this situation, or cannot reconcile your relationships, you owe it to your current church and your potential new one to make a clean break.  Anything else is unfair to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Then, if you are departing because of a broken relationship, go to confession for your own part in that break-up.

Any church is like a house, it is what you put into it that makes it a home.

NB—for clarity, I am speaking about church, or pastor, hopping in general, and not about part-time status in retirement or “snow birding”.

Oh the irony…

Obviously, I must not have had any thoughts since I have not posted since Good Friday.  Not, strictly true, but nothing worthy of recording or publicity.

Seriously, though, as I have been preparing for this Sunday’s homily, I noticed that the reading from Revelation has been cut in an interesting way.  According to the Revised Common Lectionary (of which I am not a big fan in any case), we are to read Revelation 22: 12-14, 16-17, 20-21.  Three verses are removed from the lesson.  Do you think this is done to simply shorten a long lesson, or could there be another reason?  I submit it is due to a penchant for not wanting to deal with uncomfortable verses, or simply verses we do not like.  This type of editing reminds me of Connie Booth asking John Cleese for The Standard Book of British Birds (the expurgated version, the one without the gannet, they wet their nests).

I have highlighted the removed verses below:

‘See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. 13I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’

14 Blessed are those who wash their robes,* so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. 15Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practises falsehood.

16 ‘It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.’
17 The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; 19if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

20 The one who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

So the editors decided to cut the verses warning about adding and taking away from the book?  Ironic, no?

Of course, I could be wrong.

For those who wish to see Monty Python’s bookshop sketch click here.  (Warning: language).




Good Friday

“The functional avoidance of Good Friday among many Christians is a heresy of long standing. Its tacit justifications seems to be that Easter Sunday signals a victory so complete that God effectively annihilated Golgotha. Such confusion makes for a theology that is not merely bad, but heartless and even dangerous. It…dares to attempt what even God refused: obliterating the wounds of Christ Crucified.”–Clifton Black, “The Persistence of the Wounds, in Lament: Reclaiming Practices in Pulpit, Pew, and Public Square (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2005), 57.  Quoted in The Crucifixion by Fleming Rutledge (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015), 65.

A Parable

There was a corporation that was known for being the best in its business.  It was one of the premier steakhouse chains. It was well-known and beloved and many of the leading citizens used its services.  It was old and venerable and respectable.  It had a structural model that divided the territory and set up districts for its business. Each district offered local franchise opportunities when enough people asked them to move a franchise into the community.  Many districts were set up and headed by strong managers. Some early managers went out and organized local franchises.  The franchises felt a strong connection to the district and even the corporation. 

So the corporation grew as the franchises and districts grew.  Great profits were had, and many people felt that the product sold by the corporation through its districts and franchises was the best available in the market.  The customers were loyal and ate there once a week, often inviting their friends.  Their children enjoyed keeping the tradition alive.

               Over time, the corporation rested on its laurels. It came to see its business model as merely keeping the doors of the franchises open. Attention to quality diminished and it began to feel entitled to its customers.  It was believed that the customers owed the corporation loyalty and their needs began to take second place.  Service began to suffer.

 In fact, many of the managers of the districts and franchises began to doubt that the steakhouse should even exist.  Some thought there was no real steak, others that it was a metaphor and still others that there were many paths to steak, so they wanted the ability to change the menu at their own initiative.  Many even removed steak from the menu.  Customers, their friends, and families began to drift away.  This was not blamed on the need to serve what the corporate menu promised, but on the fact that the districts and franchises were not innovative enough.  New managers needed to be brought in who would do this. Those who thought this began to scheme for advancements in the corporation. One district manager publicly stated that steak did not exist, and the corporation did nothing about it.  One manager even wrote articles claiming that the menu needed to change or die. Again, the corporation did nothing and allowed this manager to do talk shows in his managerial uniform and publically represent the corporation. This despite the fact that the corporation till clung to the idea of steak as its core business.

               Eventually, these district  and franchise managers began to move up the corporate chain.  No one thought about truly reinvigorating the business in caring for customers and providing quality by restoring the essential menu that people had come to expect.  Instead they gathered in the boardroom and turned the steakhouse corporation into a buffet.  No longer would customers be expected to order off the menu, but they could have whatever they wanted, even if it was an imaginary steak.  The corporation announced this new model to much fanfare. It developed a national marketing strategy to brand the corporation and sell its new buffet approach to current and future customers.  Only those who agreed to this new branding would be allowed to serve as district managers.  Any who did not would be allowed to retire gracefully if they wished, but their successors would have to swear loyalty to the new buffet model.

               Unfortunately, this did not help the market share, but the corporation did not seem to mind as it had done the right thing and changed from being that stodgy steakhouse. Buffets were the future.  Of course, a few buffet fans did begin to use the corporation, some loyal customers were loyal to their local franchise, some just liked the name of the corporation and its atmosphere, but many current customers started eating elsewhere and some districts and franchises left the corporation.  This was a time of turmoil. 

               Some districts and their franchises, and some franchises in buffet districts, did not like the new buffet model, but still stayed with the corporation.  They were laughed at and derided and given second status in the boardroom as they were outnumbered. They were the tolerated minority of districts and franchises, and many believed in just a generation or so they would get with the new program.

               Now, the districts and franchises that wished to serve the old menu struggle to announce that they have not changed, but continue to serve the steaks that made them famous.  However, most new customers have only seen the nationwide advertising campaign for a buffet and do not want steak.  These feel that they have fallen for a “bait and switch” and do not become regulars.  Others, who do want steak, also have seen the national advertising and refuse to even try the local franchise.

               So, what happens?  Will the steakhouse districts and franchises simply become boutiques or even survive?  Will the buffet corporation? How will the market decide?

               Let the reader understand.

La Diva

Today started rough.  It was quite difficult to be mindful at Morning Prayer, and I actually found myself repeating the salutation and Lord’s Prayer when I should have been moving on to the suffrages.  Too much on my mind, I guess.  So, I did do a little Benedictine kneeling for my unmindfulness.

Yet, that was not the worse.  I realized I had not taken my medication (prophylactic antibiotic after a run in with a cleaver on Monday), so I left for home in my “trusty” 1500.  Not a good move.

A week ago my RAM 1500 with 40k miles was in the shop for warranty work on an oil pump. I get that problems develop and am thankful for warranties on new vehicles.  Today, however, it flooded out.  Upon restart, it went 100 meters then did it again.  Realizing I was developing a new problem, I resolved to take it to the dealer about 1/2 mile away.  Well, we never got there.  After a series of thunks and thuds, I pulled into a local business and saw a trail of gas/oil behind me.  So, called for a tow to the dealer.

I do not believe in coincidences, so am betting there is a connection to the repair work from last week.  I was pleasant with the service folk, but will be pushing for more than just a warrantied repair.

Anyway, since they won’t give a rental unless kept overnight, I was forced to cancel a few appointments and return to my study for the day.   I confess it did take me a bit to wind down from my frustration.

After finishing some admin work, I then sat to catch up on a couple of journals and read some Martin Thornton (B/T to Matthew Dallman).  For this, I thought a good cigar in order.  Thus, I delved into the depths of my humidor for one of my last La Divas.

This cigar has been discontinued for years, and the stick I chose was purchased in the fall of 1998 at the PX at Ft. Jackson, SC while training as a Chaplain Assistant.  I still remember purchasing a half-box for “victory” cigars with a good friend in the class.  We smoked a few the day of graduation and went our separate ways. The rest went into the private stash.

After 17 years this cigar did not disappoint. This is a natural wrapper 7.5×49 cigar.  It burned well, and after two hours was palatable to the end.  The tasting notes included cream and coffee with a slight peppery finish. Room note was quite pleasant, reminding me of a sweet campfire.

It was a joy to read a classic work on ascetical theology while enjoying a classic cigar and reminiscing about the good old days.

Relaxing indeed.

Now, I should probably go for some penance for my uncharitable thinking this morning.

The smoking lamp is lit!