Sunday, December 28, 2008
just a very small series of vignettes that I need to remember whenever I feel moved to climb the church tower with a firearm (I'm kidding, I'm kidding)...
Christmas went well, the weather "milded up" most obligingly, I slept all day on the couch on Boxing Day (aka "Feast of Stephen"), and felt fairly rested, but Something is Lurking...Something of the "Nasty Cough" variety...
So I came in this morning about 7:45, and midway through the 8:30 service just before the Intercession, I swallowed the wrong way and went through a series of explosive coughs and snorts, all delivered into the shoulder of my surplice as nearly as I could manage...was really wondering whether I would be able to UTTER at all, hastily formulating theological contingency plans: i.e., if I stand behind the altar and MOUTH the words of consecration, is it licit/valid/kosher for the Lay Reader/Assistant to UTTER them?
As it turned out I found a place in the contralto register where I could produce words...and when the second communicant at the rail held up his hands for his wafer...in his palm were two Cepacol throat lozenges in their foil packet...
Isn't it an amazing moment when you feel "taken care of" in the parish?
Nappage this afternoon. Out for dinner ce soir.
My brother and his wife sent lovely "woodworked" Christmas gifts including a splendid jigsaw puzzle style Nativity set...which became this morning's Children's Focus, there being no Sunday School. When we had ooh'ed and aah'ed over all the splendid pieces, the assembled young'uns took the set back to a quiet warm spot on the carpet and had a splendid gentle quiet play with it all the way through the service. (The picture above is an approximation -- a very similar puzzle.)
BTW when I drove up my driveway at 1:30 a.m. Christmas Day, after the two Christmas Eve services...there was the Christmas tree in the living-room window, decorated, and lit, and the needles vacuumed up, and the decoration boxes put away...thanks to #1 Son...
Some days it's all I can do not to feel downright LOVED! And I hope you all feel loved too.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Finally this morning there was Nothing For It but to make the Hideous Great List of everything that I really WOULD like to have behind me by 7 p.m. tomorrow evening...
So far I've been to the bank, deposited a comforting quantity of cheques...
looped around past the dry cleaner and dropped off a blanket...and managed to corner a Christmas-tree dealer who hadn't yet given up on the market and shipped his wares off to the chipper/mulchers. We agreed on a very handsome tree, not too darn big, for about half its hoped-for price, and managed to wedge it into Harriet-the-Echo's hinder parts, and I got it home without its falling out on the freeway or anything tedious like that. So I do feel quite triumphant about that bit of the list.
Also got to the Post Office and bought a tremendous wad of stamps. Yesterday's mail was a chunky handful of cards, some with pictures, many with letters...which somehow stimulated a great if belated surge of affection and desire-to-reach-out. My ambition to write Christmas cards was flagging a bit, but "it's ba-a-ack."
Also in the mail, the New Yorker and Times Literary Supplement, the latter with lots of reviews of books about Christianity under various headings.
At bedtime and on first waking, these days, I'm reading the new biography of Gerard Manley Hopkins, in small-ish chunks. It gets better, or I get more attentive, as it goes along.
At the end of last week I took two unofficial days off...did some satisfying house-cleaning, and as part of that I rounded up all the most recently arrived theological books and coalesced them into a knee-high stack next to the sofa. Impressive!
It was just So Cold...thirty-five below on Friday, and only a little better on Saturday. A time to "cocoon," and I did.
Sunday was double-time busy, though -- the two services in the morning, with surprisingly good attendance given the weather (it hasn't really broken, and won't, now, until after Christmas) -- then my monthly communion in a seniors' residence, "exercising the priesthood" and seeing again that "having come" I've really done it all...the communion is just a bonus.
The residence is just a couple of blocks from one of the acute-care hospitals where a parishioner was languishing, so I was well positioned to get in for a flying visit with her (and her daughter, during intervals of temperature-taking and blood-pressure-reading). Word came this morning that she's being discharged for home today. A heavy fall on the ice last week so jarred her poor "innards" that she had a gall-bladder attack...the first time I've encountered that particular chain of cause and effect!
Then after the hospital visit I paused for a break and then back to MH & U for the "Ladies' Wine and Cheese" which was elegant and lavish but not as well attended as it should have been. Never mind, the Sanctuary Guild polished off the leftovers the next day after their decorating binge.
And the day closed with the annual Choir Christmas Party...great food, lashings of drink (lots of Designated Drivers!), and a tremendous carol-sing with much mirth, for which I was plenty ready, by then.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I got to the funeral home with about 50 copies of the Book of Alternative Services -- we had a congregation of 200. Staff at the funeral home showing minimal interest in helpfulness. Their hands in their pockets kind of DISCLOSED their essential attitude.
Got the books in, got them dispersed among the congregants, recognized the musician (AAAAAHHHHHH!!!)(have you ever heard a funeral-musician who could make even "Amazing Grace" sound like a torch song? And all the accompaniments sound like cocktail lounge stuff?)(on the other hand I've also done funerals assisted by the gentleman who sings the national anthem at hockey games in Prairie Metropolis....), climbed into the multi-layered garb, and ran the service.
Slightly unnerved but on the whole gratified to encounter a very large gentleman (using the term in the Pickwickian sense), formerly not unconnected with law enforcement, who shows signs of becoming A Fan. His presence in one of the front pews eased my fears that the estranged son of the deceased lady was going to show up and be stroppy.
And then we went up the hill to the cemetery. I decided against trying to drive Harriet, togged out as I was in cassock'n'surplice'n'hood'n'tippet'n'funeral cloak, so I let K, the young "undertakess", drive me, carrying the ashes in my lap, in one of the funeral cars.
The route is all uphill, and at the end there is a sharp right turn into the parking lot, by one of two entrances. K took the first we came to, also the STEEPEST, and being young and inexperienced she hesitated just for a moment, and there we were in the big old B**** of a Cadillac hopelessly stuck on the ice (no sand, no salt, no traction), and mourners piling up behind us not seeing the problem. And poor K so very badly wanted to swear, and couldn't...
Eventually people clued in, stopped traffic, let us slither backwards into the road and acquire momentum for the second of the two driveways. Success.
And it was only old-fashioned zero, and NO WIND (this is not in nature, believe me), and so all the mourners who were minded to, were able to come to the graveside without undue danger to their health.
A high school choral concert here this evening, and the final session of our Advent "Praying in Colour" group, and so home.
Fresh snow reveals that Teh Rabbit has been in the front flower-bed, nomming on the bits of grass sticking up. Some mornings we can see where he spent quite some time in the yard, other mornings it's apparent he crossed the yard at high speed.
Speaking of moving at speed, the new "pickers" on the bottom of the Rambler's boots are doing their job, and I stride about with entire confidence over all sorts of hideous icy footing. The challenge is remembering that I don't have similar gear on Harriet's tires.
Have been reading Michael Ignatieff's biography of Sir Isaiah Berlin--one of those names about whom I've long thought I should know something--and now I'm getting there! It's a long time since I looked at any political theory even secondhand...a perspective on theological thinking that I've neglected... I need to lay hands on some of Anna Akhmatova's poetry too, obviously.
A funeral this afternoon -- a memorial, actually -- for a parishioner who died suddenly some weeks ago in England. Family dynamics will be interesting...estranged offspring promising to kick up some sort of ruckus around and about the proceedings. Trying to devise a sermon that will actually address both the readings chosen and the hearts of those present.
The interment of ashes...in an old cemetery on a Nice. High. Hill. is a lot less daunting since the thermometer rose overnight. I have inherited a Fierce Big Funeral Cloak down to my ankles but may have to supplement it with a most non-clerical toque...at least we're not having to recruit pall-bearers for this stint.
And last night I confirmed that my legacy from my parents had been transferred into my bank. It represents an awful lot of ladders climbed, underground, in the dark, and an awful lot of essays marked at four a.m.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Thank you, one and all.
Harriet-the-Echo started like a Good Thing this morning, although for some miles she drove as if carved out of tough wood with a dull knife...
By the way I am amused at the marketing and customer-placating acumen of the wily wizards of Toyota...Harriet went in for her 54K km check-up this week, which turned into six hundred dollars worth of attention to her suspension/steering and more esoteric Vital Fluids (brake and steering)...no argument there...BUT! I was not allowed to leave until I had accepted a free-gratis state-of-the-art ergonomically-correct Toyota official snow-brush-cum-ice-scraper. Made my whole day, I tell you.
Well, actually it did, as the old one had developed a fatal crack in its ice-scraping blade. Made for interesting effects on the windshield.
It was so dry last night in the extreme cold, that there was barely even frost on Harriet's windows this morning.
Time to go unlock the big front doors here at MH & U. Good day, one and all, and plenty of Advent joy.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Meditating on dealings with the really-and-truly not-a-clue un-churched, especially in one's own family. I just mailed an Advent Calendar to my (very) young first cousins twice removed...I'm not sure, exactly, but they're either the third or the fourth generation to be utterly without religious instruction, as their mother freely admits. She asked me -- "What is this ADVENT thing that has just appeared on all the church signs, where it used to be all about Christmas-tree sales???" She says her kids know all about chocolate-calendars; so this year they're getting a church one. We made one, some years ago, with a lovely snowy photograph of Most Holy & Undivided, and a tiny emblem and a fragment of text behind each of the doors...
My children had a whole trousseau of calendars collected over the years -- there was a Tasha Tudor one, one from the second act of La Boheme, several lovely snow-scene European ones...all carefully closed up after Christmas and put away for next year! Great fun.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
The Mothers against Drunk Driving have just been and done their thing, bless their hearts. Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and Prairie Metropolis Police Service in attendance, including a Very Large Piper, who is also on Homicide. He took us in to "Going Home." Very nice too. But he couldn't pipe us out, because he had to go and deal with a ... well, a homicide.
And I am off to a par-tay, possums, at which I shall probably drink nothing more interesting than chocolate milk, having duly laid to heart what was said earlier this afternoon.
I thanked the emergency-services workers and police for the frightful things they see and do on our behalf; I encouraged the work of anti-drunk driving education, reminding one and all that some folks have to hear the message one-on-one; I talked about looking at obituaries and reflecting on all the love that vanishes out of the world when people die, and how those left behind have to step up the lovin' accordingly; and I added to their perception of the benefit of "grief shared" the idea that "love shared is love squared" and then I said a prayer and sat down.
St. Nicholas arrived duly and there was excellent bantering, GREATLY enjoyed by one and all. I handed out left over Nicholas-chocolate to the children at the MADD service.
Freezing rain overnight, making the drive "in" interesting... I don't understand -- many things, but this in particular in this weather -- how people can barrel down the road ignoring both the sinister curb-to-curb glitter of the pavement, AND the sensations in the seat of their britches, as their SUV slews this way and that.
Ah well. We wait in hope and live in mystery.
Second Advent blessings, everybody.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
And where is the Beloved Old Guy who understands the Furnace Mysteries? Oh he's in Mexico, you say? Well a big cheer for him.
We'll call his son...his son is in Toronto...but his son puts me thro' all that an amateur can do to revamp the system, to no avail...
So a service man from the firm was despatched, and we now "gat heat," like King David...and the service man also showed me another mysterious magical switch which I can "try" if this should happen again.
St. Nicholas is coming tomorrow at the end of the service: I have chocolate money and chocolate "lumps of coal" and so forth for him to distribute amongst the young and not-so. Now to store them in a mouse-proof place...
And I've written a very, very simple sermon on making a highway for God = repentance.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
...and alas,Largely Misinformed.
We are having us some Constitutional Crisis, here in Canada, and unfortunately the Average Voter is very much in evidence.
When the Rambler was a little girl in school (about the time the ink dried on Magna Charta), there was an overall theme to the way national and (gasp!) imperial history were taught. The idea, the theory, the myth, that is "the lie which it is useful for the people to believe," was that the march of British constitutional history was one long, continuous, cumulative triumph for the ordinary citizen in the struggle not only to overcome specific tyrants but also to make tyranny itself, whether by despots or by mobs incited by demagoguery, less and less possible. Hence splendid developments like habeas corpus, and the secret ballot, and universal suffrage irrespective of property qualifications, and a bi-cameral legislature, and so on and so forth. As such things go, it was a benign and hopeful and inspiring kind of national mythology.
And it came with a prudential dimension also -- that governments inevitably were tempted toward tyranny, and must be kept wisely and firmly in check by responsible opposition, and by constitutional mechanisms for removing them from office when they ceased to enjoy the formal "confidence" of the people's elected representatives.
Whatever else the level of public discourse reveals this week -- it is sadly evident that the thread of that narrative has been lost...and nothing of equal, or any, value has replaced it.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Doesn't it make you go "mmmHMMMMM" when you find an author has been reading what you've been reading? I felt that way about Mike Yaconelli; our approaches to ministry could hardly have been more different, but I felt instinctively he was trustworthy.
Long lunch with a colleague yesterday fretting over the sense of isolation and exile and, frankly, peril amongst a perceived plurality of colleagues of very different outlook, temperament, theology, rhetoric (and generation, which isn't incidental either).
And for this difficulty, I pointed out, Divine Providence has furnished us with the RevGals. I'll persuade her yet!
In a similar fashion, someone -- I think it was Karl Rahner -- pointed out that for Christians for whom it is always, innately, winter in the heart, God in his infinite mercy has furnished TEXT...praise Him!
One of our assistants, during a discussion on factions amongst the clergy (yes! in the church! shock! horror! I know, I know), commented wisely that amongst all the polarities that fragment us -- in theology, in spirituality, in agenda, in ambition -- there is another "yes/no" categorization that cuts across all the others. There are fellow-clergy we'd be glad to see at our deathbed, and there are those we'd be, well, less glad to see. I thought that put matters into a healthy perspective.
Monday, December 1, 2008
New season, new church year, new month...same old heaps of paper in the office, though!
I was watching one of the innumerable instalments of Monarchy on PBS the other night, and reflecting that Her Majesty toils through just such heaps of paper every blessed day of her life, and then it hit me...
SHE, as we all know, receives her papers in the notorious Red Baize Boxes (or are they leather?).
Plainly this is all that has stood between me and perfect efficiency, all these years: a lack, actually a Total Dearth, of Red Baize Boxes.
HAD WE BUT THOUGHT to provide them, when I was ordained, the whole ministry-thing would and must have turned out very differently. And better.
In the meantime, we celebrated Advent Sunday yesterday here at Most Holy and Undivided; our friends from the High and Lifted Up and Fill-ed With Smoke parish downtown were present in large numbers, making this our "second annual" get-together for this service. All sang lustily, and there was a fine sufficiency of good things to eat and drink afterward. Gemuetlichkeit ensued.
We sang all the old Advent warhorse hymns, including one of the few things Anglicans mercifully salvaged from the bygone Red Hymn Book of loathed memory -- "There's a Voice in the Wilderness Crying," to the Hugh Bancroft tune. I've looked in vain for a youtube link to share with you.
Back to the paper-heaps.
P.S. OK, to clarify, "baize" is a coarse woollen cloth rather like felt or "poker cloth": or what is sometimes called "Melton cloth" which is an old-fashioned kind of thick woollen version of what we now call "fleece." Maybe the red boxes are leather-covered after all. I am open to correction on this!
P.P.S. Then again, they may be blue. Can't count on nuffin' these days.
Monday, November 24, 2008
- Vestry meets tonight (aka Session, Parish Council in other jurisdictions).
- we have 200 nice new chairs, and one of the two most cantankerous and difficult members of Most Holy and Undivided (not counting the Rector) is delighted with them; this cuts the endemic grousing off at the knees, so to speak (what's a few mixed metaphors among BlogPals?)
- Funeral on Wednesday, this week. The family have asked me if it would be possible to "have a quotation from St. Paul." I waited to hear what "quotation" -- but no. Just "a quotation" -- because "Paul was one of his favorites." As we read most of First Corinthians 15 at an old-style BCP funeral, I confess I was Wholly Bemused by this request. (Not to mention, "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life...") So I think this is going to be a Teaching Homily moment.
- I really really don't know where people are coming from, any more. Are they Unchurched, Dechurched, Open Dechurched, Closed Dechurched...what? One of those moments when I realize what is meant by the "evangelism inside the walls."
- tomorrow the Knit-Wits will gather -- and celebrate the 90th birthday of one of our matriarchs...a retired head nurse of Scandinavian extraction = a truly formidable character. I will be honoured to share their coffee and cake.
- Friday night was an enormous treat -- Eldest Son and Comely Lady-Friend and I joined SIL's parents for a production of Handel's oratorio "Solomon," which SIL was conducting -- Prairie Metropolis's Big Choir (100+ singers) and a Baroque orchestra, and five exemplary soloists, three imports of international standing and two local singers who more than held their own in the company they were in. During the intermission I encountered a former parishioner (another parish) who up until eight p.m. Friday night had never even heard of a counter-tenor. She was in deep shock, but bearing up well.
- baptisms yesterday -- two little children whose parents were married here since I came to the parish...the younger child has an older brother whom I also baptized. The service went well and the babies were adorable and lived up to the Parish Myth that they stop crying when the Rector gets her hands on them.
- and then a run to the supermarket while the rest of the nation was glued to the PRE-GAME SHOW, and finally #1 Son and I settled down to watch the annual Gridiron Classic, aka the Grey Cup (think SuperBowl, only...well, um... better, actually).
- the beautiful and virtuous half of the country, i.e. the West, was triumphant. We try not to notice that it was embodied, this year, by the team from Rival Prairie Metropolis. A good game, nonetheless.
Bring on the rest of the week!
Friday, November 21, 2008
Please answer the following kitchen-related questions:
1) Do you have a food processor? Can you recommend it? Which is to say, do you actually use it
No, I don't. One was semi-offered to me, back in a previous regime, but it looked like Too Complicated and Unnecessarily Hard to Clean, and I turned it down.
2) And if so, do you use the fancy things on it? (Mine came with a mini-blender (used a lot and long ago broken) and these scary disks you used to julienne things (used once).)
No, but I have a pretty scary hand-thing -- I think it's called a "mandoline" or perhaps a "Veg-a-matic" which cuts up vegetables and will take the knuckles off you as quick as a wink.
3) Do you use a standing mixer? Or one of the hand-held varieties?
Yeppers; had a hand-held one when first married, and something jimmied the beaters early on...so fairly soon after that I came into possession of my mother's Original Sunbeam Mixmaster, 1950 model...it gave her, and me, 50 years good service before it had to be replaced. I think we went through 3 set of bowls in the meantime -- the originals were white Pyrex, then she had a steel set, and I had a steel set. There was a way-cool juicer thing that fit on top too.
And my brother made me an excellent Lexan cover for the big bowls, with a slot for the stems of the beaters, so that the mixer wouldn't throw mashed potatoes all over the kitchen.
(And isn't that color delightfully retro?)
Actually it's avant-garde compared to what I started with.
4) How about a blender? Do you have one? Use it much?
Yes, also a Sunbeam and it's 40 years old, 3 speeds; fast, slow, and off. I replaced the original glass container with a plastic one. I notice a couple of small cracks, but I press on. Have replaced the rubber gaskets countless times. I use it to make cole slaw and carrot slaw. And I have Peg Bracken's priceless recipe for Blender Hollandaise, which I make fairly often. And from time to time a milk-shake or some such.
5) Finally, what old-fashioned, non-electric kitchen tool do you enjoy using the most?
I have a couple of good black iron frying pans, very trustworthy, from long-defunct foundries in Self-Satisfied Central Province. And I have a proper, tinned metal, Mouli grater for cheese etc., which I bought for fifteen cents in an Opera Guild thrift-shop...never to be replaced, this one. And I have a "flat spoon," an invention of my grandmother from the Show Me State. She would take an "odd" silver tablespoon out to the chopping block, and tap it discreetly with the back of the axe until the bowl was completely flattened out again...reasoning that you don't need a Great Big Thing to lift your poached egg out of the pan, just a little spoon-sized lifter. Some of my friends would call that a "spatula," but to me a spatula is a rubber thing you use to scrape batter out of your Mixmaster bowls.
Bonus: Is there a kitchen appliance or utensil you ONLY use at Thanksgiving or some other holiday? If so, what is it?
I think it would be the big dark-blue-enamel turkey roasting pan...
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Back at the old lemonade stand doing all those things we learned about in seminary like proofreading vestry minutes, ordering in cases of "bathroom tissue" (the first one to say, "expecting big things at MH&U" will be sent to time out), shifting tables and chairs, measuring out coffee, drinking my own, nibbling my cinnamon bun, and wondering what in heaven's name local retailers mean by not opening for business until TEN A.M. For pity's sake, the day's half over, you guys!
I have to do intensive telephone patrol here in a minute...
Bi-monthly meeting of Prairie Metropolis's Council of Churches here at 11:45, and no agenda written yet.
Lovely interlude last night engaged with the "social utility" (is that the term?) that rhymes with "space-hook," chatting with one of our ordinands in another city far far away. We went from our shared appreciation of pumpkin beer through mutual disclosure of where we were born and grew up and how we spent our summers and the wit and wisdom of the Archbishop of Canterbury, thence to what she's doing at present and what her plans are and what her husband's doing (he's also a theolog), and I wound up with an email of the paper he's co-presenting today in a seminar on ecumenical dialogue...it's a proposal to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (acronymed around here to WOP4CU or "wop-for-cue") with an ecumenical eucharistic fast, in our own churches. Various liturgical suggestions of what this might look like, in the various traditions. On the rationale, approximately, of "Until we authentically CAN do this altogether, we will from time to time symbolically abstain in mourning for our scandalous divisions" -- cf. Holy Saturday practice.
This young man, whom I really don't know well at all, is much involved with the Anglican-Orthodox dialogues that have gone on. I plainly have to dig out my notes from NAAE in St. Louis and get them to him in some readable form.
It did not feel like a wasted evening! Even though I went home and fell asleep under the spell of the idiot box and didn't rouse up properly until nearly 5 a.m.
Okay. Agenda, here I come.
Monday, November 17, 2008
At any rate! When I took up ministry at Most Holy & Undivided, the sitting-needs of the congregants at occasions other than worship (for which we are provided with fairly penitential pews of great antiquity) were met, so to speak, by a great many Horrible Stacking Chairs with metal legs and plastic seats'n'backs in virulent hues, i.e. burnt orange and bright turquoise. (Pause to let you visualize this)
Two things about these chairs...every. single. last. one. of them already was cracked in the plastic aspect of its being. And every. single. last. one. of them had been "repaired" in the previous year by a parishioner who had (UNASKED, mind you) replaced the screws holding the repellent plastic bits (cracked, as I mentioned), to the metal frames.
(I have looked and looked on Google and can't find anything even approximately as ugly as these chairs.)
Although they were uncomfortable, dangerous (I mentioned the cracks, right?) and destructive (their gnarly little metal feet, or leg-ends, chewed up floors something wonderful)...they were by virtue of all the screw-replacement work done on them, SACROSANCT FOREVER.
Some years ago, we were offered replacements...not much newer, but chairs with laminated wood backs and seats -- not cracked! We took the offer (which was free) and we attempted -- since we were FORBIDDEN to consider disposing of the plastic jobbies -- to put the new wooden chairs in stacks IN FRONT OF the Plastic Horribles, in the storage room.
This mainly served to stimulate the chair-mending parishioner to rearrange the storage whenever he got the chance, so as to bring his handiwork to the fore.
At any rate...after much argle and bargle...other parishioners have given us some thousands of dollars worth of brand-new comfortable stacking chairs.
And arranged to have the Plastic Horribles carried away forever to some Place of Eternal Recyclement. This work was supposed to happen today. I arrived in the early afternoon to find, becalmed in the parking lot under my office window, the large Junk Truck, loaded with chairs...and its hood open, and battery-paraphernalia lying about in the middle distance, and jumper cables much in evidence.
I thought, "That's it! We're stuck with these...blessed...chairs forever and ever amen" -- but I see just now that they did manage to get the truck re-started, and it, and the horrible chairs, have vanished into the hinterland.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
The parable of the talents is probably one of the best known in the whole range of the Gospels – and even so, one of themost troublesome. A common response to it, in Bible study, is the cry, “that doesn’t sound like MY Jesus!”
When this happens it is an open invitation from God to dig deeper, to go below the surface.
We get into trouble when we mechanically assign a meaning or an identity to each of the participants in the parable: the landlord or the master “is” God and the servants/slaves “are” you and me, and so on. And in this story, if we decide from the very beginning that the master “is” God, “is” Jesus who is about to leave his disciples with the promise that he will come again, then it isn’t surprising that we should fail to recognize “our” Jesus in all this talk of being flung into outer darkness with the usual amusements of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
There are a couple of moments in this story that need us to pause for a bit…the obvious one, I think, is that the third servant doesn’t seem to be on the same wave-length as the other two. It’s astonishing how readily we assume that he has “got it right” about the master who is master of ALL three – just because he is the only one that stops to characterize the master…as a hard man…a profiteer…an exploiter of others’ labour…there is absolutely no evidence anywhere else in the story to justify that characterization. On the contrary – if you look at what the master DOES, and what the master SAYS, you have to wonder where that servant’s head is.
And yet the phraseology is familiar…we not only recognize the characterization because we are used to the kind of people the servant describes – maybe we ARE the kind of people the servant describes, and that’s why – but I think we mush-wittedly go on assuming that the servant is RIGHT about God too, just because we have previously decided we KNOW what this story is about, it’s REALLY about God and ourselves; therefore, “Yes, that’s right, God is just like this, mmm hmmm” – and then we are left in that “Jesus said WHAT?” position.
Which is a sure and certain signal that we need to back up and look at our assumptions. Surely one of the things that parables are meant to do is to unsettle our assumptions.
We have already heard what the master says to the other servants – and there’s a lovely little phrase in there that tends to slip past without catching our attention – “enter into the joy of your master.” Maybe we don’t notice it because it sounds so archaic and ceremonious and “Middle Eastern” that we dismiss it as just “oh yeah, some more BIBLE TALK.” But it isn’t! It's the second thing we need to attend to.
The master has praised the servants – “How about YOU! Look at YOU!” he says. And then – far from taking away from them what they’ve reaped, earned, he promises them more to be working with – and then he says this neat thing about the “joy of their master.”
I tried to think how to put this into more recognizable words – and I remembered a moment in a movie – not too long ago – called Master and Commander – I don’t know whether you’ve seen it or remember it (it’s not a chick flick) – it’s a kind of a Wet Epic about British Navy Adventures in the Napoleonic era…and there’s a wonderful moment when some amazingly improbably heroics have just happened and the Captain – Russell Crowe – accosts one of his junior officers and says, “Now tell me that wasn’t fun?”
And I think this is what the master says to the first two servants, when they come tottering in all bent double under the weight of their earnings – “Some fun, eh, guys? Shall we do it again, only louder this time?” So we have every reason to REJECT the third servant’s description, because we already know better about the master.
We KNOW BETTER than this about God, as a matter of faith – especially from our vantage point on the far side of the resurrection – and if we can recognize that the third servant is most particularly ill-advised (trying to find a more dignified word than DUMBER THAN CHEESE), ill-advised, to behave this way with regard to a master who is just humanly generous and lavish…how much MORE ill-advised would it be to behave that way to God, who if anything is even more than humanly generous and lavish.
Now the moral, if you really want a moral, is that getting God wrong is NOT a good way to start making decisions about what to do with what God has given you.
The fancy way to say this – I’m borrowing it from an anonymous preacher – is that it is very hard to create blessing, or give a blessing, or enjoy a blessing, when you live in a culture – especially a religious culture – that is founded on the idea of scarcity!!!! And this casts quite a new light on the fate of the third servant. He’s flung into the outer darkness et cetera for one very good and sufficient reason – he has chosen it, and he’s already there. You can even hear the gnashing, in what he says to the master after his return. It’s his native habitat. He can’t be anywhere else, because he doesn’t recognize anywhere else – he can’t even IMAGINE anywhere else to be, except in this kind of darkness.
What then about these talents? If God is “something like” this master…what is it that he gives us to invest, so that it will increase? I think, whether you read the talents historically as very large sums of capital – or rest in the accidental pun on the word in its modern sense – gifts, capacities, skills, aptitudes – the talents he entrusts to his servants amount to the capacity for action, the capacity for choices. Another shorthand way of saying it might be – liberty to act – to choose blessing, to choose grace, to choose life, to choose PRAISE OF GOD – the thing we do in liturgy that we call DOXOLOGY (the Glorias e.g.). And we are to make the choices that he has emkpowered us to make, in such a way that other people’s freedom to choose – to choose all those good things -- is magnified and multiplied. Not out of fear of the darkness and weeping and gnashing, but just because the joy of the master is such a glorious, exhilarating state to be in.
And what our master entrusts to us is independent of market conditions or any other external factors at all. In fact…if I may borrow a slogan from the world of chartered banking – they don’t seem to have used it in advertising much in the last month, perhaps they won’t mind – in terms of what has been entrusted to us, in the freedom to live lilke the servants of a loving, generous, faithful, joyful God – “you’re richer than you think”…or can ask, or can imagine.
But I feel as though a good, new, (re)start has been made on our visiting ministry at MH&U.
I read a column by Maeve Binchy from Dear Maeve, about how the "code" for visiting the terminally ill has changed in her lifetime. It added another dimension, perhaps, to our contemplation of what we are all about.
Meantime Sanctuary Guild were doing their thing, and mid-morning the diocesan hospital visitors opened their meeting in an adjacent space. The various activities managed to co-exist without friction, which is good. 'Tisn't always that smooth.
I am going out for a treat tonight to hear/see Monteverdi's Orfeo. Most exciting.
And tomorrow I have three services -- and voila, it's Monday again. A heavy week before us, but the worst of the pressure is off -- aside from this pesky sermon!
Friday, November 14, 2008
(Not actually the Rambler!)
What with one thing and another or three, the acedia has receded, and a fair amount of work has been accomplished this week. I think this is because of renewed zest for the year to come and for some new, that is, additional, ways of being church in this place which are being happily explored with a congenial colleague--ways of being church that have found quick, happy echoes in the consciousness at MH & U. We are looking at expanding our ministry in terms of the creative arts, and of the community, the folks whose lives are centred on and in the arts.
So there is some excitement in the ministry again...and some conviviality, even some renewed cyber-conviviality.
I am happy that the new energy has overflowed into Least Favourite Tasks such as making phone contact with people, sending out mass emails, setting agendas, vetting minutes, and so forth.
Tuesday and Wednesday were days of serious meetings...that went well and with good energy, on into the evening...Thursday was blessed with a series of no-shows and cancellations which freed time to rush about in the city attending to banking, post office... Otherwise Thursday was pretty flat -- some days I can generate streams of prose, conversation, decisions, communications; other days, nothing but facial hair and methane. (Go ahead and laugh, you young'uns -- you'll find out!)
Today has been all yee-haw again. Just about two serious tasks left and then home I go, with sermon notes and lectionary in hand. "We can do this" is our cry, again; thanks be to God.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
When I got home last night the Rowan Williams book on Dostoevsky was in the mailbox. I've only got to the back-cover blurbs and the title-page, but I notice it is part of a series out of Baylor UP, "The Making of the Christian Imagination."
This morning at our 11/11 service, in lieu of a sermon, and in support of the Christian imagination, I'm going to read the passage near the end of Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks, that includes these words. (Stephen is an English soldier, a sapper, who has been buried by his own explosion; he is being dug out by Levi and Lamm, who are -- not -- English soldiers. It is eleven in the morning of November 11th, 1918.)
"It was Levi's work, not Lamm's, that had loosened the earth sufficiently at the end of Stephen's coffin for him to be able to drawl out of it, over the fallen body of Jack Firebrace.
On hands and knees he moved back among the debris his own explosion had made. About a yard further along he could see where the tunnel was still intact. It was here that Lamm had broken through. Levi pushed Lamm back and climbed into the British tunnel himself. Tricked by the echo of Stephen's tapping, he turned the wrong way, and began to walk away from him.
Gurgling and spitting earth from his mouth, Stephen clawed his way forward, shouting as he went. He could see light from some lantern swaying in the tunnel ahead of him. There was air. He could breathe.
Levi heard him. He turned and walked back.
As the tunnel roof lifted, Stephen moved up into a crouch and called out again. The lantern was on him.
He looked up and saw the legs of his rescuer. They were clothed in the German feldgrau, the colour of his darkest dream.
He staggered to his feet and his hand went to pull out his revolver, but there was nothing there, only the torn, drenched rags of his trousers.
He looked into the face of the man who stood in front of him and his fists went up from his sides lilke those of a farm boy about to fight.
At some deep level, far below anything his exhausted mind could reach, the conflicts of his soul dragged through him like waves grating on the packed shingle of a beach. The sound of his life calling to him on a distant road; the faces of the men who had been slaughtered, the closed eyes of Michael Weir in his coffin; his scalding hatred of the enemy, of Max and all the men who had brought him to this moment; the flesh and love of Isabelle, and the eyes of her sister.
Far beyond thought, the resolution came to him and he found his arms, still raised, begin to spread and open.
Levi looked at this wild-eyed figure, half-demented, his brother's killer. For no reason he could tell, he found that he had opened his own arms in turn, and the two men fell upon each other's shoulders, weeping at the bitter strangeness of their human lives."
Friday, November 7, 2008
who let this man into my office?
There was a curate at MH & U, back in the day, who was under the impression that "ponderous" meant "thoughtful" or "reflective" (given that "ponder" means "think," right?); he came perilously close to getting himself thumped from time to time, suggesting to the Rambler that she "looked particularly ponderous" at certain moments. Eventually his bride enlightened him. Hilarity ensued.
Time for a mall-walk this morning with a good friend...time to push a bit of paper to and fro on the desk ... time for lunch with another good friend: and now as there is no actual precipitation falling, but there's a significant thickening of the atmosphere on the horizon that whispers "...snow....snow....snow...."
So I am headed back to Tether's End to begin dealing with eight-full-sized-poplars' worth of fallen leaves. Because we are living on borrowed time as regards yard work, in these parts.
Returning later in the evening for the opening session of Marriage Prep. And tomorrow morning again, I make soup for the participants.
And somewhere in here I put together some homiletical thoughts about Joshua and the Thessalonians and the wise and foolish bridesmaids and Remembrance Day ...
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Then last night I stayed in the office in case anyone showed up for Bible study (they did, both of them, bless their hearts), and in the meantime I got into watching the live feed (AP via the CBC), all those mesmerizing little red and blue blotches, oh dear. Also in the meantime one of my far-flung nephews bobbed up on "meebo," as he was watching results on Fox TV, back in the Mysterious East. So after Bible study was over I resumed computer watching, and he and I burbled at each other instantaneously for a couple of hours -- we were getting different info at different speeds, of course.
So it was very late when I finally got home, with soup yet to make for the Clericus (regional clergy meeting) here at MH & U today. A double batch of Curried Pumpkin from allrecipes.com -- starting with 8 Macintosh apples. I could peel and core them in a bowl on my lap while I watched TV news. That was OK.
But one of my colleagues notified me he can't handle peppers, tomatoes, or onions. I don't understand how a person can survive "no onions." I mean, heavenly days, an onion is what you chop up and cook gently while you're deciding what it IS that you're going to cook, right? Right?
Eventually I found a recipe for home-made cream-of-celery soup, no onion. By now it was just ridiculously late. I got the celery chopped and simmering and while I waited for the liquid in the pot to "reduce"...fell asleep...and did not wake up until I had, candidly, burned the ass off the whole project. I set the pot to soak and went to bed.
Up at 5:30, choppity-chop, got the second try completed successfully and toted soup to church and met with parishioners who are devising Christmas Eve pageant and picked up sandwiches and dessert from the deli counter and got everything to the table, mostly, by noon. I had RSVP's from only about 6 or 7 colleagues and we were, finally, 14. Even with good soup you can only add so much water before Remarks Are Made, heavens.
Got it done, had our lunch and a bit of Bible study for next Sunday and some in-house info around the table and then I had a crew kindly stay behind to load the dishwasher and deal with the pots etc.
Away to the auxiliary hospital for a communion service, plus communion for another patient too ill to come to the meeting place.
And now I am going out for supper.
And that's all.
Monday, November 3, 2008
And amid my cogitations I came, via several other blogs, upon this Voting Prayer. I think this is lovely...and practical...and I plan to adapt it freely to our uses in this, the True North Strong and Free.
Baptism yesterday was wonderful, two baby girls in the under-six-months category and therefore unable to show much in the way of fight. They slept blissfully through the proceedings. Thank you to the Sanctuary Guild who remembered that the baptismal ewer should be filled with WARM WATER, thank you!!!
And then over coffee we had an impromptu Corporation meeting and sol-ved the problem of the complete suite of new-ish overstuffed furniture heaped in the narthex (ever since Rummage, despite protestations that the purchaser was coming to get it, any day now). We simply appropriated it, some strong backs were recruited from among the saints present, and the furniture is now installed in our Upper Hall, thereby increasing its chic by several orders of magnitude.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
A baptismal interview this morning, and then rehearsal for the two families with little people to be baptized tomorrow morning...
While I was waiting for them to arrive (one of the moms was actually conducting a stamping and card-making workshop downstairs)(that's stamping as in "rubber stamping" not "rubber boot stamping" you understand)...a parishioner dropped by with a poem.
We likes poems, my precious.
All Souls' Morning
Rain splatting wet leaves; citrine light; the cat
Scratching the sofa; the house dead quiet but for
The furnace thumping in the cellar; that man, my
Neighbor, out on Locust Road as he is each morning
No matter the weather, walking his dog--bent shoulders
And heavy head, cherry-red leash dangling from a
Pale hand, his dog the dark tan of oak leaves when
They turn and hang and enter the depths of winter. I see
A huge patience in his stoop, in the ghostly cigarette
Limp between his lips, in the stiff tilt of his head,
The treadle action of his passage, the orange surprise
Of a golf umbrella blossoming from his fist, the loll
Of the dog by his side as they return up Locust, both
Eater to be in again out of the cold wet day that's
Breaking round them. I'm thinking how, bound to
One another, they've been at this for years,
When my father comes leaning, as he always did,
Up Clareville Road, not far from where he's buried,
Bent against the bitter wind that always tunnelled it
In winter, his black umbrella furled, our small
Black mongrel, Brandy, straining the leash toward home
Where my mother fusses the tea together. Five o'clock
And Dublin's dark already, it being winter, fat raindrops
Scudding the wind and mixing with his lost thoughts
As he hastens after his dog, home to the wife who, when he
Leaves her behind him, will run aground with grief
At being no one in the world. This is the bottom line,
I guess: we button our habits to the chin and set out
Walking very fast with death. A bluejay's screech
Rattles the skeleton of our locust tree; the road
Outside my window is empty again, and rain gives way
To sky-bright weather, gray aquarium light making
Luminous the air, coating the dark tar with mirror-pools
Of periwinkle blue. A rising wind tides among the
Surviving leaves, and a swallow flock of dead ones
Joyrides down Locust Road, cold no more, borne off. All
Night, you said, when we wakened warm by one another,
I was seeing shapes widen round the room, hearing them
Whisper in the wall. This minute my hungry children are
Clattering to the kitchen for breakfast. The house quickens.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Broke away from the office yesterday mid-afternoon to collect Honorary Grandson from where the bus drops him off and convey him to his DRUM LESSON. (No, the drums are not part of the entourage, DG!) We were enjoying a healthful snack at the Conservatory and awaiting his 4:30 lesson-time when his teacher emerged from the bowels of the institution to inform us the 4 p.m. student wasn't coming, would Z like the earlier lesson? "YES," said Z's gramma...that half-hour made considerable difference in the smoothness of the evening schedule.
Drove the boy home, swung around the block and collected Daughter Unit and SIL for a quick supper, dropped SIL back at their house to get ready for choir practice, and Herself and I were off to Major Downtown Hostelry for an alumni association event (mine).
A couple of dozen alumni of Snotty Eastern Post-Secondary Hub were assembled, and there were elegant things to eat and potable things to drink, and then we had a fine presentation by Noted Alumna and Professional Cook, and then the inevitable opportunity to buy the cookbook and have it autographed, and so home.
This morning I am trying to make all reasonably tidy in the desk dep't. and perhaps advance one or two balky projects, and then head for home again midday, collecting pumpkin and candy en route, and some major housecleaning, and trick-or-treaters this evening, "and so to bed," as they say.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
A tip of the hat to friend Steve who shared the link to a recent interview with Rowan Williams about Dostoevsky, and other things.
Our Wonder Secketry is away today and I am all hands plus the ship's cat...Thursday must be the peak day of the week for phone calls! "How are our refugee family?" "What do we need to bring to the baptismal rehearsal?" "What's the date for our cabaret and silent auction?" "Can our group rehearse downstairs this Sunday afternoon?" "Can the Youth Co-op hold their Christmas Dinner Collective Kitchen on December 12?" "Where's the big display board for our Marriage Preparation Course?" "How do I do the Prayers of the People at a baptism, where do I put the prayers-for-the-church and the prayers-for-the-sick?" "Will somebody be there in 20 minutes if I come to put up posters for my recital?"
"Somebody" has been here for a long sequence of 20 minuteses, and is now going to go and find LUNCH.
And how 'bout them Phillies. Not my first choice favourites, but hey! their socks are the right colour at least.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
The Rambler has been stalking the corridors of power this morning...rather like Hamlet's father's ghost (or possibly Anne Boleyn)...
For 30 years in Prairie Metropolis, meetings of the City Council have begun with a prayer offered by a representative of one or another "faith group." In these "religion is a private matter" times, this is fairly remarkable; more remarkable is the comfortable assumption that the prayer-leaders will speak from their own conviction, understanding, tradition, while abstaining from gratuitous offence to others: Christians pray as Christians, Jews as Jews, Muslims as Muslims, and so on.
So this morning, under the combined guidance of the City Chaplain, and the Board of the Interfaith Centre for Education and Action, ten of us were assembled to open the City Council meeting with a ten-fold prayer.
Discipline was strict (but imperfectly obeyed -- hey, these are "hooman beans" after all): we were NOT to ad lib and NOT to identify ourselves and NOT to talk ABOUT our faith, just step up to the mike, pray, step out of the way.
As Prez of the City and District Council of Churches, the Rambler got to be "The Official Christian."
And this (thank goodness for the Book of Common Prayer, 1962) is what I said:
O Almighty and most merciful God, in your bountiful goodness, protect and defend us, we beseech you, from all things that may hurt us; so that we, being ready both in body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish those things that you would have us do, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
All the prayers -- Eckankar, Hindu, Baha'i, Jewish, Sikh, Unitarian, Muslim, Jain, and Zoroastrian, were lovely, and thoughtful, and concise. And Hizzonner the Mayor, having given us a lovely nibbly breakfast buffet beforehand, thanked us nicely; and all the alderpersons looked gratified and as uplifted as their natures would allow.
A pleasant way to start a day!
Monday, October 27, 2008
Your result for Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz...
You Are a Jackie!
You are a Jackie. "I do everything the right way."
Jackies are realistic, conscientious, and principled. They strive to live up to their high ideals.
How to Get Along with Me
* Take your share of the responsibility so I don't end up with all the work.
* Acknowledge my achievements.
* I'm hard on myself. Reassure me that I'm fine the way I am.
* Tell me that you value my advice.
* Be fair and considerate, as I am.
* Apologize if you have been unthoughtful. It will help me to forgive.
* Gently encourage me to lighten up and to laugh at myself when I get uptight, but hear my worries first.
What I Like About Being a Jackie
* Being self-disciplined and able to accomplish a great deal
* Working hard to make the world a better place
* Having high standards and ethics; not compromising myself
* Being reasonable, responsible, and dedicated in everything I do
* Being able to put facts together, coming to good understandings, and figuring out wise solutions
* Being the best I can be and bringing out the best in other people
What's Hard About Being a Jackie
* Being disappointed with myself or others when my expectations are not met
* Feeling burdened by too much responsibility
* Thinking that what I do is never good enough
* Not being appreciated for what I do for people
* Being upset because others aren't trying as hard as I am
* Obsessing about what I did or what I should do
* Being tense, anxious, and taking things too seriously
Jackies as Children Often
* Criticize themselves in anticipation of criticism from others
* Refrain from doing things that they think might not come out perfect
* Focus on living up to the expectations of their parents and teachers
* Are very responsible; may assume the role of parent
* Hold back negative emotions ("good children aren't angry")
Jackies as Parents
* Teach their children responsibility and strong moral values
* Are consistent and fair
* Discipline firmly
Friday, October 24, 2008
"Therefore, tell us about the five favorite places you have lived in your lifetime. What did you like? What kind of place was it? Anything special happen there?"
Whooee. Someone told me the three nomadic occupations were ministry, military, and mining, and my Dad was a mining engineer. He and Mom lived in 25 different places in the first 20 years of their marriage...it did slow down after that, thank goodness!
And I have now lived not just in the same community but in the same house since 1973, WHICH SUITS ME FINE, THANK YOU. My last move was 12 blocks. Ideal, I say.
Five favorite places, h'm.
1. Carmacks, Yukon Territory...The summer I turned five. A reasonably modern bungalow -- without electricity! A well in the cellar and a coal stove for cooking and heat. The all-but-midnight sun. Paddle-wheel steamboats still operated on the Yukon River, stopping at the mine at Carmacks to load barges of coal. My Dad calculated that there wasn't another white child within a radius of 200 miles. My birthday guests included my parents, the mine foreman, two steamboat captains, two chief engineers, a Mountie, the postmistress, the telegraph operator, the Taylor & Drury factor, and an Oblate missionary. Pretty cool!
2. Taku Tulsequah Polaris, B.C...the following summer. A summer made memorable by swimming in the Taku River -- not the main channel, which was glacier-fed, but in the pools in the sandbars, which were thoroughly sun-warmed. We had a pleasant house, and lots of opportunity to be outdoors, which was good. The townsite was at the bottom of a valley, and the valley was so narrow and steep that the sky was not visible from inside the houses. Radio reception was very fitful but we heard lovely classical music from time to time--courtesy of Radio Moscow, English language service! (Yes, "we could hear Russia from our house"!)
3. Giant Mascot Mine, Spillimacheen, B.C...in the East Kootenays, on an enormous erratic boulder (mountain-sized) west of the Columbia River wetlands. Our first house here had, for some strange reason, a picture window, looking out on the Bugaboo Spire and glacier. We had an earth cellar, accessible through a trapdoor in the floor. Between packrats in the cellar and Big Cat Tracks on the snow on the roof, my mother wasn't overly fond of this house. Later that year we moved into one of three brand new houses--with the same fantastic view.
4. Cambridge, Massachusetts; lived here for two winters in a women's graduate dorm, pursuing a couple of degrees. A very different climate and different verdure (magnolias!) and different kind of beauty in the landscape.
5. Spenser's Green, London, England...in the bottom half of a house, of which the upper half was also occupied by Canadian graduate students. COLD in the wintertime, until we mastered the management of portable heaters--but a pretty back garden, and central London just a moderate trainride away, including the British Museum, where I sat and sat and sat and read Renaissance grammar and rhetoric texts for my dissertation. And we went to "everything" in the theatre that winter to make up for my never having had a really adequate course in English drama...and comprehensives were coming! Highlights...standing in the back of the first balcony to see Olivier play Shylock, against Joan Plowright as Portia.
How can you not love this church? (OK, OK, never mind~~there may be reasons, all right, point taken, please sit down now...)
But in the midst of alarm and despondency and tumult and outrage and affright and carryings-on, what does the Archbishop of Canterbury do? Does he tremble, does he blinch?
Not he. He writes a whopping book about...Dostoevsky.
Talk about taking the long view and going for the big picture.
And this is no mere flourish of what my Beloved Professor used to rejoice to call "belletristic expertise" -- but it is illuminating of the current and actual predicament.
And I quote:
"It is this fusion of a surrender to the claims of an independent truth and a surrender to the actual risks and uncertainties of asserting this truth in word and action that makes the entire enterprise of spiritual -- and specifically Christian -- life one that is marked by the decentring and critique of the unexamined self. What is so distinctive about Dostoevsky's narrative art is that he not only gives us narratives in which this difficult fusion is enacted; he also embodies the fusion in his narrative method, in the practice of his writing, risking the ambitious claim that the writing of fiction can itself be a sort of icon."
And there you have it. Great review in the Times Literary Supplement, October 10th.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
In loving memory of Johnny Hart, may he rest in peace, and in honour of the clam chowder that is about to be concocted for the Rummage Crew. Peace on them, too--PLEASE! They have already consumed beef-tomato-vegetable, turkey-and-rice, split-pea-and-ham. Either I'm getting sharper about the quantities, or we have more folks working...minimal left-overs, DG.
It's been a good week for rummage: tons of stuff, and hordes of sorters and pricers. Plenty of pretty good fellowship and a minimum of outrage and hard words. Only one vast mystery at this point -- who stole the exercise machine that was left outside our back door, and how and when they managed it?
Now if anybody needs a set of 5 wine glasses, we have several styles to choose from...
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Some reflections on last Sunday's lectionary. This was, more or less, the sermon.
Of all the phrases that jump up for attention in this morning's readings...the one that caught me was Paul's phrase about "serving a living and true God" and what that might mean.
I have been pondering it in the light of the bishop's charge to synod this week, and the concerns expressed by the church locally, and nationally, and internationally, for MISSION: the missio Dei, the "mission of God."
How are we to be a missionary church. And of course this is near the heart of Paul's concern here as well, the question of how the gospel is spread. In fact he sounds quite Anglican, there, I think, when he speaks to his friends in Thessalonika about how the Good News has somehow "spread from them" -- and this is the Anglican part, "so that I have no need to speak about it." What a happy thought, that people might just "get it," without our actually having to utter something.
But taking into account that we DO have to "speak about it," and that the world is plainly, in some sense or another, in need of it, the question that keeps nagging at me is this:
"How are we to preach the Gospel, and evangelize, without turning the Good News of Jesus Christ into just another variety of imperial currency?"
Because make no mistake -- the coinage of the Empire of this world, "legal tender," is also a proclaimer of Good News, of a sort. And most of the people who haven't heard the Gospel (just like most of the people who have), figure that a little more abundance of the coin of the realm is all the Good News they need right now, thank you. A tax cut. A raise. A dividend. A stock split. A legacy. A lottery jackpot. Now THAT is Good News.
But the imperial currency isn't only cash: it's all those symbols of value in our society -- attractiveness, prestige, mobility, power...the list goes on and on.
And in this we are not nearly distinct enough from the people among whom we live and to whom we are supposed to be in mission.
Perhaps in this light we can hear and even recognize Moses' anxiety, as he beseeches God to give him some kind of a glimpse of what isn't clear to him: "or I'm not going any further," he says, "I'm going to park it right here. Enough is enough." (And do you know why Moses was in such a snit at this exact moment?...OK, this afternoon you are going to read through the book of Exodus, right? He has just come down from Sinai with the law, with this wonderful expression of God's concern for his people, and he's found them all perfectly happy doing the golden calf stunt. And he's tired, and disappointed, and angry, and afraid.)
"Show me your glory," he says. "Show me your face."
And the Lord says, "Well, no. How about my goodness, instead? How about I make a lovely parade of all my goodness, and you can stand right here and watch it? And you can see my back. But not my face -- not yet -- and not my glory -- not yet."
So if we are in Moses' quandary, face to face with people who aren't all that interested in our "fresh expression" of the Gospel; and if we still share Paul's sense of mission, then how do we sound forth the word? how do we do this work of faith, this labour of love; how do we realize this steadfastness of hope?
One of the answers -- and we heard it in the Bishop's charge -- is that we carry out "needs-based evangelism." Which sounds very sensible -- we find out what people need, and we answer that need with the Good News of Jesus Christ. But again -- how do we do that without just sliding into the currency of pandering, bribing, and flattering, which is so infinitely marketable--so that we become just another "self-help" pusher...telling people that they themselves are the pivot of the universe, the measure of all things...traders, again, in the currency of the empire.
Elton Trueblood has pointed out that it is a perversion of the Gospel to present it as a success story: "The gospel may do a great many things for us, but is deeply misunderstood if it is interpreted merely as a psychological instrument for our help. It is, instead, a relationship which begins with a dangerous and uncalculating commitment."
And Fr. Martin Smith has written a sharp and helpful essay on what the church's "mission" has meant since the beginning, in terms of the "needs" that it has undertaken to meet: first of all the nightmare of mortality, emptiness, futility. The resurrection of Jesus Christ spoke to that nightmare and said, "Not so."
In later years, the nightmare became one of alienation...separation from God because of one's own guilt and sinfulness. And again, the resurrection of Jesus Christ spoke to that nightmare and said, "Not so."
And finally in our own time Fr. Smith suggests that the nightmare is the one of loss of meaning, the fear that perhaps Feuerbach was right all along, and we've been simply, in all faiths, "making up" something to comfort us in the face of the abyss of meaninglessness, randomness, the void.
And perhaps, if we carry the good news of Jesus Christ into that need and nightmare, we may be able to show ur neighbours the glory of God, at long last, in the cross. And the face of God, at long last, in the one who died on it...and then at last we and they may come to see that face in the faces we meet, and carry that glory into a confused and frightened world...
Monday, October 13, 2008
And the fridge is full of enticing aluminum-foil-swathed masses of things which will become sandwiches for the inner city mission and/or SOOP for the rummaging hordes...
We had 38 souls, all sorts and conditions. And they all visited nicely with each other, and laughed and laughed. And stayed to the bitter, bitter end, until the last pot and spoon and fork were washed and put away.
When the teenagers and post-teenagers we NEVER see at other times came sloping into the kitchen, "Can I help?" -- I said, "Yes, please, go and check the situation in the dining-room and if anybody is sitting alone in the corner looking sad and mouldy, or moldy, GO VISIT WITH THEM." And they laughed, and did.
And the young man who brought the pumpkin ale...is a professional brewmaster (isn't God good to us?)
I am pooped, dear friends, I am going home to bed.
At this exact moment we have two turkeys in the ovens downstairs, one ham in the oven upstairs, and the Rambler is getting her cardio in, on the stairs between one batch of bastings and the next.
I think we have a sufficiency of food, AND DRINK, for our parish Thanksgiving supper. And people have brought their offspring, and their parents, and newcomers have ventured in bravely with cases of pumpkin beer, and generally there is revelry toward, in these parts.
COLD here...down to +11 Fahrenheit one morning already, tough on the geraniums...hard frost on the roofs and bushes and cars.
One of our "alumnae" -- now studying theology in another place -- is home for Thanksgiving, so we were able to combine turkey-basting and theology for a bit this afternoon.
Struggling as she is with finding a parish accessible to her where the preaching reflects the breadth of the Gospel challenge to a faithful life...or, in short, something beyond,
"Let's just talk about being good to the poor because everybody's already in favour of that project."
We have discussed the many and varying ways in which we as believers, worshippers, even as preachers, choose to emphasize the locally palatable aspects of the Good News.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Good crisp weather -- and we were...outdoors...
I had packed my glam long black skirt and my glam crushable velvet jacket and my glam little sparkly black camisole top...contemplated the temperature and opted instead for the marginally-less-glam long-sleeved crewneck pullover sweater. A sound choice.
They truly did have the all-time Calendar Picture backdrop, the Gatineau Hills in fall colours, punctuated by French-Canadian church steeple.
Fun reception and a great meal; we were booked into a super hotel and the young-uns were so thoughtful as to send round "goodie baskets" to all the out-of-town guests in the hotel, pretty nice.
And then we had time the day after for some sightseeing with friends, around and about, and further sightseeing yesterday before I had to catch the plane home.
Sightseeing of this kind: "let's get in the car and point it outward and see what we see" is known as "boring around" -- "boring" as in "drilling," not at all as in "yawning."
We had very fine "boring" yesterday and saw lots and lots of gorgeous colour, maples and sumacs and stuff that doesn't show up much in Prairie Province.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
like Old Man Kangaroo, if anybody out there still reads Just So Stories.
I am pondering an invitation from the Mothers-in-Zion of the Diocese Just North Of Us, to come and address "the annual" next spring; three or four talks over a Friday night and Saturday, plus preaching in their cathedral on Sunday morning. Dates to be chosen in consultation with my schedule...time to block in the RGBP BE and the Festival of Homies, "just in case." I expect I'll say yes...not a clue what to address them about!!
And this morning a representative of JASNA*, local chapter, bounced into my office to remind me, "You said you might be able to come and talk to us again about Jane Austen's clergy???" That date is set for late February, a Saturday afternoon.
*Jane Austen Society of North America
Monday, September 29, 2008
None of the cats we've harboured has enjoyed being transported in the car. So all such jaunts, punctuated by yowls of protest, have been tests of patience and fortitude (probably for the cats also).
True to precedent, the Taffeta-cat "told me about it" this afternoon all the way to the vet, every time I changed direction or thumped over a seam in the pavement.
At the animal clinic, while Dr. Nick was carefully explaining the options and uncertainties -- and plainly, giving us Time To Think It Over, there was a rap on the consulting room door and #1 Son Unit arrived to be with poor old fur-face at this critical moment.
[Pause to reflect, somewhat sentimentally, that when the Rambler first took a cat to Dr. Susan -- mother of Dr. Nick -- thirty-five years ago -- Dr. Nick and #1 Son were toddlers...]
When "we were all clear that we were all clear," it was very quickly over.
Dr. Nick carefully swathed Taffeta in a big bath towel, and slipped her back into her carrier.
And there were no yowls from the back seat as we drove away. Not even a little one.
The Rambler -- and this really is, "Where I came in, a year ago" -- has been away from home to the annual meeting of the North American Academy of Ecumenists (woot woot -- try explaining THAT ONE to US Customs, upon whom be peace). This year, not in Adjacent Prairie Metropolis, but in St. Louis. (= "LeWIS" I find, Judy Garland to the contrary notwithstanding, also W. C. Handy, and, most fondly remembered, Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney, she of the nephew, on an old LP of travel songs)
Are you still with me? Good.
It was a great weekend -- sumptuous accommodations, great presenters, good chats, lovely socializing, wonderful weather.
And a confessional moment; yesterday I cut church, not out of any distaste for United Methodism, heaven forfend, but just because it seemed like such a sin-against-locale NOT to go down to Laclede's Landing and look at the Big Muddy One. Such a treat, for the Rambler, to see a waterway that DOESN'T flow eventually into the Arctic Ocean!
So thanks to the Metrolink, I was able to do that; and also, of course, to take in THE ARCH. Sweet mother of us all. I remember when it was built (creak of rocking chair is heard in the background), but nothing photographic was ever adequate preparation for how big it is.
And the National Park Service, whom we love, were having Park Palooza with lots of Informative Exhibits, yet!
And a whole lot of the citizenry, wearing red T-shirts, got on the Metrolink, and got off, hollering, at Anheuser-Busch Stadium. From which the Trained Mind here infers that something of a baseball-ious nature was toward...
All in all it was a delightful time, but I am kicking myself that I didn't book off one of my remaining, dangling, weeks of holiday time, rent a car, and head south and west into Missouri to see what else there is to see including Places of Ancestral Origin. I was lamenting to this effect to the Nice Young Person from the Parks Service...and he LOOKED at me, and said, "But you're comin' back...."
Sigh. At the risk of being stripped of my maple-leaf patterned suspenders, I have to say... I have a huge great fondness for the Excited States of America.
Now we were warned, in conference, about NAIVE ROMANTICISM in our initial reactions to each other's ecclesial polity and practise. No doubt the same warning applies to nations.
And the Rambler says, "What of it?"
And answer comes there none.
I have to do a little work here, IRL, and then go collect the poor old Taffeta cat for her final visit to the vet. This is a sadness, but Daughter Unit will come with me.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
After yesterday morning's farce with the Lurking Pager, I have spent some hours this morning dealing with the desk-top. Trying not just to make big piles where there were little ones -- except in the paper-recycle bin! Which is gratifyingly fuller than it was!
Yesterday was on the whole a good one, but oh DEAR I will be glad when Wonder Secketry is back at her post. Please keep her in your prayers? Her recovery from surgery is taking longer...and is less "linear"...than we had all hoped. I don't think she's very strong, really...very prone to coughs and colds that hang on and on...
At any rate; I had a long counselling conversation with a parishioner in the morning; somewhere in there it was BORNE IN UPON ME that I was supposed to be at a Clergy Day on the far side of the city, and I'm afraid my reaction to that insight was, "Well, tough."
Then a number of intense phone conversations...and at 3:30 a "hospital service" where in spite of short notice (the administrator forgot to put our service in the monthly calendar) we eventually mustered about 20 souls for a "distribution of communion from the reserved sacrament" with Sunday's reading from Philippians and three hymns and some prayers and a couple of Mildly Amusing Anecdotes recounted by the Rambler. "Faith of Our Fathers," "Blest Be the Tie that Binds," and "What a Friend," all well received; and the good news of our Tall Physician's imminent return from Kandahar, praise God...and that seemed to be enough.
It comforts me to observe, that although I still tend to drag my heels a bit en route to these services, nonetheless they now constitute a high point in the day/week/month. When I began in ministry they were a Major Dread...and now I feel much more at home in my skin when I'm officiating. Of all the indignities that disfigure the disabled and/or incapacitated...he only thing that still throws me off stride, really, is drooling. I have to have a serious talk with my gag reflex, about that one.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The Wonder Secketry is still on post-op rest at home.
And I am saying "Yes" and "Hello" and "Good Morning" and "don't mention it" and "that's nice" and "oh good" and "thank you so much" and "not at all" and "you're welcome" and "take care" in all directions, and I hear....
and I think -- "pager -- that's its 'you haven't looked at me yet' peep -- but when did it go off? I didn't hear it..."
And then.... I try to find it. Into the handbag, grope grope fumble, unzip all the little pockets. No pager.
Turn handbag upside down, everything falls out except...a pager.
Aha, turn to book-tote, fumble grope fumble, snatch out several overfull file folders, scrabble scrabble: nothing.
Fling down book-tote in disgust and commence digging like a badger in the midden of papers on my desk. Slam hand, palm down, on several suspiciously bulging "dunes" of odd bits of stuff. Nada.
Pause to catch breath and take thought. Check voice-mail box, retrieve pager message, and deal with it.
Allow brain to re-settle on its base-plate, and pick up phone, page self. (The problem was that the single "peep" didn't give me enough time to home in on where it was coming from.)
Sure enough -- pager uttered its full jolly yodel, AHA! Found you, you little....
Not enough to keep the mind alive, is it?