Monday, April 27, 2009

The Right Not to be Offended

Please allow me to to introduce the Catbird Seat's Czar for officially sanctioned rants, Little Miss Ashleigh Hayleigh Jordan Madison-Morgan, the pride of Suburbia Majora, and title holder, privilegium de non appellando, of Lil' Miss.Fuss-budget. Ain't she a cutie, and who could ever hope to resist her 139 decibel tantrums? When you see lil' Miss Madison-Morgan, buckle yer' seatbelts.

I don't believe it a stretch to state that most reasonable or polite people make it a point to mind their manners and not purposefully offend other folk. Aside from shock-jocks, MSNBC talking heads, and certain comics, I believe that we don't start out our days trying to see who we offend. This said, we're fallen individuals and part of fallen humanity. We can be quite the master at stuffing our feet in our mouths. We sincerely apologize and go on with our lives. This has been the way of human interaction for the better part of time. But, has something changed?

As we've devolved over the past 40 years, there has been a howling Greek chorus whose mission in life seems to be pointing out slights and offenses. Let's look at this for a moment. Fatwa's are issued over cartoons or novels. Tantrums or Hissey fits are thrown over a contestant's answer. An entire social order is thrown down because a couple wishes to consummate the counter-biological. A university President looses his position over a purely objective observation. And of course, my favorite, the atheist whose panties are in a bunch over an entity they presume to be nonexistent (Hmmmmm...)

As citizens of the greatest nation in human history (sorry Barry, you're wrong! We ARE the greatest) men and women bled and/or died to acquire or defend many basic rights that we take for granted. The Constitution and her Bill of Rights provide a bulwark of rights designed to confirm and defend THE CITIZEN's cardinal rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Nowhere in these documents are found the "The Right" not to have the thin skin on our anemic pasty bottoms bruised. Check it, it just isn't there!

Someone more clever than I once noted that there was a time when "Americans were known for their tender hearts and tough hides. It seems that lately, we've gotten this backwards." A quick visit to will vindicate the folk philosopher who made the observation.

So, what to do? I recommend the 4G approach.

Grow up! The world is not fair and life is not fair. Its fallen, imperfect and unpredictable. Screaming like little Miss Madison-Morgan won't change human nature. Whingeing may bring temporary relief to our petty, diaphanous little egos, it'll do little else besides making us insufferable to others.

Get over it! You're be offended on any given day. It matter little who the offender is. It could be a bunch of hypocephalics in Skokie, IL marching in Nazi uniforms or a contestant in a beauty pageant. Stop being a simpering little me-monkey and let go of your indignation, real or otherwise.

Get on with it! Our 70 to 80 years on this planet is far to short to be spent shaking our grubby little fists at any or everyone who bruises our little ego.

Grow through it! Maybe, just maybe someone (Human or Divine) maybe speaking through the situation in order to get our stunted attention. Hey, it already been done, just ask Balaam.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Reverie

NOTE: If you're reading this post on Facebook, ya need ta' click here for the video.

The title of this haunting melody is "Na Laetha Geal Moige", or (In English for the rest of us...) "The Bright Days of My Youth". I believe that this song seems to capture the essential soul of Enya. It is funny though, that I pronounce her name as "Ahn-ya".

Why Friday Reverie? The truth be known, I spend the better part of my working week wading through swamps of federal regulatory paperwork, putting out brushfires, and dodging assorted scat storms. By Friday afternoon, I'm ready to take that long exhale, offload the week, and breathe in peace for the next 64 hours. This stuff'll all be here on Monday morning so, there's no good reason to carry it out the door.

And oh, enjoy your 64 hours of weekend too!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What does One Trillion Dollars look like?

This Guy, Doctor Evil, made the Austin Powers franchise work. While Austin was a bit of an anachronistic buffoon with bad teeth and a thing for Carnaby Street, the Doctor was a man of purpose who knew exactly what he wanted. (OK, altogether now...) ONE MILLLLLLLLLIONN DOLLARS!

We chortle, and think that one million dollars could pay off our homes, and start a decent nest egg here in Suburbia Majora, in spite of the good Doctor's fetish for a one with six zeroes. We rub our temples and try not to allow our heads to explode when we try and wrap our brains around the twelve trillion that the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania has proposed.

How Much is a Trillion? Well consider this...

For this mental exercise, we'll use the humble $100 Bil as our unit of currency.

  • A One Hundred Dollar Bill could get lost in your pocket
  • Ten Thousand Dollars could easily fit in your pocket
  • One Million Dollars could be carried in your backpack (with room for lunch)
  • One Hundred Million Dollars will sit three feet tall on a standard pallet
  • One Billion Dollars will stack on ten standard pallets

Nothing to sneeze at but wait, there's more! To reach the magic Trillion mark, we'll need to make that 3 foot cube of $100 Dollar bills on 10,000 Pallets. The result is a rectangle 150x300 feet (considerably larger than a U.S. gridiron football field), and is seven feet tall.

The entire 12 Trillion will make this pile close to ONE HUNDRED FEET TALL!

The MSM will say the tax protesters of April 15th were a bunch of benighted hayseeds who while bitterly clinging to their God and their shootin' irons, are too simple minded to understand the finer points of governance. Ms. Janeane Garofalo will tell you that they're just a bunch a racist spoil sports who can't countenance a black man in the White House.

You tell me.

I've got to give credit for lifting all those pallets to the Elves over at Page You can click this link to see the math behind the madness.

Monday, April 20, 2009

An Oldie for sure.

I was all of 8 or 9 when this song was released. Funny, but it popped into that space between my ears this morning. Ya' have to click here if you're reading the post on Facebook.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Reverie

Thank you Miss Loreena...

Though we share this humble path, alone
How fragile is the heart
Oh give these clay feet wings to fly
To touch the face of the stars

Breathe life into this feeble heart
Lift this mortal veil of fear
Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears
We'll rise above these earthly cares

Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me
Please remember me

Thursday, April 16, 2009

On a Thursday in Eastertide

It's a beautiful day in Suburbia Majora, a day to be outside wearing garden gloves and working the good earth. Today's Collect is of equal beauty:

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Even in the sunshine or the reverie of a warm spring afternoon, we're unimmune from the chilled hand of tragedy. A dear friend shared this fact as they related to a phone call that had struck like a pile driver. Knee deep in Easter's Hoopla, the fried received a dire call concerning the health of a family member, a terminal condition was poised to strike down one who'd barely begun to bud in this lifetime. Any number of options are at our disposals in moments like this; nearly all are may be unhealthy, unprofitable or unscriptural.

Some of the most interesting reactions come from those claiming a hold on the truth. Yes, I'm speaking of the ones claiming to be of the family of faith. Reactions can be polar and range from the one who sounds like a squeaky little Confucian fatalist, to the one who spits, peeps and mutters, coming off like a sweaty, pompous little tornado. The one's who are either sighing or shouting are bringing little of any true comfort to the unfolding situation.

Once, I would have been numbered among the shouters. As any pentecostal preacher worth his salt, I would have been busy binding devils, shouting out repetitive praises and naming God's healing, and claiming it for the infirmed. In the midst of this, I became acutely aware of a visceral tension; people die. I saw a stark truth that revealed that we live in the space between "By His stripes we are healed" and "Its appointed for all once to die...".

Where does this leave us? Simply and much easier said than done, it leaves, no compels us to seek comfort and solace in one person.

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows"

Have you considered for a moment, that we've been called to become conduits of comfort to the world around us.

The Lord is personally acquainted with our griefs and sorrows, having not only created our emotional wiring, but from having walked as one of us in the man, Jesus the Christ. The Almighty who has known our pain as well as the comfort of His Father, is in-turn able to take our hands and hearts in these raw moments. And like the tearful child who has just awakened from a bad dream, He is speaks to both our tears and fears.

Yet, in His call, we've been called not to be mere receptacles but conduits through which His comfort may flow to others on the bleeding edge. You see, not only have we been the blessed recipients, we're to be that next course of pipeline taking the flow of mercy towards the afflicted.

Holy and Almighty Father, today we beseech your many mercies on behalf of this family who has received this devestating news. Be a light to them that in the midst of their storm, they many find both you, and the rest you offer. I ask that you may be know to them as you are known to both son and holy spirit. Father we know your will to be both supreme and irresistable so if you should desire wholeness, no force in hell will brevail against the family or your perfect will. Regardless, we lift these to you that your perfect will be done in the name of Christ Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit; one God now and forever. Amen.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Monday

From today's Lectionary, Matthew 28:9-15:

"Suddenly Jesus met Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and said, "Greetings!" And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

While they were going, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders, they devised a plan to give a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, "You must say, `His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story is still told among the Jews to this day."

I saw an interesting political cartoon yesterday where two concerned Roman soldiers were seen staring into an empty tomb where the stone had been rolled aside.
"Don't worry," says one of the soldiers.
"In one hundred years, no one will remember this."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday II

I didn't deserve this... Thank you though. Help me to live in the light of so great, so perfect of gifts.

Good Friday

The Lectionary for Good Friday is replete with Scripture readings. Today's collect follows:

"Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Were the weather on that dire day anything like the weather experienced in Jerusalem this afternoon, it would have been clear with temperatures in the low 70's. This would certainly been warm enough to take the chill out of the air experienced before dawn when St. Peter made his fireside denial. So its no wonder that that St. Luke, physician and keen observer of history, made specific reference to the preternatural darkness that descended over Jerusalem for three hours. Perhaps, as it is in the case of modern executions, this was the LORD's way of closing the curtain in order to shield creation from the agony of its creator. Perhaps. What is known however is that the very icon, or expression of the inexpressible God was now suspended between earth and the heavens. The very fact that the Christ was still alive at this point was its own miracle.

Jesus had now been awake for close to thirty hours. During this, he had suffered crushing emotional distress to the point that the capillaries feeding his face ruptured, allowing holy blood to leech out of his pores. He had been pummelled and beaten in the facial areas to the point that most did not recognize him. At the hand of the Roman cohort, he received a brutal beating that few survived. Then, after carrying a 100 pound plus beam out of the city, he was then nailed to a Roman cross. (And we whine over a paper cut?)

Suspended, He endured the mocking of the many, ranging from those sharing his fate, to those in the religious establishment. The one who could have mustered heaven's power to shatter the earth into space dust, simply interceded for his tormentor's forgiveness. Naked, he was robbed of all his rightful heavenly splendor as the sins of humanity fell on his shoulders with the force of a pile driver. In the midst of this agony, he sensed the absence of the Heavenly Father as he quoted Psalm 22.

Some point before 3:00 PM, Christ raised himself on the nails that impaled his hands and declared "It is finished!" Moments later and rising on the nails one last time, he commended his spirit into the Father's hands. What did Mary or John see? What did the other women observe? Whatever it may have been was punctuated by the violent shaking of a planet in mourning.

Perhaps God cried.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Maundy Thursday

The Alternative Gospel reading for Maundy Thursday is found in St. Luke's Gospel. St. John's account, John 13:1-15 is of equal power.
When the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!" Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this.

A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves."

"You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."

I'm thoroughly arrested by this unfolding moment. The Christ is mere hours away from enduring the most hellish ordeal ever endured by one clothed in human flesh. The spotless passover lamb would soon have the sins of the most vile offenders laid upon his shoulders. It's at moments of reflection, such as now, my casual sins and respectable little murders become a foul, fecal stench in my own nostrils.

I don't imagine the scene as a loud, or boisterous affair. No, somehow, imagine that the Master is speaking in a hushed tone and and his disciples are leaning in to attend to their teacher. The moment is punctuated by Christ's chilling revelation that one in their midst is a traitor. This is followed be a moment of shallow self-examination and chest puffing. Christ pulls out a straight pin and pops their collective bubble. It's not to be about who has the biggest chest full of medals or the biggest "I love me" wall. Greatness in Christ's unfolding kingdom will be measured by a far different standard. Jesus draws imagery from a lowly house servant or slave, perhaps recalling the foot washing recalled by St. John.

Slaves, in their contemporary culture, came in all varieties. Anyone from the wisest mathematician to the lowliest child could be counted among the enslaved. Where the former are remembered in history, the latter are generally forgotten. These were those who washed the master's feet after a dusty day on the road. These were the ones who were at the beck and call to fetch what ever the master needed or desired. These were the model for greatness within the kingdom of God.

Our LORD has no need or use for strutting popinjays who seem to pervade the vast spiritual and cultural wasteland. The "No Fear" Crowd do little more than stir His holy wrath. He saw all of these traits in His onetime anointed cherub, and threw both him and his fallen me-monkey angels down from Heaven. He seeks something quite the contrary.

Consider on this Maundy Thursday... Our Lord seeks those who've grasped the concept that in the scheme of things, they're truly of no account. They've got to bring to the table. These are the ones whom the Master can fill with HIS GREATNESS, and may well use them to turn the world on its head.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Wednesday in Holy Week

John 13:21-35 is listed in today's Lectionary, with Matthew 26:1-5, 14-25 listed as the suggested alternative Gospel reading:

At supper with his friends, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, "Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples-- the one whom Jesus loved-- was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "Do quickly what you are going to do." Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the festival"; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

St. John paints an interesting picture of the unfolding betrayal. Of the eleven faithful disciples, only St. Peter and the evangelist are initially aware of that Judas, the man from Kerioth, is about to betray the Master. In fact, the remaining nine seem to thing that the Teacher has sent their brother out on a charity, or chow run. No, this was hardly the case.
Judas, according to Matthew's account, had in fact already agreed to throw the master to his enemies and was paid well for the deed. Now, he simply had to work out the logistics of making sure that Caiaphas's goons would make it to the garden in time to collar the Christ.

There are volumes of apologetic works explaining or conjecturing just why Judas betrayed the Master but in truth, these are little more than thin whitewash. Both scripture, and Judas' own conduct would tell us a different story. Mr. Iscariot was motivated by the same things that tweak fallen humanity today: greed, recognition, fleeting fame, the list goes on.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tuesday in Holy Week

The Gospel reading from today's Lectionary is St. Mark 11:15-19:

Jesus and those who followed came to Jerusalem. And Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, "Is it not written,

`My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'?
But you have made it a den of robbers."

And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.

We're approaching the point in the redemption story where we're hours away from the Master's betrayal, and all that would follow. If the weather conditions mirrored today's forecast for Jerusalem, it would have been a pleasant day with clear skies and temperatures in the 70's (or low 20's C). But in the unseen realms, a storm was building between the spirit of Christ and Antichrist.

Jesus enters the temple complex, no doubt under the watchful eye of hired goons working on behalf of the religious establishment. He gazes across the unfolding panorama ot the tables of merchants selling scarificial animals at exhorbitant prices. He sees the exchange tables where Roman and other national currencies are exchanged for temple currency, again at an outrageous exchange rate.

He stood at the spiritual portal between Heaven and Earth. This was the spot in the material realm where the holy met the profane. It was to be a place of instruction where Israel was to be the light to the Gentiles and instructor to the seeker. Yet, it had become a filthy den of thieves who made a growth industry of shaking down the faithful in their worship. The Rabbi could stand no more and launched into holy anger. THe very icon of the Divine was now an expression of His divine wrath.

The religious establishment, being the ever good sports took the lesson to heart. Oh, they took it to heart alright, straight into their benighted hearts that is. The sharp rebuke that would have sent the faithful and contrite to their knees, sent these scribes and chief priests into a seething anger that would only be sated by the death of the Nazarene.

How do we respond to the discipline of the Holy?

A Quote for the Day....

Here's a pithy little gem to consider as ya' blast out of the gate this morning...

"He is the best friend to American liberty who is the most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down on profanity and immorality of every kind. Whoever is an avowed enemy to God, I scruple not to call him an enemy to his country. It is your duty in this important and critical season to exert yourselves, every one in his proper sphere, to stem the tide of prevailing vice, to promote the knowledge of God, the reverence to His name and worship, and obedience to His laws. "

John Witherspoon, DD
Signatory, Declaration of Independence
President, Princeton University
Reformed Pastor, Church of Scotland (Presbyterian Church)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Monday in Holy Week

Today's somewhat short collect from the prayerbook:
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I was taken by this mornings Gospel readings (John 12:1-11 or Mark 14:3-9) in today's lectionary. Both passages cover the same event from slightly different corners of the room. John, the beloved disciple provides us with the account of one who was there in the room, perhaps even standing there besides the Master. Mark provides us the account, as it was told to him by St. Peter before his martyrdom at the hands of Nero's goons. While mark seems to tell the story in a more detached fashion, the emotion of St. John seems to drip of the page of his account (sparing nothing towards the Iscariot). Regardless of vantage point, both Evangelists capture the central focus of the moment, this being the worship offered up by one devout woman.
I strongly suspect that this is the same incident though seen from different angles. I don't know that incidental info provided by St. Peter is enough to divide his account into a separate incident. Too, this vignette is seen across both the Synoptics and the Johanine account. So, since this episode was important enough to be covered by the four Evangelists, what is the point of it all?

  • Worship is Costly
  • Worship is Visceral
  • Worship is Fragrant

Mary opened a one pound jar of ointment. This wasn't your aveeno or vaseline intensive care. No, this was a near priceless item by contemporary standards that cost nearly an entire year's wages. Imagine if you can, a $48,000.00 beauty product. The essential elements of the perfumed ointment came by caravan from as far as Nepal, and was highly treasured by contemporary Romans. Even the jar itself would have been considered a treasure as it was likely from the ancient Egyptian city of Alabastron and carved by hand from native Oriental alabaster. The jar was broken and poured out onto the master, both head and feet received the rich, aromatic perfume. In moments, and to the chagrin of many in the room, the Rabbi in the room was now covered in costly nard.
Mary offered up her most treasured possession in this act of worship. It was her nest egg and would not be replaced in this lifetime. This was second only to her own life when it came to value and the act of adoration was harrumphed by thief and supersaint alike.

This was no casual, detached act on Mary's part. No, this wasn't like your typical foot washing at any given Cleveland, TN Church of God (Ya' know what I'm cookin'). The thick nard was spreading across the Master's feet as Mary doffed her head covering, then used her own hair to make sure that no drop was wasted or no part of Christ's feet were missed. Mary worshipped, body, mind and soul.

Mary's act of worship filled the entire house that day. Everyone, detractors not withstanding, were effected by her sincere, unfeigned act. The fragrant aroma of the nard quickly spread from the object of her adoration (Jesus), and wafted onto every corner of the home where they met.

So... How does this stack up against the pathetic whiny me-monkey prayers that we're so wont to offer up? Something to ponder this Holy Week.