Saturday, December 08, 2007

Sur le pont d'Avignon

Le Palais des Papes, Avignon, France (source)
As Father Jake puts it succinctly:
As of 2:42 pm EST on December 8, 2007, the bishop and clergy of the diocese of San Joaquin are no longer members of the Episcopal Church.

While the historical analogy may not be very precise, I am coming to think of John David as something like an Avignonese pope. No, the Diocese of San Joaquin is not exactly the whole of Western Christendom, but a split has now occurred. If he pretends still to be the Bishop of San Joaquin, a diocese that is a creature of General Convention from which he has now disaffiliated himself, then he is actually an anti-bishop, like an anti-pope: a pretender. I think he should move to southern France ASAP, thereby removing a major irritant from the already too-polluted air of the Central Valley of California.

It's all quite ugly and the spiritual abuse inflicted there and in other places is rather nasty. May he find healing. Until he does he remains an abuser and it is in that category that I shall continue to consider him and his ilk. As I have told a friend, I am quite out of charity for the damage done to the body of Christ and I see no reason to make nice. It's rather like trying to negotiate with George W. Bush. Futile, pointless, serving no good end. Appeasing abusers is what we are talking about, folks. You don't stop abuse by appeasing abusers.

John David deplores the whole business of churches suing in courts. Well, if one doesn't steal property one needn't be taken to court. Sheesh.

There, I've had my rant. All in all, it came out rather charitable.

Please continue to pray for the people of San Joaquin. They've been lied to, bullied, and misled. They deserve better.

--the BB


I am a slum dweller,
I am also a child of God
--from "Convite para a vida" sung by Seu Jorge,
part of the City of God movie sound track (with chords here)
Image of Cidade de Deus from here

Here is our daily update from MadPriest at OCICBW:

The OCICBW... Community Christmas Appeal this year is raising money to help pay for the work being done by the Anglican Church of Christ the King in the City Of God district of Rio De Janeiro. Full details about the project and how to send your gifts can be found HERE.

Isn't this exciting? A bunch of wild and crazy bloggers joining together to make something good happen for kids in one of the poor and dangerous corners of the world. THIS is what being an Anglican Christian is all about, not who sleeps with whom. This is the Anglican Communion being what God calls it to be.

Keep it up, gang. No reason to stop at $5K, now, is there? Christmas is still two and a half weeks away. I wonder if we could hit $10K? Just sayin'.
--the BB

Friday, December 07, 2007

It is not quite midnight

Nonetheless, in a few minutes it will be the 8th of December, so I shall write as though it already were.

Seventeen years ago today in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, the Rt Rev William E Swing ordained me to the sacred order of priests. I give thanks for that grace and tremble at that responsibility. One thing I recall from that day was being utterly at peace amid the momentousness of it.

It was some time later that I "landed my first full-time job" in the church (ecclesiastical language seems too fancy). When the Bishop came to institute me as rector of St Cuthbert's, Oakland, it was a rather overwhelming event. When the time came for me to kneel before the altar and recite the following prayer, I had a powerful sense of the presence of Cuthbert of Lindisfarne hovering over the altar, along with the hosts of heaven and God's own Self. This was personal.

It took me some time to get through the prayer. I choked up a lot and could barely speak. Today I commit myself anew.

O Lord my God, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; yet you have called your servant to stand in your house, and to serve at your altar. To you and to your service I devote myself, body, soul, and spirit. Fill my memory with the record of your mighty works; enlighten my understanding with the light of your Holy Spirit; and may all the desires of my heart and will center in what you would have me do. Make me an instrument of your salvation for the people entrusted to my care, and grant that I may faithfully administer your holy Sacraments, and by my life and teaching set forth your true and living Word. Be always with me in carrying out the duties of my ministry. In prayer, quicken my devotion; in praises, heighten my love and gratitude; in preaching, give me readiness of thought and expression; and grant that, by the clearness and brightness of your holy Word, all the world may be drawn into your blessed kingdom. All this I ask for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


I love this man

Keith Olbermann's latest special comment on Bush, intelligence on Iran, deception, and fitness for office:

h/t to Towleroad
--the BB

Advent thoughts – Saturday of Advent 1

Alleluia of Advent 1 superimposed on a black Christ in glory

If you have ever sat by the shore and listened to the ocean or stood near a great waterfall or rushing river, you know the powerful sound of water. A great rush of it drowns out almost everything else.

It seems there are times God would like something to drown out our pieties.

Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream. (Amos 5:23-24)

When the exterior and interior are aligned, when our walk matches out talk, when our yearning for God corresponds with letting God’s love and justice flow through us, unimpeded, then our hymns become acceptable. Otherwise, we sing them for ourselves, not God.

Do I live up to this? Are you kidding? I’m a bumbling, neurotic schlump who knows better than he does, desires better than he achieves, and is nobody’s idea of a role model. To the extent that I can be a channel of God’s love and justice, God be praised. That being said, I am in no position to cast stones or wag my finger. (Doesn’t stop me; I know.)

But you, beloved, must remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; for they said to you, ‘In the last time there will be scoffers, indulging their own ungodly lusts.’ It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions. But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (Jude 17-21)

[If you have been following the readings for the Daily Office you know I skipped right over Jude’s version of Sodom and Gomorrah yesterday. It is the only reference in the Bible that does NOT treat the sin of Sodom as inhospitality but I didn’t feel like going into an entire discourse on that theme and the role of Jude in the development of theological symbology.]

The world has never had a shortage of scoffers, nor of those indulging in ungodly lusts. Few of us, if we are honest, will slip through that double net. Nor has there ever been a shortage of those who cause divisions.

Hello! Anglicans of the world, anybody paying attention?

We get in trouble when we start that finger-pointing business, deciding just WHO is causing the divisions. Those other chaps, always, of course, never us.

Now it’s no secret where I come down and I must point out (oops, pointing again) that I have not excommunicated my sisters and brothers in Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda, though their ecclesiastical officials have excommunicated me. Not that it makes much practical difference; I had not planned a visit through central Africa anytime soon. It seems to have made them feel better, though. Safer from cooties and all that.

What to do when divisions are rampant?
Build yourselves up on your most holy faith;
pray in the Holy Spirit;
keep yourselves in the love of God;
look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Oh. I rather wanted to go on a glorious campaign to improve the Church and here am being told to build myself up (not others), to pray in the Holy Spirit (and not to or at others), to keep myself in the love of God (instead of sorting out who else is or is not in the love of God), and to look forward to Christ’s mercy. Not nearly so exalted (or self-aggrandizing). Damn.

Caesar gets the coin stamped with his image. God gets me, stamped with God’s image. And, in Christ, I get all things. Maybe God has it worked out better than I could do.

Turn again to your rest, O my soul;
for the Lord has treated you well. (Psalm 116:6)

--the BB

Friday Prince Blogging

Bhutan Coat of Arms from government website

Image from Flicker
While doing just a tiny bit of research I learned just now of a promotion.

I was going to present to you HRH Dasho Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck Crown Prince of Bhutan (born 21 February 1980), son of His Majesty King Jime Singye Wangchuck and his third wife Her Majesty Ashi Tshering Yangdön Wangchuck (one of four sisters married at one time by the King).

The Crown Prince studied at Cushing Academy and Wheaton College and went on to a Master's degree at Magdalen College, Oxford.
On May 8, 2002, His Royal Highness represented Bhutan at the 27th UN General Assembly.

And here is the news (well, news to me):
December 14, 2006:
His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck becomes the fifth Druk Gyalpo [Dragon King].
His Royal Highness Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck will be enthroned as the fifth Druk Gyalpo in 2008.

I have cut an pasted information; you will find the sources wherever there is a link.

According to Wikipedia he is the world's youngest head of state. And, ladies, he's single.

Thai women referred to him as "Prince Charming" when he represented his country at a celebration of 60 years of reign by King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. He is a water sports enthusiast. (source)

May the new Druk Gyalpo of Bhutan reign in health, nurturing justice and peace.
--the BB


Would you like to make a difference among the poor in Rio de Janeiro? Help an Anglican church serve those too easily forgotten by society?


I don't know what to say.
Quick, Lisbeth, help me out with a superlative or two.

So far, being a natural pessimist, I've avoided responding to those who have emailed in claiming that we are going to hit some wonderfully high figure before we've finished. But, I must admit, I'm beginning to allow myself to tentatively imagine what it would be like if we raised $5000. It really isn't that far away.

Head on over and click "donate."
--the BB

Get a clue, Commander Codpiece

From the Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON -- Families with ties to the military, long a reliable source of support for wartime presidents, disapprove of President Bush and his handling of the war in Iraq, with a majority concluding the invasion was not worth it, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.

The views of the military community, which includes active-duty service members, veterans and their family members, mirror those of the overall adult population, a sign that the strong military endorsement that the administration often pointed to has dwindled in the war's fifth year.

Nearly six out of every 10 military families disapprove of Bush's job performance and the way he has run the war, rating him only slightly better than the general population does.

And among those families with soldiers, sailors and Marines who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, 60% say that the war in Iraq was not worth the cost, the same result as all adults surveyed.

Imagine that. You can read it all here.
h/t to Hoffmania
--the BB

You were hoping for truth from our leaders?

From the New York Times:
C.I.A. Destroyed Tapes of Interrogations

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 — The Central Intelligence Agency in 2005 destroyed at least two videotapes documenting the interrogation of two Al Qaeda operatives in the agency’s custody, a step it took in the midst of Congressional and legal scrutiny about the C.I.A’s secret detention program, according to current and former government officials.

The videotapes showed agency operatives in 2002 subjecting terror suspects — including Abu Zubaydah, the first detainee in C.I.A. custody — to severe interrogation techniques. They were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that tapes documenting controversial interrogation methods could expose agency officials to greater risk of legal jeopardy, several officials said.

Read it all.

George W. Bush says we don't torture.h/t to Americablog
--the BB

Pray for San Joaquin

Photo of the San Joaquin Valley from Student Britannica

I suppose, for context, I should state that I was born and raised in Fresno, the see city of the Diocese of San Joaquin, though I was not an Episcopalian when living there. The events unfolding there do so in the land of my birth, the soil from which I come.

Kirstin has put up a nice post regarding the Diocese of San Joaquin, meeting today and tomorrow in convention. The central issue is the crucial second vote to make the diocese's affiliation with any province of the Anglican Communion definable in their canons, i.e., we're only part of TEC if we feel like it.

The people of the diocese need our prayers and a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in grace, power, and redeeming grace. I can pray for that much, though I cannot be as gracious as Kirstin. As I wrote to her privately, I have no charity left in me over the damage some bishops, Schofield included, have done to the body of Christ. I would like for him to find healing somewhere else, and I am sure he would feel the same way about me. So there you have it.

Kirstin's words:
I’m well past praying for unity. The best I can pray for is a compassionate divorce. And I pray that everyone directly involved, and all of us on the outside watching, will listen, deeply, and can discern the true will of God. The vote is almost a given. The steps that people take afterward will make all the difference. I pray for openness, honesty, generosity, and love on all sides, even as we take leave of one another.

We are all, right now, every one of us, caught up in the forgiving, merciful, empowering, liberating, life-giving love of God. We all—John-David, you, and I—will be redeemed. We all will stumble into grace. Let us remember the One at the heart of our faith, who said, “Let anyone among you who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

--the BB

They can't do anything right

Scout Finch reports at Daily Kos on the Inspector General's report on Iraq, recently acquired by CBS News. This sentence captures a lot:
The US military can account for less than 800 of 13,500 weapons they have supplied the "Iraqi security forces."

When ideologues who don't know what they are doing jump into situations ill-informed, ill-prepared, and way too certain of themselves this is what you get. This and myriads upon myriads of dead.

Cui bono? [Who gains?] The military-industrial complex, folks like Halliburton and their subsidiary KBR, Blackwater, et al. The oil and gas industry. And the causes of theocratic radicalism (whether Muslim or Christian or other). Yes, we have played into the hands of those who foster terror.

Cui malo? [Who loses?] The Iraqi people, the little inchoate stability the Middle East has, America's position in the world, the Bill of Rights, basically everybody except war profiteers, terrorists, and those who don't believe in government and want to weaken it enough to "drown in a bathtub."

Why God does not despair is, frankly, beyond me. Lucky for us God doesn't.
--the BB

Advent Thoughts – Friday of Advent 1

Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground! (Amos 5:7)

In our current legal arrangements, corporations are treated as persons. Randi Rhodes gave a speech in Michigan a while back in which she said that if corporations were persons they would get colonoscopies. She was pointing out a certain absurdity about the way the law grants incredible rights, privileges, and benefits to corporations, often losing sight of real persons, human beings whose rights and welfare often are overridden for the sake of corporations.

“Tort reform,” for instance, is a code word for changing the law so that injured human beings have less recourse against the source of their injury. It is cloaked in terms of limiting outrageous settlements (which makes lots of sense) but what it ultimately does is protect corporations from accountability. The corporations win, individuals lose.

I toss this out as one example of turning justice into the bitterness of wormwood.

Where is the vision of the wellbeing of the people? What happens when the law is structured to favor some to the disadvantage of others? When it is no longer impartial?

What does it say of our nation when we have multiple standards, when we start demanding laws that penalize aliens in our land? Is that a “godly” standard?

The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you. (Exodus 12:49)

You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 24:22)

The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you. (Numbers 15:16)

I’m just sayin’.

There is a lot of talk these days about issues of faith and politics. I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state. I do not want the state meddling in my faith, I do not want an established faith, I do not want anything that smacks of theocracy. I believe in secular government that governs for the benefit of all with freedom to practice any faith or no faith, and no religious tests whatsoever with regards to government office.

I do not care if the President of the United States is Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jew, Wiccan, agnostic, or atheist so long as she or he will uphold the law, seek the welfare of the people of the United States, and pursue policies the foster peace and justice.

I do, however, believe that the God revealed in the Bible expects certain values to be lived out the lives of followers. Some of the rules and traditions appear historically conditioned and others universal. There is argument over which category some things fall into. But standards of justice and impartiality in judgment so clearly run through multiple strands of scripture that they cannot be easily dismissed.

It thus behooves us to stand up for justice and fight against its distortion and perversion.

Not an especially pious meditation for this Friday, but something we dare not ignore.
He brings God’s rule, O Zion; he comes from heaven above.
His rule is peace and freedom, and justice, truth, and love.
Lift high your praise resounding, for grace and joy abounding.
Oh, blest is Christ that came in God’s most holy name.
(Hymn 65, verse 2)

I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand I shall not fall. (Psalm 16:8)

--the BB

Thursday, December 06, 2007

You can't make this shit up

FranIAm pointed me to a post at I can't believe it's not a democracy! Not to be read before or while eating. It's about the sacred brains of W.

I am put in mind of King George III's alleged porphyria on more levels than one.

Mandatory drug testing is probably overdone but sometimes it makes sense and here is one case where it would make a LOT of sense.

Have I mentioned that we are governed by folks who are batshit insane?

You've been warned.
--the BB

Change Is the Only Constant

Change Is the Only Constant

We are not who we were yesterday,
nor yet what we shall be tomorrow.
Our world shifts, and we shift,
every aspect of our being in transition
from subatomic particles to our character.
Today you felt a shift in your feelings
for someone you have gotten close to—
too soon to know just what happened
or how it will sort itself out.
The fact that some deep stuff is involved
becomes obvious when you sense that
you have to reach for the word “Love”
to talk about it, though love is not
some moment or decision or fixed thing either.

Love grows and develops, it is many-sided
and many-layered, you cannot define it.
You can know it by certain distinguishing marks,
so to speak, and by its fruits.
Love will anchor you when you need to be held fast
and uproot you when you need to let go,
yet it will always serve life,
even when it embraces death.
Love will increase your compassion,
your willingness to understand where others come from,
what disasters, blessings, detours shaped their journey,
what scars they bear too deep to be spoken of,
and this is not just compassion for your beloved
or for those whose love carries you in their hearts—
it will be for all beings.
Love will show itself in respect: for others,
for yourself, for creation, and for your Creator—
you will want to treat all things and persons well.
Love overcomes sin and all manner of evil,
not by power but by its ability to embrace
all things and to forgive and make new beginnings possible.
Love is truthful and will not tolerate evasion, illusion,
deceit, manipulation. Love has nothing to hide.
Many passions know shame, and should, but love does not.
Love will be gentle with you but it will not coddle you;
it will hold you to account for your decisions, words, thoughts,
actions and non-actions and their consequences;
by doing so it takes you seriously
and reminds you that you matter.
It is a sad thing that we hurt those we love;
given this painful reality, remember that love itself
will not use or abuse others and love will seek
the restoration of relationship where breaks occur.
Love does not exploit, it does not make excuses,
it does not seek to justify itself, it does not blame or judge—
what it does is see clearly and makes the truth known.
Love is not cowardly, nor saccharine and sentimental;
it has a backbone and it can outlast mountains.

We do not create love, we cannot make it happen,
it is in the very fabric of the universe and is something
of the cosmic dance with the energies of God
whirling all the worlds into being,
a dance we share in. We open our hearts to love,
to the dance, to the rhythms of life,
allowing them to flow through us,
and the tides of those energies and the rhythms of that dance
come to us in times and manners we cannot control.

So as all things change in the endless interchange
of many dancers joined to the One Dancer in the One Dance,
we are changed and changing. For all that,
and for reasons known to the Dancer alone,
we are allowed to shape the dance,
to determine our part, even within the constraints
of all those givens that we cannot alter or evade.
My friend, be deliberate as you choose
which rhythm to step to and how
you shape the next figure of that dance.
By the time you take that next step,
all things will have shifted yet again,
but you are contributing to the ever-unfolding pattern.
Make beauty, make life, open your heart
to feel all things in their uniqueness and reality,
songs and sorrow alike, know them,
and a deep joy will spring up within you,
the joy of the Dancer.
Do not fear change,
choose life!

August 27, 2002
(c) by PES

Thursday Constitution blogging

Article. I.
Section. 9.

Clause 2: The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
I.9.2. is a biggie and it seems that the Bushocrats simply don't believe in it. But then, they don't believe in the Constitution anyway, based on their words and actions.

So, what is this Habeas Corpus? [And please note that although it sounds like Habeus when anglicized, the first word ends in "-as." The linguist in me cringes when this term is misspelled.]

Wikipedia says this:
In common law countries, habeas corpus (/ˈheɪbiəs ˈkɔɹpəs/) (Latin: [We command] that you have the body) [1] is the name of a legal action, or writ, through which a person can seek relief from unlawful detention of themselves or another person. The writ of habeas corpus has historically been an important instrument for the safeguarding of individual freedom against arbitrary state action.

Also known as "The Great Writ," a writ of habeas corpus ad subjiciendum is a summons with the force of a court order addressed to the custodian (such as a prison official) demanding that a prisoner be brought before the court, together with proof of authority, so that the court can determine whether that custodian has lawful authority to hold that person, or, if not, the person should be released from custody. The prisoner, or some other person on his behalf (for example, where the prisoner is being held incommunicado), may petition the court or an individual judge for a writ of habeas corpus. has some definition and discussion also and you can peruse a timeline on Habeas Corpus courtesy of the ACLU.

The Military Commission Act of 2006 sort of gutted the principle that persons detained have a right to a court determination of the legality and grounds of their detention. Keith Olbermann had a few words to say about that, as you may well imagine.

The status of detainees at Guantánamo and the fate of those who fall prey to rendition comes into this, not to mention anyone the President deems to be an enemy combatant (and who made him judge and jury?).

It is a topic before the Supreme Court right now. The Maven writes about Boumediene v. Bush and Al Odah v. United States, the Guantanamo detainees' habeas corpus cases at Daily Kos (posted Tuesday, oral arguments yesterday). You will find timelines and outlined issues there, as well as links to briefs before the Court.

The Maven concludes with The "Long" View:
One of the supposed reasons for establishing these extraordinary tribunals and legislatively stripping away one of the most fundamental legal rights dating back to the Magna Carta (if not before) was the fear that habeas claims and related issues would clog up the federal court system. Yet the proposed solution has proven to be even worse, creating a horrifically entangled and interdependent mess of cases challenging different aspects of the DTA and MCA, and of the conditions of the detentions themselves. Whatever the court's ultimate ruling in Boumediene and Al Odah, there remains the prospect of years and years of additional litigation (e.g., appeals of CSRT findings as to a detainee's enemy combatant status only after a determination of guilt as to the government's charges).

There is, of course, one way to cut through this Gordian Knot -- simply shut down the facility at Guantánamo once and for all. The system we have devised is an unholy blot on the Constitution, and a recognition that the right of habeas corpus cannot be withheld for anyone in our custody or control, absent the clear exceptions detailed in the Constitution, is a necessary first step towards restoring our nation's rapidly waning reputation as a defender of human rights.
Jesselyn Radack has comments on the government's track record in this area that offers some glimmer of hope. Less encouraging is skrp23's post in October on how the Supreme Court "refused to give a hearing to a German man who says he was wrongly abducted, imprisoned and tortured by the CIA in a case of mistaken identity."

Habeas Corpus has been one of the foundational principles in the ordering of common law societies at least since Magna Carta (1215 CE), a check against tyranny and abuses of the justice system. Once it is scrapped, there is no check on arbitrary detention and no one is safe.

Lincoln suspended it briefly during the Civil War and the Courts slapped him down for it. That the Bush White House is so cavalier about the whole issue is terrifying and yet one more example of their contempt for the rule of law.

Remember: impeachment is not a constitutional crisis, it is the constitutional remedy for a constitutional crisis.
--the BB

Your Advent Ferlinghetti

Walt over at My Two Cents has posted Lawrence Ferlinghetti's poem "Christ Climbed Down," written in 1958. I think it merits a read, so click on over.

Here's the beginning to whet your appetite:
Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no rootless Christmas trees
hung with candycanes and breakable stars

--the BB

City of God Appeal - Day 7

Kids playing in Cidade de Deus / City of God
Photo by Philippe Houdard

MadPriest writes:
Well, yesterday was a lot better than I thought it would be. We managed to raise the total from just less than $2500 to $2735.67. (It would have been $2735.65, but Mimi, as usual, had to put in her two cents worth!).

So $3000 is beginning to look doable.

The OCICBW... Community Christmas Appeal this year is raising money to help pay for the work being done by the Anglican Church of Christ the King in the City Of God district of Rio De Janeiro. Full details about the project and how to send your gifts can be found HERE.

Maddie is hoping for $3,000. Elizabeth (she who must be obeyed) and I are hoping for $5,000. Follow the link and you can donate.

Thanks, everybody!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Advent Thoughts – Thursday of Advent 1

Greetings, fellow reprobates, miscreants, sinners, and ne’er-do-wells. If there are any righteous folk lurking about, come on in. Doubters, deniers, curious, confused, followers of other traditions, many traditions, or no traditions--everybody’s welcome.

I have been directing various admonitions in the Daily Office readings inward, figuring that the only subject I really have to work with is myself. It is not my task to live anyone’s life but my own, to sort out anyone’s shit but my own, to forsake anyone’s sins but my own.

This is not to minimize our profound interrelatedness on every level: with each other, with all creation, and with God. My being and becoming takes place in context, depends on context, and affects context. In this sense, there is no truly individual sin and no individual virtue. We participate in a great mystery, the web of creation and the very life of God.

As I read the thundering denunciations of the prophets, the solemn warnings in the epistles, and the judgment parables, there is a great temptation to pick up the scattered bolts of God’s justice and hurl them at those whose flagrant public examples demonstrate sundry unrighteousness. The problem is, this leads to everyone shooting lightning at everyone else. When all have been blasted, who triumphs? What grace has been at work as we pursue mutual annihilation (whether literal or figurative)?

It takes work, however, to hold back. I want to point my finger at the faults of others, and I often do as you who read my rants here are well aware. Part of the discipline of seasons of preparation is to deal with our own clutter and haul out our own trash.
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom…. When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. (Matthew 21:43, 45)

Now I only know the online identities of the folks who comment, not all who visit here. Among my most frequent visitors are a chunk of church folk, some ordained and some not but most fairly involved. . We’re church folk, active in the religious life of our faith communities. So I’m guessing we, myself most certainly included, would do well to identify ourselves with the chief priests and the Pharisees

I know, we have some other egregious ecclesiastical assholes that we nominate for those roles, but we need to hear Jesus speak to us and let the others work out their own salvation. We have our own homework to do and, I have it on the best authority, we are not without sin. So, for the moment at least, I reluctantly put down the stone I really, really want to hurl.

It seems to me that Jesus is concerned with our producing the fruits of God’s reign. I believe the deep yearning of Episcopalians to get beyond the current unpleasantness and focus once more on proclaiming and living Good News, enfleshing in our lives the love, justice, compassion, and truth of God, indicates that we know what we should be about and we truly desire it. We want to bear fruit.

We are caught up in one of those difficult periods when society and church alike go through change. For many years I have been among those who believe we are in the midst of something like the Reformation and are still only dimly perceiving what might emerge when the dust settles. To think that our worldview can change through advances in science and philosophy and our understanding of God and salvation will not change is naïve, defensive, or both. The eternal Gospel is, I truly believe, eternal. But our understanding of it and our application of it is always, always, always partial as well as conceptualized in, expressed through, and lived out in our historical context. We call it the principle of incarnation, which we understand through the Word made flesh and also see as operative on many levels.

So we find ourselves caught up in a struggle, as believers from many contexts and with many viewpoints wrestle with discerning how we ought to follow Jesus. We perceive our world to have shrunk through travel, communication, technology, and global economies. The many contexts and viewpoints that have always been present are now present to one another, obvious in their differences and juxtaposed with immediacy. An utterance on one continent is reported within hours all around the globe. We are forced to deal with each other whereas in days of yore we could go our way unaware of what happened in other spots on the planet.

The Pharisees started from the desire to align all aspects of their life with God’s will and righteousness. They just wanted to be holy. Is that really so alien from us? We may not want some phony holiness that puts others down or casts them out and gets all smarmy and puffed up and obnoxious, but we all know that isn’t really holiness. It is human to yearn for deep and profound wholeness, a life clothed in honesty, goodness, and integrity. Taking that into a deeper dimension it is a life aligned with the goodness, justice, truth, wisdom, and love of God, working for the salvation of all creation. One may be skeptical about the possibility but it would take a rather damaged person not to think it desirable.

When the basic desire to be aligned with God’s will and doing God’s work is diverted (and it doesn’t take much misdirection), we find ourselves chasing an illusion of the holy. We become, in our own eyes, the warriors of righteousness, the guardians of truth, the liberators of the oppressed, the defenders of God.

Conversely, we take on the role of the enemy of souls and become accusers, not just of others but primarily ourselves, heaping upon our frightened and disheartened hearts great burdens that God has already lifted once and for all. We deny the Cross even as we haul huge beams of emotional wood around on our shoulders. We are like battered persons, caught in fear and despair.

Jesus calls us back to the relation we have had with God from the moment God conceived of us, to our status as beloved children of God, no longer slaves but friends. He calls us to just be who we already, by God’s unfathomable grace, are and to live in the simple works of true holiness. Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God.

We can pursue the fragments of truth given to us with passion. But we can also do it with humility and grace.

And you all know that I don’t always do it with humility and grace, so you know I’m preaching not to the choir as much as to my own self, knowing full well that many rants and follies lie yet ahead.

At the turning of the year, at the dark time, at the quiet time, at the fallow time, let us attend the Light.

You will save a lowly people, * but you will humble the haughty eyes. You, O LORD, are my lamp; * my God, you make my darkness bright.
(Psalm 18:28-29)

--the BB


From MadPriest at OCICBW:
I have borderline O.C.D. so I'm a bit upset about today's grand total. Don't get me wrong, it's very good, but it's untidy. You see, after just five days we have raised $2486. Wonderful! Except it's not $2500, which would be a nice round figure.

So, if you have been waiting for exactly the right moment to donate $15.00, now is the time. Of course, if two of you donate at the same time in response to my wining, then it's going to be untidy again. I think the best bet would be if we ignore this $2500 (let's face it - it's just causing problems) and set our eyes on the $3000 barrier.

You can read more and DONATE here.

Luiz points us to more info at Facebook.

--the BB

Homeland Security for Sale

Robert Greenwald and Brave New Foundation join with CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) to bring you a report on the Department of Homeland Security. While little has been done to secure our ports and authorized government agents testing the system have been able to get firearms and explosives aboard planes, some things are going swimmingly -- corruption and profiteering. As with almost everything else the Bush maladministration touches, there is a lucrative shifting of the public treasury (our tax dollars) into the hands of favored corporations. It is called privatization and may well be the most sacrosanct article in the Bush creed, the only thing Cheney and Bush truly believe in.

Another name for privatization might be theft, or looting. We have returned to the era of robber barons. The thugs in office are successfully taking us back a century to the time when everything was structured for the benefit of a few.

One can believe in capitalism and also believe in regulation so that the interests of the nation and the well-being of the people at large remain in the forefront. This way competition (and cronyism is NOT competition) and profit motivation combine with public interest and the health of our nation and people, not the destruction of the many to enrich the very few holders of power. Consider the very American repugnance for systems where a dozen families run everything and own 80-90% of the wealth of other countries. Well? Where do you think we are headed?

Check out this video report. Have you given your congresscritter hell lately?

--the BB

Advent thoughts - Wednesday of Advent 1

First lines of second verse, Verbum supernum prodiens, Hymn # 63

Light for our darkness! Vision for our blindness! We cry for a sign, a marker, a clue--some means of finding our way out of the mess we make of things. How can we be delivered from our illusions, our deceits, the trivia with which we divert our attention and clutter our lives?

Psalm 12 concludes with that frightening truth.

Perhaps we can join Bartimaeus and cry out to Jesus that he might open our eyes. The song from my Baptist childhood just came to mind:
Open my eyes that I may see
glimpses of truth thou hast for me....

Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine.
--Clara H. Scott, 1895
#454 in The United Methodist Hymnal

What a bouleversement [I'm grasping here, people, and the French word for overturning things just sounds right] there will be when the scales fall from our eyes. Imagine how Saul of Tarsus felt when he looked at the same world as before and saw it in a totally new way, his values suddenly reversed!

Some of us may be tax-collectors (traitors) and prostitutes (or at least sluts). We all carry inner shames and burdens of guilt, both real and false. Some of us are perhaps a bit too proud of being reprobates (mea culpa), troublemakers (we like to call it being prophetic), mockers and scoffers (we call it being sophisticated), and fools for Christ (when we are actually just acting like damned fools, period). But we always find someone else we can point to with "righteous" judgment, those whom we deem the true outcasts, the unwashed, the unworthy, the wicked, the unredeemable.

Kris Kristofferson sang "Jesus was a Capricorn," a song dear to me back in my first seminary days. Here is the chorus:
'Cause everybody's gotta have somebody to look down on
Who they can feel better than at any time they please
Someone doin' somethin' dirty decent folks can frown on
If you can't find nobody else, then help yourself to me

Well, this is what Jesus had to say about where we stand:
“Truly I tell you, the tax-collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.” (Matthew 21:31b-32)

The merciful message buried in this deliberately shocking admonition is that though "the wicked" will precede us "righteous" folk, their getting there "ahead of us" still implies that we will get there too. Late and shamefaced, perhaps, but once there it will not matter when or how we got there. And the gates of the New Jerusalem are never--I repeat--never shut.

--the BB

Without weights and measures

And if, in your preparation, you need help and counsel, then go and open your grief to a discreet and understanding priest, and confess your sins, that you may receive the benefit of absolution, and spiritual counsel and advice; to the removal of scruple and doubt, the assurance of pardon, and the strengthening of your faith. (BCP, Exhortation)

Words of wisdom on the Mystery or Metanoia (Sacrament of Reconciliation) from JN1034:
Our holy fathers and mothers teach us that when words fail us, or we can't speak for ourselves, the Holy Spirit prays for us. God forgives freely, without weights and measures, without scales and law books, without distinction and anger.

The sacred Mystery of Metanoia is the preventive launchpad for theosis; the Sacrament of Confession was never intended to be an impediment to the Gospel or to you. Because you do matter, and your life's story is important.
Just as we are instructed to seek out a discreet and understanding priest, so JN1034 counsels us to exercise discretion and understanding in our confession, not for concealment of sin but for the good of our soul (for all sin is to be confessed to God, who made us, loves us, and is at work saving us). Read it all.

We are constantly faced with a choice between God's grace and human moralism. We do not become holy by being good; we become holy as we are caught up into God's holiness. Our transformation is though a sacred and mysterious cooperation of our whole being with God's saving and lifegiving energies, not something we can make happen solely by our efforts or will. We rise and fall and rise again. It is useless and harmful to condemn ourselves for falling just as it is useless and harmful to be vain over our rising. All of it is within the context of God's grace in which
Mercy and truth have met together;
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Let us entrust ourselves to the vast sea of God's goodness, like Peter stepping out onto the Sea of Galilee. Should we begin to sink, and we surely shall, let us cry out, "Lord, save me!" God is ever eager to save.

O Lord our God, accept the fervent prayers of your people; in the multitude of your mercies, look with compassion upon us and all who turn to you for help; for you are gracious, O lover of souls, and to you we give glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

--the BB

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Clemens Alexandriae loquitur; audiat populus

Padre Mickey had a comment over at Jake's place and I just want to give it greater prominence:
Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Clement of Alexandria, and I thought that I would quote from him on the orthodox so-called: The so-called orthodox are like beasts that work out of fear. They do good works without knowing what they are doing. They are as scared of Greek philosophy as they are of actor's masks, fearing it would lead them astray. They are dumb animals that have to be driven by fear. Some things haven't changed after all this time.

Here endeth the lesson from the God-mantled Fathers.
--the BB

Advent practices

Psalm 61 Exaudi, Deus

1 Hear my cry, O God, *
and listen to my prayer.
2 I call upon you from the ends of the earth
with heaviness in my heart; *
set me upon the rock that is higher than I.
3 For you have been my refuge, *
a strong tower against the enemy.
4 I will dwell in your house for ever; *
I will take refuge under the cover of your wings.

Kirstin at Barefoot and Laughing queries about Advent practices. Something not-Lenten yet somehow a discipline of preparation, not penitential but something that will allow one "to hold the waiting."

Since we tend to take on more than is good for us (or for those we serve), I suggested 10-15 minutes a day soaking in the beauty of Berkeley and, as often as she can manage, a bubble bath. Both can help still one and God does seem fond of meeting us in stillness.

I also promised her to post a photo from near the seminary campus just for her. So here you go, Kirstin! Photographed on 23 May 2003. I loved the form, rhythm, simplicity, and contrast. I also shot it in color but like this version.

We'll see whether I can keep up writing little meditations, my own Advent practice that just sort of happened.
--the BB

Update: here is a full shot.

The City of God Christmas 2007 Appeal continues

I am sure the number has continued to rise but in today's post MadPriest informed us that $2163 had been raised in four days.

This is for the work of the Anglican Church of Christ the King in the City Of God district of Rio De Janeiro where seminarian Luiz Coelho has been serving. The link above includes correspondence from Luiz.

Head on over here for the original information, a PayPal link, and instructions for mailing checks (in the US) or cheques (in the UK).

Tell your friends. Link to the original on your blogs. Let's show what blogtopia (™ skippy the bush kangaroo) can do.
--the BB

Monday, December 03, 2007

Advent thoughts – Tuesday of Advent 1

For there is no truth in their mouth; *
there is destruction in their heart;
Their throat is an open grave; *
they flatter with their tongue.
(Psalm 5:9-10, BCP)

On the Cross by Wang Wei-Zhong
with Psalm verses superimposed

We’ve all had the inner reaction wherein we think: “This man cannot be trusted” or “She’s lying” or “What do they really want?” It is the moment of suspicion. We see it equally in the arts and in life. Seasoned readers of mystery novels spot the telling moment when someone attempts misdirection and intuitive experience causes the reader to hear all manner of alarm bells. Moviegoers have that impulse to shout at the screen, “No! Don’t fall for it. It’s a lie.” Deceit is, alas, standard fare in the corporate world and bureaucracies of very stripe. It infects communities of every size and poisons family life.
“There is no truth in their mouth.”

This is such a damning summation—the ancient Israelite version of the joke about how you tell when a certain person is lying. (When his/her lips are moving.) Nothing honest comes out.

From this summation the psalmist moves to the underlying reality: “there is destruction in their hearts.” No life-giving, grace-working purpose is involved. The truth is unveiled as we realize “their throat is an open grave.” It is all cloaked, of course, in what we want to believe, which is why “they flatter with their tongue.”

Is this a psalm or a commentary on presidential primary campaigns? Perhaps it is a shockingly frank evaluation of consultants making presentations to corporate boards. Or… is it about you and me?

After all, seasons of preparation are not intended for us to find fault with others (though it is a time for us to look at reality head on). Advent, like Lent, is given to us so we can make our own hearts ready for God. Ours, not somebody else’s.

Where shall we look for signs of the Redeemer’s coming?

Perhaps not east, nor in the heavens, nor in the rhythms of fig trees or the fate of temples, nor in the pages of sacred texts, though all of these may offer clues.

The signs we need pay attention to lie within. If we would make ready we must ask ourselves if what comes out of our mouths is truth. Are our throats attuned to life or to death? Do we flatter, deceive, distort, divert, obscure? Is our yes truly Yes and our no truly No? Is our purpose destruction or do we seek to build up? Are our energies aligned to the accomplishment of our own desires or open to the purposes of God?

Are we choosing, moment by moment and day by day, to allow our hearts to fall into some deep and permanent eclipse or do our hearts stand open to God, to others, to creation?
… until the day dawns and the morning star rises
in your hearts.
(2 Peter 1)

--the BB

Still repenting

Another palate cleanser: a view of the fields of the mesa just 3 miles west of my house. Perhaps this will help my system becalm itself after the wreath episode.

As a possible entry into claiming who we are and what has shaped us, I hereby invite folks to share three of their favorite hymns--and why, of course. You may define "hymn" very broadly as any spiritual song. Tunes may shape the answers but let's have texts to think about. Doesn't have to be your top three. If you want to name one, that's fine. Seven, that's fine too. It's just an invitation to share our spiritual resources and delight each other.

Very off the top of my head:
#686 in the Hymnal 1982: "Come, thou fount of every blessing" by Robert Robinson, 1735-1790, text somewhat altered (Tune: Nettleton, from A Repository of Sacred Music, Part II, 1813). OK, this is my best friend's favorite, but it's one of mine too. I love the imagery and poetry of it ("streams of mercy never ceasing," "here's my heart, O take and seal it"). The tune just washes over one, like bathing in a fountain of grace and joy. Here's verse three:
Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee:
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here's my heart, oh, take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

What an eloquent restatement of St Paul's discussion of sinning when wanting to do righteousness. We admit our failure while recommitting ourselves in trust to God who is our hope. There is a combination of gritty reality and soaring hope here.

# 782 in Wonder Love and Praise: "Gracious Spirit, give your servants" words by Carl P. Daw, Jr., born 1944 (Tune: Abbot's Leigh by Cyril Vincent Taylor, born 1907). I am a great fan of Daw's hymns and find the tune Abbot's Leigh incredibly stirring. We sang several different texts to this tune at St Cuddy's (it is used twice in Wonder Love and Praise and three times in the Hymnal 1982). Here is the first verse:
Gracious Spirit, give your servants joy to set sin's captives free,
hope to heal the broken-hearted, peace to share love's liberty.
Through us bring your balm of gladness to the wounded and oppressed;
help us claim and show God's favor as a people called and blessed.

I like how it helps us recognize and claim our vocation to follow Jesus in making Isaiah's prophecy a reality in people's lives and that it operates out of a "theology of abundance." We are called, blessed, gifted, and graced to serve.

# 761 in Wonder Love and Praise, "All who hunger gather gladly" by Sylvia G. Dunstan , 1955-1993 (Tune: Holy Manna from The Southern Harmony, 1835). The text is (c) 1991 by GIA Publications, Inc. I trust that sharing the second verse with you falls under fair use and may encourage sales of WLP, a supplement to the Hymnal 1982 that has some lovely hymns in it.
All who hunger, never strangers,
seeker, be a welcome guest.
Come from restlessness and roaming.
Here, in joy we keep the feast.
We that once were lost and scattered
in communion's love have stood.
Taste and see the grace eternal.
Taste and see that God is good.

That, methinks, requires no comment. What divine hospitality!

For the bonus round: Personent hodie in Latin and sung vigorously with a strong beat, and St Patrick's Breastplate (# 370 in the Hymnal 1982).

Anyone care to join in? If you post at your own place, do be so kind as to let me know. Thanks!
--the BB

Im already sorry

I feel as though the illustration for the post immediately below is a violation of this site's aesthetic standards. Nonetheless, it conveys the theme and I will let it stand.

Here is an "optical palate cleanser."

Let your Grinch out

This comes to you courtesy of the Revgalblogpal Friday Five.

I saw this set of questions over at Snow on Roses (who got them from Will Smama):

Please tell us your least favorite/most annoying seasonal....

1) dessert/cookie/family food
Lutfisk (Swedish spelling) would be high on my list except I never come anywhere near it. There are many holiday baking traditions to ponder but I am fond of almost anything baked. Genuine minced meat pie is definitely an exception. Had it once. Been there. Done that. Never again. I actually like mock mince (apples, raisins, nuts, spices).

2) beverage (seasonal beer, eggnog w/ way too much egg and not enough nog, etc...)
Hmm. Hot toddies. Why? Actually glögg is worse. I like eggnog in moderation though all the gums in commercial versions are icky. Seasonal ales are produced but I drink nothing in the beer family. Val Rentsch’s recipe for Williamsburg eggnog is killer and if I’m very good and my ex has whipped it up, I get some.

3) tradition (church, family, other)
Exchanging gifts at work. Loathe it! I am generally uncomfortable with anything that smacks of enforced socializing in the work place. Joining in meals or potlucks now and again is fine. Liking the people you work with is important to me. Being a good team and enjoying working together is a real plus. But I choose my friends one by one and I have never felt that my coworkers were all friends (though some have been very good friends). Gift exchanges at work lead to trading stuff none of us needs, most of us don’t want, and you are expected to put effort and some modest amount of money into it. What a flipping waste! I think this is a “chick thing” and I have yet to meet a guy, gay or straight or “other: specify,” who understands or enjoys it—though we do it so as not to appear “anti-social.”

4) decoration
Tandaina mentioned blow-up lawn ornaments. Totally. There oughtta be a law.

Wreathes with anything on them other than pine (or redwood) cones and ONE red or gold ribbon (optional). Evergreen wreathes should be inviting, restful, and natural, not fresh shocks to the senses. Cover them with crap and it’s visual assault. [see above]

5) gift (received or given)
Christmas tree ornaments. I know, having ornaments that represent people you love and events in lives carries a special glow. I’m not knocking that and I’m not immune to it. But most of the ornaments that are produced out there … can we say “cheap tacky crap”? If I wanted ornaments for my tree, I’d buy them. My trees have small white lights, red glass balls, and un-iced Swedish pepper cookies. That’s it. I like the simplicity.

BONUS: SONG/CD that makes you want to tell the elves where to stick it.
Anything and everything you hear in a shopping mall. I like country music. I don’t like any Christmas music sung by C&W singers. I don’t like pop versions of Christmas carols. I detest “Jingle bell rock” and “The little drummer boy” makes me want to commit mayhem.
So, call me a grinch. I won’t put up a tree any sooner than my late mother’s birthday (December 19) and I don’t celebrate Christmas until sunset on December 24. Then I enjoy it through Twelfth Night, when the commercial carols fall silent and the Incarnation can be celebrated and savored.

Nobody tagged me and I ain't taggin' nobody else. Play at your own risk.
--the BB

We don't call it theft if the money is really big

Emptywheel at The Next Hurrah, who is brilliant at tracking details, brings us a quick summary of some shady dealing in Florda. Jeb is the Bush boy the family thought would be president. Perhaps he's more qualified than I thought (by Bush family standards):
The possibility that Jeb presided over not one but two massive transfers of money from Florida's government coffers into the pockets of his friends raises the possibility he'll be remembered as more corrupt than his brother, Neil. I know it's a tough contest, trying to figure out which Bush brother is the most corrupt

Of course, it's chump change next to the national coffers being drained for the sake of W- and Cheney-favored corporations (war is bad for people and great for some businesses).
--the BB

Can't help wondering

I'm sure it was really Padre Mickey's kindness, but Friday is also the day of prince candy. Something is trumping Tuesday prayers and Sunday reflections. LOL.

Good to have y'all here no matter when or why.
--the BB

Women Martyrs of El Salvador

JaneR reminds us of the four women serving the people of El Salvador who were raped and killed by members of security forces 27 years ago.

Sr. Maura Clarke:
"The endurance of the poor and their faith through this terrible pain is constantly pulling me to a deeper faith response. My fear of death is being challenged constantly as children and old people are being shot... I want to stay on now. I believe that God is present in His seeming absence."

Jean Donovan:
"I think that the hardships one endures maybe is God’s way of taking you out into the desert to prepare you to meet and love Him more fully."

Sr. Ita Ford:
"Am I willing to suffer with the people here, the powerless? Can I say to my neighbors, ‘I have no solutions to this situation; I don’t know the answers, but I will walk with you, be with you? Can I let myself be evangelized by this opportunity?’"

Sr. Dorothy Kazel:
"El Salvador is a country writhing in pain—a country that daily faces the loss of so many of its people—and yet a country that is waiting, hoping, and yearning for peace."

Maura. ¡Presente!

Jean. ¡Presente!

Ita. ¡Presente!

Dorothy. ¡Presente!

Loving and Compassionate God, make us prophets of your word. Open our ears and our hearts to hear the words of your prophets, our sisters Ita Ford, Maura Clark, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan, as they challenge us to take you at your word, to feel within us your urgent cry for justice in our world. May we take that cry as our own and become instruments of your justice and peace as we pray together the prayer that Jesus taught us.

Our Father....

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Photo of the martyrs via JaneR combined with a December sunset in Berkeley.

Words of the martyrs and concluding collect from a service found here.

Biographies of the four women may be found here.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Advent thoughts - Monday Advent 1

Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals--they who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way.... (Amos 2)
We pray, we beseech, we cry out in our need, "Show us your mercy, O Lord." Do we with equal fervor show mercy to our fellows? It is said that the true measure of a society is how it treats the poor and powerless. How are we doing? Dare we even ask?

The gap between the poorest and the wealthiest is growing rapidly as we return to the days of the robber barons over a century ago. Tax breaks go disproportionately to those who least need them, enabling the rich to grow richer. Many go without health insurance in this nation, and even those who have it may find the price they pay, combined with their co-pays, to be exorbitant. What does one pay this month? Rent? Insurance? Utilities? Food? Which can one afford to do without? So many are just one disaster from utter misfortune, one paychesk away from homelessness.

One fourth of the homeless in the United States are veterans. What does this say about our casual mouthing of the slogan "Support the Troops"? As with every major conflict, we face once again the challenge of reintegrating into "normal" society those who have experienced the horrors of battle: who have watched their buddies killed, who have had to slay others, who are witnesses and participants in a daily hell, whose sleeping hours are filled with nightmares and whose days are filled with memories they wish they could lose. When a popped balloon might send your nervous system instantly back into a life-or-death moment, flooding your bloodstream with adrenalin and sending your mind into a panic, how do you relax at your own child's birthday party and not run screaming for cover? When you are overwhelmed where is your safety net? And are we, as a society, even vaguely prepared to embrace our troops, honor their courage and sacrifice, and stay with them as they deal with all this? Or do they become the shunned and forgotten?

As the housing market and shoddy financing implode, as our gross indebtedness and a weakened dollar reduce the value of what we have, as corporations continue to downsize in order to minimize cost and maximize profits for the shareholders (and executives), are the heads of the poor once more trampled into the dust?

Dare we ask God for mercy? Unworthy and unfit as we are, we must, for we need it. Yet we must also show it to others.

May this Advent be a time for us to recognize afresh our bond with all creation, with all people, and to recommit ourselves to seeking and serving Christ in all persons. May we ask God's mercy not just for ourselves, but for all, and place ourselves at God's service in being mercy in the world.
You must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. (2 Peter 1)

Image: Psalm 84:8 "Show us your mercy, O Lord, and grant us your salvation" - Alleluia verse of Advent 1 - superimposed on Christ enthroned.

Sunday evening reflections

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
my God, I put my trust in you; *
let me not be humiliated,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
Let none who look to you be put to shame; *
Show me your ways, O LORD, *
and teach me your paths.

First Sunday of Advent, Year A
Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

As we enter this new year Advent bestows a listening space, a waiting space, an expectant space. Each day, from now until the winter solstice, takes us (in the northern hemisphere) deeper into the darkness. We should not fear this. Just as it was in profound stillness that Elijah heard God's voice, so in profound darkness we may come closer to the blinding glory and presence of God. Let us embrace the still time, the dark time, the waiting time with hearts attentive to the voice, the presence, the light of God. As we becalm ourselves, sit, wait... God can capture our attention afresh.

When that Voice speaks, let us attend to it. When that Light shines, let us walk in it. When that Presence makes itself known, let us rejoice and trust in it.

Ever and again we set out. We never, this side of glory, come to an end of beginnings. Now begins the Church year, the annual cycle of grace. Once more we step into the unknown, into God's future. We start over. And over. And over. Yet all our beginnings and endings, each step of our journey is in and through the one who is Alpha and Omega.

Let us then lift up our souls to God with fervent expectation, open and ready to receive grace upon grace.
--the BB

Image: Introit "Ad te levavi" from Gregorian Missal for Sundays (Solesmes, 1990) superimposed on an image of Christ enthroned (the image name is "ChristOttoIIIBig," suggesting a gospel book associated with HRE Otto III, but I could not locate the image again today in order to give credit).