Thursday, August 31, 2006

Milgrom, consecration and memories

I am fascinated as I read Milgrom's commentary on Leviticus as he (or I reading him) find insights into the current day. Who would of thought that out of a seemingly minor point such as the consecration of Aaron and Aaron's sons would lead to something so important as remembering the moments?

The eighth chapter of Leviticus provides the fulfillment of the command at Exodus 29 to 'consecrate Aaron and Aaron's sons to the priesthood." Why is the realization of the command so far from the initial decree? The answer is clarified by the context. Moses is commanded to cnsecrate Aaron and his sons into the priesthood by means of a series of sacrifices. Thus Moses must learn the sacrificial procedures (Leviticus 1-7) before he can proceed with the priestly consecration. he will also need to consecratethe tabernacle (8:10-11) before he can consecrate the priests, for when the tabernacle and its sanctums were assembled (Exodus 40:17-33) they had not been consecrated.

Why, after such a long hiatus, is it important that the Bible records that Moses anoints Aaron and his sons? It is not only because it represents the fulfillment of a prior obligation; it is also a lesson to the reader about the importance of ritual markers. The Bible is reminding us not to let important moments slide by unnoticed, but instead to mark occasions with rituals that establish the significance of the moment and emblazon them on our collective memory.
Milgrom, Leviticus, p. 78.

And that last sentence at the end is why I keep reading Milgrom's book. It is important to take note of the moments' in which we live. Since my parents have died my memories are what I have. I remember dad realizing how much work I do when I prepare to sing as we travelled to my Uncle Roger's funeral. I remember having a good discussion with my parents in a restaurant on that same trip. The memories of small things are more important than some of the so-called major events. That they were at my graduation is important, that I remember going out to dinner with them just on a whim is priceless.

Making time for the big and the little is what I remember and love about my parents.

Answered prayer

Norman Cates has a story of a Christian who prayed every morning:
"Lord, if you want me to witness to someone today, please give me
a sign to show me who it is." One day, on a nearly empty bus when
a big, burly man sat next to him. This man cried out, "I'm a lost
sinner and I need the Lord. Won't somebody tell me how to be saved?"
He turned to the Christian and pleaded, "Can you show me how to
find the Lord?" The believer bowed his head and prayed silently,
"Lord, is this a sign?"

Too often we are like that Christian. We are asking for signs and ignoring them when they are before us. We are those who have eyes but will not see, who have ears but will not listen, who have voice but will not speak. Sometimes what we don't see is relativly unimportant, sometimes it is more important.

I have a situation I wish I'd handled better from a few years back. Granted I was irritable with good reason - a broken collarbone will do that to most people I suspect. I had gotten onto the plane and was relatively settled when I saw a couple coming down the aisle commanding the services of two flight attendants. Once the couple was settled the gentleman leaned across the aisle and asked the person "Would you like a Bible?" and a conversation ensued. Then he leaned forward and asked another person, "Would you like a Bible?" and a conversation took place. Then he leaned back and asked me "Would you like a Bible?" I ignored him. I was on the way to my seminary class reunion. I had a Hebrew Testament in my backpack and a couple of commentaries. I wanted him to take an interest in me, rather than trying to give me something he thought I needed. He stared for awhile and I ignored him. Then I went back to reading.

I wish now that I'd engaged in a conversation. I suspect he felt persecuted for Christ's sake. What I felt was that he was counting up the number of Bibles he'd given out to say that he'd done his good deed for the day. But I don't know what he felt. Perhaps, we could have had a good conversation about why I was put off by his methods or how we were the same or different in our beliefs or something that I can't imagine. I wish I'd been more of a conversationalist.

I can't go back and change that situation, but I can go on and work to do better the next time that (or something like that) happens. Possibly I could have helped that person in spreading the gospel. He did something I almost never do which is initiating a conversation about faith with a stranger. And while many of my talkents lie in the realms that require reflection and contemplation I could have learned something to about putting myself out there to individuals that I meet.

God calls a lot more often than I, than we, listen. The signs are present right now.

2,700-member Tulsa church poised to leave the PC(USA)

I am consistently amazed at what I see as ignoring ordination vows. In this story from the Presbyterian Church USA the church and the pastors certainly have the option to leave.

2,700-member Tulsa church poised to leave the PC(USA)

Congregation meeting Wednesday to "affirm" session decision

by Jerry Van Marter

LOUISVILLE * Members of the Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian Church in
Tulsa will meet tonight (Aug. 30) to "affirm" the unanimous decision of
the church's session two weeks ago to leave the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.) and affiliate with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).

The congregation * which will meet in closed session * will also be
asked to "affirm the ordinations" of the Kirk's co-pastors, the Revs.
Thomas W. Gray and Roger Wayne Hardy. Both of them renounced the
jurisdiction of the PC(USA) when the session voted to bolt the
denomination and have not as yet been received as ministers by the EPC.

Yet it seems to me that if you as a minister can no longer live with the policies and decisions of a denomination you should leave and let the congregation know why, but not try to take the congregation with you. The PC(USA) or the predecssor denominations spent time and money planting the congregation. The denomination has supported the congretation at different times. The property and the congregation are not just responsible for the current status, but the inherit a legacy and hold it in trust for the next generation. That is the clear belief of presbyterians as has been stated in various formulations through the years.

I am saddened by the congregation's decision and that of the pastors, but they also need to leave in a Christian fashion. Making a decision in a fashion that ignores the constitution of their denomination is selfish and inconsiderate, or less than Christian.

Wyne Besen, ex-gay forces

I read about ex-gay activities regularly and Wayne Besen has one of the better articles on the recent APA meeting that I've seen at It amazes me that the ex-gay forces still can pretend that they have a pretense of legitimacy. There have been physical and psychological studies that indicate time after time that homosexuals are equally healthy as heterosexuals. That change happens only with detriment to the one trying to change and many are harmed even though the change of orientation doesn't ahppen. The people who claim to be ex-gay don't do clear, replicable studies and there scientific papers indicate many flaws in the design and execution of their own attempts.

From my perspective as a religious person there is nothing intrinsically moral about being heterosexual nor is there anything intrinsically immoral about being homosexual. It is one's actions that show morality rather than one's sexual orientation. That opinion about morality is certainly debatable. The scientific evidence isn't. Study after study shows the same thing. Morality can ask the question of 'what to do with that study?' and 'what we should make of the evidence?' But denying the evidence is fruitless and shows a disbelief in the one we call our Way, our Truth and our Life.

Thoughts from Victor

Getting Well Again
April 1987

After you get sick somtimes recovery is quick, sometimes it is slow and sometimes it is impossible but there can always be reason for hope. Getting well again is the hope for us all despite the fact that sometimes the only relief from the pain of life is death.

A second round with that awesome disease called a heart attack taught me no new lessons about getting well again but it certainly reinforced the lessons I learned the first time around. Getting well again takes energy, spirit and desire based on the great hope of us all to live a good life and to die loved. As Christians we define the good life as a life of good based on Christ's teachings. once you have bought into Christi's prescription for the good life you are assured of dying loved.

John wrote in his Gospel that there was a man who waited for thirty-eight years at the porticoes of the pool of Behtsatha for a miracle so he could get well again. (John 5:2-9) He was sitting there like someone waiting for a winning lottery ticket but having no money with which to buy the ticket. His words to Christ were "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me." Then Christ asked, "Do you want to be healed?"

Thirty-eight years is an awfully long time for someone to wait for the healing grace of God's love yet it was worth it to this man by the pool and it will be worth it to all of us.

My recovery has been blessedly short or so it seems to me. I'm feeling so much better every day and every time I go through the Cardiac rehab program of exercise that I feel surely that I am loved by God. I feel loved by God even though I know there is permanent damage that will never go away. I can live with it as long as God lives with me and in me.

We have no folllow up on the life of the man who took up his pallet and walked after thirty-eight years of illness but we may guess with all expectation of it being the truth that he died knowing he was loved by God through Jesus Christ.

I believe a great part of getting well again is knowing that God lvoes me and loves you. That can put a lot of hope in your pockets and you may always feel rich. Your chances of getting well again no matter what the odds are still greater than the odds in any lottery.

Victor Vernon Victoria, 'Getting Well Again' Newsletter (Goldfield, IA: The United Presbyterian Chruch, 1987), frontispiece.

Deciphering Scripture

I've been reading Milgrom (1) lately and his description of minimal and maximal interpretations of scripture reminded me of the Lutheran and Reformed attitudes towards adiaphora. The minimalist position posits only general rules were laid down. The maximalist position delves into the specifics of the original language. Lutherans position on adiaphora is that what is not specifically forbidden is permitted. The Reformed churches position on adiaphora is what is not specifically permitted is forbidden.

Any who know of the Lutheran and Reformed churches will realize that there are differences between the two branches of faith beyond adiaphora and that I have vastly over-simplified the position of both. But it does point to a difference in attitude. Do we look for reasons to close down and truncate differences? Do we look for ways to open up and expand differences. There is no right or wrong precisely in either direction. There is wrong if we take either position to extremes. If we are swayed by every wind, then we ignore the workings of the Holy Spirit as equally as if we are never swayed by a breath of change.

Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2004), Introduction.

A rabbinic story

I firmly believe in taking advantage of the serendipitous. Just after writing about conflation and interpolation I ran across this story (in Milgrom's commentary on Leviticus).

Moses (in heaven) requested of God to visit R. Akiba's academy.
Permission was granted. He sat down in the back and listened
to R. Akiba exposit a law puportedly based on the Torah. Moses
didn't understand a word; "his energy flagged." At the end of
R. Akiba's discourse, the students challenged him: "What is your
source?" R. Akiba replied, "halakah lemoseh missinay" (It is)
an oral law from Moses at Sinai.' The story concludes that Moses
was reinvigorated, "His mind was put to rest." (1)

Whether or not Leviticus, or the other books of Moses, are written by Moses is not a question that determines inclusion in Scripture. The question that determines that is whether they are in the tradition, the story line, of Moses? Whether or not they are as God wants them to be? Whether or not we interpret the passages correctly (in light of the Holy Spirit)? Those are the questions that are important for whether a book is of God or not.

(1) Jacob Milgram, Leviticus: a book of ritual and ethics (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2004), p. 2.

Conflation and Interpolation

When reading Paul, especially Second Corinthians, I find it difficult to understand why some interpreters of Scripture don't accept the ideas of conflation and interpolation. Conflation is making several documents into one document. Interpolation is adding more to the document from a different author. It seems so clear that both happen.

There are more scholarly commentaries to which to go for examples. (My two favorite series of commentaries are Hermenia and Anchor Bible.) Yet, I think the problem is not in the evidence in the scripture, but in how we view scripture. Everytime we start talking about scriture as infallible it is my belief that we begin to place scripture on the same level as God. Scripture points the way to God, but is not God.

It is the same logical fallacy of assuming that because God is infallible so, too, is our understanding of God. Our human understanding of scripture, even when inspired by the Holy Spirit, is limited. We mistake the applicable passage, we misuse scripture to our own purposes, and we do not allow for the working of God within others to correct our own misunderstandings. When we have too high a view of scripture our tendency is to make our understanding of scripture just as infallible.

When we talk about scripture, even when we quote scripture, we are using our own bias and preference in doing so. There are passages I have memorized, but not the whole of scripture. And even if I had the scripture memorized (including the variations in the Greek and Hebrew texts) I would still be using the parts of scripture that I find most congenial.

With this attitude the idea that parts of what I consider to be Holy Scripture might be conflated - parts of different documents put together - or interpolate - parts from different authors added - doesn't seem that irreverent or shocking. Looking at that possibility increases my ability to understand more of what it might mean in my life today.

So the question of whether Paul actually put a word about women remaining silent in the midst of a passage on everyone being able to prophesy becomes for me a way to understand scripture rather than a negation of scripture. To be able to see the human element interpreting the divine will is, for me, one of the greatest gifts of studying scripture. My faith is not lessened by that exploration, it is increased. My spirit soars as I see the living, breathing human who sought to follow God as I do.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Fool's Prayer

The Fool's Prayer
by Edward R. Sill

The royal feast was done; the king
sought some new sport to banish care,
And to his jester cried: "Sir Fool,
Kneel now, and make for us a prayer!"

The jester doffed his cap and bells,
and stood the mocking court before;
They could not see the bitter smile
Behind the painted grin he wore.

He bowed his head, and bent his knee
Upon the monarch's silken stool'
His pleading voice arose: "O Lord,
Be meciful to me, a fool!

"Tis not by guilt the onward sweep
of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;
'Tis by our follies that so Long
We hold the earth from heaven away.

"These clumbsy feet, still in the mire,
Go crushing blossoms without end;
These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
Among the heart-strings of a friend.

"The ill-timed truth we might have kept---
Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung!
The word we had not sense to say---
Who knows how grandly it had rung?

"Our faults no tenderness should ask,
The chastening stripes must cleanse them all;
But for our blunders ---oh, in shaame
Before the eyes of heaven we fall.

"Earth bears no balsam for mistakes;
Men crown the knave, and scourge the tool
That did his will; but Thou O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!"

The room was hushed; in silence rose
The king, and sought his gardens cool,
And walked apart, and murmured low,
"Be merciful to me, a fool!"


I recently got out a copy of Barbara Ward's "The Rich Nations and the Poor Nations" (if you read an earlier post called family stories you'll recognize the name) and found the analysis seems as cogent today as it did in the 1970's. How do we create the stable culture that allows people to save and invest for the future? Iraq, war-torn now and under a dictatorship before, doesn't really allow for savings and investments. If you can have your property confiscated on a whim it makes more sense to use your money in things you can enjoy now.

I am not much of a saver myself, but this savings idea is not about what I manage to tuck away, but what we can do as a society. In the 70's we were faced with double-digit inflation, yet still people invested for the future. Instead of putting money in banks we could take out loans to put into a business. It was the investment and savings that paved the way for our future growth.

Yet if nations around us remain poor our riches are in danger. If societies around the world aren't stable, our peace remains at risk.

Family stories

In high school one of my teachers, social studies, recommended that we read a book by Barbara Ward called "The Rich Nations and the Poor Nations". He said that, "there's probably only one other copy in our town." I went home and mentioned this to my parents. My dad said, "I think I have a copy at the office" and my mother said, "I've got a copy downstairs that your aunt sent me and one upstairs that I bought at a conference."

My parents were also responsible for another social studies teacher being disconcerted. I went into class one day and the teacher asked us, "What would your parents do if someone came to the door and asked for food?" Since my dad had been in charge of ministerial emergency funds in more than one community I put up my hand and said, "Give them food and if they needed lodging get them a room at the local motel." So my teacher tried to make the situation worse and described someone dirty, ragged, and with a noisy car. I started to raise my hand and was told "Roger, don't answer the question." One of my brothers had the same class at another period and was told as he came in the door, "Don't answer my questions today.

This sort of story isn't that unusual in my family. We have stories of my grandparents taking in people during the depression. Or in more recent years one of my cousins was working with some migrant workers. The boss put off paying them one Friday so he could get them back on Saturday. They had planned their money so that they could go back home on Friday and return on Monday. My cousin showed up at her parent's house with several extra men at dinnertime. I might not always say that my relatives are nice, but I will say they set a good example.

I get some stubbornness from my family as well. One of my uncles got into a conflict with the college where he worked, or so I heard the story, and they thought they had him over a barrel. He quit. From teaching mathematics he went to tuning pianos. He made more money. A few years later he was teaching again - this time how to tune pianos.

At a recent family reunion one of my aunts mentioned that they didn't know where the red hair in my uncle's beard came from. I mentioned that my mother said it came from our great-grandfather K. She was surprised; my uncle - whom my mother had called her favorite brother - was surprised. Family stories get passed down different ways, so take all my stories with a grain of salt.

I sometimes wonder why all the criminal shows have people running up stairs. Don't they know that they're trapped there? Then I recall where my twin brother and spent many summer hours. We were up on the roof of the garage eating peaches. We were up on a limb of the locust tree. We were climbing the TV antenna to look at the purple martin house. Perhaps it's not so strange that people flee to the heights.


What do we mean when we say "truth"? I'm not talking about Pilate washing his hands and moving to the next project, but our understanding. Is truth about the facts in a case? At least some of the time it is. Is truth about attempting to be honest? At least some of the time it is. But honesty is not the same as being factual.

For example, I can state facts in an order that will lead to a false conclusion. Every fact is true, but because other facts are left out most will draw a false conclusion.
1. I am gay.
2. I share an apartment with another man.
3. I have a deeper bond with this man than with my parents.

There's an obvious conclusion that I'm sharing an apartment with a lover or sexual partner. I could add that I have a deeper bond with this man than with my brother John and reinforce that obvious conclusion. Yet when I say I share an apartment with my twin brother, then those three/four true statements while staying true lead to another conclusion.

A few years back I used this example with a man who pointed out, correctly, that if I was lying about any of those statements it completely changed the conclusion. he4 was correct, but wrong-headed. The problem is that all the statements are true and they are but one example of ways in which completely true statements can be sequenced to lead to a false conclusion.

I stopped the discussion when with a nasty turn of mind (in my opinion) he suggested that I might be having sex with my twin.

When reading scripture we are also sometimes left with incomplete information. Plain understanding of scripture is a guideline for interpretation but is subject to the realization that something obvious to the writer may not be as obvious to us today.

Inthe stories of Elisha one of the miracles is when Elisha causes an axe-head to float. This doesn't seem like much. If I borrowed an axe and the head flew off into a river, then I could just stop at the store and for a couple of hours wages replace it. During the time of Elijah and Elisha the axe-head was equivalent to a farm tractor. Not just a little one, but the ones that cost more than a couple of months salary.

There are other things that aren't obvious in the stories of Elijah and Elisha. The change from small family owned farms to large agricultural properties was part of what was happening as the Philistines moved into the small agrarian communities. The Philistines had moved into the Iron Age before the ancient Hebrews as is evidenced by the chariots they possessed and the loan of the axe head.

The question for us in reading scripture is what else do we miss because we just don't have the common knowledge of the time of the writing of the scriptural passage. It is good that everyone reads scripture. It is good that we read to find that obvious meaning. But we shouldn't be so focused on the plain meaning of scripture that we forget it is written in a different time, a different place, and a different culture.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Most of the days I fold laundry without thinking about it and just admire the pile of folded terry and linen. But today the laundry took my mind occupied more than usual. Someone watching would just see me flipping the sheets around and coming up with a neat packet. But the ability to do that has been honed over a number of years of folding laundry and especially the last few years of working in a motel.

It is a simple pleasure for me in turning 25 lbs of sheets fresh out of the dryer into a neat pile. Many days I finish folding one load, turn around to pull the next load out of the dryer and find that the pile is disappearing with a housekeeper. It is still a worthwhile activity. It is easier for the housekeepers to carry a load of folded than unfolded.

I could complain about how my work doesn't seem to last. I could say that there is no need to fold the sheets until I know the housekeepers won't be taking them away. I could grow frustrated as there is sometime no end in sight of dirty laundry and I don't get to see the finished piles until the housekeepers are long gone. Yet that misses the point of doing a good job.

What I do is not for me and just for myself. It is for the motel. And when I work it is not for my glory but for the glory of God. I do the best job that I can, not because it will bring material rewards, but because I am a steward of God�s creation.

Folding laundry, like many other tasks in life, is something that can be boring. But it is also an opportunity - an opportunity to serve God, an opportunity to do good work, an opportunity to take pleasure in the way things can be put together, an opportunity to relax and think. There are some tasks that I'm not as sanguine about the opportunities, but I suspect that if you're like me there are more tasks about which we've complained in which there are ways to enoy.

A new twist on an old defense.

Judge please have mercy since I'm an orphan claimed the one convicted of killing his parents. Or so goes the joke. In Tennessee a judge convicted of bribery and corruption pleaded that his stress from finding out his wife was a lesbian is why he should be treated leniently. Isn't that called chutzpah? So what? I always thought that we are supposed to take responsibility for our own actions.

See - - for an article on the incident.

Gay men must change

There's a recent report that that "The archbishop of Canterbury has told homosexuals that they need to change their behaviour if they are to be welcomed into the church, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal." at

Please tell me what gays must change that is diferent from what heterosexuals are called to do. Some gay men and lesbians are promiscuous, so are some straight men and women. Some gay men and lesbians want to marry the partner of their choice and make a life-long commitment to being faithful. So do some heterosexuals. To just say 'gays must change' or some such nonsense is nonsense.

Gays must change their behavior if they want to be welcomeed into the church? Well yes, but no more and no less than heterosexuals, bisexuals, and any other sexual orientation.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


How does one get a book out of a person who is only mentioned once in scripture? (well once that I know of) It's not to difficult if the name is of a woman and she is called pre-eminent among the apostles. One only has to trace the history of attempts to make the name masculine. For an interesting history of biblical scholarship and eisegesis instead of exegesis read Eldon Jay Epp's book JUNIA: the first woman apostle.

Darwin, Hitler, and Kennedy

Darwin's Deadly Legacy

D. James Kennedy and Coral Ridge Ministry produced a program called Darwin's Deadly Legacy. I haven't seen it yet, but from the reports it links Darwin and Hitler. It seems that Kennedy doesn't know history, but he also is less than conversant with the confessional documents of reformed congregations. (For those of you not conversant with the different strands of Christianity, there are several branches of denominations that arose during the Reformation, the Reformed Churches and the Lutheran Churches are two of the more widely spread.) All Presbyterian churches are considered part of the Reformed branch.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has as part of their constitution a Book of Confession containing a document from one part of the church in Germany. It is the Barmen Declaration and was written during WWII. A minority group set up their own congregational structure in opposition to some stances supporting Hitler that were taken by the state supported churches. It is clear from the documents that the majority of Christians supported Hitler.

This claim that Darwin's work led to Hitler is willful ignorance, not just bigotry. The sad truth is that Christians of all denominations supported Hitler. The shining example of a few, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, doesn't mean that it was Darwin's legacy that led to Hitler. Christians have a history that includes conversion via the sword, slanders against Jews, and persecutions too numerous to list. To blame Darwin for what is historically a Christian activity is just plain wrong.

The Barmen Declaration and the whole of the Book of Confessions of the Presbyterian Church (USA) can be found at I don't believe Kennedy is part of this particular denomination, but as it is my own I'll refer to their site for some examples of Christians and those from the Reformed branch that call themselves presbyterian for documents that suggest that christians need to take responsibility for false doctrines that aren't christian at all.

Multiple Intelligences (Science and Theology

revised title for spelling and put in links 11/16/06.

I like Gardner's proposal of multiple intelligences. It isn't something that can be proved. Well, not very easily. Yet it explains why some people are smart in one area and a little bit less than intelligent in another. It speaks to having different gifts and yet all those gifts being important. The proposal fits in with much of Christian theologies that talk about different gifts but part of the same body. Yet if theology is to remain centered on God and the relationship of God and human, then theology should not rest or fall on what science says. Scientific theories are about what facts mean and are subject to change as new facts are discovered. Theology is about the eternal relationship between the human and the creator of humanity.

Christians who find a scientific theory, such as evolution, troubling to their faith are missing the point of both science and faith. Faith is about belief. Science is about facts. Both talk of truth, but they are talking of different aspects. The teakettle is boiling. Why? One answer is that I put it on for a cup of tea with a friend. Another answer is because I turned on the stove. Still another answer is the exchange of kinetic energy from a heat source to the water. All the answers are true and yet they speak to different matters.

Scripture speaks to a life of faith. It tells the story of many people who have wrestled with their faith and struggled with God. The creation stories in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are not about whether evolution is correct or incorrect. The two stories speak to the one who created the world and why it was done. Evolutionary theory is only about how it was done and providing an explanation that fits the observed facts.

Science limits itself to the natural world. What can be observed? What can be repeated? Those are scientific questions. But theology is asking, "Why are we here?In what should we have faith? What is our purpose?" To say that theology answers the questions of what are the facts is to miss the point of both theology and science. Certainly what God does affects the natural world. Just as certainly what science does affects our understandings of God. But neither science nor theology really answers the questions that the other deals with and so both should stay out of the arena of the other.

Scientists can and should speak to theologians and on theology and talk about the nature of God. Theologians can and should speak to scientists and talk about the implications of scientific discoveries. Stephen Hawking once wrote a book in which he claimed that science proved the non-existence of God. Certainly the God that Hawking described could not exist, but that God was a creation of straw. Similarly when many Christianists attack science or current scientific thinking and theory they make up a science that is easy to attack, but is not what science really is.

Faith and science should be in conversation, but neither should pretend to be the other.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Elijah and Elisha

Some of my favorite stories are those of Elijah and Elisha. In many ways
it’s because of how human they are. Yes, both of them work miracles, but
they also have a couple of flaw. Elijah works a miracle of calling down
fire on water-drenched oxen (I Kings 18) and then goes into the wilderness
to complain to God (I Kings 19). This holy man is not a pietistic,
uncomplaining example of a goody two-shoes, but a real live breathing

Christians, or anyone who seeks to follow God's will, are not perfect
beings, but beings seeking to be perfected. We are training for a race
and seeking to run well. We are bits of ore going into the reefing fire.
We are clay being shaped by the potters hand. We are not the finished

Yet too often we, who call ourselves Christian, act as though we are
finished. We believe we know all there is to know about God. Or we act
as if the fact that we are in church makes us better than someone else.
Or we look down on someone giving thanks that we arenÂ’t as sinful as is
that other person in the corner.

The scripture messages is that we are loved and saved as we are. It is
that we are works on the way to completion. It is that we are not to
judge others. But words about hating the sin, while loving the sinner are
voiced rather than acted upon. Our actions speak loudly condemning the
one we call sinner and ignoring the sins that we ourselves love. In
reading the greek testament I find more passages condemning greed and
hypocrisy than all the so-called sexual sins put together. Yet the
church, as a whole, seems to forge chains for those caught in the easily
seen sexual activities while ignoring the greed that destroy corporations
and takes away pensions or the hypocrisy that can claim someone else is a
sinner while ignoring their own sin.

Dare I mention the gospel story about ignoring the log in one’s eye to
take care of the speck in another person? Or another story that ends with
judge not lest you be judged. Or the Romans passage that says when you
condemn others you stand condemned yourself. The list of passages goes

We should expect each other to be on a journey. And in the journey we may
stumble, lose our way, and make other mistakes. Our task is not to yell
at the other, but to help them up and on their way.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Blind dogma and inner peace

I'm always a little suspicious when I hear that someone's found inner peace. Not because I don't believe in inner peace, but because I don't hear those who show evidences of iner peace proclaiming to everyone about their inner peace. It seems to me that those who speak too much about inner peace have instead mistaken blind dogma for inner peace.

The dogmatic assertion of one's belief is not really the same as having belief. The assertion that one can prove belief is simply blind dogmatism. God and belief in God is by very nature not susceptible to proof. A miracle happens once and cannot be studied. The peace I have in believing doesn't rest on an article of faith or an assertion that necessitates proof but the experience of walking with God.

Randall Terry

“He is very big on image. In a large way Tila and I mess up that image.”
Jamiel Terry, openly gay son of Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, on why his father does not include a photo that shows Jamiel or his sister Tila, who had an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, in literature for the father’s state Senate race in Florida (Associated Press, Aug. 23)

I've seen several articles on this controversy. In many respects it would be irrelevant how many of Randall Terry's children are in the campaign photo, except that Terry has campaigned on so-called family values. I seem ro remember one of the quotes from the Terry campaign was that Jamiel and Tila hadn't been in the photo since they hadn't been in the same room for three years. That speaks to me of family values.

But that doesn't say anything about good family values. The family values with which I was raised included my mother calling her parents once a week to see what was happening as well as arranging with her brothers and sisters to have several visiting the family farm together. Three years without seeing each other seems a bit absurd for someone who is claiming to have family values.

whole armor of God - revisited

I’m having difficulty this week after visiting Many of the lectionaries have the Ephesians 16 passage as the epistle reading for this Sunday. I keep reading that as part of my daily meditations and wonder how something as inane as pj’s could be considered relevant to a passage about armoring oneself for battle.

I picture the writer of Ephesians in prison looking at the jailors in armor and finding a way to talk about preparing to face torture. If I had children IÂ’d read that passage to them as we prepared for school and work as an example of looking for ways to spread the message. I sure wouldn’t read it as getting a good nights sleep. For a good nights sleep a passage like the letter to Timothy where the author is worrying about the health of the other. For a good nights sleep a pssage like Solomon praying for wisdom over other gifts. For a good nights sleep a geneaology to show that God cares for each person. But Ephesians seems like a wake-up and start your daily tasks being prepared for trial, temptations and troubles.

That’s why I place these items in the Christianist category. They aren’t about being Christian, but about saying one is Christian. They aren’t about living the faith, but avoiding difficulties. They treat a particular image of Christ as more important than the person of Christ. They want to meet the Christ in the pomp and pageantry and avoid the rags and ills.

Yet the picture of the judgment day is that some will not realize they’ve seen the Christ, but find that in the cup of water to the thirsty they met their God. And others will ask when they ignored the Christ and find they did so when they didn’t visit the prisoner. The Christ is not find in having the correct doctrine or trying to make your children feel safe. The Christ is found in the city streets and the rural byways, in poverty and need, in prison and in sickness. And the call of the Christian is not to be a good family man, but to be a servant of the risen Lord. Special pajamas are nice, but Christians aren’t called to be nice, they’re called to be followers of one who was despised and rejected.

There is a difference.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Time - Chronos and Kairos

The nime is NOW. The greeks had two words for time. One of the words, chronos, had to do with what we think of as date and hour. The other word, kairos, had to do with the right moment, the proper timing. For Christians they should meet together in each daily action. The moment to live our beliefs is right now. Do we believe Christians are called to love each other and treat every other human as a neighbor? If so, we should be asking 'are we showing that love?' Do we believe that Christians are stewards of creation? If so we should be acting as caretakers of that same creation. Do we believe that Christians are called to spread the gospel message? Then we should be living our lives so that others may have hope.

We can put off our obligations to live as the one who we say we serve calls us to do. But we should not. The time for living our faith is now. Scheduling our activities and planning our tasks are good activities, but they should be directed at living in stewardship of the time we have been given. It is in those moments and that planning that we show whether we really live the faith we claim. The tasks and activities that mkae up our daily lives aren't interuptions, but the spaces and interstices where our belief shines through.

When the faith we profess doesn't shine through the activities, obligations, and daily tasks then it becomes clear that which we profess is not the same thing we beileve. The time is NOW. A living faith is not about what we've done in the past or intend in the future, but want we are doing.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Elisha and the iron axe

One of the reasons I'm fascinated with the Elijah/Elisha cycle of stories is the evidences of change from the bronze to iron age. The story of a worker losing the axe head is a great example. It would be, in today's terms, like wrecking the borrowed tractor. The replacement expense would be exorbitant. The miracle takes on more significance when we realize what an axe head means to the people involved. If I lose an axe I go down and buy one at the local store, but for the people in that story.... it's another multitude of a disaster.


For God my spirit waits
in silence and in song.
For God my spirit waits
throughout the whole day long.

I sing my praise to God
while walking through the day.
I sing my praise to God
and in the rest notes pray.

I pray both night and day
in sorrow and in joy.
I pray both night and day
and those pray'rs make me whole.


Any of you remember what Ephesians 4:16ff talks about? You and your
children can now put on the whole armor of God.

Doesn't that sound nice? PJ's ?

I'm all for putting on the whole armor of God, but I ddin't think the purpose was to make children feel safe. I thought it was so that we would go forth into battle for the truth, for Christ, to proclaim the good news. to face trials and persecutions. To feel safe at night seems an insipid use of the passage. The sort of lukewarm response that is going to be spit out because it is neither hot nor cold.

He who was once beautiful

Once he walked gracefully
footsteps light as gazelles
bounding acrss the plain

Now he stubles and trips
shuffling and slow as a worm
as age and illness whelm.

Cigarettes he smokes today with wine
for both do less harm
than what life has become

In the loss there is yet a glimpse
of what he once has been
yet never will be again.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Scourge, Guide and Joy

In my experience living a Christian life is a joy. I find joy in following God's law. I find joy in the simple experiences of life (folding laundry is what I'm doing today - over 100 pounds or from twenty rooms). I find joy in many things. But Calvin and Reformed theologians talk of the law in different ways. The law can be a scourge for the wicked, a guide for the perplexed, and a joy for the saints.

I think too many people experience Christian life, following God's law as only a scourge. And that's not their fault. It's the people who say first you have to experience discipline then you will know God's love; it's the ones who say if you aren't punished how can you know that you've done right; and similar statements that have it wrong. You can get to joy without going through the scourge.

God's gift is unconditional. God's love has no end. The joy comes as one knows their salvation and lives it. The gift of God come down to become human is not for us to be condemns, but for saving us.


I’ve been reading a book by J. N. Adams called The Latin Sexual Vocabulary recently. It reminds me of how we bring our own preconceptions to reading scripture. The culture in which I live is very different from that of ancient Greece and Rome where the writers of scripture live. If I read with my own assumptions, then I can miss some important things.

It is clear that roman culture is not really interested in the gender of the people in the sexual activity so much as the status and who is in control. The problem with an emperor marrying a slave wasn’t that they were both men but, as the famous satire makes clear, that the emperor put on the clothes of a woman. The status of the people dictated whether they were expected to be the active or inactive participant (at least whether they should be perceived as such) rather than the sexual activity involved.

This becomes important as we read the prescriptions and proscriptions for marriage and sexual activity in the greek testament. It becomes even more important as we read the call for equality and leveling through the whole of the greek testament. It is that the whole culture was being changed from one of status importance to one where status is irrelevant. As Christians we are equal to each other. That one is an arm is true, that another is an eye is also true. But the different parts can’t do without each other. That message, that sounds old and tired after 2,000 years or so, is a radical message at the time of the writing.

We have become so familiar with scripture that we forget what a radical notion the greek testament brought. The letters we have were written for particular problems and situations of which we have little knowledge. There are four gospels in the document we have, yet those were chosen from a number of writings that the early church had available. The question, for me, today is ‘how do I find that radical nature so as to become the Christian that I am called to be?’

Friday, August 18, 2006

Uncles and Aunts

I see them old and gray
yet their spirits still soar
their bodies may be weka
yet the soul remains strong.

The laughing eyes of youth
may be hidden in the clouds
of whitened hair and aching joints
yet the joy remains.

The facade may be curled
with age and many cares
yet their spirits are unfurled
like flags joyful in the air.


One of the important things in my life is family. At a recent family reunion we took some pictures, this is of my twin and I. (I am the one on the west side.) For a few years we had three full sets of twins in my family - the great-aunts after whom my mother and her twin were named, my mother and her twin (identical), and my twin and I (also identical). At the family reunion we learned that one of my cousins will soon add another set of twins to the family.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I am whole

I am wounded. This year has been one of accepting that wound may never be healed. I am wounded because I am called to ministry. That call has been affirmed and reaffirmed by my denomination. I have answered that call. And now I am rejected and feel despised. Even when I may be able to take up that call to serve again, the wounds will not heal. Words like 'our congregation isn't ready' or 'we need someone who our married couples can relate to' are less wounding than silence once my sexual orientation is mentioned.

I am angry. The way I've used that anger has been both good and bad. For while I seek to use my anger for good I am not perfect. I have struck out at those trying to help. Yet my anger is justified. My gifts that were used by my denomination in congregation, presbytery, synod and general assembly remain. They remain unused and swallowed by misperceptions.

I am whole and I am yet wounded and I remain angry. I seek God's will for my life. So I am whole. I seek to minister where I am and with those I meet. And so I am wounded and angry and whole. And for the whole of my life I will remain one who seeks to answer the call of God.
My first entry should be spectacular - a mind blowing experience - and attract lots of attention. Sadly, like most of my entries, it's more likely to be introspective, pseudo-intellectual, pretentious or boring.