July 19th, 2014

When an enemy is shown the door what should we do? Proverbs 24: 17 tells us not to gloat over the death of our enemy, as one Professor of Christian Ethics would have us remember [see this]. The Book of Proverbs has an acute psychological sense: gloating is haute cuisine to our lip-smacking appetite for fancying ourselves fit creatures to sit at God’s table. Gloating comes naturally. What comes less naturally and pegs the rheostat of my b#llsh*t meter cognitive dissonance is the sanctimonious claptrap of those whose response to the gloating is to say, “Christians can’t take pleasure in anyone’s death.”

To such wise I want to offer delicately two pieces of advice. First: Write less. Leave such sentences to those who in this case might say them on good authority, to the families of those whose sons and daughters, moms and dads, were murdered on 9/11, and the ones loved by those men and women who were given their walking papers trying to hunt down the bad guy. Quit pontificating and read the Book of Job. Good theology is reticence and learning to say your prayers. It’s knowing what to say to God or about God and it is knowing when to shut up.

Taming the tongue is tougher than finding a terrorist. We’ll win the war on terror before we win that battle. Do I wish the gloaters would bite their tongues? Yes. But godhelpus I also wish some Christians would know when to shut up and when to keep reading.

That’s the second piece of advice: Read more. The Book of Proverbs doesn’t compose parallel couplets for the sake of our argument, to make it easy for us to quote the first half and conceal or ignore the rest.

          Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
             and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,
          lest the LORD see it and be displeased,
             and turn away his anger from him.
                                                             — Proverbs 24: 17 – 18 [my emphasis]

Why not gloat? Because it’s better to get out of the way so that the God of justice isn’t distracted. The professor quotes the first half of this couplet. By concealing the rest he forces the Bible to say platitudes—what we expect it to say—when what it gives us is higher octane altogether.

The Bible has a disdain for moralistic harangues. It has also, in the Book of Proverbs as elsewhere, a wisdom, and a sense of humor, lost on one Professor of Christian Ethics and much of North American Christianity.

July 14th, 2014

Alistair Hanna

I thank God for my friend Ali Hanna. Ali died 12 July. Pray for him. Pray for his wife Nancy, We all worked together at St Bartholomew’s NYC where the Burial Office will be said Tuesday at 1 o’clock. Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace.

July 8th, 2014
Louis Zamperini
Billy Graham Archives at Wheaton College

From my college alma mater: “There are several documents in the Billy Graham Center Archives here at Wheaton about his conversion and ministry. In 1974, he spoke at a meeting commemorating the 25th anniversary of the 1949 Los Angeles meetings where he was saved.”

June 18th, 2014

Hat tip to Bryce Taylor. It just makes me, too, happy that people came together and made this amazing thing.

June 5th, 2014

From The Gospel according St Luke (24: 13 – 27)

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.

While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?”

And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

And he said to them, “What things?”

And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

The risen Jesus demands courage. The first witnesses ran away afraid. Cleopas and the unnamed disciple don’t recognize the stranger on their way to Emmaus. I like especially the part where the stranger—the risen Jesus—tells them, “O how foolish you are, and slow of heart to believe!”

That rings true. The risen Jesus judging our unbelief contradicts the saccharine notion of a risen Christ that’s all pastel and affirmation.

One thinks of that Lord of the Rings scene in the Fangorn forest, where Gandalf, who had died, comes back and appears to Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas.

Gandalf. ”A thing is about to happen that has not happened since the elder days. The Ents are going to wake up and find that they are strong.”

Gimli [mocking]. ”Strong! Oh that’s good!”

Gandalf. “So stop your fretting Master Dwarf! Merry and Pippin are quite safe. In fact, they are far safer than you are about to be!”

Gimli [to himself]. “This new Gandalf’s more grumpy than the old one!”

The resurrection is not jejune affirmation of our ‘human condition’ — a kind of “there, there everything’s all right, you can go back now to all your pet assumptions about being the center of the universe.”

Resurrection judges everything. It required of the disciples that they go back to the start with Jesus and relearn him all over again. It demanded of them, in many cases, their bloody lives. One would have to be obtuse or ignorant, or willfully misreading the gospels to think that the resurrection means merely that the first disciples, once they got over their disappointment, decided (how noble of them) that the spirit of Jesus, what he stood for and taught, would continue in their lives. Bathetic.

Gimli was man enough, humble enough, to appreciate the grumpiness of the new Gandalf. It was confirmation to him that this resurrected Gandalf is the same Gandalf only moreso. If Gandalf were not demanding — if he were the namby-pamby milquetoast Christ of so many Easter sermons — Gimli would have known he was a fraud.

May 31st, 2014

THOMAS.                             What, after all,
  is a halo? It’s only one more thing to keep clean.

—Christopher Fry, The Lady’s Not for Burning

May 29th, 2014
May 29th, 2014
GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
The Collect for the Feast of the Ascension, BCP
May 14th, 2014
To take the Devil seriously is also to take seriously man’s total and spine-tingling freedom. Lucifer was an angel who even in Paradise itself was free to get the hell out.
Frederick Buechner
The Evangelium has not abrogated legends; it has hallowed them, especially the “happy ending.” The Christian has still to work, with mind as well as body, to suffer, hope, and die; but he may now perceive that all his bents and faculties have a purpose, which can be redeemed.
— J. R. R. Tolkien