Monday, November 19, 2012

The Monday Funnies Thanksgiving Week Edition

The world is a little nuts right now, and we need a few laughs. Here is a new cartoon from Dave Walker just in time for our cooking Thanksgiving Dinner at the church, and some really bad jokes for Thanksgiving from Pat Hill in the overbloated Jokester Department of Fiat Lux. Finally, look below this mess for a video that is, er, probably serious but laugh anyway. Enjoy your Thanksgiving week!

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An industrious turkey farmer was always experimenting with breeding, to perfect a better turkey.

His family was fond of the leg portion for dinner and there were never enough legs for everyone. After many frustrating attempts, the farmer was relating the results of his efforts to his friends at the general store get-together. "Well I finally did it! I bred a turkey that has 6 legs!"

They all asked the farmer how it tasted.

"I don't know" said the farmer. "I never could catch the darn thing!"

* * *


(Tune O Come All Ye Faithful)

O come all ye turkeys,
Fully dressed or boneless;
Come all ye Armor Stars,
This Thanksgiving day.
Come and be basted,
You will not be wasted;

Oh be our guest for dinner,
Oh be our guest for dinner,
Oh be our guest for dinner,
Thanksgiving Day.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Jesus saves, and the people on our doorstep

Sign on the roof of
the Church of the Open Door,
Los Angeles
Today's readings are 1 Samuel 2:1-10Psalm 16Hebrews 10:11-14 (15-18) 19-25Mark 13:1-8.

Here is my sermon for today:

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“My heart exults in the LORD; 
my strength is exalted in my God.” 
 -- From the Song of Hannah

Last Wednesday, as is our custom here at St. Paul’s, we had our community night dinner and fed everyone who came through our doors.

We had adult classes, showed a film, and the youth group went bowling. People prayed, they were fed, and had a little fun, and, we hope, they learned something.

It was a good evening – until the very end, when a young man in a hoodie asked me if he could sleep in the church. He said he had nowhere else to go.

I told him he couldn’t sleep here. I made sure he had something to eat, and let him stay inside until it came time to lock up.

It was too late for him to get to PACEM, the program whereby churches in our area take turns housing homeless people in the cold months. Our turn to host PACEM will come, but it wasn’t yet our night. I talked to this young man about how to get to PACEM the next night, and I haven’t seen him since.

I went home praying he would be OK, and feeling low and frustrated that I offered so little when the needs are so great all around us.

Could I have done better? Certainly.

Yet the truth is we see a great many homeless people regularly on our corner, and sometimes they sleep in our bushes.

We live in a deceptively bucolic community, but beneath the surface we have a great deal of poverty and homelessness right here.

You may not know this, but Charlottesville adopted a plan in 2009 to end homelessness by the year 2012. The plan had concrete steps, and a few have come to pass, like a low-income apartment house called the Crossings.

But very little else has happened with that plan.

And we still have people who arrive on our doorstep. If we are to truly claim to be followers of Jesus, then we here have a role, and we have just got to do better.

I want to take you to another place today, a place that in its own way gives me hope. Many years ago, when I was a news reporter, I carried a notebook into gritty neighborhoods where life is hard, and often violent and short.

One of the places I used to go is Skid Row in Los Angeles, where there is an old bleached-out boxy building, dating from 1935. On the roof is a big red neon sign that flashes “Jesus Saves.”

You can see that sign for miles.

I must admit, the sign has always entranced me, but also bothered me. Why would anyone who lives on Skid Row even believe it?

It may not seem very Episcopalian to talk about “Jesus saves” – and we certainly don’t like neon signs, and I am not putting one on the roof of this building, thank you.

Yet, that neon sign underlines an audacious claim by this Christian religion we practice:

“Jesus saves.”

It is up to us to make that sign real. Why? The Bible tells us so.

If you read the Bible closely, you will discover that most of the stories of God’s salvation are in this world, with real people in real places. Very few stories are about salvation in the next world.

The Bible and our prayer book, our baptism and our Eucharist, and the very words of the hymns we sing, all proclaim the very same thing:

Jesus saves – now, here, today.

So what does that mean?

Back up a little. Our religion is built on the idea that we follow a Jewish holy man who lived 2,000 years ago half a world away, in a place very, very different than Central Virginia.

He was no hippie, no Zen monk. He worked with his hands and he enjoyed a good meal and strong drink, and he could spin a good yarn.

But he could be quite harsh with his followers, and he did not shy away from telling them about the gritty realities of the world – and what they had to do to be his follower. Feed the hungry, heal the sick, turn the other cheek, give away your possessions.

Why would anyone follow this Jesus? Why would anyone claim he saves anyone? He could not even save himself from the Cross, as his detractors pointed out. Over the centuries, many have tried to explain why Jesus willingly goes to the Cross, and to be candid, some of those explanations fail.

We get one explanation today in the Letter to the Hebrews. The letter writer wants his listeners to believe that Jesus saves.

And he explains it with words that are strange to our ears, words about blood sacrifice and “curtains of flesh” – language that meant a great deal to people steeped in the ways of the Hebrew Temple.

The problem is that the language of blood offerings doesn’t resonate well in our own time, and, worse, is easily misunderstood.

Some have heard in these words the image of a bloodthirsty hateful God. If we take these images literally, as many do, we end up with a God who is satisfied only with death.

Is there another way to understand this?

I go back to the neon sign on Skid Row:

Jesus saves.

Jesus loves the world enough to experience everything we experience, even the pain and loss we suffer, and to live with us, especially in our hardest most perplexing moments. That is why he goes to the Cross, to be there with us – and not to satisfy some bloodthirsty deity.

He brings every ounce of his own divinity to be with us in the lowest places, to live on all the skid rows of this world.

In today’s gospel lesson from Mark, a passage laced with images of apocalypse, Jesus tells us wars and famines do come. Great buildings like the Temple will fall.

Yet Jesus offers us another way of seeing: look beyond the appearances, he says, because pain and hardship will fade into history, and I will be right here with you, and will never let you go no matter what.

But there is a challenge for us in this:

If, indeed, the Risen Christ is within us, then what are we doing to bring God’s dream of compassion alive here and now? How are we the hands of Christ?

Skid Row is right outside our doors some nights, and the weather is getting colder. It is up to us – all of us – to make real that Jesus saves. It is up to us – up to me – to do better.

But have heart: All will be made new, all will be blessed, and God’s dream of love and compassion is coming alive within you and around you – so have eyes to see and ears to hear – and hands and feet to act!

This is the faith of the ancients; we hear it echoing in the Song of Hannah, our Old Testament lesson for today:

“He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts up the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.”

And this is the faith of people I’ve met on Skid Row:

Jesus does save, here, now. Today.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, peace in the Holy Land

From today's Daily Office reading. . .

Psalm 87

On the holy mountain stands the city he has founded; *
the LORD loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob.

Glorious things are spoken of you, *
 O city of our God.

I count Egypt and Babylon among those who know me; * behold Philistia, Tyre, and Ethiopia: in Zion were they born.

Of Zion it shall be said, "Everyone was born in her, *
 and the Most High himself shall sustain her."

The LORD will record as he enrolls the peoples, *
 "These also were born there."

The singers and the dancers will say, *
 "All my fresh springs are in you."

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Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, peace in the Holy Land.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday Funnies

The weather is turning colder, and the week promises to have lots of news including the election. So we need a few grins. Here are some jokes from Pat Hill and the usual gang of loafers in the overpaid the Fiat Lux Jokester Department and a new cartoon from Dave Walker. Enjoy your week...

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An elderly man took his little grandson for a walk around the local cemetery. Pausing before one gravestone he said, "There lies a very honest man. He died owing me 50 dollars, but he struggled to the end to pay off his debts, and if anyone has gone to heaven, he has."

They walked on a bit further and then came to another grave. The old man pointed to the gravestone and said, "Now there's a different type of man altogether. He owed me 60 dollars and he died without ever trying to pay me back. If anyone has gone to hell, he has."

The little boy thought for a while and then said, "You know, Grandpa, you are very lucky."

"Why?" asked the old man in surprise.

"Well, whichever place you go to, you'll have some money to draw on."

* * *

An angel suddenly appears at a faculty meeting and tells the dean of the college that, in return for his unselfish and exemplary behavior, he will be given his choice of infinite wealth, wisdom or beauty. All he need do is pick one.

Without hesitating, the dean selects infinite wisdom.

"Done!" says the angel, and disappears in a cloud of smoke and a bolt of lightning.

Now, all heads turn toward the dean, who sits surrounded by a faint halo of light. At length, one of his colleagues whispers, "Say something wise."

The dean looks at them and says, "I should have taken the money."

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Loss of power

From our friend Barbara Crafton in New Jersey...


I think of them whenever our electricity goes off -- the generations of human beings for whom this was the way life was, people who rose with the sun and slept with the moon. People whose houses were always cold in winter. People who could not read at night unless by candlight. They far outnumber us: electrification is a newcomer to human experience.

At times like this, I long to see them. I sit by the fire with a shawl covering my legs and another my shoulders, and I worry about their attire: if it was this chilly, how on earth did the women endure the d├ęcolletage we know characterized their dress in Jane Austen's time? How did the men of the 18th century endure knee pants? Or might we have imagined the whole thing, egged on by the hyperactive imaginations of their portraitists and our filmmakers? No, we did not: some of their clothing remains. You can visit it in museums.

Their great-grandchildren queue up anxiously to buy matches, for water in bottles, for ice in bags, fretting about the endangered contents of our freezers. We dread the absence of our electrical genie before it occurs, calling and texting each other about the impending disaster. Have you lost power yet? What about your mom? Does she have power?

"Power," we call it. We have no power. This is our third day without power. As if the departure of electricity were the loss of all our power. It is not. It is the loss of SOME of our power, not all of it.

We were almost out of bread before the hurricane hit, and our oven is electric. This was the opportunity for which I've been waiting for years: the chance to test a contention of my grandmother's that has always seemed nonsensical to me. She never liked the newfangled stove my mother had. You can't control the fire, she would fume, like you can in a wood stove.

What?!? The stove of my childhood was primitive indeed by today's standards, but it had dials with exact temperatures on them.

No, no, she insisted. It doesn't get hot fast enough and you can't adjust it fast enough. Wood is so much easier.

In memory of her, then, as well as out of necessity, I decided to bake our bread in the fireplace. I banked hot coals up around my iron pot and put the lid on, leaving it there to get really hot. Then in went the bread and back went the lid. My internal dialogue with my grandmother began:

Me: This won't work. It's a waste of good flour. There are no temperature gauges.

My Grandmother: Yes it will. People who couldn't even read have been baking bread like this for thousands of years.

Me: Maybe I need to bake it longer? How will I know?

My Grandmother: Trial and error. That's basically how we know everything.

Half an hour into the baking, I removed the lid and looked at the loaf, expecting something pasty and unappetizingly pale. But no: it was brown and gorgeous -- browner, in fact, than it is at this stage in my fabulous new oven. Hmmmn.

In fifteen minutes, it was done. It looked wonderful. I sliced off the heel when it had cooled. I don't really eat bread any more, but this was an emergency. I had an argument with my dead grandmother to win.

Damned if the woman wasn't right. It was good. Better than in my new oven? I'm not sure. I'd better have another slice.

Copyright © 2001-2012 Barbara Crafton - all rights reserved

The Geranium Farm

Friday, November 2, 2012

Remembering All Souls Day, those who are departed and the light in our lives

Please join us today at 12:15 pm for our Holy Eucharist when we will read the names of those who have died who are close to us.

Photo by Mark Beach