Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Richard Wilbur

I have mentioned in a previous post how much I dislike the animated version of Wilbur the Pig. Here is a Wilbur I like very much, the wonderful poet Richard Wilbur. A couple of stanzas of his hymn/poem printed below will be printed on our service bulletin at Christ Church on January 4th. Wilbur does a good job, as Rembrandt does in his Adoration of the Shepherds (National Gallery, London) using with the light and the beams in the stable, showing how the shadow of the Cross is over the manger. To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord!

A stable-lamp is lighted
Whose glow shall wake the sky;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
And straw like gold shall shine;
A barn shall harbor heaven,
A stall become a shrine.

Yet He shall be forsaken,
And yielded up to die;
The sky shall groan and darken,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
For stony hearts of men:
God's blood upon the spearhead,
God's love refused again.

Richard Wilbur (1921-), A Stable-lamp Is Lighted, stanzas 1&3

Merry Christmas to all!

(click on the title of this post to hear Sufjan Stevens singing "O Come O Come Emmanuel")

Believe! And Yoda.

On Fifth Avenue this past week or two, I have seen many examples of the "Holiday" shopping bags from Macy's department store. My first reaction was that this was the typical consumerism of Christmas -- that humans just needed to believe in anything and so be better people by "having faith", no matter what the content of that faith.

But that's not what the campaign is all about, actually. It is a revival of the story of an eight year old girl named Virginia who wrote to the editor of the New York Sun asking if there was a Santa Claus (her friends said there was not). The editor's letter (available by clicking on the title link of this post) was to say that Santa does exist, along with various warmhearted statements relating to Christmas.

This reminded me of the conversation that the Authoress or I have periodically about the topic of Santa. We tell our children this: "Yes, Santa is real. He is another name for a wonderful Christian man named Nicholas who lived hundreds of years ago, and who looked after the needs of some young girls by giving them presents secretly. Today we remember him and have fun by pretending he gives us presents on Christmas." And we've found our kids register that and then get pumped up for Santa at Christmas, including the television specials...

What follows in the reaction is some form or another of condemnation, but there you have it!

Click on the title of this post to see Donald Trump and Martha Stewart, among others, reassuring us of the goodness of the season in Macy's rather admirable and touching campaign promising to raise funds for charity as long as we believe in Santa (and shop at Macy's...)

On the continuing thread of Christmas carols, I have long thought this line from Hark the Herald Angels Sing reflects Yoda's syntax. Try saying it in a Yoda voice and see if you agree....

Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Circuit Breaker

I work with Aussies, and one of them used the phrase "circuit breaker" in conversation the other day. I know what that is in electricity, and in the context realised that this is roughly the same as "short circuit" in American usage. It meant to change the terms of the debate, to ask a new question. This is what the Gospel does, and on Sunday I was reminded of an example of it in history.

At the Christ Church service of Lessons & Carols, we had the children to the front of the church building to light the Advent wreath. "Silent Night" was sung as the kids went to their programs downstairs. Some friends in the church are a wonderful German family, and the dad sang "Stille Nacht" to his young son while the rest of us sang "Silent Night".

How lovely, I thought, he's singing it in the German translation. Then I caught myself. Of course, it's a German carol, not an English one! An Austrian priest wrote it around 1818 and it was translated into English about 35-40 years later. I was singing the translation, not him.

There is the wonderful account of war weary troops on Christmas Eve during World War I stopping fighting, exchanging greetings, playing football/soccer, and singing "Silent Night" together in German and English. A rather good film, "Joyeux Noel", portrays Scots, Germans and French enjoying a Christmas Eve truce.

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light;
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

In the midst of the killing machine of the trenches, of suspicion and even in the midst of men doing their duty, it was the singing of "Stille Nacht" that provided a circuit breaker. Jesus himself often did this when conversing with those who were trying to pin him down (e.g., "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's" or "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone").

But the very coming of Jesus is the ultimate circuit breaker in history, the dawn of redeeming grace.

So, the French film "Joyeux Noel" goes on our Netflix queue (click on title post to see an excerpt). Any carols in other languages that move you? Or any other circuit breaker moments you can relate? Do tell.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Advent Carol

"People Get Ready", as sung by U2 in 1987. That's the link with this post. Incidentally, I saw them in concert in Philadelphia in 1987 (thanks, Greg, for scoring tickets!). It was the Joshua Tree tour, and Bono was late to the stage because he busted his arm somehow. He thrilled some guy in the audience by having him come on stage to play People Get Ready. I think Bruce Springsteen came out the next night to play that song. I love the sound of both Bono and the Boss, but together it's like two of my favourite things that just don't mix -- like egg salad and peanut butter.

Anyway, the point is that "People Get Ready", probably best sung by Curtis Mayfield with a close second by Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck, is congruent with Advent. And the best Christmas carols also flag up the theme of Advent -- Christ came (humbly, as a baby) and Christ coming again (in glory).

"O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" expresses this hope:

O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home
Make safe the way that leads on high
And close the path to misery

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee O Israel

There are such wonderful allusions to the whole of scripture in that carol -- do you have a favourite verse? Or another Advent themed carol you enjoy? Or a Rod Stewart song that you love?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Used to Row

I started rowing when I was sixteen, and in earnest in college, then quietly for about five years, then in earnest again in graduate school, then not much in the subsequent years.

For many years, I could describe myself as a rower because I had recently been doing just that.

No longer!

Moving to NYC has been wonderful, but rowing is not really possible here, even when surrounded by rivers on the island of Manhattan. A "road not taken" in life has been boarding school or college chaplaincy, probably in the UK, which likely would have involved quite a bit of time in boats.

Frank Sinatra did it his way; in terms of regrets, he had a few. In England, I often heard people say, "I have no regrets". I hear it in North America, too, but less. I regret not having been able (or found a way) to row for more years than I have. Maybe the opportunity will come again.

I first was intrigued by rowing as a boy when, sitting on the dock of my grandfather's house on Squam Lake in New Hampshire for the sunrise, saw a single sculler (in a fine polished wooden shell and wooden sculls, no less) slowly moving by. The effect of the sun dancing off of the water dripping from the blades as the perfectly balanced sculler moved through the water was magical. In reality, competitive rowing involves a huge amount of absolute agony as speed is generated. That has its own excitement, but it was the beauty of the sport that first grabbed me. And not only the sight of it, but also the sound of it - the swoosh and pop of the oar moving through the water to the release.

So in this little series on Christmas carols, how does rowing relate? For a short time, I had a bit of glory from success in rowing. Now my kids drink milk from old trophy mugs and a portrait of my Cambridge boat props up something in the hallway. Most other photos, shirts and such are in a box somewhere. And if I was in a boat, I would go as fast as the Tellytubby in the photo! But for a time, there was the glory of victory. And I lay it aside through circumstance and, if my self-description is any measure, grudgingly. Not so for the second person of the Trinity, who laid aside his glory mildly:

Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die:
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King!

After having viewed the video linked to the title of this post, I'm thinking maybe I'll get on the water again...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cosmic and Personal

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

At Christ Church on Sunday, we celebrated Lessons & Carols, and this was our final carol to conclude the service. It was noted how the carol describes the cosmic, universal significance of Jesus: that the King is worshipped by all Creation, even rocks, hills and plains; that He has dealt with the sin of the world (far as the curse is found) and that He is the Word made flesh who dwelt among us ('grace and truth' -- have a look at John 1.14, or listen for it at your Christmas Eve service). The extent of His reign is total, over all nations, indeed over all Creation, and thus all heaven and nature sings for joy at His coming.

And yet.

And yet the world is comprised of individual people. As Margaret Thatcher said to the dismay of many in Britain in 1987: "There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families." Joy to the World encourages the whole world to receive Jesus as King, and then makes it quite personal: Let every heart prepare Him room.

Which line do you find most striking?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Menace

Have you ever noticed that carolers threaten those they visit in this one?

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Good tidings we bring to you and your kin;

Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer: Refrain

We won't go until we get some;

We won't go until we get some;

We won't go until we get some, so bring some out here

Once in Royal David's City

Christmas Carols are a wonder to me. They are such a great example of truth and beauty gathered together in worship of God, while giving joy to people.

The beauty and joy of singing these in worship comes together in this season, particularly in the Service of Nine Lessons & Carols started at King's College, Cambridge a century ago, and celebrated at Christ Church yesterday. The good theology of carols is somewhat overlooked, and so for the next few days, I hope to post on a number of Christmas carols that have special meaning for me, and convey wonderful truth.

Sometimes I am asked, "when did you decide you wanted to be ordained?". That question can be asked with curiosity, hostility or admiration, depending on a person's response to the Gospel, to me, or to clergy or a church in their own past. But my answer is this: As a child, I wasn't really sure exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. But ordained ministry was not a negative idea for me as it is for many people, because I had such good models in the ministers at my home church. Particularly the men like Dan Sullivan and Laurie Thompson, and even Joe Hess who was a bit cranky but all of them were both gentle and strong Christian men and clergymen in my earliest years.

So there wasn't as much to "get over" in terms of thinking about being an Anglican clergyman for me as others experience. Neither did I have a sentimental view that all I ever wanted to do was full-time ministry. But in the end, sentiment played a big part in how God grabbed my attention. I was ushering at Trinity College's Lessons & Carols my senior year, and had a profound sense that I should be in leadership in the Church. The singing of Once in Royal David's City (click on title post to listen) stood out to me. The last verse captured what I thought (and still think) about ministry -- introducing Jesus Christ to people so that they may long to spend eternity with Him:

Not in that poor lowly stable
with the oxen standing by
we shall see him, but in heaven,
set at God's right hand on high:
there his children gather round
bright like stars, with glory crowned.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Burgermeister Meisterburger

It's time for the Christmas specials!

"Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" was on the other night, and has some surprisingly warm allusions Jesus being born on Christmas rather than just the gift for children stuff. I forgot that the central story is a worn out and rather evil old wizard who, on meeting Kris Kringle, is changed to a good man. He's the one who gives Kris the flying reindeer and all the trimmings of the job. For some reason, Kris has a pet penguin as his accomplice in his early days. These were spent defying the law of the Burgermeister Meisterburger, who leads a paramilitary police force (and the only one sporting a German accent) to snuff out toys.

What is striking is that the goodness of Kris Kringle's motivations is accompanied by a massive behavioural modification programme -- the naughty and nice list, to see who gets toys. I grew up with this in the background, but it's pretty hard hitting in the show -- be good or you won't get loved by Santa! I've heard that in Austria, children really are at risk of getting coal in their stockings if they've misbehaved, while their brother or sister might get gifts. Can anyone confirm?

In any case, the Christmas specials are a blast. These puppet ones are the best, with such characters as Yukon Cornelius ("Bumbles Bounce!"), Herbie the Elf ("I want to be a dentist"), the SnowMiser and HeatMiser ("Whatever I touch, turns to snow in my clutch, I'm too much") and many more.

I like the animated ones too. Charlie Brown is tops. Frosty I could do without. I always wanted him to melt, just like I rather wanted Wilbur the Pig to be made into bacon after a few minutes of his whingeing on "Charlotte's Web". When Linus reads Luke 2 in the Charlie Brown Christmas special, it's a great moment.

What about you? What are your favourite Christmas specials?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I left a post on the site of a thoughtful guy I met at church recently, on the topic of value we assign to objects. The topic of his post was how much is paid for art, and what the inherent value of art might be. I wrote this:

Do material things (besides people) have inherent value? I think so. A thing of beauty should be valued in the sense of being esteemed, and a useful thing should be valued in the sense of not wasting it (such as food). But I am not sure about the use of the word "value" as an absolute category when describing the means to purchase something. Currency is something of a phantom, a little unreal.

A member of my extended family is ready for a total collapse of the economy, having a fair amount tucked away in specie (precious metal coins). In fact, I think he might actually long for a complete economic meltdown so that he can tender these coins!

Earnest Shackleton, whose ship was trapped in ice and led his men over land in their South Pole expedition, commanded the men to leave aside anything that wouldn't keep them alive. He added to the great heap of things to be left the gold sovereigns in his possession. But he picked up a volume of Browning, saying 'I throw away trash [gold sovereigns] and am rewarded with golden inspirations'.

Makes you want to read Browning, doesn't it?

Monday, December 8, 2008

I am the Greatest!

I've been praying for a friend whose son is terribly ill, though recovering, and thinking about times when my children have suffered. While what my kids have endured has not approached his experience, and the emergencies were of shorter duration, the fact is that the suffering of a child is of a different quality than other human suffering.

God the Father is not immune to the suffering of a child, of course, and in the strangest solution to the suffering and sorrow in the world, sent His Son to be born as a baby who would, in due time, suffer death, even death on a cross (cf Philippians 2). So while Muhammad Ali was probably the greatest boxer, the image on Esquire magazine in the third photo shows him in weakness (in the pose of St. Sebastian, who died for his faith in Christ). Then he is more like the Greatest than he is picking the round he will knock out his opponent. But the greatest in the eyes of the Creator is the second photo, of a little child.

Matthew 18.1-6
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."

I am not going through what my friend is going through. I do trust that God is neither immune from the sorrow of this situation, nor absent from this family in this trial which He has brought to them. The purpose for that is as yet unknown.

Does suffering perplex you? It does me, and yet it doesn't, knowing God is in charge. Sometimes makes me angry, or confused, certainly. What about you?

On a much lighter note, click the title of this post to see a cartoon of Muhammad Ali as an astronaut cartoon hero.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Denny Crane...Denny Crane...Hi, Denny Crane

Braggadocious, misogynistic, outrageous and generally over the top. That's Denny Crane on Boston Legal. A man who walks in a room and simply repeats his name, "Denny Crane", as if that's all that needs to be said. Continuing the tv theme, Boston Legal is a show that I like, though the lewdness of it distracts from the greatness and interest of the show, which is William Shatner's character --- a successful man dealing with his diminished capacities as age catches him. Alongside this is a wonderful friendship between two men, Denny Crane and Alan Shore (Shatner and Spader). Returning to the theme of eternal hope, Denny Crane asks about what our bodies will be like in heaven. I was grateful that another blog posted the conversation:

Denny Crane, asks, “Do you think in heaven I’ll have Mad Cow?”

(Mad Cow is his code word for his Alzheimer’s).

Spader pauses to take a drink, then says, “Denny, I think in heaven you will be as you were in the prime of your life.”

Denny Crane nods in contemplation. “Then I’ll be just as I am now,” he says and raises his drink to Spader.

That bravado of Denny's is a very transparent papering over of his insecurity. Yet it is so grotesquely transparent that it becomes endearing. The truth is Denny longs for his youth, when he had full command of his faculties, and when he was respected and feared rather than something of a buffoon. But his ego will not allow him to admit anything but that he is greater with each passing year.

The comforting truth, if a bit sobering, is that while age is a mark of honour and should be respected, our capacities do diminish. Fifty is the new forty, forty is the new thirty, etc. tell us that we aren't getting older. But we are. Age isn't just in your mind. We really get old. And creaky. And this makes me long for the resurrection, so that I won't be just as I am now.

How about you? Are you with Denny Crane on this one?

Meat and Bones

I saw an episode of the television series Mad Men. The plot seemed thin, the driving theme appeared to be a rejoicing in the time when women's liberation had not yet taken hold, but when sexual mores had begun to loosen. The beatnik rather than the hippie era. I don't have all the backstories, but a number of the characters drew my interest, while others were fairly shallow and unappealing. Many of my friends love it.

What I did like was how people looked! The Authoress (n.b.: my wife) and I were in a diner the other day, before our appointed hour to visit some lovely friends from our church who were recently blessed with a baby. The diner had a 1940's/50's theme to it, and showed a picture of Miss America contestants from about 1953. The Authoress mentioned how the idea of beauty changes with each generation, and how those women would all be considered overweight today.

Too bad.

This is bad for women who starve themselves to look tiny. It's bad for men who seem to want women to look like girls, perhaps thereby recalling their own youth? It's bad for men, too, who need to be too slender as well -- what if I really do need to live for awhile without sufficient food -- I'll be glad for the extra I'm carrying around then!

So I was delighted to see people a bit soft around the edges. Normal, to my eyes. Maybe the plague of obesity our culture has today is a reaction to the ideal of beauty being so far from what is possible for most to obtain.

The woman who reviews television shows at the New York Sun has this to say:

Meat is important, too on them. The "Mad Men" women have some meat on their bones, an extra 10 pounds they'd be working like crazy to get rid of today. A little roundness made their skin look young and their legs look nice. In the show, at least, everyone also always seems to be eating meat steaks sizzling with fat or home-cooked roast beef, and no one is talking about cholesterol. Not even the doctors. Of course, they're weren't talking about the rampant alcoholism, either. But still. It would be nice to eat more steak.

But I digress. I guess I've lost the point, too. Certainly the Bible hails inner beauty, but does not reject the idea of men or women having physical beauty. It rejoices in beauty. I'm guessing if the resurrection does mean our bodies are transformed but recognizably us, the result will be closer to Mad Men type of bodies than those we idealise today.

Your view? In this stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas, are we better off with a few more pounds? In the photos, do Don & Betty have more wisdom about bodies than the folks of today?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

BBC America

 To get any channels at all where we live, cable television is required, the first time I've ever had it.  And along with cable comes BBC America.  

Joy inexpressible.

Mainly I enjoy older comedy troupes and duos, period dramas... British science fiction even seems more thoughtful.  But along with these genre is the auto show called Top Gear.  Essentially, the show involves three men driving super cars and saying how wonderful they are, and then also thinking of crazy things to do with regular cars.  It's fantastic stuff.  Click on the link to see their football/soccer match.

A truly marvelous episode is the race between the presenters to the North Pole, one by dog sled, one by pickup truck.  

Are you a fan?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The god of Fifth Avenue

Walking down Fifth Avenue, at 50th Street one is struck by the face-off of St Patrick's Cathedral and the statue of Atlas at Rockefeller Center. While the statue is based on the Greek mythology of Atlas holding the sky/the world upon his shoulders, in the context of the architecture of Rockefeller Center, it really celebrates modernism and the power of Man. This is shown by the central place of Prometheus (who stole fire from the gods for humanity) as well as the many mosaics and reliefs celebrating the human spirit and things like "commerce", "industry", "transport" and so on.

Many have noted before that there is something of a squaring off of divine versus human. But in December, Consumption is king. It is impossible to move around at the intersection of Fifth & 50th because of holiday shoppers. And on the day after Thanksgiving, retail sales were up this year, in the midst of the most severe economic downturn for decades. I am not going to my regular office nearby there today, because of the lighting of the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center making for hoardes of crowds. This is no bah humbug -- I love Christmas and love it in NYC. This is merely to point out that the old battle between cathedrals to God or cathedrals to Man have been bypassed, at least for the month of December at Fifth & 50th. The new god is StuffToBuyOnCredit and instead of cathedrals, he has many small churches (Tiffany's, Saks', Macy's, etc.) where his worshippers flock in droves.

On a lighter note, the video link is John Denver singing Silver Bells.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Really Important People

A friend and fellow minister and I were discussing the tendency in New York (as anywhere, but especially here) to try to get to the right places to see the right people. Not much remarkable about that, except that it occurs in Christian settings -- there are actually "the right places to go to meet the right people" within the social milieu of Christian activities in Manhattan.


My dislike of such "networking" is a measure of self righteousness, I'm sure, but also mere self preservation -- on two counts. First, I forget that all the folks who attend such events actually need whatever is being provided to them, and don't need a minister of the Gospel trying to tell them about another new venture they can support. To be in that setting dampens the spark in one's spirit very quickly indeed. Second, when I have gone to hear an interesting speaker in such settings, I inevitably only meet people who serve in Christian ministries talking about people in influential positions in such a way that a person has ceased to be considered a person.

Further, there is a prevalent notion that a Christian minister should tell people to follow Jesus the teacher rather than proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Lord. This is especially strange approaching Christmas, when the infant King of Kings was worshipped and hallowed before he could even say "goo goo, gaa gaa" let alone "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." But that's a topic for another day. I leave the event with a handful of business cards and a diminished sense of the priority of seeking out those who are, to put it simply, spiritually lost.

A friend in college had a lovely habit of slamming his palm on the table when anyone dropped a name in conversation. It was even more effective when he would do it while standing up, drink in hand, slamming the imaginary table in front of him. Click on the title post for a lovely "Two Ronnies" sketch on name dropping.

Come to think of it, I think I name dropped the other night. Pray for me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Faith that Scares

In the midst of the thrill of Christmas decorations which dominate Manhattan, this church season is primarily one of preparation for the end of things and the new creation.

Matthew 24 includes this obviously good news:

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

The less obviously good news from that same chapter:

21 For then there will be great distress, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.


28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

Vultures! Put that next to the description by commentator Tucker Carlson, on his usual Sunday church experience:

"You'll never meet nicer people. If you needed someone to hold your wallet, or if you were lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood and had to duck into a stranger's house to use the bathroom, you could do a whole lot worse...No one has better manners. And that may be the problem. There's a notable lack of urgency...Jesus may have promised he'd come back someday, but in [my church] you don't get the feeling he really meant it. Nor do you hear a lot about sin. Lust, hatred, gluttony, pride, envy -- those are dramatic emotions. ...

The typical sermon leaves the impression that all would be well in this world if only people could manage to be reasonable with each other. Gentlemanly. Thoughtful.

There's nothing necessarily bad about any of this. (I remain [a member], with no plans to change.) But every once in a while, as I shift in my pew listening to one of our unusually well-educated preachers expand on the Aramaic understanding of discipleship, I do wish Jesus would come back, preferably in a massive ball of fire through the ceiling of the church. Spiritually, I'm nowhere near ready to face something like that. But it'd be worth it for the shock value....Dead religions don't give people the creeps...But Christianity still does. What a relief. It's nice to see that our faith still scares people."

(source:, Dec 7th, 2005 “The Situation” television show w/T Carlson)

It's possible on the one hand to look at whacky predictions of the parousia (fancy term for the Second Coming) involving Soviet tanks a generation ago, or whatever today's equivalent might be. Or on the other hand to seek to distill the essence of all religions in the form of timeless moral teaching. But Christianity as found in the Bible speaks of Jesus entering history. As a baby. To live the perfect life, and to seek and save the lost, giving his life as a ransom for many. And then to return again in glory, as judge. That touches our lives, because we live in history. It is a faith that scares because everything will be wrapped up by him. You and I aren't in charge. Scary or reassuring? What do you think?

(video link -- click on post title: I thought it was neat when the Terminator show used a Johnny Cash song)