Friday, November 26, 2010

Thankgiving Decree

The New York Times noted the tradition of Thanksgiving Proclamations by politicians in American history.  These are still made today.  I have been moved by the Presidential decrees proclaiming national days of Thanksgiving in the past (particularly by Lincoln and one of Franklin Roosevelt's decrees). 

I hadn't really been aware that state governors also issued such proclamations, and found myself moved by the lofty one issued by the Governor of Connecticut in the midst of the Great Depression.  He was a retired Yale professor, incidentally, which makes me glad such men enter public service:

Time out of mind at this turn of the seasons when the hardy oak leaves rustle in the wind and the frost gives a tang to the air and the dusk falls early and the friendly evenings lengthen under the heel of Orion, it has seemed good to our people to join together in praising the Creator and Preserver, who has brought us by a way that we did not know to the end of another year. In observance of this custom, I appoint Thursday, the twenty-sixth of November, as a day of  Public Thanksgiving for the blessings that have been our common lot and have placed our beloved State with the favored regions of earth -- for all the creature comforts: the yield of the soil that has fed us and the richer yield from labor of every kind that has sustained our lives -- and for all those things, as dear as breath to the body, that quicken man's faith in his manhood, that nourish and strengthen his spirit to do the great work still before him: for the brotherly word and act; for honor held above price; for steadfast courage and zeal in the long, long search after truth; for liberty and for justice freely granted by each to his fellow and so as freely enjoyed; and for the crowning glory and mercy of peace upon our land; -- that we may humbly take heart of these blessings as we gather once again with solemn and festive rites to keep our Harvest Home.

A bit more significant than flirting with gluttony and a having an intense focus on sales in the shops, eh?  I found Wilbur Cross's statement most encouraging.  

When I pray with the children at night, we pray the Lord's Prayer, then for concerns of the day.  And we try to have most of it giving thanks, always including a standard statement, "Thank you, Jesus, for loving [Number One Son, etc]".  That is the great reason to be thankful, that our Creator not only made the world, nor even that as Preserver he continues to sustain life, but that we can relate to him personally through his Son.  Astonishing.  Puts even the poetic notions of the beauty of the stars into perspective.  

A recent photo from the Hubble Space Telescope encourages reflection on Psalm 8:3-4

3When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
   the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him?

So, yesterday's turkey, mince pie (and pumpkin...), autumn squash vegetable dishes and so forth -- all evidence of God's care.  And a pointer, to the greater provision by God, which brings us to Advent Season this Sunday...


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Epiphany a bit early?

New York City never ceases to amaze.  Outside the building where our church administrative office is located, I came upon these three camels.  Illegally parked.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The First Existentialist

At Christ Church, we've started a month in Ecclesiastes, around questions of meaning.  I've found the book to be utterly contemporary, though it was penned by Solomon (I believe, and edited) some three thousand years ago.

In fact, it seems to be the case that Ecclesiastes largely anticipates a number of later philosophical works, including Kierkegaard and other existentialists.  The book also engages with Aristotle on the point of whether acquiring wisdom is the most fulfilling endeavour for a person.

I don't know if you have twenty-five minutes to fill in a commute or run, gentle reader; but if so, here is my sermon on Ecclesiastes chapters 1 & 2, which you can read here.

The sermon is linked to this post.  It starts off with my accidentally shouting into the microphone, until the sound man rescued me...

photo:  Woody Allen

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kipper & A Club

I live in New York City, and things are always happening.  People come here from great distances and at massive expense to attend meetings that I skip because there are ten more such opportunities in a single week.  The options in New York City can become something of a crushing overload, even as the possibility of going to, say, a director's cut of Once Upon a Time in America (a film four hours long) or seeing the artifacts of Robert Scott's doomed mission to the South Pole, thrills me.  (I have done both these things, the former as a single man long ago, the latter with my kids, twice.)

It can be hard to think and process life in the midst of the pace of city life.  I do see people tune out with their iPod headphones, but it's just not for me.  It is a glorious thing to be able to pray while hurtling downtown on a subway line or walking along an avenue, but it's still doing something (in this case, something extremely valuable).

Many New Yorkers need to get out of the city occasionally in order to enjoy it.  As it happens, circumstances have kept me in the city almost straight since the end of August.   So two things today struck me as a relief from the pace.  

The first:  Kipper.

Kipper the Dog is an animated character of Mike Inkpen, who also has illustrated/written some Bible stories we have for the children.  The beauty of Kipper episodes is that nothing really happens.  He meets up with his friends, Tiger (the terrier) and Pig (the pig) and they chat, play and get up to various adventures of minimal scope.  Postman Pat is also a bit like this.  Very little action, but a lot of involvement with the characters and their pleasant meanderings. Kipper is currently Top of the Pops for our two year old, but we all sneak a peak whenever it's on.

The second:  A Club

I lead Bible studies for people who work in finance and other professional jobs.  These occur during the course of the work day, which brings a whole different slant on the issues.  I had this experience myself when working for a bank -- how different cracking open the Bible was at work rather than after work or on the weekends.  Anyway, some of the meetings happen in a posh club off Wall Street.  I typically meet up with guys to chat and pray afterwards, and today had a few minutes in between conversations.  And so I sat in a wood-panelled room with an enormous stuffed and mounted elk's head on the walls, and sank into a leather chair.  And read through Country Life magazine, which is essentially a giant advertisement section for lovely country houses and antiques in Britain, mixed in with a few articles.

Silence, except the turning of my pages, and the creaking of the leather chair.  Bliss.

I know that the heavenly city is, well, a city.  But even so, we read in Revelation 8:1 that "there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour."  And I was glad for my five minutes.

What do you think, gentle reader -- Is full throttle in NYC sustainable for the soul?  Positively good for it, or a mixture?