(ed: No – I mean it! I’ve no idea why you have to make that noise every time I mention that the King has Risen.)
Because He was dead, and now you tell me He is risen! Everyonemakes that noise when you mention Him, dad. You must know that!
(ed: I have no idea what you are talking about. We say the Alle … the ‘A’ word – not ‘Uh-huh’?)
Are you sure, dad?
(ed: Yep – I’m pretty sure about this one.)
Okay – I’ll research it later.
Ed: Don’t you mean ‘Google’ it?)
Ignoring that last remark I can gently segue my way into talking to y’all.
Fr. Dad can sometimes be a pedantic pain, but sometimes – rarely – he’s right.
Which makes me think about what the whole Christian Story is all about. I mean, you’ve got to face it – a lot of what is required to be believed is prettymind-bending stuff. From the get-go you have the Virgin Birth; throw in some singing angels, add a healthy handful of miracles, and Jesus thwarting the religious authorities – put it all together and you end up with … death.
Death of a cruel and most vindictive kind.
Where to start with working it all out?If you discount the birth, miracles, and sticking it to the Man, you’re still left with a lot of evidence as to the realityof Jesus – but you still have a lot of thinking to do. After all, somethingcaught enough peep’s imaginations to diefor the name of Jesus, starting off with those who actually knew him.
Imagine you were one of those who walked and talked with Jesus. He dies in a way you never could have imagined, and because you were so certain that Jesus was The Oneyou decide to keep his name alive and create stories about who He was, and how He lived.
At first it is easy. You get the rumors of miraclesgoing, and then you tell those who visit you that you knowhe was The One– the Messiah who was promised of old.
But then the authorities – religious and legal – get wind of what you’re saying and they call you in for a ‘polite chat’.
Here, you need to work out the level of trouble you are in, and you decide that there’s going to be no violence visited upon you, so you stake your claim, promise to be a good boy/girl, and then head out of the court.
But then you continue telling your story.
Eventually, you get busted in an early morning raid, and the ‘polite chat’turns into a dark and miserable dungeon, and physical harm.
This is way morethan you bargained for. The religious authorities are calling you blasphemersmeanwhile the civil authorities are gathering evidence together to convict you of treason.
At this point, your carefully constructed story is costing you more than you ever anticipated – better tell the religious and civil authorities that you’re ready to recant; ready to tell them all it’s a made-up story – one you concocted – so you can be given a slap on the wrist, and be released to be home in time for dinner with the wife, and a spot of fishing.
But this is where the story goes awry.
Because those who knew Jesus – those who claimed first-hand knowledge of Him – didn’t recant; they didn’t say that ‘it was all a terrible mistake’; they didn’tseek to claim their former lives back. All of them preferred to die confessing Jesus as Lordrather than returning home for supper.
And the fewwilling to die for the name of Jesus turned into hundredswhich turned into thousands– which turned into millionswho have confessed and died for Jesus, in every place and date and time.
The mind-bendingstuff of Jesus’ life and death – and of the lives and deaths of those who knew Him – pales almost into insignificance compared to the numbers of those willing to die for a man they had never met. But maybe this is what Jesus was referring to when He said: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12.
Dying for someone you know is one thing – dying for someone you’ve never met is an absolute other thing.
All of which is what makes the life of Jesus and the Easter story so plausible– and also is what makes it require faith.
Keepin’ It Pascally Real,
(P.S. Dad was right: I had the wrong ‘king’in mind – I was thinking of Elvis. Guess I ain’t nuthin’ but a hound dog. Uh-huh?)
Well … not the parts that are currently being emphasized, anyway.
Just in case you’ve no idea what I’m writing about, let me give you a couple of definitions I found online:
Political Correctness is: “the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.”
Here’s another definition: “The term political correctness (adjectivally: politically correct; commonly abbreviated PC) is used to describe language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society.”
Don’t get me wrong: I think avoiding excluding, marginalizing, or insulting groups of people – for whatever reason – is a very good idea, and is also very Christian; what bothers me is when your idea of ‘what offends’ trumps my freedom to express myself.
What I’m not a fan of is how the use of languageis now being censored – to the point that laws are being enacted, or rallies are taking place to ban people from speaking, or to shout people down who are expressing themselves in a different way. When that happens, well, then I think PC has become dangerous.
I say this, not because I want people to be able to say what they like – and so offend indiscriminately; what I want is for people to be free to say what they like so that I can know their heart.
To my mind, the very thingthis area of Political Correctness tries to stop is the very thingit creates. Forcing people to change their languagedoes not make people change their mind. Such people still think in bigoted, homophobic, racist, sexist, religionist, and ahistorical ways – all you’ve done is silence them.
And all of a sudden, we’ve no ideawho the bigots, homophobes, racists, sexists, religionists, and holocaust-deniers are.
Oh, they are still around, but now you have to dig into the grubbier reaches of the internet to find them. Or wait for them to open their mouths.
Policing such speech is the last thingthat should be done, for I’d prefer it if people were still able to open their mouths and put their foot in it.
Some guy wants to come and speak about how the Holocaust is a big lie? Well, let him, and then debatewhy he is wrong. Let the evidence speak, and let his words ring out and be recorded as the ignorant ramblings of the ill-informed mind they are.
Let the racist say dumb racists things – and let society confronthim; let us all showthat it is not okayto speak or act like that.
This kind of Political Correctness blocks only the wordswe can use, but recent history has shown us that the corrosive mind-contaminant that feeds such words is still very much alive and well. Words will only change when minds and hearts have been changed.
For words will only hurt us if we let them. Sticks and stones – and bombs and bullets and knives, and cars, etc. – on the other hand … they can – anddo– kill.
As Christians, I believe we need to be a part of allowing free speech to befree – even though it means we will get abused by the words of others. That’s the price we need to pay, otherwise there will surely come a time – perhaps in a future nearer than we may think – where ourwords of faith will be censuredbecause, we will be told, we will be‘upsetting’those of different faiths and none by our ‘hateful’ words.
We do not want a secondrealization of the words written by German pastor Martin Niemöller. Initially enthusiastic about the Third Reich, Niemöller rued his complicity in allowing them to attack and silence those who weren’t ‘church’.
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Walking the dog during the past few days has been a wonderful experience, not only because of the mild weather we are enjoying, but because of the signs of new life bursting forth.
Leaves are in bud, some plants are flowering, and there has begun the chatter of birds as they begin to praise the change of season. Yes, Spring is here!
The most impressive sight for me, so far, has been a congregation of around 14 Sandhill Cranes on one grassy area. I love these birds – they have such a ‘Do you want a piece of me?’attitude. And they make such a raucous noise! It is like you’ve wandered into a Jurassic Park exhibit when you walk by – they seem so alien.
The ‘call and answer’ of many birds come as a sweet antidote to their din but, unfortunately, I don’t know enough about Florida birds to recognize either the kindof bird, or its call.
When I was young I knew a dairy farmer who seemed to know every bird and its call by heart. He was so fascinated with bird calls that he had cassette tapes (remember them?) of bird calls, each call followed by the bird’s name. He encouraged me by lending me his tapes, and I did spend some time listening to them, and I did learn some of them. But some sounded too similar for me to tell the difference.
I think it must have been around the age of 8 that I’d figured out that some people became so interested in certain things that they would spend all their time learning about them: Farmer Joe and his interest in bird calls; Mr. Scott, the diesel mechanic, and his interest in Steam Traction Engines and Fairground rides; Mrs. Tolley and her interest in Irish Cuisine; Mrs. Burgess and her interest in (thorny) Roses.
These people in my early life showed me what it meant to follow an interest, and the time it takes to become proficient. Not only were they dedicated, they were disciplined.
Now there’sa word – ‘disciplined’. It is a word that we, as Christians, should know well – after all, we have promised to become disciplesof the One we follow: Jesus.
Yet, it seems from recent studies, too many Christians know too little about the founder of their faith – and even less about the faith’s history. And although the Bible is still the best-selling book on the planet, too many know next to nothing about it – even to the point that they’d struggle to find a particular book within it, if asked to do so.
This is not only sad, it is curious. It is curious because if we really do claim to be disciplesof Jesus, where is the discipline? How can we learn to know about Jesus apart from the Bible– and why is knowledge so lacking?
An anonymous writer once wrote: “Your real religion is whatever it is that you are most interested in”. And this really does seem to hold true, as those people from my childhood attest. So, should we notbe similarlydisciplined in our approach to our faith, in the same way we are with our hobbies? And if not – why not?
With Spring comes the Church’s Season of Lent – a time for reflection and renewal. Many people follow the Lenten disciplineof ‘giving something up for Lent’. Many others also ‘add something for Lent’.
May I suggest that you add, as part of your Lenten discipline a study of the Bible or something to do with your faith (our Lent Group, for example)? I would hate for us to be among those people of whom the 14th century mystic, John Tauler, wrote: “God often calls on us, but most of the time we are not at home”. We need to knowHim in order to hearHim.
New life is bursting out all around us. May new life similarly burst forth within us as we learn of the Christ whom we serve!
(ed: good job in getting your girlfriend’s name into a classic rock song! I’m impressed)
Thanks, dad – it took some time, I can tell you.
(ed: So what happened to Bella?)
She’s not there.
(ed: Another good song – are you thinking of The Zombies’ version or Santana’s? I prefer Santana’s because of the ripping guitar solo!)
WHAT??? She’s not there. BELLA is NOT there! Wow, you’re so weird sometimes!
Hello Dear Peeps!
The above is Exhibit Oneof how I suffer in daily life. If ever you feel the need to comfort me, kibble parcels would be most welcome J
I’ve just read Fr. Dad’s attempt at writing, and I see he has stolen what was to be my theme: “Spring has sprung, the grass is riz; I wonder where the birdies is?” But – no matter – being a Superdobie of startling intellect, I’ll think of something.
Actually, Fr. Dad was going to interview me for his article – ask me all kinds of questions, which I would answer profoundly and sometimes whimsically. But he asked me if my humility comes naturally, or do I have to work on it – and I cracked up laughing. As everyone knows: I am humble to the very core of my being J
Seriously, I just love messing around – and if it winds dad up, that’s an added bonus. But I am not a feline: I do not think I am God. Indeed, I truly only aspire to be the best canine that I can be.
Of all the things I’ve learned, perhaps this has been the most important: ‘It is too late to become what you might have been’. Sometimes I’ll switch the first two words around and say this with aquestion mark (?) in my voice – because sometimes it isn’ttoo late. But ‘If you lack the courage to start, you have already finished’– which is also very true.
Put together, these two sayings create a recipe for stagnation and failure that is quite depressing to behold – none of which should apply to anypeeps, especially Christianpeeps.
Scientists talk about there being ‘universal constants’– measurements that remain the same (hence constant) no matter where and in what part of the universe those measurements are taken.
There’s a whole bunch of them – some of them being theoretical– but there is no constant greater than this: change is inevitable.
Change is happening all around me as I type: grass is growing, grass is being mown; there’s a party somewhere, there’s a clear up after a party somewhere; crops are being sown, crops are being reaped.
What I wrote is now past – and even if I delete that text, history is a witness and knows it was written.
Many peeps fearchange. I find this hard to understand, but I figure that this is often the case because the past is alwaystamed; the past is manageable; the past is often comfortable.
The future, on the other hand, is unknown; it can instill fear; it might bear bad news; it is uncomfortableand unmanageable.
I wonder how peeps fit God into their scheme of things if all they ever do is hark back to the past, or try to control the future? Could it be they believe in a God they have tamed? Sure, it is true that Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever– but that is because we are talking about the perfection God is. You can no more contain the Holy Spirit than you can contain a hurricane by blowing in its direction; you can no more forestall the onward march of God’s Providence than you can stop the expansion of the universe.
All creatures can really knowis that we have a past, a fleeting present, and an unknown future – and a God Who fills them all. And, because of God’s plan of redemption, you can know that, in Jesus ‘a sinner has a past, but a saint has a future’.
Even in your spiritual lives peeps are not to remain static. To ‘be like Christ’ is the engine that should drive your Christian life forward– no matter what ‘change and decay’ occurs around you. Freedom from fear of the future should be seen as a natural consequenceof following the One who created time, and who tells you ‘I am with you always – even to the end of the age’.
Is it too late to become what you might have been? Not in God’s eyes. He forever calls peeps to become moreof what He sees in them – loving them when they cannot love themselves; constantly calling them – even when they refuse to listen; offering peace and hope through all the changes that go on in life.
Jesus neverlacked courage – even though He knew what His end would look like. And even when He said “It is finished”He knew He’d ushered in another beginningfor all of creation.
Even as a white, naturally-English-speaking person you can’t win.
Even as a white, naturally-English-speaking person who became naturalized you can’t win.
Your views don’t count. You mention something about the country you’ve adopted and someone, somewhere, will tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about – you cannot possibly know, because you weren’t born here.
Some people don’t actually say that, of course, but you can tell they thinkit. There’s a condescension in their tone, a “poor thing – you just don’t know what you’re saying” expression on their face that tells you they’ve immediately discounted your words as worthless.
How do I know this? Because I am that white naturally-speaking-English person, and I have experienced both the verbal and condescending condemnation.
In trying to understand this I’ve looked back on my own experience of ‘the foreigner’– people who arrived in the UK whom I met during the course of my parish work. And when I look back I find I have a spotty history – I find that I had internally set up certain ‘conditions’ that ‘the foreigner’needed to meet before I would feel comfortable around them.
Weirdly, back in the UK I had friends of all colours (note I use the UK spelling there!), and they also spanned many differing religions: Hindu, Jewish, Jain, Sikh, and even Atheist.
My experience was such that I wouldn’t allow myself to make friends with a Muslim, and this is much to my shame, because my faith tells me that it is necessary to make friends with all people. So, while trying to heal, I’ve tried not to paint all Muslims with the same brush.
But the onething all my friends of different ethnic and religious backgrounds had in common was this: they all sounded the same as me. Their English – even their accent – was the same.
So, knowing this, can you guess what the main condition was that ‘the foreigner’ would need to meet in order for me to feel comfortable with them?
They needed to sound like me.
You should laugh at this – because I know God did! How do I know this?
Well – because from my point of view I moved to a country where everyone sounded different to me!
And how did that work out for me?
Well, it has worked out really well: I know and love many people whose accents and words choices are far different than mine – and I have learned to enjoy them. And I now find that I sometimes use some of those words without thinking – and I am the better for it.
I’m now saddened by the fact that I have missed out in getting to know people whose stories could have added to my story; whose vastly different experiences of life could have helped me gain wisdom and understanding.
There was only one other condition I had internally created that ‘the foreigner’ needed to meet: that they partake fully in the culture they voluntarily joined.
It doesn’t seem to be too much to ask, does it?
Until you realize what’s at stake.
It wasn’t until I came over to the US that I realized just how EnglishI was – and how important that was to me. Things I’d never considered about my country of birth magnified in importance.
Without even thinking, I began to retain aspects of my heritage – things most (white) Americans wouldn’t really notice because they would be familiar to them.
But, imagine if I came from a different cultural background – what would I be keeping as important to my understanding of myself that would make me seem different, indeed foreignto you?
I have it easy – I really do. Until I open my mouth most people assume I’m one of them, but when I do open it …
What’s the message in all of this? Well, I’ll let Jesus speak: Matthew 25:34-45.
How are you putting up with this burr-inducing weather? All of a sudden I’m hankering to be a Husky, I’m mad to be a Malamute; I’m-a needing to be a Newfoundland! Dobie-fur is sleek but thin – it don’t hold back the cold at all!
And as if that weren’t enough, I find myself in something of a conundrum, dear peeps, a canine conundrum of colossal concern, requiring considerable cogitation to correct.
And to add to the burden, all this has come upon me as we spin towards celebrating that mish-mash of a day which involves a Roman myth and a legendary saint, to wit: arrow slinger Cupid, and the peep who’s become something of his henchman, St. Valentine. Yes, February 14 will soon be upon us – roses and chocolates and kibble will soon become staple fare for us all (except the chocolate – that’s forbidden for us canines. Grrr!) for at least a week.
But the feasting will be a bitter pill for your trusty Dober-canine here, for he has been smitten; he has been shot through by Cupid’s arrow not once but – as those people of love, the French, would say: deux fois.
(ed: he means ‘twice’).
As you may recall, I fell heavily for Bella– my poetry for her knew no bounds
(Ed: or rhymes, Winston)
And I rhapsodized her beauty to all I met:
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”
Shakespeare knew my heart – but Bella … Bella, she did not L
Spurned I was, and broken-hearted. Having no tail to chase I lay, morose, full of the love that would forever be unrequited.
But then a new neighbor moved in, and a fence was erected around their back yard. So, imagine my surprise when, on one of my walks with Fr. Dad, we went to visit this new fence and – lo and behold –there she was.
She was a Pit Bull – a canine whose breed instills fear in many.
But not me.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.”
Nona whined, wagged and was ever so winsome. I was lost in her welcome. Me – the one who should have been welcoming her to the neighborhood – was lost for words.
And so our courtship began – meeting as much as we could (warm weather permitting) we played and frolicked, and were happy together.
But then … on a recent walk – one which took me past the House of Bella – things changed. For not only was Bella there in her covered pool, she was calling me. CALLING ME!
From being ignored, I was now favored; those first words I uttered to her immediately sprang to mind:
“Oh, Bella; I am butter fuel!”
(ed: I really need to teach you the words of Neil Sedaka’s song)
And then Cupid’s second shot pierced me.
What to do, dear peeps, what to do? Fr. Dad is about as much use as an exploding bassoon here (but guess which one would be more interesting!), so I reached out to my canine pals.
“Affairs of the heart are my forte” said Ronald, the impeccably speaking English Terrier, “But it is always I who does the breaking of the aforementioned organ.”
“Which one has the better toys?” asked Ben, the Boxer. He’s a bit calculating, I think.
“Which one can run furthest?” asked Thunder, the Labradoodle, as he swished by on another marathon with his mom.
The advice, although coming in thick and fast, wasn’t helping. Then someone suggested the app.
I’d forgotten about the app. I’d never needed to use it, so I’d never bothered with it, so I got it onto my phone
(ed: I think you mean ‘my phone’, Winston)
I just said that, dad,
And went straight to the advice page.
Canininemangle.com® has been around for ages, but it is still pretty well used. It used to talk about there being ‘the one’ canine, but that has changed somewhat – maybe because some of those self-proclaimed ‘the ones’were a little dodgy.
So what did I find, peeps?
So I ended up going to the peep of last resort – dad. As useful as a lead balloon; as useful as roll-on hairspray; as useful as … – well, actually, he didhelp. (I can feel your equal-amazement through the pages, peeps)
He directed me 1 Corinthians 13 where I read:
“Love is patient, love is kind.”
It goes, peeps, deeper and deeper into expressing what truelove is all about, driving home the point that although all creatures are to aim for the perfection of love St. Paul writes about, only one peep has ever achieved it: Jesus.
Suddenly, my conundrum was solved; I could see clearly once more; the choice was easy, because it wasn’t a ‘choice’ at all.
Well, God thenNona – for God loves us all as we are with His perfect love, and continues to love us even when we forget Him. There’s no other love like that – and all I can do is try my best to reflect my Creator in the love He’s allowed into my life.
And with that thought, who needs St. Valentine or Cupid?
I’m not sure what a change in the calendar actually does in the wider scheme of things, but it does seem to bring out the pragmatic in y’all.
After stuffing yourselves with food (I have video evidence) and after doing little but sit around for a couple of days, the cry rings out “I must diet!” often followed with “To the gym I must go!”
Exercise and diet are the two most popular‘New Year’s Resolutions’that peeps make. Here’s the Top Ten list according to inc.com:
Diet or eat healthier (71%)
Exercise more (65%)
Lose weight (54%)
Save more and spend less (32%)
Learn a new skill or hobby (26%)
Quit smoking (21%)
Read more (17%)
Find another job (16%)
Drink less alcohol (15%)
Spend more time with family and friends (13%)
There is nothing wrong with any of these resolutions, per se. I mean, who can deny that becoming healthier, or quitting smoking, or spending more time with people who mean something to you are bad ideas? Yet the truth is that only a very small percentageof those who actually bother to make New Year’s Resolutions will actually keep themfor any appreciable amount of time. Which is good for gym membership, but bad for families and friends.
Actually, the thing that bothered me most about this list is that, apart from the last entry, it is entirely devoid of community input. Sure, each may impact one’s social groups – but that is a side effect, rather than a purpose.
I suppose I think this way because I am a pack animal, but even those socially reclusive feline creatures know the benefits of including others. Although their basic stance is ‘I am god – worship me’,felines know that to be happy they need to includetheir servants in things. Hence the odd dead mouse – or fur ball – on the carpet: ‘I did this for YOU’the feline is saying.
We canines think communityin everything we do: Okay pack, you’re eating – I’m ready for my share. Okay pack, you’re sleeping – make room for me on the bed. Okay pack, we need to go out – the exercise will do you good. Okay pack, it’s time for you to indulge me as I play with my squeaky toys.
With this in mind I began to ponder on what a New Year’s Resolutions list that concentrated on communitymight look like. Here’s my list:
Keep your phone, tablet or laptop out of your reach when you are with others, or at least resolve not to use such items when you’re with – you know – real people.
Reduce the time you spend on social media, use that time to be with your family.
Stop using the TV as a nanny, and smart phones/tablets as pacifiers for children. Yes I know, it isn’t easy – but many studies show that you’re doing them no favors.
Learn how to listen to a point of view that is different to yours. And I mean really listen.
Think about what you are passionate about and see if there is a volunteer project you could do that includes your passion. If not, think about what might fire you up as a volunteer.
Spend more time in prayer. Yes, it might be done alone – but you are actually connecting with untold millionswho are doing the same thing. Or why not start up a prayer group?
Invite a friend to your church. If there are any reasons you feel you couldn’tinvite a friend to your church, your rector needs to know about it (trust me on this!).
Forgive a past grudge. Sin may seem‘individual’ but it is actually always a corporate affair. The other thing about this is: if you don’tforgive, you’re the only one being hurt.
Be the peace you would wish to see.
Do random act of kindness for people outside of your comfort zone.
I’m sure you can come up with a list of your own – so if that’s the case, go for it and do them! The main thing here is to try and incorporate communityas a major motivation for your list. Also, make sure that when you include yourself, you don’t just make yourself physicallypresent, but totally present: present in body, mind, spirit, and all the senses.
This kind of being presentisn’t just some hip new thingthat is being talked about, it is an essential ingredientin the spiritual life – you know: the one you’re supposed to be developing as a Christian?
The Good Thing about being a Christian, though, is that if you fail to keep one of your resolutions you can just start up again. A Christian peep should never be defined by their failures, but should persevere. Each day is a new day to start; resolutions never grow old for those who follow God.
There’s a story about a public school program that sends hired teachers to keep students that are in the hospital or incapacitated up to date with their studies.
One day, a teacher received a call asking her to visit a particular boy who was in hospital. His regular teacher said, “We’re studying nouns and adverbs now. Please help him not fall behind.”
No one told the teacher that the boy was in the Burn Unit, so she wasn’t prepared for what she was about to discover. At the hospital she had to put on a sterile gown and cap to prevent infection; she was given instructions not to touch the boy or his bed, and was told to use a mask at all times. Once her preparations were finished, the teacher took a deep breath and walked into the room.
The young boy, horribly burned, was in great pain. The teacher felt scared, not knowing what to say, but she’d gone too far to turn and walk out. She managed to say: “I’m the special visiting hospital teacher, and your regular teacher sent me to help you with your nouns and adverbs.”Later she thought it wasn’t one of her better tutoring sessions.
On her second visit, the Burn Unit a nurse asked her, “What did you say to that boy?”Before she could finish apologizing, the nurse interrupted her,“You don’t understand! We’ve been worried about him, but ever since your visit, He’s a new person! He’s fighting back and responding to treatment … it’s as if he’s decided to live.”
The boy later explained he’d given up hope – feeling he was going to die – until he saw that special teacher. Everything changed with an insight he gained from the visit. With happy tears in his eyes, the boy, who had given up hope, explained: “They wouldn’t send a special teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, now would they?”(4th Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, 1997)
On Sunday the 13th we will be celebrating the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. A question that often comes up after this Gospel reading is: “If Jesus is God, then why did He need to be baptized like us?”
This is a very good question, which I think can be answered by using the burned boy’s insight: They wouldn’t send a special teacher to work with a dying boy, would they? God wouldn’t send Jesus to help us if we were going to die, would He?
As many people as there are who might feel that they’ve got their life all sorted out, there are many who know they have not. Too many people have been burned by life; they live in constant and hopeless pain; they suffer to the point that they’ve given up hope. This is why God sent Jesus: to show that He’s one of us – to the point that He subjected Himself to the same experiences, trials, and hurts as we experience.
At this point in His life Jesus was discerning His role – His reason for being here. As part of the human condition, Jesus – just like us – didn’t have it all figured out. He had followed his cousin John, listening to his mesmerizing words, and then He felt compelled to get into the water, to receive what others had received.
Jesus did what He did in order to share with us, but through His baptism we gain the better prize; we see the truth that: God so loved the world that God sent Jesus to help us learn to live as sisters and brothers of each other, and God.
The gift of Jesus is the gift of new life – of recognizing that the many times we’ve been burnt by life neither define us nor defeat us. Through His baptism we know that God sent Jesus because we are not meant to die. Through Jesus God invites us to experience life as we were meant to: a life of faith, fellowship and forgiveness; a life of encouragement, enrichment, and hope – in Him, for Him, and with Him.
And that, dear peeps, is how you waken the (s)lumbering giant that is Fr. Dad!
(ed: you’ve got fleas? From where?)
If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?
The younger readers among you might have thought about ‘things’– gadgets, clothes, video games, cars, houses, stuff like that.
Older readers might have thought about loved ones, health, security – peep-centered things.
I wonder if anyone thought about peace?
(ed: No, seriously – do you have fleas Winston?)
Fleas are the tiniest of things, but they can cause so much discomfort, not only to canines but to felines and a bunch of other creatures. They spread like a contagion – from one host to another. They lie in wait as eggs on the ground: in grass, in shrubs – even in carpets in homes. And once they find a warm body and an available blood supply, BAM. You’re infected.
And it takes a great amount of work to get rid of them – you can’t just get rid of them off your body; you have to get rid of them from your environment.
(ed: so … you don’t have fleas, Winston, eh?)
Fleas can cause a certain amount of consternation – witness the noise Fr. Dad is making about my little joke above. Do I have fleas, or don’t I? I’m pretty certain that nothing I can tell him will now stop him from giving me a good check over – and perhaps even a bath. But a bath is the price I am willing to take to bring you the Truth, dear peeps.
(ed: Too right I’m going to check you over!)
Fleas – no good; peaceon the other hand …
Advent, as you will be told, is a time of looking forward– but it isn’t only about looking forward to the birth of Jesus as a tiny baby, no; it is also looking forward to His return – coming in glory.
So, it is a double-looking forward event, is Advent: from baby to return, from powerlessness to omnipotence.
But what happened to all His names? You know – they get sung quite often at this time of year: “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
And there it is: peace.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my short time on earth it is that this season brings anything butpeace. Fight’s in shopping malls, ever-increasing debt, the hurry, hurry, hurry, of trying to find the ‘right’present. The list goes on. Very little about this season is about peace– and yet … And yet there wouldn’tbethis season if it weren’t for ‘The Prince of Peace’.
So what gives?
It’s quite simple, really. Most people either have forgotten or have never known what this season is really about. They’ve bought in only to the ‘must shop to be fulfilled’ mentality that now rules too many people – even children. Even Christians.
So what is itreally about?
If you think it is about a baby you’re maybe halfwaythere. Handel – borrowing the words of the Prophet Isaiah – seemed to know what it is about. The names of Jesus aren’t just there to create a poetic line; they are there to communicate who this babyactually is.
The trouble is, it seems easier to get rid of who Jesus actually is than it is to get rid of fleas.
Society is now inoculated against the reality of who Jesus is. But are you Christians peeps really any better?
Do you havepeace? Do you know peace?
If you think that peacemeans to be free from worry, think again. If you think that peacemeans to be safe from harm, think again.
After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His friends and began His greeting with “Peace be with you”. Shortly before His death He said to them: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid”.
Jesus reiterated this teaching later, when He declared: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). Once again, Jesus promises peace – peace in the midst of tribulation. And, boy did those disciple-peeps know tribulation in their lives – all of themdied for Jesus!
And Jesus continues to offer peace unlike any that can be experienced in the world: a peace that frees; a peace that leads to hearts not being troubled or afraid – no matter what.
And the only reason this peace is available is because He has overcome the world.
If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?
I love going on a cruise for a vacation. That I am able to do so I recognize as a blessing for which I am very thankful.
Most people go on vacation for ‘R&R’, but I would say I go on vacation for ‘R&R&R&R’: Rest and recuperation, reading and reflection.
I do a lot of reading on a cruise, but I also have the opportunity to reflect – reflect on what’s going on in my life, in what I’m reading, in what’s happening in the parish. I also find I have the space to pray for you all in a deeper way. This may not be true, but it feels this way.
I also do a lot of writing – notes, doodles, and some extended thoughts. Below is one such thought.
Having been docked all day at Costa Maya, Mexico, we are due to set off and aim for Tampa. We’ve been berthed alongside another ship all day and, looking out of the window, Vern mentioned that we were moving off as we seemed to be slipping away from the other ship.
It turned out to be one of those illusions – you know, the one you’ve experienced ether when sitting in a car or in a train carriage where you’d swear you were moving, only to be abruptly brought to the realization that it isn’t you who’s moving, but the other vehicle.
I’ve often thought about what it is I like about cruising. I do like the ability to ‘get away from it all’ but that doesn’t actually mean I’m isolated – not on a cruise!
I also like the fact that I can be absolutely lazy. To go from place to place without having to keep packing and unpacking; I don’t have to cook or clean.
The cultural diversity on the ship is also something I like – and yet it is often tamed for the sake of white Anglo laziness. We can’t be bothered learning to pronounce our cabin steward’s name, or any other non-Anglo name, so it is subsumed into an easily spoken version.
And we do the same thing with whole cultures. Many excursions into different countries have very little – if any – cultural content. Why would any be needed if all you’re doing is zip lining, sunbathing, or ‘encountering’ a dolphin? Even when some of the local culture is involved it is often homogenized – we are given a pastiched, Disneyfied version of something we might otherwise find too strange, too scary – too ‘non-us’ for our liking. And as we are the ones paying the piper …
There are many things to like, but there’s one part of cruising I like that is much harder to describe.
I think that most of the time we live as if the world revolves around us. We are like a small boat around which the seas move – we are the single, stationary object.
You cannot really feel like that on a ship. Yes, look only at the sea directly beneath you and you could delude yourself into thinking that the sea is the only thing moving, but look to the horizon – or at the sky – and you cannot but own that the only thing moving is you.
Stand at the prow of the ship and you’ll find yourself heading for a horizon you’ll never reach. You always get the feeling you can see something beyond it – but it remains hidden. Straight lines distort, and clouds dissolve into the sea, but you feel like an aquatic Hamster on a liquid treadwheel.
This reminds me of the limitless mystery of God, and of my place as a creature. However much I’d like to think that it is I who am the center of all things, and that it is I who doesn’t move, reality punctures my ego to remind me that, actually, any semblance of power or control I might have are merely illusions – the horizon is the only real thing. Actually, it is the only real heading, and it is there where all truth lies.
And you can do nothing to get there; it is only by God’s Grace you can even recognize that there’s any motion at all. Your job is to watch expectantly for the horizon to reveal itself; to look for signs and clues along the way; to be in awe of your insignificance when the night’s sky reveals its splendor; and to watch for that land to loom up that you’ve always felt existed, and to which you now know you’ve been heading all along.
Unless you hijack the ship and impose yourself as captain, of course. Then you’ll soon hit the reefs.