Sunday Funnies; of Suits and Thanksgiving

And so, the election continues, but other things come to mind.

Our co-blogger Jessica has been beavering away, and now tomorrow we will have the start of a new fiction series that she has written. I think it very good. And on Wednesday she begins another fiction series that will lead us into Advent and Christmas, in a genre that she does better than anybody I’ve ever read. So unless something happens, I won’t see you till Friday.

But regardless of anything this week Americans will gather on the 400th Anniversary of the Mayflower Compact that began self-government in what would become the United States. Thursday we will mark the Pilgrims’ and our own gratitude to God for all our freedom, now endangered, and all the good things we have. We may have to do it virtually, as we have so much this year, but thank Him we shall, and if the only way we can be with our families is on Zoom, we will thank God for Zoom. But the typical American resistance to tyranny is rising, and more and more I think and pray, that this shall not stand, and those other free people will once again follow us to the sunlit uplands of ordered liberty. Keep the Faith and Hold the Line.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

– President George Washington

And this, that we have honored ever since it was promulgated

The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, the order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. The population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Highest God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

This came with our Pilgrim Forebearers from their time in Holland

Knocking on my brain.

Years ago, while reading the Bible, I came across Isaiah 45:7. In that verse, God refers to the evil He creates. (KJV). It didn’t strike me any particular way at the time as I was caught up in the chapter and gist of its intent. For some reason, “The evil I do” got locked in my head. But I was younger then, working, mom, housewife – you know the drill – so I never did any research on it.

Retired now and having all the time in the world, when this verse came knocking on my brain again, I put other stuff down and decided to do some research. We all know God cannot ‘do’ evil, so what the heck is He talking about?

I pulled out of my bookshelves three Bibles; the Amplified Bible (very Protestant but a great concordance), a family Bible printed in 1940 (which is before ‘they’ stated taking verses out of the Bible and making other changes), and the King James Study Bible. The 1940 Bible uses the word ‘calamity’ in the place of the word ‘evil’. So I looked up calamity and the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary defined it as “a disastrous event marked by great loss and lasting distress and suffering”. So my thought process is – God creates ‘evil’ weather? Calamitous weather? Hmmm.

Then I looked up what causes hurricanes – a good question for Floridians and folks living in the Gulf States. This is what I found:

The three main components critical to the formation of a hurricane are warm water, moist warm air, and light upper winds. A hurricane begins when large masses of warm water and moist warm air come in contact with cooler air. This collision prompts the warm water vapor to cool down very fast and condense, eventually forming dense storm clouds and emptying out as heavy rain. During the condensation process, latent heat is emitted. This latent heat warms the cold air above, causing it to rise and pave the way for warmer and more humid air coming up from below, causing a cycle.

As the process continues, more warm air is attracted to the mounting storm, and more heat is moved from the ocean’s surface to the atmosphere. The constant heat exchange leads to a development in wind patterns that spin around a relatively calm center, similar to water spinning down a drain. If the conditions remain the same, meaning that there is enough fuel for the storm to continue developing, the rotating storm becomes even more powerful, eventually becoming a hurricane. As the hurricane continues to strengthen, an opening at the center known as the “eye” will form.  (from Science ABC – online)

That was simple enough even I could understand it. Then ‘tornados’ came to mind and my research showed me this: “

What Causes a Tornado? / How do Tornadoes Form?

A lot of people wonder: “How do tornadoes form?” These severe weather events typically stem from thunderstorms, although they don’t have to.

Wind shear is one of the most critical components for the formation of a tornado. Wind shear is the change of direction and speed of the wind with height. This can create a horizontal spinning effect within a storm cell. The rotating air of an updraft meets the rotating air of a downdraft and creates that iconic and scary funnel cloud you’re probably used to seeing.

Typically, this combination of winds can happen when moist, warm air meets cool, dry air. When these air masses meet, they create instability in the atmosphere, which allows wind to change direction, move faster, get higher, and start that rotation we mentioned above.” (from earthnetworks.com)

Finally, I went to my priest, Fr. Ellis, and asked him bluntly – do storms and tornadoes and natural disasters just happen or are they God-directed. Was God mad at New Orleans and so Katrina hit? His response was, “My personal belief is nothing can happen, good or bad, in the universe without GOD in full control, therefore nothing happens without God’s permission and its ultimate purpose, like in New Orleans, is the mystery. It’s raining now and just imagine if it was controlled by one angry 😤 person…”

All this research brings me to this; God created everything. Yes, the secular people and scientists will tell us these are normal, explainable occurrences. It’s true, through science, we have greatly improved our knowledge and understanding of them. But one has to wonder – is it chance only? Or is Someone trying to tell us something?

I suspect it will continue to knock on my brain.

Hmmm …

Either I should have my head examined or I need to get out more. Some perverse mood came over me and I wound up cleaning out my desk. Well, 3/4 of it, anyway (the last quarter will happen later this morning). It had gotten so bad, this big desk of mine, that I was stacking stuff on top of it because I couldn’t stuff any more stuff inside of it. I have bankers boxes to house the stuff, which means I can make a nice, orderly stack of stuff, all neatly labeled and which will, of course, sit around and gather dust but that’s another article, I’m sure.

I have a big executive desk with a left side return. The return holds two drawers – the small ‘pen’ drawer and a large file drawer beneath it. This is the drawer I use for bank statements, insurance papers, certificates and titles, and all that sort of thing for the running of the household. I removed six years of bank statements (yes, you read that correctly – six years), several years of income tax returns, and about a gazillion checkbook stubs. Now all neatly filed in banker boxes.

Yesterday I tackled the ‘me’ drawer on the right-hand side of the desk. It was quite a revelation. I removed, literally, at least two reams of paper – Bible color sheets, art projects, hints and ideas, lesson plans, and other stuff that remained from when I taught Sunday school. Cleared out tons of paper having to do with when I was going to seminary to become a deaconess (in my denomination it is a non-ordained position) but did hold back on some of the histories and the Church Fathers and the major heresies from centuries ago. Modern heresies are far too numerous to even contend with … but I digress.

Then I opened a file that was titled GOD. I had forgotten that was in there. Cleaning out the drawer slowed to a stop. I pulled out each piece of paper and read it. A large Mountain Dew and a pack of cigarettes later, I sat back and wondered at myself. Where did that woman go? The one who collected sayings and verses and discourses and apologetics and deep thoughts by brilliant minds across the ages and book titles and recommendations to myself on authors to research. Where did she go?

I remember when I was writing the essays that eventually became my book – the Holy Spirit sat on the desk here while I typed; He gave me the inspiration for a lot of the essays; He directed me to the correct sources for information. We got so close, He and I. To those I spoke really personal things to, I laughed and said I didn’t have ghostwriter, that the Holy Ghost had an Audre writer.

I want that woman back. I need her in my life. I used to wake in the morning with hymn verses running through my head. Jesus was the first thing in the morning, the last thing at night, and a constant friend throughout the days. I think what happened was I stopped looking. Stopped looking for God in all things. Stopped seeing Jesus as the goal and example. Stopped needing the Holy Spirit – my Comforter and Teacher.

I didn’t throw away one piece of paper in the GOD file. They are all neatly standing in that file, ready for me to begin looking again, searching again, yearning again. I can feel the pull towards it now. I won’t forget about that file again.

The [Continuing] Story of Freedom

The spot in Canterbury Cathedral where St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was martyred

Lord Acton was correct, “The love of power corrupts, and the love of absolute power corrupts, absolutely.”

The last week or so has not been a comfortable one, for anyone who loves freedom, as we have watched several governors usurp the power reserved to the people to set rules in place which clearly contradict the Constitution and both precedent and law. Many of us, in both England and America, have also felt that our churches have developed a reluctance to stand for what Christianity has always meant. In fact, in England, the last time the churches were closed was during the reign of King John, when the king was excommunicated and England placed under interdict. and was in direct line with the barons forcing his signature on Magna Charta. The resulting Great Charter, first of what has come to be called, in America, the Charters of Freedom. American churches have never been forced to close before this spring. And yet all the churches have complied with barely a murmur. I think they have in large measure forgotten something that is basic to Christianity.

Mind that I think most of us thought that it might be justified for a short time till we knew more. Well, we now know more. We know that at worst this is slightly more dangerous than other flus that pass pretty much unnoticed, and yet here we are.

And yet, other than a few brave clergy who have taken the lesson of St Augustine (and Martin Luther as well as Martin Luther King Jr.) to heart, and realize that ‘an unjust law is no law at all’, they both in our parishes and the hierarchs as well have tamely submitted.

One of the things I do when I get in this spot is to go back to our earlier posts, usually Jessica’s. She had a way of making things clear, no matter how much mud was spattered about, and it is one of the things I miss most about her. Some of her basic goodness comes through in those posts, and they help me, and I hope they help your morale as well. In her post from December 30, 2012, she reminds us that our freedom has a long history which is intertwined in British and American history. Here she takes us back to show us that the original resistance to secular tyranny came from none other than the Church, in our case through the Archbishop of Canterbury St Thomas Becket and thence to another Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, who stood up to King John of infamous memory. But let her tell it, she tells it much better than I do. Here’s my dearest friend, Jessica.

The story of Becket reminds us of the eternal conflict between the Church and the State. It is the natural wish of the latter, whether in the guise of a king, an aristocracy or ‘the people’ to encompass as much power to itself as it can. There is only one culture where this has been challenged successfully, and it is that of the Latin West. For all the atheists’ charge that the Church has been some sort of dictator, it never has been; indeed it has been the bridle on that happening in our societies.

I mentioned Stephen Langton yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury whom King John had refused to accept, and who sided with the Barons in their fight against the King’s tyranny. That does not mean, of course, that the Church has not had times when it has cooperated with tyranny, but it does mean that it has stood out, always, against the State controlling everything. Indeed, it was this example which gave courage to those who came to see the Church itself as a spiritually tyranny, corrupt and refusing to mend its ways. We can argue over the results of that, but what is unarguable is that it is from the deepest part of Christianity that the belief in freedom under God comes.

That qualification matters. Our forefathers did not mistake freedom for license. They knew they would stand one day before God to account for their time here on earth. They knew their sinful ways, they did not blame ‘society’, they knew that sin was an act of will on their part – of sinful rebellion against God. But they also knew that only through freedom could man be truly himself. Like God Himself, they believed in free will. Man was not free when he was in chains – literal and metaphorical ones. The black slaves were in literal chains, their owners in metaphorical ones.

Freedom has a price. Part of that is that we have to bridle ourselves. The excesses of our species when left to itself show why. Made in the image of God, we are capable of deeds of utmost evil, and we can also rise to heights of altruism and love – as the lives of the Saints show us.

We Christians are strangers in this world. We are meant to be the leaven; but too often we are the salt that has lost its savour. America is the one country in the world founded on a vision of how things could be. From its beginning it has taken the hard road of trying to rule itself without kings or aristocracies. It has found itself in some dark places, not least during its Civil War. But it has always valued freedom – and always acknowledged that there is a price to be paid.

There is a long and continuous thread leading from Magna Carta to now. We forget at our peril how unique that story is. You won’t find it elsewhere  – do we cherish it as we should?

And so, now, as in the 1770’s we see the yeoman of the Great Republic or a sizable percentage of them gathering to protest the tyranny of those given to govern. These are amongst the most peaceful demonstrations, with due regard for health considerations, but unless I’m badly mistaken, if this goes on long, especially with the damage it is doing to western civilization, they may not stay peaceful. We have long since tried to forget that the American Revolution saw some of the most deadly partisan warfare (not quite definable as terrorism because they were directed at selected targets).  It can happen again.

And strangely, if it does come, that revolution, like the English Civil War, like the American Revolution, and like the American Civil War, it will be another ‘cousin’s war’ fought to reinstate ‘the good old law’. Just as happened in The Anarchy, during the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda in the 12th century.

Christ is Risen

That’s the importance of the day. Jesus the Christ is risen from the dead.

A few words on some of the symbolism, The term Easter comes from the old Anglo Saxon goddess of spring, although the only real mention is from the Venerable Bede. The egg being proscribed during Lent was offered in abundance at Easter and is an obvious metaphor for rebirth. There is some evidence for a hare hunt being traditional on Good Friday but, it’s a fairly obvious sign of “go forth, be fruitful, and multiply” anyway.

We have been talking this week about Jesus the leader, and his unflinching dedication to the death to his mission. On Easter, this mission is revealed. It finally becomes obvious that His mission (at this time, anyway) is not of the Earth and its princelings. It is instead a Kingdom of souls.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

And so we come to the crux of the matter. The triumph over original sin and death itself. For if you believe in the Christ and his message you will have eternal life. This is what set Christianity apart, the doctrine of grace. For if you truly repent of your sins, and attempt to live properly, you will be saved. Not by your works, especially not by your wars and killing on behalf of your faith, valid  and just though they may be,  but by your faith and your faith alone. For you serve the King of Kings.

And as we know, the Christ is still leading the mission to save the souls of all God‘s children. It is up to us to follow the greatest leader in history or not as we choose. We would do well to remember that our God is a fearsome God but, he is also a just God. We shall be judged entirely on our merits as earthly things fall away from us. So be of good cheer for the Father never burdens his people with burdens they cannot, with his help, bear.

As we celebrate the first sunrise after the defeat of darkness, Hail the King Triumphant for this is the day of His victory.

In response to an Easter post of mine, which was long ago, but seems like yesterday, Jessica commented that

I live in the UK, a particularly secular part of a secularising Continent; America has more of a sense of what this day means to mankind, and long may that be the case. For all the effects of the culture wars, America still has more Christians than anywhere outside of China, and Christianity is still vital. The shining city on the hill is no secular vision.

That is true, in my judgment, I have read the most vile attacks on Christians in Britain that I can imagine, and yet, in both our countries our governments have this bleak year closed our churches, leaving us to celebrate the happiest day of the year essentially alone. This too will in time pass, especially if we the people insist it does, and I see that happening. But that leaves us, in any case, with this:

“The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Washington and Westminster come far behind.

The other day, my old friend Chalcedon had cause to print the General Confession from The Book of Common Prayer.

ALMIGHTY and most merciful Father;
We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep.
We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against thy holy laws.
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done;
And we have done those things which we ought not to have done;
And there is no health in us.
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.
Spare thou them, O God, who confess their faults.
Restore thou those who are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.

In that, we can see how we caused Good Friday but we can also see God’s response, made gloriously evident to the world today.

The Peace of the Lord be with you all.

 

Good? Friday

When I was a child, I always wondered how the day when Jesus suffered murder by the state could be called Good. As I grew up and put away childish things and thoughts, I came to understand the story. It is the ultimate story of servant leadership. It is the story of how God himself came down in the guise of a man, to show us the way. Here’s a part of the story.

And so now we come to the climax. We have seen Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, we have seen the Last Supper with it’s echoing call “Do this in Remembrance of Me”, we have seen the arrest during prayers in the garden.

We have seen Peter, renamed Cephas (the Rock) deny the Christ 3 times. We have seen the trial before the Sanhedrin, and the passing of the buck to the Roman, Pontius Pilate who could find no fault in this man but allowed him to be condemned according to Roman practice.

We have even seen the treachery of Judas, who for 30 pieces of silver betrayed his Lord, soon repented, attempted to return the reward (which ended up funding the paupers’ cemetery) and his death as a suicide.

And so now we come to the fatal procession from Jerusalem to Golgotha.

In one way or another, we will all walk the Via Dolorosa. One of the mottoes I use to keep trying to do the right thing, “No one, not even Christ, ever got out of life alive”. For me, that about sums it up. You may as well do the right thing, you might not get the reward on earth that you were striving for, but at the judgment seat, you will be rewarded.

Here is the story according to St. Matthew:

And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. And sitting down they watched him there. And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross, and the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew.

And the chief priests said unto Pilate, It should be written and set up over his head, his accusation, This is he that said he was Jesus, the King of the Jews. But Pilate answered and said, What I have written, I have written; let it alone.

Then were there two thieves crucified with him; one on the right hand, and another on the left. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it again in three days save thyself. If thou be the Son of God come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others, himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now; if he will save him, let him save him; for he said, I am the Son of God.

One of the thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth. But the other rebuked him, saying, Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art under the same condemnation; and this man is just, and hath not sinned; and he cried unto the Lord that he would save him. And the Lord said unto him This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli,lama sabachthani?(That is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?) Some of them that stood there, when they heard him, said, This man calleth for Elias. And straightway one of them ran, and took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let him be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him.

Jesus when he had cried again with a loud voice, saying, Father, it is finished, thy will is done, yielded up the ghost. And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and the bodies of the saints which slept, arose, who were many, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, heard the earth quake, and saw those things which were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God. And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him for his burial; among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s children.

Now, remember this was on Friday following the triumphant entry the prior Sunday. How the mighty had fallen, from the crowd’s hero, one might say a rock star, to an executed criminal buried in a borrowed grave in a week.

This was the man many had expected to free Israel from Rome, there would be others for that mission, it would culminate at Masada and in the destruction of Jerusalem and the diaspora. The next ruler of the city, after Rome, would be Islam, contested by the Crusader knights. But until our own time Jerusalem would not be ruled again by the Jews.

And so the Messiah, the King of the Jews died. The lesson would seem to be not to upset the applecart, to go along to get along, even to sit down and shut up, wouldn’t it?

It’s a pretty sharp lesson too. One of the most cruel methods of execution ever devised by man.

And so ends the story;

or does it?

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