An Occasional Rev

Ramblings for the people in our parish...... and anyone else for that matter.

(by an occasionally rev) rector
from a small town in Alabama

My profile! I finally got around to it!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Moving Day

I just tried the new version of Blogger and like it. So I'm moving this sight to here. Same Occasional Rev, just a different place. See you there.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Maundy Thursday & Good Friday

Were I limited to attending worship only twice in a year, it would be tempting to go with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday . Of course I say that on Good Friday when last night's Maundy Thursday liturgy was quite powerful for me. Yet, even if asked in May or October or even Christmas Eve, I think I would make the same selections. Then again, I'll take a small Christmas Day celebration of the Eucharist over the productions of a night before.

To be honest, Easter and Christmas Eve services are work. It's not the big crowds necessarily or the myriad of details that everyone who never pays attention to those kinds of things suddenly does so. On the "high, holy days" the self-appointed liturgical critics (complainers) come out of the wood work. During my several years at a large, multi-staff member parish, Christmas Eve and Easter were those times when the Rector and Choirmaster would stop speaking to each other all together, and the rest of the clergy and staff stayed well clear.

But it may well be because there are always plenty of seats for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Why go to the big services where you have to get there early and sit real close to your neighbor. Come to the small liturgies when you can arrive on time and still plant yourself virtually anywhere in the nave.

The last paragraph was a bit sarcastic and for that I apologize (sort of). Really, for me Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are what it is really all about. Resurrection gets the press because an empty tomb and flowers are much easier to stomach than a wooden cross. Washing feet or stripping an altar is too dark. Sitting in a silent darkness meditating on the cross is so uncomfortable with no cell phones, DVD's, or tailgates. With Easter we can ignore that and cover the cross with flowers, so we don't have to think about it.

But it is only in the darkness of Golgotha that the light of the Resurrection is really real. How can you celebrate Resurrection without Crucifixion. You can't! I will be at Easter services.... heck, I'll celebrate and preach! But it was at Maundy Thursday that Christ reminded us of the true meaning of greatness. It will be at Good Friday that the light will be so clearly seen in the darkness. On Easter morn, I'll sit in the church long before the first arrive. Among the lilies, the cross will still be against the altar. The silence of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday will speak to me. I will celebrate an Easter morn. Then I'll get ready for the service.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Palm Sunday

Rarely do I give thanks for any rain on a Sunday morning. It means attendance at Church will be down. As Rick and Bubba (a rather famous morning radio duet in the South) remind us, we will sit through storm, wind, and rain to watch our favorite football team lose, but let there be a dark cloud in the sky on Sunday and.....

But this morning it is ok. We need the rain to calm this year's record pollen crop. Even though we have registered little more than a misty shower, the pools of yellow are already forming and the air smells cleaner. Perhaps those with allergies will come to give thanks for God's rain.

Our Palm Sunday Procession will likely have to be indoors. That too is ok. It's really all about our hearts. Too sing the hymn and carry the Palm branches stirs our experience of the Holy Spirit whether we begin in the garden or in the pew. It is Palm Sunday and we take our place once again in the procession of Holy Week. From Hosanna to Golgotha to an empty tomb we journey. There is no star this time; no shepherds and wise men. The range of emotions goes from entry into Jerusalem to the horror of crucifixion. We journey into the unknown of God's redeeming love. To try and explain it brings it down to our hardly infinite level. To live in the mystery of that which need not be explained opens us to our place at the foot of the cross.

If we think we know what will happen, then we may as well go shopping. If all we experience is a historically uncertain remembrance of 2000+ years ago, then there is no Easter beyond candy and a bunny. Women went to a tomb never expecting they would find anything but a crucified body in a stone covered burial cave. What if we were to make that journey as well? A spiritual path walked not knowning what we will find or how it will affect us for the rest of our lives could bring us to an experience of God we may never understand. Most life changing journeys can rarely be explained. This could be our Holy Week.

It is getting a little darker outside. The radar shows more showers on the way. It will clean the air. It will lift our spirits. These are good things as we begin a journey.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Hello Boys (and Girls), I'm Back!

The title comes from the movie "Independence Day" and a line from Randy Quaid as he flies his F-16 and a nuclear bomb into an alien space ship. That has nothing to do with why I'm blogging again..... I just like the movie and the line. I could go through all kinds of reasons why I started and then stopped and now start again, but it would take too much time to write and read it all. Besides, how do you explain thoughts that you only think you remember thinking some time ago.

Lately, I've been restless, irritable, and discontent. I know why, usually I do. The issue is getting over it. Hence, tis time for something spiritual.

Getting over something is really kind of a negative thing to do. Better to do something positive. Since seminary I've thought I should study the Minor Prophets. Maybe it is because most folks couldn't name all 12 and just calling them Minor makes them sound rather useless. Maybe because we never talked about Obadiah or Malachi or any of the others. Maybe it's just because . There must be something good there since they are in the Bible. Spong would probably argue with that, but then again, I don't read Spong.

Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. That was my first shot at remembering who the Minor Prophets are and I've come up one short. Left out poor Hosea. Good place to start. I haven't actually done any official studying yet, but I'll tell you what I know at this point. The Minor Prophets are called thus because you can fit all 12 of their writings on 1 scroll. Daniel, Isaiah, and Ezekiel are known as Major Prophets since they each took an entire roll of papyrus all on their own. I guess Minor means you were succinct with the Word of God whereas the Major Prophets were probably rather verbose in real life as well. I like folks who get to the point.

I'll bet there were a lot more Prophets in those days who wrote good stuff, but there has to be a cutoff and 12 probably seemed like a really good biblical number. These were likely the top 12 and they put them all on 1 scroll to pass around. Their writings fall around the Babylonian Exile. Some were prior, some during, and some when it was all just a bad memory. More about the Exile another day.

That is as much as I remember with any certainty and it may all be wrong. Well when you are blogging you have that luxury. If this proves the least bit interesting to anyone else - good! If we learn something - excellent!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Theoliticians

During my years of seminary at Sewanee, the Theologs were the theological representatives on the university intramural field. We were "old guys" trying to keep up with undergraduates. We excelled in softball, but were quite underwhelming on the basketball court. We took our name from a rather derogatory descriptive for those persons who knew all of the answers about anything having to do with God, faith, salvation, ecclesiology, etc, etc and were more than happy to share all their knowledge with you. Rarely did you have to actually request such enlightenment. Theologs were always at the ready to save the faith and the world.

Theoliticians, I have decided, are the increasingly available politicians ready to save the faith and the world from their ivory towers of legislative stupidity. Rather than waste their ever limited ability to actually make a difference when it comes to poverty, injustice, and the public good, these elected minor leaguers devote their energies to pronouncements of God's action. One of our own has ascended his self-made pedestal with a most ridiculous judgment. The Birmingham News reports today the theological mutterings of Senator Hank Erwin from Montevallo who has decreed that Hurricane Katrina is the actual wrath of God let loose on the Gulf Coast. He, in his underwhelming understanding of God, is quoted as saying:

"New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast have always been known for gambling, sin and wickedness. It is the kind of behavior that ultimately brings the judgment of God."

He goes on to reveal, "Warnings year after year by godly evangelists and preachers went unheeded. So why were we surprised when finally the hand of judgment fell? Sadly, innocents suffered along with the guilty. Sin always brings suffering to good people as well as the bad."

Of course Hank is not alone in his theolitical ramblings. In recent days, Pat Robertson has called Katrina the judgment of God for the sin of abortion. The workings of such an imagination boggles the mind.

I particularly like the response of William Willimon, Methodist Bishop and a first rate theologian who said of Hank,

"I have no idea what sort of senator or politician Mr. Erwin is, but he's sure no theologian. I'm certainly against gambling and its hold on state government in Mississippi, but I expect there is as much sin, of possibly a different order, in Montevallo as on the Gulf Coast. If God punished all of us for our sin, who could stand? Next week, 300 United Methodist clergy from north Alabama are spending a week working together to help folks in trouble on the Gulf Coast. That seems to me a much more appropriate Christian response than that of the senator."


I remain unimpressed by so many politicians who have done so little to actually help. If Hank would spend just a little more time on his knees praying for God's leading to respond to so many who have suffered so much and a whole lot less time publically speaking for "his god" (who probably looks a great deal like the face staring at Hank in the mirror), he just might actually serve those he was elected to serve. He might actually serve his neighbor. Somehow I think that might be too big a stretch for Hank, a theolitician of the first order.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

There Will Always Be Prayer in School

Just when I sometimes think that there are few new good ideas in my home state, I am pleasantly surprised. The Alabama Education Association is distributing 2 pamphlets pointing out the obvious - Any student can pray in school.

James Evans, one of my favorite columnists who writes for the Birmingham Post-Herald and serves as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Auburn, wrote about this very thing last week.
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that teacher-led prayer was unconstitutional, conservative Christians began to shout, "God has been removed from the classroom," and "children should be allowed to pray."
Never mind how puny this makes God seem. As long as there are algebra tests, there will be prayer in school.


I am continually amazed that folks can get so involved in such meaningless issues. The reason, of course, is that it looks good politically, it is easy to preach, requires no commitment beyond condemning anyone that disagrees, and requires no expenditure of time or money. It is a band wagon that is easy to jump on with little danger of falling off.

The sad thing is that it offers such a limited vision of God. Since when is the action of God dependent on whether or not a formal, designated, scheduled prayer is offered that is quite likely little more than sanctimonious prose. Parents and churches ought to be teaching students that at any given moment a pause to ask God's guidance, strength, hope, and presence is heard and our spiritual lives enriched. But then again, that would necessitate actually doing something in the lives of our children and it is so much easier to just dump the responsibility on a school system that must already deal with the whims and uneducated directions of an overbearing public and politicians looking toward the next election.

Fortunately, I am quite confident that a number of students will pray today. Maybe it will be during an Algebra test. Maybe it will be in a quiet moment. I hope they remember to pray for those who care about them. I would also encourage them to pray for those who loudly proclaim for themselves to hear that there is no prayer in school.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Seeing Words

I suppose I have heard at least ten thousand words on CNN about the devastation in Louisiana, Mississippi and along the Gulf Coast. Yet, what my ears receive and my mind comprehends pales into disbelief at the pictures. Each scene of places where I grew up is beyond comprehension. A friend sent pictures of New Orleans via a PowerPoint file the other day and I simply was not ready for the emotion. Streets where I have walked buried in water, trash, and cars. Roof tops above the water in neighborhoods that look much like the one, and may very well have been, where our family lived. The main drag in Biloxi which took me from a tiny apartment to Keesler Air Force Base looked more like what I would expect in reports from the war in Iraq. The real is unbelievable.

I find myself wanting to pack up my truck and head home to Louisiana. I don't know what I would do when I got there and common sense tells me that a more organized approach is the better plan. I check the diocesan websites of Mississippi and Louisiana pretty much everday and see notes and messages from clergy friends favorite places. It is good to know they are ok. So, when the time and plan is right and needed by the Diocese of Louisiana, we will go. Until then I will pray and gather those much needed supplies I took for granted just a few weeks ago.

I have also resolved to no longer listen to the political commentary. I see little that such helps. No one could see this coming. Obviously the response was incompetent at so many levels. I'm fairly certain I could have been just as incompetent. I do think it a shame that the politicians get way too much of the media coverage.

So I pray. I don't mean that to sound holy or sanctimonious. If I pray, God speaks to me. If I am listening, I will hear and perhaps even understand what to do. I do hope that carries me to Louisiana at some point. I'm not sure that I will be ready for the thousands of words I will see. I'm not sure I will be able to do anything to help. But I want to and hopefully that will be enough.