Saturday, September 29, 2012

Check out this webpage. It will just take a second ....

Trying to prepare for tomorrow's sermon, I spent too, too much time this past week on a website I happened across when I Googled the word "richness." It is a website put up by the Scotiabank of Canada entitled The Richness Project.

Scotiabank has invited Canadians to submit their personal definitions of richness. There is a scrolling function you can use to watch one definition of richness after another. I got hooked and just kept scrolling through hundreds of answers. Then I went back the next day, and the next day, and scrolled through them again. (I will not admit to getting teary while I scrolled.)

Some of the definitions of happiness are just words or phrases like "love" or "spending everything you earn" or "colorful fall days" or "freedom."

Some definitions are accompanied by photos submitted to the website. For example:




I find these definitions interesting, provocative, moving but I need to stop now and get back to work. Well maybe just one more:

Enough. Work is waiting. But you shouldn't miss this one.

Or this one.

Or this one.

This is what happened to me all week. I knew I had to get back to work but I wanted to see just one more.

(I had to google that one. The IWK is a health center in the Maritime provinces.)

At any rate, that's enough of the definitions of happiness from Scotiabank's website for now.

Except maybe this one:

If you have a definition of richness, please leave it in the comment section below.

Now, let's get back to work. Except for just one more:

I'd appreciate hearing your definition of richness.

(OK. Just one more...)

Back to work, now.

Friday, September 28, 2012

TCM is not our Savior, except maybe during especially tough weeks

 I was just trying to make my point in a dramatic way last Sunday.

I was preaching on Ephesians 2:8-10 which says we are saved by grace, not works.

So I said that we are saved even if we were never to preform any good works in any significant way. We are saved, I said, even if we were to spend the rest of our lives doing nothing but watching Turner Classic Movies and eating bonbons.

The good we participate in is not something we do to earn our salvation. It is a way of increasing the joy and meaning in our lives.

We are invited to participate in good works not because it is our obligation and duty but because it is a kick.

If we do good only to avoid getting scolded or judged or punished, we'll probably end up doing things that are somebody's definition of good and may not be good at all. If we do good for the pure joy of it, we'll be more likely to pick something that really is good. God save us from unhappy "do-gooding." 

Something like that.

Several people picked up on the Turner Classic Movies line and have repeated it in emails and on Facebook.

So I want to be very clear that I did not mean to say we are saved by watching Turner Classic Movies. God and God alone is in the saving business, as one of my teachers Kortright David used to say.

But, still, there have been weeks when spending my day off watching TCM has sure felt like a lifesaver. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Free advice -- Don't sprinkle cats

The only thing worse than sprinkling cats -- immersing them!
Years ago a congregation I served in downtown Philadelphia decided to do a blessing of the animals.

We invited pet owners to bring their pets, and the clergy of the church blessed them.

Among the animals that came to be blessed was a boa constrictor. I allowed another pastor to handle that one.

Some years later the same church decided to do another blessing of the animals, and the press reported that it was a dull service because no snakes showed up.

I can no longer remember why, but we decided to bless the animals by sprinkling them with water.
(Why did no one challenge this? Didn't anyone worry that it would seem as though we were baptizing animals? However, it was pre-internet when it was less convenient to mount campaigns to wipe out unorthodox praxis. And maybe people were less prickly back then.)

This is what I learned from that experience -- Don't sprinkle cats. They don't like it. 

The dogs didn't mind. The rabbits didn't seem to mind. The guinea pigs  seemed okay with it. The gold fish sort of liked it ... when they noticed. The boa constrictor seemed lackadaisical about the whole thing.

The cats didn't like it. Not at all.

Foundry is holding a blessing of the animals on our front patio on Sunday, Oct. 14 at 3 p.m. We will not sprinkle cats. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cartoon of the Week (for Pre-Cana weekend participants especially)

Our Pre-Cana weekend for couples preparing for their marriages is happening this coming weekend. Three of the main emphases will be communication, communication, communication.

Which made me remember this old New Yorker cartoon by Alex Gregory:

Find the cartoon on this website

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Brunch after church

Nothing is better than brunch after church with friends. The food tastes better and has fewer calories when eaten with Foundry friends after a hour of worship .
Twinkies for brunch

A few Sundays ago I quoted John Ortberg's book Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them. 

Ortberg tells of a research project done a number of years ago by a social scientist from Harvard. The researchers tracked 7,000 people over a period of nine years, and one of the things they learned is that people who were isolated and had few or no friends were three times more likely to die younger than those who had strong relational connections. 

Maybe even more surprising was this fact: People who had what we normally consider bad health habits (such as smoking, poor eating habits, obesity, or alcohol use) but strong social ties lived significantly longer than people who had great health habits but were isolated.

"In other words,” Ortberg says, “it is better to eat Twinkies with good friends than to eat broccoli alone.” 

Another study, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, told of a project in which 276 volunteers were infected with a virus that produced the common cold.Those who had close friends were four times better fighting off the illness than those who were more isolated. 

The study said these people were less susceptible to colds, had less viruses, and produced significantly less mucous than people who kept to themselves. 

Ortberg's conclusion: People without friends are literally snottier than people with good friends.

So invite someone to brunch after worship today. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Theology of Not Letting Teddy Win

ESPN E-60 has done a video segment about Teddy always losing the Presidents' Race at Nationals baseball games. The video is narrated by Ken Burns, producer of the wonderful PBS Baseball series. The segment includes interviews with John McCain and Winthrop Roosevelt, President Theodore Roosevelt's great grandson.

 President Obama's spokesperson has apparently even taken a position on the issue on behalf of the president.

 "This is an outrage. I agree with Sen. McCain, I'm comfortable saying my boss agrees with Sen. McCain,"said White House press secretary Jay Carney.

This issue seems to me theologically relevant, but I can't quite figure out how to put the theology of it into words.

Perhaps it has something to do with the last being first and the first being last. Perhaps it has something to do with not being admired because we win but because we run the race. Perhaps it has something to do with being loved whether we win or lose, and sometimes especially when we lose. Perhaps it has something to do with Teddy looking as if he is wearing some sort of a clergy collar.

The video is near the bottom of this page. It is 8 minutes long but, in my opinion, worth the investment of your time. Consider it devotional time ... or an extra 8-minute sermon this week.

Theological reflections are welcomed. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pestering Stanley

This Sunday our choirs will sing Robert Ray’s Gospel Mass at our 9:30 and 11 a.m. services. I have been pestering Stanley Thurston for a repeat ever since they sang the Gospel Mass last year.  It is a marvelous work and our choirs absolutely nailed it.
Stanley Thurston

Robert Ray is a classically trained pianist and composer who never really paid much attention to gospel music until he joined the faculty of the University of Illinois and was asked (probably because he is African-American) to work with the University Black Chorus. 

As a result of this experience he combined his own classical training and his exposure to gospel music to compose the Gospel Mass in 1978.   

After the Vienna Boys Choir performed a selection from the Gospel Mass at a concert in St. Louis last year, Gary Scott, writing on a St. Louis Magazine blog, argued that this is the way classical music has always worked. Classical music has always drawn from indigenous sources such as Middle Eastern liturgical chants and Indo-European melodic traditions, Scott said. 

Robert Ray
So when Robert Ray drew from the gospel sounds of his university choir to compose a mass, he was following  a great classical tradition. 

Gary Scott insists that classical music was practicing multiculturism long before the term was invented.  

Until Sunday when you get to hear the Foundry choirs sing it, you might enjoy this video of the Agnus Dei movement from the Gospel Mass performed by the choir of the First United Methodist Church of Lexington, KY.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Take my wife ... please" -- Jesus???

The big news in biblical studies this week is the discovery of a fourth-century piece of papyrus written in Coptic that quotes Jesus referring to “my wife.” The existence of the document was announced by Karen K. King, a Harvard Divinity School professor.  The story made the New York Times, network news, and every blog ever written by New Testament scholars (and non-scholars).

The consensus of the scholars is that this document is not real proof that Jesus was married. It is too late (4th century) and seems to be an isolated case. In fact, Professor King’s academic journal article  about the papyrus does not primarily deal with whether Jesus was likely married or not. Her primary argument is that the document suggests that women were considered among Jesus’ disciples early on in church history.(Of course, but it is good to have academic support on this.)

I must admit that to me there is a more interesting question than whether Jesus was or wasn’t married. The exact phrase on the snippet of papyrus is   "Jesus said to them, 'My wife …'"

Does this mean that Jesus might have been the first preacher in Christian history to use his or her spouse in a sermon illustration?

(Find Mike Luckovich's cartoon here.)