Saturday, 17 May 2008

This, that and the other - with a bit of "huma"

I have reformatted Clay Thomas’s sermon (my blog yesterday), to make it easier to read.


HUMA. I was at a Target Store this morning, and as I wandered a food aisle, a Dad and Son passed me.

The boy was maybe four, five, six years old. He was wanting his Dad to purchase some snack food.

“No” said Daddy, “you had thus and such for your breakfast”

“But I am still hungry” said the child.

“Too bad” was Dad’s reply.

Then as they passed me in the aisle the lad said

“Daddy, please don’t say ‘too bad’ to your old son”.

I laughed out loud, as did the Dad.


I had lunch with Lisa and Lisa, (a couple each with the same first name). They shown up at the gay and lesbian bowling group about a year ago, and I have tried to stay in touch.

Both have busy lives and it’s been hard to get together. But our patience was worthwhile, and we had a fine old visit over a simple lunch.


Last week I, for the first time in my life, sent a small amount of money to the campaign chest of a candidate for national office. I have very strong convictions about the next Presidential election.

I am proud of the “bumper sticker” which now adorns my car.


Former St. James’s, Cambridge parishioner Tracy Wells was in touch today. She wandered into St. James’s from Harvard Divinity School where she was a student, and she and the parish fell in love.

After she was graduated Tracy spent a year in a parish based ministry discernment program in Nebraska, and then moved to Atlanta. She’s been in a nine month “discernment process” with the (Episcopal) Diocese of Atlanta, and today learned they she had been accepted as a postulant for Holy Orders.

Whoop - de- doo”. The Episcopal Church will prosper as it continues to call wonderful young women such as Tracy to ordained ministry.


Gardening is great. “Dust we are, and unto dust we shall return”, so we humans need contact with the humus, to remind us who we are.

I’ve been cutting down some very tired old bushes at the back of my house. They were “way past their best”. I had a pay a landscaper to pull the eleven roots out of the ground, using a chain and a small ‘dozer.

It seemed good to replace them with good and colourful perennials.

Yesterday I was at “Lowes” a major DIY store to get some cow manure. One of their young workers offered to help me load the bags of manure, but I declined saying “No thanks, I’ll take care of my own shit”.

Then it was off to the best local nursery to buy the perennials. I chose grasses and crotons for a side border which is in the “keyhole” between my condo and the neighbour’s. And I bought “Florida friendly, drought resistant, butterfly attracting” plants for the border outside the Lanai.

I spread the manure, and did the planting at 6:00 a.m. today, before it got too hot. By next spring there will be a lovely display of Angelonias, Pentas, Perennial Salvias, and Jatrophas. And perhaps many butterflies.


Ada and Adelaide have had two cat fights. Ada staked out the area under my bed as “hers”, and she has taken off with a vengeance when Adelaide has strayed into that area. Fur has indeed flown.

There was a fight this morning. Addy took refuge under a cabinet, and after I made a loud noise, Ada ran out to the enclosed Lanai. I shut the sliding glass door, but after Ada head-butted it four times with an unbelievable force, I let her back into the dining room. She immediately ran and hid under the bed.

These fights are inevitable for now, but I keep a spray bottle of water nearby lest they should get too violent.

Friday, 16 May 2008

A fine sermon. Preached May 11th at First Presbyterian Church, SRQ, by the Revd. Clay Thomas

The story of Pentecost narrates the birth of a new community. A community
where the Spirit is abundant and falls “on each of them.” A community where
each is heard in their native language. An important distinction from
everyone speaking the language of the dominant empire (Greek or English).
At Pentecost, diversity was preserved.

But our Corinthians reading tells of another kind of story. A new community
has emerged in Corinth, and the community has been blessed by the Spirit
with many gifts, but problems have arisen. In the chapter just previous,
ch.11, Paul chastises the Corinthians for violating the Lord’s Supper and
especially for being exclusive. In the chapter following today’s reading,
ch.13, Paul rails against those who would create false hierarchies based on
spiritual gifts. You might recall the bit about speaking in tongues being
nothing but a noisy gong without love. So in today’s reading Paul is right
in the middle of sorting out a variety of church conflicts (tongues,

Clearly, in Corinth there are a diversity of gifts
(utterance/wisdom/prophecy), what was not so clear to the Corinthians was
the source or the purpose of these gifts.

Diversity has become quite the global rallying cry lately. But diversity is
not the end in today’s reading. Diversity is not the goal. I think that is
a misconception. Instead, diversity is a reality. Paul is pointing out the
obvious when he says there are a diversity of gifts. It is as obvious as if
I were to point out the different colors in the rainbow to you. What is
radical, and sometimes is obscured is that the gifts are from the same
spirit. Clearly, we can see a diversity of gifts, services, and
activities—but what happens when we understand these to be from the same
spirit, the same Lord, and the same God. Just as diversity is indicative;
unity also is already the case. Paul begins this letter by asking
sarcastically, “Is Christ divided?” (1:13) You see, neither diversity nor
oneness are goals. They are a reality, a vision to be embraced.

What a relief. I mean this is good news. We do not have to create
diversity or oneness. God, in her infinite wisdom has already taken care of
this for us.

Instead, we must recognize our oneness and celebrate our diversity so that
they can be instruments for the common good. Listen again, to verse 7, “to
each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” This
diversity is more than a rallying cry for inclusion, more than tolerance,
more than coexistence as the island park exhibit contended. Diversity is
for the common good.

This chapter of Corinthians has been read as a devotion on nearly every
mission trip. After hearing about the body having many parts and how the
hand needs the eye and the eye needs the ear, the mission teams encourage
one another, reminding ourselves that everyone has something to contribute.
But I think we trivialize Paul’s message when we focus on figuring out,
“What’s my gift?” Surely that is important, but Paul is developing a much
deeper and rewarding argument here. I mean this is bigger than a potluck

We all get to bring something. The parts of the body are dependent on one
another to function for their purpose.

Perhaps when we grasp our oneness and at the same time our diversity—we then
truly share one another’s joys, and also share one another’s sufferings.
Paul writes at the end of this chapter:

1 Corinthians 12:26 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it;
if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

I think that is at the heart of what it means to be church.

It sounds so simple ‘celebrate diversity while recognizing oneness’. But
society has failed at this time and again. You might have noticed that I
stole my sermon title from the French revolution (“Liberté, égalité,
fraternité…diversité”). When the French Republic added fraternite to liberty
and equality; it was adding a moral obligation of community to two
individual rights. But they weren’t quite able to pull off fraternity. In
the early and very bloody days of the French revolution, “fraternity”
clearly was only meant for some. Even today, France, like much of the world
wrestles with diversity being perceived as a disadvantage rather than as an
instrument for common good.

And the solution is not to simply emphasize unity or oneness. The Third
Reich, perhaps the antithesis of our goal, had their own tripartite slogan
that emphasized oneness. “Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein Fuher! One people! One
empire! One Leader!”

Oneness that is not counterbalanced with celebration of diversity is quickly
becomes evil.

Michael Hardt, a political theorist from Duke University, believes that even
terms like “the people” or “the masses” fail us. He says “the people” (as
the People’s Republic or We, the people) reduces diversity to a uniformity
and makes the population a single identity). Also, the term the masses
drowns out differences. All colors fade to gray. He proposes the term the
multitudes because the multitudes can act in common while remaining
internally diverse.[1]

How interesting then, that 2000 years ago, Paul developed this concept with
the metaphor of the church as the body of Christ with many members. Hear
verse 12 again, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all
the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”

Paul understood the Need for diversity and for unity. He writes:

1 Corinthians 12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing
be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?

Perhaps one of my favorite seminary words is poly phonic. Poly meaning
many, like a polygram (many sides), and phonic like hooked on phonics,
meaning voices. The Bible is Poly phonic, many voices. Many voices that
are diverse, that create tension…that is what is so beautiful about the
testaments to God. The editors could have taken out the scandalous
sections. They could have taken out the psalms that no one liked anymore or
the stories that didn’t jive with their current world view, but they stayed.
So the Bible became a cross section of witnesses to divine encounters. So
in the Old Testament, we have priestly writings that emphasize right worship
and warn against false idols; but we also have prophetic writers who write
about justice and warn against not caring for the widow, the orphan, and the
sojourner. The many voices together help us to see the one God. As the
canon came together in 2nd and 3rd centuries there were some efforts to
harmonize the gospels. Rather than four versions, why not have one, and
eliminate any discrepancies. From the earliest days this was seen as an
error. Instead, the diversity was celebrated while confessing their witness
to the one God.

Many of you have been praying for the people of Myanmar after a cyclone hit
the country hard last week. Anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 people were
killed when the 12 foot storm surges shot up the delta, drowning the most
vulnerable in its path.

Our prayers have been for the survivors, for international aid workers, for
the governments involved. Over the course of the week my prayers turned to
anger, frustration, and disbelief. The junta government, suspicious of
outsiders, has resisted humanitarian aid. The crisis got even worse when on
Friday two cargo planes were seized by the military junta. The U.N. World
Food Program said that they would suspend flights. Some 38 tons of high
energy biscuits, enough food to feed 95,000 people was sitting at the
airport. We can’t imagine anything more backwards. The gift is there; let
the aid workers distribute it!

And yet this phenomenon is not limited to Myanmar. Some 16,000 children die
everyday of hunger related causes. Friends, that is a child every five
seconds. -------- Again, there is enough food in the world to feed the
people of the world. The gifts are here; let us distribute the abundance.

Diversity is here. Oneness is here. Let us live into it.

I believe that at Pentecost God poured out God’s Spirit with abundance. Not
withholding the blessing of the Spirit from young or old, male or female,
slave or free, Jew or Greek. Christ promise to his disciples to baptize
them with the Spirit was fulfilled. Like in the days of Jerusalem, we have
been baptized in the Spirit. The church has been given a diversity of gifts
and the unity of Body of Christ. And yet, our gifts often spoil, the
abundance is often squandered.

It took the church 1900 years to figure out that maybe the Spirit really
could speak through women. Something Peter at Pentecost, and Paul knew
through his work with church leaders like Lydia and Priscilla. And it is
taking us longer to integrate racially—we have a long way to go with that.
And many who have gifts are stilled barred from the pulpits because of their
sexual orientation. The church has been arguing over sexuality for the last
twenty years, and I hesitate to bring it up because it is so painful for so
many of you. For some of you it is painful because it is not an issue, it
is your sons and daughters, or it is your own reality. So it is painful to
debate. For others the pain comes from a perception of the church falling
away from its foundation. So I’m sorry to bring up such a sore conversation
on the church’s birthday, but I believe Pentecost has everything to do with
who God calls and does not call.

Will we let the gifts of God spoil?

In same vein, when I look at the church as a whole, I think perhaps our
biggest failure has been to truly embrace the blessing of a priesthood of
all believers. Once we truly believe that God is working in and thru all of
us, thru all of you, well, then I believe we will be on our way to
celebrating unified diversity for the common good. The Spirit was not
poured out only on the wisest or most pious. The Spirit in Jerusalem flowed
freely to everyone. We have all been called. We have all been given gifts
of the Spirit. May we be good stewards of what is already in our care.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

School Misery (6)

My Grammar (High) School held a reunion for my class, some 12 years ago. I happened to be in England on holiday, so I was able to attend.

I discovered that many in my year group had something in common. We each hated Fairfield whilst we were there, but looked back at the school with fondness!

We especially remembered the teachers. I’ll tell you about some of them in the next few days.

Our teacher of Latin was Miss. Worthington. Even then we thought that she was a bit prissy, and having discovered that her first name was Dorothy, we always (behind her back) referred to her as Dot. We thought that we were smart, as only pubescent boys can be.

We had discovered that the barrel of a ball point pen, sans the ink cartridge, made an excellent “rice shooter”, our home made version of a pea shooter. So of course we “shot” bits of uncooked rice at each other between lessons.

“Dot” called us to task on this. She wondered out loud “why our classroom floor was covered with bit of rice” (Of course she knew why!). Then she lectured us on the dangers of rice shooting!

A popular beer at that time was the brand “Worthington”. The Worthington Company had a T.V. ad. With the jingle “On Worthington, on Worthington. You’re twice the man on Worthington”. Even though my family did not have T.V. I learned the jingle with other schoolboys, and we would sing it sotto voce, thinking that we were so clever, with the naughty double-entendre.

We were expected to learn woodworking. The “shop” was in the bowels of the school, with ancient tools (none were electric). Our teacher was a Mr. Ralph Gay. We always referred to him as “Gadger”. He had a slight speech impediment which we would imitate with glee.

He had a certain amount of fame inasmuch as his brother, Canon Percival Gay, was Vicar at the somewhat avant-garde St. George’s, Brandon Hill.

Our first task was to make a “boiler stick”. We were issued with a piece of wood, maybe 4’ long, and 4” square.

From this, using old fashioned wooden planes, files, and sandpaper we were expected to make something which resembled a baseball bat. Boiler sticks were used to stir and lift sheets and towels which were being cleaned in a copper boiler. Oh those pre-wasking machine days!

My boiling stick was a laughable disaster. But I took it home, and Mum used it.

At a parent/teacher conference Gadger Gay told Mum and Dad that I was always “under his feet”, anxious to please, and quite uncertain of how to proceed.

I think of that when Adelaide and Ada rub themselves against my legs, longing for more food!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008


Boring Blog Tonight!

The wonderful Hispanic guys have finished with their work on my mansard, (if it is a mansard.) I am very happy with the results.

See pics on right, (captions are above the picture) and check the following for a wikepedia article on mansards.

The cats, Adelaide and Ada continue to bring delight. (again see pictures- captioned above).

Ada is the more affectionate, but also very shy. Once I cajole her, she loves to be caressed. She eats well.

Adelaide follows me everywhere. I call her “Miss Nosey Cat”. She demands to be hand fed with her dried food, and disdains canned food.

They are still quite wary of each other. Ada is the more aggressive and will “bat” Adelaide if she gets too near.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Not much, and Volunteers


Why do we say that “I printed it up” (e.g. from my computer) when “I printed it” would be sufficient?

Why do they say “It was auctioned off”, when “It was auctioned” would make perfect sense?

Why do British people say “She is in hospital”, whilst Americans say “She is in the hospital”?

Why did I used to say “I got off of the ‘bus”, when I could have said “I got off the ‘bus”?



The following was posted by a guest at Resurrection House.

WE the willing, led by the unknowing,
Are doing the impossible, for the sometimes ungrateful.

We have done so much, for so many,
For so long, with so little.

We are now qualified to do anything with nothing.

(And still have something left over!) ”




Monday, 12 May 2008

Soft in the head? Or the Sacrament of Beer?

I live in Glen Oaks Ridge Condominium community. Our single storey units have flat roofs and mansards.

The latter have worn out after 35 years (a long time since they are made from Styrofoam - yes Styrofoam). They are being replaced with a superior metallic material which, although it comes in strips, looks like tile.

It’s been a long process. My “old” mansard was removed in February. But the “tiling” has not yet been completed. The workers tell me that they will apply the finishing touches on Wednesday, (14th May ‘08).

They are hard workers. Their work day begins at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 6:30 p.m. Every day they come up to SRQ from Naples - at least 100 miles south of here, and return there at night.

I have a soft spot for them. Most are immigrants from Mexico and from Central America. Few speak English. I say it again - they are hard workers - toiling in the heat of the day.

We exchange our “holas” and grins.

The “first team” was at my house three weeks ago.

In a day or two (see above), the “second team” will arrive to finish the detail work.

Earlier today I asked the English speaking worker if he and his co-workers liked beer.
“Yes”, he replied, “but after work”.

So I bought a six pack, and suggested that one of them should come to my unit at the end of the day.

Sure as eggs “Omera” showed up. I got the beer from my fridge, and as I gave it to him he said “nice, cold”. (A couple of English words which he’s picked up). I introduced myself as ”Miguel” , and he left my front door bearing a happy grin.

I think that beer is a sacrament of friendship!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Presbyterians, Maltese, Snapdragons and Cleaning

Jean Fulton is one of the finest volunteers at Res. House. The place would be hard pressed without her.

She was good enough to come out to All Angels by the Sea on Longboat Key when I preached there in March. So I was happy to accept her invitation to attend her Church “First Presbyterian” today.

The service began at 8:25 a.m. (what an odd time!). I sat with Jean and her husband in a very relaxed and friendly congregation.

The music was great, with a brass quintet delighting our ears, especially as they rendered “Just a Closer walk with Thee” (New Orleans style) at the end of the service.

And the Associate Pastor (ordained but six months ago) preached a sturdy and edifying sermon.

Of course I missed Communion, and also a sense of participation by the congregation. It was a bit “front directed”.

After Church I sped over to Whole Foods Market to purchase the superb coleslaw which they prepare and sell. I was lucky enough to find my favourite cashier at the check out. She is Marlene and hails from Malta. We always enjoy our chats.

All the stores are filled with flowers, this being “Mothers’ Day weekend”. I noticed some cut snapdragons, a rarity in Florida. (Lord knows where they were grown, and how much it cost to ship them here).

I bought a bunch and took them to Bradenton to my friends Kay and Barbara.

There is a story here. Long before Kay and Barbara joined St. Stephen’s in Pittsfield I called them the “snapdragon women”. I would pass their home on my way to work and every spring and summer I would admire their rows of snapdragons. Somehow K and B always managed to keep them upright, and not “leggy”.

Now, in retirement we are friends and near neighbours, So I was glad to honour them this day with ruby red snapdragons.

Back at home I faced the fact that cat owners cannot be house-proud. That’s a shock to the system of one who used to iron his underwear!

But I gave in to the mess of dust and dirt which I’ve been trying to ignore. So on “The Lord’s Day” I did a bit of house-cleaning. Of course you know that the more you clean, the more dirt you see! But today I was smart enough to leave some of the cleaning until later in the week.

Maybe I had been but half convinced of the Calvinist (Presbyterian in this case) adage that “ cleanliness is next to godliness”!