Saturday, 30 August 2008

Maggie!

Bill and Patrick moved to SRQ about a year ago. They each retired from Minnesota.
Soon after their retirement they acquired “Maggie” a lovely young “Schnauzer”.

I got to know Maggie very soon as I would meet her early each morning when Bill took her out for her first “pee” walk of the day.

Patrick and Bill are on vacation in Alaska. My good pal Ben is “dog-sitting” Maggie.

Maggie loves her early morning walk.

With Ben’s approval I have been slinking into his home at about 6:10 a.m. to take Maggie for this walk, (whilst Ben sleeps).

It’s cool to be an honorary dog owner.

This is what I have learned.

The human says “walkies”: with the sincere belief that the canine needs a good walk.

The canine responds with enormous enthusiasm.

But soon the cooperation ends.

The human wants to take a brisk walk from point A to points B and C, and then back to point A. The walk is all important.

The canine wants to follow his/her nose; to pee at will; and never to walk in a straight line. The nose is all important.

Life is like that!

There are the driven ones whose lives are focussed from A, to B, to C and then perhaps back to A.

Then there are the meandering ones who follow their noses.

I am more driven than meandering. But how I respect and admire those who follow their noses!

Friday, 29 August 2008

A Friday in retirement.

Long distance pastoral care, (with an 18 year old former Pittsfield parishioner – in London UK for a semester – and now feeling very lonely).

Lunch here with my pals Ben, Michael and Charles.

Bowling with the Friday group. (I bowled miserably!)

Working on my sermon for Sunday 31st August.

Paying some bills.


Such has been a Friday in retirement.

But there was also joy. The Mexican workers - and do they indeed work hard, have almost finished their work in replacing our mansards. They are great guys. It’s been a pleasure to have them in our community.

Each Friday since April I have given them a 12 pack of Mexican brewed beer. This has been an “end of week” thank you to these hard and gracious workers.

They will be leaving early next week, so today I gave them the 12 pack, plus a bottle of good Tequila.

I handed the Tequila to Jorge, the very bright foreman. I said “this is for you, or you can share it”.

He replied “we always share”.

In the midst of writing this, my good friend Betsy in Pittsfield telephoned to send her love on this day, the 7th anniversary of my Mum’s death. To be honest I had forgotten the anniversary.

But it made me feel so loved that Betsy remembered.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Is he one of us?

I had a long and important ‘phone chat with a good friend this evening. He is a sharp-minded, politically astute, and compassionate Episcopal Priest.

Within his own field - stewardship of the environment – he is very well known.

He is one of the Associate Priests at St. James’s in Cambridge. He is now semi-retired because of poor health.

I trust this man. I respect and admire him, together with his wife, his three children, and his former wife.

I was lamenting the state of affairs in which many are saying that Barack Obama cannot be elected as President because he is a Black American.

My friend suggested that Senator Obama’s skin colour is not the chief issue. Rather it is his name viz:

Barack Hussein Obama.

That good name raises a question in the minds of Americans. It is “is he one of us?”
“John Smith” is clearly one of us. So is “Margaret Thomas” or “Tony Brown”.

But - “Barack Hussein Obama”. Is this an “all-American name?”

“Of course so” I respond.


We recently elected a Senator called “Ben Knighthorse Campbell” as a Republican Senator from Colorado.

And Senator Daniel Inouye http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Inouye represented Hawaii in Washington DC for many years.

A Native American, and a Japanese American. Both were Senators.

But neither had a suspiciously Muslim middle name - Hussein.

No matter that Senator Obama is a Christian in good standing.

His unusual names, chiefly his middle name, “Hussein” may be the “nativist” reason why “good Christian and white Americans” will refuse to vote for him.


(Who will care about what he stands for since his middle name is Hussein?)

I fear that “slogans and slurs will prevail”

Senator Obama is a loyal American, and a Christian. But he has the "wrong" names.

But it does not bother me whether a Presidential candidate is Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Atheist, provided that candidate has progressive policies and cares for the poor.

(And I’d rather have a good Muslim President rather than the current “Christian” shit-head).

Bye!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Life in the Corporate State

Life in fasci-t America.

Please read the article below. It is horrible.

Nearly 600 immigrants in Mississippi detained without warning. Most of them carted off to another State, there to be held incommunicado.

Some mothers released with ankle bracelets.

(Oh so wonderful, until we recall that our Republican administration is also the “so-called” upholder of “Family Values”. Are not fathers also important to each family?)

The workers were apprehended as a result of an anonymous tip.

That reminds me of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. In those fascist/communist States “snoops” were on every street.

American born workers in Mississippi applauded as the immigrants were carted off.

Sounds like a scene from 1933 – 1945 Germany, when Jews were carted off to death camps, to the applause of their Gentile friends.

Jews then. Hispanics now.

Hispanics now, unless they are Cubans!

Such is life in corporate/Republican party/ semi-fascistic America.

And my Democratic Party friends are too chicken to take on this issue
.

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NEWS SOURCE FOR MY BLOG>


Fear grips immigrants after Miss. plant raid
By HOLBROOK MOHR – 13 hours ago

LAUREL, Miss. (AP) —

A day after the largest single-workplace immigration raid in U.S. history, Elizabeth Alegria was too scared to send her son to school and worried about when she'd see her husband again.

Nearly 600 immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally were detained, creating panic among dozens of families in this small southern Mississippi town.

Alegria, 26, a Mexican immigrant, was working at the Howard Industries transformer plant Monday when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents stormed in. When they found out she has two sons, ages 4 and 9, she was fitted with a bracelet and told to appear in federal court next month. But her husband, Andres, wasn't so lucky.

"I'm very traumatized because I don't know if they are going to let my husband go and when I will see him," Alegria said through a translator Tuesday as she returned to the Howard Industries parking lot to retrieve her sport utility vehicle.

The superintendent of the county school district said about half of approximately 160 Hispanic students were absent Tuesday.

Roberto Velez, pastor at Iglesia Cristiana Peniel, where an estimated 30 to 40 percent of the 200 parishioners were caught up in the raid, said parents were afraid immigration officials would take them.

"They didn't send their kids to school today," he said. "How scared is that?"

One worker caught in Monday's sweep at the plant said fellow workers applauded as immigrants were taken into custody. Federal officials said a tip from a union member prompted them to start investigating several years ago.

Fabiola Pena, 21, cradled her 2-year-old daughter as she described a chaotic scene at the plant as the raid began, followed by clapping.

"I was crying the whole time. I didn't know what to do," Pena said. "We didn't know what was happening because everyone started running. Some people thought it was a bomb but then we figured out it was immigration."

About 100 of the 595 detained workers were released for humanitarian reasons, many of them mothers who were fitted with electronic monitoring bracelets and allowed to go home to their children, officials said.

About 475 other workers were transferred to an ICE facility in Jena, La. Nine who were under 18 were transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

John Foxworth, an attorney representing some of the immigrants, said eight appeared in federal court in Hattiesburg on Tuesday because they face criminal charges for allegedly using false Social Security and residency identification.

He said the raid was traumatic for families.
"There was no communication, an immediate loss of any kind of news and a lack of understanding of what's happening to their loved ones," he said. "A complete and utter feeling of helplessness."

Those detained were from Brazil, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Peru, said Barbara Gonzalez, an ICE spokeswoman.

"We have kids without dads and pregnant mothers who got their husbands taken away," said Velez's son, Robert, youth pastor at the church. "It was like a horror story. They got handled like they were criminals."

Howard Industries is in Mississippi's Pine Belt region, known for commercial timber growth and chicken processing plants. The tech company produces dozens of products ranging from electrical transformers to medical supplies, according to its Web site.
Gonzalez said agents had executed search warrants at both the plant and the company headquarters in nearby Ellisville. She said no company executives had been detained, but this was an "ongoing investigation and yesterday's action was just the first part."

A woman at the Ellisville headquarters told The Associated Press on Tuesday that no one was available to answer questions.

In a statement to the Laurel Leader-Call newspaper, Howard Industries said the company "runs every check allowed to ascertain the immigration status of all applicants for its jobs."




Gov. Haley Barbour recently signed a law requiring Mississippi employers to use a U.S. Homeland Security system to check new workers' immigration status.

The law took effect July 1 for businesses with state contracts and takes effect Jan. 1 for other businesses.

Mississippi lawmakers once used laptops made by Howard Industries, but it's not clear whether the company has current state contracts.

Under the law, a company found guilty of employing illegal immigrants could lose public contracts for three years and the right to do business in Mississippi for a year.

The law also makes it a felony for an illegal immigrant to accept a job in Mississippi. A message was left with the district attorney's office after hours seeking comment on whether he would use the law to bring state charges against Howard Industries or the workers.



The Mississippi raid is one of several nationwide in recent years.


On May 12, federal immigration officials swept into Agriprocessors, the nation's largest kosher meatpacking plant, in Iowa. Nearly 400 workers were detained and dozens of fraudulent permanent resident alien cards were seized from the plant's human resources department, according to court records.

In December 2006, 1,297 were arrested at Swift meatpacking plants in Nebraska and five other states.


Associated Press Writers Shelia Byrd in Hattiesburg, Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson and Eileen Sullivan in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Loitering and Prowling

I am owned by two cats.

Like many other folks who are owned by pets, I am likely to say “I love my cats”.

That’s not the whole truth. The fact is that most of us want our pets to love us.

Who knows if canines and felines can feel “love” towards the humans they own.

Isn’t it more likely that these animals “bond” with us?

They do this because we are their primary sources of food, safety, play, and grooming.

That’s fine. For house pets serve the deep human desire to be needed.

The cats which own me are called Ada and Adelaide.

Ada sleeps for most of the day. She is a loiterer.

Adelaide is constantly exploring. She is a prowler.

It’s just as well that they live in my home, rather than on the streets. For in Sarasota “loitering and prowling” is a crime.
One of my Resurrection House pals has recently been arrested for just that: for “loitering and prowling”.

It seems to me that the decision by a law enforcement Officer that someone is loitering and prowling is a very subjective one.

A well dressed, apparently middle class person, seeking to kill time, spends an hour in downtown SRQ. She/he window shops, wanders around the “Whole Foods Market”, and sits outside the Library.

A slightly scruffy, apparently homeless person, seeking to kill time, spends an hour in downtown SRQ. She/he window shops, wanders around the “Whole Foods Market”, and sits outside the Library.

Which of the two is most likely to be arrested for “loitering and prowling”?

Monday, 25 August 2008

Bull

In 19989 I spent two weeks on the Holy Island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iona



It was not the greatest time. I found Island life to be claustrophobic.

Each night when the Ferry to the Island of Mull took its final evening journey to a safe natural harbour on Mull called the “Bull Pen” I felt lonely and isolated.

The fact is that I stayed too long. I should have planned for three or four days, not for fourteen!

I got off to a bad start. On my second day a couple who were staying in the Guest House which I also used, made some snarky comments about the “pro-gay” books in the Abbey bookstore.

I immediately felt unsafe.

Later that morning I took a walk. On my way back I encountered a massive free-roaming bull. I was terrified. I made sure that the bull was far out of sight before I scooted back to the Guest House.

I related my fear, and the hostess immediately began to tease and berate me because I was afraid of the bull. She related that everyone on the Island knew the bull, and that he was as gentle as a lamb.

But I did not know that, and her teasing and berating added to my sense of being in an unsafe place.

We cannot talk, tease or berate people out of their fears. If only the hostess had said “I understand your fears, but let me walk with you, and we'll pass the bull togther”.

Psalm 23 got it. In the King James (Authorised) version it says

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;”

The call is to walk with people through their fears.

=================================================
Psalm 50 v 9 reads thus in modern translations.

“I will not accept a bull from your house”


The Psalmist is making the point that God is not interested in animal sacrifices, but rather in the “sacrifice of thanksgiving”.

An older version rendered that verse thus:

“I will accept no bull from your house”.

American seminarians in the 1960’s, as they sang the Psalms, would be convulsed in laughter with the delicious thought that God will “take no bull from us”. (“Bull” in America having the connation that we cannot “bullsh-t God”).

But we can, and we do! And the Almighty laughs and responds with “what a load of bullsh-t”. At least she/he does if he/she has a sense of humour.

==========================================================================
A friend of mine is addicted to the “energy drink” called “Red Bull”.

He will drink more than four cans of this each day (at $2 or more a can).

I suspect that if “Red Bull” were marketed at 50 cents a can, no-one would buy it.

But consumers think “since it costs about $2, --- it must be good”

It’s little more than carbonated water, sugar and caffeine.

http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/magazine/15-07/st_redbull

But then again, I drink about 48 oz of coffee each day. All of the caffeine, but none of the sugar! And a lot cheaper.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Sermon for 24th August 2008

Sermon for August 24th 2008
The Revd. J. Michael Povey, at St. Margaret of Scotland, Sarasota.


Isaiah 51:1-6


Thus says the Lord:
"Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness,
you that seek the LORD.
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
and to the quarry from which you were dug.
Look to Abraham your father
and to Sarah who bore you;
for he was but one when I called him,
but I blessed him and made him many.
For the LORD will comfort Zion;
he will comfort all her waste places,
and will make her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the LORD;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song.
Listen to me, my people,
and give heed to me, my nation;
for a teaching will go out from me,
and my justice for a light to the peoples.
I will bring near my deliverance swiftly,
my salvation has gone out
and my arms will rule the peoples;
the coastlands wait for me,
and for my arm they hope.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
and look at the earth beneath;
for the heavens will vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment,
and those who live on it will die like gnats;
but my salvation will be forever,
and my deliverance will never be ended."


Psalm 138
1
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart; *
before the gods I will sing your praise.
2
I will bow down toward your holy temple
and praise your Name, *
because of your love and faithfulness;
3
For you have glorified your Name *
and your word above all things.
4
When I called, you answered me; *
you increased my strength within me.
5
All the kings of the earth will praise you, O LORD, *
when they have heard the words of your mouth.
6
They will sing of the ways of the LORD, *
that great is the glory of the LORD.
7
Though the LORD be high, he cares for the lowly; *
he perceives the haughty from afar.
8
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe; *
you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;
your right hand shall save me.
9
The LORD will make good his purpose for me; *
O LORD, your love endures for ever;
do not abandon the works of your hands.

Romans 12:1-8

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-- what is good and acceptable and perfect.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.



Matthew 16:13-20


When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

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Thank you for your welcome to St. Margaret of Scotland Church. My name is Michael Povey and in retirement I live in Sarasota, next to the Bobby Jones Golf Complex. I served four congregations in Massachusetts, and moved here just over two years ago.

Peter makes his confession of faith in Caesarea Philippi. As the name suggests it was a Roman City. Nearby was a popular shrine to the so-called god, Pan. So Jesus and the disciples are, as they were in last Sunday’s gospel, in alien territory.

Much has been made of Peter’s confession, as if it were unique. Little has been made of the same confession made by Martha of Bethany (see John 11). I’ll leave you to ponder why the confession of faith made by a man has been exalted, whilst the same confession of faith made by a woman has been all but ignored.

“You are Peter”. There is humour here. Jesus is calling Simon by a new name, “Rocky”. We know that Peter was anything but rocky!

And my quirky mind likes to think that Jesus is rolling his eyes when he says “on this rock I will build”. Maybe it’s sardonic humour: “on this rock?” “Couldn’t I have done better than Peter!”

“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church”. That is the source of the Roman Catholic Church’s claim to be the Church established by Jesus.

It’s at least probable that Peter was martyred in Rome, but those lists which name Peter as the first Pope are un-historical.

Now for a wee bit of history.

As the Jesus movement grew and became a Church, certain Cities achieved a great importance in the life of the Church.


There was Jerusalem, where James the brother of Jesus had been martyred.

There was Alexandria in Egypt, a great centre of learning in the Roman Empire. Legend has it that Mark died there.

There was Antioch in Syria, another center of learning, and we know that Peter lived there at one time.

We also include Constantinople (modern day Istanbul), the reputed home of Andrew.

Finally there was Rome, where Paul was martyred, and perhaps Peter too.

The Churches of Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople and Rome were afforded special honour because of their historic foundations. Their chief Bishops were known as Patriarchs.

But Rome always claimed a place of supremacy, based on the belief that Peter had been its first Patriarch, or Pope, and that he and Paul had ended their lives there.

In due course (and that covers many years!), as the Roman Empire first divided into the Western Empire (Rome) and the Eastern Empire (Constantinople), the Churches of Rome and of Constantinople drifted apart.

Meanwhile the Churches of Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria were weakened by bitter theological dispute.

In the East, the Church of Constantinople remained strong. It included modern day Greece, and moved north and east into lands we now know as Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, and most importantly Russia. When Constantinople (the second Rome) fell to Islam, Moscow became known as the new Rome.


In the West the Church of Rome filled the power vacuum left by the decline and fall of the Western Roman Empire. The Popes assumed much of the glory and splendour of the Emperors. They added the words “Pontifex Maximus” to their growing list of titles - a title which had once belonged to Roman Emperors. (That’s of course the source of the word “Pontiff” to describe the Pope.)


To this day there are Patriarchs in Istanbul, Alexandra, Jerusalem and Antioch, including some rival Patriarchs. And Rome still claims supremacy.


All this begs some questions.

Did Jesus in fact intend to found a Church?

There is but one slender reed of biblical evidence to support this. It is our text for today. “On the rock I will build my Church”.

It’s at the very least strange that Jesus said no more than this if he intended to begin a new religion called Christianity?

But Jesus does speak a lot about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a realm where the lost and the least find a home. It is the realm where “though the LORD be high, he cares for the lowly”.


Whatever else we think, the Jesus movement did grow into a Church.

But in New Testament times there were no Patriarchs or Popes. There were local communities of faith in which the leadership or ministry was shared by many: as St. Paul says in the Epistle, communities where the ministry is based on gift and not on status. There were teachers, givers, leaders and compassionate ones.


How often we want to be, or to have, leaders who have status and authority,

How infrequently we want to be, or to have, leaders who givers known for generosity, or compassionate ones known for cheerfulness!

Those words about loosing and binding on earth are most always interpreted as referring to Priestly ministry in the Sacrament of Penance. I believe that to be a very narrow view,one which misses the point.

For remember, Jesus is always teaching about the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of heaven. Those are not places, but they are states of being which come about when God reigns.

Our call as followers of Jesus is to live into the values of God’s Kingdom - justice, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, healing etc. It is in that realm that the binding and losing happen.

In Realm of God the binding and the loosing happen in us.

When we are motivated by anger, jealousy, pride, greed, lust, malice, gossip – you name it, we are binding ourselves.

For example, we may think that we have good reasons to be angry with her or him, but the anger retained does us the greater damage as we bind it in our hearts.

But how lives change and our lives change when we let loose with compassion, forgiveness, mercy, gratitude, faith, hope and charity. It’s our own souls which are loosed. They loosed for the blessing and healing of the world.


And the Church becomes a signpost to God’s realm only when it is a place in which we are unbound and let loose!