Saturday, 11 April 2009

On not rewarding bad behaviour.

Penny and I went to the Humane Society today for our follow up session after I’d adopted her.

It was a very useful hour.

Penny is a cool and gentle dog. But I asked about her one “bad habit” – i.e. jumping all over me when I return home after an absence.

I do not wish Penny to be a “jumper”.

The canine experts at the Humane Society told me that Penny’s behaviour is simply to gain attention, and that, even if I scold her , she is receiving the attention she desires.

So they advised me to ignore and walk away from this bad behaviour, and to tell her to lay down.

Then after a few minutes I should call her to myself.

Dammit – it works!

I wish that I had known this many years ago. So often I responded to “bad behaviour” on the part of parishioners by giving them attention.

So they learned that “acting out” was the key to my time, so they continued to “act out”.

I have learned that rewarding bad behaviour leads to many auto-perpetuating syndromes.

Clear behaviour boundaries lead to better relationships in families, communities, churches, and self discipline.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Vultures. Drought. Good Friday

The vultures have been gathering outside my home, both yesterday and today.

The level of the water in “our” pond is very low because of our drought, and I fear that the fishes are dying. I think that the vultures know this.

It seems to me that vultures are crucifixion birds. I see them circling the crosses – waiting, waiting, and waiting - only to be cheated in the case of Jesus’ death on Good Friday.

Good Friday; drought; vultures: all coming together in my mind.

My memory takes me back to some of the exciting liturgies we used at St. James’s in Cambridge.

Here is a bit from “Laughing Bird Resources” in Australia - a bit which we used one Holy Week.

Dry seeds of hope thirst for life-giving rain;
Hard heartlands yearn for a softening shower;
The dust and smoke of the parched earth
rise up with the prayers of your people:

Send your Holy Spirit to call us by name and lead us home.

Wearied by the callous heat of hostility,
your Son beats back the fires of hell,
and calls us to follow him on the road to life;
on through the charred valley of despair.

Send your Holy Spirit to call us by name and lead us home.

Days shorten and clouds darken the horizon;
Bleached skeleton trees warn of unspeakable death,
and the crows keep a knowing eye on our journey.

Send your Holy Spirit to call us by name and lead us home.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Sermon for Maundy (Holy) Thursday 2009

Sermon for Maundy (Holy) Thursday 2009
The Revd. J. Michael Povey at St. Boniface, Siesta Key, FL

Exodus 12:1-14; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; John 13:1-35

Let me tell you about two Dioceses of the Episcopal Church, each is far from Florida. One of them elected a new Bishop in 1994. The other did so in 1996. In each case, members of these Dioceses expressed the hope that they would choose a Bishop who would be “deeply spiritual”.

That’s hardly surprising. What would be surprising would be to read of a Diocese whose prime requirement in a new Bishop is that she would be “deeply worldly”.

Diocese B elected their “deeply spiritual” Bishop. His office is overshadowed with a cloud of mysticism. His answer to every solution is “pray about it”. Period. He doses out large amounts of syrupy sweetness, when that Diocese almost certainly needs dosing with syrup of figs.

Diocese A elected their “deeply spiritual” Bishop. He has become a terrible disappointment to many. For he takes public action on matters such as human rights, racism, same sex marriages and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He is a monk as well as a Bishop, and many of his detractors wish that he would simply retire to his cell and do his beads.

This leads me to a question for this evening. “Do we need more spiritual Christians or more worldly Christians?”
I begin to ponder that question with another. “What would Jesus Do?” , It seems to be the right place to start since this evening we begin three days which are all about Jesus.

The Jesus of whom John writes seems at first blush to be a much “spiritualised” Jesus, a man of ideas. He speaks not with earthy parables, but with concepts such as “truth”, light”, “life”, “being born from above”, “glory”.
His world appears to be that of the ashram or retreat centre; not the world of sowing seed, finding lost coins, reaping harvests and the like which we find in the other gospels.

But wait, there’s more.

Jesus in John’s Gospel is also a man of action. He ensures that people have the times of their lives at a wedding by turning water into wine. He barges into the Temple, early in his ministry to challenge the corrupt elite. He hangs around with a much married woman who is of the “wrong” faith and race. He feeds the crowd with good bread and delicious fish.

Here is an earthy Jesus. But of course! For when John begins his gospel, he speaks of “the true light which enlightens everyone coming into the world”. That’s a “spiritual” concept for us – the idea of enlightenment. But John goes on to say that this “true light” became flesh. That is John’s version of the childbirth in a stable. Earthy stuff.

So we see and know what we need to see and know about God, in an earthy human being. This being the case, our response to questions about spirituality is to say that it is rooted in flesh; in human bodies; not in an ethereal or other-worldly mysticism.

Jesus, on this night, shows us a spiritual life which is all about bodies. He washes the feet, the dirty, smelly feet of the disciples.

Christian spirituality is all about stuff, and earth, and bodies. It’s about the godliness of bodies.

Feet first, for they bear the heaviest burden.

Feet first and from them:-

To gorgeous bodies: in which we see the beauty of G-d.

To bodies broken by violence, hunger, disease or rape: in which we see the suffering of G-d.

To sexual bodies: in which we see pleasure and delight of G-d.

To aching bodies: in which we see the weariness of G-d.

To singing and dancing bodies: in which we see the joy of G-d.

Legs which dance,
arms which embrace,
lips which kiss, voices which sing,
hands which hold,
armpits which sweat,
muscles which ache,
faces which smile –
-in all of these we encounter the living G-d, as that G-d washes our feet.

Last Sunday at the 9:00 a.m. Eucharist, Wesley Wasdyke reminded us that G-d did not give us a theory of atonement, but that G-d gave us a meal.

Tonight we are reminded that G-d does not give us a theory of spirituality, but that G-d gives us feet to wash.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

I am obsessing

I am obsessing about the sermon I have to preach on Maundy (Holy) Thursday.

So my mind is not focussed on a blog entry.

I'll try to write tomorrow.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Pigs,cows, deer and sheep

We do not eat pig, cow/steer, deer, calves, or sheep.

But we do eat pork, beef, venison, veal, and lamb.

We eat turkey, chicken, goose, quail, pheasant and duck. We also eat rabbit.

Some folks eat buffalo, or ostrich.

None of us eats horse.

But maybe we would if horse meat had a different name.

Some good people eat only peas, beans, greens, nuts and soy etc. They seem to do well on this animal-free diet.

And so it goes...............

Monday, 6 April 2009

Preaching can be wearisome

In November 2005 I was preaching one Sunday morning at St. James’s in Cambridge when a strange (to me) through passed my mind.

It was: “I don’t want to do this anymore”. The “this” was preaching.

‘Twas a strange thought cos I’ve always loved to preach, and at that time I’d been doing so for 45 years (yes I began preaching when I was 16 years old!).

That realisation was one of the factors which led to my early retirement in 2006. I was weary of preaching. It was a warning which I heeded when I realised that I was weary of something I’d loved to do.

Folks tell me that I preach well; that I have a “light touch”; and that my sermons are accessible. That’s well and good, and I am grateful for these comments and observations.

In March 2009, well into retirement, I preached 13 times. (There were but four sermons on four weekends, but in every parish there were “repeats” due to multiple weekend services).

It was again wearying.

This week on Maundy (Holy) Thursday I’ll preach again. It will be for the evening Eucharist, at St. Boniface, my home parish, on Siesta Key. And I’ll be giving a wedding homily later in the month.

But then I will need a break. It is possible to have too much of even a good thing.

Remember this the next time you are bored with your Pastor’s sermon. She/he cannot always score home runs, and it’s at least likely that she/he would rather be reading the Sunday paper at home!

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Anger. (This post contains strong language)

I was “minding my own business” so to speak as I drove home this afternoon from a short shopping trip.

Keeping to the speed limit, I stopped at the red traffic light at the junction of Honore Ave and 17th Street, ready to turn left when the light changed.

Someone ”tooted” me from behind, and at first I thought that I had missed the turn of the light to green.

That wasn’t the case, and as I turned left when the light changed I pulled into the right hand lane of what was now a two lane road. The “tooter “roared into the left hand lane, and then tried to force me off the road.

As I slowed down, he screamed “you got a problem mother-fucker?”

Bemused, shocked and astonished I said something like “I haven’t the slightest idea what you mean”.

He screamed out again, much to the discomfort of his girl-friend, “If you have to drive fucking slow, get off the road mother –fucker”.

Then he sped off. I was shaken and sad.

I wish that I’d had the presence of mind to say “the word is ‘slowly”, not ‘slow’”

But what if he had had a gun?

And what if this had not been a lovely lazy Sunday afternoon on a local road, but dark at night on an Interstate Highway.

And what if I had responded with hostility and anger?

We live in a land in which there is so much anger, hostility and frustration in the lives of many people.

That same anger, hostility and frustration has been vented in all too many recent events, in which numbers of people have been gunned down, and killed.

(There have also been shocking acts of family violence in which the perpetrators have wielded such every day articles as kitchen knives.)

The gun violence is appalling. And in many States it is very easy to obtain guns, not simply handguns or hunting rifles, but automatic assault weapons.

There is a Constitutional Right for citizens to bear arms, rooted in the Second Amendment to the Constitution, viz:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

That amendment has been susceptible to a variety of opinions. I believe that the Supreme Court in its most recent ruling stated that States may not ban the private ownership of guns, but that they may place restrictions on certain kinds of weapons.

But whatever the Second Amendment says, and however the Court interprets it are moot questions.

The cat is well and truly out of the bag, and horrendous weapons are already in the hands of dangerous or disturbed persons.

Arguments about the Second Amendment are futile just so long as we live in a society which sits on a powder-keg of anger.

Some of that anger was screamed at me today.