Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Old Man

In the England of my youth and young adulthood it was common to refer to one's father, or school head-master, or boss as "The Old Man".

(I am told that this was frequently used in former days the U.S.A. , but that it is now all but obsolete on these shores).

"The Old Man".

My good nephew Daniel Povey told me that he, his fiancé,  and his brother Mike would spend some time with "The Old Man" today to celebrate  "the old man's"  birthday.

It made me giggle to realize that Dan was referring to his father,  my brother Andy who is six years younger than I!

Maybe I am "The Older Man".

Friday, 7 February 2014

Arlo and Pete's final conversation

I usually do a little meditation and prayer every night before I go to sleep - Just part of the routine. Last night, I decided to go visit Pete Seeger for a while, just to spend a little time together, it was around 9 PM. So I was sitting in my home in Florida, having a lovely chat with Pete, who was in a hospital in New York City. That's the great thing about thoughts and prayers- You can go or be anywhere.

I simply wanted him to know that I loved him dearly, like a father in some ways, a mentor in others and just as a dear friend a lot of the time. I'd grown up that way - loving the Seegers - Pete & Toshi and all their family.

I let him know I was having trouble writing his obituary (as I'd been asked) but it seemed just so silly and I couldn't think of anything that didn't sound trite or plain stupid. "They'll say something appropriate in the news," we agreed. We laughed, we talked, and I took my leave about 9:30 last night.

"Arlo" he said, sounding just like the man I've known all of my life, "I guess I'll see ya later." I've always loved the rising and falling inflections in his voice. "Pete," I said. "I guess we will."

I turned off the light and closed my eyes and fell asleep until very early this morning, about 3 AM when the texts and phone calls started coming in from friends telling me Pete had passed away.

"Well, of course he passed away!" I'm telling everyone this morning. "But that doesn't mean he's gone."

( I copied this the day after Pete Seeger's death, but I cannot now trace the source.  jmp )

Thursday, 6 February 2014

To those who pray

Please add my friend Donna and her husband Jack to your prayer list.

Donna had her appointment today with a Cancer Surgeon at Moffett Cancer Center in Tampa.  The news was not good.  He has concluded that with the evidence he has on hand, there is enough proof that she has a ”proximal femur chondro Sarcoma”.  In layman’s terms that is a cancerous tumor with in her femur.  He does not plan on doing a biopsy because it appears to be completely within the bone and has not spread, therefore even a biopsy would open it up to the surrounding tissue unnecessarily.  They have scheduled a further CAT scan to insure that her lungs are not involved, which seems to be the only other possible worry, that happens next Tuesday and then one more session with him later in the week and she will be scheduled for surgery as soon as possible.  They will remove her left femur bone from the hip socket down to mid-leg.  The GOOD News in all this is that it appears that that will correct the problem with no further need for radiation or Chemo.  The other good news is that we were very impressed with the surgeon and the entire staff of Moffett, which is world famous for treatment of Cancer.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Breaking News from the 1830's ( plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose)

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

 (Or more famously plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose  an epigram from Jean-Baptiste Alphones Karr.)


In 1830 there were food or "Swing" riots" in England.  These  so-called  riots were in fact legitimate protests by agricultural workers who found themselves out of work, impoverished, and starving,  as a result of  increased mechanization of farm work..

It was said of them " The Swing Riots had many immediate causes, but were overwhelmingly the result of the progressive impoverishment and dispossession of the English agricultural workforce over the previous fifty years, leading up to 1830.  In parliament Lord Carnarvon had said that the English labourer was reduced to a plight more abject than that of any race in Europe, with their employers no longer able to feed and employ them"

Lord Carnarvon apart there were other responses from middle class folks. 

See this:

" Another straw in the wind was the reaction of  William Henry Gambier, tackled at in the evening by a mob from Maidstone. (Kent).

"We are starving"  declared their leader John Adams, a journeyman shoemaker.

Gambier, son of the local Rector at Langley, replied that " the present King was desirous of doing all that could be done and I have no doubt that Parliament had the same disposition, and that they should wait until Parliament met".

Super comfort for empty bellies in 1832: "Wait until Parliament meets".

In 2014 the hungry unemployed have to wait until Senator Harry Reid (D) gets his finger out and pushes for legislation to restore unemployment payments for the (formerly working ) poor. They must "Wait until Congress acts". 

Of course they can stay on the breadline for a few more weeks/months/years.


(Quotations from "Perilous Question, Reform or Revolution? Britain on the Brink, 1832, by Antonia Fraser, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, Great Britain, 2013))

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Xenophobia - evil in many lands, but especially stupid, un-historical, and ignorant in the United States.

I had planned to write a screed regarding the stupid and ignorant xenophobia of the right wing-nuts who are up in arms about the Coca Cola commercial at the Super Bowl.

(Nativists such as the anti-Coca-Cola faction are always up in arms about something or other, and they do not allow facts to get in the way of their thinking).

But T.V.  anchorwoman Brenda Wood of WXIA in Atlanta (the home of Coke) has done my work for me, and she is far more eloquent than I could ever be.



 Please also note that

1. Over 200 languages were spoken by American Indians long before Europeans reached our shores. (None of those languages was English).

2. In the present days United States, Spanish was spoken by that country's colonists from 1513 onwards, long before any Anglo settlers reached our shores.

3. In what was known as "New France"  French (or  for a short time Spanish) was the colonial language from 1608  - 1803  (see below)

4. Scores of languages were spoken by the hundreds of thousands of Africans who were transported against their will to the Americas to become slaves.

Thank goodness for the very lovely Coca-Cola commercial which celebrated a much deeper and richer American heritage than most of the "scared until they shit in their pants" republican, right wing, tea party and nativist Americans cannot enjoy, but choose to denigrate.

Here it is

Here is an overlay of  New France on the modern USA/Canda This land was acquired by the USA in the "Louisiana Purchase" of 1803. (except for the parts in modern day Canada).


Monday, 3 February 2014

Xenophobia - evil, stupid, and ignorant.

Pride and admiration for one's Homeland is both understandable and admirable ( provided that such pride and admiration is capable of  an honest and fair critique),

Without such a critique such pride and admiration can lead into blind loyalty, patriotism and nationalism.

My beloved United Kingdom  has its fair share of xenophobia.   It has been so since I was knee high to a grasshopper, and for centuries before that.

Such un-critical nationalism is but  a few steps away from xenophobia, and such xenophobia points the way to dangerous hatred.

Take for instance this poster about a missing child.

Boy oh boy this is heart wrenching.  Who could fail to be moved by this tale of a missing child?

BUT no such child exists.
THERE is no Amy Hamilton.
SEE the fine print.
DAILY B-ALE is a right wing anti Muslim faction in G.B.
THE 'PHONE # is for an (innocent) Insurance agency


XENOPHOBIA is DOWNRIGHT dangerous and evil when it plumbs these depths.

Concern for a "non-missing child' in the service of  Islamaphobia is reprehensible.


(Some stuff on American xenophobic  stupidity and ignorance tomorrow.)

Sunday, 2 February 2014

My sermon this morning.

I am a bit weary of so many sermons which say "God loves, and God loves everyone" - and nothing more

Given the chance to preach this morning I avoided any mention of God's love, and instead I preached a sermon (from two of the three the assigned bible passages) which I hoped would have a bite.

The good news is that a number of worshippers said after Church "that made me think",

 Oh yeah!  That's why I preach.


Sermon for 2nd February 2014.  The Revd. J. Michael Povey at St. Boniface, Siesta Key, FL

Malachi 3:1-5; Luke 2:22-40


The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his Temple.


Malachi is not a name.  There was no person named Malachi.  The word means “messenger”. This messenger is writing about two thousand six hundred years ago.  * when the Temple had been rebuilt, the province of Judea was ruled by a representative of the Persian government , and there had been time enough for the loss of earlier religious enthusiasm” . (* Quotation from the Jewish virtual library.)

The messenger announces that the Lord will come to his Temple

The Lord will come to his Temple but it will not be a happy visit. The Lord is coming to judge, to purify, to refine. “Malachi” -  the Messenger is stern and unyielding in the pronouncement. The offerings which are made in the Temple worship are unrighteous, they are unacceptable.

They are unacceptable  because  they  are made by the wealthy who had stiffed the hired hands in their wages, oppressed the widows and orphans, and refused hospitality to the alien, i,e. the immigrant. Money from such ill-gotten gains is not an acceptable offering to God. God is not much enamoured of the wealthy self sufficient classes whose religious words and sentiments mask ungodly behavior. 

God is not terrible interested in hanging around with the wealthy. That is not because wealth in and of itself is evil.  It is because wealth has a seductive nature that is stronger that the seduction of God’s grace. That seduction encourages us to believe that the foundation of our security is in what we possess, and not in God’s faithfulness.  Thus we guard our wealth and possessions but we do not guard our souls. We cannot serve God and money.


The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his Temple.


I find it very easy to visualize the scene even though I was not there. A Dad, a Mum, and an infant child in the shadowy courtyard of a huge temple, there to do what has to be done. The child, their firstborn son is there to be offered to the Lord and designated as holy.  The woman is there to be purified after child-birth. The parents are there to offer sacrifice. I see them there, digging into pockets for the smallest coins – this Dad and Mum are dirt poor and can only offer the least expensive offering -  a couple of pigeons.

I see the face of a righteous and devout man standing near to the family.  This man had seen so many first born infant sons being offered to the Lord, so many mothers being purified, so many offerings of doves and pigeons.  But he is drawn in by the family, or maybe pushed towards them by the stirring of God’s spirit deep within his righteous soul. He takes the child into his arms.  This is what he had longed for all his life, to encounter a child who would be a sign of God’s favour to the Gentiles, and God’s glory upon Israel.

“This child” he says “is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel”. “This child will bring sword like pain to the souls of his mother and father”.

I see and old woman too. She is homeless, so she lives in the Temple courtyard. Eighty four years old with a face filled with the beautiful wrinkles of wisdom. 

Fasting and praying. Fasting and praying. Day and night. Ever faithful.  I see the broad smile which radiates from her face as she spots the child.  I hear her praising God. Now her days of prayer and fasting make sense.

What I do not see are the Temple oligarchs, those Priests and Levites who offer sacrifices, and sing psalms and bask in their sense of privilege and entitlement.

No, I can only see a poor couple with their young child, a devout man and a wise and homeless old widow.   God loves to hang around with these kinds of people.


The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his Temple.

The child who was once presented to God by Mary and Joseph returns to that place as a new messenger of God.

He had just said this “Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples,  “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts,  who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”

On entering the Temple he commended a poor widow (do you think that perhaps he was reminded of Anna) who gave her two small coins (all she possessed), but castigated the rich, (those who had devoured widow’s houses) for their generous offerings of corrupted money.

Jesus is clearly not enamoured with those who utter religious words and prayers which mask oppressive behaviours.

Jesus is delighted with the poor widow, for as we know, God loves hanging around with the poor.

The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his Temple.

A bit later Jesus makes a dramatic entry into the Temple.  This time, with whips and cords he purifies the Temple by driving out the money changers.  “My house” he yells “is a House of Prayer for All People, but you have made it a den of thieves”. He like a latter day Malachi is unable to tolerate the profaning of the Temple by shady business deals.

The Lord whom you seek suddenly came to God’s Temple and purified it with whips and cords. He upset an economic applecart. And for that he was crucified.

There is nothing to bring me comfort in these stories. Rather they call me to consider three vital questions.

1.       When did I last hang around with a poor person and learn something from her or him?

2.      When did I last examine my relationship with money and my relationship with God? Which was more important?

3.      When might my words of worship be unacceptable to God?