Saturday, 19 April 2014

The foolishness of preaching, Jelly Babies, and a dog with her friends..

I preached my heart and mind out on Good Friday 2014 at St. Boniface Church in Sarasota. You can read the sermon on this blog.
 
One friend who heard it told me that she "has difficulties  with the Crucifixion" , so she was glad that I had focused on joy.
 
Another friend read my sermon on line. This friend was so happy that my sermon dealt with "serving others".
 
DUH!
 
When you read the sermon you will (I hope) note that I did not mention joy or service.
 
I guess that many people hear or read what they want to hear or read in the sermons which we preachers hope are so clear!

Such is the foolishness of preaching,
 
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British children of many generations will remember the sugary and chewy sweet/candy which we called  Jelly Babies. 
 
It's very odd that we would eat a sweet/candy which is roughly formed in the shape of a human baby.
 
My Dad used to tell we children that, when buying Jelly Babies we should ask that they all be boys -  'cause the  boy Jelly Babies were bigger than the girls.
 
It took me a long time to understand what he meant.
 
Jelly Baby Sweets.

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I was at the Sarasota branch of Trader Joe's this morning just one minute before they opened at 8:00 a.m.  Penne came with me in the car since it was a beautifully cool morning,
 The automatic doors having been opened a few seconds before 8:00 I strode in and heard someone call ‘Michael’. It was my friend Charlotte T who was at T.J's with her fabulous husband Ron T.
We greeted, hugged and laughed.
 Char and Ron are Penne's Aunt and Uncle.  She lives with them when I am out of town. They care deeply for her, and she adores them. ( I do not have a single moment of anxiety when I am out of town, knowing that Penne, Ron, and Charlotte  are engaged in mutual love-fest.)
 When our shopping was done I got Penne out of my car so that she could visit with her Aunt and Uncle.   At first Penne was a bit confused - after all she had never before met R and C in a parking lot.  But all was well when Penne gave Ron a quick 'kiss' on his nose.
Whoop-dee-doo for Trader Joes, for my dog, for my friends,  and for Penne, who brought us all together this morning.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Oh my! Nature is great. See this photo' of a Falcon's nest


Sermon for Good Friday 2014.


 

The Revd. J. Michael Povey at St. Boniface Church, Siesta Key, FL

John 18:1  - 19:37

There is a necessary prelude to my sermon. Whoever wrote the Gospel according to John frequently refers to “The Jews”. In the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus which we had the other week the disciples say that it is “the Jews” who are seeking to stone Jesus In an earlier story, the one about the man born blind it is reported by John that “the Jews did not believe that (he) the man had been born blind. In the passion according to John “the Jews” cried out (to Pilate) “If you release this man you are not a friend of Caesar”.

It all makes for very painful reading, since John so often refers to “the Jews” as being the skeptics, or the adversaries of Jesus, or the ones who wanted him to be crucified. “The Jews” get all the blame, and this had led to nearly two thousand years of Christian anti-Judaism and persecution unto death. At best we can hope that John meant “some of the Jewish or Judean leaders”, but he says “the Jews”.

In the face of what John wrote, and the ways in which his words have been interpreted I offer a contradictory word.   It is that I rejoice because the sons and daughters of Abraham who follow the Torah, and exalt G-d as King of the Universe, that is – modern day religious Jews - are our friends and allies as we, with them seek to rebuild a broken world.

John’s account of the passion makes for riveting reading. It’s the story of a crucifixion in a world where crucifixions for rebels against Roman authority were a dime a dozen. 

This one is a bit different. The whole world is there. The might of Rome is seen in the face of the soldiers.  The religious establishment, every anxious to preserve its prerogatives is there.  The country hicks from Galilee should have been there, but most of  the disciples fled and hid, save for four of them,  Mary, Jesus’ mother, her sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdelane.  The secret disciple Joseph of Arimathea is there.  And in Mathew’s version an immigrant from Africa is there to carry the cross.  Unlike most other crucifixions, the whole world is there.

The whole world is there. But of course for earlier in John’s Gospel he records Jesus as saying   “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32).

The suffering of Jesus before and during his crucifixion was not different than that of the thousands of others whom Rome had crucified.  In fact his suffering was lesser than that of the millions who have died on the battle fields, or in death camps, or in ghastly genocides.   So why is this suffering, this crucifixion, this death so different?

We discover the answer to that in the words of Jesus at the end of the Gospel passage: “it is finished”, or “it is accomplished”.  Jesus gave up his spirit as another Gospel puts it because he has accomplished what he came to do.

What he came to do is referenced in many images in John.  “He is the one who creates a quality vintage wine from plain old water – that is the bringer of joy!’  He is the true vine, the way the truth and the life, the light of the world, the Christ and Son of God (according to Mary of Bethany), the one who offers life giving water to a woman in Samaria.  

Above all else he is, in John “the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep”.   All that and much more has been the reason for his being and the reason for his life, and all that is now accomplished in his death on a cross.

And why?  It is to draw the world to himself and to God.  The late Bishop Paul Moore once asked us to the horizontal beams of the cross as extending in a circle around the globe, so that we could see the cross as God’s living embrace of the world.

But the world refuses to be embraced. The world continues in its violence, its worship of force and weapons of mass destruction, its disdain of the poor in every country, its ethnic and nationalistic prides,  its greed and ravaging of the gifts of God in what we call “natural resources” when in truth they are God’s provisions.  The world, overwhelmed in a drunken orgy of greed, selfishness and suffering refuses to be embraced by God in Christ.

And we, do we embrace this embrace? 

“Yes” we say.

“Not so soon” I say, it is sometimes simpler and more convenient for us to resist the embrace and gifts of God.

I must speak for myself.  I often find it simpler and more convenient to resist God’s grace. 

For there are dark places within me: places of anger, or fear, of old and petty grudges and hatreds.  There are places of greed, of lust and of a residual racism.  I harbor envy and jealousy. I sometimes shade the truth for my own advantage.  I sometimes lie.

These are sins, some of them of the deadly kind.  They are a canker on my soul.  But there are times when I cannot imagine life without them.  It’s a bit like living in a rundown, dark and dangerous house, but feeling so comfortable in that mess and chaos that the very idea of moving in to a safe and secure place is terrifying. Maybe I am a hoarder of sin. 

But this is a gospel church and there is gospel hope, rooted in the life and death of Jesus.  St. Paul puts it this way “in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

But God cannot reconcile those who refuse to be reconciled.

It is only when I am honest and I accept the truth about my darkness and sin that God can offer me hope and new life in the cross of Jesus.  His word is this “Jesus died on the cross for you, and in doing so he absorbed all that keeps you from freedom and grace.  Let me take that load of sin off your back so that you can stand and walk upright.  Leave your garbage at the Cross lest Jesus died for you in vain”.

When I was child I used to sing this in Sunday School:

“There’s a way back to God from the dark paths of sin

There’s a door which is open and you may go in.

At Calvary’s Cross is where you begin

When you come as a sinner to Jesus”

That is a gospel word for all of us.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Sarasota Herald-Tribune again. Damn I hope that this is accurate: (via Mother Jones Magazine)

MOTHER JONES MAGAZINE reports this:
 
 
 

The best journalism-job want ad ever ever.

You should, like, strongly consider applying to work for this guy:
We want to add some talent to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigative team. Every serious candidate should have a proven track record of conceiving, reporting and writing stellar investigative pieces that provoke change. However, our ideal candidate has also cursed out an editor, had spokespeople hang up on them in anger and threatened to resign at least once because some fool wanted to screw around with their perfect lede.
We do a mix of quick hit investigative work when events call for it and mini-projects that might run for a few days. But every year we like to put together a project way too ambitious for a paper our size because we dream that one day Walt Bogdanich will have to say: “I can’t believe the Sarasota Whatever-Tribune cost me my 20th Pulitzer.” As many of you already know, those kinds of projects can be hellish, soul-sucking, doubt-inducing affairs. But if you’re the type of sicko who likes holing up in a tiny, closed  office with reporters of questionable hygiene to build databases from scratch by hand-entering thousands of pages of documents to take on powerful people and institutions that wish you were dead, all for the glorious reward of having readers pick up the paper and glance at your potential prize-winning epic as they flip their way to the Jumble… well, if that sounds like journalism Heaven, then you’re our kind of sicko.
For those unaware of Florida’s reputation, it’s arguably the best news state in the country and not just because of the great public records laws. We have all kinds of corruption, violence and scumbaggery. The 9/11 terrorists trained here. Bush read My Pet Goat here. Our elections are colossal clusterfucks. Our new governor once ran a health care company that got hit with a record fine because of rampant Medicare fraud. We have hurricanes, wildfires, tar balls, bedbugs, diseased citrus trees and an entire town overrun by giant roaches (only one of those things is made up). And we have Disney World and beaches, so bring the whole family.
Send questions, or a resume/cover letter/links to clips to my email address below. If you already have your dream job, please pass this along to someone whose skills you covet. Thanks.
Matthew Doig
Sarasota Herald-Tribune
1741 Main St.
Sarasota FL, 34236
(941) 361-4903

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

I read it in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. (Dog bites man) Bleah

I do not subscribe to our local newspaper, partly because I prefer not to waste money on the Sunday paper with its ton of advertising supplements, none of which interest me.  I have often said that "if you do not wish to purchase furniture, and/or you are not interested in sports, then don't get the Sunday paper".

But I do  buy the paper six days a week, putting my 75c (a more than fair price) into a nearby vending machine which I pass as I take Penne for her early morning walk.

There were three headlines (each above the fold) on the front page of today's paper. 

One was about the pursuit by police of a suspected  bank robber - a pursuit which ended in the death of the alleged robber.

Another was a piece about the issues regarding "development" in the nearby City of Venice, with the likelihood of new suburbs, and the concern of local residents.

The third headliner was a stunningly creative and original 2 1/4" headline about some shocking and late breaking news.
 
It read  "TAX DAY",  the sub headline "Local post offices will not be open for last-minute filers, but you still have options"

Under this was a 4 1/4  x 6 1/2" photo'  of a building which I have longed to see for many a year. Taken last Sunday at daybreak the photo' depicted the Internal Revenue Service Building in Washington D.C.  Oh my - wondrous and creative photography indeed!

I write of course partly in jest, and with my tongue in both cheeks. And I'll warrant that 75% of local papers in the U.S.A. had  similar "fillers (not new items) on their front page.

I cannot jest about the opening lines of the "story" by local writer/reporter John Hielscher. He writes: "Tax Day, one of the most dreaded days on the calendar, has arrived"

"One of the most dreaded days?" This is either a figment of John Hielscher's imagination, or a piece of lazy journalism, or a ghastly inheritance from President Ronald Reagan who conned the nation in to believing that taxes are bad.

There are many citizens such as I who pay our taxes with civic pride, knowing that in a democracy we all have the privilege of providing the monies to run the government.  Some of us may wish that less of these monies were spent on national defence and "security", and more on health care, education, unemployment benefits and the like.  But we are still pleased to be tax paying contributors for the common good, unlike many of our major corporations and the oligarchs with their wholesale "tax loopholes"

A story in the Business section of the paper also caught my attention. Justine Griffin reports that retail giants Wal-Mart and Costco Wholesale plan to expand organic offerings in an effort to attract a younger demographic to their stores.  She goes on to write that "Millennials live in a world where smaller but more-expensive brands such as Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's rule.

Partial Fail!  Trader Joe's is by no means more expensive. Many of us whether we be millenials or old farts shop there mostly because their prices are so reasonable. I reckon this story to be another bit of lazy or "not-thought-out" journalism.

Of course I will still buy my H-T each morning. Penne wouldn't have it any other way.
 
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P.S.  and for the  record
 
In 2011 the H-T's Paige St. John won a Pulitzer prize for her investigative series on Florida's Insurance Industry
 
In March 2014 it was reported that the H-T's  J. David  McSwane had won the 2013 John Jay College/H.F. Guggenheim award for reporting on Criminal Justice matters.

Monday, 14 April 2014

CPAP/Apnea and all that stuff

Two weeks into using the CPAP machine.........
 
1. I found that the so called "pillow"(nose only)  connection did not work well for me. The soft plastic nasal buds kept falling out of my nostrils.
 
2.  Now I am using a mask which covers my snout and my gob. It is more comfortable than I expected it to be.
 
3. The CPAP machine has all manner of readings, and it also has a removable card which I can download onto my computer.
 
For instance the card showed that I had 7.9 hours of uninterrupted sleep last night, whilst the CPAP machine readings indicated that my Apnea is not "normal" but that it is slightly above "mild", and well below "moderate". (There is no way of knowing how many Apneas I  might have had without the machine)
 
4.  However these readings are affected because I also have "lazy leg syndrome" which the machine might register as Apneas, and  also because there is about a 30% leakage around the perimeters of the mask (I will tighten the straps for tonight)..
 
ALL this is technical and may not amount to a hill of beans  (ain't technology wonderful!), for the precipitating problem remains -  I am still very tired for most of the day.
 
NOT TO WORRY I'll continue to use the CPAP machine until I see my Primary Care Physician in May, and the Sleep Disorder Doctor in early June.
 
IN THE MEANTIME I will do my best not to be a GRUMP, and to remember that CPAP machines and the like would be considered health care luxuries for more than 90% of the world's peoples.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

FROM MY FAMILY The words of a child which will make you be glad, and maybe bring a tear or two.

I was putting Sophie to bed and she said "Mummy saw me and want me. Daddy saw me and want me." Bless, she was talking about when we adopted her.
 
(Sophie is my great niece, the daughter of my nephew R. and his wife C.)