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Nov 29 22

Relax, rejoice, and be childlike

by davesandel

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

Relax, rejoice, and be childlike

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit.

I mistyped and it came out Holly Spirit.

Jasper and I unpacked several boxes of Christmas food, decorations and gifts yesterday, and neither of us ever got enough of it. We put little Elizabethan houses on our decorative shelves, and we made hot cocoa bombs with George for part of our lunch together. We brought in two rolling carts of boxes, and opened one after another.

Then we made sausage and blueberry waffles, and drank George’s “super-natural” eggnog. We finished off some shrimp cocktail. Finally came the cocoa bombs and strawberry ice cream.

I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father such has been your gracious will.

Jasper and I told a story to each other about the Paw Patrol Fire Rescue Squad, and as the story wound down, so did we. I think we were asleep in the same instant – Jasper in his red, zippered, Batman sleeping bag and me right beside him.

The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a Spirit of counsel and of strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.

We woke with a bang, not a whimper, and took off in our rocket (looks like a white Prius) for Austin Classical School. Miles’ chess club was as fun and wacky as ever. He played Tennessee again. Miles got three queens this time, but lost them all, and when all he had left was his king, he tipped it over and said, “I resign.” Their unedited joyful laughter and shouts of triumph when either of them captured a piece makes me want to change my own chess playing to be less thoughtful and more aggressive. Let the game come to us both. Leave it all out on the board. Feel the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!

Jesus said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. Many prophets and kings wanted to see, but did not see it, and wanted to hear, but did not hear it.”

And why? Jesus had not yet appeared. But those prophets and kings also just tried too hard. They lost their “childlikeness.” They thought too much and tried to figure it out themselves. They couldn’t just wait till God did what only God could do. They got ahead of God and tried to do it themselves.

I do too. Of course. But on days like yesterday, surrounded by literal and figurative childlikeness, I do less of that tiresome and nasty getting ahead of God. I sit more patiently, wait longer, and laugh with less restraint at myself and the joyful humor all around me.

The wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, and the lion will eat hay like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.

They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

 (Isaiah 11, Psalm 72, Luke 10)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Nov 28 22

Traveling on Thanksgiving weekend

by davesandel

Monday, November 28, 2022

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

Traveling on Thanksgiving weekend

Jesus said, “Many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus told his listeners that the doors to the Kingdom of heaven were open wide, not just to the Jews but to everyone. He befriended Samaritans, performed miracles for Gentiles of every stripe, and spoke out against the exclusivity of the Jewish religious elite. Jerusalem is not reserved for just a few nationals.

The Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her temple a smoking cloud by day and a light of flaming fire by night. And over all the Lord’s glory will be shelter and protection: shade from the parching heat of day, refuge and cover from storm and rain.

The storm that dumped two inches of snow on Amarillo caught up with me in Arkansas. North of Little Rock heavy winds and intense winds blew all of us around the highway. I remembered my Route 66 trip across the Texas panhandle in March, same kind of weather. Cold, sheets of rain, wind, and then, as I pulled up to my cozy hotel room at the Big Texan steakhouse, the rain turned first to sleet and then to sheets of snow. But the food was great and the room was cozy.

The room was cozy Saturday night in Arkansas too, although my first room was already occupied. A guy my age opened the door, though, when he heard me scraping around outside. He’d been there for three weeks or so, maybe the management forgot about him. Anyway, I ended up with the room next door, warm, great bed, and I pulled my car right up to the door. Slept like a baby.

Good thing, because Thanksgiving traffic trouble was compounded by an accident south of Dallas, and I skipped around between highways and frontage roads for awhile, then just stopped for lunch. That was an excellent idea, at R&K Café II in Hillsboro, one of my favorite breakfast spots on the road between Illinois and Texas. Even Hillsboro’s main street was a strip of red on Google maps, so I sneaked up to the parking lot through a couple of alleys. Like I lived there  Lunch was as good as breakfast: country-fried steak with three sides and a bunch of gravy.

After that the traffic didn’t bother me. I just cruised.

Because of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you!” And I will pray for your God.

I was a couple hours later than planned, but Miles and Jasper still piled up on me when I stopped at the Tomita house. Jasper was a Christmas pirate, so I threw him into the ocean. Well, into the couch, actually. And we tickled each other over and over.  Miles tried on a Christmas tree we made last year when Chris and Melissa, Jack and Aly came for our Thanksmas, and Jasper joined him. They fit fine, but they had trouble walking blind together. Crash!

When I got back to our apartment, it was quiet, it was peaceful. The bed was made, and I turned down the covers. It was cozy.

Luckily, there were no parking places in front of our apartment, so I’ll have to wait till tomorrow to unpack our car. Which is full of Christmas decorations, Mom’s Christmas tree, an amazing big nativity set we found at Salt and Light … where are we going to put all of this stuff?

May those who love you prosper. May peace be within your walls, prosperity in your buildings.

God will help us figure it out. As our Pastor Matt said a couple of weeks ago, we just “wait till we see what God can do.” No rush. God loves Christmas.

71 degrees and sunny on Monday in Austin. Maybe we’ll fly a kite.

(Isaiah 4, Psalm 122, Psalm 80, Matthew 8)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Nov 27 22

Stand up, turn away from war, turn and worship the baby Jesus

by davesandel

First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2022

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

Stand up, turn away from war, turn and worship the baby Jesus

Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

And here we are – another year, another Advent. Another Advent, another Christmas. Another Christmas, another return of Jesus the baby to warm and convict our hearts. C. S. Lewis’ heart too, which is growing like that horse he wrote about in The Great Divorce:

Growing Wings by C. S. Lewis

Mere improvement is not redemption, though redemption always improves people even here and now and will, in the end, improve them to a degree we cannot yet imagine. God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man.

 It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game. But there may be a period, while the wings are just beginning to grow, when it cannot do so: and at that stage the lumps on the shoulders – no one could tell by looking at them that they are going to be wings – may even give it an awkward appearance.

Whoever possesses the Son of God lacks for nothing

So now we put on our traveling clothes and head toward Bethlehem. Jerusalem is fine, for a dirty city, but Bethlehem is where the manger is, where Jesus lived for a couple of years, where the wise men were led to him by their star. It pulls me toward it as much as Jerusalem ever will.

The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it, many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.”

We ain’t gonna study war no more. Again, we make that vow, although again, it is broken the next day. Which is why Isaiah heard God say, “Destroy the instruments of death!”

Beat your swords into plowshares, and your spears into pruning hooks!

Let agriculture replace the science of war and death. Learn to grow and live, and start right now. O come, o come, Emmanuel.

One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they study war … no more. O house of Jacob, come! Let us walk in the light of the Lord.

This first Sunday of Advent, celebrated in Ukraine, in Russia, and around the world – this is the day that the Lord has made.

 (Isaiah 2, Psalm 122, Romans 13, Psalm 85, Matthew 24)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Nov 26 22

The end of things, a new beginning

by davesandel

Saturday, November 26, 2022

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

The end of things, a new beginning

After 34 weeks of ordinary time (which leaves 18 weeks for Advent, Lent and Easter) on the church calendar, this is the last day. Tomorrow is not only the first day of Advent, but also the first day of the new Church calendar. The readings listed in the lectionary will move from Year C to Year A.

So?

Well, I’m not a priest, but I do write a sort-of homily every day. I want to get the readings right. I also feel some celebration, as the ordinary days end and Advent begins. Soon the days will be getting longer again. And Christmas is coming with all its joy and feast and festive fare. Strawberries and champagne at midnight on Christmas Eve. And all of that. Jesus will soon be born again.

And too, beginning on November 1 we read much of Revelation. Now today is the last day for a reading from the Bible’s last book.

John said, “An angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

Today I’ll be driving over the rivers and through the piney woods of Arkansas and East Texas, back to Austin, back to Miles and Jasper and their mom and dad, back to chess club and lunch with George and the joys of Christmas concerts and parties in a city of two million.

On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month. And the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations.

John’s visions are coming to an end. He will be heading for heaven soon, himself, and we’ll be sure to follow.

Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever.

I have a bunch of Christmas-y books in the car, for Jasper and Miles and for us. We need to get some firewood, and settle in beside our fire and read those books. Waiting for Jesus. And John Shea reminds me in one of those books called Starlight, we are waiting for baby John as well:

Jesus came out of John as surely as he came out of Mary. John was the desert soil in which the flower of Jesus grew. John was the voice in the wilderness who taught Jesus to hear the voice from the sky. John would push sinners beneath the water and Jesus would resurrect them on the waves. Jesus was the fast who prepared for Jesus the feast …

God may live in unapproachable light, but the incarnate Son of God, the Word made Flesh, and his incarnate followers struggle in starlight, the mix of light and darkness … Christmas is about NOW, about the time being, as W.H. Auden said. And now consciousness, even enlightened consciousness, is light in the darkness.

There is nothing more to say, and there is always something more to say. In this “time being,” we share words of love and compassion. Some of us are dying, some are just now being born. We listen to the whispers of the wind, the wind which carries tunes of bleak mid-winter and words almost clear, almost here, almost, almost, almost, and then the whispers fade away, into the dark line of live oaks just across the fence, where the birds sleep and squirrels squawk all night long.

At last the angel said to John, “These words are trustworthy and true. Behold, I am coming soon.” Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic message of this book.

There is just a little more on this last day of ordinary time, a little more to the last chapter of the last book in the Bible.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life. The Spirit and the bride say “Come!”

So I’ll settle into waiting, and sing O come O come Emmanuel, and let the last words echo day by day (and ransom captive Israel) by day by day. O Lord, come now, and ransom me!

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people.

Amen.

 

(Revelation 22, Psalm 95, Luke 21)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Nov 25 22

Thanksgiving Day in the morning

by davesandel

Friday, November 25, 2022

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

 Thanksgiving Day in the morning

I, John, saw an angel come down from heaven. He seized the dragon, the ancient serpent, the Devil, and tied it up for a thousand years and threw it into the abyss, and sealed him in.

What do you do on a gray-skies, chilly-drizzling Thanksgiving morning?

My soul yearns for the courts of the Lord. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest in which she puts here young. Blessed are they who dwell in your house. Here God lives among his people.

The roasting turkey would be filling the air with beautiful smells, but we’re headed to Chris and Melissa’s in Springfield for that. We would be oohing and aahing over the great Black Friday deals we got, if it was Friday, but it’s not. That’s tomorrow. Football games, basketball games, and soccer games will be shouting for my attention … a little later in the day.

Jesus said, “Consider the fig tree. When the buds burst open you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near. When you see these things happening, know that the Kingdom of God is near.

Macy’s parade is splashing all over the TV screen, and I feel warmed up watching Sinclair’s adorable green Dinos, Minions, Smurfs, and Smokey the Bear. And earlier this morning Arthur and his PBS cartoon family hosted Aunt Minnie from France, who taught Arthur’s sister to set a fancy Thanksgiving table with tablecloth, plates, silverware, water and wine glasses, condiments, and napkins folded just exactly right. All of this while Arthur was busy looking for his dog named Pal – you know, the one with the English accent? But Pal himself was finagling a fancy turkey dinner for the lonely dogs in the local pound, and then riding around regally in a fire truck during the Thanksgiving parade.

I guess that was my favorite part of the morning!

And I thought, as many of us do, of the holidays yet to come before the end of 2022, the feast in a few hours, the shopping tomorrow, the concerts and dinners until Christmas, and then in the darkness on Christmas Eve, waiting for the birth of Jesus, the return of heaven into earth, the hopes and fears of all the years that are met in Thee tonight. Happy holidays indeed.

Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Many of these celebrations involve fancy silver and fine food, red wine or white along with gifts, with hugs of happiness, with good health to all. Except when they don’t, of course. And if I’m not careful, when they don’t I resent or get depressed or disappointed or feel betrayed. What?

How about this from Brian McLaren, and his understanding of Jesus’ “school of gratitude?”

There is a blessing in poverty, Jesus says; to the degree you miss out on the never-enough system, you partake of God’s dream. There is a blessing in the pain of loss, because in your grief you experience God’s comfort. There is blessing in being unsatisfied about the injustice in our world, he says; as God’s justice comes more and more, you will feel more and more fulfilled. . .

With these counterintuitive sayings and others like them, Jesus enrolls us in advanced classes in the school of gratitude. He shows us the disadvantages of advantages, and the advantages of disadvantages. He will make this paradox most dramatic through his own death; his suffering and crucifixion will eventually bring hope and freedom to all humanity, hope and freedom that could come no other way.

Here is the deepest lesson of gratitude, then. We are to be grateful not just in the good times, but also in the bad times; to be grateful not just in plenty, but also in need; to maintain thankfulness not just in laughter, but also through tears and sorrow. One of Jesus’s followers says that we should even rejoice in trials, because through trials come patience, character, wisdom (James 1:2–3). And another says, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have” (Philippians 4:11), so he can instruct, “Give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

I didn’t see a single float in the parade that celebrated “all circumstances.” New York City’s Dorothy Day is gone, and her Maryhouse and Catholic Worker House didn’t spend money on a float. But they remain as not just remnants from past days but living testimonies to Jesus’ insistence that God is good, all the time. They might be on the roads less traveled, but they are serving many men, women and children, even as we watched the parade. McClaren knows this:

You may lose a loved one, or facet after facet of your physical health, but you can still be grateful for what you have left. And what if you lose more, and more, and more, if bad goes to worse? Perhaps at some point, all of us are reduced to despair, but my hunch is—and I hope I never need to prove this in my own life, but I may, any of us may—having lost everything, one may still be able to hold on to one’s attitude, one’s practiced habit of gratitude, of turning to God in Job-like agony and saying, “For this breath, thanks. For this tear, thanks. For this memory of something I used to enjoy but now have lost, thanks. For this ability not simply to rage over what has been taken, but to celebrate what was once given, thanks.”

 Tim and his wife stopped by before we left for Springfield. They are divorced but spending more time together than ever. It was about 10:30 am; they had just finished their Thanksgiving dinner at Perkins. She wore a beautiful thick purple sweater. Tim, as usual, was unshaven, but his smile still knocks down dinosaurs. The food, she said, “was delicious!” And the coffee even better!!

I stepped outside in my socks and got hugs from them both. They didn’t come in. They were headed back to their very small homes in Danville to watch TV the rest of the day, probably together. Tim loves to watch DVDs about trains, and read books about trains. She watches musicals. And they both watch basketball.

Tim’s been unemployed since he had covid for too long earlier this year, and his company let him go. It will be hard for him to find another job. In the last two years all four of their parents have passed away. Their parents were important to them. Now they are more important than ever to each other.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

 (Revelation 20, Psalm 84, Luke 21)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Nov 24 22

Come ye thankful people, come

by davesandel

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thanksgiving Day in USA

(click here to listen to or read scriptures for Thanksgiving Day)

Come, ye thankful people, come

Generation after generation praises your works and proclaims your might, O Lord. They speak, they discourse, they declare and they publish the fame of your abundant goodness.

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing. Even in 1949, when Margaret and I were born, we gathered in cars and drove to church. In Arcola, our Amish friends gathered in carriages and drove to church. The horses likely didn’t know it was Thanksgiving, but their own sensitivity to rhythms told them this was no ordinary Thursday.

https://www.jacquielawson.com/card/gather-together/3471229

At Zion Lutheran Church it felt like a “Casual Friday.” Many of us did not dress like we did on Sunday. Most of us looked forward to getting back home and smelling turkey roasting for a couple more hours. The taste is wonderful, but the scent is sublime. All of us were in church to share thankfulness with each other.

Thank you. Thank YOU! Thank you, Jesus! I learned to say thank you (as well as please and I’m sorry) from Miss Nancy on Romper Room, but on this holiday in church I was barely aware of what I was thankful for. For the turkey? For church being short and sweet? For my claim to the leftmost back seat in our Mercury? That Dad would be with us and not working, at least until 4 pm or so when the cows needed to be milked again?

Sure. All that. And Christmas was getting closer everyday!

But gratitude as an attitude didn’t soak in much when I was a kid. I watched for what would be good for me, grabbed it and then mumbled thank you. I assume my grandparents and parents were more mature, and more generally grateful to God for everything sewn into the fabric of their lives. I mostly think that way now. I’m grateful for that persistent and encircling gratitude.

Years ago I decided to begin prayers with “thank you.” I still do that, sometimes robotically, but even then the words help me remember and re-enter real thankfulness. My Aunt Mary modeled that mindset for me more than anyone, I think. When she retired and returned home to Lincoln from her second floor flat, in black St. Louis near the church where she taught and led the music, she brought a box of books to give to her new neighbors at Friendship Manor.

That book, Prison to Praise by Merlin Carouthers, shouted THANK YOU from every page. I soaked that book up, and I think that’s when, twenty-five years ago or so, I started my own thank you refrain, prayer after prayer after prayer. I’m guessing that even when there’s a thank you involved for a grocery clerk or restaurant server or car mechanic or homeless person on the corner asking for money, whether I’m thanking or being thanked, it smells to God like the incense of prayer.

One of the ten lepers, realizing he had been healed, returned to Jesus, glorifying God in a loud voice, and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.

Jesus didn’t ask anything from the former leper except what he had already given: his faith. Jesus and the leper were two beggars. They were both grateful for God’s absolute grace in their lives. Jesus passed it on like the God-man that he was. And is. And always will be.

Slipped into Prayer

I slipped into prayer,
stopped for a moment
in the quiet,
stopped and allowed God to catch me,
and to welcome that.
No agenda,
no hopes,
just being with myself in God,
and then I begin to notice
the surroundings …
and what is within …
and the connection …
and the love …
and the invitation …
to slip into prayer,
to slip into myself in God. – Clarence Heller

(Sirach 50, Psalm 145, 1 Corinthians 1, 1 Thessalonians 5, Luke 17)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Nov 23 22

Moments with the Amish

by davesandel

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

Moments with the Amish

I, John, saw in heaven another sign, great and awe-inspiring. I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire.

Our family gathering began west of Arcola, Illinois at Country Salvage, which for more than fifty years has drawn Amish families in their carriages and bargain hunters from a hundred miles around. We ourselves were coming from Springfield and Urbana.

Aly, who is ten years old, had the idea in Evansville, during a Biaggi’s birthday lunch for Margaret. Margaret and I have loved Country Salvage since we discovered it years ago when we were picking up raw milk from our Amish farmer friend. But Jack (13) and Aly, along with their parents Chris and Melissa, were skeptical of shopping the store because it sold near-date items at a big discount. We wanted to break that skepticism if possible, and Aly thought we could have a Secret-Santa event, with $15 each to spend at Country Salvage.

So we did. An Aly basketball game gave us just 30 minutes to shop on the Saturday afternoon before Thanksgiving. Each of us had a Trader Joe’s grocery bag to keep our choices hidden. The store closes at 3 on Saturday, so we made our way through the checkout line. On her way out Melissa exclaimed, “NOW I know why you love this store so much!”

On the sea of glass were standing those who had won the victory over the beast and its image and the number that signified its name. They were holding God’s harps, and they sang the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb.

Back home in Urbana, we shared the contents of our bags. Marshmallows with chocolate inside, honey roasted cashews, eight varieties of popcorn (including mushroom popcorn), Elf Christmas cereal, dried strawberries, Havarti cream cheese, 89 cent lunchables complete with Crunch bars. So much fun. A pound of wrapped chocolate caramels for 99 cents, and three caramel apples covered with sprinkles for … wait for it … 99 cents!

Country Salvage goes to sleep at 3 on Saturday. The propane lights come on, the electric lights go off. There will be a Sabbath on Sunday. Owners Adlia and Richard Gingerich will be with their families in church. In the evening rather than watch TV, they might make popcorn and play a game or work on a jigsaw puzzle. Puzzles along with many varieties of popcorn are staple items at Country Salvage, as well as Beachy’s, another Amish landmark grocery just down the road.

One of our dairy farmer friends, Willis, is the pastor of a local Amish congregation. We wanted to stop and visit him as well on Saturday, but thought better of invading his family home with six of us, rambunctious and excited about our trip to the Salvage store.

Great and wonderful are your works, Lord God almighty. Just and true are your ways, O king of the nations. Who will not fear you, Lord, or glorify your name? For you alone are holy.

At home we ate turkey salad sandwiches and fantastic turkey soup. Margaret made stock from a turkey carcass on Friday. She knows what to do with a turkey!

 

Often our imagination is captured by the reverie of living a simple life, settling with the Amish near Arcola, tossing out our iPads and reviving our interest in jigsaw puzzles. Wholesome food without the mental gymnastics of getting our nutrition balanced perfectly, work that begins at dawn and ends at dusk, a lifelong love affair with horses and carriages, and slow traveling down the road complete with bells, clip-clops, and a heater in the carriage – rarely being in a hurry, learning from childhood how to live quietly and take deep breaths one after another.Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

All the nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Nov 22 22

The grapes of wrath

by davesandel

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Memorial of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

The grapes of wrath

Two heroes died on this day, C. S. Lewis, veteran of World War I and John F. Kennedy, veteran of World War II.

Both were writers, and both captured the imagination of their generation. C. S. Lewis inspired the people of beleaguered Great Britain during the darkest days of World War II with his lectures on Mere Christianity. President Kennedy, in the inauguration address in 1961, spoke out into the bright January sunshine, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country!”

This new president, author of Profiles in Courage, meant what he said; he founded the Peace Corps among other service opportunities, and inspired young people all across the United States, including me. I turned 14 five days before the day they died.

I didn’t know C. S. Lewis yet; reading his books came later. But everyone in Lincoln, Illinois knew President Kennedy. On Friday, November 22, 1963, Mr. Denny suspended our freshman algebra class when the intercom interrupted with a CBS news bulletin: “The president has been shot.” Television went back to “As the World Turns,” but not for long. We were shocked, talking, asking questions, and then Walter Cronkite was back on the air.

“From Dallas, Texas, this flash, apparently official: President Kennedy died at 1 pm Central Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.” Cronkite took off his thick black rimmed glasses, his voice breaking, obviously struggling not to weep, before he continued.

We stayed in school for a couple more classes, always listening on the intercom. After a very subdued bus ride home, our family sat in the living room watching black and white TV for the rest of the weekend. Jackie, nearly six year old Caroline, and her small son John-John walked beside the black carriage. We were spellbound, and broken hearted, and all of us wept along with Mr. Cronkite.

It was November 25, John-John’s third birthday. Outside St. Matthew’s Cathedral, John-John “stepped forward and rendered a final salute” as his dad’s casket was carried out.

The Kennedys had four children. One was stillborn in 1956, another died two days after his birth in 1963. I didn’t know that till today. Oh my gosh, what sadness that family carried. Then there was John the president, and Robert the candidate, both assassinated five years apart. And when he was 38, John-John was killed in a plane crash near Martha’s Vineyard.

C. S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Great Divorce, and Mere Christianity, and Perelandra, and much more. He said, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” He loved the world in which he found himself. At the same time, he did not love it. He wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” His obituary was inside the paper, since Kennedy’s took the whole front page.

So, today is the almost 70th anniversary of their deaths, these two heroes in the world of men. And as I think of them, I read from Revelation.

There was a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud one who looked like a son of man, with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. “Use your sickle, reap the harvest.” And so it was done. “Use your sharp sickle and cut the clusters from the earth’s vines, for its grapes are ripe.” The angel swung his sickle and cut the earth’s vintage. He threw it, then, into the great wine press of God’s fury.

When Julia Ward Howe heard these words, she transmuted them into an “abolitionist battle cry, summing up the best causes that spurred the Union to civil war.”

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored!

He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword,

His truth is marching on. Glory, glory! Hallelujah!

John Steinbeck plucked four words and made a novel of it. The Grapes of Wrath is concerned with fertility, and the brokenness that is cultivated by hardship and hurt, within “an agriculture that produces violence and decay instead of fruit.”

What signs will there be, Teacher? And Jesus said, “Many will come in my name but do not follow them if they say the time has come. But there will be wars, when nation will rise against nation, and there will be powerful earthquakes, famines and plagues from place to place.”

Julia Ward Howe’s last words of her “Battle Hymn of the Republic” are often sung almost in a whisper.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea

With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me …

(Revelation 14, Psalm 96, Revelation 2, Luke 21)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Nov 21 22

Goodbye, Michael Gerson

by davesandel

Monday, November 21, 2022

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

Goodbye, Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson, born May 15, 1964 … died November 17, 2022 (age 58)

I heard a sound from heaven like the sound of rushing water or a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. And they were singing what seemed to be a new song before the throne.

For many years before he died of cancer far too young, Michael Gerson inspired many of us with his keep-on-keeping-on Christianity in the midst of Washington politics. Graduate of Wheaton, presidential speechwriter and then columnist for the Washington Post, he was an adamant foe of evangelical Christianity’s embrace of Donald Trump. Last week (on my birthday), he died. The Post reprinted one of his columns, a “goodbye” to his oldest son as he left for college. I would like to share it with you …

Saying Goodbye to My Child, the Youngster

Eventually, the cosmologists assure us, our sun and all suns will consume their fuel, violently explode and then become cold and dark. Matter itself will evaporate into the void and the universe will become desolate for the rest of time.

This was the general drift of my thoughts as my wife and I dropped off my eldest son as a freshman at college. I put on my best face. But it is the worst thing that time has done to me so far. That moment at the dorm is implied at the kindergarten door, at the gates of summer camp, at every ritual of parting and independence. But it comes as surprising as a thief, taking what you value most.

The emotions of a parent, I can attest, are an odd mix: part pride, part resignation, part self-pity, even a bit of something that feels like grief. The experience is natural and common. And still planets are thrown off their axes.

Our ancestors actually thought this parting should take place earlier. Many societies once practiced “extrusion,” in which adolescents were sent away to live with friends or relatives right after puberty. This was supposed to minimize the nasty conflicts that come from housing teenagers and their parents in close proximity. Some non-human primates have a similar practice, forcibly expelling adolescents from the family group.

Fat lot did our ancestors know. Eighteen years is not enough. A crib is bought. Christmas trees get picked out. There is the park and lullabies and a little help with homework. The days pass uncounted, until they end. The adjustment is traumatic. My son is on the quiet side — observant, thoughtful, a practitioner of companionable silence. I’m learning how empty the quiet can be.

I know this is hard on him as well. He will be homesick, as I was (intensely) as a freshman. An education expert once told me that among the greatest fears of college students is they won’t have a room at home to return to. They want to keep a beachhead in their former life.

But with due respect to my son’s feelings, I have the worse of it. I know something he doesn’t — not quite a secret, but incomprehensible to the young. He is experiencing the adjustments that come with beginnings. His life is starting for real. I have begun the long letting go. Put another way: He has a wonderful future in which my part naturally diminishes. I have no possible future that is better without him close.

There is no use brooding about it. I’m sure my father realized it at a similar moment. And I certainly didn’t notice or empathize. At first, he was a giant who held my hand and filled my sky. Then a middle-aged man who paid my bills. Now, decades after his passing, a much-loved shadow. But I can remember the last time I hugged him in the front hallway of his home, where I always had a room. It is a memory of warmth. I can only hope to leave my son the same.

Parenthood offers many lessons in patience and sacrifice. But ultimately, it is a lesson in humility. The very best thing about your life is a short stage in someone else’s story. And it is enough.

Eventually, the cosmologists assure us, our sun and all suns will consume their fuel, violently explode and then become cold and dark. Matter itself will evaporate into the void and the universe will become desolate for the rest of time.

This was the general drift of my thoughts as my wife and I dropped off my eldest son as a freshman at college. I put on my best face. But it is the worst thing that time has done to me so far. That moment at the dorm is implied at the kindergarten door, at the gates of summer camp, at every ritual of parting and independence. But it comes as surprising as a thief, taking what you value most.

The emotions of a parent, I can attest, are an odd mix: part pride, part resignation, part self-pity, even a bit of something that feels like grief. The experience is natural and common. And still planets are thrown off their axes.

Our ancestors actually thought this parting should take place earlier. Many societies once practiced “extrusion,” in which adolescents were sent away to live with friends or relatives right after puberty. This was supposed to minimize the nasty conflicts that come from housing teenagers and their parents in close proximity. Some non-human primates have a similar practice, forcibly expelling adolescents from the family group.

Fat lot did our ancestors know. Eighteen years is not enough. A crib is bought. Christmas trees get picked out. There is the park and lullabies and a little help with homework. The days pass uncounted, until they end. The adjustment is traumatic. My son is on the quiet side — observant, thoughtful, a practitioner of companionable silence. I’m learning how empty the quiet can be.

I know this is hard on him as well. He will be homesick, as I was (intensely) as a freshman. An education expert once told me that among the greatest fears of college students is they won’t have a room at home to return to. They want to keep a beachhead in their former life.

But with due respect to my son’s feelings, I have the worse of it. I know something he doesn’t — not quite a secret, but incomprehensible to the young. He is experiencing the adjustments that come with beginnings. His life is starting for real. I have begun the long letting go. Put another way: He has a wonderful future in which my part naturally diminishes. I have no possible future that is better without him close.

There is no use brooding about it. I’m sure my father realized it at a similar moment. And I certainly didn’t notice or empathize. At first, he was a giant who held my hand and filled my sky. Then a middle-aged man who paid my bills. Now, decades after his passing, a much-loved shadow. But I can remember the last time I hugged him in the front hallway of his home, where I always had a room. It is a memory of warmth. I can only hope to leave my son the same.

Parenthood offers many lessons in patience and sacrifice. But ultimately, it is a lesson in humility. The very best thing about your life is a short stage in someone else’s story. And it is enough.

The end of childhood, of course, can be the start of adult relationships between parents and children that are rewarding in their own way. I’m anxious to befriend my grown sons. But that hasn’t stopped the random, useless tears. I was cautioned by a high-powered Washington foreign policy expert that he had been emotionally debilitated for weeks after dropping off his daughter at college for the first time. So I feel entitled to a period of brooding.

The cosmologists, even with all their depressing talk about the eventual heat death of the cosmos, offer some comfort. They point out that we live in the briefest window — a fraction of a fraction of the unimaginable vastness of deep time — in which it is physically possible for life to exist. So we inhabit (or are chosen to inhabit) an astounding, privileged instant in the life span of the universe.

Well, 18 years is a window that closed too quickly. But, my son, those days have been the greatest wonder and privilege of my life. And there will always be a room for you.

– Michael Gerson, Washington Post, August 19, 2013

These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. On their lips no deceit has been found.

(Revelation 14, Psalm 24, Matthew 24, Luke 21)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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Nov 20 22

Lights flicker at the entrance of the cave

by davesandel

Thirty-fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, November 20, 2022

The Last Sunday of Ordinary Time in 2022

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

Lights flicker at the entrance of the cave

In those days all the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said, “Here we are, your bone and your flesh.”

It’s 13 degrees outside and the sky is dark. No moon. Too early for stars. The wind has blown a northwest gale all day. I’m falling asleep in my chair, and I think of the Mutts cartoon beside my bed in Austin. Walking along whistling, Earl the dog says, “The Farmer’s Almanac says we’re going to get lots of snow!”

His friend Mooch the cat panics and runs back inside. From deep under the covers, head propped against a big pillow with eyes closed, Mooch whispers, “The Farmer’s Cat’s Almanac says we’re going to get a lot of shleep.”

Aahh.

The Lord said to David, “You shall shepherd my people Israel.”

David grew up sleeping beside small campfires, or in caves. In the steppes of Israel the air was hot during the day and cold at night. Animals came out at night in search of food. Sometimes they attacked David’s sheep, and occasionally they attacked David himself. On those cold nights, David’s experiences were his own, but his security belonged to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Father, who has made us fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.

I imagine the simpler darkness outside my window. The cold stings straight through it. In our small piece of Urbana, Illinois, which has since 1976 been designated one of 13 charter USA Tree Cities, our animals leave their warm earth dwellings and venture out. They know where to find food. Seldom do they attack each other. Garbage cans and back porches and dimly lit alleys all promise plenty. Turkey dinners have already begun inside the houses, and there are more than enough scraps.

God has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.

Can I get a witness? Would we too be happy to eat the scraps of Thanksgiving feasts if we lived in caves all day? No niceties or napkins, but plenty of meat to gnaw off bones, mashed potatoes to chew and swallow, Hawaiian rolls no longer warm, with and without butter, and gravy, and raspberry jam. Would that be alright with you, and me? Would it be fine with our warrior brother David, soon to be king?

Like Paul, David learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. His cave was his castle. Later he became acclimated to glory and honor, and to silk pillowcases, but for the first part of his life – the outdoor, humble, healthy part – David fixed his own food and slept with a rock for a pillow. He curled up inside lambswool, one way or another. David had no complaints. And early on, he learned to pray to God his Father, who sometimes seemed as close to him as his breath.

You are before all things, in you all things hold together, Lord. All things were created through you and for you.

David trusted his God for everything. He wrote songs of praise, reminding himself of God’s presence every day. I imagine that at night he would finish his cleaning up, sing a song, play his harp and lie down quietly, slipping into sleep.

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Eyes already closed, David puts his chin on his chest and breathes deep. Then he prays God would give him a dream that night, as He so often did.

Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.

(2 Samuel 5, Psalm 122, Colossians 1, Mark 11, Luke 23)

(posted at www.davesandel.net)

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