Morning by Morning

"The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward." Isaiah 50:4-5

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Where Be All the Splinters of Bone?

Where be all the splinters of that bone, which a shot hath shivered and scattered in the air?  Where be all the atoms of that flesh, which a corrosive hath eat away, or a consumption hat breathed, and exhaled away from our arms, and other limbs?  In what wrinkle, in what furrow, in what bowel of earth, lie all the grains of the ashes of a body burnt a thousand years since?  In what corner, in what ventricle of the sea, lies all the jelly of a body drowned in the general flood?  

What coherence, what sympathy, what dependence maintains any relation, any correspondence, between that arm that was lost in Europe, and that leg that was lost in Afrique or Aisa, scores of years between?  … all dies, and all dries, and moulders into dust, and that dust is blown into the river, and that puddled water tumbled into the sea, and that ebbs and flows in infinite revolutions, and still, still God knows in what cabinet every seed-pearl lives, in what part of the world every grain of a man’s dust lies; and … he whispers, he hisses, he beckons for the bodies of his saints, and in the twinkling of an eye, that body that was scattered over all the elements is sat down at the right hand of God, in glorious resurrection.   

  – John Donne, The Resurrection of the Body, Sermon, 19 November, 1627

Friday, September 18, 2015

On Making Mistakes

I noticed with some amusement a mistake  I had made in an earlier article.  Apparently I quoted the Western “Dessert” Fathers, Instead of the Western “Desert” Fathers, saying, “If you have a snake or a scorpion, put it in a box and put the lid on it, and sooner or later it will die.”    I take it that the Western Dessert Fathers wore powder blue leisure suits and lived primarily on cheesecake and mimosas; while the Western Desert Fathers wore coarse garments, spent their time praying and fasting, and also recorded a few of their pithy sayings.

Everybody makes mistakes and even Smellcheck can’t catch them all.  Mothers and fathers make mistakes, old and young make mistakes, smart people and not-so-smart people make mistakes.  Lay people make mistakes.  Bishops, priests, and deacons make mistakes.  Pharisees and Sadducees make mistakes.  Making mistakes is a normal part of life.

Did I say, “Pharisees” make mistakes?  Here we have a problem.  Pharisees don’t accept a fact that is obvious to everybody around them, that is that even Pharisees make mistakes.  They also don’t accept that others are allowed to make mistakes.  The result is that they spend an inordinate amount of time correcting other people’s mistakes.  They live for the adrenalin rush that comes when they can point out the mistakes of everybody around them.

I once had a prominent and very devout church member who felt that it was his spiritual 
right every Monday, to present the Office Staff with a list of their mistakes in the Sunday bulletin.  Those who knew him knew that he had a few glaring flaws of his own, notably a lack of love and common courtesy, and a serious problem with shaming and blaming.  His attitude was like painting a “correct” smile on the Mona Lisa; it spoiled his reflection of the image of Christ.

The problem we face is that while some are blatant Pharisees, there is a little streak of the Pharisee in the best of us.  It is so very easy to cloak our own anxieties and feelings of inadequacy by critiquing others. 

Two things will help.  The first is the simple acknowledgement that everybody makes mistakes.  Second, we need to lighten up and develop a sense of humour.  Who knows?  There may actually be some Western Dessert Fathers who wear blue leisure suits, and live entirely on cheesecake and mimosas.