29 November 2007

Advent Order of Service

The week has been crazy. I decided to start implementing some of the Getting Things Done objectives to my office and the way I work, spent three exhausting days labeling and organizing files - amazing to discover what all I had and amazing to see how useful this system is. Nonetheless time rolls on, Advent will be here in a couple of days and Sundays do not stop just because I am organizing myself. The sermons for the Advent-Epiphany cycle will all be from the prophets, I am using the lectionary selections but will break off after Epiphany and start a series on sharing our faith and hopeful ideas for the year in preparation for the Annual Meeting and Visioning Sessions.

So here is the Order of service for Advent this year:




O Come, O Come Immanuel


Creator God,
We praise you for you love in coming to us,
unworthy though we are.
Give us grace to accept the Christ who comes in your name,
and the courage to be Christ for others.
We praise and thank you, Creator God,
for you have not left us alone.
Each year you come to us, Emmanuel,
God with us in a manger.
Each time you come to us
in the broken bread and the cup we share.
In time or out of time you will be revealed
and we shall see you face to face.
Give us courage, God our strength,
to see your Christ in all who suffer,
to be hands to the helpless,
food for the hungry,
and rescue the oppressed. Amen.


God of all mercy,
give us grace to make a fresh start today.
We know we have not loved you
with our whole heart,
nor have we loved our neighbor as ourselves.
As we hope to be forgiven,
teach us also to forgive;
and lead us forward in a new life
where neither grudges
nor resentment have a part;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


In unison

O Come, All Ye Faithful

To be read responsively

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
Thanks be to God.

We Light These Advent Candles

The children will light the first Advent Candle






PRAYER RESPONSE NO. 285 Taize Community
Jesus, Remember Me

The Peace of Christ be with you.
And also with you.





Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow






28 November 2007

400th Post

This evening I make my 400th post.

I simply want to refer everyone, if you haven't read it already, the Eric Asimov article in the NY Times about Bourbon.
Although it did not make their top list, I am a fan of the 18 year old Elijah Craig. I received it as an additional payment for a funeral about three years ago.

27 November 2007

Where is Blair?

Can anyone tell me what Tony Blair is up to these days?

He is supposed to be the "special envoy" to the Middle East yet I have seen neither hide nor hair of him in connection with the meeting in Maryland going on right now?

26 November 2007

Somethings and Nothings

The trip home to WV was fabulous. The first part was difficult for me without dad around. Although it has been nearly 18 months since his passing it wasn't until this trip back that many unreleased emotions came out: anger at dad not being around, sadness of time lost, sense of not knowing what to do with tools, projects, etc..

Turkeys: they turned out fine. The one at the VOR's mother's house worried me a bit, the meat thermometer was made in about 1953 and took about 15 minutes to before it would register a temperature. But I figured that the VOR's family had tough stomachs and could take their dark meat a little on the underside of well done.

The turkey at my mom's turned out pretty good. Only pretty good because it wasn't grilled - can't match the heat from a grill nor the smoke from wood chips.

Get this: wine is at least $2-3 dollars more a bottle in WV than RI. I bought an inexpensive Pinot Noir for dinner at mother's, went over well.

St. Albans will play Parkersburg this Saturday for the State Championships.

Nephew has an office and his practice is up and running.

This weekend WVU will play Pitt. The game has national championship implications for WVU but for me it is an even bigger game. Why? It is the only weekend when it is permissible for the entire state population (children included) are free to curse. They are free to say Eat synonym for scat Pitt. Dr. Burg, in an email I received last night, said:
In 5th grade we all made signs for the WVU-Pitt game. The kid who made the "Eat *&%$ Pitt" sign did not get in trouble.


My brother-in-law shot a yearling buck while we were in and gave me a hefty portion of the meat. I froze it and placed it in the van, despite my best efforts to keep it cool the meat thawed after 15 hours in the car. So yesterday I cooked the sausage, the shoulder, roast and steaks and gave the rest to some folk from church. I braised it all in a pot, it was even better than I expected. The VOR, #1, #2, & #3 all ate it! Oh yeah. I also tried the five minute loaf that was in the NY Times Wednesday. It was a hit. I made two loaves and have the dough for two more in the frig.

Story of the week. As you may recall I mentioned in an earlier post that my sister-in-law (from now on the PostMistress) and her undisclosed "friend" (from now on: The Presbyterian) came up for a visit. The PostMistress gave the VOR some clothing (they are always swapping clothing). On Thanksgiving day the VOR wore one of her new outfits. The PostMistress wore black as did the VOR. As the VOR was washing dishes the Presbyterian came up behind her, and put his arms around her waist and said "hey honey." The VOR turned around with a what are you doing and talking about expression. The Presbyterian turned a new shade of red and quickly exited the room. You would think that was end of the story but later on in the afternoon The Presbyterian did it again.

Coal River will be released on 08.Jan.2008

21 November 2007


We made it to WV in one piece, tired but okay. The trip so far has been fun. I have been chosen to cook turkeys for both sides of the family. I am brining both right now. Later on I will dry them and air dry them in the frig then I will rub under the skin with herb butter and on the skin will be my master mixture of sausage and bacon grease. mmmmm.

sleep tonight then a busy day tomorrow. I am also trying a winter squash soup as a starter.

18 November 2007

Nobody Knows the Trouble...

We are on our way to WV. Currently I am in a Marriott hotel in central PA.

We left yesterday thinking it would be nice to stop halfway, instead of plowing through and driving it all in one night. Bad idea.

#3, in case you do not know is a monster. He was crazy last night wanting to explore the hotel. Estimated Time he went to Sleep: 3:30am. Time he woke up: 6:45am, rip, roarin' and ready to go.

Around 2:30 last night I thought, perhaps we pack up and head back to RI!

It is going to be a long day, but worth it when we get there.

I'd better get back.

More later.

Questions for the Anglobaptist: did you order a Geneva type gown with the preaching tabs? Or are going to wear a cassock with the preaching robe and tabs?

09 November 2007

Preaching According to the Man who coine the phrase: The Anglican Oversoul

On Wednesday I headed up to ANTS for the inaugural Great Preaching series with Rev. Peter Gomes preaching. He was everything I expected and more. I have been scheming for five years to get up to hear him, but every chance I get he is away preaching somewhere. Finally I was able, boy am I glad.

He began with his amazement that folk still come to church to hear preaching; week after week they come to hear you preach. Despite all of the media and avenues available folk still come to hear preaching.

He then proceeded to preach a sermon with three points. He said it was not the classical three point sermon, for that never existed. He preached a one point sermon stated three different ways.

1. Clarity. Mark at the top of each page the point you want to get across. Be clear.

2. Conviction. Actually believe what you are preaching. A preacher actually convicted by her/his own sermon.

3. Christ. The question is not what would Jesus do (to all who have paraphernalia with the WWJD on it: burn them). The question is not what would Jesus do, that is a dumb question; Jesus could do anything and did. The question is what would Jesus have me to do? And that should be the Christ of the sermon.

That is in a nutshell what the Gomes had to say. In between he had all kind of great Baptist stories, Harvard stories, growing up stories and the like. He said that he was a Baptist who reads. I think that ought to be a new denomination The Reading Baptists.

He also talked about preaching sermons that he wished he had heard as a student in college. I think all the time what kind of sermons I wished I had heard growing up instead of the lame ones I suffered through.

Rev. Gomes preaches on average 40 minutes, about twice as long as I do. He talked about growing up with two services on Sunday and one on midweek (my routine too). And how now folk only go to one service on Sunday morning; most do not attend bible study. So folk are to get all of their religious education in one 20 minute sermon. (He did say that old rule of thumb was the sermon was to be 1/3 of the service. He then stated a saying I had never heard of: One Lord, One Faith, One Hour.) So incrementally increase a minute or two at a time till you have trained the congregation to listen more attentively. He suggested taking them down roads that don't work, back up and then go down another. Have the congregation walk along with you till all are together at the good news.

There are three congregations that one preaches to:
1. that is with you as soon as you begin.
2. those who were once with you.
3. those who will be with you.

You preach like conducting an orchestra, in comes the percussion, then the wind then the strings, by the end you are all playing together.

At the close he stayed around for a few minutes and I asked him about the Anglican Oversoul. He stated how he loved the flow, beauty and order of the Book of Common Prayer, then he raised his hand with his index finger erect and said But I have never left. Thanks for not leaving Rev. Gomes. I then asked about robes and preaching tabs. He strongly urged me to go with the cassock, gown and tabs. Alright, he twisted my arm. I am going to purchase the outfit after the first of the year.

06 November 2007

Niebuhr iv, Preaching and Fosdick, Adventures in Colorful Language iii, Deacon Reconfiguration, and a New Hymnal

Niebuhr iv,

Since it is Stewardship Season and the time of year most churches realize they have to increase their budget and that they desperately need to increase membership I offer a quote from Letters from the Notebooks of a Tamed Cynic

Of course we make "acceptance of Jesus as your savior" the real door into fellowship of the church. But the trouble is that this may mean everything and nothing. I see no way of making Christian fellowship unique by any series of tests which precede admission. The only possibility lies in a winnowing process through the instrumentality of the preaching and teaching function of the church. Let them come in without great difficulty, but make it difficult for them to stay in. The trouble with this plan is that it is always easy to load up your membership with very immature Christians who will finally set the standard and make it impossible to preach and teach the gospel in its full implications. (p.39)

His cynicism here doesn't sound too tamed. Pastors would love to have perfect congregations and I'm sure congregations would love to have perfect pastors - but they do not exist. You take what you have and go from there. I'm not proposing folk settle or dumb down but go from where you are and see where G-d leads.

Fosdick and Preaching

Yesterday I was reading my way through The Making of American Liberal Theology: Idealism, Realism and Modernity 1900-1950 by Gary Dorrien. I am in the section talking about Harry Emerson Fosdick. I have always liked Fosdick from afar. But he seemed a bit too chummy with some of the social elite. Dorrien makes this point throughout this section. I have always wondered what it was like to be H.E.F. to have that kind of reputation as a preacher and to be taken that serious. I especially liked his idea of holing oneself up for a few hours a day to devote to sermon preparation, but four hours a day seems a bit excessive.

Anyway here is a quote about Fosdick:
"He (Fosdick) could be whimsical on occasion and freely admitted to various changes of mind, but Fosdick was almost never ironic; his earnest liberal moralism was allergic to irony, and he indulged paradox only as much as necessary." (p. 384-385)

Other than the obvious differences I would say this statement places my theology of ministry on a distinctly different track than Fosdick's. I love irony and reveling in paradox.

Adventures in Colorful Language part iii

The other day NPR ran an interview with Stephen Pinker, professor of psychology at Harvard, talking about his new book and his latest article in the The New Republic on swearing. (Be forewarned, if you read the article it contains just about every swear word you can imagine - and then some.) I found it to be a fascinating article. It gave a very comprehensive view of how cursing affects other people, why folk find it so offensive, etc.

Diaconate Reconfiguration

Ever since I became a pastor I have had a dickens of the time trying to figure out what the board of deacons are supposed to do. I have gone over the passages in Paul letters, read church bylaws, recalled memories from church experience, asked the deacons themselves and so on. But nothing worked. Then yesterday the lightbulb went off while having coffee with a colleague. Here is the proposal I presented to the diaconate board last night.

Underlying principle: striving for a standard of excellence.

Three concentric circles of
Congregational Worship
Congregational Care
Congregational Life.

They seemed to be all for it. It was a fun meeting.

New Hynmal

Several years ago this church purchased the New Century Hymnal (the hymnal of the UCC) I
was all excited to tear into to, liberal hymns, no masculine language, etc. But the more I tore into it the more I disliked it. Luckily, lots of others didn't care too much for it either. So we searched and found the Worship and Rejoice hymnal by Hope Publishing. It is definitely a hymnal, 749 of them. (No psalter, which is a bummer.) Good mix of classic and new hymns, including my magic three: Iona, Taize and Spirituals. Those three make up the main mix of hymns I like. Folk are excited to see all of the original tunes and words back. I desired a hymnal that encouraged congregational singing, joyful singing, soulful singing and even some blues. I think we found it. Is it perfect? No way. But it is the best choice for this congregation and for the future.

04 November 2007

A Growling God

For the sermon this morning I asked folk to enter into the gospel narrative with their imaginations. In college a Catholic priest walked me through the Ignatian Exercises and the value of imagining the gospel story. I think it went over quite well. Some folk were deeply moved and even a few wiped some tears away at the end. You never know where God may lead people.

I asked people to climb the tree with Zaccheaus, imagine what it felt like for Jesus to find them and call them a child of Abraham to give you just a few of the examples.

When I asked to imagine what Jesus' or God's voice sounded like, #3 sitting on the VOR's lap growled really loud. It was quite humorous and caught me off guard.

Here was the introduction to the exercise:

Scripture Lesson

In the 18th chapter of Luke
after the rich young ruler departed Jesus’ presence with his tail between his legs the disciples asked: If the rich cannot be saved then who can?

I imagine Jesus laughed it off and responded:
What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.

I’m sure Jesus’ comment comforted the disciples then about as much as it comforts us today. It should make us squirm a little bit, why? In comparison to Jesus’ day every one of us would be considered not only rich but rolling in the dough. So what are we to do then? Sell all we have? Or is there another religion that is a little less stringent?

If we look at this question solely from the perspective portrayed in the gospels then there is no way out of the corner. But the way the situation is proposed in the gospels is kind of like asking people how do you pronounce the capital of Kentucky is it Louisville or Louisville? It is pronounced Frankfort. Or like one of those puzzle where you are asked to draw a square with a diagonal going through without lifting your pencil from the paper. You try and try but can’t get it, the answer is to draw a large triangle with a square in it. So the same goes for what are we, the rich to do. How can we, the rich, be saved?

Our answer is an old one, you have it somewhere in the childhood memories. Sure you know it:

Zaccheaus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he
He climbed up on a sycamore tree, for the Lord he wanted to see
And as the Savior passed him by, He looked up in the tree
And he said, Zaccheaus, you come down from there
For I’m going to your house today, I’m going to your house today
Zaccheaus came down from that tree, as happy as he could by,
He gave his money to the poor and said: “What a better man I can be

(Yes I actually sang that)

Zaccheaus the toll collector, the wee little man, the dude up in the sycamore tree – he is our answer. Aint that just like God to surprise us with examples of grace, faith and salvation.

This morning I want us to experiment with our imaginations to discover the good news. When you watch a television show you watch them from the a specific vantage point in the room. Only when the camera pans back do you realize that the room you were in is a set. The gospels are the same, we are to view them not as disinterested outsiders but as intimate insiders. They invite us to be nosy and to fully engage the story.

Do you remember sitting in class daydreaming and the teacher calling you back to reality? Do you still daydream? Studies are showing that daydreaming is one of the most helpful techniques for setting goals and creating self initiative. Have you seen all the books of lists, things you must do before you die? All built on imagination. God gave us both reason and imagination, they are exist symbiotically.

This morning I want to invite you into the story and experience it as a total sensory experience. The goal of sermons week after week, bible reading, praying, fellowship, and the rest is to somehow internalize the gospel. We want the biblical story to join our life story and form a new and transformative narrative. We desire for the bible not just to be a book we turn to for comfort but a book that is thoroughly ingrained in our consciousness and life.

So join come on and join me.

02 November 2007

All Hallow's Day, well actually the day after

I'm quite open to the possibility of inspiration from saints. here is the well I draw from:

Roger Williams
without the insistence of Soul Liberty where we would be?

Howard Thurman
Activism of the soul.

MLK, Jr.
(I love this photograph, it is also on the cover of Michael Eric Dyson's book
I May Not Get There with You.)

Dorothy Day
read The Long Loneliness and you'll never be the same

Thomas Merton
I wanted the picture of him in a black turtleneck, but couldn't find it.
I wanted to be a monk in college because of this man. His eclectic reading, commentary and wide range of interests fascinated me.

Walter Rauschenbusch
If there is one Baptist you must read it is...
His writing is dated and a product of its time, sure - but he provided clarity and artful articulation of the Social Gospel.

01 November 2007

Niebuhr, iii

I am still on a bit of a Niebuhr kick, I invite you to scoot over here and read Gary Dorrien's interview in the NYTimes. Then scoot over to Union Theological Seminary's web page and gander at Dorrien's speaking engagements, notice how this guy is lecturing against the war and looking for creative strategies for ending it.

I gotta give this guy credit for his relentless work and untiring ethic. He came to CRCDS twice when I was student. One particular night I gave him a ride to his hotel then picked him up the next morning. My experience of him and talking with others about him I would classify him in the true gentlemen category.

I cannot get over how prolific of a writer he is. I don't think his pen every stops. I am currently grinding my way through his three volume history of American Religious Liberalism. But my favorite work of his has to be Soul in Society

The Niebuhr article in the Atlantic Monthly ends with an assessment of the Iraq War what do we do now, from a realist position (not an idealistic one). Can we pack up and leave? Nope. Can we keep up what we are doing now? Nope. I wish the presidential candidates would talk candidly about realistic options for exiting Iraq. Multi-National talks, soft power as the IAEA director Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei discussed the other day on the Charlie Rose show.

There are also great discussion of Social Security, National Health Care, Education, Foreign Relations, The future of the Military, the Environment, Agriculture, Housing Prices, etc that will be shuffled along with some dilly dally answers meant to snuff out any real discussion or proposals.

Time to get back on a sermonic kick. Preaching on Zaccheaus, I wrote a first draft comparing the rich young ruler and Zacchaeus, but after writing it I found that the possible visual elements of the Zaccheaus outweighs the comparative sermon. The sycamore tree, you can feel your way up a sycamore, you can feel the bark sliding off, you can see its monstrous leaves, you can hear Jesus speak your name, what is it like to meet Jesus' eyes, and how does an encounter with the God who is seeking you out change your life? See what i mean with this story, lots there - and I am only scratching the surface.

All Hallow's Eve

Last night was a great night. The kids loaded up on sugary confections, visited the neighbors and woke up this morning to find that the Great Pumpkin once again visited them.

Here are the pumpkins, I know the picture is out of focus (that is another story for later)
Yes that is a John Edwards pumpkin, carved by yours truly.

The kids and VORJust the kids:#1 was an old pro at trick-or-treat.
#2 was a skunk, a growling, urinating skunk. He would growl at you then back up and say Pee, Pee, Pee (it was quite hilarious)
#3 it took him a good bit before he got the hang of t-o-t but once he did, oh man. He would run up the door and push kids out of the way and then just start grabbing candy. Later on that night as the VOR nursed him to sleep he made loud mooing sounds.

Finally witches fingers:The VOR made these a couple of years ago, they freaked everyone out and they wouldn't even touch them. This year they looked more like witch's toes. When she first made them we put them out for coffee hour at church, it was priceless to watch faces that day.