Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Decade of Linguistic Change

Well, as the decade comes to an end our language and culture has changed. A lot.

Language has changed and perhaps the greatest, to start, is with cell phones. It used to be a big deal to have a car phone, then a cell phone. Now we not only have cell phones, but smart phones. Blackberries, I-phones, Droids, have all hit the market. People are walking around with computers in their pockets that are more powerful than desktop computers were a year ago. These new phones send out e-mail, keep our contacts, keep our schedule, take pictures, take videos, allow us to surf the web at high speeds. It boggles the imagination.

Our language is no longer the same in a lot of areas.

Green is no longer just a color but a lifestyle.

Cougars are no longer just cats. I’ll leave that alone.

Tween. Now a major market is going advertising to tween girls.

De-friend. Don’t like someone on your Facebook----de-friend them. You can de-friend and they won’t even know.

Tweet. The thing you do in Congress when the President is giving a speech. Or in class during a boring lecture. Alas, I suspect some people have tweeted in church during a boring sermon. Alas, people in my church wouldn’t know what a boring sermon was.

Truthiness. Is knowing something to be true despite all evidence to the contrary. If you believe it, it’s true.

Palinize. To bluster, to speak without saying anything of substance. To Randomly repeat talking points regardless of the questions given to you.

Staycation. Being off from work but staying at home.

Chillax. A combination of chilling out and relaxing.

Tea-baggers. Hmm, I’m not going to even go near this one because some folks would be a tad surprised...

Hiking the Appalachian Trail. To have an affair.

Having a wide stance. A handy explanation as to why you were playing footsie with the guy in the next stall.

Obamacare. A mythical idea that Obama had an idea for healthcare.

Death panels. To palinize using truthiness about something that existed in obamacare.

Liberal Facists. Akin to jumbo shrimp, little giants, and Microsoft Works.

Marrying Opposites. Marrying a person of the opposite sex.

Viral Videos. Videos on You Tube that were seen by millions.

U. S. Americans. People who don’t have maps.

Octomom. A potential love interest for Jon Gosselin.

EVOO. An overly perky way of saying extra virgin olive oil.

Snarky. Making wise-cracks. Being a smart derriere.

Pulling a Favre. Retiring, than un-retiring, than retiring, than un-retiring all the while showing up in different places.

To pull a TO. To talk your way off a football team.

Then more in the world of technology.

Apple seems to have:

I-Macs
I-Pods
I-Phones
I-Pay too much
I-break down too much
I-yay-yay-yay

Microsoft has its own language.

Microsoft Works. Still doesn’t.

Microsoft Word. Still promises the world. WordPerfect still delivers it.

XP. Windows, finally works well.

Vista. Correcting the mistake of making XP work well.

7. The jury is still out.

Finally, Happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Festivus Airing of Grievances

Festivus Airing of Grievances.

Festivus, December 23rd, is the traditional day of airing grievances. Here are mine:

I object to all the discussion of ‘Obamacare.’ There is no such thing. He never developed a plan and allowed the Congress to do this. Whatever we end up with from all this so-called debate is a plan sewed together by a bunch of special interests. Obama deserves no credit for anything other than signing whatever is passed. Any blame is certainly fine to go his way as he didn’t lead very much on this.

I object to Congress, in general. It doesn’t matter which party is in power; they are all a bunch of grifters looking to see who will buy them off.

I object to Rush Limbaugh being seen as anything other than comic relief and as a parody of himself.

I object to any more coverage of Tiger Woods, Carrie Prejean, and expecially Michael Jackson.

I object to people referring to anyone other than Frank Sinatra as the King of Pop.

I object to Facebook randomly changing on days of the week that end with ‘day.’

I object to Troy Aikman covering NY Giants games as he cannot hide his contempt for the Giants.

I object to Mountain Dew as anything other then proof that horses can have diabetes.

I object to the Vatican moving forward to making Pius XII and John Paul II saints. Pius’ actions during World War II in reference to the Jews is beyond being a monster, and John Paul II’s lack of action on pedofile priests was criminal. I would, however, support making John XXIII and Paul VI, saints.

I object to Sarah Palin for a whole host of reasons.

I object to people who think that Tom Brady is better than Peyton Manning.

I object to the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL, Notre Dame football, Duke basketball, and the Yankees.

I object to Fox News continuing their coverage of a non-existing war on Christmas.

I object to whining. There is way too much whining in this world.

I object to slow drivers who are constantly in my way. (I object to me for whining about this.)

I object to McDonalds for advertising that they serve edible food.

I object to people who order Thanksgiving dinner at drive through windows and people who are doing hostile takeovers of other companies while at the ATM.

I object to clueless people who try and use the self-check outs at the grocery store and do not have a clue as to what they are doing.

I object to TV situation ‘comedies’ that are not funny.

I object to mean people.

I object to intentional ignorance.

I object to people who seek to change science and history to justify their positions.

Lastly, I object to all people, this year, who do not want peace on earth and good will towards all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

You Are Invited

You are invited to Worship with us this Christmas Eve at St. Marks United Church of Christ in New Albany.

Worship is at 4:30PM & 10:30PM: No matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here.

video

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday's Sermon December 20th

From God Forsaken to God is With Us
Text: Micah 5:2-5a
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
December 20, 2009


Last week I talked about the prophet Zephaniah and how so little is known of him. Today we have Micah. Micah is a bit more popular than Zephaniah, but not much. The two most famous passages from Micah are Micah 6:8 which came to some awareness when Jimmy Carter quoted the passage in his Inaugural Address in 1977, and when Matthew quoted him in the passage we read from today:
"But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days" (Micah 5:2)


Bethlehem was the city from which David came and that pretty much summarized Bethlehem. It was a nowhere, godforsaken place with one claim to fame. David was from there. In Jesus’ day, Bethlehem was such a place that it inspired Nathaniel to ask in John’s Gospel, “Can anything good come from Bethlehem?” Bethlehem was a godforsaken place.

If you’ve ever heard of Hoboken, New Jersey, Hoboken is a city that has some interesting parallels to describe what Bethlehem would have been perceived like back then.

Hoboken is one square mile, actually two square miles of you include the fact that one of those square miles is in the Hudson River. It is one square mile and has about the same population as New Albany. It is cramped, crowded, and loaded with narrow,
one- way streets. When they were looking for an incredibly dumpy, dreary place to film the movie, On the Waterfront, they chose Hoboken.

If you are from New Jersey and are dealt a hand of cards and have absolutely NOTHING, you have a Hoboken straight. In the 19th century, in New York, Hoboken was seen as such a lousy place to be from, that if you were from Hoboken, people called you a ‘hobo,’ because Hoboken was such a nothing place, you really had no place you were from. The name caught on and a ‘hobo’ became a term for a homeless person. In recent years, Hoboken has had something of a resurgence, a famous Manning brother lives there, but, if you’re from the east coast, it has a certain folklore attached and it’s not a great folklore to have.

There is one thing, however, that always kept Hoboken on the map. The King of Pop, the real King of Pop, Frank Sinatra was born and raised in Hoboken. People from there will tell you that he was from there, but once he left, he left. I guess being king of the hill and top of the heap in Hoboken is not something highly aspired to.

Back to Bethlehem. Bethlehem is now a great tourist attraction, but at the time of Jesus’ birth, it was the Hoboken of the Middle East. It had one claim to fame. David was born there. Other than that, zip. And like Old Blue Eyes, he didn’t venture back.

But Jesus was born in Bethlehem. It went from this godforsaken place, this ‘nowhere,’ this town that made people wonder if anything good can come from there, to the most important city on the planet. God is with us, Emmanuel, is born in Bethlehem and the world changes forever. And, to this day, this one time godforsaken city is one of the most beloved cities in the world.

This exaltation of Bethlehem is a very God thing. God seems, repeatedly, to lift up those overlooked.

In Jewish tradition the birthright was always passed on to the oldest son. Always. No exception. But God made exceptions. Isaac was not the oldest son. Jacob was not the oldest son. Joseph was not the oldest son. David was not the oldest son. The most unlikely, the most overlooked, are exalted.

“But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days" (Micah 5:2)

God, it seems, was and is serious about lifting up the lowly, the downtrodden, or the left out. The entire story of Jesus is about a God who did not just want to stay "out there" but who moves into the neighborhood, a neighborhood where folks said, Nothing good could come, or some godforsaken place. The story of Jesus is a story of a Savior who hung out with society’s rejects and the one’s no one would listen to and gave them a voice.

This is a Messiah who was born in a smelly stable, in a godforsaken town, in the midst of a genocide by a lunatic King.

The Jesus born in Bethlehem, in the godforsaken town in the midst of death and chaos and filth came with a simple message of love that we, over the centuries, often miss.

Sometimes when I listen to preachers speak of this angry God who is looking to smite people and portray Heaven as the exclusive domain of people with theological certitude which agrees, of course, with the preacher my thought is often simple. God is not a monster. God is not one who holds human beings in contempt or disgust or even dismay. God loves people so much that the even the godforsaken are sought out and embraced. The people who are the Bethlehem and the Hoboken of this world are sought out and loved and blessed.

It’s often interesting how we exclude people. Years ago I learned a lesson about language. Growing up and learning the English language, I was taught that words like “Men, or mankind” meant everyone. Often people would refer to ‘brothers,’ and say this meant everyone. Perhaps, theoretically, this is true. But often women said they felt left out. In recent years people, often especially in churches, tend to use language that intentionally includes everyone. At the end of Worship we’ll sing an old, favorite Christmas Carol that always began with the words “God rest ye merry gentlemen.” The problem, of course, is that it’s about everyone and not everyone feels included. So it’s slightly adjusted to say ‘gentle folk.’ Some will say that this is an insult to the English language. Some will say it’s dumb. But if we have a Savior who came for everyone, if we have a God who chose the most forsaken place for His Son to be born in order to make a point about including everyone, is it important to protect the integrity of the language or the dignity of people? And is it ever dumb to welcome everyone?

Christianity has always had an interesting relationship with leaving women out.

The first person who said ‘yes’ to embracing the word becoming flesh was a woman. A girl really. When God wanted the greatest miracle ever to take place in the history of the world, He chose a woman.

When Jesus was raised from the dead who did he appear first to? A woman. Christianity has mis-used words written by St. Paul in a specific time and a specific place to exclude women, and people, to this day, make the women in our midst appear to be almost the godforsaken people. But, thankfully, less and less.

I often think this time of the year is a time when we celebrate women in our midst; a celebration of one woman’s amazing courage in midst of a chaotic world. God blessed what others overlooked.

Which brings us again, back to a quirky thing about Bethlehem.

Micah prophesied the Messiah would come from Bethlehem. The Messiah was born in Bethlehem and Bethlehem did not welcome him. Luke’s words just hang there, “There was no room at the Inn...”

The Messiah had come to a godforsaken place; a place people wondered if anything good could come from, and even in the pit of humanity, the worst city on earth, the Messiah was not made welcome.

We are, ourselves, often like this. We are willing to embrace the Jesus we want, the Messiah on our terms, the Jesus in our image, but we struggle with the Jesus God sent.

We are willing to embrace the words and deeds of Jesus we like and agree with; less so the words and deeds we take exception to. Thomas Jefferson once revised the Gospels to exclude portions he didn’t like. I read the other day that a group is retranslating the Bible because, as an example, they didn’t like the words, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” They felt those words were too filled with grace so they are removing them and claiming that Jesus probably wouldn’t have said them.

Bethlehem is this place that is a reminder to us of some special things as we soon celebrate the birth of the Messiah.

God can bless the most godforsaken places and embrace the people we might not necessarily choose to embrace-----especially the people we ought to embrace. Bethlehem reminds us of this. And it also reminds us that it is more than being a godforsaken place; it is being a place that has an open heart to welcome the Messiah in their midst.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sunday's Sermon

The Dilemma of the Dancing Diety
Text: Zephaniah 3:14-20
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
December 13, 2009

Most of the time, when people sit around and talk about their favorite books of the Bible, the book of the prophet Zephaniah is usually not high on the list, low on the list, of anywhere on the list. Often people, when asked about this book of the Bible, barely even know it exists. It is only three chapters long and most of the book is actually rather unremarkable in as much as it essentially restates what many other prophets have said.

The first two chapters of the book have Zephaniah preaching that the people must change; they were no longer faithful to God and bad days were ahead of them. This was a time not long before the Babylonian captivity, a particularly bleak time in the history of Judaism. The words of Zephaniah are much like the words of the other prophets of this era.

But in Chapter Three the tone changes. Zephaniah speaks of joy and rejoicing and gives us an image of God that, to be quite honest, is almost startling.

There are images of God that are familiar to us.

God as a judge.

God as a king.

God as a good shepherd.

But in verse 17 there is an image of God that is unusual. Using the New Jerusalem Bible translation, which I think is the best Old Testament translation because it is the one that uses the Hebrew names for God like YHWH, Zephaniah says that:

“He will dance with shouts of you for you as on a day of festival.”

The name YHWH was the most formal Hebrew name for God, a name so holy it was not spoken except by the High Priest on the highest of holy days. And here, we have the most formal name for God used saying that God is dancing. Dancing.

This leads to the dilemma of a dancing diety; not an image of God we are used to.

We all have images of God. We’re used to God as a judge, a shepherd, a king. Those are not unusual or far-fetched.

We like the image of God Michelangelo created. God, a distinguished old man with flowing white hair, a white beard, and a modest white robe reaching out from a cloud surrounded by cherubic looking angels to Adam. God is old, stately, and distinguished looking. We like that.

Most artists didn’t try to capture God in portrait or sculpture. Those who did always had a comparable image. God, a distinguished old man with gray or white hair, and a long beard wearing flowing robes.

In the late 1970's we had a new image of God in the O God movies. George Burns played God. He was old and distinguished looking, no beard and he wore clothing like us. But George Burns pulled it off. We liked George Burns as God.

But Zephaniah is messing with our heads. God is dancing.

The philosopher Aristotle often referred to God as the “Unmoved Mover.” His image of God was one who created people and a universe to move in harmony with one another while Himself, not moving. God was a distant, detached architect of all that was. Centuries later people took this image and referred to God as a Cosmic Watchmaker, creating the universe like the gears of a complex watch. The image, of course, was that God was distant.

We’ve probably all heard the song by Bette Midler, From a Distance. She used the words, “God is watching us, God is watching us, from a distance...”

But then comes along Zephaniah who tells us that YHWH is dancing. Dancing because of His profound love and excitement for the faithfulness of His people.

God is not distant. This image of the dancing deity is unusual and totally different from what we are used to. It is one that, frankly, we would often soon not contemplate.

But...

Often the problem we have of dealing with God is not a problem with God but a problem with our images of God. Several years ago I read a wonderful book by Brian McLaren entitled, A Generous Orthdoxy. I was fascinated with the book because a local seminary President blasted the book and said that there was nothing generous about orthodoxy. I bought the book and read it in awe.

McLaren wrote each chapter from the perspective of many denominations and perceptions of God. Christians have images of God that seem to range from a tyrannical and cruel king to a cosmic Stay Puffed Marshmallow Man and everything in between. McLaren looked at each perspective and found the good, and there was good, in all of them. His conclusion was very simple and very profound. He concluded that no one had the correct image of God, and everything had the correct image of God. God, he said, was all of the images combined, and much, much more.

The conclusion was this. I don’t know if orthodoxy is generous or not, but God is. God is a judge. God is a king. God is a shepherd. And God dances for joy when God’s people embrace God and are faithful to God.

The third Sunday of Advent is a day when we contemplate the word joy. Joy is not necessarily something we think but something we feel. We feel joy. We don’t think joy; we don’t analyze joy; we don’t evaluate joy, we feel joy. We have Zephaniah telling us that God also experiences joy because of us. God feels right along with us. God feels so much that God dances for joy.

Every image of God that we have is a blessing. There is, however, something uniquely special and delightful, and joyful when we ponder a God who dances for joy.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Football Blogging

Late Season Musings

NFC

First, the Giants. I don’t have a clue about the Giants this time of the year. Giants Stadium is not really home field advantage to the Giants in December because Eli Manning has yet to master the late season swirling winds in his home field. Their run defense was great against the Cowboys but they still remain a mystery.

The Eagles look solid at least until the NFC Championship Game when they historically fold.

The Cowboys. The next big game Romo wins late season will be the first big game Romo wins late season. That having been said, it can happen. Of course, the next big game Wade Phillips wins late season will be the first big game Wade Phillips wins...

The Vikings. They are missing their best offensive tackles which means they will have a difficult time running on the edges and have a difficult time protecting Brett Favre. It should be noted that Brett has majorly faded the last two Decembers. He’s a great quarterback but he’s 40 years old and it is a long season.

The Saints look awesome. Wow.

The Packers are playing better and better and better. They have greatly improved their pass blocking and, I think, are going to be a major threat late season.

Lastly, the Cardinals, like the Giants, are a team that is difficult to read. One thing for certain; the are playing very good defense now and they remain potent on offense.

It should be fun in the NFC.

AFC

The Steelers’. Well, the little pop up thing on the turkey that pops up when it’s done. It’s popped up on the Steelers. They’re done. Big Ben is loathed in the locker room by his team mates and that’s not a big deal when they’re winning. But when you lose... Funny thing about this team is that statistically they look a lot like last year’s team. Last year’s team, however, finished games.

The Colts look awesome. Peyton Manning is the best quarterback in the NFL and perhaps the best ever. They are not great running the ball, but Peyton is the best quarterback in the game late. Defensively, they are better than they were the last couple of years. This is an excellent team.

The Patriots, like the Giants and Cardinals are unknown. Great coach, great quarterback, who knows? Hard to imagine them going far, however. They have no running game and a suspect defense. The thing is, the 2007 Giants turned their defense around late season and the Patriots were the recipients of that surprise, so it’s hard to tell.

The Bengals are team we are going to learn a lot about when they play the Vikings. They look really good and really solid. They are doing all the things championship teams do well. They are playing good defense and can run. Championships are won on these two things. We’ll see. They have had a tendency to morph into the Bungles too often, but they might be past that.

The Dolphins are a team on the rise and can win their division. They run well, they confuse defenses and they have a young quarterback. It is hard to go far into the playoffs with that young a quarterback but, again, we’ll see.

The Jets. They are not going anywhere. Rookie quarterback (who is hurt) and a rookie Head Coach....they are greatly improved but are a year or two a way. And, of course, they are the Jets who can grab defeat from the jaws of victory with the best of them.

The Chargers, finally, look good. They play well on all sides of the ball and have giant receivers who help Rivers a lot. Rivers plays like a street football player who just knows how to win. They are a potent force.

My Super Bowl pick:

Obviously two undefeated teams deserve the top slots:

Colts versus Saints.

Most likely match-up if they falter:

Packers versus Chargers.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The the Spirit of Giving

A month ago I preached this sermon. Christmas often seems to get lost in the spirit of 'getting' rather than the spirit of giving. I would like, in the spirit of giving, to share my stewardship focused sermon of a month ago to promote the spirit if giving during this holiday season:

Grace Upon Grace
Texts: Deuteronomy 24:19-22; John 1:14-16
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
November 8, 2009


“From the fullness of Christ, we have received grace upon grace.”

This little sentence is a paraphrase from the Gospel of John and our stewardship theme this year. Our bulletin covers have had it; signs have been posted, letters have been received, and our newsletter covered has displayed those very words: “From the fullness of Christ, we have received grace upon grace.”

They come from the Gospel of John, from the prologue in John’s Gospel, which speaks to us of the Word of God, the very essence of God, being made Flesh and living in our midst. We call this moment the Incarnation, the Word becoming Flesh, the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives. And from the fullness of Christ, we receive grace.

And, as recipients of God’s grace, we are invited to give something back to the world and to God. This giving something back is often a difficult thing on which to get a grasp. Giving something back seems to be almost counter-intuitive. It is certainly and rapidly becoming counter-cultural.

In recent years the philosophy of Ayn Rand has become increasingly popular. Ayn Rand, in her writings, believe that the only true ‘good’ in life, and the center-piece of her morality, was the pursuit of a rational self-interest. People were told, in her writings, and her heroes were all portrayed as people who put their own needs first and let others fend for themselves. To her, the great evils of life took place when people practice altruism and generosity.

In her book, The Fountainhead, the hero of the story, Howard Roark, summarizes it well when he says:

“I do not recognize anyone's right to one minute of my life. Nor to any part of my energy. Nor to any achievement of mine. No matter who makes the claim, how large their number or how great their need … I recognize no obligations toward men.”

Let me say that a little differently : “I do not recognize anyone’s right to one minute of my life, nor any part of my energy. I recognize no obligations towards other people.”

Rand did not believe that people ought to give something back. In fact, she felt it is downright immoral not only to expect this, but even to do it.

The Bible tells us otherwise.

In the book of Deuteronomy Moses gives what seems to be a strange command.

If you pick grain and leave some in the field; leave it there for strangers, the widows and the orphans.

When you harvest your grapes, don’t pick all of them. Leave some for others.

When you pick your olives, don’t pick all of them because you need to leave them for the strangers, the widows, and the orphans.

Think of the response.

These are my grapes!!!!

This is my grain!!!

These are my olives!!!

This is my money!!!

And Moses says, leave some of it behind for the strangers, the widows, and the orphans.

People would clamor and rebel, but Moses’ explanation is a one word explanation. “Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt.”

Remember that while we might prosper now, we were once slaves in Egypt and the hand of God made us free.

This ‘remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt’ is something, interestingly enough, that is part of all our lives no matter where we are in life.

Two women worked in a factory many years ago. The factory made sweaters and these two women had the job of making button holes in the sweaters. It was hard and boring work. The two women had different circumstances in life. One had been widowed at a young age and had worked for years, even as her children were now adults but living at home. The other had five children and a husband who came home every morning from his night watchman job and would fall down drunk. Most of her children were grown, but life was still difficult. They were both quite poor with few luxuries.

The woman with the five children lamented that they had finally been able to purchase a television a year ago and it was now broken and she was trying to work extra hours to pay for a repairman to come and fix the broken television.

The other woman said, “Don’t be silly,” and volunteered her son, a TV repairman, to come and fix the TV, for free.

Her son was less than happy with his mother because this was his living and his mother was always volunteering him to fix things for her friends and he was very annoyed. But he went. As crazy as his mother often drove him, she had struggled to provide a living for them when his Dad had died and he knew his Mom would do anything in the world for him, so he went to repair the TV.

Turned out, one of the daughters of the other woman, a usually painfully shy, reclusive type of person, sat down and talked to the TV repairman the entire time and they ended up dating, getting married, and all the rest. Ten months, after they married, they had a baby boy, and people counted their fingers to see how many months it was and he grew up and realizes that this was his, “You were once a slave in the land of Egypt” story. My very being hinged on two impoverished women making button holes in a sweater factory and a broken television.

Dumb luck or grace upon grace?

My story is not very unique. We all go back, somewhere, to poor immigrants, or poor parents, or poor grandparents, or poor great-parents who remind us. “You were once a slave in the land of Egypt.”

Dumb luck or grace upon grace?

This church was founded in 1837 by poor German immigrants who migrated here from Germany and built a town and built a church and cast their lots together. This church has a history and we are reminded of the humble roots of this church. “You were once a slave in the land of Egypt.”

Dumb luck or grace upon grace?

This week is Veteran’s Day and we honored veterans during Worship. Two of our members spent time in Prisoner of War camps in Germany during World War II. So many of the people we honor today put their lives at risk to defend our country. For many, it was a reminder. “You were once a slave in the land of Egypt.”

So, their willingness to serve----dumb luck for us, or grace upon grace?

In the 1940's two men, Bill Hewlett and David Packard started a business in a garage tinkering with gadgets and selling what most people considered to be peculiar gadgets, mostly electrical or electronic gadgets to companies. Right now, Hewlett-Packard is the largest technology company in the world. Hewlett and Packard were well known and noted for their charity to their employees and the communities around them because they always remembered their humble roots never forgot that they were once slaves in the land of Egypt.

Dumb luck or grace upon grace?

We live with a cultural contrast concerning generosity and giving back.

Imagine Ayn Rand’s response to Moses. This is my grain and no one is going to
touch it!

These are my grapes and no one is going to touch them!!!!

These are my olives and no one is going to touch them!!!!

But, Mose’s words are simple. “You were once slaves in the land of Egypt.”

Somewhere in all our lives these words ring out as a reminder to us that no matter who we are or how much we have accomplished, somewhere in our lives or in the lives of our ancestors, we were once slaves in the land of Egypt.

I often think back on two women meeting making button holes in sweaters. If these two women had not worked in the same factory, doing the same job at the same time and sitting next to each other, I would not be here, Janet would have married someone else, my two daughters would not exist, and someone else would be preaching this morning. Dumb luck or grace upon grace?

Which brings us to today, here and now at St. Marks United Church of Christ in the year 2009. Next week we are all invited to make a faith promise for our giving for next year. We’ve heard testimony about who we are, what we do, and, frankly, what kind of people we are. We do a lot for others and we welcome everyone in our doors. We Worship God, we pray, we play, we study, and we do.

We live, as a congregation, as the antithesis of Ayn Rand’s words:

“I do not recognize anyone’s right to one minute of my life, nor any part of my energy. I recognize no obligations towards other people.”

We do see a ton of our energy for others, and we do, collectively and individually see moral and spiritual obligations toward other people. We see this whenever we serve people in our Soup Kitchen, whenever we give people clothing, or blankets, or coats. We see this whenever we hand someone a Bag of Grace, or a Thanksgiving basket, or toys for their children at Christmas.

Is it a societal norm to ask us to share our grain? No, not really.

Is it societal norm to ask us to share our grapes? No, not really.

Is it societal norm to ask us to share our olives? No, not really.

Is it societal norm to ask us to share our money, our time, and our talents. No, not really.

It is actually NOT a societal norm to ask us to share. It is contrary to common sense and it is contrary to the society in which we live where seeing obligations toward others is seen less and less.

But, we also recognize one little thing. We were once slaves in Egypt and now we are free.

If it was dumb luck then don’t share.

But if we were once slaves in Egypt and are now free because of grace upon grace, I invite everyone into living a counter culturally wonderful life of sharing.

The choice is simple. We can seek for ourselves and have all we want, but end up spiritually bankrupt.

Or we can share with others and find ourselves spiritually enriched.

I invite each person here to live a life of abnormality, of generosity, and celebrating grace upon grace and being truly a people spiritually blessed.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Some Silliness as Winter Approaches!

As Winter Approaches ...


What happens at these Fahrenheit temperatures:

+65 - Hawaiians declare a two-blanket night.

+60 - Californians put on sweaters (if they can find one).

+50 - Miami residents turn on the heat.

+45 - Vermont residents go to outdoor concerts.

+40 - You can see your breath. Californians shiver uncontrollably. Minnesotans go swimming.

+35 - Italian cars don't start.

+32 - Water freezes.

+30 - You plan your vacation to Australia.

+25 - Ohio water freezes. Californians weep. Minnesotans eat ice cream. Canadians go swimming.

+20 - Politicians begin to talk about the homeless. New York City water freezes. Miami residents plan vacation farther South.

+15 - French cars don't start. Cat insists on sleeping in your bed with you.

+10 - You need jumper cables to get the car going.

+ 5 - American cars don't start.

0 - Alaskans put on T-shirts.

-10 - German cars don't start. Eyes freeze shut when you blink.

-15 - You can cut your breath and use it to build an igloo. Arkansans stick tongue on metal objects. Miami residents cease to exist.

-20 - Cat insists on sleeping in pajamas with you. Politicians actually do something about the homeless. Minnesotans shovel snow off roof. Japanese cars don't start.

-25 - Too cold to think. You need jumper cables to get the driver going.

-30 - You plan a two-week hot bath. Swedish cars don't start.

-40 - Californians disappear. Minnesotans button top button. Canadians put on sweaters. Your car helps you plan your trip south.

-50 - Congressional hot air freezes. Alaskans close the bathroom window.

-80 - Hell freezes over. Polar bears move south. Green Bay Packer fans order hot cocoa at the game.

-90 - Lawyers put their hands in their own pockets.
(from The Daily Dilly)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Not So Subtle Sexism and Hypocrisy

The November 23rd cover of Newsweek had Sarah Palin posing in shorts, running shorts, sneakers, and what appears to be a work out shirt. Her legs are glistening in the photograph and she is holding two Blackberries. It was a photograph taken for a Runner’s World magazine.

Whatever one thinks of Sarah Palin, she is an attractive woman, the picture is a good one, and she looks very attractive and, frankly, sexy in the photo. Newsweek felt that they were able to use the photograph because she did pose for it and had no objections with Runner’s World using it.

There has been right-wing backlash. Sarah Palin herself said on Facebook:

"The choice of photo for the cover of this week's Newsweek is unfortunate, When it comes to Sarah Palin, this "news" magazine has relished focusing on the irrelevant rather than the relevant. The Runner's World magazine one-page profile for which this photo was taken was all about health and fitness -- a subject to which I am devoted and which is critically important to this nation. The out-of-context Newsweek approach is sexist and oh-so-expected by now. If anyone can learn anything from it: it shows why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, gender, or color of skin. The media will do anything to draw attention -- even if out of context."

Jon Meacham, of Newsweek, in response to this, wrote:

“We chose the most interesting image available to us to illustrate the theme of the cover, which is what we always try to do.”


Sam Stein, defending the cover on The Huffington Post wrote:

The cover was meant to convey a larger point -- expanded upon within the magazine -- that the problems the former vice-presidential candidate poses for the GOP are, at once, institutional (see the special election in New York's 23rd District), substantive (see the death panels smear) and image-based (the tea party protests that Palin flames).

As Meacham writes in his editor's note: "[Palin's] political celebrity is so powerful that it has reduced a large part of the Republican Party to irrationality and civic incoherence."


The Newsweek articles essentially state that Palin is a political liability for the Republican Party for a variety of reasons such as her lack of knowledge on key issues, her seeming penchant for dishonesty, and many of her comments. Their conclusion was that she is highly popular for a segment of the population, but could never expand that popularity fair enough to be an effective candidate for the Presidency. The inside of the magazine handles this topic from a particular perspective and provides the foundation for debate on whether one agrees with their assessment or not.

But there is the cover...

The cover has been called out as sexist by many right-winged groups. Many of their comments are not being taken all that seriously because many of the calling out people have either used numerous sexist comments or not demonstrated much interest in defending the rights of women on any level. One website that called this cover sexist had, several months earlier, referred to MSNBC reporter, Contessa Brewer as an ‘air-headed slut.’ It is hard to credibly refer to someone else as sexist when you write such things.

But the cover is being defended by many left winged groups who generally do call out the issue of sexism. When the subject is Sarah Palin, there is silence. Except, interestingly enough, from Contessa Brewer who was one of the few voices calling this cover sexist.

I am struck that there is a not so subtle sexism and hypocrisy in all of this.

First there is the issue of sexism.

Women in leadership roles, whether they are politicians, in business, or on television, ought to be treated as the professionals they are. Period. The kind of make-up they wear, their hair styles, and their clothing choices ought not be part of the public discussion.

The picture of Sarah Palin on Newsweek, within the context of Newsweek, seemed to sexualize her to diminish her. If one totally disagrees with Sarah Palin and finds her to be a detrimental voice in the public arena, fine. She has placed herself in the public arena and her views are fair game. She provides plenty of fodder for discussion, both pro and con. But the picture on the cover minimalized her as a person and as a professional person. It was almost as if Newsweek’s cover screamed, “This cute and sexy thing can’t be taken seriously!”

Let her words, her views, and her record determine if she should be taken seriously. I like Newsweek a lot and I have a great deal of respect for Jon Meacham. He is, however, wrong on this one. The cover of Newsweek was not only disrespectful of Sarah Palin, but it served notice on all women who wish to be taken seriously: we will put a picture of you on our cover to diminish you.

Then there is, of course, hypocrisy on both the right and the left.

The right does not have a clear and consistent record in objecting to sexism. To suddenly clamor now has little credibility. The left, however, does, and to not speak out also gives them little credibility. People cannot cherry-pick sexism based on ‘who’ they want to defend.