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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been.
Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Great Expectations, Chapter 9
The Church of Nigeria has about 17 million members and Uganda another 8 million. As in other African provinces, most members in these two countries are regular churchgoers.
The Church of England counts about 26 million baptised members, but says only about a million of them attend services every Sunday.
--Reuters from a story last week entitled "African Anglicans denounce Church of England gay bishop rule"
I decided I can't pay a person to rewind time, so I may as well get over it--American tennis player Serena Williams
Right in the middle of all these things [in the first century ancient Near East] stands up an enormous exception. It is quite unlike anything else. It is a thing final like the trump of doom, though it is also a piece of good news; or news that seems too good to be true. It is nothing less than the loud assertion that this mysterious maker of the world has visited his world in person.....
It came on the world with a wind and rush of running messengers proclaiming that apocalyptic portent, and it is not unduly fanciful to say that they are running still. What puzzles the world, and its wise philosophers and fanciful pagan poets, about the priests and people of the Catholic Church is that they still behave as if they were messengers. A messenger does not dream about what his message might be, or argue about what it probably would be; he delivers it as it is. It is not a theory or a fancy but a fact. It is not relevant to this intentionally rudimentary outline to prove in detail that it is a fact; but merely to point out that these messengers do deal with it as men deal with a fact. All that is condemned in Catholic tradition, authority, and dogmatism and the refusal to retract and modify, are but the natural human attributes of a man with a message relating to a fact. I desire to avoid in this last summary all the controversial complexities that may once more cloud the simple lines of that strange story; which I have already called, in words that are much too weak, the strangest story in the world. I desire merely to mark those main lines and specially to mark where the great line is really to be drawn. The religion of the world, in its right proportions, is not divided into fine shades of mysticism or more or less rational forms of mythology. It is divided by the line between the men who are bringing that message and the men who have not yet heard it, or cannot yet believe it.
--G.K. Chesterton The Everlasting Man (Radford, Va.; Wilder Publications, 2008 edition of the 1925 original), pp.173-174
“This is a big old ship, Bill. She creaks, she rocks, she rolls, and at times she makes you want to throw up. But she gets where she’s going. Always has, always will, until the end of time. With or without you.”--J.F. Powers’ Wheat that Springeth Green (New York: New York Review Books Classics edition of the 1988 original, 2000), p. 170
"The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said."
--Peter Drucker (1909-2005)
Read it all.
We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They're either speaking or preparing to speak. They're filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people's lives."--Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (New York: Free Press [Simon & Schuster], 2004 revised ed.), p. 239
Never perhaps in all history—certainly never within the recollection of living men and women—has the world and civilization been so shaken to its very foundations; never before in all the world have those things which enabled men to perceive the finger of God in things on the earth been so assaulted and outraged and obscured as in the cruelties and terror of the world war. Never in the memory of living men and woemn has the world been in so shattered and chaotic a condition in its social and economic aspects as it is to-day. The horrors of the aftermath of war,—pestilence, famine, starvation, loss of family and friends, and means of livelihood—bear down upon countless of thousands of the people of the world. Perhaps it is not strange that under these burdens many in the agony and bitterness of despair are tempted to cry out that they are forsaken. And when in their despair they cry out, Where is God?, perhaps it is not surprising that many new and strange preachers should spring up to lure men away with fair promises and false hopes, and with misguided exhortation to say: "Follow me, and I will show you a new way to the Promised Land"; and others, inspired by the Devil himself to say: "Let us destroy this world with its civilization and divide the spoils among ourselves."No fair googling or researching first, etc.--take a guess. Then see who it is and read it all.
Just as commerce and industry stagger and reel in the receding wave from an unsound prosperity, just as economic currents when turned from their natural channels swirl round and round in a whirlpool of confusion threatening to draw to destruction in the vortex much of the world's economic fabric, so too, do the resulting passions and despair of men and women tend to tear them away from the moorings of their old faith and to cast them adrift to be tossed hither and thither, the prey of the winds and the whims of every passing hour.
‘This is not just a “theological formula”. If we left it out, we would have a Word of God that is separated from God; we would make God the prisoner of our thoughts or theologies. We would have a Word with which we could operate, a Word we could “use”, a Word we could judge. But it could not be the Word of God, the Word which operates with us, uses us, and judges us. Our work in the Church, therefore, can only be a service to this one life-giving Word of God. The clearest expression of this truth is the fact that there is no other way to preach than to preach an “expository sermon”, and even this is not a guarantee’.---Dietrich Ritschl, A Theology of Proclamation (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1960), pp. 67-68
Lack of gratitude is one of the driving forces of unbelief.
--Douglas Wlion, Books and Culture, May/June 2011 edition, p.8
"The cruellest lies are often told in silence."
--Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque (1881)
Jay Leno on undecided voters: "Do we vote for the people who got us into this mess, or the people who can't get us out of this mess?"
Wisdom is the power to see and the inclination to choose the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.
--J.I.Packer, Knowing God
Q. Could you give us a brief definition of “the gospel”?
A. I could try taking a Pauline angle. When Paul talks about “the gospel,” he means “the good news that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Messiah of Israel and therefore the Lord of the world.” Now, that’s about as brief as you can do it.
The reason that’s good news… In the Roman Empire, when a new emperor came to the throne, there’d obviously been a time of uncertainty. Somebody’s just died. Is there going to be chaos? Is society going to collapse? Are we going to have pirates ruling the seas? Are we going to have no food to eat? And the good news is, we have an emperor and his name is such and such. So, we’re going to have justice and peace and prosperity, and isn’t that great?!
Now, of course, most people in the Roman Empire knew that was rubbish because it was just another old jumped-up aristocrat who was going to do the same as the other ones had done. But that was the rhetoric.
Paul slices straight in with the Isaianic message: Good news! God is becoming King and he is doing it through Jesus! And therefore, phew! God’s justice, God’s peace, God’s world is going to be renewed.
And in the middle of that, of course, it’s good news for you and me. But that’s the derivative from, or the corollary of the good news which is a message about Jesus that has a second-order effect on me and you and us. But the gospel is not itself about you are this sort of a person and this can happen to you. That’s the result of the gospel rather than the gospel itself.
It’s very clear in Romans. Romans 1:3-4: This is the gospel. It’s the message about Jesus Christ descended from David, designated Son of God in power, and then Romans 1:16-17 which says very clearly: “I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God unto salvation.” That is, salvation is the result of the gospel, not the center of the gospel itself.
--Please guess who is speaking before you look and find the answer.
I was afraid of a united Church; it makes a mighty power, the mightiest conceivable, and then when it by and by gets into selfish hands, as it is always bound to do, it means death to human liberty and paralysis to human thought.
--Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Chapter X
A few years ago, bone fide good guy Richard Smucker (the current co-CEO of Smucker’s and a fourth generation Smucker) found a letter written by his father which sums up in practical terms what it means to appreciate and express gratitude:
--Say “thank you.”
--Listen with full attention.
--Look for the good in others.
--Have a sense of humor.
--William F. Baker and Michael O'Malley, Leading with Kindness: How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results (New York: Amacom, 2008), page 54
You can always tell a real friend: When you have made a fool of yourself, he doesn't feel you've done a permanent job.
--Laurence J. Peter in the March 2009 Reader's Digest, page 184
ARE YOU GAME?
You don't play to win.
California-based artist and video-game designer John O'Neill has gone back to basics with an old-fashioned board game with a twist: It's meant to shake up the preconceived notions of "winning" and "losing." Paradice combines the strategic challenge of checkers or chess with a thoughtful new approach to competition. A favorite at eco-conscious festivals, Paradice is a game for two to four players who switch roles between Giver and Taker as the game progresses. In the end, the Giver wins by bringing all the "humans" on the board eye to eye. The game embodies the philosophy it teaches: The set is constructed of sustainably harvested wood and nontoxic dyes. Paradice also comes in an elegant version made from hand-poured resin.
-- Liz Seymour, USAirways Magazine August 2008
"Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even when everyone is for it."
--William Penn (1644-1718), also quoted by yours truly in this past Sunday's sermon
"The Church is not something made by men. It is the instrument of the living God for the setting-forward of His reign on earth . . . This is an hour of testing and peril for the Church, no less than for the world. But it is the hour of God's call to the Church . . . For those who have eyes to see, there are signs that the tide of faith is beginning to come in."
--Said about what gathering of what Christian group when--guess first and then please read it all.
Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace
--Alexander Pope (1688–1744)
When you have to make a choice and don't make it, that is in itself a choice.
--William James (1842-1910)
"The superiority of pagan over Christian truth was believed by Catholic Christianity's critics to subsist precisely in the fact that 'these things never happened, but always are.'"
--Markus Bockmuehl, quoting Sallustius (4th cent.), De dis et mundo 4 (tauta de egeneto oudepote, esti de aei), against Hauerwas' Matthew; Pro ecclesia 17:1 (Winter 2008): p. 27
The sure mark of an unliterary man is that he considers ‘I’ve read it already’ to be a conclusive argument against reading a work. We have all known women who remembered a novel so dimly that they had to stand for half an hour in the library skimming through it before they were certain they had once read it. But the moment they became certain, they rejected it immediately. It was for them dead, like a burnt-out match, an old railway ticket, or yesterday’s newspaper; they had already used it. Those who read great
works, on the other hand, will read the same work ten, twenty or thirty times during the course of their life."
--C.S.Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism
Corrie ten Boom told of not being able to forget a wrong that had been done to her. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn't sleep. Finally Corrie cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest. "His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor," Corrie wrote, "to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks." "Up in the church tower," he said, nodding out the window, "is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding, then dong. Slower and slower until there's a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness. When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we've been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we mustn't be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They're just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down." "And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the force -- which was my willingness in the matter -- had gone out of them. They came less and less often and at the last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our emotions, but also above our thoughts."
--Quoted in this morning's sermon by yours truly on forgiveness
The temptation to form premature theories upon insufficient data is the bane of our profession. --Sherlock Holmes
--I have tried to keep things in my hands and lost them all, but what I have given into God's hands I still possess.
--Martin Luther; quoted in this morning's sermon by yours truly
I always feel like ...[we are] on the front lines, and we're in combat, and we're receiving fire and returning fire. And we're running out of bullets, and we're running out of guns, and we're running out of food, and we're running out of water. And supply lines had better advance.
You need to guess the context and identity of the speaker before you look.
When we “use” God, the church, and ministry to appease religious curiosity and demand, determine winners and losers, gain an upper hand or prove we are better than our competitors, we become participants in death: life without God
When I pay 100% of the airfare, 100% of the plane is a minimum requirement.
--ET, commenting on the bizarre story of a SriLankan Airlines Airplane which announced it was taking off with a small section of its wingtip missing
21. However, secondly, we believe that there remains a lack of clarity about the stance of The Episcopal Church, especially its position on the authorisation of Rites of Blessing for persons living in same-sex unions. There appears to us to be an inconsistency between the position of General Convention and local pastoral provision. We recognise that the General Convention made no explicit resolution about such Rites and in fact declined to pursue resolutions which, if passed, could have led to the development and authorisation of them. However, we understand that local pastoral provision is made in some places for such blessings. It is the ambiguous stance of The Episcopal Church which causes concern among us.
22. The standard of teaching stated in Resolution 1.10 of the Lambeth Conference 1998 asserted that the Conference “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions”.
--The Anglican Primates Tanzania Communique
The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence.
Stuart Smalley (Voiceover): I deserve good things. I am entitled to my share of happiness. I refuse to beat myself up. I am attractive person. I am fun to be with.
Announcer: "Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley". Stuart Smalley is a caring nurturer, a member of several 12-step programs, but not a licensed therapist.
[ open on Stuart giving himself a pep talk in his full-length mirror ]
Stuart Smalley: I'm going to do a terrific show today! And I'm gonna help people! Because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me!
--Comedian Al Franken
"Thank God there are those in the contemporary church who are determined at all costs to defend and uphold God’s revealed truth. But sometimes they are conspicuously lacking in love. When they think they smell heresy, their nose begins to twitch, their muscles ripple, and the light of battle enters their eye. They seem to enjoy nothing more than a fight. Others make the opposite mistake. They are determined at all costs to maintain and exhibit brotherly love, but in order to do so are prepared even to sacrifice the central truths of revelation. Both these tendencies are unbalanced and unbiblical. Truth becomes hard if it is not softened by love; love becomes soft if it is not strengthened by truth. The apostle [Paul] calls us to hold the two together, which should not be difficult for Spirit-filled believers, since the Holy Spirit is himself ‘the Spirit of truth,’ and his firstfruit is ‘love.’ There is no other route than this to a fully mature Christian unity."
--John Stott, The Message of Ephesians (Downer's Grove, Illinois: InterVarsityPress, 1979), p. 172
The world is a dangerous place to live — not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.
Greed is the logical result of the belief that there is no life after death. We grab what we can while we can however we can and then hold on to it hard.
--Sir Fred Catherwood, Evangelicals Now
"The gospel of grace begins and ends with forgiveness … grace is the only force in the universe powerful enough to break the chains that enslave generations. Grace alone melts ungrace."
--Philip Yancey, quoted in this morning's sermon
"Urgency engulfs the manager; yet the most urgent task is not always the most important. The tyranny of the urgent lies in its distortion of priorities. One of the measures of a manager is the ability to distinguish the important from the urgent, to refuse to be tyrannize--d by the urgent, to refuse to manage by crisis."
--R. Alec Mackenzie, also from this morning's sermon
"He that is everywhere is nowhere." — Thomas Fuller, 17th century historian, scholar, and author, also quoted in this morning's sermon
Writer Charles Swindoll once found himself with too many commitments in too few days. He got nervous and tense about it. "I was snapping at my wife and our children, choking down my food at mealtimes, and feeling irritated at those unexpected interruptions through the day," he recalled in his book Stress Fractures. "Before long, things around our home started reflecting the patter of my hurry-up style. It was becoming unbearable.
"I distinctly remember after supper one evening, the words of our younger daughter, Colleen. She wanted to tell me something important that had happened to her at school that day. She began hurriedly, 'Daddy, I wanna tell you somethin' and I'll tell you really fast.'
"Suddenly realizing her frustration, I answered, 'Honey, you can tell me -- and you don't have to tell me really fast. Say it slowly." "I'll never forget her answer: 'Then listen slowly.'"
--From Bits & Pieces, June 24, 1993, and quoted in this morning's sermon
But attending was not really about taking a peek at another school’s methods. “The fundamental reason was that I wanted to have my own skills improved as a manager and leader,” Prof Francis says. “The course did what it said it would – we were both impressed.
“The opportunity of talking about it with 89 other senior executives who have depth and experience is part of what you are paying for – as is being led by someone who is highly experienced and can pull out all the nuances.”
Harvard, Prof Francis says, has developed and crystallised his thinking and given him greater confidence that his intuition about how and what to change were correct. “For me, one of the biggest, most striking insights is the importance of organisational culture. There was a phrase I found very striking, which Ford had pinned up in the boardroom: ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. It means that you can strategise all you like but, if you have not got hearts and minds, it is a complete waste of time.”
--Professor Arthur Francis, Dean of Bradford University School of Management, in yesterday's Financial Times, page 12
"All those vague theosophical minds for whom the universe is an immense melting pot are exactly the minds which shrink instinctively from that earthquake saying of our Gospels, which declare that the Son of God came not with peace but with a sundering sword."
--G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, chapter 8 ("The Romance of Orthodoxy")
This elf was offline almost all day yesterday, so we didn't have a chance to post any Independence Day links. Here are three pieces we found worth reading:
1. I particularly appreciated Sarah Hey's reflection "Happy Birthday America" over on Stand Firm, which inexplicably has no comments. (Maybe it should have been posted as a feature, not under news?) Sarah provides some links and excerpts to several Independence Day op-eds and then ask us to consider:
What does that liberty mean for you, here in America?
For me, it means that whatever I imagine, whatever I hope for, whatever I dream in, no matter how foolish, quixotic, unimaginable, trifling, serious, extravagant, impractical, noble, as long as it does not violate the rights of others [and of course, personally, as long as it does not violate the Christian faith] . . . I am free to pursue it. Others may denounce my foolhardiness, or ignore me, or cheer me on, or wonder why, or roll their eyes, or hope for my success -- but no matter what, I am at liberty.
What about you?
2. Several blogs I try to follow noted Michael Gerson's op-ed in yesterday's Washington Post: Why we Keep this Creed
The privileged and powerful can love America for many reasons. The oppressed and powerless, stripped of selfish motives for their love, have found America lovely because of its ideals.
It is typical of America that our great national day is not the celebration of a battle -- or, as in the case of France, the celebration of a riot. It is the celebration of a political act, embedded in a philosophic argument: that the rights of man are universal because they are rooted in the image of God. That argument remains controversial. Some view all claims of universal truth with skepticism. Some believe such claims by America amount to hubris.
Which is why some of us love this holiday so much. It is the day when cynicism is silent. It is the day when Americans recall that "all men are created equal" somehow applies to the Mexican migrant and the Iraqi shopkeeper and the inner-city teenager. And it is the day we honor those who take this fact seriously. Those in our military who fight for the liberty of strangers are noble. Those dissidents who risk much in Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea and China are heroic. Those who work against poverty and injustice in America are patriots -- because patriotism does not require us to live in denial, only to live in hope.
In America we respect, defend and obey the Constitution -- but we change it when it is inconsistent with our ideals. Those ideals are defined by the Declaration of Independence. We have not always lived up to them. But we would not change them for anything on Earth.
3. Evangelical Outpost blog has a quote from CS Lewis posted under the heading "Democracy and the Fall." It's interesting to read this in light of all the rhetoric from TEC bishops and other leaders of late about Democracy and the Episcopal Church.
From C.S. Lewis' essay "Equality" on the relationship between democracy and mankind's fall from grace:
I am a democrat [believer in democracy] because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that every one deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they're not true. . . . I find that they're not true without looking further than myself. I don't deserve a share in governing a hen-roost. Much less a nation. . . . The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters. ("Equality," in C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces, ed. by Lesley Walmsley [London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000,] p. 666).
"Today we stand on an awful arena, where character which was the growth of centuries was tested and determined by the issues of a single day. We are compassed about by a cloud of witnesses; not alone the shadowy ranks of those who wrestled here, but the greater parties of the action--they for whom these things were done. Forms of thought rise before us, as in an amphitheatre, circle beyond circle, rank above rank; The State, The Union, The People. And these are One. Let us--from the arena, contemplate them--the spiritual spectators.
"There is an aspect in which the question at issue might seem to be of forms, and not of substance. It was, on its face, a question of government. There was a boastful pretence that each State held in its hands the death-warrant of the Nation; that any State had a right, without show of justification outside of its own caprice, to violate the covenants of the constitution, to break away from the Union, and set up its own little sovereignty as sufficient for all human purposes and ends; thus leaving it to the mere will or whim of any member of our political system to destroy the body and dissolve the soul of the Great People. This was the political question submitted to the arbitrament of arms. But the victory was of great politics over small. It was the right reason, the moral consciousness and solemn resolve of the people rectifying its wavering exterior lines according to the life-lines of its organic being.
"There is a phrase abroad which obscures the legal and moral questions involved in the issue,--indeed, which falsifies history: "The War between the States". There are here no States outside of the Union. Resolving themselves out of it does not release them. Even were they successful in intrenching themselves in this attitude, they would only relapse into territories of the United States. Indeed several of the States so resolving were never in their own right either States or Colonies; but their territories were purchased by the common treasury of the Union. Underneath this phrase and title,--"The War between the States"--lies the false assumption that our Union is but a compact of States. Were it so, neither party to it could renounce it at his own mere will or caprice. Even on this theory the States remaining true to the terms of their treaty, and loyal to its intent, would have the right to resist force by force, to take up the gage of battle thrown down by the rebellious States, and compel them to return to their duty and their allegiance. The Law of Nations would have accorded the loyal States this right and remedy.
"But this was not our theory, nor our justification. The flag we bore into the field was not that of particular States, no matter how many nor how loyal, arrayed against other States. It was the flag of the Union, the flag of the people, vindicating the right and charged with the duty of preventing any factions, no matter how many nor under what pretence, from breaking up this common Country.
"It was the country of the South as well as of the North. The men who sought to dismember it, belonged to it. Its was a larger life, aloof from the dominance of self-surroundings; but in it their truest interests were interwoven. They suffered themselves to be drawn down from the spiritual ideal by influences of the physical world. There is in man that peril of the double nature. "But I see another law", says St. Paul. "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind."
--Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (1828-1914)
“…’I am a nut about community, and what is missing in the Church for me is any realness between people. So many communities want pseudo-community and are not willing to do the work to have real community. They don’t want authenticity and reality. They want to hear a sermon that is going to make them feel better, but they don’t want to get real with each other and hear each other’s pain and talk about that kind of this. They don’t want to talk about the real stuff of life. That is very sad. Jesus said, ‘I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.’ Many churches I go to are not very [alive] places. You get the feeling that, beneath the smile and the singing and the clapping, there is no real life underneath.’ …”
--M. Scott Peck as quoted by Arthur Thomas (via Prodigal Kiwi's Blog)
With seven days of meetings running from 6.30 A.M. to 9.00 P.M., the patience and stamina of delegates seemed likely to be tested to the maximum. With a strictly controlled agenda and the rather directive stance taken by the Council of General Synod in presenting its own motions on some of the most contentious issues, it was also questionable how much time and opportunity delegates would ultimately have to work through the implications of very significant decisions.
--John Oakes at Canada's General Synod
Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond; was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?
... when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier's salutation, from the 'order arms' to the old 'carry,' the marching salute.
Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of the manual — honor answering honor.
On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!
-- Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain [1828-1914], The Passing of the Armies, on the surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865
Malle and Wat were burning garden rubbish; the heap was crackling merrily; below the busy flames were sliding their quick fingers about the dry wizened stalks, feeling along, licking up; above, smoke, reeking of rottenness, poured out, leaned sideways, swirled wide and swept over half the garden. Malle and Wat, casting down fork and rake, fled out of it to the clear air to breathe, and leaned together upon the wall.
‘Wat,’ said Malle, ‘have you thought that He has stained Himself, soiled Himself, being not only with men, but Himself a man. What’s that, to be man? Look at me. Look at you.’
They looked at each other, and one saw a dusty wretched dumb lad, and the other saw a heavy slatternly woman.
Malle said: ‘It’s to be that which shoots down the birds out of the free air, and slaughters dumb beasts, and kills his own kind in wars.’
She looked away up the Dale towards Calva, rust-red with dead bracken, smouldering under the cold sky.
‘And it wasn’t that He put on man like a jacket to take off at night, or to bathe or to play. But man He was, as man is man, the maker made Himself the made; God was un-Godded by His own hand.’
She put her hands to her face, and was silent, till Wat pulled them away.
‘He was God,’ she said, ‘from before the beginning, and now never to be clean God again. Never again. Alas!’ she said, and then, ‘Osanna!’
--H. F. M. Prescott, The man on a donkey (New York: Macmillan, 1961), pp. 455-456
I walk down the garden-paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
With my powdered hair and jeweled fan,
I too am a rare
Pattern. As I wander down
My dress is richly figured,
And the train
Makes a pink and silver stain
On the gravel, and the thrift
Of the borders.
Just a plate of current fashion,
Tripping by in high-heeled, ribboned shoes.
Not a softness anywhere about me,
Only whalebone and brocade.
And I sink on a seat in the shade
Of a lime tree. For my passion
Wars against the stiff brocade.
The daffodils and squills
Flutter in the breeze
As they please.
And I weep;
For the lime-tree is in blossom
And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom.
And the splashing of waterdrops
In the marble fountain
Comes down the garden-paths.
The dripping never stops.
Underneath my stiffened gown
Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin,
A basin in the midst of hedges grown
So thick, she cannot see her lover hiding,
But she guesses he is near,
And the sliding of the water
Seems the stroking of a dear
Hand upon her.
What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown!
I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground.
All the pink and silver crumpled up on the ground.
I would be the pink and silver as I ran along the paths,
And he would stumble after,
Bewildered by my laughter.
I should see the sun flashing from his sword-hilt and the buckles on his shoes.
I would choose
To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths,
A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover.
Till he caught me in the shade,
And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he clasped me,
Aching, melting, unafraid.
With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops,
And the plopping of the waterdrops,
All about us in the open afternoon--
I am very like to swoon
With the weight of this brocade,
For the sun sifts through the shade.
Underneath the fallen blossom
In my bosom,
Is a letter I have hid.
It was brought to me this morning by a rider from the Duke.
"Madam, we regret to inform you that Lord Hartwell
Died in action Thursday se'nnight."
As I read it in the white, morning sunlight,
The letters squirmed like snakes.
"Any answer, Madam," said my footman.
"No," I told him.
"See that the messenger takes some refreshment.
No, no answer."
And I walked into the garden,
Up and down the patterned paths,
In my stiff, correct brocade.
The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun,
I stood upright too,
Held rigid to the pattern
By the stiffness of my gown.
Up and down I walked,
Up and down.
In a month he would have been my husband.
In a month, here, underneath this lime,
We would have broke the pattern;
He for me, and I for him,
He as Colonel, I as Lady,
On this shady seat.
He had a whim
That sunlight carried blessing.
And I answered, "It shall be as you have said."
Now he is dead.
In Summer and in Winter I shall walk
Up and down
The patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
The squills and daffodils
Will give place to pillared roses, and to asters, and to snow.
I shall go
Up and down
In my gown.
Boned and stayed.
And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
By each button, hook, and lace.
For the man who should loose me is dead,
Fighting with the Duke in Flanders,
In a pattern called a war.
Christ! What are patterns for?
--Amy Lowell (1874 - 1925), Patterns
O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
–Walt Whitman (1819–1892)
“…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…”
–Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, November 19, 1863
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
–Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
In thanksgiving for all those who gave their lives for this country in years past, and for those who continue to serve–KSH.
When the Holy Spirit gets hold of us, everything changes . . . our view of life, our value systems, our will toward our neighbor, our aims and goals in life, our perception of the world, our self-image, our "yeses" and our "noes," our appreciation for things that never caught our attention before . . . absolutely everything. For the Holy Spirit opens to us a vision of what ought to be even though it is not yet; a hope greater than that to which any earthly hope can give words even though it is a hope yet beyond sight; a foresight of eternity even though we are bound to time; a love yet to be realized in its fullness even while it is known in shadowy form in our present estate. It is, as Peter said, quoting the prophet Joel, "when he pours out his Spirit on all flesh your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy." (Acts 2:17, 18)
None of that can quite be put into words, yet it clearly speaks of being in the world in a new and different way; of seeing what is not yet as though it already were and living by that vision; of reaching beyond what can presently be reached as though it were already near enough to be touched; of speaking about things that sound like speaking in tongues while they are already understood in the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord to whom the Spirit is constantly pointing; to whom the Spirit is constantly drawing and binding us; to whom we are constantly praying for the life of the world and our own life; for whom all of creation "waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God." (Rom. 8:19)
Ah, what a vision the Holy Spirit gives us! He who first began the ordering of creation when he separated the light from the darkness and the waters above the earth from the waters under the earth as he "hovered over" that first creation (Genesis 1:2) still hovers over his creation, raising eyes to see what is yet unseen; filling hearts with a visionary hope in the midst of the darkness of this world; causing lives to be lived with boldness and confidence as though they were already beyond the reach of sin; who touches you and me through his revealing word, through water, bread and wine, and calls us ever so gently - although he is not above pressing on us when we resist - to trust the one who speaks in our text as though he were still with us.
We are not left as orphans! The Christ whom the disciples knew remains with us today as the Spirit of truth comes from the Father bearing Christ's presence among us.
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