Sunday, December 28, 2008

God in the Unexpected

The Gospel for today, Simeon and Anna meeting the Holy Family has two themes I will cover today. The two themes are God in the Unexpected, and Life has Suffering. I'll cover God in the unexpected first.

We stumble on God in unlikely places. In the mall, at our New Years party, in the grocery isle. God is truly in all, through all, and above all. But sometimes we have to be awakened to the possibility. God in the unexpected. Even in the city dump.

In a recent episode of my favorite NPR show RadioLab, they talked about what they find in dumps. In New York, they are burying garbage in manmade hills. Imagine what some future archeologist will find decades from now. A current archeologist dug down and took a core sample about 50 feet down in one of these massive "landfill hills" and do you know what he found? God? No, a Ten year old hotdog.

However the concept of making hills out of garbage isn't new, nor is it unusual. We've been burying garbage for a while. In a few days I'll be going to Egypt, but let's go there now! Well not now, but to Egypt 1898. Two archeologists from Oxford noticed some strange sand dunes. They just didn't look like the other ones. They are strange and irregularly shaped. They found huge quantity of baskets, pottery, clothing, the MOTHER LOAD! Undisturbed mounds of 10 centuries worth of trash. The biggest find was all of the ancient paper… In fact the first piece of paper they pull out is a Lost Saying of Jesus.

Imagine, standing in a desert, in a 1,000 year old trash dump, and the first thing you pick up is the words of Jesus Christ. Here you are standing on a sand dune, reading words of Jesus no one's ever heard before. The first saying out of this dump "He who knows the all, but fails to know himself, lacks everything." Forget the 10 year old hotdog! Here is something not heard or read about for 2,000 years. It's not even alluded to! Jesus states that Heaven, the kingdom of God is spread out all over the world, but we don't see it. We're surrounded by it, but don't see it. [i] I think this exactly the Jesus I know, it fits with the story we do know.

God in Garbage dumps. God in unexpected places. These archeologists didn't expect to find God there in an Egyptian dump! And I bet, neither did Simeon or Anna when they first looked at the baby of the poor carpenter and the woman he "got pregnant" out of wedlock.

Here is Simeon, an old man who somehow got it in his head that he was going to see the messiah. Here is Anna, a faithful servant who isn't expecting much, just to live out her days in the temple, worshiping God. Along comes this poor couple. How do we know they're poor? The family offers a sacrifice and the details of the sacrifice are interesting. Two turtledoves or two young pigeons are to be offered if the family couldn't afford a lamb. Mary and Joseph are poor! Poor but observant Jews.

Imagine how many babies Simeon has seen in his quest. I bet he looked at every baby that came into the temple. If I had Simeon's mission to see the Messiah, I would be ready to quit after my tenth baby. Simeon was faithful, he trusted God and stayed in it. Who knows how long he was in there, how long he waited, but he knew he had found the messiah when he saw Jesus. I would imagine Simeon was a little shocked. I have no idea what Simeon thought the messiah would be, but it couldn't be this little child from this poor family. The messiah was to be from the House of David, ROYALTY! A great military leader, the prophecies say nothing about a baby from a poor family. We have words of Christ in the dump and the Messiah in a Poor Baby.

Simeon does something odd though. He gives a beautiful hymn of praise to the family and to the baby, Simeon is SO happy but then he throws in this sadness. And Simeon's words to Mary say "Sword will pierce your heart" meaning, her heart will break. Simeon is foreshadowing the cross.

Wait, wait. This story is just the gospel writer foreshadowing the cross, nothing more. It's not relevant to our lives today. Some dude meets a baby in the temple, who cares? What's the point? There's no God here, this is just a 10 year old hotdog part of the Bible.

Of course God is here in the story and it is still relevant today. As you may know, Kate and I are pregnant. Well, she's pregnant and I'm responsible… what I mean to say is that we're expecting our first child. The kid is still in utero and we've already had an army of Simeon's and Anna's.

These modern prophets start off just like Simeon's hymn, with joyous praise, "you're going to have a baby! That's great! Congrats! That child will be the apple of your eye. You'll be great parents." But just like Simeon, there's also a note of dread. From the funny like "Oh I'm sorry Kate, now you're going to have two children to deal with, your husband and your baby." Then there's the saddeness. One particular message keeps playing in my mind from a particular Simeon. He said "You raise your kids, and all is well. The terrible twos aren't that terrible. You get them talking and out comes this little personality, and it's great you love it. Then you have to send the kid to school and your heart breaks a little bit. But then you realize that the manners you taught them are working out. Then one day, ugh, the school sends home this person… this happens around 13 or 14… this stranger who looks like your kid, sounds like your kid, but doesn't act like your kid. Talks and acts impolite, is very selfish, THAT is when your heart will break."

That's something to tell expectant parents. But this Simeon is right! And I'll further that message. Throughout your life, not just one sword is going to pierce your heart. Life, after all, is terminal. As one philosopher Van Wilder put it, "Don't take life too seriously, no one gets out alive." One day, everyone you know will die.

So what's the point? You may ask. Why remind us of our mortality, thanks a lot Debbie Downer!

It is easy for me to say standing up here in front of you. God is great and God is good, found in trash heaps and in little babies. How sweet! Some religious traditions try to make excuses for these hard times – talking about the mystery of God or even suggesting that God does these things for reasons we will never know, or because we’ve sinned or done something wrong – THOSE traditions don't go down the road of hard questions. But we're not that kind of church. THIS tradition asks hard questions – feels hard feelings – and tries to make sense out of hard truths. And one of the hard truths about illness, accidents and calamities and death is that… it doesn't make sense. It isn't fair… and it hurts like hell.[ii]

It's easy to stand here and say Jesus is Christ and use images of riches and glory all devoid of the suffering of the story. We don't often talk about the blood of Jesus at Trinity and I think that reason is twofold. First is because we don't subscribe to a "blood atonement theology" and second is that we're uncomfortable with the physicality of Jesus. Jesus was human, and what he went through on the cross HURT and it was terrible and it caused him a lot of pain and those around him even more pain. So much so that his best friends couldn't even watch their friend suffer and die. Isn't that true of us? Don't we stay away from grieving and dying people sometimes, not because we don't care, but because we care too much? But here within the announcement of the Messiah there is also an announcement of the tragedy. "A sword will pierce the heart of Mary". To recall a movie title, there will be blood.

In this life there will be blood, and tears and pain. From my time here at Trinity, since June, I have seen pain and suffering. In our tradition of Christianity we sometimes say that the authentic follower of Jesus is NOT the person with all the answers – or all the degrees – or even the best words. No, the real follower of Jesus is the one who knows how to feed the sheep. To feed the sheep of our world demands compassion – and patience – and tenderness. It requires being true and real and humble. One person said that if you are going to feed the sheep of this world you can't be too full of yourself. Like communion bread you have to be taken – and blessed – and broken and shared.[iii] You don't need to have the right words, in fact, I've learned that words are the least important thing! Just be there, be present, be that someone who stands and offers the hug, or handshake or meal to a family who is hurting.

We think we need some Hollywood scene and say the right thing in a beautiful, eloquent speech. No, you don't. You just need to be present and listening.

A professor of theology at seminary once told me a story about how good wine is made. There are a few spots where good grapes can be grown because the climate in America is too perfect.

"Too perfect?!" I asked, "Perfect grapes make bad wine?"

"Yes," He responded, "For great wine to be made the grapes have to suffer. Suffering adds depth and builds character."

This is what life will do to your spiritual character. It adds character and depth. And you will suffer and wrestle with new concepts. New joys and new tragedies. However, the community here will help you through it. The community will help and although we might not understand it, we will get through it. This too shall pass.

Jesus said, "I am the vine…" (John 15:1) so that makes us grapes! We will be crushed, and stomped, and bruised, but we have each other and God is there and we can make something great! God is there even in the unexpected tragedies of our lives. We have the grace of God and the example of Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. When tragedy strikes, we're allowed to say OUCH and ask for help.

When i think of a good grape, Mother Teresa and Dalia Lama springs to mind, but the main example is a more personal one. I think of my GMA Bet. She was always positive and hopeful despite suffering with Rhuematoid Arthritius. I never heard her ask why did this happen to me? Christians get so focused on the why we lose focus. Our Muslim and Buddhist brothers and sisters don't ask this, they take it as a given that there will be suffering. They don't even bother to ask why, they just focus on dealing with it. This is something we do well to remember. It's not about hoping there won't be suffering, it's how we respond to it. As Nancy quoted in one of her sermon's this year, "10% of life is what happens to me, 90% is how i react to it." [iv]. When turmoil engulfs our lives, we should remember that Christmas is a never-ending story. Christmas is a reminder that “God so loved the world..” and God loves us. [v]

We don't love because it's easy or because we won't get hurt. We love despite it all. We love because you and I are here, now, it could have been otherwise. Jesus never said that following him, or even life for that matter, would be easy… he just said it would be worth it. AMEN.

[i] Radio Lab "Detective Stories" 9-11-2007,
[ii] RJ from "Saying Good-bye to Vicki"
[iii] RJ Again, dude was on it in this post!
[iv] Nancy quoted Charles Swindoll.
[v] Charita Goshay "Christmas is a never-ending Story" Canton Reposititory, 12-25-08. This 'n' that.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

It's Decemberween! YAY! Happy Holidays to all! They're still not better than your hot cousin Debra.

What's coming up, you ask? Well I'm going to Egypt in January. From 1-7 to 1-22 I'll be out of the country... but I'll be posting up my exegetical paper on 1 Corinthians for your reading and hopefully, massive discussing.

so to all those in the blogosphere, to the Canon of TK, Matt, Mark, and John, and to all the good peoples of the world, may peace be upon you and your holidays filled with friends and family.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Why I don't like "Biblical" Anything

A while back, I gave my Thoughts on Biblical Maculinity in response to Brad over at Confessions of a Seminarian. I get really bothered anytime someone tries to label something "Biblical" like "I believe in Biblical masculinity/feminism/marriage/family values/ethics/etc."

I touched on this discomfort in that post, but it wasn't fully articulated. I will try to do that here.

ONe of the hardest problems is interpreting the Bible to our modern context. some will say "The Bible doesn't need interpreting, you just read what's written" advocating a literal interpretation. I will now say that the majority of the people who say this ARE NOT reading the bible literally, but traditionally. Just take Christmas for example... the innkeeper who tells Mary and Joe to hit up the manger, Mary remaining a virgin and not having any children OR sex, that there are 3 wisemen, and Jesus is raised to be a carpenter in Nazareth are NOT in the Bible! Those are traditions PLACED on the Bible... Sola Scriptura indeed.

Plus we need to look at the social structures assumed in the Bible and ask, are an essential part of God's revelation? We no longer live in a world of absolute monarchies, slavery, tribal and clan warfare, patriarchy nor animal sacrifice in their ancient Middle Eastern forms. Instead of an agrarian world we're urban, instead of assumed male superiority there is women's rights movements, instead of absolute monarchy democracy is a pervasive ideal, instead of an all-encompassing religious, economic, political and social legal system we have patchwork of laws that govern different aspects of life.

The story of God in the Bible is inseparable from an understanding of the kind of society Israel was meant to be nor can God not be removed from Israel's context and view of the world.

However, look at how progressive Israel despite the context! Within the context of slavery, Israel was to free all slaves and give them a nest egg every 7 years (Duet 15). within monarchy, they knew how this system would be a form of oppression (1 Sam 8) and there's no greater king than God (2 Sam 12). In an agricultural economy, Israel was to ensure everyone had a fair share of the wealth and resources (Lev 25). Within the context of patriarchy and polygamy, Israel was to protect the rights of women (Duet 21:10-14; 22:13-29).

How do we bridge the 2,000+ year gap? I would say the last thing we need to do is recreate the context of ancient Israel! We can't get out of our own symbols and cultural context and we read Israel's story and Jesus' story through our own cultural experience. We CAN'T apply the Bible literally because we'd ultimately being applying our own bias and prejudices. Our experience is not on a higher plain than the scriptures but it is our beginning and ending.

We cannot approach the Bible as a narrow rule book that sets out models of behavior for every single circumstance. What does the Bible say about a flat tire on the side of the highway? What does the Bible say about interacting with societies completely alien from your own? Some stuff, surely, but the application isn't exact. Every time we pick up the Bible there needs to be serious consideration of context, culture, and other communal structures.

Combining the story of the Bible with the story of our culture in such a way that our praxis becomes the product of wisdom. There is no easy way nor one way to accomplish this. There are aspects of the Bible in everything we do because we are a saturated culture, however, calling something like it's the authoritive BIBLICAL anything is just patently untrue and makes for bad marketing.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Plans, Advent Skit 12-21-08

Luke and Kate and sitting in the pew pouring over papers and talking very closely, Pastor Nancy at the pulpit.

Pastor Nancy: This is the final Sunday in advent, next week is Christmas.. so as we prepare (Notices Luke and Kate)… My dear intern, what seems to be troubling you? (Luke still pouring over papers) Hello? What's up with this… Hey (whoever is doing the sound) turn on his mic.

Luke: yeah, put them there… wait.. the Crockett's are coming? I thought they were staying here, we're not even related to them.. and Mark's such a picky eater.. wait… (Figures out his mic is on). He-He… umm.. Pastor Nancy, I can explain!

PN: I'd love to hear it! It's not like we're getting ready to worship or anything!

L: Well, you know how I said to buy one less present…

PN: oh yeah, and how you yelled at me for my RC Cherry Red Hummer for my grandkids.

L: Yeah! Well our families thought that was such a great idea that none of them wanted presents!

PN: WOW! That's great!

L: Instead Kate and I have to plan the Christmas party and dinner.

PN: That's not quite what you meant.

L: Tell me about it! Now Kate and I are all stressed out cause we can't sit Andrew next to Steve or Margaret next to Frank cause they don't like each other…

PN: well I'm sure that..

L: (continues without hearing) and NOBODY wants to sit by Aunt Mildred and somehow the Crockett's are coming, but they only know us and then the kids table is just a mess cause those kids are a mess and they never listen and they're always coming to the adults.

PN: OKAY! You're stressing me out now! Why not to a buffet and let people sit where they want?

L: AND MAKE IT LOOK LIKE I DIDN"T PUT ANY WORK INTO IT?! (getting hysterical) you don't know what kind of message this would send, what would people thing of me? I'm a poor student, that I can't AFFORD gifts and that I can't do simple thing like putting on a dinner for everyone, are you CRAZY?

PN: Well, what have we been saying about all the stress and hassle? That's not what the season is about! It's about God in the unexpected, right in our personal relationships with each other.

L: We mean that?

PN: Yeah! (indignant!) So let this slide away and let us begin to worship. Please stand for the call to worship.

L: Okay Kate, we'll figure this out after the service.

PN: Ugh, there's no reaching some people, please join me in the call to worship printed in the bulletin.

"...Every plan is a tiny prayer to Father Time."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Paul cares about his own power, he’s such a jerk!

Written for the NT class on a hypothetical objection from a congregation member. The problem is that once you announce a sermon series on Paul, one congregation member states "I can't stand Paul! I gotta take the summer off because Paul only cares about his own power, he's such a jerk!" Stunned by the response, you later write a letter address this comment, what would you write?

Well, here's what i wrote:

When I announced my intention for running a sermon series on Paul, I was shocked by your comments about Paul; but you may be surprised why. I was shocked because I was hearing myself before seminary! I used to think Paul was a power hungry goodie-two-shoes who called people names and misrepresented the Gospel. Then I took a class and found some perspective on Paul.

Aside from Jesus, no other figure has proved to be more important to Christianity than Paul (Ehrman 260). I believe Paul is the greatest blessing and yet the greatest curse of Christianity. The greatest blessing as his writings are complex and cover a great many topic and provide a window to the historical setting of early Christianity; yet, he is the greatest curse as the church has really misinterpreted many key points; points I hope to cover during this sermon series.

The classic negative view of Paul is that he’s a guilt-ridden legalist who felt bound to follow a set of impossible to keep laws (Ehrman 269). He denounces the Jewish Law only to replace them with a more dire and pious set of laws. In this summer sermon series, I intend to show that Paul’s ethics is enabled by his theology, and his theology is in no way monolithic (Blount 150). Paul’s thought and language seem to be very fluid and flexible, I’d dare say contextual (Bassler 38)! Paul is not out to write a universal doctrine, but writes to each individual church with advice.

Plus you’d be very surprised that my view of the world (and if I may be so bold, your view as well) has some parallels with Paul’s view. Paul seems to be focused on a reality that lies beyond the reality of this world ruled by our senses, yet we can experience this mystical union with Christ in our every day, non-mystical experiences and struggles (Bassler 40,47).

Paul may seem like a jerk when he says things like “follow my example” in First Corinthians or when he seemingly butchers the story of Sarah and Hagar with his interpretation in Galatians or even all that stuff about natural and unnatural in Romans. What we have to remember is Paul is writing in the First Century and thinks that Jesus is coming back within his lifetime! His values are not our values, his world is alien to you and me, and he never thought that his letters would be kept this long! We’re supposed to be in Christ’s kingdom by now!

I think you’ll find Paul a little more endearing through this series. Come listen and then we’ll go out for lunch and talk about what you thought. You may be surprised to see how inclusive Paul and how he even has a universalist flavoring in his letters (no limited atonement here!). Looking forward to seeing you in service!

In Christ,

Pastor Luke

Works Cited
Bassler, Jouette M. Navigating Paul. Louisvill KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007.

Blount, Brian K. Then the Whisper Put on Flesh. Nashville TN: Abingdon Press, 2001.

Ehrman, Bart. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Advent Skit 12-7-08

written by Luke and Pastor Nancy, performed at Trinity Reformed UCC in Mountville PA.

Luke: Today we're going to hear about the Annunciation. That's when the Angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her "hey, you're gonna have a child and name him Jesus." Man, what a story! but image what that would be like if that were you! I know if a few months ago, someone came up to Kate and announced not only her pregnancy but also the name of our child, why i'd hit that guy so hard.... (notices Nancy).... uhh.... Pastor Nancy?

Nancy: (still going through the newspaper) Yeah?

Luke: I was talking about Gabriel...

Nancy: uh huh... (distracted voice)

L: And how Gabriel visited Dean Thomas and said he was pregnant.

N: That's nice.... i heard that... keep doing what you're doing – I’ll be with you in a minute.


N: What?? Yes I am – or I mean to! I'm just a little distracted today. I found out my grandkids want a battery operated, miniature replica of Hummer – red – with doors that open and shut, a real horn, back up lights and fake ignition keys!! And let me tell you – these things do NOT come cheap and I’m trying to find the best deal!

L: Well can't that wait? We're getting ready for worship and...


N: Hello?

L: umm... You’ve GOT to be kidding!

N: oh yes, is this Ebay? I had a question about that item #4567. (keeps talking....)

L: seriously?! She’s taking the call...(to the audience) this is... uhh.. unbelievable... what should i do....

N: (As if she doesn’t know what’s going on) “Now what exactly does “gently used” mean?

*Luke gets cell phone out of pocket and dials*

N:– uh huh – and you can have delivery to St. Louis by when?? Oh! Can you hold? This call might be from the manufacturer – “Hello – is this General Motors?”

L: PASTOR NANCY! (*shocked look, looks at Luke and gives a shy smile... Luke continues:
“What's the deal, i just talked last week about centering the season on Christ and you're acting like a nutcase today!”

N: That’s PASTOR NUTCASE to you, my boy!! But hey, you're right. There's just so much to do and I just feel so pressured. I really feel guilty not living near my grandchildren so naturally I want to give them everything they want!! But, ok -- maybe i shouldn't have used this time to think about all the stuff I have to do.

L: Listen – far be it from me to tell you how to celebrate Advent – but didn’t MY sermon last week mention something about “guilt giving”??? Is that Hummer really what you want to give your grandchildren that will leave a lasting impression?? Maybe you need to focus a little bit more on what’s going on here rather than making lists and taking phone calls during the call to worship!!

N: OK – You’ve made your point! I’ll worry about the Hummer later!

L: (Looks totally exasperated – he hasn’t gotten through at all!)
L: To the congregation: “Won’t you join me in the call to worship printed in your bulletin – and PAY ATTENTION!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

We Make the Noises

i have been recently called an agnostic-Christian. i've been told that I have no business behind a pulpit and that "I'm responsible for every soul i lead astray by not teaching the gospel." To this I say "The only thing i have is my personal responsiblity. I'm responsible to the gospel and my interpretation of it." That's the whole point!


We all have it, we all use it... why? Because the Bible doesn't SAY anything! it requires us to read it and interpret what it means to us.

i'm reminded on a joseph campbell story about a tribe in australia whose social order was maintained with the aid of bullroarers. those are long flat boards with a couple of slits cut in them and a rope tied at one end. they are swung around over one's head and the low humming sound is other worldly. when the gods were angry they would sound the bullroarers in the woods at night... no one in the tribe knew this of course. the males of the tribe would explain why the gods were angry and what behavior had to change.

in the initiation rite of young men into manhood in the tribe is very violent and bloody. it's culmination is the revelation to the boy by the cheif priest of "We make the noises"

and we do. however i tend to look at the similarities and the shear fact that you and i are here on this planet... as it could have been otherwise. we are made of stardust and tied to the universe. life on earth is very linked and intraconnected. authoritative claims take away this connection and the church has been a large part of this.

so this leads me to think that there's something behind it all... some higher order behind the chaos. i call this something God. which leads me to a different take on the incarnation... what if we are the incarnated universe trying to figure itself out?

so with that in mind we're called to wrestle and figure it out not make super vague claims like "Jesus is the answer PERIOD" like the fundamentalists or say "There is no god" like the stalwart atheists have in my experience. in my experience, i feel that both the fundies and the atheists i've talked to are inherently ignorant about this take on spirituality. i could be wrong and i'd be more than happy to be!

we are making noises to try to understand the infinite. we are putting up boundaries on something that cannot be bound and what we place there should only be looked through into the grand divine.

You can make all the dogmas and doctrines you want, the divine won't be contained.

It's knocking over fences, crossing property lines.

related posts: SVS on 'aChristians'- Yes I coined it...

KT's excellent Poem in her post Where Should We Go? pretty much sums up this rant.

All that and a bag of chips!

Been there, done that, and I blame Blair for this. Go ahead and blame me for yours!

The usual style — make a copy and mark the ones you’ve done in bold and the ones you’d like to do in italics (or at least do something to make them noticeable).

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band

4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity

7. Been to Disneyland (Disneyworld anyhow — whichever is the one in Florida)
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables — Yearly
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run

32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie (not a famous one, but my buddy Burrito was a flim major)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookie
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar

72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had Chicken Pox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby (in process)
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a lawsuit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Passion of the Parking Lot

I wrote this with the help of my main dawg, Linear Dog.. We wrote it for our worship service at Chapel here at LTS. Nancy and I redid it to fit Trinity, here's that skit:

Luke: Wow, the sanctuary looks great today… I love all the advent decorations and the theme for this season of the church year. What are we doing next?

Nancy: The call to confession… and no better to lead it than a man who needs to confess himself.

Luke: What do you mean by that?

Nancy:I saw you two Sunday’s ago after service – in the parking lot... you looked pretty steamed.

Luke: Yeah dude, Dave Burns cut me off! I couldn't freaking believe it! It's like he didn't even see me! I was SO mad because I had places to go and people to see!

NANCY: Well, if I remember correctly, the sermon that day was turning the other cheek...part of the Ten Days for Peace thing? Remember??

LUKE:I was about to turn his cheek (punches hand).

NANCY: Well that wouldn't have been very nice. You know, next time you come to church, you don't have to leave Jesus inside it, he's supposed to accompany you for the whole week.

LUKE: WHA.... Uhhh.... Yeah, but excuse me!! Last week when we were out making homebound visits and stopped for a coffee – weren’t YOU the one who got so mad at the woman in front of us – remember?? When you said you couldn't believe how long she was taking, asking the ingredients to everything only to find out later she's got a peanut allergy and is diabetic. Way to go there “Christ-follower – Pastor Person”

NANCY: Yeah... about that...

LUKE: Wasn't there something in the bible about the splinter in your neighbor’s eye and the.. uhh... what do you call it... THE LOG CABIN in yours??

NANCY: I think that might be a SLIGHT exaggeration – but I get your point. I’m sorry for that outburst in the coffee shop – and I’m also sorry for criticizing you in front of the whole congregation.. I was just very concerned at your anger and wanted to help. I didn't mean to cause any embarrassment -- I was wrong to call you out here.

LUKE: But you only did it cause you were concerned about my welfare... right? And you know, you're right. Sorry to respond so defensively. I was way out of line. So really – thanks for the correction. It’s occurring to me that onfessing our faults is hard work.

NANCY: Yes, but that's what we're called to do. Jesus even said that before we can offer up our prayers to God, we should reconcile to each other.. So c'mere you! (HUG!)

LUKE: We now invite you to reconcile with your neighbors

NANCY: Or simply greet one another in the name of Christ this morning.

LUKE: Or we could just do that.. yeah!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Who I think Paul was...

In the last post, i asked Who Was Paul? Here i'll provide a short answer to this complex question. Thank you to all who commented, I loved reading your posts and saw where each of y'all were coming from. It helped me write this post, so thank you again. Let me know what you think of this!

Was Paul: 1. The Preacher of salvation by grace from the burden of the Law?

2. The Preacher who proclaimed God's reign by breaking through in Christ the Messiah of Israel?

3. Was he a social conservative that opted for celebacy and temperance based on the teachings of Christ?

4. Was he a social radical that opted for a new, liberative lifestyle based on the teachings of Christ?

Paul was all of these things but none of them completely. He had a lot to say about grace, he seems conservative in a few spots, like in the Pastorals, but yet radical in Corinthians. I will, however, focus on Paul as a “Preacher who proclaimed God’s reign by breaking through in Christ the Messiah of Israel. I lean this way because of the letters to the Galatians and Romans.

Through Christ the law is fulfilled. The law was like a nanny that watched over the world and without it Paul would not have known sin. But Christ makes God’s grace known and levels the field as Gentiles and Jews, once separated, are now grafted together onto one tree. God promised that all people will be blessed through Abraham, and Christ fulfills that promise. The law of Moses is still valid in Paul’s eyes, but is now beside the point as if you “put on the mind of Christ” you are doing the law.

When Paul talks about the Law, there are some inaccuracies. Inaccuracies are always occurring in marketing, and Paul is a marketer of Christ to the Gentiles. This happens in our modern times too as the new Apple notebook doesn’t use less power than a 25 watt light bulb (unless it’s in sleep mode) nor is the law slavery like Paul would have us interpret it in Galatians when he brings up the Sarah and Hagar story. His interpretation is way off the mark, however, it is written to Gentiles and this Paul’s inaccuracy has a point. Namely, Gentiles don’t have to first become Jewish to experience the Reign of God in Jesus Christ… One simply needs to follow Christ, period.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Who Was Paul?

I used to think St. Paul was a jerk. I couldn't stand him or what I perceived to be his theology. After my 'Paul and the Early Church' class taught by Greg Carey, i'm now having second thoughts. I used to think Paul as a lot like this picture (photographed by yours truly from the Sacred Heart Catholic Church on the corner of Walnut and Nevin here in Lancaster) just giving people the bird and telling them they're going to hell. i've come to think a little differently of Paul but still am trying to articulate that thought. for your help, i'd love to know what you make of Paul! who was he?

To help, here are the 4 legacies usually assigned to Paul by today's scholars. Was he:

The Preacher of salvation by grace from the burden of the Law?

The Preacher who proclaimed God's reign by breaking through in Christ the Messiah of Israel?

Was he a social conservative that opted for celebacy and temperance based on the teachings of Christ?

Was he a social radical that opted for a new, liberative lifestyle based on the teachings of Christ?

I'll hold my opinion until after i write this paper! but i'd love to hear what y'all think, so rawk and roll!!!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Santa’s Occupational Seasonal Disorder

Sermon given at Trinity 11-30-08, first Sunday in Advent: Text was John 1:1-16.

I’m member of a special envoy sent to you to talk about Christmas. Yes, Christmas. This is the first Sunday in Advent, can you believe it?! Well I should introduce myself, my name is Jingles, and I’m an elf. Not what you were expecting was it? Maybe someone a little shorter, dressed with some curly shoes and tights with stripes? Ugh, you humans and your stereotypes… but I promised my boss not to get carried away on that issue, but needless to say picture tall elves closer to Lord of the Rings than the short kind you’ll see on the upcoming Christmas specials.

And here’s another preconception I need to address, I do not make toys for a living. In fact I hold a doctorate in psychology from North Pole University (Go Polar Bears!), and I work as Santa’s therapist. As a favor to the boss (Pastor Nancy and he go way back), I’m here to talk to you all today about how to handle holiday stress. As we’ve heard from today’s reading that the WORD became flesh today... The Greek word for ‘word’, you know, The WORD BECAME FLESH is LOGOS. This word can also mean logic or intelligence. John loves these double-meaning Greek words so this passage says that The WORD/LOGIC became flesh.

It’s interesting that John starts with this idea for Jesus’ coming into the world because the celebration to commemorate this event is the time of the year when everyone loses their righteous mind. The story of Christ's birth is a subversive story of an upside-down kingdom. It's a story of promise, hope, and a revolutionary love that is still changing the world to this day. So, what happened? What was once a time to celebrate the birth of a savior has somehow turned into a season of stress, traffic jams, and shopping lists. And when it's all over, many of us are left with presents to return, looming debt that will take months to pay off, and this empty feeling that we somehow missed its purpose. The same is true for Santa… let me tell you his story.

Before Santa was Santa, he was Bishop Nicholas of Myra who was famous for his generous gifts to the poor. Well, Nicholas being a saint he decided to widen his outreach. His business grew and grew and he had to relocate to the North Pole, but the vision was still the same. He was following in Jesus’ footsteps and bringing hope to the poor and presents for the little children. After all, Jesus loves the little children and St. Nicholas does too. Soon St. Nicholas became a world-wide phenomenon. With this new celebrity came new challenges.

He had a supply and demand problem, so he came to my oppressed people, the elves who are known for our craftiness and high production output. In fact, that’s why we had to move because all of the economics couldn’t handle how fast we could supply things! So we relocated to the North Pole and were quite happy with the deal. Since St. Nicholas was a saint, we soon adopted his religion and we have North Pole bible studies and churches, just like you guys do only with the benefit of having a recognized saint lead worship.

Santa also had a logistical problem of how does he get all around the world in a night? That’s where the flying reindeer came in. It all started clicking together and there were many years of great success. But like any celebrity, there’s a down side to fame.

People forgot Nicholas was religious, not only religious, the guy’s a saint! They called him Santa and forgot the religious ideals he stood for. St Nicholas also didn’t keep the rights to his image and that’s how businesses can use him to hawk their goods for them and appear at malls and not churches. All this was really hard for St Nicholas to handle.

He mirrors some of our highest ideals: childhood purity and innocence, selfless giving, unfaltering love, justice, and mercy. (What child has really ever received coal for Christmas?) The problem is that, in the process, he has become burdened with some of society's greatest challenges: materialism, corporate greed, and domination by the media. Here, Santa carries more in his baggage than toys alone! He has what we professionals call “an occupational seasonal disorder.” Meaning at the same time, every year, he gets really depressed and stressed out about all he has to do during the holiday season. I bet there are a few in this room I could diagnose with this, too.

Is this what we really want out of Christmas?

What if Christmas became a world-changing event again by turning our focus back to the birth of Christ? What could happen to your family if this focus was celebrated in loud, bold and totally unexpected ways? What if you could actually trade your season of stress for a season of celebration and unbelievable memories with your friends and family? What if all of this could save a life at the same time? It can.
It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. This is the holistic approach God had in mind for Christmas. It’s a season where we are called to put down our burdens and lift a song up to our God. It’s a season where love wins, peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath. It’s the party of the year. Entering the story of advent means entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest.

Plus there’s a biological benefit, not just a theological aspect to becoming de-stressed. Robert Sapolsky is a behavioral biologist at Stanford and is the leading expert on stress. He did a study on stress hormone levels in rats. He would leave them out in extreme conditions, do all sorts of nasty things to these rats and measure their hormone levels. He then found these same levels in just “frustrated rats.” If he showed them food and then denied them it, the levels of stress hormones in the rats would be equal to those whom he left out in the cold or put in a dire situation. So when you get really stressed out this holiday season over that burnt yam or that you can’t find a gift for Aunt Mildred, or whatever causes you stress; the level of stress in your body is same as if you were being chased across the North Pole by a hungry polar bear. So if NOT doing something helps you lower your stress level, by all means DO IT! If that means shopping online, or not shopping at all, or whatever it is, do what makes you the least stressed.

Before you think I’m getting all Scrooge on you, let me explain what I mean. We like gifts. Our kids really like gifts. But consider this: America spends an average of $450 billion each Christmas. How often have you spent money on Christmas presents for no other reason than obligation? How many times have you received a gift out of that same obligation? A Gift you had to return or figure out what to do with.

Consider buying ONE LESS GIFT this Christmas. Just one. Sounds insignificant, yet many who have taken this small sacrifice have experienced something nothing less than a miracle. Or even in lue of a present, write a kind note and let people know you’re thinking of them. And think of how many presents Jesus got on his birthday. How many? Three! How many gifts do your children get? Are they the messiah? Well, now I’m forgetting myself, anyway, that’s just some food for thought.

Here’s another thing that bugs ol’ St. Nick. Every year he has to go through the same old routine and traditions… Mrs Claus gets stressed because she has to cook these huge meals for everyone, St. Nick has to deck the halls and make sure all the lights are strung up, not to mention all the traditions the elves and reindeer have grown accustom to. You prolly have these same holiday traditions that started off great but have turned into expectations that act as more of a stressor of getting them just right than actually helping you get into the spirit. Here’s another thing I tell Saint Nick and I’ll tell you… don’t do them! If a tradition is causing you more stress than celebration, it’s not worth it. If that means the Christmas cards go out later rather than sooner, or you don’t go a-wassailing, or those chestnuts aren’t roasting by an open fire, it’s no big deal! Hey! Jesus is already born and Christmas is going to happen whether these routines are done or not.

Didn’t Jesus come to say that mindless routine is not really worshipping God? Christmas is a time of joy, of family and friends, of remembering the birth of a small babe, born to a poor family, who grew up and changed the world. Jesus came to say “routine isn’t important, relationships are!” focus on those relationships this holiday season, gather memories and not debt.

Let’s not lose sight of the promise of Christmas. Spend less, love more, and worship more fully this holiday season. Keep your Logos, your rational mind, as you’re part of the logic, the word that became flesh.

Works Cited:
much of this sermon is lifted directly from Advent Conspiracy which is just a wonderful resource.

Robert Sapolsky. Why Zebra's Don't get Ulcers and also on RadioLab's Stress show.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Life's tough!

It's even tougher if you're stupid. An email forward my mom sent, enjoy and have a blessed Turkey-ween!

First-year students at Texas A&M's Vet school were receiving their first anatomy class, with a real dead cow. They all gathered around the surgery table with the body covered with a white sheet.

The professor started the class by telling them, "In Veterinary Medicine it is necessary to have two important qualities as a doctor: The first is that you not be disgusted by anything involving the animal's body.

As an example, the Professor pulled back the sheet, stuck his finger in the butt of the dead cow, withdrew it and stuck it in his mouth.

"Go ahead and do the same thing," he told his students. The students freaked out, hesitated for several minutes. But eventually took turns sticking a finger in the anal opening of the dead cow and sucking on it.

When everyone finished, the Professor looked at them and said, "The second most important quality is observation. I stuck in my middle finger and sucked on my index finger. Now learn to pay attention. Life's tough! It's even tougher if you're stupid."


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pastoral Prayer: Where We Look and Where Jesus Calls Us To Look

given at Trinity Reformed on 11.23.2008; inspired by Matt 25:34-46 and Doug Hagler's Mission Prayer over at Progressive Nostications.

I operate on the assumptions that there is no such thing as secular and there is no such thing as coincidence. I’m really into synchronicity or what the Catholic’s call Serendipity: things happening for a reason. I try to be attuned to the ever transmitting divine and see the world as illuminated. I think that’s what the text today is saying. Jesus is also directing our attention to places we wouldn’t and don’t want to look, namely the poor and hungry. With this in mind, let us pray:

God of nations and of peoples and of missions, it’s always a little jarring to learn there might be some distance between your mission and ours. We think we may have it right, that we’re doing a great job, but then you remind us where to look.

You remind us of the sick, the poor, the homeless. You never said to help them because they’re kind-hearted, or because they think rationally, or because they’ll understand and turn their lives around to live ones resembling ours. No… We want to out into the world bearing the truth, teaching others how they should live, what they should believe, giving and helping to show our generosity, and then returning home, content.

But that’s not what you; Jesus our Christ, would have us do. Yours is a larger mission, larger than us and all we can do. We go out and find You already there Your mission has begun, You are doing a new thing, going out into the world ahead of us. We meet You in outsiders, in strangers, in those we thought were only there to receive from us but it is we who receive and once again you are made strange and wonderful, not the domesticated God we carry out into the world but the true God we encounter already at work. You invite us to join You in Your mission which is already turning the world around.

Help us see you and response as you would, oh God. Guide us into a world that resembles the words your Son gave us when he said, OUR FATHER….

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A New Seminary Metaphor

Last year, I wrote a letter to a future seminarian comparing their journey to wine grapes.

When talking to Chris a few weeks ago, he mentioned how easy it is to get overwhelmed here. I stated that there are 3 possible responses to being overwhelmed, I now will say 4:
1. Do Nothing. There's simply too much, best just to sit in class and see what topics are brought up from the readings rather than reading them.
2. Trudge Through It. Might not get to all readings, but cover enough to feel comfortable.
3. Speed Read. Skim all of the materials. You cover all the stuff but the comprehension rate suffers. I'm most guilty of this.
4. Read It All. This means you will sacrifice all community interaction, relationships, and your sleep suffers greatly.

My new metaphor for seminary shows my video game bias as it is particularly violent, but i think it gets the point across. Leadership NOW! peeps will prolly recognize this metaphor (as i have no real original materal, just constantly rehash old stuff ;-)).

Seminary is like a ZOMBIE-INVASION.

There is an outslaught of some-what dangerous looking things heading your way and it's easy to get overwhelmed here. How to survive a zombie-invasion is quite easy. You pick off the ones closest to you and keep aware of where your ammo is. Those who panic and aren't focused will be removed of their brains. Keep your feet moving, only rest when you've check all possible points-of-entry and keep your reloading stations in mind.

If you loose sight of the ammo stations, the profs will point you to sites where you can pick up new weapons. profs are smart enough to know how best to equip you, they won't give you Process Theology weapons if you're a Karl Barth wielder and vice versa.

like i said, rather violent, but shows my age and my addiction to video games and horror movies. RAWK ON!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Victims Part II

A quote from Charles Swindoll

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say I do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.

It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is that we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact people will act in a certain way. We cannont change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.

I'm convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.

As my wife always says, "you can't change people, only how you react to them." Jesus had one heck of an attitude. To be able to sit with people he prolly wanted to shake and yell "SNAP OUT OF IT!" but he didn't. He met them where they were and changed their lives, our lives, and the course of human history.

may we see to be such beacons of positive attitude and loving empathy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

There's One Thing I Wanna Know...

This weekend we visited the DC area! I gave a prayer at Little River UCC and thanked them for my scholarship... the Hubert S. Beckwith Scholarship. Great congregation. Also hung out with Kate's sister and her family. Great to see how my neices and nephew look at the world and how they've developed into the fine people they have become.

Andrew, my bro-in-law, is the son and step-son of two methodist pastors. He stated something like "when my dads went to seminary they commented on how some of their classmates use seminary as a form of free therapy, is that the case for you?" That comment made me step back and think... i think some people are using it that way and that goes along with what i'm talking about victims... my buddy Jason also brought up the topic of victims and how it's even in the business world... "I couldn't make my sales this week cause no one would pick up the phone, it's not my fault!" and other comments to that affect.

so now i have some new things to ponder and chew on.. great trip! this week is my worship week as well! we've been planing two worship services to go on in the chapel and this is the culmination of all of the groups hardwork. looking forward to see how these services are received. update cha on friday.. but until then!

Go see this movie:

And ask yourself this question... found in the chorus of this song:

oh.. and this question: where are the strong and who are the trusted?

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Interesting phenom with people finding and owning their own victimhood this year in seminary.

I think it's healthy to find and recognize how a system excludes and oppresses people, no matter what! Issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, etc should be examined to the Nth degree. What I weary of is the Stockholm Syndrome.

The Stockholm Syndrome is a psychological response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger (or at least risk) in which they have been placed. What I mean in this context here at seminary is when people fall in love with their victimhood and wield their victimhood like a club.

as the saying goes, hurt people hurt people.

It's ironic that these people are now victimizing others with their victimization! they have become what they hate.

Bryce, my seminary library buddy, wrote in his review of James Alison's book Faith Beyond Resentment, "When we self-righteously occupy the position of the victim, demanding retribution and recompense for the abuses we have suffered at the hands of human authorities with their violent enforcement mechanisms, we are not able to move into the area of identifying with the oppressors as our brothers and sisters who are also trapped in the same systems that we occupy."

in other words, for full reconciliation to happen we must give up our victimhood. now this might look like a white male trying to keep his priviledge by dismissing people's experience due to racial, gender, or other issues... i assure you i am not. what I am saying is that if i'm to meet you where you are, i'd hope you'd respect me enough to do the same. no boxes or stereotypes... just two people with their experience looking for common ground.

using a personal example: i have been victimized and you didn't do it! the fact someone is Catholic will not color my opinion of them but i sure do have a slant on the Catholic church! i will share that experience and see if it matches/clashes with theirs. i've met some kindred spirits and i've met people who absolutely LOVE the Catholic church and i'm friends with both and we understand each other. shouldn't this understanding be what we're after in terms of race/gender/LGBT issues/cultural/geo-political/religious/etc. issues in general?!

how far off am i?

Thanks to Bryce for the link and being a sounding board... for a fuller, more thoughtful discussion, check out Bryce's post on Alison's book.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On Wisdom and Love

The Used sing on their song "Yellow and Blue" that
"'s all in how you mix the two, And it starts just where the light exists.
It's a feeling that you cannot miss,
And it burns a hole,
Through everyone that feels it.

Well you're never gonna find it,
If you're looking for it,
Won't come your way,yeah
Well you'll never find it,
If your looking for it."

I love how diliberately vague the lyrics are. What is he mixing? Let's for a minute pretend that it's Wisdom and Love. It's all in how you mix the two!

These two things are such a paradox. Everyone is after them and constantly looking for them, but I never seem to find them when I look for them. These two things tend to blindside me in those 5 minutes I'm not looking for them. When I do get those "I-Thou" moments, i catch fire and want to tell everyone about my indescribable experience.

can you put into words what someone means to you exactly? how art, music, or an unexpected gesture can melt your heart? it burns a hole through everything it touches... and i keep looking for ways to get burnt. and you, dear reader, are both something that stokes the flames as well as the light itself.

you are light! you have both wisdom and love. share it, be it, and admire it when you come in contact with it.


As FreeStyleRoadTrip said in a recent comment
"If you never get outside of walls of your current philosophy of thought, then you have a really difficult time getting a new answer and collecting a bit more truth. I mean, if you are always asking questions within your Methodist/Islamic/Catholic/Atheistic/Universalistic/Scientific/Etc boundaries from your same old Methodist/Islamic/Catholic/Atheistic/Universalistic/Scientific/Etc friends then you will always get a Methodist/Islamic/Catholic/Atheistic/Universalistic/Scientific/Etc answer. You have to get outside those boundaries to get something truly new to you."

i absolutely agree with his boundaries analogy! gotta get out of the box! God is a God of change… we shouldn’t be wearing nice hats and respectable clothes to church, we should be wearing crash helmets and body armor! if God answers our prayers, we’re going to be flung far from home and into places and experiences where our old methods of thinking will only hinder us.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

GUEST POST on California Prop 8

California Prop 8 - You might be surprised to hear me say CELEBRATE!

from a member of my extended family, Paul who lives in California with his partner.

Dear Friends & Family, religious, non-religious, gay, and straight allies,

Regarding California Proposition 8
State Constitutional Amendment to Ban Same-Gender Marriage

Despite the unfortunate probable passage of Prop 8 and it’s ramifications, the internal election numbers show something very important and much worth CELEBRATING!

Look at the numbers/percentages of people who voted to NOT write discrimination in to the California Constitution, nearly half the voters. You merely need to ask yourself, What would those numbers have likely looked like only one year ago, or five years ago, or ten years ago, or twenty years ago, or more? If you believe the likely numbers voting NO on such an Amendment in years past would have been much smaller, then that also means that many of the people who voted NO on Prop 8 in ‘08, must have changed their minds at some point. That also indicates that many/most who did, or would have, voted YES on 8 in ’08 are NOT enemies of equality and fair mindedness either. They simply need the time and opportunity to be de-programmed of the hatred and bigotry they’ve been taught. Because almost no one is born with bigotry and hatred… babies don’t know bigotry and hatred, they’re taught it.

Writing discrimination in to the California Constitution and in to the state’s history, AGAIN, is certainly not one of California’s or America’s prouder moments. However history shows us that fair mindedness and equality wins out in the long run, and that all struggles for equal rights and fairness have all gone through many “Fits & Starts”, but eventually succeed. Otherwise, rather than us living in the “Rapid Information Age” as we do, we would be living as if it were still the “Bronze Age” [as some still do with divisive Bronze-Age interpretations of various religions]. It was only in 1987 that my sister’s multi-ethnic straight marriage finally became federally protected. That’s only 21 years ago, when they were pregnant with their second son. And not until now, our 44th U.S. President, or 52nd U.S. President if you also count the first eight from 1776-1789, will the president NOT be an all white guy, let alone one that would DARE publically say something supportive and respectful about gay people. Proof that equality and fair mindedness can eventually see their day.

Many of us worked and continue to work tirelessly to defeat discrimination, bigotry, and hatred, during this election and everyday of our lives, THANK YOU SO MUCH! However our work is not done.

So, Now what?, you might say…

If they can’t see or hear us they can’t appreciate us or learn from or about us. Instead they will learn bigotry and hatred from others, for that’s the only other voice.

Be visible, it makes a HUGE difference. Closets are for clothes… and that goes for you religious and straight allies too. ; )

Be heard, speak your mind and heart, even if your voice shakes. Remember speaking from the heart… opens minds, speaking from aggression… closes them.

There shouldn’t be a second class or separate class in America, unfortunately we/there are.

Be informed. Be intelligent. Be heard. Be seen. Be counted.

Peace, love, equality, and just say no to Hanging Chads [as they do in some countries just for them being 14 and gay],


P.S. Thanks for reading, and never give up hope for equality.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Lay Your Burdens Down

Blair thought he was clever, he thought he knew my secret. And yes, he got it partly right... I am a cylon and yes I do have a plan. What Blair failed to realize is who else would be a cylon... Yes, you're looking at it... The new Airforce One!! Obama is NOT a socialist, muslim, terrorist be-friend'n human, he's a CYLON! Note the message of hope and love of neighbor and how he never says "gods" but "God" and that God is usually involved with love somehow.

We have tried before but the American public saw right through our disguises. John Kerry and Al Gore were early models, so their stiff, robotic functions were apparent. Not so with the new models.

And time for the other secret... speaking of new models, Lindon Version 2.0 will be downloading in early April. Kate and I have made a hybrid and will be proud parents!!!! We're calling this model "Boogie" because s/he looks like s/he's dancing when they're on the ultrasound (alien pic is from 9/11/08, Kate's currently at 18 weeks). We're not finding out the sex because 1. we already know cause we're Cylons, and we have a plan and 2. there are so few surprises left in the world, we figured we'll hit you with three.. a Cylon President, a Lindon Hybrid and the awesome name of Boogie (we're leaning toward for a boy Landon Lincoln Lindon or for a girl Madison Addison Lindon)

So how's that Blair? Didn't know all the secrets did ya? ;-)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Calling All Saints

Thomas 3: Jesus said, "If your leaders say to you, 'Look, God’s kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is within you and it is outside you.

Thomas 18: The disciples said to Jesus, "Tell us, how will our lives end? What is after?"

Jesus said, "Have you found the beginning, then, that you are looking for the end? You see, the end will be where the beginning is. Congratulations to the one who stands at the beginning: that one will know the end and will not taste death."

“All that is mine is yours, and what is yours is mine, and I have been glorified through them.” (John 17:10).

All things are yours. That means being a Christian isn’t waiting on heaven to come, it’s about working for it now! It’s not about cutting yourself off from real life, it is about entering into it more fully, now! Life for a Christian isn’t about living forever, it’s about creating something that does. Jesus created something that we’re still talking about it 2,000 years later. Characters like St. Francis, St. Teresa, St. Patrick, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, and other saints. Being a “saint” is successfully creating something that goes on after you do. If we truly believed this, imagine how parents would treat their children. Talk about heaven on earth.

Today we honor those saints. You know saints in your own life. Let me tell you about one I know. My Grandma Bet is a saint. Every time I hear a country-western song --- NOT a country song, I’m talking Gene Autry “Don’t Fence me in” type stuff—every time I see a red bird, I think of Grandma Bet. When I see a deer along the side of the road, I remember how we’d drive around looking for deer back in Ohio.

I’m over-joyed at these memories and then I’m extremely saddened… not because I’m remembering Grandma Bet who has died, but because I remember that gas was under a dollar back then. I’m SO happy when I think of my grandma. How privileged I was to have her in my life. We all have these saints in our lives currently, living today amongst us. I bet if you look at your own life you can name a few. But today is about honoring those saints like Grandma Bet who know heaven from the inside and every now and then send us a red bird or a deer to remind us that we’ll all be re-united some day.

So let’s name those saints. Take a few moments and think of someone who has died that has impacted your life. Do you have one in mind?

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Come if you're in the area! It's gonna be a RAWK'N good time!

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Costumes for 2008:
Ann the Bat as Spiderman in Dark suit
Platz the Raptor as Barney
Linear Dog as Spike from Peanuts
Bottles as a Panda
Leviathan as a 1950s billboard
Unidactyl as a Unitops
Fundiebot as condemnatory

Check out UNIDACTYL on it's own site! I will be posting the comics over there sans commentary PLUS there will be some comics there that I won't post over here... like the COEXIST story line. So if you enjoy my crappy cartoons, please bookmark or subscribe to that blog and let me know what you think!! RAWK!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I've been reading Stuff White People Like for a few months now. The chair of the committe on diversity here at LTS recently got wind of it and asked what we thought about it... here is my response as well as a fellow collegue.

Some parts of SWPL i find really funny, others i find really insulting. i think it's useful despite that it furthers a privileged POV and it really isn't original as Jerry Sienfeld and Chris Rock have been pointing these things that white people do and like at a deeper, funnier and thought-provoking level.

after talking with a collegue about white priviledge at length she told me "i react to you because of what you symbolize to me, not how you act. your actions are very supportive of not only the LGBT community but in all communities in general." i responded "and what do we call reacting to people because of what they symbolize to us? it usually ends with an -ism attached to it."

priviledge is a double-edge sword and i think it's a very useful tool but is too easily wielded the other way and it shuts down a conversation before one can really develop. i think SWPL helps get past the intial boundaries through humor and stereotyping the priviledged.

but how useful is SWPL? Our own PA Dutch Asian (her description) Courtney Harvey, head of Leadership NOW and is pretty much the smartest person I know, had this critique of it:

Whiteness which everyone may not participate in fully but very rarely challenge.This is the important question I ask- Do you think it is better for the SWPL to exist or not? Yes, SWPL is flawed and may support Whiteness rather than deconstructing privilege and power. However, I think the very act of looking at a culture of Whiteness challenges the idea that there isn't one and that the "neutral setting" most White people take for granted has been created by upwardly mobile White people.

If I am completely honest this is the material culture I participate in. Furthermore, I don't think about privilege or power every time I get coffee, send an email on my mac or quote Colbert. I want to be reasonably critical without being completely hypocritical.

Does it do more good to participate in a White material culture without defining it
in the public sphere - to be quiet about the share of whiteness I have
bought into - or is it better to put it out there to be discussed,
critiqued and challenged. I opt for the 2nd choice.

i've found SWPL a useful conversation starter to get into the true issues. sometimes it's better to start in the shallow end of the pool and wade to the deep as some people panic when you jump right into the deep end.

what do y'all think?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Linear Dog Meets a Fundie-Bot

This one goes out to my pal Steve! Look at it this way dude, at least someone got something out of your experience! I got inspiration and you got this comic strip! yay!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I've Got a Secret

Blair over at Dividing By Zero has found my secret plan... He states in this post here that I am part of the cylon religion.

the opening credits of BSG state:
The Cylons were created by Man
They Rebelled
They Evolved
There are Many Copies
And They Have a Plan

I am a cylon! only my credits would look like this:
Religion was created by Man.
Jesus Rebelled.
Christians Evolved.
There are many copies.
And they have a plan.

maybe? no? i'm still working on it.

and since i said that I would remove Blair.. check it out! Blair

REMOVED! HAHHAHAHA! Now the evil league of evil will have to accept my application!

Oh, and i do have another secret... one that Blair won't find out, not until i'm ready to reveal it! MUWA-HAHAHAHA!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Orthodoxy Check

A slight misunderstanding can go a long way. This is what I'm learning in my Church History class. I absolutely love history! It's great to find out why we do what we do and what historical origins and contexts brought these about.

Cody, who used to attend LTS but is happy at a seminary in NYC, had a high view of the church fathers. I must say, after reading the writings of the first fathers of the 1st to 3rd century, i'm highly impressed. but then came the Imperial Church and that's where i'm struggling.

in this era we see the church adopting the very thing it was fighting. the church took on the worldly power and mixed itself with imperial ideology so much that we still have this confusion today. here is where all the heirarchy, militaristic language and themes, and concern with catagories were spawned.

and y'all know what i think of categories! as Rabbi Heschel wrote "Trying to pierce the mystery with our categories is like trying to bite a wall."

Rule of Three:
Watching: King of Kong; a Fist Full of Quarters LONG LIVE STEVE WIEBE! He's got the true title, Billy is a punk! Watch the movie and email the site to state that Steve rules!!!
Listening: my Halloween rotation of Slipknot, Rammstein, and Type-O Negative
Reading: Change of Heart

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Creation Theology In Jurassic Park

Just finished watching one of my all time fav. movies, JURASSIC PARK! I noticed something.

there's quite a bit of creation theology being thrown around here.

Dr. John Hammond creates life, life that's been extinct for 65 million years. He thinks that which his power in science and technology will keep him safe. I notice here that Hammond acts a lot like the God in the 2nd creation story (Gen chapter 2). He even kinda looks like God with the white beard and clad all in white (not to mention the scottish accent! my Aunt Deb was right!)

Dr Malcom on the other hand, sees what's going on the first few minutes of the film when he laments "God help us we're in the hands of engineers." There's a problem to thinking that if we have the right order, all will be taken care of. If we place our trust in the right system, we'll be safe. No system can contain life's chaos.

This simple fact here shows me that there is no perfect state, no shalom, that the world wasn't ever supposed to be lived in the Garden. That is better left to myth. As Dr Malcom puts it "If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it's that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, expands to new territory, and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously."

I really should write a book about this, but who has the time ;-).

What does relaxation look like, here my dog Sonny showing yous humans how it's done! Thanks to Essie for watching him while we were in DC and for snap'n this shot.

Greyhounds rule!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Autumn Update

Howdy Y'all! Busy weekend thought I'd catch ya up.

Kate's family was in town, and we got to hang out with them at Margaret and Andrew's for Friday and Saturday. Great time to catch up and listen to M&A talk politikz, they're on the inside down there in D.C. Good stuffs there. We rode down with our seminary friends Jim and Linda and had a great time. Watched the Capitals win at home against Chicago. They came out of the gate with no gusto, but found their mojo early on. I think alexander ovechkin is the greatest. just love that guy.

oh, Andrew posted this on facebook awhile ago, but it's SONSEED! With their first and only hit! who knew Dr. Evil sang in a SKA band? best of luck getting it out of your head!

tonight we went on the Gettysburg Ghost tour. Jim was also there, he just can't leave me alone! ;-) we took the confirmation class at Trinity and pointed our cars to the picturesque fall foliage of the battlefield parks. we were told to open our senses as spirits were likely to contact us through 1 of 4 ways (put in the order of most to least common):

1. Smells - like Campfires, coffee and tobacco smoke
2. Noises - footsteps, old songs, shouts, thuds
3. Touch - pushes, brushes, hot/cold spots
4. Visual - soldiers, orbs on cameras, etc.

what i found was my skepto-meter is set to high to have an encounter. but i LOVED walking around on a clear autumn night with a full moon. now, i do believe somewhat in ghosts. i think something can happen that energy is imprinted on a place and it is residual. i think there are also thin spots on this earth were the "veil" is more easily parted. however, i think that my Myers-Briggs setting makes it harder for me to have an experience. just notice the last three claims, they all start with "I think"! i'm a T to a fault and my F is pretty f'n low. i THINK "feelers" may have an easier time with this.

but that's my psychology-bent coming into play. what do y'all think? do you believe in ghosts? if so/not, why/why not? have you ever had an encounter with a ghost? get into the SPIRIT (har har) of Halloween and let those stories rip!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Some New Heresy

My paper from last years educational ministries class entitled "Playing with Educational Ministry"

It seems paradoxical to think of playing with education. But that is the point! Without play of concepts and knowledge, can there ever be wisdom? For our current education model, we need a ‘call and response’ in order to operate. Play is restricted to gym class and recess. This duelist approach works great in theory, but only if it exists in a vacuum. Vacuums hold no wisdom. I propose that in education, we cannot afford to operate in a vacuum. We are dealing with real people who will respond to our theories in real ways. Real people tend bring things into or to step out of bounds in areas where vacuums can’t operate. We must find a way to educate can hold together in the real world. If we must keep the vacuum, let us then us a quantum vacuum. According to quantum mechanics, the vacuum state is not truly empty but instead contains fleeting electromagnetic waves and particles that pop into and out of existence (“Vacuum State”).

Wisdom then is noticing when waves and particles pop in and out of existence. Wisdom is noticing how the play of light in the floating dust of a room evokes feelings of home. Wisdom is hearing a song on the radio you haven’t heard in a decade and remembering with vivid clarity events forgotten. Wisdom happens when things you know blend into things you experience.

The problem with wisdom is that it is fleeting (Melchert and Profitt). The problem is that wisdom is incredibly hard to test. To compensate for this our education system has concetrated on testable knowledge. Indeed wrote memorization is important, but wisdom occurs in the face of incomplete facts. We may not have all the facts, but that shouldn’t keep us from moving forward. That shouldn’t keep us from trying to gather the facts and look for the interplay between subjects that we know. The education system has negletcted this. We have tilted too far into the realm of utilitarianism.

We are seeing the effects of this in our lagging performance in the world community. The US is producing far less highly techincal professionals (engineers, programmers, etc). and U.S. students do not lead in any assessment (Strauss). We see the same problem in our churches as well. We have many people running around claiming to be Christian and doing very unchristian things. The generations that include late teens to early 30-somethings believe Christians are judgmental, antihomosexual, hypocritical, too political and sheltered (Kinnaman and Lyons). Rather than simply try to do a PR face-lift, we need to develop a way to teach a faith that focuses on holiness but also loves, accepts and works to understand the world around it
This problem is not new. The Danish Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard commented on the state of Christianity when he said, people claim to be “Christian’ without knowing what it means to be Christian. It is also detrimental to the religion itself since it reduces Christianity to a mere fashionable tradition adhered to by unbelieving "believers", a "herd mentality" of the population, so to speak.”

I pains my soul to hear such things. But how do we fix it? I would take a post-modern, post-colonial, deconstructionist approach. What does this mean? It means I know a whole bunch of “university words” that sound impressive. What I’m actually saying in my “de-post” language is that I’m taking a stand to choose. The word for “choose” in Greek is “heresy.”People think heresy is a bad thing. I would argue it’s not. Why is it wrong to choose?! Mainly because the church has declared it so, as they have God nicely boxed and packaged, no need for thought. It’s all figured out. That view, is simply no fun.

Eastern religions and even our parent religion of Judaism has an immense sense of play built right in. Non-orthodox followers of these faiths do not accept things "just because." They must have room for debate. Jews wrestle at the core, in fact the name "Israel" means "to wrestle with God" (El being the word for God). Why wrestle? Well if you've every seen a Greco-Roman wrestling match, you'll note that wrestling is an intimate event. One must know how the opponent's body is positioned and what strategy that person is trying to use to get out of or put the other into a hold. Aside from sex, this is about as intimate as you're going to get.
There is no vacuum in wrestling. The world is sand, in constant flux. The Jewish tradition seems to get that. Plus how they look at the Bible is at a much more complex level than what I’m used to looking at. With this approach, the sense of awe returns. Within that awe, there is a willingness to live within the possibility of each word. The Rabbi's also have developed the midrash, which are collections of stories to help explain the Bible. This sounds like heresy to most Christians, as we tend just to think of what the Bible says but ignore what the Bible does not say. Midrash stories fill in the blanks in the bible. This sense of play and daily application make the stories much more meaningful and the Bible and faith more livable and flexible to the non-static world in which we live.

So the question then becomes how to instill wisdom into a system, which diametrically opposes wisdom. Task learning is a great step forward to recognizing that we live in a quantum vacuum. I certainly will use it within my future ministry. How do we go beyond my future congregation and into the U.S. education? I don’t have the answer for that. But one day, we will.

Works Cited
Kierkegaard, Søren. Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, Princeton University Press, 1992,

Kinnaman, David and Gabe Lyons. “UnChristian; What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why it Matters. Baker Books, 2007.

Melchert, Charles and Anabel Proffitt. “Playing in the Presence of God.”

Schramm, David, "The Big Bang Creation of the Universe", in Quarks, Quasars and Quandries, Ed. Gordon Aubrecht, Amer. Assoc of Physics Teachers, 1987.

Strauss, Valerie, A Snapshot of the State of U.S. Education. Tuesday, November 21, 2006 The Washington Post. 4 Apr 2008

"Vacuum state." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 8 Mar 2008, 05:52 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 4 Apr 2008 .

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Wicked Tenants

Given at Trinity Reformed Mountville, October 5, 2008 based on Isaiah 5:1-7 and Matt 21:33-46

We gather today, this Sunday which is World Communion Sunday. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is the oldest and I’d say greatest symbol of the Christian church. It reflects our call to commune with the whole world, not just by breaking bread with our fellow Christian, but with the whole world. We are Christians in our neighborhood, our country, and our world. So it is ironic that the parable of the Wicked Tenants falls on this Sunday. I can’t think of a less-communal parable than this one.

I’m going to come right out and say it, I don’t like this parable. I don’t think Jesus said this, I think the early church did.

Now I think the bible is a collection of the most amazing, beautiful, deep, inspired, engaging, and DIFFICULT writings ever. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be wasting all this time in seminary studying it. The ancient rabbis said that the scriptures are like a 70-sided gem, and each time you turn the gem, the light refracts differently, giving you a reflection you haven’t seen before. And we keep turning the text again and again because we keep seeing things we missed the time before. What a beautiful metaphor.

However, when I hear people say “the bible says…” I am immediately suspicious. The bible doesn’t say ANYTHING! It sits there. It’s up to our interpretation of what it means. The great theologian Karl Barth said that "when we read the bible we aren’t reading the word of God, we’re reading FOR the word of God.”

We’re reading FOR the word of God. In that light, I can read this parable and be challenged by it and yet still recognize that God’s word is still somewhere in this story. And I really don’t have a problem with this story so much, as I do with the interpretation of this story.

So when I hear some people interpret the bible, I just want to throw up. Can I say that? Church is the place for confessing, so I guess I can. Some interpretations are dangerous to humanity.

This story is interpreted to be an allegory, which is a story with two meanings, a literal meaning and a symbolic meaning. The parable of the wicked tenant farmers has long been interpreted as an allegory describing the murderous lengths to which Jews would go to resist God. Murdering the SON allegorized to be Jesus was the last straw. As a result, God abandoned Israel. For the crucifixion, the Jews were to endure extreme punishment: the calling of the gentiles and the casting out of the Jews.

This parable is found in Mark (12:1-12), Luke (20:9-19, and Gospel of Thomas (65-66). Difference between these is that Thomas has the shortest version and the vineyard is not given to “others” as in Matthew but “to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.” I’ll repeat that as well, the vineyard is give to “people that produce fruits of the kingdom.”

The parable is set up like a typical share-cropper arrangement. The tenant or renter supplied all the labor in running that vineyard for the year, & then at harvest time the tenant or renter got two-thirds of the harvest, & the owner received one-third! That's the kind of deal that this parable is all about, a simple rental agreement between the tenants & the owner of the vineyard, on a share basis! But trouble began to develop when this group of tenants decided to take more than their fair share! They wanted all of the harvest for themselves, & were even willing to kill for it!
The idea that God has taken the blessing away from the Jews and put it on the Christians has lead to anti-Semitism. This is Christian triumphalism at its worst. Christian triumphalism is like bad sportsmanship. It means we’re rubbing the fact that we won the game, namely God loves US and NOT the Jews. The Jews on the other hand didn’t realize they were playing a game in the first place and have no idea what we’re talking about. How can this claim that WE WIN! GOD LOVES US MORE! NA-NA-NA-Boo-Boo, be advanced by the same people who will, in the same breath, say that God does not change? This is a pretty big change here!

Why do I not like this parable? Actually, I do like it, it does have some positive things in it, I just don’t like how some people interpret it. The idea of the vineyard was a traditional metaphor for Israel as we heard in Isaiah. God has high hopes for Israel, his vineyard, and then it utterly disappointed at Israel’s sins and the future destruction of the vineyard. Wicked Tenants is best read as a criticism about US! NOT a criticism of THE JEWS. It should be read in the light of God’s unfathomable grace and ongoing faithfulness and mercy to all people.

That’s what this parable does; it sets up an “US vs. THEM” mentality. What we need to realize is that there is no THEM! There is only US! We are the wicked tenants. We become that when we think we own something that isn’t ours… namely God’s truth as revealed through Jesus Christ. I’ll testify that I don’t have the market cornered on Jesus. Neither does the UCC, the MCC church down the street, the Methodist church, LCBC, no one. The moment we think we have THE TRUTH we become the wicked tenants. God is still speaking. We are in the process of figuring out the truth, we are living in it. We are looking for God’s revealed word and helping others to do the same.

When Christians announced the way of Jesus as “Good news” they announced it to everyone, Jew and Gentile. However, announcing this caused them to be kicked out of the Jewish community and uninvited to the synagogue. How traumatic that must have been. That is where this parable comes from. So in this parable we see the early Church’s struggle with God’s will. Where you and I can get into trouble is when we think that this excludes any particular person or group from God’s love.

The message of Jesus invites everyone into communion. The sinners and the prostitutes, even the scribes and priests! Here is the most important thing to remember, I can be in communion and still have questions and doubts and room for improvement. No one has it all figured out.

What we need to do is not become the wicked tenants who resist God’s urging. We can learn so much from our Jewish brothers and sisters and we are called to love them! God can speak through rabbis just as easily as through seminary interns and catholic priests and ordained UCC ministers and laypeople—you! So when we think that we have it down, when we think that OUR opinions are the right ones (and we all do, because if we didn’t we’d get new ones) God sends prophets to remind us that we don’t have it all figured out. God sends people to remind us that we must continue to turn the gem of scripture and see how the light refracts.

Jesus talks about this “in and out” in a lot of his teachings. He keeps insisting that the people who assume they are in may not be in and the ones who everyone thinks are out for whatever reason may in fact be in. So let’s not assume that we’re IN and THEY! (whoever THEY are) are out. There’s room in heaven enough for us all if we produce the fruits of the kingdom.

The worst thing we could possibly do is use this parable to hurt our Jewish brothers and sisters. When we do this, we become the wicked tenants. We Christians have been tending our corner of the vineyard for two millennia and our record is spotty at best; shameful and horrible at worst.

Today is world communion Sunday meaning that Christian churches all over the world are celebrating communion. What does communion mean? It’s more than just breaking bread, its breaking bread in remembrance of Jesus and a symbol to all Christians that we are connected through our faith. We are connected to each other and we are called to love our neighbor. If our neighbor is Jewish, we are called to be in communion with them. If our neighbor is Muslim, the same applies. If our neighbor is Black, Asian, homosexual, voting for Obama, McCain or other. This is what it means to be in communion with one another. We are Christians, communion is what we are called to do!

So in the end I say to you, Coexist! Love your neighbors as yourself. The rest is commentary. They’ll know we are Christians by our love. Amen.

Works Cited
Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline. Harper Torchbooks 1970.
Origen was the first to talk about the literal and spiritual meanings in his On First Principles around 240 CE.
Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, Repainting the Christian Faith. Zondervan Publishing 2005.
Julie Galambush, The Reluctant Parting, How the New Testaments’ Jewish Writers Created a Christian Book. HarperCollins, 2005
The "rest is commentary" quote comes from Rabbi Hillel, found in the book Alfred J Kolatch The Second Jewish Book of Why. Jonathan David Publishers, Inc.; Middle Village, New York, 1985