Monday, April 28, 2014

Working on my sermon for Easter 3

The Servant-Girl at Emmaus (a painting by Velasquez) by Denise Levertov

She listens, listens, holding
her breath. Surely that voice
is his – the one
who had looked at her, once, across the crowd,
as no one ever had looked?
Had seer her? Had spoken as if to her?

Surely those hands were his,
taking the platter of bread from hers just now?
<La_mulata,_by_Diego_Velázquez.jpg>Hands he’d laid on the dying and made them well?

Surely that face-?

The man they’d crucified for sedition and blasphemy.
The man whose body disappeared from its tomb.
The man it was rumored now some women had seen this morning, alive?

Those who had brought this stranger home to their table
don’t recognize yet with whom they sit.
But she in the kitchen, absently touching the winejug she’s to take in,
a young Black servant intently listening.

swings round and sees
the light around him
and is sure.

Monday, April 14, 2014


The name Tenebrae (the Latin word for “darkness” or “shadows”) has for centuries been applied to the ancient monastic night and early morning services (Matins and Lauds) of the last three days of Holy Week, which in medieval times came to be celebrated on the preceding evenings.

Apart from the chant of the Lamentations (in which each verse is introduced by a letter of the Hebrew alphabet), the most conspicuous feature of the service is the gradual extinguishing of candles and other lights in the church until only a single candle, considered a symbol of our Lord, remains. Toward the end of the service this candle is hidden, typifying the apparent victory of the forces of evil. At the very end, a loud noise is made, symbolizing the earthquake at the time of the resurrection (Matthew 28:2), the hidden candle is restored to its place, and by its light all depart in silence.

In [The Book of Occasional Services], provision is made for Tenebrae on Wednesday evening only, in order that the proper liturgies of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday may find their place as the principal services of those days. By drawing upon material from each of the former three offices of Tenebrae, this service provides an extended meditation upon, and a prelude to, the events in our Lord’s life between the Last Supper and the Resurrection.

--from the Book of Occasional Services, p. 74. 

Come and experience the service of Tenebrae this Holy Week:  Wednesday, 5:30 p.m. at St. John's Episcopal Church, Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

What is "Palm Sunday"?

Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels.

In many Christian churches, Palm Sunday includes a procession of the assembled worshipers carrying palms, representing the palm branches the crowd scattered in front of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem.
In the accounts of the four canonical Gospels, Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalemtakes place about a week before his Resurrection.

The symbolism is captured in Zechariah 9:9 "The Coming of Zion's King – See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey”.
According to the Gospels, Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem, and the celebrating people there laid down their cloaks in front of him, and also laid down small branches of trees. The people sang part of Psalm 118: 25–26 – ... Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. We bless you from the house of the Lord ....

In many lands in the ancient Near East, it was customary to cover in some way the path of someone thought worthy of the highest honour. The Hebrew Bible (2 Kings 9:13) reports that Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, was treated this way. Both the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John report that people gave Jesus this form of honour. However, in the synoptics they are only reported as laying their garments and cut rushes on the street, whereas John specifies fronds of palm (Greek phoinix).

In Revelation 7:9, the white-clad multitude stand before the throne and Lamb holding palm branches.
In the Episcopal and many other Anglican churches and in Lutheran churches, as well, the day is called "The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday"; in practice, though, it is usually termed "Palm Sunday."

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Science and Faith in the News ("On Sceptics")

A couple of weeks ago, scientists announced findings consistent with the so-called “Big Bang Theory.“  Gravitational waves, dating back to the “birth” of the universe, 13.7 billion years ago, were recorded.

A few weeks prior, a televised debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye made the news.  The bow-tied Bill Nye, the Science Guy, is familiar to television-viewing audiences, but Ken Ham was a new name to many.  Ham is a biblical literalist who heads both the Creation Museum and Answers in Genesis (AiG), the leading voice of “young Earth” creationism.  I met Ham once when I was doing a short documentary on the museum for a class I was taking at the time.

Ham is a skeptic when it comes to the claims of science.  Nye is a skeptic when it comes to Ham’s religious notions.

David Hume, the 18th century Scottish philosopher, also questioned science’s findings. Hume identified, what he called, “the problem of induction.”  On the predictive value of observational data, he wrote: “Although the sun arose every single morning of my life, I cannot assume that it will necessarily do so tomorrow.” Why not? Because “if we proceed not upon some fact, present to the memory or senses, our reasonings would be merely hypothetical.”

The problem of establishing an incontestable link between cause and effect, in Hume’s view, relates to the credibility of past events. Both prediction and historical accounts require a certain degree of trust.

Hume’s insistence that we cannot definitively prove causal relationships notwithstanding, practically speaking, most of us cannot live comfortably without trust, even if we recognize that some cause-event-connections and witnesses are more trustworthy than others.

Skeptics endure doubt-filled lives since there are many claims about the nature of reality that we cannot test and confirm for ourselves.

See—-peter-han.  Han is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago.  His recent article inspired my blog entry above.