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Friday, June 28, 2019

Long Hair Preacher

There he was – out in public, unashamed, passing out leaflets to passerbys on the courthouse square like some old time, Long-haired preacher man. I might have said ‘hippy’ with the long hair and all, but he wasn’t wearing sandals or a beard. He was just there shouting his message to anyone and everyone. And what was he preaching? What was his message? The worst sort of anti-American, socialist rhetoric you could image. Worse! “The American banking system is corrupt,” he said to anyone who would listen. Fortunately there were few who stopped to listen to his blathering.

“The banking system is not corrupt, it is not broken, you fool,” I shouted at him, trying to get him to stop.

“No, of course not,” he responded – like oil on water, sliding away from the point I was making. “The banking system is not broken; it functions exactly as it was designed, and it functions well. But it is evil. “

Do you read the gospel, sir? Do you read the Bible?”  I was tired of this weasel. He needed a good come-to Jesus moment

“Yes, I do.”  The smarmy bastard actually pulled out his phone and tried to show me a Bible-app. “The biblical societal code forbids the charging interest on loans…”

“What would you have us do? Just let everyone run Willy-nilly and cancel all their debts?”

“Well it’s not  just me,” he said. “It’s the Bible, but yes. Regular debt cancellation is part of the jubilee…”

He didn’t get any further with his malarkey. That’s when the police came to drag him away. I gathered up all the pamphlets he dropped as they zip-tied his wrists behind his back. No sense in leaving filth like that for anyone to find. Think of the children. I took them home and burned them.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

What I’m Reading: Not Stephen King


You, sir, are a scoundrel and a cheat. And what is more, you are a coward. Afraid to trust the merits of your own work, you attempted to trade on a similarity of names. And I while I don’t know if the cover design was yours or the Magic Pen Designs named on the copyright page, I’m sure it was no accident that your cover apes the style of books written by the more famous Stephen King. Stephen R. King (yes, you duped me. I didn’t notice that initial until I’d returned home from the library) you are no Stephen King.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Love Leads to Truth

Last Sunday the pastor at the United Methodist church I attend (Pastor Chad) was out of town for the UMC annual conference. He asked me to fill in for him.  I did - but I forgot to post a copy of the sermon here on the old blog.

Love Leads to Truth

As the co-director of the Newton Community Theatre’s production of Arthur Miller’s play – The Crucible – I have spent the last several weeks, the last couple of months thinking about the Puritans and the Salem witch trials of 1692.  I have also been thinking about the events that inspired Miller to write the play – the red scare, the communist menace, the House Un-American Activities Committee and the outrageous accusations of Senator Joseph McCarthy.  I’ve been thinking about truth and lies – but since we closed last weekend, you’ve missed your chance to see our production of the play, and I’m glad to be done – mostly done thinking about these things.

But before I move on altogether…

“What is truth?” Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, and the Roman prefect’s question has been alternately described through the centuries as either the sincere question of an earnest seeker of wisdom or (more frequently) as the smug, cynical question of a weary skeptic who has grown tired of competing truth claims.  But the question remains: What is truth?

What is truth and how can we know it? In an age of fact checkers and, what is truth?  In a time when our president has made over 10,000 false or misleading statements in his time in office – so far [i]– what is truth and how can we know it? Facts are ignored. Lies are spread.  And the witticism that has been attributed to at least a dozen different individuals seems true – “A lie will go around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on.”

Before leaving his disciples, Jesus said to them, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. I will ask the father, and he will send another companion who will be with your forever. This companion is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world can’t receive because it neither sees him nor recognizes him. You know him because he lives with you and will be with you.” John 14:15 – 17

So we, as followers of Jesus, have this Spirit of Truth to live in us and to be with us forever and yet Christians often seem as blind to the truth as the rest of the world who neither sees nor recognizes that spirit.  In the history of the Church we have multiplied examples of Christians both telling and believing lies and falsehoods of all kinds. Even with the Spirit that will guide us in all truth (John 16:13), the Spirit who is truth (1 John 5:6), we seem as susceptible and prone to untruth as anyone else.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” So how can we recognize and agree upon the truth as Christians, as Methodists, as members of St. Luke UMC?

Lately I’ve been wondering if the commandment “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor,” (Exodus 20: 16) might mean something more than simply, “don’t tell lies.” I recognize of course that the 9th commandment is specifically about false testimony in a legal setting (Freedman 139) but what if we thought of bearing false witness as that carrying around of lies and falsehoods? What it we thought of it as including those untruths that we are unwilling to release?

It can be difficult to let go of those untruths – particularly when they either flatter or embellish our opinion of ourselves or when it mocks and distorts our enemies. Our pride and our vanity can blind us to the untrue things we believe about ourselves. We are blind to the thousand justifications and excuses that we make for our own shortcomings. And we nurse and rehearse the slanders and mischaracterizations of our enemies. The things we like to believe about them may have begun as slight exaggerations or rhetorical hyperbole for effect, but we go over them again and again, like picking at a sore that just won’t heal, until it becomes infected and inflamed; they become the lies and false witnesses that we bear with us everywhere we go.

What if “thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor,” means that we should release these falsehoods? This would require a rigorous self-examination that we often find too difficult and unpleasant. But can the Spirit of Truth be said to inhabit us now and forever if we are clinging to and embracing those lies and calumnies? Can the spirit of truth guide us into all truth if we are bearing these false testimonies against our neighbors in our hearts?

Today, on this Pentecost Sunday –we celebrate the unity of the early church, gathered together in one accord (Acts 2:1) in the mighty wind and burning fire of the Holy Spirit. And if we want that same unity of the Spirit- the spirit of truth- we must give up our treasured falsehoods.

Before Jesus left his disciples he gave them a promise that another Comforter would come for them – but he prefaced that promise with a condition and a command. “If you love me you will keep my commandments. I will ask the Father and he will send you another companion.” But what commandment?  A few sentences before this he said to them, “I give you a new commandment: love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.” (John 13: 34-35)

Love leads to truth, or it at least opens us up to be able to receive it. If we will love each other – and even love our enemies – we will not want to believe all the horrible, untrue things we’ve been told, and that we tell ourselves. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7)

“Teach us to utter living words of truth which all may hear
the language all may understand when love speaks loud and clear
till every age and race and clime shall blend their creeds in one
and earth shall form one family by whom thy will is done.”

O Spirit of the Living God, Thou Light and Fire Divine- by Henry Hallam Tweed

Freedman, David Noel.  The Nine Commandments: Uncovering the Hidden Pattern of Crime and Punishment in the Hebrew Bible. Doubleday. New York, NY. 2000.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Catmint and Peony

I cut some flowers from my garden this afternoon.

Catmint and Peony by Jeff Carter on

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Jeff Carter's books on Goodreads
Muted Hosannas Muted Hosannas
reviews: 2
ratings: 3 (avg rating 4.33)

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