The Ultimate Word

"The ultimate Word is not a paragraph but a person. If Jesus is the Word of God incarnate, then the heart of proclamation is personal and relational, not propositional."

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki * God, Christ, Church, page 135

Monday, October 27, 2008

Shamelessly stealing

So this one's been circulating wildly through the blogosphere, but it's absolutely worth stealing and sharing with you.

What if Jesus were running for POTUS?

Enjoy!

Time with the family

Last week I had to run down South for a couple of days to tend to some family business, and one of the good pieces of news that came out of that was that I had a chance to meet the two newest Richardsons: my nephews Miles and Gaines.

They were born prematurely on September 8th. Both are doing well and growing, if not as fast as we would all like!

Miles (the larger one) may be heading home soon. It was a real joy for me to be able to hold him a few times and feed him and for us to begin to get to know one another. Like his mother, he sleeps a LOT. But here's a rare picture of him with his eyes open.


Gaines is much smaller than his brother, but still strong and doing well. He's still too small to hold, but I was able to reach into his isolette and play with him a little. He seems to be fond of high fives and fist bumps. Like his father, Gaines avoids sleep at all costs! Usually he can be seen doing somersaults in his little isolette, but here's a rare shot of him sleeping.


While both boys still have a ways to go before they're entirely out of the woods, one thing remains certain: they're clearly the smartest and most attractive boys in the whole NICU! :)

Thank you for all of your prayers. I look forward to seeing them again soon!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I've never been more proud of my homeland...


Here's a little zydeco Obama anthem from Louisiana... The music of my people!

Really, I'm so proud. For most of my life I thought my immediate family and I were the only Democrats left in Louisiana.

And now - two weeks before the election - let's take a little break from my obvious political preferences and simply pause to consider the seriousness of all that faces our nation.

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP, 822)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Toilet talk at tonight's debate


There was a lot of talk about "Joe the plumber" at tonight's debate.

Well, I did a bit of research and discovered this:
  • Barack Obama's tax plan will tax the 5% of businesses that have revenue in excess of $250,000.00 a year
  • The higher tax rate will apply ONLY to the part of the revenue that exceeds $250,000.00 per year
  • Did I mention that ONLY 5% of businesses have profits that exceed $250,000.00 per year!!
  • In the case of "Joe the plumber", he's planning to buy a business that generates $250,000.00-$280,000.00
  • The current tax rate of 36% would apply to the first $250,000.00
  • Additional earnings would be taxed at the higher rate of 39%
  • Banking my figures on the high end ($280,000.00) the tax difference for "Joe the plumber" under Obama's plan would be:
$900

Seriously???!!!

John McCain made "Joe the plumber" a major campaign issue over $900???!!!

Give me a break...

Source: Political Punch (ABC)

NOTE:

So... Several people have written to me about the difference between "profit" and "revenue". To this, I can only respond: this is why I studied theology and not economics. I can handle figures, but I must admit that I really don't understand the kind of complex economics that are necessary to successfully administer a small business.

What I do understand, on the other hand, is justice. Though my numbers are probably wrong from any actual administrative point of view, my point remains the same - if your business is generating $280,000.00 a year in profit, then suck it up and pay your extra $900 in taxes. It's for the good of the community.

As my brother reminded me, even that can be self serving. If your $900 in extra taxes makes the quality of life of the actual middle class stronger (God help us if we actually start talking about helping the POOR!), then that will actually help the wealthy, too! When the economy is stronger and when there is a stronger middle class and fewer people in poverty, then they're all more likely to actually CALL a plumber when they need one, rather than letting problems wait or fixing them for themselves.

"Trickle down economics" has been proven to be a fallacy. But let's start talking about "trickly UP economics". Help those who NEED the help, and the wealthy will have their day. I guarantee it!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A look at idols and anxiety


12 October 2008
Pentecost 22A, Proper 23
Exodus 32:1-14; Matthew 22:1-14

We have turned our backs on God.

The story of the Exodus is our story.

In times of uncertainty, and in the anxiety it generates, we turn our backs to deny the witness of God in our lives.

I do it. All the time. When I face any kind of uncertainty my almost automatic response is nearly always to try to micromanage. In the face of all that I can’t control, I try to focus my attention on the little things that I can control – no matter how insignificant the detail or how ineffective it may be at drawing me toward my real goal.

We call that “functional atheism”. No matter how real our relationships with God may be, in times of uncertainty it can become all too easy to revert to trying to take the place of God in our lives – to try to control the uncontrollable.

Just this week I was in a conversation with Kathy Seabrook about the future of the youth program. We were talking about how the youth could become more involved in our Companionship relationships in India. The work we have done in Kothapallimitta and the relationships that we have formed with the people there has been one of the greatest successes of this parish in a long time. It would be an even greater success if we could use that work to change the lives of another generation of St. Peter’s parishioners. Dreaming about what how those relationships might be extended to the youth of our parish, my mind immediately began switching over to how difficult it might be.

Fortunately, I had already spoken to Kathy about my experiences with functional atheism. Whenever I began to allow my analysis and my fears to creep into our conversation, she would remind me to slow down, to have faith, and to draw on the resources that were available to me. Rather than getting lost in micromanaging the little things that would have little or no impact on the big picture, she would encourage me to breathe, to pray, and to keep my eyes on the end game.

These are all things that I know, but I needed someone to remind me. We all need people to remind us to keep the faith when we’re faced with uncertainty.

In the story that we read this morning from Exodus, we heard another version of humanity’s fight with functional atheism.

The people of the Exodus were in the face of profound uncertainty. They had been led out of the land that had been their home for generations. They left willingly to escape slavery, but there were times when they wondered if that had been wise. Though they had been enslaved in Egypt, they found themselves in even greater uncertainty as they wandered through the wilderness with Moses.

But whenever their uncertainty bore down, God was always present to lead them through to the next day. When they were stuck between Pharaoh’s army and the sea, God showed them a safe passage. When food was scarce, God provided manna, the bread of heaven.

Even so, the forces of fear were strong.

Moses, their leader, had left them for a season to commune with God on the mountain. Before long, the people again became anxious. They needed that steady voice reminding them to slow down, to have faith, and to draw on the resources that were available to them. In their growing anxiety, they began micromanaging. They didn’t know what had become of Moses, and they didn’t know what had become of their relationship with God, so they quickly began fashioning a god of their own.

When I find myself in times of anxiety I tend to take the precious adornments of experience and education and social and political connections and I fashion them into a kind of god. I foolishly imagine that these adornments will give me some measure of control. While such adornments are a part of the pool of resources for which I should be grateful to God, they are not, in themselves, God.

Like the people of the Exodus, honest reflection will show that the gods of my own making never feed my hunger. When I am lost or stuck, my idols point only to me. The security they represent is superficial, at best.

What are your idols? What do you cling to when the world around you seems fragile?
Think about it. I don’t ask this just as a kind of rhetorical device. The world around us really is fragile. We continue to see signs of that fact every day. The economy is fragile. Political power is fragile. Safety and security are fragile. Even the church can prove fragile. With uncertainty all around us, it is fair to ask: what are your idols?

In the lessons that we read this morning, it can be easy to focus our attention on judgment – to hear these stories as warnings to act right lest we are forced to endure the wrath of God. Worse still, we may, in our own self-righteousness, choose to hear these stories as judgments not on ourselves but on others who do not behave as righteously as we do.

In the story of the Exodus we are struck by God’s desire to wipe the slate clean after the people turn away. In the parable of the wedding banquet we hear of those who refused to participate in the feast and how they are held accountable by the king. But I think these stories are less about God turning on anyone than they are about all of us turning from God.

In both, we hear of people who turn away from God in favor of the temporary security of impermanent things. The people of the Exodus placed their faith in a god of their own making. Those who refused the hospitality of the king did so in favor of another kind of god of their own making – “they made light of [the invitation] and went away, one to his farm, another to his business…”

When we turn from God in favor of the lures of the world, we are not so much “cast into the outer darkness” as we are already there. The world can seem a desolate place when all we know about or believe in is impermanence.

It’s the first commandment – “you shall have no other gods before me”. In many ways it is the foundation of our faith and in many ways it is the easiest way to fall short – to place our faith in things.

So it’s worth knowing what your idols are. Only then can you face them and acknowledge their weakness. Amen.

Monday, October 06, 2008

America's most reliable oracle...

This just in from AmericaBlog...

Palin Misquotes Her Starbucks Cup:
Madeleine Albright Explains the REAL Quote

Now we know why Sarah Palin doesn't read newspapers. She learns stuff from her Starbucks cup:
Palin regaled the cheering crowd with a story about how she was reading her Starbucks mocha cup yesterday, which featured a quotation from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

“Now she said it, I didn’t,” Palin said of Albright. “She said, ‘There’s a place in Hell reserved for women who don’t support other women.’”

The crowd roared its approval, but according to several sources, Albright actually said, “there’s a place in Hell reserved for women who don’t help other women.”
If Sarah is going to make a big deal about quoting her Starbucks cup, she should at least get the quote right. In fact, as CBS notes, she got the quote wrong.

Madeleine Albright wasn't amused. She wants Palin to know just how wrong she got it (no link, got it via email from Albright's office):
"Though I am flattered that Governor Palin has chosen to cite me as a source of wisdom, what I said had nothing to do with politics. This is yet another example of McCain and Palin distorting the truth, and all the more reason to remember that this campaign is not about gender, it is about which candidate has an agenda that will improve the lives of all Americans, including women. The truth is, if you care about the status of women in our society and in our troubled economy, the best choice by far is Obama-Biden."
Someone would type this up and put it on Palin's next Starbucks mocha cup so she'll be sure to see it. Not that it would matter. Palin will say anything, even if it's patently false or blatantly
wrong.


Friday, October 03, 2008

More reflections on the VP debate



So yes... I'm shamelessly stealing this video from one of my very favorite, check-it-several-times-a-day blogs, "Telling Secrets".

But I did have some original content that I wanted to share with you, and this video seemed like a worthy introduction to break up the monotony of plain text. There's just something about the quiet, but rhythmic music and chanting in the background that gets my emotions rolling. When you pair that emotionality with a really strong, important message that gets to the core of the candidate, it's unstoppable. This is the kind of political advertisement I wish Obama would have running in every battleground state.

So last night and this morning, in my circle of friends, there has been this email conversation swirling about the VP debate. One participant - a woman living in a same-sex partnership - who I happen to love very much, expressed her concern that both campaigns spoke against same-sex marriage.

While I generally agree with her concern in principle, I had the following to say in my response. Forgive me that it is slightly a repeat of my initial reaction last night. But it is, at least, a little more developed than last night.

Here's my email.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I certainly agree with the principle that justice delayed is justice denied. But of course they both said they were against gay marriage. I think there's probably even a decent chance that Obama and Biden favor same-sex marriage, but they can't say it. If they do, that becomes what the election is about, and nobody wins an election on the grounds of not being supportive enough of equal rights for LGBT people. At least not yet.

Where my judgement lies is in the gray areas around what they said and how they said it in trying to answer the question.

Biden was full-throated and eager in his support for equal partner benefits for same-sex couples. While Palin gave lip service to supporting benefits, the bulk of her answer had two central components:
  • First, she danced dangerously close to answering with the "some of my best friends are gay" argument. She spent so much time talking about the diversity among her friends and how many of her friends would disagree with her. While she wouldn't even go so far as to admit that she knows any LGBT people, that seemed to me to be what she was dancing around. And the only reason anyone uses that kind of argument is as an attack. As in: "Some of my best friends are gay, so it's okay if I work with all my might to attack them and deny them equal rights"
  • The other central component of her answer was all of her talk about "tolerance" -- how tolerant she is, how much she supports tolerance. I'll agree that tolerance seems like a plus in the face of intolerance. But as an end goal for marginalized people, it's simply not enough. It's not enough for me to live in a society that systematically hates everything about me, but to have them "tolerate" me - to begrudgingly put up with me.
Both aspects of her answer represent a very undeveloped position on LGBT rights. They sound like someone who hasn't struggled with it. Like someone who doesn't want the political or social baggage of sounding like a bigot, and as such is looking for just enough to get by.

While the final answer from both campaigns is less than ideal, the Biden answer at least represents some level of respect. Of course that's not ideal, but it's a better place to begin that no respect at all.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

well now I'm just mad...

I'm watching the Vice Presidential debate.

Did anyone else notice that Sarah Palin just danced around the "some of my best friends are gay" argument???

All that talk about her diverse circle of friends and how so many of them would disagree with her...

The only reason ANYONE uses such an argument is as an attack on the very people they're claiming as friends.

As in:
  • Some of my best friends are gay, so it's okay for me to work against their best interests
  • Some of my best friends are gay, so I can get away with publicly attacking them
Yeah... Now I'm just plain mad...