This Conjunction of Deaths

From tomorrow’s church bulletin at Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church, suggested “thoughts to ponder during the organ prelude”:

Our Scriptures are full of this suffering and death language: the Gospel passion stories spill over into the Epistles and the apocalypse—our sufferings continuously set in the context of Christ’s sufferings;  Christ’s suffering placed is insistently alongside ours.
Jesus died.  There is no avoiding this.  This is fundamental.  And I am somehow or other going to die.  There is no avoiding this: this is fundamental.  This conjunction of deaths, Jesus’ and mine, is where I begin to understand and receive salvation.
                                                – Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places.

Born in Chains

Now that I’ve put away all my Advent and Christmas music I looked for something I haven’t heard in a while to entertain me while I cook and bake today, awaiting a brief visit from friends.  I chose Leonard Cohen’s Popular Problems CD.  The last two songs, “Born in Chains” and “You Got Me Singing” remind me of Dylan, and Christianity.  I hope Cohen knew Who he was addressing in the ultimate sense.

I was born in chains but I was taken out of Egypt
I was bound to a burden, but the burden it was raised
Lord I can no longer keep this secret
Blessed is the name, the name be praised
I fled to the edge of a mighty sea of sorrow
Pursued by the riders of a cruel and dark regime
But the waters parted and my soul crossed over
Out of Egypt, out of Pharaoh’s dream
Word of words and the measure of all measures
Blessed is the name, the name be blessed
Written on my heart in burning letters
That’s all I know, I cannot read the rest
I was idled with my soul, when I heard that you could use me
I followed very closely, but my life remained the same
But then you showed me where you had been wounded
In every atom broken is a name
I was alone on the road, your love was so confusing
All my teachers told me I had myself to blame
But in the grip of sensual illusion
The sweet unknowing unifies a name
Word of words, and the measure of all measures
Blessed is the name, the name be blessed
Written on my heart in burning letters
That’s all I know, I cannot read the rest
I’ve heard the soul unfolds in the chambers of its longing
And the bitter liquor sweetens in the amber cup
But all the ladders of the night have fallen
Only darkness now, to lift the longing up
Word of words and measure of all measures
Blessed is the name, the name be blessed
Written on my heart in burning letters
That’s all I know, I cannot read the rest.
Christians believe we are all born in chains, and it is the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross (“broken in every atom)” that breaks the chain of sin and covers us with the righteousness of Christ.  It is a gift…the water parts and we walk over into the very presence of God, based solely on the gift.
Romans 8: 1-4  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by flesh, could not do.  By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

A Worship Service

My brother, William, like me, also belongs to a Presbyterian church.  Just as Seventh Day Baptist (the denomination in which we were raised) worship service structure differs among congregations, so does that in Presbyterian congregations.   William’s church observes communion every week.  I can not think of a better way to  worship.  Observing Communion reminds us why we are Christian.  It takes away our pride.  It unites us to each other in Christ.

A recent bulletin:








All Is Not Dead

Screen Shot 2017-12-28 at 7.18.07 AM.pngOne of the blogs I regularly read is Patrick Kurps’s “Anecdotal Evidence.”  Today he shared a sonnet by Philip Larkin, a poet I first read on his site.
Few think of Philip Larkin as a nature poet, largely because he writes about human beings and because he was no nature mystic. You’ll find no soft-headed, Emersonian, Mary Oliver-style swooning in Larkin, but you will find frequent observations of the natural world. Fifty-six years ago, in January 1962, he worked on an untitled sonnet never published during his lifetime and posthumously titled “January” by editors:
“A slight relax of air where cold was
And water trickles; dark ruinous light,
Scratched like old film, above wet slates withdraws.
At garden-ends, on railway banks, sad white
Shrinkage of snow shows cleaner than the net
Stiffened like ectoplasm in front windows.
“Shielded, what sorts of life are stirring yet:
Legs lagged like drains, slippers soft as fungus,
The gas and grate, the old cold sour grey bed.
Some ajar face, corpse-stubbled, bends round
To see the sky over the aerials—
Sky, absent paleness across which the gulls
Wing to the Corporation rubbish ground.
A slight relax of air. All is not dead.”
Larkin refers to the nameless season called by Eliot “midwinter spring.” In Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love (2014), James Booth describes the poem’s setting as “an urban wasteland [in which] a decrepit figure reminiscent of a Samuel Beckett character turns towards the faintest hint of spring.” One looks for hope in Larkin (it’s there, though unadvertised) as one awaits the return of warmth and blues skies in the winter.

The painting was taken from another blog that features good poetry, First Known When Lost.

An Advent Rainbow

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My childhood church did not use a liturgical Church calendar and so although we celebrated Christmas and Easter, there was little attention given to seasons such as Advent and Lent.  Now that I think about it, there was always anticipation building to those two times of the year, much like there is in the church I now attend that does observe a liturgical calendar.  There is a difference though.  When a church is formally observing the seasons of Advent and Lent everything is directed to understanding and anticipating what is to come.  Dedicating several weeks focused on preparing for the main event reminds us these are not usual events, they are of utmost importance, and we need to be prepared.
This morning I was, for the second time, surprised by a rainbow near a favorite vista.  Thanks to my childhood church instruction, I immediately remembered God telling Noah he put a rainbow in the sky as a sign of His promise to never again destroy the earth by flood.  Today, even more than that specific promise, the rainbow said to me “God keeps His promises, all kinds of promises, and that includes what we anticipate during advent.”
Rainbows also bring Cowper’s words to mind:

Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord, who rises
With healing in His wings:
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
to cheer it after rain.

Twit and Twitter

After reading someone referred to as a “twit” I decided to clarify the meaning.  Google search suggested I should look at “twitter.” Then I found this definition, which certainly could refer to some twitters as well.
Urban Dictionary: twit
The kind of person that makes a retarded chimp look smart.

Sleepers Awake!


Sleepers, wake! for night swift is flying,
The watchmen on thy walls aloud are crying,
Awake, thou city of Jerusalem!
Hear ye now, ere comes the morning,
The midnight call of solemn warning.
Where are ye, O ye wise virgins, where?
Behold, the Bridegroom comes!
Arise and take your lamps.
Yourselves prepare, your Lord draws near.
He bids you to His marriage feast.
My choir sang a simpler version of this during Communion today, but this is wonderful.