Archive for May 2010

Third Sunday of Advent, Year A   Leave a comment

Above:  The Visitation, from an Illustrated Manuscript

Stir-Up Sunday

DECEMBER 11, 2022


FIRST READING:  Isaiah 35:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,

the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,

and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,

the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the LORD,

the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,

and make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who are of a fearful heart,

Be strong, do not fear!

Here is your God.

He will come with vengeance,

with terrible recompense.

He will come and save you.

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

then the lame shall leap like a deer,

and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,

and streams in the desert;

the burning sand shall become a pool,

and the thirsty ground springs of water;

the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,

the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there,

and it shall be called the Holy Way;

the unclean shall not travel on it,

but it shall be for God’s people;

no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.

No lion shall be there,

nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;

they shall not be found there,

but the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,

and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;

they shall obtain joy and gladness,

and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.


Psalm 146 (New Revised Standard Version):

Praise the LORD!

Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Do not put your trust in princes,

in mortals, in whom there is no help.

When their breath departs, they return to the earth;

on that very day their plans perish.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,

whose help is the LORD their God,

who made heaven and earth,

the sea, and all that is in them;

who keeps faith forever;

who executes justice for the oppressed;

who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.

The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

the LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD watches over the strangers;

he upholds the orphan and the widow,

but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The LORD will reign forever,

your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the LORD!

Canticle 15 (The Magnificat), from The Book of Common Prayer, page 91:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed;

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

SECOND READING:  James 5:7-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

GOSPEL:  Matthew 11:2-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him,

Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?

Jesus answered them,

Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John:

What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you

who will prepare your way before you.”

Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

The Collect:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.


 The Third Sunday of Advent is Stir-Up Sunday, from the opening words of the collect.  The prayer asks to God to send divine power among us , to help and deliver us, who cannot perform either task on our own behalf.  The readings for this Sunday tell of what happens when God’s power is unleashed:  deserts bloom, the mighty fall, the humble are exalted, and exiles return home.  All this is wonderful, except from the vantage point of the mighty whom God has cast down from their thrones.

When I ponder these readings, especially the Magnificat, I cannot help but wonder how certain politicians and pundits with whom I disagree profoundly might handle the content.  Might they accuse the texts of engaging in class warfare?  Well, class welfare is part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For that matter, an unregulated or barely regulated corporate economy contradicts the teachings of the Old and New Testaments, from the Hebrew Prophets to Jesus.  I cannot escape the fact that the Bible teaches nothing less than Christian Socialism.

Here I stand; I can do no other.




The Episcopal Church’s lectionary for Advent lays out sets of readings as follows:

  1. The First Sunday of Advent (Separate readings for Years A, B, and C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary)
  2. The First Week of Advent (Monday-Saturday)
  3. The Second Sunday of Advent (Separate readings for Years A, B, and C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary)
  4. The Second Week of Advent (Monday-Saturday)
  5. The Third Sunday of Advent (Separate readings for Years A, B, and C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary)
  6. The Third Week of Advent (Monday-Friday)
  7. December 17-24 (Readings designated per date)
  8. The Fourth Sunday of Advent (Separate readings for Years A, B, and C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary)

There can be as many as 29 days in Advent.  Consider the following facts:

  1. The First Sunday of Advent can fall no earlier than November 27 and no later than December 3.
  2. Ergo the Fourth Sunday of Advent can fall no earlier than December 18 and no later than December 24.

So the following statements are accurate:

  1. In all years the first fifteen days of Advent will fall according to the pattern:  First Sunday of Advent–First Week of Advent (Monday-Saturday)–Second Sunday of Advent–Second Week of Advent (Monday-Saturday)–Third Sunday of Advent.
  2. After that the variations begin to occur.   One might read all or some or none of the lections for the Third Week of Advent (Monday-Friday), depending on the dates of the Sundays of Advent.  Also, at least one Sunday will fall within the December 17-24 timeframe.

I will write and publish 29 (the maximum possible number) Advent devotions on this blog.  Some days will have two devotions, then, but that can only be good.

Pax vobiscum,


Second Sunday of Advent, Year A   Leave a comment

Above:  The Tomb of St. John the Baptist, Lower Egypt

Image Source = Lollylolly 78

The Approaching Kingdom of God

DECEMBER 4, 2022


Isaiah 11:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

A shoot will come from the stump of Jesse,

and a branch will grow out of his roots.

The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and might,

the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,

or decide by what his ears hear;

but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,

and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,

and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,

the leopard shall lie down with the kid,

the calf and the lion and the fatling together,

and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,

their young shall lie down together;

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,

and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

They will not hurt or destroy

on all my holy mountain;

for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD

as the waters cover the sea.

On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

Give the king your justice, O God,

and your righteousness to the a king’s son.

May he judge your people with righteousness,

and your poor with justice.

May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,

and the hills, in righteousness.

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,

give deliverance to the needy,

and crush the oppressor.

May he live while the sun endures,

and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.

May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,

like showers that water the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish

and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

Blessed by the LORD, the God of Israel,

who alone does wondrous things.

Blessed be his glorious name forever;

may his glory fill the whole earth.

Amen and Amen.

Romans 15:4-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,

and sing praises to your name;

and again he says,

Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people;

and again,

Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,

let all the peoples praise him;

and again Isaiah says,

The root of Jesse shall come,

the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;

in him the Gentiles shall hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 3:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming,

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,

The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

“Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.”

Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them,

You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


St. John the Baptist was one of a line of prophets who spoke of the coming Kingdom of God on earth.  John, however, spoke of the short-term arrival of this kingdom.  And one of the concepts embedded in the canonical Gospels is that the Kingdom of God was present within and around people; God was active on the earth.  In historical context this constituted, among other things, a strong (and justified) criticism of the Roman imperial order.  Rome occupied the Jewish homeland, maintained order with fear, and encouraged slavery and economic inequity–even exploitation.  Much of this sounds contemporary, does it not?

Jesus was born, lived, died, rose again, and ascended.  And yet the Roman imperial order persisted.  So understandings of the Kingdom of God changed, becoming more abstractly spiritual than concerned with the present tense.  Yet I find the older understanding powerful; I cannot dismiss it.  If the Kingdom of God was present when Jesus walked the face of the earth, is it not still here?  Could it have faded away after the Ascension?  I think not.

So I leave you, O reader, with this:  How is the Kingdom of God an indictment of your society and government, perhaps even the dominant form of organized religion in your society?  And, when you have your answer(s), what ought you to do with this (these) realization(s)?  It cost Jesus his life, and St. John the Baptist before him.  What will it cost you?


First Sunday of Advent, Year A   Leave a comment

Above:  The Swords into Plowshares Statue at the United Nations

Image Source = Melesse

God With Us

NOVEMBER 27, 2022


Isaiah 2:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come

the mountain of the LORD’s house

shall be established as the highest of the mountains,

and shall be raised above the hills;

all the nations shall stream to it.

Many people shall come and say,

Come let us go up tot he mountain of the LORD,

to the house of the God of Jacob;

that he may teach us his paths.

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,

and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,

and shall arbitrate for many peoples;

they shall beat their swords into plowshares,

and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,

neither shall they learn war any more.

O house of Jacob,

come, let us walk

in the light of the LORD!


Psalm 122 (New Revised Standard Version):

I was glad when they said to me,

Let us go to the house of the LORD!

Our feet are standing

within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem–built as a city

that is bound firmly together.

To it the tribes go up,

the tribes of the LORD,

as was decreed for Israel,

to give thanks for the name of the LORD.

For there the thrones of judgment were set up,

the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls,

and security within your towers.

For the sake of my relatives and friends

I will say,

Peace be within you.

For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,

I will seek your good.


Romans 13:11-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

You know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.


Matthew 24:36-44 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to the disciples,

But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Happy New Year!  The First Sunday of Advent opens the Western Christian Year.  (The Eastern Orthodox churches keep a different schedule.)  About four weeks from the First Sunday of Advent falls Christmas day.  So, in Western Christian sacred time, this is a time to begin preparing for Christmas, much as Lent is a time of preparation for Easter.  I encourage you, O reader, to give Advent its full due attention, not rushing to Christmas Day.  In fact, I prefer to hold off on “Merry Christmas” greetings until about December 24.  The rest of the time I wish people a “Holy Advent.”

The name “Emmanuel” means “God with us.”  This summarizes the readings for this day.  They speak of the God who is present with us, what this deity will do at some unspecified time, and the responsibilities the faithful must execute in this context.  These lessons tell us that God loves us, expects us to behave ourselves, and will establish justice on the earth in the future.

No mere mortal can predict the future with perfect accuracy.  Science fiction scenarios look dated with the passage of time.  Think about the computer technology in 2001:  A Space Odyssey (1968), for example.  The computers are SO BIG compared to what they were in 2001, much less 2010.  And since shortly after the time Jesus walked the earth people have predicted his return many times, often with specific dates.  One of my favorite thrift store finds is a small paperback book, Christ Returns by 1988:  101 Reasons Why, by Colin Hoyle Deal.  I feel safe in claiming that 1988 came and went without Jesus returning.

Let us not become so preoccupied with reading the news in hopes of identifying the Antichrist or other apocalyptic indicators that we give short shrift to or ignore signs of God’s actual  activity around us.  Alleged Antichrists have come and gone; they are ranged from Adolf Hitler to Joseph Stalin to Ronald Wilson Reagan–the latter for having three names, each with six letters–666.  All politics aside, I propose that to become caught up prophesy is a fool’s errand, and that we Christians need to focus on the present constructively.  God is active all around us; do we not see it.  If we look with spiritual eyes we will see Jesus in friends, strangers, and even in those we dislike.  We will witness divine activity in places we expect the least or do anticipate at all.  So we will know more deeply that God is with us and will remain with us, and that this fact makes certain demands upon us.

As for the rest, the details will be what they will be.  And any of us could be wrong about our predictions.  Sometimes a belief that Jesus’ Second Coming is near has become a reason not to seek social justice or not to conserve part of the natural world.  Yet we humans have a mandate to care for creation and to seek social justice.  So let us live faithfully in the present tense, leaving the future to God.



P.S.: The Episcopal Church has adopted an Advent lectionary.  My practice regarding Advent is as follows:  I use the designated Year A readings, according to the Revised Common Lectionary and the lessons which are part of the Episcopal lectionary for Advent.  This lectionary designates Monday-Saturday lessons for the first two weeks of Advent, Monday-Friday readings for the Third Week of Advent, and dated lessons for December 24.  I will provide devotions for all of these, including Friday in the Third Week, which will fall on December 17 in 2010 and December 19, which will double as the Fourth Sunday of Advent this year.  My intention is that these devotions will roll over from year to year, adding Year B Sundays next year and Year C Sundays the year after that, and changing dates on blog posts as necessary each year.

So I invite you to accompany me on this faith journey.

Pax vobiscum,


H2O (2004) and The Trojan Horse (2008)   Leave a comment

Above:  Paul Gross as Tom McLaughlin

H2O (2004) and The Trojan Horse (2008)


Paul Gross as Prime Minister/President-Elect Thomas David McLaughlin

Guy Nadon as Deputy Prime Minister/Prime Minister/Solicitor General Marc Lavigne

Leslie Hope as Sergeant Leah Collins, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Martha Henry as Julia McLaughlin

Philip Akin as President Monroe

Kenneth Welsh as Randall Spear

Callum Keith Rennie as Daniel Holt

Greta Scaachi as Helen Madigan

Martha Burns as Senator/Vice President-Elect Mary Miller

Tom Skerritt as President William Stanfield

Clark Johnson as John Neelon

Saul Rubinek as White House Chief of Staff Rafe Kott

Rachael Crawford as National Security Advisor Colleen Howell

3 hours per miniseries on DVD

The fragility of civil liberties and national sovereignty constitute the backbone of H2O and its sequel, The Trojan Horse, both excellent Canadian miniseries.

It is 2004, and Canadian Prime Minister Matthew McLaughlin dies during a canoeing trip.  This is an assassination, not an accident.  In the immediate aftermath of this death, Deputy Prime Minister Marc Lavigne, a conscientious man, assumes the nation’s helm.  Within a few weeks, however, the late Prime Minister’s son, Tom, wins leadership of the party (which, although not named, is presumably the Conservative Party), becoming Prime Minister in his father’s place.

Tom McLaughlin, who has dictatorial tendencies and contempt for the concept of the nation-state, is the beneficiary of an international corporate conspiracy to assassinate his father and to install him in high office.  McLaughlin the younger, who learns the identity of those who plotted his father’s murder, protects them and blames Islamic terrorists, transforms Canada into a police state, and seeks to compromise Canadian sovereignty.  Tom, who creates disorder in order to increase his power, dangles a carrot in front of the United States government in exchange for U.S. help to restore order in Canada.  That carrot is water, which Canada has in abundance, and which the United States needs desperately.  The sale of this water will line the pockets of those who conspired to assassinate McLaughlin the elder and to install his son.

And so Canada descends into chaos as patriots resist their Prime Minister and his administration.  McLaughlin frames innocent people and plots the murder of inconvenient persons.  The U.S. President, concerned about the “Canadian Crisis,” sends in the military, takes over Canada, and transforms McLaughlin into a puppet.

Two years later, in 2006, after his term as Prime Minister, McLaughlin and Lavigne watch television coverage of a Canadian referendum about whether to convert Canada into six U.S. states.  The vote is 51% to 49% in favor of annexation, and Republican President William Stanfield celebrates with his aides.  The resentful McLaughlin, however, conspires with international corporate leaders, spy masters, and heads of government to defeat Stanfield, who is up for re-election in 2008.  Presumably, President Tom McLaughlin will do their bidding, thereby selling the United States down the river intentionally.  Indeed, McLaughlin says privately that he will take the U.S. away from the Americans because they took Canada away from him.  Yet this fact does not mean that he is anybody’s pawn.

President Stanfield is a true believer in the neoconservative cause.  Secretary of Defense during the Canadian Crisis, Stanfield regards the annexation of Canada as a great achievement, for he believes in asserting American power, not in practicing international diplomacy.  Those who conspire with McLaughlin to make him President regard Stanfield as a bully, and they are correct in that assessment.  Yet they are amoral, as is McLaughlin, whom they regard mistakenly as a would-be puppet.

In 2008 a seemingly random shooting at a London law firm sets events into motion.  Among the dead attorneys is the son of skilled investigative reporter Helen Madigan, responsible a few years previously for breaking the story about yellow cake nuclear material from Niger.  Her maternal grief in hand, Madigan begins to investigate the causes behind her son, and the London C.I.A. station chief, who is in league with McLaughlin and his conspirators, sends John Neelon, one of his professional assassins, to murder Madigan.  However, Neelon, who has no moral qualms about killing avowed threats to the United States, discovers that the order to kill Madigan did not come from Langley.  So he protects and assists her instead.

The main international backstory in The Trojan Horse concerns Saudi Arabia.  The People’s Republic of China is attempting to destabilize the kingdom and to control the Saudi Arabian oil supply, a fact which would, if successful, hurt the United States greatly.  President Stanfield perceives the need to secure Saudi Arabia much the way the U.S. secured Canada in 2004, but McLaughlin and other international players deny him a pretense on which to invade.  Stanfield, who speaks of righteousness in public and in private, confides in his amoral Chief of Staff, Rafe Kott, who conspires without Stanfield’s knowledge to create a pretense for an invasion, which might lead to what Stanfield would consider the greater good.  The fact that innocent, Christian children might suffer and/or die in the name of the “greater good” does not concern Kott.

Meanwhile, McLaughlin plots to win the White House honestly before selling out the United States.  Apparently, the purpose of the murder in London had been to cover up the existence of a computer program intended to rig the results of the 2008 Presidential Election for McLaughlin (without his knowledge) by altering results in voting machines.  The last Canadian Prime Minister stages an assassination attempt, fakes a coma, pretends to have a religious conversion, and remarries his former wife, Texas Republican Senator Mary Miller, whom he convinces to run for Vice President with him on an independent ticket.  He campaigns on the “Spirit of Independence,” which, coming from him, is a lie, of course.

After watching both miniseries I conclude that sympathetic characters are difficult to find.  Tom McLaughlin’s battle axe mother, Julia, comes to mind, as does Leah Collins, the intrepid Canadian federal agent from H2O.  Marc Lavigne is an honest broker in both miniseries, and one cannot help but side with grieving mother Helen Madigan in The Trojan Horse.  Furthermore, Senator Mary Miller, the manipulated wife, Senator, and running mate from the second miniseries, is a sympathetic character.  Most characters, however, seem to be either amoral or immoral.  And, at the end, it falls to Senator Miller to set in motion the necessary, if not pretty, salvific deed.

These riveting miniseries are skillfully acted, shot, directed, and edited political thrillers one will enjoy watching.  The violence is neither gory nor gratuitous, the occasionally strong language does not detract from the plot (indeed, it seems like what the characters would say), and the story carries the viewer along well.  Everything in these cautionary tales seems plausible, and therein resides their scariness.  And if the plot feels far-fetched, let us remember that odder events have unfolded in history.  Samuel Clemens commented once that the difference between fiction and non-fiction is the former has to make sense.


Posted May 21, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Reviews

Tagged with , ,

Feast of Nelson Wesley Trout (September 20)   Leave a comment

Above:  Logo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



First African-American U.S. Lutheran Bishop

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America celebrates the life of Bishop Nelson Wesley Trout on September 20.

Trout was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1921.  He attended and graduated from Capital University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary, both in Columbus.  Also, Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa, bestowed upon Trout the Doctor of Divinity degree.  Trout pastored congregations in Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Montgomery, Alabama; and Los Angeles, California.

Taylor Branch wrote of Trout in Parting the Waters:  America in the King Years, 1954-1963 (1988), the first volume in his America in the King Years trilogy.  (Volumes Two and Three are Pillar of Fire and At Canaan’s Edge, completing the exodus metaphor.)  Trout left Montgomery in 1955, but not before he befriended Martin Luther King, Jr.  Trinity Lutheran Church, Montgomery, was a small congregation with an attached private school funded as a mission by the World Lutheran Council.  This school provided a fine and much sought-after education for Montgomery African-American children, even though many of their parents disliked the high Lutheran liturgy.  Trout and King kidded each other.  Trout asked King how he got the name “Martin Luther.”  King replied by asking Trout how he had become a Lutheran.  Trout joked that competition among Baptist preachers was rough, and that the Lutherans were begging for Negroes (to use the word common at the time).

Trout served on the staff of the American Lutheran Church (ALC) in the 1960s.  (Two denominations carried the name “American Lutheran Church.”  The first resulted from a 1930 merger and existed for three decades before combining with other Lutheran bodies to create the second American Lutheran Church.  This second organization merged into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1987.)  From 1960 to 1967 Trout was the ALC’s Associate Youth Director, a post he left to become Director of Urban Evangelism (1968-1970).  Trout also served as Executive Director of Lutheran Social Services in Dayton, Ohio, then as a professor and Director of Minority Ministry Studies at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio.  He held that position on June 17, 1983, when the South Pacific District elected him their bishop, making him the first African-American bishop in U.S. Lutheranism.  Trout was 62 years old.

From 1983 to 1987 the Rev. Dr. Nelson Wesley Trout oversaw the South Pacific District, which in 1983 had 144,000 members in 310 congregations in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Hawaii, and some Texas counties.  The three-way merger, which formed the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 1987, entailed the creation of 65 synods, so Trout’s jurisdiction ceased to exist.

(Note:  The practice among those U.S. Lutheran bodies who have the episcopate is to elect bishops to specified terms, with the possibility of re-election.  Yet once a bishop leaves office he or she ceases to be a bishop.)

Trout became the Bishop Emeritus of the new Southwest California Synod, as well as the Director for Mission Theology and Evangelism Training within ELCA’s Division of Outreach.  In 1991 his alma mater, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, established the Nelson W. Trout Lectureship in Preaching.  Trout died at Inglewood, California, on September 20, 1996, survived by his wife and three children.  He was 75 years old.

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

May 16, 2010

(The Seventh Sunday of Easter)


Almighty God, you have raised up faithful bishops of your church, including your servant Nelson Wesley Trout.  May the memory of his life be a source of joy for us and a bulwark of our faith, so that we may serve and confess your name before the world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

The First Reading:

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

The Response:

Psalm 84

The Second Reading:

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21

The Gospel:

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

(The Proper for a Bishop from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 2006, hymnal of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)

Feast of Felix Manz (January 5)   2 comments

Above:  Anabaptist Martyrs Memorial Plate, Zurich, Switzerland

Image Source = Roland zh


FELIX MANZ (1498-JANUARY 5, 1527)

First Anabaptist Martyr

Christianity is divided into denominations which differ with each other on matters great and small.  Such disagreements might cause one justifiably to choose one denomination over others, but we need to remember that we need not kill each other over these matters.  Besides, we profess to follow the same Lord and Savior:  Jesus of Nazareth.  But do we act like him?

Consider the case of Felix Manz, a man with whom I disagree on the subject of baptism yet whose life and witness I admire and whose execution I deplore.    Manz, the son of a Roman Catholic priest, developed tendencies for his day.  At a time when church and state were frequently united, he favored the separation of the two.  The union of church and state led to the persecution of dissenters, such as Manz.  Based on his reading of the Bible, he opposed Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism, and infant baptism.  He wrote and spoke of all these matters publicly.  Manz’s theological views led him to help found the Anabaptist movement at Zurich, Switzerland, in 1525.

The city council of Zurich had considerable power over the Reformed Church in that city, thus dissenters, such as Anabaptists, or rebaptizers, were allegedly threats to public order, for they raised questions certain authority figures preferred not to hear.  One, faced with a question–perhaps even a heresy–might formulate a well-reasoned theological answer and enter into a civil debate.  Or one might do what the government of Zurich did.

The government of Zurich imprisoned Manz (for life, they said) in 1526.  Later that year, it decreed that the penalty for adult rebaptism would be drowning.  Thus, on January 5, 1527, an agent of the government of Zurich pushed a bound Felix Manz into the river, where he drowned.  Other Anabaptists met the same fate.

It was murder.

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

May 16, 2010

The Seventh Sunday of Easter


Gracious God, in every age you have sent men and women who have given their lives in witness to your love and truth.  Inspire us with the memory of Felix Manz, whose faithfulness led to the way of the cross, and give us courage to bear full witness with our lives to your Son’s victory over sin and death, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Ezekiel 20:40-42

Psalm 5

Revelation 6:9-11

Mark 8:34-38

–Adapted from the Proper for Martyrs from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 2006, hymnal of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada


Revised on November 12, 2016


Posted May 16, 2010 by neatnik2009 in January 5, Saints of 1520-1529

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Feast of Edward Perronet (January 3)   Leave a comment

Above:  Edward Perronet

Image in the Public Domain



British Methodist Preacher

Edward Perronet, born in 1726, came from a family of Huguenot ancestry which had converted to the Church of England.  His father, Vincent, was an Anglican priest who befriended and served as a confidant of John and Charles Wesley.  In fact, the Rev. Vincent Perronet was the “Archbishop of Methodism,” Methodism then being a revival movement within the Church of England.

The fact that Methodism led to separate denominations (in the U.S.A. 1784-, and in the U.K., 1795-) was not part of the original plan.  The Wesley brothers were Anglican priests until they died, for example.  Standard practice in the 1700s was that Methodists were also something else, often Anglican.  They were supposed to partake of sacraments at their local parish.  Edward Perronet, however, was a Methodist first.  He declined to seek holy orders in the Church of England, preferring to lead his flock.  This fact caused him to come into conflict with the Wesley brothers.  Edward’s 1757 poem, The Mitre, which satirized the Anglican Church, did not soothe this relationship.  He broke with the Wesleys in 1771, served an independent congregation at Canterbury, and died in that city in 1792.

Edward Perronet’s legacy for most hymn singers rests upon his great work, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” a majestic sacred song.  My favorite verse follows:

Let ev’ry kindred, ev’ry tribe

on this terrestrial ball

to him all majesty ascribe

and crown him Lord of all.

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

May 16, 2010

The Seventh Sunday of Easter


Almighty God, beautiful in majesty, majestic in holiness:  You have shown us the splendor of creation in the work of your servant Edward Perronet.  Teach us to drive from the world all chaos and disorder, that our eyes may behold your glory, and that at last everyone may know the inexhaustible richness of your new creation in Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 28:5-6 or Hosea 14:5-8 or 2 Chronicles 20:20-21

Psalm 96

Philippians 4:8-9 or Ephesians 5:18b-20

Matthew 13:44-52

–Adapted from the Proper for Artists and Scientists from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 2006, the hymnal of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada


Revised on November 12, 2016


Feast of Edward Caswall (January 2)   2 comments

Above:  Edward Caswall

Image in the Public Domain



Anglican Priest and Tractarian who became a Roman Catholic Priest; Hymn Writer and Translator

Edward Caswall, born at Yately, Hampshire, England, on July 15, 1814, was the son and brother of priests in the Church of England.  Ordained an Anglican priest in 1839, Caswall, a Tractarian, left for Roman Catholicism eight years later, entering the priesthood of that communion in 1852.  He spent many years at the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, near Birmingham, where he attended to his priestly duties and tended to the needs of children and the poor.  Furthermore, Caswall wrote hymns and translated others from Latin into English.  His legacy in non-Roman Catholic hymnals consists mostly of his translations from Latin. You, O reader, might know some of the following:

Caswall died at Birmingham, England, on January 2, 1878.

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

May 16, 2010

The Seventh Sunday of Easter


Almighty God, beautiful in majesty, majestic in holiness:  You have shown us the splendor of creation in the work of your servant Edward Caswall.  Teach us to drive from the world all chaos and disorder, that our eyes may behold your glory, and that at last everyone may know the inexhaustible richness of your new creation in Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 28:5-6 or Hosea 14:5-8 or 2 Chronicles 20:20-21

Psalm 96

Philippians 4:8-9 or Ephesians 5:18b-20

Matthew 13:44-52

–Adapted from the Proper for Artists and Scientists from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 2006, the hymnal of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Revised on November 12, 2016


Feast of Sabine Baring-Gould (January 2)   2 comments

Above:  Sabine Baring-Gould

Image in the Public Domain



Scholar, Anglican Priest, and Hymn Writer

Sabine Baring-Gould, born at Exeter, England, on January 28, 1834, was a scholar, gentleman, squire, and parson.  From 1854 to 1906 he published 85 books on an assortment of subjects:  travel, religion, theology, folklore, history, and fiction.  Among these works was a 15-volume set, Lives of the Saints.  Furthermore, he published collections of his sermons and edited collections of folk songs, the study of which fascinated him.  He, a graduate of Clare College, Cambridge (B.A., 1857; M.A., 1860), became a priest in 1864.  He served as Curate of Horbury until 1870, Incumbent of Dalton (1870-1871), and Rector of East Mersea (1871-1881).

For most churchgoers, however, Baring-Gould’s greatest legacy resides in his contribution to English-language hymnody.  He wrote hymns for children at Lew Trenchard, where he settled into a family estate served as Rector, beginning in 1881.  Baring-Gould’s hymns include “Now the Day is Over,” “The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came,” and “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”  He also translated a Danish hymn, rendering it as “Singing Songs of Expectation.”

Baring-Gould died at Lew Trenchard on January 2, 1924.

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

May 16, 2010

The Seventh Sunday of Easter


Almighty God, beautiful in majesty, majestic in holiness:  You have shown us the splendor of creation in the work of your servant Sabine Baring-Gould.  Teach us to drive from the world all chaos and disorder, that our eyes may behold your glory, and that at last everyone may know the inexhaustible richness of your new creation in Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 28:5-6 or Hosea 14:5-8 or 2 Chronicles 20:20-21

Psalm 96

Philippians 4:8-9 or Ephesians 5:18b-20

Matthew 13:44-52

(The adapted Proper for Artists and Scientists from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, 2006, the hymnal of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada)


Revised on November 11, 2016