Sunday, February 28, 2010

Today's sermon (Feb. 28, 2010)

Weekly Topics

Horrors, it runs 16 mins. But if you have the time, and something out there is really getting to you, give it a listen.

WE confess - Sunday, February 28 (Second Sun. of Lent)

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:25, New Living Translation)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Getting ready for worship...

"Jesus asked his own disciples... 'Who do people say that I am?' (Mark 8:27). In John's version Peter responds, 'We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God' (John 6:69). Paraphrasing this: 'Your name is Yahweh, Yahweh saves.' It is either the most appalling blasphemy or the logos of truth alongside whom there is no other truth."

Andrew Purves

Here's a liberal Episcopalian who is not afraid to out the dysfunctional 'leadership' of the denomination

Sunday Jeremiad: Petty Prophets of the Blue Beast - Walter Russell Mead's Blog - The American Interest

This is significant because Mead agrees with most of the goals of the progressive church agenda. Still, borrowing from our Lutheran neighbors, he "nails some cyber-theses to the virtual door" of the national church bunker:

"1. Nobody cares what you think while your tiny church is falling apart...

2. American Episcopal bishops have so spectacularly screwed up their relations with Africa that they are in no position to lecture secular leaders on international politics...

3. In the contemporary world the job of the clergy isn’t to provide political leadership. It is to help laypeople grow into better, wiser political leaders...

4. The Blue Social Model isn’t the Kingdom of God..."

Here's how he closes:

"I want to be clear here. Liberal mainline Protestantism is not just a ghastly mistake and a return to literalism and fundamentalism is not the way out of the current impasse. The great historical riches and insights of the mainline denominations are more important than ever today. The liberal, questing spirit that refuses to take ancient truths for granted and that challenges historic orthodoxies in the light of lived experience has a vital and necessary place in the life of the church. It’s important that the mainline churches halt their disintegration and decline and regain the strength to play their role in the American religious system. I am not writing all these terrible things about bishops because I want them to fail. God has work for the mainline church to do, and God’s work in the world will suffer if we fail.

But the Blue Beast cannot save American society and it cannot save the mainline church. Until we come to terms with these truths and start living them we can neither help ourselves nor do much to help anybody else."

My suggestion is that we start by cutting off funds for and cooperation with lawsuits, pricey travel junkets, and bloated national conventions until there are some significant results in denominational peacemaking, reconciliation and articulation of the Christian message. There is a healthy model in play in the Diocese of Central Florida. Scroll down and read the whole section called "A Time of Rebuilding."

WE confess - Saturday, February 27

“My faith is like a roller coaster ride.
Sometimes I’m way up, sometimes I’m way down.”
Parishioner Larry Weires

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
Matthew 28

• + Do our services give information to the neglect of inspiration, or ignore hard questions in favor of familiarity and formality?
• + How can our services minister to the inspired and the doubtful at the same time?

Friday, February 26, 2010

What's in your pulpit?

"I believe that a broadly liberal theology, especially the dilution of classical Christology and decreased interest in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, have produced a couple of generations of ministers with a theology that fails at the congregational level...
'Theological reductionism' is a term which means reducing God to fit modern predetermined human categories of experience or rationality... it does not grow congregations or lead to fulfillment in ministry."

SD's Senators split over simple vs. super majority to deal with health care

Johnson: Work around filibuster Argus Leader

Tim Johnson (D) says 51 votes should be enough; John Thune (R) says it should take 60 votes.

Venerable ol' church periodical calls out leadership on lawsuit mania

The Living Church Foundation Editorial: Lent and Lawsuits

The Living Church has been around for quite some Episcopalian time. It is, like the New York Times, a "gray lady." Its affectionate nickname is "The Living Crutch."

So it is good the read a pointed editorial in TLC, comparing the Presiding Bishop's "soft-spoken and impressive video about Lenten discipline" with her "ruthless strategies and self-valorizing language" in using lawyers and lawsuits (and millions of the people's donated dollars) to bully the church she is supposed to serve.

In fairness, TLC points out that traditionalists have not thought through the Gospel implications of some of their own actions, and thrown fuel on the lawsuit conflagration.

Still, it is up to the leader to model the values of the organization, and PB Jefferts-Schori has been a model of hostility, non-communication, obfuscation and, judging from a recent press conference, deception. Not to mention terrible stewardship of the church's human and material resources.

"This is carnal, it is sick, and it’s the very sort of hubris-laden sin that Christians ought to confront within themselves during Lent. We consider it welcome news when a bishop shows the vision of refusing to play the lawsuit game."

South Dakota internet intrusion laws go down... for now

Madville Times: Online Liability and the End of the Web as We Know It Props to Cory-of-the-Lake for bird doggin' these. One was effectively killed, the other tabled. But he shows that their ghosts lurk for another day...

WE confess - Friday, February 26

Jesus is the image of the invisible God.
Colossians 1:15

• + Are we aware that God is present in Word and Sacrament at our services?
• + How can we help one another see through the outward signs to the spiritual grace that is with us?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Happy 16th, Joey!

We're celebrating our younger son's birthday.

Next week begins an important season, as we start working with the school district and other agencies to plan his future vocational and living arrangements.

Join us in giving thanks for Joey. In some ways, his autism has been Jesus' tutorial for us, showing us priorities from a God's eye view. We've been challenged to get beyond convenient forms of "love" and get on to some of the real thing.

Your prayers are welcomed - join us in thanksgiving and praise to God for many blessings and much mercy through Joey's life, and in asking for guidance and blessing for the years ahead.

How would you answer the bankers?

Last Sunday's Sioux Falls Argus Leader ran a front page story as new Federal credit card laws went into effect.

Dana Dykhouse, CEO of First Premier Bank, raised a question about these new restrictions on the lending business:

"Whose responsibility is it to know the balance on a card?" he asks. "Is it you or the bank? Is it the bank's responsibility to keep you from spending more than you have? Now we are swinging toward it being the bank's responsibility rather than the individual's."

Sounds like common sense. But The Bible, while warning that borrowing can put you in a bad place, puts significant moral responsibility on the lender to refrain from creating heavy debt burdens:

If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them. Exodus 22:25

Do not take interest in advance or otherwise make a profit from them, but fear your God; let them live with you. Leviticus 25:36

Restore to them, this very day, their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the interest on money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them. Nehemiah 5:11

(If a man) oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, takes advance or accrued interest; shall he then live? He shall not. He has done all these abominable things; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself. Ezekiel 18:12-13

But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Luke 6:35

Northern Plains Rainbow Time!

No, not some lame political sensitivity rainbow...
Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life. When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.” Genesis 9:12-16

South Dakota and many parts of the Northern Plains (and beyond!) are under deep piles of snow. That stuff will thaw in coming months and the possiblity of flooding is very significant. Even without full on floods, soupy farm fields can't be plowed and planted, so the farmers hurt.

At our midweek Holy Communion service and in parish prayer groups, I have asked us to start praying for God's protection from destructive flooding. I would invite prayers from anybody anyplace - let's start now, not wait 'til the waters are rising.

WE confess - Thursday, February 25

“And finally, who should praise God? In this psalm, it calls for everything that has breath to praise the Lord. ‘Everything that has breath.’ That's quite a statement. The psalmist is exhorting all of creation to cry out to God.”
Chris Haberman on Psalm 150 (the very last words of the Psalms):

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.

• + Would a visitor to our services be caught up in praise to God, or are there too many complications and distractions?
• + How can we become more “natural” in our services, so that we can help lift the creation’s praises to God?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You betcha

Sioux Falls hospital adds cancer fighting technology

Avera McKennan Hospital will be the first facility in the Upper Midwest to use a machine that allows oncologists to fire electron beams at surrounding cancer cells immediately after removing a tumor with conventional surgery.

As reported in today's Argus Leader, the machine is made possible by a $2,500,000 gfit from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Black belt, pilot, business woman... btw she has no arms

Today's Sioux Falls Argus Leader features an inspiring story of achievement in Jessica Cox, who spoke in Sioux Falls Tuesday night:

"I happen to not have arms. It doesn't define me."

"Step back and see how something can be done a different way."

"Don't say, 'Don't ask questions.' I always say, "Bring on the questions."

WE confess - Wednesday, February 24 (St. Matthias the Apostle)

So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us-- one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection”… and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.
Acts 1

· + Do we recognize that spotty attendance habits keep us from experiencing the whole message of Jesus through the church calendar, and weaken our competence to witness to him?
· + How can we encourage one another to faithfulness in weekly worship?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Great e-comment from a parishioner

"Sadly, 'unity in diversity' (otherwise an excellent ideal!) often turns into 'e pluribus unum,' which, in the case of TEC, seems to mean 'we used to have a lot of parishioners, and now we only have one.'"

WE confess - Tuesday, February 23

“How should we praise God? In every way possible! Sing. Dance. Crash those cymbals!”
Chris Haberman on Psalm 150:
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with tambourine and dancing,
praise him with the strings and flute,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.

• + Are there ways that we are holding back our praise of God? Praises we don’t express, talents we don’t use, self-consciousness instead of God-consciousness?
• + How can we help one another praise God?

Monday, February 22, 2010

WE confess - Monday, February 22

“Why should we praise God? We should praise him for his acts of power, that is to say, creation and redemption.”
Chris Haberman on Psalm 150:
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.

• + Do we come together with gratitude and awe that God has given us life and saved us for eternal joy?
• + How can we make “The Great Thanksgiving” over the bread and wine into OUR prayer, not just “something the priest says”?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

WE confess - Sunday, February 21 (First Sun. of Lent)

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
(Hebrews 10:25, New Living Translation)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Anglikan paramilitary group in South Dakota?

Recently spotted on the Northern Plains was a military-type Church Recon And Patrol Car Armed Navigational unit (CRAP CAN).

The militarized version of the 1989 Camry has some formidable features, including the ability to evade IEDs (Insufferable Episcopalian Dilettantes).

The vehicle's presence in this remote outpost raises fears that the vast, right-wing, hate-filled, well-funded Anglican conspiracy is planning violent operations against small animals, children, the poor and everybody else we should be nice to, including dangling participles and other marginalized speech groups (gesprachtgrupen).

WE confess - Saturday, February 20

“Where should we praise God? Everywhere.”
Vestry member Chris Haberman, on Psalm 150:
Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.

• + Are there ways in which our worship just “stays in the building,” and doesn’t send us out to praise God in all the places we go?
• + How can we help one another praise God outside of our church service and building?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Christianity Today: Hardest places to be a Christian

Click on the image to enlarge it -->

China is intriguing. Although high on the "Government Restriction" (horizontal) axis, it is quite low on the "Social Hostility" (vertical) axis. China has or will have the world's largest number of Christians.

North Korea (top right corner) is the hardest on Christ's people.

USA, for all our whining, is still a pretty safe and easy place by these measures, although I dare say a "temptation" measure might portray things as challenging through affluence, privacy/hidden opportunities, availability of vices, etc.

If you aren't already, please start praying for the persecuted church around the world.

WE confess - Friday, February 19

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
(Romans 12)

• + Do we appreciate that our Sunday offering is a sign of “our lives and labors devoted to the Lord”?
• + How can we help one another prepare before presenting ourselves at the altar?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dear Episcopalians: I know you're gonna have it your way or nuthin' at all...

So, how's all that political activism and LGBT evangelism working out?

BabyBlueOnline: Church Insurance Company reports: Three Episcopal Churches close each month - church buildings falling into disrepair

Episcopal Church spends millions of donors' dollars to employ and provide DC space for Democratic Party lobbyists

Not Another Episcopal Church Blog: The Episcopal Lobbyists Stick your heads in the sand all you want, Episcopalians. I will keep posting the outrages. You can just pretend it's all fine.

But give a thought to connecting this story to the story below. A handful of activisits not caring if the church prospers as long as it bequeaths enough money to subsidize their sorry, non-productive rear ends for a few years.

That's what's going on in Episcopalianism. That's why the poobahs don't care about losing members (or finding members). TEC is a shell, a front - a "church" with a name to slap on cause endorsements and old money to subsidize the hobby class.

Like the letter below says, "Heaven's blessings." Have a nice day. Please drink responsibly. Whatever. Y'all don't care.

Mass mailing from LGBT lobby gives insight into Lent, Episcopalian style!

Just in time for Ash Wednesday and Lent, the following letter landed on my desk. I leave the punctuation and highlights as in the original unless otherwise noted:

Dear sisters & brothers:

Many unchurched lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] people in your community are spiritually searching. They are looking for a faith community where they will be welcomed and affirmed as beloved children of God. You can encourage them to visit and join your parish by becoming a Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregation.

A Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregation is a mission or parish of our denomination that publicly welcomes and affirms LGBT people and that has completed the simple, three-phase process described on the back of this letter. If your parish qualifies, I invite you to become a Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregation by registering online at [original has link] or by returning the bottom third of this letter in the reusable envelope in which it arrived.

Once your parish registers as a Believe Out Loud Congregation, you will be added to a national database of welcoming and affirming faith communities.

Thanks for considering this step toward fuller inclusion and wider evangelism. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Heaven's blessing,

John Clinton Bradley, Acting Executive Director
(original includes email and phone contact)

Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregations is endorsed by the Bishop's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Ministry [Los Angeles], the Committee for Gay and Lesbian Ministry [Rochester], IntegrityUSA, Oasis Ministry Michigan, Oasis California, Oasis Missouri, the Oasis [Newark], the Oasis of New Jersey, and TransEpiscopal.

[back page]

Phase 1: Ready?

Does your congregation already have a history of publicly welcoming and affirming lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LGBT] folk?
- If the answer is NO, we strongly recommend you continue with Phase 1.
- If the answer is YES, decide whether your congregation would benefit from continuing with Phase 1 or is ready to move to Phase 2.

Attend a Faith-Based Community Organizing workshop offered by the Institute of Welcoming Resources [original has link]

Download and use IWR's Building An Inclusive Church Toolkit to evaluate, organize, educate and prepare the congregation [original has link].

Phase 2: Set.

Ask the vestry or annual meeting to adopt a public statement explicitly welcoming and affirming LGBT people. [Example statements can be found on page 28 of the Building An Inclusive Church Toolkit.]

Phase 3: Go!

Publish the statement.

Register as a Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregation.

Work with IntegrityUSA to make your congregation even more welcoming and affirming.

Consider becoming a corporate member - or Proud Parish Partner - of IntegrityUSA.



OK, where to start? Certainly not with the Bible or any of Christianity's spiritual wisdom, even though most of us just mouthed the Ash Wednesday call to "a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word."

So let's just look at their lead claim, that they are offering us growth:

In 2007, IntegrityUSA did a survey of its membership and "friends." Guess what? A gaggle of gay white men. Not the expansive, inclusive critter this letter would have you imagine.

The Bishop and a bunch of clergy from our neighbor diocese of Iowa signed onto a letter endorsing same sex "marriage". Have a look at the ten year attendance and membership trends for that "welcoming, affirming and evangelizing" entity. (Yeah, it's a bar graph - roughly 1,000 fewer people attending per Sunday, which in that diocese meant a 25% loss.) And here's Rochester, one of the letter's proud sponsors. Newark's another one.

Folks, it is the same old ploy. A handful of activists say all the words we want to hear about people swarming into our aging, closing churches. But just the opposite happens - the pace of decline and closure gains momentum.

But we fall for it every time.

And the gaggle of activists - especially clergy - feed off the carcass of what was once a church. And have you all noticed the shift from "nice, monogamous same-sex couples" to inclusion of bisexuals who, if sexually active, can't possibly be monogamous?

Heaven's blessing, all. Last one out, turn off the lights.

Usury rules!

As I posted on Tuesday, the South Dakota Senate had a chance to curb some of the absurd interest rates charged by "payday" lenders.

The Senate Commerce Committee "deferred SB 173 to the 41st Legislative Day", which is a nice Midwestern way to say it was killed in committee.

State Senator Sandy Jerstad was kind enough to return my phone call inquiring about the bill, and said,

"It wasn't a surprise... I think we just have to keep after this... we're not going to let this go."

God's not going to let it go, either:

"One who augments wealth by exorbitant interest gathers it for another who is kind to the poor." Proverbs 28:8 (IOW the day will come when God will impose a permanent "transfer.")

WE confess - Thursday, February 18

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire.
(Hebrews 12)

• +Does a visitor to our services get a sense of “thanks, reverence and awe” toward God?
• + How can we help one another identify and celebrate blessings?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A parishioner offers a meditation on "sin" at a college campus chapel

Sin is imitation of God, Augustine tells us. But how can this be so? After all, saints from Saint Paul to Thomas à Kempis reminds us that we are to imitate Christ; and Christ, we are told, is God the Son. So surely imitation of God is no sin?

Of course, there is more than one kind of imitation. The apprentice imitates the master, the infant her parents, the student his teacher. In all of these, the imitation is discipline. The lesser rightly imitates the greater. In Tolkien’s Silmarillion, Aulë explains his imitation of Ilúvatar, God. “The making of things is in my heart from my own making by thee; and the child of little understanding that makes a play of the deeds of his father may do so without thought of mockery, but because he is the son of his father.”

But sometimes, we imitate not in order to give honor but in order to take it. We imitate what we hope to avoid, or what we hope to replace. The con man imitates good deals, the usurper imitates the rightful ruler, or the teenager imitates a legal adult with an imitation ID card. This kind of imitation is mockery, and it is based in the lie that says we don’t need the one we are mocking. We imitate those we dislike and those we resent, mocking them for the entertainment of a small group of friends. When we’re too stubborn to ask for help we act like people who don’t need help, thus imitating those who are better than we are.

Perhaps sin is this latter kind of imitation: a stubborn unwillingness to acknowledge our need for God, manifest as the kind of imitation that believes it can replace the one imitated. This kind of imitation exalts the imitator, and it is opposed to both truth and love.

Augustana Chapel Lenten Devotional: “Sin”

David O’Hara, February, 2010

WE confess - Ash Wednesday, February 17

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
(Isaiah 58)

• +Are there ways in which Good Shepherd’s worship “serves our own interests” without inspiring us to serve God’s interests?
• +What can we do to help one another “be heard on high” when we worship?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

But before we get all serious and Lenten...

No, that's not some white sand beach - my wife is standing in snow. (And that's not Jaws behind her, just our fiiiiiiiine dog).

Both of us grew up in different parts of Los Angeles, she closer to the beach and stuff you think is in SoCal. No, we probably didn't know the guy from California that you met on vacation that time. We didn't even meet each other for over thirty years.

February 16th is the anniversary of our engagement. Prophetically, she accepted my proposal in a snow storm. I had invited her along when I went up to bless a parishioner's marriage in Yosemite National Park - and a storm came in and blocked all the roads once we got there.

It is a funny story - but our tellings are vastly different so I won't even try it here.

Tonight also happens to be Shrove Tuesday (aka Mardi Gras, Carnivale), the night to have a lot of final fun and excess before going all moody and deep for Lent. South Dakota ain't Rio or New Orleans, so no dancing naked in the streets. But Melissa and I are hosting a party at Good Shepherd, with pre (anti?) Lenten treats and probably a humorously dramatic retelling of the engagement.

Happy anniversary, Melissa. Thanks for saying "Yes"* in the snow back then and for sharing this snowy place with me today.

*The one mutually agreed fact in both versions of our engagement story is that she said "Yes" and then went speechless for, as SHE says, the only time ever in her whole life.

Two economic justice issues in the South Dakota Legislature

They are in session in Pierre (remember, pronounced "pier," like the short thing on which you want me to take a long walk). Two items that struck me:

Senate Bill 173 restricts (most certainly does not eliminate) some of SD's usury. It caps the annual percentage rate on short term "payday" loans to 72%. Yes, seventy two percent. They presently fetch an APR in the several hundreds percent. Payday alright - if you are the lender. Today the Commerce Committee appears to have deferred consideration of this bill - I have a call in to its sponsor, Senator Jerstad, to find out more.

As I've blogged before, the Bible takes a very dim view of enslaving a neighbor to high interest rates. God puts the onus on the lender, not the borrower, when interest rates spiral out of control.

House Bill 1255 would repeal the sales tax on most food and slightly raise the sales tax on other goods and services to offset the lost state revenue. South Dakota has no income tax, but charges sales tax on food. There has been great concern that this places a burdensome cost on the poor and the working poor - this bill would relieve that while making a fractional increase in the tax on other purchases to maintain the State's budget assumptions. Scheduled for hearing before the House Taxation Committee on Thursday. Representative Feinstein is the main sponsor.

What I will be posting for Lent

With the help of some parishioners, I put together a Lenten devotional booklet for Good Shepherd. Today, I will post the explanatory page. Starting tomorrow, I will begin posting each day's very short reflection. I hope they are useful to some of you for your churches. They are written to help a congregation identify God's vision, confess the ways in which the church falls short, and turn together in the direction that God desires.

“WE confess…”

We pray from The Book of Common Prayer. All that we say, we offer with one voice, as one body in Christ. Our General Confessions are written this way: "We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins," "we confess that we have sinned..."

For Lent, I encourage us to examine our life as a congregation, looking for those ways in which we are not "Helping One Another Put Jesus First." I ask that we confess these things and turn instead to greater unity as “parts of Christ’s body, working for the common good"
(I Corinthians 12).

Lent reminds us that Jesus endured 40 days of spiritual testing to prepare for his God-given work. We keep Lent on 40 days from Ash Wednesday thru Holy Saturday, not including the five Sundays which are there to refresh us along the way.

This booklet contains 40 short reflections, one for each day of Lent. There are ten devoted to each of our parish priorities, Worship; Spiritual Growth; Pastoral Care and Service to Others. No one of us will have an answer to every question. But we can find answers together if we open our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit.

“I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the
observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and
meditating on God's holy Word. And, to make a right beginning
of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now
kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.”
The Book of Common Prayer, Liturgy of Ash Wednesday

Fr. Timothy Fountain
February, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

South Dakota "libertarians" turned out to be a bunch of status quo statists, judicial activists and junk scientists

In 2008, South Dakotans rejected Proposition 11, which would have banned elective abortion while allowing the procedure in cases of rape and incest.

The Associated Press now reports that non-partisan analysis of the campaign reveals the anti-11 front group got 82% of its funds from out-of-state sources.

So West River's free thinking, live off the land, self-reliant, etc. etc. folks who formed a core voting bloc against the measure watched misleading commercials paid for in San Francisco to prop up a creaky old judicial fiat from DC.

Meanwhile, South Dakota statistics show that abortions went up 20% from '07 - '08.

Thanks, you freedom loving, keep-government-out-of-our-sovereign-decisions, can't think-past-the-last-TV-sound-bite-you-heard dupes. Your vote perpetuated judicial activism and deconstruction of the Constitution, and you chose emotion and hucksterism over the science, reason and informed decision making you claim to value. Yeah, you really are our betters.

More Presidents' Day thinking - how much we have, how much we have to lose

This is from Anglican leaders in Southern Africa. Yes, far away in miles. But how far away in culture and politics?

We have listened to accounts of unbridled greed, a greed that is not simply limited to those in political power. Nevertheless, we are especially concerned at the levels of greed of those in power, and at the manner in which political processes are manipulated and co-opted in the pursuit of self enrichment. This has resulted in a serious undermining of democratic values to the point where, in some places, such values are non-existent. We were distressed to hear of people living below the poverty datum line in the oil rich country of Angola, and of the huge number of people struggling to exist on less than $2 a day in Swaziland, where the average per capita income is over $5,000 per annum. In some of the nations within our Province, this quest for self enrichment has given rise to blatant abuses of power to the point where, in Swaziland, for example, political leaders stifle all attempts at dialogue and silence opposition, preferring instead to rule by threats and intimidation.

We have also been concerned at reports regarding the moral degeneration within our societies and among their leadership. The almost unprecedented levels of alleged corruption among those in positions of power within the Republic of South Africa, the seeming inability or unwillingness of the State to hold anyone accountable, and the recent revelations of the sexual misconduct of the President of that country do not bode well for the future and are cause for serious concern. The people in our pews look at what is happening there and elsewhere within our Province, and ask who they can respect and look up to as role models in the political leadership of our nations.

Not-so-easy Presidents' Day thoughts

Romans 13 is not easy on the electors or the elected...

1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; 4 for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience.

for Social Security sensitive seniors, totally entitled Baby Boomers, or riled up Tea Partiers...

6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is due to them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due.

for anybody po'ed, polarized and politicized over just about anything (in other words, all of us)...

8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbour; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

...for churches so blinded by the urgencies of this age that they lose their vision of the age to come:

11 Besides this, 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; 12 the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; 13 let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. 14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

The letters between America's first Synagogue and our first President

This is not meant to poke fun. I simply wanted to hear the letters (see previous post for links to the texts) read as a dialogue, and this provided a way to achieve that. The kids among us might enjoy learning a precious bit of national history through this:

A President's Day thought: we've lost so much

"To Bigotry No Sanction" - An Exchange Between President George Washington and Moses Seixas of Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island

Read both letters. How did we get from an America with this kind of respect and good will to the polarized, petty politics today?

These two short letters are between people with different backgrounds and different belief systems, yet they find common ground in a quest for mutual good.

The Synagogue Elder wishes Washington "the water of life," a sign from Jewish prophecy used by Jesus and well known to Christians. The President, in response, goes out of his way to honor Jewish Scripture, with his wish for everyone to "sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree" taken from the Prophet Micah.

It is this recognition of each person's transcendent value that set the American experiment apart. Differences could be could be respected in humble admission of a higher authority and greater judge.

America has suffered when that sense of awe has been set aside. Slavery is rightly called "America's original sin" because it is our most obvious historic violation of the human being's transcendent worth . It is hard to understate racism's corrosive damage to our national life - most notably its undermining of the largely honorable parts of our Constitution.

Overall, we've lost any sense of awe and wonder toward the human being. More than any rejected moral rule or behavior, the loss of this truly Judaeo-Christian point of view renders our politics a cynical and bitter grasping at spoils without an eye to common good.

I caught the link to these letters last month at Christopher Johnson's Midwest Conservative Journal. He said the letters can bring tears to his eyes - which is no wonder when we consider the squandered blessing they reveal.

Presidents' Day: A Prayer for the President of the United States

O LORD, our heavenly Father, the high and mighty Ruler of the universe, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth; Most heartily we beseech thee, with thy favour to behold and bless thy servant THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and all others in authority; and so replenish them with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that they may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way. Endue them plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant them in health and prosperity long to live; and finally, after this life, to attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From The Order for Morning Prayer, Book of Common Prayer 1928

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Episcopal Church Budget: Did you know...

...that the current Triennial Budget (2010-12) spends our donated money on

- an "Advocacy Center" budgeted for over 6.6 million dollars (line 231) and that this includes:

- almost $700,000 to maintain a "Washington Field Office" (line 210);

- over $1,000,000 just to staff the Advocacy Center (line 204);

- a "Peace, International Affairs and Migration" department that will spend more than 80% of its million dollar budget on staff (lines 225 thru 230, inclusive);

- Lobbying for militant pro-abortion positions including opposition to any restrictions on abortion, including parental notification in cases of pregnant minors? (Note: that is not the stated position of the Diocese of South Dakota, which last time I checked had resolved "respectful debate" rather than advocacy on the issue);

- An office for "Anti-Racism, Racial Justice and Gender Equality" that (you guessed it) spends over half it's budget on staff (lines 219-223 inclusive)?

Did you realize that so much of our money is sent to New York just so a handful of like-minded activists can ride their hobby horses?

And that's not even beginning to count the millions of discretionary dollars we give them to sue other Christians to keep church buildings empty.

For you put up with it when someone makes slaves of you, or preys upon you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or gives you a slap in the face.
II Corinthians 11:20

My sermons ain't always worth hearing/seeing - but this one might be useful to your church, family, group, community...

Our upgraded parish site has a "Weekly Topics" tab where you can watch and hear my recent Sunday sermons. They are usually available by late Sunday afternoon.

Today's sermon (February 14, 2010) plays with the idea of "hitting bottom" - of reaching the painful point where we can't help but admit to having fallen down, so we can get on with being raised up.

"Hitting bottom" is an idea best known from Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-Step recovery programs. Today, one of our parishioners is being honored by the State of South Dakota for her dedicated work in helping others "hit bottom" in admission of addiction so they could rise up in new found sanity and freedom.

Today's Gospel reading from Luke tells of people "hitting bottom." It starts out with some of Jesus' followers seeing a mountain top vision of the glorious Christ of Heaven. But this gives way to their very different reality, because "the next day, when they had come down," they came way, way down.

Down the mountain, Jesus' followers can't perform an exorcism to help a tormented boy and his pleading father. Jesus, disgusted, steps in to set the boy free. As we see in other reports of this incident, the disciples must "hit bottom" and confront their own failure: they lack faith in God but maintain high opinions of themselves, expecting to work wonders without putting in the work of prayer.

If we extend our reading of Luke just a bit, we find that Jesus' followers continued to fall down, with loud splats of denial, egotism and intolerance.

What strikes me in these verses is the evidence that groups must hit bottom just as much as individuals. Jesus' followers fail as a group, and he criticizes them as a group. Only by allowing them to experience their distance from God can he bring them closer to God. They must fall down to be lifted up.

This Lent, I am challenging my parish to
  1. Seek God's glorious vision of what Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls is meant to be;
  2. "Hit bottom" with an honest admission of ways in which we fall far from that vision and
  3. Ask God to show us how to help one another fulfill the vision.

Your prayers for our parish are a welcome blessing - hitting bottom always hurts and your prayers will help heal and encourage us as we reach out to Christ to lift us up.

Local paper does good job on church controversy

Feature articles in today's Sioux Falls Argus Leader focus on South Dakota Lutheran (ELCA) congregations in turmoil and division over the denomination's decision to ordain clergy in homosexual relationships.

Reporter Peter Harriman does a commendable job in articulating the different points of view and listening for the sincere issues and struggles. My favorite line is his description of the Lake Andes congregation that is voting on whether to sever ties to ELCA:

"In the process, they've found that their own spiritual tradtion runs deeper than their ties to the ELCA." This is a great improvement over the usual MSM usage of "anti-gay," "ultra conservative" or other epithets to discount the traditional Christian witness.

There is a companion interview, also by Harriman, with Bishop David Zellmer of the ELCA's South Dakota Synod.

You can read them here.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Whoa! "Blog Control Acts" floating around the South Dakota legislature?

Madville Times: Hamiel-Turbak Berry Blog Control Act Chills Free Speech

While I was ranting about the Wisconsin mess about two posts back, Progressive blogger Cory Heidelberger had been on the trail of South Dakota legislative antics for several weeks.

Be warned, he plays with some metaphors some of ya might find crude, but he's sounding a warning that is all about the protection of:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Yes, I know that the South Dakota Legislature is not the U.S. Congress. It is called the "equal protection clause" of our Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1,

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Not a "religious" book, but maybe a powerful Lenten read?

Click -> USC College Magazine. Yeah, my school does way more than football.

This article profiles author Holly Payne (Master of Professional Writing '97). She struggled to forgive after a drunk driver ran her down, and found a way through Eli Yoder, her fictional Amish character created in the wake of the 2006 shooting rampage in Lancaster County, PA.

Payne wrote Eli for her 2009 novel, Kingdom of Simplicity.

It happened in Wisconsin: Yikes! Thank God for the First Amendment

Homeland Security admits improperly assessing threat of Wisconsin abortion activists -

It took some digging to find the MSM report by the L.A. Times. This story has been circulating on blogs for the most part - thank God for freedom of the press and freedom of speech. (I am interested that searches for this story turn up more "conservative" and "pro-life" bloggers - are "liberals" and "pro-choice" types not outraged that they also were on the bad end of government action?)

The Department of Homeland Security "threat assessed" groups on both sides of the abortion debate during demonstrations in Madison, WI. The agency has since admitted that this was not an appropriate "use of its resources."

"Emergencies" allow government to expand, but very often into areas of life having nothing to do with the "emergency." And this expansion often crowds into areas of life in which the government does not belong.

For those of you who had lazy teachers huffing about the irrelevance of "dead white males," or who watch enough Law and Order: SVU to think that a pro-life demonstrator is the same as a suicide bomber, here's what we stand to lose when the government "threat assesses" public expressions of political opinion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

For those of you on the left of the political spectrum, situations like the one in Wisconsin are why conservatives get negative when a "crisis" is declared - be it the auto industry, health care, a war on poverty - because the government seldom restrains its "mandate."

And for those on the right of the spectrum, this is why civil liberties advocates were sounding warnings about The Patriot Act and "special" counter-terror powers.

Americans are at once polarized around their causes and ignorant of their own form of government. That's a toxic cocktail, and those who gulp it believe that they can "win" by ignoring the Constitution without winding up among the losers when it ceases to have any authority.

h/t Transfigurations for pointing me to this story.

Weekly Evening Prayer Opportunity

An email reminded me to share this. Sioux Falls has an ecumenical community of Oblates of Blue Cloud Abbey. They will be commencing a weekly Evening Prayer service, which Good Shepherd is honored and blessed to host:

You are invited to join some of us for Vespers commencing on Feb 15th, 5:30 pm @ Church of the Good Shepherd. Bring a friend if you wish, doesn't have to be an Oblate, just someone who can spare at least 30 min ea Monday to pray. Prayers from the Liturgy of the Hours will be available. Hope to see you then.

Blessings on you and yours, Ginny Cheek

Good Shepherd, Sioux Falls is at 2707 W. 33rd St., one block east of Kiwanis.

Episcopal Relief and Development details needs and responses to Dakotas' ice storm

By email from the Diocese of South Dakota:

DATE : 2/11/2010

Episcopal Relief & Development Responds to Ice Storm in the Dakotas

On January 20, the Episcopal Dioceses of North and South Dakota were
affected by a devastating ice storm and subsequent blizzard that left
more than 14,000 people without power or access to clean water. In the
wake of this disaster, Episcopal Relief & Development has responded to
requests for emergency aid from the Dioceses of North and South Dakota.

The already shaky infrastructure of indigenous communities living on the
Cheyenne River and Standing Rock Reservations was further crippled by
the storm. The severe weather downed over 3,000 power poles. Resulting
power outages led to the loss of perishable food items and to equipment
malfunctions at the local water treatment facilities, contaminating the
region's supply of drinking water. Freezing temperatures caused
significant damage to most families' furnaces and the pipes in many
residences froze and burst. It is estimated that most homes will
sustain $2,000 to $5,000 in damages.

The Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, which is home to 14
Episcopal congregations, has declared a state of emergency. On both
reservations, emergency shelters have been created in schools, community
centers and churches to accommodate those left living without heat and
hot water. People are sharing the scarce resources available to them.

Virginia Traverfie, Senior Warden of Emmanuel Church in Whitehorse,
described to Episcopal News Service how the church mobilized to help
people: "The church is about a mile from us. For people who didn't
have food, we took what we had there and together with coffee, sugar,
whatever we had, we passed it out to the community here." She continued
by saying that leaders had set up shelter for those still without power.
"There are power lines laying everywhere. It hit the whole reservation
really bad."

Although the storm has passed, reports indicate that some areas could be
without power for up to a month while services are restored. With no
heat, electricity or running water, these communities continue to face
temperatures well below freezing. They are bracing for the possibility
that this winter's worst storms are yet to come. The most severe winter
weather usually does not hit this area until March or April.

In North Dakota, the diocese will use emergency funds to provide
critical relief in the form of lodging and food. Once immediate needs
have been met, they will begin restoration work on area residences
damaged by the storm. The Diocese of South Dakota will employ emergency
funds to provide food, mend broken pipes, restore access to clean water
and supply propane for heating homes.

"Although much of the world's focus is on the problems in Haiti, it is
crucial that we do not forget those in need here at home," said Abagail
Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development's Senior Vice President for
Programs. "Episcopal Relief & Development is committed to supporting
the communities of the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Reservations as
they recover from these storms and get back to life as normal."

To support Episcopal Relief & Development's work, please visit or call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to
Episcopal Relief & Development, PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.

Episcopal Relief & Development is the international relief and
development agency of the Episcopal Church of the United States and an
independent 501(c)(3) organization. The agency takes its mandate from
Jesus' words found in Matthew 25. Its programs work towards achieving
the Millennium Development Goals. Together with the worldwide Church and
ecumenical partners, Episcopal Relief & Development strengthens
communities today to meet tomorrow's challenges. We rebuild after
disasters and empower people by offering lasting solutions that fight
poverty, hunger and disease, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.

Friday, February 12, 2010

"We have more people coming in than we have food."

Working S. Dakotans going hungry

The quote sits atop the article in Thursday's Sioux Falls Argus Leader. It is from a representative of the Salavation Army here.

I am proud to say that a team from our parish, led by Thursday birthday-boy Gene Makinson, purchases and provides dinner to hundreds of men, women and children at the Salvation Army site on Sunday nights.

Former Rapid City priest's take on current Anglican situation

Bishop David Anderson is part of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), the traditional Christian movement that has been divided from The Episcopal Church (TEC). He served as Rector of Emmanuel Parish (TEC), Rapid City, from 1978 - 87.

He arrives at a generally positive view of the resolution recently passed by the General Synod of the Church of England. His comments are excerpted from the American Anglican Council's weekly e-update:

On the day of the great debate there was, almost immediately after the placing of the motion for consideration, a motion to "move on." This basically was an attempt (though characterized as avoiding a discussion that might hurt Synod members' interpersonal relationships, etc.), to scuttle any action that might be favorable to the AC-NA, since both the original motion, and Bishop Hill's amendment, although coming from different directions, offered hope and direction to the AC-NA. The scuttling motion was defeated, as was a somewhat similar motion later in the debate. The General Synod wanted to talk about this, argue over the various amendments, and have an opportunity to say something positive, without going further than the moment called for. As the debate and separate votes took place, an amendment to Bishop Hill's amendment was passed and attached, which recognized the division that was taking place in North America. This small passage is of great hope and usefulness in many of the litigation situations since the recognition of the division used no pejorative words, nor did it side with TEC or the ACoC who claim that this is schism on the part of those who departed their structures.

In the end, Mrs. Ashworth's original motion was essentially erased in favor of Bishop Hill's amended amendment, which states, as I copied it from the working leaflet, "That this Synod, aware of the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada, recognize and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family; acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011."

For those on the western side of the Pond for whom concise and bold language is the default mode of expression, some doubt may arise as to what was gained. Well, to begin with, this motion wasn't an idea begun in the AC-NA, this was a gift from our friends in the Church of England who do recognize us as being as Anglican in the essentials as any could be. Anything gained is true gain indeed. Furthermore, understanding the nature of English understatement, and noting the direction of the sympathy of a large majority, and the fact that the "division" word was used, we feel we have not only something positive to bring home, but also the establishment of trajectory which will take us further in future years. This is not going to happen suddenly, just as the condition that AC-NA separated from did not happen suddenly. The word division helps the AC-NA. The fact that there was no opprobrium blaming one party over another is important, and also the recognition that our desire is to remain within the Anglican family, rather than implying we are not and would have to become part of it. The motion acknowledges that we are already in the family, if not yet in the formal structured part. It acknowledges that there are ramifications to the process that all of this entails. At this point, many of us within the AC-NA wish to proceed into the formal structure using the proper door at the proper time, and not move crosswise with the process to our own disadvantage. The question being, what door is the right door, and when is the right time? A significant point is that this motion indicates the sentiment expressed is not a static one but a dynamic one which will need a response next year from the Archbishops. The final vote was 309 for, 69 against, with 17 abstentions.

Episcopal priest offers some compelling thoughts on denominational death by whimper

From Fr. Dan Martins' blog out of Warsaw, Indiana. This made me stop and think:

Throughout our conflicts, I have repeatedly urged all parties to “walk apart together,” to burn no bridges, and, when possible, to hold hands even across the divide. Binding ties that can be broken in an instant of passion can take centuries and more to re-grow. Ironically, the very absence of drama enables us to slowly forget about one another, to think in terms of “them” rather than “us,” to let our binding ties atrophy and dissolve from lack of use.

Quick. Somebody pick a fight. We’re family, and if we can still fight, it means we can still love. God help us if we stop caring enough to fight, because it will mean we’ve stopped caring enough to love.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

OK, this is true: Governor declares statewide day honoring one of my parishioners.

Callison: Helping Others Beat Alcoholism Argus Leader

Marion is a jewel. She can't always get to church (the article reveals her age - my wife and I have been faithful in keeping it secret), but Melissa and sometimes Melissa and I both take Communion over to her place.

So, Happy Marion Wofford Day, South Dakota! We will give thanks to God at Good Shepherd in the morning and many of us will be at the party in the afternoon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

North American Anglican mess gets messier; international manipulations and lawsuit mania worsens

The General Synod of the Church of England passed this motion:

This Synod, aware of the distress caused by recent divisions within the Anglican churches of the United States of America and Canada, recognise and affirm the desire of those who have formed the Anglican Church in North America to remain within the Anglican family; acknowledge that this aspiration, in respect both of relations with the Church of England and membership of the Anglican Communion, raises issues which the relevant authorities of each need to explore further; and invite the Archbishops to report further to the Synod in 2011.

Now, that is not a formal recognition of ACNA as a second Anglican Province in North America, a status still held by The Episcopal Church (TEC). But, it can be read to say that ACNA and TEC are moral equivalents as fragments of a divided church. ACNA is not dismissed out of hand - despite a TEC propaganda effort toward that end.

Meanwhile, the Diocese of South Carolina, which remains part of TEC, today revealed that TEC is spending more donated money to undermine the existing Diocesan leadership there. That is up, with supporting evidentiary links, at the Diocese of South Carolina site.

This is a sad state of affairs, as Anglicanism lacks a unified Christian voice or even an organizational response to profound disagreements. TEC's use of lawsuit intimidation as a first response to church disputes is beyond any sane reading of New Testament teaching on conflict resolution. Really sad stuff.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

North Dakota Doctor honored: $1.5 million endowment of UND Neurology Chair in his name

A Lasting Legacy | MeritCare Health System

Not the usual 2nd Amendment argument

An interesting placement of #2 as it applies to minority exercise of #1, at The Volokh Conspiracy.

"Later, I worked for years in the Deep South as a full-time civil rights organizer. Like a martyred friend of mine, NAACP staffer Medgar W. Evers, I, too, was on many Klan death lists and I, too, traveled armed: a .38 special Smith and Wesson revolver and a 44/40 Winchester carbine.

The knowledge that I had these weapons and was willing to use them kept enemies at bay. Years later, in a changed Mississippi, this was confirmed by a former prominent leader of the White Knights of the KKK when we had an interesting dinner together at Jackson."

h/t Red Stick Rant

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bad enough in unbelievers, worse in the church...

"Keep in your hearts the words of God that you hear. The word of God is our heart's food. When we hear this word and do not retain it in our memories, it is as if we are taking food into an upset stomach: we throw it up. We despair for the life of one who does not retain nourishment. You must fear the danger of eternal death, then, if you do not keep the words of life, the nourishment that is righteousness, in your hearts."

Gregory the Great

Sunday, February 7, 2010

NPA Weekend Report - Weather News and Super Bowl Prediction

Driveway angel(s)

Twice this week, I've come home to find my driveway cleared of snow and ice.

I don't know who is doing this, but it is a blessing and a half.

Instead of one big snowfall, we've had several moderate ones just hours apart. So you get your plowing & shoveling done just in time to see it all undone. Truly maddening.

So I am thanking God and praying many blessings on the unknown being(s) who've added to their labors just to lessen mine.

My parish secretary will have an interesting workers' comp case...

...because she will be applying Matthew 5:29 to her right pinkie.

She left a draft of a bulletin cover on my desk. It was supposed to say,


But it read,


Too much Episcopalianism for my taste. Scalpel, please...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Fishing On Line, or, A Walleye Server?

Yeah, lame title(s). But there's this convergence between this week's Gospel lesson and an email from a parishioner who organized our website makeover.

From that Gospel:

"Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets."

From that email:

"Right before I launched the website I started to list why the website should have failed:

-We didn't know or have access to the host, time was needed to research and track it down

-We didn't know or have access to the domain, time was needed to research and track it down

-Had to convince host and domain services to reset the passwords once they believed who we were

-The budget for this project was $0 to work with

-The first web development software wasn't compatible with the server

-Had to review 20+ web development tools to find one with most of the features

-Once a development tools was selected additional software had to be custom made to allow all features to function

-Web pages needed to be recreated in the new platform from scratch

-Needed to learn the HTML language

-Needed to learn the PHP language

-We needed to find a tool to interface with the server

-None of us had experience with developing a website or working with a server

-We received server access on 1/20 so we had 10 days to debug, test and launch the site

-None of us had experience with media files

-None of us had experience with email submission

-None of us had worked with a statistical counter capturing tool

-We only had 2 months to develop and launch the new site from start to end

-and the list goes on

And then I listed why it worked
+A strong faith
+Lots of prayers.

It's interesting how we focus on the negative yet the positive side should out weigh it every time."

Show up and hear that Gospel. And, if you get a chance, check out our revamped website. Keep faith, pray lots, and let Christ outweigh all else.

Friday, February 5, 2010


The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether or not the LORD had made his journey successful. Genesis 24:21

Old Abraham is anxious to arrange a marriage for his son, and sends an unnamed servant on a long journey to find a bride.

The servant knew that the task was urgent. Like most of us, he felt the pressure of expectation, deadline and result.

Yet the servant was wise, and even when all the signs pointed to one woman as "success," he shut up, watched, listened and waited.

That kind of contemplation is elusive. It does not seem "productive."

We feel this squirmy anxiety as it snows again in Sioux Falls. Weekend plans will be cancelled. We'll be stuck inside. We'll grumble about the long winter's intrusions on our urgent plans.

Meanwhile, one of the Friday Morning Canticles in the Book of Common Prayer includes,

For as rain and snow fall from the heavens and return not again,
but water the earth,
Bringing forth life and giving growth,
seed for sowing and bread for eating,
So is my word that goes forth from my mouth;
it will not return to me empty;
But it will accomplish that which I have purposed,
and prosper in that for which I sent it.

This snow, piled up so high that we don't know where to pitch the next shovelful, will melt and water earth's greening in the spring - "bringing forth life and giving growth."

This snow is a sign of God's word. God's word brings life, but this requires us to put our urgencies on hold, gaze, listen and wait.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

CONFIRMED: South Dakota Senate defeats revision of embryonic stem cell research ban

SB 74, as amended, failed. Vote is up at the State Legislature site, 12 Aye, 21 Nay, 2 Excused.

"Nothing in this chapter prohibits the use of any Food and Drug Administration approved treatments derived from or involving human embryonic stem cells."

Pro-life groups opposed this language as an effort to undercut South Dakota's ban on embryonic stem cell research.

A report to remind us of Bishop Tarrant's appeal

My Way News - Sioux reservation struggling after winter storms Detailed report from Eagle Butte. This gets into some of the stuff that stays hidden, even to those of us who live here. May our eyes, hearts and hands be opened.

Thanks be to God for the SD National Guard, btw. They carry out some significant work to assist folks impacted by the weather, not to mention their steady deployments to Iraq.

h/t Sarah Hey

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

...and less of this.

Phil Ashey, an Anglican priest and attorney, writes an extensive expose of The Episcopal Church's (TEC) frenzy for lawsuits and its twisting of its own rules to get rid of hundreds of traditional Christian clergy and tens of thousands of faithful lay people.

The contrast with the Jenkins article on the Super Bowl ad (see prior post) is amazing:
  • Instead of relying on its own Constitution and Canons to establish boundaries and protect the faithful, TEC has ignored or twisted its own documents to punish and get rid of members who simply practiced the faith as the denomination taught it to them and asked them to affirm when they were baptized, confirmed and ordained.
  • Instead of facing disagreement honestly and charitably, TEC leadership has relied on denial and deception, constantly changing its reports and message. Its denominational journalists were replaced with contracted public relations consultants. The Presiding Bishop told gatherings "All is well" while internal reports were showing widespread conflict and denominational decline. When conflicted dioceses worked on plans to allow for amicable separations of dissenting congregations, the newly proclaimed "national church hierarchy" claimed authority to override these and instigated lawsuits - mainly to take church buildings which sit empty once the congregants are expelled.
  • Instead of making space for traditional Christians, TEC slashed its budget for mission work and staff and pumped millions into the lawsuits, while seeking to hide the spending with creative budget labels.

In a polarized, conflict-plagued world, the last thing Jesus Christ or the human race need is a "church" devoted to polarization and conflict over bank accounts and real estate. Jesus said, "...where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." TEC's heart is not in its words of "inclusivity." Follow the money and you'll find a heart of stone.

We need more of this...

This is getting pretty wide coverage. I will h/t my friend Pastor Shel Boese of Mercy Church, who linked it on Facebook:

A self-identified pro-choice journalist, Sally Jenkins, wrote this column defending Focus on the Family's paid pro-life ad during CBS's presentation of the Super Bowl this Sunday. The ad features the testimony of Pam Tebow, who chose to have her son despite medical advice to abort because of a tropical illness she had contracted. Her son is Tim Tebow, who won the Heisman Trophy as Quarterback for the University of Florida.

My two favorite things about Jenkins' column:

1. Her thinking leans on the traditional safeguards of our Constitutional and free market systems instead of ideological coercion -

Let me be clear again: I couldn't disagree with Tebow more. It's my own belief that the state has no business putting its hand under skirts. But I don't care that we differ. Some people will care that the ad is paid for by Focus on the Family, a group whose former spokesman, James Dobson, says loathsome things about gays. Some will care that Tebow is a creationist. Some will care that CBS has rejected a gay dating service ad. None of this is the point. CBS owns its broadcast and can run whatever advertising it wants, and Tebow has a right to express his beliefs publicly. Just as I have the right to reject or accept them after listening -- or think a little more deeply about the issues. If the pro-choice stance is so precarious that a story about someone who chose to carry a risky pregnancy to term undermines it, then CBS is not the problem.

2. She is willing to resist fringe or elitist groups, even though she might agree with them on a particular point, in order to identify virtues she might share with those who disagree with her -

I'm pro-choice, and Tebow clearly is not. But based on what I've heard in the past week, I'll take his side against the group-think, elitism and condescension of the "National Organization of Fewer and Fewer Women All The Time." For one thing, Tebow seems smarter than they do... Here's what we do need a lot more of: Tebows. Collegians who are selfless enough to choose not to spend summers poolside, but travel to impoverished countries to dispense medical care to children, as Tebow has every summer of his career. Athletes who believe in something other than themselves, and are willing to put their backbone where their mouth is. Celebrities who are self-possessed and self-controlled enough to use their wattage to advertise commitment over decadence.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Best to get out in front of the scandal

<- Because one of my former youth group kids posted this on Facebook.

Yeah, I looked like that.

Check out our revamped parish site!

You can see/hear me on the "Weekly Topics" tab, but don't let that keep you away. There's also good stuff at Good Shepherd! Welcome!

Report from one Reservation

By email:

"As always, if a storm hits then it usually effects the elderly and those in need of medical attention, ie dialysis, cancer care, etc. Our (Tribal) president has been advising people to be prepared and stock up on propane, and other necessities. Most people live in the country where the only way to get to their homes are through a dirt road. Needless to say, dirt roads are pretty treacherous in the winter. Thanks for your prayers!"