Thursday, November 26, 2015

When Mark Twain Tried to Move Thanksgiving Day... Brilliant Wit

Twain's Own Account

"This talk about Mr. Whittier’s seventieth birthday reminds me that my own seventieth arrived recently — that is to say, it arrived on the 30th of November, but Colonel Harvey was not able to celebrate it on that date because that date had been preempted by the President to be used as Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for — annually, not oftener — if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side, consequently it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments. The original reason for a Thanksgiving Day has long ago ceased to exist — the Indians have long ago been comprehensively and satisfactorily exterminated and the count closed with Heaven, with the thanks due. But, from old habit, Thanksgiving Day has remained with us, and every year the President of the United States and the Governors of all the several States and the territories set themselves the task, every November, to advertise for something to be thankful for, and then they put those thanks into a few crisp and reverent phrases, in the form of a Proclamation, and this is read from all the pulpits in the land, the national conscience is wiped clean with one swipe, and sin is resumed at the old stand.

The President and the Governors had to have my birthday — the 30th — for Thanksgiving Day, and this was a great inconvenience to Colonel Harvey, who had made much preparation for a banquet to be given to me on that day in celebration of the fact that it marked my seventieth escape from the gallows, according to his idea — a fact which he regarded with favor and contemplated with pleasure, because he is my publisher and commercially interested. He went to Washington to try to get the President to select another day for the national Thanksgiving, and I furnished him with arguments to use which I thought persuasive and convincing, arguments which ought to persuade him even to put off Thanksgiving Day a whole year — on the ground that nothing had happened during the previous twelvemonth except several vicious and inexcusable wars, and King Leopold of Belgium's usual annual slaughters and robberies in the Congo State, together with the insurance revelations in New York, which seemed to establish the fact that if there was an honest man left in the United States, there was only one, and we wanted to celebrate his seventieth birthday. But the colonel came back unsuccessful, and put my birthday celebration off to the 5th of December.

I had twice as good a time at this seventieth, as I had had at Mr. Whittier’s seventieth, twenty eight years earlier. In the speech which I made were concealed many facts. I expected everybody to discount those facts 95 per cent, and that is probably what happened. That does not trouble me, I am used to having my statements discounted. My mother had begun it before I was seven years old. Yet all through my life my facts have had a substratum of truth, and therefore they were not without preciousness. Any person who is familiar with me knows how to strike my average, and therefore knows how to get at the jewel of any fact of mine and dig it out of its blue-clay matrix. My mother knew that art. When I was seven or eight, or ten, or twelve years old — along there — a neighbor said to her "Do you ever believe anything that that boy says?" My mother said "He is the wellspring of truth, but you can't bring up the whole well with one bucket" — and she added, "I know his average, therefore he never deceives me. I discount him 30 per cent for embroidery, and what is left is perfect and priceless truth, without a flaw in it anywhere."

When Mark Twain Tried to Move Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Paying Tribute to the King of Kings: Living Lives of Gratitude in the Kingdom of God's Grace

Jesus ascended to the throne in a very different sort of manner than most kings. He was and is, of course, a very different sort of king of a very different sort of kingdom. His sacrificial ascension to the throne says a lot about who Jesus is, how he rules, and the nature and values of his kingdom. It also says alot about who we are and how we are called to live as his faithful subjects in this world.  

                              Come, Holy Spirit, and kindle the fire that is in us.
                                  Take our lips and speak through them.
                                  Take our hearts and see through them.
                                  Take our souls and set them on fire. Amen.

You Don’t Vote for Kings
Today is the last Sunday of the Christian Year, which means… that next Sunday is the beginning of Advent. Today is also Christ the King Sunday because on this day we celebrate the fact that Jesus is a king, and not just a king, but the King, the one to whom God has given all authority on heaven and on earth. And if Jesus is King, then we are his subjects. Now this isn’t language that we are accustomed to using. After all, we live in a democratic society, so we don’t really know what it means to live as subjects to a king. Our leaders don’t ascend to a throne without our say; we vote for them.

How Did You Become King, Then?
This reminds me of a scene from the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In this British comedy, King Arthur has set out on his quest for the Holy Grail, and he comes upon an unknown castle. So he asks a couple of the local peasants, “What knight lives in that castle over there?” The man and woman do a lot of talking, but they don’t answer his question. So Arthur gets impatient and begins to shout, “Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!” Taken aback, the woman responds, “Order, eh? Who does he think he is?”

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Living as People of Grace: Gathering the Resources We Need to Follow Jesus

My first sermon at Grace Episcopal Church in Hutchinson, Kansas.

Audio of the Sermon can be found here.

Come, Holy Spirit, and kindle the fire that is in us.
Take our lips and speak through them.
Take our hearts and see through them.
Take our souls and set them on fire. Amen.

Going on a Journey
I want you to imagine for a moment that you are going on a trip, and you are packing. What are you going to take with you? Pause… Well, that’s a hard question to answer because it all depends on where you are going and what you will be doing? For example, if you were going to visit castles in Scotland, you would pack differently than if you were traveling to Nepal to climb Mt. Everest. Something that would be essential on one trip, might be unnecessary and even burdensome on a different trip.

The people of Grace have been on a journey for over 135 years. Like the Israelites, who spent forty years in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land, their journey has taken place in stages. There have been seasons of travel, and there have been periods of camping in one place. This past year the people of Grace have been in a period of transition. They have been gathering resources, as they prepare to set out on a new leg of their journey with God. But what will we take with us? Well, it depends upon the nature and purpose of our trip. It depends upon what God is calling us to be and do. It depends upon what gifts and resources God has equipped us with.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Tears in a Bottle: All Saints Sunday

My final sermon at St. John's Episcopal Church.

                              Come, Holy Spirit, and kindle the fire that is in us.
                              Take our lips and speak through them.
                              Take our hearts and see through them.
                              Take our souls and set them on fire. Amen.

All Hallows Day
Today is November 1st, and on this day we celebrate All Saints Day. This day used to be known as All Hallows Day, and the evening before as All Hallows Eve, which of course we have come to know as Halloween. The Old English word “hallow” means “holy,” which is something special, set apart, and sacred. So when we pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” We are really saying to God, “let your name be made holy;” “may we recognize and treat your name as sacred and special.”

Likewise, in the New Testament, the English word saint translates the Greek word for holy. So a saint is a holy person. But—and this is a very important point—in the New Testament, all Christians were called saints, all Christians were regarded as holy. In other words, unlike today, it wasn’t just a special class of Christians who were called saints. All Christians were saints, were holy by virtue of the simple fact that they had the Holy Spirit dwelling within them. When a person came to trust Jesus Christ, they were given the gift of the Holy Spirit. And so, they became holy the moment they became a Christian. That’s why, for example, when Paul writes the Christians in Ephesians, he addresses them as saints.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:1–2).
So today, on All Saints Day, we remember before God all Christians who have passed way, who have been taken away by death… death, that “shroud that is cast over all peoples, [that] sheet that is spread over all nations” (Isaiah 25:8).