Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Great Typo!

I was perusing our church worship bulletin Sunday, and I noted that the music for the early service included some variations on "The Strife is On" and made reference to hymn 119 in the Presbyterian Hymnal.

I suppressed my urge to snicker and tried mightily to restore a worshipful attitude for the remainder of the service.

Was someone thinking of the various controversies in the PC(USA)?

In any event, it is one of the great hymns of the Church, and I think the words are appropriate for the season:
The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun: Alleluia!

The powers of death have done their worst;
But Christ their legions hath dispersed;
Let shouts of holy joy outburst: Alleluia!

The three sad days are quickly sped;
He rises glorious from the dead;
All glory to our risen Head! Alleluia!

He closed the yawning gates of hell;
The bars from heaven’s high portals fell;
Let hymns of praise His triumphs tell! Alleluia!

Lord, by the stripes which wounded Thee,
From death’s dread sting Thy servants free,
That we may live, and sing to Thee: Alleluia!
The Presbyterian Hymnal uses stanzas 1, 2, 3, and 5 of those shown above, with minor changes in the 5th stanza. The music is by Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina and the words are from a Latin text of the late 17th Century.

Monday, April 27, 2009

GAC outlines new budget cuts; 14 additional jobs eliminated

GAC outlines new budget cuts; 14 additional jobs eliminated:
"LOUISVILLE – The latest round of budget cuts for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) means that 14 more employees from the denomination’s national staff have lost their jobs. ...

...The changes are partly the result of poor economic conditions — basic mission support from congregations and presbyteries is down $1.7 million from what had been expected for 2009; designated giving from congregations and presbyteries dropped by $700,000 from projections and church-wide special offerings by $1.41 million. ..."
Considering that the General Assembly Council is the Mission arm of the denomination, news such as this is chilling. It seems to be a common response around the denomination. Even the congregation in which I worship -- which has made a point over the years of emphasizing mission -- has felt the need to freeze mission-related expenses until confidence in our financial picture rises.

One of the things cited in this article is the philosophy that since mission is carried out at the local level, the local level is best equipped to administer it. I agree in most instances with that. There are some cases, though, in which the GAC can do a much better job, such as coordinating world mission. Our missionary support as a denomination has dropped over the past several years, yet that is something that few congregations and presbyteries are financially capable of doing effectively. In addition, I feel that missionaries represent the whole denomination, and not just a local congregation or presbytery. The visits by missionaries on furlough as they speak to congregations all over America are important to giving local Presbyterians a sense of "ownership" of world-wide mission.

Granted, far more is being cut at Louisville than world-wide mission, but when the economic crisis improves to a point where spending can be restored, I hope that the mission field is an early beneficiary.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Fighting a cold and other things....

Well, I was summoned by my physician a couple days ago to the clinic for a chest x-ray and an appointment a couple hours later. This x-ray was at 4:30pm, my appointment was at 6:30pm on Tuesday. I got there at 4:30, picked up the order and walked down the hall. While I was awaiting the X-ray guy I read the form. In the box marked "reason" there were two words: "Cough" and "SOB". I have been called SOB a time or two in my 56 years, but never by my doctor. After brief reflection I realized that it meant "shortness of breath".

The good news is that it is not pneumonia. I am on a 5 day course of azithromycin and a different kind of cough suppressant.

How did I get into this situation? Well, I was was over at the hospital that morning for a pre-op physical for surgery to reduce and straighten out a hammer-toe that is pressing down on the ball of my left foot and continuing to aggravate a blister that has never healed properly in a year and a half. The hope (no guarantee) is that this will relieve the pressure from on top and allow my foot to heal. The anaesthesiologist noted my cough and mentioned that if I were still coughing like that on May 5, they would reschedule.

Not only would most any other available day in the next two months be a problem, I really want to get fixed sooner rather than later. So I called my doctor's office and requested an appointment ASAP. The front desk said there were no openings for a week and a half, and I mentioned why time was of the essence. The front desk person sounded doubtful, but said she would talk to the nurse. About 3 hours later I got the call directly from the doctor.

Well that's probably too much information for some, and as soon as I hit "Publish" I'd better call my mother who is one of my two or three loyal readers.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sinfully proud

Sinfully proud:
"At the risk of sounding unstylish and out of step, I’m sinfully proud to be a Presbyterian.

Yes, Marj Carpenter goes around spouting that refrain, and folks in her presbytery wear shirts that quote her, but so many of us treat that just as “Marj’s thing” and go about our business of running the denomination’s name into the ground.

I need not recount the many reasons why so many of us feel so disappointed with one aspect or another of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The reasons are legion. Many of those things bug me, too. But I’m still sinfully proud to be a Presbyterian. ..."
Interesting article. Jack Haberer points out the perception that people have when they hear members of the PC(USA) trash-mouth their own denomination (and admits to doing it himself from time to time). As a leader, though, he sees himself as someone who promotes what is right about the denomination.

This does not require that one gloss over the very real problems we have at all levels, but that we give credit where credit is due -- and much of that credit goes to the people in the pews who do what the Lord requires quietly and effectively.

And I suppose he can use Marj Carpenter's signature line -- as long as he is as strong an advocate for mission as she is.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Religion News Service: In Pilate’s wife, some see an unlikely saint

In Pilate’s wife, some see an unlikely saint:
"(UNDATED) For all of Pontius Pilate’s faults, one was distinctly damning: he didn’t listen to his wife.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, the Roman governor of Judea received a note from his spouse during the trial of Jesus. “Have nothing to do with that just man,” she writes, “for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of him.”

Pilate, of course, failed to heed his wife’s warnings, and sentenced Jesus to die. Though he famously tried to wash his hands of the act, the result was centuries of infamy, and perhaps a few nights sleeping on the couch. ..."
Daniel Burke has written an interesting piece on Pilate's wife who is unnamed in Scripture, but played a role in the events of Jesus' life. As Scripture is silent on what motivated her to speak to her husband as she did, most of the tradition surrounding her is speculation. It is, nonetheless, interesting to contemplate the possibilities.

Note -- the date of this article on the Religion News Service web site was April 2, 2009, and it was reprinted by Presbyterian News Service on April 6, 2009. The RNS posting was, as far as I can determine, the original source for the article.

Moses is Departing Egypt: A Facebook Haggadah

Moses is Departing Egypt: A Facebook Haggadah:
"The Passover Seder, the oldest continuously observed religious ceremony in the world, tells the story of the Jews' Exodus from Egypt. Jewish tradition says that people of each generation must imagine that they personally had departed from Egypt, and the sages say that each generation must tell the story in its own terms.

The sages probably did not intend this. ..."

A friend of mine who is also on Facebook pointed me to this link.

How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You

How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You

These are hilarious! Follow the link above for a checklist that will leave you wondering. Follow the linked image to go directly to the questionnaire.

Is your cat plotting to kill you?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Fox Forum: God Is Back

Fox Forum: God Is Back:
"Do you regard the Easter weekend as a religious festival rather than just an opportunity to pick up bargains at the mall and stuff yourself with chocolate? Do you attend church on a Sunday rather than just lounging in bed? Do you sometimes pray or read the Bible? And do you believe in God or life after death?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, then, according to some of the greatest minds that Europe has produced, you really ought not to exist. From the 18th century onwards a succession of European sages predicted that modernization would produce the end of religion. ..."
Here is an interesting blog article by John Mickelthwait and Adrian Wooldridge tracing the history of the "God is Dead" movement over the past few centuries and how its basic assumptions have thus far proved wrong.

What accounts for the staying power of religion in general and Christianity in particular? One factor alluded to in this article is the separation of Church and State that characterizes religion in the US. Many European countries pay a salary to ministers. What then is the incentive to increase numbers of worshipers? As much as I dislike the use of a marketplace metaphor for the Church, I have to recognize that whether there is a choice or not, people will not stay long where their needs are not being met.

Another factor is the innovations in communication we have seen over the past 30 years. The use of email and the World Wide Web have revolutionized how we get our information, and even some of our fellowship. And now Web 2.0 is being employed to even more effect in many areas. This phenomenon is not just limited to the mega churches; any congregation can employ the Web, blogs, social networking and so forth to serve its members.

Religion in the United States of America may have been an anomaly in the larger world, operating as it has separately from the government, but it seems to the authors of this Fox Forum article that the American model is spreading throughout the world, thus belying the predictions of many of the world's greatest intellectuals of the past.

Mickelthwait and Wooldridge conclude that "God has not only survived the acids of modernity. He has learned how to use the tools of modernity to spread His message."