Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Luke 2:1-12

Factum est autem in diebus illis, exiit edictum a Cæsare Augusto ut describeretur universus orbis. Hæc descriptio prima facta est a præside Syriæ Cyrino: et ibant omnes ut profiterentur singuli in suam civitatem. Ascendit autem et Joseph a Galilæa de civitate Nazareth in Judæam, in civitatem David, quæ vocatur Bethlehem: eo quod esset de domo et familia David, ut profiteretur cum Maria desponsata sibi uxore prægnante. Factum est autem, cum essent ibi, impleti sunt dies ut pareret. Et peperit filium suum primogenitum, et pannis eum involvit, et reclinavit eum in præsepio: quia non erat eis locus in diversorio. Et pastores erant in regione eadem vigilantes, et custodientes vigilias noctis super gregem suum. Et ecce angelus Domini stetit juxta illos, et claritas Dei circumfulsit illos, et timuerunt timore magno. Et dixit illis angelus: Nolite timere: ecce enim evangelizo vobis gaudium magnum, quod erit omni populo: quia natus est vobis hodie Salvator, qui est Christus Dominus, in civitate David. Et hoc vobis signum: invenietis infantem pannis involutum, et positum in præsepio. Et subito facta est cum angelo multitudo militiæ cælestis laudantium Deum, et dicentium: [Gloria in altissimis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis.]

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Veni, Veni Emmanuel

From here on out, my major problem with Christmas isn't the anticipation. In some ways, I could really use the season being over, for God's sake. Every Sunday in Advent brings another church function that I really need to be at after Mass, or one that I need to come back for, or one where I show up at 8 am and leave at 6. There are opportunity for spirituality every week during the week and on the weekends. There is shopping that needs to be done, social obligations that I really should find the time to go to, and somewhere in there, I'm supposed to work at my real job.

Then there's my 8:30.

Going to it is often a struggle, because I've gotten home, eaten, petted the cats...It's cold outside, and dark, and do I really want to leave my house again?

At 8:20, I find my coat and keys and walk over to the church. Michael's usually there before me, marking our books with the page numbers. His partner will show up soon if he's not there already. The priest's husband comes. A couple other people trickle into the lighted warmth.

The service of Evensong and Compline in Sapentiatide reminds me why I struggle. In this season of dark and cold, there comes light and music. The waiting is almost over. There is something to wait for, and I know it. The prayers are deep in my bones, I *have* to pay attention to what I'm saying because it changes slightly everyday...there is no glossing inattentively. And with the attention, with the pacing of the service slowly and with deliberation, I hear what the words tell me about myself and about my God to be incarnate.

Michael gave me the gift of the sung service a couple years ago, and when our relative schedules went wonky, it was one of things I missed most. I still try and do Compline occasionally by myself, but it is not the same without two people. These are services to be done in community, and they remind me of my own.

To thee before the close of day
Creator of the world we pray
That with thy wonted favor thou
woulst be our guard and keeper now.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


It's the Third Week of Advent, and y'all know what that means...


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

Also, a not-so-proper collect for the week:

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, as we stir our bowls. Let us have sufficient butter, sugar, flour, and eggs, let our ovens be hot and compliant, and may the cookies come off the pans. Help us to remember, O Lord, the sheet we left in the oven and the pot on the stove as we also remember why we bake; through Jesus Christ, who called us to be as children. Amen.

(And yeah, I know it's Wed, but the collect is for the week. Have you made your Christmas cookies yet?)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sacred Places

Eden is doing a seminar with Sacred Places, an organization dedicated to helping pastors and congregations preserve their older church buildings and making them still feel both usable and sacred. (Jan 6-7, check their website under events)

It looks like I may get to go, which I'm really looking forward to. I'm hoping to learn about resources for St. John's, and more generally, resources for the wider church.

In some ways, this dovetails with an idea planted by discussion I had at church this weekend. What is it that makes it a sacred space?

Right now, I think it's the liminality of a church. There is an aspect of it being God's space, but all space belongs to God, so that's not all of it. There is also an aspect of it being a place for a congregation to gather. Mostly, it feels like it's about the space between those two, where we meet God and God meets us.

To walk into a church or into any other dedicated house/place of worship is to cross a boundary between the mundane and the divine...though, because we're still human, we are still bound to the world even in such a space. Stuck between. The table seems to be even more so, being the stuff of the earth made by human hands, and yet it's God's table, the bread and wine representing holy substance for the nourishment of our souls, and Jesus, being fully human and fully divine, is the ultimate liminal being.

So if a sacred space is the place between, that doesn't mean we're just talking about churches or about buildings. It also means the spaces inside us where we shove enough of the 'real world' aside to listen to God and maybe to hear God. It's also everything about our journey in God/with God, through life, because we're on our way between places, times, identities, states of being.

And there was the Eureka (damn it)! moment, going "bong!" in my head. If the sacred space is the space between, and I feel like I'm on the road to Ninevah or lost in that famous desert, that's where I need to be, because it's the space between that is most important and sacred and special in it's own right. (Eventually, I will get why "it's the journey, not the destination" is such a koan if God pounds it into me enough!)

Of course, this is what I'm thinking this week. After two days of listening to experts, expect a post on the same general topic, going a different direction, because I know it will happen that way. It usually does.

But as I think about it, God seems to frequently have a more felt presence in liminal spaces, at boundaries of time (at the Beginning and in the End, at our births and at our deaths), at crossroads of life and the world, the borders of reality, waiting to open doorways (just knock!), or on roads. It's not that God's *in* Damascus or Tarsus or even Ninevah, it's that God is on *the road to.*

And now that I've processed that all out, I'm going to go smack myself in the head for not getting it sooner, that this situation counts just as much as any other I've ever dealt with.

Priest Noir

Ok. I know I'm a geek when it's making me squee to give someone Apocolypse Door as a Christmas present. (again. Gave out two copies last year.)

But really, these stories are like the Urban Fantasy version of what Dan Brown should have done, only with a lot more wit and humor.

Peter Crossman is a Templar and a Priest, and that Order Militant is still alive and still guarding those treasures which are too dangerous for humanity, and guarding humanity from the minions of Hell, acquiring the powerful objects which aren't yet possessed by the church before Hell takes advantage. In this book, he is sent to find a group of UN observers who seem to have gone astray, been traced as far as New York, and then disappear. His partner is a Sister of the Poor Clares who is far too knowledgeable about weaponry and bespoke Italian leather suiting (she's been sent to kill him). There are also aliens, holy occurrences that in other circumstances might be termed "magic", and walk-ons/drive-bys/drop-ins from various other pieces of the Christian mythos.

I will say the book feels like it suffers "first book" syndrome (a little stilted, the pacing isn't quite right), but that may be because I have read a lot of the author's later works and enjoyed them immensely. But this is perfect for anyone who geeks out about history, church legend/mythology, and likes some humorous fantasy.

On the other hand, if it sounds really good, please don't buy it before Christmas?

(yes, this is the source material for my character for Bel Noir. It's so much *fun* to play her!)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Isaiah 6

Sometimes, God whispers our name to the wind, and sometimes he hits us upside the head with a weighted clue.

Isaiah ended up on the "more obvious" end of the scale.

I think Isaiah 6 has the most neglected call and response between God and Man. It's read at ordinations, but why just then or when it comes around on the guitar of the lectionary?

I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty: and the hem of his robe filled the temple...Then the Lord said, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" and I said, "Here I am, send me."

Vocation is a funny thing. What is God calling us to do? Is it to be more involved in someone's life? Make friends with a homeless person? Work in a hospital? Change jobs, change careers, change our lives? He's sending us all somewhere (often somewhere uncomfortable, somewhere that pushes us past our boundaries). And when we became Christian, we answered this very call - maybe not those words, but similar ones. By saying "I am a Christian," we acknowledge that God called us and sent us forth again, to be representatives of Christ in the world.

Isaiah had a dream, with God and thrones and angels and coals to burn away the sin. I had a quiet church, being stripped of its bones. And what about you? What does it take for you to hear the call? Does it have to involve fire and trumpets and a personal appearance? Or will you hear what He is asking of you when he whispers it in your ear?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sometimes, all someone can do is repost someone else's writting. Slackavist wrote about the question "Do you believe all paths lead to God?"

This needs to percolate for a bit.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

stuff and things

I am happy to say that I've been too busy making religious stuff to write about religious stuff. I've gotten three sets of Advent vestments out my door as well as a small rosary and I'm still working on the lectern/pulpit/altar dressings for my own church.

On the other hand, I went to the Messiah sing along concert today. We only did the "Christmas" portions of the piece, but it is still one of those experiences...Hundreds of voices, praising God at the top of their lungs, proclaiming the coming of Christ and shouting Hallelujah. It's one of my favorite things to do in the season.

And being incredibly geeky: I picked up an illuminated Pater Noster calligraphed and gilded on vellum yesterday at a charity auction. It is designed after a 14th c. book of hours, and is now hanging in the center of my wall rosary (the steel nut/copper pipe fitting/nails on braided cable industrial one), because the juxtaposition was just too good to pass up.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Roll your character

Female Human Cleric 7 (Jehovah (Christ))
Neutral Good

Strength 11(+0)
Dexterity 14(+2)
Constitution 12(+1)
Intelligence 15(+2)
Wisdom 18(+4)
Charisma 16(+3)
Size: Medium
Height: 5' 8"
Weight: 140 lb
Skin: Pale
Eyes: Green
Hair: Dark Brown
Domains: Healing Knowledge
Energy: Positive [Healing / Turns Undead]

Total Hit Points: 40
Speed: 30 feet
Armor Class: 12 = 10 +2 [dexterity]
    Touch AC: 12 Flat-footed: 10

Initiative modifier:+2 = +2 [dexterity]
Fortitude save:+6 = 5 [base] +1 [constitution]
Reflex save:+4 = 2 [base] +2 [dexterity]
Will save:+9 = 5 [base] +4 [wisdom]
Attack (handheld):+5 = 5 [base]
Attack (unarmed):+5 = 5 [base]
Attack (missile):+7 = 5 [base] +2 [dexterity]
Grapple check:+5 = 5 [base]

Languages:Common Latin Greek
    Stop Roof Leak
    Find Money
    Easygoing Focused Honest

Skill Name





Appraise Int 2 =


Balance Dex* 2 =


Bluff Cha 4 =


+2 [persuasive] -1 [honest]
Climb Str* 0 =


Concentration Con 2 =


+1 [focused] 
Disguise Cha 3 =


Escape Artist Dex* 2 =


Forgery Int 2 =


Gather Information Cha 4 =


+1 [easygoing]
Heal Wis 12 =

Hide Dex* 2 =


Intimidate Cha 4 =


+2 [persuasive] -1 [easygoing]
Jump Str* 0 =


Knowledge (architecture) Int 6 =

Knowledge (religion) Int 12 =

Listen Wis 11 =

+8 -1 [focused]
Move Silently Dex* 2 =


Ride Dex 2 =


Search Int 2 =


Sense Motive Wis 2 =


-1 [easygoing] -1 [honest]
Spot Wis 3 =


-1 [focused]
Survival Wis 4 =


Swim Str** 0 =


Use Rope Dex 2 =


Public Speaking Chr 12 =

Fundraising Chr 9 =


* = check penalty for wearing armor
Know Religion >=5 ranks gives +2 on turn/rebuke the undead.


1 lb

1 lb
2 lb
4 lb

Healer kit
Holy symbol (wooden)
Holy symbol (silver)
Spell component pouch

    Book of Common Prayer
    Spare Collar 
    $20 in small bills

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Song of a Million Million Stars

The one who made the Pleiades and Orion,
and turns deep darkness into the morning,
and darkens the day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea,
and pours them out on the surface of the earth,
the Lord is his name.
Amos 5:8

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Armistice Day

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Why fishing is important

Biblical World of Warcraft reference:

Luke 24
36 While they were talking about [the rumors of resurrection], Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.
And the only question that came to mind yesterday morning in Sunday School was:

So, how many fish do you have to eat to recover your health after a self-res?

Sunday, November 7, 2010


A friend of mine just came back from her denomination's conference, where the attending clergy were informed that the state of Missouri has an "oversupply" of churches of her denomination.

I hear that, and all I can think is, "Really? An 'oversupply'? Is that what they are calling it now?"

This particular conference has a school of thought that claims that young people will not attend an old church (or a church with old people in it). Money is given exclusively to new church starts, rather to the renovation and renewal of the old.

This might (might) be somewhat contrary to what I believe, and the life I live. My house is 113 years old. My current church is 106, to replace a building built over 50 years earlier. The previous church was constructed in 1868, to replace the building that was not big enough for the growing city. The one prior to that (where I visited last weekend when I was at a wedding out of state) was built in 1928. The last is also the youngest congregation I was a member of, having been founded in 1917. For me, it's almost a new church. I'm in my mid twenties, and I have, as an adult, only been attracted to and a member of old churches.

But it isn't just about me. It's also about the singles, couples, and young families who are also members of these congregations. I am fortunate that I have been able to witness a church come back from the brink of closure three times now, in all three congregations, to go from an average member age in the upper 70s to somewhere around 50. That's a huge drop. It reflects that I am not the only young person called to an older church with traditions, with elegance and graciousness, and to a church building that needs work.

It's also about the older members, mature in faith and life, who are trying on limited incomes and limited physical and emotional resources, to make their churches live. It's about the people who have given up on going to church, on being active members of a Christian community, because the administrations of their denominations have given up on them.

I don't know that the conference has an "oversupply". I think they may have "under-enrollment." Churches are not schools - we must seek and find members, encourage growth within our communities, as communities. We know how to do these things - there have been a lot of books written on it, and many of the same strategies that work for new church starts work just as well or better with congregational growth where there is a base to start from. One cannot build without a foundation, and an existing congregation, building, and tradition are often that solid rock, held together with faith, love, and a determination that is awesome to behold.

We would not tell a Christian of many years that their faith is no longer valid because they are Old. We would not presume to say that their life does not matter, their Christianity is in question, because they have held their beliefs as an adult for more that 30 years, to say nothing of the years of formation in that faith. Why is it ok to say that a Christian community is no longer valid because it is old? That their faith and beliefs don't matter, because their membership, their building, their congregation is no longer young? Is it not better to take this community, full of the resource of experience, and help them share that with others? Is that not the mission of the church, of the community?

These are churches, first and foremost communities of Christ, and in Christ is renewal. Taking older building and older congregations does a couple of things for these communities - the newer members find an established home, without having to create something from whole cloth. And older members who are mature in their faith are renewed in that faith - taking something that has become rote and bringing new life back into it through the infectious enthusiasm of the young. The older members also balance the new, being the steadying influence that has been here before and will be here again, knowing that God is with us in all tests and trials of life. They should mentor and exemplify what it means to live a life in faith and a life in the church...and how to do so without burning out. 

I will not argue that there are not churches that should close. Sometimes, rural population shifts mean that there really just aren't enough people in a geographic area to be a viable congregation. Sometimes the politics and personalities that caused declines in attendance and membership are still around, tainting any effort. But 240 churches with those problems? In one state? That argues for misallocation of resources.

New church starts primarily attract people who are also new in their faith, seeking a home. They are bright and shiny, attracting people who are young and enthusiastic. Their faith has not yet had time to mature. And when they run into problems, when the personalities fueling the new congregation move away or have life occur, the churches often sputter and decline. When the money from the diocese or district or sponsor runs out and they have to be self-supporting, they find that the resources they thought they had aren't there...and there is not enough of a solid faith community of people who understand how to make a church work and be viable, who are also willing to put in the enormous amount of effort and money to keep that new church going.

Older churches understand what it is like to slog through tough times. They have members who are willing to work, who have tried to keep going in the face of adversity...and they've mostly succeeded. If we give those churches a hand, spend money to repair their buildings, bring in someone of vision to help others see possibilities, create a viable plan for renewal, and put some weight behind it...that solid foundation can be built upon again, renewed and strengthened in faith, in tradition, in love.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Sister Mary Elizabeth met a man down by the docks this evening...Benny was slightly odd. Forked tongue, scaly, all about playing cards, finding something to tempt someone with.

Good ol' Benny. The flunky, the field agent, the one who keeps failing at full execution of his duties...Beelzebub.  They got into a discussion. About propriety, protection, business in Bel Noir...

"I made a mistake. Backed the wrong team. And the Big Guy kicked us all out."
"I'm a demon. I'm from Hell."
"They kicked you out. You live in Bel Noir now. You're only stuck here as long as you are under their authority."
"Sister, I'm not a human, I have no soul to be redeemed. Also, the big guy wasn't big on forgiveness back then."
"Have you tried anytime in the last two millennia?"

She's about to have a demonic hit squad on her...she upset the status quo.

(this is what is commonly known as breaking the GM. "Oh my God, I can't believe you just did that."  Yes, yes I did. All who repent can be redeemed...eventually.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bel Noir

I love my Friday night gaming group. We recently started a new campaign (GURPS, though we'd discussed QAGS) based in the city of Bel Noir.

Bel Noir is an interesting place. Take a stereotypical 1920s dark, gritty, film noir city, and shift it...sideways. Much like Amber, it is the city at the center of all things, but unlike Amber, existence is a two way street. If something is present in all cities, then of course it is somewhere in the twisting, ever-changing street maze of Bel Noir.

May I introduce Sister Mary Elizabeth, of the Special Executive Action Branch of the Poor Clares*? Recently summoned to Bel Noir at the ascension of her predecessor to higher things, she's of the branch that deals with...internal remonstrances within the Church and holy artifact recovery. What she blesses is blessed, and what she curses is cursed (she's also more than a minor healer). She also prefers Italian leather and bespoke suiting.

She is based out of the chapterhouse of the Poor Clares in Bel Noir...because this is a city at the heart of all things, reflecting the existence of all places. Where there are cities, there are the poor...and where there are poor, there are sisters, ministering to that need.

Christ said, “The poor are with you always,” and in constructing this fictional, fantastic city, where gods are truly faith-based, belief-made-flesh (or possibly, a real person that filtered outward as so fantastical that it could only be deity. This is an unknown cause-effect relationship), the DM and I discussed just that. A city would not be “real” without the poor, the depressed sections, the people who are criminal just to survive, or because they don't see other choices, or because it's easier than anything else. There will be people without enough to eat, and people who have no home to go to. But, in hope along with this, there will always be those who see it as their mission to help, to ease the suffering, soothe the afflicted, feed the hungry, clothe the poor, give shelter to the homeless, and comfort the weary.

If the poor are to be with us always, and we are called among them to minister to their needs, what city would be complete without both parts?

I don't know where the DM will go with this. He may just use it to add color to an already colorful city. On the other hand, I know my DM, and while he is not as...passionate about solving these problems as I am (he has a different ministry that effects all income levels), he may, just possibly, have other plans. 

He *is* an evil DM.

Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten; 
Nor the hope of the poor be taken away.

*source cannon is available here, in a very fine book by Jim Macdonald

Monday, November 1, 2010

Blue Screened

I do a lot of my composing of posts in Notepad, and a Blue Screen of Death ate the last one that I hadn't saved. I may get around to re-writing later today. Maybe. The same BSoD killed most of the newsletter articles for our monthly real estate newsletter and those take priority.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Whale of a tale

A long time ago, Jonah didn't want to go to Nineveh. The Lord said, "Jonah, I need you to go to Nineveh and tell them that they're screwing up and if they don't change, I'll smite them."
"But Lord, they're mean and nasty and smelly and dirty and I don't wanna go to Nineveh. Send someone else!"
"I don't want someone else, I want you. Go."
"No. I'm going to go somewhere else. Anywhere else."
"Jonah, see this whale? Let's find out how you like seeing the inside of this whale."
Three days later: "Fine. I'll go to Nineveh. But I'm not going to like it. I'm going to complain about it the rest of my life!"

Even though there aren't currently great big fish involved, I don't want to go to Nineveh.

There's a place I'm comfortable, where I know the people and what is expected of me. I like what I'm doing, who I'm doing it with, my friends and family. My life may not be the best, but I know what it is and I have a plan for where it is going. Things are on track, there is a goal.

And from the quiet shadows, something will present itself. God whispers our names, quietly calling us to serve Him as I pledge/d to do. I'll ignore it, for a time, because I don't want to move, because I am safe and comfortable. Maybe if I ignore the call, it will go away and I won't have to do anything. Maybe the next call will come at a more convenient time, or when I'm ready to move on, or when I have money or time or support.

Eventually, if I don't accede gracefully to what I know I am supposed to be doing, I will get smacked upside the head with a metaphorical clue-bat, because while He has infinite patience and time, I don't, nor does the need I'm supposed to be working with. (Hopefully, God won't need to graduate to Whale to get my attention.)

It's cold outside, and there are people who aren't like me, who want things from me. Why can't I stay here? I have limited resources, can't I use them somewhere else? There's a need here that I could work on instead and it wouldn't require stretching very far.

God requires many things from us, including growth and trust and doing what He asks. Those aren't fun a lot of the time. I don't like walking out of my safe space, but I am reminded that I am not walking alone. There are others also on the journey...and even if it seems like I'm the only one in the world being asked to do this very hard thing, being a Christian means that I'm not really alone, that I can reach out my hand and be met by God. I'm not doing this by myself.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death,
I will fear no evil
For thou art with me,
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."

It is far better to go along with what God calls us to do, joyfully and with thanksgiving. Jonah dies an angry and bitter man, still upset about having to go to Nineveh, and that his project for God succeeded, the city he hates so much is still standing. But I certainly understand the impulse to cry out, complain, to walk every direction away from that call. To be stubborn in the face of what is right, because it's not what is comfortable, it's not what I want to be doing.

I still don't want to go to Nineveh, damn it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Right of Redemption

Real Estate. The more it changes, the more it stays the same.

Recently, the Old Testement reading was from the Book of Jeremiah, in the 16th chapter (editing for length):

Jeremiah said, The word of the LORD came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, "Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours." Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the LORD, and said to me, "Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself." Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.

And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. Then I took the sealed deed of purchase, containing the terms and conditions, and the open copy; and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.

In many ways, this passage is a record of early Jewish Real Estate practices, and other than the direct Word of the Lord and His involvement in the affair, much of it still works this way.

Jeremiah is sitting imprisoned in the Court of the Guard in Jerusalem, besieged city just prior to it's destruction and the exile. Needless to say, the real estate market isn't doing too well in Israel and Judea right now...nor is farming particularly profitable. At some point or another, Jeremiah or (from the phrasing) his father "sold" Hanamel or Shallum a field, in Ananoth, a contract for eventual deed. Hanamel can't make the payments, and so is coming to Jeremiah and saying - "Buy it from me, for yourself, as you have the right to do because technically, it's still yours...but pay me back what I've paid you over the years in exchange." Jeremiah says, "Sure, why not?"

A lot of people are giving things back to the bank these days, trading in their possession of the deed and home in lieu of a foreclosure. The difference being that Jeremiah wants to own the land (or at least doesn't mind it), while a modern lending institution isn't in the business of possessing residential or agricultural real estate, they're a third party.  They won't pay you back what you've paid them. (God has a right of redemption, too. Pre-paid.) 

Then look at the account of closing. He gets his money together, with witnesses and the deed. He signs the deed, seals it, pays his cousin. Both the sealed deed and the unsigned copy so that the terms are clear, are given to Baruch, so that a record may be kept for a long time.

These days, we send you to the bank to get a cashier's check, then to the title company to sign the deed, pay the seller, and the closer witnesses, signs, and seals the deed. Then, after you go home with an open, unsigned copy so that you know what the terms are, the title company sends the sealed version (in triplicate) to the Recorder of Deeds, so that the record of sale is known and will last for a long time.

For the people of Jeremiah's day, they thought he was nuts. Why would you pay good money for something that has no value? The real estate market had frozen, mostly due to an invading army. Why sell when no one can buy? Why buy, when things were so uncertain?

Our God is a God of Hope (as well as trial, suffering, sacrifice, and love). It gets better. He never said life would be easy. He said He'd be a wall, guarding your back, there to lean on. We will survive the invading army of despair, apathy, hopelessness, intolerance, fear. And we will survive to reclaim ourselves and our lives and our livelihoods from the powers of darkness.

"For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Blue Police Box

There are no limits to God's love.

Infinity is a hard concept. God made it all, everything. He loves it all. He's there with it, in it, all things created and made by Him and in Him.

I discovered this morning that you can stream the new Dr. Who seasons from Netflix. This was the cause of much rejoicing. Between catching up on the episodes I missed because I was busy having a life, and a comment from elsewhere about the size of a man's soul, I started some thinking.

Christ, being both God and Man, is sort of like a TARDIS. He's much, much bigger on the inside than on the outside. There's no limit to the room inside his regard, his heart, his love...all within a mortal envelope like our own. It's a pretty small package to fold God into, but God manages. It keeps leaking out the edges, that divinity, causing miracles to occur around a human man in rural Palestine.

We keep trying to put human limitations on God, on His power and love and wisdom. It's kinda like a companion, being told that a 1960s police box really is a space/time traveling device, believing it, but still seeing only the meter square blue cube. Really, if we truly believe in an omniscient, omnipotent, and infinitely compassionate God (and I do), and walk with Him and in Him, we're inside that fantastical police box, where all things are possible.

It's a scary concept, to open the door the first time and walk through. What are you really going to find? Will it just be an old, slightly dusty, dirty phone booth? Or will it be the Creator of the Universe?

At your command all things came to be:
the vast expanse of interstellar space, 
galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses,
and this fragile earth, our island home.