Christmas 2018

Posted January 22, 2019 by Church of the Epiphany in Epiphany Moments

Blessing of Pets 10/7/18 Epiphany, Norfolk

In this month’s parish newsletter,

   I mentioned that this year’s

      Blessing of the Pets –

         would have a sad overtone –

            since we had recently experienced the death

               of several well known pets

                  in our parish family.

I think I got more response

   to that article –

      then any of the many that I’ve written.

And I found that other folks

   had been thinking the same thing.

The death of a pet –

   is taken very seriously in this parish community.

No one had ever dare say something like,

   “It was only a dog”

      or “It was just a cat.”

Be advised –

   that is about as politically incorrect around here –

      as one can get.

And you might really find yourself

   “on the outs”

      if you don’t get excited about a new pet

         in the parish family –

   and take appropriate notice

      of the death of a beloved pet.

It’s just who we are in this place.

As most of you know –

   my pets are very dear to me.

I have a strange habit

   of adopting old –

      and sometimes unhealthy pets –

   from the local pounds and shelters.

I seem to be drawn

   to the animals

      that I think no one else is going to want.

And I know from the day I take them home –

   that my time with them

      is going to be relatively short –

         perhaps a few years –

            if I’m lucky.

And because I know that from the start –

   it allows me to make a special effort

      to give them

         a little extra care,

            and love,

            and attention –

   that I perhaps would not give –

      if I knew that I would have

         18ish years with them.

And I think they know this.

I think they know

   that they’ve been “saved from the gallows” –

      and I think they give me

         that little extra care,

            and love,

            and attention,

               in return.

Right now –

   I have two cats and two dogs.

The cats are cats –

   one a loving lap cat –

      the other a temperamental diva.

One of the dogs

   is a high spirited Westie –

      that I sort of inherited.

He loves to chase any wildlife

   that comes into my yard –

      especially a raccoon

         that might be twice his size.

He’s fearless –

   and spends a significant portion of his life –

      in the bathtub –

         getting black swamp mud washed off him –

            from chasing some animal.

He goes to the office

   a few times a week.

He is just very cute.

The other is Frisky.

I’ve always liked big dogs –

   really, really big dogs.

And after my two very old labs died –

   I started regular visits to the SPCAs

      and the Animal Cares Center –

         commonly referred to as “the pound.”

I was looking for

   another big old dog, or two.

And way down in the very last cage

   of “the pound” –

      was a little old Rat Terrier –

         sort of like a Jack Russell.

He was really old,

   and not very responsive.

I noticed that he had been there

   for 4 months –

      and I figured his days were numbered.

But he wasn’t what I was looking for.

About every 3 days

   I paid “the pound” a visit.

One day it dawned on me –

   that I was going to visit

      the old Rat Terrier first –

   and then going to look for “my new dog.”

Another day it dawned on me –

   that the Rat Terrier –

      “Frisky” had found me.

I took him to “the get to know you room.”

He didn’t bite –

   or growl,

      or exhibit any bad behavior –

         so I took him home.

I did not know

   that he was totally deaf.

I also did not know –

   that he could barely see –

      until we got home –

   and I watched him run into things,

     and fall down steps.

I took him to the vet

   to have him checked out.

He had things wrong with him

   that I’d never heard of –

      resulting in a slew of nice expensive pills –

         every day.

Frisky lives on.

I’ve had him about 3 years.

He can’t get up and down the steps any more –

   so he has to be carried –

      and I have a lot of steps.

He sleeps on my bed –

   so he won’t get into trouble

      during the night.

He wakes me up in the middle of the night

   by licking my face –

      to let me know that he has to go outside.

I put on some clothes –

   carry him down the 17 steps to the 1st floor –

      then outside –

         and down 5 more steps to the ground.

He does his business –

   and we reverse the whole thing –

      and crawl back into the nice warm bed.

About a month ago –

   I had a serious conversation with Frisky –

      a totally deaf dog

         that may not even know what I look like.

I told Frisky –

   that I wasn’t sure

      I could keep carrying him

         up and down the steps –

   and outside –

      in the middle of the night –

   especially with winter coming.

I told him about some options

   that I’d been considering –

      the best of which

         was back to the pound.

Thank God Frisky

   could not hear a word I was saying.

When I got back in bed –

   with him curled up next to me –

      I knew I never could do any of those things.

I had adopted him.

Nobody forced him on me.

He is my responsibility –

   and I will do everything in my power

      to give him the best life possible –

         for as long as I can –

            or as long as he lives.

That’s just the way it is –

   and just the way it’s going to be.

And I wouldn’t want anything else

   for Frisky –

      or for me.

That’s what I think this is all about.

And in its own strange way –

   it’s a truly wonderful blessing –

      human and pet –

   bonded to care for each other –

      with all the love and affection

         that we can muster.


Posted October 10, 2018 by Church of the Epiphany in Epiphany Moments

James 3:1-12 9/16/18 Epiphany, Norfolk

I don’t know about you –   but the only thing on my mind this morning  is giving thanks that this we were spared from that storm this past week. If it had drifted just a few miles further north –we would be in the same mess as our neighbors in the Carolinas.

At the same time I feel so badly for our neighbors whose lives have been turned upside down by that storm. I’ve visited Newbern and Wilmington many times. They are both beautiful cities – with very nice people. It’s going to be a long struggle for them to get back on their feet. And of course – it’s not yet over for them as they continue to deal with massive flooding – in the dark.

This could so easily have been our fate. So – I have mixed feelings this morning: joy and relief that we were spared, and deep sympathy for our neighbors who are suffering so badly.

Well – this morning I want to again look at our 2nd Reading from the Epistle of James. This is the 3rd week in a row that I’ve talked about The Epistle of James – but is has become one of my favorite smaller writings. I never paid much attention to it until recently,  but it has really grown on me.

Just to refresh your memory – we’re not sure who wrote it – but we do know  that the writer was Jewish – and that he was taking old Jewish morals and codes of behavior, and trying to interpret them from a Christian perspective. We also know that he was writing for Greeks – not for Jews. The Greeks were fascinated by this new Christianity. It was totally different from anything in their religions, and they were intrigued by it

Now – I need to remind you  that the Greeks saw life and the world –  in terms of opposites in balance. Everything has its opposite: light / dark  cold / hot  wet / dry  active / at rest  tense / relaxed.

And for the Greek – the trick to living a good life was to keep the opposites in balance.

If one overpowered the other –  you were is “dis – ease”, or disease. And this idea becomes a theme all through the Epistle of James. We get phrases like:  “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.” See the opposites? It’s the same opposites that I feel about the storm: Joy that it missed us –   but pain that it hurt our neighbors. That is very Greek.

Now – in today reading – the writer of James  gets into “the healthy use of our tongues.”And he likens our tongues  to the rudder of a boat. The big boat is steered –  by a small runner on the back. Likewise – our whole being is governed by our relatively small tongue.

He says: “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze  by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire…. It stains the whole body… For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed  and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue – a restless evil,   full of deadly poison.” And then he goes on to describe it as a tool for blessing and cursing – the classical Greek opposites.

Well – the writer of James doesn’t think very much of the tongue – does he? He describes this big organism of a human being – being controlled and directed by this little “rudder” of a tongue placed in the middle of the body. And everything has to answer for the directions that the tongue sets. James has an issue with that.

I know – in my own life –  if something is going to get me in trouble –  it’s going to be my mouth. I know that. I’ve always known that. So James speaks right to my heart.

Now – all of this business of “the tongue” – and “speaking blessings and curses” – – –  this builds on one of the great O.T. themes – that pops up all over in both the Old and New Testaments. The early Hebrews knew that it was breath that allowed one to speak. If you couldn’t breath out –  you couldn’t speak words. And the Hebrews saw “breath” –  as a very holy, sacred thing. When God breathed into Adam,  and gave him life, God put breath in him.

So humankind’s breath –  is an extension of the “breath of God” – the Holy Wind,  the Holy Breath,  the Holy Spirit. The Hebrews also knew – that when a human uses that “Holy Breath” to form a word – and send it out – it is Holy –  and it can never be taken back. It is sent out –  to either give life / or take life, heal / or hurt, build / or destroy. And once it leaves our lips –  it is gone –   to do its work –  and can never be reeled back in.

All through the Bible – God, or a person, or an angel, or something SPEAKS – and it happens. And this is what the writer of James is building on in his Epistle. “The tongue is a fire. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likes of God.” Great ancient Hebrew thinking –  presented in a Greek context. Oh – the Greeks would have loved this. It’s just brilliant.

Well – does it speak to us today? I think it really does. First – I really like the Greek idea of opposites. Like many of you, I live kind of a hectic life – with multiple offices, and multiple jobs, and way too many gadgets, and too many interests. And I have to balance all that stuff – or my life spirals into a mess – and suddenly I’m feeling pulled apart and confused. I’m very conscious of striving to keep balances in my life – so I stay mentally and spiritually healthy.

And then there’s the matter of “the tongue.” I try really hard – I really do – to send forth good words – but I can sure mess it up. It is SO EASY to say the wrong thing – and really hurt someone. If I don’t bridle my tongue – – –  an image that James uses – – – I can get into serious trouble – and then, I’m in “dis-ease.”

So – this passage from James gives us two things to work on in our day to day lives. One – the Greek idea of keeping all of those opposites in balance – to avoid “dis-ease.” The other is that old Hebrew idea of being aware that we use Holy Breath to form words – and that our words are “holy expressions.” We should be very careful how we send those words out – because they can do wonderful things – or they can do very destructive things.

I like the Epistle of James. And I commend it to you. Just remember that it has to be read with the context of two cultures. But it offers us some pretty powerful insights into living a full and faithful life.


Posted September 19, 2018 by Church of the Epiphany in Epiphany Moments

A fond farewell

On Sunday, September 9th we sadly said good-by to some faithful 8:00 AM regulars: Eva-Maria Hoffmann & Brian & Susanna Wilson. They are going on to new adventures; Eva-Maria to Vermont and the Wilsons to Richmond. We wish them well in their new and exciting life changes!

Posted September 11, 2018 by Church of the Epiphany in Epiphany Moments

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