November 28, 2015

Saturday Ramblings: November 28, 2015


1973 AMC Matador Coupe

In honor of my brother-in-law with whom we just spent Thanksgiving, who once drove a bright orange version of this ’73 beauty, we feature today’s two-door Matador, which he lovingly remembers as “a piece of junk.” Of course, he only paid 300 bucks for it, but it is true that AMC/Rambler made some dreadful cars in the 1970s. This one looks like it will do for taking us rambling, however, so climb in and let’s go!

Along the way, just because we can, and to conclude the Church Year 2014-2015 with a bit of levity, we feature a fond look at nuns having fun as we ramble.

Nuns Having Fun (18)

Turkish nun taking aim at a Russian fighter jet. Now you know…


Ramblers-Logo36An advertisement featuring the “Lord’s Prayer” was banned in theatres in England recently, creating a lot of discussion and debate. Here is the ad:


Bishop Steven Croft of Sheffield responded with a piece in the Washington Post offering reasons why the theatre companies might have been right to do so. First, he outlines the facts:

The Church of England has produced a 60-second commercial. The only words are the words of the Lord’s Prayer, said by children, the bereaved, people at work and so on. The ad is to promote a new Web site, The plan was (and is) to show the film before Christmas at screenings of the new “Star Wars” film to help everyone think about prayer and to pray. What could be more simple?

The distributors have declared the Lord’s Prayer unsuitable for screening. They believe it carries the risk of upsetting or offending audiences.

He then gives seven reasons (one for each line of the prayer) why this prayer speaks powerfully against “the point of view of global corporations and consumer culture, . . . [and] the perspective of the gods and spirits of the age.” He concludes:

There are only 63 words in the Lord’s Prayer. It takes less than a minute to say them.

Yet these words shape our identity, give purpose to our lives, check our greed, remind us of our imperfections, offer a way of reconciliation, build resilience in our spirits and call us to live to the glory of our creator.

No wonder they have been banned in the boardrooms of consumer culture.


Nuns Having Fun (19)

The Cubs are negotiating with the agent for Sister Mary Catherine, a starting pitcher who (it is reported) has a “wicked” fastball.


Ramblers-Logo362001_ape_download_movie (1)In an article at RNS questioning whether humans are hard-wired for violence, Marcia Pally writes:

It turns out, however, that we’re evolutionarily wired not for violence but for cooperation. ‘The vast majority of the people on the planet,’ writes Douglas Fry, ‘awake on a typical morning and live through a violence-free day — and this experience generally continues day after day after day.’

The real story should be the 13,748 gazillion times human beings default to cooperation and kindness!

Noting that this should motivate us to do more research on the real causes of violent behavior, she notes that many blame religion. However, she analyzes and then rejects that notion, concluding that “blaming religion for human aggression is like blaming adultery on the marriage vows.”

Furthermore, she notes that evolutionary biology and anthropology do not support the notion that violence leads to evolutionary advantage, but that “hyper-cooperation” brings the most benefits. Why then don’t we cooperate more? Pally puts her finger specifically on two perversions in our cultural relationships: (1) fear, and (2) the absence of self-transcendent meaning.”


Nuns Having Fun (8)

Nuns in Denver, CO going one toke over the line. Sweet Jesus.


Ramblers-Logo36In September, the company that makes and sells Nutella started a marketing campaign that allows fans of the hazelnut spread to personalise a 750 gramme or one kilogramme jar. But one five-year old girl in Shellharbour, New South Wales, Australia.

You see, her mom named her Isis, after the Egyptian goddess Isis, revered as a matriarch and friend of the disadvantaged. She also named her 8-year-old son Odhinn after a god in Nordic mythology. Odhinn gets the Nutella, Isis is out of luck.

Here's little Isis, snuggling with her mom, just before she beheaded her.

Here’s little Isis, snuggling with her mom just before she beheaded her.

Heather Taylor, the little girl’s mother, was quite upset, but as Michael Koziol writes in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Unforeseeable though it may have been, the Taylor family are now dealing with the consequences of the unfortunate name choice. Ms Taylor has to shield her daughter from news reports, and regularly receives looks of disbelief in public places.

“I am starting to get to the point where I don’t want to call her name out,” she said. “Because she’s going to start noticing people looking.”

Ms Taylor also feels particularly aggrieved by a Woman’s Day article published earlier this month, which ranked “Isis” as No.1 on a list of 12 baby names that should be criminalised.

Hey, guess what No. 2 on the list is?


You can’t make this stuff up.


The Cubs are also looking for a contact hitter. Sister Rosa, who practices with a ruler every day in her classroom, rarely misses when she swings.


Ramblers-Logo36A group of 100 African-American pastors and religious leaders is scheduled to meet at Trump Towers in Manhattan at 1 p.m. on Monday. I can’t believe I am actually writing this, but the group is expected to endorse The Donald for president.


Pastor Darrell Scott, here shown with his eyes open

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times reports that Trump appears to have overcome some of the problems dealing with race that his campaign has had, at least with this group of black ministers, and they are ready to put their stamp of approval on him. Rappeport writes:

Darrell Scott, the pastor of the New Spirit Revival Center in Ohio, helped organize the coalition of religious leaders and said that after meeting Mr. Trump in person he was convinced that Mr. Trump was the candidate best suited to be president. He also said that the public portrayals of Mr. Trump as a racist and demagogue seemed unfounded after they spoke.

“I was looking for some subtle hints of racism,” Mr. Scott said. “I didn’t see it at all.”

Mr. Scott, who said he was a registered Democrat who had voted for President Obama, said that he had been impressed by Mr. Trump as a leader and that he liked his ideas for improving the economy. He said that when he closed his eyes and listened to all the candidates, he found Mr. Trump to be the most appealing.

Yeah, and if I close my eyes and listen, the only thing I hear is circus music.


Some orders use a labyrinth, but for the Sisters of St. Thomas nothing stimulates contemplation better than a walk across the “monkey bridge.”


Ramblers-Logo36I was not aware of this. Amazon has apparently converted the U.K. through the gospel of Black Friday. Even though they do not (of course) celebrate our U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, we still were able to infect them with the shopping bug.




Helaine Olen at Slate reports:

The e-commerce juggernaut first introduced Black Friday to Britain in 2010. The concept proved popular. As a result, other U.K. retailers began to offer Black Friday discounts, both online and in stores.

But it wasn’t until 2013 that the day achieved something near the legendary status in Britain that it enjoys in the States. That’s when Asda, a U.K.-based superstore owned by, yes, Walmart, began to run Black Friday promotions in its physical stores promising “earth-shattering deals” with “unbeatable” prices. The chain’s chief merchandising officer specifically cited Walmart’s Black Friday sales as an inspiration. Guess what happened next?

British consumers, who for years had thrill-watched American Black Friday shoppers on YouTube, knew exactly what to do. They mobbed the front doors of Asdas across the British isles hours before the 2013 Black Friday sales began, and then, as if on cue, began to fight over the goods when allowed inside. There were reports of a “stampede over cut-price televisions” at a Belfast, Northern Ireland, Asda, and a “scuffle” over the same product at one located near Bristol, England.

The article goes on to describe other “scenes that shamed Britain.” Ha, ha, the U.S. wins again! And it’s not even really worth it for the stores. According to Olen’s report:

Now, it seems, the British are stuck with Black Friday much as American retailers are—their shoppers now expect it. Some retail analysts predict customers will spend more than 1 billion pounds on combined online and in-store shopping this Friday.

Nonetheless, it’s not even clear Black Friday is a win for British or American retailers, never mind shoppers. LCP Consulting reported only a third of retail executives they surveyed in the United States and Britain claimed the shopping holiday was profitable, with another 28 percent saying it was not only a money loser, but “unsustainable.”


Ramblers-Logo36For our musical selection today, we present Adele’s remarkable performance of “When We Were Young” from SNL last week. Her new album, “25,” was just released.

Another Look: Preparing for a New Church Year


Note from CM: In 2010, we did a series on “Church Year Spirituality.” November is the month when we complete the annual liturgical cycle and prepare for a new Church Year, which begins the first Sunday in Advent (Nov. 29 this year). Here is the first post from that series. We present it in order to help us all prepare for the first Sunday in Advent this weekend.

• • •

Christians who follow the liturgical calendar will begin a new year of living in the Gospel with the commencement of Advent on Nov. 29.

The diagram on the right gives an overview of the annual Church calendar.

  • Advent is the season when we prepare for Christ’s coming. (4 weeks)
  • Christmastide is the season when we celebrate Christ’s incarnation. (12 days)
  • In Epiphany, we remember how Christ made God’s glory known to the world. (up to 9 weeks)
  • The Lenten season leads us to the Cross, the climactic event in Holy Week, which concludes Lent. (40 days plus Sundays)
  • Eastertide (the Great 50 Days) celebrates Christ’s resurrection, new life, and his ascension to glory. It concludes on the 50th day, Pentecost, the day of the Spirit’s outpouring.
  • The Season after Pentecost (or Trinity, or Ordinary Time) is the time of the church, when by the Spirit we live out the life of the Gospel in community and in the world. (up to 29 weeks)

I don’t know why so many Christian groups think they need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to “discipleship programs.” This time-tested annual pattern for the life of individual believers and the Church together that is focused on Christ, organized around the Gospel, and grounded in God’s grace, is sheer genius. It is simple enough for a child. It offers enough opportunities for creativity and flexibility that it need never grow old. Each year offers a wonderful template for learning to walk with Christ more deeply in the Gospel which brings us faith, hope, and love.

My favorite book on church year spirituality is Robert Webber’s Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year. Here is his summary of the subject:

Ancient-Future Time presents the historical understanding of the Christian year as life lived in the pattern of death and resurrection with Christ. This spiritual tradition was developed in the early church and has been passed down in history through the worship of the church. It enjoys biblical sanction, historical staying power, and contemporary relevance. Through Christian-year spirituality we are enabled to experience the biblical mandate of conforming to Christ. The Christian year orders our formation with Christ incarnate in his ministry, death, burial, resurrection, and coming again through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost. In Christian-year spirituality we are spiritually formed by recalling and entering into his great saving events. (p. 21f)

In today’s post I will merely list five primary reasons why I think it advantageous for Christians to form their spiritual lives — their walk with God through Christ — around the liturgical year. Then, throughout the month on subsequent Sundays, we will take these points and expand upon them. We will continue exploring and discussing this over the next two weeks as we prepare for our new Church Year to begin on Nov. 30.

Five Reasons to Practice Church Year Spirituality

  • It enables us to live in God’s Story. Church Year spirituality forms Christian people around the story of redemption in Christ. It does not focus on “principles” or “steps” or “programs” for spiritual growth. It is thoroughly Jesus-shaped and uses the biblical story to conform our lives to his. As Israel was shaped by their story of slavery, redemption, covenant, and Promised Land, so the New Israel is formed by the story of Messiah.
  • It keeps the main thing the main thing. Church Year spirituality is Christ-centered. It is shaped around the events of his incarnation, ministry, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and the outpouring of his Spirit. At every turn we see Jesus, we hear Jesus, we follow Jesus.
  • It recognizes that one’s calendar forms one’s life. Church Year Spirituality is down-to-earth, utterly realistic about the day to day, season to season patterns of life that shape our behavior. All our lives we have developed habits by the way we mark and use our time. A spirituality formed around the Church Year is designed to form our habits around following Jesus. We take the place of disciples, and walk through the same experiences they had as they lived with Jesus day in and day out, season after season, over the course of three years.
  • It links personal spirituality with worship, family, and community. Church Year Spirituality recognizes both the individual journey and the corporate pilgrimage. What happens on Sundays is of a piece with what happens during the week as our corporate worship and our daily lives as individuals and families are shaped around the story of Jesus.
  • It provides a basis of unity and common experience for Christians everywhere. Our unity with other Christians is in the Gospel story. This is summarized in the Apostles’ Creed and the other creeds of the church. Propositional doctrinal statements have their place as ways to express more detailed understandings of the meaning and significance of God’s saving acts, but our unity with other believers is in Christ. We celebrate this throughout the year when churches of various traditions and denominations celebrate the Church Year and conform their worship and congregational lives to it.

I hope this introduction is helpful. Advent begins on Sunday, kicking off another year of shaping our lives according to Jesus and his Story.

When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” (John 1:38-39)

It is he whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (Col 1:28)

A Thanksgiving Sonnet


A Thanksgiving Sonnet

When in these dark’ning days the world goes bare
And gray the sky above and brown beneath
When I awake to frosty silver morns
Break out my woolen coat and cross the heath
All life seems to have fled and left behind
A scene bereft of color’s warm embrace
Through breath’s cold haze and woodsmoke’s tang I step
And twist and squint and guard my naked face
Though colorless and chill may be this morn
Though darkness deepens, short’ning days anon
Though limbs strain starkly, vainly to the clouds
Though death reigns and all to this place must come
I bow my head in thanks defiantly
And dream about the spring inside each tree

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