Friday, May 29, 2009

Simply Vintage

A fine description of good, red wine…

“red as red-currant jelly, smooth as oil, strong as beef, warming as tea, cool as dew.”

From Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis

On Theories

“It's important to understand that once something is a theory it is almost impossible to disprove. That is because the evidence-collecting phase starts working backwards. All new bits of data that come its way become absorbed into the Theory. The thing has become unkillable. Contradictions are efficiently gobbled up and spit out as qualifications, till you are left with an unwieldy and many-tentacled thing.”

Excerpt from Andree Seu’s column in World Magazine, June 6, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Our Scandalous Christ

On Memorial Day I once again had the distinct honor and privilege of delivering the Benediction at the end of the commemoration ceremonies near the monuments in the village. This honor and privilege has been extended to me, I believe, six times out of the seven Memorial Days that have passed since I first arrived in Pawling. The organizers of the ceremony from the American Legion have told me repeatedly how much they appreciate the prayers I have offered, and I take their repeated annual invitation to me as confirmation of their words.

The Invocation is “calling” upon the Triune God to be present amongst us. Of course God is present already, but our invocation expresses our desire that He be present amongst us. Likewise, the Benediction is a blessing of the Triune God upon the people that have desired His presence. The Invocation and the Benediction serve as “bookends” for the ceremony. We ask God to be present amongst us, to hear our prayers and receive our praise, and we in return receive His blessing.

Regardless of whether I have been asked to deliver the Invocation or the Benediction, my prayer each year has been explicitly Christian and Trinitarian. The organizers have asked a Christian Pastor to pray, not a Jewish Rabbi, a Muslim Imam, or an official of any other religion. And each year I have received nothing but thanks and appreciation for my prayers. But this year was different. Immediately following the Benediction one person came up to thank me for my prayer. Immediately behind her were two people who were not so appreciative.

The concern raised by the malcontents was that I was not inclusive in my prayer. They felt that I should have been sensitive to the fact that not everyone in attendance was Christian and that not all the servicemen and servicewomen being memorialized or presently serving were Christian. I told them simply that I was aware of that and that I prayed for all these people without exclusion. What was it, then, that really offended these two? What caused them to stumble?

"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." Romans 9:33

Christian Pastors, and laity, are called to “preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” 1 Corinthians 1:23 For “everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” Matthew 10:32 And “blessed is the one who is not offended by me”. Matthew 11:6 For “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

The Greek word translated as “offense” and “stumbling block” is (skandalon) or “scandal”. Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, is literally a “scandal” to unbelievers which “offends” them and causes them to “stumble”. The malcontents who were unhappy with my prayer were not unhappy with me, or even with my prayer, but they were scandalized and offended by the name of Jesus Christ.
I am happy to report that, but for the two complaints, more individuals thanked me personally for my prayer this year than all the previous years combined. In these Last Days in which all things are tolerable except perceived intolerance, and truth is relative and subjective, I find hope and comfort that a great number of people are not satisfied with superficial and substance-less platitudes but are looking, if unwittingly at times, for the true source of comfort and hope. And that Source is not a concept or an emotion – He is a person, and an unchanging rock, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Photo by T. J. Hanlon

Baby Boom Bust!

This is an excerpt from a speech to the graduating class of Butler University on May 9 by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels:

Along with most of your faculty and parents, I belong to the most discussed, debated and analyzed generation of all time, the so-called Baby Boomers. By the accepted definition, the youngest of us is now 45, so the record is pretty much on the books, and the time for verdicts can begin.

Which leads me to congratulate you in advance. As a generation, you are off to an excellent start. You have taken the first savvy step on the road to distinction, which is to follow a weak act. I wish I could claim otherwise, but we Baby Boomers are likely to be remembered by history for our numbers, and little else, at least little else that is admirable.

We Boomers were the children that the Second World War was fought for. Parents who had endured both war and the Great Depression devoted themselves sacrificially to ensuring us a better life than they had. We were pampered in ways no children in human history would recognize. With minor exceptions, we have lived in blissfully fortunate times. The numbers of us who perished in plagues, in famine, or in combat were tiny in comparison to previous generations of Americans, to say nothing of humanity elsewhere.

. . . As a generation, we did tend to live for today. We have spent more and saved less than any previous Americans. Year after year, regardless which party we picked to lead the country, we ran up deficits that have multiplied the debt you and your children will be paying off your entire working lives. Far more burdensome to you mathematically, we voted ourselves increasing levels of Social Security pensions and Medicare health care benefits, but never summoned the political maturity to put those programs on anything resembling a sound actuarial footing.
In sum, our parents scrimped and saved to provide us a better living standard than theirs; we borrowed and splurged and will leave you a staggering pile of bills to pay. It's been a blast; good luck cleaning up after us.

. . . Today, if you are thinking about standing on the shoulders of the past generation, I'd say "Please don't.". . . live for others, not just yourselves. For fulfillment, not just pleasure and material gain. For tomorrow, and the Americans who will reside there, not just for today.

This excerpt appears in the June 6, 2009 issue of World Magazine.