This past Sunday, I used an illustration in the sermon about my sixteen-year-old granddaugher who since her birth the accumulative knowledge of the human race has increased by 97%. Think about that folks. It’s an astounding statistic. Allow me to put this into perspective.
Buckminister Fuller noted that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. But, by the time I was in high school knowledge was doubling every twenty-five years. Wow! But hold on. As Paul Harvey was prone to say, “There’s more to the story.” Today, you discover that human knowledge is doubling every thirteen months. And hold on to your hats! Studies show that with the build out of the internet human knowledge will soon double at the rate of once every twelve hours.
Holey Moley! Let’s pause here to let this tired old parson lean back in his chair, take a deep breath and relax. It’s the only alternative to becoming a relic before this blog is finished.
Things are happening at an unbelievable pace. Have you heard of Wikipedia? It’s an online encyclopedia, where hundreds of thousands of volunteers input data to compose and edit each other’s offerings into an infinite variety of subject matters. People who don’t know each other are contributing to the advancement of knowledge by holding each other to standards and advancing the knowledge of the human race. It’s called collaboration; and in the internet circles it’s working.
Most of what we do on the internet today is made possible not be some highly paid software engineer or developer in the Silicon Valley. Nope, most of what we do on the internet is made available by people who believe in open sourcing. That is, they believe the internet should be free and provide software free of charge to enhance its capabilities.
Here’s an example: Ever go to a website, maybe to purchase a ticket for an upcoming concert? Okay, admittedly some of the people who read this are of a more advanced age than I. Consequently, they haven’t gone to such a site. I’ll have to ask them to trust me. So, if you got to such a site, let’s say to purchase tickets for a Beyonce Concert -- What? You don’t know who Beyonce is? -- OMG, can we pause for a moment of prayer? You'e much older than I thought. Anyway, if you know who Beyonce is, and want to purchase a ticket for her concert, at the end of the process you’ll encounter a little box that says, “We need you to prove you’re human.” Then you have to type in the fuzzy letters you see on the screen.
Here’s the neat thing. When you retype those letters, what you’re actually retying is portions of words that have been scanned from books which the computer could not read because the ink fades with age. You’re telling the computer what the book says. Bingo! Collaboration to double knowledge.
In Boston, people can go online to adopt a fire hydrant. Yep, that’s what I said, a fire hydrant. When they adopt the fire hydrant they can name it. So when it snows and you’ve adopted Fred the Fire Hydrant, it’s your job to shovel the snow away from the hydrant so the fire department can find Fred. Human collobration.
It makes one hope and pray some smart kid will develop an app that will allow us to push a button on our smartphone that makes our Congressional representatives behave like adults.
“Well, hello, Number One. I haven’t heard from you in a while. How are things going?”
“Pretty good, actually. I was having a little trouble with my Trig class, but I think I have the hang of it now. I got a ninety-four on my last test. I’m making good grades in my other classes. And I registered for the SATs like you suggested. My counselor said I could wait until next year, but I told her you said I should take it as many times as I could.”
“I’m glad to hear you’re doing well. Do you want to brag on or rat out your sisters?”
“Okay, Number Six, loves kindergarten. She’s excited that she’s actually going to school. Number Two, is doing great. She’s started back with gymnastics at a new place. She seems to really like it there. I think her new coach knows how to get the best out of her. And she’s making great grades, too. And guess what!”
“She’s got a boyfriend. Look, that’s a secret; okay? She hasn’t told Mom and Dad, but I don’t think she’d mind if I told you. Besides, Mom got really mad once when you wouldn’t tell her what we talked about. So, I know you won’t tell her.”
“Do you like her boyfriend?”
“Yeah, I like him, but, you know, they’re thirteen. They can’t really date. But he’s a nice kid.”
“What about your boyfriend?”
“We’re doing great. He’s real nice. I know you’d like him. Know why?”
“Because he opens the car door for me. Remember when you told me to stand beside the door without opening it until my date opened the door for me? Well, I don’t have to stand there with him. He’s there opening it for me.”
“Good. That’s really nice. I’d like to meet him someday.”
“Maybe we can ride up there and go hiking at Cloudland Canyon sometime soon. I’ll ask him. But, there’s something I really need to talk to you about.”
“Okay, I hate to bring this up, but since you’ve been sending me an allowance every month, I’ve kinda gotten used to it. You know, I have been sorta making a budget in my mind, and I probably have gotten dependent on it.”
“And you want to remind me that you didn’t get your allowance for this month.”
“Well, yes, that’s what I wanted to talk about.”
“Do you remember the conditions for you getting the allowance?”
“I do, I’m supposed to save some, to give some away, and to know at the end of the month where every dollar went.”
“That’s right. Can you do that for last month?”
“Yes, I can.”
“How do I know that?”
“Oh, I didn’t send you a report on my spending and saving like I was supposed to.”
“That means I don’t get an allowance this month because I didn’t send the report? You know, Mom told me that you were going to say this. She said that when you made up your mind you were strict. I guess you are. So, I’m sorry I didn’t sent my report. I guess my sister did because she got her allowance.”
“You’re asking me to be more responsible that the United States Congress.”
“Oh, Number One, I would never set the bar that low for you.”
September 11th. Do you remember where you were on this day twelve years ago? September 11th. It’s a day that punctured our national illusion, and, perhaps, led us to the plain of understanding as regards our corporate identify..
A month ago I spent some time in New York City with two of my granddaughters. The sixteen-year-old was there to participate in a dance workshop. (I’d tell you what dance company she was working with but you’d then accuse me of bragging.) Her younger sister was there to hang out with me. That younger one was only seven months old on that fateful day in September. For her the event is only read in her school history books. It is not something experience, a defining moment. She’s two generations behind me. I wonder how September 11th will impact her.
She has no visual to recall. For her the flames bursting from the towers, the bodies falling, the horrific fall of those buildings upon the firemen, policemen, and civilians within is not personal. As we passed up the Hudson River on our trip around Manhattan, I pointed out a docked fireboat. I told her how the boat, FDNY Boat 342, was give that number in memory of the firemen who died on September 11th. I explained that the boat was made from the steel salvaged from the wreckage. “I’ve read about September, 11th,” she said.
Later that day, on that same boat ride, we looked toward the New York City skyline. The new tower stood there. Beside it was something unusual for New York. Beside it was open space. That open space is, itself, a memorial. How does someone, like my granddaughter with no visual memory of those grand pre-9/11 towers, relate to the silent testimony of that open space?
It seems a bit surreal she’s so removed from that day. It seems surreal because much of the aftermath of that event has defined her life. Because of that day, when she travels with me she has to, even at her age, carry a picture ID. Because of those planes that brought so much horror, death, and tragedy, she’s subjected to being searched when entering a public .building or traveling on an airplane. Every day of her life, even before the day she took her first step, her country has been at war.
So much of the life of my generation and that of my children’s has been impacted by 9/11. So much of the interaction of nations has been complicated by that day. Since that terror attack the world has become more divided, more sectarian, more intransigent in so many ways.
What then will be the lesson I leave my grandchild as I tell her about this event. As I try and explain the reasons the planes came, as I try to relate the reasoning for the response of our nation in invading two countries, it seems to me it is imperative I find some eternal truth the generations who experienced that day can leave to those who come behind us.
I think I’ll tell her how the terrorist wanted to destroy the ideals of our nation, ideals we find difficult to live up to. I’ll try and explain how and why the terrorist hate us. And then I’ll tell her that both we and they have learned a lesson. That lesson, I’ll tell her, is: you cannot kill an idea with a bullet.
Paula Deen messed up. Now I’m not sure of the various specifics of the controversy, but, as I have gleaned from the constant news analysis, Ms. Deen admitted to having used the “N” word in her past.
I’m no fan of Paula Deen. Gracious, I’m engaged in this horrendous battle to lose my seven decades of accumulated pouch. I can’t do it by cooking according to Paula’s recipes (although I must admit she and my Mama have a lot in common).
What strikes me is how Ms. Deen’s admission of using the racial slur pricks my memory and causes me to want to confess. You see, I, a product of a segregated South, have used that dreaded word myself. I don’t think I’ve ever used it openly, in that I expressed it verbally. But I remember my forebears using that word. I remember my grandfather, who was such a champion of the downtrodden, how delivered food baskets throughout the black neighborhoods when segregation was the way-of-life in my early childhood, using the “N” word. He used it as an adjective to describe a type of behavior; nevertheless that behavioristic description was only directed at African Americans. And I, who adored and revered my grandfather, have over the years found myself, when observing certain attitudes of a particular African American thinking to myself, “you’re acting like a ….”
It pains me to make this confession. But Ms. Deen’s recent confession brings my sin to the surface. Gracious, how can I, who participated in desegregation marches, who, when a teen, tongue-lashed the Official Board of my local church for their racist attitudes, find myself reverting to my grandfather’s horrible language? I can do it easily, for I, like you, dear reader, am a racist.
I am a racist because I have not yet reached that Christian perfection I proclaimed at my ordination I expected to achieve. I have not reached that position where I can fail to see color, gender, status as divisions among people.
A few years back the Reverend Dr. Walter Kimbrough, one of United Methodism’s most prominent preachers, was invited by me to preach at my church. During the children’s sermon I asked Dr. Kimbrough, in all of his five-foot-seventeen-inch splendor to stand beside me. I asked the kid’s: “Do you notice any difference between Dr. Kimbrough and me?” They told me they did. They said he was taller than was I. I asked them if they noticed anything else. They said the stole he was wearing around his neck was different than mine. I asked them if there was anything else. They told me he was smiling and I was not. This went on and on and on until I suddenly realized those kids just didn’t notice the difference was he was black and I was white. How wonderful for them. How horrible for me that I thought they would notice. My assumption convicts me of my racism.
Here’s my point, folks. In the paragraph above, it took a conscious effort on my part to leave the word “black” out of the first sentence, i.e., “one of United Methodism’s most prominent (“black”) preachers. It took a conscious effort because I am the child of my inherited as well as self-developed prejudices.
Maybe Ms. Deen’s present crisis is God’s reminder to me I need to keep working on it. I don’t think a Civil Rights Act, or even my marching in civil rights demonstrations gives me a grasp on overcoming racial attitudes. What Ms. Deen’s controversy has done is to remind me that being a Christian is a constant struggle to live beyond myself and to always be aware of my own sin.
parson was indulging in a sin. He'd given in to the temptation on his
way to pick up his monthly allotment of pills to keep his blood
pressure down, his gout in check, his cholesterol within acceptable
limits, and all the other stuff the various assortment of pills did.
As he passed his favorite local eating place, Satan, perched on the
parson's shoulder, whispered in his ear, “Old and senile preachers
do not live by prescriptions alone; they must, occasionally, consume
time at all, the parson sat in a booth to the rear of the
establishment, with a 'T-Bone Steak serving as a platter for three
Sunnyside-up eggs, bordered by a generous helping of grits embracing
a puddle of butter on the right, and a heaping pile of hash browns on
the left. He relished his departure from his healthy pattern,
enjoying every bite.
parson looked around to see if anyone was looking, once the plate was
empty except for the steak bone. He took the two half pieces of
buttered toast and sopped the remaining yoke and juices from the
plate. He'd just finished when Shirley, his server, approached.
“Parson,” she said, “that fellow over there ordered a T-bone,
too. I could wrap his and your bones up and you'd have one each for
Charlie Brown and Princess Penny.” The parson thanked her for her
kindness and waited for her to return.
Hodges Pilgrim, III approached before Shirley could return. Kenneth
Hodges Pilgrim, III, know officially as Bishop Pilgrim by the
community, because of the self-bestowed title when he organized his
independent Church of the Gathered Saints of Redemption. Bishop
Pilgrim sat down without invitation.
began to tell the parson of all the troubles besetting the community,
most of which were resultant of people being separated from the
intended communion with the Lord. The parson listened closely, trying
hard to learn from the discussion.
booth to their left, a group was about to leave. They rose and, as
they did, two men reached into their pockets. They spoke in Spanish.
One said to the other, “I'll get the tip.” The other replied,
“No, no, you are our guest; we'll get the tip also.” This was
followed by a quick exchange which included, “It was good to see
you again;” “Give my regards to your wife;” “I hope it won't
be so long before we see each other again,” and such.
walked away. Kenneth Hodges Pilgrim, III leaned toward the parson and
said, “You know, you'd think if they were going to invade the
country they'd learn the language.”
parson rose and placed a tip on the table. They walked toward the
register where the parson paid for his meal. Then they headed
outside. As the sun struck their faces, the parson spoke. “Tell me,
Kenneth, how do you say I'm an bigot in Cherokee?”
been a good day for the parson. He rose early, dressed, whistled for
Charlie Brown, his faithful canine companion, to rise from his bed
and get started on the day. The squeak of the front door being opened
roused Princess Penny, Charlie Brown's girl friend, from her snoring
while reclining on the living room loveseat. Both canines began to
prance in anticipation at the door as the parson donned his warm up
the street they went, the dogs sniffing out the trails of whatever
creatures had wandered out of the forest the night before. Turning
left they headed east toward the abandoned logging road that
meandered up the foothill behind the parson's abode. Once at the dirt
trail the parson began his trot up the hill and into the forest, trot
being a descriptive word as the parson's seven plus decades of life
encumbered a once-remembered run. At the top of the hill the parson
followed the trail back down the foothill toward his house. Charlie
Brown and Princess Penny were not in sight, but experience said they
were nearby. Arriving at the house winded and sweaty the parson
beheld both canines waiting on the porch, tails wagging.
parson stripped down in preparation for the shower. He stepped on the
scales. Ba-Da-Boom!! Two pounds less than this time last week! He
showered and dressed as he sang the Doxology to the tune of Chim Chim
Cher-ee. Next stop was the study. There he spent the day, staying on
task, until next Sunday's bulletin was almost completed, the sermon
almost done, and needed emails answered. He felt good.
late afternoon and early evening were spent delivering meals to the
homebound in the community. Charlie Brown and his sweetheart
accompanied him as those they visited delighted in the wagging tails.
home, the parson settled down to some entertainment. Powering up the
computer he brought up Hulu. A feature caught his eye. “Living On
One Dollar” the title read. The parson clicked on it and became
entertained, delighted, and disturbed.
documentary traced the journey of four friends in their twenties
headed to rural Pena Blanca, Guatemala, with only a video camera and
fifty-six dollars where they lived for fifty-six days. How do 1.1
billion people in the world live on less than one dollar a day? The
young friends found out. Their video documentary reveals the
hardships, the smiles, the hospitality, the openness, the willingness
and desire to learn, the dreams, and the disappointments of these
children of God, who despite their poverty, welcome the stranger,
share abundantly from their meager portions, and make one wonder how
we let the world remain in this condition.
the program ended, the parson wrote a blog, encouraging everyone to
watch the documentary, “Living On One Dollar,” and then
encouraging everyone to go to Kiva and help change this situation.
something special about Boston. It's streets shout of history. In one
block you come across John Adams' grave; a few more over and there's
a marker about Paul Revere. A few blocks more and you're at the docks
where the original America Tea Party convened. In a talk to the
grieving citizens last week, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick
made reference to America being invented there.
something special about Boston. It's not just the history. It's the
sense that, despite the sky scrapers towering over the Old West
Church where the phrase “No taxation without representation” was
first uttered, and casting their shadows on the Park Street Church
where William Lloyd Garrison gave his first anti-slavery speech,
despite the little plaque in the circle of cobblestones at the
intersection of Devonshire and State Streets, marking the site of the
Boston Massacre, to walk these hallowed streets is to walk through a
something special about Boston. Boston's a big city, but the feeling
one gets there is of being at home and among neighbors. No wonder
just a hop and a skip across Boston Common you'll find a little
restaurant nestled in the basement of a building with a familiar sign
above the steps reading, Cheers. You've heard of that establishment,
the place where everybody knows your name. It should be located in
Boston, because Boston is a neighborhood, a place where you wish you
knew the name of all these cousins of the Revolution.
it's because I've walked those streets, partaken of a little food and
beverage at that basement restaurant, walked the planks of the USS
Constitution moored in the harbor, and soaked up the spirit of that
place, I was so horrified when the bombs went off on Massachusetts
Patriot Day holiday. Somebody had dared to mess with the
never know what really motivated those boys to turn upon their
adopted country. We will never fully understand the rage that
possesses a mind bent upon such cruel indiscriminate destruction.
Indeed those who possess such a mind are incapable themselves, no
doubt, of comprehending the fury within them. But what we do know is
that whenever anyone comes into the neighborhood bent upon
destruction all they can ever hope for is a moment of panic, a time
of mourning, an agonizing wondering of why. But that's all they can
hope to wreck upon us.
you see is a neighborhood. America is a neighborhood. And it is not
always a completely harmonious neighborhood. After all, that strange
Mr. Snodgrass who never speaks lives down the street. And Ms.
Sourface doesn't particularly like the kids playing in the street.
But we live in a neighborhood. And in a neighborhood neighbors act
differently than the purveyors of evil may suspect.
neighborhood doctors, who after running twenty-six and two-tenths
miles, run two more miles to be at the emergency room when the
casualties arrive. In a neighborhood the shocked take but a moment to
recover from the shock and then jump the barriers into the carnage of
blood and severed limbs. In a neighborhood neighbors rip off their
shirts to use as tourniquets to save lives. In a neighborhood people
shelter strangers from around the world dazed by the atrocity.
long as we are inhabitants of the neighborhood the horrors such as we
witnessed in Boston last week result only in bringing out the best in
Congrats to everyone, well, almost everyone. There are a gold bricks among us.
I don't know about you, but I get a sense of satisfaction every year about this time. It's just good to know you've done your part, contributed to the greater good, fulfilled your civic duty.
It's the one thing that binds us together, all of us. It's the one thing we all have in common. Most other things in life come to some but now all. Not everyone serves on juries, not everyone can be part of the military, not everyone is able to go to college, not every one gets married, and not everyone has children; gracious, not everyone has a good job, a supportive family. In fact is there anything in life that is universally shared?
Yes, there is. There is that one thing. Each of us share the privilege, the honor, the and, yes, the obligation of paying our taxes. And each of us has now done it for another year. There are some, I'm aware, who haven't shared yet. They're the ones that filed an extension, but that extension is a statement of the intention participating.
Oh, I admit, sometimes when I look at what I'm obligated to pay I realize that Warren Buffet's secretary and I have a lot in common. And sometimes when I look at my bank balance and compare that to the amount due on that tax form, I find my resolve tested that this exercise in citizenship is an honor and privilege. And there are those times, when I compare my percentage of income paid to the percentage of income paid by people who live in houses so big they have to email the kids to tell them dinner is ready, I get absolutely frustrated over the whole issue.
On the whole, however, I'm reasonably pleased with this paying of taxes. I'm pleased, like most people, I have some selfish interests. I'm happy to pay taxes because I like that center line on the highway that keeps the idiot drivers on their side of the road. Fact is, I'm pleased to be driving on a paved road. I don't mind paying taxes because a bit of those federal and state taxes find their way into the local schools, assuring the future of those who come behind me. I honored to pay the taxes because I think those who protect our nation should have decent money and a lot more benefits.
There are a lot of reasons I pay the taxes with a smile on my face. The largest of these is it's the dues owed for the privilege of living in this nation. I don't mean I tap dance all the way to the post office to mail those checks, but I don't carry a grudge along with them inside my briefcase.
I must add I do have some concerns about those checks I gladly mailed. I'm pretty sure they will be deposited promptly. I'd like that government to know while I gladly pay the taxes I expect something in return. I expect my representatives to treat those dollars for what they are: My investment in my country.
As long as those Congresspersons and Senators and state legislators remember that it's my investment and not their expense account, I'll start now putting aside gladly what I expect to contribute next year. And I'll pay those taxes again next year with the same smile.
Copyright The material on this site, unless otherwise noted, is the property of the author. Church-related use is permissible, but a small nod of the head in the direction of the author will be appreciated.