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.
The parson pulled his car into the parking lot at the recreation area of Fort Mountain State Park. He, along with Charlie Brown, his faithful canine companion, and Charlie’s girlfriend, Penny, more appropriately addressed as Princess Penny, had been hiking the trails that wrapped around the mountain, skirting the overlook as well as “The Wall” an ancient worship site for pre-historic Native Americans. It had been a long, long, hike, but was one he took every October 3rd and would continue to do so until his age prohibited it.
Opening the rear driver-side door of the car, the parson affixed a leash to each of the dog’s hiking harnesses. Both then jumped from the car, and, knowing where they were, did not wait for the parson’s directions. They headed to the beach of the lake, tugging on their leash, waded into the water up to their necks and began to lap. Though it was a fall day, the long, long hike had accentuated their thirst.
Thirst quenched, they emerged from the water and in unison shook the water from their hides. The parson smiled then turned to walk, both dogs followed for a moment and then decide to take the lead, once again knowing their destination. That target was the dumpster behind the pavillion where the parson deposited the bag of litter he’d picked up along their hike. Thankfully, this time it was a small bag.
As the parson began to return to his car he heard a familiar voice, “Hey, Parson, hey, Parson; I’ll be darn; who’d think I’d run into you this afternoon.”
Hello, Greg,” the parson greeted. Greg Halloway, a friend who served a church a few counties east, had been a friend of the parson for several decades.
“It’s really good to see you,” said Greg. “How have you been?”
“Good, Greg, really good. It’s great to see you. How’s Karen?”
“She’s doing really well, Parson. We’re both excited over becoming grandparents. I don’t think I’ve told you, but William, the oldest, and his wife now have a beautiful granddaughter. You should see her. She’s precious.”
“I bet she is,” said the parson. “I bet she is.”
Greg pushed his hands into the back pockets of his jeans. Charlie Brown and his girlfriend, Penny, both simultaneously plopped down on their stomachs as if in anticipation of a serious discussion about to begin. “Parson, I want to apologize. I wasn’t there for you. I mean, when Lynn died, I just wasn’t the person I ought to be in supporting you. I didn’t come to see you and, worse than that, I didn’t even call. I guess I’m telling you this because, well, Karen and I noticed on your blog this morning that it was Lynn’s birthday. And that made us feel really bad.”
The parson motioned Greg over to a picnic table. Charlie Brown and Princess Penny, both with moans of resentment, followed. Greg and the parson sat down on opposite sides of the table.
“Greg, I really appreciate your words. And I want you to know there’s no reason for feeling guilty about this.” The parson and Greg then entered into a conversation where the parson talked about his experiences with death and mourning after the loss of two wives. He shared with Greg his realization that folks felt awkward in trying to “be there” for friends who were in mourning, how that introduced feelings of inadequacy and fears of mortality. He shared with Greg the inadequacy of any words that might be spoken. As the conversation progressed he talked to Greg of the complete inadequacy of words and the healing of presence.
“I don’t know how you do it, Parson,” said Greg. “I mean, death is such a final thing. And you’ve lost two spouses. How do you do it?”
The parson smiled, “Well, Greg, there comes a point after the death, when you get up in the morning and you make your bed. That’s the turning point, Greg. Every morning, now, I make my bed. I make it military style. You could bounce a quarter on the covers. I make the bed, Greg, to signal to myself the night is over and a new day has begun.”
I wanted to take a moment today to express my appreciation to Gus Olafsson. Now, it might seem a bit eccentric I would write about Gus. You see, I have no idea who Gus Olafsson is.
I came across his name the other night watching the movie Prometheus online. I have this quirk. Most of the time when a movie has come to its end and the credits are running, I let them run. It’s easy to click on the next point of interest, but I let the credits run. After all, that’s a list of folks who made the movie possible. I confess, I don’t read the names. But they played their part; the least I can do is let their name run over the screen without my impatient interruption.
As I said, I was watching Prometheus. I was watching it because Noomi Rapace was the star. I may be an old, old man, but Noomi Rapace makes my heart go giddy-up. Movie over, the credits ran. I let them run as I began to straighten things up. At the point I looked back at the screen my eyes fell on the name Gus Olafsson. Gus has a title. His title is: Set Dec Buyer.
I have no idea what a Set Dec Buyer is. I have no idea who Gus Olafsson is. But Gus did his part to make the movie possible. I enjoyed the movie. So, thanks Gus. I appreciate your effort.
Thinking about Gus reminds me there are a lot of folks responsible for our enjoyment who never get recognition. My son is with the Pilobolus Dance Theater. He used to dance; now he’s an Artistic Director for the company. Being the dad of a dancer I’ve had the opportunity to watch the performances from back stage as well as in the control booth at the rear of the theater. The Pilobolus dancers are spectacular. But sometimes the spectacular is made possible because of the way the dancers move from light to shadow to light again. It would be a less commanding performance if the shadow wasn’t there.
After the performances people like to hang around and speak to the dancers. “Oh, you were wonderful,” they say. “My gracious, I was so captivated by that last piece.” I’ve watched those audience members express their appreciation to the dancers for the beauty of the performance more than a couple of times. Strangely, I’ve never heard anyone say, “Is there any way I could speak to Michael Faba, the lighting supervisor. “I just love the way he made that piece come alive.”
The same goes for Sarah Fujiwara, the Pilobolus stage manager. Got to tell you, folks, if it wasn’t for Sarah the Pilobolus dancers wouldn’t need to stretch out prior to the performance. Without Sarah, there would be no performance.
So, Michael and Sarah, please accept my apology for not expressing my admiration and appreciation. It was thoughtless on my part.
And that brings me to last Sunday’s worship. I don’t think anyone said to Larry, “Thanks so much for greeting me at the door with your smile.” I don’t think anyone said to Jackie and Jonnie, “I just want to thank you for passing these collection plates around so I could drop these big bucks into them.” I’m pretty sure no one told Karen what a great job she did cleaning the sanctuary so we could mess it up again.
So, Gus, I’m grateful no only for your efforts on the movie, but, also, for reminding me I should be more appreciative to those who get so little credit for some really good things.
And if you read this, Gus, would you do me a favor. Send me an email letting me know what the hell a Sec Dec Buyer actually does.
“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.”
I really don’t know where to begin. Should I confess the original sin in this category or the most recent one? Let’s start with the most recent one.
I was having a preacher’s meeting at my church last week. My superintendent had put me in charge of a little sub-group. It was not a task I ask for. In fact, I was wondering why my superintendent didn’t do it …. well, let’s not go there. That’s subject matter for a separate sin.
So, Debbie, a member of my church, knew I was having the meeting. She graciously baked some brownie like pastries for me to use for refreshment at the meeting. I didn’t ask her to. Fact of the matter was it was a preacher’s meeting and I wouldn’t, myself, have fed them lest they overstay their welcome. But she provided them, and just before the meeting I started to place them on a platter to serve.
In the process of setting them out, i tasted one. It was the proper thing to do. It’s called “manners.” They were delicious! Let me repeat that. They were delicious! Here, dear reader, is where I fell into sin, again. They were delicious. There were three dozen of them. There were going to be eight preachers at the meeting. I stared at the platter.
It was at this point the Devil whispered in my ear. I, being a servant of the Lord, commanded the Devil, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Satan did. Once Satan was behind me, he whispered in my ear. “Okay, now I’m behind you and you can pick the biggest one for yourself.” I did, dear reader; I did.
Not only did I pick the biggest one for myself, but, after doing so, I looked down at that platter where thirty-four more remained. I then counted out nine and placed them on a small plate, one for each of the participants and one for me to consume during the meeting.
When the meeting was over, I took the twenty-five remaining goodies home with me. I didn’t think it was necessary to explain to Debbie why they were not all consumed at the meeting. The important thing, it seemed to me, was that Debbie was returned a clean platter.
It was about eleven that evening when I looked down at the platter again and realized there was only one remaining. Logic insisted that since I was on a diet and the diet demanded a small bowl of oatmeal for breakfast the remaining sweet delight should be consumed before bed. It was.
Sometime during the night the dream came. I dreamed of 1965, my first year of ministry. Mr. and Mrs. Wilkerson were members of that church, but they didn’t attend. They had a grudge against the church, but they never renounced their membership. I was told they were a helpless case. I went to visit them anyway. We hit is off. They invited me back for dinner a couple to times. A few months after that Mr. Wilkerson passed away. It was my first funeral.
Mrs. Wilkerson, a few months after the funeral, invited me to come over for dinner. Being a bachelor preacher I had made a habit of visiting my members just prior to dinner. Her invitation fitted into my pattern. I accepted.
I don’t remember what the dinner was. But I remember the dessert. Mrs. Wilkerson told me it was her speciality, Peach Blitz Tort. I took my first bite and realized that the emphasis of that dish was on the blitz. I may have been a rookie pastor, but I had a little experience. Mrs. Wilkerson’s “blitz” in my experience would more properly have been called “Burbon.” And it was a fine quality Burbon. It was good. It was really good. When Mrs. Wilkerson asked me if I wanted second helping, I realized it would be impolite to refuse it. When Mrs. Wilkerson asked me if I’d like to take the whole container of Peach BLITZ Tort home with me, I realized it would be impolite to refuse.
Arriving home, I realized I was a bachelor. I didn’t know how long that Peach BLITZ Tort would keep. I did the expedient thing. I ate the whole thing. It never occurred to me that then next morning, Sunday morning, one could wake up with a hangover from eating a peach dessert.
I woke with the dream’s recollection bouncing around in my mind. I awoke and went to the kitchen where Debbie’s dessert platter waited upon the counter, a reminder that one does not always learn from one’s sin.
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