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.
buried Sara last Saturday. Sara had been part of my life since I can
remember being part of life. I'd always thought of her as part of the
family. She was always in my great-aunt's home. And my great-aunt
lived next door to my grandmother where I lived. So Sara, I assumed,
was but one of the clan.
I was to learn she wasn't actually blood family. She'd come to be
part of my life because she was a boarder at my great-aunt's house.
The nation was still suffering the consequences of the Great
Depression. My aunt and uncle rented out rooms in order to help with
the finances. The room rent included the use of the kitchen. As such
I often saw Sara in the kitchen, and since that's where family hangs
out, she was family to me.
became attracted to my uncle, the brother of my aunt from whom she
rented the room. Once she married him, she was family.
outlived them all. She was ninety-three when she died. The last of
that generation to go.
was a good service. My cousin, Sally, an Anglician priest, and I did
the service. I sat in the chancel listening to Sally as I waited my
turn to speak. And then it hit me. Sara is dead. And with her death,
oh my gracious, with her death my cousin Frank, Sally, and I are now
the oldest survivors. Could this mean … do you suppose this could
mean I'm old?
then I thought of old Methuselah. That book I'm always reading says
he lived nine hundred and sixty-nine years; and then he died. Think
about that. The man lived a milleneuim and all they can tell us about
him is he died. The fellow must have been a blight upon the
environment. Think of all the hot dogs he consumed. Think of all the
wine he drank. Think of all the air he polluted. Think of all the
trash he produced. And since he lived in the times of multiple wives
and there's no record of him having a job, think of all the wives who
must have supported him.
wasn't that way with Sara and the relatives of the family into which
she married. They all lived only into their nineties. But they all
left their mark upon this old world. Until the day they died they
were a joy to be around.
this got me thinking. I am one of the old ones in our clan now. And
I'm continuing to get old at the steady, predictable, and plodding
rate of one hour after another, twenty-four hours a day, every day,
every year. I can't stop the course of becoming one of the ancient
made up my mind to do it right. I'm going to grow older with grace as
did those of my family I used to call old. I'm not going to be one of
those that folks hate to visit. When I can't climb mountains any
more, I'm going to sit and relish all the things near me I now have
time to study. When that nurse brings the pill, I'm going to act as
though she's dishing out ambrosia.
old enough now to realize that I'm one of the old ones. Praise the
Lord that I got here and, maybe, just maybe, I've got a good way to
parson was out walking late in the afternoon on Easter Sunday. He
followed behind Charlie Brown, his faithful canine companion, and
Princess Penny, Charlie Brown's girl friend, both of whom pulled the
parson along as he held tightly to their leashes.
slowed as it passed the parson. The car pulled off the road in front
of the trio. The parson watched intently as the driver's door opened.
Scott Parrish, a new pastor jumped out.
oh, my goodness, I'm glad to see you,” exclaimed Scott as he began
to walk back toward the parson and the dogs. “Oh my goodness, look
at these dogs. Gracious, their big ones.”
is Charlie Brown and his girlfriend Penny,” the parson introduced.
Both Charlie Brown and Penny moved toward Scott and began to give him
the sniff test. Apparently satisfied that he was a United Methodist,
they ambled their way toward the bushes bordering the right-of-way.
“What brings you to the neighborhood?” asked the parson.
was heading into town to pick up some things for Alice,” said
Scott. “What with all the activities of Holy Week we completely ran
out of a couple of things.”
are things going at the church?” the parson asked. He was familiar
with Scott's church, his first pastorate. It was one of those steady
churches. They paid their obligations to the denomination without
complaint. They supported the pastor to the financial extent
required. And, while a congenial congregation, they were evidence of
the parson's theory that small churches are small because the choose
to be small.
gracious,” said Scott with some emotion, “I think we have turned
a corner. I mean the church was packed this morning. We just had ever
pew filled. I'm sure this is the beginning of something special. I'm
just so excited with how things are going ….”
parson interrupted despite his desire not to throw cold water on the
new pastor's excitement. “Scott, it's Easter.”
know it's Easter, Parson. But even though it's Easter the attendance
this morning is certainly indicative of our church's work over the
last months paying off.”
the parson said, “this isn't Sweeps Week at the church.”
are you trying to say, Parson?” asked Scott.
Scott,” the parson continued, “you're doing a wonderful job at
that church. But I think I need to warn you to that next Sunday
you're going to have a let-down.” Scott started to sepak but the
parson held up his hand. “The Sunday after Easter, Scott, is the
lowest attended service in the church year. Next Sunday, will be a
serious?” asked Scott.
am, Scott, I am. But look the number of people in the pews in no
reflection on you. What is a reflection on you is the joyful spirit
you're carrying out your ministry. That church is lucky to have you.
So next Sunday, when you look out on all those pew backs, don't yo
get discouraged. I'll be looking at pew backs, too. And I'll be
remembering that when God called me to be a preacher, God didn't
mention any specific numbers.”
this blog is posted we're beginning another Holy Week. Well, most
folks call it Holy Week; but, truth is, there are some years when,
with all the extra worship services and demands, we pastor's secretly
have another term for it. Nevertheless, it's Holy Week.
when I was a handsome young lad, and believe it or not there was such
a time, Holy Week was the signal of the arrival of special things to
come. Holy Week announced the coming of spring. The days get longer;
the air gets warmer; and the time for planting has arrived. Mama
always said the time to plant was Good Friday. It was the time to put
the seed into the ground and await the coming of new life.
we waited, Holy Week had also announced the coming of the time to
spruce up, to scrub down the place, to paint the woodwork where
needed, and to sit down at the kitchen table to plan out the vacation
that would be ours in a few months.
Week was a time to go shopping. Back in those days, in the last
century, folks wore what was called their Sunday best to church. Way
back then church wasn't a causal thing. It was time to “put on the
clothes of righteousness” Mama said. One wore one's best to church
every Sunday of the year. And one wore one's brand new best on Easter
Sunday. We went shopping for new clothes and the ladies went shopping
for their Easter Bonnet. Remember that old song, “In your Easter
bonnet with all the frills upon it, you'll be the grandest lady in
the Easter parade”? Funny, I remember all the Easter bonnets
adorning my aunt's and cousins' heads; but I don't have a single
memory of an Easter parade.
Week was a time for all the children to gather in the kitchen. They
say a watched pot will never boil, but it does if it's filled with
Easter eggs. And then came the dying, the hand dying by everyone in
the family. Pardon my waxing nostalgic, but those hand dyed hard boiled eggs beat
today's plastic ones by a mile.
then, in that previous century, Holy Week brought the expectation in
children of dyed little chicks and bunny rabbits. Holy Week brought
the promise of my favorite Easter candy. It was a chocolate egg
stuffed with this white icing permeated with all kinds of chopped
fruit flavored flakes. It was only when I became an adult I
discovered the innards of my favorite Easter egg was nothing more
than the leftovers of the other candies. As such, I learned my
most favorite candy was chocolate covered garbage.
approach to the end of Holy Week sent us down to the church to pull
those folding chairs out of the basement to accommodate the saints
who sang their Halleujahs only on Easter and Christmas. Holy Week
meant one of those chairs pulled out of the basement would be warmed
by Uncle Ronald's posterior. It was the only Sunday of the year a
chair or pew was warmed by such.
here we are once again in slap dab in Holy Week. I'm
remembering all those Holy Weeks past. In remembering I've got some
idea of how this week may end. So, you'll have to excuse me now. I've
got a sermon sizzling, and I'm cooking for a crowd.
Sunday night the parson cacooned himself within the covers early. As was his custom on Sunday nights, no alarm was set to rouse him in the morning. On Monday mornings the parson crawled out of bed when the warmth of the covers no longer protected him from the day.
This night he fell asleep quickly. It had been a good day. The people had received his sermon gladly. A couple had talked to him of joining the church. And the Sunday evening Bible study had gone exceptionally well.
That Bible study the parson had resisted for years. Finally, he gave in on the condition that it be an actual Bible study. And so for the last two-and-a-half years almost every Sunday night had involved a study of the Bible. At first there had been some resistance to the parson's methodology. He had begun at Genesis 1: 1 and was proceeding through the books of the Bible, talking of the events that had shaped it, who wrote it, why they wrote it, pointing out the contradictions.
The “Bible-is-the-literal-word-of-God”-folks challenged him on the third week of the Bible. “But,” said their leader of that group, “the Book of Revelation says ….” The parson cut him off. “Look,” said the parson, “when it comes to Revelation, I will bow to your considerable knowledge. With regards to Revelation, you have read it much more than have I. In fact, I try not to read it. It involves some vision of terrible things that are going to happen in the future. I'm a follower of Christ. I concentrate on the wonderful things that are happening now. But, I don't want to ignore your point. As you're aware, we started with Genesis and we're going book by book through the Bible. We should get to Revelation in about, well, let's see, ah, about five years. So, please, hold that thought until then.”
They never came back. And so it was on Sunday night the parson and the Bible study participants looked critically at the differences in the stories told by the Deuteronomist storytellers and the Chronicler. The study had ended with the group focusing on the fact that the Chronicler left out anything that might reflect badly on David as an ideal king, especially leaving out the women. But the study ended with the observation that the Chronicler made a slip.
In 2 Chronicles 35: 25, he talks about “all the singing men and singing women” who mourn Josiah's death. So, concluded the parson and his group, the women did have a part to play after all. And supposing this was a Temple activity, the women had a more active part than the Chronicler's version led his hearers to believe.
Monday morning arrived. The parson rose. He switched his iPad on and began to surf the web for the news. After acquainting himself with what was happening, he looked for stories about March madness. There it was on almost every newspaper and magazine available on the device. There were the men's brackets, the rankings, the dark horses, all in the NCAA Men's tournament. The parson spent twenty minutes looking for the brackets, the rankings, the favorites, the dark horses of the NCAA Women's Tournament. He couldn't find any reference. It was as if Women's Collegiate Athletics did not exist.
Amazing, six hundred years before Jesus the storytellers left the women out, and still today few would admit they, also, occupied the court.
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