the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Monday, November 27, 2006


by Don McLean

Starry, starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer's day
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul
Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills
In colors on the snowy linen land

Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free
They would not listen they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now

Starry, starry night
Flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds in violet haze
Reflecting Vincent's eyes of China blue
Colors changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hands

Now I understand
What you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free
They would not listen they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now

For they could not love you
But still your love was true
And when no hope was left inside
On that starry, starry night
You took your life as lovers often do
But I could have told you Vincent
This world was never meant for one as
beautiful as you

Starry, starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls
Frameless heads on nameless walls
With eyes that watch the world and can't forget
Like the strangers that you've met
The ragged men in ragged clothes
A silver thorn on a bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow

Now I think I know
What you tried to say to me
How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free
They would not listen they're not listening still
Perhaps they never will

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Year B - Christ the King

Liturgy of the Word:

Daniel 7:9-14
Psalm 93
Revelation 1:1-8
John 18:33-37

Collect (BCP):

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God,
The everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.
And I saw heaven opened,
and behold a white horse;
and he that sat upon him was called
Faithful and True,
and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
and his name is called The Word of God.
On his robe and on his thigh he has a name inscribed,
"King of kings and Lord of lords."
(Isaiah 9:6, Revelation 19:11, Revelation 19:13, Revelation 19:16.)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Insanity Update

It's true, when you are in the throws of depression and the medication is not working, it is hard to see what got you into trouble and what will get you out.

A former therapist once told me "Successful people know what they need, and they get it." In my case, I knew that the medication was not working. I also knew I needed help with that. So I found a psychiatrist and he has rediagnosed me and put me on an additional medication.

I have been on the new medication for exactly two weeks today. I'm happy to say that it seems to be working. And the dreaded side effects that come with an adverse reaction to this particular drug have not manifested themselves.

Now that the medication seems to have leveled out my moods, I can see more clearly what got me into trouble. You see, for me, medication is only part of the solution. There are also some behavioral exercises that I have learned over the years of dealing with my depression that I quit doing. I quit leaving my work at the office. And I quit a regular regimen of meditation. I use centering prayer, the daily offices, and the rosary (yes a Baptist pastor uses the rosary) in my meditation.

I will begin a period of therapy with a new therapist on Monday, next. Then I return to the paying job on Tuesday. The first two days will be all-day strategic planning sessions so I won't be confronted with all of the project related issues immediately upon returning. Those will come on Thursday. The way I'm feeling now, I believe that I will be able to return to work with a minimum of difficulty, not that there will be none. I expect to be seen as somewhat untouchable at first. Soon, however, my co-workers will realize that I am not an alien with six eyes and four feet.

Every time a crisis hits, I think "I will not be able to survive this." But, with God's help and the help from my friends and loved ones, I have always survived. What comes with age is that after you get a number of these crises under your belt, as it were, you begin to realize that no matter how bad the crisis is, you will get through it. I think that's what age has over youth.

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and strengthens the powerless.
Even youths will faint and be weary,
and the young will fall exhausted;
but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
they shall walk and not faint.
Thank you all for caring. Thank you for your words of support and your prayers.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sunday 11/19/06 - Year B - Ordinary 33

Liturgy of the Word:

1 Samuel 2:1-10
Psalm 16
Hebrews 10:11-25
Mark 12:38-13:8

Collect (BCP):

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Symbols of God's Glory

Our Bibles are printed either in verse format or paragraph format.
If you have the King James verson, the text is grouped in chapters and verses, each one numbered and set apart from each other one as though each was a complete thought, separate from the verses around it.

If you have a more modern translation, the translators have tried to gather the text into paragraphs that better reflect the organization of the ideas being presented. But the paragraph organization is placed upon the text by men other than the writer, who have interpreted the text to determine where they ought to go.

But even these are still divided at the chapter numbers as though what is written in one chapter abruptly stops and a new thought takes up in the next chapter.

This is certainly how the crafters of the Revised Common Lectionary selected their scripture passages for a given Sunday.

But this is not how the Old Testament and the New Testament writers wrote their text. In fact, the early texts were written in all caps with no punctuation and no breaks or spaces between words. A reader who was familiar with the language could mentally separate the words by the word endings and the sentences were separated by understanding the context of what was being said.

Stephen Langton is reputed to have been the first to put the chapter divisions into a Vulgate edition of the Bible, in 1205. They were then inserted into Greek manuscripts of the New Testament in the 1400s. Robert Estienne (Robert Stephanus) was the first to number the verses within each chapter, his verse numbers entering printed editions of the New Testament in 1565 and in the Old Testament in 1571.

When these conventions were introduced in to the Bible, they were done so – not to divide the thoughts into paragraphs and sentences – but to provide refrence points for locating particular passages of scripture, like coordinates on a map helps to locate specific places on the map.

Last Sunday's Gospel stopped at Mark Chapter 12, verse 44 and the Gospel prescribed for today begins at Mark Chapter 13, verse 1. But the two passages are artifically separated into chapter and verse. The conversation Jesus had with his disciples in the Temple that day, that Mark is writing about, began in Chapter 12, verse 38, but does not conclude until Chapter 13, verse 2, and the passage from verse 3 to verse 8, while being a later conversation, picks up on the previous conversation.

So, let us read again the passage and try to understand what truth Jesus is teaching his disciples.

Jesus begins by giving a warning about certain men, the scribes. Who were these men? Do they have their counterparts in our society today? And if they do, should we take heed of the lesson Jesus is teaching?

The scribes were men of importance. They were men of high rank in the Temple structure. They wore fine clothes designed in the way of religious and clerical garments of the day. They were officiants, officers, of the Temple who taught the lessons, preached the sermons, and ran the business of the Temple, collecting the Temple Tax and selling the trinkets and animals for sacrifice.

But it is not their position or their duties that Jesus objects to. It is their attitude, the way they conducted themselves, their air of superiority, and their lack of compassion that Jesus objected to.

Mark 12:38-40
Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.

This last sentence tells us two things about the scribes: in the background, when they cannot be seen, "they devour widows houses," and in public view, "they say long prayers."

Then Jesus gives the disciples an example. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words and Jesus was giving his pupils an object lesson.

Mark 12:41-44
He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."
Notice that he does not say, "she out of her devotion to God has put in everything she had, therefore go and do likewise." This is not a lesson about stewardship or tithing or giving to the church. It's about mean, unscrupulous men conscripting the Temple tax from everyone, even from those who could not pay.

And for what?

The Temple tax was levied on the Jews to provide income for the priests and to maintain the various religious buildings and furnishings in and around the temple.

Buildings need maintenance or they will fall down. Men and women who work for the church must be paid.

Then the disciples call his attention to the greatness of the building. Here, I am afraid that I, too, fall into this trap of seeing the grandeur of a building as an expression of the love of God in the architect and the builder.

Mark 13:1
One of his disciples said to h im, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!”
In Chartres, France, there stands the finest example of Gothic architecture in the world, the cathedral of Notre Dame de chartres. It's patron was the bishop of Chartres, St. Bernard of Clairvaux. St. Bernard was best remembered for his many great sermons, the building of this great cathedral under his leadership and the founding of one of the bloodiest of all the crusades. And it was the booty brought back by the Knights Templar that funded the construction of this great cathedral.

Mark 13:2
Then Jesus asked him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down."
Was Jesus predicting the destruction of the Temple that occurred 40 years later? Perhaps. But I think, more than that, Jesus was saying to the disciples that stone buildings do not make a monument to God, only good lives. Only lives devoted to loving God and loving one's neighbor are the true monuments to God.

Buildings throughout history have been built and destroyed. Even the great pyramids of Egypt have been stripped of their outer skins which were used in the building of later structures that have also fallen down. The muslim mosque that sits on Mout Zion today is built on the foundation of this great Temple that the disciples were admiring.

Jesus' point here is not to suggest that God's people must never have buildings in which to meet.

The earliest Christian communities in Jerusalem met in the Temple courts, after all, and the first-century, Christians' houses around the Mediterranean provided not only places to meet, but places to house those whose choice to follow Jesus meant that their families tossed them out on the street.

That sharing of resources in which none have too much and all have enough is what makes a place holy to the Lord. For the Lord cares for the stranger and sustains the orphan and the widow, not any number of impressive vestments, eloquent prayers, or gorgeous examples of architecture.

When the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of "a sanctuary made by human hands," in contrast to the true one, it does so as a critique of religious and political establishments, that assume a belief that the defense of any piece of ground, the maintenance of any building or institution, or the observance of any ceremony could ever justify making more widows and orphans or failing to care for those already among us.

I believe the message that God is calling us to proclaim, about stewardship, is that every day is stewardship day, a day to remember "who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them," and to whom all those things and all they produce belong. They belong to God, their creator.

Every day is a day to remember that freely offering back to God all His gifts to give justice to those who are oppressed and food to those who hunger, freedom to the prisoners and sight to the blind.

Every day is a day to remember, and to act in remembrance of God's grace to us, most especially in sending us Jesus, that those bent down by the world's troubles may be empowered to walk tall.

It is our love of God and our love for our fellows and the compassion we have for them, more than any building or any ceremony, that glorifies God. And when we participate in that process, that mission of God in the world, we come closest to seeing God's glory on earth.

Psalm 51:15
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt-offering,
you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

Thanks be to God!

Let us pray,
Deliver us, Lord, from every evil
and grant us full trust in your future.
Do not allow us to delay your plans.
Do not let us grow bitter or skeptical
when your promise of harmony and justice
take time to become a reality,
but keep alive in us the dream
that weak people can carry out your plans,
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming in glory
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
For the Kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
both now and forevermore.

Closing Prayer & Blessing

Numbers 6:22-26
And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying,
In this manner you shall bless the children of Israel,
saying unto them...

The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee,
and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee,
and give thee peace.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sunday 11/12/06 - Year B - Ordinary 32

Liturgy of the Word:

1 Kings 17:8-16
Psalm 146
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44
Collect (BCP):

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Update - Day three of the new meds.

Doctor Crazy Horse has put me on a 28 day leave from the work downtown. I'm still actively pursuing my pastoral duties, though. My new meds have not taken full effect yet, and probably won't for a few more weeks. They are so powerful that I have to start on 1/8 the maintenance dose and gradually work up to the full dose over a six week period.

My depression, while still there, is not as overwhelming as it was when I penned the "Dark Night..."

It all started about a month ago as the stress level at work downtown took a significant rise in intensity. I began to have periods of inexplicable agitation exhibited by impatience, snappy, short answers and anger. Years ago when I first got treatment for my depression, I also exhibited periods of uncontrolled rage. With the old meds, the rage episodes went away. Well now the rage thing happened one night while sitting at the computer. I felt agitated and every little thing increased the agitation. Suddenly, I went into an uncontrolled rage, slamming the telephone to the floor and picking up an empty perscription bottle and hurling it across the rooom at my wife, who ducked and was not hit.

That episode brought on intense guilt and eventually intense depression. I tried to work a couple of weeks but then two weeks ago I began to cry for no apparent reason. I cried for three days. Well, I couldn't supervise a bunch of architects and contractors with tears running down my face and every word comming out of my mouth an incomprehensible blubber. So I made the trek to HR. They were understanding and suggested a period of Family Leave.

I'm on Family leave and some poor sod is trying to figure out all my projects while I sit here banging away on the keyboard. Again, reason to feel guilty.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Dark Night of the Soul

Like orphaned stars and spent galaxies
swirling around the vortex
being drawn ever down,
ever deeper into the abyss
that is the black hole,
so is the dark night of my soul.
—the tentmaker

For ten years now I have successfully warded off the dread depression. But now, in the last several weeks, it has returned. And it has returned with a vengance known only by God, himself. Nothing, not prayer, not the rosary, not the scriptures, nothing, can bring me out into the light.

My medication is not helping anymore. I found a new doctor who says that my depression is only one pole of a bi-polar personality and that I need new meds.

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.
2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
8 It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.
Psalm 130

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Sunday 11/5/06 - Year B - Ordinary 31

Liturgy of the Word:

Deuteronomy 6:1-9
Psalm 119:1-8
Hebrews 9:11-14
Mark 12:28-34
Collect (BCP):

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

How Far Are You
from the Kingdom of God?


Our last scripture was the end of Chapter ten and now we are cotinuing with the latter part of Chapter twelve. We have skipped all of Chapter eleven and most of Chapter twelve.

At the beginning of Chapter eleven Jesus and his disciples finally arrive at Jerusalem on the Sunday before his resurection. He rode into Jerusalem, like a Judean King, on the back of a donkey with the crowd hailing him

King of the Jews.

He arrived at the temple and entered, driving out the money changers and overturning the tables where sacrificial animals were being sold. He virtually halted the operation of the temple by his actions, which angered the Jerusalem Religious Establishment.

The next day, he began his ministry in Jerusalem, teaching in the Temple itself. There he was challenged by the Chief Priests, the Pharasees, the Herodians and the Sadducees. They sought to entrap him so he would lose the support of the common people.

Then, in today’s scripture, a scribe, a student, perhaps even a teacher of the Jewish Law, overheard all of the challenges and the way in which Jesus responded to the tests of entrapment, out witting them all.

Here, in the scripture we read a few moments ago, we have one of the most famous dialogues in the whole New Testament, perhaps even in the entire Bible.

Possible Themes

1. The Great Commandments - Loving God and Loving Neighbor.
2. The Vertical and Horizontal ways of serving, loving and obeying God.
3. What this passage tell us about being near the Kingdom of God.
4. Questioning Jesus, putting him to the test, Jesus silencing his critics.
5. What is more important than organized worship.

Some Questions
(from Dylan)
Here are some questions that may help us in our study and application of this passage, or any passage.
1. What is difficult, puzzling, and/or shocking in the passage?
2. What would be challenging about trying to live out the message of the passage?
3. What comes across as Good News in the passage?
4. Why would someone want to take on the challenges of living this way?
5. What invitations are in the passage to experience more fully the life God offers?

What is difficult, puzzling, and/or shocking in the passage?
To love God with all one's heart, soul and strength is hard. We worship and serve that which serves us best. Usually that is whatever provides us with the things we want. If we loved God in this way, we would only want those things He wants for us, the things that are consistent with his nature. But we don't love God as much as we love ourselves and we want things that gratify our pleasures.

To love our neighbor as ourselves is hard for two reasons:
1. We have a difficult time deciding who our neighbors are.
2. And, we can't love anything or anyone more than we love ourselves.

What would be challenging about trying to live out the message of the passage?
1. we would have to give up wanting to be wealthy.
2. we would have to give up being respected by those who are wealthy.
3. we would have to be satisfied with the presence of God and the ilimunation of the Holy Spirit.

What comes across as Good News in the passage?
The good news here has to do with the concept we call "The Kingdom of God." The Kingdom of God is not so much a place as it is a state of being. It is being willing to be the servant of God and letting His rule govern our thoughts and actions. What's good about that is that we don't have to wrestle with keeping a long list of commandments to be governed by God. In fact, being governed by God means letting Him have his way with us. It means letting go of the things that we worry about and trusting in Him, completely and uquestionably, to take care of all of our own needs and the needs of our loved ones.

Why would someone want to take on the challenges of living this way?
Well there is always the "Pie-in-the-sky-bye-and-bye" reason. I mean, loving God and loving our neighbor has it's rewards in eternity. But most of us aren't usually motivated by things that reward us in the afterlife. If we were, we'd all live our lives more in tune with God's will and Jesus' teachings. It wouldn't be a struggle to follow Jesus if we were truly motivated by the promise of life after death.

What motivates most of us are consequences, both punishments and rewards, that affect our life in the only world we know: this one. So, why would someone want to seek answers to happiness and pleasure by focusing on the happiness and pleasure of others? Isn't it a bit foolish to trust in a concept such as God which can't be proven to exist? And isn't it more than a bit foolish to spend all of the energy we have and the money we make looking out for other people? Why can't they look out for themselves? And if I do spend all of my energy and earnings looking out for them, who is going to look out for me?

So the question we have before us is Why someone would want to take on the challenges that this life in Christ presents? I can think of a few:

1. Jesus tells us that he came that we might have life, and life more abundantly. What do you value? Possessions? Financial freedom? Or is it peace of mind, a clear conscience, a sense of goodness and fairness in your dealings with others? If it is the former, you are on your own, but if it is the latter, living our lives loving God and our neighbors as ourselves brings rewards in this life. Rewards in the form of peace of mind, a clear conscience and a clear sense of goodness.

2. Scientists tell us that one of the causes of depression is continual and obsessive introspection. It is not healthy to always think of ourselves. They also tell us that part of the treatment for depression it to look ouside ourselves at the condition of the world and those around us. Look at how they live, what their issues are, what their problems are. Looking at and thinking about others gets our minds off our own problems and issues and helps us to see that, compared to others, our lot is not so bad.

3. Jesus tells us not to worry about the things that could make us happy. He bids us to look at the lilies of the field and the birds of the air and consider who takes care of them. He says to us:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

What invitations are in the passage to experience more fully the life God offers?

1. There is the invitation to stop trying to follow a list of rules and encoprorate the spirit of all the rules contained in the two Great Commandments.

2. There is the invitation to come near to the Kingdom of God in your life. Let God have his way with you. Stop trying to do it all yourself and start laying your burdens at the feet of the Master.

3. The most important invitation of all is the one given by Jesus to Come unto me...
a) All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
b) The wages of sin is death
c) But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
d) All we, like sheep, have gone astray, and God hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
e) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

The invitation is for you, won’t you come to him and let go and let God...

Thanks be to God!
Let us pray,

Deliver Us
Deliver us, Lord, from every evil
of selfishness and calculation
and open us to your love.
Keep us free from the fear
of committing ourselves in love
to anyone who needs us,
and let our love for those around us
be the test of the quality
of our love for you.
Help us to be one in heart and soul
and to be a community of service,
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.
For the Kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours,
both now and forevermore.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Reflecting on "The Year of the Lord's Favor"

Isaiah 25: 1-9
Psalm 98
Ephesians 4:1-16
Luke 4:14-2

Prayer and celebration will mark two services in Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. During a festal Holy Eucharist on November 4, Bishop Jefferts Schori will be “invested” as Presiding Bishop for a nine-year term. This liturgy will be webcast. An All Saints Sunday service on November 5 will include her official seating in the cathedral. She will preach at both liturgies.

In these sermons, Bishop Jefferts Schori will call on Christians to live the gospel especially in terms of eradicating poverty, hunger and disease, both locally and globally, as advocated in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. These goals “help us live our faith in practical ways by relieving suffering, caring for creation, and educating all children — girls as well as boys,” she has said.

Bishop Jefferts Schori’s Saturday homily will be based on Isaiah 25: 1-9, Psalm 98, Ephesians 4:1-8; 11-16, and Luke 4:14-21. Please consider joining her in prayer and contemplation of these texts during the coming week. In the gospel lesson, Jesus reads from Isaiah 61, one of the bishop’s favorite passages, which Jesus takes as his own mission “to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted; to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor ...”