Saturday, April 19, 2003

HOLY SATURDAY, BATMAN

So how did I spend Holy Saturday, this day of intense reflection and spiritual preparation? Prayer? Bible study? Discussing my inmost feelings with my closest confidants?

Hardly. I spent it up to my elbows in a clogged toilet.

I now own not one, not two, but three drain snakes, none of which worked. I've dumped two whole cups of concentrated hydrochloric acid down the thing, and nothing happened. I've plunged, oh dear merciful me, I have plunged, I have stuck my hands down into places where, for a variety of reasons, hands shouldn't go, and still--still--nothing has happened. There's a thin film of toilet water on the bathroom floor, every towel we own is soaked, I've changed clothes twice, and still, nothing has happened.

We talked to a plumber who told us a bunch of stuff we didn't understand, and one phrase we heard perfectly well: "$250 an hour, since it's a holiday weekend."

Do not ask questions: we've decided it can wait until Monday when it's back to $75 an hour.
A SERMON FOR EASTER SUNDAY

Text: John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

When I took speech class in college, the professor told me there's a simple formula to make sure your audience remembers your point: Tell them what you're going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them. His point? Repetition builds emphasis. This is the basic principle behind public speech, advertising, and any other sort of persuasive communicating.

A good newspaper story will tell you everything you need to know in the first paragraph: who did what where, when, and how. The rest of the story is just an expansion of the facts. They're repeated throughout the story—why? Because repetition builds emphasis.

And when somebody tells you a story about something that happened long ago—you ever notice how they always tell the same story, the same exact way, every time they tell it? Why? Because repetition buids emphasis.

The more you tell somebody something, the more they tend to believe it. That's why it's important for married people to say to their spouses "I love you" every day—not that they've forgotten, but it helps to make the point clear, and it makes the other's love something you can carry with you all the time.

But sometimes, no matter how well repetition does build emphasis, an important and oft-repeated message will get lost, at the worst possible time. Some of this is just due to Murphy's Law—if you're carrying a bowl full of soup, and you keep telling yourself, "I'm not gonna spill the soup, I'm not gonna spill the soup," what's going to happen? You're going to be looking for a paper towel, that's what's going to happen! And some of it is just human nature—with notable exceptions, everybody forgets something from time to time.

Then again, sometimes it's a real head-scratcher as to why somebody would forget a very important message. Take Jesus' disciples. They walked with Jesus for years, most of them, leaving behind their families and their livelihoods and their comfortable places to sleep and everything. They saw his miracles and his healings, heard all his teachings, saw him in his weakest moments. Nobody knew Jesus better than they did.

Since this is true, and since so many of Jesus' conversations with his disciples are recorded in the Bible, we know what sort of things they would have known. And among those things they would have known was that Jesus told them he would die on the cross in Jerusalem, but after being dead three days, he would rise again. And he didn't just tell them once; he told them this multiple times. Why? Because repetition builds emphasis!

So you'd think they would have been expecting this whole resurrection thing. After all, they had plenty of warning. They knew Jesus was who he said he was. They'd seen him do some incredible things, things which we in our day still don't think are even possible. You might say that, if Jesus said he was going to pull off an unthinkable miracle, there would be every reason to believe he was actually going to do it. I'd like to think that, if I was one of the twelve disciples, I'd have been parked right outside the tomb at midnight on Sunday, waiting, desperately waiting, for Jesus to come out and prove himself right once again.

So where were they that first Easter morning?

I mean, none of them were there. The twelve disciples, who followed Jesus for years of their lives, who knew him better than anyone else did, who had heard him say over and over again that he would rise on the third day he was dead—exactly none of them showed up that morning outside his tomb to wait for him.

Mary Magdalene, one of Jesus' other followers, showed up early in the morning to tend to his body. She found that the stone which closed off his tomb was moved, and there was no body inside. Did she run off, shouting, "Jesus is alive!"? No! She ran to Peter and said, "Somebody stole Jesus' body!"

Then Peter went to the tomb and saw what Mary saw. What was his first reaction? Did he say, "Oh, no, Mary, he told us he would rise after three days"? Wrong again! He went in and looked, and John makes this very clear in the Gospel—he didn't understand what was going on! So he and the other disciples, what did they do? Did they hold an urgent meeting to try to piece together what had happened? Nope. They just went home. It wasn't until Jesus actually appeared to Mary that they started to figure out what was going on.

I mean, how stupid can you be? If they couldn't grasp that Jesus had once again been faithful to a promise, just like he had each and every single time he had opened his mouth over the previous few years, how did they even find their way home? I'm surprised they each remembered where they lived!

Tempting as it may be to come down hard on the disciples, though, we can understand what it must have been like for them at that time. All of them had paid a high price for following Jesus, leaving behind everything they had known to follow him. The last few days, they'd seen their beloved boss tried in a kangaroo court, sentenced to die by a cowardly governor and an unruly, blood-thirsty mob, and then been left utterly alone to ponder what had happened. So what was likely on their minds? Were they thinking, "Jesus said he'd rise after three days, so I know he will," or where they thinking, "I can't believe what a fool I've been for trusting that guy. I've been had"? I tend to think the latter is probably true.

The death of Jesus put all 12 disciples to the test. And all 12 of them failed, miserably.

It's not very surprising, really. If you look at the 12, they were all deeply flawed individuals. Peter, chief among them, was melodramatic. He didn't react to things, he overreacted to them. John, the author of our Gospel today, was arrogant. James, his brother, was quarrelsome—so much so that Jesus called these two brothers "the sons of thunder." I'll bet they had some interesting mealtime discussions. Thomas was deeply cynical and sarcastic, the last of the disciples to believe that Jesus was risen. Philip was stuck up. Matthew, the former tax collector, was guilt-ridden by his past. Nathanael was a big-city snob. Judas was pure, triple-distilled evil. And the rest of them were so insignificant, there are no stories to tell about them. They were flakes, weirdos, losers. It actually would have been surprising if they had believed that Jesus would rise again. But they didn't. Like I said, they were tested, and all 12 failed. Judas failed so bad he even killed himself.

But they weren't fired. None of them were hit with lightning bolts by an angry God. In fact, even after they'd let him down, Jesus still appeared to the 11 remaining disciples and treated them like the old friends they were. Eventually, they all got it. They all understood that Jesus really had risen, and they set out to spread the good news all over the land. Jesus took these 12 failures, these 12 nincompoops, these 12 who let him down, and built a church out of them. A church which covers the whole world, speaks every language known to humans, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, cares for the widow and the orphan. From 12 nuts like these, Jesus grew a forest.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, even though there are many in this world who will pretend that they always have faith, they never doubt Jesus for a moment, you know and I know that's a lie. If the disciples, who saw Jesus in the flesh, couldn't pass this test, what hope would we have? About as much chance as a bicyclist in the Indy 500, I'm afraid. But take heart: the disciples proved that they weren't perfect by failing to show up that first Easter Sunday, and then failing to believe that what they'd been told would happen, actually happened. But Jesus didn't send them to hell. He didn't even fire them and look for better disciples. Instead, he came to them, proved his point, and showed them that they had much work to be done. What can we learn from this?

God isn't look for a reason to count you out of heaven. He's looking for a reason to count you in.

Amen.
ONE MORE CAR POST

. . . for now, at least. I've often said that I'm the sort of person who would rather have 4 $2000 cars than one $16,000 car, so I've decided to put my virtual money where my virtual mouth is. Forthwith, if I had $8 grand to spend on four vehicles, here's how I'd do it:

--I'd drive to work every day in this 1991 Buick Skylark. I have an 8-mile, 11-minute commute, so all I need is 4 doors and a little room.
--I'd use this 1988 Ford Ranger as a crud-hauler/snowmobile.
--Strictly for profiling: an '83 Mercedes 240D.
--And to fix up and take to car shows? This '66 Ford Galaxie 500XL.
WHILE WE'RE ON THE TOPIC OF CHEAP, NASTY CARS . . .

Here's two sites worth checking out if, like me, you're a fan of thoroughly disreputable automobiles: Real-Cars.Net and Beaterz.com.
OPINIONS ANONYMOUS

Bryan over at Arguing with Signposts is talking about the effect anonymity has on public discourse. He links to this article by the sociologist Amitai Etzioni. Etzioni says anonymity prevents people from having to take responsibility for their actions.

Bryan is a journalist and notes that anonymous letters to the editor are verboten in his eyes. I can tell you that anonymous "nasty-grams" are a (fortunately infrequent) part of any pastor's life. I always shudder a little bit when I see a plain white envelope with no return address. But I open them, and the first thing I do is look to the end of the letter to see if it's been signed. If not, it goes straight to the garbage, unread. You want my ear, you've got it; I've never refused to talk to anyone, even my harshest critics. But you at least owe me the courtesy of letting me know who you are!

As far as anonymity on the Internet, I've been part of several Usenet communities where many people post under assumed names. So long as you don't change your name as often as you change your socks, it's no big deal to me. I can totally understand why some people prefer to fly under the radar. But I'm a semi-public figure by virtue of my job; I have more to lose from concealing my identity than from revealing it. Besides, I assume my readers (and my parishioners) are smart enough to know that my opinions are my own and not my church's.

Friday, April 18, 2003

THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA

12,708 male students and, apparently, not one of them can kick a football. But they're not about to let a woman try.
THIS YEAR'S TRIAL OF THE CENTURY

Well, apparently we're getting closer to a solution in the Laci Peterson case. The two bodies found this week have been positively ID'd as her and her (infant? unborn?) son, and her husband's been arrested. According to the Stanislaus County District Attorney, "He'll be charged with capital murder."

Innocent until proven guilty and all that, but they must be convinced that they've got their perpetrator. This is a crime almost on a par with the Susan Smith case of about a decade ago--equally as senseless, and possibly for much the same reason: to cover for an affair.

In the meantime, be on the lookout for a dreadful "Movie of the Week" about this case sometime after the trial ends. I'm saying fall 2005, though that may be a bit optimistic.
TODAY I AM HAPPY WITH MY CONGRESSMAN

Our local legislator (Sensenbrenner) has publicly stated that the Patriot Act's powers will be extended "over [his] dead body".

If you read the full story, he sounds unconvinced that the act has had any worthwhile effect.
MISSING INACTION

These are the things I think about when I'm lying in bed the night before one of the holiest days of the year and I can't sleep and I can't lay still and, seemingly, I can't even digest my dinner:

I used to see lots of the following vehicles on the road all the time, but now I hardly see a one. Have you spotted any of these on the road, moving under their own power, lately? (Links go to pictures, in case you've forgotten what they looked like; I am not responsible for any psychic trauma caused by clicking on these links.)

1. Dodge Daytona
2. Chevy Celebrity
3. Hyundai Excel
4. Mercury Lynx
5. Volkswagen Fox

Oh, I suppose you thought I'd lie awake thinking about global economics or something? Anyway, if you've seen any of these cars lately, speak up.
WHOA.

Go read James Lileks today. He's in a real bad mood. This is one of the best quotes I've read regarding the post-war scene:

" I’m no longer interested in reading the arguments of people who regard a war that empties the children’s jails as a greater evil than the jails themselves."

That's gonna leave a mark.

I tend to agree with him. Note to my elders (and youngers, and contemporaries): Not every war is Vietnam, not every president is LBJ, and it's tough to claim the moral high ground when the status quo you're defending includes putting children in prison for political reasons. Forget the nerve gas; that's reason enough to line up the tanks and bring the thunder.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

HUZZAH!

My beloved Ottawa Senators are through to the next round of the NHL playoffs.
ANOTHER LONG, SAD HISTORY

Read it and weep, all us Bengal fans do: the history of Cincinnati Bengals quarterbacks drafted in the first round. The Bengals, who have the #1 overall pick in next weekend's NFL draft, are widely expected to draft USC signal-caller and Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, which would only serve him right for winning the Heisman over the far more deserving Brad Banks. (Not that I'm biased or anything, but this sort of stuff happens to the Hawkeyes quite often.)

But the team doesn't really need a quarterback, at least not right away; there are far more pressing concerns. But there's only one #1 overall pick, and the jockocracy says it must be Carson Palmer--even though the Bengals aren't enthused, and nobody's trying to trade up to get him.

Ridiculous. Taking the best player available isn't a smart strategy if that player isn't useful to you. The Bengals will wind up paying ziggabucks to Palmer to hold a clipboard for a season or two, and only then will they find out if he's really worth it. Throw conventional wisdom to the wind, Mr. Brown! DON'T DRAFT CARSON PALMER!
TOM DASCHLE: OFFICIALLY NOT A CATHOLIC

From the Weekly Standard comes the news that the Diocese of Sioux Falls has told the South Dakota senator not to mention that he's a Catholic in his official biography and his campaign literature.

Of course, there's a very good reason why they're asking him to do this: Daschle has divorced and remarried without getting an annulment, thereby officially making him an un-Catholic. Or at least a Catholic in bad standing.

The article has a bunch of screed about Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and his recent edict about how Catholic politicians shouldn't go against church doctrine and all that. In typical Standard fashion, they then provide a hitlist of other Catholic politicians who are out-of-step on the abortion issue: "Just in the Senate, there's Biden, Collins, Daschle, Dodd, Harkin, Kennedy, Kerry, Landrieu, Leahy, Mikulski, Murray, Reed, and more." But their dioceses aren't sending them letters--I wonder why? Could it be that those other bishops are softer on political issues than the bishop of Sioux Falls?

Or could it be that this really isn't about politics at all?
IT WAS INEVITABLE, VOL. II

As the world mourns the disappearance of former Iraqi information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, an enterprising company has come up with a way to fill the vacuum: an al-Sahaf talking doll.

Naturally, I want one. It'll look great next to my Kenny Mayne bobblehead.
RHETORICAL DEVICE UPDATE

This story from the Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent isn't big news, but you've got to admit, the headline is a pretty spiffy use of alliteration.
ANOTHER CONCEPT SHATTERED

Today's conventional wisdom that bites the dust: Vegetarians are a force of tolerance.
DEPT. OF THE TOTALLY FLIPPIN' OBVIOUS

So you say you hadn't noticed that the Minnesota Vikings haven't drafted real well lately? Well, neither had the team, until just now. Turns out 23 of their 42 most recent draft choices aren't with the team anymore--long before they were eligible for free agency. And then there's the whole sad story of Dimitrius Underwood, which proved that at least there was one NFL team whose scouting wasn't quite as good as the Cincinnati Bengals'.

The team is promising to to a better job this year, especially in the later rounds of the draft, which is where they've had the most trouble. Personally, I've already apologized to my wife for next weekend, when I plan to watch the NFL draft the way I always do--beginning to end, for no apparent reason.
YES, I THINK I KNOW THIS FEELING

Over at Emphasis Added you can read this post about the parallels between buying a new car and . . . uhh . . . another well-known human activity. Like I told my wife, men in my family don't run around, but if we don't trade cars every 18 months or so, we get a little loopy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

A ROLLING TRAFFIC CONTROL AGENT GATHERS SOME MOSS

At the time Randy Moss ran down a Minneapolis traffic control agent last year, the jockocracy was openly speculating whether his career was over, because he was simply too much trouble, and you couldn't predict when he would next run afoul of the law. I don't know if the story actually made "Nightline" or not, but that's the gravity with which it was treated.

Moss wound up pleading guilty to two petty misdemeanors.

The traffic control agent is now suing Moss over the incident. The tone of the story almost makes it sound like the whole mess could have been avoided if Moss had simply apologized to her.

Almost.
HERE'S SOMETHING YOU DON'T HEAR EVERY DAY

Here in Wisconsin, a county sheriff is asking the Department of Transportation to raise the speed limit on a stretch of Interstate 94 near Milwaukee. Lowering the speed limit from 65 to 55, it turns out, actually increased the accident rate on the freeway by more than 50%.

The sheriff says he plans to ask for more speed-limit increases if he finds that the accident data warrants it.
EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN

From the Grand Forks Herald, a blatant piece of quiche advocacy.
ANOTHER INEVITABLE NEW SPORT

First it was mountain unicycling. What now? Would you believe Amish drag racing?
A SERMON FOR MAUNDY THURSDAY

Have you ever noticed how there are certain words that you only encounter in one context? Indeed, there are some words that you never encounter without one particular word following right behind it. You sports fans, I'm sure, know exactly what I'm talking about. If I say the word "ensuing," what comes next? "Kickoff." When was the last time you heard the word "ensuing" without hearing "kickoff" right after it? Same deal with "costly" and "penalty." Or "staunch" and "advocate." "Consummate" and "professional." The words just seem to go together, one following after another.

Of course, as with a lot of things, it ain't necessarily so. I could throw you a curveball by talking about an ensuing punt, a costly mistake, a staunch opponent, or a consummate amateur. Just because you hardly ever hear any other words following the words I mentioned doesn't mean you couldn't. And that gets me to wondering, is there any word in our language which can only be followed by one other word?

I've searched long and soft (it wouldn't be right to say I searched all that hard) and I think I've come up with a perfect example. There is at least one word in our language which is only used in one context, preceding one very specific word: Maundy. You will never, ever hear that word without "Thursday" following right behind it.

I mean, think about it: Have you ever heard anything else described as being "maundy?" "I woke up this morning, saw the clouds and the fog, and I thought to myself, what a maundy day." "Have you met the new guy yet?" "Yeah, nice guy, but don't you think he's a little bit . . . oh, I don't know . . . maundy?" "I really liked the book, but the movie was so maundy, I had to get up and leave." I'm really pretty sure you've never heard anything like that before.

But why not? "Maundy" sounds like a perfectly good adjective, after all. Surely it must have some sort of deeper meaning, one which might apply in other situations. After all, what is it about this Thursday which makes it so . . . maundy?

The truth is, "maundy" is a trick word. Because we're so used to all those adjectives which end in an "-y" sound, like lumpy, spicy, breezy, and grouchy, we're tempted to think that "maundy" must describe something like a lump, a spice, a breeze, or a grouch. But the truth is, it doesn't.

The word "maundy" derives from the Latin word mandamus, which means "commandment." And once you know that, you can easily see where Maundy Thursday gets its name. It comes from Jesus' impassioned words to his disciples: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have love you, you should love one another." Jesus gave this commandment the night before he was crucified—which we know to be a Thursday night. Hence, you're here tonight, missing "Survivor," to commemorate the last night Jesus spent with his disciples, the night on which he gave them this new commandment, to love one another.

Well, not a new commandment, exactly, as we shall see. This was hardly the first time Jesus had talked about the need for all to love one another and, in fact, this "new" commandment of Jesus' was actually a very old commandment. Way, way back in the book of Deuteronomy, which took place about a thousand years before Jesus was even born, Moses gave this commandment to people of Israel: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself." Surely this would have been known to Jesus' disciples; after all, they were, for the most part, good observant Jews who would have been brought up reading the Scriptures and going to the temple and synagogues. So why did Jesus feel it was necessary to re-introduce this very old commandment to people who had probably heard it already?

Well, why do we do this, once a year, on Maundy Thursday? Why do we hear about "our civic duty to vote" right before every election? Why is it that every time our military finds itself in harm's way, we hear about the freedoms they're fighting to protect? Why? Because we as humans have this dreadful tendency to forget things that are very important to us. And not only do we forget them, we keep on forgetting them. And sometimes we even forget that we've forgotten them! So it comes to pass that there are certain messages which are so important, we cannot possibly hear them too often. And the need for all of us to love one another is just such a message.

If you were here for any of the Wednesday night Lenten services, you heard me reading out of, and preaching on, the First Letter of John. It's one of my favorite books of the Bible, because it makes the reality of the Gospel seem so real to me.

Like all of the letters in the Bible, First John was written as a response to a problem the early church was facing. In this case, the problem was a cult. This cult was known as the Gnostics. The Gnostics were a branch of Christians who believed that the body was bad, but the soul was good, so they spent little time worrying about their bodies, but much time worrying about their souls. Eventually things got so bad among them that they stopped caring about this world and their role in it altogether. The fate of their neighbor was unimportant to them. In fact, the fate of their fellow Christians was equally unimportant. Every moment they spent worrying about worldly concerns was a moment taken away from prayer, study, and meditation. So they came to see the body as part of Satan's plan to lead them away from Jesus.

John grew deeply concerned as the Gnostics rose to prominence. They were living out their religion almost entirely in their heads, like it was some sort of intellectual exercise. But that wasn't the kind of faith John learned from Jesus. Jesus didn't call his disciples out of the world; he called them into it, meeting the very real and very physical needs of his people wherever he went. Likewise, the Gnostics were trying to subdue their bodies to prevent disasters. John, however, knew the truth about Jesus: he saves us in our disasters, not from them. "It is not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick," after all. The Gnostics and their anti-worldly beliefs were just too much for John to stomach, so he wrote to the early church and told them that the greatest sign that Jesus lives in us is that we love one another. He wrote in chapter 3, verse 14, "We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another. Whoever does not love remains in death."

What powerful words! John doesn't say that deeper spiritual knowledge is what makes us fully alive in Christ; instead, he tells us that Christ lives on through the love we show for one another. Love that may have become just a bit more real for John on that first Maundy Thursday, the night when three terribly important things happened. First, Jesus stooped to wash his disciples' feet. In a culture where many people didn't have shoes, most only had sandals, and every walked almost everywhere they needed to go, you can about imagine what people's feet were like. At the end of the day, you wouldn't even want to touch your own feet, let alone someone else's. The task of foot-washing fell to the lowliest slave of all. Yet here was Jesus, the very Son of God, washing his disciples' feet. It was a symbol that God had lowered himself to our level, to meet us exactly where we needed him most.

The second important thing which happened that night was that Jesus shared the bread and the wine with his disciples, showing that, as far as he had already gone to show his love for them, he was willing to go even further. "This is my body," he said. "This is my blood. I am all you need to sustain yourselves spiritually. I will be inside of you, and remain inside of you, wherever you go, from now until forever. Take and eat; take and drink, and always remember me when you do, because I am there."

And once all this had been done, he gave the disciples this new/old commandment, "Love one another, just as I have loved you." But now, the commandment was different. Now, they knew just exactly what God meant by those words. This was the night love showed itself, as John put it, "not in word and speech, but in truth and action." So even though this was a very old commandment that Jesus gave, in that moment and on that night, it became dazzlingly new and brilliant. John and the rest of the disciples were forever changed by it, and they spent the rest of their lives proclaiming what Jesus had told them on that night. God is love, and we know God lives in us because we love one another.

So I guess that's what it means to be "maundy," after all.
40 DEGREES OF SEPARATION

Yesterday at 5 PM: 84 degrees Fahrenheit.

Today at 5 AM: 44 degrees Fahrenheit.

Why do I live here again?
THE ALL-IMPORTANT PLACEKICKER UPDATE

The Dallas Cowboys, whose kicking woes were legendary last season, signed free agent Ola Kimrin yesterday. If the name is vaguely familiar, it should be: Kimrin kicked a 65-yard field goal in a preseason game last year as a member of the Denver Broncos. Kimrin probably would have made any other team, but Jason Elam has job security like you wouldn't believe.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

I'M NOT SURE IF THERE'S ANYTHING IN THIS STORY TO BE SURPRISED ABOUT

The flap du jour at the Pentagon: Muslim staff members are upset at this Friday's guest leader in the Pentagon chapel: Rev. Franklin Graham, son of beloved evangelist Billy Graham.

In the wake of September 11, Graham referred to Islam as a "very evil and wicked religion," which understandably is the cause for much consternation among Muslim Pentagon staff members. There is considerable concern about as well regarding Samaritan's Purse, the humanitarian-aid branch of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, going into Iraq to provide relief. The suspicion is that their mission is first to proselytize, then to provide aid. Graham vehemently denies this.

Like I said in the headline, I'm not sure there's anything to be surprised about in this story. I thought Graham's comments on Islam were a bit intemperate, but not out of line with what the average American was thinking in those painful days. And I'm pretty sure the threat of proselytizing is low. The BGEA has spent over 50 years developing a good name for itself; they're not going to throw it away in a misguided attempt at evangelization.

Still, I understand where the Pentagon Muslims are coming from. I don't like it when people who I know are biased against Christians are given "bully pulpits" to spread their message, either. It's good that the Pentagon hasn't rescinded Graham's invitation, but here's hoping that next time around they screen a little more carefully.
BUT MY CAR'S NOT COVERED WITH IT . . .

Real Live Preacher has some interesting thoughts on the realities of life for many of us clergy types. Worth a read, definitely.

Monday, April 14, 2003

THAT'S WITH A 'B'

The Catholic diocese of Rockville Centre, NY (that's Lawn Guy Land, from what I understand) has been hit with a $1.5 billion lawsuit over alleged sexual abuse by diocesan priests.

What you ask for and what you get are two different things, but what makes this case interesting is that, according to the article,

"In February, a Suffolk County grand jury issued a report alleging that the diocese repeatedly protected priests accused of sexual abuse by transferring them to other parishes. The report found that altar boys and cheerleaders were sexually abused, and that some youths were given alcohol and shown sexual videotapes."

So that's two things--one, a grand jury has already found wrongdoing on the diocese's part, and two, apparently some of the victims in this case were female. Up to now, the overwhelming majority of cases have involved males who were abused.

The diocese asserts that they plan to "defend this case vigorously, as any other institution in our society has a right and obligation to do." This is true, of course, and at this point it's impossible to know what really happened on Long Island. But sooner or later, there's going to be a day of reckoning for all of Christianity regarding the whole child-abuse issue.
LIFE ON THE SHOULDER OF THE FAST LANE

Now here's something I haven't seen before: the Oshkosh Northwestern actually bothered to track down the 41 fastest speeders on US 41 in the past year. The grand champion? A woman clocked at 101 mph . . . in a Dodge Grand Caravan. I didn't even know those things could go that fast. Her comments on the matter? “Really, the expressway was clear,” Granberry said last week. “It was just the traveling speed. You get on the highway and start traveling and. … It was open; it was clear.”

Yeah, it does move right along on 41 through Oshkosh, but 101 mph? That's faster than the NASCAR race at Martinsville. Nice try, good luck, next!
IN THE GRAND SCHEME OF THINGS, IT WAS INEVITABLE

From the Grand Forks Herald come this story of a University of North Dakota student who's out to create a new sport: mountain unicycling. As a former resident of Grand Forks, I can only wonder where he even got the idea.
THE HOME STRETCH

Well, this is it, Holy Week, the end of the pastoral marathon known as Lent. I have great festering heaps of sermons and bulletins to contend with this week, and the demands on my time are through the roof.

Still, I love it. Any Christian who thinks about it hard enough will come to realize that Easter is really a much bigger and more important holiday than Christmas, even though Christmas gets all the publicity. Sure, it's great that Jesus was born and all that, but if he wasn't resurrected, what's so great about our faith? Doesn't everything strongly depend on that basic fact? So how could Easter not be more important than Christmas?

Oh, right. Because retailers don't make as much money off of it.
ANOTHER HAWKEYE ABOUT TO MAKE GOOD

Over at ESPN.com, John Clayton is throwing a great big Valentine to Hawkeye tight end Dallas Clark, noting that many NFL scouts are predicting "a long career as an NFL tight end."

The article is replete with Clark Kent references. Clark was a high-school quarterback who walked on the Iowa program at the height of its disarray. He quickly made the team as a linebacker but got moved to tight end. Clark has been putting up scary numbers in pre-draft workouts and may wind up as a first-round selection.

One quibble. Clayton makes a huge deal about Clark's small-town roots, but fails to identify which "Smallville" the soon-to-be millionaire is from. For the record, it's Livermore, IA, not far from where I grew up.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

SHORTS

I wore 'em for the first time this spring today. Great weather. Paula and I went to Madison after church. She had a Steak 'N Shake craving and I wanted to go to Half Price Books. Total synergy.

We bought a for-real charcoal grill and I grilled chicken breast tonight. However, I fear it may have been just a touch underdone. Oh well, it's Holy Week starting tomorrow--what's a little touch of food poisoning going to hurt? It's not like I'll have any time to eat, anyway . . .

The Weather Dudes claim mostly sunny and 80 for tomorrow. I'll believe it when I see it.