Of Promises, Foolish and Otherwise.

Apparently, Jephthah was something of a badass.

He had a rough start in life, what with his mom being a whore and all. That kind of thing often comes up in the village. Cruel stuff, the kind of stuff that can harden a person through shame. Even worse is when your dad’s other kids kick you out of the family. It’s not that surprising that this kind of start can lead to a life of crime.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, the Israelites are being invaded by some Ammonites. The Israelites and the Ammonites were long time enemies, the Israelites calling particular attention to them as someone that they shouldn’t be coupling with. The Mishnah (oral Torah) even talks about excluding the Ammonite men entirely.

The Israelite s had plenty of their own problems though. That old problem that seemed to keep cropping up; some of their people were worshiping false gods. That was why, they reasoned, they were getting beat up by the Ammonites. This was particularly in the region of Gilead, which included two of the Israelite tribes.

They needed a warrior to lead them, and the person willing to do so could become their leader. So, Jephthah, the baddest dude around, was a candidate. It doesn’t sound like he was all bad, because he recognized that he would need God on his side. This is from Judges, chapter 11:

And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD, and said, “If thou wilt give the Ammonites into my hand, then whoever comes forth from the doors of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from the Ammonites, shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer him up for a burnt offering.”

I have made these kind of foolish promises myself…If you will do this for me Lord, then I will do that. I have also failed to hold up my end.

I am not significant enough to ask God to help me in battle; I have also not gone so far as to offer a human sacrifice.

The contemporaries of Jephthah knew that this was a no-no. The story of Isaac seemed to settle it. Why would Jephthah offer it? I can only guess that it was a big offer to match his big request.

How wrong was Jephthah? At this point in the story…I’m not sure. Others have made promises like this. Danny Thomas has done wonders for thousands of sick kids, making good on his promise to God to do so, if God would help him out.

Back to Jephthah and the boys…off to battle they go, and the Israelites, led by Jephthah, are victors.

What happens next makes me believe that this son of a harlot, family outcast and former head of a group of bandits had a true sense of duty to his Lord, and to his word. Maybe misguided, but true.

Here is the next part of the story:

 [34] Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah; and behold his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances; she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.[35] And when he saw her, he rent his clothes, and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you have become the cause of great trouble to me; for I have opened my mouth to the LORD, and I cannot take back my vow.”

His daughter, apparently in celebration of the victory and homecoming, comes out the door to greet her dad. For this, she has to die, although she doesn’t know it just yet. Her father had said that he cannot take back his vow, even if she is his only child, and the end of his bloodline.

I will freely admit that my next move would have been to take back the vow and take my chances. I am certain that much whining and pleading would have been involved.

Some scholarship argues that he didn’t really kill her, but the text seems pretty clear to me. Also, I am guessing that Jephthah was familiar with the words in Deuteronomy that forbid child sacrifice.

The sweet daughter also accepts the vow, and rather than asking for mercy, she just asks for a little time.I think that this may well be the supreme “Between a rock and a hard place” story.

The author of Judges seems to want me to see the foolishness of making a rash vow, and I do. But Jephthah and me are not the only two people to make rash vows.

Jephthah gave his word to God and kept it and I am guessing that he was wrong to do so. Can breaking your word to God ever be the right thing? Does that mean that I was correct when I didn’t keep my vow? I am certain that I was wrong. I can feel it, regardless of the juicy rationalizations that I suggest.

If both things are wrong, then I come to this conclusion. Don’t barter with God. He is not a game show host. We shame ourselves by thinking that we can offer a sweet enough deal to get what we want. We belittle His magnificence.

The purity of the asking makes the difference between Thee and He apparent. By taking our requests to God, we are saying that we need something that we cannot provide for ourselves, and we know that He can, if He will. We are recognizing that the Creator of the Universe certainly has the ability to do anything that I would want him to do. No job is too large. And even though it’s OK for me to make any request, I also have to be willing to settle for the answers “No” or “Not Now”. When the answer is Yes, I am called to further gratitude and obedience.

There is no other payment due. It was always so; from the beginning, and to the time of Jephthah. And just to make it absolutely clear, for ever ever and ever, that no payment is due for God’s grace; just consider Calvary.

The Illusion of Contemplation

 

I wish that I could forever remember all that I have ever learned. If so, it would bring me a sweet economy of time whereby I wouldn’t have to constantly re-learn or re-discover things. I’m not talking about small things, memory items, like phone numbers or quotations. I mean big things.
I need to remember that the time I spend being contemplative is useful to me, and to me alone. And of what importance am I? I mean really now, what good is discovering something if you don’t do anything with it except to contemplate it even further.

I am in no way minimizing the importance of tending to my own salvation, and to be constantly connected with the author of it.

In my contemplative times, regardless of the amount of distraction I need to fight off; and regardless of the depth of it, a singular message is always present. Sometimes it screams, sometimes it whispers, sometimes it haunts; but it is always there. I am called to serve.
What varies is whom, or how, and by what means, I serve. To serve is the core.

I am no leader of men, I am not called to be the top man, the person in charge. I have always known that I am to serve a master. Perhaps that is why the difference between me and God is so easy for me to accept. I know what I am not. In spades.

Why can’t I be the top man? Simply because I get no joy from it. My happiness, and fulfillment come from understanding the message and direction from Number One, and helping to fulfill that vision. Along with that, I know that my support will not come from praise, but by serving. Obedience, if you will.

This does not make me weak; whom I serve is incredibly important. It has to be someone with whom I can jump in totally, even if the “jumping in” contains the hard work of questioning, arguing and understanding until I know what to believe.

Through contemplation, I can discern. I wrestle with myself and God. I figure out, I understand; better yet, I comprehend. All this, until there is clarity of purpose. I can always sense the clarity because with it comes energy to move forward.

Today I am remembering, and re-discovering that through contemplation, I can get to work, full with the knowledge that there is a path and purpose. I will lead a little, and be lead even more.

I pray to know what I am called to do. That is divine.

Then I’ve got to get up off my butt and get to work doing it. That is human.

In A Tongue Not Understanded By The People

John Wycliffe, William Tyndale and Thomas Cranmer shared a common viewpoint.

There were others as well, Erasmus and Martin Luther come to mind. As I consider the viewpoint, with gratitude, of Wycliffe, Tyndale, and Cranmer, I have a hunch that they all shared the same question.
“Why won’t they let us read the Bible?”
“They” is the Roman Church. Or the primitive Church if you prefer. “Us” is…anyone that cannot read Latin. Interesting…
First off, we have to recognize that this was not a problem for The Three. They were all scholars, and so certainly they could read the Bible in Latin. It is said that Tyndale could speak in virtually every language. Most likely the problem for them personally was that the Bible had been rewritten in parts, for the benefit of the Church. The benefit was to gain power over the people, and it was power that was used in the everyday life of the Christians in Europe. Keep in mind that church attendance was mandatory in those dark ages.
That was what was at the heart of it all. The Bible was “wrong” and so the work was to correct it, and  to correct it by going back to previous versions.

The Bible has always, and please forgive this word for the lack of a better one, “suffered” from the personal mixed in with the divine. When we read “And God spoke to me these words,” we believe that this is the way that the profits understood it. We also accept that some parts of the Bible are inspirational stories that are borne from a tradition of trying to explain how we got here. Others, like Job, help us to deal with life questions of ethics and morality. Some of it is history, which is always told as fact coupled with experience, and others as seemingly direct quotes from the mouth of Jesus, which vary only slightly from one Gospel writer to another.
It has become my position that I cannot know precisely what was said, but that I can clearly get the point.
And that is the point, the writer, inspired as he was, wanted me to get “the point”.

When the reformers, or protesters, understood that “the point” was rewritten toward the power of the Church, they wanted to fix it back. Still, they wanted to make their own point. In a translation by Tyndale where we often hear “Upon this rock I will build my Church,” he says “Upon this rock I will build my congregation”. Consider that this is a quote from Jesus. There is no Hebrew word for church.

Without belaboring my own point of view, it seems to me that God speaks to us in various ways. For some, God inspires them to communicate His words, and does that though the human vessel that he created, and has chosen to use. The vessel is human, it is not pure, and it has experience.
But for others, these inspired words are supplanted by words that fit their own particular agenda.

That is what Wycliffe, Tyndale and Cranmer learned. By examining earlier documents, the words had been changed. And who would know? The Church held the Bible tightly against their chest, in a language that people didn’t understand.
The Mass also was in a language that they didn’t understand. I feel fairly certain that if I went to church in Germany next week, it might find it moving in some way, but I couldn’t understand much.
For The Three, they posed it as an obvious thing to do. So, they went about the work of translating the Bible into English, and using trusted earlier manuscripts.

The Church’s reaction  was immediate anger. The Three were chased, and some arrested. They were named heretics. Since Wycliffe had the bad manners to die from a stroke before the church could finish him off, they dug up his body, burned it, and scattered the ashes. Tyndale was imprisoned for 500 days before he was choked to death while he was tied to the stake. Then they burned his body. Cranmer was also burned alive, after going back on his promise to recant.
These were not the only martyrs. Anyone caught with a copy of the Bible in English was burned as a heretic.

These were dark days for the church indeed.

Today the Bible appears in nearly four hundred languages, each so that these timeless and inspired words can be read, and understood, by all who wish it.

The transition from Latin to English was not entirely smooth. The first attempts to translate word for word read like an early primer. It was clunky. Tyndale, although true enough to the original words, adds simplicity and beautiful poetry. Some of the phrases that he added are quite well known to us. Here are a few:

  • lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
  • knock and it shall be opened unto you
  • twinkling of an eye
  • a moment in time
  • seek and you shall find
  • ask and it shall be given you
  • judge not that you not be judged
  • let there be light
  • the powers that be
  • my brother’s keeper
  • the salt of the earth
  • it came to pass
  • gave up the ghost
  • the signs of the times
  • the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak
  • fight the good fight


Today, there are over fifty versions, or, more accurately, translations of the Bible in English. They don’t vary a great deal. There seems to have been great care taken to use the ancient manuscripts that are trusted, and translated so that we “get the point.”

“The point,” is the one that God chooses to make,to the person that he inspired; not the point of the translator.

Sad indeed is the knowledge that at core of nearly every war, there is some difference in faith, and how we have chosen to believe in God.

Far too many people were murdered in order that the worlds greatest book could come to me, in simple and beautiful verse.. Sad indeed is the fact that the murderers were the people of the Church.

It seems to me that Wycliffe, Tyndale and Cranmer read it, understood” the point”, and were inspired to correct the human indiscretions, and to translate it into my language, for me. Brave stuff.

Thank you.

The Teachers Teacher

If you know Hillel…

If you know Aristotle, you know Plato. If you know Thomas Jefferson, you know John Locke.

How do you know them? Because Plato and John Locke were the teachers, you might even call them Masters. When you read the words of the student, you can hear the masters voice.

As I often do, I was wondering about things. I began to wonder…who was Jesus teacher? When we read about Jesus, he is referred to,and thought of as, the teacher. They called him Master, and Rabbi.

Now before you criticize me for not giving all of the credit for what Jesus thought and said to his Father, and to divine inspiration, hold on a second. I am referring to that human side, the one that was “famished” when he fasted in the desert. The one that I believe was hungry to learn.

If you know Jesus, you know Hillel.

Often, too often in my view, we disregard that Jesus was a Jew, raised as a Jew, by Jews and with Jews. He was never a Christian, always a Jew.

I don’t believe that there is any certain evidence of Jesus being a student of Hillel. In fact, his death is recorded as being in the year 10, which would make Jesus an unlikely student. However, Hillel had established what was called the House of Hillel.  It was an Academy that outlived the founder.
At that time there were two dominant traditions. There was the House of Shammai, which was rigid and conservative in it’s teachings, focusing on strict adherence to religious law. The House of Hillel was far more liberal, emphasizing openheartedness to all; including women. While the Shammai school were about the law, Hillel was about philosophy.
We know that Hillel lived in Jerusalem during the time of King Herod and the Roman Emperor Augustus. He was a constant student, even at the time of being viewed as the premier sage and scholar in Jerusalem. It is said that he spent half of the day cutting wood, to earn enough so that he could study the other half.
We know that Jesus was inclined more to peace, and to understanding others than he was drawn to the strict following of the law. In fact, it was his dismissal of the law for greater good that often got him in trouble.

Consider some of these parallels:

  • Hillel said: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah.”
  • Jesus said: “Do unto to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

 

  • Hillel said: “Pass not judgment upon thy neighbor until thou hast put thyself in his place.”
  • Jesus said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.” (Luke 6:37)

 

  • Hillel said: “Whoever would make a name loses the name… whoever makes use of the crown perishes.”
  • Jesus said: Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Luke 32:33)

These are  considered to be the most famous words of Hillel:If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” Like any worthwhile philosopher, he asks the questions, the ones that lead us to the introspective answers. Jesus was always asking also. His words to us are loaded with question marks.Once, when the two rival leaders stood together, they were asked if they could sum up the Torah while standing on one foot. In other words, were they capable of brevity. Shammai got mad and left, Hillel said:”That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation. Now go and learn.”

I can see why Jesus would have been drawn to such thinking. I am, and I am grateful that he was. The Jews were the first culture to believe and teach this revolutionary thought about their relationship with their God. Most cultures spent all of their time trying to do things for their God, so that he would have favor on them.This Yahweh God was saying that he would find favor with his people, if they would only be kind to each other. This is how you get a quirky commandment, unknown to any other religion.

Love one another, as I have loved you.
 

Listening For The Messiah

About one hundred years after the death of Jesus, the Jews living in Jerusalem made their final stand against those who would occupy their holy city. This time it was the Romans.
At first, there was a mere movement, led by Simon bar Kokhba, a militant Jew that refused to fall under the heel of the evil empire.
Reportedly charismatic, undoubtedly devout, and wise in the ways of war, the bar Kokhba led a rebellion that steadily grew. In the year 132, when the most prominent rabbi in Judea proclaimed that Simon bar Kokhba was the long awaited Messiah, the ranks of the rebels grew more quickly.
They had good reasons.The Romans had destroyed the Temple again., For Jews this was not just a building that had been knocked down. It was the destruction of the only place on earth where they could worship Yahweh God.
We know that for the Jews in Jerusalem one hundred years earlier, the great hope was that when the Messiah came, he would lead them with the sword. He would turn the Romans out of Jerusalem, and would be known for His might.
This is why so many of the Jews missed it, when the Messiah did indeed ride into Jerusalem. There was no white steed, standing up on it’s back legs, front legs churning, while his rider brandished a sword of might, and a crown of gold. No, he came simply, and rode a donkey.
And so he was missed, by many men and women. Good people, devout Jews who only wanted their city back, and to rebuild their temple so that they could worship their God.
They had rejected Jesus as the Messiah and accepted bar Kokhba for the similar reasons. Military might, the restoration of their beloved temple, and a land of their own should not be too much to ask from the God that you love, and remain faithful to.
They wished to shake loose of their foes and the shame of living beneath under culture…again. The Romans had even renamed their country. Judea was now Palestine. Removing the history of a people cuts deeply into their dignity.

And so the faithful Jews made their move, and drove the Romans out. For a while; two years or so. No doubt their victory was a source of great pride and celebration.
Tens of thousands of roman soldiers were killed. bar Kokhba reclaimed Judea as an independent nation. Life was good again.
But Hadrian and his army returned. They were led by their best general, and four times more soldiers than would be needed to decimate the Jews..
Six hundred thousand Jews were killed. All of the remaining Jews were kicked out of Jerusalem, and the name of the city was changed to Aelia, which was Hadrian’s middle name. The city was plowed under, and a pig was carved into the gate. Any Jew caught in Jerusalem was crucified immediately.

Simon bar Kokhba was not an evil man, nor was he a fool. He set out to save the city that in the end he helped to destroy. He wished to return Jerusalem to the Jews, not have them murdered by the hundreds of thousands and the remaining cast out.

Those good people that did not see the true Messiah when he came to Jerusalem were not godless fools.
They were devout believers. They were caught up more in their own hopes and desires and beliefs, than they were about the wishes and plans of God.

One hundred years later, others followed one who was not the Messiah, full of the belief that they could destroy their enemies, and God would bless them for it.

For each, by stubbornly holding onto their own beliefs of what the Messiah would do, they missed him.

I hate when I do that, don’t you?

My decisions about the Messiah and His will for me will not affect an entire people. But my willingness to go about the work of struggling to discern who He is, and who I am, will make all of the difference for me…for ever and ever.

 

 

Imagine

Imagine that you are a father. Imagine further that on a certain day, your son comes to you with the happy news that he has found love, and he plans to marry. I have had that situation in my life, I don’t have to imagine it . It is a great day for a father.

As the story continues, imagine that your son bestows a great honor on you. He asks his father, a Methodist pastor, to perform the wedding ceremony.

It shouldn’t be hard to imagine this double measure of joy.

Is there any way in which you would not quickly begin making plans for this doubly big day?

Now imagine that it is nearly seven years into the future. Somewhere, a person, doing what he believes is right in the eyes of God and His Church, decides to alert the church authorities that a rule has been broken. A person with no personal stake in the matter decides that it is warranted to report that the young man in love, is in love with another man.

For the father, this was apparently of no import at all. I can see it that way, easily. If God is love, then the Creator creates and bestows love as He wills it. Note that it is as He wills it, not us. It is beyond my imagining that the young man  is confused in thinking that what he feels is love. We know love in ways that we can only feel, and have difficulty in describing. But we know it.

By that love the young man chooses to share his life with another. The father blesses the union.

The issue now becomes a church legal matter. The church has made rules, the pastor has broken one. It is no longer about love. No one interviews the couple to see if they love each other. Love suddenly fails to matter. The commandment of Jesus to “love one another,” stands in the shadow of the rule.

That rule is the same in many churches, or at least it was until reason entered.

“Marriage is between a man and a woman,” they say. A church rule undoubtedly supported by Fundamentalist Heterosexuals, with no stake in the matter.

I can understand that the Methodist church has to make a ruling, now that the “concerned Methodist” has brought it up. I further understand that the church must conclude that indeed their rule was broken. The Pastor should admit to it, because he did it, and willingly. It also provides the opportunity for folks to speak to the rule.

Before you trot out the Bible verses that we all know that can back up the “one man to one woman” mantra, I will ask you to use your imagination.

What do you imagine the church fathers should do now? What do we do when the presence of love in our world seems to fly in the face of our church rules?

Rev. Frank Schaeffer doesn’t have to imagine any of this. It is his present reality. Here are some of his words.

“I didn’t do this to make a rebellious statement against the church,” Rev. Frank Schaefer said on Friday, reflecting on the action taken by a United Methodist Church jury of fellow pastors that last week sentenced him to a 30-day suspension after convicting him of violating church law for having officiated over his son’s same-sex wedding in 2007. At the end of the 30-day period, the Lebanon, Penn., pastor will be defrocked unless he renounces same-sex marriage, including his own son’s marriage.

In a few weeks, the church will have to make a decision. I feel confident that this decision will have to be made in light of the fact that Rev. Schaeffer will continue to chose love and reason… over the rules.

Can you imagine what the world becomes if the church decides that by this one act, Frank is no longer called to serve God and His Church and His people?

I can’t imagine being silent about this. I will find my way to say as a Christian father that I can only admire the reverend for this act of love and bravery. I will be heard, even if it is in some small way.

I can imagine that the church will have a difficult time looking at the rule and listening to the voices of those that want “justice”.

None of us sinners should be asking God to reign justice on us. We live in,and by, His mercy. That is the demonstration of His love for us.

Imagine that.

Forgive And Remember…A Christmas Message

Forgive and Remember. A Christmas Message.

Sometimes I wonder what we would do without Christmas. I don’t mean this in the ‘What if Jesus never came into our world,” sense, but in the way in which Christmas is a time of forgiving and forgetting. Feuds, both silly and serious will be forgotten and relationships patched up by people that simply cannot resist a softened heart at this “most wonderful time of the year.” Without these wonderful Christmas miracles, the feuds would fester and burn year after year.

People will swear that they won’t attend a Christmas event because of so-and-so, and then they give in, and peace is made, or the feud and hurt are simply forgotten.

I myself have had this experience, swearing to avoid a situation where I feared being ridiculed again, and at the last minute letting loose of a stubborn grudge. In doing so, I found myself surrounded by those warm feelings that we seem to save up for Christmas.

Still, not all people will participate in “Good will toward all men,” this Christmas. Some feuds will continue, some grudges held. In every case, it will be because we will find it impossible to forgive, and the reason will be the conclusion that the other person(s) doesn’t deserve forgiveness. At the very worst of it, people will either believe that they don’t deserve the bad feelings directed at them (or refuse to accept their part) or that one believes that the other needs to come to them to beg forgiveness.

It is difficult to forgive and forget. Difficult indeed.

Recently, I had the good fortune of listening to a sermon on this matter by Bishop Clifton Daniel of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania.

The Bishop provided me with a new way to look at things. I have thought about it quite a lot since then, and I am grateful to him; and so I wrap his thoughts and mine together, and offer them to you.

Basically, the Bishop says that we are not always able to forgive and forget. Although we have some terrific models for this, we generally are not able to get all the way there.

One example was Pearl Harbor. The hatred for Japan seems to have dissipated and now the U.S. and Japan are friendly. Nelson Mandela seemingly forgave his jailers to the point that he could provide leadership to exercise “truth and reconciliation,” to a once divided country.

The Bishop also uses the Bea Arthur character in the TV show Maude, and her constant pronouncement “I can forgive, but I can’t forget.”

What is the stumbling block? Why is it that for some, that they can never get past the hurt?

This is the help that the Bishop offers, and it is so obvious that it is brilliant.

First, consider that this always occurs in a broken relationship. Imagine any relationship between two people and you can identify what is at the center of it. It may be two friends that simply find humor in the same things, or two people that share a common spirituality. It might be the family connection of siblings, or parent to child. It could be husband to wife, or between co-workers. It doesn’t take much thought or imagination to see and name what was once at the center of that relationship.

And then something violent occurs. Someone steps out of a relationship, or tells a lie, or insults or steals or is just plain thoughtless. A wound is made. A deep cut that is undeserved. Isn’t the sense of undeserved pain always the cause of the wound? Can’t we always say “I didn’t deserve that!”

And so where we once had placed love or admiration in the center of a relationship we now place the wound. It’s like a rock the Bishop says. Perhaps it’s like a burning coal. A burning coal that burns on because we provide it with plenty of oxygen. The bellows of “I didn’t deserve that,” keep it a red hot and searing wound. It continues for as long as we wait for the guilty party on the other side to make things right, while we stand in our own righteousness with our arms folded across our chest.

This is what the Bishop tells me what I must do. Not them, me.

Take the wound and move it out of the center of our broken relationship. It is still there, you can’t forget it. But you can move it out of the center, and by doing so we can see what truly belongs in the center. It is the love or admiration that we once had for our friend, daughter, co-worker, girlfriend, mother, brother, neighbor, pastor, father…whoever. It’s up us me to do that, with the hope, but not the expectation, that they will do the same.

It’s about our own act of forgiving, with the knowledge that we won’t completely and entirely forget. Still, you have created a pathway to remembering the wound less. With the wound removed from being between you, all of the good stuff that was once there can become visible, can resurface, once again.

The Bishop seems to know that for me, I can accept a change only if the new thought or idea has a spiritual component.

He reminded me that when the resurrected Jesus came back to see His friends, he had already forgiven them.

Had Jesus forgotten the pain? When he reappeared in His resurrected body, it was complete with wounds at his hands and feet and side.

But He had removed them from the center of the relationship.

 

Thanks Bishop.

An interview with the Methodist Bishop that defrocked Pastor Schaefer.

Interviewer: Thank you for agreeing to this interview.

The Bishop: No trouble at all.

Okay, let’s get started then. Do you mind if I record this, to insure that I get everything correct?

Not at all. Lets see here, I was born in the 1950’s…it was a different world then, but I was lucky enough to….

That’s not where I intended to begin Bishop.

The Bishop looks a bit surprised, is thoughtful and then continues…

I was ordained in the 1970’s. It was a turbulent time, but I was fortunate enough to….

I want to talk about Pastor Schaefer, Bishop.

The Bishop begins to fiddle with the items on his desk, nervously creating perfectly even spaces between them.

Well, you never said…

Said what?

Silence.

Why did he have to be defrocked?

I don’t think I used that term.

Maybe not, but I did. You know what I mean.

He broke church rules. And that ends this interview!

Did you ever break a church rule Bishop?

We’re not talking about me breaking rules here…

Actually, I am talking about you breaking rules. Perhaps it’s time to think about your rules.

That is not relevant.

Alright then. let’s talk about Frank.

I’d rather not, it’s a church matter.

I agree. I’m asking as a Christian.

He broke a rule.

Do you agree with the rule?

That’s not the point.

Golly, it sure seems like the point to me. You’re a Bishop. Don’t you make rules?

Do you know your Bible?

I think that you are going to try to convince me that I don’t….so go for it.

In Leviticus 18:22 it says that it is an abomination for a man to lie down with a man, as a man lies down with a woman.

Yes it does. How about what is says in Leviticus 11? You know, the one about it being an abomination to eat shrimp.

Yes, but this was changed later on when Peter said…

Do you really want to go down that road Bishop, where you tell me which words to protect and which to discard?

Well, a man needs to reasonable.

Do you think that it’s reasonable to use the word abomination, when it wasn’t created until the middle ages?

You are a troublemaker. Do you think that you can come in here and take me on in debate by quoting a few facts? I don’t have to stand for this.

Alright then. let’s be reasonable. I understand that the Pastor broke an existing rule. Do you think that this rule will be changed?

That’s not up to me….entirely.

Okay Bishop, enough of the dance. Why did the Pastor get kicked out?

He broke the rules, and he wouldn’t recant.

I would love to talk to the person that blew the whistle. What is their name and phone number?

That’s a preposterous request.

I thought you would say that. So, breaking church rules gets you kicked out?

Obviously. We have the integrity of our tradition to defend.

Obviously. Just like when Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath. He broke the rules.

It’s not the same thing.

I thought you would say that. Why does he have to be punished? The Pastor performed a marriage ceremony  for two people who were in love with each other.

But it’s not right…

I understand that it’s not right for you Bishop. Not for you. What would you have done if the church created a barrier to your marriage?

I love my wife! I would have done anything…

Go on.

This is such a difficult topic.

I agree Bishop. I do.

I truly tried to seek out the Lord’s way in all of this. I know that the decision will offend some, and be applauded by others.

I wouldn’t want your job Bishop.

If you had my job, what would you do? Lets turn the tables here a little.

It seems to me Bishop, that Jesus was a sucker for love. Love trumps all. That’s what He says to me.

So what would you do?

I would ask the Pastor if this wedding was an act of love. There is no guilt, shame, or sin in an act of love.

And then?

Apologize.

Frank seems like the kind of guy that can accept an apology.

Authors note: This interview is completely bogus, and a work of fiction. Perhaps it is a bit silly. But you know what…they started it.

All I want for Christmas is…

I want people to respond to my “Thank you,” with “You’re welcome.” Yup” is not acceptable. You feelin’ me, kid at Wal-Mart?
I want the phone number of the nice lady in my GPS. She deserves thanks…and gifts.
I want liquor stores to deliver. Better yet, put the liquor stores inside of Wawa.
I want a separate Facebook, just for people that want to post pictures of their cat(s).

I want the President to go on TV and say “I am calling for a special referendum on the Affordable Health Care Bill. Vote Yes to keep it as it is, vote No to scrap it entirely.” 

I want a blue Schwinn bike just like the one I got for Christmas when I was nine. I don’t care that it weighs 135 pounds.

I want a Taser. I promise to use it only on people that park in Handicapped signs that don’t belong there, litterbugs, and racists.

I want all school boards to include at least two students. That’s our best chance at being reasonable.
I want all stupid road signs to be removed. We already know that things get slippery when wet. Also, who are those deer crossing signs for? You can take down the No Smoking signs too. We get it.
I want a redistribution of wealth, based on this system: The richer people should be nicer to the poorer people.
I want 23 year old suburban cops to lighten up with their attitude. You ain’t patrolling on 8 mile.
I want everybody with kids to spend their entire Christmas fund on their own children. Everybody else, your parents, your siblings, your friends will understand.
I want any president with an approval rating below 75% to have to fly commercial.
I want to be in charge of the Universal Christmas music playlist. Also, I will define the dates in which it can be played.
I want to understand what wax beans are.
I want a ban on any more drummers jokes. Banjo players jokes may continue unabated.
I want good will towards all people. For real.
I want socks and underwear for Christmas. Then I can pretend my Mom is still here.

There are some things that I wish for, but accept that they are not really possible. For instance, a ban on rap music and sensible gun control.

An open letter to Hunter Yelton, the six-year old sexual harasser.

Dear Hunter,

You don’t know me. I’m pretty old compared to you. In fact my grandchildren are about your age.

I saw that you got suspended from school. That can be hard for a first-grader, unless you are like me and would be happy to get a three day vacation.

I want you to know Hunter that you are not a bad boy. You probably shouldn’t kiss girls in school, but that’s only because your friends might make fun of you. It sounds like you really like this little girl, and that’s nice.

When my grandchildren visit my house, they always say hello to each other with a hug and a kiss, and that makes me happy. They don’t do that in school though.

Your Mom says that now you are asking her questions about sex. I will tell you not to worry or even think about it. It has nothing to do with kissing a girl on the hand.

You were accused of doing something that only adults are capable of. There is other bad stuff that we do too, like being mean to each other and thinking that punishing children is good because it “sends a message.” They sent a message alright.

Be a good boy and a good student Hunter and try to follow the rules. In the meantime I am going to see if all of the silly adults involved in this can get a three day suspension, and have to spend the time trying to remember what its like to be a six year old boy.

I will ask them to consider the times when they were treated unfairly as children, and the effect it had on them.