New Yorker Aug. 6 & 13, 2018

Some weeks the cover is just a nice piece of art, sometimes it’s political, sometimes I don’t get what it is. This week is fairly simple in presentation, but made me a little melancholic. It’s about summer, but it definitely goes deeper on the passage of time.

Prayer for Good Use of Leisure

There are many things that drew me to the Episcopal church, but the Book of Common Prayer is definitely one of the major influences. This is one of the prayers included in the morning office for Saturday and I’m always glad to see it:

O God, in the course of this busy life, give us times of refreshment and peace; and grant that we may so use our leisure to rebuild our bodies and renew our minds, that our spirits may be opened to the goodness of your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

blogging again

The biggest reason I’m here now is facebook. I am stunned by the depth of problems with it, and just can’t bring myself to do much more than like other people’s posts. I’ll share more of those details here. I thought I had moved a bunch of my old files over here at some point from a previous blog, but apparently not. This will serve as a place to keep links that I’ve found helpful and, if I had to guess, not much else. The conversations that took place on blogs before facebook have pretty much died.

I’ve done a fair bit of journaling over the past year. I believe I’ve made an entry every day. I don’t always have much to say, and I’ve spent time thinking about what my purpose is for journaling. WordPress doesn’t even like the word, but wordpress also doesn’t like the word wordpress, so obviously it needs a better spell check dictionary. Who am I writing for? I’ve come to believe that I’m writing for future me. There was a time when I thought I was writing for someone else, because the journals I’ve read or heard are from famous people or people who lived through significant historical events (Anne Frank, the journals from Ken Burns’ Civil War, etc.,.). Some of my journal entries from year’s past I find pretty interesting (when the kids were born, various trips, etc.,) but most are fairly mundane.

Enough of my personal thoughts, this is a tool I plan to use some over the next year. It’s 365 daily journal prompts. Some seem really good, some seem sort of weak, but they give you a starting place if you don’t already have one. My starting place is usually the commemoration from the Episcopal Church’s Great Cloud of Witnesses, but this will add some extra discussion when needed.

Here’s the full list of questions:

Jesus and the folded cloth / napkin.

Last year someone asked me about an email they received regarding the resurrection. Here’s one version of it:

The Gospel of John (20: 7) tells us that the napkin, which was placed over the face of Jesus, was not just thrown aside like the grave clothes. The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin was neatly folded, and was placed at the head of that stony coffin. Is that important? You’d better believe it! Is that significant? Absolutely! Is it really significant? Yes!

In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition of that day. The folded napkin had to do with the Master and Servant, and every Jewish boy knew this tradition. When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it. The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating, and the servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished.

Now if the master was done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, and would wad up that napkin and toss it onto the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the wadded napkin meant, “I’m done”. But if the master got up from the table, and folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because the servant knew that the folded napkin meant, “I’m not finished yet.” The folded napkin meant, “I’m coming back!”

He is Coming Back!

For those of you with limited time, let me just say this. That’s bullshit. For those who want more info, keep reading.

Brett Royal posted this email recently on his blog, and the he agrees with me in questioning the authenticity of the story. I’m not a Hebrew scholar, and what I know about Jewish traditions at the time of Christ is roughly equivalent to zero, but what sense would this story make? Jesus knows and participates in master/servant relationships from the master perspective? He uses his burial clothes in the same way that people use napkins at a table?

The email explanation tells us nothing that the Bible isn’t already telling us. The clothes let us know one thing which is obvious. The body wasn’t stolen. He’s coming back has been assured to us in many passages of scripture. We don’t need a contrived, unsigned, unresearched email to tell Christians what they believe about the resurrection and the return of Christ.

There are a few sites that can back me up on this. is one of them. I also asked a professor who has well-known wisdom on the subject. This email tells us nothing that we didn’t already know from scripture. It tells us a lot about our culture though. More on that later.

Do you look like Jesus?

This is one of the many images you can find if you search online for “Jesus of Nazareth”. But of course, we don’t really know what Jesus looked like.

This is also not a picture of Jesus. It’s Andy Alexis-Baker, who runs a great web site called Jesus Radicals. In addition to not being Jesus, Andy Alexis-Baker is also not Jacques Ellul. This:
is Jacques Ellul. He really doesn’t look like either of the other pics, does he? However, because Andy was the first person I can remember speaking Ellul’s name, I associate Andy with Ellul.

Ellul was a theologian and philosopher, and if you go to Jesus Radicals, you can also tell that he has had a huge influence on Andy. Andy presented Ellul to me. He did it in a way that made me want to know more. Another friend of mine, who doesn’t seem to have a pic online (but he’s a good looking guy, trust me) later mentioned Ellul to me as well. I wanted to know more.

Most of us probably don’t look like Jesus, but we are charged with presenting him, with discussing him and explaining how he has influenced us. We have to demonstrate this, not just speak it. I’m grateful that Ellul and Andy have both taken this task seriously.

Random thoughts on Transfiguration

I’ve been looking at this text all week. I’ve read the other parts of the Lectionary. I’ve read the commentary on the Lectionary. All I have is an unformed ball of clay. Literally. I bought sculpey. Plain white sculpey. Of course Robby had to have his own pack too. I guess it’s a start. It fits with transfiguration any way.

Of course, part of my mission tomorrow will include a sort of “here comes Lent” reminder. Very few people in the class (including me) were raised on the Lectionary/Liturgical year. I remember a youth group pastor talking about Lent and he brought a Roman Catholic friend with him like show and tell.

How inadequate Peter, James and John must have felt. John’s gospel doesn’t include the story. Maybe he didn’t even feel he had the words for the event? It’s no wonder they offered to build tents, tabernacles, monuments to Elijah, Moses and Jesus. It was Jesus’ transfiguration, but the disciples were transformed too.

They were told to be silent, they were told John the Baptist was Elijah. They were told that Jesus would rise from the dead. They had more information than they could process and they still had to go on, go forward, move to the next moment. They couldn’t stop and build monuments.

Angel Food, FBI, IRS.

Last week I received a phone call. It was a pre-recorded message. This is basically what it said:

A single search warrant was executed today on Angel Food Ministries home office. Angel Food Ministries believes that this is an investigation of an individual or individuals connected to the organization, and not regarding the ministry itself, its service to the public or its host sites in any way.

The Board of Directors has pledged full cooperation with government officials.

Angel Food Ministries, welcoming its 15th year of serving food to those in need, reaches 39 states to hundreds of thousands of families with nearly six million boxes distributed in 2008. It is our mission to do that, and it will continue to do so. AFM is taking orders and is prepared to fill them as usu


Of course, I was concerned. My wife and I brought the information regarding Angel Food to our church about 3 years ago and our church jumped in and started working. Three years later we’ve served as many as 200 boxes in a month, and average close to 50 each month. We’ve picked up our food at locations in 4 different counties, and we’ve always felt like we were doing good work.

We still do. But now we have questions. Employee compensation in non-profits is a touchy subject, and based on the reports I’ve read (I’ll put some sources at the end of the article for anyone who wants to dig a little deeper)the IRS gave the board at Angel Food advice to diversify when they began the work in 2000. They should have done that. They didn’t, and as a result, voting themselves a large pay raise and taking out loans against the company looks suspicious.

I don’t know where this story will end. I hope this weekend when we distribute food, we have more information, but it’s not looking like it. The Angel Food Ministries website has no additional information (you get the quote from above if you click the Important News link).

We discussed this in class on Sunday and the consensus was that we carry on. This month we have more orders than we’ve had in about a year, and it continues to be more than $30 worth of food for $30. But we will be praying for discernment and wisdom as we try to follow God’s will.

Angel Food site

Atlanta Journal Constitution

Public Opinion Online
Ministry Watch: list of issues with charities. (pdf file)
Angel Food and USDA partnership (pdf file)