Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Civil War Prayer

My wife, Marie, and I are working on a book for young people about the Civil War, and in doing the research I ran across an 1862 prayer book issued to soldiers in the Union Army of the Potomac. It contains the psalter and a selection of collects and hymns. It also contains "A prayer during our present National Troubles" that I found interesting. Here it is:

O Almightly God, who art a strong tower of defense to those who put their trust in thee, whose power no creature is able to resist, we make our humble cry to thee in this hour of our country's need. Thy property is always to have mercy. Deal not with us according to our sins, neither reward us according to our iniquities; but stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, and be our defense for thy name's sake. Have pity upon our bretheren who are in arms against the constituted authorities of the land, and show them the error of their way. Shed upon the counsels of our Rulers the spirit of wisdon and moderation and firmness, and unite the hearts of our people as the heart of one man in upholding the supremacy of Law, and the cause of justice and peace. Abate the violence of passion; banish pride and prejudice from every heart, and incline us all to trust in thy righteous Providence, and to be ready for every duty. And Oh, that in thy great mercy, thou wouldest hasten the return of unity and concord to our borders, and so order all things that peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety, may be established among us for all generations. These things, and whatever else thou shalt see to be necessary and convenient for us, we humbly beg through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Our Sunday Bible class has discussed the proper way to pray for our enemies. It seems to me that a prayer for moderation and wisdom for our leaders, and for a return to peace is always good. The prayer doesn't ask for punishment for the other side--in this case the South. But that they see the error of their ways. The prayer asks us to "abate the violence of passion," a phrase I like.

Best wishes,
Mason Smith

Harry Smiley's Recommendation: The Last Week

My friend, Harry Smiley, likes to recommend books he read. Before Scripture class (we're working our way slowly through Exodus) last Sunday, Harry suggested that I take a look at Borg and Crossan's The Last Week: A Day-dy-Day Account of Jesus's Final Week in Jersulalem. Inasmuch as I'll be going to the lakehouse in Georgia for nearly two months this weekend, I was in our university library yesterday, stocking up on books, when I came across The Last Week in the "Popular Collection." "Hot dog!" I thought, "I won't have to buy this one!" And yesterday, while waiting to meet my daughter coming out of her summer music camp, I read the first chapter in a nearby park bench. The book is a dandy! It bristles with insights as to what is said (and unsaid, but clearly to be understood) in the retelling of what Jesus was passionate about at the time of what we now call Passion Week. Here's what one reviewer at www.amazon.com says:

If you are looking for well researched insights, interpretations, and translations of current and historical contexts for the meanings of biblical parables and perhaps more importantly the historical contexts of St. Mark's Gospel, read this timely and well researched interpretation of the Passion of Christ and the details related to the seven days from Palm (Passion) Sunday to Easter Sunday by Borg & Crossan. Whether you are researching or interested in the fundamental roots of Christianity or curious about the historical context of the Roman and Jewish framework of the times surrounding the events of Easter week you will not be disappointed by the scholarly research and interpretations
presented regarding the 'cipher' meanings embedded in St. Mark's account. I truly enjoyed the author's viewpoints expressed and this book is a welcome addition to the bookshelf of those who are interested in the probable nature of how these events transpired.

While I can't promise that I'll get the university library's copy back on time (I've found out from a friendly librarian how to extend my two-week reading time limit by phone), I will post now and then some of the good stuff Borg and Crossan make evident. Let me simply say for now that it's a timely book--lots about confronting imperial powers with the mind, spirit, and body of Christ, both in the first century and now.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sorry about typos below

The post just below, "Be Careful What You Pray For" got published to the blog before I could proof it. I apologize for the typos, but I hope you get the idea. I love stories like this one that suggest mystery without being overly spooky.
Best wishes,
Mason Smith

Be Careful What You Pray For

Thomas Merton tells an interesting story in his book, The Spring of Contemplation. It goes as follows:

The Retreat Master, in one of his conferences, told us a long story of a man who had once come to Gethsemane, and who had not been able to make up his minhd to become a monk, and hadfought and prayed about it for days. Finally, went the story, he had made the Sttions of the Cross, and at the final station had prayed feverently to e allowed thegrace of dying in the order. "You know," said the Retreat master, "They say that no petition you ask at the fourteenth station is ever refused." In ancy case, the man finished his prayer, went back to his room, and in an hour or so collapsed, and they had jsut time to receive his request for admission to the order when he died. He lies buried in teh monks' cemetery in the oblate's habit.

Denny's 2 cents: Denny's 2 cents

Denny's 2 cents: Denny's 2 cents

A little while back, I was invited to be on this blog by Denny and thought it might be a good idea. I met him at Subway and we talked. If you guys would have me, I don't mind participating in this blog.

I agree wholeheartedly with the last post on this blog. We need to live the life and not just talk a good game.

If the people on this blog don't mind, I would like to show a major part of my witness by showing my website to people on this blog. My web address is www.toonspirit.net. I write bible devotionals with cartoons that you may have seen growing up with. Hopefully, you will give me feedback by e-mail. There is only text on this web site however. Sorry about any inconvenience this may cause. If anyone is interested in seeing one of these to get blessed e-mail me about that too!!!

God Bless You. Be Safe.

Carl Heinlein (Richie)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Not "What We Believe," but "What We Know"

I was participating today in a confirmation class at my church. We were using the book Claim the Name published by Cokesbury. This week's unit included a discussion of the Apostles' Creed.

The class leader, Gene Kleppinger, said, "You'll notice the headline reads 'What we believe,' but a better translation might be 'What we know.'"

He said it so matter-of-factly that a chill went down my back.

We live in a post-modern age when so much knowledge is thought to be relative to our culture or to the reader/believer. We no longer have "truths," we have "values." What I value might be different from what you value. What I believe, different from what you believe. We do our own things based on our own feelings, and we all seem to be OK with this.

I really liked hearing, along with that room of young people, that the statements of the Apostles' Creed make up rather more than a relativistic system of hopes--things we want to believe.

We don't just happen to think these things about Our Lord. We know these things, and we know them through the four avenues of scripture, tradition, reason, and personal experience.

It's taken years for me to come to that assurance. I wish someone had told me that when I was 12 or 13 years old. (Maybe someone did, and I was too self-absorbed to listen.)

Our confirmation students were shy. They didn't respond much to our calls for questions or comments. So I'm not sure how they reacted to the class. But I left the class feeling great. I loved that sense of assurance, not only in the Creed, but the promise of God's care.

"God's love" the class was told by Gene quoting the text, "is with us throughout our lives. We need only to claim it and live it" (70).


Best wishes,
Mason Smith

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A payer for Pentecost

If I'm reading the lectionary in my Book of Common Prayer correctly, today (Saturday, May 3) is Pentecost. The readings for today in the BCP include one from the Apocrypha. This reading happens to be a beautiful poem from the book of Ecclesiasticus, and, since not every Protestant Bible has these intertestamental books, I thought I'd include it below. The New English Bible translates the reading as follows:

[The wonders of creation]

Now I will call to mind the words of the Lord
and describe what I have seen;
by the words of the Lord his works are made.
As the sun in its brilliance looks down on everything,
so the glory of the Lord fills his creation.
Even to his angels the Lord has not given the power
to tell the full story of his marvels,
which the Lord Almighty has established
so that the universe may stand firm in his glory.
He fathoms the abyss and the heart of man,
he is versed in their intricate secrets;
for the Lord possesses all knowledge
and observes the signs of all time.
He discloses the past and the future,
and uncovers the traces of the world's mysteries.
No thought escapes his notice,
and not a word is hidden from him.
He has set in order the masterpieces of his wisdom,
he who is from eternity to eternity;
nothing can be added, nothing taken away,
and he needs no one to give him advice.
How beautiful is all that he has made,
down to the smallest spark that can be seen!
His works endure, all of them active for ever
and all responsive to their various puposes.
All things go in pairs, one the opposite of the other;
he has made nothing incomplete.
One thing supplements the virtues of another.
Who could ever contemplate his glory enough?

--Ecclesiasticus 42: 15-25

And here is a prayer for Pentecost, again from The Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way to eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Best wishes,
Mason Smith
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