Archive for February, 2008

The Wedding Scandal: Jesus Insults the Religious


wedding at canaIt’s always a treat when someone points out something new (at least for me) in scriptures. Bruxy Cavey, in his excellent book “The End of Religion” talks about the scandal contained within the story of Jesus’ first miracle. This is something that had never occurred to me before. See if you can pick it out.

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[a]

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

(John 2:1-11)

Do you see it? If the wedding had run dry then we can assume that there must have been a number of empty wine vessels available. Yet rather than refilling the jars and jugs of wine, Jesus deliberately chose the sacred jars that religious people used for ceremonial hand washing. In performing his first recorded miracle Jesus intentionally desecrates a religious icon. This is hardly something that would go unnoticed at the time; obviously John felt it was significant. But significant of what?

As Cavey simply puts it: “He (Jesus) purposely chooses these sacred jars to challenge the religious system by converting them from icons of personal purification into symbols of relational celebration. Jesus takes us from holy water to wedding wine. From legalism to life. From religion to relationship.”

At least at that particular time Jesus felt that what was needed was more wine and less religion. Why would he feel any differently today?

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William F. Buckley Jr., R.I.P.


Bill BuckleyIt’s a sad, sad day. I don’t think any one person, aside from my father, has done more to help shape my political world view than William F. Buckley. I have been a subscriber to National Review for over 30 years, since I was a teenager, and still read every issue from cover to cover. Even though I no longer identify as ‘conservative’ (or ‘liberal’ or ‘moderate’) I still connect with the clarity of thought and beneficent reasoning found within the pages of that magazine.

No matter where you stand on the political playing field, you are doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t read any of his essays or books. If you realize (whether you voted for him or not) that Ronald Reagan made a tremendous impact on the world then you need to realize that he would have never been elected if not for Bill Buckley.

Though the ‘godfather’ of modern conservatism, Buckley exuded a genteel manner of purpose, and counted among his friends some of his greatest political adversaries. He was passionate, intelligent, educated, witty, and possessed the greatest vocabulary of anyone in letters today. If all you know of conservatism is what you see on TV or what you hear on the radio, then you will be surprised by Buckley’s well ordered reasoning and his respect for the opposing point of view.

I don’t count too many men or women as great. Buckley was one of them.

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American Vision


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“The most important thing a president needs to do is to make it clear that we’re not going to continue to see jobs shipped overseas, jobs that are lost by American workers, many in their 50s who, for 20 and 30 years, have worked to make a company rich, and then watch as a CEO takes a $100 million bonus to jettison those American jobs somewhere else.”
Mike Huckabee, May 4, 2007

“Free trade is the serial killer of American manufacturing and the Trojan Horse of World Government. It is the primrose path to the loss of economic independence and national sovereignty. Free Trade is a bright shining lie.”
Patrick J Buchanan

“The ongoing migration of persons to the United States in violation of our laws is a serious national problem detrimental to the interests of the United States.”
Ronald Reagan (September 29, 1981)

“We expected the new housing market to be considerably smaller because of the baby-bust generation. Luckily, we’re finding that more immigrants are filling the hole. It’s really critical.”
Stanley Duobinis, dir. of forecasting Nat. Assn. Home Builders (Wall Street Journal, Oct. 10, 1996)

“The reasons Cubans continue to come here — and let’s face it, the Cubans are not nearly so desperate as the Haitians — is because they know that if they make it to the beach, chances are that they’ll be allowed to stay.”
Wayne Smith (senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and former head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana) Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Sept. 21, 2000.

“There is no constitutional right to come to America. It is a privilege to be admitted. It is disgraceful, as well as harmful to our personal safety and national health, that we have allowed 9 million people to come here illegally.”
Cal Thomas (“Purging the Evil from Among Us” World Jewish Review, Jan. 26, 2002)

 

 

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“Peace, plenty, and contentment reign throughout our borders, and our beloved country presents a sublime moral spectacle to the world…”
James Knox Polk, (President from 1845- 1849. Under his leadership the United States fought the Mexican War (1846-48) and acquired vast territories along the Pacific coast and in the Southwest.)

“The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times.”
Ulysses S. Grant

“We need Hawaii just as much and a good deal more than we did California. It is manifest destiny.”
William McKinley (President during the Spanish American War which resulted in the US annexation of the Philippines, Cuba and Puerto Rico)

“We could not leave them to themselves — they were unfit for self-government — and they would soon have anarchy and misrule over there worse than Spain’s was … there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them.”
William McKinley

“The most ultimately righteous of all wars is a war with savages”
Teddy Roosevelt

“We are friends of constitutional government in America; we are more than its friends, we are its champions. I am going to teach the South American republics to elect good men.”
Woodrow Wilson (who used military force in an attempt to teach this to Southern republics, intervening in Mexico, Cuba, the Dominion Republic, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, and Nicaragua.)

“Thus I helped make Mexico, and especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. “I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenue in. I helped in the raping of half-a-dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers and Co. in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras ‘right’ for American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

“During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. I was rewarded with honors, medals, and promotion. Looking back on it, I feel that I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate a racket in three city districts. The Marines operated on three continents.”
Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler (former Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps), Common Sense, November 1935

“If you think you can run this operation without United Fruit you’re crazy.”
Joseph Caldwell King, Director of the CIA’s Western Hemisphere division, 1952-54

“I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”
Henry Kissinger

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Indivisible


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In talking with some folks about the relevancy of the Pledge of Allegience, someone suggested that it is because our country is under God’s protection that it is, in fact, indivisible.  Apparently when this is not the case, when we have in some way offended God, then there is the likelihood of national dissolution.

Which got me to thinking about this whole indivisible thing. The United States of America is a pretty unique country, and not just because of its long term republican form of government.  Over 230 years ago we voluntarily formed out of what were, essentially, 13 seperate countries,  former colonies, all of them states.  Initially a  loose confederation, it became a much stronger federation in 1789.  But not so strong that there wasn’t always the threat of some states seceding over any number of disagreements, most famously the problem of slavery. This hotly contested idea, that a state could leave the federation of its own accord, eventually resulted in the great American Civil War of the mid-19th century.

I think that today most of us would find it inconceivable that any of the current 50 states would choose to leave, either alone or in concert with others. But we can see that the demographics of America are changing rapidly.  The population of the  states along our southern border are becoming more and more identifiable with those countries which lie to the south of us.  It is conceivable that some day these states could find that they have less in common with those states to the north (again) than they do with each other. (Remember, not too very long ago the citizens of Quebec, because of contentions  over language, voted on  independence.)

If one of these United States decided, either today or in the distant future, to secede from the union, what should our national response be? 150 years ago it was a military response, and after 5 years of nearly total war well over 600,000 Americans lay dead.  Would such a military response be proper or moral in this day and age? And if not, was it the right thing to do in 1860?

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The Best Damn Food Store In America


Wegmans HMRFor some time now the trend has been for large national corporations to use their buying power to price their smaller competitors out business. Nothing particularly wrong about that,  it is the result of a almost free market (these big fellas usually get sweet tax and zoning deals) and no one is crazy about paying more than they should for something. The small business person usually makes the mistake of trying to beat the big boys at their own game – offering low prices – but it is just about impossible for them to do so competitively. Instead, what they should concentrate on is how they are different from big box stores – better service, less hassle, better quality, a more knowledgeable staff – things that are quickly going by the wayside. Even so, I tend to cheer for the underdog and I’m not too crazy when another big time operator moves into town.

Except for Wegmans

I first heard about this upscale New York supermarket chain (out of Rochester with 71 stores) about three years ago, when I was working for an established gourmet grocer in Baltimore. Panic nearly took hold of upper level management when we got word that Wegmans was coming to town. I had never heard of them before and couldn’t imagine a full line grocer being able to give us a run for our money.

Boy was I wrong. This past weekend I took a trip up north of town where Wegmans has opened their first store in Maryland. Absolutely unbelievable! The left three quarter section of the big store is devoted to selling your typical grocery fare, and at very competitive prices. The rest of the store is all about fresh, high quality food coupled with excellent and friendly service. Sort of like Whole Foods but even better. And without the snobbishness.

Looking like something out of Epcot Center, it resembles the piazza of a Mediterranean village, with each store front situated on the square an ‘open air’ market. Artisan bakers, a conditerei, a butcher shop offering prime meats, exceptionally fresh seafood, organic produce, freshly prepared sushi, chef’s offering take home dining, a quiche shop, a real honest to goodness Kosher deli, every cheese and pate’ imaginable, a pie merchant, a food court offering a coffee bar with barista, gourmet sub shop, pizza parlor, soup kitchen, tremendous salads and an Asian foods bar. And a produce market you wouldn’t believe.

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On the second floor, in balconies situated around the market square, are café style tables and chairs from which watch people shop while enjoying your lunch or dinner. What a concept! A gourmet food market, combined with a restaurant, a caterer and a full scale grocery store. With prices that are better than the local Super Fresh. It was no wonder that the place was mobbed.

If the established chains aren’t paying attention, they oughta be. Right now, if I were working for a Safeway, Giant, Superfresh, Mars or Food Lion in Columbia or Ellicott City, Maryland I would consider dusting off my resume. That’s where their next store will be built, in 2009.

I have to applaud companies like Wegmans, who are successful because they make commitments to excellence, rather than just discount pricing. And while providing the best possible foods, at competitive and fair prices, they also pay attention to social and environmental concerns. In Wegmans, recycling was encouraged and accessible, for staff as well as the consumer. Fair trade and organic products were in great supply and highly visible. The service was efficient, friendly and informed. (Not too surprising since Fortune Magazine rates Wegman’s as the third most desirable US company to work for in the 2007.) Taking care of business means taking care of your customers, your employees,  the community and the environment while still making a profit.  I guess it can be done.

It’s nice to see someone raising the bar.

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The Possible Dream


Many of you may have already seen this little video. I’m not a big fan of “American Idol” so I had never heard of Paul Potts. Boy, was everyone blown away when this was shown at my church last Sunday. It was in support of a series of talks entitled “Who Am I”. Turn your sound way up. This is absolutely wonderful.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.youtube.com posted with vodpod

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Quiet Testimony


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There is always some lively discussion going on over at God’s Gal’s blog and recently she posted something about the Pledge of Allegience

This got me to thinking about pledges, oaths and vows and how important they are, if at all. Hypothetically let’s say that:

There are two men;

One is openly patriotic, flies the flag, stands with hand over heart while singing the national anthem and reciting the Pledge of Allegience.

The other man disdains overt displays of patriotism. For unspoken personal reasons he will not fly the flag nor will he rescite the pledge.

War is declared.

The first man comes from a wealthy influential family and is able to defer his military service by attending university. He is outspoken in support of the war effort. After graduation he becomes a successful politician.

The second man is opposed to the war, is even very vocal about it. He is drafted and sent overseas. In battle he throws himself atop a grenade that lands in the midst of his platoon. He dies of his wounds.

There are two couples;

One couple meet at a dance and are smitten with each other. They go out on a date, the first time for either of them. They agree to go steady.

Another couple meet at the same dance and also find each other attractive. They go out as well, but they decide not to take things too fast. They continue to date other people.

Both couples fall in love.

The first couple becomes engaged and after two years they marry. They are married in a traditional church ceremony. They make public their vows of commitment to each other. Within a few years their relationship sours and they agree to separate. They finally divorce.

The second couple realize that they feel incomplete when they are apart. They decide to live together but they do not marry. They have no vows other than to treat each other with love and respect. They keep these vows very private. 25 years later they are still together.

There are two students;

One is a Christian. She is a member of a church, has been baptised in a public ceremony and is very outspoken about her faith. She regularly shares her comittment to God with others and declares openly that she has aaccepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior.

The other young lady claims no religious affiliation. She does not belong to any formal church and does not attend worship services. She also has a relationsip with Christ, though she is uncomfortable with identifying herself as a “Christian”. She tends to be much more quiet about her faith.

They both graduate and begin their careers.

The first woman is a successful claims adjustor with a large insurance company. She is being rewarded with a substantial bonus. She was able to find legal precedent for refusing a significant number of their client’s claims. This has saved her company millions of dollars. Although she is a little uneasy over this, she can not afford to change careers at this time. She keeps the bonus money.

The second woman recently lost her job as a very successful automobile salesperson. She refused to sell some used cars that she knew to have serious mechanical defects. Even though she is earning considerably less now, she thoroughly enjoys her new job selling heavily discounted college text books.

Although fictionalized, all of these characters and their circumstances are very similar to people that I know. I can understand the importance of making a personal public committment. But I wonder as to the effectiveness of insisting on others doing so as well.

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