“Why do we call it “FAST” when it makes the day so slow?”

I like words. And I have an unfortunate taste for stupid jokes, particularly when they turn on double meanings of words. Or homophones.

As such, this has been my response when someone brings up the idea of fasting as a spiritual discipline.

I actually did this decades ago, 1 day every week, and a longer 3 day once a month. Liquids only, but a little V8 juice seemed a good thing. Did that for a year or so when I was in school.

But whatever the virtues there might be, or the lack, it certainly gave me inspiriation for one of my worst word jokes.
But then 2 weeks ago, I pulled it out for a friend at Church (All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Stafford, TX), and he actually took the “why…” as a real question, which had a real answer. And was therefore worth finding out. I admire that. Over 40 years, and I had never done that. I suppose I was afraid it would ruin the joke, as if that were possible.

What he found was the relationship in proto-German to a similar word meaning remain still. I tried to morph it into a more modern “Make fast” as in “Fasten,” but my friend insisted that although that was partial, it was not primary. The earliest would be simply to REMAIN still.
And this opened up something for me, that relates to a previous post about this time of waiting between Ascension, and Pentecost. I called it a gap, with seeming abandonment.

This meaning of “fast” differed from mine in that to “hold fast” seems to refer to a state or condition. Static. To “remain fast” seems more like  a point in a process – like the pause before turning left across a busy street, or a right turn on red. The quite spot between movements of a symphony, the dramatic pause a speaker might use.

Or the Seventh day of Creation – when God “rested” (I wonder about the Hebrew – how the word “fast” might fit there?)

And also this time of waiting, wondering what is coming next. 

Anticipation, Nervous , perhaps even fearful (with or without cause).

But Something is about to start. A change is in the wind.

We are standing fast. 

 

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On Ascension and Abandonment. Gaps

You would think that after 40 years as an Episcopalian, I would pretty much have this “Liturgical Calendar” thing, the “Church Year” down. But after spending my first formative years as a Southern Baptist, I can still find a surprise or two.

As they say, even a blind squirrel finds SOME acorns.

Today, 25 May 2017 is the Feast of the Ascension. Continue reading

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On Baking Bread, Communion, the Holy and Profane

Bread making this morning.

In the deep past, I did this once or twice a month at home, and really enjoyed it. This time, it is for Communion Bread for a special event, which fills me with thoughts. Apparently, I would rather THINK about my work than actually do it. Continue reading

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Some Personal Thoughts on Suffering: 1

A friend of mine once asked for some Bible passages for a friend who was going through some rather serious difficulties. The following is taken from my response.

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Thoughts on Going Back to Church

OK. I’ve been wanting to write this, and ducking it all morning, probably for days. Perhaps longer.

“Start with the truth as it is, Eric, and only then into commentary, and on to thoughts about that truth, or what you wish to do with it. Start by what is”

Seems like sound advice. The sort of thing I might say. Continue reading

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Find the Music, Sing the Song

1,1,1,5    1,1,5- 

2,5,4,3   2,1,2-

1,1,1,5.  1,1,5-

2,5,4,3   2,2,1-

Four very simple lines of music heard this morning very powerfully brought my former wife to mind.

This little bit was played on the piano with a simple broken chord figure in the bass. It is used in my church as “travelling music” before and after the children’s sermon, while children come to sit with the preacher and then return to their seats. Very quiet, very background; just a few measures to cover the silence. 

The powerful reminder of Stephanie -who is a very fine pianist and piano teacher – is that I couldn’t help contrasting the rather mechanical “music-box” version I heard with the way Stephanie would play it. I mean no disrespect to our organist, who is a fine musician (although not primarily a pianist). Also, the electronic instrument she was playing is hardly capable of capturing the subtle expressiveness available in an natural piano.

But Stephanie has a particular gift, passion, drive and ability for lyric expressiveness. She can take the simplest phrase, like the ones I quoted at the start, and make it sing. I instantly heard what she would have done, and the difference it would make. 

Now when I said it was a gift, I didn’t really mean the ability was a gift to her, she worked hard for it. It is a gift to everyone who hears her.

Contemplating this returned another memory, dating all the way back to High School Choir, where we sang a LOT of Bach chorales. Everyone should. But a frequent feature of that sort of music is that the tenor line (that’s me) will often find a note on which to park, and will pretty much stay there for the rest of the piece. “O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded”  comes to mind.

One of the points drilled into us was that if this line sounds boring, that is our own fault. Perhaps it is that we want to be singers, when we should be learning to be musicians.

Our job was to take that one note, and find all the music in it that could be found, and bring that to the surface. Do it right, and that repeated one note will almost stand as a solo. Then having found the music in that note, sing that song in a way that serves the entire piece.

The problem is not the note. It is my job to find and reveal the music. I have discovered that as one of the great joys of singing “inner voices” in choral harmony. 
And since “music is life,” this must relate to the rest of what I do.

My job, in all the mundane “single repeated note” lines of life, is to find the Music in that line, and proclaim it. Not to demand a more complicated part, where my lack of a musician’s heart can be hidden behind a composer’s many notes, but to find and express the song in THIS line. It’s there. 

Find the music. Sing your song.

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Some Thoughts on “No-Fly / No-Buy”

For decades, for pretty much all my adult life, I have been a pretty standard political conservative. Had high hopes for the “tea party” wing of the party when it started up, even went to a few rallies. Over the last 6 years or so, my enthusiasm has been waning – to the extent that I no longer can call myself a Republican, and have deep suspicion of my own conservative leanings. My knee just doesn’t jerk that way anymore.

 But this is not the place to explore that. Instead, I wanted to comment on the recent/current doings in the House of Representatives, and one contentious idea in particular: that being the proposal that a person who is on a “watch list” or a “no fly” list by ineligible to purchase a firearm. Continue reading

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