Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Baptismal Covenant

It is a generally accepted fact that different human minds can perceive similar/exact factors and yet different minds interpret them differently. Many of the issues raised during the present election campaigns can show exactly how even different groups can look at the same factors, and see things totally differently – even some in opposition! The reason for this statement, of course, is that there were many factors involved in the production of The Baptismal Covenant in the Book of Common Prayer, 1979. They are ALL important, although different groups emphasize one or another or several – because of specific emphases contained in each factor. Two members of the Commission were close personal friends of mine, and I have some insights that are probably not available to others. “Balance” is the term of use in preparing this discussion.

The Book of Common Prayer has from the very beginning – 1549 – been a statement of the faith that is fundamental to the Anglican Communion.  It exists because the Magna Carta began/ continued? – a growing movement among the people that the divide between the Royalty/Nobility needed to be clarified. Eventually Parliament was expanded to include the Commoners who now, in England, are a single House. It is from this spread of democracy – extorted with force (even legal murder) that the present government of the United States has developed. Because it is so important both for the English and for the American Constitution, Magna Carta Article 1 reads in full:
    That the Church of England shall be free, and have her hold rights, and her liberties in viral inviolable; and we will have them so observe, that it may appear thence, that the freedom of elections, which is reckoned chief and indispensable to the English church, and which we granted and confirmed in our charter, and obtained confirmation of the same from our Lord the Pope Innocent III, before the discord between us and our barons was granted of mere free will: which charter we shall observe, and we do will it will be faithfully observed by our heirs for ever.       

When the Constantinian Solution made the church part of the government, the government used the church to be the “protector” of morals. Well, morals immediately evolve into laws; and laws immediately – because of the church? – become “absolute,” which generally speaking makes them issued by God. When – after a couple of centuries – the Imperial government became ineffective, the church moved quickly to fill the vacuum. The Bishop of Rome increasingly used the title “Pope” – which means “father.” My heavens! It sounds like Julius Caesar! Innocent III – in the 11th century – was “in charge of” things in heaven, things on earth, and things which held the empire together. Innocent III could command the Emperor to visit him by crawling on his knees through the snow up the Alps to meet the Pope. How things had changed!

The reason the Magna Carta would suddenly appear in England makes all of this very interesting. When Pope St. Benedict “evangelized” England by sending the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 599 AD/CE, Augustine was welcome to England by the indigenous church there. What church historians call “Gallican” religion had been in England for several hundred years, and the existing Christian bishops greeted the new Archbishop and welcomed him to England. Although Augustine did his best to meld the Gallican and Roman concepts, ultimately it failed. So therefore did complete submission to Rome in religious matters. A form of democracy existed in England, and continued in the English church. And it is this that is at the center of the Magna Carta. Archbishop Cranmer understood this, and used this document to permit King Henry VIII to divorce his Spanish wife. And the steps that followed that were important during the foundation of the United States of America – a national church was needed.  The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America was created with that in mind. Apparently there was at least that idea among the new England clergy – following the American Revolution. So, if there were bishops among the former Anglicans, perhaps the Anglican church could become the established church in the United States of America. See the “Ratification” on page 8 in your Book of Common Prayer. Continued next month.

The Baptismal Covenent
part 2

FAITH – in one form or another – is that-without-which-no-human-life (indeed all mammal life) can survive. In fact, no reasonable or rational relationship can be established with any aspect of the Creation in which we live – without faith. Indeed, this is a very powerful statement – and there are many who have no confidence in it whatsoever! Nevertheless, faith is the foundation upon which the followers of Jesus, the Christ of the Creator, have placed their fundamental trust, confidence, reaction to the Creation in which we are placed. The Creator has given us five means of examining the Creation. The Creator has also given us the right, the privilege, the necessity, to make use of all the various parts of the Creation so that our own very lives may be enriched, fulfilled, completed – in the haunting music of mathematics and sound, movement and vision, smelling and tasting –  and interpersonal relationship:– all with joy, peace, liberty/freedom, justice, sharing.  All this, to continue (with God) in the creative ways to solve problems, to care for needy and infirm, to live together with harmony, peace and joy, and to reap and build upon the faith – trust – of all others.

The key to success in maintaining Faith is to keep the primary Creator firmly in mind.  This is done by acknowledging that all ultimate perception originates with the Creator.  But the interpretation of perceptions is the work of every aspect of Creation – even where we cannot see any room for interpretation.   Indeed, every perception which anyone (or part) shares with others, is ultimately the gift of the Creator.  The primary (if not only) way in which this can function – is to keep the Creator always in mind, both individually and in groups whose faith is common.   And always to remember that all Creation is equally made to share and welcome new ideas and new customs.  By means of engaged discussion!   Sometimes “engaged discussion” will appear – and in fact be – violent.  Interspace photography shows lots of violence on a grand level: but we need to remember that without that violence the Creation cannot have proceeded from its original source – now presumed to be a couple of electric sparks – 16,000,000,000 years ago!  Perhaps some of what we call “violence” can be quite creative!  Maybe our concept of God is far too small!!  Maybe our concept of “Faith” has become warped!

In any case, the Daily Office exists to help us learn from poetry and prose, imagination and thought, how a group of utterly homeless Nomads, wandering through a desert , from oasis to oasis,  became a major source for recognizing and living by-means-of Faith.  The same Faith by which almost all humans (and other mammals?) learn to live, work and love together.  Imagine!

Where the Nomads came from, no one really knows.  But they are on the stage of human history  before the 2nd century BC/BCE.  They appear in Egypt – and also in other places around the Middle East.  (Remember, our science seems to think that our kind of human had its origin in north east Africa, perhaps near Ethiopia.  Even if this is not the only place where humans commenced, it is from this center that most of what exists today among humans had its origin.)  The Nomads “saved” their ideas and concepts in poetry and a form of mystical thinking that did not depend upon writing.  It was memory.  And memory, when it is a source, is also flexible.  As thoughts move around in the mind they get added to, subtracted from or just “improved.”  But, basically , they are remembered as fundamental.  Poetry, with a strong beat and strong interpretation, is easier to recall than random words!  And when it is sung or chanted, its meaning becomes even more powerful.

The Nomads may not have had a homeland – but they did have sharp minds, with nimble thinking. Many of their ancient stories were saved – and wound up in the book now called Genesis.  Genesis – as we now have it – ends with the story of Joseph – but Joseph is the youngest son of Jacob, a son of Isaac, the son of Abraham.  It is here that the Covenant is created.  (It is interesting to note that as the Covenant commences in the Egyptian environs, there was a group of people in what is now Britain, creating Stonehenge!) Continued next month


Last time, we ended with the note that the earliest Hebrew people (Habiru) were Nomads, and lived herding sheep and other animals, as they moved carefully from oasis to oasis around the desert that was to the east of what is now Egypt.  It was here that they organized their thinking about what we now call “faith:” who they are, where they come from, their function/purpose on earth considered, and how they relate to others not from their own group.  The Four fundamental concepts used in these writings began to emerge here: Justice, Freedom, Equality, Sharing.  The development of these concepts is outside of this writing, but not what they mean: FAITH.

Faith was/IS developed from observations of the five senses, interwoven with  interpretations, developed through discussion (intellect) and worship (response.) Faith is the foundation upon which all life is based – it cannot be an individual event or state of mind in origin – yet, only as  it is accepted, does faith effect an individual within a group.  Faith is, in fact, the essence of the life of the group/person who live(s) within the intellectual/worship community.  Although the nomads did not write in any (preserved) manner, they had the tremendous power of memory,  strengthened by poetic rhythm.  Using song, rhythm,  and memory, they retained and further developed both discussion (language)  and worship (emotion) – fundamental aspects of faith.  Please note: the concepts intellectual/worship-community originated – most likely – independently from what we now call “religion” or “science.”

Because Hebrew (and many other Semitic languages) do not have a past tense of verbs, their understanding of what we call past (events/words) is quite different from our own.  Their past is always current with their present. (Both successes and failures!)  Faith, then, for them is not something that can be “put on and taken off” – it is always present reality.  It either is resolved, or shoved into the future!  However, it is never, ever, part of a defect.  It is a failure of discipline: of practice, discussion, and worship.  Sin, in Hebrew, is not a defect: it is failure to practice.  Discipline is the essence of a community.  Discipline is the individual working with others to learn an agreeable understanding of the meaning and actions of discussions from what we call “the past”, to strengthen the whole group.  For the future is the only thing we might be able to affect and effect.

What then, is faith?  See if this helps. Recently, while watching a football game, this happened.

A play happened where  one player ran up toward the goal as fast as he could, reached a certain point, and turned, ready to catch the ball, already on its way to him.  He had been slowed  by a second, and so missed it. But a "flag" happened at the other end of the field. The penalty was to re-play!  As penalty!!!  On the replay -- exactly as before, but without the delay -- he turned with his arm open to the ball, and it went right into it!!  This is the result of FAITH!    He knew it was to be thrown to him; he knew when to turn to receive; and he caught it -- because of the discipline the two of them had gone through many, many times - prepared for this moment. Faith made it pay off!!  Because of discipline!!!  He may even have had the number of steps counted before he was to turn to catch it.  He did what discipline had taught; and what discipline had determined to happen, did happen.

THAT'S what the discipline of the Daily Office teaches us -- every detail of life is strengthened by just getting there; and if we continue and make it also meaningful: (a) pronouncing words; (b) developing their full meaning; ( c ) weaving that discipline into momentary life-decisions; then the new life that we put on when we were baptized (even if, as with you and me, we didn't know it then) will not fail us at the moment of need.  When you read the stories of some of the ancient martyrs, you can see/hear how they could be loyal to the life of Jesus: that is the life they lived.  Like St. Laurence, (died 258, pre- Constantine) is reputed to have said, while being grilled over a charcoal fire, "Please turn me over -- I'm done on this side!" could be assumed to be what he said, even if it was only what he might have said.  His faith was so great!!  Whether he said it or not, is irrelevant.  Such was the great faith he inspired – seen by those who watched him die in such an evil way.

Faith is the structure of everything we – the baptized – do in every instant of our life.  When we fail, it is because discipline failed. Sorrow or sadness is not the first response – we failed because our discipline slipped.  Practice again, more. The power of the Scripture will support us, discipline will strengthen us and satisfaction will thrill us.    Continued next month.

FAITH, the topic commenced last month, received some comments that encourage further treatment. After all, without faith, nothing is possible. So, here goes!

It is important for us to remember that language, thinking, and conversation are all part of the structure on which faith stands. These three all come from the same source: – 5 sense observation, fed to the brain.  Certainly, all mammals work in this manner. The manner of living, surviving, and caring – all come from these three. We humans – we believe – are able to make the greatest use of language, thinking, and conversation.  And in our use of these we have managed to put together groups of people who use the same sounds, and so develop language. This sameness of language is the first step in building a meaningful relationship with other humans. It also is the first step in coming to understand ourselves as individual. (But not as singular!) Furthermore, when we meet other humans who use the same or similar sounds to mean something different from what we mean by them, we begin to develop an individuality. But, please note, that individuality is a group action, NOT an individual act, alone in some sort of alleged freedom. As soon language begins to represent the group, then thinking/processing  takes place. Conversations develop; meetings created; agreement accepted. Lo! the beginnings of society! Conversation happens! Community exists! Groundwork for human life commences!


All this happens so the foundation stone upon which the Community stands will continue firm; thinking and conversation continue; unifying and strengthening the resulting community. The continuing-community exists for the fulfillment and the enrichment of each member of the community.  When one community encounters another community, the first relationship tends to be welcoming and sharing. This requires a mutual understanding of language. Without learning/sharing language, all other communication is to no avail. This is what Aristotle taught Alexander the Great to do in order to bring peace to the then-known world! Hence the fact that – until recent times – Greek was the common second language. Classical Greek is a language of great beauty – musical, descriptive, caring. Its replacement by Latin provided a harsher language, more suitable for law than poetry.
Remember that its only about 600 years since what we call “science” and “religion” have become separate. Until the great Renaissance began there was no question but that what came to be called “science” and “religion” were but different ways of seeing the total Creation. However, when religion-specialists began to be able to see – literally – things that had never before been seen, it provided a great challenge for everyone!

However, when we study the ancient artifacts, it seems to many modern scholars that in ancient times, when differences “arrived”, the first response was not a question of “right” and/or “wrong.”  Instead, welcoming conversation would take place. Then all issues were looked at and discussed, and from there, development commenced.   New concepts could arise from about all the issues; agreements could be reached; and the entire community would be enriched. Our modern thinking seems to go directly to “fault,” “correctness,” “right/wrong.” But these were not  ancient concepts.  The ancient process provided progress, peace and program.  So ancient society began to live with the innate:  justice, freedom, equality and sharing.  For many current scholars, what still survives seems clearly to show this.  Only when contemporary cultures interpret the past as if it were current thinking, that issues such as slavery and other evils arise.  Greeks in the eighth century BCE/BC understood this.  They claimed that democracy begins to fail when the citizen-participants at the rear of the gathered-community could no longer hear the conversation at the front.  We need also to remember that concurrent with Biblical history, communities in Egypt, Israel, what we now call the Near East, and in Stonehenge in now-England were also having “growing pains.”  As they began to lose contact with each other, the loss of language, thinking, and conversation developed other very new ideas.  In 66 BC/BCE,  Julius Caesar ‘invented’ the modern concept that the military existed to protect the nation – AND religion certified this as fact. This ancient “new” idea still governs the underlying faith of present humanity.

Many ideas developed throughout the world, to find a ways to continue development of justice, freedom, equality and sharing among all peoples.  The most successful seems to have come from the ancient Habiru – modern Jews. Oh! that the instantaneous communication  NOW available, had been available then! In what  a different world we would be living today!!
Continued next month. The Baptismal Covenant, part 5

Last month we saw how language, thinking and conversation originally developed as a structure upon which faith stands. It was noted how these three all come from Five Sense observation, fed to the brain. Living, Surviving, and Caring – all developed from these three. We humans  have used language, thinking, conversation as the fundamental tools for reasonable, gracious, and loving human life. It is these three – language, thinking, and conversation – that provide the foundation for Faith. And  Faith, in one form or another, has guided humankind for more than 10,000 years as we continued to evolve and mature.  For we must never forget that our current lives are only part of the process of evolution which, for us, began seriously 10,000 years ago. While we can acknowledge easily the process which produced humankind began 16 billion years ago, it is very easy for us to think that we are the final aspect of that process!

It needs to be stated here, once again, that the origin of community among humans came about as language, thinking, and conversation began to develop. And without community – loving community – in fact, as history shows, humans can “devolve,” as well as “evolve.” Over all, as Aristotle taught, common language is essential for the peaceful and loving development of humans. That is why he taught Alexander the Great that the first step for “world peace” had to be a common language. There are several different attempts in history – not all of which is actually recorded . . . .  But interesting as this in fact is, it is not near enough to The Baptismal Covenant to pursue further.  What the Habiru/Hebrews in fact did with their development/evolution is our next topic.

Habiru/Hebrews appear on the world stage somewhere about 2000BCE/BC.  They are Nomads; that is, they had no fixed homeland.  They had flocks: various kinds of cattle and other animals.  When they were not moving from one oasis to another, they spent time examining what they could perceive through the five senses, and about which they could carry on conversations/discussions.  Because there is not enough material in a Nomad  impermanent society, they also discussed the source of the five-senses perceptions.  They quickly recognized that just about everything they perceived had an origin somewhere, somehow.  They even perceived that there had to have been a time when there was nothing!  Nothing at all – except - EXCEPT -a Creator.  Some reasonable thing/being just HAD to exist, because (like them)what they perceived in their world just could not have come into reality/being without: mental process; flexible substance; purpose.  The Hebrew name is transliterated into English, as “YHWH.” (Sometimes, because of language, the transliteration is “JHVH” – from which we get the word “Jehovah.”) The vast majority of scholars believe this is an ancient form of the verb “to be,” or “being,” or “reality.”  The reason for this is that names – especially “proper”names – reference the “substance” of the thing/being under discussion.   (In the most ancient of writing YHWH/JHVH (pronounced Yahweh, or Jehovah) is a model of the form that humans also inhabit.  And the Name is a friendly one – it was only after the Babylonian Exile (580BCE/BC) was its pronunciation forbidden (dealt with later.))

It is important to note that JHWH not only “breathed”, but YHWH was the source of all breathing.  And that means JHWH is responsible for every breathing part of Creation.  Breath was not visible, but without breath, there could be no life – embalming or statuary of significant people to the contrary not withstanding!  YHWH was the creator of ALL that existed, and all that life could provide.  And from YHWH even the forces of nature are cared for.  ALL REALITY SHARES IN THE BREATHING/LIFE of YHWH!  It must be noted that YHWH is independent from Creation.  YHWH presents Creation as a sign of YHWH’s own life, responsible for, but not part of, Creation .  YHWH is totally responsible for all, every aspect of Creation.  In any case, the language, thinking and conversations about YHWH and Creation done by Nomads “presumes” that Creation is real, and so also is everything in it; Creation is cared for by the living, breathing occupants of Creation; and, the Nomads determined, humans are at the top of the structure of Creation., and so also responsible for its care and development.

It is from this point that the Baptismal Covenant begins to develop.
Continued next month.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Science and Religion

                      Science and Religion – FAITH mates

Good evening.  My name is Perren Hayes, and I’m a retired priest in the diocese of New York.  I live in Lewes and I attend St.  Peter’s church; I am licensed by the Bishop of Delaware.  Every once in a while Father Jeff asked me to do something that involves my 57 years of ordained background – and that fills me with joy.  This is one of those occasions.

To me, Science and Religion are simply alternate ways of examining the same thing.  Having said that, I have to say that preparing for this evening has been among the most difficult things I’ve done a long time.

Let me read to you a short passage from the book of the prophet Isaiah.  This is from the 44th chapter.

    “All those who make no-god idols don’t amount to a thing, and what they work so hard at making is nothing.  Their little puppet-gods see nothing and know nothing – they’re total embarrassments!  Who would bother making gods that can’t do anything, if it can’t “god”?  Watch all the no-god worshipers hide their faces in shame.  Watch the no-god makers slink off humiliated when their idols fail them.  Get them out here in the open.  Make them face God-reality. . 
    “The woodworker draws up plans for his no-god, traces it on a block of wood.  He shapes it with chisels and planes it into human shape – a beautiful woman; a handsome man; ready to be placed in the chapel.  He first cuts down a cedar or maybe picks out a pine or oak, and lets it grow strong in the forest, nourished by the rain.  Then it can serve a double purpose: Part he uses for firewood for keeping warm and baking bread; from the other part he makes a god that he worships – carves it into a god-shape and prays before it.  With half he makes a fire to warm himself, and barbecue his supper.  He eats his fill and sits back satisfied with his stomach full and his feet warmed by the fire: “Ah, this is the life.”  And he still has half left over for a god, made to his personal design – a handy, convenient no-god to worship whenever he is so inclined.  Whenever the need strikes him he prays to it “Save me,” he says.  “You’re my God!”

    “Pretty stupid, wouldn’t you say?  Don’t they have eyes in their heads?  Are their brains working at all?  Doesn’t it occur to them to say, “Half of this tree I use for firewood: I baked bread; roasted meat; and enjoyed a good meal.  And now I’ve used the rest to make an abominable no-god.  Here I am, praying to a stick of wood.”

    “This lover of emptiness, of nothing, is so out of touch with Reality, so far gone, that he can’t even look at what he is doing, can’t even look at the no-god stick of wood in his hand and say, “This is crazy!”?”

Especially using this very contemporary translation of the Bible called “THE MESSAGE” this passage makes us smile, or grin, or maybe even laugh out loud!  This guy, writing under the name of Isaiah, really had a good sense humor.  He knew how to make fun of his neighbors.  And we smile to ourselves and move on – never considering the possibility that this could have a contemporary meaning.

Last summer what turned out to be a true “miracle” happen to me.  I was asked to Supply at another parish in this diocese.  I was there from the middle July until last February.  For me, in any case, this happened to come at the time when I was really trying to work through new methods of presenting the gospel to people.  Here an opportunity was handed to me.  Many of the reactions I have had to my time with them have made me think that they also found this to be a very important time.  Anyway,   .  .  .  .

One Sunday, while I was beginning a sermon on the general subject “Your God is too small,” I began by describing the photographs I had seen that had been produced by Dr. Jim Mullaney, the NASA astronomer who gave the first of these summer addresses both last year and this year.  I began by saying that the first picture that Dr.  Mullaney presented to us was taken by the Hubble telescope.  It showed an image of what the universe appeared to be 16 billion years ago.  I remember at the time that I stared at that picture.  And as I looked at it, I saw what only could be called a “chaos.”  Gases, melangey colors, movement – but all this was really incoherent.  Yes, it had a form, but the form indicated nothing.  When Dr.  Mullaney showed us another slide, only 12 billion years old, I was amazed!  This image showed reasonable forms beginning to take place; reasonable colors refracting.  There even appeared to be different kinds of relationships building.  It looked like it was growing – and in growing – maturing!

Then – as we preachers often do – I made up some stuff of my own.  I said that when the images get even closer now, galaxies begin to form.  And within galaxies what could be solar systems begin to take shape.  And I went on: “and as we came closer to our own time, the forms became clearer; more specific shapes took place; interactions and reactions could be seen as the various parts of the universe interacted with each other.”  And then I said: “you know, the closer it gets to us to clearer the form is, the more important the interactions become, and this is fabulous.  But, my friends, I then went on and said, “the closer it gets to our own time and greater it gets – and you know, looking at that magnificent sculpture in the universe, there, at this instant, today, was I – way back then – and now I am looking at me before there even was an earth!”

At that moment, I had a brief – but intense – insight, vision, Gestalt, possession.  I suddenly knew more about God then I knew when I started the sermon.  And then I knew how little I knew.

That made me think of something else – something that I have been saying most of my life.  There is absolutely nothing that I or any other human being can know that is not inserted into my brain through the action of the five senses: see, hear, smell, taste, touch/feel.  Now, that is important enough that I want to repeat it:.  There is absolutely nothing that I or any other human being can know that is not inserted into my brain through the action of the five senses: see, hear, smell, taste, touch/feel.

Now, don’t forget that.  We’re going to come back to it; so, just hang it up alongside you.

Now I want to tell you another story – may be a parable.

One day, a long time ago, a tribe of Nomads was at their camp at an oasis in the desert.  They had been there for some time.  The water level was diminishing; the grapes were gone; the wine was fermenting; most of the other edibles were being depleted.  Things were, in fact,  beginning to look bad – very bad.

And it was hot and dry.

Suddenly, one of them (maybe a maturing child) looked up and shouted: “Hey! Look!  Over there!”  And s/he pointed to the south west. 

There – way over there – just where the blue sky touched the shining desert, there was a darkness – a cloud – connecting desert and sky. They all looked at it.

Slowly,  the cloud moved.  It grew larger.  Inexorably, it grew larger. It came closer.  It began to cover the sun. Darkness grew over the face of the earth. 

Suddenly, along with the darkness, there was movement in the air.  The wind arose.  The tents began to dance.  The increasing gusts grew stronger.  The animals recognized it also, and they returned to the camp.

Crash! Boom! Thunder!
Flash! Sparkle! Bang! Boom!

The wind grew in intensity!  Not only did it flutter the tents, it began to pick up the desert sand.  Oh! That wind-borne sand! Sharp, cutting, blinding – all accompanied with the brilliant flashes of lightning; the powerful roar of the thunder; all this splendid energy! Destructive, frightening, painful, inescapable, encompassing everything – equally for all.

Frightened, they grasped each other for strength, for protection, for safety.

And then, just as suddenly, the intensity diminished.
The wind slowed its powerful gusts.
The sand ceased to be cutting.
The down pour of rain became a pleasant shower.
The darkness began to brighten.
Their oasis-world returned to its normalcy.

But – no!

It was different!

There was new life everywhere!
The oasis was filled with water again!
Everything was cleansed by the rain water:– fresh and new!
Even as the sun came out again, the vegetation was clean and green again – already to begin the process of new growth again!

And everything that happened, happened without ANY INPUT from them!  They had absolutely no part to play in this force that had just visited them with its power and energy!  They had been totally helpless before it!

Yet, it had given them what they needed: water and food.  This power, this splendid energy, this had saved them – saved them  from death. 

And it happened without any input from them!

Somehow, that energy-power came and saved them!
Somehow, that energy-power was responsible for them!
Somehow, that energy-power in fact, cared for them and for their well being – and not only of them, but of their animals – indeed of the whole of the world around them on the desert became lovely!

It was this richness, this energy-power, this creativity, this constant renewal – this they defined as their God.  And so they named their God “Reality” – Yahweh – they named their God. And their God was filled with energy-power, filled with creative energy – and they named that creative energy “Ruach.”

The People of the Desert never forgot their Desert Origins, even when they were among the great nations of the world when Solomon was King.  (Read Psalm 18 for a reflection on this.)

“God,” you see, can be defined as the explanation for everything that humans perceive – and partially comprehend – but which they cannot fully explain.  Even though their God was invisible, their God was REAL.

They KNEW that they lived in a world that seems to exist to provide for them, to care for them.  These people, then, learn to share their lives even with their animals, and together they live and do their thing.  That is, they live in peace and harmony, with justice and freedom, with care and concern for themselves and others.  And they are grateful for the “Reality” presenting reality to them.  There is an acknowledged agreement – or covenant – as to function, and all seem to understand it, and how it works for all and everything.

And as they continue to live in this manner, they learn the various ebbs and flows: life and death; food and drink; equality and inequality in the world into which they have been placed.  In a manner that they cannot comprehend, using a means and a purpose they cannot control,  “Reality” – the creation in which they live – in fact, provides for them, cares for them – and is affected by what they do, how they lived.  And, eventually, they see, Reality is seen both to love them, as well has respond to them.

Their function is to use their own creativity to take care of that portion of the creation in which they live.  To do this, they must apply their minds to their observations.  So their senses - the famous five – see, hear, taste, smell, touch/feel – perceive.

In fact, absolutely nothing is perceived without the five senses.
In fact, absolutely nothing is perceived without the five senses.
In fact, absolutely nothing is perceived without the five senses.

But there is one thing more.

For perceptions of the five senses to be useful, there needs to be a common meaning, or interpretation, of the perceptions.  Everyone needs to comprehend/discover the same things – as they perceive the same “Reality” —  the same perceptions.

They do this – perhaps “discover” – by increasing their means of communication.  Most especially they use the communication of language and music – but that is only a part of communication.  Each of the five senses is deeply involved in this process.  Each of the five senses affects a separate, but distinct, section of the human brain.  When one of the five senses is stimulated, the wholeness of humanity receives an “alert.”  In our own time we tend to call these alerts “emotions,” or “feelings,” or “preparations for action.”  The most primitive response to these alerts is to seek for protection.  Especially, individual protection – often, violent protection

But when a group of individuals begin to communicate with each other about their own understanding of specific alerts, they begin to see what could be called a commonality among their responses.  When some of these alerts are repeated – repeated often – memory (which is a different section of the brain) recalls previous alerts.  As the community begins to communicate individual understandings among and between its members about these alerts, then a definition is made.  This happens, because the members of the community – individually – received what could be called a “sixth sense” alert.  This “sixth sense” alert creates firmness, clarity, indeed – certainty.  This sixth sense is perceived to be the Ultimate Reality – and is totally invisible – inscrutable.

The most ancient perception of the origin of this “sixth sense” seems to be exactly the same origin as the storm cloud.  While it seems to come from nowhere – and is invisible – it has a real presence all its own.  And so the Hebrews wrapped this “sixth sense” into their definition of “Reality” – their God.

My friends, this is the beginning of what we call Science (or description) and Religion (or meaning/purpose.) .  Science – which is “knowledge” – and what we call Religion – which is purpose – both begin at this point. 

They, in fact,  are intimately related.  Human perceptions are the study of the reality of the area, or locus, or place, where people live.  And the reason for this study, is so that they may live together peacefully, joyfully, equally, with justice:– all this is sometimes called “LOVE.”

It took the Jewish people pretty close to 2000,  2500 years to develop this process in the way in which they in fact did develop it.  They had moved from the uncertainty of the desert, through slavery in Egypt, through violent warfare to seize for themselves a land they could call their own.  But even then they were not fully united group.  Ten of the Twelve Tribes had a strongly different concept of interpersonal relationship and structure of government than did the other two tribes.  In spite of the fact that we generally take pleasure in reading about the “doings” of the northern and southern kingdoms, the historical books of the Bible – first and second Samuel, first and second Kings – they are the story of the tragedy of the Hebrew people as they lost sight of the values they developed in their nomadic desert origins and in their development as a nation prior to Saul and David.  But there just isn’t time to tell it all!

All I can say is, things went from bad to worse as history went on.  The Jewish people allowed themselves to be ruled by tyrannical men.  They wandered away from the knowledge of their God of love, justice, freedom, equality.  The end result was that in 587 BC the last remnant of their nation appeared to be destroyed and sent in chains to Babylon.  They learned a lot there – what we can’t even begin to touch upon it.  Please, though, note the date – 587 BC, nearly 2000 years after the Hebrews appeared on the world stage. 

This date marked a very significant time in the development of human nature all over the world.  What we have come to call “religion” began to develop.  What we call intellectual horizons began to affect people everywhere.

The Greeks, in 587 BC, were just beginning to develop philosophy, geometry, astronomy, rudimentary mathematics and what today we might call ethics and sociology.  Please note JUST BEGINNING!  At this same time in 587 BC, there was no city of Rome.  The Wolf that nurtured Romulus and Remus had not yet been whelped.  The Latin language was still grunts and groans; Greek on the other hand was reaching for its highest peak.  The same kinds of things seem to have been happening in India and in China – at this same wondrous human growth period.

There isn’t time to tell you about Greek experiments in physics; astronomy without telescopes; in math including the invention of “Greek letter pi”.  The Greek experiments in democracy laid the foundations for this nation.  Greek military experiments laid the foundation for warfare until the early part of the 20th century A.D.

The one thing that I must say and underscore is this: in spite of the distances and linguistic difficulties, the huge Jewish gift to all world communities – there is and can be only ONE GOD – had been booked all around the Mediterranean sea during the first Jewish Diaspora following 587 BC.  As Jews became “illegal immigrants” all around the Mediterranean sea, they brought their religion with them.  And their religion instantly affected all other religions – monotheism did that.  The Jewish religion after the Babylonian Captivity ended no longer depended upon the Temple.  Instead, they read from a variety of texts that they had created while in captivity.  Their new insights help them rewrite the ancient documents.  They produced a coherent series of writings which we generally call the Old Testament.  Using these writings, this religion of the Diaspora presented to the rest of the world the concepts of justice, freedom, caring, equality, basically – love!  In other words “how to help human beings learn to live together with each other and still maintain both individuality, and uniqueness as they celebrated a life in community.”

At about the time that these Hebrew books were being translated into Greek – we call it the Septuagint – a great name appeared among the Greek philosophers. 


Aristotle was  selected to educate the son of the King of northwestern Greece.  His name was Alexander.  Alexander was an outstanding student.  He learned from Aristotle the same things: justice, freedom, caring, equality, and – love.  With these as the solid ground upon which the communities of people lived, humans could live together in peace – with fairness and sharing among all citizens.  Aristotle was teaching the rudimentary principles of democracy.  It absolutely set Alexander on fire!  He was determined to bring this great wisdom to all the world.

Unfortunately (that’s my opinion) Alexander used as his models  Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and some of the other more local countries.  To accomplish his goal, this great young man gathered around him a magnificent Army that was totally devoted to him.  They set out to conquer the world as they knew it, and force people to love each other.  Forced love – then as now – didn’t work.  Alexander died in the 430s BC.  But even as he tried to educate people using force, Alexander did accomplish a great and wondrous thing.  The whole, what we call the Western world, learned to speak Greek.  That meant no matter what their background, no matter what their own local language was, they still could communicate with people who were not native to their land.  Greek was the Common Language of the Mediterranean basin and the near East until the fourth or fifth centuries A.D.

There are several reasons why science at this time began to separate itself out from religion.  What we now call religion had begun to isolate itself from the ordinary circumstances of daily living.  Worship – important as it really is – increasingly became formalized, and repetitious.  Because sixth sense insights often involved very fundamental issues, they came to be accepted by new generations without any questions.  And when that began to happen, then they often became mysteriously unquestionable.  No distinction was made between the concept called “God” and the physical world around us.  So the authority of God was added to the authority of five sense perceptions.  Some things are beyond discussion!!  Religion began to be associated with loyalty to the ruling authority – in most cases one person.

Science, on the other hand, seemed able to pursue its mission without appealing to a higher authority – that is the now “morphed” idea of God.  The introduction of Arabic numerals, and the development of the concept of “zero” made possible the amazing development and mathematics and therefore all other sciences.

I have used the word “religion” without comment so far.  Now I need to say something about it.  Religion is in origin a Latin word that means “to tie together,” “bind up.”  Thus the relationship with the Reality of the created world changed drastically.  The sixth sense grew from the need to be free.  And the thing that made this really happen, what is the freedom with which individuals each discussed their own understanding of their perceptions.  When the community came together in agreement on an interpretation of perceptions, everyone was set free to act – based on that information.  Everyone could trust it.  That is to say: everyone had faith in it.  Why?  Because the community has come together to discuss, comment, interpret, and perceptions.  What all perceived as a meaning was therefore accepted – on faith.

Science also does exactly the same thing.  The different perceptions of different people observing specific things are discussed by the scientific community.  In their discussions the scientific community comes to understand a specific interpretation.  This is tested out – through personal experience and insight – just exactly as it is in the God based community.  So, all perceived as a specific meaning, and had proved it by repeating it, was therefore accepted – on faith.

Faith then is the real basis of all human understanding.  But it is faith that is based on freedom.  The freedom to discuss the sixth sense perceptions that make reality Real.  It is a community of faith that underlies all human existence.  But for a community of faith to work, to be valid, requires two things.  First, constant new input.  What is called “blind faith” needs to be seen as a huge evil.  Accepting something just because someone says you ought to believe it, without any question, is a denial of faith, and a lack of trust in the creation that surrounds you.

You know, I can continue but don’t think it will do any more good.  I hope and trust what I have said has assisted you to understand that all knowledge – of any kind – has come into your mind by means of the five senses.  Like the photographs of the universe 16 billion years ago, each individual has a task of examining it and putting a degree of faith into the result of that examination.  When part of the testing of that faith includes another community, then that other community also needs to be examined as to where it’s faith is placed.

It is the function of people like you and me to learn as much as we can about the world in which we live.  We need to have faith in the splendor of the system which we call “Universe” – because that’s all there is.  Where it goes we do not know.  How it gets there we do not know.  What will happen when it arrives we do not know.  The only thing we do know is that somehow, using our own faith, we are making a contribution to the ultimate conclusion – what ever it may be.  We must never forget that is absolutely nothing we can do to change the past.  (When we look at a Hubble image, we are looking at a very real past.  There is absolutely nothing that we can ever do to change it.)  The only place where we have a part to play is in the future – and our part is determined by our faith.  Science helps us explain the things we can perceive through our five senses.  What we call religion helps us develop a meaning or purpose for using these things that we can perceive through our five senses.  Even though we do not know where it is going to go we do know that our part is meaningful, significant, and ultimately creative.

Those of us who believe these things need to energize ourselves to help those who do not believe these things.  We spend tons of money learning how to destroy others.  We use much ingenuity to collect as much money and other values – at the expense of others.  When any township or state government discovers budget problems, the first thing to do is to cut education and art and methods of building interpersonal relationships.  Justice, kindness, caring, sharing, feeding, clothing, housing, helping others develop their own faith – these are the reasons for people of faith, no matter who they are, or what faith they profess – LOVE – is in essence the basis on which our 16 billion year old universe is based. 

Just go and look – and see -- at Dr.  Mullaney’s pictures.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

This is the current note I prepared for St. Peter's Keys, the Parish Newletter.  This is Number 11.  If you like, I will provide the others as well.  Perren

From the Rear Pew
Observations from Perren

THEOLOGY IS THE MOTHER OF SCIENCE, reads an old adage.  Another translation could be “Study of God/Creation is the source of all reasoned knowledge.”  Although the Greek word “theos” always is translated “God,” its origin is from a Sanskrit word which means “place in order.” Things which have not been “placed in order” are called “chaos.” “Chaos” is something that has no order – or meaning – and is therefore is “meaningless.” Please note that “meaningless” does not mean “nothing.”

     It is for this reason that the Hebrews, when they assembled the Old Testament in the sixth century BC, placed what we call the “Creation” story first. This story is very interesting, because the Hebrews took an existing “creation story” the Babylonians told, reworked it, and produced the splendid opening that we find in Holy Scripture. After all, the Hebrews thought, without the “orderliness” of creation, it is impossible for humans to learn to live together with: Justice; Freedom; Equality; Sharing. And, the Hebrews continued, without those four things, humans cannot live together peacefully. And they believed – as we still do believe – that this is the basic way in which humans are put together.

      The Hebrew Bible then continues to show how the Hebrews learned about Justice, Freedom, Equality, Sharing. A lot of this learning was “negative,” but it was clearly illustrated by the way in which the original “Habiru” nomads perceived the world around them. In the “myth based” stories found in Genesis, the four great truths were isolated and given as fundamental to all interpersonal relationships among all humans – Hebrew, or not. It is worthy to note that the primary stories in the conclusion of Genesis are about the great Savior who welcomed nomad strangers into the highly educated Egyptian culture. (I do not find it an accident that Mary’s spouse was named “Joseph.”)

     It is for this reason – the great Four – that were fundamental to the Hebrews, clashed somewhat with the Greek concepts. The Greeks, with their philosophy, sociology, mathematics, and physical arts, never found a means of making sense of the world they lived in. This is true, even though Greek knowledge of the physical and mental world was in many ways superior to that of the  Hebrews. The Romans, on the other hand, indeed did find a uniting concept: absolute force! It is very interesting that the Mediterranean area – from which the vast majority of us descend – have followed the Roman pattern since Julius Caesar.

     You see, for the Hebrews everything was united – made together – by the same “placing in order” from one source. And throughout what we call “ancient” history, wherever the Greek or Roman colonies were founded, the Hebrews had special exceptions granted them – because of their understanding of the great four truths: Justice; Freedom; Equality; Sharing. Greek intellectual triumphs were not bound together; Roman intellectual triumphs were forced together. Yahweh – a living mind -- was the binding force for Hebrews. But no matter how one looks at it, what we have learned to call “religion” is intimately involved with “learning.” And so “religion” became an intimate part of government and governmental force.

     HOWEVER, beginning in the 16th century and continuing right up to this present day “spiritual truths” and “scientific truths” finally left their Hebrew origin (Yahweh) which united them, and Justice; Freedom; Equality; Sharing became totally irrelevant to interpersonal and international interrelationships. (To be continued next month.)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Note on the "Reconciliation" notice at General Theological Seminary.

This is an upgraded form of the Note that I left at the website GTS.EDU on what was called the "Reconciliation."  As usual, I look for your comments.  Perren

Note on the "Reconciliation" notice at General Theological Seminary.

This comes from a devoted alumnus of GTS in 1955.  So far, everything I have read seems to take a “side” in this polygonal problem.  While this is a clarifying “must,” it cannot be a “resolving” matter – only the expression of relief that students are being educated, and some sort of life continues on the Close.  Prayers and tears and hope (as yet unfulfilled) have marked my reactions to the anger, both outright and covered carefully with chosen words.  Now that “education” has (re)commenced, perhaps an orderly life can be restored.

While there is much to be said, I believe, on all sides, everything I have read or heard, comes from the same point and leads back to this same point.  My own ministry during the years 1973 through 1995 was “contributed” to congregations.  I “earned” my own “keep” in ways that gave me much insight into Christian life.  While I consider myself a “liberal” in politics and Biblical criticism, an Anglo-catholic in liturgy, a Jesuit in prayer life, Freud-leaning in psychology and language, a follower of Peter Druker and W. Edmonds Demming in economics, and Winfred Douglas in music, my approach is fundamentally classical, beginning with the period near 1000 BCE.

I strongly believe that our very first issue is the theology of the Church.  Why do we need Seminary education in the first place?  What is the purpose of the Church? What is the purpose of Religion? What is the purpose of a parish? Why do we need clergy? How are the clergy related to the Church? The Diocese? The Parish? The Baptized? The Unbaptized majority?  These are the questions that are fundamental to what has happened at General. And all groups/sides need to understand this as a fact.

In 1919 the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America became the first “denomination” to require the clergy to retire – at the chosen age of 72. At the same time, the General Convention directed the church, at every level to follow the “generally accepted” methods and practices of “modern” business.  This, therefore, fundamentally altered the relationship between a parish and its priest (and added-on non-clergy parish personnel);  so also the relationship of the priest to the Bishop/diocese; so also the (newly created) Office of the Presiding Bishop.  This kind of fundamental change takes a looooong time to be implemented fully.

The Church Pension Fund seems to have considered that the “time has come” to implement to the fullest, this dictum of 1919.   Now spread out as a full scale Human Services/financial system The Church Pension GROUP administers insurance, annuities, and health care for the retired clergy - and others! It has become a full-scale Human Services institution - without a corresponding “corporation” shaping its actions.  The CP Group now assists in “developing” a “path” for the newly ordained (and somewhat younger than recently) clergy.  As family needs develop, so income must be increased – and there is college for the kids!  Sort of each 5 - 7 years the clerics must change the location of  ministry – and of course, the income. These (and many others) are significant issues that MUST be dealt with – while “we must be in the world, but not of it” we still need to provide for family and, “promotion” details.

When I and several other priests tried to follow the French (especially) “Worker Priest” movement, I and they were either too far in front of where the Episcopal Church was/is, or it just won’t work in the USA, at this time.  Or, anyway, it has not done so.  And again, the experience developed by the few of us who tried this has not been sought – and now very few of us still survive in this model.

NEVERTHELESS, the CP Group has adopted the full Human Resources issues needed in corporate understanding for corporate personnel.  The CP Group seems to have made this its outlook since the middle 1980s.  In so doing, we have become transfixed on each parish as its own branch office, serving its own purpose.  Small parishes will care for “beginning clergy,” as they continue to learn the system of making each parish a “successful” example of its place in the diocesan structure.

I could go on and on about this but this Human Resources approach is the beginning of the “full flower” (for the Church) of the clerical person as primarily an administrator of a successful sub-office of the Diocese.  Keep the people happy, care for some needy local issues (either well-known, or sublimated under the general adjective “care for the needy.”)

The concept of the church as the living Body of Christ is sublimated into local concerns, in preaching, music and programs.  BUT THE CONCEPT OF THE CHURCH AS THE MOTIVATING FORCE TO CHANGE THE DIRECTION OF THE NATION/WORLD TO THE GOSPEL MESSAGE HAS VANISHED.  Being a priest is being a preacher/teacher for the  Baptized so that they can bring the Gospel to work with them (preferably with little or no fanfare) so that the so-called “secular” world can be transformed –  that is gone.  Worship often becomes an attraction in and of itself – but NOT a self-offering of life lived in Jesus.

Yes, the Dean is correct (and so is the Board) that there must be changes; but so also is the Faculty correct that the eco-social ethos of modern American Business cannot be the model.

A great personal sadness for me has been that the 1979 Book of Common Prayer – even though it was commissioned to be a MISSIONARY ACTION – has become an institution that looks back to a glorious past and tries to rebuild it.  I am grateful that THAT cannot happen.  (We are simply too poor to try, and too inefficient to succeed.  We need to evolve into a newer way of – in fact – becoming The Shape of the Liturgy of the first three centuries.  This was/is the manifest presented to the Commission that produced the 1979. Book of Common Prayer.

That means remembering that when income for the church is simply part of one’s personal generosity, on the par with PBS, that then God is not fully involved in this.  For us Christians, all we are and all we have is the result of what we have done with the way God made us.  Our pledge is NOT how much we shall “find” to give the church this year– our pledge is how much we need to retain for personal use for family needs and charities, and retirement purposes, and additional education.  It MUST be preached regularly that WE (individual and group) ARE LIVING THE FORGIVEN LIFE ASSURED BY THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION OF JESUS-SON-OF-MARY.  Our life is NOT continuous self-examination and “general confession;” our life is one-glorious-full-participation in the very life of Jesus.  Joy, equality, justice, peace and sharing are our true life.  We do our best as we are able – and the needed strength comes as we feed on the Body and Blood of Jesus – together – with each other.  

God must be at the center of that operation – we have used what God has made us to be because we KNOW the great Creator God whom we worship and adore because that God became one of us to show us how to live; how to bring the creation to its fulfillment – justice, equality, sharing, love.  Redemption, Reconciliation and Forgiveness bring joy to each and all of us each day – and we therefore “DO THIS” wherever we are; however we can; with joy and peace; as fully as we are able.

For this to happen, we need a disciplined, regular “three-year retreat.”  It needs an administration (Dean, Faculty, Students, Administration) that knows that the “past” never leaves us – it lives and grows with us as we continue to evolve into the “holiness” that IS the Resurrection of Jesus the “oneness” that the Creator God provides for us as the “Big Bang” moves toward the glorious conclusion known only to the Creator of the first “positive” and “negative” charges that commenced the continuing act of Creation.

The Dean, Trustees, Faculty, Students, Administration and ALL of US need to stop being concerned about “jot and tittle” issues of power and DO THIS – live the Baptismal Covenant.  Each of us has promised to do that.  Together is the only way we can do it.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

This was my presentation in the annual summer series at St. Peter's Church in Lewes, Delaware in 2013.  Each year for several years these were presented on Thursday evenings, from Memorial Day week until Thursday before Labor Day -- the "in season" for our resort visitors.    I seem to have attracted 40 -- 50 each time.  Here it is:

Whole   Holy
Wonder   One

Good evening!  My name is Perren Hayes and I am a priest of the Diocese of New York, retired, but I live here in Delaware.  In fact, in four days we shall begin our seventh year here in the Diocese of Delaware.  I normally attend church here at St.  Peter’s, unless I am supplying in another parish that needs a priest.  This is my third year as a participant in this program sponsored by Seeker’s.  As always, Prayer is the subject.  I have been working on tonight’s document since February, and I hope it might be helpful to you.  Because I sometimes say things together very closely, if you don’t hear something, or if you think you didn’t hear it correctly, please put up your hand and ask.

On my desk – in the midst of what I call ‘ filing’ – among the many things there, there are two books: one is entitled “Three Spiritual Directors,” and the other is called “Story-Shaped Christology.”  Also, recently, I have seen a movie called “The Story of  Pi,” and another movie entitled “Cloud Atlas.”  These may turn up again, later.

These three 14th century mystics – Julian of Norwich; Anonymous; and Walter Hilton – are of crucial importance.  You see, I believe, they are the first builders of the foundation on which the great, Renaissance stands.  We are here today –  with all the development of science and religion throughout all ages -- because of that Renaissance which only now is beginning to run out of steam.  The second of these 14th century English  mystics is the unknown author of  “The Cloud of Unknowing.”  His (most likely) great contribution is a study of what experts call “apophatic prayer,” as distinct from “kataphatic prayer.”  “Apophatic” is one of those very precise Greek words: it means the “negative,” or “no message” way.  “Kataphatic” is another Greek word that means the “affirmative” or “usual, common or ordinary” message.  Both words have to do with the way in which you and I know God and – most likely –anything that we know about anything we think about.  Kataphatic, or an affirmative, has to do with the stated belief of most of us: God (or science) has revealed him/her/itself through the creation that God made -- using nothing at all.  In other words, we: look around; sniff around; touch around; taste around; and listen around.  These are the ways in which we learn something about God – or any/everything.  We examine the results of God’s creating.

We who are Christians believe that the strongest, most perfect, example of God’s self – creation/Revelation – is the person of Jesus, son of Mary.  Other persons also struggle as hard as we do trying to find meaning and purpose to the world in which we live –whether it is called “creation” or “universe.”

In one form or another, all humans reach out to find meaning, and purpose –an answer to the question, Why?  And – as this year’s Seeker’s program demonstrates – there are many traditions, even more than represented in the previous summer programs: all are constantly seeking meaning and purpose.  And, that is always happening – even if some folk are not aware of it, or “think” they do not want to know or even need to know.
In every group – at least the ones I have looked into somewhat –kataphatic structures are the norm for learning about God – or perhaps I should say, discovering “Reality.”  (Reality is, in fact, the Name the Hebrews had for the Creator – it is not a title, it is a name.)

But at the same time, often hidden away, there are other people who, in addition to looking at kataphatic structures have discovered that no matter how one looks at creation/universe, or whatever – they have discovered that in spite of the splendor, and glory, and beauty of the creation/universe, the five senses are in fact inadequate to express a full meaning –  that is to give a kataphatic, “good message .”  “Apophatic” is the term that is attached to these people.  Again, the word usually means “negative message.”  In fact, however, it means “negative” in the sense of “positive absence,” rather than “empty nothingness.”  No matter how wonderful the sense-perceived creation is –and Dr. Mullaney will show you incredibly beautiful, meaningful, NASA photographs of the perceived creation next week –no matter how wonderful the sense-perceived creation is, it pales at the concept of any being who/that might have conceived it, or organized a process for bringing it to reality.

I remember a little kid whose parents gave him a big thick book entitled “Astronomy,” as a Christmas present.  He was only nine years old but he couldn’t wait to get out into the backyard and lie on the grass and look up at the stars and see how gorgeous they were. He makes out all the ancient Greek constellations – and of course, because electricity was still relatively new, there were very few external lights to destroy the beautiful night sky.  I (he) remember saying, “How beautiful, how lovely, is this wonderful world we live in” – or words to that affect.  I don’t think I have ever lost that awe and that wonder –and I keep trying to see how it all fits together with me and my friends and my family and the whole world.  And I knew – and still know: God made it all.

I want to share with you some of the things that have helped me as I continue to look at that same creation/universe.  But I can’t!  You see, I really want you to hear Dr.  Mullaney next week – but I’m not sure I would be finished in time! !

One of the things that made my life a little bit different from that of other people, was that my father insisted on reading to all of us at the dinner table, for 15 or 20 minutes every evening. What he read was from the “Five Foot Bookshelf of Classics,” published by Harvard University Press.  We – or at least I –asked lots of questions, and my father did his best to provide adequate answers or help us discuss the issue.

Beginning at that point, I began to see that the most important thing we human beings have is our ability to examine and make an attempt to make sense out of all of our five-sense perceptions.  Knowledge for its own sake is very close to the heart of my life.  Because I have to “edit” what I’m going to say this evening, I have decided that I’m going to talk mostly about the Bible.  Mostly I’m going to talk about the Bible because it’s a very important work; but also, since the closing of the Supreme Court agenda for this calendar year, I hear lots and lots of people saying “the Bible says;” or “God wrote it in his Word;” or “Jesus tells us; “and this just infuriates me.  Almost to the point that I am almost ashamed of being a Christian.  (The recent fuss in Rehoboth intensifies my feelings.)

That’s why I’m going to talk about the Bible.

A couple of years ago, at Passover, the Public Broadcasting Service, in its “Nova” series – I supposed it to be relevant to the Passover – devoted a whole evening to “How the Bible came to be.”  (The program was really about the “invention” of monotheism.) I suppose I thought it was so good because I use many the same general approaches as they did.  First of course the Bible came into being over a long period of time.

Using some broad brush strokes and some fine finishing of my own, I need to say some very important things which, if you do not know them, can destroy the Bible for you.  Instead of setting you free as God intends you to be, you will be locked in a tight jail, with no Windows, and no hope of any freedom.  You are then the Captive of an evil force that is sometimes called “Religion .” But I’m showing some of my anger – which is not going to help you or me in this program.

During the next couple of paragraphs you may think that I have lost track of where I’m going, but it is not so.  You see, every academic and social discipline, is built into the very structure and foundation of the Bible as we know it today.  So bear with me – there are many different things from many different disciplines that need to be fit together for me to make sense out of what I’m trying to say to you.  So, here we go!

It was the Hebrews who put together the story – using poetry and prose.  This gives us a way of discussing things which are beyond our comprehension.  (“Story” – that’s the other book on my desk !)

Probably the crowning jewel of what Evolution has so far produced in human beings is what we call the ability to think and to comprehend – and make decisions.  All mammals (at least) had the same five sense perceptions that you and I have.  Some animals seem to have cognitive ability as well.  But, we think, none can begin to compare with humans.  And the reason that cognitive abilities develop is because we can communicate with each other .  (And the reverse!)

That is, we have a language.  Now all mammals seem to have a language;– but their language does not begin to compare with our human language .

Think about it: you and I first use our language – even as it is being introduced to us by our parents – we use it independently within our own minds.  We “discuss” with ourselves!  We “argue” with ourselves!  And all this is over the five sense-perceptions that we all share.  We have many artifacts from over many cultures, from many time frames; and all show how this works everywhere, no matter what the culture.

But we do not keep this “private” thinking for ourselves.  Because this is inherent to all humans: we need to share the insights and concepts “others” have had as they examine the same things we have examined.  Thus it is built into our very nature that the “thing” we call today “society” or (more frequently now) “culture” needs to be shared – in order to have meaning .  Even though the human birth-child is cared for by parents for nearly 10 years: at some point a warm, welcoming, enriching process takes over where each child learns to discuss with other humans, other views of our five sense-perceptions.

There are two results from this discussion.  First, there is a very large number of perceptions where we have an excess of 90% agreement.  Oh, there are nuanced little differences, but that’s  all they are – little differences.  Second, and perhaps far more important – although ranking is not important in this kind of thing – is that in discussion we enrich each other as we learn how sense-perceptions can be differently perceived by different minds.  What a wondrous thing God has made us humans!  Together, we can work, and create, and invent, all kinds of things:- things that are in fact a continuation of God’s original  Act of Creation – often called today, “The Big Bang!

Now I want to go back to the beginning of the Bible – as the book we know.  I’ll make references to the PBS program “Nova” so that you can find additional information should you want to have it.

The Bible – by which I mean what we call the Old Testament -- with its addendum, the New –began to take the form which it has now, at the time of the Great Exile to In Babylon, which began around the year 582 BC.  You also should know two more things first, the Hebrew Bible is not arranged the way our Bible is.  The Hebrew Bible has three divisions: the Law; the Prophets; and the Writings.

TheLaw includes what we call the  Pentateuch, and what we call the History – Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings;
The Prophets includes Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel; and what is often called the Book of the Twelve.
The Writings include the Psalms, Job, Ruth, Song of Songs, Proverbs, Ezra/Nehemiah- Chronicles and what we call Daniel.  (The Book of Daniel according to most scholars today, reached its present form probably about 100 to 150 years before Jesus was born.

About the year 130 A.D., the Jewish Bible as I’ve just described became “canonized” –that is to say, it cannot be added to or subtracted from.  At the same time as a Great Exile, there was a beginning of Jewish influence throughout the Mediterranean sea.  (This was the original Diaspora .)  Not long after, because of the work of Alexander, often called the Great, (he died in 436 BC) the Greek language was very widespread throughout the entire Mediterranean and Middle East.  So, beginning in the fourth century, a Greek version of the Bible began to come  into being.  It is called “Septuagint.”  It is a Greek translation of all the books I’ve just mentioned, plus a number of others, and extensions of some of the of the above.  Most of these “extras” are called “Apocrypha” by Episcopalians.

It was this Greek Bible that were used by the vast majority of Jews, and the earliest Christians –until St.  Jerome produced the Latin Vulgate in the fourth century A.D.  You may remember in the Christian book Acts of Apostles, the Order of Deacons – including St.  Stephen – was created to solve a squabble between the Greek speaking Jews and the Hebrew speaking Jews – right there in Jerusalem.  Not too long after the Resurrection!  (I’m made this statement for the edification of those who think the Bible – preferably in the King James translation –was “deliberately dictated” by God.  In the normal sense of the use of words, this just is not true.)  And while there is another way in which it is true , that other way is unrelated to the meaning intended by those who talk about the “deliberate dictation” of Holy Scripture.

There is one other piece of information which you may find of interest.  Classical Biblical Hebrew doesn’t include vowels I guess it is kind of like TXTNG today!  For example, if you have the consonant, “H” and “T,” you need to know from memory or other context what is the correct vowel: you have to know your language pretty well.  Put a vowel “A,” or “I,” “O,” “U” between those two consonants, and you see the problem.  The Jews saw it, and, I believe in the 11th century A.D., they produced what is called the Masoretic text of the Bible – that is the “proper” vowel is printed in Association with the consonants of the Hebrew alphabet.

Now, what in fact happened between 582 BC and 510 BC that made the Bible get organized?

I have to say, that while there’s history here in what I’m going to say, there are also a number of other things from other academic disciplines: psychology; poetry; nomadic culture; women’s-rights; Newton’s Laws of Motion; Darwin’s discovery of the Evolution Principle; Einstein’s fabulous work in physics; DNA; and so forth.

The Hebrew People first appeared on the planet earth –in a way in which in which it could be recognized that it was in fact they – in some very early Egyptian hieroglyphics.  It is important to note that the Habiru, as they were called, were a rather motley collection of nomadic peoples, gathered in groups, or tribes.  They existed in the desert between the Nile River and what is now Syria – they moved from oasis to oasis with their sheep and goats and with all their belongings.

The key thing we need to remember from this is that they had no country of their own.  Let me say that again –they had no country of their own!

After they had been at an oasis for a while, and it began to dry up, they would just gather up all their belongings and move on to the next oasis.  They lived in tents, and because of the physical arrangements of most oases there is a closeness, not only of humans and humans, but of humans and animals.  That also meant that atmospheric elements were extremely important – even though totally out of their own control.

Over time, these Habiru learned, that even though they could not control what we now call the weather, somehow or other they “perceived” that, unpredictable though it was, in the last analysis, the weather was responsible for them, indeed, made their life possible, and therefore – in the weakest form possible –they began to perceive the meaning of caring, “love.”

While I would love to speak about the Habiru engagement with the Egyptians, that is not tonight’s subject.  But I will throw in here, a statement I’ve been making since I’ve been in seminary: “If you understand the book of Genesis, then the entire Bible – right through Revelation –will make good sense.  But in order to do that you must understand that in its most beautiful form, the book of Genesis is written in poetry.”

After the Habiru had lived in Egypt for a while, they acquired a taste for a more organized way of life.  And so they apparently settled in Egypt.  When – as the Bible puts it – a new dynasty of Pharaohs came into being, the Habiru – like many politicians, even today – began to fear “these illegal aliens.”  So, they made the Habiru into slaves.

History is sprinkled with great names.  My Old Testament seminary professor said, “If there was not an actual person named ‘Moses,’ we would have to invent such a person.” And so the ‘story’ arises around Moses: his origin; his religion; his leadership; his five-sense perceptions; and his spiritual development.  A very strong tradition developed about Moses and was integral to the life of what we now called the Hebrews. Moses was a ‘leader’ who refused to accept that title.

Somehow or other, things he had learned from the Egyptians, and other sources, made him realize that there was what we called earlier “apophatic” things in this world.  There was what we now call the God – who, as the 39 Articles say, is “without body, parts, or passions.” And while we call him God, in Hebrew that is a collective noun – plural!  You see?  GrammarIS important!  The use of the collective, or plural, noun, is the attempt to include all the imperceptible things that science, as we know it, continues to open up for us.

Moses understood that the Creator was far more than any other  god, and therefore his individuality could be captured only with a personal name – הוהי. That name is intended to be what might be called a “singular ,” a “uniqueness” – that is.  הוהי is, and can be, only one; no duplication; no other – only a “positive nothingness” that is alive with meaning!

Moses set the Hebrews free.  He led them out of Egypt –into a living “nowhere.”  That led to two characteristics: 1.  They – as human beings –were/are the highest resettable product of the  Creation, by the Creator, הוהי.   2.  The Hebrews were to be powerful witnesses for the Creation, and its Creator, הוהי;  and that peace, justice, and caring (summed up in the word “Freedom” or “Liberty” were fundamentally built into the very Creation itself .  Let me repeat that:  peace, justice, and caring, summed up in the words “Freedom” or “Liberty’,” are fundamentally built into the very nature of creation itself..

After Moses died, the Hebrews began looking for a land they could call “their own.”  The moment the great leader left them, they began to show that they did not fully understand what he had said.  There are many years of warfare; and they finally ended up with a patch of land they called their own – but they took it violently, and said it was the result of the actions of their God.  Thus to this day people who don’t believe that God did that, fight to get back what they believe is rightfully theirs.  But the fact the matter is: it ALL belongs to God –the King.

After a couple of hundred years a new leader came – Samuel. Samuel spent his time seeing that peace, justice, caring, and freedom were brought to all the people associated with the Hebrew people –just as Moses had said it should be.  But – as very often happens – commerce, and commercial activity –money and banks – and the concept of possession began to undermine peace, justice, caring and freedom.  As you can see, the world still has these problems.

In any case, there came a time as Samuel was getting older, when the people, who had traveled to other countries, and seen other civilizations, said, “We need to have a King.”  Samuel argued that in fact הוהי was their King , and that there was no need for any one- or thing- else.  Samuel went on to warn about the evils of a strong executive-centered government.  Taxes, confiscations, standing army, war and warfare, slavery, corruption of all kinds, at all levels!  But he had to give in.  Their first King was named Saul, and he turned out to be exactly as Samuel had predicted.  Then came King David, who also had a whole bunch of negatives but also a very perceptive personality that allowed him much leeway.  In the lasting history of the Hebrews, David is the only one who could be called really “successful.”

When David died, the Twelve Tribes, whose union had always been precarious, began to fall apart.  In Jerusalem, Solomon succeeded his father David in the natural order of succession;  but that was only two tribes.  He had to get himself elected to be the King of the other Ten.  And after he got the title, he paid little attention to his promises but did everything possible to show how important on the world stage he was.

After Solomon, the two groups of Hebrews basically split up, and there was North Kingdom, and there was a South Kingdom.  The North Kingdom seems to have disappeared from the world stage in the eighth century BC.  The only reason the South Kingdom continued, is because a change in world politics happened and the high hills of Jerusalem just didn’t seem worth the effort.

However, in about 582 BC, the Southern Kingdom was again discovered.  The Emperor of Babylon – it’s still there in today’s  Iran – conquered Jerusalem.  But instead of the usual practice of destroying everybody who was still there, all the “quality people” were carefully transported to exile in Babylon.  These are called the teachers, leaders, those associated with the temple, shopkeepers, and, of course bureaucrats –the kind of people that make a government and community function.  They were allowed to bring most of their stuff.  Included among their paraphernalia, were writings from their past,  religious documents, and of course, the very full and rich memories and that the Hebrews had and still have – and in which we too share.

Before I continue with this story that we need to cover, I need – first –to place a context for all this.  The context has to do with the rest of the known world –as far as we of the West are concerned.  In the year 582 BC, the world was beginning to enter a period of great change – a change in the understanding of the five sense-perceptions; a change in the way in which humans related to the reality/existence; and, therefore, a change in the way in which humans related to the world around them.  In Greece, philosophy was just beginning to develop; the beginnings of mathematics and geometry were being discovered,; similar thinking social groups were being created; –the kind of things we are used to from the past, but which now somehow seem to be a bit inadequate.

It should also be noted that Rome, far from being an important city, didn’t even exist!  The wolf that nurtured and nourished Romulus and Remus had not yet been born!  And there are many other examples from the same general Mediterranean/ Near Eastern section that we consider to be part of our own origin.  And it needs to be noted that in other parts of the planet, where there were other humans, a similar form of this Renaissance was fermenting.

The exiled Jews, by being sent to Babylon – at that time the acknowledged greatest city on the planet – were placed where they could receive all the benefits of this true beginning of modern times.

The Jews, however, had one serious problem – perhaps “issue”– is a better word!  The language they used had very little in common with the Indo-European languages like Greek.  (Latin  did not yet exist in any serious form.)  Hebrew – at least Biblical Hebrew –had major problems in dealing with any “abstraction.”  For example, when we read about the “beauty of holiness,” we understand an abstraction called “holiness.” But the actual Hebrew says, “well-woven clothing.”  Also, Indo-European languages like to have nouns and verbs that have a  “singular “ meaning.  Thus, as soon as we Indo-Europeans discover a second idea associated with any particular word, we invent a new word for it.  Hebrew – and also Arabic, which at this time was still on the desert – on the other hand, likes to “pack many” meanings into single words.

Thus, when people when people who like to do this kind of thing, do it, the rest of us learn that while there are just about 2500 words in English in the King James version of the Bible –  not counting place and proper names – but there are only about 750 (+/-) corresponding Hebrew words.

The other major part of the Hebrew language which is totally different from Indo-European languages, is that Hebrew has no Past Tense!  Hebrew has only two forms of the verb: “completed” action; and “incompleted “ action.  Now, if you stop and think about this, it makes a massive difference in understanding what is happening; how it is happening; and where it is going.  And, although this is part of another address, one of the things that this means is that –in Hebrew – not only can the past never be reconstructed or repeated, but that the past is always part of the present.  Among the many things that this means, is that no matter what action (to use the Hebrew term) has been completed, that action must be taken into account when dealing with the present and with planning for the future.  Not only does that help us understand better about the world we live in, but it helps us manage things better –and prepares us for the huge discoveries made by Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and James Hawking.

Darwin, like Newton before him, was a devout member of the Church of England, the mother church of the Episcopal Church.  Darwin discovered the principle which is fundamental to the whole of Creation; and it is called “Evolution.” To deny Evolution is to be out of touch with all of God’s Creation – with its meaning and purpose.  From what we now know about the beginning of the universe, ( as Dr.  Mullaney will show next week), at the instant of the “Big Bang” the principle of Evolution begins to operate.  Evolution takes what we call “the past” and wraps it into the very structure of the present/future.

Thus, when on next week you see Dr.  Mullaney’s spectacular  NASA photographs of the development of the universe, what in fact you are watching is the principle of Evolution activating the whole development of Creation.  It is, in my opinion one segment of what we mean when we say, “Holy Spirit.”

That’s stuff enough for another whole meeting.  Now, back to Babylon.

It cannot be stated how important and how prominent Babylon was at this time in the history of humankind.  Everything that was important was in Babylon: music; art; religion; agronomy (this is the home and time of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon); every culture; well organized government; equally well organized religion; and organized education; and the means to provide for, and care for, the multi-hundreds of thousands of people who lived there.  When the Hebrews arrived in 582 BC, they were treated with respect, and welcomed into the community, and were given help to maintain and develop their trade and their religious practices. They apparently had really good housing, in this new land, and quickly adapted in many ways to their new home.

They could easily have vanished from the face of the earth by allowing themselves fully to enter the society of Babylon.  And that, of course, is precisely what Babylon anticipated.  And, that’s almost what did happen!  But, you see, many things happened that were different from the life back in Jerusalem. There was no war for them to fight.  That free time gave the Jews the time to grow ,and develop, and think – remember the beginnings of Greek philosophy are arriving at the same time.  So, apparently among the things they did, was read with care their old documents, and the Temple Books and papers.

There they discovered two things.

First, they – as humans – had been highly favored by הוהי whom they now called their God.  In fact, they had an agreement, or a covenant, with הוהי.  It was to be their task to bring equality; justice; peace; freedom; and love to the whole of Creation.

Second, as they look around Babylon, they could not help but notice that equality, justice, peace, freedom and love existed in Babylon primarily with the force of arms –and for the wealthy.  And, in fact, as they looked around, there are many horrors that existed in Babylon along with its culture.

So, some of them decided that the first thing they had to do was to protect their own identity.  Here amidst all these people,  they had to be and show themselves to be special, something unique, something desirable.  They did this by identifying three specific things to make a Jew, a Jew: Sabbath;  Circumcision; Law.  (Law –that is, really, a Greek concept; the Hebrew word means simply “word.”) Law was a set of regulations for both interpersonal relationships, and for dietary  care.

The next thing they did was absolutely phenomenal!!!

They re-wrote the texts they had brought with them from Jerusalem; they wrote down the memorized portions of their historic past; then they “edited” those as well.  They developed a “story” about their past.  (Remember the movie, “The Story of Pi”!)  They made their story both interesting, intriguing, and satisfying.  They began right there in Babylon to preach and teach about equality.  Justice, peace, freedom, and love, – and they did so by talking about Sabbath, about Circumcision, and, above all, about Law.  And they used the Creation Story of the Babylonians to do it!!!  They added to the Babylonian story, a Seventh Day – named Sabbath!

At the time that all this is happening, Jeremiah, to a lesser degree Ezekiel, and some unknown person, whom we moderns, with our great felicity for beautiful, meaningful, language call: “Second Isaiah!” And at the same time, the records of other great preachers – we call them Prophets – began to take hold. And these people – all of these prophets –had been trying for years to show a kind of “apophatic” interpretation –in addition to the regular “kataphatic” interpretations –so directly related to the Hebrew language.

And here we must once again interrupt, to discuss language

Because (that word is strictly my word) biblical Hebrew is a less-developed language than, say Greek or Latin or English, it seems to lend itself in a special manner to what we have learned to call “poetry.” That is to say, putting words together with rhythm.  This rhythmic perception makes words easier to remember and helps recall perceptions that might have been seen or heard only once.

Because to many it seems so meaningless, one of the forms of Hebrew poetry, Psalms, contains what is properly called a “cesura,” signified by an asterisk.  This needs to be explained.  In Hebrew, most of the Psalms have three pressures – in English poetry we call them “beats” – on either side of the asterisk.  If you examine the Psalms you may note that the “real poetry” is found in the re-stating of the first half of the verse, in the second half.  So it is, that the abstraction-free the language of Hebrew, fills the mind with pictures that promote abstract thought.  A new kind of perception!!!

The prophets not only enriched the language –they enriched the entire thinking process by developing a form of abstraction.  That’s why in most modern translations of the Bible, so much is printed as what we tend to call “blank verse.” So, when you read the Psalms, be sure to leave a substantial pause at the asterisk; and at the same time, look for the re-statement of the first half in the second.

[]We Episcopalians, somehow, however, seem to be unable to use a punctuation mark for anything other than a pause -- any punctuation mark!  Punctuation marks are intended to help us understand the full meaning of the words so that we can stress the correct word – usually a noun or a verb.  That helps us to read English with a biblical rhythm that will allow both “iambic pentameters,” “chiasmus,” –even blank verse.  But not if you pause at every comma!]

As I said to you earlier, I could continue to talk about all these things for a very long time.  And, I like to do it:- after all, the more we talk about science, the more we learn about the activity we call Creation.  And the more we talk about Spirituality, not only will our understanding of science  become richer, but we will begin to expand in all directions.  In fact, these directions will be things scientists and theologians had hitherto neither thought about, nor perhaps even known about!

But this program is about prayer.

In February, when Father Jeff asked me to do this, it was a great surprise to me.  And at the same time I had a number of other personal issues on my plate, so I haven’t even been thinking in this field.  (Except, about a program a group of us have been developing entitled “Socrateens.)  Anyway I sort of thought a bit, and four words came to my mind: “Whole,” spelled with W, and “Holy .” Now “holy” is the translation of a Latin word –“sanctus” –that in its original derivation means “separate from .”  “Whole” with a W means completeness, and is an Anglo-Saxon word in origin.  To me “whole” means a style of self-perception which is striving for its fullness, in its completeness, with the expectation that is an open-ended exultation.

But this cannot be perceived, or even achieved, without paying attention to all of the five sense-perceptions with a really open mind, that questions everything, while at the same time seeking every grain of reality that is presented to the mind.  In order to do this we need to become truly Holy.

And here we must discuss the difficult problem of “faith” as opposed to “belief.”  I am not sure if Biblical Hebrew makes this distinction.  Faith, you see is an openness to all of the five sense-perceptions – whatever their source –to the need to be discussed not only within your own mind, but also, especially, with others.  Faith is, basically, an accepting thing.  Faith looks forward to being alive– to growing– to enriching– to developing!  Faith is fully capable of building a future built upon the past –participating in the act of Creation by wrapping oneself in the present, so that the future is built solidly on everything that has ever been part of God’s Creation.  When that is our goal –and it is not easily obtained – then we become “Holy.”

Holy is the state of life that gives us insights into that whole process that commenced at what we call the Big Bang!  And, we are then “set free” and and enabled to participate more fully, in our own small way, in that aspect of the Great Creation into which we had been placed.  This brings richness and reverence into our lif – a reverence that is separate from the thrill that comes from just the five sense-perceptions.  And when this happens, the glory and the splendor of it all changes every aspect of our being.

I need to say something about “Belief.”  Belief can be a stultifying force that tries to seize upon a single moment, a single created thing – whether physical or abstract –which interrupts the fundamental principle of Creation – Evolution.  As I said before, evolution is the principle of constant change,  pushing us continually to combine all that has happened, into our present – as a build a new future!  Belief, however, is an attempt to preserve a single moment in time as if it were the total act of Creation.  In the last analysis, it will always fail.  But even this, this is not a total negative!  Before the next step can be taken, at least one foot must be firmly fixed on the ground!

Belief becomes a major issue, however, if we try to keep that one foot firmly fixed in its place.  Then there can be no chance of movement again. We are children of the Creator of Creation. Our life is, therefore, constantly changing.

And the moment that change ceases, then what we call “death”  happens – in and to the mind.  Creating-growth ceases; and the word “holy,” instead of being a sign of growth, becomes instead the sign of death.

The resurrection of Jesus makes “holy” wonderful: Jesus, our King, exists forever, Thankfully we share his life.

And that is the “wonder” of it all.  Seeing reality with the eyes of faith enriches everything.  And when everything in our life is filled with enrichments, life itself is filled with the glorious wonder.  And that wonder brings us to the one who made it all  – whom, because we are totally inadequate when we attempt description – the one we call God, the great Creator.

And we are at peace in ourselves,
with each other,
and into whatever reality the Great Creator provides for us.

Prayer, therefore, is the way of life that lives with:

Everything we do and think is prayer – “Even,” as St.  Francis said… “ If we have to use words!”