Categotry Archives: Main Blog

Sermons and theological ramblings of an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.

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Never Mind Him: January 14, 2018

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It was a pretty amazing career that has Al Capone near the beginning and the #MeToo campaign at the end. She had a significant following on Twitter, and when she died on December 28, that platform was just one of the many, from traditional newspapers to social media, where she was celebrated. Television artist Nell Scovell called her the “patron saint of female comedy writers,” thought that was really just a role she performed as an actor. It all started with a vaudeville father and the 1929 release of the Vitaphone sound short “Baby Rose Marie the Child Wonder.”

Rose Marie Mazzetta, just Rose Marie in the credits thank you, had a career lasting almost seven decades, though she was best known for her role as Sally Rogers, one part of the comedy writing team for the fictional “Alan Brady Show,” the show within the meta show, “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” It starred the eponymous Dutch kid from Missouri, and had a cast that included Rose Marie, an Italian from Manhattan, and of course, Mary Tyler Moore, who would move into the workforce, like so many women, with her next role. But “The Dick Van Dyke” show was really a tribute to the great tradition celebrated in Jeremy Dauber’s recent book “Jewish Comedy: A Serious History.” In fact, “The Dick Van Dyke Show” was an homage to the writer’s room at “Your Show of Shows,” an early television hit that ran from 1950 to 1954 starring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coco. Caesar’s comedy writing incubator would produce names like Neil Simon, Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart, the creator of M*A*S*H, and, unfortunately, Woody Allen, accused of sexual misconduct long before the current wave of #MeToo. Continue reading →

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Communion Rite

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I have been asked on occasion to share the Communion Rite I adapted from traditional forms. This is the basic rite, though it has been adapted, and has one version with the Words of Institution done responsively by the congregation.

Invitation to the Table Our Savior loved, welcomed and served Gentile and Jew, male and female, sinner and saint. Why should we place barriers where Christ did not? This is the table of love. We welcome all who wish to follow on the Way of Our Savior to receive communion.

Instructions on how communion will be served are inserted here.

Communion Prayer Let us pray.

O Divine Mystery we name as God, it is right and proper that we should come together as your people to offer you thanks and praise, acknowledging our utter dependence on you. In holy creativity you wrote a new story, calling the world into being, choreographing the dance of the atom, composing cosmic symphonies. Continue reading →

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Traveling Light: January 7, 2018

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The scene on Jeopardy might play out something like this:

“I’ll take pop groups with strange names for $800, Alex.”

“Here’s the clue: This group, named after the sound an infant might make, was a one and a half hit wonder, first with the group’s single “Too Shy” in 1983, then with the lead singer’s solo hit “The Neverending Story” the following year.

“What is Kajagoogoo.”

“That is correct.”

It was the age of big hair, and Christopher Hamill, using the anagram stage name Limahl, had big hair when he recorded the title track for the popular fantasy film based on the first half of a recently published children’s book by the German author Michael Ende. Continue reading →

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Christmas Eve Homilies 2017

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Family Service 10:00AM

On my recent trip to Florida, I had the joy of seeing Toad the Wet Sprocket, an alternative rock band first founded in 1986. They are a personal favorite, as is the solo work of the lead vocalist and guitarist Glen Phillips. But before they can even consider the music, most folks stumble over the name, which seems nonsensical, unless you are a Monty Python fan, in which case it is still nonsensical, but exactly as it should be. The band took Toad the Wet Sprocket, the name of a made-up band in the “Rock News” sketch on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, as a temporary name and never got around to changing it. Continue reading →

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Out Standing in Our Field: December 10, 2017

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The great Jewish artist Marc Chagall, while immensely talented, would probably have never achieved the fame he would come to enjoy, much less the commissions and sales, if he had remained in Belarus, if he’d even survived Stalin’s purges. Paris called and Chagall answered, not once, but twice, before and after the revolution. It is the City of Light, drawing painters and poets like moths to the flame, a thousand locks weighing down a lovers’ bridge, dissolute genius

Toronto has its own charms, but it is no Paris. There must be dissolute artists in Toronto, but I’ve never heard of them. Nonetheless, in the same way that Paris acted as the incubator for the genius developing in Chagall and countless other artists, musicians, and writers, so Toronto acted as an incubator for an American genius. Continue reading →

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In the Bardo: December 3, 2017

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“The earliest star coined out of the dark coping to the south hanging in the dead wickerwork of the trees along the river.”

Not quite the sparse prose of Hemingway, nor the overflow of Faulkner, but clearly American, woven from the fabric of the West, a mouthful of the vernacular. These words come from “The Crossing,” the second book in the Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy, a great American novelist. The first book in the series, “All the Pretty Horses,” was filmed, as was “The Road,” a later and un-related bestseller, but film does not do justice to McCarthy’s writing, for while it captures the narrative action, which is powerful, it does not capture the salt and sweet of his words, the feel on the tongue, as he describes moments of breathtaking beauty and equally breathtaking violence. McCarthy is the literary reader’s Louis L’Amour, unapologetically dusty, guns and horses, the permeable border between the US and Mexico, the grace of bodies in motion and emotions embodied. Continue reading →

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From the Jaws of Defeat: November 19, 2017

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Sermon delivered November 19, 2017
at First Congregational Church in Blue Hill (UCC)

The pharmaceutical companies, churning out new products daily, have become the masters of making up brand names… no more “Dr. Sharfenberger’s Magic Elixir,” today we have Flonase, to insure that air flows through your nasal passages, though some products, like Viagra, seemingly a combination of the roots for life and farming, leave me mystified.

Of course, brand names are meant to connect, to convey, to match the zeitgeist, the spirit of the time. Maybe that is why the Plymouth Valiant was only manufactured for a couple of years after the end of the Vietnam War, the zeitgeist not celebrating war after that mismanaged and lost conflict, when valor felt hollow.

It was into a Valiant that we all piled, three mothers and too many kids, sandwiches that would soon live up to the sand part of the name, towels and buckets and no sunscreen in sight, week after week through the summer for days at Oceanview, a spot where the James River met the Chesapeake Bay. If only we had known what was in that water! If only we had known about skin cancer! Continue reading →

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Not A Sermon

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Last summer, I was asked to take part in the Open Mic at Blue Hill’s first ever Pridefest. My remarks touched on a Disney Channel program. Below are those remarks from June, followed by an update:

A revolution happened last night, captured in the three words “Cyrus looked back,” but you probably didn’t notice.

But the story, at least for me, starts decades ago.

Born in 1963, I grew up with no positive gay images. Looking back, I realize that there were gay and lesbian people all around me in my childhood, teachers, neighbors. I mean, those two housemates across the street were not just housemates.

The only use of the word gay I ever heard was on the sitcom “Soap,” where Billy Crystal’s character was strenuously not gay because the man he loved was transgender, though pre-operative.

By the time I got out of the Army in the mid-1980’s, I had the language I needed, and a pretty clear understanding of what would happen if people knew you were gay, as I watched more than a dozen members of my unit face prosecution and discharge. Nonetheless, I came out shortly after I returned to college. Continue reading →

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Vogue: November 12, 2017

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Sermon delivered on November 12, 2017
at First Congregational Church in Blue Hill

The run up to Thanksgiving feels as fraught this year as last, maybe more so as people dig in and refuse to sit at table with other family members after last year’s debacle. Uncle Fred didn’t know his niece was dating a person of color, and grandma’s comment about “queers” wasn’t really aimed at her grandson, but the damage was done and the wounds are not healed. There is no doubt plenty of “but it’s their turn” and “no way, I’m not going,” going on in households across the country.

It is hard to stay in relationship at the best of times, and the “me-first” rabid individualism of our consumer age is not the best of times. Add to that the Molotov cocktail of white nationalism and “us vs. them,” and it is surprising that any two people can sit in the same room, for while scripture may declare that where two or more are gathered in Jesus’ name, he too will be there, so am I convinced that where two or more are gathered there politics will be also. Reinhold Niebuhr famously called politics “where conscience and power meet,” but there isn’t always power, sometimes there is only longing for a world that could be, whether it is a world of some romanticized past or a world that is the stuff of dreams, Dickensian ghosts of what was and what might be. For the ghost of the present, politics is a free-floating anxiety, the elephant in every room. Continue reading →

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The Storm: November 5, 2017

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I am not a gold card sort of a guy. Sure, I made some nice coin when I was in the tech industry, but not enough for platinum or titanium, and I’m not really that flashy. But I do have one gold card. With it, I can pay for my Grande Mocha at Starbucks, not much use around here.

It never occurred to me that Mocha meant more than the intersection of two amazing things, coffee and chocolate, but it turns out there is a Mocha Island, just off the coast of Chile, and historically inhabited by the Mapuche people. Considerable evidence has emerged in recent years that the Mapuche had contact with Polynesians, of great interest to anthropologists, though it is something else that happened in the waters around Mocha that still captivates our attention, even if we don’t know it. In the early decades of the 19th century, the region was home to an albino sperm whale called Mocha Dick. Continue reading →

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