May 27, 2013

Sport Participants

The thought occurred to me the other day that participants in major team sports are called players. We have baseball players, basketball players, football players, volleyball players, hockey players, polo players, badminton players, and so forth. On the other hand, in the more solitary game of golf, we have golfers.

When I began considering the matter more systematically, I decided that it isn’t the solitary vs. team distinction that is important so much as what we call the activity. Golfers golf, but people do not baseball or football or hockey or tennis.

In other words, if the name of a sports activity can be a verb, more likely than not, we call someone engaging in it by the name of the activity suffixed by er. Thus, we have golfer, bowler, curler, swimmer, sailor—this was once sailer, apparently, which now has a different, but related meaning—pole vaulter, etc. On the other hand, we generally don’t have baseballers, footballers, or hockeyers. In team sports, however, we do have pitchers, catchers, fielder, passers, blockers, etc.

Cricketer might seem like an exception, but it turns out—Americans might not know this—that cricket can be a verb. An actual exception is footballer, a name unlikely to be applied to an American football player but something an Australian would call a football player, or, as we would say, a soccer player. (Soccer is not used as a verb, and a soccer team does not consist of soccerers.) If football is ever used as a verb, it must be rare indeed.

I suspect that one could find other exceptions to my general rule. One who races horses is not a horse racer but a jockey (not a jockeyer), someone who jockeys. People engaged in bobsledding are bobsledders, of course, but the person who pilots the sled is a pilot. A person riding a bicycle can be a bicycler but is more likely to be called a bicyclist. One who engages in gymnastics—one doesn’t play gymnastics—is a gymnast.

May 26, 2013

More Thoughts on the Collect for Trinity Sunday

My last post, “Trinity Sunday Comma Problem,” was written rather hurriedly. A comment on Facebook, however, caused me to look more closely at the collect for Trinity Sunday. In doing so, I can only conclude that the prose is tortured, the theology murky, and the punctuation unhelpful.

That said, I should point out that the present collect is, in many respects, quite similar to Thomas Cranmer’s version in the first English prayer book of 1549:
Almightye and everlastyng God, whiche haste geven unto us thy servauntes grace by the confession of a true fayth to acknowlege the glorye of the eternall trinitie, and in the power of the divyne majestie to wurshippe the unitie: we beseche thee, that through the stedfastnes of thys fayth, me may evermore be defended from all adversitie, whiche liveste and reignest, one God, worlde without end.
The petition was changed in the 1662 English prayer book, and that formulation was retained in the American prayer book through the 1928 edition:
Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity; We beseech thee that thou wouldest keep us stedfast in this faith, and evermore defend us from all adversities, who livest and reignest, one God, world without end. Amen.
Compare this to the collect in the 1979 prayer book:
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The present version has acquired a more appropriate Trinitarian ending and has again altered the petition.

Neither the sentence structure nor the punctuation of the current collect is very transparent. In an attempt at a clearer version, we might rearrange the text as follows:
Almighty and everlasting God, by the confession of a true faith, you have given to us, your servants, grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and to worship the Unity in the power of your divine Majesty; keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father, who, with the Son and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Even here, I cannot say precisely what this means. Exactly what to worship the Unity in the power of your divine Majesty means is particularly unclear, especially because Unity is capitalized. Is Unity a concept or a synonym for Trinity? Who knows?

Anyway, if one insists on retaining the word order in the present collect, I would punctuate it as follows:
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us, your servants, grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and, in the power of your divine Majesty, to worship the Unity; keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father, who, with the Son and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I won’t try to justify every change in punctuation here; I leave that as an exercise. Notice however, that I have changed live and reign to lives and reigns, which I think is correct, even without my additional commas.

In fact, this collect is a mess, and one I hope we will clean up some day.

Trinity Sunday Comma Problem

The Book of Common Prayer (p. 228) gives this collect for Trinity Sunday (First Sunday after Pentecost):
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I had to read this collect many times before I figured out what it is saying. The first time I read it, it seemed that your servants grace was the object of have given. This presented two problems: (1) It doesn’t make sense and makes one think servants should include an apostrophe. (2) The comma after grace stops the reader cold and makes one realize that he or she has been led down the garden path.

The object of have given is, of course, grace. Grace has been given to us, who are your (i.e., God’s) servants. In other words, your servants is in apposition to us. Since we can eliminate your servants without misunderstanding us, your servants is nonrestrictive. It should therefore be set off by commas (see Section 5.21, The Chicago Manual of Style, Sixteenth Edition):
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us, your servants, grace, …
My guess is that, when this collect was punctuated, it was thought that adding two commas would break up the text unduly. This, however, was a mistake, and the commas should be inserted should our next prayer book carry this collect forward. This is particularly important, as most worshipers hear the collect without simultaneously reading it. Thus, they can easily be led down the garden path, interpreting servants as servant’s or servants’. Perhaps a better rendition would be
Almighty and everlasting God, you have given grace to us, your servants, …
Yes, I know I am obsessive, but I resent unnecessarily unclear text.

May 24, 2013

A Letter to the Editor about Pope Girl

Today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette carries a letter to the editor from me. It involves a controversy related to a student’s participation in an April 18 parade at Carnegie Mellon University during its annual carnival. The student, Katherine B. O’Connor, 19, wore a what passed for a mitre on her head; a red and gold, cross-emblazoned sheath covering, rather imperfectly, her chest; and, below her waist, nothing at all. Her pubic hair was shaved into the shape of a cross. She was smoking a cigarette and, according to reports, distributing condoms. (With a little effort, you can find pictures of Ms. O’Connor on the Web. Curiously, I could find no full-torso, uncensored pictures of her. Some pictures black out her crotch; others black out her face. No doubt, with Photoshop one could reconstruct a complete picture of her and her costume.)

“Pope girl” seems not to have made any news until the Roman Catholic Bishop of Pittsburgh, David Zubik, took an interest in the CMU event. The Post-Gazette published “Diocese protests ‘disrespect’ at Carnegie Mellon University parade” on May 1. According to the story, the university was “investigating” the matter at the Catholic diocese’s behest. The bishop, commenting on the pope girl presentation, said, “It is offensive to me and the church that I represent. It crosses a line.” The story further characterized Bishop Zubik’s view of the matter: “He said he hopes the female student and others learn a lesson about how their actions can be seen as discrimination against others.”

The newspaper carried stories on May 8 and 9 indicating that CMU was continuing to review the incident. That is to say, the university was trying to figure out how best to deal with a troublesome public relations problem. “CMU looking into student who dressed as pope” reported that CMU president Jared Cohon had sent e-mail to the university community calling the incident “highly offensive” and apologizing to anyone who actually found it so. (The letter prompted student protests.) The story also revealed that the then still anonymous student perpetrator “intended to criticize Pope Benedict XVI’s handling of the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church.” A diocesan spokesman, however, explained that “the importance is that nudity is not a matter of freedom of speech. And secondly we need to be sensitive to one another’s beliefs even though they may be different.” “Carnegie Mellon is still reviewing student’s parody of pope” was a minor rewrite of the story from the day before.

On May 11, the Post-Gazette reported that the university had filed misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure against Ms. O’Connor and a male student whose nude antics had been less well documented. (Is there a sexist double standard here?) (See “CMU review of ‘pope girl’ nude protest ends with indecent exposure charges.”) President Cohon is credited with this Solomonic pronouncement:
“While I recognize that many found the students’ activities deeply offensive, the university upholds their right to create works of art and express their ideas,” he said. “But, public nudity is a violation of the law and subject to appropriate action.”
CMU imposed no further penalty on the students.

Not surprisingly, this whole incident elicited lots of letters to the newspaper before I wrote my own. A common theme was that if a similar incident had attacked some other group (Jews, Muslims, M.L. King, Jr, etc.), we would be outraged. Ergo, we should be incensed in this case. What set me off was a May 19 letter, “Public nudity and mockery stunt exposes double standards” by Thayer K. Miller. The letter said, in part,
Not only was the one student’s nudity clearly intended to make a mockery of public morals but also it was specifically designed to smear Christianity, the Catholic Church, its religious tenets and the pope. This was verified by her mockery of the pope’s costume and the vulgar display of the cross on her private parts. If the student depicted a black person in chains being whipped or a Jew branded with a swastika there would be public outrage, even if she was fully clothed. That would be called a hate crime, to be severely punished. Hate crimes can focus not only on race and ethnicity but also on religion. If she had posed as a naked Muslim displaying the star and crescent on her private parts I am sure all hell would have broken loose and there would be a public outcry with no doubt as to its being a religious-oriented insult.
I agree that Ms. O’Connor’s performance was aimed at the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope. It is not at all clear that it represented an attack on Christianity, as if that matters. The letter writer apparently thinks a severe punishment should be meted out to Ms. O’Connor, but I’m not sure what punishment is contemplated. In any case, my reply, titled “No hate speech” by the Post-Gazette, was the following:
I can appreciate the outrage expressed in Thayer K. Miller’s letter about the half-nude Carnegie Mellon University protester (“Public Nudity and Mockery Stunt Exposes Double Standards,” May 19), but the writer exhibits a fundamental misunderstanding of American liberties. The demonstration was not a hate crime but simply the exercise of the First Amendment right of free speech. A case could be made that even the “indecent exposure” was a necessary element of the student’s making her point.

Fire-bombing a church because you hate Christians might be a hate crime; expressing that hatred in words or in a demonstration that physically harms no one is not. When particular thoughts become crimes, be they “good” thoughts or “bad” thoughts, Americans will neither enjoy freedom nor deserve it.
Miller’s attitude is little different from Zubik’s. Lately, many conservative Christians have come to think of any criticism as persecution, and persecution they believe society should punish or suppress. (I don’t understand Bishop Zubik’s characterization of Pope girl as discriminatory, however. Does he think other religions should not have been left out of the demonstration?) This behavior is simply narcissistic paranoia.

The May 11 Post-Gazette article offers a more proper perspective:
Robert D. Richards, a professor of First Amendment studies at Penn State University and founding director of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment, said the bishop was “off the mark” in his description of the First Amendment.

He cited the example of protections given to the Westboro Baptist Church, a group that has received criticism for its protests at soldiers’ funerals.

“The bishop’s interpretation of the First Amendment is entirely inconsistent with the law,” Mr. Richards said. “In fact, some of the very things he mentioned in the statement are exactly what the First Amendment is designed to protect.”
Actually, since most decent people aren’t too kindly disposed to the Westboro Baptist Church—certainly, I’m not a fan—it is perhaps more helpful to think about the Muhammad cartoons controversy of 2005 and 2006. Over 200 people died in protests over cartoons published by a Danish newspaper seen as critical of Islam. Americans widely viewed the Muslim reaction as unjustified, uncivilized, even. Bishop Zubik should think about that.

On-line, my letter elicited some interesting comments. I thought the following, from Bill Helwig, was the most insightful (I’ve cleaned up obvious mistakes; you can see the original text below my letter on the Post-Gazette site):
The nudity was the stroke of genius. Because of the nudity the work got far more attention than it otherwise might have. I don’t see how Diane [an earlier commenter who dismissed the relevance of nudity] could possibly suggest that the nudity did not have any principled application to her theme. She had a cross shaved into her hairs. How plain a statement can you make? It directly relates to the theme of the work. The cross is a symbol of the Church; the Church wants to dictate how women can use their body.
John Muir offered this observation:
This girl was not involved in some Mardi Gras-esque orgy of indecent exposure. It was a protest. She called attention to her pubic hair (which contained a symbolic message), not her genitalia.
Interesting. A male could not have made a similar statement without exposing his genitalia.

The ACLU has shown some interest in Ms. O’Connor’s plight. I hope it can help her escape a conviction.

Update, 6/11/2013: The two CMU students did not quite get off scot-free. They agreed to a deal yesterday that will require them each to perform 80 hours of community service. See my post “Pope Girl Update.”

May 17, 2013


I have been a Lewis Carroll fan for as long as I can remember. I think I knew the poem “Jabberwocky” even before I entered kindergarten. I was therefore excited when someone posted a YouTube video of a choral rendition of the poem from Through the Looking-Glass on Facebook. In the video, the University of Utah Singers sing a  composition by Sam Pottle.

Of course, not everyone knows “Jabberwocky” as well as I do, and, since many of the words in the poem were made up by the author, it can be difficult to make sense of the singing. I decided, therefore, to combine the poem and the YouTube video on a single page. Some screens will not be wide enough to view this page from edge-to-edge—sorry about that—but you can , if necessary, start the video and scroll to the right to follow along with the words.

One word in the song seems to have been changed by Pottle, though I cannot imagine why. In any case, the text shown is Carroll’s poem as originally published.

May 13, 2013

The United States of Conspiracy

The United States of Conspiracy
Click on graphic for a larger image and additional information.

May 1, 2013

Wash Prom

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, I held various positions on the college’s yearbook staff. I was never officially a photographer, but I did take pictures for the yearbook from time to time. I recently ran into a print of the photo below. It was slightly creased and faded, but it is one of my favorite photos. I may have the negative, but, if I do, I don’t know where it is. I really appreciate being able to scan such a print and correct for the ravages of time (and perhaps also for my less-than-expert printing).

The photo was likely taken in 1967, but it might have been 1966 or even 1965. It was taken at the Washington Promenade (usually referred to as “Wash Prom”), the big social event at a school known for its lack of social events. The location was Ida Noyes Hall, which passed for a student center on campus at the time. Couples were on a stage for something or other, and I took the picture from the floor with my Yashica 35mm SLR. The film was our yearbook favorite, Kodak Tri-X. I probably pushed the developing a stop or two. The picture was taken with available light.

I have no idea who the people in the photo are. I’m sorry I didn’t find out. I love their expressions, however. (Click on the photo for a larger image.)

A Teenager’s Sermon

When I was a teenager, I was responsible for recording sermons on a reel-to-reel recorder at my Presbyterian church, so I worked closely with my minister. Although I don’t remember how it came about, my minister gave me the opportunity to preach one Sunday. The sermon I gave is below. I have corrected a few spelling errors, but the text is otherwise what I took with me to the pulpit. I expected that my sermon would be considered scandalous, but I received only congratulations for having done a good job. This was somewhat disillusioning.

I don’t know exactly when I gave this sermon, but it was almost certainly in the early ’60s. I don’t intend to make any particular point here. Make of this what you will.

Scripture: Genesis 1:26-31

While planning for this message, I found myself led again and again to the question of what a Christian should do with his life. Posing this query to a Christian of long standing, certainly a Christian brought up in the church, is apt to prove unproductive. The answer received may seem glib, unconsidered, or simply enigmatic and unhelpful. It is likely to be given glibly, without consideration, and in a parrot-like fashion which repeats words only, while the thoughts attached to the words pass unnoticed. We like to repeat the Golden Rule, cite the Ten Commandments, and, after missionary conferences, remember the Great Commission. But in our daily lives, these gems of Bible rhetoric remain tucked away in that safety deposit box which is the back of our minds. Somehow, their relevance or their profundity escapes us.

Perhaps the reason we act in this manner is that we are afraid that if we followed such commandments to the letter, life would be at best a little less fun. Or, if we think a little deeper, we may begin to feel that they say too little to guide us fully. We may even begin to secretly fear that somehow things just would not work out if we were to take the Bible, and especially the New Testament passages on this subject, seriously.

I plan to suggest that at least part of the answer to the question of what the Christian in the twentieth century is to be doing with himself lies in a commandment which is not likely to be thought of, the existence of which, in fact, is not likely to be recognized. I believe that its importance is not to be ignored, however. I am speaking of the first commandment God gave to man.

It is given in the very first chapter of the Bible: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Now it may seem that this passage is not a commandment at all, but merely a statement of man’s condition: He will survive, and his station will be above that of the mere animals. But subduing the earth means more than that; it requires effort. Having dominion over all forms of life seems not to have been granted as an immediate gift, or if it were, it was abdicated to the serpent.

Perhaps man was made just a little lower than the angels, but to be sure, in the beginning he was hardly higher than the animals. He was naked, ignorant, and defenseless. But he stood before a world created as his domain, and to appropriate that world to himself, to understand it, to use it, change it, to subdue that domain was his greatest task.

What is the chief end of man? “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever,” answers the Westminster Catechism. Surely if man was to conquer the world, it was to be for God’s greater glory, for as Paul says in I Corinthians 10:13, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

In what respect, you may ask, is subduing the earth to the glory of God? I believe it is in at least two ways. First, we honor God by executing any of his commands. This one is like any other—obedience is an act of worship and of praise.

But there is a higher sense in which we give glory to God by obeying this particular charge. This passage demands that man change himself and change his particular change his world. From an ignorant savage at the mercy of his environment, man was to lift himself both in knowledge and ability. The act of worship for the savage is almost meaningless. The awe of his god is about equalled by the fear of his shadow. But when modern man, “the wise,” who has harnessed the forces of the world to his will and has penetrated the secrets of the universe, when he bows down in submission, in acknowledgement of a much greater power than himself, the act is indeed to the glory of the everlasting God.

Now let us ask ourselves more specifically what is enjoined here and what it means for our lives.

Two points which could be noted, now seem trivial. Indeed, in the twentieth century they are trivial. The first is the command to reproduce, the second is the command to have dominion over the animals of the earth. It may be noted that man has done admirably in both of these areas. The world is now overpopulated with people and underpopulated with animals. Perhaps we should not pass over the somewhat obvious fact that these points were once relevant. Certainly Adam could not do very much alone. Increasing the population was a way for man to more fully appreciate and appropriate God’s gifts. But man, who was physically weaker than so many animals, was to have a long upward struggle.

In alluding to the condition of modern man, I have already implied what is meant by the subduing of the earth. It means using the raw materials which God has provided. It means building and organizing matter. It is man’s job to order the world with his rationality, to use God’s gifts to the best possible advantage, to waste nothing of what has been given him.

It is clear, of course, that this task before man was not to be a leisure-time activity. “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work….” Is this not really the work to be done? It is in our daily lives, in our daily occupations in which we are supposed to be subduing the earth.

What is more, this is a task we are never to consider finished, for there is certainly no end in sight. We shall never be able to look at the world below and tell ourselves that we can now rest because the earth is subdued. Paul, in II Thessalonians, makes it quite clear that man’s labor is never to be finished: “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.” And we should not forget the wisdom and the promise in Proverbs: “Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.” (Proverbs 20:13) and “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings….” (Proverbs 22:29)

We are each called by God, predestined if you like, to perform some task in the world. And this is not merely a station to be humbly accepted as Luther would have it. We should never look upon our lot with humble resignation. We are to work diligently in our calling, in our occupation, because we have a command which tells us it is our job to efficiently use and rationalize the world. We must consciously dedicate our labors to the glory of God, whether we be lawyers, scientists, clerks, or ditch diggers. And if at any time or in any way we may make our labors more productive, it is our obligation to do so.

This is best illustrated by the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. As you remember, the master went off on a long journey and left three of his servants with five, two, and one talent respectively. When he came back, the first servant returned the five talents as well as five talents which he had earned with the money. The second servant, too, had made a profit. The servant who had received but one talent, however, returned only what had been given him and said that he had not wished to risk the master’s money. His master’s reply is splendidly clear: He took the talent and gave it to him who had ten and to the third servant said, “You wicked and slothful servant. You know that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed?” he continued, echoing the pleas of the man before him. “Then you ought to have invested the money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.” Yes, God has given man the world; He expects to get it back as a much-improved piece of real estate.

Also in this commandment, I believe there is an implicit obligation to investigate the world. That is, we have here a justification for the existence of science. Now to some people, science is a very irreligious occupation. I have heard unpleasant weather blamed on our space program or on nuclear testing. I have heard the ignorant piously affirm that God does not want us to go to the moon. (It is as if they think He lives there and does not want to be disturbed.) But such attitudes must reflect either an outrageously exaggerated estimate of man’s ability, or a pitifully small conception of God. Learning about the universe can only make us more fully appreciate His wondrous works. And it is necessary to understand our world if we are truly to use it with efficiency, to use it for God’s glory.

And make no mistake, we do indeed help conquer the earth in our daily occupations. Wealth, man. has discovered, is created by himself. God has provided the raw materials but it takes human labor and reason to turn these into wealth, into something which can be utilized in some ultimate process of consumption. Trees and stone do not without man’s effort comprise a dwelling. And when we work, we create something of value not only for ourselves; we give it to the entire world, which can then be a greater monument to God.

You will say, of course, that even the heathen work. This is true. It has been argued that the attitude I am suggesting was largely responsible for the development of modern capitalism, however, that it provided a motivating force greater than any other available. But I will not argue this thesis. The heathen who also work have their reward in this life only, but the Christian adds a significant purpose to his life and does something pleasing to God.

Working in the world, of course, provides unlimited temptations. Certainly it would be easier to maintain faith in an atmosphere shut off from it. It would be easier to worship, to pray, and to meditate in a monastery where there is nothing else to do. But in so isolating ourselves do we not disobey two commandments? Do we not fail to carry out both the Great Commission and God’s First Commandment? The Christian’s sometime philosophical dislike of the world is wrong. Indeed, the connotation of the word “worldly” is somewhat unfortunate. For we are told, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Are we to disdain or to gratefully accept and enrich that gift?

But what may begin as an act of obedience becomes for most of us an unpleasant chore or an end in itself, and the fruits of our labor are, at best, injudiciously administered, and, at worst, liscentiously squandered. We must never forget that God is our ultimate Employer, that we must follow His rules in our dealings, and that our accomplishments should be for His glory.

The attendant dangers to work in the world as I have suggested were clearly recognized by John Wesley, who wrote; “I fear, whenever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore I do not see how it is possible, in the nature of things, for any revival of true religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches. How then is it possible that Methodism, that is, a religion of the heart, though it flourishes now as a green bay tree, should continue in this state? For the Methodists in every place grow diligent and frugal; consequently they increase in goods. Hence they proportionately increase in pride, in anger, in the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the pride of life. So, although the form of religion remains, the spirit is swiftly vanishing away. Is there no way to prevent this—this continual decay of pure religion? We ought not to prevent people from being diligent and frugal; we must exhort all Christians to gain all they can, and save all they can; that is, in effect, to grow rich.”

We should remember that to grow rich is not a crime. There is, of course, a tendency for it to be regarded as such. Who has not heard the phrase “filthy rich?” We have a habit of looking enviously at the wealthy and announcing they they probably got their wealth by some foul means. But in the realm of which we are speaking, money is a fairly just arbiter of values, and the servant who could return 10 talents for 5 was more valuable to his master than he who could return only that which was given him. It is the love of money which is the root of all evil. It is not wealth, per se, that will keep us out of the kingdom. To John Wesley we can but say, when we pray, “lead us not into temptation.”

And let us always remember the words of Micah: “And what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”

* * * *

But wait! Let us stop for a moment and re-evaluate what the New Testament does say. Is what I have been saying a misinterpretation?

What about the fact that riches are suspect, if not an absolute evil? Says James, “For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.” James speaks not of the wicked, but the rich. He speaks not of the good, but of the poor: “Listen, my beloved brethern. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him?” It is the rich man time and time again who is seen doing evil—there is the rich man and Lazarus; there is the rich man who walks sadly away because he has been told to give all his possessions to the poor. Do we know how he became rich? Could he have been better used producing more wealth instead of reducing himself to worthlessness? Is it human sacrifice which is demanded? Was his money to go to the deserving poor, or are the poor deserving by virtue of their poverty? Lay not up treasures on earth, we are told—it is impossible to have possessions and be good. Instead, have no thought for the morrow, but be as the birds who do not work, yet survive. We are told to leave everything, to leave brothers, sisters, and parents to follow Christ. It is the meek and the poor in spirit who will be rewarded. Suffering is seen as good, and we are told to resist not evil. A new covenant is made with. Israel, and we are told to be perfect, as God is perfect. We learn that the thought of evil is the same as the evil itself.

And we ask ourselves what the Christian in the twentieth century is to do with his life.

We have chosen a course, not just everyone else, each one of us has chosen a course. God help us, wicked creatures that we are, if we are wrong.

Let us pray.

Almighty God, grant us insight into Thy holy mysteries so that we may know what is pleasing to Thee. May we not be discouraged when we become confused by Thy commands. Forgive us when we truly seek Thee but know not where to turn. We make our pleas not in our own name, but in the name of Christ Jesus. Amen.