Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Peak Oil and the Church

Tonight's midnight movie will take you late into the morning. This is a compilation of many different speeches given by Mike Ruppert of From the Wilderness and now Collapsenet about the geopolitics of Peak Oil.





Denial Stops Here: From 9/11 to Peak Oil and Beyond







Ruppert is the best. He documents everything.

The neat thing for you about what I am doing here is that you can lurk and watch my midnight movies and read my stuff and never have to identify yourself. It is risk free for you. Free information so you can connect the dots for yourself. You can accept what you want, dismiss what you must, check it out further. And you can wonder,

"Is this really going on? What does it mean for our future? For my family? For me?"
Remember I am a Presbyterian minister. You can't get more square than that. If I am posting this on a public blog you know it is getting mainstream. Change is happening now. Ruppert has provided us with a helpful "map."

The point is not 9/11. The point is the motivation behind it. Once you get the motivation (that is the raw panic when those in power see what is at stake), then 9/11 is another day's work for Empire. More evil to come. I read this today
. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it clearly:
"We're not leaving Afghanistan prematurely," Gates finally said. "In fact, we're not ever leaving at all."
It is interesting when honesty just slips out like that.

There is a role here for the church. This is the church's moment. The church's role is NOT:
  1. to try to save our way of life
  2. to provide false comfort it by denying reality
  3. to ignore our task
Oil is at peak production. The world is getting ready for global war. This is what we must work against. We cannot allow Petroleum Man to destroy everything in a futile attempt to maintain an unsustainable way of life. It is a way of death. We must name these powers of destruction and engage them. We must prepare ourselves for the changes that are taking place right now.

As human beings we can deal with this. We can handle change. We will work together with our neighbors. We can adapt to far less consumption. We can work together. But our leaders do not trust us. We have to tell them that we understand Peak Oil and we want them to be honest with us and to work with and for us so that we can prepare our local communities.

Representative Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland gets it. My representative? Not so much. But we have to keep at it. We have to let them know that we know and we care.

And now your midnight movie.


Buy the DVD or watch it here on Google Video.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Peak Oil and Peak Beer





It is time for your midnight movie. This is a lecture given by geologist Colin Campbell, the founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas.




This presentation is called The End of the First Half of the Age of Oil. It is very good. I enjoy listening to him. I like scientists, especially when they use beer examples:

Depletion is Easy to Grasp
As every beer drinker knows
--the glass starts full, and ends empty
--the quicker you drink it, the sooner it is gone

The next time a politician tells you that we need to drill for oil farther off shore or in other exotic hard to reach places and extract the oil as soon as possible to solve our energy needs...





...just think about beer.







Here is a paper he wrote on the topic, Peak Oil: An Outlook on Crude Oil Depletion.

The best documentary I have seen on Peak Oil is


A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash

"We're running out and we don't have a plan."

(This is an excellent film by the way for a church study group, for college students, or for family fun night.)



Colin Campbell is featured in this film. You can watch the raw footage of his interview here. Watch the film itself on Google Video.

And now...your feature presentation...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Peacemaker from DR Congo to Visit Tri-Cities


We are thrilled to welcome International Peacemaker, Rev. Augustin Mukendi, of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, October 1-8 to the Tri-Cities.





Rev. Mukendi is the pastor of Dikongayi Church and Executive Secretary of the Presbytery of Tshibashi.







He is the co-founder and current CPC Coordinator for APCS (Presbyterian Action Against HIV/AIDS) and he has traveled throughout the Congo providing AIDS prevention and education.

He works with SANRU, a national community health and development organization and with Training for Transformation, a global health action program that focuses on women's issues and community development.

He will be speaking on:

  1. Gender inequality and its impact on peace and justice in the Kasai region (DR Congo)
  2. The influence of urban youth on the society; the challenge that Christian Youth face in the Congo
  3. The water crisis that currently faces Congolese society
  4. The difficulty of attaining a state of individual or community self-sufficiency in Congo
He will be speaking at the following venues that are open to the public:

Sunday, October 3rd
Covenant Presbyterian Church
603 Sunset Drive
Johnson City, TN
Adult Sunday School Class at 9:45
Worship at 11:00

Monday, October 4th
First Presbyterian Church
119 West F Street
Elizabethton, TN
Evening Program at 7 p.m.

Tuesday, October 5th
Presbyterian Campus House
1412 College Heights Road
Johnson City, TN
Evening Program at 7:45 p.m.

In addition to the public venues above, he is going to get a chance to experience East Tennessee and talk with others. Here is his complete schedule:

Saturday, October 2nd
He will make apple butter with the good folks at Magill Memorial Presbyterian Church in Roan Mountain

Sunday, October 3rd
Adult Sunday school at 9:45 at Covenant PC in Johnson City
He will lead worship at 11:00 at Covenant

Monday, October 4th
He will be on WJCW 910 AM with Dave Hogan and Carl Swann. The program is "Thinking Out Loud." Listen at 7:40 a.m.

He will speak to the Women's Studies capstone class at 3:10 p.m. with Dr. Karen Cajka at ETSU.

Potluck at 6 pm and Program at 7 pm at FPC Elizabethton.

Tuesday, October 5th
He will speak to Dr. Phyllis Thompson's Young Adult Literature class at ETSU at 11:15.

He will meet with international students at Emmanuel School of Religion in Elizabethton at 2 p.m.

He will speak to students at the Presbyterian Student Fellowship at the campus house. Dinner a 7. Program at 7:45 (open to all).

Wednesday, October 6th
He will spend the day with Rural Resources and the Mobile Market Bus in Greeneville.

He will speak to the youth at Timber Ridge PC in Greeneville at 6 p.m. Youth from FPC Elizabethton and Covenant PC will join them. Others are welcome too!

Thursday, October 7th
Possible venue at Tusculum College (TBA)

Thank you! This should be a great visit! If you have questions or a possible venue contact me.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Change--A Sermon

Change
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

September 26th, 2010

Gospel of Jesus 3:11-14
Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar,
The Gospel of Jesus (Santa Rosa: Polebridge Press, 1999), p. 23.

As they were going along the road, someone said him,
“I’ll follow you wherever you go.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests;
but this mother’s child has nowhere to rest his head.”

To another he said, “Follow me.”
But he said,
“First, let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him,
“Leave it to the dead to bury their own dead;
but you, go out and announce God’s imperial rule.”

Luke
9:57-60; Matthew 8:19-22; Thomas 86:1-2


I don't know where we ever got the idea that Jesus was gentle, meek, and mild. If these two sayings are authentic, Jesus is anything but gentle, meek and mild. He is aggressive, rude, and wild.
Let the dead bury their own dead!
Jeez.
You want to follow me, do you? Well, don't think it is all fun and games, pal. No soft pillows and three square meals with me. You'll be lucky if you eat or sleep. Even foxes and birds have a home. Not me, friend. No sir. This mother's son is always on the move, hunted day and night. The likes of you wouldn't last a week.
Yikes.

It's like spending a week in the wilderness with John Malkovich.

No sweet, lovable Jesus is this one.

And there is no way to spin these sayings that will take the edge off of them. These are hard sayings. Black and white. Do or die. In or out.

Civil rights leader Malcolm X once was approached by a white college woman. She was inspired by hearing him speak and asked him what she could do to help Black Muslims and whites get together. Malcolm X told her she didn't have a ghost of a chance. She went away crying.

That is what Jesus sounds like. An admiring fan says:
I'll follow you wherever you go.
Jesus simply replies:
Foxes have dens. Birds have nests. This mother's son has no where to lay his head.
In other words,
Forget it. You don't have a ghost of a chance following me.
Another time, Mark's gospel records an incident when Jesus is approached by a wealthy man who wants "eternal life." A modern way of saying it is that he is looking for a meaningful life.
What do I do? He asks Jesus.
Obey the commandments, Jesus tells him.
Done that.
Jesus says,
Well then, sell everything you have and follow me.
He cannot do that. Very few can. I certainly haven't. Have you? Even biblical literalists who think every passage in the Bible should be taken at face value (especially when they think it applies to someone else) find a way to ignore this story. Or they spin it beyond credibility.

The wealthy man turns away and leaves with a heavy heart, because the text says "he had many possessions."

Jesus is tough. There is no getting around that.

By the way, Malcolm X later regretted what he said to the white college girl. Malcolm X had matured. He had seen white students helping black people. He changed.

I wonder if Jesus ever mellowed. I don't know. He was executed at a young age. I would imagine that he was intense and remained so.
Let the dead bury their own dead.
You know what that means, right? He is telling the man to forget his family obligations. Perhaps like Jesus himself had done. He is telling this man to consider his family as dead to him.

Tough, tough. If this were to happen today, we would say Jesus was some kind of subversive leader and that his followers were crazed radicals. Perhaps not unlike the Weathermen. Remember them? They were radicals who in the 70s blew up buildings in order to call attention to the Vietnam War and other geopolitical and economic issues.

They were important issues, certainly. The times were insane as well. The Weathermen thought that ordinary people would not appreciate the gravity of the world situation unless they did these radical acts. The members of the Weathermen, also called the "Weather Underground," severed all contact with family for years in order to undertake this mission.
Let the dead bury their own dead. But you go and declare God's imperial rule.
That is what the Weathermen thought they were doing. They were on a mission to change the United States.

They wanted social justice.
They wanted economic justice.
They wanted racial justice.
They wanted peace.

You get an idea and it grows. It becomes an obsession. It becomes a mission. When does it change from becoming admirable and constructive to demonic and destructive?

The cynical answer to that question is that the change from admirable to demonic happens when you switch sides. The Islamic terrorists of today were the freedom fighters of the Reagan era. If you are with us you are freedom fighters. If you are against us you are terrorists. Like I say, that is a cynical answer.

Are we so postmodern that we cannot decide any truth, any right or wrong, any good from bad? Is it all point of view? Is it all politics? Whatever is good for my tribe is good and whatever is bad for my tribe is bad?

I think there is a way to determine when an idea changes from admirable to demonic. I think there was a time when idealist students changed from peaceful critique and demonstration to destructive action as the Weathermen. The Weathermen warned authorities before they blew up a building so people would have time to be evacuated. But it was still violent and destructive.

Jesus was non-violent. Except for his demonstration in the temple, when Jesus turned over tables, there is no evidence that the Jesus movement was a violent or a destructive one. The turning of the tables was more of a symbolic act. It was the event that likely got him killed.

It was subversive to be sure. He meant to overturn Empire. His political, economic, and social vision was counter to that of Empire and of his own religious leaders. He advocated for economic justice, social justice, and peace between ethnic groups.

But his method was non-violent as best as I can tell.

That is the key. The seeds of violence and destruction grow. They produce bitter, poisonous fruit. It doesn't matter how just the ideal, violence poisons everything for many generations. That is the case if it is done by radicals or by armies.

The way of Jesus was a new way of living and being.

It was an intense movement. Jesus was singly-focused. He meant it when he told his followers that life with him would be dangerous, without comforts, and without contact with family. Obviously, Jesus didn't think everyone would follow him.

It is anachronistic after 2000 years when Jesus has become a mythological figure, the Cosmic Christ, the second person of the Trinity, to say that to be a Christian or a follower today means to become a homeless wanderer as the historical person was. Although, for some that might be what it means.

We can interpret these texts as symbol and metaphor. These texts are texts of change. They are texts of letting go. The Via Negativa or the way of letting go and letting be. Letting go of what? You have to make that decision. It could mean starting something very new.

As a globalized industrial society we are going to be letting go of a way of living that extracts and exploits and destroys our home. At some point we will let it go. It is happening now. We will be relating to Earth and to one another in a new way. We are needing to learn to live with Earth rather than against it. It will be better for us if we are pro-active and conscious about it, rather than just letting it happen.

I think Jesus is going to become an important figure again as we live through this time of change. The stories about him and the stories he told may have a relevance that we may have missed before. There is a radical trust and a sense of purpose about Jesus. He is awake and alive. As Bob Funk says, he lives "without reservation into a completely open future." A Credible Jesus, p. 91

The reason I told some warning tales about the Weathermen, is that this "living without reservation" can be very destructive if it is not grounded in what is right and wrong. It is not enough to have a social, economic or political vision that is just, you must have ethical means that match that vision. For Jesus, it was non-violent resistance to oppression. Resist but do no harm.

It is time for the human race to let go of any illusion that we can bring in good things through violent means. We are not going to bring democracy to the Middle East through military action.

We live in a highly militarized culture. There is a reason for that.

The following two sets of statistics are the most important I can think of to understand our situation.

In oil we live and move and have our being.
Everything in modern society is based on cheap oil.

As Americans, we consume 18-20 million barrels of oil each day.
We extract 6-8 million barrels.
We need to import 10-14 million barrels.
Everyday.
We are five percent of the population and we consume 25% of the world's oil.

You don't keep up that level of disparity without massive bullying. I don’t say that with the intention to offend. I'm just calling it as I see it. That is why we spend more on our military than the next 20 or so nations combined.

Those of us with conscience, those of us who see the need for systemic change have our work cut out for us. All of us need to be involved in peace and sustainability movements at many different levels based on our own sense of what we want to do and can do.

Whether we are taking on mountain top removal mining, or supporting local food growers, finding ways to help ourselves and others reduce consumption, or learning and teaching about what life will be like post-peak oil, now is the time to see this work as spiritual work.

Growing a garden is a subversive, spiritual act.

Not everyone can do that.
Not everything is for everyone.
We find our own way.

When Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead” I think he was saying that there are those who cannot be helped because they refuse to see. As painful as that is, there comes a time to let go and move on with those who do see.

This is a spiritual path, the way of letting go. There is no better guide than the historical Jesus who taught us to travel lightly, to trust Earth, and to take each day as it comes.

We will find that it is a joyful and rewarding path.

In time of change, being awake is good.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Peak Coal Too...

The midnight movie is a "film-ette" about coal. According to Richard Heinberg, coal production will peak around 2025. We thought coal was going to save us. Oops.

I am doing a presentation in our adult forum about mountain top removal strip mining. This clip is one of several I will show...



Barking Up the Right Tree: Animal Blessing

We held our animal blessing and pet walk today. It was a lot of fun and we raised nearly $400 for the Elizabethton/Carter County Animal Shelter Building Fund.



We gathered with our pets in a circle and had a blessing (see the liturgy below).




We also blessed each individual animal:


"May the spirit of the Cosmic Christ be with you and your human friends. May you have a long life and a happy home. Amen."



And some of the animals blessed each other:



"I know you are who you say you are.

But regulations require that I sniff your butt."






And then we walked our pets around the church.




Blessing of the Animals
First Presbyterian Church
September 25, 2010

Gathering



Divine Spirit, we assemble with all your creatures in this circle of life.

We ask you to join our circle and celebrate with us.



In the spirit of Jesus, as we join in celebration with you and all creation,
We ask for your blessing, your peace, on the creatures present here that we love and on all creatures celebrating in the wild.

In the name of God, who creates all life,
In the spirit of Jesus Christ, who redeems all life,
and the name of the Spirit, who renews all life,
we cry with all in the circle of life:
Shalom! Salaam! Peace! May your blessing come!

Thanks and Confession

(We hold the animal we love and place our hand on its body as we give thanks).


Lord, for all the animals in the whole wide world,

We thank you, God!
Lord, for all the fun and friendship we have with animals,
We thank you, God!


Lord, for all the times we have hurt or neglected animals,
We are sorry.
Lord, for all the times we have used poisons that have harmed animals,
We are sorry.
Lord, for all the times we have destroyed the homes of animals in the forests, oceans, and fields,
We are sorry.

Absolution

In the spirit of Christ let us forgive and reconcile ourselves with all our winged, finned, and four-legged companions. In the spirit of Life let us honor and protect all the animals. May the animals of Earth be our companions in life and lead us to celebrate our place in the circle of life.
Amen! Shalom! Salaam! Peace!

Circle of Praise – A Version of Psalm 148

All dogs and cats, large and small:
Praise the Lord!
All rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs:
Praise the Lord!
All goldfish, guppies, and swimming creatures:
Praise the Lord!
All robins, wrens, and singing birds:
Praise the Lord!
All raccoons, squirrels, and deer:
Praise the Lord!
All horses, cows, and sheep:
Praise the Lord!
All lizards, snakes and creeping things:
Praise the Lord!
Every animal in the sky, the sea, and the forest:
Praise the Lord!

Circle of Blessing

(All worshippers with animals place a hand on the animal being held. The leader then moves to each animal, saying its name, holding a hand over the animal, and blessing it in the name of Christ who fills and heals creation).

Blessing: [Pet’s name], may the spirit of the Cosmic Christ be with you and your human friends. May you have a long life and a happy home. Amen.

Sending Out

Christ calls you to be his disciples,
to serve him with love and compassion,
to serve Earth by caring for Earth’s creatures.
Will you care for creation?
We will care for creation! We will nurture our animals! We will celebrate the circle of life with them!

Blessing

May the Spirit of God, who is above all and in all and through all,
fill you with the knowledge of God’s presence in Earth
and the presence of Christ within you.
Go in peace! Serving Christ and loving all creatures!


We go in peace, serving Christ and loving our animal kin.

Friday, September 24, 2010

What to do about Peak Oil? Why Sing!

No midnight movie tonight. Instead a little song and dance. This is Kris Can (great website!) with a song about Peak Oil. We aren't going to get through this without creativity and a light heart!



Here it comes

Oops! There it goes

When we’ll find out – nobody knows
That sweet black oil bubblin up from the ground

Has a short ass lifespan
and we’ve no other plan

To move our cars and grow our food

To heat our homes

Without that crude

Peak oil Peak oil Peak oil

Why are we still thinking
nothing is ever going to change

Technology won’t save us,
but that ain’t so strange
Considering all the oil it takes to produce

All the objects we take for granted,
even our freaking juice
So we keep on growing the corn

While killing our fertile soil

Hoping to find the fuel

To keep us from more turmoil

We keep on gassing our SUVs

While the oil wars wage overseas
Waiting for others to fix this thing

Is time misspent

It’s time to grow our things
Take this time to find out

Don’t rely on the mass media’s doubt

Learn how to get involved

Don’t wait for our planet to evolve
We’ve got a few years left to make things straight

Don’t let our apathy become our fate

Start with your lawn and plant some seeds
Grow your food to see how it feeds

Without the oil we can all get along

Make sure your community is healthy and strong

We might be going back in time

To a world we thought we’d left behind
Big changes are coming

Be prepared

But don’t get frightened

Don’t get scared
We need you strong

We’ll need your smarts

So reach down deep inside your hearts

And spread the word that we need to change
Then maybe peak oil won’t be so strange
- Words and Music by Kris Can

I Am the Most Blatant, Obvious Heretic!!

What do I have to do to lose respect around here?

I am the royal prince of heretics. I have unabashedly spouted my dastardly views all over the web. Then along comes Landon. Gets himself elected vice-moderator of the denomination. Does an interview saying something about some bizarre Latin phrase and I lose my title.

It just isn't right.

Why have heresy proceedings not begun against this so-called vice moderator of the General Assembly? His statements are counter to everything our Christian faith adheres to and believes. Will someone please tell me why this hasn’t happened and if not, will it happen? I have hoped that the Holston Presbytery would do the same in the case of John Shuck, but this Whitsitt case is about as clear a case of heresy as we have ever seen. Where is our courage? Down through the centuries martyrs have died for their faith. Are we not willing to stand up and defend it as faithfully has they did? If not, shame on us as Christians and Presbyterians.
Rev. Patricia Slomanski
Benson, N.C.
Yeah, Rev. Patricia. Shame on you. Get on now and whup that Whitsitt. Let him know the truth! The Bible is the only book God ever wrote. Can I hear a hallelujah?


Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Greatest Shortcoming of the Human Race...

...is its inability to understand the exponential function.



First of all,
Dr. Albert Bartlett reminds me of my dad. They are of the same generation and they are both no nonsense science professors.



So I immediately liked Dr. Bartlett when I saw this video of a lecture he had given at the University of Colorado, Arithmetic, Population, and Energy. He covers the big stuff in an easy to understand and easy to follow lecture.

I showed it to my Thursdays with Jesus group this morning. Thumbs up from that group. You can order the dvd from his website. I am going to show it to our college students as well.

Why? Because it is their future we are threatening.

He has given this lecture over 1600 times. This particular lecture was delivered in 1998. The fact that it is dated makes it even more urgent today.

Professor Al Bartlett begins his one-hour talk with the statement, "The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function."

He then gives a basic introduction to the arithmetic of steady growth, including an explanation of the concept of doubling time. He explains the impact of unending steady growth on the population of Boulder, of Colorado, and of the world. He then examines the consequences steady growth in a finite environment and observes this growth as applied to fossil fuel consumption, the lifetimes of which are much shorter than the optimistic figures most often quoted.

He proceeds to examine oddly reassuring statements from "experts", the media and political leaders - statements that are dramatically inconsistent with the facts. He discusses the widespread worship of economic growth and population growth in western society. Professor Bartlett explains "sustainability" in the context of the First Law of Sustainability:

"You cannot sustain population growth and / or growth in the rates of consumption of resources.

The talk brings the listener to understand and appreciate the implications of unending growth on a finite planet, and closes noting the crucial need for education topic.

Enjoy your midnight movie and share it with someone you love.



Watch parts 1-4.
Watch parts 5-9.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Peak Oil: How It Will Change Your Life

Tonight's midnight movie is a presentation by Richard Heinberg. This presentation is four years old.

Still, it is an excellent introduction to Peak Oil. You will also be interested in the Peak Oil Primer that offers a few basics and some films to see.

Heinberg is the author of the book with my favorite title,





The Party's Over.







He has written other important ones too. I have read most of them as I am rather interested in this topic.
Do you ever wonder how our future might play out?
  1. Will it be a sudden crash or a long, slow decline?
  2. More importantly, will humans rise to the occasion or will we suck?
  3. Most importantly, will we embrace the possibilities and experience joy?
I'm for option three. I am frightened and thrilled to be alive. How about you?


Ignorance is Bliss?

Being ignorant of these realities is better than knowing them. -- Sadad al-Husseini
Do you agree?

Here is a seven minute clip from the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) about Peak Oil
regarding the importance of acknowledging the reality that will change your life more than any other.

One of the speakers, Sadad Al-Husseini, suggests that the reason governments (READ OBAMA) are not telling us the truth is because they don't think we can handle the truth. We are just too fragile and too precious and too freaking thick-headed. It is better for the masses to remain ignorant.

Al-Husseini doesn't believe this of course. He is offering his take on the baffling situation of the world's ignorance of the most significant event on Earth.

Despite our leaders, people are waking up. We must.

That is why I am annoying the crap out of you by posting on Peak Oil every day.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Last Oil Shock

Once you accept Peak Oil, there's no arguing. There's no volunteerism. You've got to do something about it right away. -- David Strahan
Tonight's midnight movie is not a movie. It is a podcast with an occasional video treat thrown in.



This interview with
David Strahan, author of The Last Oil Shock: A Survival guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man, was recorded in 2008 just before the crash.


At the time of the interview oil was $100 a barrel. I think this podcast provides excellent information about the basics regarding Peak Oil, and possible scenarios for responding.

David Strahan is a trustee of the Oil Depletion Analysis Centre (ODAC). ODAC's mission is to raise international awareness of our energy problem.





Plant a Peace Pole in Johnson City


If you are near our mountain, I hope you can join us today to plant a peace pole for The International Day of Peace. Here is the story in Sunday's Johnson City Press:

With the installation of a Peace Pole near the community garden at Carver Park, Sam Jones hopes the seeds of religious tolerance will be planted within the community.

“What better thing to plant in a community garden than peace,” she said.

As a member of the United Religions Initiative Cooperation Circle of Northeast Tennessee, Jones wanted to find a way to observe the International Day of Peace and honor the hard work of the gardeners and other members of the community who helped in creating the Carver Community Garden — a project Jones started about three years ago.

The pole will be installed during a ceremony Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Carver Park.

Originally, Jones wanted to host a harvest potluck in celebration of the garden, but when other members of URI informed her that Tuesday was the International Day of Peace, she thought it would be the perfect way to celebrate peace.

Beginning in 1955, following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Peace Pole Project has grown to include more than 200,000 poles around the world.

The group polled people in the Carver area in order to find out the four most common languages spoken in the community. The pole will feature the phrase, “May Peace Prevail on Earth,” written in English, Spanish, Swahili and Arabic on each side of the pole.

With the recent controversy surrounding the proposed Islamic community center and the proposed plans to burn the Quran on 9/11, Jones said the installation of a Peace Pole is extremely timely.

“It’s relevant. It’s real. It represents our community and the International Day of Peace,” she said.

Jones believes Carver represents a special place in the community of Johnson City, as it acts as a “magnet” for a number of different cultures.

Recognizing the diversity in the area is an important step in creating an atmosphere of tolerance, Jones said.

“This is a good thing in our community,” she said.

The ceremony will be followed by a potluck dinner.

For more information, call Jones at 349-6119.
Even if you cannot make the potluck, join us for the ceremony at six p.m. tonight at Carver Park in Johnson City!

Monday, September 20, 2010

How Cuba Survived Peak Oil

Tonight's midnight movie is a hopeful one. Peak Oil is unprecedented. We have no idea what exactly to expect. We need a model. We find one in Cuba. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba suffered. But it survived. Cuba's story is The Power of Community.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Cuba's economy went into a tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half and food by 80 percent people were desperate. This film tells of the hardships and struggles as well as the community and creativity of the Cuban people during this difficult time. Cubans share how they transitioned from a highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods of farming and local, urban gardens. It is an unusual look into the Cuban culture during this economic crisis, which they call The Special Period. The film opens with a short history of Peak Oil, a term for the time in our history when world oil production will reach its all-time peak and begin to decline forever. Cuba, the only country that has faced such a crisis the massive reduction of fossil fuels is an example of options and hope.

Time to Get Game On


The lulus at the LayMAN have begun their nutterism regarding the ordination equality amendment.



They have decided this time around to blame their own homophobia on Phyllis Tickle.


I do think it is a rather interesting strategy.


Carmen "The Millstone" Fowler made the connection in her latest post. According to her, Phyllis Tickle has mesmerized denominational leadership and now all hell is breaking loose.

Some other LayMAN dude named Stephen Brown is spouting similar silliness. According to him, if we let the gays in the Nazis will attack Clint Eastwood or something like that.

Then of course, the Holy One of Lenoir, Parker Williamson, recently compared (again) ordination equality with molestation of children. You can always count on Parker to take the high road especially after taking shots at the new Vice-Moderator in the on-going saga of Tickle-Gate.

Sigh.

My presbytery (Holston) votes on 10-A on Tuesday, December 7th.

My presbytery who refuses to discipline me even though I beg for it is made up of very nice people. I like them a lot even though they consistently vote against equality by a three to one margin. Who knows, maybe this time I will win them over with my charm.

Failing that, perhaps the solidly Reformed theological content of the proposed text itself will win the day:
“Standards for ordained service reflect the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000). The governing body responsible for ordination and/or installation (G.14.0240; G-14.0450) shall examine each candidate’s calling, gifts, preparation, and suitability for the responsibilities of office. The examination shall include, but not be limited to, a determination of the candidate’s ability and commitment to fulfill all requirements as expressed in the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003). Governing bodies shall be guided by Scripture and the confessions in applying standards to individual candidates.”
It has a nice, Presbyterian ring to it. It is time to talk it up and make the change.

BP Sez They Plugged Their Hole


It's about time. Here is the story.

Now what are they going to do besides buying television ads and creating fancy websites telling tall tales to the world about how great they are?

They have ruined lives.
They have ruined the Gulf of Mexico.
We have no idea the extent of the damage that has been done.

We cannot let them off the hook.
They owe big time.


And for the following, blame David:
Down in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, Boudreaux gets a job with BP helping with the cleanup.

He reports for work and is told to speak to a supervisor about his assignment. He finds the man and asks,

"What it is I supposed to do?"

The supervisor tells him to go to the animal shelter and clean the pelicans.

Two hours later, Boudreaux comes up to the supervisor and says,

"Okay. Dey all cleaned.
You want me to cook some rice ????

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Peak Oil--Adapting for Big Changes Ahead

Here is your midnight movie. This is from the television show, Peak Moment, a television show dedicated to Peak Oil and responding positively to the changes we are facing.

In this program, host Janaia Donaldson interviews the co-editor of The Energy Bulletin, Bart Anderson.

I appreciated this interview very much. The preparation we need is largely psychological and emotional. We will figure out what we need to do when we need to, but now is the time to become aware and informed.

Blessing of the Animals and Pet Walk


On Saturday, September 25th we are hosting a Blessing of the Animals and Pet Walk. The youth adopted the Elizabethon/Carter County Animal Shelter and they are hosting this event to raise funds and awareness.

So...

From 2 - 4 p.m. we will hold a pet blessing for anyone. Bring your pets to church and we'll give 'em that old time religion! Or we'll just admire them and pet them (if appropriate) and celebrate our four-legged and winged friends.

We are also having a pet walk. You can get sponsors for how ever many laps you make around the block walking your dog or your cat or your pet turtle. Proceeds will go to the Carter County Animal Shelter building project. You can make a donation here.

The pet walk will start at three p.m.

We will also have a table for those who work with pets (veterinarians, groomers, pet sitters, etc.) Bring a card or brochure. Of course bring your pet. It will be a nice afternoon.



It has been about three years since the last pet blessing, so those pets are due for some Jesus.

Where Your Heart Is--A Sermon

Where Your Heart Is...
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

September 19th, 2010
International Day of Peace

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Matthew 13:45-46


Jesus said, "The Father's kingdom is like a merchant who had a supply of merchandise and found a pearl. That merchant was prudent; he sold the merchandise and bought the single pearl for himself.

Thomas 76


The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Matthew 13:44


Jesus said, "The (Father's) kingdom is like a person who had a treasure hidden in his field but did not know it. And [when] he died he left it to his [son]. The son [did] not know about it either. He took over the field and sold it. The buyer went plowing, [discovered] the treasure, and began to lend money at interest to whomever he wished."

Thomas 109



This is the final Sunday of summer. This is the final Sunday of the via positiva, the spiritual path of awe and wonder. Next week begins the via negativa or the path letting go. At some point this week I will post the worship themes for the next quarter. As always, as you look them over, you find that you have a creative element that fits, a poem, a song, something original or something you have found, let me know and I will include in the service.

We are spending time with the parables of Jesus. The two parables for today are about the joy of finding the kingdom. The parable of the pearl and the parable of the treasure. The parables are likely familiar to us. What might not be familiar is how weird they are.

The parables of the pearl and the treasure are found in two texts, the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Thomas. We have known since Christianity began about Matthew's parables. We have only known recently the versions in Thomas. But even though the Thomas version of each parable is less familiar, in the cases of the treasure and the pearl, the Matthew version of each is more weird, hence, I think, more original.

The pearl.

We all know this parable. It is famous. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has a collection of scriptures that are believed to be revelations to Joseph Smith that is called, "The Pearl of Great Price."

We all know the traditional meaning of the parable. The spiritual life, the kingdom of God, is so valuable that we should value and pursue it above all else with single-minded devotion. It is worth more than everything you have.

Yep. OK. We have heard that before.

Well…wait a second. I think it is a little weirder than that.

Pearls are exotic things. They would not have been a part of a first century Jewish peasant's life except as a symbol of wealth. Some interpreters have suggested that merchants (especially those who deal in pearls) would have been of a higher class than the typical peasant audience of Jesus. Pearls are of the world of the rich and famous. Jesus may have been setting his audience up for a spoof. As in...
"See what the silly rich do."
You never quite know with the parables of Jesus.
Do we take him at face value or is he spoofing standard ideas and setting us up to see things differently?
Keep that in mind.

Here is the version in Thomas:
Jesus said, "The Father's kingdom is like a merchant who had a supply of merchandise and found a pearl. That merchant was prudent; he sold the merchandise and bought the single pearl for himself.
The guy makes a good business deal. He has some merchandise, finds a pearl. He is prudent because he sells the merchandise and buys the pearl. We might assume that he will sell the pearl someday when he gets a good price for it. We are told he is prudent. He is wise. He has made a good deal.

Here is the version in Matthew:
‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
It is very close.
Practically the same.
Except that the editorial insertion that the merchant is "prudent" is missing.
The other difference is that we are told he "sold all that he had."

Thomas
, on the other hand, makes sure we know that he sold only his merchandise or his inventory.

Matthew doesn't say that. In Matthew's version, he sold everything he had. It is the difference between being prudent and being a fool. I think Thomas is an elaboration and Matthew's version is closer to the original.

The weird version is the one most familiar to us.
We just didn't know it was weird.
Why is it weird, you ask?

If the merchant sells everything he has, not just his merchandise as Thomas says, but everything--merchandise, house, belongings, everything, and buys a pearl, then his only possession is this pearl.

What does he do for an encore?


What does he do the next day?

Where does he sleep?
What does he eat?
What does he buy and sell with?
He has nothing except a pearl.
It is a pearl of great value, but what is it worth if it is all you have?
You can't eat it. You can't sleep under it.
All you can do is pull it out of your pocket and admire it while you slowly starve to death.

The merchant is not prudent. He is a fool. His only options are to sell it again or to live as a homeless beggar who happens to have a pearl.

The kingdom of God?
Chew on that one, says Jesus.

Brandon Scott, who will be with us in October for the Jesus Seminar on the Road, writes this regarding the pearl:



…the thing of value, the pearl, has no ultimate value….The kingdom cannot be possessed as a value in itself…and that is the kingdom's corrupting power--the desire to possess it. P. 319



We will come back to the pearl. But let's go to the treasure.

We know this parable as well. It is the same message as the other one. A guy finds treasure in a field. Buries it, sells what he has and buys the field. The traditional meaning is that the spiritual life, Jesus, God, whatever is your treasure. It is worth more than everything we have.

Well…wait a second. I think it is a little weirder than that.

Finding hidden treasure is the first century version of winning the lottery. Burying treasure was not that unusual before widespread use of banks. When Jerusalem was under siege by the Romans, many people before leaving hid their valuables by burying them, hoping to come back and find them one day. The first century historian, Josephus, writes about this:
Yet was there no small quantity of the riches that had been in that city still found among its ruins, a great deal of which the Romans dug up; but the greatest part was discovered by those who were captives, and so they carried it away; I mean the gold and the silver, and the rest of that most precious furniture which the Jews had, and which the owners had treasured up under ground, against the uncertain fortunes of war. --Josephus, Jewish War, 7.5.2, Scott, Re-Imagine the World, p. 48.
Here is the Thomas version of the parable:
Jesus said, "The (Father's) kingdom is like a person who had a treasure hidden in his field but did not know it. And [when] he died he left it to his [son]. The son [did] not know about it either. He took over the field and sold it. The buyer went plowing, [discovered] the treasure, and began to lend money at interest to whomever he wished."
The owner of the field didn't know he had treasure in it and leaves it to his son.
Neither does his son know about the treasure.
He sells it.
The new owner who also didn't know only finds it after he buys the field and goes plowing one day. He finds the treasure in his own field that he has purchased.
He gets wealthy and lends money at interest.

That version is quite a bit different than the one we have in Matthew:
‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.'
This is one we are familiar with but we might not know how weird it is.
In Thomas the finder of the treasurer owns the field.
In Matthew the finder of the treasure does not own the field.
That is a big difference.

If you went poking around in your neighbor's yard and found a stash of cash that your neighbor didn't know about, then re-buried it, and went and bought your neighbor's yard from her, what would that be?

That would be fraudulent.
That is insider trading.
It is stealing.
‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
You are in a peasant village.
Everybody knows everybody else's business.
You sold everything you have.
You have this treasure.
But if you start spending it, do you think no one will raise an eyebrow?
Here is a guy with a field and treasure that he secured by fraudulent means that he can't spend or he will be found out. Foolish.

Even if you were able to find some way of laundering your new found treasure, we have an ethical problem.

How is the kingdom of God like this?

Maybe we will find out in October when Brandon Scott and Art Dewey of the Jesus Seminar visit with us for a Jesus Seminar on the Road. They will be talking about Jesus' parables.

Scott, by the way, in his book, Re-Imagine the World has this to say about this parable:
Treasure is normally a metaphor for God's blessing as a reward for a righteous life. This parable is a brilliant image of seduction. The hidden treasure, which should be a reward for good deeds, seduces the man without his thinking into a course of action that has an immoral outcome….the parable provides a warning: finding treasure can create a joy that seduces us into an action that is heedless of its consequences. P. 54
So we are left with two parables in which the characters are not admirable. They are foolish at best, and in one case, unethical.

A man has a pearl of great value. But he has nothing else. The pearl of great value has no value unless he sells it again and then he's back to where he was.

Another has treasure that he secured by unethical means and now he sits in his field with his guilty conscience trying to figure out how he will spend his ill-gotten treasure without being found out.

Thus we have two fools who tried to possess the kingdom.

Maybe that is the spoof.

Maybe the kingdom of God is not treasure in a field or a pearl of great price.
It is not something we must single-mindedly and doggedly pursue forsaking life, forsaking ethics.

Jesus said elsewhere and the Gospel of Luke recorded it:
Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’ --Luke 17:20-21
The Gospel of Thomas records Jesus saying something similar:
Jesus said, "If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the (Father's) kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father's) kingdom is within you and it is outside you. --Saying 3

Split a piece of wood, I am there. Lift up a stone, you will find me there. --Saying 77
In other words, you are already there.
It
is already here. You don't need to switch religions.
You don't need to follow someone else's plan for happiness.
You don't need to wear a hairshirt.
You don't need to single-mindedly pursue an abstraction.
You don't need to sell all your possessions and join the church.
You certainly don't need to take from another.


The realm of God or Life or Happiness or whatever it is you think you need to find is not out there to be found.

It cannot be possessed or claimed even if or when you think you have found it.
It can only be noticed and shared.

Life is.
Life is here.
Life is now.
Life is change.
Enjoy and share the ride.