"Unapologetic Theology: A Christian Voice in a Pluralistic Conversation" is the title of a book by my beloved theology professor and friend, the late William C. Placher. It is also now the title of this blog, a place where I hope to add a Christian voice -- God knows, not "the" Christian voice, but "a" Christian voice and not just any old voice, but a distinctly Christian voice -- to the pluralistic conversation going on about just about everything.
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Counter-training Manual for Yard Work, Part the First
In Which our Hero describes Various Perils of Seemingly Simple Tasks
Today is a day for catching up on yard work.
Yard work is not my specialty. Except for the fact that it gives me an excuse to be out in the sunshine with a cigar and not feel guilty that I am just out in the sunshine with a cigar, yard work isn't my favorite activity, either. I find it frustrating.
Most of the reason I find it frustrating is that each time I do it, there's a real-life version of "There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza" going on in my life:
You know: There's a hole in the bucket which needs mending, which needs straw to plug it, but the straw is too long, which means it needs cutting, which means you need an axe, but the axe is too dull which means it needs sharpening; but the stone to sharpen the axe is too dry, which means the stone needs wetting.
Which means you need a bucket to wet the stone.
But there's a hole in the bucket.
In today's real-life case, Mary told me that if there was just one thing I could get done today, it would be -- and this is a direct quote -- "to mow over the big ugly stupid things" that are taking over the back yard.
Except our lawn mower has been stalling out after only ten feet of cutting, so I had to take it in to get fixed. Except we needed to Yelp-review and then ask Brown's Hardware where to take it, and finding out, and the repair place being several miles away, we needed a van to get it over there, but two weeks ago we sold-loaned our van to our son Graham, who drove it to California. So that meant I needed to swap cars with Elizabeth, who drives a CRV, but who was going to drive to Leesburg the one day I could get it over there and that meant swapping cars with Will, which meant driving Mary to work after putting the lawn mower in the trunk of the Accord which meant I needed a bungee cord, but the bungee cords are, last I saw them, in the van with Graham, which meant shoving the lawn mower in the trunk and duct-taping the trunk to the bumper which meant having to find an orange flag to warn tailgaters that there was a lawn mower sticking out the rear of our car.
Turns out the lawn mower fix-it place is four weeks behind on repairs. Which meant borrowing our neighbors' lawn mower.
But mowing over "the big ugly stupid things" probably meant stressing or even ruining our neighbor's lawn mower, which we didn't want to do.
Which meant I needed to weed-whack them.
But the weed-wacker needed string.
It is not easy to re-string a Stihl trimmer. But thankfully there are YouTube videos to watch with step-by-step instructions.
All you have to do is go down into your basement with your weed-trimmer and iPhone, watch this video fourteen times, and then -- after figuring out which of the three models your model is, and after deep-breathing exercises -- do it yourself, just like the guy in the video, who apparently does this for a living because he makes it look really easy.
It is not really easy.
Now listen: I have a master's degree. I have counseled couples back into marriages who were ready to poison each other's coffee. I have, with Mary, raised three teenagers, with only minor disasters and jail times. I'm competent at difficult things, damnit.
But after re-stringing a trimmer, I am now confident that I can single-handedly negotiate a lasting peace in the Middle East while fixing all U.S. infrastructure woes, because really, how hard can that be compared to re-stringing that thing?
I was also aware that at this point in the day I had not yet gone outside.
But, finally, re-strung trimmer in hand, I ventured outside to attack the Big Ugly Stupid Things.
Except, out there, it suddenly occurred to me that that terms like "big," "ugly" and "stupid" are all relative terms. And it being several weeks after Mary had asked me to get rid of the big ugly stupid things, now the entire back yard was filled with big ugly stupid things.
I will also admit I was only half paying attention when she gave me those instructions. At the time they seemed pretty simple.
But I recall she also said to "be careful NOT to mow over the 'packs of Sandra.' Or the "Liriope."
"Liriope" I could, and did, google-image, and manage to avoid. But I never did see packs of Sandra, or even any individual Sandra's.
So I week-wacked everything in sight.
Our back yard now looks like a scene from post-apocalyptic The Book of Eli.
Mary's not home yet to see my yard work. But, I now wonder if I should be careful sipping my coffee tomorrow morning...
A sermon preached June 19, 2016
The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector
The Falls Church Episcopal, Falls Church, Virginia
(“Dear Lord: Carry your word into the most protected parts of our hearts.”)
Today I don’t have a traditional sermon. I certainly don’t have a sermon about Father’s Day, but now that I’ve mentioned it, happy Father’s Day. Today, instead of a traditional sermon, I feel led to share some things that have been on my heart this past week.
I’ve been your Rector here since August of 2012. Those of you who have been here a long time know that my preaching style is almost always “expository,” a fancy word that simply means you take a passage of scripture, and having studied it during the week, you show – or expose – its meaning and relevance as best you can, and then you sit down, trusting Holy Spirit will be hard at work simultaneously translating for each of you what you need to hear on any given Sunday.
One of the implications of this style of preaching is I tend not to preach “to…
A sermon preached January 29, 2017 The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector The Falls Church Episcopal
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the p…