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Today is Pentecost

Today is Pentecost, and it brings a flood of memories—a really big flood because I'm getting on in years.
During my college days, a lot of us had gotten tired of the Christian traditions we had inherited: long, sleepy church services with long, sleepy sermons and long, sleepy hymns. We seemed to spend a lot of time talking about God as if he were some sort of figure in an ancient history book, not someone who is alive and well, actually doing things in the church at the moment. The charismatic movement spoke very strongly to us with the message that God's involvement in the church and our personal lives was indeed very present and immediate.

Unfortunately, the weakness of the charismatic movement—at least as it worked out among several of my friends—was that it tended to move toward a very anti-intellectual subjectivism. I have sat through church services where song after song had the same simplistic message: "Thank you Jesus that I feel so good."
There should be a who…
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How Psalms are Built

The Daily Office (as I write this) is working its way through Psalm 119—you know, the huge one.
English poetry has rhyme and rhythm. That's why limericks work:

An epicure dining at Crewe
Found a rather large mouse in his stew.
Said the waiter, "Don't shout
and wave it about
or the others will want one too."
Hebrew has a natural built-in rhythm and (because of word endings) everything rhymes, so Hebrew poets came up with other structural poetic devices.
One such device is the repetition and elaboration. Many Hebrew poetic lines consist of two "sticks." The first says something, then the second says it again in different words, or perhaps enlarges on it or explains it. Here is an example we all remember from Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd; * I shall not be in want
He makes me lie down in green pastures * and leads me beside still waters.
The asterisk in Prayer Book psalms is really an aid for those who are chanting: it signals the spot where the …

Pining for Eucharist

By my count it's now ten weeks since I was last in a church building. I can't say the last 2½ months have been easy—they certainly haven't—but I'm beginning to get used to the isolated life. It feels normal that my geography is pretty much limited to a three-room apartment.

Some of the changes were predictable. I'm cooking for myself a lot more because my typical Panera visits are now impossible. Like most people, I'm showering and shaving a lot less because I won't actually see (or be seen by) anyone for several days at a stretch. Ditto for laundry (a good thing because we had a sewer disaster in my apartment building, and there's currently no way to use the washing machines—heavy-duty blowers have been trying to dry out the walls downstairs for about a week now).

I no longer have to go charging out the front door three days a week to get to work, so my mornings are all in Summer Vacation mode. One good result is that I've been following the Daily …

Preparation for Sunday, May 3

Today is the fourth Sunday of Easter (Easter Sunday being the first). The liturgical color is white, the color of celebration, joy, and peace, and symbolizing the greatest work of God in the world, specifically His triumph over death and evil.

These are the readings for the fourth Sunday of Easter.

HymnsHymn 343: Shepherd of souls, refresh and bless. Hymn 708: Saviour, like a Shepherd lead us. If you open this link in a separate tab, you can listen to the music while you read the words.


As I write this, I have been on coronavirus lockdown for six weeks. For a single person living in a small apartment, that has meant days at a stretch when I do not go through the front door—life is pretty much defined by academic work on my computer and figuring out what to do about dinner. Every ten days or so, I venture out to buy things at the grocery store. (When my kitchen fluorescent light quit, I rejoiced because I had an excuse to go to the hardware store.)

I expect my life is very typical of most people's at the moment. My friend in Spain says he takes the long way around when he is carrying a bag of trash (they don't have house-to-house pickup there) because he can get a walk through the neighborhood if he is legitimately carrying garbage to the bin.

I keep seeing complaints in print that all this social distancing is just not fair. It's not fair that I can't get a haircut. It's not fair that I can't get together with friends. It's not fair that c…