Rest now, Luke. Rest in Peace.

A huge storm has pounded its way ashore here in the Pacific Northwest. Fortunately, it is not freezing out there. Driving will be hazardous, but not suicidal. I will be out in the elements, keeping my car on the road, avoiding the largest puddles and most splashing trucks, being distracted by the storm outside the car - distracted from the unsettled weather inside my chest.

This morning we will bury Luke.

We loved him. I loved him.

He did not let us know much about his personal life. It had already cost him too much, and he didn't want to bother us with it. He protected us from it, I think. He did not want anyone to pay attention to it.

Luke played the organ at church. He was there for every Sunday and holy day of obligation. He was there for every special service. He worked around the parts that needed repair, using what would work instead of bothering others to fix anything - in the organ, in the parish ... he didn't insist. He worked. He loved us.

I am remembering conversations I had with him. We were friends.

I am remembering the times I was in the choir loft when he was. I am remembering his uncanny ability to move all over that loft in utter silence. He could pass out sheets of music and give directions to the singers and pay attention to the service at the altar at the other end of the church, even though the rood screen and statues hide it so fully from the view from up there. He responded to something in the room. He knew when to do what, and he never missed a step and he never made a sound. We heard only music.

This morning we will pray the prayers of absolution. We will breathe the incense and listen to the music played by his fellow organists and sing the hymns for him. We will sing to God for Luke, our brother. Our friend. Our cantor - the one Luke trained - he will sing the Ave.

And later, in the afternoon of wind and rain and storm and chaos all around, as the last of the leaves blow off the trees and stick to our legs and shoes in the graveyard, we will commit him to the ground and to God. Quiet in the storm. Rest in the blowing rain. It suits him.

At the end of his life he was in agony. A cancer had taken hold of his brain. I have been praying for him every day for months now, asking God to release Luke from his body. It was broken. It was making too much noise.

Today we let him go.

Be at peace, Luke. We love you. I will try to sing this morning. But it may not be quite possible. It will be possible to pray. Rest eternal grant unto him, O Lord. Light perpetual shine upon him.


Plenty: What is it good for?

Photos like this have been circulating in cyberspace, mainly in response to the ongoing Occupy movement. It is a rebuke. It is meant to demean the protests and filthy protesters as hopelessly naive and unbelievably silly in the face of more "real" problems.
As a rule, we Americans definitely need a little consciousness-raising about the state of the world beyond our own borders. No need to try to prove our need - it's obvious. We expect things like drinkable water and safe places to sleep. We think of these things as normal, and we forget how much better our situation is than the situations where people are regularly starving, under siege, and in danger.

However, it is a logical fallacy to posit that A is not B : therefore A is not C. The two propositions have very little to do with each other, in fact. That my neighbor beats his wife and kids doesn't really change the evil done by him to his employees. Two evils. Two inequities. Two situations of oppression and wrong. That is what we are looking at in those pictures.

And this brings me to my point. We, in this land of the free and home of the brave, in this land of land - and money - and expertise - and resources of all kinds - we have a very embarrassing problem we have to solve. We have PLENTY - and we have plenty of it. What are we supposed to do with it? What is it for? Once we've accepted the fact that there are places with so much less than we have that it takes the breath away ... are we supposed to live like them in order to help them? (Some of us do exactly that as often and as completely as they can.)

But what of the wealthy? What of us who have things? Stuff? House and goods and plenty and food and health and enough money for a turkey on Thanksgiving? How ought we to live? Some options are ...

Embrace the sucker!! Go for the gusto! Consume! Gather up! If you've got it, flaunt it. Use your gold card, your keyless entry, and your shiny, sparkling cache of prestige and just wallow around it in. The lifestyles of the rich and famous are to die for. Eat! Eat! Eat! And drive the most ostentatiously enormous vehicle you possibly can.

Has there ever been an era like ours, when so much has been worn so vulgarly by so many? Besides ... I'm pretty sure we've been well and duly warned about this choice.
And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. (The Gospel according to St. Luke)

Okay, so, if go for the gluttony isn't an acceptable response, how about its opposite? What if we could all be monks and nuns? If we all took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and we lived in cloisters and we didn't procreate ... oh. Yeah. That's a problem.

We need professed praying people, I believe. We need them to answer their vocations to pray for the rest of us, for one thing. If you think that's a cop-out and isn't any kind of work at all, then you don't understand the life of prayer. It's work. I think it's necessary work. But if we all do exactly the same kind of work, our collective work won't work for the collective. Somebody has to do the temporal work in this temporal world.

So THAT's my question. How do we do ordinary, temporal work in an era of science, technology, conveniences and plenty? Can we?

One thing is for sure. Workers who pay the taxes that build roads and inventors and laborers who fill the land with fiber optic lines and computers and cars and trains and maps and books and copy machines ... these people are worthy of their hire. Wealth has to be proportional, not just opportunistic, if a nation is going to prosper and advance. In this era of our history as a nation, we need to take stock of our deeply fascinating belief that wealth and purchasing power are the measure of humanity. We have to stop envying wealth if we are to begin treating it as the responsibility it is.
For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
And then, maybe then, maybe when we remember that wealth equals responsibility, maybe then we will remember that the least of these are the brethren of our Lord ... and therefore they are our brothers, too. Maybe we will learn one day that plenty is good for everyone if only we will share.