19 September 2016

through the webcam with mr. robot



I just finished watching the first season of Mr. Robot.  It was a strange experience, not because of the show, though that is strange enough.

The DVDs from Netflix worked fine, at least the first two did.  Then came the third disc, the one containing the final episodes.  The next-to-last episode was hopelessly stuck on a scene in which Rami Malek’s character continues—in a major way—of having the curtain of his life thrown wide open.  Ejecting the disk, searching for any scratches, carefully cleaning it…nothing worked.  So I was forced to return it to Netflix.  They graciously shipped a replacement disc with dispatch.  This one allowed the before-mentioned scene to flow smoothly past.

Then the final episode.  Five minutes before the end, the world of Mr. Robot came to a sudden halt.  Going through the routine as with the previous disk yielded no positive result.  I wondered what would be the odds of receiving two consecutive disks that, as nearing the end of the season, would prove to be unwatchable?  Not one for conspiracy theories, I then turned to the possibility of streaming the final portion of the final episode.  It looked like Netflix didn’t offer that service for season 1, so I turned to Amazon.

Success!  Now I will be able to see how season 1 ends.  Except, after the credits, there is one final scene.  It is at that moment that my computer suddenly shuts down.  The conspiracy theorist in me wants to emerge.  But a computer restart enables me to see it through.

Is there a digital force that wanted to prevent my seeing through the guise?  By posting this to my blog, am I putting myself in jeopardy?  Am I real?  Are you real?  What do you want from me?  Tell me!!!

Maybe season 2 will tell me what you’re up to.

13 September 2016

do we have confirmation?



What is confirmation?  That depends on who you ask!  Roman Catholics and Episcopalians have a quite high view of confirmation.  The Episcopal Church doesn’t include confirmation as one of the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church (the others being baptism, Eucharist, matrimony, anointing the sick, reconciliation [formerly called penance], and ordination).  But it has sometimes used language like “minor sacrament.”

It became tied to baptism as the “confirmation” of the vows made during that sacrament.  Bishops performed baptisms, but as the church spread over wide geographic distances, that practice became impractical.  Bishops can’t be everywhere!  As time went on, confirmation became a completion of baptism.

The Presbyterian Church, as well as many other denominations, believes that the only sacraments are the ones Jesus specifically directs the church to observe: baptism and Eucharist (holy communion, or the Lord’s Supper).

John Calvin, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion (4.19.13), emphasizes confirmation as teaching a catechism—but definitely not as a sacrament:

“How I wish that we might have kept the custom which, as I have said, existed among the ancient Christians…  Not that it would be confirmation as they fancy, which cannot be named without doing injustice to baptism; but a catechizing, in which children or those near adolescence would give an account of their faith before the church…

“If this discipline were in effect today, it would certainly arouse some slothful parents, who carelessly neglect the instruction of their children as a matter of no concern to them.”  (Yikes!)  Hey John, why don’t you tell us how you really feel?

Calvin is pretty blunt on the matter, but at least the spirit of his language remains intact today.  Confirmation is seen as a time of teaching the faith (well, at least, a general outline) and as a time for the confirmands to bear witness to the faith.  A resource published by the Presbyterian Church (USA), Professing Our Faith—A Confirmation Curriculum, has this description:

“Because his or her family said ‘Yes’ to God on behalf of the child, this young person’s life has been different.  Saying yes to God means saying no to other things.  During this time of confirmation instruction, your students have the opportunity to understand more fully the church’s faith and then to declare that it is also what they believe.  They will stand before the congregation on their own and say ‘Yes’ to the baptismal promise that they are indeed Christ’s own forever.”

Congregations have various ways of going about this.

The practice (or perhaps “almost sacrament”?) of confirmation retains the tie between teaching and baptism.  Baptism is a complete act, in and by itself.  It is only done once, provided it is a Trinitarian baptism (in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).  Confirmation is a supplemental but valuable act.

It’s not a question of being “one and done.”  Confirmation is not the end; it’s a new beginning.  It’s not about the joke of bats living in the church and people coming up with various proposals for getting rid of them—none of which worked.  But then one day, everyone saw that the bats were gone.  They asked the pastor if he knew anything about it.  “Yes,” he said, “I confirmed all of them, and I figured I would never see them again.”


A reaffirmation, a confirmation, of those questions asked at baptism says it all.  To the parents: “Relying on God’s grace, do you promise to live the Christian faith, and to teach that faith to your child?”  And to the congregation: “Do you, as members of the church of Jesus Christ, promise to guide and nurture [the children] by word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging them to know and follow Christ and to be faithful members of his church?”

Those waters of baptism don’t run dry!

08 August 2016

helpless anguish of love



Among birds, the ones that are tame protect their young by building on the housetops, and the others, by building in precipitous chasms and in holes and tops of trees, hatch the nestlings and ward off the intruder.  If they are not able to keep the intruder away, they do what they can to help their young by flying in circles around them in the anguish of love, warning them with their own calls.” (4 Maccabees 14:15-17)

As spring gave way to summer, the swallows’ building project progressed on schedule and under budget.  The nests, anchored on front and back of our house, has housed the youngsters in their welcome to the world.


 (our winged neighbors were camera-shy)

Aidan and I—dog and I—have experienced the anguish of their love.  Straying too close to the fuzzy critters’ hideout, a circling of chirping has been the result.  When that failed, chirping has become a more intense and less distant affair.  Aidan, especially while lying on the front porch (or even more menacingly, in the front yard), has been oblivious to the threat he poses.  Hes been the target of dive bombing, only a few inches above his head. 

The things we do for love.