Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Midweek News from St. Marks


Sermon for March 1st.

If God Does Not Build a House

Texts: Psalm 127:1-2; Luke 12:27-30

Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo

March 1, 2015



Monday, February 23, 2015

Random Musings for a Monday



I only saw part of the Oscars but checked out some things this morning. The great part about the Internet is that cool things you missed can be seen again.

I really like Neil Patrick Harris and anticipated he’d be a great host. He wasn’t bad but he really wasn’t very good either. My thought was that, in hindsight, the greatest host in the universe would have been Robin Williams. His loss leaves a deep hole in so many people’s hearts and minds.

Say what you will about Lady Gaga. She is strange. Her idea of fashion is strange. When she finished cleaning the commodes and lost her gloves and sang the songs from the “Sound of Music,” one thing is painfully obvious. The woman can sing. Brilliantly. No one sang those songs as well as Julie Andrews or came close----until last night. Lady Gaga came close. She’s that good.

I sought of feel bad for Rudy Giuliani. He was a great major of New York City. Seriously great mayor. He cleaned up the city---no small feat. His work on and after 9/11 was heroic and brilliant. He had been a fearless Federal Prosecutor before that and did a great job going after organized crime. He ran for President but didn’t really have enough national experience to make a good run. So be it. The problem is, for him, he was once a really important guy and now he’s really not. That’s not a criticism----he’s older and he can retire after a great career. The problem for so many of us is that our egos get wrapped up in what we do and being important is difficult to let go of. We see this a lot---a person later in life says something outrageously stupid and gets into the limelight. Rudy is not letting go of the moment and, sadly, he’s building legacy as yet another old guy who put his foot in his mouth and kept it there. To me, this is tragic. He had such a great legacy and I hate seeing him go down in flames.

Tim McGraw singing in a tribute to Glen Campbell who can no longer sing or know who most people are is heartbreaking. I really like Glen Campbell and always enjoyed his music.

It seems that a number of people are going after Bill O’Reilly suggesting that he, like Brian Williams, has exaggerated about his career. It’s not really a fair comparison. Brian Williams was a network news anchor and like ABC and CBS his show is about hard news. He is not a political commentator or an entertainer. Both Fox and MSNBC are networks that run on political commentary instead of hard news. I’m not saying that to laud or criticize either network as they are both niche stations that seek to reach specific audiences. Bill O’Reilly is a prime time commentator and that role puts him in the realm of commentator/entertainer. In short, his role is entirely different from Brian Williams and he ought not to be held to the same standards. When hard news anchors exaggerate the news, it’s a far, far bigger deal.

Say what you will about this winter, but the photos of the ice at Niagara Falls are breath-taking.

Senator Lindsey Graham, someone I rarely agree with, is right about something. Congress needs to fund Homeland Security and allow the immigration issue they are debating to be worked out in the courts.

I’m not questioning the logic of the Oscars with this and the right person probably won, but I really was pulling for Rosamund Pike to win best actress for her role in Gone Girl. The first time I saw her was as Miranda Frost in a James Bond movie and she was great in the film Jack Reacher. Her character or characters in Gone Girl was a brilliant performance.

I saw a video shot from behind me and I saw a bald spot on the back of my head. It reminds me that I shouldn’t look at videos shot from the back of my head. Ugh.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015



I’ve been pondering ISIS and my ponderings are troubling.

At some point most people have come to the conclusion that this is a group of mindless violence out to kill and destroy as many people in the most horrible ways possible. They do, obviously commit acts of mind-numbing violence and their cruelty seems to have no boundaries. I am not sure, however, that ISIS is mindless.

It seems that way. They have managed to turn most of the world against them. Their Arab neighbors are angry at them and are bombing them as well. Fellow Muslims have turned against them with ferocity. The western world is fiercely involved as well. Acts of vile murder and killings are taking place worldwide and ISIS does not seem to lack recruits.

Part of their murderous success on battlefields has been to fill trucks with explosives and suicide bombers go forward to bash their way into compounds. This is terrifying for defenders because they must destroy and stop these trucks short of the compounds. This is what made Kamikaze pilots so successful in World War II because they had to be destroyed without crashing into their targets. This is easier said than done.

ISIS recruits are willing to kill and willing to die. The value of life has no meaning for them whatsoever. That lack of value is about others and even themselves.

It might not be mindless, however, and that’s the scary part.

ISIS, people are beginning to understand, has an apocalyptic mission. They are seeking end times and doing their best (or worst) to bring this about. They want the world to burst into flames and destroy itself. In order for this to happen they need to draw everyone into the battle. This will kill large numbers if ISIS members but they do not care.

Some years ago, in Waco, Texas, the Branch Davidians made the news and they all died in the end. They were a cult based on the Book of Revelation which is, of course, apocalyptic. Anyone who knew any theology at all knew how that story would end. Apocalyptic groups are about death and destruction.

In the United States, where we debate sunshine, we really do not have a cohesive way to deal with ISIS.

ISIS has great likeness to the Nazi Party. People have compared Presidents Obama and Bush to the Nazis and we love to refer to political ideas we don’t agree with as Naziesque. Our lack of historical knowledge and context allows people to do this, largely unchecked.

ISIS, however, well, they are the real deal. They really ARE like the Nazis and the Nazis were so committed to what they were doing they believed it was better to be leveled and die than it was to tolerate people who differed from them to live.

ISIS is dangerous to all of us and our prayers need to be that the rest of the world come together and deal with them. Worldwide inaction and political paralysis are a dream combination to ISIS and we had better get over it. Quickly.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sunday Sermon for 2/15/15


The Greatest Prophet

Text: 2 Kings 2:1-12

Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo

February 15, 2015