Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Frustration of Not Knowing Answers

I get frustrated by not knowing the answers. I find myself increasingly not knowing the answers.

Like so many people I’ve watched the events in Baltimore unfold with horror. It appears there was police brutality and/or gross incompetence. Baltimore has long been known as a rough city and this is a part of it. While there are racial elements to this I suspect, down deep, there are also socio-economic factors that have loomed large. The city has a very racially mixed leadership and they have taken racism seriously. While I understand people having a right, perhaps even a need to protest, the rioting and the violence is repulsive to me.

I do not know the answers in the Middle East. Last Sunday the show “Madame Secretary” was about signing a nuclear arms deal with Iran against the backdrop of people in Iran stoning a young gay man to death. The arms deal was signed and the young man was stoned to death. The question loomed big-----did we make a deal with the devil or not? If we don’t make a deal will this leave them the ability to run amuck and do whatever they so desire? If we do make the deal will this allow them to do research leading down a path that we will no longer have control of? These are large, difficult questions.

President George W. Bush made the decision to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein. I thought it was a bad idea and many other people did. Many still do. The fear I had was that the region would become destabilized. But having said that, we did the invasion and a lot of young Americans died for their country. The region is now destabilized and instead of lamenting what we did or shouldn’t have done or done, we need to find answers that are applicable right here and right now.

If you’re looking for a spiffy answer or observation, I don’t have one. I find so many of these questions difficult to ponder. I do not know the answer.

I guess that’s why I pray.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Audio Sermon April 26, 2015


The Joy of Being a Sheep

Texts: Psalm 23; John 10:11-18

Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo

April 26, 2015



Sunday, April 19, 2015

Audio Sermon for April 19th


Faith and the Complexity of Being Human

Texts: 1 Thessalonians 5:11-15; John 8:1-11

Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo

April 19, 2015


Saturday, April 18, 2015

David Brook and Britt McHenry in One Week and Character


This week has been a week of stunning contrasts.



David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times wrote a brilliant column entitled, “The Moral Bucket List.” In it he wrote, “It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful.”

Mr. Brooks recently released a book on this topic and it’s a book about character and transformation. In his book and in this article, he writes about people overcoming their character flaws not so much to accomplish great things but to become great people. He realized that he wanted to understand how really good people become really good people. He concluded that these people are made, not born.

He came to understand the value of virtue----of inner goodness. It’s this kind of goodness that makes people kind and caring. It’s this kind of virtue that seeks to make people better and lift other people up. So much of it, he learned, was that virtuous people have embraced a sense of humility; an ability to apologize, at times, and listen to others. Virtue is not that people are without sin; none of us accomplish that. Virtue is, instead, learning to overcome our frailness and become loving and good and kindhearted. It is learning to be caring without an expectation of that caring being returned.

Mr. Brooks, as I said, just released a new book entitled, “The Road to Character,” and he explores the virtue of character.



Then there is the stunning contrast. A young woman, a correspondent for ESPN named Britt McHenry was filmed in a dreadful exchange with a worker where Ms. McHenry was picking up her car that had been towed away during dinner. Despite being warned that her comments were being recorded, Ms. McHenry berated the attendant in an ugly fashion.

This has not gone well for Britt McHenry. I know, great insight, isn’t it?

People have been piling on Britt McHenry in a rather brutal fashion. She’s had some interesting Twitter exchanges and had made comments on Facebook about a college classmate posting too many pictures of her classmate’s baby. Britt McHenry has a rather acerbic personality which isn’t good or bad, it’s just her.

In fairness to the young woman, the video was heavily edited. We cannot see or hear what is being said to her and what is prompting her commentary. Additionally, this is an independent towing company that, in doing a bit of research, is shady. They have been accused, on numerous occasions, of towing legally parked cars and charging patrons to have the cars returned.

But still, ouch. The video was brutal and this was beyond acerbic and it was beyond being angry over having her car towed. Her comments were personally insulting to the woman behind the counter. I suspect that Britt McHenry would love a retake on that one.

In one week one person in the media is on a tour of self-discovery in searching for character and a young woman finds herself in desperate need of character. For him it’s come after years of covering politics and seeing the slime of that; for a young woman her life turned into a mess over one video.

For Britt McHenry her life is not in a good spot at the moment. She’s been suspended for a week and many are calling for it to be longer while some are calling for her head on a silver platter. If she comes back after a week she will be the most famous or infamous of all of ESPN’s sideline reporter and people will be talking about that video for a long, long time.

Her mistake, of course, was to fail on video. We all, at times fail grandly, but we often do so in the shadows or just among a few. Nationally televised meltdowns are not something most of us have to deal with. I feel badly for her in the fact that while her behavior was horrible, it was horrible and broadcast to the world. It is now part of “You Tube” where it can be seen and heard without bleeping out her words.

David Brooks, however, spoke about humility and he realized that is one of the great virtues we all have to embrace at some point. So let’s put down the stones we all have aimed for Britt McHenry’s head. She messed up. We all mess up. She said stupid things. We all say stupid things. She was cruel. We’ve all been cruel. For her, it’s an amazing opportunity to do some soul search for humility and become a better person.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit….” It’s moments like she had that remind us all of how poor in spirit we are. For Jesus, being poor in spirit was an opportunity for us to see the need for God in our lives

Character is not something we are born with; we learn it. How blessed are we when we have the opportunities to see how flawed we are and to grow.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Audio Sermon April 12, 2015


No Small Commotion

Acts 12:1-18

Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo

April 12, 2015



Monday, April 06, 2015

Audio Sermon for Easter Sunday, 2015


An Idle Tale

Text: Luke 24:1-12

Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo

April 5, 2015



Friday, April 03, 2015

Good Friday, Looking Away…...


I am not a huge poetry fan though I have read poems I’ve enjoyed and actually wrote some poems for my college magazine when I was a student.  I did, however, enjoy reading the poetry of the 17th century metaphysical poet, John Donne.  Donne, an Anglican priest wrote religious and secular poetry.  His religious poetry was elegant and beautiful and his secular poetry was elegant, but often funny and  scandalous.

To me, his greatest poem (which follows) was Good Friday 1613:  Riding Westward.


The poem was about him riding westward, away from the crucifixion of Jesus that was taking place in the east.  While his soul was telling him to face the east, his body was on a horse, riding westward, facing away and running away from the cross.

His poem reminds me that we Christians have a strange relationship with the cross.  We are willing to talk about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins, but we don’t really like to think about it that much.  We talk about it superciliously, even flippantly, but we don’t want to engage it very much.  We are often willing to sing bouncy songs about the blood of Jesus that often seem to not embrace that this was real blood shed painfully.

Often we ministers lament on Easter Sunday that it’s the day when we see people we hardly ever see but I really don’t.  I sometimes lament that we are very willing to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus but are unwilling to visit the grave.  We celebrate Jesus being raised but sometimes fail to view Jesus dying.

Every year, on Good Friday, I reread this poem and wonder about it.  Am I facing east, toward the events on the hill or am I facing west.?  Of maybe the bigger question is am I facing west and fooling myself by saying and believing I am facing east?

To me, it’s a reminder to not look away.  Jesus, on the cross, could see those around him.  He was higher up so he could actually see further than the people at the base of the cross.

I wonder sometimes what he’s viewing me doing….am I riding west, or have I turned around and faced east?  Am I riding westward or am I truly present.

These are my Good Friday questions….


Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward


Let mans Soule be a Spheare, and then, in this,

The intelligence that moves, devotion is,

And as the other Spheares, by being growne

Subject to forraigne motion, lose their owne,

And being by others hurried every day,

Scarce in a yeare their naturall forme obey:

Pleasure or businesse, so, our Soules admit

For their first mover, and are whirld by it.

Hence is't, that I am carryed towards the West

This day, when my Soules forme bends toward the East.

There I should see a Sunne, by rising set,

And by that setting endlesse day beget;

But that Christ on this Crosse, did rise and fall,

Sinne had eternally benighted all.

Yet dare I'almost be glad, I do not see

That spectacle of too much weight for mee.

Who sees Gods face, that is selfe life, must dye;

What a death were it then to see God dye?

It made his owne Lieutenant Nature shrinke,

It made his footstoole crack, and the Sunne winke.

Could I behold those hands which span the Poles,

And tune all spheares at once peirc'd with those holes?

Could I behold that endlesse height which is

Zenith to us, and our Antipodes,

Humbled below us? or that blood which is

The seat of all our Soules, if not of his,

Made durt of dust, or that flesh which was worne

By God, for his apparell, rag'd, and torne?

If on these things I durst not looke, durst I

Upon his miserable mother cast mine eye,

Who was Gods partner here, and furnish'd thus

Halfe of that Sacrifice, which ransom'd us?

Though these things, as I ride, be from mine eye,

They'are present yet unto my memory,

For that looks towards them; and thou look'st towards mee,

O Saviour, as thou hang'st upon the tree;

I turne my backe to thee, but to receive

Corrections, till thy mercies bid thee leave.

O thinke mee worth thine anger, punish mee,

Burne off my rusts, and my deformity,

Restore thine Image, so much, by thy grace,

That thou may'st know mee, and I'll turne my face.