It's my fault; I tempted Fate - two days ago I hung all the wind chimes from the porch ceiling again. I never took the plywood off my windows because I didn't have any to start with. I did take the duct tape off the sliding glass doors the day after Frances, but I kept my supply of candles and bottled water. Shouldn't that count for something?

Apparently not. Here we go again, white-knuckling it while waiting for Hurricane Jeanne to arrive. Ivan missed this part of Florida, but Jeanne is the third hurricane to come through Volusia County since mid-August.

As little as 24 hours ago we thought she was going to roar her way straight up Florida's east coast. Now it appears Daytona Beach will have only hurricane force winds and that the path will be a bit south and west of us. Everything is relative; we will have winds no more than 85 to 100 mph. Plus the occasional tornado. And flooding, of course. Aren't we the lucky ones, missing the center, not being the landfall site?

Am I worried? Yes, a bit. The ground is soaked from the previous storms and the trees that held before might be uprooted and come crashing down this time. But I am no longer in the direct path of Jeanne. And she is moving fast : 14 mph at the last report. Not only will she be here soon, she won't hang around long. In and out within an hour. Wham, bam, thank you, ma'am.

After that, just the clean-up and perhaps several days without electricity. Piece of cake!

UPDATE - 15 hours later: Madame Jeanne arrived, but she still hasn't left. We are in the midst of feeder band activity. Amazingly, I have electricity although the lights are flickering and I may be without power at any time. Hurricane Jeanne is south-southwest of Orlando right now and headed for Tampa on the west coast of Florida.

The winds roared from 3 A.M. onwards, coupled with driving, horizontal rains. Overnight, up to eight inches of rain have been dumped into this already saturated area. Flooding will be a serious problem when the runoff accumulates.

My dog, Bronco, refuses to go outside to pee. Twenty minutes later he has forgotten about the weather and again tells me he really has to go NOW !   I finally shut him up in the garage, but he is too well-behaved to break the rules. I'll have to physically uncross his legs when this is over.

I don't really know where else to node this stuff. It's a collection of passages and some lines I wrote myself that I never managed to weave into something workable, but that just struck me thematically when I opened up my scratchpad and saw it all there together. These sort of capture a certain frame of mind I was in back in about March of this year.

while she fell into despair because the past was becoming more and more faint. All she had left of her husband was his passport photo, the other photographs having remained in the confiscated Prague apartment" -Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, 116.

"At the beginning of their time together, he had asked her (ten years older than she, he had already gotten some idea of human memory's wretchedness) to keep a diary that would record their life. She had resisted, declaring it would make light of their love. She loved him too much to admit that what she considered unforgettable could ever be forgotten. Finally, of course, she obeyed him, but with no enthusiasm. The notebooks showed it: there were many empty pages, and the entries were fragmentary" -Kundera, Ibid. 117.

"They got into a conversation. What intrigued Tamina were his questions. Not their content, but the simple fact that he was asking them. My God, it had been so long since anyone had asked her about anything! It seemed like an eternity! Only her husband had kept asking her questions, because love is a continual interrogation. I don't know of a better definition of love." -Kundera, Ibid. 223.

And again, there is the secret hope that someone will simply say "tell me something", leaving it open. A request from me for you. Any of you, all of you: impossible to give, impossible to take. "Tell me something": a request for openness. It signifies the pure desire to know the other; any fragment, all fragments of the other. The always becoming-beloved. Don't we all secretly wish that someone will say this to us? Does "I love you" seem quite as profound after it? "Tell me something": the utterance of love, freed.

"When Nietzsche said he wanted to be understood in fifty years, he could not have meant it in only the intellectual sense. That for which he lived and exalted himself demands that life, joy, and death be brought into play, and not the tired attention of the intellect. This must be stated simply and with an awareness of one's own involvement." -Georges Bataille, "Propositions", in Visions of Excess, 197.

"Universal existence, eternally unfinished and acephalic, a world like a bleeding wound, endlessly creating and destroying particular finite beings: it is this sense that true universality is the death of God." -Bataille, Ibid. 201.

"{Nietzsche's} masterful siege of the language permits him to transmit something uncodifiable: the notion of style as politics." -Gilles Deleuze, "Nomad Thought" in The New Nietzsche, 143.

"To think the way one dies: without purpose, without power, without unity, and precisely, without 'the way'. " -Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster, 39.

"If there is, among all words, one that is inauthentic, then surely it is the word 'authentic' -Blanchot, Ibid. 60.

To be a falling angel who never hits the ground.

"Bereft of certitude, he does not doubt: has hasn't that support." -Blanchot, Ibid. 12.

"Love remains a relation with the Other that turns into need, and this need still presupposes the total, transcendent exteriority of the other, of the beloved. But love also goes beyond the beloved. This is why through the face filters the obscure light coming from beyond the face, from what is not yet, from a future never future, more remote than the possible. " - Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity, 254-255.

"Love-Love forgives even the lover his lust." -Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science §62.

"That which is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil." - Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil §153.

"Resonance. All intense moods bring with them a resonance of related feelings and moods; they seem to stir up memory. Something in us remembers and becomes of similar states and their origin. Thus habitual, rapid associations of feelings and thoughts are formed, which, when they follow through with lightning speed upon one another, are eventually no longer felt as complexes, but rather as unities. In this sense, one speaks of moral feelings, religious feelings, as if they were all unities; in truth they are rivers with a hundred sources and tributaries. As is so often the case, the unity of the word does not guarantee the unity of the thing." -Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human §14.

"Friend. Shared joy, not compassion, makes a friend." - Nietzsche, Ibid. §499.

"the night of the lovers is the other night, la nuit différent, hors de chair et de la nôtre; and likewise it is a space of fragments where dreams s'attendent, se dispersent sans se souffrir enchaînes. And so on without end." -Gerald L. Bruns, Blanchot 157-158.

"Note the phrase 'opening unknown spaces of freedom': imagine this as the task of poetry or of writing outside of language. Or of love."-Bruns, Ibid. 158.

Love is stated best without being articulated; it appears as an excess which moves around phrases and actions, something that resonates but which escapes all words. It can live in words but no words can capture its life. It is constant motion, even in a moment of perfect stillness. Always broken, always falling away and always being picked up again. Desire, necessity.

"Man knows he cannot embrace the universe with its suns and stars. Much more unbearable for him is to be condemned to lack the other infinitude, that infinitude near at hand, within reach. Tamina lacked the infinitude of her love, I lacked Pap, and all of us are lacking in our work because in pursuit of perfection we go towrad the core of the matter but never quite get to it." -Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. 226.

"there is nothing more unbearable than lacking the being we loved" - Kundera, Ibid. 227.

"We were supposed to meet our parents in Duluth/We used the weather that day as an excuse/We just laughed and talked slow/While the gutters overflowed and our hearts did too." - Chamberlain, "That Was The Best", from the album The Moon My Saddle.

"How the time is never now and we know who we should love, but we're never certain how. I know you might roll your eyes at this, but Im so glad that you exist." -The Weakerthans, "The Reasons", from the album Reconstruction Site.

Now, to log my day. Today consisted of:

Sermon Log, September 26, 2004

The First Congregational Church, Columbus, Ohio

September 19, 2004 - 16th Sunday after Pentecost A sermon delivered by The Rev. Timothy C. Ahrens, Sr. Minister Dedicated to the people who reached out to me and my family as angels of mercy, love, grace, and justice and always to the glory of God!

The Flight of the Lone Wild Goose

Joshua 4:21-22, Amos 8:4-7, Luke 16:1-13

The Celtic symbol for the Holy Spirit is the Wild Goose. The wild goose with its wings beating frantically, is a turbulent sign the Holy Spirit, perhaps more appropriate to the living faith of our day than the gentle dove. Yet it was in fact, Columba, the so-called " Dove of the Church ," who established the Christian faith on a little island in Scotland in the year of our Lord, 563. After a tumultuous struggle in his homeland in the Spring of that year, this middle-aged Irish priest and twelve followers set sail for Scotland. Columba, whose name means, "dove" in Latin, left Ireland in a self-imposed exile. On the eve of Pentecost, their sacrificial journey brought the thirteen pilgrims to the western shore of Iona (an Island whose name also means "dove" in Hebrew).

Columba had sailed to Iona not to create a colony of heaven, but as a Christian missionary. His barefoot monks would eventually go out to the highways and byways to preach the Gospel. Iona was strategically well-positioned for Columba's base of mission. From Iona, he found ways to heal, preach, and convert the Druids to faith in a loving God, known through Jesus Christ. Legend has it that Columba not only spread God's word throughout Scotland, but in so doing, part of his journey took him up Loch Ness, where he jousted with the Loch Ness monster! Invoking the name of God and forming the saving sign of the cross in the air, Columba commanded the ferocious monster to retreat from the river to the Loch. Even the Druids were struck by this act of faith and power. The Dove of the Church was moving forward! The wings of the Wild Goose were beating. The Holy Spirit was loose on a tiny island in the Hebrides!

Following Columba, Benedictine monks and nuns would settle on the island, the Book of Kells would be written and moved from here, they would bury Scottish kings and queens here, and there emerged a Gaelic prophecy that proclaimed Christ's Second Coming would take place on Iona. To this island my family came weary from life's journey in search of rest and renewal. On Iona, Sarah and Daniel were shepherds of real sheep, and we all learned new steps in our dance of faith, experienced laughter, love, fellowship, art, and worship with a community of believers from all across the world. With Iona's parallel akin to Nome, Alaska, the sun never really set and the light of God shined brightly into our lives. On Iona, where the dove of the church landed to introduce the way of the cross more than 1440 years before, our sabbatical journey was touched by the wings of the wild goose! On Iona, we learned to fly again.

In Scotland, England, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy and throughout the United States, we continued to experience the Spirit of the wild goose loose in our lives. Through the beauty of art, the majesty of nature, the powerful faith of people, the grace and mystery of God's angels of mercy and love, we witnessed God's handiwork. Today is not the time or place to share stories from every stop on my sabbatical journey (as I promised jokingly in one postcard this summer, I will need a 57-part sermon series . . . someday). As I make the transition from my wild goose chase which has traversed more than 25,000 miles, through ten countries and twenty states in the last three months, I want to share three stories. All three are love stories that show how the lone wild goose moves in this world of ours.

The first wild goose story is one of a man who lived his life each day, fearless of the end. His name was Apollinare, the patron Saint of Ravenna, Italy. We have few facts about Apollinare, but have many truths. Believed to be present in the mass conversion on Pentecost, Apollinare had traveled to Italy from Antioch with Peter, the Apostle. Instructed in the Gospel by Peter, he was consecrated by him as a bishop. He was sent to Ravenna during the reign of Emperor Claudius, arriving sometime in the year 45-46 AD to establish the church in this important Roman Empire naval seaport on the Adriatic Sea. For 12 years Apollinare established the church amid pagan hostilities. Forced to leave the region because of constant persecution, he spread the gospel to the people of Emilia, then returned to Ravenna to make more conversions. He performed miracles, was constantly pressured, harassed and jailed. He was driven from the city three times. Each time he returned. Finally, he was sent into exile in Corinth and Thrace. After three years in exile, he returned to his church, renewed his commitments and work. For eleven more years, Apollinare built up the body of Christ in Ravenna. Finally, in 74 AD, on the 23 rd of July, his opponents mortally wounded him and he died that very day. They buried him within the community. Preaching in the 5 th Century about the founder of Ravenna's church, then Bishop Crisologo declared:

"To die only once is very little for those who can gloriously conquer the enemy more often for their king. Loyalty and devotion, more than death, make the martyr. Just as falling on the battlefield for love of the king is proof of valor, so too is sustaining the battle at length and bringing it to a close proof of perfect virtue . . . (Apollinare) sustained and nourished the church through its fragile infancy and, as he wished, the martyr was kept alive . . . He lives, and just as the good shepherd stays with his flock, the spirit of he who came before us in body and in time will never leave us. He preceded us in life, but his bodily presence remains with us." (found in The Story of Saint Apollinare, patron saint of Ravenna, by Stefania Salti and Renata Venturini, translated by Steven Cooper, Edizioni Stear, 2000, p. 9).

Apollinare found his stream of living water and lived fearless of the end for almost thirty years. He lived in the same place and lived a fearless life. He never ran from enemies. Through his witness he teaches all of us to stand strong in the storms of life. We must face our fears with faith in God who is greater, stronger, mightier, and more loving than all those who seek to undo us! We must live unafraid of the end, trusting God will deliver us. We must trust the wild goose moving in our lives!

The second story walked into my life last Saturday evening as the sun was setting on a hot Alabama day. Many of you may not know that from September 6-15, I traveled more than 2800 miles to see the places and people who shaped the Civil Rights movement in the 1950's and 1960's. I met with African-American Christians in Atlanta, GA., Selma, Montgomery, and Birmingham, AL.; and Memphis and Nashville, TN. Beyond seeing civil rights and historic sites in each of those places, I visited Washington DC, Alexandria, Richmond, Appomattox Court House, Danville VA, Greensboro, NC, and Money, Greenwood, and Rulesville, MS. They have filled my heart with amazing stories from this spiritual journey.

The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth is a bonafide Christian and American hero. One week after the Supreme Court issued Brown vs. The Board of Education in 1954, Rev. Shuttlesworth courageously entered an all-white school in Birmingham to register his children for classes. As he left the building, having been refused admission, his entire family was attacked and beaten, and his wife was stabbed by members of the White Citizens Council - the unhooded version of the KKK. Through the years, his church was bombed three times, his home was bombed several times, he was jailed over thirty times, beaten, and blown against walls by fire hoses unleashed by police.

Last Saturday evening, I was coming out of the Civil Rights Museum in Birmingham having just spent an amazing 1 1/2 hours with Bishop Calvin Woods. We were standing with our arms around each other looking at a huge statue of Shuttlesworth. For thirty-eight years Fred has led a congregation in Cincinnati, although as current head of the SCLC, he is often in Atlanta and Birmingham. I asked Calvin, "Is Dr. Shuttlesworth really that tall?" He answered, "Why don't you just ask him himself?" Around the corner, walking all alone came Dr. Shuttlesworth. For months I had tried to set up a meeting with this great man and had finally scheduled a time in October. I was astounded to have him standing right in front of me. The lone wild goose was flapping her wings once again!

For the next ninety minutes it was just the two of us. We walked, talked, ate and laughed together. I treated him to dinner at Lavas' Restaurant where we had some fine home cooked soul food. He introduced me to Oxtails (something he thoroughly enjoyed doing!). After dinner we walked some more.

As walked through Kelly-Ingram Park where in 1963, thousands of men, women and children were arrested - having been blown away by powerful fire hoses, attacked by dogs, and beaten by police, I reflected on the treacherous American history that unfolded on this ground. We looked over at the Sixteenth St. Baptist Church where four girls, ranging in age from 11 to 14, were blown-up on a Sunday morning while in a woman's bathroom preparing themselves for church in their beautiful white dresses on Rally Day, September 15, 1963. Kelly-Ingram is not a big park. It is almost hard to believe so many battles in the civil rights movement happened on this hallowed ground.

I asked Dr. Shuttlesworth if his mind ever slipped back 40 or 50 years to the experiences of abuse and injustice he and so many had encountered here. He answered, "I don't look back. It would be too painful and I might get stuck there. No, my eyes are always focused forward. Truthfully, I could have died 200 different times on at least 100 different days in Birmingham. My blood is in this ground. But, my body keeps moving forward." Then he looked me straight in the eyes with his clear and penetrating focus and said, "Tim, God created the world and all that is herein. So we don't have to spend a lot of time talking about all that God has done and is doing. We have to do what he created us to do. He created us to work for justice, to fight for human and civil rights, and work for righteousness in this world." Fred Shuttlesworth reminded me of the prophet Micah calling across the ages: "Do justice. Love tenderly. Walk humbly with your God!" A love story of justice. A humble man walking with God, carried by the wings of the wild goose.

Throughout the summer, my family visited churches and museums throughout Europe. In Rome, alone, I saw twenty-three churches (at least half of them without my progeny). Why I even revisited the Jefferson Memorial, the National Archives and the National Gallery of Art to see how our own church's architect John Russell Pope did on some of his smaller projects. My encounters with the Holy in these places, I will share in times to come. It was just outside Selma, Alabama, in a garden overgrown by weeds and underbrush that I fell in love with the beauty and simplicity of poor people's art. On March 8, 1965, thousands of people were driven and beaten by baton welding state troopers as they marched across the Edmund Petus Bridge. In what is now known as "Bloody Sunday," hundreds of men, women, and children sustained severe injuries from these beatings. Having driven from Montgomery, Alabama|Montgomery] of historic Rt. 80, I pulled my Ford Taurus off Rt. 80 just at the eastern edge of the Edmund Petus Bridge. I got out of my car and approached a large pile of rocks, surrounded by homemade art, handmade memorials, and wall murals on the beauty shop behind me. One rock had these words from Joshua 4 carved into it: "When your children shall ask you in time to come, what means these 12 stones, then you shall tell them how you made it over." For Joshua, the rocks had been a shrine constructed from the 12 tribes who entered the Promised Land after 40 years of wandering. For the African-Americans who chiseled these words, it was a proclamation that over 340 years of suffering crossed over the Alabama River in this place in late March, 1965. Below the bridge is now a park. In the park, on almost every tree, there are simple wooden markers carved with the names of those murdered in the civil rights movement. A hemp rope, similar to ones used to drag slaves barefoot across dirt paths and to lynch innocent African-American men and women across centuries of wrong connects the trees. The only sound you here come from crickets, and the vehicles crossing the Edmund Petus Bridge which looms above. If you listen really hard, you will hear the beating of wings from the wild goose.

I hear the wings of the wild goose beating steadily across the epochs of our Christian history. I hear the call of the Lone Wild Goose, even Jesus Christ our Lord crying to us to be his faithful witnesses right now and in the time ahead. Listen and you will hear him, too. As faithful witnesses, I pray that someday twelve stones in this place will bear these words for the generations , "When your children shall ask you in time to come, what means these 12 stones, then you shall tell them how you made it over."

From poet, Patrick Kavanagh and with a deep and abiding hope that God will call us to amazing and faithful witness in the days ahead, I leave you with these words:

Then I saw the wild geese flying

In fair formation to their bases in Inchicore

And I knew that these wings would outwear

The wings of war

And a man's simple thoughts outlive the day's loud lying

Don't fear, don't fear, I said to my soul.

The Bedlam of time is an empty bucket rattled,

`Tis you who will say in the end who best battles.

Only they who fly home to God have flown at all.

(From Chasing the Wild Goose , by Ronald Ferguson, Wild Goose Publications, Glasgow, Scotland, 1988, p. 170).

So be it.

Copyright 2004, The First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ Noded with permission.

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