What Others Are Saying:

Steve Case, through his emersion into the story, reminds us that the presence of the divine surrounds us continually and he teaches us how to tap into that presence.

 - Mary Beth Howe, Author:A Baptist Among Jews

Tuesday
Dec152015

REV QUICK DUNNLEY'S COMPLETELY UNTRUE CHRISTMAS TALES #3

 

The First Nativity Play

Saint Francis of Assisi is often referred to as the father of the modern Christmas pageant or the first known church leader to create a live nativity scene as part of Christmas time worship. The good monk would get people to put on costumes and then parade through the town inviting others to join the parade, which ended at a stable or barn several miles from the church. 

 The first recorded practice of a live nativity event in America came in 1805 in Philadelphia. The first "players" in the pageant were not children but prisoners from a local debtors prison. (Women were not permitted to perform...even the role of Mary). The "performance" consisted of standing outside in the town square. There were no lines to be memorized. They were simply lawn ornaments. Because the temperatures were so bitterly cold it the church found it difficult to find volunteers so a suggestion was made to recruit from the local prison. Prisoners were given payment toward their debts if they agreed to standing in freezing temperatures dressed in Biblical costumes. 

 

Mary Ann Hudson wrote in a December 21 letter to her mother. 

Tonight we have seen a most splendid event. Charles took the children and I to see a performance of the Nativity. Eleanor remarked how the angle who stood behind the Blessed Virgin Mary was both extremely large and extremely hairy. I did not mention this to Charles, not did I mention that the blessed virgin herself seemed to be in need of a shave. 

 The first year the church attempted such a performance, two of the prisoners had to have multiple toes amputated due to frostbite. Official records stored in the museum of Criminal Justice in Philadelphia note that each man was compensated a dollar for each toe. The records indicate that the toes were "Given for Christmas."

 

Sunday
Dec132015

The Rev Quick Dunnley's Completely Untrue Christmas Tales #2

The Smallest Crèche 

Probably the least known and most beautiful depictions of the traditional nativity scene, was in a small piece of glass about 2 inches long and one inch wide. 

On the day before the first Sunday of Advent In 1787 in London a Chemist (as pharmacists were called then) was apparently bored enough at his job to begin catching insects at random and smashing them with his pestle and then examining them under the microscope. On this day, to his surprise, a common housefly revealed a startling site. The insect’s remains created an absolutely perfect depiction of the nativity. Shocked and amazed Dr. Barker called his assistant to look. His assistant concurred and the men determined that they could be in the presence of an authentic miracle. They summoned a local priest Fr. John Havensforth of West End. The priest who had never used a microscope attempted for an hour before finally be able to see what the chemists saw. Fr. Havensforth was more than surprised. 

 

The good priest crossed himself and immediately prayed a prayer of forgiveness and then bestowed a blessing on the slide, our instrument, our business and both Dr. Barker and myself. I had never been spontaneously blessed before. It was an extraordinary feeling.

-Nigel Evans -Asst to Dr. Baker in a letter to his mother. 

 

The priest quickly summoned a bishop unfortunately by this time Dr. Barker's assistant had also summoned the press. Word spread quickly throughout London and by the time the bishop arrived a sizeable crowd had also. 

The Bishop, who had some experience with microscopes peered into the glass and immediately declared the site a non-miracle. When questioned about his decision the bishop replied that the alleged "nativity" had four wise men. 

 Stunned by this, both Dr. Barker and his assistant looked again. Sure enough, there to the left of Jesus and his mother were not three bur four kings in full array. Dr. Barker suggested that the slide was still too perfect to be coincidence and perhaps God was trying to tell the world something. The bishop left without another word. Fr. Havensforth explained to Dr. Baker in an official letter... 

 "Any miracle depicting an inaccurate display of the holy nativity was not a miracle. Miracles surrounding the images of the Christ Child and his Mother would be more likely to happen within the walls of the church and not in the splayed remains of a common household insect."

 Dr. Barker was soon ruined when it was learned that he had been using pharmaceutical instruments to kill bugs. His assistant "acquired" the slide and sold it to the original house of Ripley's Believe it Or Not. (Then known simply as Mr. Ripley’s Collection). The slide remained in the museum until 1805 when it was dropped and broken by a careless custodian.

Friday
Dec112015

The Rev Quick Dunnley's Completely Untrue Christmas Tales #1

The REAL Advent Calendar

The tradition of the Advent Calendar did not begin in the early 1900's in Austria as most people think. The first Advent Calendars were published in America in l922 but the actual tradition of opening small number doors during the 25 days before Christmas began in 1751 in Wunderlin Switzerland. These Swiss calendars were elaborate finely carve wooden boxes with tiny wooden doors each hiding a piece of chocolate in a small cubby. On the last day of November the children of the family (or classroom) were gathered around the Advent Calendar as a small burrowing bug called a "vanderplanki" was dropped through a hole in the top of the box. The hole was then corked and the box shaken by all the children and then left alone for 24 hours. This allowed the insect to burrow its way inside one of the many sweets.

Beginning December first each child was told to open the corresponding door and quickly eat the candy therein. The vanderplanki had an oily bitter taste and the whole family would wait to see if the child made the "Planki Face."

This version of the Advent Calendar arrived in England in 1910. The tradition became that a child who found the "vanderplanki", which by this time had been replaced by horseradish, must have been a bad child and was being punished by God for their sins and received no presents that year. The Church of England abolished this practice in 1913 when a clergy was beaten to death, in Suessx,  by his own church congregation for endangering children. 

 A little known prayer was memorized by the children of that day.

 Gentle Jesus, mild and meek

Let this be a tasty treat

May I not make the devil's face.

Lest my gifts the angels take.

Amen

Friday
May012015

Wait

 

I spent some time on a plane recently.  There a few better examples of man’s inhumanity to man than whomever designed the airplane seat. 

 I do kind of like airports though.  I like watching the people, little kids especially. I saw a little girl who had hand drawn her ID. She put it in a little pouch around her neck with a copy of her boarding pass.  Thankfully, the man at the gate played along and checked her ID and made a show of it when she and her mom got to security.

 I was waiting at my own gate while a plane was emptying.  A woman came out of the door holding the hand of a kid who looked to be about five or six years old. He stepped out into the concourse, his eyes got real wide and he said, “MOM, Is this their house???”

 I don’t know where he was going or where he was coming from. I’m guessing “mom” had said, “We’re flying to grandma’s house.”  Apparently it didn’t occur the the kid that they’d land at the airport and THEN go to grandma’s house.  He thought THIS was grandma’s place.  Coooool.  I saw the Tom Hanks movie about the guy who lived in an airport.  I’ve slept in more than one airport in my life and don’t care to do it again.  I don’t mind a layover. There’s always cool things to see and people to talk to.

 I have a friend who travels A LOT.  Whenever he has to travel he will go to the airport news stand and buy a magazine that he has NO interest in whatsoever.  It might be Modern Knitting or Horse Enthusiast.  He’ll read it cover to cover on the plane ride.  He said it’s surprising what you can learn and even more surprising how often something he learned from one of those magazines will come up in conversation.

 I’ve been thinking about the “Is this their house” kid.  I wonder what the arrival into heaven is going to be like. What’s it like at the end of the chute? Let’s accept the whole flying-into-the-light-thing at the moment of death AND the eternity-with-God thing.  But what about that moment AFTER death and before the eternity?  What is it like to arrive in heaven?   I want to believe it’s like the Welcome to Florida Station in Jacksonville. Shooting down interstate 71 and cruising into FLA. You stop in Jacksonville. You get a glass of cold Florida orange juice. You scan the racks and racks of brochures for every possible tourist attraction. My brother and I would grab 20 or 30 of these when we were little kids. We’d save them and then trade them. Never WENT to any of them but they were fun to read in the car.

 Some people expect the big line outside the gate and then St Peter checks your name off the list.  I hope that’s not it.  I want the juice.  I want a display window that looks out onto the Milky Way.  I want a brochure to a speedboat ride around Saturn’s rings.

 

And I want to know what’s beyond there....

 Sometimes when someone in your life dies the best thing you can do is something completely normal. Bake bread. Get a haircut. Wash the car.  Life has become something utterly abnormal...doing something normal helps.  Heaven is going to be so far beyond our comprehension we can’t conceive of it now. It isn’t possible to understand all that heaven is with the minds we have. We can’t do it.

 That’s why the Welcome to Heaven Rest Stop is necessary.  I hope it’s there. I hope they have vending machines with vintage candy and it’s all free.

 What’s beyond? Won’t know till we get there.

Thursday
Jan082015

Of Jokes and Jesus and Justice and Journalism

 

 Just below this paragraph is a joke.  I’m throwing that out there at the beginning. You will have to scroll down for it.  It is a joke I learned about 20 years ago. I was reminded of it last night during a fascinating discussion at a meeting of brilliant young minds.

It is a Jesus joke.  I post it here because it is, in its essence, the same joke that was the cover of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.  Ready?  Okay, here’s the joke.

 

 

 

A man walks into a church, a visitor, his first time. It is a beautiful sunny day and he’s a good Sunday morning mood.  He greets people warmly, he sings the opening hymn at the top of his lungs, during the ‘greeting time’ he hugs people and laughs loudly.  Finally a few people come to him and say this is not how they worship at their church and let him know he might be more comfortable worshipping elsewhere. 

 

As the man is sitting on the front steps on the church wondering what it was he did wrong, Jesus came up and sat next to him.  “Don’t feel bad,” said Jesus.  “I’ve been trying to get in there for years.”

 

 

 There you go.  Essentially that’s the same joke as was on the cover of Charlie Hebdo. The overall point being that sometimes people are so busy being religious they don’t see they aren’t following the one who started the religion.  The magazine cover of Charlie Hebdo depiected a member of ISIS murdering the prophet Mohammad.  The prophet is saying "I'm the prophet you idiot."   The ISIS miltant is saying, "Die Infidel!"

 

So what I first thought was...it wasn’t about the joke. No reasonable person would take so offense to that joke they would murder the ones who created it.

 

My second thought was... we are not dealing with reasonable people.  Which brings us back to...it wasn’t about the joke.

 

So it was about the offense then?

 

No it wasn’t about the offense.  I read somewhere we have become the United States of the Offended.  ANYthing that is said...someone....somewhere will take offense.

 

So it wasn’t about the offense.  It wasn’t about the joke.

 

It was about fear and prejudice...about making you afraid and telling you who’s to blame. 

 

It was about control.

 

When it’s about control we can either give control to the ones who are trying to make us afraid or we can stop being afraid.  

 

Take away the fear and you take back the control.

 

There’s a reason it’s called terrorism. 

 

Aaron Sorkin wrote that terrorism has a 100 percent failure rate.  It never works. Those you are trying to control with fear always always always rise up again.

 

Fear is strong. Fear gives birth to prejudice and ignorance but love is stronger than all of it.  Love is the strongest thing there is.

 

Love always hopes, always protects, always trusts, always endures, always perseveres. Love does not lose.  Ever.

 

None of that answers the question what do we do about people who shoot cartoonists, or journalists or politicians or missionaries.   

 

Maybe love can be the side effect.