Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Thursday, October 09, 2014

GOD AGAIN


God Again

God is a problem for most of us. Today non-believers in God like Atheists and Agnostics cry for recognition and acceptance. Their views should be looked at, received or rejected, or dismissed as irrelevant. People who are spiritual but not religious often have a wide variety of beliefs about God from Atheism to pious romanticism, like the idea of my friend Jesus.

Disbelief has always been with us in some form. My purpose in this writing is not why there is disbelief. That is an important area to be explore by others or perhaps by me in a later writing.

I have always believed in God. The definition has changed, developed and matured over the years. As a child I went to church and assumed belief in God as a protector from the fears in the night. In church and Sunday school I believed in “Our father who art in heaven.” He was the creator and protector. Then when I began to masturbate, I believed God watched over us and counted up our sins, which included sex, stealing and lying. That God never scared to me. He just tut tut-utted at me, I thought.  In Brooklyn my Italian Roman Catholic pals bragged about masturbation, told dirty stories and drew crude sexy pictures of tits, cock, pussies and cum. They would go to confession, take communion and go right on doing what pre-teen and teen boys do. Maybe girls did some of that too, but I never heard of such things.
Beside lonely masturbation, I was too afraid of getting caught, so I did not draw pictures or tell stories.

In high school I was obsessed by sports and girls. The sex fantasies of intercourse, rape and public sex never came to fruition. I went to chapel daily at school, believed in God, and said my prayers when I remembered. In summer camp as a camper and later as a counselor, I attended daily Eucharist, morning and evening prayer with psalms and Old and New Testament lessons as well as prayers each summer day. I found myself enjoying that more and more.

At New York University I encountered many students and faculty who did not believe in God. I found that fascinating and not troublesome. Head of the Philosophy Department was Sidney Hook. He took us through Thomas Aquinas’ five arguments for the existence of God. They were very convincing indeed. The he went over the arguments showing the fallacies in Thomas’ arguments. I had read about a so-called split between Science and religion. Oddly, I never felt challenged, I just believed.

Science explored the origin of the universe. Darwin’s theory of evolution and the Genesis stories of creation never seemed in conflict to me. Genesis was not scientific exploration. It told the story of how ancient people thought about who made the earth and sky and all that was in it. It was not science. It was story.

The Episcopal Chaplain at NYU was the late John Pyle, a quiet unassuming man who talked about faith as just there. One has it or one doesn’t. That seemed to be my case. The late Vernon Bodien, Chaplain to the Christian Association on campus took much the same line. I thought about the existence of god a lot, but never came close to disbelieving. I saw the problem of evil. How could and all Good and all knowing God allow the existence of evil?

Thanks to the work of Reinhold Niebuhr I saw that human kind has the capacity for enormous good and the cruelest of evil all at the same time. The writings of Paul Tillich popularized that God was not a being, but being itself. God was the ground of all being. I soon internalized those ideas as my definition of God. God simply as creator of the world as we know it, all- Good and all-knowing were too limited for understanding the universe and the human condition.

When I got in and then out of the seminary I felt I had a solid idea of God as the underpinning of my faith and ministry.

For a long lingering time I still had the notion of God totaling up my sins, especially the sexual ones. Lillian and I did everything except intercourse before we married. We felt that was the Christian way and what God wanted us to do.

As time went by I saw the deep meaning of St. Paul’s discussion of justification by faith alone. God does not count up our sins and peccadilloes to punish us. We are made whole and complete (justified, saved) by our faith and allegiance to Jesus Christ. Thus, I know I am going to sin, hurt others and myself, but I am already loved and forgiven by my faith in Jesus Christ.

Recently I find myself praying more and more. I am comfortable praying to God as father. The ground of all being and being itself it is a bit amorphous to be praying to. So I pray to God the father as the focus of my prayer to God. I know the difference between God and the image of God.

Thanks to Joseph Campbell’s work on mythology, I believe that the Jesus story is a myth. It is a story based on historical people and actions told to convince others of certain beliefs. The stories illustrate and affirm sacred ideas and truths.  There is the story that God became a man in the person of Jesus. This became the doctrine of the incarnation. Taken literally the story is absurd. However, if one asks what is the purpose of the story, what is the elemental truth of truths in the story, we can see its power. For me the meaning is that we humans are deeply human and humane and that we are forgiven for the evil we do. The power of the universe, the ground of all being enters our history to show how much we are loved and worthy of love. Therefore we should love one another and forgive each other. This is the meaning of the Christmas story, telling of the birth of Jesus.

The other great myth is that of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. That is the story of Easter. We are so loved and forgiven that we live on in some manner after our bodily death.

The story of the life of Jesus is the work of Jesus; followers to explain who Jesus is and what his relationship to God is.

The gospels are the four books about the Jesus written sixty  years after his death. When I look at Jesus’ life and values I get a glance at who and what God is. God wants justice, peace, compassion, love and forgiveness for all in his creation.         That is what Jesus proclaims.

I take comfort and enjoy traditional Christian doctrine as helpers in understanding God. The Holy Spirit is the idea that god’s spirit it with us all the time in our daily lives and inside us as well. That comforts and sustains me. That is the power of love, sex, inspiration, creativity, happiness and joy. It is the spirit available to me in despair, mourning, depression, anxiety and fear.

Why do I worship in church, in the sacrament and privately? I fail to live a holy and sacred life most of the time during the week. I am glad of the Jewish and Christian tradition of keeping holy a day a week. Ann and I go to church. The focus is on God, not me for a change. The cross, altar, architecture and people gathered let me see images of the holy and sacred, something beyond myself.  I like to sing and church is one of the few public places left where singing happens. Singing and music lift me to another level of life. They can be transformative.

I love taking the bread and wine as specific bodily ways of being mystically connected to God through the images Jesus gave us.

I pray when by myself for my wife, family, friends and the sick and the dying. I believe prayer works on me, not on God. When I pray for someone, the prayer is answered when I do something to help. My constant prayer is thanksgiving for all that I have been given, most of which I did not earn.

I hope my readers will read these musings on God through my personal development. I’d love some challenges, debate and appreciations.

-Robert Warren Cromey





Monday, October 06, 2014

ALCOHOL AND ME

Monday, October 6, 2014

ALCOHOL AND ME

I stopped drinking hard booze when we went to Utah for two weeks in August of 2014. I drank 2-3 glasses of wine every evening. I did not miss the gin or scotch, except a few times when I got a mild urge to sit down and have a cock tail, my habit after 5 PM. I continued the wine diet for the rest of August and until September 29th. Gary and Fred came to dinner and I bought a bottle of Jim Beam and served us manhattans. I finished off what was left in the bottle by Monday the 29th. I had had a martini at lunch with Spellman on Friday, September 12. I went back on the wine happily through today.

I noticed after I drank manhattans with Gary and Fred I did not feel good, slept poorly and felt drunk at night when I got up to pee. I feel and sleep better after the wine.

I recently bought a Keurig coffee maker. The coffee comes in a little plastic shot glass sized container, which pops right into the machine. Hot water flows into the little container and out into a cup as real coffe and is quite good. It is quick to make, no mess or fuss and does not waste coffee. I have a cup after my nap and it holds me until wine time just before or during dinner prep. That cup of coffee seems to take a way that habitual desire for a cocktail at 5 PM plus.

My plan is to continue with the wine, have a cocktail occasionally or if we go to a nice restaurant.

John Spellman made the point with me one day at lunch that he decided to give up cocktails when realized it was a habit more than a desire to drink alcohol. That feels right to me, especially that is how it is working for me since early August.

When I drank hard liquor, I was often irritable and argumentative with Ann at dinner in the evenings. After she called it to my attention some years ago, I was able to control that behavior quite a bit but not perfectly. After wine I have not noticed that aggressive behavior. I must continue to pay attention to that, however.

Our grandfather Reinemann drank heavily and may have been an alcoholic. I know this only from family lore. He would leave cousins Dick and Phyllis on the porch of a saloon while he went inside for drinks.  My mother said Grandpa failed in the bar business because he was his own best customer. When Dad read the poem Crossing the Bar at Grandpa’s funeral. Mother said, “Grandpa seldom crossed a bar without going in.”

Mother and Dad drank regularly and often. I remember they drank rum and coke, but have no memory of any other booze they drank. Mother, when she wanted a refill of her drink, lifted her leg and said “Warren, how about one for the other leg.” I threatened to have that carved on her tombstone.

During the college and seminary years, we drank beer and some cheap gallon bottles of red wine. In Bronxville we were given fine cocktails and scotch at the homes of our parishioners. We did not drink much at home with the growing family, Leigh in 1956, Sarah in 1958 and Jessica in 1960.  We were in the Bronx when Jess was born.

Lillian and I started drinking gin martinis when the children were young in the Bronx. By five PM, they were tired, dirty, crank and sleepy, and so were we. We picked up Dee Barrett’s appellation that this time of the day was the arsenic hour. We had martinis instead. Mosholu Lightening was the name we gave the cheap gin we bought at the Mosholu Liquor store around the corner from the rectory. We drank regularly and I continued after our divorce in 1969. I drank mostly scotch, Ballantine’s.

During the Trinity years and afterwards, I took on manhattans and martinis with single malt scotch, Glen Livet, on hand for a breather. Ann would drink wine sparingly and reluctantly.

Brother Edwin and his wife Pamela have regular cocktail time together. Pam likes white wine with ice-cubes, Ed vodka martinis. A lovely custom.

At this time in my life I like the ease with which I have made the switch to wine from booze. I certainly don’t close the door to an occasional cocktail.


RWC

Sunday, October 05, 2014

THE GENEROUS HEART


Fund Raising Teaching Sermon by the Rev. Robert Warren Cromey, priest associate at St. John’s SF

GOSPEL:  Matthew 21: 33 - 46  
                   

Matt 21:33 (NRSV) "Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34 When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35 But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, "They will respect my son.' 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.' 39 So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40 Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" 41 They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time."
42 Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures:
"The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord's doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes'?
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44 The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls."
45 When the chief priests and the Phar'isees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46 They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

In Jesus parable just read don’t we sympathize with the landowner? Don’t we want to condemn the tenants for being so ungrateful and beating and killing the slaves who come from the landowner? Don’t we root for their punishment? Of course we do.

Not so quick! Jesus is a revolutionary. He wants justice for the poor. In Jesus’ day Chief priests and the Pharisees are the landowners, they are exploiting the tenants, paying them little and taking the profits for themselves. The poor become so desperate that they beat and kill the emissaries of the landowners. Jesus is criticizing the economic system of his day.

Sounds like big business today. Profits sky rockets, wages remain low and get lower as inflation sets in. People are getting angry. Let us hope and pray it does not lead to violence.

The religious and political and business leaders in Jesus’ time did not have generous hearts toward the poor. They withheld wages and money.

Our congregation looks at raising funds for the work of this church, the diocese and the larger church.

What is a pledge? It is a promise to pay. When I pledge money to the support of St. John’s I say I promise to give to St. John’s an amount of money to help pay for the salaries, upkeep of the building and the necessary expenses to keep our church going forward into ministry.

Specifically that means we been to pay for gas, electricity, paper goods, insurance, telephone and salaries of the Vicar, Musician, office staff and building maintenance. Like any other home or business there are basic expenses that need too be incurred and paid for.

We receive no money from the diocese, the national church or foundations. We are on our own and we pay as we go. We depend entirely on the gifts the members of the church. We get a modest income from weddings, funeral and rents from groups that rent the space, like receptions, AA meetings and occasional community events. It is up to us to give money to support this wonderful church.

By making a promise to pay, the Bishop’s committee can then make up a budget based on the anticipated income. This helps us plan to distribute money to pay our bills.

After you make your pledge, I want to be clear that this is an entirely free pledge to pay. No creditors will call, no threats will be sent.

We will simply chop off your head for not keeping up your pledge.

. No worry. No beheading but please keep your pledge. If you need to reduce or increase you pledge for any reason just contact the church office, which we try to keep closed as much as possible.

Now let’s think about how much to give.

Tithe- means ten percent of you income.

In Christianity, some interpretations of Biblical teachings conclude that although tithing was practiced extensively in the Old Testament, it was never practiced or taught within the first-century Church. Instead, the New Testament scriptures are seen as teaching the concept of "freewill offerings" as a means of supporting the church: 1 Corinthians 16:2, 2 Corinthians 9:7. Also, some of the earliest groups sold everything they had and held the proceeds in common to be used for the furtherance of the Gospel: Acts 2:44-47, Acts 4:34-35.

Further, Acts 5:1-20 contains the account of a man and wife (Ananias and Sapphira) who were living in one of these groups. They sold a piece of property and donated only part of the selling price to the church but claimed to have given the whole amount and immediately fell down and died when confronted by the apostle Peter over their dishonesty.

Do some math. If you earn 50,000 a year, the tithe would be 5000 a year or 416.00 per month. 30000 a year, the tithe would be 3000 a year or 250 per month.

Modern tithe is 10 % to church and charity. Half to the church and half to charities of your choice.

All that being said, here at S.J. we ask you to make a free will offering of whatever you can to support the life and work of this church. It is up to you.

The Generous heart

Three people from our church are wiling to donate a kidney for Deacon Jackie whose kidney needs replacement. Generous hearts.

There is a story where a woman was certain she sees the ghosts of naked little children by the road at night, hungry and crying. She puts out for them. The dogs eat it. She puts out more of it. A generous heart.

This is what it means to have a generous heart. Please pledge money to the life and work of St. John’s with a generous heart.

RWC  - 10/5/2014




Sunday, August 10, 2014

Film -MAGIC IS THE MOONLIGHT

Magic in the Moonlight is at SF’s Clay theatre. The themes are vintage Woody Allen; God, meaning of life, death, the mystery of existence, universe and human nature. Get friends or parishioner to go see the move and have a discussion after word on those topics.

Colin Firth’s character Stanley is a magician, skeptic and believes in only what is scientifically evident. The Emma Stone character, Sophie (Wisdom) is a medium. He comes to believe she is a true medium and there is something beyond human logic. He smells the roses, becomes happy and lighthearted and falls in love with Sophie.

While never deeply convinced, he sees that love, friendship and forgiveness are not items of rationality but are magic, illusion and faith, which are necessary to enjoy the fullness of life. Stanley only feels, happy, light-hearted and sensory aware during the time he believes.


The interesting, very funny story, dialogue and acting present a parable of the deeper dimensions of human life.