29 November 2012


This little video does a great job of explaining the effect of alcohol on one's thinking. You think you are thinking clearly, but there is nothing really coming through; you are actually perceiving less.


Chucktown Squash

I am so proud of my son, Sam Candler, and his wife, Lynnie Minkowski Candler, as they serve students in some of the toughest Charleston areas. Here is a great article from the Charleston Post and Courier, about their work. And here is the link to Chucktown Squash. Go team!

Perigree Moon and Apogee Moon

Perigree Moon and Apogee Moon (obviously not this dramatic to the naked eye; it was still bright enough to wake me up last night.)

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2012 November 29
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.
Super Moon vs. Micro Moon 
Image Credit & CopyrightCatalin Paduraru
Explanation: Did you see the big, bright, beautiful Full Moon Wednesday night? That was actually a Micro Moon! On that night, the smallest Full Moon of 2012 reached its full phase only about 4 hours before apogee, the most distant point from Earth in the Moon's elliptical orbit. Of course, earlier this year on May 6, a Full Super Moon was near perigee, the closest point in its orbit. The relative apparent size of November 28's Micro Moon (right) is compared to the famous May 6 Super Moon in these two panels, matching telescopic images from Bucharest, Romania. The difference in apparent size represents a difference in distance of just under 50,000 kilometers between apogee and perigee, given the Moon's average distance of about 385,000 kilometers. How long do you have to wait to see another Full Micro Moon? Until January 16, 2014, when the lunar full phase will occur within about 3 hours of apogee.

Tomorrow's picture: cloudy sky

18 November 2012


(my sermon for 18 November 2012 - Proper 28B)

1 Samuel 1:4-20

This week, newspaper headlines are moving away from the coverage of a general’s extramarital affair, and moving towards the escalation of violence in Israel-Palestine. Both the stories are sad, and even tragic.

“How the mighty have fallen!” I might say. How the mighty have fallen. Like a lot of our ordinary wisdom, and ordinary common sense, this phrase is actually from the Bible. No matter how devastating or surprising or tragic is the news from our own day and time, our stories do not top the wisdom of the stories of the Bible. No matter what the incident, the Bible has seen it before!

“How the mighty have fallen” (2 Samuel 1:19). It was King David who first uttered those words, the same King David to whom another David has been compared this past week. Generation after generation, we watch people who are high and lifted up, but who nevertheless succumb, almost inevitably, to some weakness. The Greeks called it hubris, an overbearing pride that can lead to tragedy. It is part of being human, and we all share that tendency, in some measure. All of us do -- men and women alike.

And nations do, too. In a very real way, the same sort of danger now threatens the very land and people if Israel-Palestine. The more powerful a country is, the more risk it has of being brought low – if not literally, then certainly spiritually.

All these headline news stories point me to two truths. The first is that, ultimately, each of us needs mercy. No matter who we are, we need mercy. The second truth is this: it is only God who can restore mercy, and purpose, to our lives.

Today, we have another story. Today’s story from the Bible is one that we have not heard about in a while, the story of Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Samuel has been described as priest and prophet and judge and seer – almost everything. But his story is for another day. It is the story of Hannah that inspires us today. Her story, too, has all the elements of headline news: resentment and envy, deep prayer and restoration (which some might call karma), and even a sense of justice and balance.

Her story, and her song, “The Song of Hannah” ring throughout both human history and divine history. It starts with emptiness and sorrow. She cannot bear children, even though her husband, Elkanah, loves her very much. Elkanah actually had another wife, which, of course, was common in early Hebrew history. Some have said that the only reason Elkanah took another wife was so that he could have children and continue his heritage. Even though he had another wife bearing him children, Elkanah loved Hannah deeply, and gave her a double portion of all that he sacrificed.

The other wife, Peninnah, did not like this. In fact, she was resentful and downright mean about it. The Bible calls her a rival, saying that Peninnah “provoked and irritated Hannah, because the Lord had closed her womb” (1Samuel 1:6). One can imagine the sort of taunting and wicked talk that resentment might entail. If anonymous e-mails had existed in that time, Peninnah would have used them! The word for “irritate,” used here, can also mean “thunder,” or “thunder against.” Peninnah thundered against the barren Hannah.

But Hannah did not give up. Though she wept bitterly and would not eat, Hannah did pray. In fact, here is a curious thing: She prayed so earnestly and deeply that she did not use words. Well, she did have words, but they did not cross her lips. In those days, silent prayer was a bit uncommon, just as silent reading was.

In our day and time, we tend to take “reading to ourselves” for granted, and most of us here today know how to read silently. But in the history of civilization, that is a newer phenomenon. For instance, at the time of Augustine in the fifth century AD, most people read by saying the words aloud. Reading silently was unknown.

Apparently, the practice of prayer was similar. One prayed by saying something aloud. To pray without making a sound was something different.  The priest, Eli, “observed [Hannah’s] mouth praying silently; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard” (1Samuel 1:12-13). Therefore, the priest, Eli, thought she was drunk.

When Hannah replied that she was not drunk, but, instead, deeply troubled and vexed, then Eli somehow knew the deep sincerity of Hannah’s prayer. And Eli blessed Hannah: “Go in peace; the God of Israel grant the petition you have made to him” (1 Samuel 1:17).

I believe that the prayer of Hannah is remarkable for being a new kind of prayer in civilization, a prayer so sincere and deep that it was deeper than sound. It was silent and penetrating. God heard her prayer.

Hannah went back to her husband, and she ate and drank with her husband. (A great lesson: Never ignore the power of prayer and eating and drinking with your husband! Or your wife!) “In due time, Hannah conceived and more a son. She named him Samuel…” (1 Samuel 1:20).

It is a beautiful story. But the story continues after the text assigned to us today. Hannah gives up her son, Samuel, when he is three years old, to minister with Eli in Shiloh. She gives him up! (though she later has three sons and two daughters). And then she sings a song. Her song, the Song of Hannah, is what rings through human history and divine history. It is a song of how the humble overcome the powerful, and how the poor become rich. Listen to it:

      My heart exults in the LORD;
    my strength is exalted in my God.

    …3      Talk no more so very proudly,
    let not arrogance come from your mouth;
    for the LORD is a God of knowledge,
    and by him actions are weighed.
    4      The bows of the mighty are broken,
    but the feeble gird on strength.
    5      Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
    but those who were hungry are fat with spoil.
    The barren has borne seven,
    but she who has many children is forlorn.
    6      The LORD kills and brings to life;
    he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
    7      The LORD makes poor and makes rich;
    he brings low, he also exalts.
    8      He raises up the poor from the dust;
    he lifts the needy from the ash heap,
    to make them sit with princes
    and inherit a seat of honor.

    …10      The LORD! His adversaries shall be shattered;
    the Most High will thunder in heaven.   (1 Samuel 2: 1-10)
“The Most High will thunder in heaven,” Hannah said. I like that phrase “thunder,” because it is the same word that was used to describe how Peninnah irritated, or thundered against, Hannah! In the divine reversal of Godly justice, Peninnah’s thunderings are turned against her. That is the lesson of the Song of Hannah. God reverses the plight of the humble and the poor so that they are lifted up and become rich.

That is the original Song of Hannah, the one sung by Hannah herself. But it only started there. It continued! It got repeated in Psalm 113:

    5      Who is like the LORD our God,
    who is seated on high,
    6      who looks far down
    on the heavens and the earth?
    7      He raises the poor from the dust,
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
    8      to make them sit with princes,
    with the princes of his people.
    9      He gives the barren woman a home,
    making her the joyous mother of children.
    Praise the LORD! (Psalm 113: 5-9)

Now, it is commonly thought that King David himself wrote Psalm 113, and he certainly knew about divine reversal. He certainly knew both sides: how the Lord lifts up the lowly, but also how the Lord brings down the haughty. After Saul had died, and after his best friend, Jonathan had died , it was David who lamented, “How the mighty have fallen.” In fact, he seems to lament the actual weapons of war. “How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished” (2 Samuel 1:27).

King David lived longer. It is King David’s final speech, when he was about to die, that might provide for us the summary stanza of this process of divine reversal. His last words are known as “The Song of David,” and they are an answer to the age-old question: How does one say what the will of the Lord is, amidst a world of jealousy and envy, violence and power?

So David sings, to God:

    26      With the loyal you show yourself loyal;
    with the blameless you show yourself blameless;
    27      with the pure you show yourself pure,
    and with the crooked you show yourself perverse.
    28      You deliver a humble people,
    but your eyes are upon the haughty to bring them down. (2 Samuel 22:26-28)

“With the loyal, God shows himself loyal.” Those are beautiful words.

Almost a thousand years after King David, a legendary book was written, one which tried to describe where Mary, the mother of Jesus came from. It is called the Protoevangelium of James, from the second century A.D. See if it sounds familiar. It says that Mary’s elderly parents prayed for a child, saying that such a child would then be “a gift to the Lord my God.” Miraculously, Mary is born, as a response to faithful prayer. Then Mary, at the age of three, is presented to the priests in the temple of Jerusalem. Just like Samuel was born and at the age of three was delivered to the priest!

And who was Mary’s mother, according to this story? The mother of Mary was Anna, which is the same word as Hannah. The word, “Hannah” means “grace.” The Song of Hannah, then, means, always, The Song of Grace.

The mother of Mary was named Anna, or Hannah, or Grace. This is why, later, when she learned she would conceive miraculously,  Mary would sing her own song, which would be still another stanza of Song of Hannah, a song of grace:

Mary said,

    My soul magnifies the Lord,
    47      and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
    48      for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
    Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
    49      for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
    50      His mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
    51      He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
    52      He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
    53      he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:46-53)

We know that song as the Magnificat today, and we sing it every Sunday at Evensong in this Cathedral. We will sing it during this upcoming season of Advent; it will be our version of the headline news. And from it, a Savior will be born.

What will be your song during this next season? What will be your Song of Hannah, Song of David, Song of Mary, Magnificat, Song of Grace?

Where does your life need reversal? Where does your life need to be lifted up? And, conversely, where might you need to learn humility?

The song of grace is the same, and it has been throughout divine history:

“God delivers a humble people” (2 Samuel 22:28)

“The Lord makes poor and makes rich,
He brings low, he also exults.” (1 Samuel 2:7)


The Very Reverend Samuel G. Candler
Dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip

17 November 2012


(I originally wrote this article for The Cathedral Times newsletter, 21 October 2012)

To me, the most interesting people are the ones who are committed to something. Uncommitted people just don’t seem that interesting to me.

The Pew Research Center presented their latest analysis of religious affiliation the other day. As expected, the trend that continues is that people are choosing “None” for their religious affiliation. “The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling,” declared their website.

That is fine with me. If people want to be uncommitted, let them come and go, as they please. Personally, I want people who are committed to something. This has to do with relationships, it has to do with friendships, and it even has to do with sports. It has to do with politics, with investments, with almost everything. Even if you are committed to the sports team who is my team’s competitor, you are more interesting to me than the uncommitted person.

Yes, people who are committed are far more interesting to me than uncommitted ones are.

Committed people risk things. They give things. They give their attention and their time. They give their money. Yes, it is risky to give those kinds of things in life; but, commitment is something we pay for in life. We pay for it, which is to say that sometimes it costs us sadness or conflict. When we are committed, we are often disappointed, and even betrayed sometimes.

In all these ways, commitment is a lot like love. The love which is true love, is very costly. But, glory hallelujah, true love is also worth it. True love lifts me up; it makes me glow. It makes me more interesting! But, when I love, I am also willing to give up things, to pay for things, to commit to things.

So, I do not mind if people are spiritual and not religious. Let them be. But, ultimately, they are not very interesting to me; they float around like teen-age groupies following whoever is that week’s number one in the polls.

I am interested in the long term, the love term. To me, people who risk being committed to something, and to someone, have character; they have a life. They have a place from which to see the world with steady, lasting vision; they have love.

I urge you to commit yourself to something this season. Not just anyone, of course, and not just anything. Commit yourself to someone who is steady and loving. Commit yourself to someone who can, and will, give you life. Commit yourself to Jesus.

Where is this Jesus? He is in his body, which is the church (Colossians 1:24). The Cathedral of St. Philip, and whatever local parish you are close to right now, needs your commitment this year. Yes, we are a body that has some blemishes and even some illnesses from time to time. But we are the Body of Christ, which produces resurrection and new life from those very wounds. In doing so, we have a message and a gospel for anyone in this life who has ever been wounded: love wins.

Commit yourself to the Cathedral parish this year. (Especially if you are an interesting person! We become more interesting, as a parish, when you join us!) Yes, it’s pledge time, too, for the 2013 year. Pledge to the Cathedral in 2013, and –Hey, I also guarantee that you will be a more interesting person!