Sunday, June 7, 2009


That sound.

Sam and Josh don’t know it, but that sound they make started as a howl atop Black Balsam Knob. It ran down both sides, descending along Greasy Creek and the Middle Prong through the wilderness past Cold Mountain, running into the Big Pigeon and knifing its way through the gaps into Tennessee till it hit the French Broad, then ran downhill past Josh’s people in Maryville, past the inundated bones of Old Hop, past Sam’s people in Benton. Then Sam and Josh picked it up, brought it back across the ridge and howled it from a stage, releasing it into the atmosphere on an evening when the clouds hang like saturated rags above Asheville.

There are more Subaru’s per capita in Asheville than anywhere, and more self-described pagans per square block.

St. Lawrence’s Basilica is baroque to a fault. Fine frescoes in the apse converge on a crucifix that looks like something hastily made in Monterey; dust-covered and bronze as Moses’ serpent. Off to the left, in the shrine dedicated to Mary, a half-empty bottle of Crystal Geyser spring water – bottled in Benton – was left at the Virgin’s unshod feet.

A hot cup of spiced chai smells like St. Mary’s Church. The wiry reader smolders like flax while the tall, gaunt 80-something priest lifts his draped arms like an unbroken reed. There are four of us besides for a Friday night, reminded that Boniface was an 8th century Billy Graham.

Out the glazed, gothic window, in the failing sun the catbird sings a song he caught on the ridge some time ago.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Threshing Floor

Turning aside from theories about society, government, and the State, to more excellent things; this past Sunday was Pentecost for Western Christians. The pastor at the AMiA church we attend, Kyle Wallace, gave an exceptionally thought-provoking sermon.

He extended the primary text (Acts 2:1-13) to include elements of Peter’s sermon (vv. 16-21, quoting Joel the prophet) and drew an interesting connection with John the Baptist’s words, recorded in Matthew 3:11-12:

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
Pentecost was the Jewish feast of celebration for the wheat harvest. On the first Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in Jerusalem, evidenced by their speaking in tongues and proclaiming God’s mighty works in the languages of people gathered from distant lands. We typically understand this event to be the “birthday” of the church, setting the stage for the inclusion of Gentile believers in God’s household of faith.

The point Kyle added to this understanding was the element of judgment. He touched upon the fact that, for centuries, Christians have speculated on whether they were living in the “last days.” Citing other New Testament texts (particularly Hebrews 1:2 and 1 John 2:18) he asserted that we are indeed in the last days, and have been so since the day of Pentecost. As the spirit of Anti-Christ has gone out into the world, so has the Holy Spirit, convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

The people assembled in Jerusalem that Pentecost were faced with a decision. Those who believed on Jesus were gathered like wheat for the barn. Those who resisted were separated as chaff prepared for fire.

The threshing floor has been swept clean continually down to our time.