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Father,

There is no rush. I am in a study at church that started last week, but I am looking for sources that I can use for my own study of the Epistle.

Thanks.

Actually, Fr. Andrew, that will be coming as "Prospects Parts Two through One Zillion."

It looks like there will be as many episodes as Rocky movies.

Pray for the audience. They're going to feel like Sunday night.

Any chance you might be publishing the text or the audio for the OCA convocation presentation?

Fr Greg: thanks for pointing out one of St. Paul's favorite themes.

Dcn. James: yes, there are many in my own back woods who look forward the Tribulation -- but in their case, they will be raptured first, so it makes you wonder why it's being looked forward to.

Axe: I'll have to get back to you on good sources for the Epistle to the Romans. Can you wait a week? or is this urgent?

Anyhow, your request reminded me of a funny story. Some decades ago, I visited my dad's country parish outside of Frederick MD. At the time, he was dead set on holding Sunday night services -- which seemed to me to be a replay of Sunday morning except it was a little more laid back: more shaped notes stuff (which I liked); more "special music" (which I disliked, especially the karaoke vocalists who insisted on singing a quarter-step above and below the pitch); more prayer requests (which I feared, especially the detailed clinical reports about lower intestinal tracts).

Above all, there was more preaching. On this particular August Sunday evening -- sweltering, I might add -- my father had invited a guest speaker. Guest speakers are fearsome things in the revivalist milieu, as they feel no responsibility for whatever aftermath they produce.

And this guest speaker did not disappoint. He ascended the dark oak pulpit as a spitting image of G K Chesterton in all his glory, though he was sartorially furnished with that spontaneously-combustible mix of tricot, double-knit, white vinyl at the bottom and the middle, and some sort of petroleum sheen on top. Pentecost would be disastrous, I thought impiously.

He carried with him a totem of doom. It was a big fat notebook, the reliquary of revivalists -- the infamous "sermon barrel." Not a real barrel, mind you (though that would have brought some mental relief). Just a triple-ring symbol of too many things saved for posterity, too many thoughts that should have been permitted to evaporate but were captured in self-reproach for all time.

He ambled up to the top of the pulpit, and lowered the black fat binder with a thud, switching on the helpful fluorescent shop-lamp that was clipped to the front ledge.

He opened the first page, and I was hoping (along with my sisters and brother and my new wife) that he would choose from the 1000 sermons that had to be there a nice simple "meditation" (that's a sermon that lasts under 20 minutes) with at least one good hokey story that I could steal for my next sermon.

He opened the first page, and then heftily announced his intention: "Tonight, the Lord has laid it on my heart to preach on Romans."

Romans what? my panicked brain was screaming. Give us chapter and verse! Define your pericope!

"Nope," GK answered my shrieking gray cells. "I'm speaking on the whole thing. This here notebook is everything I've studied on Paul's good book."

For the next hour, he pursued an introduction that thankfully landed him so far away from the Book of Romans that even eternal security could not find him.

So I guess, Axe, that you're not interested in this notebook. If you are, let me know, and I'll see what I can do.

Och: we should start a cannon fodder club.

"the single greatest icon of tragic irony known to man" Indeed.

I have to agree with you regarding football. One of my brothers is a cop and I watched the Super Bowl with him. For most of the last 7 years I discussed football with the men in my shop. My wife comes from Packer country (we spent one year of our married life there, so I got to experience the rituals), which is the closest thing America has to a real, utterly pervasive civic religion, well, that and Husker fans, but Husker fans are also all Christians, whereas in central rural Wisconsin the Packers are religion.

Anyway, I have noticed something. As an overly generalized rule, working class blokes appropriate football differently than the fellows with blackberries and beamers. Rich, poor, and in between all play football video games, by themselves or at least with their kids. But for the working class bloke the danger of the game matches some of his experience of life. He has been in a fight. Maybe he went to Iraq. Maybe he does not know how he is going to pay his mortgage note this month. A broken marriage could cost him everything, if it hasn't already. The guy with the blackberry, even if he actually played football in HS, can really only appropriate it via the surreality of the video game. He likely has never had to take a hit that could really cost him. Perhaps this is too simplistic, but it seems that our culture is increasingly divided between those who are some form of cannon fodder and those who get the various forms of bailouts. There is another irony, I suppose, that it is the cannon fodder set who can intuit the real meaning of the game of football, despite its being plastered in marketing nonsense - that God calls men to fight a great battle, that this battle is dangerous, that it will hurt you, and whatever the odds, it is an honor to fight.

Father,

What sources would you recommend for a study of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans? They can be books, articles, homilies, et al.

Thank you,

Jason K

Your driver was upset "about how the Jews were hastening the Tribulation"? Goodness. In my neck of the woods, people can hardly wait for the Tribulation. The sooner, the better. Preferably today by dinner time, if not earlier. There is a certain escapist enthusiasm in end times fans which I can at least understand if not subscribe to. Still, I will confess that I never understood Holocaust deniers. It must take enormous strength of will to defend to the end such breath-taking foolishness.

My own meandering aside, I'm glad to see you back, Father. Have fun with the dusty trail, but I'm still waiting for Part 2 of Prospects. Part 1 intrigued me greatly.

It is not accidental that St. Paul repeatedly uses athletic references in discussing the unseen struggle; heck, the word "asceticism" and its derivatives are themselves rooted in the practice of sport.

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