Thursday, May 22, 2014

"Except These Abide in the Ship Ye Can Not Be Saved"

Jesse Halsey | Thanksgiving 1936

It is a good old New England custom that comes with Thanksgiving to take stock, to consider the assets and liabilities of our social and national life and at the same time that we express gratitude for our privileges to assume the new obligations that entail upon us.

One of the most remarkable things on the world horizon to my notion is the recent election. I am not thinking of the outcome of the election but rather of the process itself. Fifty million people voting for a population of one hundred and twenty million registered their choices without let or hindrance in a peaceful fashion, and this after a campaign marked with considerable heat and vehemence. Nowhere the country over was police or military interference needed. The Republic can take pride in this achievement. Look at Spain, Germany, Italy, or Russia by way of contrast if you need to heighten the impression.

There are recurring waves of popular prejudice that seem to sweep across the public mind at different times. Twenty years ago the railroads were under fire due to a real or supposed attitude on their part expressed in classic form by Commodore Vanderbilt in his reference to the public. More lately, it is the public utilities due to abuse of privilege. Since the Depression, economists and bankers have come in for their share of criticisms—just and unjust. The engineer has had his day both in public favor and out of it. Lately, there has been a new distrust of the scholar. Periodically, the clergyman comes in for his share of current disapproval, either he is too much interested in public affairs and is too practical, or else he is too “other worldly.” There are some who think that our pioneer traditions make great masses of the population resentful of the higher education. This I very much doubt, but at any rate, we are divided into all sorts of groups with differing interests. It is a marvelous thing to me that we manage to get on together so well as we do.

At this Thanksgiving season every right-minded American citizen ought to “highly resolve” as in the presence of his God, that he individually will do all that he can to heal the wounds of the body politic, that no prejudiced word of criticism will escape his lips, that he will be not only tolerant of but generous toward men and women of other faiths and conditions.

The only way that our ship of State can come successfully on her voyage between the Scylla and Charybdis of Fascism and Bolshevism is for all our people, committed to the great ideals of our common heritage, to compose their internal and minor differences with common sense and mutual trust; to put country above party, and faith in God above our denominational differences.

Sermon: The Present Christ

Jesse Halsey | 1944

“It is expedient that I go away. I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.”

These words in the 16th chapter of St. John have their parallel for our purpose in the last verses of St. Matthew’s gospel, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end.”

I know nothing of textual or high criticism, but I am going to date both texts very late; not A.D. 33 or 65, or 110, or 200, but 1944, or any other date you want to give! This is the Highest Criticism. In other words, we seek the contemporary value and equivalent and experience that these words used to convey!

Last Sunday night I walked from one station to another in Springfield, Illinois—

“. . . here at midnight, in that little town
A mourning figure walks, and will not rest,
Near the old court-house pacing up and down.

He cannot sleep upon his hillside now,
He is among us: --as in times before! . . . .

The prairie-lawyer, master of us all . . .”
(Vachel Lindsay)

That you say is poetry. I understand. And in that poetic sense Jesus comes back.

Quentin Reynolds, in a book scarcely dry, tells of talking with a London bobby who believed that Sir Francis Drake took command of the English boys who went up with their old crates to meet the first onslaughts of the Luftwaffe.

The solid old admiral, under whom I served in the British Navy, believed that Francis Drake was present at the battle of Jutland:

“Take my drum to England—
Guard it by the shore
Call me when your powder’s running low.
When the Dons sight Devon
I will leave the court of heaven
And we’ll drum them from the Channel
As we drummed them long ago.”

That, you say, is mythology. I know. And all the truth that the great myths can carry gather round that Sacred head. The Catholics have a much more fitting word for the truth I have in mind, they call it “Tradition.”

Travelers in Russia tell us that many a Russian peasant and soldier believes tht e Lenin has come back to life. That, you say, is sheer superstition. I know it. But when we speak of the Resurrection and Living Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are not dealing with superstition.

The British soldiers who fought so desperately at Mons—some of them believe that they saw angels on the battlefield. I once asked Studdert-Kennedy, the great chaplain, if he thought there were angels at Mons, and he said, “Well, there were men at Mons and where there are men there can be angels!” It is the spiritual presence of our Lord and its contagion—of this we are thinking.

Look for a moment at that young Jerusalem deacon named Stephen. The apostles were too busy, or too proud, to “serve tables,” so they delivered that responsibility to a group called deacons. The irony of the situation develops in that Stephen, the table server, becomes the most popular preacher in Jerusalem! When he is stoned to death, they hear him say, “Lay not this sin to their charge.” It is the echo of our Lord’s word on the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Then there was that other young man, named Saul. He never saw Jesus in the flesh; none-the-less, he saw Him and heard Him—“Saul, Saul, why . . . ?” He said of his companions, “They heard not the voice of Him that spake to me.” Take one example from his life: In the shipwreck—that hour of peril and imminent disaster, it is not the Roman Centurion and the soldiers who prove the heroes of the occasion, but this little man, Paul; not the captain (he and the sailors turned coward), but this little man named Paul. He takes command, “Sirs, be of good courage. Last night I saw the angel of God, whom I serve. He said to me, ‘Be of good cheer.’”

And so through the contagion of Christ’s courage, embodied in the little man Paul, the situation is saved and “all come safely to land.”

Augustine, in the garden, heard a voice and turned his back on the old way of life. So on across the succeeding years of the Christian centuries, “I am with you!”

I knew a boy some fifty years ago, he might have been 12 years old. In the midst of his play he was called to fill the kitchen wood box. Reluctantly, he snatched grandfather’s old wheelbarrow, ran it violently into the big woodpile, climbed to the top, picked up the biggest billet of wood and was about to hurl it down in vengeance on the old vehicle, when suddenly his arms froze in mid-air! Quietly and shamedly, he put the big stick down, clambered off the woodpile, loaded up the wheelbarrow, and with succeeding loads filled the big wood box (with the help of his playmates, for like Tom Sawyer, he knew how to make them work for him). He could say with Paul, “They heard not the voice of Him that spake to me.” But he heard it!

Christ still speaks—and in ways we can understand if we listen!

On Mothers

During one of the periods in which Jesse was in England in WWI, there was an outlook, an observation tower on the army base. Jess climbed the tower one night and found a solitary soldier. Jess asked him, "Why are you up here in the tower rather than down carousing with the other boys?" The soldier replied, “My damn mother.” Jesse later told his seminary students, “One of the things that’s absolutely necessary in life is to have 'damn mothers' who help you understand what you need to be.”

An Olde Arm-Chair

The Messenger | Mother's Day 1915

On Being Inducted into the Army | 1917

by Jesse Halsey

PCUSA | Special Committee on Chaplains and Service Personnel

May 9, 1952

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Prayer for Social Justice

from Grenfell, As Theologian--and More

By Jesse Halsey

He came in, leaving his snow shoes by the door, sat down by our smoking peat fire, slipped off a sealskin boot and began to manipulate its stiffness over a can that stood in the corner just the way the natives do all down the Shore; then blurted out, “Parson, is there any such entity as the Grace of God?”

This was my first contact with Grenfell, as Theologian. I had seen the surgeon operating in his new hospital; had “poured the ether” for him and once held a leg five minutes after he had amputated it, and at length heard him say:  “You can lay it down now, I’m through with it.” I’d seen him, week on end, fill the largest building on the college campus, where ordinarily “daily prayers” were sparsely attended; listened to his tales of travel with his dogs on the ice and with his hospital steamer through the ice; seen him painlessly extract money in large sums from a Boston audience, but here was a new Grenfell—the Theologian.

“Is there any such ‘entity’ as the Grace of God?” What did he mean exactly? I tried to say that grace was a quality in God, an attribute of his character; that he was gracious and merciful in his very nature and being. No, he thought “grace” must be more than just a quality, it must be an “entity.” Definition of entity? He didn’t exactly know, but a “glorious something”—and there we left it.

"What this orderly arrangement actually does . . ."

February 27, 1952; Christian Century

"establish Thou the work of our hands upon us"

The scars and awful wreck of war are with us and will be inherited by our grandchildren . . .

In our own time common honesty, sex balance, respect for life, regard for truth, and a dozen other human values have been universally lowered by and for war purposes.

I am not a pacifist, for I still believe that under certain conditions force must be used to resist the aggressions of evil. But I am opposed to the war system. This day, that commemorates ten million slain from every nation under heaven, ought to make us pause and ask ourselves serious, “Is there no other way?”

War is subversive of man’s highest accomplishment. It wrecks his moral sense. Rheims and Louvain in their desolation are symbols of humanity’s fall. The scars and awful wreck of war are with us and will be inherited by our grandchildren; yet we proceed to get ready for another.

The minimum that lovers of peace have a right to ask and ought to ask are such things as these: (1) munitions manufacture should be in the hands of Government or under government control, with profits eliminated for individuals or corporations; (2) in war all resources and individuals should be drafted and none allowed to fatten at the public expense; (3) disarmament conferences should be manned by statesmen rather than by military officers; (4) substantial sums should be spent by Government for constructive purposes of peace—a tenth of a tithe of what is spent for war preparation might be tried as an experiment in good will.
--Jesse Halsey in The Cincinnati Enquirer, as reprinted in The Messenger, Nov. 17, 1934

Friday, May 16, 2014

'Anti-Semitism Is Scored As Against Christianity

"Nothing of special importance that I should use red ink, but the blue side of the ribbon is about played out."

Monday morning, October 22, 1917

"I am so much farther north than you that you hardly see it so early in the evening as I."

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Rev. Jesse Halsey Writes From Russia | Oct 14, 1917 Vladivostock

The letter concludes: "Thursday we shall go on I hope for we are anxious to get to our work. Do not be anxious for me. When I get on my khakis I can stand many hard knocks. I never went into any work with more confidence for the possibilities for real service or with more humility in thinking of the gigantic proportions of the work we are sent to establish".

Letter from Robert Worth Frank to Jesse Halsey

May 1952 | McCormick Theological Seminary

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Women Should Wash, Iron, Cook, and Live Long

“Modern woman is dying because the life in her is becoming stagnant for want of real work. She ought to get down and scrub the floor, do her own washing, ironing and general housework, in order better to enjoy life. She ought to think for herself, also, instead of running to libraries to get out a book and find out what some one else has thought.”

“I know what I’m talking about,” Miss Page smiled-serenely, “when I urge women to work with their hands and work hard. For six years I was connected with a sanitarium for nervous invalids in Kingston, N.Y. The head physician and myself both came to the conclusion that what sent most of our women patients to us was not too much but too little work.”

“. . . It’s important to exercise one’s muscles, but it’s also important to exercise one’s brains. We moderns fall in the latter respect quite as often as in the former. We take our romance ready-made from the 15-cent magazine. And most of the rest of our thoughts and beliefs are hand-me-downs.”

Villa Faulkner Page | Cure For Victims of Unrequited Love

Syracuse Herald, Tuesday, November 28, 1911, Page 4

Villa Faulkner Page | Lecures 1937-1938

Women's Wear of the 1920s | Cincinnati