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Below you will find the current episode of the series, Tony's Town. Episodes generally appear weekly and when replaced by a new episode, are generally included in the Archives libraryfound on this page.  Additionally, we occasionally rerun an earlier or archived episode on the Tony's Town Reruns section following the Archive library.  We do this if an episode is relevant to a current event, particular to a recognized holiday or universal time of celebration, or if it is requested by our readers. 

If you are new to the series,we suggest you avail yourself of the archived episodes, especially the first four. They will introduce you to the people, places, and themes of the series as they appear. So, to paraphrase someone well known to us;

Welcom to our neighborhood, friend.

Tony's Town



An interesting theological debate ... and at the ballpark no less ...

SAME PROBLEM – DIFFERENT SAINTS  

  

     “Noooooo … that one’s outta here … a three-run homer … six to nothing and it’s only the top of the second.”

     “Take it easy Billy … there’s still time,” chuckles the man in black.

     “… time for what, Bob?” Billy Swanson asks, exasperation in his voice.  “That’s the second gopher ball Krieger’s served up in two innings and still no outs … this is starting to look like Custer at Little Big Horn.”

     “Well, if it gets worse, I can always call on St. Jude,” the priest says, winking at the evangelical minister, a mischievous smile creasing his face. “You know, the patron saint of hopeless causes.”

     Chuckling, Billy shakes his head.  “Call on St. Jude if you must, Bob. As for me ...

     … well, my patron saint of hopeless causes is a bit different than yours.”

 

     Hi  ... Tony here.  It’s a beautiful summer day, perfect for a ball game. We’re here at The Park with the “Southside Bleacher Bums” as the guys call themselves. The “Boys in Black” are playing the “Red Birds.” Billy is Billy Swanson, Pastor of the Liberty Street Assembly of God and Bob is Father Bob Scanlon, pastor at St. Katherine’s Catholic Church. Today they’ve been joined by Vinnie “Bullets", “Uncle” Joey, Bobby “Pretzels,” “Hammer” Robinson, Pastor Paul Jacobson of First Presbyterian, and John Randall of Christ the Redeemer Lutheran.  And, Samantha Bates and her little girl Emily Ann have made a day of it, too. Uncle Joey’s treat.

     Known among the local clergymen by his nickname, “Walk off,” Billy loves baseball. It comes from his days in Triple A ball with one of the Big Apple's minor league clubs. His passion for the game is intense; he takes his baseball almost as seriously as his Bible.  Just don’t tell him I said that.

     Father Bob and Pastor Swanson have an interesting relationship.  After all, traditionally there’s been some tension between the Evangelical Christian churches and the Catholic Church when it comes to matters of belief. But these two, as with all the clergymen here on the Southside, have a respect for each other that even extends to kidding about their differences. And looking at the amusement in their eyes, I think this afternoon might provide an interesting take on the theological side of rooting for the home team.

     What do you say we listen in?

 

     “So, bob, it’s only the second inning and you’re thinking it’s time to ring up good ole St. Jude?  Where’s your faith?”  Billy chuckles.

     “Not in Krieger’s fast ball,” laughs the priest.

     “I don’t know Father,” “Hammer” says. “The way Krieger’s pitching, I think St. Anthony might be more like it.”

     “I agree, Walt, but which St. Anthony?”

     “You know; the patron saint of finding lost things … this kid can’t find home plate with a GPS and a seeing eye dog.”

     A groan goes up from the crowd as Morrison, the Red Bird’s right fielder, hits a triple into the gap in left center.

     “That does it,” Bob laughs, “it’s St. Jude right now, Billy; this is definitely looking like a lost cause. Rothschild’s up and he’s leading the majors in homers. This could get ugly.”

      “Could?” laughs Bullets, “Father, we’re way past, ‘could’…”

      Courson, the Boys’ manager, walks to the pitcher’s mound. “Just curious, Billy, but come to think of it, who's your patron saint of lost causes,” the priest asks?

     An impish grin crosses the evangelical minister’s face. “The man who was a walking lost cause, himself.”

     “And that would be?”

     “Well, answer me this, who are the only two people we know are in Heaven other than God and His angels?”

     Silence ensues as the group ponders Billy’s question.

      Little Emily Ann’s head pops up. “Jesus,” she says, spoken with all the authority a seven-year-old can muster.

     Turning to the little girl, Billy laughs at the ear-to-ear smile on the freckle-faced little lady … a smile missing two front teeth.

     “Right you are,” Billy says, tousling her hair. “I think that’s worth an ice cream bar,” he says, waving to the ice cream vendor.

     “Billy, you’re going to spoil her,” Sam chuckles.

     “You can never spoil a budding scripture scholar, right Emily?” Billy says.

     “Right,” she says; her enthusiasm bringing chuckles all around.

     The gang continues to ponder Billy’s question.

     “Moses,” comes one answer after a moment.  “Elijah,” another … “the Apostles,” “Peter,” “Paul” … “John the Baptist.”

     “Mary, Jesus’ mother,” Samantha says quietly.

      Billy smiles. “All good answers. But you can’t prove it from Scripture.  No, I’m thinking of two distinct people and Emily here has come up with the first and most important.”

     Beaming, Emily takes a bite out of her strawberry shortcake bar.

     Again, silence as the gang returns to watching the action. On the field, Krieger strikes out Rothchild on a curve ball, picks Morrison off third, and gets Densmore to foul out to the first baseman. 

     “You were praying to Jude, weren’t you, Bob?” Billy laughs.

      Smiling, the priest just winks.

     “… the Good Thief,” Reverend Jacobson says.

     “Saint Dismas,” Father Bob says softly.

     “Exactly, Paul,” Billy says. “‘this day you will be with me in paradise.’ Scripture tells us it’s the Good Thief. Forget Moses, the Apostles, John the Baptist, all your saints, Elijah and the fiery chariot for a minute. Sure, we believe they are there. And yes, Sam, Mary too. I know your Church believes the mother of Jesus is in heaven. And I certainly agree. But belief isn’t knowledge. From Scripture, that thief is the only person we know is there besides Jesus.” 

     Reverend Jacobson chuckles.  “He’s got a point Bob.”

     “Agreed, Jake” says the priest.

     “But … the patron of hopeless causes…?” Bobby Pretzels asks, his words trailing off.

     “Because his life was a walking lost cause,” Reverend Jacobson says, softly.

      Billy nods slowly. “Exactly, Paul.”   

     “How so?” Bullets asks.

     “Because, Vince, look at the man’s life. Your Church holds that saints in heaven are those who led holy lives; lives that pointed to Jesus. Yet this man didn’t in any way. And the only way he points to Jesus is; he’s the poster boy for the incredible mercy of God.”

     Heads nod all around.

     “And consider this, First, this man had to know Jesus, what he stood for, the kind of man he was. And that Jesus was innocent; otherwise, he wouldn’t have berated the other thief. And he had to believe that Jesus had a kingdom beyond this life; ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom,’… the thief’s own words. And I can’t believe all that just came to him in an instant’s revelation while on the cross.  No, I contend Dismas knew Jesus, who and what He was.”

     An appreciative smile creases John Randall’s face. “Good point.”

     “And yet, that didn’t stop him from doing whatever put him on his cross,” Billy continues. “Then, when there was no hope left, he offered the only thing he could … a heartfelt plea for a simple remembrance. Luke’s story is that hope and trust in Jesus exists right up until one’s last breath.”

     “So, you’re saying if anyone exemplifies the mercy of God it’s Dismas … the name the church gives to the good thief,” Father Bob asks.

     “Yes … and …?

      ... and you have an excellent point. I gotta agree; not that I’m speaking for the Church and removing the venerable Jude from his station, but your point’s well taken.”

     The Boys in Black score four runs in the bottom of the second. The key hit is third baseman Manzarek’s home run with two on board. Down by two with seven innings to play.

     Krieger retires the side in order in the top of the third.

     “Seems St. Jude’s working overtime,” Sam laughs as Billy turns to Bob with a twinkle in his eye. The priest just smiles and winks.

     John Randall lifts his soft drink in toast. “So, Billy, next time the Boys are down by five in the bottom of the ninth, I should call on good ole Dismas and they’ll rally” he asks, an impish smile in his eyes.

     You never know, John” Billy chuckles ...

     “… you never know.”

     Two men were crucified with Christ; one perished, don’t assume; one saved, don’t despair.

     “This day, you will be with me in paradise.” words someday I want to hear.  Pastor Swanson makes a very good point.  Dismas, the Good Thief, or ‘the thief who stole heaven,’ is a powerful example that if only one breath is left in one’s life, the ability to make one final heartfelt and honest plea for mercy and forgiveness remains.  There is always hope … that’s the nature of God’s infinite mercy.

     There is no such thing as a lost cause …

     … not in the heart of God.

     Thinkaboutit … I’m Tony Baggz.

© 2016 Tres Angeli Publishing, LLC


Tony's Town Reruns

A spot-on answer to an eternal question, from a scientist no less...

                                                 PROOF

 

     “Hey Doc, can I ask you something?”

     “Sure, Tommy. What’s on your mind?”

     “You go to church; you believe in God, right?”

     “True.”

      “Why?”

      Surprise registers on the surgeon’s face.  I don’t think it’s a question he was expecting.

     “Why do you ask?”

      “Well, there are those who say God is a delusion, a form of escapism for those who can’t handle reality. Face it; no one's ever proved God’s existence, at least scientifically. And yet you, the Rabbi, Father Bob, Pastor Swanson, Joey, Vince, Mike, Ace, and all the gang seem so … I don’t know … firm in your beliefs.”

     Smiling, Doc restates Tommy’s question. 

     “Why do I believe in God?  Well, probably because I remember how to tie my shoes.”

     Heh, heh … the look on Tommy’s face is priceless. You’d think he’s just seen a dozen aliens get off the cosmic bus. 

 

       …Hi, I’m Tony Baggz.  It’s an early winter Saturday afternoon here at Fire Company # 5.  "Doc" Rogers just stopped by, probably because today’s Saturday and that means hot dogs and chili. "Crazy Pat" is famous for his chili and on Saturdays there’s always a big pot on simmer. Drop-ins are always welcome and some of the gang are already here. Of course, the fact there’s a good hockey game on the big screen later doesn’t hurt either. I sense an impromptu party brewing.  

     Tommy McMichael, one of the firemen at #5, is, by his own admission, lukewarm when it comes to matters of faith. Being in medical school, I imagine many of the people he sees every day believe only in what can be proved; it’s the nature of the scientist, and often, the concept of God doesn't fit.  And it sounds like Doc just threw him a curveball.

      Let’s listen in ...

 

     “How to tie your shoes? … No offense, Doc, but you gotta explain that one. I figured you for a Bible verse or something,” Tommy says, shaking his head.

     “Well, I have faith in Scripture,” Doc says. “However, the unbeliever claims it’s just a fanciful tale, and scientifically, I can’t refute that.  After all, the Bible isn’t self-attesting; it doesn’t prove itself to be true anymore than ‘The Night Before Christmas’ proves the existence of Santa Claus.”

     “Okay. But … how to tie your shoes?” 

     Chuckling at the look on Tommy’s face, Doc sips his coffee. “Okay, answer me this. You’ve studied anatomy; where’s the memory located?”

     “The brain. The limbic system, the hippocampus, and possibly some peripheral areas.” 

     “Prove it.”

      “Well, damage to those areas affects memory. Surgeons have proven that.” 

     “Have they? Or have they simply demonstrated a cause and effect relationship?”

     “They’ve … proved it,” Tommy says, hesitation creeping into his voice.

     “They have?  So, if you tie a tourniquet around your upper arm and leave it there, sooner or later, your hand dies from lack of blood flow, right?” 

     “Right.”

     “And every time you did, the same thing would happen, right?”

     “Yea.”

     “So, you’ve proved your hand is located between your shoulder and elbow, right?”

     “Well, no.”

     “Exactly. The same is true about the memory.  Just because a certain area of the brain is damaged doesn’t prove the memory resides there. It only proves a cause and an effect relationship. Memory is affected by trauma to that area, right?"

     “I guess so.” 

     “Now, you said other regions of the brain can affect memory, right?”

     “Yes.”

     “And if I said the central locus of the human memory is located in, let's say, the brain stem, could you prove me wrong?” 

     “No.”

     “Why?”

     “Because … damage the brain stem and the body dies.”

     “Exactly. You can't test my hypothesis. You can’t cut into the brain stem. You can’t eliminate all possibilities. Scientifically you can’t prove exactly where the memory is.”

     “I guess.”

     “But you know you have one, right?”

     “Yea.”

     “Again, why?”

     Laughing softly to himself, Tommy shakes his head.  “Because I remember how to tie my shoes.”

     “Right. You know something exists, not because you can prove it; beyond a reasonable shadow of a doubt as a lawyer might say, but because you experience its effects.”

     The look on Tommy’s face intensifies as Doc continues. 

     “Empirical or scientific knowledge is vital; it enables us to progress as a species. And that's where the unbeliever bases his argument; since God can’t be scientifically observed and proven, He doesn’t exist. Tommy, if empirical knowledge were the only knowledge available, I’d also say there’s no God."  

     “So, you’re saying you’d agree?” 

      “On an empirical level I’d have to.  But on another equally important level, no, I don’t agree. If there is one thing scientific logic demands, it’s consistency; scientists hate anomalies. And for me, that’s where the nonbeliever’s position breaks down. In his own basic premise, he contradicts himself.”

     “How so?”  

     “He contends God doesn’t exist because His existence isn’t proven, yet in the next breath says he believes life exists on other planets, trusts someone to repay a debt, hopes his sick little girl gets well; respects a colleague or loves his wife.  Belief, trust, hope, respect, love, all realities; all things we know exist, yet none can be proved scientifically. He bases his concepts of those realities on a premise he refuses to recognize on the other."

     “And that premise is?”

     "Intuitive knowledge; belief in the existence of something even though we only experience its effects. I can’t see the wind, but I know it exists because I feel the breeze and see leaves on trees moving.  I can’t see electricity, but I know it exists when I flip a light switch. I can't see love or hope or trust; I can’t prove them but I know they exist. And by extension, I believe in God, not because I can see him, but because I see the effects of His existence.” 

     “How … where?”

     “In man himself. Scripture tells us we’re made God’s image and likeness. In our higher attributes; intelligence, wisdom, creativity, compassion, mercy, justice, and love I see the reflection of a being greater than anything in existence as we know it.” 

     Sipping his drink, Doc continues.

     “Tommy, life is an either/or proposition. Either everything came from nothing, or this perfectly ordered universe is the product of an intelligence, a Creator, outside our human understanding. Myself, I can't believe you can add an eternal void to an infinite vacuum and get existence as we know it. Zero plus zero equals zero. Any seven-year-old with tell you that. And I can't believe that somehow, from nothing, and by spontaneous generation and/or random chance, devoid of cause, plan, or design, you can get daisies, ducks, dolphins, and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders."

     “Then what about evolution, the big bang, things scientists have proved?” 

     “Proved?  Really? Come on, Tom, you’re a better scientist than that. You know a theory isn’t a fact, even when repeated over and over. Evolution, the big bang, they’re good theories, but they’ve got a long way to go before they’re facts. Facts that ‘prove’ there is no God. In fact, scientists who have a death grip on a half-truth, and trumpet they have the final answer, do the advancement of science no favors.”

      Chuckling softy, Tommy shakes his head. “Gotta hand it to you Doc; Father John, Pastor Williams, and the Rabbi would be proud.”

     Doc smiles at his protégé. Tommy winks and, looking down, says …

     “ ... oh, and by the way, Doc, you’re wearing loafers.”

 

     A learned man once said, “the probability of the universe being created without the involvement of God is as likely as the unabridged dictionary resulting from an explosion in a printing shop.”  Interesting thought. 

     ‘Unless you become like one of these little children, you shall not see the kingdom of God.” Words of the Carpenter.  Why a small child?  Why not a philosopher, a scientist, or maybe a sage, rich with the wisdom of time and experience?  Because small children possess a humility and a simple, yet ironclad faith born of an absolute trust in the wisdom of their elders and a joy in being alive in a world they cannot, in any way, conceive of coming into existence either from nothing, or from their own abilities. 

     I like the term, ‘open to the possibility.’  It’s an excellent approach where clear-cut answers don’t exist. I am open to the possibility the Creator brought Adam and Eve directly into existence in the Garden of Eden many years ago. Like Scripture says. And to the possibility God used, and continues to use, tools such as big bangs and evolution.  Or that mankind was “seeded” on Earth by aliens from another galaxy. What do I actually believe? Well, I’ve made my choice; you must make yours.

     But I do believe one day, that Supreme Being, in Whose image you and I are incredibly made, will provide those answers.

      Open to the possibility … are you?

     Thinkaboutit … I’m Tony Baggz.

 ©Tres Angeli Publishing LLC 2017 


Tony's Town Archives

Below you will find prior episodes. The have been included here in the order they appeared through the first four episodes; Church and State to Amish Race Car Drivers. Many of the people, places, and themes of the episodes are set in those first four. Also, the Tony's Neighborhood portion found immediately below is a overall view of the people and places you will find in our neighborhood. If you are new to our little neck of the woods, may I suggest you avail yourself of these so as to familiarize yourself with our little world.

Please enjoy.


TONY'S SOUTHSIDE NEIGHBORHOOD  - PEOPLE AND PLACES    Come meet the neighborhood gang and their favorite haunts.

 CHURCH AND STATE    In today's culture, what does structured religion provide society?

NAMES    Get to know many of the neighborhood gang more closely.  And what popular recording artist might need to change his nickname?

THE REPAIR    Sometimes the most trivial work is the most important.  Discover it in a conversation that occurs before, "movie night."

AMISH RACECAR DRIVERS     The 'glue' that holds uncommon relationships together puzzles a young man.  Listen to a rabbi set him straight..  

TWELVE CENTS      Sometimes the very valuable lessons in life, come at little cost.

ROLL TIDE     An prolife episode shows us sometimes those very valuable lessons come from the least likely person you would expect. 

DILEMMA     An unexpected windfall is a challenge to "do the right thing."

BLACK OPAL     Some of God's most beautiful, yet unlikely, creations, speak to us of beauty and depth beyond what's see on the surface.