Friday, March 31, 2006
Still, when the dust clears, after the weekend, I think I'll be really pleased with what I am taking. And I've reduced one class to pass/fail, so I don't have to think about it, and added the doctoral seminar in ancient-future worship, which is right up my alley. I won't get any credit for it towards my degree, but it's still worth being there. I love the topic.
Thanks for your prayers. I am SO looking forward to a quiet day tomorrow with Bishop Thomas Shaw. It's just what I need (and I have time for it because no more Greek!!!).
Thursday, March 30, 2006
So I am really in a terrible mood. I've been snappy at people and crying off and on. It's really hard to sit in a class for 3 hours when you just want to cry.
It's the stress level. I can't take it much longer. I need a break. Oh, I was supposed to have just had one. Only I DIDN'T! And now I need one. Badly.
I have every intention of going to a quiet day at church on Saturday. But that will kill most of Saturday (it's 9-3). And tomorrow is shot b/c I have class in the morning and various school crap to take care of in the afternoon. Which leaves the weekend evenings (because hell, what else would I have to do?) and Sunday (after church) for studying. Seeing how I have several hundred pages of reading, 12 verses of greek to translate, and now this crazy prof who is assigning us extra stuff that's due 2 days before class (doesn't he understand that when class is on Thursday night that means I can only do his homework on Thursday?? My weekend is for the Monday/Wednesday class homework!). Oh, and there's that movie about cota I'm supposed to finish so it can be shown when Karen is here, and there's the arts fest which I'm supposed to be a big figure in (and I'm trying to get stuff ready to perform...and I just was recruited to write for chapel...and...), and oh yeah, I have that internship which I don't really go to anymore and I now have 3 books to read for it, and there's Thad's which is my real passion and where I'm most involved (brain-wise).
God. How did this happen? And I have to tell you, I am terrified of my Greek exegesis class. Pure terror. I don't know what to do. For the first time I am considering dropping a class. Which would put me under full time (tho I'd still be at 10 units - pretty darn full). So what? Well, for one thing, I'd be off schedule for graduating end of summer '07. Not a huge deal, but could mess up my life in that J will be looking for a job about that time and may move across the country from here. I'd like to go along. Then there's the financial aid deal - I'm on scholarship (not for the whole cost - not even close - but significant $$) and I might lose it. I have to check on that - if it's pro-rated or just completely gone. That does make a difference.
To make everything worse, the last day to drop a class and get a full refund is...today. Well tomorrow as I write this, but who knows when I'll post this. Have never gotten my wireless to work so I can't post in class. Anyway the point is I have to decide immediately.
God, the idea of dropping a class is so enticing. But then I think, I might as well get it over with. But then I might get a terrible grade and/or stress myself out. Then again I might learn from 1 Peter, stuff that I can use at Thad's or in interfaith work - it's about Christian identity, which is really interesting to me. But if I drop it I'm not going to have to translate every week...and dramatically reduce the time I spend on homework. But if I drop it, I have to take something else later, and it could be just as bad.
I don't know what to do. The biggest thing is wanting to finish in a certain time, which is stupid, because the smartest people I know here are taking longer to finish than "normal" (no such thing anyway). And J says it's fine to take longer - and it's his life that gets screwed up if I make us stay here when there's a job across the country (of course if Harvard calls he'll go and I'll live with the cats and that will be that).
Of course, what just happened? We looked at 1 Peter 2:1-10, which is a section about...we think...laypeople. And the change in the sacrificial system from Judaism to "spiritualized" sacrifices in Christianity. And I'm reading along and getting into 1 Peter, interested in the ideas about ecclesiology that this passage reveals. There are concrete actions for the priesthood of everyone - including worship, proclamation, and my prof claims the rest of the letter reveals more content of what it means to be the royal priesthood, God's people. God's possession, says the literal. And then I curiously went to the Greek to check the terminology and I did in fact recognize most of the words. I guess my vocab is still okay, it's just the whole verb and tense thing that I fear.
So I don't know. Maybe I should just stick it out. I could learn at least one book of the Bible really well in Greek. The prof says we'll translate the whole thing. I'll have that. And maybe tools to keep translating in other books.
Would I use that though? These days I feel like Latin, German and French would be a lot more useful than Greek & Hebrew. I think I might actually know Latin better than Greek anymore. And I never studied it - I just sang it a lot and have read a lot of liturgy!
Grrr...I don't know what to do. The 1 Peter Greek is a bear. All kinds of words that exist nowhere else in the NT. Stuff that is more Classical (Attic) than Koine. Verb tenses I've never heard of. I could hold out for something Johannine. I think I did most of 1 John in my Greek workbook.
Dammit! Now it's showing. The stress. People asking me if I'm OK, which makes me more pissy. Snappish. On the bright side, I'm scaring people off and they mostly leave me alone in class.
Maybe it will get better. It has to. Or to the padded room I will go.
Maybe I'm just stressing for Lent. Think Easter can erase this? Now that would be a miracle.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
I tried to quit a couple things yesterday - we'll see how that goes over. I really feel like I'm going to have a nervous breakdown. I'm eating like crazy (and so gaining even more weight and feeling crappy about it), and I have digestive pain. I sleep okay (thanks to pills) but I don't want to get up in the morning. Every day is this blur of obligations and at the end of it I just have to look at another lack of progress.
I've stuck with morning prayer but it's hard. I don't have time to do what I really need, which is a retreat. Saturday is a quiet day at church that I'm going to try to get to, but I'm already behind on my homework so who knows....
Anyway, prayers are much appreciated. I hate these whiny me me me posts. But ya'll seem to care about me, so I'm telling you what's up. Life is hard and I can't get out from under it - stuff just isn't getting done, and that makes me crazy.
Will I ever feel on top of things again?
Am I just feeling what it will be like to be in ministry?
Because I'm not entirely sure I can handle it.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
1. We are formed into God's people through our worship (rituals?).
(note: this isn't meant to be exclusive, it's just one part of formation)
2. At Thad's, worship leaders (including clergy) are first members of the community and secondarily leaders of it. Any member of Thad's can be a worship leader, and any worship leader must approach his or her ministry from within the the community. 'Worship leaders come from the people, not to them from the outside.' (Thomas G. Long, The Witness of Preaching, p 10-11)
3. Participation in worship leadership is a legitimate, positive way of connecting to God and being transformed by the love of Jesus. Worship leaders are valuable servants to the community who seek to get out of the way as God touches and transforms lives.
4. We will empower people to use their unique gifts, talents, and ideas to create worship. The style and elements of our worship service will be directed by the gifts of our people - we will specifically reflect those whom God has brought together to be Thad's.
5. Diversity: we are not very diverse ourselves, maybe, but that doesn't mean we can't represent the full range of God's people in our songs, instruments, art, and language. We need to remember that the Kingdom, and thus our worship, isn't American - it's from all over the world and 2,000 years of history. I think it would behoove us to add elements from other cultures from time to time, to keep in mind the breadth of the kingdom (and prepare us for the multi-cultural worship of heaven, right?).
6. I believe we should have Scripture included every week in one way or another. This can be by reading (individual or group), singing, chanting, art, or whatever else we may dream up. But too many churches (outside the liturgical realm) ignore the words of Scripture, and they are life-giving.
7. Finally, I would push for Eucharist every week. I know that might seem weird at first. But I think it truly feeds our souls, truly forms us into the people of God. Taking Eucharist does fulfill our mission to transform lives with Jesus' love (quite literally!). And the table can be open, or if not, we can explain why. People generally are cool with that (I've been in a lot of interfaith and unchurched contexts where it's been handled without hurting anyone's feelings).
Hey, that's seven! Must be complete. :)
(note: this website is by invitation only - apparently God can't directly inspire you to join - sounds pretty dangerously Catholic to me!)
And in San Francisco, a supposedly tolerant city that has officially condemned a peaceful gathering of citizens whose politics differ from theirs. Now I'm not saying I remotely agree with the organizers of this rally, particularly their military metaphors, but how can a city call itself "tolerant and progressive" when they pass resolutions like this?
Monday, March 27, 2006
The prof told us we're all preachers. Now already. Even if we think we're not a preacher, we have no idea what God has in mind for us. God has brought us here to school, and is preparing us to be preachers, because someday God may need us to preach. His assumption is we're all preachers and we all have what it takes to be a faithful and effective preacher. At the same time, we have nothing to say unless we are speaking God's word (not our word).
If one is good at preaching, it will be a big temptation to enjoy it too much. It's good to have someone (a spouse) who can say it's not your best work. Preaching is ego-gratifying, and it's a temptation to give in to that. Our best efforts are merely a vehicle for the Word of God. An image: someone carrying a candle in a dark room - the candle is the focus of everyone in the room, but the candle-bearer is still seen, in the illumination of the candle's light.
And if we do badly, Christ is not seen, only our ineptitude.
Simplicity and clarity: a single objective toward which we work. We're going to learn how to do one point sermons. A common error is to try to do too much. We must learn economy of speech - say just what you intend to say and nothing more. Fortunately, our sermons are not graded!
So what is at stake when you preach? The faith of God's people. Without that in mind, your preaching is never compelling, because it will not be urgent. Tragedy is always striking someone in your congregation, and they need a word from the Lord, and that's your job to provide, as the preacher.
Say it with me: I will not become a great preacher in the next 10 weeks!
But perhaps I will experience the joy of doing what God has called me to, and knowing God has worked through me during a sermon.
Exegesis for preaching is to be certain about what God has to say to God's people - not to show how learned you are! Preaching wants to be a clear message of the gospel, not something erudite or well-read. Great preaching is not always in your hands, but being faithful is.
The four essential engagements of preaching:
1. Engagement with a text - diligently, faithfully, not as a passing reference point, but thoroughly ground your sermon in the message of Scripture.
2. Engagement with the context of the preaching moment. A sermon is always particular, never general. The sermon is always a Proper (not an Ordinary).
3. Theological engagement
4. Engagement with the hearts and minds of the listeners: to the head, clear logical easy to follow; to the heart, something that speaks more deeply (but they have to understand what you're saying first!).
Ha ha! He's forcing us to write out our sermons!
I feel like I'm missing some kind of humility I'm supposed to have about preaching. Maybe I'll get it from the books we'll read on theology of preaching. I just am not really all that afraid of it. J points out to me that evangelicals fear it because it's "the main event" in their services. In our services, it's important, but it's not the be-all and end-all.
Now, when it comes time for me to do a Eucharist, then I will be wetting my pants. That is what scares me!
But preaching, I dunno. Maybe I'm overconfident and I'll suck at it. But I'm just a good public speaker, seem to be a decent writer, and so it just doesn't worry me that much. Perhaps when I'm in front of a group of real people, not my seminary peers, I'll start to be scared. I'll start to feel the weight of what I'm doing. Or maybe I won't.
Anyway, I think preaching class is going to be lots of fun. I'll keep you posted.
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Yay! It's my week to host the blog carnival! Aren't you lucky - you're gonna get referred to all kinds of fascinating stuff. And if I read your blog, you might just find your own self on here (do let me know if you don't want me referring traffic to you).
We start with a beautiful submission from the Velveteen Rabbi: her Haggadah for Pesach (you have to visit to see what that means, if you don't know).
Xpatriated Texan has some thoughts on the "middle way" of politics (ha ha Episcopal joke! Hey, when I host that's what you get).
I humbly submit some of my own thoughts on a new work I'm joining of planting a church (or a movement, really).
If you've read my recent stuff on fighting the atheists, you'll understand why I appreciated this post at Mark My Words.
Thank goodness episco sours has provided a prayer to get us all through Girl Scout cookie time!
Jeanette at PoMo Kidz reminds us that it takes a village.
Father Jake alerts us that the world is watching.
Over at the revealer, Nicole Greenfield points us to the McPassion.
Some thoughts on music in worship from Habakkuk's Watchpost.
And finally, here is a laugh from my good friend Eric (I'm questioning Fuller's history dept...).
If you wrote something good you want me to post, let me know, or just send us a link in the comments! Cheers!
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Anyway, that has nothing to do with my primary reason for writing today. I spent the morning, with J and about 10 other people, workshopping a church plant. All Saints' is planting a "mission station" (diocesan language - ugh) called Thad's (named after one of the apostles who I think is in only one of the apostle lists). I think it's going to be kind of emergy- in the good sense, not the brand sense.
Good mission statement: To bring the love of Jesus to the lives of people in positive, practical, and transformative ways. Some good values, although I'm already nit-picking on one of them: "We are building the kingdom, not a church." See, I don't think we can build the kingdom, only God can do that. As I said in an earlier post, we can enact, embody, proclaim it - we can even reveal it and point to it - but we can't bring it or build it or make it come. That's God's work. That's what the parables of the sowers are all about.
Jimmy, the priest, agrees and asked me to come up with something better. That's what I get for giving my opinion! Here are some of my ideas:
"We're not building a church, we're sowing a kingdom that God will grow"
"We're building the Church not a church"
"We are embodying the kingdom in the world" (purposely leaving out the negative sentiment)
"We're joining a movement that reveals God's kingdom"
What do you think?
There are just so many things to say about this process. I'm really thrilled to be part of it. I hope, if I am good enough, they will let me plan the liturgies. I want to put together some of this knowledge I'm getting with real practice. And I want to prove once and for all that liturgy is a) not a turn-off and b) a great way to connect to God for anybody. You think I can prove that? Ha ha.
I just don't want this thing to turn into Mosaic (oddly enough, my post about that church was circulated amongst this group, before they met me, without them knowing I wrote it! Weird). I don't know what exactly should set us apart from other types of "churches" (it's too hard not to use that word) in our worship. Maybe nothing - maybe our worship is exactly like other Episcopal churches but it's what we do the other six days that will distinguish us. But then again, I think this group wants to get a little funky and creative, like playing Bob Marley and Allison Kraus and meeting in a jazz club. So I think I could be challenged in exciting ways to keep the old and try out something new with it. Karen Ward uses the attic metaphor: finding grandma's pearls and grandpa's fedora and wearing it with your punk shirt and ripped jeans. You're honoring the old but you're doing something new with it.
I don't know - can I do that? I love the liturgy so much. I really don't think I can compromise it. But maybe that's just what they need - someone who will be a stickler for the tradition and the theology behind our very well-written liturgical resources. No reason we can't set the creed to a beat, right?
The question I wrestle with constantly is How do we distinguish our worship service from a U2 concert? Because I believe the latter is a legitimate worship experience. But is it church? I don't think it is. I am not sure it's even "Christian" worship, although it is about God (so's a lot of stuff - primarily from other religions - that I and the practitioners wouldn't call "Christian" either). If we are just offering cool music and a friendly vibe every week, what are we doing that is different from any club? If we are just helping people, even saying "Jesus loves you" while doing it, what is different from any charity?
Well, that's the mission, isn't it? To do something that brings the love of Jesus into the lives of people in positive, practical, transformative ways. And that's not usually found in clubs. Maybe moreso in charities, especially faith-based ones. I just feel like our liturgy (and here I mean the basic ordo that the church has done pretty much for 2000 years) must remain in order for it to be Christian worship, in order for it to be transformative, in order for it to be worth attending. J always says, people who've never been to church aren't looking for another rock concert - that always fails. When we try to please people by not being ourselves, it fails. And people want to go somewhere authentic - and even ritualistic - like the Buddhist monastery or the Russian Orthodox Church or the Hindu Temple or even Shabbat dinner. Oh, why do we always feel this ridiculous need to be relevant?!
J and I talked about this the whole way home. We talked about how to reach out to people and how to get the people there that we personally really want there. We talked about being lost (wandering, looking for meaning) and being saved/found (finding the meaning of life lies in God's kingdom which is already everywhere in the world and joining God's work by embodying it). All of our conversation was deeply informed by our theology of mission - our ideas about God's way of working with people and with the world. And it didn't quite match up to what the rest of the group had been thinking (they'd already met once without us there to cause trouble!).
A group working on Adult Formation presented this idea: "Adult formation and bible study should not be too much about issues of theology such as issues like Christ's atonement for our sins, etc." One reason the group gave for this is that theological issues are too abstract and Thad's wants to be about practical everyday life. That's a fair point, and may have some truth to it. But all your beliefs (especially your beliefs about God) affect your practical everyday actions, so theological issues are actually quite important.
The group also suggested we downplay theology in our teaching. They said issues like the Trinity "put people off". This goes to the heart of what everyone kept talking about throughout today's meeting. We keep reiterating that we want Thad's to be "welcoming" and "comfortable" to everyone. Now, this sounds like a good idea, but it might not be possible or even desirable.
The idea of the Trinity putting people off is simply not true. J teaches at public universities and most of his students are "post-Christian" and "unchurched" or whatever. They don't know anything about Christianity. But they are really interested in theology. They know phrases like "the Trinity" and "Christ's atonement for our sins," but they have absolutely no idea what these phrases mean - and they want to know. They think theological issues are fascinating as long as they are explored in safe and non-dogmatic way that is open to questioning. This is a big difference between younger generations and the Baby boomer types who created many of the megachurches that were set up to not look or feel anything like church.
Young people are actually not put off by theology and liturgy and stained-glass windows and other traditional things. They think learning about traditional Christianity is fascinating in the same way we think learning about traditional Buddhism or Hinduism is fascinating.
So anyway, J said to me, "You know what would be a really cool adult education class at a church? A class titled 'So what the fuck is the Trinity, anyway?'" Then we remembered that Jimmy had apologized for slipping "the S word" at the last Thad's meeting. This took us back to the topic of being welcoming and comfortable. We would never use the F word in church because that might offend people ....
But here's J's take on that: So what? What's so bad about offending people? Using the F word would offend some people, but to other people it would actually signal to them that this is a safe place. That may sound weird to a lot of you. But I will tell you, when my priests swear in front of me, it tells me they are not uptight. When they drink and listen to popular music and have tattoos or whatever, (unless it's an act to be "relevant") I think, wow, this person is like me. This person is not like what I think a Christian is like (having been duly informed of stereotypical Christians by movies, TV, and fundamentalist preachers). This person is not like my mom or neighbor or the TV pastor who are holier-than-thou - this person is real. And yes, I can get all that from my priest saying "Shit."
I put it like this. Any church that is comfortable for Pat Robertson (or really many evangelicals) would automatically be uncomfortable for a lot of other people. It is the latter group that we're trying to reach, right? Those who hate what they call hypocritical (and we call "not perfect just forgiven") Christians, who wouldn't go near a church because they'd be told to dress, talk, behave differently. There are churches that do great work for those who are comfortable in Christianese. But I don't think we need another church reaching that demographic. I think we need to reach the sick, not those who are well.
You can't possibly make everyone comfortable. And if you try you will only succeed in making a "McDonald's Church" that is mass marketable but also bland and unappetizing. Of course, if we make Thad's a sushi restaurant, then a lot of people will be "put off" by the raw fish, but we will be able to attract people who would never go to McDonald's.
Anyway, none of this is meant to argue for swearing in church or for ignoring practical life in favor of abstract theology. I mean only to suggest that we need to think more about the concept of welcoming people. First we need to remember that different people are welcomed in incompatible ways. And second we need to think more about what kind of people we want to welcome and how we can do that.
I told him that maybe the real way to set up this church is to just focus on one person: one friend who it is so important to me that she know God that I would do anything to show God to her. And then I make this place a place she'd want to visit, a place she would find welcoming. Maybe if we all did that, we'd succeed where so many other plants (esp emergent) have failed - we'd actually reach some people outside the church, instead of just the over-churched or those Christians looking for something hip.
This is kind of like riding that bike, if I may get all conclusioney on you. It's really scary at first but something holds you up. It's something that I put into my muscles and bones a long time ago. That's what the liturgy does. It enters our body in a sticky way that makes us more like God, unconsciously forming us into God-like people. How? By our ingesting God week after week, both literally in the Eucharist and figuratively in the story that the liturgy tells. I believe if we rely on these rituals that we know will connect us to God - because that's exactly what they were designed (I'd say inspired) to do - then we don't have to be scared because they will carry us safely through this new experience. Whether we're planting a church, or forgiving a hurt, or reconciling with our parents, or fighting for justice, or seeking God's will, or simply answering the question, "How can you believe, knowing what you do about [the Bible, the world, etc]?", this formation through our liturgical practice will connect us to divine power, giving us the words and the will and the way.
And next thing we know, we'll be riding fast, wind in our hair (heart pumping, white-knuckled grip)...well it still may take a little while to feel safe. But we're relying on a lot better than our own muscle memory. We're relying on God to grow the plant - and the kingdom. That's a relief.
How fun is this stuff, huh???!!!
Friday, March 24, 2006
Anyway, they did start off at the toughest places, Lee and Liberty and ORU among others. Whew. You can keep up on the journey here: www.equalityride.com/photos
So one other thing: check out the comment under the recent post "On this 3rd anniversary", the rant about the war (not written by me but liked by me). I'm curious what you think of the commenter's words (irresponsibly quoting a very paraphrased bible, but that's beside the point) and my response. I'm not fishing for validation, I'm genuinely curious to hear where you think a Christian should draw the line between speaking truth to power and remaining holy in speech. That whole wise as serpents, gentle as doves thing, you know?
Thursday, March 23, 2006
But I HAD to write this morning with this wonderful news about the CPT team members in Iraq. Here is the word from CPT:
CPT rejoices in the release of our peacemakers
by Doug Pritchard and Carol Rose
Our hearts are filled with joy today as we heard that Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember have been safely released in Baghdad. Christian Peacemaker Teams rejoices with their families and friends at the expectation of their return to their loved ones and community. Together we have endured uncertainty, hope, fear, grief and now joy during the four months since they were abducted in Baghdad.
We rejoice in the return of Harmeet Sooden. He has been willing to put his life on the line to promote justice in Iraq and Palestine as a young man newly committed to active peacemaking.
We rejoice in the return of Jim Loney. He has cared for the marginalized and oppressed since childhood, and his gentle, passionate spirit has been an inspiration to people near and far.
We rejoice in the return of Norman Kember. He is a faithful man, an elder and mentor to many in his 50 years of peacemaking, a man prepared to pay the cost.
We remember with tears Tom Fox, whose body was found in Baghdad on March 9, 2006, after three months of captivity with his fellow peacemakers. We had longed for the day when all four men would be released together. Our gladness today is made bittersweet by the fact that Tom is not alive to join in the celebration. However, we are confident that his spirit is very much present in each reunion.
Harmeet, Jim and Norman and Tom were in Iraq to learn of the struggles facing the people in that country. They went, motivated by a passion for justice and peace to live out a nonviolent alternative in a nation wracked by armed conflict. They knew that their only protection was in the power of the love of God and of their Iraqi and international co-workers. We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end.
Today, in the face of this joyful news, our faith compels us to love our enemies even when they have committed acts which caused great hardship to our friends and sorrow to their families. In the spirit of the prophetic nonviolence that motivated Jim, Norman, Harmeet and Tom to go to Iraq, we refuse to yield to a spirit of vengeance. We give thanks for the compassionate God who granted our friends courage and who sustained their spirits over the past months. We pray for strength and courage for ourselves so that, together, we can continue the nonviolent struggle for justice and peace.
Throughout these difficult months, we have been heartened by messages of concern for our four colleagues from all over the world. We have been especially moved by the gracious outpouring of support from Muslim brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. That support continues to come to us day after day. We pray that Christians throughout the world will, in the same spirit, call for justice and for respect for the human rights of the thousands of Iraqis who are being detained illegally by the U.S. and British forces occupying Iraq.
During these past months, we have tasted of the pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Why have our loved ones been taken? Where are they being held? Under what conditions? How are they? Will they be released? When?
With Tom's death, we felt the grief of losing a beloved friend. Today, we rejoice in the release of our friends Harmeet, Jim and Norman. We continue to pray for a swift and joyful homecoming for the many Iraqis and internationals who long to be reunited with their families. We renew our commitment to work for an end to the war and the occupation of Iraq as a way to continue the witness of Tom Fox. We trust in God's compassionate love to show us the way.
Living through the many emotions of this day, we remain committed to the words of Jim Loney, who wrote:
"With God's abiding kindness, we will love even our enemies.
With the love of Christ, we will resist all evil.
With God's unending faithfulness, we will work to build the beloved community."
Doug Pritchard and Carol Rose are co-directors of Christian Peacemaker Teams.
And this excerpt, from Sojourner's e-newsletter:
'Free at Last'
by Rose Marie Berger
As the news of their experience unfolds it will no doubt be controversial that the release of these pacifists was catalyzed by a multi-national military force. No doubt, some will use it as proof that Christian nonviolence and unarmed peacemaking are a fool's errand. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Christian Peacemaker Teams have done more to advance "liberty and justice for all" without ever wielding a weapon than all our "shock and awe" campaigns.
Every Christian is charged with resisting evil, but none are given the right to kill. Jesus did not kill anyone, nor threaten to kill anyone if they didn't follow his command. His strength and persuasion were in his spiritual authority, not in the weapon.
The "peace" that comes through military action is a weak creature that develops through submission and fear, not the deep peace of Christ rooted in righteousness and justice.
Conversely, "sword of righteousness" wielded by the Christian peacemaker is a metaphor for the Word of God that cuts through the gauze of worldly custom; a sword to prick the conscience; a choice that must be made to take up the cross of Christ.
We pray for the soldiers who risked their lives to free Jim, Norman, and Harmeet. We give thanks to God that, through excellent intelligence work and skilled operations, they manifested an unprecedented respect for CPT's commitment to nonviolence by rescuing them without a shot being fired and without injury to any parties. Like the soldier in Matthew 8: 5-13, they too were able to participate in the moment of God's liberation. We pray that they will be convicted by the spiritual authority of these brave Christian peacemakers and with the wisdom and knowledge of Christ who said "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
We revel in our knowledge of a God who "acts on behalf of the weak and the helpless of the land" - a living God of history. It is this living God that gives us the strength and commitment to continue advocating for the the estimated 14,000 Iraqis held in prison by Coalition, Multi-National and Iraqi forces, of whom, according to Coalition intelligence officers, "between 70 percent and 90 percent of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake."
Rose Marie Berger, an associate editor of Sojourners, is a Catholic peace activist and poet (italics added).
Saturday, March 18, 2006
So you have this week to find and/or craft something and send it over to firstname.lastname@example.org. Come on, help us out!
(oh, the poor oppressed majority)
I don't know about you guys, but I am so sick and tired of these lying, thieving, holier-than-thou, right-wing, cruel, crude, rude, gauche, coarse, crass, cocky, corrupt, dishonest, debauched, degenerate, dissolute, swaggering, lawyer shooting, bullhorn shouting, infrastructure destroying, hysterical, history defying, finger- pointing, puppy stomping, roommate appointing, pretzel choking, collateral damaging, aspersion casting, wedding party bombing, clear cutting, torturing, jobs outsourcing, torture outsourcing, "so-called" compassionate-conservative, women's rights eradicating, Medicare cutting, uncouth, spiteful, boorish, vengeful, noxious, homophobic, xenophobic, xylophonic, racist, sexist, ageist, fascist, cashist, audaciously stupid, brazenly selfish, lethally ignorant, journalist purchasing, genocide ignoring, corporation kissing, poverty inducing, crooked, coercive, autocratic, primitive, uppity, high-handed, domineering, arrogant, inhuman, inhumane, insolent, know-it-all, snotty, pompous, contemptuous, supercilious, gutless, spineless, shameless, avaricious, poisonous, imperious, merciless, graceless, tactless, brutish, brutal, Karl Roving, backward thinking, persistent vegetative state grandstanding, nuclear option threatening, evolution denying, irony deprived, depraved, insincere, conceited, perverted, pre-emptory invading of a country that had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11, 35-day-vacation taking, bribe soliciting, incapable, inbred, hellish, proud for no apparent reason, smarty pants, loudmouth, bullying, swell-headed, ethnic cleansing, ethics-eluding, domestic spying, medical marijuana-busting, kick-backing, Halliburtoning, New Deal disintegrating, narcissistic, undiplomatic, blustering, malevolent, demonizing, baby seal-clubbing, Duke Cunninghamming, hectoring, verbally flatulent, pro-bad- anti-good, Moslem-baiting, photo-op arranging, hurricane disregarding, oil company hugging, judge packing, science disputing, faith based mathematics advocating, armament selling, nonsense spewing, education ravaging, whiny, unscrupulous, greedy exponential factor fifteen, fraudulent, CIA outing, redistricting, anybody who disagrees with them slandering, fact twisting, ally alienating, betraying, god and flag waving, scare mongering, Cindy Sheehan libeling, phony question asking, just won't get off the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling, two- faced, inept, callous, menacing, your hand under a rock- the maggoty remains of a marsupial, oppressive, vulgar, antagonistic, brush clearing suck- up, showboating, tyrannizing, peace hating, water and air and ground and media polluting which is pretty much all the polluting you can get, deadly, illegal, pernicious, lethal, haughty, venomous, virulent, ineffectual, mephitic, egotistic, bloodthirsty, incompetent, hypocritical, did I say evil, I'm not sure if I said evil, because I want to make sure I say evil…
EVIL, cretinous, fool, toad, buttwipe, lizardstick, cowardly, lackey imperialistic tool slime buckets in the Bush Administration that I could just spit.
Impeachment? Hell no. Impalement. Upon the sharp and righteous sword of the people's justice.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
A new 95 theses.
Sadly, not the same matthew fox as the lost hottie.
Here are a few of my favorites:
5. “All the names we give to God come from an understanding of ourselves.” (Eckhart) Thus people who worship a punitive father are themselves punitive.
9. Wisdom is Love of Life (See the Book of Wisdom: “This is wisdom: to love life” and Christ in John’s Gospel: “I have come that you may have life and have it inabundance.”)
10. God loves all of creation and science can help us more deeply penetrate and appreciate the mysteries and wisdom of God in creation. Science is no enemy of true religion.
16. Christians must distinguish between Jesus and Paul.
33. The term “original wound” better describes the separation humans experience on leaving the womb and entering the world, a world that is often unjust and unwelcoming, than does the term “original sin.”
54. The Holy Spirit works through all cultures and all spiritual traditions and blows “where it wills” and is not the exclusive domain of any one tradition and never has been.
57. Since the “number one obstacle to interfaith is a bad relationship with one’s own faith,” (the Dalai Lama) it is important that Christians know their ownmystical and prophetic tradition, one that is larger than a religion of empire and its punitive father images of God.
62. The universe does not suffer from a shortage of grace and no religious institution is to see its task as rationing grace. Grace is abundant in God’s universe.
77. Seminaries as we know them, with their excessive emphasis on left-brain work, often kill and corrupt the mystical soul of the young instead of encouraging themysticism and prophetic consciousness that is there. They should be replaced by wisdom schools.
I'm struggling with my marriage right now. I know what God wants (and what my children need) but I am just so desperately unhappy. God has not been able to cure the howling loneliness of my marriage, no matter how much I've prayed about it--and my spouse just isn't willing, able, whatever to do anything about it. It's hard to honor my vows when that loneliness is like acid on my soul...
I understand that suffering can be redemptive, but right now, it just feels endless and draining. I cannot even bring myself to imagine another 30 years of this (we've been married for nearly 15). What do those men (and almost all of them seem to be male) have to say to me? That if only I were a better Christian my marriage problems would go away? Gee thanks, guys---now not only am I failing as a spouse, I'm also failing as a believer.
Okay, see this is the problem. The solutions in the article, while certainly Godly, do lead to the inevitable conclusion that if they fail then a couple is not Christian enough - they have failed in their marriage AND in their walk with the Lord. Ouch!
Maybe this guy does believe if they divorce they have failed in their walk with God, but that's not a very pastoral thing to say to them. At least, it's probably not going to keep them coming back to him for marital OR spiritual advice (he should at least care about the latter). And if they leave the church, then we lose any chance of helping them find redemption.
To say "all our marriage problems are really sin problems" (as a commenter did on the other site) doesn't help a woman in this position. She doesn't have a sin problem - or, would he say she does? Yikes. That seems harsh - her only "sin" is feeling lonely (and letting it affect how she views her marriage, I guess).
I think there is sin - or at least evil - going on there, but what if it's nobody's fault?? (or the fault of someone who won't change?) This is why she laments. When bad things happen and it's your fault, you confess; but when bad things happen and it's not your fault, you lament.
So it all boils down to individual situations, doesn't it? If a person is already trying to follow God's will and it is just not working, or their spouse won't cooperate, what then?
I think that post was written with a cooperative spouse in mind, actually a cooperative couple (that's a lot of homework!) that's really motivated to get better.
But the sad thing is that most people are more in my commenter's situation than in the one the pastor describes. It's rare that both members of the couple are willing to counsel, and if they are, are that invested in continuing the relationship.
It makes me very nervous to wrap up someone's faith with their success as a spouse. Seems that does more harm than good. I feel like we have more control over our marriages than over our faith. But maybe not.
See? This is the stuff that makes me scared as hell to be a pastor! What do you say to someone in this situation that doesn't make it worse? That doesn't make her feel like a failure - as a wife or a Christian? All I can think of is, "I am sorry. It sucks." But that doesn't make it better.
I've felt this way but it got better, so I'm one of the lucky ones (meds do help). But I've watched my mom be lonely for nearly 30 years, and it's really hard to see. Also, while it helps kids to have both parents, to have role models who have such a bad marriage isn't the greatest. I actually used to wish as a kid that my parents would split up so they could be happier (which in turn would make my life easier).
Well anyway I've asked the guy for a followup post to answer my questions and concerns. We'll see if he does it! If so, I'll be sure to link to it.
My confidence is still pretty shaken from Tuesday's test. I worry now about being able to really show what I've learned. That test did not reflect my studying nor learning over the course of the quarter. And that's a bummer.
So pray for me if you think of it. I really shouldn't be nervous since I know the material so well. But on the midterm I did too and I still got dinged for weird little things (and in many cases for what I don't know). Tough, tough grading. I just want to live up to what I've learned. I don't want to do better than I deserve. But I don't want to do worse either.
Here is the prayer I like to say before tests; maybe you'd like to have it too. It's from the BCP, "Prayer for Guidance (2)":
God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Okay one more thing I have to say, then I'm back to studying: I thought I'd lost all faith in the American people when they elected George W. Bush to a second term, but last night my opinion sank even lower. What the hell was Ace doing in the bottom three???
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
See, I over-study. Then I can think of things not just from the reading but stuff the professor said that supports more than one of the little a,b,c,d answers. And then I make myself nuts talking myself into the different answers. Then I go home and realize I chose the wrong one in the end.
But this test, this was more about getting into the prof's head than they usually are. Usually it's not so difficult to determine the objectively best answer. Some of these questions were honestly based on belief. Okay, so then you go with the prof's belief, but what if she said something different on different days? Not inconsistently, just both/and statements.
Cases could be made. And I bet I chose the wrong one. And now I will get my 2nd A- or even a B. I know, you are gagging at me. Well I want to get a PhD and so I stress about my grades.
I am learning - I learned a lot in this class...almost too much. Definitely studied too much for the final - so much studying that I confused myself. It's not that I'm pissed about the grade for its own sake, but it's because I really knew this stuff, I really studied, I really learned - I can't think of a way I could have tried harder or done better. And my best is usually an A, that's all.
I guess I need some humility shot through me. I really am too hard on myself. I made a mistake in our bookkeeping that caused us to bounce checks and pay $25 in fees. I lost a house key. For these things, I beat myself up.
I complained to my mom and she told me I was mad because I'm not perfect. I've been mad that I'm not perfect since I was little. I've always been distressed at my failures, however small and insignificant. Not because they matter. Not because I need to learn something. Simply because they point to my fallibility. Or so Mom says.
But she's right. I don't like it when I try my best and still fail. I also don't like it that I care this much, believe me. I'm not happy to be such a freak about this stuff. And honestly if I wasn't getting my period tomorrow I would probably not have cried after the test.
But this is how it is. I'm hormonal, the test was maybe a bit unfair, mostly I just made some bad choices. C'est la vie. Get over it.
I am grumpy from not eating lunches, too. My Lent thing, remember? It makes me cranky and I way overeat at dinner. I don't think I'm actually eating any less. Maybe I should give up.
I'm doing very well with the prayers, though. And I really love them. Whenever I make myself do morning prayer consistently it's such a blessing. It makes me calmer and I think about scripture or the prayers throughout the day. Imagine how I'd be if I hadn't done it before going to my test this morning!
Well, to calm me down, J did the smartest thing he could, which was invite me to look up several schools' admissions requirements to see what they said about GPA. As it turns out, only one school I could find (and I was looking at places like Yale, Notre Dame - not cheesy schools) even listed a GPA requirement and it was (drum roll, please)...3.0.
So unless one of you tells me different, perhaps I'll stop stressing quite so much about my 3.98 going down a few hundreths of a point. J says GPA are set pretty low usually, 3.5 or so, and it's just a weeding-out thing. It's not going to make the decision to get you into a doctoral program.
Well I know that but I still feel like it could be impressive if it's high. Then again, with grade inflation these days, I'm probably being quite naive.
Okay, so I learned a lot in this class. I need to have the same attitude as I had after I finished my Bartchy paper, which was I do not care at all what grade I get on this because I learned so much the experience was more than worth it. So there! Ha, teachers! I don't care what letter you want to slap on me! Label me - go ahead!! I'm learning and you can't stop that with a B!!!
(I feel slightly better now)
Monday, March 13, 2006
Friday, March 10, 2006
This piece on marriage counseling was really interesting to me. I don't know for sure if I agree with it entirely (it kind of glosses over the pain of betrayal and rejection by a spouse - and not just from cheating, from anything...and it's a bit of a bible-thumper), but I'm intrigued by this notion of focusing counseling on each spouse's relationship with God first rather than with each other, and on the reminder that we don't make vows contingent upon the other person keeping them. At least not if we are trying to be like God, who, She knows, has made a whole lot of covenants that were broken by people.
So people who've had some experience: would this work? Or is it unrealistic? Will it just piss off the couple (maybe they'd go to a therapist who's better trained to help them anyway!)?
Tidbit #2 is about Soulforce, Mel White's great organization for GLBT Christians. Seems they're paying visits to a few Christian campuses (or, as CT puts it, "targeting" them - for what? Gay shooting range?), including both my and J's alma maters. Side note: CT's article, despite being on the web, doesn't hyperlink to Soulforce. Gee, could that be because it's got a bunch of stories and points that could actually disconcert good Christians?
Here's how Soulforce describes it:
"The Soulforce Equality Ride will take thirty-two young adults on a seven-week bus tour from New York to Los Angeles to confront nineteen religious schools and military academies that ban the enrollment of GLBT students. Their journey is unique - never before have young activists banded together to challenge homophobia at the institutions that are largely responsible for GLBT discrimination."
Biola is just trying to keep it all under wraps (I'm actually quite tempted to go out there in support - wish I could get J to join me, but then he'd get fired and we couldn't pay rent).
Wheaton at least is engaging the issue. Soulforce apparently has gotten a student to agree to a "coming-out" stunt, and the provost says that "concerns us." They rearranged a high schooler visit day so as not to scare the kids (and especially parents), and they are purposely changing the chapel format, splitting into many small groups so Soulforce can't disrupt the one large chapel. Chapel stunts have a long and treasured history at Wheaton, so that was probably a good move, although it's giving a lot of power to your enemy, in my opinion.
But here's where they are at least doing better than most:
"Wheaton will host six seminars in the weeks leading up to the Equality Ride visit. During the stay, Soulforce will hold two presentations with responses from Wheaton faculty members and one panel discussion. [Provost Stan] Jones said Soulforce has agreed to refrain from using civil disobedience techniques." (from CT article)
I'm sure there are Wheaties in the Soulforce group. I know we have a very unofficial GLBT alumni association. Without a doubt I know there are gay students on campus right now. There certainly were when I was there (being a theater major, I may have known more than my share). I pray this will give them a little encouragement. And the discussions will be open and loving on all sides.
But what are the chances of that happening, really?
Still. Oh, my God, if Wheaton changed on this issue...what a thought! It would change everything. I know it's gonna happen in my lifetime (well maybe not Wheaton but I think the majority of Christians will get over this issue). Kudos to White and Soulforce for their bravery.
Yeah, I think I need to go out to La Mirada. Anyone care to join me? Ya think I should hold up a sign that says "Fuller Students Support Soulforce"!?!?
I'm a naughty little mink. I mean, minx.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
So has anybody noticed that when it comes time to kill Jesus, there are no Pharisees around? The Pharisees are not the ones who killed him. And the law question - his main debate with that group - is dropped. His troubles with his people are different in the first and second halves of the story. The first half he's mostly teaching so we get a lot of arguments about law. The second half he's mostly, well, being killed. And doing these sweeping prophetic actions, that might be what got him killed.
I learned more about crucifixion. You know who was crucified? Anyone who wasn't upper class. If you were rich or powerful, you were offered suicide (way more honorable). Typically runaway slaves were crucified, mutinous army troops, and of course subject peoples (to make the point to them, as if it weren't clear that they are defeated). My prof called it state-sponsored terror: a very visible method of controlling and humiliating subject people. Rome is mocking Jesus but is also mocking the Jews by hanging a sign saying he's their king over his mutilated body.
Did you know anywhere from 10,000-100,000s were crucified in the 800 years it was practiced? Constantine ended it.
Did Jesus intend to die? Vast majority of Christians say yes. But if intended it, and does not take steps to commit suicide, then you have him intending to get killed. Does he start provoking people on purpose? If so, how does that fit with his life, ministry, purpose prior to his death? How does what he die for fit with what he lives for?
He lived for his calling, to be faithful to vocation. And to teach and proclaim the kingdom. How would dying fit that aim?
Did Jesus have choices, make decisions? Did he have free will? If so, that goes against the idea of his entire life being some unmovable plan of God's. And if he had free will, that means other people did too. If Jesus didn't come to die - maybe didn't even intend it (tho surely saw it coming by the end) - then you have to stop acting like he's the puppetmaster who damned Judas and the others from birth. Those people who acted against him had free will. And I'll bet ya if they hadn't done it, that wouldn't have messed things up. God didn't force people to kill Jesus. But he used the bad circumstance to make something great happen.
Jesus never says, "I came that they might reject me" - he says, "I was sent to proclaim the Kingdom/truth, and I know not all will hear it, they will be deaf and blind" - but that's not the same thing.
Why does his death accomplish something? Because God says it does! The death of this one is efficacious for us because God says so. God didn't need it but used it.
What do the gospels say Jesus knew about his death? It is unanswerable to ask what he knew(apart from the gospels) - what knowledge he might have brought along from the godhead. Grand puppeteer? 2 minds, divine and human? 1 mind, which is it, or hybrid? How many wills in Jesus?
Think of the parable of eviltenants. The son is sent by the landowner on a mission or task, to gather the fruits of the harvest. He is not sent to be killed!! ("I'll send my son so they can kill him b/c that will be good for all the people"). He has the same mission as the previous servants - people did the same thing before the son - and the result is the same: the tenants don't listen. The death of the son is the result of his mission - the reaction to it - not the point of it. Faithful emissaries of the one who sends them will reap whatever comes about because of their message. "He was obedient unto death."
Prophets don't often get a good hearing in the OT - there's not a great track record for God's message! But despite Israel not heeding prophets at the time, they save the books. The words are preserved. Interesting, isn't it?
So, let's think about Jesus as the Suffering Servant, from Isaiah 40 and 53. NOTE: Who is this the servant of? The servant in Isaiah is the servant of GOD.
If we are going to be like Jesus, we are called to be servants to God first, then to others.
THIS IS WHY THE ATHEIST GUY IS NOT A CHRISTIAN - HA!
The first rule of being a Christian, which means being like Jesus, living the way he lived, is that you subject your entire life to the mission of GOD in the world. Not to helping people or being nice or even healing or bringing justice. Jesus' primary loyalty was to God. A person can not possibly follow Jesus without following this absolutely central aspect of who he was. Period. If you just follow the teachings, you're a nice person, you're in step with the universe, you'll be well-liked. But if you do not acknowledge that it is all God's story and you are doing these things because you are first and foremost a servant of God, then you cannot call yourself a follower of Jesus.
Following the message of Jesus is not the same thing as serving as he did.
Jesus, the man who died for others. In 1. Mark 10:45, he is called (maybe he says) "a ransom for many"; "ransom" (pay for the release of) a prisoner ofwar, or a slave - but who got paid? It doesn't say Jesus paid the ransom, he IS the ransom.
What kind of people are ransomed? Slaves, but what are we slaves to? We usually would say "sin." But it doesn't say in the gospels that we're ransomed from sin. It just says Jesus is the ransom.
Look at the Last Supper: "my blood of the covenant" (mentioned in Exodus 24:7-8, Zech9:9-11). Ransom is some kind of setting free. The idea is that the blood of the covenant and freedom for prisoners go together somehow. In some way, Jesus' life and death establish a new covenant with God's people that is ultimately sealed with his blood.
See the Gospel of John, 10:11-18, 11:45-53, and 12:23-24 - it never says he lays down life to forgive sins. It just says he is one dying for the many. The Ransom is his life for ours - Jesus gives his life so the whole nation wouldn't be destroyed (by Rome, says Caiaphas).
In 1 Cor 15, Paul says Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. Most people hear Christ "died for me" - but the word is "our" not "me".
Jesus is his name, but Christ is his office. Paul is saying the Messiah died for us. Messiah doesn't mean savior or redeemer but rather "anointed to be king". Read it: the King, the rightful ruler, died for our sins. The king died for his people.
What do we think of when we think of a king dying for his people? Probably think first of a battle. Not a temple, an altar, a sacrifice in that sense. What is missing from the gospels is the language of cultic sacrifice. Jesus' death is strikingly non-cultic in the gospels.
This is not to say Jesus didn't speak of his death or think it was efficacious. But rather than focus so much on those issues, shouldn't we rather be looking into what was Jesus' life was about?
What is missing from the gospel accounts of Jesus' death? God's wrath - penal substitution, bearing the guilt of sin. Jesus' primary ministry with Israel is not abetting God's wrath.
Jesus does talk about the judgment of God - we often like to forget that and make him just a nice guy. But he does NOT connect judgment with his death.
The Resurrection as Vindication - note that resurrection never expected in Jewish thought to be done individually - it was all at once for everybody. What wound up happening was Jesus became the "first fruits" resurrection, which promised everyone else's later. He may likely not have expected individual resurrection and may not expected so soon! But he did expect vindication. Still, how would he have known it would be resurrection??
A. The resurrection is presented in the New Testament first as the vindication of Jesus' life and ministry (Acts 2:33-36) - you put him to death but God raised himto life. Jesus did not accomplish the resurrection. This is important - because the promise of the NT is that what God did for Jesus, he'll do for us.
So much of our religion is about what happened after the death of its founder. It is not about a great teacher and living like he said to! What our faith is about is who he was after the resurrection - we follow not a figure of the past, but a figure who is.
People worry a lot about what Jesus himself claimed to do and be. But to paint a whole picture of someone, you need to know more than just what the person thought of him or herself. Like Bill Clinton's memoirs - what he thinks of himself is incomplete - the whole picture of him is based on what others think too. You can't say you could know everything about him just from his own thoughts. A vital part of who that man is has to do with other people's beliefs about him, and what history will say about him - his legacy after he'll die.
Some say not all Christian faith has to be Easter faith - there are many ways to be a Christian. But these are ways "stuck in Lent" as a classmate put it. If there wasn't a resurrection we wouldn't have the gospels or a faith at all. Who would have cared? Who would have written it down and kept the stories? When you think of all the religions at the time, including Judaism which was doing fine for most people, there's really not this great pressing need for a new faith to fill some void.
In fact, I've heard people say Paul invented Christianity. But that's ridiculous. Paul was a very happy and observant Jew. He didn't need God in his life - he had God in his life. He was perfectly set. And anyway, why would a person create a religion that would get them so messed up and eventually killed? He was always in prison or being beaten or other nasty things. He'd have to have been quite masochistic to have made it up, and quite charismatic to get other people to martyr for it too.
The Christian faith is not just about recapturing the past of Jesus, what he supposedly actually did and said. It is also about understanding his present and his future. Without people putting the risen Jesus together with the Jesus they knew who lived onearth, there wouldn't be any record of his doings. There wouldn't be any teachings for that atheist to follow. Unless this risen Jesus was also the one who did and said all these things, then there's no Christianity and we might as well all go home.
Whew! Well that was a lot of stuff. It was a great class, though, really provocative.
She finished it by reading this to us, which I leave with you now: www.anewkindofchristian.com/archives/000231.html
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
I have been working on my definition of worship since I arrived at Fuller to study it. I have yet to find a suitably succinct, witty phrase to sum it up. Before this class, I defined it as “communication with God in any form from any thing.” That seems okay generally, but it doesn’t stress some important aspects that this class has brought to my attention. Two concepts in particular “fence” Christian worship for me: it must be Trinitarian, and it must be about, to, and for God.
My belief in the centrality of the Trinity stems from the strong emphasis I place on historical precedent – I truly believe in the divine inspiration of Church tradition. A Trinitarian focus is difficult to prove from the Bible alone, but because the Church has worshipped in a Trinitarian way – back to the earliest rituals – I believe it is correct. It is striking how so much worship that purports to be Christian has moved far away from reflecting this fundamental belief about God.
This became apparent as we read and discussed Trinitarian worship, or the lack thereof, in modern worship – particularly in the music, as analyzed by Lester Ruth. Shortly after reading Ruth’s and Witvliet’s essays I attended the worship service about which I wrote my music analysis, and my ears picked up the Trinitarian language in our music and texts. That day’s service represented an appropriately holistic view of God. Later on in our class I learned about Pentecostal Oneness. Although I cannot judge their theology from my place of ignorance of their tradition, I will say that it got me thinking again about how important the Trinity is to my definition of worship. One other interesting comparison is from my internship, where all year I’ve been interacting with devotees to all the major world faith traditions. To define what we do in Christian worship over against their piety is quite difficult (especially for a good pluralist like me who believes they are worshipping the same God!). The one thing that we Christians uniquely believe in is the Trinity. This sets us apart from the polytheistic religions, from Judaism and Islam, and even the Latter-Day Saints (although they self-identify as Christian). To worship as a Christian, then, one cannot merely worship Jesus Christ. Christian worship must also include the Father and the Holy Spirit.
A second part of my Christian worship definition that this class has influenced is the idea of worship being necessarily directed to God. At first glance, this may seem obvious. But in fact, individuality has crept into Christianity in such a big way that I fear for our ability to see past ourselves. We hold our own stories, hurts, passions, preferences, and biases so dearly that we almost always set about crafting a “worship experience” that is much more for our own benefit than God’s. Do we even know how to get outside ourselves long enough to truly praise God or truly intercede for the world – or our enemies?
In this I am not denying the effectiveness of monastic ways of praying, although I do believe that corporate prayer is healthier because it pulls us out of our own heads. I also am reticent to say that “personal story” is not relevant, but I think I am getting close to asserting as much. The cosmic story of God, which we are invited to join, is the ultimate reality, and anything that has to do with my person is so insignificant and selfish in comparison that I would rather get away completely from worship that mentions “me” at all. I do believe that God gifts us individually, and we are important to Her as children, but the gifts and the childhood are inextricably bound up in our place in the Kingdom of God – and that Kingdom is about God’s story, not ours. The survey of worship history and theology in this class has made the sheer magnificence of God’s work in the world apparent to me, and I can only respond with awe at the privilege of joining this communion of saints.
All of this explains, then, why I prefer a church home that uses ancient liturgical texts, pays attention to a Trinitarian focus, and emphasizes the cosmic story (although I recall from my music paper a nearly equal blend of personal and cosmic elements in that service). I am truly amazed by the inspiration evident in our prayer book and hymnal. We have multiple liturgical practices that allow us to go deeper into faith (for instance, right now with Lenten disciplines), to reaffirm our baptism (as we will at the Easter Vigil and anytime we baptize), to reconcile with one another and with God, to live into the yearly renewal of nature and the story of Jesus (from Advent through Pentecost)…I could go on and on. Our liturgy feeds me with ritual nourishment even as it pulls me away from myself and into praying and living for others.
Our church uses the most traditional and historical order of worship: gather, Word, Table, dismiss (I prefer the term “send”). The Services of the Word and of Holy Communion are about equal in length (sometimes the latter is a bit longer). Ministers for both are a mix of clergy and laypeople. The first half primarily prepares us for the second: we read God’s word, hear it unpacked, recite our creed, pray for the world, confess our sins, and share the peace, all to ready ourselves to enter the presence of God at the Eucharist. The entire service is an affirmation of our connection to God, the world, and especially to one another in the Christian community, which is solidified through our weekly enactment of the drama of Christ.
When a church uses a liturgy that has been so carefully prescribed, with ancient roots and the best modern theologians overseeing its production, the congregants are truly blessed. I have very few complaints about our worship, but there are always a few things to mention. Our music definitely lacks a world flavor, and we never use other languages in speech or song. We do not offer sign-language interpretation and our altar is up a set of stairs (although we take communion out to those in wheelchairs, they are prevented from, say, acting as oblation bearers). We pray for and minister to the homeless, but are not great at welcoming them as equal members of the Body, even though they do regularly attend (sitting in the back). We have a wonderful program for educating children about the liturgy (Catechesis of the Good Shepherd), but our adult education is dismal – and adults are the ones visibly participating every week! There are many things I would change about our worship, primarily to make it more inclusive, helping the church reflect its cosmic-story commitment even more. We are good at proclaiming the Kingdom of God – but I am not sure we are always reflecting it in its entirety.
It's weird. I think he might be right about religion's purpose in general. But I don't think he's a Christian. And I think his claiming it does make the term meaningless.
I'm not saying he's not a good person and I'm not even saying he won't go to heaven when he dies - far be it from me to make that decision! But I think that an essential part of being a Christian would be believing at least that God sent Jesus to teach us God's way of doing things (see? I'm not even saying you have to believe Jesus is God!). This guy is understanding that - he sees how following Jesus fits with the way the universe is set up, how it helps the human being to flourish. But it's really weird to have all that figured out and not recognize the Source of it. No, actually, it's really narcissistic.
Well, anyway, what do you all think?
(p.s. I do think his church has done right by him, and by all the others there who are just seeking community or searching for truth. The church should by all means be the place for this to happen. They are doing exactly the right thing - opening the doors and letting God do the rest.)
While we're on this topic, I found another really interesting blog: http://www.debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/
The author says he was William Lane Craig's student. J also went to Talbot, where WLC teaches. His response: "I'd leave Christianity too if Craig had taught me about it!"
Monday, March 06, 2006
J is looking for a movie about gay marriage or parenthood to show to his ethics class. Preferably something that would present a case study for the students to comment on (doesn't have to be preachy, in other words). He was hoping for fiction not documentary.
If anyone has any suggestions, please post a comment.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
I updated my profile with a few more books. Nothing super exciting but maybe you'll find something in common with me.
Please forgive me if I go under for a couple weeks. It's that time again.
Anyway, here's what I finally came up with:
Case Study #2: Wedding Eucharist
Marriage has always been a sacred institution. It was celebrated by Jesus while on earth and became a major symbol of the union between Christ and the Church. A wedding is a perfect opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist, for the couple unites “the offering of their own lives…to the offering of Christ for his Church made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice, and by receiving the Eucharist…they may form but ‘one body’ in Christ.”
Rachel and Dan are concerned about the length of time it would take to commune their many wedding guests. Having worked as a wedding coordinator, I understand their desire for everything to be perfect – and done their way. However, by choosing to get married in the church, Rachel and Dan are relinquishing some measure of control over their wedding ceremony. By getting married as part of a worship service, they are celebrating – and acknowledging – the church’s wedding traditions above their own.
Early English Prayer Books prescribed (or assumed) marriage to take place within the context of a Sunday service, a departure from the medieval rite on the porch of the church. In the 1549 Prayer Book, marriage was in church after Morning Prayer and the Litany, prior to the Eucharist – which the couple was required to receive. In 1662, this was relaxed, with the couple simply urged to take communion then or sometime very soon. “This was a concession to the Puritans who objected to having weddings on Sundays or at the Eucharist because of the festivities traditionally associated with weddings.” Nevertheless, holding a wedding as part of a (Sunday) worship service, including full communion, is our most traditional form.
Ideally, I believe weddings should go back to being part of a regular Sunday morning service, as baptisms have again become. But that won’t work for most couples (and especially their families!). Even so, when we celebrate a wedding in church, we are praising God and recognizing God’s grace in bringing these two together. We affirm the couple’s commitment to one another in the context of worship and Christian community. We celebrate the Eucharist, because it is the central act of any Episcopal worship service. And because the wedding is primarily a worship service, we cannot prevent anyone from receiving communion as they would at any other worship service.
The Eucharist can never be private: it is God’s gift to all. Its institution was in the context of a Jewish religious meal, and 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 addresses the problems that arose in that church from individualism creeping into the Lord’s Supper. The early churches celebrated communally: for example, the Didache requires that the members be at peace with one another, by mutual confession of sins, prior to partaking. The Reformers reinstituted weekly communion of the faithful in both kinds (as mentioned in our lecture, this was one clearly positive outcome of the Reformation). From the earliest Anglican Prayer Books, Eucharist has included communion of all. And according to the ecumenical statement Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry:
“The eucharistic communion with Christ who nourishes the life of the Church is at the same time communion within the body of Christ which is the Church. The sharing in one bread and the common cup in a given place demonstrates and effects the oneness of the sharers with Christ and with their fellow sharers in all times and places. It is in the Eucharist that the community of God's people is fully manifested. Eucharistic celebrations always have to do with the whole Church...”
Historically, theologically, and biblically, we can see that communion has always been understood as communal action. This must be the case whenever we celebrate, even at weddings.
As for the question of fencing the table, I would follow the normal practice of the church in which I was serving. My current home church communes only baptized Christians, but more and more Episcopal churches are welcoming all regardless of where they are on their faith journey. The Methodist idea of communion as a potentially converting element has taken hold of my imagination, and if I had my druthers, I think I would commune any who felt called to the table (at a wedding or otherwise), including new Christians like the father of the groom.
To address their specific concerns, I would remind Rachel and Dan that we commune about 500 people every Sunday and nobody seems to mind. On a positive note, it provides ample time for a nice solo, anthem, or hymn, which would otherwise have to be left out. Most brides have trouble narrowing the music they want to use – so this is an unexpected blessing!
Prior to communion, I would ask Rachel and Dan to serve as oblation-bearers as a sign of their first offering as a married couple on behalf of their congregation. In the service, the congregation has agreed to “uphold this couple in their marriage” and to be there to support them in their commitment to one another in the years ahead. By receiving “sacramental reinforcement of the civil action” together, the Body of Christ affirms this common aim.
Whenever we send out communion to the sick and others unable to be in church, we state: “We who are many are One Body because we all share One Bread and One Cup.” Rachel and Dan now have the opportunity to fully live into this statement by welcoming all to the table at the celebration of their marriage.
 We can probably assume Jesus was celebrating at Cana (his miracle does point to being in the party spirit).
 See especially Mark 2:19/Matt 9:15/Luke 5:34; John 3:29; 2 Cor 11:2; Revelation 19:7, 9, and 21:9.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church (Ignatius Press, 1994), 405. Although this is the Catholic Catechism, the sentiment is appropriate to my and my church’s theology.
 Hatchett, Marion J. Commentary on the American Prayer Book (New York: Seabury Press, 1981), 429-430.
 Ibid, 430. Unfortunately the Puritans shaped our country’s customs, and weddings eventually separated entirely from Sunday worship.
 This also has precedent in German and Reformed Church orders, see Hatchett, 429.
 For examples of the fellowship theme in early Eucharist, see Ferguson, Everett, Early Christians Speak: Faith and Life in the First Three Centuries, 3rd ed (Abilene: ACU Press, 1999), ch 8 (p 97 referenced above). Ferguson explains how Ignatius, Didache, Justin, and Apostolic Tradition all presume communal participation in the Lord’s Supper.
 Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry, Chapter 2 (Eucharist), paragraph E19.
 Note that the position of the bride’s mother in the church does not affect any of these arguments (although it would be wise to proceed cautiously when explaining this to her!).
 Hatchett, 430.
 Ibid, 430.
Friday, March 03, 2006
So at least everyone agrees that he was being a jackass. That makes me feel better. I like there being some rules of engagement, even for people who don't believe in anything. We have a very great relationship with the campus Secular Alliance, which does fall under the auspices of the Office of Religious Life. And they send a rep to our Interfaith Council and I find him to be a lot of fun.
Tonight I get to see the Soweto Gospel Choir. I hear this is supposed to be excellent and not like American (and/or African-American) Gospel music, which I don't much care for.
Then the rest of the weekend will be spent agonizing over this paper that has to be the best one I've ever written (this per my professor). I'm trying to write about the similarities between early Christian rituals and Greco-Roman pagan rites. They are actually quite analogous, although of course that doesn't necessarily imply direct connections. But it does help us see how Gentiles would have been able to understand and incorporate this Jewish sect so readily, because so much of the devotional practice was familiar to them. And one can't help but admit that surely the ethos of the time led to such similarities.
Anyhoo, that's that. Wish me luck.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh— my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.
One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.
Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!
“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, Lord, do I seek.
Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!
If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up.
Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence.
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.
Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
Do not fret yourself because of evildoers; do not be jealous of those who do wrong.
For they shall soon wither like the grass, and like the green grass fade away.
Put your trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and feed on its riches.
Take delight in the Lord, and he shall give you your heart's desire.
Commit your way to the Lord and put your trust in him, and he will bring it to pass.
He will make your righteousness as clear as the light and your just dealing as the noonday.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.
Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers, the one who succeeds in evil schemes.
Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.
For evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait upon the Lord shall possess the land.
In a little while the wicked shall be no more; you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.
But the lowly shall possess the land; they will delight in abundance of peace.
The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash at them with their teeth.
The Lord laughs at the wicked, because he sees that their day will come.
the wicked draw their sword and bend their bowto strike down the poor and needy, to slaughter those who are upright in their ways.
Their sword shall go through their own heart, and their bow shall be broken.
The little that the righteous has is better than great riches of the wicked.
For the power of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous.
Heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit into our hearts, to direct and rule us according to your will, to comfort us in all our afflictions, to defend us from all error, and to lead us into all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
(Prayer for Comfort, Book of Common Prayer)
God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light rises up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you would have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in your light we may see light, and in your straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord.Amen
(Prayer for Guidance 2, BCP)
May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit.
You see, that group of people - the intellectuals - is a group I've always been quite comfortable with. I can speak their language. I agree with them on most if not all social and political issues. I respect their learning and intelligence. And yes, I'll admit it, I'm a bit of an academic snob.
(a BIT?? My friends are saying)
The plain truth is that I would rather hang out with those people than Christians most of the time.
The real divide in our country might not be right/left, conserv/liberal, red/blue. I think the real divide is educated vs. uneducated. And both truly disdain the other.
So I usually love to be in the first group, it provides a bit of pride, I'll admit, and I do usually enjoy thinking myself better than the latter, or at least, more "enlightened."
So last night's experience was like finding out your best friend really thinks you're an idiot. Like the in-group starts badmouthing you behind your back (or worse, in front of you). Like you suddenly realize that the people you thought were your friends snicker at who you really are.
And that's why it shook me up so much, and upset me so much.
I don't think I have to be anti-intellectual, although I can be against those kinds of intellectuals. Thank God for all these progressive Christian movements happening, which are bringing together the thinkers of the faith. I hate being represented by shoddy philosophy or science or public policy. I want us to be respected.
But all in all, it was a good lesson for the first day of Lent. A real good shot to my pride. And I've been thinking that's probably my biggest sin to work on this season.
god help me.