Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sermon

The sermon went well. It's funny, I got most of my positive comments based on something I just made up on the spot. It was good to get feedback on very specific items in the sermon, not just "good job."

It felt a little strange being up there behind that podium. I was expressing thoughts that I'd dealt with for a long time and wasn't sure if I was coming across.

Afterward, Rita, my priest, said that she wanted me to preach again at the service before our annual meeting on January 20. So I'll try it again. the good thing is that it's a combined service, so I won't have to do two sermons.

Here are the readings, I invite your comments, meditations, and stream of conscious ramblings.

Friday, December 28, 2007

First Thoughts for sermon

Here are the readings again. I'll take them one at a time and just free associate for now.

Isaiah: It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them. Something here, God works directly with us, no intermediaries. The Bible does show that God uses angels and messangers quite often, but here Isaiah assures us that the presence of God saves. This reminds me a little of how sometimes I need to just insert my presence into a situation at school to restore order or whatever, no words or admonitions, just my presence. In my experiences with contemplative prayer it is the presence that is felt, no visions or voices put a palpaple presence. This presence is very comforting, especially for sceptical people, because it can't be explained, it just is. There have been times in my own life that, when tensions are running high, the silent presence of a loved one (even the one you are fighting) is just...right.

Psalm: ecstatic poetry. At times I find this kind of praise poetry rather annoying.I usually get annoyed when I feel like my ever so difficult life is getting to me. But there are times when I am feeling like a one man praise band. This need, for me, to be a real knowing about God, not an intellectual one but a visceral felt knowing.

Epistle:it is clear that he did not come to help angels, great line. I'm no angel. This reminds me of something that Father Thomas Keating said: I find it hard to believe that Jesus rose from the dead just so I could go to heaven.

Gospel:Joseph as the main character. Being sent to Egypt. To Egypt!? The land of slavery for the Hebrew. God is sending Joseph to an unlikely place. God does this constantly, we think we might know the best for ourselves but God changes all that. We have a view from a very miopic place, it's hard to see all the variables. How can I preach on this text? It's like a car chase. I think I can identify with Joseph here. He was likely in his early 20s, new father, some astrologers had just visited, all normal. An angel comes to Joseph

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas from USSR


Secular Santa Claus was allowed I guess, that and the aspirations for space.

Saint Thomas



First sceptical Christian? I like Thomas because, for me, he shows the spectrum of the Christian experience. Read this great essay.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sandy Claus

Icon of Saint Nicholas
Saint Nick's church in Turkey
Saint Nicholas saves the innocents
Who was Saint Nicholas? Check these links to read more...
Link
Link
Link

I'm wondering why this is St. Nick's day, but it was already celebrated on Dec. 6. Anybdoy know why? Maybe this is one of those East/West breaks.

Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children, seafarers, and pawn brokers!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lectio for Tuesday Advent 3 year A

First, the Lectionary. Lectionary, Lectio, etc. all come from the latin word for reading.

The Episcopal Church reads most of the Bible in three years: Year A, B, and C. The Church all reads together in unity each Sunday. We read from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Prophets, an Epistle, and the Gospel. Every reading is optional except the Gospel, meaning the readings can be used or not, there are also alternate readign for each week. All the readings follow the Christian year and are eerily connected thematically.

The collection of readings are called the Revised Common Lectionary. The daily portion is the also part of the revised common lectionary but is called the Daily Office, which is the readings with prayers. The daily office is used by Churches for daily prayer and Eucharist celebrations. For families and individuals the daily office is for prayer, devotion, and meditation. All this can be found in the Book of Common Prayer. Perhaps this is why one doesn't find many Episcopal Devotionals, we've had one since 1549.

So wherever you go there you are when it comes to the Bible and the Episcopal Church.I find this very comforting because all the Churches are together. Also, the Bible is read in its entirety, so the people can't ignore those difficult passages such as when JC talks about making friends with dishonest wealth or that you must hate your family to follow him.

While we all read together we are far from unity on interpretation of the Scriptures. This is good.

Chaplain in Baghdad

Monday, December 17, 2007

Found my Obit!

Wow, just when you thought you were living.

Today's Lectio

I'm focusing my thoughts and stream of consciousness on the gospel reading for today.

Yesterday's reading is a good intro to this text.

Kinda scary. Funny, I was just thinking about how revelation is so hard to read and how the Scaremongers need to pull in so many other texts to make sense of it and here we have JC himself talking about the crazy stuff that is to come "as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel."

Now, many dwell on the violence of the second coming, two in the field, one will be left, etc. I think when some people constantly describe this manner of second coming they reveal themselves and their theology as essentially violent and judgement based.

Enough of that. What I'm focusing on the unknown aspect of the second coming. Jesus warns plainly of this. The second coming will not be what we expect or can think of. Kinda like the Nativity. What do all the prophecy end times people think when they read: Take note, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, “Look! He is in the wilderness”, do not go out. If they say, “Look! He is in the inner rooms”, do not believe it. God is the God surprises and the unexpected. For more on this read the Bible, especially Moses, Abraham, David, Jesus, Paul, John, and the history of Christianity.

One thing that keeps bothering me is the idea that we have our ideas and we find what we want in the scriptures. It's the same for Jack VanImpe as for me. More to come on this...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Coming Schism(?) part deux

So what is the fuss? What is causing the strife in the Church? I guess the big issue was the consecration of the Bishop of New Hampshire a few years ago. I'm learning more about this. I've started here, check out the external links there. More to follow. I think it would be fair to say that the Church and its Bishops has decided to allow for full inclusion of gay and lesbian people, so they can be lay people, deacons, priests, and bishops. There are some in the Church who think this is a mistake. Still the less conservative but less progressive think the Church is moving a little to fast and leaving some behind. People feeling left by the church came to me during my lay discernment commitee time, so I've developed some compassion for these people, while my former answer would have been, "get with it old timers!"

So, I'm going to post more on this later and I want to focus on many of the other schism worthy "problems" in the church in reverse chronological order 1.) Gene Robinson and gay inclusion, 2.)the "New" prayer book 3.)Female ordination.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Third Sunday of Advent

Readings:
http://divinity.library.vanderbilt.edu/lectionary/AAdvent/aAdvent3.htm#luke

11:7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind?

11:8 What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces.

11:9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.

What are you looking for? If you go to church, meditate, pray, go to the Lodge, then you are looking for something. I've only listed activities that are considered positive, I didn't mention drinking, drugs, toxic relationships, etc. So everybody is looking for something. Why do you go to church etc? Are you looking for confirmation of what you already know, are you looking to be surprised and challenged?
Alan Watts talks about the role of the guru in hindu searching, a guru is someone who picks your pocket then sells you back your own watch.

Reading for my preaching day

I'm open to suggestions...

Isaiah 63:7-9
63:7 I will recount the gracious deeds of the LORD, the praiseworthy acts of the LORD, because of all that the LORD has done for us, and the great favor to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

63:8 For he said, "Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely"; and he became their savior

63:9 in all their distress. It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

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Psalm 148
148:1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!

148:2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!

148:3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!

148:4 Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!

148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.

148:6 He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

148:7 Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,

148:8 fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!

148:9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!

148:10 Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!

148:11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!

148:12 Young men and women alike, old and young together!

148:13 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.

148:14 He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD!

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Hebrews 2:10-18
2:10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

2:11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters,

2:12 saying, "I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you."

2:13 And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again, "Here am I and the children whom God has given me."

2:14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,

2:15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.

2:16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham.

2:17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.

2:18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

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Matthew 2:13-23
2:13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him."

2:14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt,

2:15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."

2:16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.

2:17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

2:18 "A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more."

2:19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,

2:20 "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead."

2:21 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.

2:22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee.

2:23 There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He will be called a Nazorean."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Preaching

Mother Rita assigned me to preach on Dec. 30, 2007. Oh boy. Never preached before, stay tuned.

The Coming Schism (?)

My kindred spirit and deep friend Coop, recently posted that he was heartbroken over the coming schism in the episcopal church.

I'd like to respond to his post and hopefully elicit lots of conversation.

The potential schism is between two camps within the Church, one liberal and one conservative, sound familiar?

First off, it's important and instructive to show what makes up the Anglican ethos, in which the Episcopal Church was born and lives and breathes. The church is a three legged stool:reason, scripture, and tradition.

By contrast the Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions are based more in Tradition and Scripture, with an emphasis on Tradition. Here tradition has a much deeper meaning than tradition in the way that we use it. Tradition as a living conversation that goes beyond time and space.

Now the Baptist Church and most Evangelical churches rely on the Scriptures only. This is called Sola Scriptura. Everything is seen through the lens of the Scriptures and the rest is a distortion, an illusion.

So the Anglican perspective is seen three ways and they dance together. Sometimes the dance gets rough. More on this later...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Another Yes

Met with the Comission on Ministry. They are priests and Lay People who help with discernment and deployment. We met for about 45 minutes. They had great questions. One in particular was : Being raised as a Baptist, what will you bring from your upbringing to the Church? I said I'd bring the Bible because I think that the Episcopal Church has been remiss in imparting this wonderful, weird book to its people. The liberals have let the conservatives run off with our book and have religated any real knowledge of it to literalists. The funny thing was that while I was saying all this the priest next to me kept saying "Amen" and "Halleluiah!" This was a surprise, it was like being in a true southern church, I liked it. It was a great way to show support, I think I'll do more of it.

ANyway they supoortedmy call and officially inviteed me to attend seminary. They also got real honest about seminary saying which ones where off limits (General) and which ones they recommended (the one's they went to). I think it's a good sign that they recommended the seminaries they attended. The priests also made no secret of their critiques of the other seminaries.

Continue to pray for us! Amen.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Altar Bread

As a member of the Altar Guild I have the opportunity to make the bread for the Eucharist, or Communion, or the Lord's Supper as I learned it growing up.

I'm making the bread for December, which means all of Advent and Christmas.

Interesting to think about the Eucharist while awaiting the Coming Lord. This is one thing I love so much about Liturgical worship, it is non-linear. Time is played with during the year. Yes, we follow the year and passion of Jesus. But we always center our worship, temporaliy, on the Eucharist, the Jesus Meal, as N.T. Wright calls it.

During the Eucharist as the story of the Last Supper, or was it the first(?), is told, Jesus says:Do this in rememberence of me. But the original Greek uses the word animnesis which means remember again, pretty much rememberence but it's more. Language is born in culture, so this word animnesis means more than recollection, more than a psychic souvenir.

Amimnesis is a greek word of a Jewish notion, it means to recall in the grandest sense. Recall in the way the Jews recall the Passover. At Passover the Exodus is retold in the first person, we, us. At Passover the meal is for the freed Hebrews, right there at the meal. Animnesis is about collapsing the artificial bonds of time to call the past to the present, the present to the past and wrap it all in the promise of God's future.

When we celebrate Eucharist, we are with Jesus and his disciples, and they are with us. There, at the Table, the Kingdom is Come.

Amen!

Here's what St. John Chrysostom says: "Remembering, therefore, this command of the Saviour [i.e., to eat and drink in remembrance of him] and all that came to pass for our sake, the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the enthronement at the right hand of the Father and the second, glorious coming..." This is the anemnisis from the Divine Liturgy.

And here's a rather dry definition from the Episcopal dictionary:

Anamnesis:This memorial prayer of remembrance recalls for the worshiping community past events in their tradition of faith that are formative for their identity and self-understanding. The prayers of anamnesis in the various eucharistic prayers emphasize and make present the saving events of Jesus' death and resurrection.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Saint Andy the Apostle

Today is the feast of Saint Andrew. Andrew is described in the gospels as a fisherman and is the brother to Simon Peter. He was one of the first disciples of Christ, among the first four, along with Simon Peter, and the Sons of Thunder:James and John. (Jesus calls them the Sons of Thunder for their passion I suppose)according to John, all were formerly disciples of John the Baptist, so I guess they were likely Essenes, a Jewish sect of the first century.

The part that I like about Andrew's revelation of the Christ is that it is automatic, reflexive. Jesus calls and Andrew answers. Dietrich Bonhoeffer explains this reflex answer in Andrew to simple authority on the part of Jesus. Jesus calls and Andrew drops everything and moves.

I find this comforting. Jesus calls us all to peace. Peace within the world, and perhaps more importantly, peace within ourselves. But Jesus calls us to follow, not to become better, then follow, but to follow...period. We are not called to get our act together, then go with Him. Go...now!

Thoughts for Advent week One

Matthew 24:36-44

Something tells me the Hal Lindsey, of The Late Great Planet Earth fame, doesn't like this passage very much:But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. No one knows. God is a god of surprises.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Hard Work

They say that work is hard. Why does it have to be hard? How about serious. When we want to be committed to something, we use the language of work: "I'm serious about music", or "I work hard on my music." Why is it that we don't have words for playful work? The feeling of flow that that guy Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi(wiki:Flow)talks about. Jesus gives a good metaphor, My yolk is easy, my burden light. A yolk is something that is used to harness the energy of animals, but Jesus' yolk is easy. Why? Maybe it's because the economy of the Kingdom is so at odds with the one we all live in. For more on the Kingdom look into the wonderful paradoxes that Jesus offers time and again, especially turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and remove the plank in your own eye before the mote in your neighbor's. All ways in which the christian is called to produce a counter rhythm in society.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Meditation on Sunday's readings

I'm going to start commenting on the readings for the coming Sunday. Call it sermon practice, first draft thoughts. I invite comments and critiques.

Readings: Luke 23:35-43 or Luke 19:29-38

Tough passages for a tough guy. These two passages bookend Jesus' late ministry, the Palm Sunday triumph and the crucifixion. I've often thought that meeting Jesus, in the flesh, might have been a difficult experience. I don't get the peaceful easy vibe from Him at all, I think he would have been rather unsettling. Jesus was like the jester in Shakespeare's plays, the only one authorized to tell the truth, and everyone's response was to ignore, laugh it off, or atand in silence and shuffle their feet.

Both of these passages show Jesus in public, he is being recognized in some way or another. First, in Luke 19: Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Then again by the criminal in Luke 23. Here it seems that the public declaration of Jesus as Lord doesn't get much, no political takeover, no reprieve from suffering.

When I was growing up in the Baptist church much was made to make a public testimony of your "walk with Jesus." The idea was to inspire others I suppose but I always avoided this because I had no testimony, I had just followed suit, when your about 11 or so get saved. Done.

Now, I think I have a testimony, and yes I am one of those whackos that thinks that Chritianity is a spiritual path with truth in it and is worth pursuing, maybe, gasp, to the exclusion of other spiritual expressions. But the testimony doesn't sound too enticing: Life with Christ is an insecure one, it is a life whereby the floor is nonexsistant, your thoughts and desires are suspect at best, and you will come to the realization that you hold nothing. But all this is absolutely liberating too. You don't have to hold onto your anger, you don't have to hold onto your happiness either, this creates a kind of nostalgic desperation. My testimony about life with Jesus is this: We own nothing, what we do have is a gift from God. Enjoy but don't hold. Something like that, I'm not a theologian, yet.

Wow, this is going to be hard...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Survivor's Guilt

O.K., I'm starting to come to terms with this whole priest deal. But here's something that's been on my mind: Survivor's guilt. There were three people in my discernment group who got a recommendation for the priesthood and there were four who did not. Now, the seven of us were in the fire together so it feels weird, here, on the other side. We all met for beers and pizza the other night and it was awkward as hell. What was once so easy and free, our conversation(we were all so scared, together) was stitled. I felt that everything I said, answers to questions, was gloating and pompous.

But this is part of that going out on a limb, that was hidden until now. Your going to make friends with these people, you will bear your soul to them and they to you. Some will get what they were after, some won't, and who knows how you'll feel. Most oif this is probably in my head, but I can't help but think that I'd be a little bitter if I hadn't received a yes.

Maybe this is where the grace lies, a realization that everything that I have is given as a gift. Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, he's like a Bishop for the Orthodox Church, talks about this a little in his book Beginning to Pray. We have to simultaneously hold two divergent concepts in order to see our place before God. One is that we have nothing, we hold onto nothing, we possess nothing. This is sel evident if you think about it for a second. Meditation is a good tool for learning this lesson. The other concept is exsistance is a gift from God, the things that we appear to have are blessings from God, to help us in this life.

For me this is a wonderful paradigm to think about because it at once allows us to be grateful for the things and people around us but also be detached from them as the source of our happiness.

How did I get from survivor's guilt to here? Oh yeah. When I got the yes recommendation my father in law was visiting, he congratulated me and said that I must have done a good job to get it. My wife corrected him and said it's not what you do it's who you are. This hit me like a 2X4 up the head. Nothing I could have done would have gotten me the recommendation. Maybe this was an actual call for God.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I got a yes!

Holy shit, I'm going to be a priest.

What Scares You

In the final hours. Maybe I'm being too dramatic, but I'm quite nervous. It's the waiting that bothers me.

I started a great book called The Places That Scare You. It was written by the Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, she was a student of Chogyam Trungpa of Shambhala fame. She tells the reader to ask the question: Do I prefer to grow up and relate to life directly, or do I do I choose to live and die in fear?

Relating to life directly is ballsy. I feel like this is what the discernment process has taught me. When we relate to life directly, squarely, we open ourselves, we are vulnerable. That's hard to do. I wonder why.

Maybe our reluctance to be vulnerable is an evolutionary hold over. We don't want to be seen as weak. We don't want to be seen failing. Failing is bad, perfection is good. Funny thing is only one of those outcomes is real.

Being vulnerable is also the opposite of cool. In our society we are all supposed so damn cool, nothing bothers us. Right.

So, in a few hours I will know whether or not my life will take one direction or not. I admit, knowing if I'll be a priest is somewhat comforting albeit very daunting. Not being a preist is also daunting: here I've given myself over to the God of Creative Love, what's she going to do with me?

Thanks to all who have been on this journey with me. I'll update you when I can.

Peace and love,

JDB

Thursday, October 25, 2007

?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

For those who want to know, My answer about the priesthood will come down on Oct. 29 at 10:00 am. Pray for me. Meditate for me, that one's for GJ :)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Final Reflection

Here's my last reflection. Who knows how it will go? Sorry for the weird font, can't fix it.

Last night I had the final of my weekly discussions with Father J B. In the past the conversations have been freewheeling and extemporaneous. This meeting however was slightly formalized. A week earlier F B gave me a question he wanted me to think about that would guide our discussion. The question was: In what ways has your experience at Our Saviour expanded, deepened, and broadened your discernment? Likewise, how has your time at Our Saviour discouraged your discernment?

My notion of liturgy has certainly been forever expanded with my time at Our Saviour. Prior to Our Saviour I had exclusively been a part of Rite 2 liturgies. Indeed, I had been antagonistic about Rite 1, or my reading of it, as an exercise in self flagellation. I now see this as utterly ignorant and an immature understanding of the tone of Rite 1. Father Bolton was surprised and pleased when I said that I’d miss Rite 1. I think Rite 1 has an understanding of our place before God that needs to be addressed at times.

My experience with Rite 1 and with some of the archaic language of the 1928 prayer book, has given me a new perspective on the old Anglican notion that “prayer shapes belief.” Before I had such an intensive and intimate encounter with Rite 1, I assumed that people who practiced Rite 1 were more conservative, theologically and socially. And those who practiced Rite 2, tended to be more liberal. I think this is still true, statistically, but not essentially. My point is that the Christian message is as liberal as it gets. Here, I am using the classical form of liberal: open, giving, for all. God’s grace is liberal, no difficult language, kneeling low, or chest beating can change that message. In fact, hearing the Good News in a manner different from the one I am accustomed to has helped me to hear it with new ears.

Being a guest was also quite instructive for me and my discernment as well. Beyond the hospitality that was extended to me, which was a grace all unto itself, was the act of being a guest. In my home church I am among kindred spirits; we’ve been worshipping together, in Vestry, in EfM, Sunday School, we met at all hours during Holy Week: we know each other. When you know someone you can joke around, push each other’s buttons for fun and learning. When you are a guest you can’t do these things. When you are a guest you spend a lot of time biting your tongue. This is a good practice. As much as I believe that we must be true to ourselves and our feelings, not to mention what we consider the Truth, I think most of what is said in the spirit of “being true to myself” is little more than a power play. Sometimes, maybe almost always, it is best to listen and shut the hell up for a minute. In this age of instant communication we all suffer from logorrhea, excessive and uncontrolled talking.

F B also wanted me to reflect on how my time at Our Saviour has discouraged my discernment. Truthfully, as I see discernment as an ongoing process, nothing can discourage it except an internal loss of self-awareness. Everything we experience, think, and feel, is grist for the discernment mill. I think what he meant was, what did I see that was hard to process or deal with. The aforementioned shutting up was difficult at times. But it was the numbers that sometimes got me down. Our Saviour has, by my count, eleven services per week. Eleven! The highest attendance at any single service I noted was 51, which included the seven person choir, and six working at the altar. F B MENTIONED THAT P, OUR SEMINARIAN, WOULD LIKELY BE PREACHING TO TWO PEOPLE AT THURSDAY’S NOONTIME MASS. MY QUESTION, WHY HAVE ALL THESE SERVICES WITH SO LITTLE ATTENDANCE? HE SAYS THAT HE GETS THAT QUESTION OFTEN, AND HIS ANSWER IS AN OLD ONE. A PRIEST USED TO BE CALLED THE PARSON, AN OLD WORD FOR PERSON. SO A PRIEST IS THE PERSON OF THE VILLAGE, AN INTERCESSOR. A PRIEST’S JOB IS TO SIMPLY BE PRESENT. HERE, F B IS BEING MODEST. TO USE LAST NIGHT AS AN EXAMPLE, HE WAS MORE THAN PRESENT. HE CAME FROM A MEETING TO MEET WITH ME, BUT FIRST HAD TO SPEAK WITH OUR SAVIOUR’S RESIDENT (LITERALLY) HOMELESS PERSON, FIND A SPACE FOR YET ANOTHER NA GROUP, TALK TO A COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PERSON FROM VIRGINIA HIGHLANDS, PRESIDE AT A HEALING SERVICE, AND FINISH OUR CONVERSATION ALL WHILE FIGHTING A COLD. BEING A PRIEST IS ABOUT BEING PRESENT, BUT IT’S ABOUT BEING PRESENT IN A LOT OF PLACES. I LIKE THIS NOTION OF BEING THE PERSON OF THE VILLAGE, AND IT IS A LOT OF WORK; BUT I DO WONDER, AS WE HAVE CONSTANTLY IN THIS PROCESS, WHO HEALS THE HEALER? (I DECIDED NOT TO INSERT MY OWN ETYMOLOGICAL UNDERSTANDING OF PARSON, WHICH COMES FROM GREEK FOR PERSONA, MASK, LIKE IN GREEK THEATER, SO A PERSON IS A FAƇADE. THE THING WE SHOW AND USE TO HIDE FROM EVERYONE AND OURSELVES. ANOTHER DISCERNMENT LESSON.)

WHAT HAS BEEN MOST IMPORTANT TO MY DISCERNMENT THAT I’LL TAKE FROM OUR SAVIOUR IS DEALING WITH THE DIFFICULTIES. THE TRUTH IS OUR SAVIOUR MIGHT BE A SINKING SHIP. THE MAJORITY OF THE CONGREGATION IS ANTAGONISTIC TOWARD THE DIOCESE AND THE BISHOP. WHEN I HEAR ABOUT PEOPLE’S PAIN WITH THE CHURCH, SUCH AS B'S POWERFUL REFLECTION FROM LAST WEEK, I DON’T WANT TO RUN AWAY, I WANT TO GET INTO IT. THIS REMINDS ME OF WHEN MY WIFE AND I HAVE AN ARGUMENT. TEMPERS FLARE AND VOICES RAISE, BUT WE WORK IT OUT. WE KNOW THAT IT WILL TURN OUT O.K. BECAUSE WE ARE COMMITTED TO EACH OTHER, BUT FOR NOW WE HAVE TO AIR ALL THIS JUNK. LIKEWISE, I PRAY FOR THE CONTINUED COMMITMENT OF THE CHURCH TO ITSELF, WHILE WE AIR ALL OUR JUNK.

THIS NOTION OF AN ARGUMENT IS ALSO A USEFUL METAPHOR FOR DISCERNMENT. I HAVE AN IDEA OF WHO I AM AND WHAT I AM CALLED TO BE. THE CHURCH IS GOING TO ARGUE WITH ME ON THAT POINT TO TEST MY ASSUMPTIONS AND CONCLUSIONS. AN ARGUMENT IS A DEBATE ABOUT THE VALIDITY OF SOMETHING. THE CHURCH AND I ARE NOT ARGUING THAT GOD IS CALLING ME, THIS WAS SETTLED AT MY BAPTISM. THE CHURCH AND I ARE SUSSING OUT WHERE THAT CALL IS.

THIS PROCESS HAS BEEN ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT TIMES OF MY LIFE. I STARTED THIS WANTING DESPERATELY TO BE A PRIEST. NOW, I AM BENIGNLY INDIFFERENT TO THE OUTCOME; WHAT A CHANGE IN JUST A FEW MONTHS! I STILL THINK I AM CALLED TO THE PRIESTHOOD, BUT I KNOW GOD WILL USE ME REGARDLESS OF THE RECOMMENDATION I RECEIVE. THIS KNOWING IS NOT SIMPLY AN INTELLECTUAL KNOWING, IT IS AN EXPERIENTIAL KNOWING, A DEEP KNOWING; GOD IS AND WILL CONTINUE TO CALL ME TO HIS SERVICE. I COUNT EACH PERSON IN THE GROUP AS MY FRIEND, EVEN P; AND I PRAY THAT GOD’S WILL BE HAPPILY DONE IN ALL OUR LIVES.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ready for yes?

I've been spending the last several weeks preparing for a no from the discernment commitee. I'm very comfortable with the idea of a no. But what about a yes?

Last week I was playing banjo with Atlanta's former bishop, Frank Allen. He asked me how I felt about the process, I said it was a very positive experience. He said if I've gotten something out of it then I'd probably get a yes.

A yes?

This has been freaking me out lately, a no is more comfortable. No means the seen, the known. A yes...

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Meditation

Notes on a meditation delivered 10/7/07

Hab. 2:1-4
Psalm 37
2 Tim 1:1-14

Father B. has asked me to give my thoughts on today's readings. As all the members of Our Saviour know, when J. B. asks you to do something, you do it.(cheesy toast masters opening)

Most of you know that I am an aspirant to the priesthood. And that I am in the discernment process for that decision. This is both true and false. True, I am discerning a call to the priesthood and the church is helping me with that decision. But false in the sense that God is only calling me to the priesthood. God is calling me. Period. God is calling you as well. As for discernment, the discernment process is a formal process the diocese has developed as a getting to know you time. Also getting to know yourself, which has been invaluable to my personal development.

But discernment isn't for priestly wanna-bes. One glance at today's readings gives us a nice outline as to the nature of how we should all discern God's call. Habukkuk, urges intention and patience: "I will keep watch to see what He will say to me."-Please know that God is calling you, even if you don't want to hear it.
"If it seems to tarry wait for it, it will surely come, it will not delay"-God's call means God's time. This also implicitly means that we don't know the hour of God's call, for further readings on God's surprises see the entire Bible.

Today's Psalm, 37, gives some of the most useful and practical advice found anywhere, "Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently before him." God doesn't say be ansy before the Lord.Check your watch, and clear your throat before the Lord your God! Doesn't sound the same, does it? Once you begin discerning God's call, be still. If that's not enough, the Pslamist goes on to say "Do not fret-it leads only to evil." Does this require any explaination? "Do not fret-it only leads to evil."

So we have our intention of listening to God, waiting for Him, and how to wait, relaxed. Finally in today's Epistle Paul reminds us that "God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline." This what the Holy spirit gave us at Pentacost and we should put that spirit of power, love, and self-discipline to good use while we listen to what the Holy Spirit is giving us. Thank you.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Final Questions

Here are my responses to the final questions given to the Discernment group. We were asked to write from the perspective of our leaders, I sort of did that. The names have been initializes to protect the innocent. The questions are speculative, the answers are likewise, this is not a record.

(1) You have received a yes – describe your feelings, what your leaders will say are the reasons and what happens after you leave the room.

If I receive a yes, I think I will feel satisfaction that the Church has confirmed my call. I will also feel relief that I wasn’t deluding myself when I first received the message to seek the priesthood. It feels good to be confirmed in such a faith-filled decision. Closely following the relief and satisfaction will likely be anxiety. While I have worked hard on my anxiety, it will be difficult to not feel anxious at the prospect of the huge changes that will occur in my life and my family’s life. With a yes comes three or more years of graduate school, selling a house, moving, securing new employment for, B, my wife, etc. This is daunting. But B and I have stepped out on faith; we know the way will be hard. The busyness of the discernment process has tested our marriage and we have found it to be exceedingly strong. We’ve adopted a motto: We can do hard. It means that we can handle stress and adversity because we value our family and each other’s ministries.

I think P and N (the group leaders)will confirm my call for several reasons. First is that, as stated above, I have strong support with my wife and family. This security will be invaluable as I develop my ministry and step out into a new domain.

Also, I think that P and N will have seen that I am open to discernment as a whole. The discernment process that the diocese has designed has been a wonderful experience but I have recognized that true discernment doesn’t stop with a yes or a no. My discernment will continue. It is this recognition of continual searching within, always trying to unpack the motives and feelings behind my words and choices, asking, “Where is God in this?” that is a good quality for a priest. I hope P and N, and all the others I have encountered in this process see that I have not shied away from the difficult work of digging up my dirt. It’s been ugly at times, sublime at others and I am committed to the ongoing process of discernment.

Finally, and most simply, P and N will have seen that I am a good listener, a good quality for a priest. I think that I am empathetic but without undue attachment or judgment to what is being said. I have a clear sense of boundaries already from my job as a teacher that I think will translate well to the priesthood. I have always worked closely with people and feel at ease in conversation and engagement.

After I meet with P and N I imagine I will sit in my car for a little while and try to let the news sink in. I will then call my wife and give her the news. I expect her to have a similar reaction to mine, excitement tempered heavily with the reality of what comes next: total life change. On the drive back to Fayetteville I suppose I will listen to Led Zeppelin, “Misty Mountain Hop” very loud, then call my mom.


2.) You have received a no - describe your feelings, what your leaders will say are the reasons, and what happens after you leave the room.

If I receive a no, I think I will feel some disappointment at first. This will not be crushing disappointment because I have been preparing myself for the possibility of a no answer. Some confusion is sure to follow, “If the Church doesn’t support my call to the priesthood, will it help me find my true vocation?” I think I might even feel some excitement with a no. Excitement because I have faithfully stepped out with God, the Church sees me somewhere else, but I have freedom to go where God calls me because my faithful step still stands. I was and am prepared to change my life completely for a life dedicated to God and His people and will continue to listen for God’s call in my life.

I may have received a no for a few reasons. One reason might be that P and N don’t think I’m focused enough for the ordained ministry. I think that they might say that I have shown great dedication and focus during the discernment process, but they’d like to see more focus in my life in the Church. Perhaps they might ask me to try again in a few years in which time I might finish EfM and my tenure with the vestry.

Another reason might be that P and N feel that my family is too young. Perhaps I should wait until my children are both in school full time to seek the priesthood again.

Maybe P and N think that I should continue the inner work begun by the discernment process. P might reiterate his urging to get into therapy. There still might be some junk inside of me that P and N think I should uncover. (I fully intend to get therapy after the decision whether I get a yes or a no. I have been talking to P N, a seminarian, who is in therapy; she has given me tips on how to get a therapist and how to get my insurance company to help pay for it.)

After the meeting I will heartily thank P and N for their insights both today and over the last two months. I will go to my car and sit for few minutes then call my wife. I think her response will be similar to mine because we have talked about this process and the possibility of a no throughout. I will not likely call anyone else, save my parents and priest, for a few days. Not because I am ashamed but because I think some people would feel incumbent to offer me their condolences. These would be those relatives who just haven’t gotten it, no matter how patiently I’ve outlined what discernment is.


(3) It is three months later, you have made some sense of the recommendation and moved on. What will you take with you from this process? Where is the Grace?

Three months later, I finally sold my first story to The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy! An odd by-product of the discernment process is that I can write stories now. I think it was the constant calling into question motivations and getting seriously in touch with feelings, all the makings of a good story.

It is the techniques of self knowledge that I will take with me. Technique is a big word for what amounts to repeatedly asking yourself, “Where’s that coming from?” and “Keep going.” or “What’s that mean?” My life and spirit have been greatly enriched by these simple questions that help me to be honest with myself.

Ultimately the self honesty is where the grace is. When I am honest with myself, I am honest with God also. This is my own little definition of the “poor in spirit.”

Three months later and beyond, I am secure in God’s call to me and I delight in the freedom of my surrender to Him.

Lectio 10/4/07 Frank's Feast day, love dem doggies!

Here are today's readings:

Galatians 6:14-18
Matthew 11:25-30
Psalm 148:7-14 or
Psalm 121

Lectio overly simplified: Read the texts, silence (what is speaking to you?), read one passage that calls to you (what is speaking to you?), find one word in that passage that sums what you think the passages are saying. Meditate with that word, ruminate. Ruminate is a word monks use when discribing Lectio, ruminate, like a cow, chew on the word.

Psalm: The Lord is your keeper- recall Cain and Abel
Gal:A new creation is everything-God is eternally doing new things, eternal=no time=no time like the present=no past or future, only now=God is now and new.
Matt:my yoke is easy, my burden is light-really? I thought the way was narrow. Maybe the burden is easy because we have the chance to lay down our baggage. Or maybe the burden is light because there is nothing that we must pick up, we don't learn new things in this new spirituality, we unlearn, see Anthony Demello.

Lectio word:yoke,easy

Reflection: Funny things about lectio for me, and I'd like to get some input on this especially those who meditate, is that Lectio in turns is contemplative i.e. not much thought, and affective, as in dealing with feelings. I'd like to think about this affective style. In contemplative prayer and meditation books affective meditaion is maligned, but I see it differently. Our feeling life is so skewed, so conditioned that I think it is a good idea to explore feelings surrounding God. At times it seems that we want to be stoical zenlike christians. Well, I think the spirit has two sides: one that is still and receptive and another that is fiery and prophetic, emotional. I hope this gets some discussion going, I especially think this will getm a response from SEC.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Clarity and Perspective

Sometimes the Holy Spirit is so direct in its message that even I catch on. This past week had an undeniable theme of perspective on my discernment, getting it and holding it. Three events offered me the most potent experiences of gaining perspective: my fall break starting, my assignment of the week at Our Saviour, and a family gathering.

I am fortunate enough to work at a school with a year round schedule. Year round simply means that we work on a quarter system, so we are on for nine weeks and off for three, with a seven week summer. That comes out to sixteen weeks of vacation a year, I only mention this because, once in group, we were asked what we would be giving up if we became priests, I’d be giving up a lot of time off. Also, at my school, I am the sole teacher for twenty-three students from age 9-12. I teach every subject and assist with some electives such as music and French. The students at my school run the gamut of abilities and behaviors. It is a full time job, very intense, no breaks during the day, and I love it…most of the time.

When the nine week quarter is over, my well has run dry; especially so this time with the added business of my parish placement and the reflection groups. So it was this week, on Friday, that I just sat at the dinner table and reveled in my genius daughter’s creative use of the English language, and my son’s ability to eat everything put in front of him. I felt like a drained battery being charged. I felt in that moment that God was telling me to “Sit and enjoy what is around you, taste and see the Glory of the Lord.” Glory be to God. My family is my first and last ministry. Perspective.

Singing in the choir at Our Saviour this week also allowed me to see my discernment from a different perspective, this time literally. Singing in the choir was at times hectic, shuffling papers, trying to keep up. But it was also profound: leading the chants and hymns gave me some special insight into the importance of music in liturgy. But it was the seating arrangement that made me literally look at the service of the Word and Sacraments in a new way. The choir was truly behind the scenes. The service was not directed at us, we were the service, at least part of it.

Being a transient member of the choir, with its intensive rehearsals, allowed me reflect on the discernment process. This process is a true discernment for me. It’s hard work, not just the meetings and responsibilities, but the questions, the feedback, the psychic muckraking that is all too illuminating. It’s exhausting. The amount of work is akin to how much the choir rehearses for a given mass, which might have upwards of 30 people to hear it. My point is that discernment, like singing in the choir for the members, is a kind of ministry. Maybe ministry is too strong a word, for something that is so self-directed, but being radically honest with yourself and God seems, these days, to be a heroic act. Whether I get a yes or no is now no longer my greatest concern. However, making sure I continue my discernment after the discernment process is now my chief aim.

Finally, I gained a great deal of perspective on how my family sees my “church stuff.” Now, first I would like to say that I am talking about my extended family, not my parents. I’ve had some wonderful conversations with my parents lately about my faith, the Episcopal Church, tradition, and the priesthood.

I had the opportunity to discuss discernment at a family gathering to welcome the newest member to our clan, Ellie. She was just adopted by my cousin and her husband. We all got together at my parent’s house, there were 26 of us. Many cousins, aunts, and uncles asked polite questions about, “When I would be in the ministry.” My smart ass Episcopal answer was, “I’m already in the ministry and so are you.” This actually allowed me to explain the Episcopal belief of the four orders of ministry. I didn’t give them the catechism, but I wanted them to know that priests are one type of minister.

I got several people’s attention when I was asked why I need the Church’s authority on my decision. I said that the Church is the Body of Christ and we Episcopalians take that very seriously. The Church, of which I am a part, needs priests, I think I am called to that role, but it is my community’s decision, not mine. I think this ruffled some of the Baptist feathers. Having someone other than God determine your ministry? Surprisingly, this is an unusual concept to them, seeing how Baptists are staunchly congregational, that a community decision would be so hard to bear.

Trying to convey the idea of a process of discernment was sometimes difficult, especially to people who fundamentally see Christianity as a one time decision. This brings up a memory of one of my college professors, who, when asked if he was saved, he answered, “Sometimes.” I might answer, “Everyday.” Discernment, like Christianity, is a relationship that is renewed each day. In discernment, it is a relationship with ourselves and truth so that we may clearly hear God’s voice. As I talked with my family, I felt a great deal of support for my endeavor, they didn’t understand it all, but they do support me.

Discernment is a lens that we look through at ourselves and our life. At times it feels like Alice Through the Looking Glass: all is in question, nothing is what it seems, and everything is pregnant with meaning. In my spiritual autobiography I recounted the story of my baptism. I was eleven and had a true Baptist style full immersion baptism. During the baptism I lost my footing, capsized, water shot up my nose, and I gasped for breath upon surfacing, the echo of which carried through the large church. Not what I had expected. It’s been a similar experience with my discernment; it’s a topsy turvy ride. I think this is proof that God is at work through all this, God is in the shaking up business, I find this oddly, yet infinitely comforting.

Friday, September 28, 2007

On becoming...

In the group meetings, just enough space is given for you to talk and talk and talk. It's in these times that I surprise myself with what's really going on between my ears. I was talking about how now that the formal discernment process is drawing to a close I feel completely at peace with whatever decision is made, whether:yes priest or no priest. I really mean this.

In the middle of all this I said,"My main concern is not whether I become a priest or not it's whether I stay with God." The priest who leads us said, "And where is God going?" My answer, it felt sort of zen, because I wasn't really thinking and hadn't had this thought before; I said,"God is going nowhere, it's me who is flitting around all the time,always trying to become something else, exploit whatever is in front of me." Becoming is a damn trap, a rut.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Still livin'

I know I'm the only one who read this but...

Yeah, I've been busy. Who isn't? But I've been so busy that almost everything that I've been doing felt like work, the bad kind. The fall break has started and that is a wondreful thing. It's amazing, two days ago i felt disconeected, "not enough butter on too much bread" as Bilbo would say. Now, with one good night of watching pointless t.v. and a good night's rest, I feel great. The next few weeks will still be busy with my parish placement. Look for my notes on a meditation that I will deliver, it's not a sermon. Also, I've got ideas to put down on how I'm dealing with all this. Post a comment if you read this.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Reflection #3

On Sunday, September 2, I was the chalice bearer at Our Saviour for both the 8:30 and 11:00 services. I have been a Lay Eucharistic Minister for over a year at my home church, so being a LEM at Our Saviour was no big deal to me. What I was nervous about were the motions: bowing, genuflecting, kneeling, and the proper times and durations for all of the above. Normally, these concerns are minor since I am in the congregation; but this time, I was up front for all to see. To be sure, I made some errors but I just tried to roll with my mistakes and not let the mechanics of the service take over my worship of God.
As I served the sacrament, I began to feel extremely connected to the people I was serving. It would be hard for me, who is prone to exaggeration, to overstate how deeply numinous this moment of service was. I have administered the sacrament dozens of times, even to my friends and family, but I’ve never felt this kind of intimacy before. It was utterly humbling. Humbling because it seems beyond audacity that I should offer the sacrament, an outward and visible sign of God’s grace; but Jesus himself instituted the Eucharist, and here I was to help in its celebration. This seemed the perfect Christian paradox, the one offering the gift is brought low. I felt inextricably bound to the moment at hand and to the people with me. There was a strong sense of trust as well.
Considering our group conversation last week about how priests get fed spiritually, I thought that intimacy and humility might be one answer. The server this past Sunday was definitely served. There are myriad scriptural references for this idea of the first being last and honor being given to the one who serves. But the actual experience of humility as a gift has been inspiring, and I suspect that my personal view of the Eucharist has been changed forever.
With my experience of intimacy and humility, I happened upon an old prejudice that I’d like to explore. Formerly, I had considered traditional conceptions of liturgy, stodgy at best, and hopelessly cold and unfeeling at worst. I know now that those thoughts were wrong and unfounded. I’ve been working hard, through my parish placement, to eschew my automatic suspicion of the traditional. In fact, I’m beginning to see that what I once saw as “my liturgy” can, at times, feel too familiar, and not offer any real challenge. The parishioners at Our Saviour, on the other hand, while older and using archaic language may be among the most passionate in the diocese. Perhaps this added to my feeling of humility, the Eucharist is vividly real for these people and by extension for me. The gravity of what I was participating in dawned on me and I was virtually driven to silence.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Reflection #2

I'm not going to post this week's reflecction because of some confidentiality issues. Suffice to say, it's been interesting. Don't worry, I'm back in the states and just a little banged up. More to follow.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Reflection Group

Had my first reflection group last night. Thankfully it was very constructive and helpful. Lots of respect in the group. Found out I'm not supposed to preach, bummer. Maybe I can lead a class or something. I need to get started on my next reflection. I'm thinking about writing about the neighborhood church. Our Saviour is trying to make theirs a neighborhood church but struggling. I've always been a part of suburban churches, where community is chosen, not by default geography.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

You're it...

When my daughter was within a few days of being born, it finally dawned on me that I was the person who would be the dad. Sounds silly I know. But, I wasn't going to improve dramatically, or mature in the next few days and become an adult super-dad. I'm it, this is what a dad looks like.

I think it's the same for everybody. God calls us to our various vocations and that's it. God doesn't what us to improve ourselves then follow. God wants us to simply follow.

When Jesus called the first disciples he said "Follow me." And they did, they literally dropped what they were doing and followed. Imagine if Jesus said "Follow me, but after you've lost that spare tire, and sussed out your theology, and clean the kichen too." I think I actually would prefer that, because then I'd never have to actually get around to seeing what God wants me to be doing.

You're it, we're it, God bless us, we're not going to change all that much on our own.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hittin' the Pub

Last night I met with my parish placement supervisor, Father John Bolton. We ate in pub in Virginia Highlands. He outlined some things he wants me to do: reading this week, chalice bearing next week, and preaching in September! I'll be posting the reading and the beginning of my meditations soon.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Reflection #1-final draft

This is what I eventually sent to the PTBs. Thanks to those who offered suggestions and questions, it helped alot.

Sunday, August 19th was my first official Sunday at Our Saviour. I went to both the 8:30 and 11:00 services. The 8:30 Eucharist was Rite I with language and rubrics from the 1928 Prayer Book. The 11:00 service was Rite II with language from Rite I. Both masses were sung and had incense. I come from very informal, sometimes even charismatic, low churches and I’ve actually never been to a Rite I service.
The 8:30 service aroused in me a feeling of distance. I felt distanced from my fellow worshippers, my clergy, even God. The language was beautiful and pregnant with meaning, but the overall feel of the service left me cold. I was present intellectually, but I didn’t feel like I was a part of the worship experience. The 11:00 service stood in stark contrast to the 8:30; it was intimate, dynamic, and participatory. I left the 11:00 service feeling like “I’d been to church.”
So, why these widely varying experiences? What is being stirred up? A realization, that I’m certain is late coming, dawned on me that I’m partial to the form of worship that I’m used to. I talked with many parishioners after both services and the consensus seemed to be that whatever liturgy anyone had grown up with or first encountered was what the Church should properly be doing. Much to my belated surprise I am not immune to this attachment to liturgy.
As I’ve stated, I come from low churches, but these were also very liberal churches. In conversation at those churches, much is said, in a pitying tone, about conservatives in the church and how they need to “get over it” and “get with the times.” I now realize that I’m just another Episcopalian who is reluctant to see “my liturgy” change. For me, this is a great lesson for my discernment because it shows me that I need to be more sensitive to other people who feel threatened by the church’s changing liturgies and practices. This will be important if I become a priest because there will likely be a new prayer book in the next 30 years or so and I will have to guide people through that change.
For this issue, Mark 2:27 keeps leaping to mind, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” Here, this passage seems to be saying that liturgy was made for us, not vice versa. We must not confuse the worship for the worshipped. Liturgies change precisely because they are for us, it is important for liturgies to change because they stretch us to new directions and understandings about God. But each person is set in time; C.S. Lewis called this “chronological snobbishness”, the idea that our time, the age in which we live, is the most important time. Of course our Anglican history is nothing if not a history of change and resistance to that change
A few years ago I went to a ministry fair and took a class on discernment from John Westerhoff. He talked at great length about consolation and desolation. He was clear that desolation was our own doing; God cannot be removed from our lives. I think that this idea of desolation has to do with this issue of liturgy because, while the language and rubrics might feel strange and unfamiliar, it is still worship. If I’m “not getting it” that’s my own lack of engagement, not the liturgy’s fault. I’m left with the question though: why do I find it easy to see God in the familiar and not in the archaic and novel, when the Bible shows time and again that God works in the unfamiliar and seemingly useless?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Notes on Sola Scriptura

Primiliminary notes:

1st Tim: 3:15 "the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of truth."

Acts 15, a scene of group discernment.

What came first, the New Testament or the Church?

The Scriptures grew out of the Church. This was a revelation for me as a born Baptist.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Theological reflections

I want to use this blog as a gathering place for my friends and family to help me work through a difficult part of the discernment process. Starting this Sunday I will begin my parish placement. I need to reflect on my experiences there on a weekly basis. Specifically, I have been instructed to reflect on what emotions were stirred up, they give sadness, anxiety, and anger as examples, then I am to do a theological reflection on the event. A theological reflection is a way to engage in processing an issue through the lens of one's spiritual tradition.

I hope to post each TR on Sunday night to the blog which will give two days for comments and input before I have to send it to my group leaders on Tuesday.

Thanks in advance for your prayers and support.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A psychology of transformation

I had a conversation with my priest tonight, Mother Rita, www.motherritasmusings.blogspot.com, we talked about my frustration in talking with psychologists and others whereby my personality type, ENFP on the Myers-Briggs scale, was used repeatedly to explain all manners of my behavior. Now it is my experience, and reading of many mystcs, Christian, Zen, and Vedanta, that the personality is a shell, a narrow tube which we mediate experience through. A relationship with God has a way of transforming that narrow view. Spirituality is always a process of unlearning the narrowness that our conditioning and ourselves have set upon us. I invite any comments...

Reading

I'm reading two very different books right now: Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom. This book is enlightening because it talks about prayer in ways I've never thought of. Less words and practice than orientation of the mind. More on this one as I digest it.

I'm also reading The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. High fantasy at its best. I think this book might be better than Tolkien jsut because Jordan might be a better writer. I'm always fascinated by people who create worlds. The fan base for the Wheel of Time books is rabid, I read an article (http://www.forbes.com/2006/11/30/robert-jordan-illness-tech-media_cx_hc_books06_1201jordan.html) where a fan offered to donate bone marrow for his dibilitating disease.

The book is gripping, it uses alot of the fantasy tropes but in a new way that allows you to see them all anew.

A prayer

Holy One...I have nothing that I can hold...every grace of this life is from You...Thank You for this freedom...remain with me, so that I may cling not to the things of my world but enter your kingdom, daily, unencumbered...Amen

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sunday morning lectio (free associated)

Matt. 15:15-28

Pretty graphic imagery from Jesus here: Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth, enters the stomach and goes into the sewers?

But these beginning verses are actually an answer to his disciples about the Pharisees, how they defile with what they say. Here is Jesus in full critique mode, he is critical of the blind adherence to the Law. Specifically he is alluding to the dietary practices for holiness, while spreading evil in words.

The mouth being...what? The gate between the inner and outer life. James talks of the tongue as the rutter of a ship, very small but it controls the entire vessel. The mouth, metaphorically, is the gate of our inner life, Jesus is saying that what goes in that gate soon is in the sewer. But what comes out of that gate is murder, adultery etc.

Silence is a good medicine. One of the Church Fathers, his name escapes me said: I've often regretted speaking, but I've never regretted being silent. Or as Mark Twain puts it: It's better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

This is a problem I have, in the discernment meetings I just keep talking and talking. I get myself into trouble because I think I need to fill the space with my voice. The truth is I want to be still and quiet most of the time, my wife and co-workers would probably laugh at this notion. The meetings I've had are fundamentally artificial because of its structure: the one leading the group, with the power of decision, asking questions and waiting for responses. Then moving on to another question. Very little discourse. Conversation cannot happen when only one person is sharing themselves. I takes on a very extravegant feel, me sitting there and just vomitting all over the room...I need to watch that...