Thursday, September 18, 2008
Well, that's what I always thought the Tao taught. And that's my problem right now. There's lots inside my head, but nothing in my fingertips!
I did make terrible bruscetta last night. How does one mess up bruschetta?! I don't know, but I managed it.
Off to dinner out in town, maybe something will zing through me at the table and what's inside my head will gel into words on the page.
Monday, September 15, 2008
20It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death.
21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.
27Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 28and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. 29For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— 30since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
Without the benefit of historical analysis, we'll have to put off a discussion of what Paul meant by his "desire to depart." Was he ill? old? I can tell you that the majority of folks in my church on Sunday would say that he wanted to be with Christ for the End Days because this world is Evil.
But Oh! That first line: "...I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body..." Let us all speak with Boldness, believing that Christ is exalted through us!
Paul might prefer to die and live in Christ, but being Here and Now isn't such a bad thing. He doesn't whine or moan or talk about his bunions. He is convinced that he will remain in the flesh and continue to work for Christ with the people - sharing in their boasting of Jesus Christ. I tend to think about boasting about Christ as a particularly fundamentalist philosophy that forces the eschatology of Christ over the creation of Heaven on Earth.
It's the last paragraph that I like the most: put aside what is to come and LIVE NOW: stand firm in "one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel" and "in no way intimidated by your opponents." Be bold!
And now we're at the last line of the reading, and I would have to graciously disagree with Paul. I don't see where God says that we have "the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well." Yes, Jesus says, "Pick up your cross." But he doesn't say what that cross is, only we, as individuals, can say that. Yes, Jesus says that we must give up everything and follow him, but he doesn't ask us to suffer, just to follow. And, if in one place Jesus says that we must give up our families, in others he acts on behalf of suffering families: Mary, Martha & Lazarus, Jairus' daughter, the Syro-Phoenician woman...which speak loauder? Actions or words? Paul has just told us to "live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ." Not to read or to write our lives but to LIVE them.
Friday, September 05, 2008
Just as we are many people called to worship through one prayer book so might we be many people called to one ordination process. As I make the rituals and prayers of the Book of Common Prayer my own, might I not also make the ordination process my own?
Here’s where the analogy breaks down: We are called the People of the Book. Everything we do, as the people of God, on a Sunday morning is written in that book. I was once told that I could pray in any way I wanted on a Sunday morning, as long as the whole congregation had the same prayer in their hands. It is our communal actions in worship that define us as a community.
The ordination process is hidden. Its rubrics are only seen by the chosen few. We as followers can’t make ourselves in its image because we can’t see the image – we can’t even imagine the image. To hide the process away, like pre-Vatican II priests turned away from the congregation, creates a hocus pocus effect on the transformative nature of the Sacrament of Ordination.
After a year of worshiping in a non-denominational chapel, I know the value of knowing what comes next. The Book of Common Prayer is the skeleton that allows us freedom of movement. Wouldn’t it make sense that the ordination process be the same?
I love that gospel hymn. We used to sing it on Wednesday evenings at St Patrick's. I love it because it is so simple and yet confounding. At first it seems an invitation to play (at least to these beach-raised ears), but why invite someone into troubled waters? When I sing it, not very often anymore, I find it tantalizing. Where are the waters that are still that will be troubled? All around me? My home life often seems still, or like a river, fast-moving but smooth. Lakes, at least the lakes of my New England childhood, are dark on the bottom, and unknown, even as the surface is mirror-still. My church life has always had the assumption of the stillness of a large lake - it's so large that nothing can stir it up too much.
For the past 13 years the reality of my life, home and church together, has resembled nothing so much as the ocean. We move often, change the pieces a bit: where we worship, where we learn, what we eat, like waves constantly on the shoreline. Sometimes a neap tide sweeps out and leaves what we thought to be hidden, airholes and slime trails and the imprints of waves. As a child I spent summer nights in a boathouse, where the river met the Atlantic. Spring tides, the opposite of a neap tide, would wash right up to the foundation, to the base boards! The house would rock, gently, secured in it's concrete moorings. On those sticky summer nights the spring tide felt gentle and soothing, certainly not troubling! But most frequently, the waves are just there, rolling in and rolling out.
Surely we know where this analogy is leading? Neap and Spring tides are a constant, occurring month in and month out. But hurricanes are out of the ordinary. The waves of a hurricane break foundations and change shorelines, both under the water and at the water's edge, forever. My beloved clapboard St Patrick's, where I first learned that God invites us into the water and invites us into the trouble, was washed away by a hurricane.
I don't want to speak for the people of St Patrick's, as by the time of their trouble, we had already moved on - the current of Navy life taking us away. But from afar, the troubled waters of Katrina, of homelessness, of government ineptitude were what showed that the foundations of the community of St Patrick's are solid, drilled deep in the sub-strata, and while shaken, unbroken.
In community, we all live in waters that can be troubled: by the policies of our government, the choices of our church leadership, the actions of our neighbors.
But what about as individuals? A few weeks ago the Gospel lesson from Matthew showed Peter stepping out on the smooth water, to be like the apparently calm Jesus. Peter steps out and the waters are troubled, he falters, and Jesus catches him. I'm not going to take the time to go into the normal exegesis of this passage. Rather, I was caught by the discussion at RevGalBlogPals about the troubling of the waters that occur when someone steps out of the boat. Peter steps out, towards Jesus yes, but away from his fellow fishermen. That rending of relationship causes waves. I'm not advocating NOT rocking the boat. I'm struck by the truth of the fact. We need the people who travel with us in our boats; in our boats we can weather the troubling waters.
Church people get this, on many levels. I've sat in many churches, particularly those on the eastern shore, whose ribbed naves (the very word means ship!) mirror the boats at rest in the harbor. Church people believe in communal worship and fellowship "to give us strength and courage to do the work You have given us to do." BCP p. 365 In the tradition of the social gospel, being together in worship allows us to walk into the waters of the troubled world and be the change that troubles complacency.
The Episcopal Church takes the water analogy even further. The Episcopal Church encompasses many people who are called into worship through the Book of Common Prayer. It is our communal actions in worship that define us. I was once told that I could pray anything I wanted, as long as all the congregants had the same prayer in front of them. We believe that we are made members of the family of God at baptism. We are the one member of the Anglican Communion that creates a covenant with each member at baptism. Baptism transforms us from ordinary individuals into the body of Christ, able and affirmed to do Christ's work in the world. The rubrics of our prayer book instruct that when a priest baptizes, it must be with the whole congregation as witnesses. Only in extreme need may we baptize in private. Everyone in the congregation repeats the baptismal vows together, and we repeat them again at Easter. Each time we repeat them, we firm up our boat a little more. And we compel that boat further out into the waters of the world.
My own little boat seems to be leaking a bit. I haven't had the gracious good fortune to share in a baptism or repeat my covenant at Easter in a long while. I am not buoyed enough to brave the troubled waters of our society, nor am I brave enough to delve into my own complacency.
Lord, help me to find the waters that I can wade in and be with me in troubling.