Friday, October 31, 2008
From "Saint Patrick's Breastplate"
So after I made my entry Tuesday night I IMed a lot of people who I didn't tag in it because I wanted them to read it. One of them replied, "Just remember, you don't have to be ordained to still do God's work." And he was right. I don't have to be ordained to do God's work. I do, however, have to be ordained to do what I think I'm called to do. When I replied with that he said, "Yeah, but it's not about you, remember it's about God." Fr. Jeff's conversation with me on Tuesday has been a good exercise all around. Wednesday I had a great conversation with Taylor Burton-Edwards about it that conversation and about ordination. He asked me a couple of questions that I had to answer "no" to. "Is you connection to The Episcopal Church based on the presumption that they will ordain you to the priesthood?" and "Is your connection to the Christian faith predicated on being recognized as a priest by someone?" There was another question, but I want to more fully explore my answers to those two before I move on to the third, because the third really made me think about my call into ordained ministry, and what it means, and what it entails. (Preview: It was affirming of my perception of call)
My connection to The Episcopal Church is based on the common worship of the church and the sacramental centrality of the denomination as a whole. Weekly Eucharist is a big part of that, but as I've spent more time examining the Church (both as a member and prior to my confirmation), the importance of baptism- throughout the Church (as opposed to just at the national level) - and the emphasis on living the Baptismal Covenant have been further attractions to me. That the Episcopal Church nationally is more socially liberal than the church of which I was a part also drew me. There were some things about ordination that drew me to TEC: transitional diaconate, not a three year probationary period, people being able to answer questions about the steps, a willingness to work with my being a student, remember that I am a student, and that "social justice" isn't a phrase of bad words to ecclesiastical bodies in my region of the country.
My connection to the Christian faith is not predicated on my being recognized as a presbyter in some expression of Christianity. While I believe that I am called to that kind of ministry and have gotten affirmation from a variety of other types of discernment groups, that is not why I am a Christian. I am a Christian in large part because I was raised in the South in a Christian family. I have never really had a "Why do I believe this?" moment in large part because I know it's mostly predicated on my having been born into it. However, as I have grown up and come to claim it for my own, I know that it is what works for me. I am not a Christian because I want to not go to Hell after I die (I don't really believe in a hell of fire and darkness with wailing and gnashing of teeth; I think hell just as much as heaven can be here and now). I am a Christian because I believe Jesus was the Son of God who came to take away the sin of the world, and in doing so liberated us from sin and death. The Church was right to label Pelagius as a heretic; we cannot save ourselves. I am a Christian because I believe that accepting the grace God has given us frees us from having to live with Law - new or old - and that Law makes us aware of our need for God's grace and redemption. Furthermore, living in grace enables us to submit to Christ and to be honest about who we are with ourselves and others; behavior modification to please ourselves and others is not necessary if we're able to be truthful about our need. A truthfulness about our need for grace enables us to accept the grace and live lives of freedom.
And there was a third question the led to a whole lot of discussion. "How will you continue to fulfill the fullness of the baptismal calling in the more limited strictures of the priesthood [assuming the commission says yes the whole way through the process]?" He continued, "Priesthood can be understood either as a place of honor (being the center of congregational attention) or as a place of marginalization (being put off to the side, really, and inviting the community to join you in marginalization)...of the kingdom of God." I did a little thinking and I answered. As a priest I would continue to my best to live the Baptismal Covenant but by the grace of God and the authority given by Her Church invite and encourage the people to do the same while reminding them of their commitment to do just that as I preach the Gospel. Also, by the grace of God and the authority of Her Church make means of grace available to them that encourage and strengthen them into living into the marginalized place of the Kin-dom of God that is here and now and countercultural and revolutionary to the systems that be. If ordained a priest I will do my part to live the Baptismal Covenant and lead by example, but also baptize people into Christ's Body (that is past, present, and future), which gives the gift of the Holy Spirit and seals someone as Christ's own forever; reconcile penitents to one another, the Church, and God, which restores the soul to peace and the mind so that it might continue to function at ease; feeding them the most precious Body and Blood of Christ to nourish their souls and bodies; anointing the sick so that they might be healed, physically, mentally, or spiritually.
Earlier this week I wrote an entry titled, "What If..." Well, here is my answer to "What If..."
If the Commission on Ministry says, "No," I will, with God's help:
- still believe in God the Father
- still believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God
- still believe in God the Holy Spirit
- still continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers
- still persevere in resisting evil, and whenever I fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord
- still proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ
- still seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving my neighbor as myself
- still strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
O young and fearless Prophet of ancient Galilee,
Thy life is still a summons to serve humanity;
To make our thoughts and actions less prone to please the crowd,
To stand with humble courage for truth with hearts uncowed.
We marvel at the purpose that held Thee to Thy course
While ever on the hilltop before Thee loomed the cross;
Thy steadfast face set forward where love and duty shone,
While we betray so quickly and leave Thee there alone.
O help us stand unswerving against war’s bloody way,
Where hate and lust and falsehood hold back Christ’s holy sway;
Forbid false love of country that blinds us to His call,
Who lifts above the nations the unity of all.
Stir up in us a protest against our greed for wealth,
While others starve and hunger and plead for work and health;
Where homes with little children cry out for lack of bread,
Who live their years sore burdened beneath a gloomy dread.
Create in us the splendor that dawns when hearts are kind,
That knows not race nor station as boundaries of the mind;
That learns to value beauty, in heart, or brain, or soul,
And longs to bind God’s children into one perfect whole.
O young and fearless Prophet, we need Thy presence here,
Amid our pride and glory to see Thy face appear;
Once more to hear Thy challenge above our noisy day,
Again to lead us forward along God’s holy way.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Now, for an update. At some point this evening I recalled a line from a phrase that stuck out to me this weekend. This is from page 369 of the Book of Common Prayer:
We pray you, Gracious God, to send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant. Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In the fullness of time, put all things in subjection under your Christ, and bring us to that heavenly country where, with all your saints, we may enter the everlasting heritage of your sons and daughters; through Jesus Christ our Lord, the firstborn of all creation, the head of the Church, and the author of our salvation...[emphasis added, and yes I dink'ed it for Tate and Erin]
"All things in subjection under your Christ." As much as I talk about the Lordship of Christ triumphing over all, I should have faith that Christ will certainly be in control of the discernment process - if it takes until the fullness of time for it to be so. I know that there are times that that doesn't happen, but I (we, beloved reading this who have dealt, are dealing with, or will deal with stubbornness from the Church (not necessarily saying that what I'll be dealing with)) will have to have faith that the Holy Spirit will be there. And we have to have hope, even after Good Friday moments.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise.
Then we talked about something that I've had in the back of my head for a while but haven't really fleshed out as an idea: The commission can say no. I've known that possibility for a while, and I haven't thought, "Oh, I have this in the bag!" But at the same time I haven't thought about what that would mean for the rest of my life, and it hit me in the face. It made me mad and hurt me. They haven't said no, but I was feeling things that I might feel. And I've worked through those emotions and am feeling a lot better now. Fr. Jeff asked if I'd be able to still love the Church if they said no. My answer was that I don't know. As I was driving away from the church I said to myself it'd be easier for me to love the Church if they said no now rather than two weeks before graduation. I think I'd be okay, now, though. I've dealt with emotions. If they say no I'll be mad. I'll think they're making a huge mistake (more about hello, I'm young, and most of the The Episcopal Church is not than I'm Joseph Effin' Mathews). I'll be hurt and wonder how I can have gotten so much affirmation from so many different people about my call for the last three years and then a few people after forty-five minutes can say, "They were all wrong. Your sense of call is wrong."
But I've worked through some emotions now. And I'm exhausted from it, but I'll be okay if they say no. It was much better for me to face this stuff today than if it happens next week. We're still hoping and praying that they say yes, and there are people praying for me all over the country about it. I'm sitting in my stupid IDS class and Dr. Volrath has been rambling for an hour and 20 minutes. For some reason the following came into my head, "For the beauty of the earth..." So I Googled it and got all the lyrics.
Here are some selected verses and the chorus:
For the beauty of the earth
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
This, our hymn of grateful praise
For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild.
For Thy Church, that evermore
Lifteth holy hands above,
Offering up on every shore
Her pure sacrifice of love.
For each perfect gift of Thine,
To our race so freely given,
Graces human and divine,
Flowers of earth and buds of Heaven.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise, this our hymn of grateful praise. It will be well with my soul, although that's not the hymn where I've found consolation. I've found it in thanksgiving for the gifts we have. I was at Cursillo this weekend and said, "Thanks be God" innumerable times. When I first started going to St. Luke I said that after the scripture readings, but it was because I'm supposed to. Now, after four or five years, I mean it. Every time I say it now I mean it. I don't often express enough gratitude to others (or God), but I do mean thanksgiving for scripture having been given to guide us. And I do completely understand that for much of today I've gotten worked up over something that might not actually happened. However if I do get told "no," I'll have had something of a practice run.
"For the love which from our birth, over and around us lies." I'll still be loved by God. And the people who tell me no will still be loved by God. And, if I practice the faith that I profess to believe, should still be loved by me.
"Friends on earth and friends above." If I get told no I'll still have friends. Friends around me in Troy, AL. Friends in Montgomery. Friends in CoMo, friends in B'ham, friends in San Francisco, friends in Nashville, friends in DC, friends in NYC, friends in White Sulpher Springs, WV, friends at Western Kentucky, friends at Candler, friends at Wesley, friends at Garrett, friends at Shennandoah University...and friends (and family!) throughout the communion of the saints (who we'll remember this week at church).
"Graces human and divine." If I'm told no, I do suppose that I'll still be able to love the Church. I'll be hurt, and sad, and angry, and maybe feel like I've not given a fair shot. But we're supposed to forgive as we've been forgiven, no?
Friday, October 17, 2008
I believe that Almighty God created all that is, seen and unseen.
I believe that the creation stories we have are myths to help us understand God’s acts in the history of the world.
I believe that something’s being myth can be True without being factual.
I believe in Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
I believe that Jesus Christ is the Word of God made flesh.
I believe in the Dominion of Christ, and that Christ makes the rules, and we do not.
I believe that we are to love everyone and let Christ sort us out.
I believe that Christ came to take way the Sin of the whole world, not just the two-leggeds, or the any-leggeds for that matter, and not just those who in this temporal life “decided to follow Christ.”
I believe that the Christ event altered all of history and that in the fullness of time all creation will be restored to right relationship with God and with itself as a result.
I believe that Christ was fully God and fully man, but that Christ’s being a man on earth doesn’t confine Christ to masculine-gendered language.
I believe that Christ was born of a virgin.
I believe that Christ died.
I believe in resurrection, but not always in the resurrection of Christ’s body.
I believe, that as an Easter person, resurrection is what is important to me, and that the resurrection of Christ’s body is not on what my faith hinges; there are forms of resurrection other than that of bodies.
I believe the Christ is now with the Almighty God as part of the One God, Holy and Triune.
I believe that the Holy Spirit is with us now, guiding us into the path of peace and the way Christ gave us as an example to live.
I believe that the Holy Spirit has always spoken to God’s people through humans, despite the frequent unwillingness of God’s people to hear God’s words, particularly when they are challenging the status quo.
I believe that God is still speaking through the Holy Spirit.
I believe that when Jesus told the disciplines he still had many things to tell them that they could not bear, he meant that the Spirit would always be with us revealing things that people of the past could not have been able to bear.
I believe that the Church, despite her many parts, is still one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.
I believe that as long as the Church professes Christ as Lord she is still one and catholic, regardless of local behaviors or practices.
I believe that apostolic faith has been passed through Scripture and Tradition and that apostolic succession is not necessary for the professing the faith of the apostles.
I believe that the apostles left ways for us to know their faith, such as scripture and documents pertaining to worship, without having to trace a lineage of laying on of hands.
I believe that the Church is holy, not by establishing a new law of do’s and don’ts for its member to follow, but by plunging into ministry on behalf of the world’s hurting ones and making the world a better place.
I believe that in baptism we are grafted onto the body of Christ, our sins – past, present, and future – are forgiven, and we are marked by and given the gift of the Holy Spirit.
I believe that in the fullness of time all that once was, is now, and is yet to come will be united with Christ in Christ’s return, when we will feast at the heavenly banquet together forever.
I believe that worship should be common. Common worship can hold bodies together when there are many divergent views of the Christian faith.
I believe that the work and worship of the Church cannot be separated, no matter how hard one tries to separate them.
I believe that the liturgy of the Church shapes the people and should enable them to fully live into the vows of their baptisms in the world.
I believe that the Creeds are of God and shape and fold Christ’s followers.
I believe that the music of the Church affects the way the people of the Church perceive God; if Unitarian songs are sung, the people’s concept of God will be Unitarian. If songs are bloody and about Christ's death, the people of God will focus on blood and death rather than resurrection. If songs are about our dying and going to heaven and not fixing this world, God's people will not work to fix this world.
I believe that the Church, through it’s proclamation of the word, its praying to the Triune God, its singing of the faith, and additional resources such as classes, Bible studies, retreats, and community building, should strengthen God’s people in making the world a better place.
I believe that the Church is to be welcoming and inclusive to all, but not tolerant of all things.
I believe that inclusion does not mean that there are no expectations from members of the Church and that accountability is not the same as exclusion.
I believe that the Church should speak when things are morally wrong, particularly on behalf of the marginalized and society’s voiceless, especially when civil government is perpetuating oppression
I believe that nationalism has no place in spaces set aside for Christian worship or in Christian worship.
I believe that Christians are resident aliens whose primary citizenship is in heaven.
I believe silence is tacit approval and that not objecting to the objectionable puts corporate and individual guilt on those who participate directly or indirectly in oppressive acts.
I believe that claiming a belief in Christ requires not just an intellectual assent, but also action that reflects that assent.
I believe that when the Gospel is separated from a community of faith, it ceases to be the Gospel of Christ.
I believe that being in community is messy and sometimes people get hurt, though injury should not be intentional. In addition to injuries forgiveness is part of part of being in community.
I believe that in the way God has forgiven us in our baptisms and we find forgiveness at the Eucharistic table, we are to forgive all wrongs done to us and to seek the forgiveness of others when we’ve done wrong.
I believe that the table is central to the Christian faith.
I believe that all tables where people gather together and make themselves vulnerable – from discussion groups to daily meals to the Eucharistic feast – are places of God’s presence and places where people grow closer to one another and to God.
I believe that there is a place at all tables for all kinds of people: young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight (and in-between), men, women (and in-between), just, unjust, bitchy, sweet, a multiplicity of racial identities.
I believe that they should not only be welcomed, but sought out – not as tokens but to enrich the perspectives of everyone present at the table and because we are all made in the image of the Most High God.
I believe that people should be safe to be themselves at the table, and that they should not feel like they have to pretend to be something else in discussion.
I believe, as an historian, that language is an excellent primary source and reflects traditions of the day in which it was spoken and written, and that original uses of terms about God are not the only ways by which God can be referred.
I believe in language that enables the people of God to understand God in the innumerable ways in which God can manifest Godself, gendered to reflect masculine and feminine images, gender-neutral to reflect God’s transcending gender, and any variety of images of metaphor so that God’s people can try to understand that which cannot be understood.
I believe that language is power, and that including different kinds of images enable more people to relate to God, and it is not merely being politically correct but seeking to make God more available to more people.
I believe that the Bible is the word of God and contains all things necessary for salvation, but that human beings - who are not God and as such are fallible - recorded God’s message.
I believe that the overarching them of the Bible is that God loves God’s people and has tried to show throughout history that God does.
I believe in following what Christ taught as literally as seems humanly possible, or even more than seems humanly possible.
I believe that watering down the Gospel to domesticate it and make it easier to live is exactly what Christ did not want to happen.
I believe in placing a higher emphasis on the Gospels and Christ’s life than on one-sided conversations between an apostle and a variety of churches whose circumstances and behaviors we cannot and do not fully know.
I believe that cultural context is necessary for understanding Truths that God wanted revealed to God’s people.
I believe that God loves us all as we are without condition, and that love and grace win over everything else.
I believe in loving God and loving others and that doing one requires the other.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Your Political Profile:
Overall: 20% Conservative, 80% Liberal
Social Issues: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Ethics: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Monday, October 13, 2008
Right now it's just some quotations taken from Mr. Will Green's Facebook page
"The Gospel of Christ knows no religion but social, no holiness but social holiness. You cannot be holy except as you are engaged in making the world a better place. You do not become holy by keeping yourself pure and clean from the world but by plunging into ministry on behalf of the world’s hurting ones." -John Wesley
Actually, just one. That one was my favorite, although all of them are good.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
A few weeks ago when I looked out the Wesley office door, someone was SITTING on the Altar. Consistently lately there are things (other than candles) being randomly left on it: music, binders, keys, etc. The next day I told Melissa that I wanted to make a sign to hang over it.
(In order for this sign to make sense, one has to understand the context of the Wesley's worship space. On Sundays at 4:00 we have CHURCH, which is Eucharistic and uses the hymnal. The altar lives in the middle of the room for that and we sit in a semi-circle in front of it. The ambo is to the right of the altar, standing behind it, and the font is right as you come in the main door. During the week, however, we have Praise and Worship at 7:00 on Wednesdays. To make room for the praise band and the projector and general nicknacks, we move the altar from the center of the room to a corner. It doesn't have as central a focus in that service.)
So, anyway I wanted to make a sign that said, "Keep your f------ s--- and a-- off the altar, please." Melissa said that if I changed my language some I was allowed to do it. I think changing the language defeats the emotion behind it; it has a specific purpose for which it has been set aside, and at the Troy Wesley I think we try to live into that. One of the things I noticed last night as I was locking up after ATO finished in the building is that I can see the altar as more of a holy thing in the space than when it had a lot of junk on it. Now I'm not talking about "music, keys, binders, etc." but rather a large bronze cross and a big KJV. As Br. John D. has said, the altar isn't a Bible rack. I really like the cross on the bookshelf and would be content if the large, open Bible was moved elsewhere, but I'm not ready to do it just yet. I like the colored fabric, a white piece of cloth, and two candles. The almost austere (more plain than cold, though) I think portrays it as being set apart - different and not a part of the busy-ness of every day American living. Just some thoughts
Finally if you're reading this and have left stuff on the altar, know that I am not angry with you. I'm actually in a really good mood right now. The charge from Dave Walker prompted me to write this and that provided fodder. Again, I'm not angry. This isn't even a rant. :) Just musings about the way that items and space affect how I connect with the Divine.