Thursday, August 12, 2010

Oases and Idols

Truthful I call him who goes into godless deserts, having broken his revering heart.  In the yellow sands, burned by the sun, he squints thirstily at the islands abounding in wells, where living things rest under dark trees.  yet his thirst does not persuade him to become like these, dwelling in comfort; for where there are oases there are also idols.  

Hungry, violent, lonely, godless: thus the lion-will want itself. Free from the happiness of slaves, redeemed from gods and adorations, fearless and fear inspiring, great and lonely :such is the will of the truthful. 
Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Friedrich Nietzche

"Do I really have to go back in there?"

"Yep, it's about time.  You've been out here sulking long enough."

"I don't really belong there.  They don't even understand half the things I talk about..."

"You're every bit as blind and mistaken about me as they are.  Besides, what gave you the impression it was ever about you?  Go.  :)"

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Practice Resurrection!

The tomb is empty!

It happened, it happens, it will happen!

Resurrection: Rob Bell from The Work of Rob Bell on Vimeo.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

This is my first attempt at preaching.  This is essentially the same thing I spoke about on Maundy Thursday, but I'll still try to throw up a synopsis of that later.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A liturgy of broken dreams.

The following is the text of an invitation to a dinner some friends and I are going to put on to celebrate Maundy Thursday. If you read this and are at all interested in spending an evening in a new liturgy with us, drop me a line. Just go to my profile and use it to send me an email.

Sometimes knowing the ending from the beginning changes the way we see the story.

I remember when the 6th Sense came out. For those that still have not yet seen it all these years later I won't spoil it for you, but it has a twist ending. It's one of those details that once known, changes how you see the entire narrative. Well, a friend of mine called me one day to express their frustration that another one of their friends had spoiled it for them by telling them the twist, which they off handedly told me. I had not yet seen the movie and therefore I too knew the end from the beginning. I could never see the story with fresh eyes, as it was intended.

The story of the "Gospel" is all too familiar to many of us. Those of us that have been raised in a religious tradition, or have chosen to participate in one for any significant length of time, know the story of Jesus. We know it beginning to end. That is to say, we know the end from the beginning.

I think that has blinded us to many parts of the story. The disciples, those that walked and talked with Jesus, had no such luxury. They experienced walking in the Way of Jesus day to day, never really knowing what the future held for them. They saw each turn of the journey for what it was. They were not blinded by an assumed meaning of the story that they could substitute for the whole, and not worry about the turns and twists of everyday life with Jesus. They got to experience the immediacy of the Way.

We propose an experiment. Please come be with us as we celebrate an important step in the journey of following Jesus. Come participate in the creation of a new liturgy.

We invite you to come have dinner with us to celebrate Maundy Thursday. The day Jesus washed his disciples feet. The day they celebrated the Passover meal together and they looked forward to Jesus inaugurating the Kingdom of God. The disciples brought their expectations and dreams to this dinner.

We've all had hopes and dreams for our lives. Sometimes we've even thought we've had the future figured out. We knew what God had in store for us, and how God was going to bring it to fruition. But sometimes, it doesn't quite go as we expected.

Come eat with us. Bring all your hopes and dreams with you, especially your misplaced, mistaken, and broken ones. Come forget the end that you have imagined, and be with us in this step of our journey together. Come as we call for the in breaking of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom that eludes our expectations and dreams, and will exceed our imaginings of it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

New wine...

Then John's disciples came and asked him, "How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?"

Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

"No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."

Matthew 9:14-17

I'm a member of a liturgical tribe. I'm an Episcopalian to be more specific. If one is trying to make a family tree of Western Christianity, the Episcopal tradition is the American expression of the Anglican tradition, or Church of England. It is a direct offshoot of the Roman Catholic Church. It has all the calisthenics of the RCC, but it generally takes itself a bit less seriously.

When someone not familiar with the liturgy might visit, they would note the better part of the congregation seems to know, without visible communication, when to sit, stand, kneel, or say a particular prayer, in unison. Oh gentle visitor, don't be fooled. This not a spontaneous demonstration of group telepathy. It is a result of practice, literally centuries of practice. Our tribe is playing out a script passed down to us by our fore bearers. These prayers, with their physical expressions of standing or kneeling, are result of generations of accumulated traditions. Granted, we do occasionally modify them, but they have deep roots in our history.

Sometimes these processes are viewed as the necessary and right way to conduct worship. It's almost as if they are expressions of some sort of Platonic form, that exists in the heavens, and we participate in their shadow forms, to the best of our abilities, here on earth. We should strive to find the most original, ancient, form of practice and adhere to it to make sure we are doing it right.

I'm not so sure that's the best way to look at liturgy. Anything, even ancient, was new at one time. Even something as basic to our faith as the Lord's Prayer had a genesis. There was a day when it was not. These prayers and practices were invented by good people, often times I believe, people led by the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit, the presence of Jesus, moved in their lives, they were changed. They were stretched like wine skins are by the fermentation of new wine. The operation of God's presence in their lives worked itself out in new forms of piety, new ways of living, new prayers, new liturgies. These practices are where their love for their Savior led them. It is not where they began, it is where they arrived on their journey.

Is this a finished task? Has the new wine done all it can do in shaping the lives and practice of God's people? Are the prayers, practices, and liturgy that we have inherited the pinnacle, upon which we can either choose to stand or from which any movement requires descending?

Growing numbers of us don't think so. We choose to remain members of our respective tribes, understanding the value of tradition in making us who we are. But we also choose not to be constrained by the religious forms of the past as if they are writ in stone on the side of a mountain.

It's time to experiment. Some of us are going to celebrate Maundy Thursday with a meal and a new liturgy. If I survive I intend to post a synopsis of the result here.