December 28, 2006

5 Things You Hate About Me

So apparently the whole "get to know you" email thing has made its way to the blog-o-sphere and I've been tagged by my theological comrade, Mike, who is now going by Mick, I think. Anyway, I'll begrudgingly follow through with this, but know that everyone of you lectionary...go! folk are being tagged in the process.

1. I broke my shoulder when I was fifteen doing a cartwheel. Yep, a cartwheel. After a comeback from 4-0 to a 5-4 win in a pointless rec soccer game, I celebrated by doing a cartwheel. Apparently I planted my hand incorrectly, and since my tendons were actually stronger than my growth plates at the time, I broke my shoulder. It was not fun.

2. I'm a product of second shift parenting. While my mom was pregnant and in my earliest years my dad worked second shift (4-12). I am fully convinced that my body's clock is permanently altered because of it. I'm still most comfortable sleeping from 2am until 10 or 11. This begin up and active at 8 stuff is for the birds.

3. I voted for George W. Bush twice. People who know this ask, "why?". My response is, and will forever be, I WANT MY SOCIAL SECURITY PRIVATIZED. Stupid partisan politics, this removal of the federal government from my retirement account was the best idea this administration has had... grrrr.

4. I'm a denominational journeyman. Baptized Roman Catholic. Confirmed Episcopalian. Renewed Evangelical (Young Life). Married Presbyterian. And finally, back home in an Episcopal Seminary. This is why I can't buy into the "we're so much better" denominational snobbery that thrives on the Holy Hill.

5. This summer I was forced to come to terms with two irrational fears: heights and bugs. Standing chest deep in a ditch made the bug thing disappear quickly. While my fear of heights persists, I feel I can overcome it since standing on my tiptoes on a 4ft step laddar on the extension platform of a scissor-lift at nearly full height.

So there you have it. More fuel for the fire. Merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and blessings on those pesky GOEs. Oh that reminds me, Peter @ GOEfun, you are tagged also.

December 14, 2006

no reflection today

Too much on the plate, but I did want to mention that we will be remembering the life and ministry of Adam Goren in chapel this morning. Adam died two years ago today. Our prayers continue to be with his mother, his classmates, and all whose lives were touched by his loud, obnoxious laugh.

Almighty God, we remember before you today your faithful
servant Adam.; and we pray that, having opened to him the gates
of larger life, you will receive him more and more into your
joyful service, that, with all who have faithfully served you in
the past, he may share in the eternal victory of Jesus Christ
our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the
Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

December 13, 2006

it is almost time

Advent 4 is so very close to Christmas. In fact this year it is Christmas, rather Christmas Eve. After three weeks of prophecy and apocalypse, the lessons for Advent 4 get me excited for the other goal of Advent - preparing to welcome the baby Jesus into the world.

Advent is a funny season, one I still don't really get. It is a time to prepare for the second coming, but at the same time the lessons point us also to the Incarnation, God's first time walking the Earth since the Fall. I think its that juxtaposition that is hard for me. We know Jesus came, its not really something we have to hope will come again this year. So to start the church year with a hope for the Incarnation seems strange. So too it is really strange to start the church year with the end, the End of Days. So, like most Americans I move quickly through Advent and have Christmas carols on my car radio by Advent 2. I wait expectantly for the beauty of the Incarnation played out in the beauty of liturgy with full brass, soloists, choral music, and glorious altar hangings. I wait for the gathering together of family and friends in the love we share for one another, and (at least I hope) for God. But as a good liturgical Christian I feel guilty about skipping ahead, and at least take to heart the collects for each week, which make it clear we are expecting so much more than a baby born in a cave-stable. We are waiting for God to come (back) among us.

December 12, 2006


Or Magnificat, or something like that. The Song of Mary is such a beautiful piece of poetry set withing such a neat story about the Mother of our Lord.

Mary, who must be on the verge of freaking out at every moment, decides to get away for a while. She visits her cousins Elizabeth and Zechariah, both of whom also must be just an angel's sneeze away from a total breakdown. The group anxiety, however, is immediately cooled by God when, as Mary enters the house, Jbap, still in his mother's womb, jumps for joy at the sound of Mary's voice. Elizabeth, rather than collapsing from a major coronary, sings praises to Mary for she is "blessed among young women..."

While it seems like a non sequiter, Mary's song captures in a few short verses the saving work of God throughout all history. It captures the corporate work of God in Israel, but is also keenly aware of the particular works of God in the lives of his people. It is just a great song as we transition from the saving work of God in his people Isreal, to the saving work of God in his Son.

December 10, 2006


errrr at least a partial one.

I talked to my dad today and there is good news coming out of Lancaster General. Apparently sometime yesterday evening, after the nerve shocky testy thing, a diagnosis came through. Seems as though inflamed blood vessels which feed nerves have caused those nerves to go dormant. This leads to excruciating pain and paralysis. They began mom on a three day steroid treatment to combat the inflamed blood vessels. Since the steroid treatment began last night she's hit her morphine pump only 8 times (cf the possibility of hitting it every 8 minutes if need be).

The diagnosis is not a complete one, as of yet, because something must be causing the inflammation. So, a second Lumbar Puncture is scheduled for tomorrow to hopefully nail down the virus that is causing the rest of the stuff. The doctors are hopeful she'll be able to head home Tuesday night or Wednesday.

Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for a finalized diagnosis and peace for our family.

December 7, 2006

what's with all the anger?

Jbap, as he's come to be known in theology books, seems to be one angry dude. As Luke tells the story in chapter 3, John, who no doubt had pretty wild tendencies, not to mention eyes, lays into the crowd that has come seeking the baptism of repentance.

Let me repeat that. The crowd at which Jbap is yelling and angry is a crowd of people who have come from the city, to the wilderness, to take part in the baptism of repentance that he preached.

What is with all the anger? (<--read this as though Chandler Bing was saying it) There must have been some murmuring in the ranks as Jbap preached and baptized. There must have been some who came for appearances sake and not in search of true repentance. There must have been some hypocrites to make up the brood of vipers. And if there were, Jbap had every right to lay into the crowd.

Repentance is not an easy thing. Repentance requires substantial effort. To turn oneself 180 degrees from a life of the world to a life of God is a taxing thing. Human nature would be to play an easier card. "Oh, me? Nope, no need for repentance here, I'm a son of Abraham." or "Oh, me? Naah, I'm good, Jesus died once for all."

But the grace of God, freely offered, ain't cheap. Sure, the Son of God died upon the cross to take my sins, rose from the dead to defeat death, and ascended into heaven to come again with power and great glory, but the story doesn't end there. In fact, it doesn't even begin there. It begins with the foretelling of his coming by the prophets, and by his cousin Jbap.

"He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear the threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." The grace of God comes free, but damn if it doesn't burn like hell. The refining nature of God's love, always calling us away from our self and toward a closer walk with Him will be painful as we give away our own desires for those of God. Our hearts will burn and break within us as we see the poor, the oppressed, the hungry, prisoners, victims of war and disease.

"So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people." Despite all appearances, this grace, no matter what the cost, is good news. The Gospel message is that grace is available to all; poor, rich, tax collector, prostitute, Enron executive, social justice worker, whatever... We can all share in the pain of Jesus on the cross, and that is Good News. Sharing that pain brings us to his granary, where there is no pain, where the images of the prophets are reality, where God, in His ever present love, is felt.

December 6, 2006

i finally have a place

After two-and-a-half years of being put into the conservative box by other people, I settled on my own title: I'm a perspectivist postmodern postconservative evanglical catholic.

Diana Butler Bass - a woman i consider to be a mentor had the following exchange in an online chat with the Washington Post crowd:

Capitol Hill: As an Episcopalian who empathizes with the position of the conservatives in the Church, but who attends a socially liberal parish, I am disgusted with the leadership on both sides. But perhaps more so with the liberal leadership since they hold such a majority in the General Convention body, and have been thumbing their noses at conservatives for quite some time. It is the seeming lack of accommodation for conservative parishes on a National level which I think is hardheaded and hypocritical. I hear a great deal of rhetoric about appeals for healing, but when push comes to shove, I think many Church leaders would be happy to show conservatives the door (as long as they leave their property behind). I find it fascinating that my Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Chane, who has been very forward on where he stands in this matter, has found a way to accommodate one of the richest parishes in his Diocese - All Saints Chevy Chase - to keep them happy. He is allowing another more conservative retired bishop to provide pastoral oversight for them. I wonder what Bp. Chane would do if a smaller, poorer parish asked for the same benefits. Is the All Saints case a sign of hope for accommodation, or just another rich squeaky wheel getting the oil?

Diana Butler Bass: Your comments are interesting to me. I do not believe that there are only two sides in this dispute -- I can identify five distinct groups of Episcopalians.

Yes, there are two parties in tension: Old-line liberals and radicalized conservatives. This is the fight we most often read about in the media. However, you point out a third possibility, a centrist party that is trying to navigate between the two extremes (Bishop Peter Lee in Virginia would represent the centrists). From my own research, you are right. The extremes aren't the whole story.

However, there are two additional groups, and these two are far less noticed. I refer to these groups (they don't have a clear "party" identity) as "progressive pilgrims" and "emergent conservatives." These two groups tend to see "issues" like this one as secondary concerns to the practice of Christian faith and are more concerned with things like the practice of hospitality, living forgiveness, practicing reconciliation, learning to pray, feeding the hungry, caring for the environment, and maintaining the Anglican practice of comprehensiveness (being a church of the "middle way"). They may lean slightly left or slightly right on "issues," but reject partisan solutions to theological problems. Both progressive pilgrims and emergent conservatives are far more interested in unity than uniformity; and they appreciate diversity in their congregations as a sign of God's dream for humanity to live in peace.

From observing (and knowing him a bit), I think Bp. Chane is more of a progressive pilgrims than an old-line liberal. And I think he is trying very hard to embody this alternative position in the diocese of Washington.

If the centrists, the progressive pilgrims, and emergent conservatives can come together and offer their distinctive spiritual gifts in the midst of this conflict, I think the Episcopal Church may be able to move forward.

I like emergent conservative a lot more than my long, complicated name. I think I'll try it out. Even though uttering the word conservative will turn some off, my brothers and sisters who are progressive pilgrims and centrists, I hope will hear the depth of the two words combined. Anyone want to join this emergent conservative in moving the church forward?????

the prophetic imagination

"It is the prophetic task, in a time of unraveling hopes, to declare the unimaginable, to assert the rationality of the unthinkable, to call the people to new hope, grounded not on the past but on sheer faith that God is about to do the impossible." - Walter Wink


The words of the prophet Zephaniah sound a lot like the words of any other prophet of the Hebrew Bible. After criticism of the status quo, the wailing of the Israelites due to their unpleasant situation (or for others the pending doom due to their faithlessness) Zephaniah brings hope to the hopeless.

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem...

Zephaniah goes on to tell the story of the restoration of Jerusalem and her people. In the time of the exile this story is unimaginable. The people have been spread out to repopulate other areas of conquest for the Babylonians (or was it the Assyrians). Others have been brought in to populate their land as slaves. No one has an ethnic identity under this regime, they are but pieces in the economic system. And yet, Zephaniah sets forth a vision for the impossible. The vision becomes the operating mindset for Israel, it is accepted despite its apparent impossibility.

That is the prophetic task - to point people to a reality that by human means is utterly unimaginable. To point them there over and over and over and over again so that eventually, the people relent, the people believe, and the vision becomes the reality.

An update from yesterday's post - Mom had an MRI and Spinal Tap yesterday. The MRI looks "good" according to the Neurologist. The ST results will take a day or two. In the meantime they may do some sort of test on the blood vessels in her brain, but they are unsure this is necessary as of yet. She remains at LGH and will be there for at least a couple of days. Thank you for your continued prayers.

December 5, 2006

do not worry

Yeah, right! Do not worry!?! Easier said than done, I'm afraid.

"Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

It finally happened. My mom was admitted to Lancaster General Hospital last night at the request of her neurologist. For more than a year she's been sick on and off. Whether any of those things are related to the current situation remains to be seen, but it all came to a head six weeks ago when she began having neck pain. Then her vision went blurry. Then she started getting migraines. Then her eye went lazy. Then her arm went weak. She's been to her GP, a ophthalmologist, a neurophthalmologist, an ENT doctor, and finally, on Monday a neurologist. She's had blood work, a Lime disease test, an MRI, an MRA, and a CT Scan. And still she gets worse each day rather than better. So finally, when her neurologist called to schedule her for a second, this time closed, MRI and she had to wait until January, she was admitted. (BTW - what can be diagnosed with an MRI that can wait a month? A knee injury? Brain damage? I'm at a loss) They did blood work again last night along with a chest X-ray. Orders have been given for an MRI with anesthesia and a spinal tap. Things are moving, but not in the direction anyone was hoping. On the table is MS, Lupus, Vasculitis, among other not fun things.

I'm really trying not to worry. I'm trying to offer it all up to God in prayer and supplication, but I can't do it on my own. Would you please pray with me? For my mother as she awaits a diagnosis. For my dad as he tries to continue to go about daily life in spite of it all. For my family as we come to grips with the reality that news isn't going to be good. For healing for us all.

O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in time of need: We humbly beseech thee to behold, visit, and relieve thy sick servant Pat for whom our prayers are desired. Look upon her with the eyes of thy mercy; comfort her with a sense of thy goodness; preserve her from the temptations of the enemy; and give her patience under her affliction. In thy good time, restore her to health, and enable her to lead the residue of her life in thy fear, and to thy glory; and grant she may dwell with thee in life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

December 4, 2006

the dreaded [ ]

For those of you who might not be well versed in the Lectionary, there comes a time, inevitably, when the people who put together the lessons for a Sunday are afraid they've made the readings too long. So they have a system. They use the whole lesson, but put part of it in brackets [ ] to indicate an optional part which may be omitted for time's sake. If you look at the lectionary reading page, here, you'll see under the Epistle for Advent 3, Year C, BCP that verses 8 and 9 of Philippians 4 are optional.

The unfortunate thing about these options, is that people take advantage of them. Ultimately you might end up hearing 25 verses of Scripture on a Sunday, and some will think even that is too much. In all reality, however, one can never be exposed to too much Scripture in the course of a worship service. The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, 1979, is ripe with Scripture, though it isn't referenced I've heard up to 75% of the words in that book come from Holy Writ. My exhortation here is to read the parts in [ ] even if it adds two minutes to the service.

My reason for writing all of this is the richness of Paul's words placed in brackets. "Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" What a beautiful list of the things of the Kingdom. As we strive to be more and more like Christ, we are called to the Truth. This Truth, the truth of God, will call us to the rest of the list; honor, justice, purity, pleasure, commendation, excellence, and praise. God grieves when we turn our back to Him in sin. God rejoices when we follow the Way of Jesus Christ, though inevitably that Way takes us to the foot of the cross. Doing what is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise will, despite what it sounds like, not always lead us to an easy life situation. There will be struggles and pain. There will be uncertainty and fear. But ultimately there will be redemption as the God of peace walks the Way with us.

December 1, 2006

my favorite verse

For nearly 10 years now my favorite verse has remained the same; Proverbs 3.5-6. "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight." (emphasis mine).

This passage of Scripture has always been something I've aspired to live up to. There have been plenty of decisions I've made without the counsel of my Creator, and inevitably the paths to and from those decision points are filled with curves, hills, and fog. Then there are those decisions which, by the grace of God, I've remembered to trust in the LORD. In those places and times I've felt confident, comfortable, and at peace.

I say all this to point just how strange I found it to read the words of Isaiah in the Gospel for Advent 2c. "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." (emphasis mine). What does it mean for us, as human beings, to make straight the paths of the coming Lord? How can we prepare the way? It seems clear to me from what I've recounted above that I can't make my own paths straight, how can I do it then for the Lord?

Maybe the recalling of this passage from 2nd Isaiah is just a way of reminding the prophet of his/her calling. Maybe it isn't for us all to make straight the path of God. Perhaps it is the job of the prophet to walk on ahead, finding the best way for God to work His way through. JBap, as he is affectionately referred to, had just such a job. Proclaiming the repentance of sins was setting the stage for Jesus to declare salvation, freedom from sin. Baruch called the people out of their own naval-gazing and self-pity so that they were ready for God to restore Israel. Paul laid the foundation of the Gospel in Philippi, so that God could fill them to overflowing with love and knowledge.

I'm going to stick to trusting God to make my paths straight, but more power to those of you with the gift of prophecy, flattening roads is one heck of a job (just ask VDOT).

November 30, 2006

on the benefits of the practice

I'm not sure if I've complained here about the class I'm taking over at Wesley. I won't do much of that here, just to say that it certainly isn't my favorite, and the 15 page "write something about something pastoral carish" paper is coming due. Here's were the benefits of the practice come into play.

In a reading for our last class session, (An aside to mention I was reading this IN class, not prior, please don't misunderstand), Brian McLaren (yaaah) posited various new ways of understanding the kingdom of God. As I sat on the heels of Christ the King Sunday it was hard for me to think of the reign of God in any other way, but his argument gave me a paper idea. One of his new ways of looking at the kingdom of God was "the party of God." While I'm not sure I yet fully understand what he is claiming I've decided to take it on as my paper topic. The Prophetic Imagination: Describing the Party of God. I dunno, I'm excited about it.

Anyway, back to the practice. See I've been hitting my head against the wall for two days trying to figure out where in the Hebrew Bible (OT) I might find tale of the Party of God. (Sarcasm coming -->) You see as a good Christian I know that the God of the OT was a wrathfilled God, parties didn't occur until Jesus came. Actually, I just don't know my Hebrew Bible well enough to pull out Scripture on most topics. So I'm reading Baruch and the Psalm today and BAM it hits me; these are stories of the Party of God.

Baruch, a deuterocononical (in between OT and NT in your pew Bible) writer, tells of the restoration of Israel. The Psalmist tells of the same thing. There are parties in the Hebrew Bible and if it weren't for the practice, I might never have found them. All of a sudden this ambiguous 15 page paper looks doable.

Now, can somebody help me pull a communication event (art project) out of thin air on this one?

November 29, 2006

take off the garment of your sorrow...

I'm fairly certain we never studied the book of Baruch in OT, but as a reading for Advent 2c it is certainly apt. As we give thanks for the Prophets of old and the prophets of today we are given this glimpse into the good news that occasionally prophets were able to give.

Quit yer bitchin'! God loves you!

During what was, for all intents and purposes, the worst point in Israel's history (I'm guessing it was written during the exile) the author has good news to share above the moaning and groaning of the people.

Shut up! God will restore you!

The job of the prophet is to turn people around. After the exile, it would seem, the people had once again turned to their own devices and desires. This time, instead of a golden calf, it was their own self pity that they worshiped. Wearing the garment of sorrow and affliction the people of Israel were content to sulk for all eternity, their strength was in their combined suffering. But Baruch had a different story.

"Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God."

Sitting in self-pity is not how God intended us to live our lives. We are called instead to see the splendor of our God who restores. We are called instead to wear the crown of glory that is exclusively of God. We are called to live into our name "Righteous Peace, Godly Glory"

It seems like it is rare when the prophet has the opportunity to share good news. Precisely because it is so rare, it seems we should all the more listen to it. "Shut up! Turn away from your own self-pity! Look at God! God will restore you! God loves you!"

November 28, 2006

I love Luke

No, I'm not talking about Days of our Lives, I'm talking about "Luke" author of the Gospel according to Luke. Luke's fun precisely because he is really concerned with historical facts. Luke begins chapter 3 (or would have if he wrote in chapters) with a list of rulers for historical context.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas

I love Luke. This list, while quite boring, is actually very very interesting. It places the story of Jesus within a very specific historical context. It sets the scene for the precipitating story of John the Baptist. It ties the present story of Jesus with the past of the prophet Isaiah by way of specificity.

I love Luke.

November 22, 2006

how can we thank God enough?

As I most likely won't be posting from my parents house this weekend, today seems as appropriate a time as ever to reflect on the opening phrase of the Epistle for Advent 1c. "How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you?

As an estimated 38 million americans travel "home" today I can't help but think about how many will be thanking God for the joy that comes from family. Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks. So often, anymore, it seems as though it is merely the ribbon cutting ceremony required to get to black friday shopping (with some stores opening at midnight this year) and ultimately to Christmas.

What would Thanksgiving look like if we took the time to sit and ponder just how we might thank God enough? I know we can't do it. To thank God enough for the joys of this life would preclude us from complaining about the pains. To thank God enough for the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of his Son would take every living moment we have. To thank God enough for our "family" and our "home" whatever form that takes means moving past petty disagreements to see the blessing each member and their history have been in our lives.

How can we thank God enough? Well, I'm thinking we can't. But what we can do is be intentional. We can take some real time to contemplate all we have to be thankful for. We can read through some prayers of thanksgiving (maybe the litany or Charlie Price's General Thanksgiving in the BCP). We can articulate our gratuity to our family and friends. How can we thank God enough? We can't. How can we thank God? By thanking those who he has placed in our lives.

Thank you to all who read this blog. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

November 21, 2006

light and living waters

As I plod through life from day to day it is so easy to forget just how out of tune this life is with the vision of God for his creation. Compare, if you will, the DC Metro area with the Garden of Eden. Is there anything here that God intended from the beginning? Errr? I've got nuthin'.

Then, thanks only to the Lectionary, I stumble upon the Zechariah reading for Advent 1c. In it, we begin to see how God will restore this corrupt planet.
- There shall not be either cold or frost
- There shall be continuous day
- Living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem
- The LORD will become king over all the earth
- The LORD will be one and his name one

Our liturgical seasons are not doubt Eurocentric, so the fact that Advent falls in late fall/early winter works only for us in the north, let's run with it anyway. It's cold. It's dark by 5. Advent is, quite literally, a time of darkness. It is, quite literally, time spent contemplating what it feels like to be without the refining fire of God. It points out just how out of tune we are with God's hopes and dreams.

What would it look like if the radiance of God made it continuously day? Do we want to feel the warmth of God's love all year-round? What would it feel like to be washed in the living water flowing from God's throne?

Most importantly - Will we be ready for the LORD to be king over all the earth? Or are we set in our ways? Do we like the darkness? Do we like the cold? Do we like to be outside of God's plan, in charge of our own destiny? I know I do. It scares me to think that I will stand exposed by the light. It scares me to think that I will drink the living water daily. It is hard to comprehend what it will be like to stand in the presence of uncompromising love. And yet, in spite of all the fear and discomfort, I know it will be glorious. I know it will be good. I know that I want to stand in the comfort of God's mighty love.

November 20, 2006

where am i

Because I preached three times yesterday I took it upon myself (actually Cassie commanded me) to sleep in this morning. So I got up at about 830 and prepared for spiritual direction. That being said, I didn't have time to spend my usual time in Scripture this morning. So now I'm sitting in Scott Lounge with Mitch and Ari as we each pretend to do the work we came to do. Mostly we sit in silence for a minute or two, then somebody cracks a joke, we laugh, then we return our attention (sort of) to our work.

I've decided its really hard to spend time with God in prayer in a situation like this, but I continue to sit here with the readings and typing on this blog anyway. There are two reasons for this. One, I'm a sucker for community. I seek out people like its my job. I hate sitting by myself when I know people are around.

The other reason is its Advent. Its a time of waiting and a time of darkness. A time that is very uncomfortable to me. I'm not good at uncertainty. I like things to be within the plan. I like things to tick off on my to-do list. I don't like "distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves." There is no mention of what the signs will be in Luke 21, but just that there will be signs. I don't like this uncertainty. I just don't like it.

So, I guess this is the main reason I'm avoiding doing real work. As I sit on the cusp of GOEs, job searching, and am having a real family crisis with my mom's yet undiagnosed illness, I'm really struggling with with uncertainty. Spiritual direction today helped me understand this struggle, and opened my eyes to this month of uncertainty and darkness that is about to be upon us. I guess I'll be forced to come to terms with these themes over the next month, but for today, I'm procrastinating. Today I'm not dealing with it. Today, I'm laughing with friends.

November 16, 2006

the holiness tradition

Oh yeah! In reading the Daniel passage for Christ the King Sunday this morning I had a revelation. I remembered something I learned in Seminary. That's exciting, maybe GOE's (General Ordination Exams, read, the Bar) won't be as difficult as I thought.

As the Ancient One (YHWH - God) sits upon his throne of fire the author gives us an image of what God looks like. But then he says something interesting, "A stream of fire issued and flowed out from his presence." The ancient Israelites had this thing about holiness flowing outward from God in the form of fire. As I mentioned below the overwhelming image of holiness is that of fire. This fire, which in Daniel flows from the presence of God is a refining, sanctifying fire.

(Now the fogginess returns, please excuse any mistakes that follow) As the Israelites were instructed by Moses on how to setup camp back somewhere in the Pentateuch this flowing fire was also a consideration. The Levites (priests) we to set up closest, and surrounding the Arc of the Covenant (God's House) and in concentric circles the other tribes of Israel would make their place so that the holiness of God would reach out to encompass all.

Here, at this late stage in the Hebrew Bible the holiness tradition returns, God's holiness flows forth like fire, bringing sanctification to all who live within his presence. But those who speak arrogant words like the horned beast will first be killed and the fire will be used to destroy their bodies rather than to sanctify their souls.

I didn't trust Dean Horne when she promised my seminary education would all make sense on the other side, but I'll be dipped if she wasn't right. It really is starting to come together. Thanks be to God.

November 15, 2006


The interaction between Pilate and Jesus in the Fourth Gospel (John) has always been a peculiar one in my mind. With Jesus being so quiet in the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, & Luke) it seems strange to me that he would speak in such a vieled way in John's account of the Passion Narrative. Today, however, I noticed for the first time a clever thing Jesus does. As we prepare to celebrate Christ the King Sunday readings about Jesus as king seem more than appropriate, but in John's Gospel we see that even when it seems like Jesus is willing to finally take on the title the crowd so often wanted to give him, he carefully avoids it all together.

Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

See how he does that. Jesus talks about his kingdom, thus making Pilate, and us, believe he is claiming to be a king. When Pilate asks again, however, punctuation makes all the difference.

Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth."

Jesus does not answer "You say that I am king; for this I was born, and for this I came into the world."

See the difference? Jesus, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, even at this late stage of his life denies the earthly title of King. On earth he is not a king. On earth his job is to testify to the truth - to God. We have much to learn from Jesus and his rejection of worldly things, especially those things which are utterly unreal. Titles are not concrete things one can own, but are names, unreal things which define a real thing. Jesus would not allow others to define him, and neither should we.

November 14, 2006

Prospective Student Day

Means I had too much to do too early to blog today. I got 80% of my sermon for Sunday written, which is exciting since I spent a lot of time railing against the readings. See be-low.

But for today, here's what I've found. HT Bob Carlton.

November 13, 2006

those who strive to be first...

... must be last.

As I read the lessons appointed for Christ the King Sunday in Year B I cannot help but hear those words of Jesus to his disciples. From Daniel to Revelation to the Gospel the readings are without a doubt focused on the kingship of Jesus Christ, but all are apt to point out at what cost that kingship came.

In Daniel the "one like a human being" is given dominion, glory, and kingship only after the first beast was put to death and the rest had their dominion taken away. This beast that was put to death is reminiscnet to me of the beast of sin that hung on the back of Jesus as he hung on the cross totally estranged from the Father. Until this beast is finally put to death, even Christ cannot have the dominion due him. (apologies to Elizabeth and Dr. Cook for placing Christ in the OT)

In the Revelation of John the kingship of Jesus is listed first with the glory of God.
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
But we are immediatly reminded of the cost of that kingship.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
The ruler of the kings of the earth was one despised and hung on a cross. Through is blood we are freed from sin and made into a kingdom of believers under one head, Jesus Christ.

Both of the options for the Gospel lesson clearly portray Jesus as a King, but both are set in close proximity to his crucifixion. The pericope from Mark's Gospel is that of Palm Sunday. As Jesus prepares to enter Jerusalem for the final time the people are ready to make him King. They shout Hosanna! (which means Save Us!) The same people who shout to Jesus to save them as king will soon shout "Crucify him" as one who has blasphemed. In John's Gospel we hear of the interaction between Jesus and Pilate where Jesus is asked directly "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus speaks of his kingdom, of his being born to be a king, but ultimately will be hung on a cross to die.

Those who strive to be first must be last. Even as King of kings and Lord of lord, God the Son had to be made low in order to be first.

November 10, 2006

a hole in my seminary education

As I prepare to schedule my final semester at VTS, I've had to come to terms with some things. First, I cannot take everything I want to take before I leave seminary. Second, being done with requirements in 2.5 years, doesn't mean 4 years at seminary isn't worth while. And, thirdly, I have some holes.

The readings for Proper 28 have opened my eyes to a huge hole in my seminary education, eschatology, or the END TIMES. For many, these words bring forth images of Kirk Cameron in Left Behind, but for me, it just inflicts fear. Reading the parallels between Daniel's Apocalypse and Mark's Gospel had led me to understand that I will, no doubt, have to preach on the End Times. Hell, Advent will force it if nothing else. But I have not, and will not take Kate's Last Things course (it doesn't fit). As far as I remember the discussion of eschatology in New Testament was something like, "has anyone heard a sermon on Revelation?". We must of talked about Daniel in Old Testament, but honestly, I don't remember. So I'm stuck here, trying to come up with a sermon for next Sunday with nothing in my toolbox.

What I can glean from Daniel and Mark are but a few points.
+ There will be suffering unimaginable.
+ There will be some saved and some who choose otherwise
+ There will be false prophets and false messiahs
+ It will not be fun
+ God will redeem

So I guess I'm back to my point from Tuesday, to fall into the hands of the living God is truly a fearful thing, both now, as we live a life moving toward holiness, and in the age to come as we witness the final victory of God and the creation of a new heaven and a new earth.

November 7, 2006

it truly is a fearful thing...

... to fall into the hands of the living God.

The overwhelming Old Testament image for holiness is that of fire. God purifies the soul and a refiner purifies gold, melting it down so that the impurities might be removed. This image of holiness truly is a fearful thing.

To be a disciple of Jesus is to die to self. In our baptism we join with Jesus in his death (moreso evident in the baptist tradition than my own episcopal one) and in his resurrection. In that brief time in between (again moreso in the baptist tradition) we are able to feel that death to self, that consiousness of our own sinful nature. This moment, in and of itself, is truly a fearful thing, but then BAM we are raised out of the water, alive, forgiven, and set ablaze.

As we walk through life as a Christian, as a disciple of Christ, we contine to be alive and are always forgiven. It is that third part that, it seems to me, we have have some control over. Some call that fire set within the process of sanctification. By that, I'm guessing, they mean the process of refining our souls to be more and more like that of Jesus Christ. As we see in Hebrews 10, this process can involve many rough spots; sufferings, abuse, persecution, etc.

Yet this process brings with it much in the way of gift as well; confidence, endurance, promise. If we are willing to endure the tough times, we no doubt will receive that promise. If we face the truly fearful God head on, He will be our companion. If we stoke the fire in our hearts through discipleship, we too will come to the time when we konw we have done the will of God.

November 6, 2006


*A warning for what follows - I am tired and grouchy - that is all*

I will refer you back to an earlier post I wrote back for Proper 23 when I thought I was preaching entitled let the seminarian preach. It seems as though the ever intrepid Satan has placed on my plate another set of readings that makes me question my call to preach the good news. Uggg.

Nevertheless I shall persevere. God will supply all my needs. Somehow a sermon consisting of both trouble and grace will come forth. But today I am struck by just how tongue-in-cheek the Collect for Proper 28B sounds in light of apocalyptic suffering in all 3 readings.

Bblessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I mean really. Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. It just makes me giggle. I am genuinely surprised that these texts actually appear in the lectionary. It is so desirous to ignore the hard words of Scripture that it seems as though we ignore them continually. But alas, not this Sunday. Not when I have to preach short sermon because of the Annual Meeting. Nope, today we get to feel with great discomfort what it means to say that all holy Scriptures have been written for our learning.

Again, let the seminarian preach.

November 2, 2006

all she had to live on

The only easy thing about seminary, for me, is the ability to feel high and mighty about myself. Since I started the process toward ordination, whenever I read the story of the widow's mite I immediately associate myself with the widow. "I've given up my college education, my career plans, my comfortable life, &c, &c, all I had to live on to follow your call, God. Now what are you going to do for me?"

In reading today, however, it occurs to me that neither sentence I just spoke appear on the lips of the widows in Mark. She doesn't place here two copper coins in the treasury, stop, and make a claim to how great it is to give out of poverty. Instead it is Jesus, the righteous judge, who makes the claim of her greatness.

It is so easy to give out of abundance. Sure, I've given up a lot to follow this call (my wife has given up a lot more), but I by no means am close to giving "all I have to live on." As I sit here typing on my laptop, dressed, and in a warm (albeit grossly overpriced) apartment surrounded by books and gadgets and things of all sorts I'm realizing just what abundance looks like. Sure, I donate (well its Cassie's money really) $10,000 + to Virginia Theological Seminary each year, but I certainly get something out of it. Sure, we make a token gift to my Field Ed site, but we're no where near a tithe, let along "all we have to live on". Sure we sponsor a Compassion child at $32 a month, but who in that relationship is living in abundance, certainly its us.

Perspective has allowed me this day to see the great abundance around me. So too have I realized that God is the judge of who is the greatest, not me, not society, but God alone. So we'll continue to offer our gifts, but I certainly won't be nearly as self-righteous about their impact, on me or the world.

November 1, 2006

the middle church??!?!??

Episcopal News Service (ENS) publsihed an article about the various national church groups that will be meeting prior to the Investiture of the new Presiding Bishop. One section, entitled "Standing up for 'middle' church" caught my eye, and frankly made me excited. Finally, some press recognition for those of us standing in the Via Media (the middle way).

But as has been the case over and over again these past 3+ years, my high hopes were once again dashed. The group that ENS reported as "Standing up for 'middle' church" is The Episcopal Majority (TEM). From their "Who We Are" page:

The Episcopal Majority is a grassroots organization committed to the values and vitality of The Episcopal Church and working to neutralize the negative influence of the American Anglican Council (AAC), the Anglican Communion Network (ACN), and related groups.

TEM's list of related sites reads like any other progressive websites link page,, Via Media USA, Remain Episcopalian in the Diocese of San Joaquin, and Every Voice Network.

And so I had to ask. I sent the group an Email asking just how they plan on standing up for "middle" church while speaking polemically against the right and only supporting the cause of the left. And so I ask again. Does anyone out there know of this group? Does anyone plan on attending their event this weekend? Can anyone help me understand how this group is walking the Via Media?

October 31, 2006

the saints are coming

Many thanks to Bob Carlton over at The Corner for pointing out that this video was on YouTube. For those of you who were at the VTS Convocation Service of 2005, you'll note that I do not agree that had we elected John Kerry Hurricane Katrina would have been avoided, nor do I assume that the Democrats would have delt with the situation perfectly, but I will agree that the response by the Federal Government was (and still is) woefully lacking. The video below gives a glimpse of a perfect world, where we are fully prepared for all that God's Creation can throw our way.

I wonder if anyone else has thoughts on this in light of All Saint's Day and having a year removed from the pain, anger, and politco-spin.

a teaching moment

I've spent a good part of my spiritual journey looking at how God uses the mistakes we make. A friend with whom I taught Sunday School many years ago put it this way, "We are like clay pots. Each time we make a mistake, or get dropped, a new crack is formed. Yet the light of God lives within us, shining through the cracks of our mistakes to show His light to the world." Seems an apt analogy as millions of pumpkins will allow light to shine through their cracks tonight, but I digress.

Her view of the redemption of mistakes is one that has stuck with me through more than my fair share of goof-ups. And in the First Kings reading from Proper 27b has light shing through it as well. I'm probably reading too much into the text (or at least viewing it too literally), but it looks like Elijah runs into the wrong widow upon arrving at Zarephath.

The Lord commanded Elijah to go and live in Zarephath "for I have commanded a widow there to feed you." Having not looked at the Hebrew, it seems to be straightforward enough. God is calling Elijah to move having already called the widow to feed him. Elijah, not knowing which widow in Zarephath has recieved the call, calls out to the first one he sees.

"Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink," he says. I wonder if that was a litmus test for the widow. Because she agreed to get him water, Elijah assumed she was the widow called by God. "Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand," he shouts as she departs. In the words of my 12th grade English teacher, "we all know what happens when you spell assume backwards." [pause]

Anyway, in her response to Elijah it seems clear that this was, in fact, not the right widow. "As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug..." This doesn't sound like a woman called by God to feed Elijah, but alas God works through the mistake. Elijah speaks a word to her, a new call to a new widow to take care of Elijah.

Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the LORD sends rain on the earth.

This new call will test the faith of both Elijah and the widow, but is a wonderful teaching moment for them both. Through Elijah's mistake God is given the opportunity to show both Elijah and the widow what He can do with meager means. A mircle happens over and over again for "many days" as the meal and oil never run out. Each day as they ate, they were able to give thanks to the LORD for the gift of daily bread, bread which should not exist, but for the mistake of Elijah.

October 30, 2006

i smell stewardship

One thing I'm sorry I haven't learned at seminary is what group put together the lectionary, and how decisions were made regarding what texts would be read when. It seems to me as though they knew that late fall was stewardship time and the readings for later propers should reflect that. Proper 27, Year B is no different. Elijah and the widow (a story that I had overlooked before - but will no doubt reflect upon this week), the once for all gift of Christ, and the widows mite, geeesh, these guys (I assume they were guys) were good.

But today I can't help but notice something not stewardship related. Instead I'm still thinking of the rules I wrote about on Friday and am awe struck by the words of Jesus in Mark 12.

Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.

After the consecration service of our new Diocesan, my wife went ape sh*t over the pomp and circumstance that necessarily goes along with a service of such historical significance. (I say necessarily only because I've been formed in a tradition of apostolic succession, Cassie feels differently). Her argument, which is an apt one, surrounds the focus on the individual, in this case the robing of a new bishop, when the church's one foundation, the church's one focus should be on the saving work of God through Jesus Christ. For her, the words of Jesus could just as easily be read, "beware of bishops, who like to walk around in funny hats and long robes, and to be greeting with respect because of thier purple shirts, and to have the best seats in the churches and places of honor at all times! The money spent on their accutremont devours widows' houses and for the sake of appearance they read prayers from a book. They will recieve teh greater condemnation."

As an anti-oxford, anti-cambridge evanglical episcopalian I can certainly see her point. These things we do; from processions to mitres, are exactly that, things we do. It seems to me they are inherently neutral; neither good nor evil themselves, but it is in their use that they gain an identity. If a bishop is using the material particularities of his or her position to "lord it over" those not of that order the office of bishop with all of its material components is then one that is evil. If instead a bishop uses her or his office to the glory of God then the office with all its purple, pomp, and circumstance is one that is good.

The scribes themselves were not bad people, they were just caught up in their role. They lived a lifestyle that focused attention on themselves and not on the LORD. So too it can be with bishops (and priests and deacons and laity). Our job, instead of worrying about titles and such, is to make pure the intentions of our heart, so that we might come before the Lord our God blameless and seeking only His glory. Otherwise, prepare the condemnation.

Image from the archbishop of canterbury website,, a press release

October 27, 2006

what's the deal with all these rules anyway?

So if through Jesus Christ we are left with only two Commandments, and if through Jesus Christ the law of death was removed so that we are saved by grace through faith, then what is the deal with all these rules? There has to be a reason why Deuteronomy and Leviticus have been made a part of the canon (official Bible). There has to be a reason why Paul, hater of the law, creates rules for the churches in crisis to which he writes. What is the deal with all these rules?

Now this is the commandment--the statutes and the ordinances--that the LORD your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children's children, may fear the LORD your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long.

From Deuteronomy 6 (Proper 26b) we get two answers to this age-old question about rules. First, the rules exist so that all might fear the LORD. Much has been written regarding the right understanding of "fear the LORD", suffice it to say that a fear of the LORD is a right understanding of the one who is entirely other. God is so different from us, all loving, all knowing, Trinity, etc. that to understand God is to misunderstand God. So, we are left with only an understanding of the ambiguity of God, and ambiguity makes humans uncomfortable. To fear the LORD is to allow for the uncomfortableness of God in our lives. The rules result in fear of the LORD in that they point us to what is important to God - ultimately the second reason for rules - "so that our days might be long."

God loves his Creation. God loves the earth, the stars, plants, and animals. God loves humans too. God did not intend for humans to taste death, we did that to ourselves. So, with that in mind, God gave us rules to prolong as long as possible the inevitablity of death. At the second coming, with the creation of a new heaven and a new earth, rules will no longer be necessary, for we will once again be restored to a life without death, but for now, in order that we might live long in the land, long in God's Creation, we are given the rules.

Still, I struggle with the rules, espeically with how they were redeemed through Jesus Christ, and how some were specific to Churches in crisis. My church, the Episcopal Church, is dealing with these struggles in spades. What does God say about homosexuality? What does God say about the ordination of women? What does Jesus mean by love your neighbor as yourself? All of these questions lead us to interpretation. And since the enlightenment we trusted our interpretation to reveal the Truth of God's Word. Today, we aren't so sure we can find that Truth, but maybe, if we're lucky we might find a piece of it. Is my piece of truth a rule which are all to follow? Or, rather is it the first half of a sentance of God? See, I've talked myself back into a corner again.

What is the deal with all these rules anyway?

October 26, 2006

you are not far from the kingdom of God

I get my scribes, Saducees, and Pharisees mixed up, but it seems to me they all had one thing in common; they focused too much on doing the right liturgy and having the law memorized and they missed everything else their faith called them to. So it is so amazing to me that this Saducee in Mark 12 (Proper 26b) seems to get it all right, down to his last words to Jesus, "this is much more important that all whoe burnt offereings and sacrfices."

When asked by this man "Which commandemnt is the first of all" Jesus didn't run to the 10 (or 11 depending) commandments of Exodus. Instead he recalled for those around him the words of Moses on the edge of the Promised Land, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." Within this one commandment, this Great Commandment, is a whole set of doctrine that defined for the Israelites, and still us today, what God really wants.

Hear, O Israel - Israel is the name given to Jacob after he wrestled all night with the god-man at the river. Israel came to be the name of Jacob-Israel's tribe, his family, his nation. To be called the People Isreal is to be called a people unafraid to wrestle with God. Although, here they are called to "hear" they are forever expected to come back to God with the hard questions.

The Lord our God - to claim the Lord as "our God" is to understand God's deepest desire; to be in relationship with His creation. The Lord our God is the direct correlation to we, God's people. We are called, each by name, to be in relationship with the Lord so that he might be our God.

the Lord is one - monotheistic religion is a radically new concept at the time of the Exodus. For this group of ragtag people to cast of the majority belief of the rest of the ancient world is, in fact, quite a statement. The Lord is one is the basis of the Nicean concept of Trinity (of one being, begotten not made, proceding from the Father...). To worship one God, to recognize only one God is to make a giant statement about the nature of that God.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. - this is not a little expectation on the part of God. To love God with all heart, soul, mind, and strength is not an easy endeavor, but to know that God loves you before, in fact whether or not, you love him back makes it all the more easy. Note that this Great Commandment, when uttered by Moses, is after God has saved his people from bondage. It is as they prepare to enter the land promised to them by God. God didn't wait for Israel to love God to save them, but rather saved them, loved them, from before.

These imdedded statements of doctrine are not, by anymeans, the exclusive understanding of our relationship with God. They are however, the beginning of an understanding that right liturgy and memorized law are not the way to meet God. It is rather in the act of naming God and loving God that relationship begins. It is this relationship that Jesus spoke about when he told the Saducee, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."

Of course the other half of the kingdom lies in the second commandment. See my friend Peter's post on loving your neighbor as yourself for some great insights (and some good sarcasm).

October 24, 2006

it is more than the law...

For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

I am in no way insinuating that I consider myself a "high priest", but I am, at least, on the road to the priesthood. In the olden days it was the law that appointed priests, now it is the Holy Spirit which that calls us to the priesthood. Be it the law or the Holy Spirit doing the calling, it is still human "who are subject to weakness" being called.

As I write this I am painfully aware of my own weakness. Its the end of the quarter, and I've handed in my paper for Church History and my Student Body Report for the Board. I'm tired. I've done work in the evening for the first time in over a year, and it really took its toll on me. I'm about to begin a class session at Wesley which I HATE!!!! HATE HATE HATE!!! (sorry).

Anyway, its the weakness part of this letter to the Hebrews that I'm relating to today. And its in much excitement that I look at the Son, "who has been made perfect forever" offering intercession for me, for my sin, for my weaknesses.

October 23, 2006

The Shema

Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone

שמצ ישראל יהוה אלהינך יהוה אחד

This poor approximation (my first attempt at Hebrew unicode) is the Shema (שמצ) of Isreal, the words bound on their hands and on their doorposts. The key to understanding the relationship between God and his people. Hear O Israel, The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.

It is a reprise of this ancient saying that Jesus gives as the Great Commandment. This statement of fact, that the LORD is God and that the LORD is one is the key to understanding the New Covenant - between God and man through the godman, Jesus of Nazareth.

Whether Jew of Christian the entreaty of Moses remains for us both, "Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

October 19, 2006

what do you want me to do for you?

Wouldn't it be nice to hear those words coming from the mouth of God? As the end of the first quarter looms less than a week away I'm realizing all the things I need to do; my church history paper, my board of trustees report, a trip to harrisburg for the consecration of our new diocesan bishop, my church history exam, my systematic theology paper, etc. Lots and lots of things to do and enough stress to keep them from getting done.

"What do you want me to do for you?" God has already done one thing, my systematic paper got pushed back by a week. I'd love it if God would go ahead and write the papers for me. But I know this is not what God has in mind when he asks questions like these.

"What do you want me to do for you?" God wants me to be reconciled; to him and to humanity. God wants me to be healed; from illness and from sin. God wants me to want these things. When God asks this question in the person of Jesus Christ he is saying, "What can I do for you to bring you into relationship with me?" Mearly in the answering of the question we succeed in the call. To answer, like Bartimaeus, "let me see again" is to say "I believe you can make me well." Believing in the power of God to restore health, to restore right relationships, to restore us to wholeness is to have faith. See, its not us asking "What can I do to have faith?" No, its Jesus asking us "What can I do for you, so that your faith my be restored?" If our hearts have been opened, we can answer this question. If our hearts remain hard, then we walk away still blind, still sick, still in broken relationships.

What do you want Jesus to do for you?

October 18, 2006

God and the future

What follows is a more theological rambling than usual. While I don't normally get comments on my writings, this is something I am struggling to comprehend, so please, if you have a thought, pass it along.
The LORD saw it, and it displeased him
that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one,
and was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
The Isaiah reading for Proper 25b brought forth the above passage in light of a conversation I had with a friend at seminary just the other day. This friend was laughing at the fact that he was considered by some to be a heretic, but those who called him such couldn't figure out what exactly about his theology was heretical. He shared with me two points that ususally lead to contention; 1) God does not know the future and 2) God exists within time. As we were walking to class at the time we didn't have much opportunity to flesh out what he meant by those two things, but we at least began to discuss point one.

His assumption that God does not know the future goes as follows. The future is not a thing. God does not know things that do not exist,for example, my twin brother George, since I have no twin brother. Therefore God does not know the future. I got him to admit two points; 1) God knows all possibilities of the future based on the freewill actions and decisions of human beings and 2) God is a pretty good guesser of what action humankind will take as he is vey much in tune with the human condition (see the Incarnation).

The passage I pulled from Isaiah seems to give some credence to my friends position. God is displeased by his people upon seeing their actions - he is not displeased prior. God is appalled that he can find no one to intervene - God must seek someone, He does not already know who will intercede. This has interesting ramifications on God the Son being made incarnate, i.e. was it the plan from before time? did God the Son have another option? does God even know when God the Son will return?

As will all theological suppositions this carries a ton of unintended consequences. If you see any please let me know. Also, I hope to discuss more about God existing within/outside of time witht this friend, but I think that may be where we find him to be "heretical".

October 17, 2006

a different focus

This morning I couldn't help but notice how the story of blind Bartimaeus (25b) is almost the exact opposite story of the young rich man (23b). While the confident young man boasted of the laws he had kept since his youth, Bartimaeus calls only for mercy. While the young man wants to know what he can do to inherit eternal life, Bartimaeus knows only to call upon Jesus. While the young man goes away shocked and grieving, Bartimaeus regains his sight and follows Jesus.

How often have I had the focus of the young rich man. "Look at me! Look, I left a coushy job and came to seminary God. I'm a good person. What else can I do for you God?" It is in these times that I forget just who got me here. If it weren't for God's grace in the midst of my own poor discernment I would have never brought so low as to only know to call upon Jesus. I would have never met my wife. I would have never received my call.

How often have I had the focus of blind Bartimaeus. "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Not often enough I'm afraid. But, over the past two years the words of Bartimaeus have begun to invade my heart. The Jesus Prayer "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner" have sustained me in times of frustration, times of exhaustion, and times of spiritual dryness. How often have I had the focus of blind Bartimaues? Hopefully a little more every day.

October 16, 2006

like one who needs milk

I'm really resonating with the letter to the Hebrews today - but not the way the author intended, I'm sure. Diving into the readings for Proper 25b I'm really left feeling lost. This spiritual discipline is intended to create a life lived in the word, so that it exists so deeply within me that the word and my life cannot be torn apart. But today, today I feel like I can't find a place for these readings. Blindness and sin and evil and death pervade these texts so profoundly I can't seem to get past my own blindness.

And so, today I feel like those poor Christians to whom the letter to the Hebrews was written. By this time I ought to be a teacher, hell I'm in my third year of seminary, but today I need someone to teach me again the basic elements of the oracles of God. When I should be eating the solid food of Proper 25b, I am left nursing the milk set aside for the unskilled.

But maybe that's ok. Maybe we all have those days where we're just too tired or too stressed or too whatever to have the scales of humanity removed from our eyes. Maybe today I am called to take confidence in my salvation and trust that tomorrow (or some other day in the future) I will have my sight restored. "For God is not unust; he will not overlook your work..." So I keep at it. I'll try again tomorrow hoping to realize the full assurance of God's gift of sight.

October 13, 2006

what God requires

I'm fairly certain we used the wrong Gospel reading in small group this morning, but as is typical with those things, it worked out quite well. What we read, and ultimately did a sort of lectio divina of was Luke's version of the Transfiguration. In it, Peter, James, and John are brought to the mountain with Jesus for no apparent reason, but are able to see the Moses and Elijah, to see Jesus transfigured, and to hear the voice of God "since they stayed awake." What an awesome event for them, and all because they were able to stay awake.

Contrast that with Mark 10.35-45 (Proper 24b) where James and John are scheming to be the two chosen friends of Jesus; to sit at his right and left hands in glory. Jesus here requires of them much more than to stay awake, they are to drink the cup that he drinks and be baptized with the baptism he was baptized with. This is serious stuff. He's not talking about the threat of the rhinovirus in the cup or the chill they might get from being sprinkled with water; he is talking about his death; his crucifixion, quite possibly the most awful means of death known to man.

Still later, after the other 10 get angry at James and John for their conniving, Jesus has requirements of them. "Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all." Here Jesus is requiring that his disciples throw off any power they may seek in order to serve. It is in the service of others, Jesus says, that glory is achieved. It seems to me that he is talking not about the glory of these men, but rather the glory of God. It is in the service of others in the name of God that God is glorified.

So what then does God require of those who follow Jesus? Sometimes all we're called to do is stay awake. Other times we will be called to the service of others. And yes, even to this day, we might even be called to lay down our lives, to drink from the cup of Christ, in order to live out our faith. It seems as though God requires different things of different people at different times. I guess our job is that of discernment.

October 12, 2006

dc cohort event

we finally got word on the location for the october meeting of the dc emergent cohort. it'll be held at, gulp, wesley tholeogical seminary. You are invited to join them for dinner in their refectory from 5:30 'til 6:30 ($7.50) or just show up at the Kresge Building and follow signs for the 7 PM discussion with Diana Butler Bass on her new book, Christianity for the Rest of Us.

I'd recommend you come, it'll be good even though its at Wesley.

On another note, I won't be reflecting on the Lectionary today, I'm just too tired. Hope to see you here tomorrow.

October 11, 2006

the suffering servant

I am continually intruiged by (I, II, III, or Deutero - I can't remember) Isaiah's treatment of the suffering servant. In Year B Proper 24 we have a wonderful chunk of prophecy regarding this servant's deep suffering. Back in my more evangelical days I could tell you how many prophecies from Isaiah 53 Jesus fulfilled in his life, death, and resurrection, but alas that has gone the way of the Greek alphabet. What strikes me more these days is the richness of Isaiah's language and how vivid the suffering is in my mind. I think this is partly because of The Passion of the Christ, but even moreso it is having seen suffering first hand in the slums of San Jose, Costa Rica. The suffering described by Isaiah, the suffering experienced by Jesus is the same suffering lived out by the poor and oppressed in the world. So many are silent due to hunger, infirmity, and pain, while others are silent due to threat of jail, torture, or death.

What does it mean to be a Christian in this world of suffering? There must be more than telling those who suffer to "cheer up, Jesus suffered worse." There must be a way to help those who are silent, not by choice, to speak up and be heard. It just seems so hard, like there is so much to do, and I'm just one person. Though there again I'm reminded of the people I met in Costa Rica. Each person was just one person, but with vision, with faith, and with community they were doing great things.

October 10, 2006

an open letter to those fighting over human sexuality

To Whom it may concern:

Please read the first half of the Epistle for Proper 24 Year B.

Steven J. Pankey

Honestly, I was really struck by Hebrews 4.12ff.

The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

The word of God is living and active - yes, yes, a thousand times yes. The word of God comes to life every time it read, silently or aloud. The word of God is alive in the hearts of those who have heard it, directing the course of their actions.

BUT... The word of God is... sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit - the two-edged sword works for me in the current debate because I happen to think both "sides" are wrong. By "sides" here I mean the extremes (i.e. the loudest mouths). Ultimately it is the sin of pride that creates these sides - and it is only through confession that the church will be blessed to move forward. The two-edged sword of the word of God has, I think, struck both sides. Both sides are feeling the pain of this injury (be it self-inflicted or not) and it is this discomfort that leads to harsh speech and uncharitable responses.

We are all laid bare before the living Word, Jesus Christ. We know the choices we have made. We know that we have not lived a life worthy of the gospel. We know that we must render account. "The sting of death is sin" says St. Paul - here in the letter of Hebrews we begin to undertand that the sting of life is also sin.

October 9, 2006

the key to understanding mark

I took VTS's survey course on the New Testament during my first year at seminary. I had The Rev. Dr. John Yieh, one of the most passionate professors on our faculty, and was blown away every class by some insight he had gleaned over his years of ministry in China and the US as well as his in-depth research on the New Testament. We talked about so much in that class it is hard for me to remember a lot of it, but this morning as I read the Mark passage for Proper 24 (10.35-45) I was pleased to notice what Dr. Yieh calls the KEY PASSAGE for understanding Mark's Christology.

"For the Son of Man came not be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." I feel like Proper 24 of Year B could be called Ransom Theory Sunday. In all three readings (the suffering servant - Isaiah, the sinless high priest - Hebrews, and James & John at the right and left - Mark) atonement theory seems to be the focus of the text.

Especially clear in the KEY verse in Mark, the Ransom Theory roughly explained is that due to our sin, the devil holds us hostage. In return for us the devil wants something he has not gained the right to; a perfect and sinless person. In the death of Jesus Christ, God gives the devil this Ransom, however it is only long enough to get us back from the devil as eternal death is the result of sin and therefore a sinless person cannot die forever, but must rise again.

There are lots of implications within Ransom Theory that make me uneasy; inherent universalism/paternalism, God using trickery to gain us back, etc., but it is a good theory to know as one begins to work out their own theology of atonement.

What's more - I'm just excited I'm remembering stuff from classes - GOEs here I come.

October 6, 2006

on the collect

For the first time this week I have realized just how neatly the collect for Proper 23 Year B ties the readings (at least OT and Gospel) together. I've written this week about choices, choosing to seek the LORD and live, choosing to follow Jesus, and all the while I missed that the collect too is about choices.

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

If we earnestly pray this prayer we will be left in the position of making good choices. For if the grace of God truly precedes and follows us we have no right alternative but to do good works. It is out of God's grace that good works flow. Out of our gratefulness for the free gift of grace that we are motivated to act. Just as out of God's overwhelming love and communion within the Trinity led God to create, so too God's overwhelming love and communion outside, toward us,
leads us to do work, good works.

Having begun this week with the ugggggh of some rather rocky texts I must admit I'm excited now to be preaching on these passages. The grace of God which precedes and follows our every move motivates us to good works for the glory of God. I see my sermon percolating...

October 5, 2006

a strange reaction

The interaction between Jesus and his disciples always makes me laugh. For the most part, these 12 guys just don't get it. They don't get what Jesus is doing, yet they continue to follow along. In Mark's telling of the rich young man we see, yet again, an odd response from the 12.

Jesus has just watched an eager young man walk away from him saddened because the demands Jesus made were too much. Dismayed himself, Jesus responds, I'd like to think minus the exclamation points, "how hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God" and again "how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

Now stop and think what some reactions might be. "Why is it so hard for the rich?" "This guy just liked his stuff too much, he's not indicative of all rich people." You know, something specific to the situation at hand. But no, not the disciples, "Then who can be saved?" they ask greatly astounded. "Holy crap! If the rich aren't gettin' in, ain't nobody gettin' in."

What is it about these guys that allows for non sequiters every time they speak? I don't know about you, but it makes me feel pretty good. The 12 who followed Jesus as disciples. Those who were very closest to him (replacing even his own family) continually miss the point. They just can't get it right. And what does Jesus do? He loves them. He continues to try and teach them. He gives them authority to heal and cast out demons. He keeps at them.

2000 years later it looks like Jesus' hard work with those guys really paid off. Yet the tradition of missing the point and asking the wrong question is one that continues throughout history. I wonder if that's why God decided to give us the gift of the Holy Spirit? Maybe in his relationships while on earth, God realized just how clueless we are and decided we needed some help - someone to love us, to teach us, to give us authority.

Either way, I'm grateful for this tenacious God who continuously seeks me out no matter how often I miss the point.

October 4, 2006

Next DC Emergent Cohort Event

A former professor of VTS, current author and always theologian, Diana Butler Bass will be joining the ragtag group of Christian misfits known as the DC Cohort on Monday, Oct 16 at a location still TBD. If you are interested in joining this dinner and conversation check out the link in the title and Email DC Cohort to get on the mailing list.

Seek the LORD and live

Sounds easy enough to me. The prophet Amos speaking to the people of Israel before the exile knows all the terrible things going on in this corrupt and unjust nation. Yet these people can still turn it around with one, seemingly simple action, seek the LORD.

The Hebrew Bible Prof over at Wesley told us last week that in the Psalms the technical term for worship of YHWH is to seek God's face. While she gave me no reason to believe her, it helps with my case here so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.

To worship YHWH, to seek the LORD, is to strive for justice, for righteousness, for truth. And yet its even easier than that. To worship YHWH, to seek the LORD, is to help the poor, to refuse bribes, to seek good; in fact to LOVE good and HATE evil. To not do these things, to not worship YHWH, to not seek the Lord is to face total destruction. In the case of Israel it was to face the extinction of a culture and a people by way of the exile. For us today to not do these things is to choose hell, the ultimate and final place where we can be free from this loving God who judges. But beyond that, throughout all time to not choose these things is to tarnish the face of God - for it was YHWH who was looked down upon when His chosen people were destroyed and it is God who is looked down upon when disciples of Jesus Christ live as hypocrites in the world.

For God's sake (literally) and not for ours is why we should listen to Amos and "hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate" for it may be that YHWH; God the most gracious and merciful; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit "will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph."

October 3, 2006

let the seminarian preach

The readings for Proper 23 remind me of the way George Sherrill began his first sermon at his field ed site, "you know that if I'm standing in the pulpit Dan didn't want to preach these texts, so he thought to himself, 'we'll let the seminarian preach that Sunday.'"

Uggggh. What a weighty set of texts. Doom and gloom from Amos (with a dash of hope). Jesus and the young rich man in Mark (with a dash of Peter and persecutions). Rambling about Moses and Jesus in Hebrews (with a dash of confidence and pride). Uggggh. Maybe I'll preach on the Collect.

As I re-read the passages though I'm left with a question. How hard is it for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God? Easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle!?! What does that mean? [a side note - these musings are intended to be done before exegesis - so you'll have to excuse me for missing the point of the passage on occasion] Life is all about choices. We make choices everyday. Should I snooze one more time? What shirt should I wear? Where should I invest my money? Etc. It seems that here Jesus is giving us a choice. I must choose to use money in a way that is glorifying to God. I must choose to use the gifts God has given me for the kingdom of God. To choose anything is else to choose not to enter into the kingdom of God here on earth. To choose not to enter here is to choose to walk apart from God. For me it really isn't a choice at all. As a Christian it is a part of my character to do these things - to choose to walk with God. But if it is a choice. If I am left to my own devices - how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!

Still though, I know why I'm preaching for Proper 23 - "ick, nasty passages - let the seminarian preach" ;-)

September 30, 2006

Taking A Break

Well whether or not it was sacrilege, adding Jesus to my friends' list put me in the hospital for 2 days and brought me home minus my appendix. While the percoset wears off I'm going to take a break from rational and coherent thought and just thank God for his grace, his healing power, and for my awesome wife who takes such good care of me, an grouchy patient indeed.

While I'm on hiatus, I wanted to pass along this post by Diana Butler-Bass, a former professor of mine at VTS, on Jim Wallis blog on belief-net. It really hits to the core of what it means to be "emergent." Enjoy fellow Red-Letter Christians.

September 26, 2006


So I'm about to add Jesus to my friends list on mysapce. What do y'all think about that?

i'm not a literal creationist mind you...

By that I mean I don't believe (anymore) that God created the world in six 24-hour time periods. The second creation story in chapter 2 however is one of great interest to me. Especially, I find the second story of the creation of animal life and ultimately women to be particularly fascinating.

Two questions come to mind when I read the part about God taking a rib from Adam and creating from it. First, I wonder when this began as an oral tradition? Secondly, I wonder when humankind first figured out that women have one more rib than men. Seems an interesting coincidence to me.

I had a conversation at a party this weekend with a friend of a friend. He's a devout Lutheran who works with youth and young adults and is deeply involved in small group Bible study. Everytime we run into each other the conversation turns to work (for me) as he runs through all that he's been struggling with since last we spoke (welcome to my life - i know). Anyway, I'm not really complaining about this becuase it keeps me from the extremely awkward conversations that abound in a party like this one. So this weekend we were chatting about creation. He being an engineer has always struggled with the 6-day creation thing but had an even harder time with evolution (sounds a lot like me acutally). We spent most of our time talking about how God might exist in evolution (micro or macro - though micro is easier for me to swallow). *Wow this is a long story* So then I come back to this spiritual practice and what awaits me, but another call to belief in the creative power of God through this amazing story that seems to have some scientific evidence behind it. Wow, 2 days and 2 revelations. I'm so glad to be back in touch with God.

September 25, 2006

one of these things is not like the others

In reading the propers for 10/8 I couldn't help but notice a couple of things. First, and most obvious is the direct link between Gen 2 and Mark 10. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." A part of me noticing this was noticing just how (seemingly) different the Hebrews reading is. Yet in re-reading it there is still a sense of becoming one flesh through our salvation. We are sanctified by one who comes from the Father, just as we come from the Father. While this sanctification will last forever we are still expected to put forth some effort toward continuing the process, "We must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. For if the message declared through angels was valid, and every transgression or disobedience received a just penalty, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" Sure salvation is a free gift from God, but its kinda like getting a puppy for Christmas. The puppy is free, but if you want it to grow up to be a well-behaved dog (or at least you want it to live) you must put forth some effort.

The other thing I noticed relates directly to my last post "so my prayer life is in the toilet, so what?" Did you see that collect? Its the "more ready to hear than we to pray" one. It kills me. Thank you Lord for putting it on my heart to get back to this blogging thing just as this collect comes up in the church year. Amen.

September 22, 2006

a new thing

so my prayer life is in the toilet, so what!?!

the so what is every day i feel a little less charitable and a little more angry. so beginning monday i'm getting back to my spiritual discipline and bringing it to a bored seminarian.

if there is anyone still reading this blog after my pitiful summer please help to keep me accountable.

September 14, 2006

more of that hope

+Peter Lee, co-convener of the New York Bishop's meeting, has issued a statement to his diocese. It reads as follows:

September 13, 2006

Dear Friends:

As you know I have just completed a three-day meeting which I co-convened with Bishop John Lipscomb of the Diocese of Southwestern Florida at the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The purpose of our meeting was to address the many complex issues that face our church as one of the 38 autonomous provinces of the Anglican Communion and of the Communion itself.

You no doubt will have read the statement we adopted this morning which says, in effect, we have not reached a conclusion. I feel as though I am writing you with that sentiment an awful lot these days. While each of us in that meeting and many church observers are finding this process frustrating, especially as we operate in a culture which desires quick, decisive action, I am reminded of the lesson from the Epistle of James this past Sunday and the call to us to be quick to listen and slow to action.

In that spirit, I want to share with you my sense of hope coming out of this meeting. While it is true we did not reach a conclusion, the level of candor and charity shared in our meeting was remarkable. I am hopeful that as we continue to meet, the Church will reclaim its historic generous orthodoxy and its respect for diversity and offer the Anglican Communion an example of faithfulness in unity and mission.

I am grateful to the Archbishop of Canterbury for his care for our Church at this time and the sensitivity with which he has asked leaders of our province to assemble to address the complex issues within our Church. I look forward to our next meeting.


Peter James Lee

Bishop of Virginia

So here's someone on the inside (who admittidly stands deeply within the Episcopal Church) who seems to feel the same way as ++Williams and for that I'm grateful and hopeful. So long as the process continues we learn from the mutual fonds of affection.

September 13, 2006

a deep sense of angst... a deep sense of hope

In case you haven't heard the Lee/Lipscomb (not Iker as I mistakenly said yesterday) meeting came to an end today with the following statement.

[ENS] The following statement was issued this morning on the Anglican Communion News Service:

A group of bishops met in New York on 11-13 September at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury and in consultation with the Presiding Bishop to review the current landscape of the church in view of conflicts within the Episcopal Church. The Archbishop of Canterbury had received a request from seven dioceses for alternative primatial pastoral care and asked that American bishops address the question. The co-conveners of the meeting were Bishops Peter James Lee of Virginia and John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida. Other participating bishops were Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori and Bishops Jack Iker of Fort Worth, Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, James Stanton of Dallas, Edward Salmon of South Carolina, Mark Sisk of New York, Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina, and Robert O'Neill of Colorado. Also participating was Canon Kenneth Kearon, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.

We had honest and frank conversations that confronted the depth of the conflicts that we face. We recognized the need to provide sufficient space, but were unable to come to common agreement on the way forward. We could not come to consensus on a common plan to move forward to meet the needs of the dioceses that issued the appeal for Alternate Primatial Oversight. The level of openness and charity in this conference allow us to pledge to hold one another in prayer and to work together until we have reached the solution God holds out for us.

This communiqe is quite foreboding to me in that it points to the degree to which the bonds of affection have been breached. This statement says, for the first-time, out loud that this is not merely an issue about human sexuality, this fracture runs much, much deeper. But for its final line it appears as though nothing is going to make this better. And yet, it seems to me that ++Williams doesn't quite get that.

It's a positive sign that these difficult conversations have been taking place in a frank and honest way. There is clearly a process at work and although it hasn't yet come to fruition, the openness and charity in which views are being shared and options discussed are nevertheless signs of hope for the future. Our prayers continue.

Those who have figured it out, including those were participants in the meeting, are making statements and blogging left and right (no pun intended). Basically there all saying, its over. This makes me sad. This makes me think that the final fence is about to be built and sides (which I've fought taking) are about to finally be taken. Now I realize some of these folk have been doomsday preachers since the beginning, but for the first time their doomsday reality seems to jive with my sense of the tenor and direction of the conversation.

We must continue to hold one another in prayer. We must continue to seek a way forward. We must remove ourselves from the bumper sticker theology world we live in and return to a place of grace, a place of accountability, and a place of hope. C'mon, what do you say... Let's quit letting other people throw hand grenades at each other and work this out together, on the ground floor. After all, we're functionally congregationalist anyway.