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?