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).