November 26, 2008

a video you must see

If you dabble in this thing called emergent/ing you must watch this video. It is full of inside humor for emergent church-nerds, but if you follow this thing, you will be on the floor laughing.

November 25, 2008

a good theology of the end times

I need a good theology of the end times. Do you have one I could borrow? Do you have one I might steal? I live deep in the heart of that part of American Churchianity that is obsessed with the end times. I see it on TV (we have four Christian Television stations ranging from EWTN to all apocalypse all the time), I hear it in ecumenical Thanksgiving services, I read it on church signs, it is even on the news. Most, if not all, of this "gazing upon the chicken bones" comes from a deep desire to not miss the lesson of the fig tree from Sunday's gospel, but I'm just not convinced. I don't think wars and rumors of wars, weather patterns, economic downturns - all man made catastrophies - are the fig tree getting ready to bud.

But good theology goes beyond defining what it is not, and works hard to define what it is. So what is a good theology of the end times? What does it mean to keep awake? More to think about, lots more.

November 24, 2008

Advent is always hard for me

So are we supposed to go back and pretend it is before Jesus was born *or* is it a period of waiting until he comes again? If it isn't the former - why can't we sing Christmas Hymns? If it isn't the latter - why do we grind our gears by starting our journey in Mark (Year B) in his little apocalypse?

I sat in on my Rector's Sunday School class yesterday when at the end he took suggestions for the next few topics. "Paul," someone said, "just Paul, his letters, his journeys, whatever." "Revelation," someone else suggested. "OK," Keith answered, "Father Keith will teach a class on Paul and Father Steve will teach a class on Revelation." Everybody laughed, or so I thought, until after the 10am service someone from that class said, "You're the first priest to take on Revelation, I'm excited for it." AHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Maybe Mark 13 will be a good place to begin my personal study of the apocalyptic literature so that I'm reading in 10 or 15 years to "take on Revelation."

Still, I just don't get what we're doing in Advent.

Readings for Advent 1, Year B

Happy New Year!

November 20, 2008

two things

There are two last details I'd like to mention about Sunday's Gospel lesson. The first comes from my handy-dandy Study Bible which notes that the word translated as nations is used elsewhere to mean Gentiles. I mentioned earlier this week that I spent 20 minutes looking for this passage during my GOEs because it had a funky title. That title is "The Judgment of the Gentiles", which, unless you know that little bit of translation trivia makes very little sense. Anyway, this word swap is interesting to me. Matthew is writing in a very charged atmosphere where the Jews and Jewish Christians (and Gentile Christians for that matter) were being less than neighborly to one another. I'm guessing that's why we get the word rendered nations so that EVERYBODY is included in the judgment - at least as we read it. Is the plot any different if it truly is the judgment of the Gentiles? What does that have to say about the periennial question about whether modern day Jews are going to heaven? As I struggle with my sotieriology (theology of salvation) these questions weigh heavily.

The second thing I'd like to mention came in my morning devotion today. I'm a little behind in my reading of Bread for the Journey, a complilation of Henri Nouwen's thoughts for daily consumption. Here is the entry for November 1:

"Going to the Margins of the Church"
Those who are marginal in the world are central in the Church, and that is how it is supposed to be! Thus we are called as members of the Church to keep going to the margins of soicety. The homeless, the starving, parentless children, people with AIDS, our emotionally disturbed brothers and sister - they require our first attention.
We can trust that when we reach out with all our energy to the margins of our society we will discover that petty disagreement, fruitless debates, and paralyzing rivalries will recede and gradually vanish. The Church will always be renewed wehn our attention shifts from ourselves to those who need our care. The blessing of Jesus always comes to us through the poor. The most remarkalbe experience of those who work with the poor is that, in the end, the poor give more than they receive. They give food to us.
I can't help but think Nouwen's nailed it on the Judgment of the Gentiles. Get out of your own way in order to get out of God's way.

November 19, 2008

it is about faith communities

There is an inherent plurality to the gospel lesson for this Sunday that I think is often missed when read through the lens of American Christianity. All the nations - not everybody - are brought before the King of kings, and the righteous - not the good people - respond to the praises offered by the King of kings.

It is impossible for any one person to be able to feed the hungry, quench the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned. It is the job of the faith community to recognize the gifts of its members and give permission to the cooks to feed, the well-drillers to quench, the hospitable to welcome, the giver to clothe, the compassionate to care, and the courageous to visit.

And even that, I think, is too narrow. Because it doesn't mention that faith communities were gathered, but the righteous, or as we might say the Church - catholic - universal. Some communities will be better equipped to feed while others are strategically placed to visit. But above all, the Church universal, is called to do all these things, even to the least.

November 18, 2008

It is about paying attention

I spent a good 20 minutes during my General Ordination Exams (GOEs) looking for this passage from Matthews Gospel. The sheep and goats, or whatever it was my Bible called it, is for many a very troubling text. In fact, I think the only people for which it might be easy is pre-reformation Roman Catholics who, no doubt, used this text and its apparent works righteousness as more fuel for the money making fire.

What I hear in this text today, which is consistent with where I've been in my pondering of the judgment day recently, is that Jesus is calling on his followers to pay attention. Walking through life with a me-first attitude means missing the hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, etc. Living as one who is fully other-focused means seeing those in need, and as a follower of Christ it further means your hearts deepest desire will be to offer them comfort and peace.

In our Baptismal Covenant this lifestyle is called "seeking and serving Christ in all persons." If you aren't paying attention, you certainly aren't seeking.

Readings for Christ the King, Year A

November 17, 2008

sermon for proper 28, year a

President Bush, President-Elect Obama, and Treasury Secretary Paulson must be beside themselves with joy today as tens if not hundreds of thousands of churches are all hearing this lesson from Matthew's Gospel today. I can imagine them hoping and praying with all they've got that every preacher will stand up and preach a sermon pointing out the strong faith of the two slaves who took their money to the financial markets, invested, and kept the economy going. Even as I read this lesson for the first time in preparation for this sermon, my first thought was, "Wow, this would make a really good economic stimulus speech." But as with all of Jesus' parables, this one involves much more than what our first reading might lead us to believe.
With all apologies to Mrs. Bush, Obama, and Paulson, I do not think the key to this parable is keeping our money in our 401k's, but instead understanding what it means to "enter into our master's joy." On the 2nd of December 2007 we began a new liturgical year. We had on that day resources of all sorts - time, talent, and treasure. They were all given to us by God to hold onto until he returned to make an accounting of his resources. Today, the 16th of November 2008 we are called by the gospel lesson to settle our accounts as we prepare for another year of service to the Master. We have were given many resources, and I believe that if the Master were to return today to make an accounting, he would be well pleased with what we could give him in return.
In the past year we have followed the model of the first two slaves and gone out into the marketplace to begin to turn our resources into God's glory. Notice that the text doesn't say they took their talents - equal to something like 3 to 7 million dollars - and invested them prudently in low risk mutual funds. No, these two slaves took a great risk by going out into the markets - getting their hands dirty along the way - and began to trade with the resources they had available. So too, St. Paul's Foley has rolled up its sleeves this year and gone out into the world to utilize the resources God has entrusted to our care.
In the Church Year A of 2007-2008 St. Paul's Foley has reached out to the tune of Thirty-Thousand Dollars; Tweny-Thousand of which came by way of inkind gifts of time to outreach ministires like Family Promise, Foley Elementary School, Mission on the Bay, Habitat for Humanity, Red Cross Blood Banks, Relay for Life, Kairos, and Coastal Cleanup. We donated 774 plus pounds of food to the Ecumenical Ministries food pantry and donated gifts for 60 angels from EMI's annual Angel Tree Program. The ECW, EYC, UTO, and Discretionary Funds donated more than Eight-Thousand Dollars in real money to groups and individuals in real need. The Galileans sent hundreds of prayer hug cards to the sick, the mourning, and military personell. The Prayer Shawl Ministry wrapped the love of God around at least 76 shoulders. Groups like Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous used our facilties to share their minsitry of recovery from addiction. Dozens of students have slept in the youth room while helping Habitat for Humanity do its important work of making affordable housing available to everyone. Believe it or not, the list goes on from there.
Each of those ministry opportunites brings with it an element of risk. We risk being vulnerable by reaching out to those who are different than us. We risk being embarrassed by not remembering the abc song with our kindergarteners. We risk our real property by allowing others to use it. We risk our bank accounts by offering monetary support to thos in need. Despite all of the risks, we do it anyway. Why? I believe it is because we know the Master's joy and are willing to do whatever it takes to remain there. We get to see smiles on the faces of children who finally get that b comes after a. We get to hear the story of survival of a family that went from being one paycheck away to being homeless. We get to read the cards of thanks from all over the world and know that the love of Christ has been spread far and wide. In every instance the joy that we receive in return more than makes up for any inherent risk in our offering of time, talent, or treasure. Even so, we don't do it for the joy we do or will receive, but for the glory of God through whom all things were made and from whom all the resources at our disposal come. The invitation to the two slaves who risked their master's money wasn't that they'd find their joy, but to enter into the joy of their master. It is in the Master's joy that we find the true meaning of our lives of service.
I ended my All Saint's Day sermon by saying that I was proud to be associated with a group of disciples who have taken the lego's of sainthood out of the box and are working to follow the blueprint for life in the Kingdom of God. I echo that sentiment this morning, with facts to prove my suspicions. Saint Paul's Foley is a ministering community reaching up in worship, reaching in to serve, and reaching out in love. May the God of abundance continue to pour out the resources with which we are able to go into the marketplace to share God's love with Foley, with Baldwin County, with the Gulf Coast, and with all the World. Well done, good and faithful servents, enter into the joy of your Master. Amen.

November 13, 2008

i'm actually suggesting you read

Those of you who know me, know that reading and I are not friends. We may have dated in middle school, but by seminary we had long since gone our separate ways. It may, then, come as a shock to you that what follows is a review of and the suggestion that you read a book.

The book in question is Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television by Nadia Bolz-Weber from whose blog, Sarcastic Lutheran, I shamelessly steal. She is a leading voice in what seems to be emerging in mainline denominations, and is the mission developer at House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado.

Her task, simply enough, was to watch 24 consecutive hours of the Trinity Broadcast Network and write a book about her experience. She notes in the book that, in a very unfortunate set of event, she had to do the research step twice; for which she no doubt has a jeweled crown awaiting her. Having met her over a Kaliber a few years ago and "gotten to know her" by reading her blog I was expecting a snarky look at the depth of perversion that is TBN. What I found was an hilarious, yet insightful tour of the inherent brokenness of a network that so clearly skews the message of Jesus, and yet has such a profound impact on so many.

While the humorous thoughts and running commentary of Nadia and her friends kept the book in my hand long after I give up on most books, the most most important pieces of critique were often written such that it could easily be made any who attempts to proclaim the Good News. Questions like: What makes something Christian? As one who lives off the gifts to God of another, to what level of lifestyle am I called? Is Donatism (4th century heresy that said the efficacy of the sacraments is dependent on the morality/faith of the celebrant) alive and well in 21st century America?

Please buy this book. Please read this book. If you live anywhere near me and have as many as 4 - 24 hour Christian broadcast networks read, mark, learn and inwardly digest this book. If will no doubt help you understand the appeal of TBN and its cousins as well as offer some illuminating questions for your own ministry.

November 12, 2008

Sermon for the Feast of Charles Simeon

Seminary offers the opportunity, on occasion, to study things to the most absurd detail. In a Church History course during my senior year, I wrote a paper entitled, "On Point Ten of the Remonstrance Against the Consecration of the Rev. Dr. Henry Ustick Onderdonk as Assistant Bishop, Diocese of Pennsylvania." Talk about a ridiculous topic, and yet, it proved to be one of the most enjoyable papers I had the opportunity to research. What it taught me, which has served me well thus far, is that deep-rooted and often ugly controversies are in no way new to our beloved Church. The General Covnention of 2003, the 1979 Prayer Book, the ordination of women, the Church's role in the Civil Rights Movement, and on back through history our Church has not been without its contentious argument, which, I believe, have left us stronger and more equipped to serve a world that itself is full of conflict.
The source of contention that lead to my insanely specific seminary paper was the heated debate between the high-church party and the evangelical party. It is a controversy that found itself playing out in both The Episcopal Church USA and the Mother Church, The Church of England, in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. A key player in the development of the evangelical party was the Rev. Charles Simeon, a priest in the Church of England who served his parish, Holy Trinity in Cambridge for 55 years. Simeon had what came to be known as a typical evangelical conversion - one that involved a deep personal encounter with God - but uncharacteristically it came not in response to the proclamation of the Word in a sermon, but in a sacramental experience at the Table. It was the law in England that all university students were required to attend church regularly and to receive Holy Communion at least once a year. This often lead to people taking Communion in what has been called an "irreverent manner." I'm not sure what specific actions that refers to, but I can't imagine they made God happy their response to the gift of his Son nor about that particular law.
Charles Simeon, however, took it very seriously. He later wrote, "On 29 January 1779 I came to college. On 2 February I understood that at division of term I must attend the Lord's Supper. The Provost absolutely required it. Conscience told me that, if I must go, I must repent and turn to God." He utilized a pamphlet by Bishop Thomas Wilson called Instructions for the Lord's Supper to facilitate that conversion and was transformed by the understanding that "only the sacrifice of Christ, perceived by faith, could enable one to [worthily partake in the Lord's Supper]." His experience at the Table was one of peace and exhilaration which motivated his 55 years of zealous and enthusiastic service to God and Christ's Church. The Historian Lecky wrote of the influence of Charles Simeon and his group of friends by saying, "They gradually changed the whole spirit of the English Church. They infused into it a new fire and passion of devotion, kindled a spirit of fervent philanthropy, raised the standard of clerical duty, and completely altered the whole tone and tendency of the preaching of its ministers."
In the midst of great divide and controversy in the Church, and even as one who represented one side in that debate, Charles Simeon carried an attitude of cooperation based in his understanding that only with Christ were all things possible. He acted as a beacon of unity in a Church that was tearing itself apart.
The lessons for his feast day mark that spirit of unity. As a low-church, evangelical Simeon held a deep passion for preaching. Evangelicals were known as Morning Prayer people with sermons that could last an hour or more. They took seriously the question of Paul to the Romans, "How are they to hear without someone to proclaim [Christ]?" And yet, Simeon's conversion was rooted in the Eucharist, the center of church life for the high-church party. And so, as Jesus commands Peter twice to feed and once to tend to his sheep, Simeon understood his calling as a priest in the same way - one who is called to feed the Lord's sheep from his table.
As followers of Jesus in the tradition of Charles Simeon, I believe we too are called to engage the world both by word and by action. We are each called to share the Good News of God in Jesus Christ by sharing what that good news has meant in our lives and by reaching out to feed and tend to the lambs of Jesus. What was once an argument around the liturgy is now a debate around the central message of the Gospel, but I believe both sharing the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ alone and taking part in his constant rebuilding of God's creation are both central - and Charles Simeon is one of my heroes of that both/and understanding of the faith. "How are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?" "Do you love me?... Feed my sheep." Amen.

a parable about our perspective of God

In our lectionary group yesterday somebody raised an interesting thought about how we read the Parable of the Talents. We almost always read it from the perspective of the slaveowner, to use the analogy readily available in the text - we see it as a calling to use the gifts that God has given us. This is a good and faithful reading, and probably the one I will preach from on Sunday.

This other reading that was suggested wanted to read it from the perspective of the slaves. What is said or implied by the slaves that shows us how they perceive God. The slave(s) with whom we most closely associate might tell us something about how we too perceive God. Do we see God as a risk-taker, unafraid of failure, who is full of compassion and grace - the attitude implied, I think, by the actions of the slaves. Or, do we see God, in the words of the third slave, "Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid..."?

If we see God as the third slave does, how does our fear keep us from acting in the great rebuilding of Creation to which God calls us? How does our inaction cause us to break our relationship with God?

I found this reading to be interesting because I often find myself stagnant because of fear. In fact, my worry that I let float away during our evening worship on Thursday night at Worship with/in a Postmodern Accent was my fear of inadequacy. Actually my prayer was answered without even writing it. The pen I picked up was dead, so I folded a blank piece of paper and floated it away. While I was waiting for other to finish the difficult task of origami, I saw that the dead pen had written on it, "God doesn't call the qualified, God qualifies the called."

I'm trying to view God's radical riskiness in calling people like me and you to work with him. Will you let go of your fear and join me?

November 11, 2008

a great blessing and a huge responsibility

I'm really searching the deep recesses of my brain to remember how I've heard this passage from Matthew 25.14-30 preached in the past, and, to be quite honest, I'm not sure I can find it. So for the first time I can think of, I will be preaching a text without my set of preaching parents hovering in the background. Sure, I'll do the research that I always do, but to not her the voices of the priests I have known and respected in my past feels very strange.

Fortunately, I work for/with a priest who I respect greatly, and though I've never heard him preach this text, he and I heard it speaking the same things to us after last night's vestry meeting. You see, dear reader, Sunday is our annual parish meeting, and it seems like a bad time to preach an angry message to "the wicked slaves who have done nothing with the gifts God has given them." And even if it weren't annual meeting and the beginning of stewardship season, I couldn't preach that sermon because so many of our people are doing so much. Our kids have reached out to the people of Mississippi with hammers and nails and to the people of north Alabama with money. Our adults are reaching out to this community by tutoring the least - kindergarteners and first grader; they are giving hope to the hopeless by hosting, feeding, and talking with the homeless in Baldwin County; they are supporting one another in times of illness and/or crisis. To whom much has been given, much is required, and I think we are living up to that great blessing and huge responsibility. Because we have been faithful with a little, I feel certain that God will give us even more, which will mean more blessings and bigger responsibilities, but to be honored by God as he trusts us with is resources is the greatest blessing a community can have.

November 10, 2008

Worship with/in a Postmodern Accent day 3

Communion by Numbers made for an interesting worship experience. We began by opening envelope #1 at 8:10pm and finished up envelope #9 just before 10am. I enjoyed the service, though I ended up at a table with a guy who was having a sneezing fit and another who was in charge of the conference so there was a lot of stopping and starting and getting up and coming back. Anyway, I recommend it as a "Worship Trick" to continue using Jonny Baker's bad name for his liturgical idea log.

The Q&A Session that ended things on Saturday morning gave two answers that I think are worth noting. The first was around the question, "how do I start something like this?"

Jonny Baker suggests this model: 1. build a team. 2. get some space. 3. eat, drink, and dream together. I add two substeps to #3 - 3a. do the theology and 3b. do it well.

Ed Phillips adds a thought as to our motivations, which I think is very, very important: Don't be defined by desperation. This is probably the best piece of information for any community looking to think outside the box. If you are doing it "to get the young people" who are lacking, STOP, take a breath, and pray. Maybe in the "mixed economy" of God you are being called to reach the group you are reaching - high church politicians, low church farmers, WWII vets, etc. The "young people" that the church started talking about now in their late 40s. The "young people" I represent are in their late 20s and early 30s. The "young people" we all picture are in their late teens and early 20s. Be careful to lump people together in desperation.

The other question, which I promised to anwser here, is around resources. The single best resource available for emerging/alternative worhsip is your community and the imaginations God has blessed them with. To spur that imagination, here are a couple of things to check out. The link above to Jonny's "Worship Tricks" is a good one - it is full of high and low tech "rituals" that help do the work of taking the everyday into the church and replanting God back into everyday life. Another good site is The three book series, Imaging the Word is also worth perusing. Finally, I think it must be mentioned that we are living in a post-literate culture. The word and book has been replaced by the image and link. Don't discount that, as hard as it might be for many of you. It might very well be sad that people don't read like they used to, but complaining abou it and ignoring it won't change the fact that the change has happened. So, utilize images in your teaching and in your worship. Do it in various ways, but don't ignore their power. is a great resource for open/limited source images.

All in all it was a good conference, and I'm glad I went. I met some fine folk and had a few opportunities to worship God in new and exciting ways. If you have questions, drop me a note, and I'll be happy to point you to the right place.

Readings for Proper 28, Year A

My final post on Worship with/in a Postmodern Accent will come later today (sorry, I couldn't pay $6 for an hour of internet access at the airport - I'm just that cheap.)

November 7, 2008

worship with/in a postmodern accent day 2

Today was all about inculturation/contextualization. We began with that well-worn story about the 6 blind men who went to "see" an elephant. It is sorta kitch, to me, in the whole "inculturation" conversation, but the point is well made.
Jonny Baker then began his presentation entitled "an adventure of the imagination." His tag-line is "working out how the gospel connects with our context." Something I echo with as a part of our community at 2021 (which I'll get to later).

He began by setting up the current [false] dichotomy is worship; Prayer Book Worship vs. Contemporary Worship. Prayer Book Worship, he argues, can dry up, and contemporary worship is razor thin. alt/emerging worshpi attempts to be the 3rd way, a via media, bringing cultural relevence into the tradition and making church out of the stuff of the "real world." I found this interesteing as he talked about the ethos of his community, Grace.
1. Creativity 2. Risk 3. Participation 4. Engagement.

The tie that I felt closely to the 2021 as he actually used our foundational text in his discussion of mission (engagement) in postmodern times. His argument for an incarnational approach (over and ending the imperialistic approach) to mission was based in our text, Jn 20.21 with Jn 1.1 as its backbone. Jn 1.1 in The Message says, "The Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood." And then in Jn 20.21 Jesus tells his disciples, "As the father sent me [into the neighborhood] so I am sending you." To expect people to come to us is inauthentic to the mission set forth by Christ himself. As Rob Warner of the UK says, "My heart years for the 90% who will not traditionalize to become Christians." All of this, Jonny argues, should be done by way of ritual, relocating God back into the everyday.

As an Anglican, he pointed to the freedom given his own Church Mission Society by ++Rowan calling for a "mixed economy." We need to celebrate what IS working while looking after those for whom it will not speak. "Allowing for the new to walk alongside the old."

The role of clergy in all this, he argues, and I tend to agree, is 1. create space, 2. give permission, and 3. get out of the way. Sounds like the short lived name of this blog - digging up my own foundation.

My thought in the midst of all this, espceially the conversation that followed, that was, on many levels, banal, is this - if you haven't done the theological prep work, you aren't doing anything - you are just doing stuff.

Ed Phillips talked this afternoon about worship as the work of the people. This, I had a hard time following as my Episocpal background rubbed up against the majority United Methodist group gathered here. So, I'll suffice it to say, a lot of what he said is summed up in the Anglican tradition of lex orandi, lex credendi - what you pray shapes what you believe. To say it another way, we come to worship to model, to practice, the life that being a follower of Christ calls us to live every day. Or as Ed said it, "Christian woship ist he way God forms us in the truthful practice of the story of Jesus Christ."

I'll finish this post by talking about the Open Space Conversation process we took part in today, and had to skip today. I don't know where they got this so I can't give you a reference, but here is the basic worksheet.

How it Works
1. You will be invited to take turns generating topics related to the focus question and to announce these to the group.
2. Each topic is written on a piece of paper and posted on a wall along with the time and place to meet.
3. When all topics have been generated, you are invited to select the topics taht you are most interested in.
4. When choosing a topice, consider the following two questions.
a. What topic do I want to explore.
b. What am I passionate about?
5. Participate in the discussion according to the Four Principles and the Law listed below.

Four Principles and Law
1. Whoever comes are the right people - those participants present are the only ones who are here.
2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have - don't get bogged won by what could've or should've happened; focus on the here and now.
3. When it starts is the the right time - creativity happens when it happens.
4. When it's over, it's over - move on when the conversation loses its steam; make plans for continuing when it needs extending.

The Law of Two Feet - every participant has two feet and must be prepared to use them to move to whatever place he or she can best contribute or learn.

My group was based on a topic I suggested - the art/science of contextualization. We had a great conversation on the dangers of events like this - taking back what we've seen and the books we've bought without critically thinking about what it means to and how it might speak to our communities. I was encouraged by the conversation, and sorry that we missed out on the open space converations today.

Our worship service -communion by numbers - is tonight. I'll let you know about it tomorrow. Also reading lists will be coming soon.

November 6, 2008

postmodern accent - day 1

As I mentioned yesterday, I am in Oklahoma City for an event called "worship with/in a postmodern accent." It is a very interesting event put on and attended mostly by United Methodists from Oklahoma. Most didn't even realize that it had been advertised nationally - of the 35 in attendance there are probably only 5-8 who aren't UM from OK. That makes it wierd because they have lots of inside lingo and people in common that I don't get, but I'm finding it a spectacular event anyway.

It began with a presentation by Dr. Ed Phillips of Candler Seminary and a bit of "postmodern humor." Not having audio/video for the "joke" made it tough. So I give you this

The question - "Is this anything" is the question being asked in our churches. When I pray, is it anything? When we celebrate the Eucharist, is it anything?

In a world where novelty is the status quo, how do you have true innovation?

Dr. Phillips' presentation was an enlightening journey through liturgical history. His assertion is that we are in the midst of a paradigm shift from worship as experience to worship as event. I have trouble with the nuance of experience v. event so I would rather use another word - worship as happening. Worship is no longer an audience viewing an expert do some cool things but an opportunity "to be with I am."

Jonny Baker of the Church Mission Society in the good ol' Church of England then presented on creativity. I immediately said to myself, "I am not creative." And he debunked my own myth when he pointed to research done by some major corporation that said the only difference between those who are creative and those who are not is perception. If you think you aren't creative then you won't be. If you think you are, then you will be. Damn! His advice to spark creativity was remarkably ironic - "deliberately schedule interruptions." Ha!

We then worked in our small groups on tomorrow night's "Communion by Numbers" service. I'm in group 7 which is in charge of the bread and wine portion of the evening - you know, the easy part. We worked very hard, and I think that we are being both genuine to our overwhelmingly UMC group while moving beyond everyone's comfort zones.

After dinner the conversation went back to Jonny who used a favorite metaphor of mine, one by Tom Wright - the Christian walk as improvization. Basically it says that salvation history is a 5 act play that has a scene missing in the middle of the 5th act - which is where we live. We must improvise that scene while staying true to the larger story (the tradition). The one thing I wish he would have mentioned was that some people improve by using the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and some people improvises by using ipods and macbooks and both are OK. We also were kinda fearful of the whole improvisation thing and nobody mentioned, though I stronly believe, that communities tend to be self-correcting.

Finally, a great analogy for people like Jonny, Brian McLaren, and hopefully me - and that is being bilingual - we speak both institution and alt.worship.

All in all a good day one. I'll talk more tomorrow about the "open space" conversations we're having each day.

Two other things

November 5, 2008

Live Blogging

My last attempt at live blogging brought with it my most controversial post - EVER. And in light of the fact that the boomers have given up the highest office to an X-er, I will, I pray, be very quiet about my generational prejudices here.

Instead, I have arrived, safely, albeit very much like a James Bond martini thanks to storms in the Oklahoma City area, for a three day adventure called Worship in a Postmodern Accent. I will blog my "gut reactions" for each day (or more often if time allows).

So until tomorrow...

November 3, 2008

All Saints' Part II

The 1 Thessalonians lesson for Sunday is one on which even a good 45 minute Presbyterian sermon could barely scratch the surface. Dealing with some of the questions that most haunt theologians, pastors, and laity alike I can imagine what the sermon conversation around this passage might look like at Solomon's Porch - seven hours later whoever is leading the discussion rises from the drool puddle on the altar table to suggest that the Monday work day is only a few hours away and maybe they should all go home and get some rest.

The issues surrounding 1) the bodily resurrection of the dead, 2) the "rapture", 3) the paradise that awaits us, and 4) the Church expectant are too numerous to count, but are certainly worth a bit of time to discuss and pray about. I point the kind reader to my friend Matt who wrote a fine piece about this topic for his All Saints' musings - here.

I don't have a lot of answers today, but the questions rumbling are keeping my mind active, and "they" say that's a good thing. What does it mean that God will "bring with him those who have died"? What will it be like to be "caught up in the clouds"? What sort of encouragement is there in this period of waiting where we mourn the loss of friends and loved ones? Questions, questions, questions.

I leave you with a story of my Greek Professor from Seminary, TL. TL is an African-American priest serving on a campus that was built by African slaves and founded by slave-holding laymen and bishops. The story goes that TL's burial plot in the Seminary cemetery is right next to Bishop Meade, a notorious low-church bishop who was also a slave-owner in antebellum Virginia. TL hopes to be buried in the high church regalia of his office as priest (chausible, etc.) so that on the day of the resurrection he can raise up, next to Bishop Meade, as a black man wearing a chausible buried in the VTS cemetery.

What does 1 Thessalonains have to say about any of this stuff? What does the lesson from Matthew have to say about my worrying with these questions? hmm.