Thursday, December 22, 2005
Both of them point out the primary problem with Protestantism from the start (and even moreso since the Great Awakening)- individualism. It's clear to see that individual interpretations and preferences are at the very heart of everything we practice and believe.
I guess I was inadvertently quoting Matthew Gallatin when I said to Bob yesterday, "If the Orthodox Church is The Church, then it doesn't matter I think about the Church, it only matters what the Church thinks about me."
He said something about our having better critical and hermeneutical skills than the early church, as well as many developments in psychology and science.
But, wait, by that reasoning we would have a better understanding of church than even the Apostles, because they lived in that age of comparative intellectual darkness. However, if, instead of discounting anything ancient, you assume that Christ's Church will always be present on the earth, (and not in secret, as some Baptists suppose), then the only way to objectively view the interpretation of Scripture is to compare mine to the early Church Fathers. In doing this, one will find that the Holy Orthodox IS the Church founded by Christ in the Apostles. This Church has been continuous for all these centuries.
Now, recognize, that, as a mere inquirer and novice of the Orthodox Faith, I don't assume to apologize for the Faith, but I am merely working through these things in answer to myself.
"What is it in the Orthodox Church that attracts you?"
And I guess that is my answer.
Yes, the Orthodox Church is mystical, experiential, sacramental, and communal- all things that are appealing to my personal bent.
If there is Absolute Truth anywhere, it is to be found in the Holy Orthodox Church.
If the Orthodox Church is The Church, then there's nothing I can do but submit myself to the Church of the Apostles, Fathers, Saints and Martyrs.
Pray for me.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Stacy, I hope this helps you place us. We moved to Missouri last December from Dyersburg, TN. Now we're moving farther north. Further up and further in, as Aslan says...
On another note, I did have a couple of conversations about my interest (some would say obsession) with Orthodoxy, and it was interesting. One guy (whom I'll call my benefactor) said that I wouldn't be using my full potential in the Orthodox Church, because I'm more of a free spirit and wouldn't handle being under authority. I wouldn't hesitate to say that he understands me very well, but the exact reason that I need to be under the authority of the Church. It's the only path to truly, humbly serving Christ.
My pastor and I also discussed Orthodoxy for a bit. He's concerned about some 'problem doctrines' like infant baptism. I said, if I'm under the genuine authority of the Church, then it doesn't much matter what I think about a given issue. What has the Church practiced in all times at all places? That's more what we should be interested in. I've been looking for a Saint's principle of hermeneutics: universality, consensus, historicity.
Well, that's all for now.
My benefactor said, "If God's calling you to the Orthodox Church, then you need to sign up now, but I just don't think it would be the best use of your skills and personality."
What to do... what to do??
In July I resigned as youth minister at my church. Then I registered to be a full time student at Southeast Missouri State University. This was my first semester as a full time student in five years. It went pretty well. My grades are up this morning- All A's. So, thanks be to God who allowed me to do well in the midst of all these hard transitions in my life.
Over Christmas break we are moving north to live near my college. Over this semester we have been pretty poor while spending around $300 a month in gasoline. Approximately 600 miles a week is a bit extreme.
Seeing as my college is paid for and it's about time I finish my education we decided to make it a priority even over my job and ministry.
So, what will we be doing? That's the real kicker.
God has provided a house next to the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson,MO. They love Young Life, and so they're excited to have a YL family live in their house for free.
Amy will be working as the secretary at the church (making as much as I did with YL) in the mornings. While she's at work, I'll be learning to be a good stay-at-home-dad and house-husband. I'm registered for 18 hours at SEMO in the afternoons and I'll volunteer with Jackson YL in the evenings.
That's what we'll be up to before long. We have a truck for the 28th. Hopefully, we'll have lots of help to load it and unload it.
Pray for us as we go through yet another hard transition. (And pray for a home for our dog.)
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Tomorrow I'm going to see underoath in Nashville at RCKTWN. Yet another hardcore/screamo concert for yours truly. We'll see how that goes. This time I'm getting really excited because I actually like underoath a lot. (They're not quite as "screamy" as the others.)
Tuesday night it was decided that we are moving. So, we'll be moving to Jackson, MO the week after Christmas. It should be great for us. I'll write more about it later.
Well, that's all in our wild lives.
Pray for us.
Monday, December 12, 2005
I've been reading The Brothers Karamazov and studying a lot lately. The novel is for pleasure for a break between studying times. We're allowed to bring one page of notes into the final today, so I've been typing that note. My handwriting is awful, so typing will fit a lot more information on the page.
Anyways, there's lots of stuff going on in our lives this week. I'll share more about that thursday when I know more.
Pray for me.
Friday, December 09, 2005
Consequently, my brain has been preoccupied with school.
Also, we have some big possible life changes and moves looming and I've spent a lot of time thinking about that.
I did want to give a plug for
Our Life In Christ & Ancient Faith Radio
One of the guys from Our Life in Christ read my blog the other day and posted a nice comment, so I want to mention their show. It is very thoughtful stuff. It's especially helpful for protestants who are trying to learn more about Orthodox Christianity. And I wanted to mention Ancient Faith Radio, because I first listened to OLIC on AFR. Ancient Faith, not American Family!!
I'm going to go heat up my car, it's pretty cold.
Pray for me.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
For the reformers sola scriptura didn't mean "nothing but the Scriptures". I recognize that Luther kept some things that were purely tradition and even Calvin kept some extrabiblical tradition. Now, a lot of protestants today are children Zwingli. Those are easy to spot. If they deny being a Protestant, then they're Zwinglian.
Amy and I were talking about this issue of authority and she said something like this:
For the average (ornery-type) protestant, they study the Bible to find out what they believe, then they take it to their church and point out their faults. Eventually a protestant believer leaves that church and joins one that agrees with his doctrine. What kind of submission to spiritual leadership is that?
That sounds like a better slant to this question of authority. The Fathers never abrogate the Scriptures. They affirm, interpret and apply them.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
I may have mentioned that I preached at our current church a couple of weeks ago. Our church is a evangelical protestant inter-denominational church. Lately, I have been more and more uncomfortable with the "choose your own faith" attitude that I encounter in all protestant churches. Not that these are particularly dishonorable or arrogant people. This is just a consequence of the reformation. Sola scriptura sold us down the river, so to speak. Now there are no rules. The more that our churches try to set hermeneutical/theological guidelines the more arbitrary it all seems.
For me that is the beauty of the Orthodox Church. Nothing is arbitrary. This is truly the historic faith of the New Testament and the early church fathers. It's scary how much this changes the way I read Scriptures and notice the text-wrestling I was doing before to make it read like it should if my conclusions are true. Then I realize that I NEVER believed in the final authority of the Scripture. I believed in the authority of MY INTERPRETATION of Scripture. I was willing to fight and argue with fellow believers who didn't read this text or that text the same as I did, when the odds are we were both wrong.
For the past two years I have been wondering about the communal nature of truth-knowing and I have wondered (sometimes aloud to myself) what a church would look like that practiced truth-finding/knowing in that way. In the process I became enamored with the spiritual practices of the Orthodox Church. I listened to the Divine Liturgy in Greek a few times a week long before I ever stepped foot in a real live Orthodox church. I started to explore the nature of that faith, realizing that they have always had a communal truth-knowing process.
For ten centuries the church was one and ruled by councils of Bishops. The statements of the councils were then received by the people.
Why would I long for communal truth?
I recognize the all-too likely possibility of error when I read the Scriptures by myself or you do. This is evident by the fact that we all come together and have vastly different readings of the Scriptures. This should definitely not be true when it comes to the all-important ideas of Scripture. Those shouldn't be left to interpretation. If many of us come together, depending on the Holy Spirit, then we're guaranteed that He will guide us (His Church) into all truth. As I've found out, this process leaves a lot of questions unanswered, which is a problem for us western thinkers- we want everything answered. Sometimes we even make things up just to have answer. The Orthodox faith has a lot of mystery where the Scriptures are silent or where the Fathers were not in unanimous agreement.
And from this argument it's a long way down. Once you've lost the idea/importance of personal interpretations of Scripure you lose the do-it-yourself religion of the west, and there's nothing left but to the run to Bride of Christ, where She may be found on this planet.
And I have found that Bride waiting patiently in the Orthodox Church.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
In case I haven't mentioned, this was the first time I met my step-mom. Hmm. It was an interesting experience.
Judy and her daughters (my stepsisters, maybe) couldn't have been nicer. They were some of the nicest people we've ever met. I'm sure it was weird for them to have us staying at the house, having just met us.
This was positively the first Thanksgiving dinner I ever spent outside on the patio. That's right, we all sat outside on the patio eating thanksgiving dinner. And it was a big big dinner. We went with Judy to her big family Thanksgiving. It was enjoyable being a family of 'random people' at someone else's get together.
Now we're safe and sound back in southeast Missouri.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Tomorrow Amy, the kids and I are driving out to Hugo, OK to have thanksgiving at my new stepmom's house. I'm a little nervous. You see, I haven't met her yet.
So, that should be an eventful visit.
I guess I'll write more about that in the next few days.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Anyways, I did buy a book while I was there (I figured, why not?). I bought a translation of St. Athanasius' On the Incarnation. I confess I started reading a bit on the way home. Before I left Joshua took me upstairs to photocopy the daily prayers from the service book for me. Fr. John Troy saw me and remembered my name. I was impressed.
I guess I'll order the icon online and buy the prayer book the next time we go to St. John for the Liturgy.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Every group has norms, even if it is to have no norms. The most hodgepodge, seemingly random conglomeration of people will naturally mimic one another or some charismatic personality.
There's a movie called SLC Punk which deals with this phenomenon in a humorous way. A memorable moment in the movie is when the main character's "preppy" love interest asks this non-conforming anarchist "did you buy a uniform?"
It's as if each of us choose these affinity groups and adhere strictly to the dress code, mannerisms, and opinions.
To be human is to be in relationship. This is something emphasized a lot in the emerging church conversation and highlighted by early church fathers.
So, is there something ghoulish about the process of norming and socialization? Probably not. In fact, it should be beneficial. Churches establish dress codes, either formally or informally. There are unspoken rules about how to dress. And behavior isn't exempted from this process. Even the hippest-emergingest-mac usingest church or faith community will seek to socialize the people to "the way we do things".
Why not be more explicit? Why not establish written flexible rules about behavior and dress for a given situation?
This summer I took a group of young people to visit various churches. At one of our visits (a predominantly black Baptist Charismatic church) I noticed one of our young men was wearing a rebel flag t-shirt under his dress shirt.
So, I would be in favor of explaining to people that the way we dress in worship should be non-distracting. To me, that means no logos, baudy jewelry, even overly expensive suits and dresses should be nixed. Immodest clothing should be avoided.
I firmly believe that the way a community dresses (intentionally or not) expresses some very important things about what the community values.
So, my church wouldn't hand out "uniforms", but we would be intentional about expressing God's beauty, purity, and grace with our dress.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Living in this small town I don't get to cities very often. We drove to Nashville. It was kind of a spontaneous thing. I heard about it in the morning and went with them in the afternoon.
The show was at the club owned by Michael W. Smith, RCKTWN. It's very cool. Very hip. Big plasma screen tv's and a coffee bar.
I have never been to a hardcore concert, but I pretty much knew I'd be out of place. So, I purposely dressed 'adult': collared plaid shirt, blue jeans, fleece vest. Everyone else was dressed in what I lovingly called 'the uniform': girl pants (guys more than girls), black tshirt, same exact hair cut, and the requisite chucks. It was almost humorous, except I didn't want to insult their culture, so I just picked on Brian, one of the guys with us. He's in college and looked like he ordered his outfit, shoes, and haircut from a website called hardcoreuniform.com. Don't click that link. I shudder to think of what it might lead to.
Then there was the dancing. My brother in law is really into this music. He plays in a local band out in Scottsbluff, NE, The Blessed Murder. I was really going to this concert to better understand him and his friends. I don't think they dance like these guys did.
I'm not that old. I've moshed in my day. Heck, I've moshed a lot, but I've never seen kids dancing like kungfu fighting beating the living daylights out of each other inadvertently. What a sight. I stood up on a raised balcony so I could see the show and the mosh pit.
Ear plugs are a must for any rock show these days, especially if the point of the style of music is something like trying to make everyone deaf by their 21st birthday. Dang. I wore my earplugs for the first two bands. They weren't very good. The last three bands were the ones I went to see, so I left my earplugs out. What a mistake.
The national bands at that show were Norma Jean, Still Remains and Haste The Day.
I liked Haste The Day the best. I think I prefer the hardcore music that switches between punk-style lyrics/harmonizing and straight up screaming, like underoath. That way the screaming seems to match the lyrics and music better. It's like it builds.
Haste The Day has the crowd in the palm of their hands. At one point the lead (screamer) singer yelled out "CIRCLE PIT!" and the crowd of adolescents started running in a large circle kungfu fighting each other and whatnot. At another point in the concert they played "American Love" a song which alternates between screaming and worship style lyrics and sincerity. During the slow, thoughtful parts I saw hardcore kids (I could pick them out by the uniform) with hands in the air singing their hearts out. Hmmm, interesting.
I got to bed at 2:30AM. I left my house at 7 AM to get to Biology and take an exam. It turned out okay. I got a 92% on my exam. All day Monday if I sat still I could still hear the voices screaming. Now I'm listening to Haste The Day on my computer.
What have I done.
I do have more serious things to blog about, but those will wait. I've been looking for time to write about my kungfu dancing experience all week.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Speaking at St. Luke's and St. John's went pretty well Sunday. The guy wasn't lying when he said to expect 5-6 people. I'm not kidding. I brought Micah and John, and then there were six of them. But still, it was a neat little prayer service. They actually use the evening prayer service at 1 in the afternoon, if the priest can't be there. There really is something comforting about taking that time to entrust our souls to God for the night ahead and say a prayer for everyone we can think of or can find a collect for. And I promise you we did. We must have said every collect in the Prayer Book and invented some.
I downloaded David Crowder Band's new CD on Napster yesterday (yes I bought it.). It is great. Last night I had to house to myself for about 3 hours, so I listened to that, lit some candles, did some laundry, and read for Social Philosophy class. What an evening. I should have taken a hot bath to top it off.
The gas prices are supposed to soar this winter. We are nervous, because our electric is on a Budget plan, so we pay the same every month. If our gas bill is high and we pay the same medium-high electric bill, it could be a problem. So, we have our thermostat set at 60-62 during the day. Woohoo. Then we picked up a couple of space heaters. We bought the kind that have plastic housings, so they don't burn the kids. That's a plus. It seems like the little one we bought for their room is stronger than the big oscillating one we bought for our room. Who would have thought?
This weekend JY and I are going to St John in Memphis. You know, sometimes I call that church St. John and sometimes St. John's. If anyone from St. John('s) reads this blog, please correct me and set me straight for the future. I'm excited, anyways, to get to visit there again. I don't know if Amy and the kids are coming along this time. She really liked it last time, but she doesn't feel like taking the 3-hour roundtrip on a lazy Sunday. I guess we'll see.
Thanks for reading. Leave comments. Make me feel loved.
Friday, October 21, 2005
I had the lay leader who asked me send over the lessons for the day, so I could speak to them.
The funny thing is, since this parish is really small, they don't have a priest and the have their service at 1 on sunday afternoons. So, we'll be going to Tucker Street in the morning, then leaving right after service to get over here and speak at St Luke's & St. John's. (They either have two saint or they are a combined parish of two even smaller defunct parishes-- I'm not sure which.)
Well, now I'm sitting in SEMO's own fancy new computer bar. I'm currently sitting on a nice leather couch that hasn't been at on much. I've never seen more than a couple of students in this place, but then it's only a few weeks old. It smells really new.
This morning my Envir. Bio. class took an interesting tour of the local wastewater treatment plant. It smelled horrible. Lucky for me, the odor didn't cling to me.
When I left my house this morning it wasn't very cold, but it feels dang cold up here. Didn't I complain about the hot weather in my last post. Apparently God answered my prayer. The problem is, I didn't bring a jacket. I didn't expect it to be much colder up here than home.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
I have never liked the summers in this part of country, so I spend the whole summer praying and waiting for fall. Now it's supposed to be here, we've even had some teases, but it's back into stinky hot summer. IN OCTOBER!
Well, we're really scrambling now to figure out ways to make our life in Caruthersville financially viable while I attend college over an hour away. We are trying to stay there because we feel like God has placed us there to reach those high school students.
Now, with finances getting harder, it's hard to see how we'll be able to stay. I know that God has confirmed the rightness of our plan to go ahead with my education. I feel like we're headed in the right direction. Will we have to move? We're trying to avoid moving out of our little town, because we know the results to our little Young Life could be fatal.
Of course, I know God will continue faithfully calling those young people to Himself. My leaving there won't end God's mission to the people of the bootheel.
I don't know what we'll do. We're trying to avoid having Amy work outside of the home. We know our kids need her more now than ever. She might end up having to work even if we move to Cape or wherever.
This is what has been weighing on me lately. I've spent lots of time praying about it.
Dear readers, please pray to the Lord to provide for our needs, and to give us wisdom to know what to do, and boldness to do it.
Monday, October 17, 2005
It was my favorite Orthodox convert story I've read/come across so far.
I decided to give The Way a try after I saw a few people carrying it at St. John.
By the way, I have passed on my copy of Becoming Orthodox to a friend, and passed on my copy of Seeking God in a Land of Shallow Wells to my pastor. That is, my protestant Evangelical pastor. He and I are pretty tight, since I used to work there. We'll so how this goes. As busy as he is, he might not get to that book for a while. On the other hand, I think I have caused a minor stir by telling some church members that I am considering converting or that I would convert if I didn't live so far away.
I don't know if I talked about this in a post before, but Carlton talks about a time when he realized he had to stop choosing the church and start letting the church have him. Or something like that. I guess I'm convinced rationally for why the Orthodox faith is true and the historic faith of the Apostles. I know they're right. I'm not sure I'm ready to be that right.
I have ikons in my home, I pray the morning prayers from my little Orthodox Prayer Book, I pray the Jesus Prayer in my car on the way to work. Heck, I even kiss an icon now and then, and cross myself quite a bit (for a Protestant). The thing is, I still approach it like a WalMart Protestant. (Oh, this works for me- I'll take it.) I'd rather relieve myself of the duty of controlling this life, and give myself over to the Church in Her fullness.
Anyways, that's kind of what I've been thinking about Orthodoxy lately.
I'll probably go visit St. John again in a week or two.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
I have to confess that it was probably the most nervous I've ever been to preach. First, I only knew like 4 of these people, so it was a crowd of strangers. Second, I didn't want to say something clearly unBaptist, and get booed down off the platform.
I'm glad that's over.
It was a lot of fun, really. The people were very nice, and even seemed to like what I had to say.
It was especially fun to ge there as a guest preacher. Since I don't work there, I got to say whatever I felt like God wanted me to say.
I preached two sermons that challenged the church to be more inclusive/others focused. I'm having lunch with one of their deacons tomorrow and I plan to loan him my copy of Missional Church. He emailed me and wants to have lunch to talk about ways to draw young people into their church. I'm going to recommend a service-oriented youth ministry. Be careful: what you win them with might be what you win them to.
God's peace on all of you.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
I was describing blogging the other day, and kind of described it (unoriginally, I suppose) as a democratization of voice. One of the most positive things about blogging is how a person can post their thoughts online and hear back nearly instant feedback from readers. It's a twist on the old scientific journal system. Newbigin talks about how science works in The Gospel In a Pluralist Society. If I believe something is true, I am believing it with universal implications. That means I can publish/announce it, and allow my friends, colleagues, or detractors to knock it down. That's how truth is fought out. Wait, you mean truth is based on consensus in science? It would seem so.
I will go to Logic class now. Blessings on anyone who takes the time to read this.
Please leave lots of comments and we'll start a blogversation.
Make sure to check out the blogs on my sidebar.
Ben, yes I was listening to Haste the Day the other day. And it was the CD you passed my way. Now I'm sitting in the library listening to Ancient Faith Radio.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
I did a paper on population growth for biology. I turned it in yesterday. I'm wondering how much of a problem population growth is or could be for the environment, and particularly for our future as a species. I think we've well been fruitful and multiplied. Maybe it's time to take care of the earth a little. *gasp* some of my readers just called me a liberal. I heard you.
Anyways, it seems to me like maybe it is a more ethical/humane thing to do to encourage contraceptive use in countries where many children grow up to die anyway. I mean, we should do our part to ease the suffering of the poor. But would it be wrong to encourage people to have few children?
"Capitalism is the best contraceptive" or so goes the common wisdom. So, when the people of the world's developing nations really get a hold of the ideals of our society (commercialism, greed, envy), they will willingly choose to have fewer kids to improve their lifestyle.
Wait, so it's a good thing if the developing nations become greedy and wasteful like us? Because I don't think that would solve anything. When the world's poorest become the world's newest middle class capitalists, there will be some 4 billion SUVs hogging the roads and polluting the air of the world. What would that solve? Maybe as a nation we should (join our developing nation partners) and begin to set an example for fuel-efficiency, environmentalism, leisure, and values that would actually be positive for the developing nations to adopt. Then we can feel as if we are leaving a better world around for our children and theirs.
God forbid that the whole world should become greedy Americans!
God's blessings on my readers.
Monday, October 03, 2005
The other day one of my classmates said the problem was that we haven't had a world war in too many years. I was shocked. He said a few good nukes would lower the population and avert the coming global death. Uh, not exactly. Not if it means that an entire continent is unhabitable for thousands of years. Not if it means that we become less human by giving our implicit agreement to an idea that obscene.
And what would we gain? Lower grain prices. Less smog in the ozone. Fewer people to feed. Less traffic congestion and immigration.
And all that for the measly price of our souls? What a bargain!
That's how I feel thinking about the population growth problem.
Some say the solution is capitalism: "Capitalism is the ultimate contraceptive." But, wouldn't that make things even worse. For, when the developing world begins to lower their rate of population growth, they will be seeking those ideals and values that have made our society less human. They'll have greed in their eyes as they build their own inhumane capitalist societies.
And capitalists consume way more than communists or people living under authoritarian regimes. Not just 'they consume more because they finally can', but they'll go beyond need as we have. They'll be throwing food way, driving four blocks to work. Their capitalistic excess will go beyond what we have known, because, heck, there's 5 billion of them.
Is the problem overpopulation? Not really. The problem is we sold our soul to capitalism. And now the only way we can think of to make it better is to help other people sell theirs too.
If I could, I would sell my car, and ride my bike to class. Only thing is, I'd have to leave my huse the night before. Our society is built around the automobile to such a degree that weaning oneself from it can be nearly impossible.
The automobile is only the beginning of our notions of necessity applied to luxuries.
Sunday, October 02, 2005
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Right now there are groups of people walking around campus taking pictures of unusual things. I saw someone take a picture of a sign next to tree that identifies the species of said tree. I’m guessing it’s an exercise for a class, but that doesn’t make it any less odd. What could they do with these pictures?
On another subject altogether, I got a message through facebook about a possible Orthodox Christian Fellowship starting at SEMO. I giggled, since I am nerdy enough to have a list of my study interests listed under my hobbies/interests. That’s how this person found me. Anyways, I am interested in meeting more Orthodox and getting to know more about the faith, so it would be awesome to be involved in an OCF. We’ll see. I’m going to walk into the Art Building, where I have Symbolic Logic, now. I’ll post this and write a new post during my break after my exam. Blessings.
Monday, September 26, 2005
Yesterday we visited St. John church in Memphis again. This time it was John, Amy, the kids, and me. We drove through a little residual hurricane/tropical storm rain. I thought Mr. Noel's van (which we borrowed) was going to die right in the middle of the downpour. I think the fuel pump is going out.
This was our kids' first visit to an Orthodox church. When we first got there, Micah said, "Cool, it has a basement." So, apparently that high on his criteria list. Then, when we walked up the stairs to the nave, Micah got to the door and stopped. I guess the smell, sound, and sight of Orthodox worship was very foreign to them. It took a while to get them to sit/stand still. I thought the kids would like the icon frescoes on the walls, i.e. something to look at. No. They were pretty freaked out by the giant Pantocrator icon on the ceiling. Sometime during the service, Micah noticed the icon of the Crucifixion, which the cross on top of a hole with a skull inside of it. He kept asking what "that bone head" was about. Silly. Towards the end of the service I had resigned to watching my kids play quietly downstairs rather than try to force them into the nave and fight with them while they fuss. So, I met a neat couple named George and Patty. They're from Michigan (so am I). It was a joy to hear a Michigan accent in Memphis, TN. Anyway, they were cradle Orthodox. They were baptized in a small Orthodox church in Detroit of which St. John reminds them.
So, all this to say that I was downstairs visiting with George and Pat when the liturgy was concluding with the veneration of the Cross. At some point Alexis and Micah had slipped away and were upstairs standing with Amy in the service. When the time came for the veneration of the cross (everyone lines up to kiss the cross the priest is holding) Amy was going to slip out the back with the kids, but Alexis said, "No, I HAVE to kiss that cross." You can probably read that story told better over on Amy's blog. So, they both did.
The kids wanted an icon of Christ like the one I bought at Annunciation, so I bought them a smaller one, and bought myself an icon of the Mother of God with the Christ-child. When we got home I asked the kids where they wanted the icon of Christ hung in their room. They said they wanted it low enough on their wall for them to kiss it when the go to bed at night. Cute.
Well, if you haven't read my blog before, you're probably wondering what all this stuff about the Orthodox Church is, but you'll have to read previous posts. Also, check out this guy's posts on "Why Orthodoxy?"
May God richly bless you as you go through your day.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Friday, September 23, 2005
Saturday, September 17, 2005
The speaker was John Eldredge, or at least a CD of him. I had read Wild at Heart when it was hot stuff and didn't really know where I stood in relation to it. (I'm mildly wild.) So, this was about his Four Streams- DISCIPLESHIP, SPIRITUAL WARFARE, COUNSELING, and DEEP RESTORATION.
The whole thing was kind of interesting, because I openly stated my queasiness with John, and some of my fellow YLers are big John fans.
Well, I don't know where John and I stand now.
The main thing is, John has these weird experiences and decides to make them normative for the entire church. Then he goes to the Bible and backs it up with what I think is pretty standard Protestant exe/eisigesis. The funny thing is, I read a review of his work on Challies, which I don't normally read. And it addressed some of my concerned.
So I didn't buy Eldredge whole idea, although I did buy a copy of Waking the Dead. I actually ordered it from CBD while I was bored listening to one of the CDs.
That's my week. I'm home now and should mow my lawn today. Peace
Friday, September 09, 2005
I'm now a college junior- full time.
It's been a strange experience being in college full time again. It's been like five years since I was a full time student. The classes aren't hard, particularly. In fact, since I was missing a few required courses, I am taking core 100-level courses this semester. It's almost down right easy. The funny thing is being old, being a minister by trade, being married, having kids-- and having none of my fellow students know this. It's not that I keep it a secret, as if I were afraid of being 'outed'. I enjoy the look my classmates get on their faces when I mention those facts that make me weird on campus. "I thought you were like 23!" That's only a four year difference from my real age, but it's apparently a world of difference to the average college student. I remember being there. I probably still am there about other ages I've yet to reach. I wonder if that's how my 54-year old best friend feels about running around with us younguns.
So, I think, "am I so immature that it seems unbelieveable that I am grown with responsibilities and all?" I prefer to think of myself as "full of life". It's a lot more fun to be full of life, than to put on my old church guy face and be boring. I already bore myself sometimes with some of my own interests. I listen to myself recounting the basics of church history, dogma, or the current splintered state of American protestantism, and I think, who is that nerd. The thing is, I like it. That's right. I'm a nerd. Not a nerd who likes math and science. Certainly not. I'm more of a humanities/liberal arts guy myself.
The big thing that is revealed and impressed upon me is this: if I went to college more ambitiously right out of high school I would probably be graduated with a degree that wouldn't fit me. I didn't know myself then. I don't really know myself now, but I'm getting closer.
As I sit here in the University Center pontificating on useless thoughts, my fellow students rush to the next party.
The sidewalks all over campus declare in colored chalk, "Go Greek!", "Don't go greek!", "Anime Party", "Party at the Shack". I'm the only one who's wondering what all of this is about. It seems like it's obvious to everyone else what college is all about.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Alfred Kinsey has been blamed (or credited, in some circles) with the sexual revolution, because of the freedom that his reports resulted in. The thing is, it seems to me like he didn't so much say "do this!" as "this is what people are doing."
If I can use the metaphor, it was as if someone shone a light on the darkside of our nation. Nothing appeared there that wasn't really there. For the first time our country got a good look at itself, and it wasn't pretty.
I was struck by how those who were protecting traditional morality (bravo!) were willing to deceive the children or whoever (boo!) in order to accomplish their goals. Isn't it counterproductive to uphold your system of morality by transgressing that same system in another area? I thought so.
Before I got married I bought or someone bought for us the "Christian sex books" by Wheat and the LaHayes (yes, of Left Behind fame- he was originally a family counselor/author). At least these books were honest about what they knew.
Well, I won't talk about sex anymore. I'll get into trouble.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
This weekend Amy and I cleaned the front yard. As my lawn mower is broken, I used the Weed Eater to mow. It looks like it was cut by a blind drunk man. Hehe. Our yard was getting pretty ugly from about a month's worth of neglect. The leaves needed raked. I guess my front yard trees have premature balding problems.
I've been really sidetracked from school work with all my extracurricular reading. I finished reading Matthew Gallatin, now I'm read St. Ignatius and the rest of the Apostolic Fathers. It's very interesting. Yesterday I had a conversation with the local First Baptist pastor, who happens to be the committee chair for Young Life locally. He told me that Baptists saw Acts as descriptive (a historical account), but not normative (for all places at all times). Now, this might not be true of all baptists, but for him anyway, it gives the authority to invent church. The problem for me is this: if the big problem of the Enlightenment and modernity was the invention of the self, then how are we doing better to go into varied forms of self-rule? Now we decide that we have the authority to establish the church any way we like it. This relates to the "personal worship preference" discussion. You see, I have many "personal theology preferences". I also have many "personal church polity preferences". The list could go on and on. From my personal perspective, the problem lies in allowing myself that sort of megalomania-control of my affairs. When I enter a situation/church/theological system my first thought is "do i agree with this, do I agree with that?" but this still maintains me at the very center of my own personal universe. This is highly problematic as a Christian, since Christ explicitly commanded his followers to lose their selves, deny their selves, die to self. How does that line up with a cult of personal preference? The short answer is, "it doesn't."
Talk about countercultural. Die to self. Give no regard to your own preferences. Think more of the other than yourself.
In our society this would be tantamount to treason against the reigning all-supreme self.
Now I have to read some more of Plato's Republic.
May God's richest blessings dwell on all of you and your families.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
A Catechumen's Walk
The other day I was surprised to find a hit referred from a blog I didn't recognize, so I checked him out. Apparently this guy has a semi-dormant blog on Orthodox Christianity, and had added me under the links as an Orthodox Inquirer. Uh-oh. I hope the (not Orthodox) deacon who's paying for my college doesn't see that. Just kidding.
Here's his blog:
St. Stephen's Musings
So, I told my pastor (also formerly my boss) that I was looking seriously at the Orthodox Church. His answer: "Hmmmm.."
God's blessings on all.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
We apparently walked in at the very beginning of the Divine Liturgy, because the entire congregation was standing up. While standing there conspicuously observing the church at worship, I got to witness something neat: a little girl came in accompanying her family. As each person came in they would cross themselves and kiss an icon of St. John the Evangelist which was at the entrance. This sweet little girl stood on her tippety-toes to kiss the icon, couldn't reach, so she kissed her hand and planted one on the icon's foot. My kids would love the Orthodox faith.
Lately, encouraged by explorations in the nature of first/second/third century Christian worship, I have allowed and even prompted my kids to kiss the icon of Christ I bought at Annunciation. They love it. When I saw this little girl's participation in the faith of the Fathers, I knew my kids would love it.
But I digress.. Heheheh.. Next, John and (John my friend not John the Evangelist or John Chrysostom, the writer of the liturgy.. there's a lot of John's to keep straight-) found some seats (not that they got used much). We ended up sitting next to the Khouria.
The liturgy wasn't too surprising, since I visited Annunciation in June and listen to the Greek liturgy a lot online. Having it in English was a blessing and of course made it easier to follow along.
When it came time for the homily the priest really preached. This felt very evangelical, although I'm told St. John Chrysostom was a great preacher.
Afterwards John and I met the priest's daughter, who it seems like was married to the son of another priest in an Orthodox Church. We met him too. So, the priest's daughter showed us around the church a bit, and eventually we made our way to the fellowship hall where I gravitated to the book and icon store. I managed to refrain from buying any icons, but I did buy three books:
The Orthodox Church by Bishop KALLISTOS Ware
The Orthodox Way by Bishop KALLISTOS Ware and
Pocket Prayers for Orthodox Christians, which is a daily prayer book and includes the Divine Liturgy. Apparently it's translated an published by the Antiochian Archdiocese.
Then we visited for a little while with the Khouria, followed by a Deacon, who introduced us to one of the priests, who took us to meet the other priest. Along the way we also met an Inquirer who is of a Church of Christ background, and had an interesting conversation about the postmodern epistemological dilemma and how the Orthodox faith remedies it by being what it has always been and doing what it has always done.
We had a great visit with both priests, and walked around the nave a bit to look at all the icons I couldn't see during worship. This church building was gorgeous inside. Flanking the platform/sanctuary were massive fresco icons of the Annunciation and Pentecost. All around the walls were icons depicting a chronological view of the life of Christ between the Annunciation and Pentecost. They were beautiful, otherworldly, all the things icons have been described as. Behind the Sanctuary was a fresco of an icon I've never seen, presumably of Christ enthroned with Patriarchs paying homage. Above Him was an icon of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Theotokos, bearing Christ.
Atop the very ceiling was the Christ Pantocrator icon. I'm familiar with that one, because I bought a miniature version of it. I'm telling you this place looked, sounded, felt and smelt like worship.
Did I mention that the choir stood in a loft above and behind the congregation? It was another aspect that made the worship seem otherworldly.
"Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us" is better sung by an angelic-sounding choir above our heads.
Another thing that struck me is the family/informality of it all. While the worship is decidedly formulated and prescribed (they trace it to the worship of Israel, which was an icon of the worship that takes place in Heaven), the people were relaxed. Some people crossed themselves at certain times. Other people crossed themselves at other times. There seemed to some prescribed rule, but it also seemed to be highly personal. Some people knelt. Everyone stood. Some kids ran down the aisles to sit with different relatives or perhaps God-parents. They were all very comfortable.
Well, John and I already decided that we would visit St. John's in another month and we're making plans to take friends, especially Amy and the kids.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
My classes so far aren't a real stretch. I only have 12 hours, but I'm trying to get into Spanish 3, since I changed my minor to Spanish. Interestingly even though my classification is junior, I have three 100-level courses. Oh well. It means I have a semester to get accustomed to being a fulltime student again.
Today I used a break in classes to visit the illustrious Kent Library. It was fairly nice. In my never-ending exploration of the church in all its forms (particularly the orthodox forms lately), I did a quick search for Bishop KALLISTOS and found his classic The Orthodox Church. I read that for the rest of my break, and plan on reading it more tonight. I am still planning on visiting St. John's on Sunday. Maybe I'll take my friend John with me. It's up to him, I guess.
In answer to the comment from Bernie: Yes, you're right. And the unchangeing nature of the orthodox church is probably what I'm looking for. It is a ways to the nearest Orthodox church (1.5 hrs), so I will take a bit longer to make a year (or a month) of sundays, especially since I'm quite committed to my current church. (even though I don't work there anymore.)
So, I will hopefully comment some on Bishop KALLISTOS' book. Not that I would presume to correct him. Most of what I've read so far I'd already picked up from hours exploring the websites of the different Orthodox jurisdictions and a few church websites.
Many blessings on anyone who reads this blog. I know it's not very interesting.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
To me, the problem is an old modern age holdover -- individualism. We talk about how the individual self was a modern construct- probably true. Then we continue to evaluate faith systems based on how it lines up with our conceptions of logic and culture. I, for one, am totally ready to give up my individual rights to be swallowed up in a whole community that is actively seeking and proclaiming truth. Isn't it from Orthodox theology that we get the emphasis on the trinity which will be our anchor in the trying times ahead?
Post your comments.
Well, to summarize the testimony of Fr. Peter, which makes up the bulk of this book, along with a brief apologetic for some orthodox beliefs/practices we protestant have long ago rejected as Catholic:
Peter Gillquist and some friends are employed in Campus Crusade for Christ in the sixties. They're going gangbusters to win "the campus for Christ today, tomorrow the world for Christ." However, they realize what they are doing has little or no longterm staying power. So, they, while still working for Crusade, begin experimenting with early church-type things, focusing on community and commitment. Before long they become convinced they all need to leave Crusade. They go into "secular" employment. While in their secular jobs they begin to naturally attract other believers, and various communities grow up around them. They come together to try and determine what this New Testament Church would look like, so they can take their communities there. Their line of thinking was, "Where is the church that Christ founded on the apostles, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail?" They decided to look individually at the Scriptures, church history, and worship to see what they should. Six months later they reconvened to discuss what they'd found. First of all, they found liturgical worship in the second century, in the writings of Justin Martyr. Next, they found Bishops in the church as early as the middle of the first century! They look seriously at the church history to find that the church split apart in AD 1054, but it seems clear to them that whatever the church was before that time, the Eastern Orthodox church had it. All this without meeting a single present-day Eastern Orthodox person! Without much hesitation they began to form their communities into what they were beginning to see as the first century norm. They formed a group called the New Covenant Apostolic Order. By 1977 they had founded the Evangelical Orthodox Church. They were still the same, gospel preaching (sometimes yelling) evangelical preachers, but now their communities called them father. Over some years they became convinced that the modern Orthodox Church was faithful to the original, even in its multi-jurisdictional form here in the US. They began relationships with people in the OCA (Russian), Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. With some negotiations they were chrismated and ordained into the Antiochian Archdiocese by Metropolitan PHILIP Saliba. Nowadays Father Peter and his cohorts are involved in visiting churches which are interested in converting to Orthodoxy. That's right, along the way, whole churches have converted to Eastern Orthodoxy.
I'd already planned on visiting a nearby Antiochian Church in Memphis, St. John's, which was one of the original Evangelical Orthodox.
Some things I see in the Orthodox Church which I need:
- Truth- the orthodox church believes that truth is arrived at communally as leaders get together to make big decisions and those decisions are received by the communities represented by those leaders. This is great in a world where our individual ability to arrive at truth is, and should be, suspect. Since my truth-finding ability is suspect, I need a community of leaders to help me interpret the Scripture. And all that without the problem of contradictory infallible popes. No one is infallible in the orthodox church.
- The worship of the orthodox church is physical, tangible, sacramental. They are teaching us what it means to embrace the mystery in their faith. They know that Christ is Present in the Communion, but they don't how. They know new life begins at baptism, but they don't have to explain why or how.
- The Orthodox Church has established leadership and centuries of beautiful tradition.
There are decidedly problems for those of us in the "emerging conversation".
- We have a problem with authority, especially the old patriarchal type, maybe rightly so.
- While we are searching for truth is new expressions, we might not like what we find.
- The worship always occurs in a prescribed manner. There's little or no room for that kind of creativity in worship. There will be no laser light shows.
It seems to me like there is one last thing to be said. Fr. Peter says that they didn't come to the orthodox faith for the beautiful worship. They came because it was true.
I already started reading Kh. Frederica Matthewes-Green's book Facing East, which kind of tells the same story for her. I'll post more on that later.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Last night we had a get together at our house for the kids that went to camp and a few friends. It was good. We visited, looked at pictures, watched videos. It was a generally good time. I think the kids enjoyed themselves. Judging by how wild my kids were I would say that they've missed having YoungLife at our house with all the rowdy kids. They sure feed on the interaction with high school kids. I have four-and-a-half and almost-three-year-old teenagers.
I'm listening to the new Relient K. I haven't listend to these guys in a couple of years. Dang. They've gotten really good in the past few years. I'm glad to see them shed their Christian rock skin and step out into the world for a bit.
I'm waiting for a couple of books to get here from Amazon. They're both about the Eastern Orthodox tradition, and specifically about protestants finding a home in the orthodox church, drawn by the mystery and kept by the orthodoxy. It seems to me that the Orthodox church really does have the key to the relational hermeneutic we're searching for. A hermeneutic that doesn't have to have infallibility or an infallible boss to guide it. They simply rely on centuries of church tradition and struggle to guide their search for truth. Anyways, I'm excited to read these books:
Becoming Orthodox by Fr. Peter Gillquist
Facing East by Frederica Matthews-Green
I'll post about them as I read them.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
"uh, yeah, we're trying to fish on the river."
"Well, we've got some close out catfish rods on close out."
After a while talking with the fishing guru there started outside. He followed us out.
Looking at our little bass fishing poles he said, "you guys are a little light for the river..."
Later Tom bought me two of the close out big water fishing poles. They're big and nice.
I still haven't caught the elusive catfish Old Man River has to offer.
This morning I got up around 7, grabbed my gear and some chicken livers, walked about a mile to the river and up the bank from town. It was a perfect 75 degrees. Kind of windy, but very nice after all this sizzling heat.
Several times I casted and my sinker went sailing way out in the river while my bait and hook landed not more than twenty feet away. Some times I casted and everything went flying off my line. Some times I got a bite but didn't know what to do with it. I guess I won't quit my day job to be a fisherman. Oh, I already quit my day job to be a student. Sitting there catching nothing got me thinking about my call to love and pursue the lost. I don't catch many. The thing is, I just keep showing up. In my line of business (youth ministry) and most(if not all) types of ministry, showing up is 90% of what's required. Jesus called it faithfulness. So, I will be faithfully feeding the poor, visiting the infirm, and caring for the fatherless. I can't do anything else. Where else can I go for the words of eternal life, except to the side of Christ, who is there pursuing the lost sheep?
Newbigin's The Gospel for a Pluralist Society is blowing my mind these days. It is beautiful how Newbigin looks for a place beyond the either\or syndrome of our times. He seeks a place beyond the debate on exclusivism/inclusivism/universalism to find something that takes God's grace and sin's gravity into account more fully than any of the three options. His stance of agnosticism when it comes to eternal destiny of the faithful of other religions helps a bit.
I'll keep reading. For now, it's back to fishing.
Sunday, July 24, 2005
Afterwards, we got to sit with Father Scott and ask questions. Father Scott was very gracious and had very good answers. All in all, it was a good experience.
So, this summer our youth group has visited:
- Predominantly-Black Charismatic
- Greek Orthodox
- Emerged Church of Christ Charismatic/Prophetic
It has been amazing to watch their (and my) misunderstandings fall away. After our visit with Fr. Scott last night one girl said, "I always thought they worshiped Mary. I was guilty of that misconception." What a breath of God's Spirit it is when we come together like that. You can't put a price on experiences like that in the spiritual formation of a group of young people.
Well, that being said, my daughter just reached in the kitchen sink to retrieve her pop tart that she had apparently deposited there earlier this morning. What a life.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
The thing is, my interactions/conversations with the pastor and the elders of Tucker Street contributed as much or more to my personal "emergence" than all the emerging church-type books I've read. Seriously.
See, about thirty years ago the founding elders were disfellowshipped from Church of Christ. Soon a new fellowship had started. Over the years it has developed its own flavor, conscious of the historic church and faith.
Soon I'll be just a member. Or maybe I should say soon I'll be a member. That's a better way of looking at it. I'm looking forward to being an ordinary member without having to run the youth program. Also, not working there will give me the freedom to be out visiting churches both here in town and elsewhere. We're planning on visiting St. John's Antiochian Orthodox Church some time in August. The Orthodox church has been very intriguing to me.
Needless to say, this transition looks to be a difficult one. It's been hard to paint my office to make it just an office. (In my time there it was painted bright red with a Detroit Red Wings border and lots of memorabilia. Now it's a soothing/serene brown. I'm toying with the idea of hanging a large crucifix on the eastern wall to give it even more of a spiritual refuge appearance. (Plus, that should serve to scare away any hardcore fundamentalists.)
Right now I'm sort of watching my kids as my wife is at a MOPS leadership retreat. Sort of, because obviously they're destroying my house as I post.
In fact, I wrote a more thoughtful version of this post moments ago which was deleted when my son got on the computer to play games while I answered the phone.
I watched a classic anime last night. Probably everyone has seen Castle In The Sky, but it was pretty interesting. The kids and I watched it 2.5 times straight through. They thought it was neat. Man, the English dubbing looks funny. It's like everyone is a skilled ventriloquist. They're talking with their mouths closed. Amazing!
I've been reading Newbigin's The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. It''s a very good read. I like Polanyi's epistemology, or at least, Polanyi's epistemology as dictated/interpreted by Newbigin. It seems to me like this does bring a new higher plane to the debate over liberal/conservative interpretation. Very helpful. For me it has always been more helpful to read books that influence the emerging church folks than to read the emerging church books. So I read Nouwen, I read Foster, I'm working on Lewis, I read Newbigin, I read Guder. Some of that stuff obviously isn't written for mass use, but it's good.
Well, I've rambled long enough.
May God's blessings be on all of you, today and forever.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
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Thursday, June 30, 2005
We stopped in Evansville, IN to have lunch with Drew and his wife Resa. Drew is from Caruthersville. I've heard of him and known him for like 4 years, but never met him. Then we met up on line and starting reading one another's blogs. It's strange how the blogosphere can feel can make the world feel so strong sometimes. Lunch was great. Drew and I are alike in a lot of scary ways. Our poor wives sat there, trying to interject comments in the middle of our 100-MPH banter. It was all in all a good visit.
Next we took off towards Indianapolis to catch I-69 to Lansing. BTW Drew, there is NO short way to Indy from E-ville. Argh...
We finally arrived at my mom's house in Michigan at about midnight local time.
I went to sleep on a couch in the playroom where my kids were already asleep. In the morning my son Micah rolled over looking at me, then jumped up and ran over when he realized who I was (I sleep with a mask on because I'm a wimp.). We had a short visit of one day with my family. Yesterday morning we drove back to Dyersburg. It took nearly 14 hours. Unbearable. The kids were pretty well-behaved and it was a great trip.
This morning I got up at 5 to pick up some of my high school friends and be in the field picking corn by 6 AM. Three hours later we had sold 100+ dozens ears of corn and netted $340. Now that's easy work.
I'm getting ready to go to lunch with another high school friend in a bit. I started read Newbigin's The Gospel in a Pluralist Society last night. It's quoted enough that it's an important primary source to read.
Blessings on my readers.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
The craziest thing happened tonight. One of the deacons, with whom I wouldn't consider myself to be very tight, made an offer to contribute $5K a year to see me continue my education on the condition that when I attend seminary it be a seminary which he would see as evangelical. So, I'm off to college, it's paid for, and the Lord works in mysterious ways.
On top of that we have gained some new friends in the church since we began announcing our resignation. I guess now that we're leaving (maybe) people want to hang out with us.
Blessings on my readers, both of you.
If that sounds good, give me a call on my cell:
Saturday, June 25, 2005
This fall I'll be pursuing a BA in Philosophy at Southeast Missouri State University while I continue to live here and work part time directing Young Life.
What will this semester be like? Your guess is as good as mine.
One of the youthers heard early from an unnamed source about my coming resignation. He wasn't happy. We talked for about 35 minutes. And that was after he had vented.
Tomorrow will not be easy. For all but 3 months of our marriage we have worshipped and worked in this church. Please pray for us and pray for those hearing, that they would receive it well.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
We went to the park last night and played croquet. We were supposed to have a couple of guys join us, but none showed up. Oh dread.
So we came to watch the Six Feet Under DVD that came in the mail yesterday. But the sleeve had the wrong disc in there. So now we have to wait until Disc 4 gets here. Shoot.
What else is there to say?
Tonight we're having our committee meeting at our house.
Monday, June 20, 2005
Our trip yesterday was to visit two churches:
Greater Imani Church and Christian Center
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
Man, I knew it was going to be a big culture shock both ways, but dang.
The first one (Greater Imani) is a large black church with a great ministry to men and really energetic music. And I mean, this church was black. (Jesus was black in the pictures in the foyer.) So, it was great. I especially appreciated the music and the sermon. The preacher in this church, Apostle, gave a great talk calling men to be real fathers to their children. This was a much needed sermon, and apparently his strong teaching is having quite an impact on the men of the black community in Memphis.
Next, we drove (quickly because we thought we were going to be late) about 10 minutes down the road to Annunciation. Unfortunately, Annunciation is currently meeting in their fellowship hall. They have set up the fellowship hall to reflect a normal greek orthodox worship setting. For the non-experienced when it comes to the eastern orthodox faith, every bit of the liturgy is sung or chanted. It was a very beautiful service. The idea of there being "a" Orthodox faith and practice was curious to me, given my point of view of western christianity, with its many flavors. Especially meaningful to me was the continuity of what the Orthodox church does. It has been approximately the same for roughly 2000 years. The roots of my own christian tradition go back no farther than the reformation. This is a faith tradition that never got involved in the reformation. I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon looking at what my ecclesiology reveals about the importance on place on my own self. In the eastern church, self is subject to the Tradition, the Fathers, and the Church. Also of interest was some stories I heard of a group of American Evangelicals (mostly from Campus Crusade) who converted to Orthodoxy after studying the Scriptures and reading the church fathers. I'll have to read their book : Becoming Orthodox
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
When we got back to our building we discussed the similarities/differences and what was most meaningful to us. We especially appreciated communion at the altar. Our church takes communion every sunday (in the Church of Christ tradition) but it seemed like the whole set up of the Holy Communion at St. Mary's was a bigger deal.
This sunday we are going to be visiting a couple of churches in Memphis: Greater Imani Church and Christian Center and Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. We'll be at the early (8 AM) service at Greater Imani and then at the 10 AM Divine Liturgy at Annunciation. Then on to Huey's for lunch. Our kids are really excited about this trip, since it is the most varied of our church experiences. A large, predominantly black charismatic church followed by a hasn't-changed-in-roughly-1800-years orthodox church. It should give us a good "big picture" of God's church.
Blessings on my readers.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
I went there and was appalled. This is about as low as nationalism/civic religion has sunk in America. Come on, guys. How can we see Bush unerringly as God's man in spite of his many verbal jousts and talk of holy war? This is no holy war! God forbid that Jeb run after GWB is done. I don't think this nation could survive another eight years of the Bush clan.
This sticker campaign is one of the pretty good reasons the average American doesn't think much of Christianity or Christians. Hey- that's not Christ they're rejecting! It's us.
So, yesterday when I was driving up to Cape I found that the hour and a half drive was nearly done before I was done praying the Jesus Prayer, praying intercessions, and listening to the Gospel of John. By the time I got done it was time to get off at my exit.
That's not bragging. That's how one can lose themself in spending time without an agenda with God. I've never spent an hour and a half having devotions/bible study, but I was very enriched yesterday.
In other news, I am registered for this fall's classes. I went to a transfer orientation yesterday. I wasn't the oldest transfer student there. The campus was nice. I'm excited. I'm even excited about the prospect of an hour and a half in the car one way three days a week. The afternoon drive wasn't as nice, but it didn't feel very long.
Also of note, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair met yesterday and talked about beefing up aid to the world's poorest nations. I think this is the direct result of people of faith in this country and others praying that God would break our government's collective heart over the issue of poverty and HIV/AIDS. Oh, and the ONE campaign has Brad Pitt, too. Way to go, Brad.
I'm going to try and read Andrew Jones' stuff on "deep ecclesiology". Ecclesiology is one of my favorite interests.
Blessings on my readers. Especially you, Drew. Welcome back to blogdom.
Saturday, June 04, 2005
Reading this book reminds me, though, of spiritual disciplines I have picked up from different authors. It is interesting the way this all works. Everyone is kind of on pilgrimage, seeking something deeper in their faith life. I recall a spiritual director (one of the disciplines I've added to my life) telling me, "The longing is the next step, Levi." I wanted simple answers with 10-steps to holy living. Instead he encouraged that I allow the disciplines to change me and feed that longing that I was trying to figure out.
So, three and a half years later, I am still trying to allow the spiritual disciplines I have acquired order my day and draw me closer to God. I am still exploring new(old) spiritual disciplines to implement in my life and change my heart.
For me, the use of the Jesus Prayer in the morning on the drive across the river has been life-giving. Also, on my laptop wallpaper is a Greek Orthodox icon (not the computer kind) entitle "Christ the Lifegiver". Looking at this icon periodically through my day gives me peace and hope. Most nights Amy and I read through the Compline service from the Book of Common Prayer. There is something very reassuring in the words of that simple service of prayer, contrition, and hope.
I don't know if I've mentioned it, but this summer our youth group is going to do what we're calling a Summer Faith Pilgrimage. Tomorrow we'll have an introduction to church history as in "How'd we get all these faith traditions?" and "where are we now?" Then for six weeks we will visit churches of different faith traditions within Christianity, (our church is non/inter-denominational with a background in the Churches of Christ.) During the course of this time we will visit the early services of four local churches: Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist, Catholic and go out of town to experience worship at other churches we don't have in Dyersburg: Greek Orthodox, COGIC (the main church is in Memphis), and maybe some sort of seeker-sensitive megachurch. If anyone knows of a church in St. Louis that would be a good addition to this plan, leave a comment.
So, that's what we're doing. I hear people say that it is dangerous to take people's faith and appropriate the parts we like. I understand the danger in that, so we will be visiting regularly scheduled worship services with each of these bodies, and having question and answer times with a leader when it's possible. Right now I'm really excited to take our young people to the Greek Orthodox church. I talked to the priest the other day. He seemed excited to have us visit. We will be blessed and stretched, I'm sure. I will hopefully blog about some of these church visit experiences.
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
In it, Dick Cheney says that he thinks it was irresponsible of Amnesty to speak about Human rights violations in the detention facilities at Gitmo in their annual report on Human Rights:
Cheney said, "The US has liberated and given freedom to more people than any other nation in the modern world."
Is this supposed to be an excuse/permission to abuse prisoners and hold no one accountable?
I'm sorry, Mr. Vice President. You don't speak for me! Amnesty International is an authoritative voice on human rights. If they were agreeing with us, we would certainly hail the results. Now is the time for this administration to repent!
In our churches how are we at including the 'least of these' if the least of these include the (functionally) illiterate masses? It seems to me like in some way this conversation is inclusive of those who can grasp grand ideas of philosophy and theology.
What of those who cannot grasp these abstracts?
Part of this came to me in an extreme circumstance:
In my previously blogged Broadway experience with two KJV-only Baptist preachers at the emergent convention they kept mentioning the "academics". By this term they meant Brian McLaren and the like. Which is funny, considering that I've hear others say, "why should we get our theology from someone who isn't a theologian?"
Now, obviously, I don't share all those two pastors' mistrust for education and the educated. However, I also don't share the kind of awe-inspiring unquestioning respect for academia that's common in other evangelical circles.
Another example: In the church where I serve there are lots of elders and deacons (especially considering the size of the church). One of the deacons is not terribly well read, but a totally committed servant of God. I have heard people question his right to be a deacon, since he can hardly read the Bible. I'm reminded that many great questions not only couldn't read the Bible- they didn't even own one! What kind of superiority complex do we have when we have to use complicated theological words in our sermons, for the benefit of our own egos and perhaps a few highly-educated others? In my ministry my wife looks at me funny when I start to use big words. It usually means I'm showing out or I didn't prepare. Preparing means we communicate complex ideas with simple words and images.
In our world of polarizing classes how will we embrace the increasingly illiterate classes with the love of Christ if we cannot bring ourselves to communicate it to them in plain english?
Now, let me say for the record that I don't think I recommend 'dumbing down' the text or speaking entirely in colloquialisms. It is unnerving sometimes to listen to a speaker speak in a regional dialect without any reference or concern for standard english. However, we would not, of course, speak all day in English to natives in some foreign jungle, expecting them to smarten up.
My pastor taught me this: "studying Greek should mean you wrestle with the meaning of the Greek text- determine the meaning, preach from the Greek- then don't mention it."
My English professor in English Comp 1 said, "Learning English should mean that you can't speak to the Queen without sounding like a dolt, and you should be comfortable speaking to a lower class person, and not make them feel inferior."
So, I'm repenting of my love for philosophical, theological big word-bandying, unless I'm in big word-accepting crowds. I WILL become all things to all people.
Monday, May 30, 2005
The two seniors in our church who graduated this year are great. They were in the eighth grade when I became the youth minister at the church, so I've watch them grow quite a bit.
In particular, I was struck again by the importance of intergenerational relationships in the church. One boy, the pastor's son, said, "I was nine months old when we moved here. You guys are all that I know. You're like family to me." After the kids had a chance to share their future plans with the body, and thank whoever, we presented them with a gift and had the elders up to pray over them. It was moving. Not a lot of dry eyes through the whole service.
Well, what kind of traditions/rites of passage do you have in your faith communities? Comment.
Friday, May 27, 2005
It seemed to resonate with their experience/observations.
Anyways, I know they read my blog earlier, so I want to say hello to my good friends, Matt and Robin Boyd and their five children. Love you guys.
Thursday, May 26, 2005
- The Sacred Way by Tony Jones
- Reclaiming God Original Intent For the Church by Wes Roberts
- Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster
- God's Politics by Jim Wallis
- Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
I picked up the last one today from the library. It's already pretty good. Interesting stuff. I guess my current reading list reveals that I'm a bit scatter-brained as of late.