Sunday, August 26, 2007

Aaron Neville @ Summer Pops

Aaron Neville and his Quintet, featuring saxman Charles Neville—another San Diego Symphony Summer Pops concert on the Embarcadero (love that word!) South--another "thank you" to videographers Pat and Lea Ann of WalkerVision Interarts—Saturday evening Melissa was on camera stage left—hi, Melissa, and a huge thank you again, everyone!!!

For a short first "half" of the concert, the orchestra played Mississippi Suite by Ferde Grofé; in my continuing compulsion to store stuff on blogs, I'll mention the suite is in four movements: Father of the Waters; Huckleberry Finn; Old Creole Days and Mardi Gras. The orchestra sounded brilliant and conductor Matthew Garbutt is so fun—he conducted the first movement from memory, then Carol, his wife and the librarian, brought the score to him. The orchestra's second piece was a New Orleans Medley, arranged by Richard Hayman.

Aaron opened with Ben E. King's
Stand By Me

When the night has come
And the land is dark,
And the moon is the only light we'll see.
No I won't be afraid,
Oh I won't be afraid,
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

So darlin' darlin' stand by me,
Oh stand by me,
Oh stand, stand by me, stand by me.

If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall,
Or the mountain should crumble to the sea.
I won't cry, I won't cry,
No I won't shed a tear,
Just as long as you stand, stand by me.

And darlin' darlin' stand by me,
Oh stand by me,
Whoa stand now, stand by me, stand by me.

Darlin' darlin' stand by me,
Oh stand by me,
Oh stand now, stand by me, stand by me.

Whenever you're in trouble just stand by me,
Oh stand by me,
Whoa stand now, oh stand, stand by me.
After almost dancing my feet off at the end of the Classical Mystery Tour eight days earlier (I'll post that blog soon), my mood was far more subdued and reflective as I listened to Aaron and his band. I've been writing and teaching so much about the cross; Aaron wore two cross bracelets, a cross necklace plus several cross tattoos, and is at least as gracious and elegant live as he is on television and recordings. The concert brought so many, too many memories of living with Motown, blues, funk, jazz, soul and rap, of trusting songs like the 5 Stairsteps' Ooh Child:
Ooh-oo child, things are gonna get easier, Ooh-oo child, things'll get brighter, things are gonna get easier, things'll be brighter—Some day, we'll put it together and we'll get it all done; Some day, when your head is much lighter; Some day, we'll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun; Some day, when the world is much brighter...
I still usually get choked up when hear that song!

Earlier this evening, I blogged about a very recent book, Anne Lamott's Grace (Eventually), and writing about Saturday evening's concert and quoting a favorite song from the past seems a perfect segue. To finish this blog, I'll link to Fireworks America, who provided the closing pyrotechnics and to a couple of sponsors: the Unified Port of San Diego (a cool concept) and Sycuan Band of Kumeyaay Indians, a wonderful and living reality. I couldn't discover a link for Barefoot Wine, our servers (including the glass of champagne the exclusive folks at the tables got), but I wanted to mention them.

Grace (Eventually) blog

Another feature from RevGalBookPals! For a bunch of reasons, I didn't do the last two, but I've read this month's and plan to blog on September's book, too; in fact, I started reading it before I received this one from Amazon.

Anne Lamott, Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith on Amazon

My first impression was Anne Lamott's easygoing, easily understandable yet wonderfully and thankfully unannoying writing style. A couple times I stopped and tried to deconstruct it some, but decided I'd rather keep reading. Late this afternoon I finished the book, but what on earth is it about book covers with iconic (without a doubt) white (or thereabouts) clapboard church buildings plunked down and settled in amidst verdant Midwestern or New English (doubtless) shade trees? Is there any other possibility?

At first I thought this is kind of coolly about real life, but next I thought, "I think I'm just as clever, brave, honest, mellow (no, not that one yet), wise and perceptive as Ann(i)e Lamott, and I'd love to be published between covers rather than just on a blog screen, too." A week ago, when I read half the book (picking and choosing the next chapter according to how intriguing the title seemed), I kept thinking, "we all are not all that f***ed up, are we? She so seems to be into total depravity! It will take the world 1,000 years to recover from GWB? I thought this book was about grace!" But the further I got, the more I knew she was writing about me, and with such credibility: not only is it an actual printed hard-copy (because after all, so is the National Enquirer), but it's a bound book by a non-sensational author. That rocks!

I may have 2nd and 3rd thoughts after posting this blog, but I've been trying to explain my grief, my sense of death, of loss of self, of identity, and my perplexity (better perplexed than depraved?!) to at least a dozen people who apparently believe they have answers for my experiences of these too many years, people who do not know me, my aspirations or my history and who have not been with me at all, beyond an incidental pickup (I'm using "pickup" in the sense of a pickup ball game, or maybe truck, or pickup sticks—but not a Saturday night bar-type pickup) conversation. To introduce the In Circulation section, on page 83 AL quotes Separation (previously unknown to me), by W.S. Merwin (a poet not known to me until now); here's an "about" from the page I linked to:
W. S. Merwin's new and selected poems, Migration, won the 2005 National Book Award for Poetry. His most recent book of translations is Jean Follain's Transference of the World (2003). Both are from Copper Canyon Press.
Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
That perfectly describes my own experience of emptiness, of being abandoned by life, of wondering why I ever imagined my life soon would have meaning and purpose again and that I'd have an adequate income. I never could have imagined this much loneliness and devastation for this long a time. "They" say make a new normal, and I haven't been able to do so. I am weary of folks in casual interchanges telling me to pay no attention to anything anyone says. Hey, if there's one reason more than another that I'm in this situation, it's that I've constantly disregarded almost everything negative almost everyone ever has said to me or about me. After all, it's a backhanded compliment, they obviously envy me, they very much want me to participate but don't want to exploit me, I need to be patient and wait until they're comfortable with me...

In the Dance Class chapter in the Dance Class section, on page 38, AL insists, "...humans want and need exactly the same thing: to belong, to feel safe and respected...And...dancing almost always turns out to be a good idea." Same chapter, pages 40-41:
I'm not comparing the hardship of being developmentally disabled to that of being an alcoholic or a drug addict, but in dance class, I noticed all sorts of parallels: the off-rhythm gait, the language you can't quite catch, the lack of coordination, the odd affects...the screwed-up relationships or no relationships at all, the not-fitting-in-ness. ...All of us lurch, and fall, sit in the dirt, are helped to our feet, keep moving...help others get back on their feet, and keep going.
But I used to fit in! As Oprah said to a teenaged girl one of the rare times I watched her show, "You know you can't do it [life] on your own, by yourself." Jesus asked the guy by the Bethsaida pool, "Do you want to be healed?" and the guy responded, "Sir! There is no one to pick me up and put me in the pool after the angel stirs the waters." Exactly! Even when I've asked, requested, begged and pleaded...I knew my life and the world around me would regenerate and rebuild, because, after all, is the power of resurrection, of life – of grace – not so incessant, persistent and overwhelming that nothing can block it?! I would hope at the very least God would allow me to become minimally a wounded healer of sorts. From one of those casual conversational exchanges that took place a few weeks ago:
Acquaintance: You keep beating yourself up over the past.
Me: Not in the least—anything but! I'm trying to salvage a life that will make some use of my gifts, education and background.
Acquaintance: But you're disabled!
Me: I am?!?!?
Acquaintance: Yes; it's very obvious.
For maybe the second or third time in my entire life, I was thunderstruck and stuck for words, though long ago I got used to the "What medication are you on?" question in job interviews, with my "none" response usually followed by, "you'd better get some medication if you expect to get a job."

life stuff buttonAfter solemnly deciding to not continue serving professionally in the church, knowing for sure it was the best stewardship of my gifts, education and life, despite telling myself churches of a different (non-local neighborhood, non-working-class, non-struggling mightily to stay above the ground) type would have given me different results, these days I simply do not know. A person cannot be fully human without the interwoven fabric of connectiveness, belongingness, participation, recognition and acknowledgment. Because it's real and alive, it can be torn, tattered, ripped apart, rewoven, mended and appended to other pieces (remnants) of cloth. Call it "being networked!" The friends I'd expected to grow old(er) with have abandoned and deserted me, and I feel I've lost my embeddedness in history. (Oh, I know, church, liturgy and sacraments...but you know!) In the first paragraph of the Wailing Wall chapter, AL writes, (page 25) "You say that we don't have to live alone with out worries and losses, that all the people in their tide pool will be there for them. You say that it totally sucks, and that grace abounds." Turning over to page 26: "...in some inadequate and surprising ways, things will be semi-okay, the way wild flowers spring up at the rock dirt-line where the open-space meadow meets the road, where the ground is not so mean. Just as it's fine to know but not say that anger is good, a bad attitude is excellent, and the medicinal powers of shouting and complaining cannot be overestimated." That sounds a whole lot like a whole lot of my own writing, teaching and preaching, but where is the community with that promise for me? This is a big-time military town, and when I watch the homecomings on TV, I wonder if ever again there will be anything like a homecoming for me, a birthday party, an invitation to a social event? Being welcomed back, enjoying a party other than a church affair, invitations to lunches, dinners and whatevers used to happen to me literally all the time, and I had no reason whatsoever to imagine they wouldn't again, in reasonably due time.

Since I have unfinished blogs about two great concerts I need to work on and that likely will be less painful to write than this one, I'll end with words from Near the Lagoon, 2004, (in the Forgiveness section of the book); Near the Lagoon is about AL's return to the scene of her earlier life after a long time away. Quick quote, page 141: "I almost immediately got a Twilight Zone feeling. First, I was going back to the place from which I had fled, and that is usually a signal to me that something mythical is in the works. And second, instantly a hobgoblin of a man appeared in our path...He asked...'Do you know where you are going?'" And in Ski Patrol, on pages 18-19, toward the book's beginning, AL asserts "...God always hears our cries, and helps, and it's always a surprise to see what form God will take on earth..." Amen, amen!


my Amazon review: you may need to wait a while, but grace will be

Friday, August 24, 2007

20th Century Cultural Friday 4 + 1

Sally from Eternal Echoes gives us today's wonderful(ly impossible) Friday 5 plus bonus; I'm playing it as a 4 + 1, and in the interests of actually doing something, I've limited myself to the past century.
I have spent the week at Summer School studying the Gospel and Western culture, we have looked at art, literature, music, film and popular culture in their myriad expressions. With that in mind I bring you the cultural Friday 5.
Name a

1. Book
Markings by Dag Hammarskjold

2. Piece of music
Symphony No. 3 by Roy Harris

feininger church of minorities3. Work of art
Lyonel Feininger's Church of the Minorities

4. Film
None—I don't do cinema, can't track a narrative or interpret anything on any level.

5. Unusual engagement with popular culture that has helped/challenged you on your spiritual journey.
This question is broadly ambiguous, but what immediately springs to mind is the way I often refer to current or older song lyrics when I'm teaching (and, depending on my audience) sometimes in preaching. Long ago I discovered it was a rich way of connecting people with our common experiences and perspectives.

Bonus: Is engagement essential to your Christian faith, how and why?
I don't quite get what this means, and as usual, haven't read anyone else's before playing, but this feels like an exam question...well, yes. As a performing musician, graphic artist and writer, the fine, expressive and performing arts have been a huge part of my ministry, and these days I'm looking for a setting or settings where people truly will care about the intersection of the arts in terms of high culture (kultur), popular culture, theology and liturgy.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Resolved Church,

Seriously edited on Monday 24 August 2015

a new church plant in San Diego, is part of The Resurgence, "a movement that resources multiple generations to live for Jesus so that they can effectively reach their cities with the gospel by staying culturally accessible and Biblically faithful." As my intro admits, I thoroughly edited this post eight later, and I know The Resurgence site was online recently because the last time I looked for it, I found it—probably within the past two or three months. The Resurgence is first Christian, then both evangelical and missional. And very conservative Reformed. This morning @ 11:00 I worshiped with The Resolved in its current space at the Musicians Union Hall on Morena Blvd in the approximate Bay Park/USD vicinity. Edit: since then they've moved to a larger, more settled location on Napa Street, San Diego. resolved city The Resolved Church self-describes as Glory Driven, Gospel Centered, City within the City. Each week the newsletter features one of Jonathan Edwards' resolveds, but there's more to being Resolved than the Northampton Preacher—later in this blog I quote Pastor Duane Smets, "We are The Resolved Church. In 1 Corinthians 2:2, Paul said, 'I resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.' We need to be a resolved people. Resolved to have the gospel take root. Resolved to have the gospel change us. Resolved to repent. Resolved to follow Jesus and to plant his church in this city."

A little about the website: visually it's highly attractive and somewhat sophisticated without being obnoxiously slick, but the pale gray text against black is far too difficult to read; on some pages I couldn't select the text to get a more readable view and then figured out the text portions actually were images—how irritating! When I checked out the (edited eight years later: no longer live) designer's site, DMS Design Theory turned out to be Pastor D(uane) M(.) S(mets), who began college as a design major. By the way, I've long loved the convention of using lots of lower-case, though I understand it can be hard to read, and although sometimes I'm inconsistent regarding the Reformed convention of capitalizing adjectives and articles that reference God, I always capitalize the nouns God, Lord, etc., so I found the footer on the newsletter page, "much love to you all & soli deo gloria!" a little disconcerting. To continue, here's part of Duane's bio:
Pastor Duane's educational background includes a B.A. in Religion from Point Loma Nazarene University, a B.Th. from LIFE Bible College and an M.A. in Theology from Talbot School of Theology.

Duane's ministerial background began in 1998 and since then he has served as a youth pastor, college pastor, evangelist and in 2005 planted The Resolved Church. His writings have appeared in Relevant Magazine, Kaleo Publications, and his Master's thesis, "The New Testament Evangelist" can be found both online and in libraries connected with Biola University. Duane is a gifted and passionate preacher who treasures Christ, his family and Jesus' church.
The Doctrinal Statement explains "Neither papists nor hyper-Calvinists!" ¶ 1 under The Church reads:
We believe the Church is the invisible spiritual body of believers in Jesus throughout all time (Ephesians 5:4-16). We believe the Church has many local expressions and is not a business or a building but a viceroy of the kingdom of God (Revelation 1:4-6). We believe in the autonomy of local churches and in a government of male plurality for the leadership of local churches (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-5; 1 Timothy 3:2). Thus, we are not ecumenicists, egalitarians, or mono-episcopists. "...government of male plurality for the leadership..."
The authors page (no longer where it used to be, and I didn't try to find a current list) listed twenty all told—that's 20 guys, all white, mostly dead! To be fair, this is simply a small selection from The Resolved's broader theological tradition, but I'd like to see a few women and greater 20th and 21st-century representation.

Some exciting chunks of Duane's sermons I found online:
We are The Resolved Church. In 1 Corinthians 2:2, Paul said, "I resolved to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." We need to be a resolved people. Resolved to have the gospel take root. Resolved to have the gospel change us. Resolved to repent. Resolved to follow Jesus and to plant his church in this city.

Cultural Incarnation & Transformation—A City within the City

How does that work? How does that play itself out? What the heck are you talking about? Let’s talk about culture, "Cultural Incarnation & Transformation - A City within the City." This is how God’s mission, of bringing glory to himself by drawing everyone to him through Jesus all the time, this is how that happens.

So we hold the message dear. But we partner with the city and live lives within it. Non-christians need to see you dying and living for the gospel. ... Non-Christians need to see Christians who inhabit their city but they are different. They need to see people who are radically like them but also radically different.
Almost everything on the website looked and sounded exciting, and this morning's worship proved a wonderful experience. The music in the churches I've been visiting always interests me, but today at the start of worship they announced that Michael, their music leader, was stuck in Jamaica waiting out Hurricane Dean. However, during holy communion they played an amazingly beautiful accompanied choral version of "There is a Fountain filled with Blood," from a CD recorded by one of the churches they're connected to (you probably could say in covenant with) so even these seemingly independent congregations aren't at all unaffiliated—they're just not part of what we in the mainline technically would consider a denomination or church body. I've been trying to make the blogs about the churches I've been visiting about my own faith journey, too; a while ago, when I told the North Park senior pastor I'd felt "deeply betrayed by the church" and he responded with, "what church is this?" I answered, "the protestant mainline—the only church I've ever known!" As I venture outside of the physical and jurisdictional confines of the American Protestant Mainline, I'm finding myself curious, refreshed and reflective, so this is becoming a Good Journey!

The physical feeling alone of worshiping in that space would be enough to make me resolve to return to The Resolved! There were about three dozen worshipers, mostly adults, in a large room; both front and back doors were open, with a fan blowing for added ventilation. Four electric torchière lamps and ten candles on the black-cloth-covered communion table provided the only ambient lighting (light from the projection screen, too, of course), and in some ways the room was dim, especially since the mostly black and gray palette of the website carried over into almost everything except the already-painted walls, but it was restfully peaceful rather than being remotely oppressive. Unlike in some whereabouts, all of worship was on the same physical level, and above the stage we didn't use they'd hung a long version of the banner I posted at the top of this blog with its city skyline and the words a glory driven - gospel centered - city within the city. (By the way, please notice I didn't even attempt to approximate any measurement of anything.) I got the impression that worship usually begins with singing, which in Michael's absence didn't happen today, so a guy (deacon or other church officer, maybe?) opened with two readings about God, explained how a huge part of who we are and how we live has to do with what we think and believe about God, followed with prayer, and then Duane preached. "Two If's and a Walk Stronger than Death," was today's title—the first of a pair of sermons on Romans 8:9-13, part of a longer The Walking According to the Spirit Series. I'd describe Duane's preaching as apologetics-driven, but he has a degree in apologetics and this community attempts to link, interconnect and to theologically integrate heart and head, so that approach was appropriate, as well as being something I try to do in my own preaching and teaching.

Post-sermon we celebrated the Eucharist, explicated on the screen as, "Thanksgiving - Holy Communion - Lord's Supper - Mass." My appreciation of their celebrating the sacrament weekly goes without saying; they introduced it with what I'd call a "means of grace" theological perspective. In my usual churches we always make a point of serving each other communion, whether it's passed in the pews, we gather around the communion table or process single-file to the front, so it felt (and it was) unfamiliar for people to wait in their seats until they felt ready and then walk to the Table at the front to break off a piece of the (tasty round) bread and dip it in the chalice. In fact, we so insist on serving each other, I have happy memories of my former next-door neighbor SaraLyn holding her then maybe 2-year old son plus other stuff in her lap and going through some awkward motions to offer the cup to me to show Christ's hospitality; last winter or so the North Park senior pastor was doing something and I said something about his behavior being related to "serving yourself communion." He replied, "I wouldn't be that heretical!" I'm gaining new outlooks all-around.

Around noontime, after the word "Liturgy" appeared on the screen, we heard a gospel portion from John 6:60-69 (not today's RCL gospel) and recited a responsive Psalm 34:2-3, 16-22, "Taste and See." After a couple of announcements about the coming week's activities, we could consider ourselves dismissed, though without a formal benediction or "Go in peace; serve the Lord."

When I first entered the room before worship began, I approached the guy I thought was the pastor (hey, I'd been to the site) and later a couple other people came over and talked to me, but nothing hard-sell or off-putting. Lately I've been considering my own self-presentation a lot (for example, outgoing, open friendliness usually works great when you're interviewing and candidating for a church staff position, but the exact same attitude and behavior may impress routine folks and lay leaders as assertive or overtaking in a church where you're trying to get involved in ministry), so it was fun hearing Pastor Duane's telling us he'd worn his "suit and glasses" for a meeting with the folks the church rents from. On my way out I chatted with Amy, Duane's spouse (they're expecting a baby girl, their first child, in November). Again, just casual and cordial. By the way, Duane has a left armful of beautiful, elegant tattoos! These days at least one pierced ear has become almost commonplace for guy pastors, but most of them seem to keep any additional body art hidden.

In closing, this is a church plant, and y'all y'all know plants need deep roots, and a thriving plant branches out far enough to help heal, nourish, and keep its environment (its habitat, its city!) sustainable. Altogether this was excellent; I'll be going back.

resolved banner

Friday, August 17, 2007

Word Association Friday 5

from rev gal blog pals, it's a word association F5, redux

From Pentecost 12C / Proper 15—Sunday's—RCL, outlined by ReverendMother, according to Songbird's model:

Below you will find five words. Tell us the first thing you think of on reading each one. Your response might be simply another word, or it might be a sentence, a poem or a story.

On most of these I couldn't stop at just one:

purple iris1. vineyard

Listening to Karen B. singing a song based on Sunday's Isaiah 5 lection, plus...
Napa Valley
sour grapes—teeth set on edge
Church—Jesus is our Vintner
World—a vineyard that forms our ministry and mission field



radishes2. root
radishes (in the bible)—and then:
tree roots—the deeper the roots
watching me digging up dandelions, neighbor Mary observed, "That's hard work! You gotta get to the taproot!"
Root of Jesse
Rooted and grounded in love, in Christ
unrooted=free-falling


hibiscus3. rescue

fire engines—Station 27 on the corner of this street
cats in trees
friends to rescue us (me) from unrooted free-falls




4. perseverance

...of the saints

5. divided

minds
a house against itself
wills
goals
families

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

broken and becoming

During July 2006, in Products and Packaging, I blogged about containers, boundaries, judicatories and church buildings. To segue into this blog, here's a bit from that blog:
My intro paragraph referenced Container Corporation of America, and with bounded, boundless, contained, and uncontained I'm thinking sacraments and authority, too. One of the classic descriptions about sacraments cites them as evidence of the capacity, capability – capax – of the finite to contain the infinite. Contain. This is fire season in Southern California, reminding us a contained fire is not an extinguished one, but nonetheless, containment often leads to a beneficial outcome.

...permeable. I'm writing about containers, containment, vessels, thorns, briars, roses, fruit and a long list of acquisitive concepts. Here in Alta California we live constantly aware of the permeability of the borders, the legal boundaries and sometimes the cultural ones between this territory and Baja California, but I want to compare the containers, boundaries and borders of ecclesiastical life with boxes, jars and envelopes where the content doesn't leak or scatter beyond the bounds, but the container exudes heat, or cold, or some kind of aura one can see or smell, maybe even taste. ... At a later time I'll say more again about brokenness, shards, tatters and splinters, ruins and rubble: bread and lives, pottery, vessels, buildings, cities and civilizations, broken yet blessed and distributed ultimately to enable living as a result of that once un-wholeness.

Church buildings, and in many cases...what we call a campus, with "country" as a possible connotation. Those buildings in some sense contain and in-clude the Church, the body of Christ, which is called to freely function as a living organism. In teaching and writing, often I refer to the Jerusalem Temple with its containerized deity, so remote from the free, elusive and infinitely faithful to creation Yahweh of the Exodus; frequently I talk about the Jerusalem Temple, so distant from God's self-revelation in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus Christ shows us the Divine not in formal structures and intricate liturgical rites, but in fully real presence alongside creation and in total response to creation's needs. ...

Containers, etc.: [as I keep observing,] the PCUSA, UCC and the ELCA are splintering seriously because "a human institution cannot contain that much diversity!" Of course the flip, the B side is "a human institution can contain only so much diversity." By definition, any institution has limits. However, logically, if something cannot be accessed, in some sense claimed and contained, it's not worth much to us. How about "God-moments" some people talk about? Are there times we can recognize God's presence while we're thick in the experience or situation, or is that acknowledgment possible only in retrospect?
I've titled this blog broken and becoming...a few days ago I was talking with one of Left Right in the City Church's pastors, who asked me if I'd checked out Beachfront Church; I replied I sort of had and even gotten involved in their Lenten Wednesday evenings worship and discussion series several years in a row, but that congregation as a whole couldn't work for me, because it's "far too slick," and admittedly, by design I've decided not to be (though I could be, of course). I explained I far preferred Old Condo Shadows and Left Right in the City, because both of those congregations are "broken and becoming." As I said that I knew it was a cool turn of phrase but even more, excellent theology, so I'm blogging it today. Simply regarding physical properties, one of the Left Right in the City pastors complained to me about the relative disrepair of their buildings, and I asked if she'd noticed Old Condo Shadows' needed even more repair?

I've finally started mentioning to people I'd seen my own life and ministry scattered in humanly irretrievable splinters, tatters and shards, and despite the fact the best ministry is done by broken people, there's a level of brokenness that cannot yield fruit. In the ANE they called pottery shards "ostraca," from which the English "ostracize" derived because of the pottery scraps on which they recorded votes to cast out people from community, yet aside from that use, they found the broken pieces useful and retrievable for many other purposes. They'd often inscribe scriptures or songs the pottery chunks, which after all, were more durable than papyrus, so in many ways could travel and circulate more easily.

Especially in the mainline, in recent years we've been talking, writing and reading a lot about the Church in Mission, the Church as mission. The Church in the Power of the Spirit of Pentecost indeed needs to be a sent, missional entity...

New, closely related topic: a young, home-schooled high school-age woman at a church I attended for a while told me she'd always wanted to socialize with kids in her neighborhood and also longed to attend Sunday School, but her mom, a PK (believe it!), had insisted Sunday School was for heathens, people of the heath, (people names Heather?) and Christian parents were supposed to be the teachers and catechists of their own kids. I love Walter Brueggemann's Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism: Living in a Three-Storied Universe and I need to read it for the fourth time and blog specifically about the book. Delineating the Three Stories, WB insists we need to teach and reach adults already part of the churches, their kids and grandkids and our outsider, outlander neighbors, friends and others. Vis-à-vis the Way of Jesus and the Church's Mission, are all of us heath-dwellers in some sense? Regarding dwelling on the heaths, of being on the other side of the side of the river where the baptized reside, of course we do and are!

Over the past 123120938 (more like 5) years, I've been writing and reflecting about domesticated gods, the God of the bible, of the prophets and of Jesus Christ, about culturally congruent vs. prophetic liturgy, about colonized Christianity and counter-cultural congregations. There are so many churches, people and places I could blog about, but when a community, a person or a situation is torn and broken, isn't that exactly the easiest time for the HS to make inroads, to breathe and blaze new life and renewed possibilities the fractured, fragmented, unwhole old? The once-whole loaf of eucharistic bread springs to mind—we actually call the presider's liturgical action in breaking the bread the "fraction." Check out the song, What is this Place? I included in a blog last winter. I'll write lots more later on all of this, I trust.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Church in the World; church and the world 3

Last week again I facilitated a session of the Theology of the Cross course I originally developed for Lent 2007. We discussed our living as a paradoxically hidden sacramental presence to the world, and I mentioned in passing the concept of neighborology from Water Buffalo Theology. Yes, this class also got handouts with some of my notes from WBT. Does the cross remain an outrageous offense to contemporary sensibilities, sensitivities and logic? I believe it does!

On Lent 5, toward the end of the actual Lenten series, I blogged on this site about geographically, socially, culturally, chronologically, theologically and/or spiritually liminal modes of Christian presence and asked if our presence in the world and in our neighborhoods can be a liminal, in the process of becoming, though not-quite-yet one? Partly in our own world and way, partly in theirs, and wholly in the sovereignty of heaven?

I've been trying to listen carefully and comment selectively to what people say about worship style and content; the friends with whom I attended Saturday evening worship at Rancho Bernardo Pres said something about people getting confused by "ritual." That's understandable, so how about an occasional instructed liturgy? It doesn't need to be highly detailed or elaborate, but if people learn to appreciate the origins and intent of what we do during worship, it would help worship become more meaningful to them.

Here are a few more sort of paraphrases from my old blog(s):

The synagogue's and later the church's liturgy developed and became shaped in ways that address, interact with and speak to our human condition and demonstrate God's response to creation's need. In Hebrew history, the past acts of God gave Israel confidence about the future and willingness to continue in covenantal partnership with God; because they knew about God's past faithfulness, they could face the future with a living hope. Israel persistently kept recalling and re-membering her history with the God of the Covenants with rituals, celebrations and liturgies; within a context that was play more than it was anything else, Israel told and retold the story of creation's experience with God. Like God's primal people Israel, in our worship we, the contemporary people of God, remember who God is, who we are, God's redemptive actions, and we announce our dreams and hopes for the future. Not only is much of our liturgy in the present, just as play is—like children's playtime and the various play endeavors of adults, worship also creates a new and different self-contained world existing alongside of and within our everyday world.

Similar to play, and parallel to our dreams, worship ends the dichotomy we often make between material and spiritual. When we play, when we dream, when we worship, we live fully in the present—creative, responsive, and responsible. Being Christian means to live precariously in the interplay between two worlds, just as Jesus lived. As God's children we will be completely free and alive without constraints some day, and our playful attitudes and our liturgies are the first fruit, the guarantee that finally we will end up in God's image, since it is God's indwelling Spirit that makes possible our play, our dreams, our celebrations.

In worship, and especially when we celebrate a baptism or the Eucharist, we carry with us beyond the worshiping assembly and beyond the church building a microcosm of a redeemed world; we become a living and a life-giving memory of God's actions in history, especially in Christ Jesus, as the Holy Spirit calls and enables us, Jesus again becomes alive in the world and we become sacraments mediating between God in Christ and the world. We offer the world a living connection to the heaven of God's Reign on earth, living as visible, tangible signs of God-with-us, God-for-us, God-among-us—maybe especially as we practice neighborology, the word about the neighbor?!

Church in the World; church and the world 2

Again I'm quoting and paraphrasing some of my earlier blogs.

What does local, secular culture mean for evangelism, outreach, mission, justice, liturgy and advocacy? For identity? Preaching in the context of public worship is not or should not be a "how to," but a declaration and proclamation of God's redemptive action in our lives, community and world, in history. The sacraments and the order of worship create a snapshot of redeemed, restored creation, bringing to life a hint of the eschaton, the new creation. Besides, sacraments are sensual, engaging us at every level, with visual symbols, music, and ritual actions that help us savor the texts and prayers in sensory ways; the narratives that recollect God's intervention and plain presence in the world and in creation make past events actually present.

A friend told me she attends two churches most Sundays; she said the Reformed Church tells her "what," while the Metaphysical church tells her "how." She also said, "Most women in their late 40's begin working on their spiritual life." Of course. In other words, she perceives Christianity as a self-improvement pursuit. A couple years ago when a group at church was sort of looking at or leafing through Purpose Driven Life, one of our best bible study leaders asked me about the meaning of the word "ecclesiology" and advised me to at least get a clue about the content of PDL (I have a copy I picked up for free, but never found time to crack open the cover), because we might be doing something serious with it later. I told her I got the impression if was more self-improvement than anything, and she remarked, "there's no grace whatseover in it!" That was an aside...

We who are the Church need to begin imagining new liturgical models, which still will focus on Word and Sacrament in a fully participatory manner—full participation as audacious counterpoint to the entertainment worship that's becoming prevalent in the more politically and socially conservative fundamentalist world and sneaking into mainline Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Some congregations deliberately quest to become like those other churches across the street, down the boulevard, or in geographically near, but more visibly and ostentatiously affluent areas. Although I hesitate to write "evangelical," that was the Reformer's word for Protestantism in general and evangelical remains the word for "Protestant" in non-English speaking countries. Nonetheless, my readers know what I'm trying to say! To quote Krister Stendahl, "I hope we all are evangelical!" And I trust we all speak and walk the Gospel Good News, evangelion!

Prayer and hymn singing in the vernacular is one of Luther's Marks of the True Church; "Evangelism in the vernacular" also needs to happen for the Church, as the Body of the Risen Christ, to be true to its call, as Jesus always met people more than half-way: Jesus met people as who they were and where they were. The churches I've been visiting and the protestant mainline I identify with all have been trying to meet people where they are and speak in a language they'll understand. But did God ever call the People of God to live in ways congruent with their local cultures" Or in a radically culturally incongruent, actually counter-cultural manner? How about prophetic liturgy and prophetic living?

Toward the beginning of worship someone says something to the gathered congregation like, "I woke up this mornin' and was feelin' kinda blue, so decided to hop in vehicle and truck on down to church, and man, was I happy I did! Along the way I saw (fill in with various items, such as trees, clouds, a rainbow, several people worse off than me who wouldn't be in church today...) and by the time I got here the Lord had changed my blues into clues!" I'd call that a type of vernacular, though definitely not prophetic and really not much of anything other than a conversation you might have with a neighbor or maybe upon arriving at weekday Bible Study. How can something like this mirror, reflect and realize the renewed, redeemed alternative world of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ?

Now let's try worship that opens with something like an Isaiah 6 blaze of the glory of God, follows by awareness of our sinfulness, then confession, absolution...I've already mentioned BCP Holy Communion Rite I opening with the 10 Commandments, and a lot of liturgical orders begin with awareness of God's holiness and sovereignty...you know! I don't need to include any more details.

Evangelism in the vernacular? Telling the Good News in the people's muttersprach, in their lingua franca, which, of course, means far more than the syntax, colloquialisms and grammar of their spoken and written language. Our language needs to reach all of their cultural sensibilities as well as their actual native idiom of every aspect of their everyday lives, reaching far into their values, hopes and dreams. What do they desire for themselves, their children, their community, and even for worlds beyond their immediate ones? What would they perceive as Good News; above all, what can we demonstrate to them that would make them willing to risk change?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Church in the World; church and the world 1

Especially related to my recent visits to churches where I'm not routinely involved, besides the discrete blog I'm writing for each of them, originally I wanted to write at least one blog partly explaining my insights and reactions, but the blog got so long, in the interests of my blogs actually getting read, I've broken it up into three. For starters, from September 2004 – but blogged later – here are some paraphrased chunks of ¶ 3 and ¶ 4 from the Mission Study Notes I wrote for one of my "usual" congregations (close enough to the original to blockquote my own words):
Worship, especially Sunday worship – models a vision of and becomes a microcosm of the redeemed, restored, resurrected – Eastered – community, as the HS prepares and enables us for service during the following week. The structure and content of much so-called "contemporary" worship—a style actually popularized during the 1970s—has grown out of the revivalist, frontier and Pentecostal traditions rather than the churches of the Reformation and their antecedent Roman Catholic liturgical tradition, and this type of worship carries with it the burden of its own human decision theology that does not align with God's Self-revelation in scripture and in Jesus Christ. The Reformers insisted in proclaiming God's faithful Presence and God's gracious saving deeds rather than human imaginings of a do-it-yourself/ourselves project. Frontier religion also breaks continuity with the centuries-long historical praxis of the church bodies that evolved from the Geneva and Wittenberg Reforms in terms of their recovering and restoring the early church's unvarying convention of keeping Word and Sacrament tightly yoked together. In fact, just as the late Medieval Church, in losing the Word had lost the essence of the Sacraments, some of the post-Reformation churches, in jettisoning regular sacramental practice and understanding lost the essence of the Word, the mystery of the hidden and elusive God who nonetheless self-reveals, but principally in paradoxical ways, particularly in the common "stuff" of everyday creation.
In April 2006 I blogged Emerging Church, emerging churches; this time I need to blog some thoughts on liturgy. My blogging is full of disclaimers, and one of them at this time maybe *should* be my love of well-planned, well-paced and well-performed liturgical worship, anywhere in the moderate range from fairly low to somewhat high church, which doubtless partly contributes to my dismay with a songs-and-sermon format better suited to something scheduled and described as "Bible Study." The Mainline Churches struggle with membership count, worship attendance, styles and content of mission and evangelism and almost everything else, but abandoning the historical worship of God's people isn't the way to go.

From the nascent Israel's worship in the wilderness, the liturgies of God's people have recounted in word and action the story of God's faithfulness in their lives and recollected ways God shaped and formed the identity of the people of God along with God's call to the people to be His Presence in the world along with God's graciously enabling and fulfilling that call in the power of the HS. Worship forms a microcosm of our daily, lively encounter with a Holy God, Who calls us to be Holy as He is! The Church gathers as the assembly that already has experienced its first death and second birth, the community that thrives in the reign of life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The barely formed churches we hear about in the epistles (I'm thinking of Corinth as especially instructive) were way different from the over-formed institutional Church Luther wrote and spoke against; in this 21st Century, the church again has become over-insitutionalized, over-professionalized and over-rationalized; I'll say more later in Blog 2.