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Archive for September, 2007

Midnight Thoughts

I’ve just been asleep for a few hours and now I am awake and thinking. What is that I am most passionate about? As I look back over my adult life, what are the common threads that come together?

  1. Being with the broken and hopeless: I have always been attracted to being with those who are suffering, who are in crisis, those who have no hope, those who are grieving. For whatever reason (and I certainly have my hunches), I feel called to be with the afflicted, specifically those who are afflicted emotionally, those who are marginalized, and those who are experiencing loss, to visit widows and orphans (James 1:27).
  2. Committing to a specific place: I believe one essential to living incarnationally is to live a committed life in a specific place. That is, living, working, worshiping in close proximity to one another. I have found this to be a very organic and effective way to be connected with a diverse group of people for the sake of washing their feet and to see the kingdom come. Two subpoints:
    • I have found living in Pittsboro a very isolating and disconnected experience. I would love to have a neighborhood parish church that sought to be very integrated into the fabric of its immediate, front door community.
    • I have found worshiping in a school an equally disconnected experience. We don’t have a consistent presence anywhere as a gathered community except for several hours on Sunday morning.
  3. Solidarity, Resistance, and Liberation: I think it is important to point out that in light of being called to identify with the afflicted and to commit to a locale draw out another thread for me, that is, standing with the afflicted in solidarity, identifying and resisting oppression, and seeking God’s liberation through the Gospel.
  4. Hospitality as Normative: Attached to these themes is also the strong sense of call to hospitality – creating space for the stranger and the sojourner to encounter the crucified one.
  5. Formational Writing: I’m no amazing writer but am more and more convinced that the more I write the more I connect with who I am in Christ as well as how I am relating to the world. It is a touchstone for me – something I need to be doing regularly so I don’t get lost in the powerful tides that surround me. I’m convinced the better I become as a writer, the better I’ll become from the pulpit. The more lucid I can be in pinning together words and images, the more effective I will be as expositor of God’s word and a communicator of his story.
  6. Committed to Anglican Worship: Unless God radically alters my wiring and perceptions, I will die as an Anglican. My funeral will come out of the Book of Common Prayer. I am convinced of the beauty and majesty of Anglican liturgy. There is no sense of

Writing this down is all very helpful for me. Lord, continue to help me weed through my messy thinking not for the sake comfort or clarity but for the sake of knowing how to serve you more effectively.

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Bishop’s Charge

This is the Bishop’s charge to me from my ordination this past Sunday:

You have heard, brother, both beforehand in private and now in the sermon and the Scripture readings, just how great and important is the office to which you have been called. I bid you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ never to forget this and to remember what you are called to do. You are called to be a messenger, a watchman and a steward of the Lord. You are to teach and warn, to feed and nurture the Lord’s family and to seek for Christ’s sheep scattered abroad among the disobedient peoples of this world so that they may be eternally saved through Christ.

Have it always printed in your memory just how great a treasure is committed to your charge. The church and congregation whom you serve are Christ’s bride and body. They are His sheep, which He purchased with His death and for whom He shed His blood. You know what a great fault you will be guilty of if any member of His church is hurt or hindered as a result of your negligence and that God will discipline you. Therefore remember what God has called you to do. Never cease your careful and diligent labors until you have done all that you possibly can, according to your duty, to bring all those who are committed to your charge to a knowledge of God, unity in the faith and maturity in Christ so that no place is given to erroneous belief or wrong behavior.

Since this office and ministry is both excellent and difficult, you will appreciate that you ought to be thankful to God for your call and that you need carefully to apply yourself to your duties, your studies and to your own spiritual growth and health. You must take care not to offend nor to cause others to sin. Only God can give you the desire and ability to do these things. You need therefore to pray earnestly for His Holy Spirit. And because there is no other way of leading men and women to salvation except by teaching the Holy Scriptures, you must read and learn them and order your life and that of your family according to them. For the same reason you must forsake all those worldly cares and concerns that hinder you from doing your duty.
We are persuaded that you have carefully considered these things and that you are clearly determined by God’s grace to give yourself wholeheartedly to this office and ministry to which God has been pleased to call you.

Therefore, continually pray to God the Father by the mediation of our only Savior Jesus Christ for the heavenly assistance of the Holy Spirit so that through daily reading and meditation on the Scriptures, you will grow in your ministry, endeavor to sanctify and shape your life and that of your family according to the rule and teaching of Christ, and to be wholesome and godly examples for the people to follow. And now, so that the congregation of Christ’s people gathered here may be assured of your determination to do these things and so that your public commitment to them may strengthen your resolve to do your duty, you shall plainly answer these questions which I, in the name of God and His church, now put to you.

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On Ordination

I’m being ordained as an Anglican priest tomorrow. It’s kind of funny. I want to reflect and have some time for deep reflection but my six year old is in the next room banging on something. The phone is ringing. My wife HAS to speak to me about something. It’s so funny. My messy-wonderful life where things rarely go as I wish but is always good. I’d love to be opening up some deep and meaningful spiritual or theological truth. But all I can do is feel distracted. I’ve noticed how many things clammer for my attention and how dutifully I allow them to capture it and me. Lord, lead me into a place of greater strength, into a place of more resolve and maturity. Lord, I pray that tomorrow’s service will lead me to a deeper commitment to you and to your cause. Mark me and seal me with your Spirit.

As I consider what has brought me to the cusp of ordained ministry, I have to remind myself that this isn’t my doing. I did set out in this direction by going to seminary and by making decisions to serve Christ in specific capacities. However, I have also been affirmed in this journey by peers and by my community. Through my life, people have experienced God’s grace. I’m not sure what I’m so worried about. No one’s motives are pure. But you haven’t made this happen all on your own. There were certainly opportunities for this to get shut down. And this isn’t charity, as if someone feels sorry for you. This is who you are. This is a calling. This is an identity.

I like what NT Wright says when he addresses a group of clergy who are reaffirming their ordination vows,

“This is not about ‘me and my ministry’, or about a small elite patting itself on the back. It is about strengthening and reaffirming one another and ourselves in our lifelong identity as those set apart by God and his church to be people of the word, people of the sacraments, people of the cross, the resurrection and the Spirit and the cross again, people who say by their very existence – despite the challenges and the frustrations and the weariness and the share increases and the pastoral reorganisation and the leaky roof and the debates in General Synod – people who say by their very existence that the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, and to us, please God, through whom the fact of that salvation goes out into the world, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God. My brothers and sisters, here is the cross of Jesus Christ.”

He goes on to say, “Take it, in the bread and the wine. Take its power and sweetness in the oil of healing, of baptism, of chrism. Preach it; live it; be it – for the world that still waits to see what wisdom and power really mean.”

Beautiful! As an ordained priest in Christ’s Church, I am called to embody and proclaim the hope of salvation. I am set apart to live my life based in the folly of the cross. I have been created to live and be a person who’s life demonstrates the power and wisdom of God.

This sounds high and lofty and I haven’t the first clue how to do this right. But I trust you. We’ll make it through.

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Today’s Daily Office

Today’s Daily Office Epistle is from James 2. The words are foundational to understanding the relationship between faith and works.

 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good [1] is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

The conversion of a sinner broken, messy, complicated, and needy to becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ is a dramatic event. Its effects should startle the sinner. “Look how much I deserved judgment? Look how bad I am? Like Peter, I should also say, ‘Away from me, Lord, a sinful man!'” In receiving grace and mercy we likewise have a component built into our faith that desires to share that love, mercy and compassion with others.

James argues that if there is not intrinsic element of activism in our faith, it may not be true faith at all. If we are not moved to assist, to serve, to show mercy as we have received mercy, then our faith has idled to a stop. It has become meaningless and mute in a world that is desperate for Christ.

I’m encouraged that the social Gospel and the transforming Gospel are converging in the church. That the two were so distinctive and divisive are evidence of how influential theology can be in the trajectory of the life of the Church. The social Gospel movement was born in the response to Kant and in the works of Schliermacher and also as a part of the evolutionary philosophies of the 19th Century. Liberal modernists have long influenced the Church focusing on humanism over orthodoxy. It’s no wonder we’re in the spot we are in as Anglicans.

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Grumpy

I remember during one of my CPE exercises, I had to meet with a panel of CPE supervisors. One of them made the remark that I over function and that I don’t know myself. I reacted to it, my live nerve revealing the truth in her statement.

As I reflect on that statement now, I can see just how right she was. I do too much. I say yes too much. The cost is I run around meeting the needs and expectations of others rather than attending to my own soul. The price that is paid is I become a dry, tired, and grumpy old man.

Lord, renew me and refresh me.

One thing I’ve been rattling around in my grumpiness is my leadership ability. When people look for a strong vocal director, that is not who I am. In my grumpiness, I can get pretty hard on myself. “You’re not a leader. You have no business doing what you do.” Blah, blah, blah.

I’m so sick of myself. This post is making no sense. The point is, I want to know myself more. I need to shake off this negativity that seems to pervade my life and my thinking right now. I want to have some fun!  I want you, Lord and the life you bring.

Lord, forgive me for my busyness. Forgive me for being like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. Forgive me for being a full time pastor but a part time follower of Christ.

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Judgment & Mercy

From the second part of today’s Daily Office reading from James 2: 8-13:

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

What we say and what we do matter. At times, I think I abuse my freedom in Christ on the altar of acceptance, of being liked or respected. Would that I could live into speaking and acting as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty, that is, I wish I could use my freedom to do the right thing. Not the profane thing.

James is a tough book. He demands a changed life…a life formed by the impact and after shocks of the Cross of Christ.  When I think of my sin and its depth, its completeness, its influence, I have to remind myself that God still loves me. Even in judging myself, there is a point at which I have to even have mercy on myself.

My previous post mentioned self worship. At this moment, I’m a long way from there. I’ve noticed that internally, I’m either here or there. There’s either peace or there is despair. How exhausting!

Henri Nouwen writes about the tempests and constant changing of life. “It is true that there are ebbs and flows but the sea is always the sea.” I am noticing more and more the constant changing of my emotions lately. I’m not sure where this all comes from. It seems to hit me every year at the end of summer and then again in the depths of winter. Nouwen goes on to say that in the ebb and flow, God is unchanging. He is not static like a rock but unchanging like a faithful lover. Out of this love I am given life, I am sustainded, I am watched over and embraced. Regardless of what comes my way – sadness, joy, failure, guilt, anger, fear –  my lover makes room and embaces me.

Mercy triumphs over judgment. I can praise God that this is the dynamic of our relationship. The challenge is, and this is what James is on about, I am supposed to show mercy over judgment. I am not to show favorites or operate in relationships out of judgment or disdain.

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Self Worship

Lord,

Thank you for this day. For this new morning. The sun is coming up and it looks like another beautiful day that you’ve given us. The words from this morning’s Psalm are appropriate:

Hallelujah!
Praise the LORD from the heavens; *
praise him in the heights. 2 Praise him, all you angels of his; *
praise him, all his host. 3 Praise him, sun and moon; *
praise him, all you shining stars. 4 Praise him, heaven of heavens, *
and you waters above the heavens. 5 Let them praise the Name of the LORD; *
for he commanded, and they were created. 6 He made them stand fast for ever and ever; *
he gave them a law which shall not pass away.

I confess my sins to you Lord. I have been so distracted and stressed. I’ve been pathologically bent on busyness. Forgive me. I carry too much at times. But I also find too much of myself in what I do.

  

Yesterday, I was listening to a lecture by Darrell Johnson on the Sermon of the Mount. The sticking point for me was when he mentioned your words, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Our hearts follow what we treasure not the other way around. The anxieties we feel are largely based on where our treasure is.

 

As I was listening and mowing the grass, it came to me what my problem is. I long to be worshipped. I want people to think I’m special. I want them to praise me. I also want them to do what I say, as if I were you? This came home like a ton of bricks!

 

I know I get some of this honestly by nature of being an only child who’s parents loved and doted on me. But it’s just disgusting. Lord, you are the only one that’s good. You are the only one deserving of praise. Holy Spirit, I felt your deep conviction on this and I am grateful that you brought it to mind.

 

Lord forgive me of all the times in my life I have put myself in a position to be worshipped. Forgive me for all the times that I’ve done something supposedly in your name but really for myself to receive praise.

Why else would I get so frustrated when I don’t receive what I think I’m due? This is a huge issue for me.  My thoughts run to ways to keep this from happening again. But I think I need to sit in the mess of this for awhile.

I beg for your mercy, Lord. I beg for it. Have mercy on me. Redeem what has been lost. Lord, in all those cases where I blew it, forgive me. I am a sinful man, Lord. Forgive me.

 Grant me wisdom to know how to press on with this.

 
Most merciful God, I confess that I have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what I have done, and by what I have left undone. I have not loved you with my whole heart; I have not loved my neighbors as myself. I am truly sorry and I humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on me and forgive me; that I may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

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