Nothing, yet all

“To reach satisfaction in all
desire its possession in nothing
To come to the knowledge of all
desire the knowledge of nothing
To come to possess all
desire the possession off nothing
To arrive at being all
desire to be nothing

To come to the pleasure you have not
you must go by a way in which you enjoy not
To come to the knowledge you have not
you must go by a way in which you know not
To come to the possession you have not
you must go by a way in which you possess not
To come to be what you are not
you must go by a way in which you are not

When you turn toward something
you cease to cast yourself upon all
for to go from the all to the all
you must leave yourself in all
And when you come to the possession of all
you must possess it without wanting anything

In this nakedness the spirit
finds its rest, for when it
covets nothing, nothing
raises it up, and nothing
weights it down, because it is
in the center of its humanity.”

St. John of the Cross

Can hipster Christianity save churches from decline?

“Christianity’s true relevance lies not in the gospel’s comfortable trendiness but in its uncomfortable transcendence, as a truth with the power to rebuff, renew and restore wayward humanity at every epoch in history.

“Research also indicates that millennials do prefer ‘real’ churches over ‘cool’ ones. Contrary to the belief that churches must downplay their churchiness and meet in breweries or warehouses in order to appeal to millennials, a 2014 Barna study showed that millennials actually prefer church spaces that are straightforward and overtly Christian. The same study reported that when millennials described their ‘ideal church,’ they preferred ‘classic’ (67 percent) over ‘trendy’ (33 percent).”

Read the entire article: Can hipster Christianity save churches from decline? (source: Washington Post)

Can hipster Christianity save the church?

Can hipster Christianity save the church?

5 reasons why young people are seeking old ways of doing church

This migration began in earnest back in the 1990’s and is not coming into its own. I look at my own experience and understand that those of us, back then, were on the forefront of this migration among X-er’s, and now even more so among Millennial’s.

These are the general 5 reasons:

  1. Authenticity
  2. Rootedness
  3. Mystery
  4. Icons & Symbolism
  5. Participation

From the article:

“The departure of young people from “new” churches to “old” ones can be deeply confusing to many who grew up with strict denominational boundaries. However, it has the potential to lead to healthy, restorative spaces for many of God’s people. After all, we are all one church. As Brian Zhand expresses it; ‘we need the whole body of Christ to properly form the body of Christ. This much I’m sure of: Orthodox mystery, Catholic beauty, Anglican liturgy, Protestant audacity, Evangelical energy, Charismatic reality — I need it all!’

Read the post, here

http://www.churchinacircle.com/2015/03/31/why-young-people-are-seeking-old-ways-of-doing-church/

How are we influenced?

American exceptionalism today – the same as or similar to American “messianism” of the mid-nineteenth century… right before the Civil War? Yes, I think – and what it does, negatively, to the religion, the common perception of it all, and the spiritual welfare of Americans.

Professor Mark Noll in his book, “The Civil War as a Theological Crisis,” writes about the debates going on between pro- and anti-slavery theologians and biblical scholars leading up to the Civil War. The following quote comes from his analysis of Moses Stuart, considered one of America’s most competent biblical scholars of the time, a Reformed theologian, and how Stuart allowed his American citizenship (American messianism/exceptionalism) to overwhelm his scholarship and common application of scripture.

According to Noll, Stuart was compromised and thus blantantly inconsistent – his advocacy for slavery within his sense of “America” clouded his exegesis to the point of believing in the scriptural allowance of it. Are we are doing the same, today, in allowing notions of “America” to infringe upon and cloud what we are supposed to be and do as citizens of a different kingdom? We (many of us who claim Christ) make an idol of this nation-state and this notion of American exceptionalism. (This need not infringe upon the imagination of the American Ideal grasped by so many around the world and often forgotten by us, the supposed holders of it.)

From Noll, dealing with the specific debate over returning escaped slaves to their owners:

“Stuart, however, did not seem to feel that escaped slaves – considered as either Christians or potential Christians – had a higher claim on fellow believers than did Southern slaveholders considered as fellow American citizens. Rather, by overriding his commitment to standard Reformed theology, Stuart’s strong sense of American national messianism constrained his interpretation of Scripture. Even for this rightly honored defender of strict biblical exegesis, race exerted a powerful sway. White fellow Americans counted far more than black fellow Christians. Analogical Israel meant more than Spiritual Israel. A dubious theological warrant (treating America as the chosen people) exerted more force than a strong theological warrant (including blacks in the fellowship of the Church.” (Noll, p. 61)

More Silence

“Underneath the worship of God lies silence, a wordless praise, an eyeless vision. When a mind gets faith, it does not get it as it gets a knowledge of England’s history, or as it gets a knowledge of sparking plugs. For ‘gets’ is the wrong word. The word which rings true is not ‘gets’ but ‘receives.’ If you get faith at all, you feel as though you receive it. You hardly asked for it. You may not have wanted it. It came. ‘Nulla fides divina nisi infusionem’ – no true faith without a descent upon you; as it were, poured out, from on high.”

[Owen Chadwick, “The Spirit of the Oxford Movement”, p. 307]

The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church

My seminary – for which I have great love, within which I made fast friends and found colleagues, from which I was formed in worship in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd (what incredible symbolism in that name, alone) and in scholarship found in classroom and conversation – this seminary of long tradition (honored by many, ridiculed by others) is in a very difficult place, a different kind of trouble in these days.

I don’t know the details. I don’t, so I can’t bring myself to throw down the club of blame and accusation on either side. I have to wait.  I know the Dean as a fellow seminarian. I know some of the faculty as teachers and mentors. I know them all, and respect them all. We not only studied together, but we lived together in the tight confines of the Close.

This is, I’m afraid, what tends to happen within institutions as they go through profound change. Frankly, this is what happens within communities and nations, too. We see it in our own politics, in the events in the Middle East, and in other graduate institutions, too. These types of things happen as a result of our very human nature – sources of great good and great evil, incredible creativity and deadening banality. This is way we need, frankly, the One who redeems and restores and saves us from the worst of our human nature, from ourselves – individually and collectively.

What we see happening at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church we will continue to see with increasing frequency and ferociousness until the turn comes. This is a microcosm of what is stating within the entire Church. How will we respond?  The question asked within the title of a book by Francis Schaeffer comes to mind – “How should we then live?”  This is the crux, isn’t it? How are we each to live out the commands of Jesus in this very difficult, but practical, situation? How will each of us love God with all of our being and then, and here is where the significance really finds it’s ground, how will we love our neighbors – deans and faculties and pundits all around?

Will GTS and will the entire Church make the decision to do the profoundly difficult thing, the profoundly counter-cultural thing, and be reconciled, be redeemed, be reformed, and be transformed in the glory of the grace and mercy and love and faithfulness shown to us by the One to whom we owe everything? We have a choice, don’t we? Frankly, we have to “man-up”, we have to “woman-up”, we have to “Christ-up” and do the right thing, else we are just another example of hypocrisy – a failed thought-system, a worthless religion. We know what we need to do, and with God’s help we can do it, if we are willing. Are we willing? If so, just watch what God will do! Amazing!

The comfort of continuance

In the book I’m reading, two people are having a conversation by a river – the aristocratic fisherman and the cleric.  It picks up, here, “There was a silence. The river went on flowing and in the meadows the cows continued to graze.”

In the midst of unexpected, perhaps uncomfortable silence, in the midst of trouble, in the midst of confusion, in the midst of heartache – the rivers flow and the cows continue to graze… and it is a good thing, a comforting awareness.  There is continuance. There is a new day.

Deep Trends & Christian Institutions

For those who have ears to hear… What do you think?  It is my experience, and from what I witness and read concerning leadership in many denominational and even “emergent” structures, that we honestly only want to gather around us those who scratch our itching ears… we don’t want to step back and carefully consider what is going on around us and what then is necessary to do.  If it fits our preconception and personal want, fine, but it if doesn’t, we ignore or reject it – to our own peril.  Click on the link, below, for the article.

Deep trends affecting Christian institutions

What do you think?

Wisdom

“The fear [more like profound respect leading to complete trust and adherence] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; she inebriates mortal with her fruits…

“The fear of the Lord is the crown of wisdom, making peace and perfect health to flourish. She rained down knowledge and discerning comprehension, and she heightened the glory of those who held her fast.

“To fear the Lord is the root of wisdom, and her branches are long life.” [Sirach 1:14-20]

Subway Encounger

On the subway this morning, a young guy got on the train dressed in a way that made me wonder what Faith he was a part of. I thought, perhaps, Sufi (Islam). I went up and asked him – Sunni. He is studying to be an Imam. We talked about his studies and my studies in seminary here in New York (I told him I am an Anglican priest).

With all the controversy and fear mongering and accusation and everything else going on between Muslims and Christians – add Hindus, Buddhists, and all the like – one thing that will become ever more apparent is that people of faith, no matter what their Faith, will end up having much more in common with each other than any individual Faith with the prevailing culture. There are real differences between the Faith’s and those differences are to be respected, but in the end the walk of faith is a task and disposition – a wisdom – finding much in common among us all.

The question that is so present in my mind and heart these recent days is how I am to change, particularly with certain significant people, so that I can love them in ways that benefit them firstly, and not out my own fear or longing or insecurity or all that. How am I to change? How am I to change so that I am able to better love my neighbor, this young Muslim student, a significant other?