Listening for Crickets

“A friend of mine attended a Christian pastor’s conference in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. The participants, gathered from across North America, included one Native American pastor who was on is first trip to a major metropolitan city. During a lunch break the Native American pastor took a walk outside with one of his colleagues. As they stretched their legs along the busy sidewalk, the pastor suddenly stopped, turned to his companion and said, ‘Do you hear that?’ the friend paused and considered the bustling noise of the city. ‘Hear what?’ he replied.
“Planted along the downtown sidewalk was a small row of tress. At the base of each tree was a circle of flowers. The pastor walked over to one of the trees, knelt down, reached beneath one of the floral clusters, then stood and opened his hand, revealing a small black bug. ‘It’s a cricket.’
“Dumbfounded, his friend replied, ‘How could you possibly hear that?’ The Native American pastor reached into his pants pocket, took out a handful of coins, and threw them into the air. As the coins hit the cement, people from all directions stopped and looked down. The pastor turned to his companion and said, ‘It depends on what you’re listening for.’
“In the New Testament Jesus identifies his followers not as those who hold orthodox beliefs or embody moral purity. Jesus says his followers are those who have ‘ears to hear’ (Mark. 4:23) -those who walk with heads tilted, straining to hear the voice of the ‘good shepherd’ (John 10:14). Jesus claims that those who know how to listen will one day hear the voice of the Beloved and will overcome death (John 5:25).
“Sadly, the Christian church is losing its capacity to listen. we forget what it means to sit still, to be silent, and to wait until we hear the voice of the One who calls us by name. We’re losing our capacity to be surprised and amazed by what we hear. We’ve become a church more responsive to the predictable clinking sounds of the marketplace than the surprising still, small voice of God. Instead of heeding the call to ‘be still before the Lord, and wait patiently,’ we ‘fret’ and worry and ‘plot’ (Psalm 37). Driven by our own fearful voices we run ahead of grace, frantically seeking a plan, a strategy, a formula for securing a Christian life. A culture that no longer listens to God becomes increasingly noisy. Every idea must be exploited, every insight publicized, every sermon downloaded, every passing thought blogged and posted. We live in a time when everyone is talking at once -a time when the truth isn’t hidden, but drowned out in a sea of irrelevance.”
-(Mark Yaconelli (2007), Growing Souls: Experiments in Contemplative Youth Ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, p 17-18)
While this book is directed to American-Evangelicals (primarily), I see within the Episcopal Church, which has much more of a tradition of contemplative worship and Daily Prayer, that we too have been so distracted by the “marketplace” of ideas and ideologies that overwhelm not only our ability to listen to one another, but to listen to the still, small voice – to sense and feel the thrilling of God’s voice.

The Holy Communion (pp. 85-87)

[The Rector said…] “Here is a book. It is so much paper, pasteboard, cloth, and ink. Yet it brings from one mind a value to thousands of minds. It is sacramental, an outward and visible sign of inward value. A book may make you cry or laugh. Really it is the author who does so. The book is the effective means of conveying truth from the mind of the author to the reader.
“So with our food. A few acres of land will sustain a man’s life. How? Does he eat the earth? No! But he prepares it and plants wheat. He gathers the wheat, grinds it into flour, bakes bread and eats the bread. The loaf has gathered up the chemical elements in the earth and air and sunlight, and conveys them to man to sustain his life. The loaf is a sacrament: it is the outward token of invisible values.
“God’s grace toward man, His love toward man, are universal. But He has established certain ways by which men may be assured of God’s favor. Jesus Christ ordained the Sacrament of Baptism by which men are incorporated into His Kingdom.
“Jesus Christ died for men. That men might receive the value of His life and death. He instituted the Sacrament of the Holy Communion.
“The consecrated bread and wine are made the very sacraments of the value created for men by the death of Christ on the Cross, and they are the very means by which the power and efficacy of His body broken and His blood shed are conveyed to each individual soul.
“Of course, he who receives them must receive them with a heart prepared to accept them for what they are. There is no magic in them. The individual must be prepared to welcome Christ, His power and love, into his life. The Bread and Wine then become the food for the soul, by which we become partakers of Christ’s most blessed Body and Blood.
“Then the sacrament, instead of being an unusual and exceptional method,” said the Doctor, “is merely the most natural method, having a counterpart in every process by which life is upbuilt.”
“That is quit true,” answered the Rector. “The exceptional element is not the method, that is, the charging of bread and wine with some further function, but the exceptional thing is the nature of the value that is conveyed by them. Christ instituted this method and pledged His word that in the Holy Communion there should be the value created by His death on the Cross for men.”
[The Episcopal Church: Its Message for Men of Today, George Parkin Atwater; New York: Morehourse-Gorham Co., 1950; 85-87.]

A working thesis:

On Facebook, I posted this working theses:

In the coming decades, society will look more pre-Constantinian than post. The majority unchurched population will not be intrigued by or drawn to the Gospel if all they see in Christians is a reflection of current culture, liberal or conservative. To be a people in the imago Dei, Christians will need… to recognize our distinct “otherness” in our formation. What does that mean? How will it be done?

A former seminary mate of mine responded: “It’s like Michele’s friend said: if you want to know if a person is a Christian, ask their neighbor. ”
I absolutely agree, but… The problem in our current situation is that common, disinterested people are not particularly impressed with the lives of their neighbors who claim to be “Christians.” (see “unChristian” for examples). What has to change at very fundamental levels within our churches and our individual lives that will causes us to be more reflective of Christ rather than culture?
The Gospel of Christ and the consequent life He calls us to is are profoundly disturbing and counter cultural. Are we too embarrassed or afraid, in the arrogate, to take on such a life? Are we to enamored with mammon? Are we too deceived? Too lazy? What???? These, of course, are questions that have been bantered around since the beginning, but what do they mean in our contexts and in our time?

Christmas is a stolen Pagan Holiday…

Many people – Christians, non-Christians, Atheists, and the like – assert that the Christian holiday of Christmas was stolen by early Christians from a pagan holiday and that early Christians made to be their own in order to promote their new religion.
No so, according to William J. Tighe, then Associate Professor of History at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. His refutation of the Christmas-pagan myth appeared in Touchstone magazine, December 2003, entitled, “Calculating Christmas.”

Calculating Christmas
William J. Tighe on the Story Behind December 25
Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.
Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.
A Mistake
The idea that the date was taken from the pagans goes back to two scholars from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Paul Ernst Jablonski, a German Protestant, wished to show that the celebration of Christ’s birth on December 25th was one of the many “paganizations” of Christianity that the Church of the fourth century embraced, as one of many “degenerations” that transformed pure apostolic Christianity into Catholicism. Dom Jean Hardouin, a Benedictine monk, tried to show that the Catholic Church adopted pagan festivals for Christian purposes without paganizing the gospel.
In the Julian calendar, created in 45 B.C. under Julius Caesar, the winter solstice fell on December 25th, and it therefore seemed obvious to Jablonski and Hardouin that the day must have had a pagan significance before it had a Christian one. But in fact, the date had no religious significance in the Roman pagan festal calendar before Aurelian’s time, nor did the cult of the sun play a prominent role in Rome before him.
Read the rest here

Here is a synopsis of the article by Tighe:

Continue reading

Choices we make

This quote from, Looking for God in Harry Potter (second edition), by John Granger (yes, Granger):
“‘He understood at last what Dumbledore had bent trying to tell him. It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledoor knew – and so do I, thought Harry with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents – that there was all the difference in the world.’ (Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 512)
“If the reader wants to believe in an existential fatalism, something like Harry sitting at the window staring into the darkness and doubting the arrival of his deliverance, rather than in mortal virtue and heroic choice of the good, that reader is fighting the tide of Rowling’s message. The human heart thrills in resonance to Harry’s heroic decisions – decisions made (until Dumbledore’s revelations at the end of Order of the Phoenix) without knowledge of his destiny. Readers around the world share his programming, it seems, to the tune of more than 300 million copies [as of the publishing date of 2006] of Harry’s stories being sold. If this is only a matter of programming, there seems a prevalent programming in the human person for sacrificial, altruistic, loving service that loyalty to the local gene pool does not explain. Why do we thrill to Harry’s choices if they’re just a function of his being the boy born to be ‘kind?’ (see http://www.mugglenet.com/jkinterview.shtml)
“The answer to this question brings us to the Christian meaning of choice and change in Harry Potter. Harry, it turns out, has a larger-than-life destiny (vanquish Voldemort; save the world). But he can only realize this destiny by making the right choices and becoming the sort of person – an embodiment of love, the power the Dark Lord knows not – able to defeat the Dark Lord.”
Consider the influences these books have had and will have on a generation?

Jesus Dein Licht

I first learned that song in 1990 while doing campus ministry with Studenten für Christus in Germany. Es klingt auf Deutsch besser, ich denke. (Someone mentioned it in Facebook and it got me thinking about it… memories!)

Herr, das Licht Deiner Liebe leuchtet auf,
strahlt inmitten der Finsternis für uns auf.
Jesus, Du Licht der Welt sende uns Dein Licht.
Mach uns frei durch die Wahrheit, die jetzt anbricht.
Sei mein Licht, sei mein Licht!
Jesus, Dein Licht
füll dies Land mit des Vaters Ehre.
Komm Heil`ger Geist,
setz die Herzen in Brand!
Fließ Gnadenstrom,
überflute dies Land mit Liebe!
Sende Dein Wort,
Herr, Dein Licht strahle auf.
Herr, voll Ehrfurcht komm`ich zu Deinem Thron,
aus dem Dunkel ins Licht des Gottessohns.
Durch Dein Blut kann ich nun vor Dir stehen.
Prüf mich, Herr, laß mein Dunkel vergehen.,
sei mein Licht, sei mein Licht!
Jesus, Dein Licht
füll dies Land mit des Vaters Ehre.
Komm Heil`ger Geist,
setz die Herzen in Brand!
Fließ Gnadenstrom,
überflute dies Land mit Liebe!
Sende Dein Wort,
Herr, Dein Licht strahle auf.
Schau`n wir, König, zu Deinem Glanze auf,
dann strahlt Dein Bild auf unserm Antlitz auf.
Du hast Gnade um Gnade gegeben.
Dich widerspiegelnd erzähl`unser Leben
von Deinem Licht, von Deinem Licht!
Jesus, Dein Licht
füll dies Land mit des Vaters Ehre.
Komm Heil`ger Geist,
setz die Herzen in Brand!
Fließ Gnadenstrom,
überflute dies Land mit Liebe!
Sende Dein Wort,
Herr, Dein Licht strahle auf.
Originaltitel: Shine Jesus Shine
Deutsch: Manfred Schmidt

New Times

The beginning of the year 2010… 2010 years in the designation of time that began with the life and death (and resurrection) of a Nazarene. (If the claim of resurrection was made then, I doubt time would have been designated different then the current method.) In these days of global plurality, it is often called CE or the “Common Era.” A.D. or “anno domini,” “the year of our Lord,” has fallen out of favor.
With the coming of each new year, there is a kind of optimism (hopefully) that the days ahead will be better than the days behind. I certainly feel this way. Sometimes, I know that the coming year will yield some very different experiences and outcomes – I will be changed. This is one of those years.
I will be changed through the experiences of the coming months, and I’m honestly excited to see how I’ve changed by this time next year. This is my last week at CPG. With the coming of next week, I take up my new position as Diocesan Missioner for the Red Hook Project and ImagoDei. What all that means, I have no clue at this point. I will be responsible for making it mean something and doing something that will benefit the cause of Christ in the Diocese of Long Island. I’ve nervous. I’m excited. I’m afraid. I’m expectant.
I will not be the same person I am right now at the beginning of 2011. By the grace of God, I will be more of the kind of person I was created to be, more able to love honestly, less hypocritical, more humble in my understanding of myself and the world around me, wiser to the ways of the Systems of this World and the Kingdom of God, and having a good and beneficial influence on those in my life – to be more fully the imago Dei to those around me. This is my hope.

We are called…

Because we are called to love one another, we seek to learn from the wisdom and the experiences of God of those who have come before us over the past two millennia.
Because we are called to love one another, we give ourselves to be made into the image of God for the sake of those we encounter in our daily lives.
Because we are called to love one another, we strive to be formed as God intends in order to pass on this wisdom and these experiences to those who will come after us.

The foundation for the developing Rule of Life for the ImagoDei Society and the Red Hook Project.