During our elder’s meeting a few weeks back I presented a calendar for the year that included e basic themes I am interested in covering in preaching for 2010, along with the days when we will have unprogrammed worship and a few other special days in the mix. Part of this included following the Revised Common Lectionary through the Lenten season. I gave a few reasons why I wanted to follow the lectionary through this time period but two still stand out to me. There is an appeal to follow along the Scriptural path that many other churches are also following. It gives us a sense of being rooted and a part of something bigger. And I like that it also grounds us in this part of the year, reflecting on Christ’s work on the cross and working to be fully awake. This is of course to mention that it’s only for a short time, keeping with my suggestion that we practice a non-liturgical liturgy. I was surprised by how easily everyone came on board. I thought for sure there would be at least a little residual allergy to the word lectionary, but I think people were genuinely interested in how this might also be an act of worship.
Lent is upon us and I’m working out what it means for me to be awake and aware of Christ’s Light not just within but all around. One of the things that keeps me from this is the constant speed at which I move from thing to thing. The speed is a symptom of the pile of projects and commitments I have taken on. For instance, the other day we were at our Home Owner’s Association meeting and while we were in the process of forming our newly appointed board members someone asked “who would like to be on the board?” My hand instinctively went up. I felt like I was watching a movie of myself where the film version of me couldn’t see what I the viewer saw. I watched myself raise my hand, and felt powerless to stop it. Yelling at the screen “no!!!!” no one heard or even cared. This kind of compulsive yes has gotten me roped into more things than I care to recount.
Quaker Missiologist Ron Stansell has a new book coming out this month from Barclay Press called Missions By the Spirit. My review of the book is posted there if you have interest in getting a brief overview. I recommend the book to all of you who are interested in missions as it pertains to Quakers. Stansell has done a good job and I hope has initiated further studies in this direction. There will be a book discussion over at Barclay Press over the next month if you have thoughts you’d like to share. Here’s the link to that page.
Whom I do not know
But Whose I am.
Whom I do not comprehend
But Who has dedicated me
To my fate.
-Dag Hammarskjold, Markings p.214-215
Today has been great. We had a really great meeting with the Camas-Washougal Homelessness Task Force this afternoon. A visitor from New Life Friends Church came and talked to us about a variety of ministries they are doing and some of the nuts and bolts of how to go about helping those in our community. I also planned our Ash Wednesday service, which I think was the first one (ever?) at Camas Friends (though it certainly wasn’t new for all people). I was really looking forward to hosting the worship time and introducing our church to Ash Wednesday because it has played a meaningful role in my own spirituality. The service was simple, with some prayers, scripture reading by different folks, silence, and of course ashes. Instead of marking people’s foreheads with the ashes I decided to have the ashes in a bowl and invited people to run their fingers through them that way while I said “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
This past Sunday was a great day. It was a lot of fun having Eliacin Rosario-Cruz and family and Mark van Steenwyk visit our meeting (not to mention go to their discussion on liberated spaces in Portland the evening before). We had a nice time going out to lunch at Burgerville with their crew and getting to know them better. When we told L that we were going to Burgerville for lunch she actually did a dance! Emily and I cracked up. Later that evening Emily, M and I left L behind with a babysitter and we went off to hear Rob Bell speak in Portland for his “Drop like Stars” tour. It was great to finally see Bell in person and his overall presentation was pretty good. If I have time in the near future I’ll post thoughts on it. But really one of the best things that happened that day came between these two events.
Last week we talked about making peace with the earth and part of what is needed in order to do that is to have a conversion where we go through the process of blindness to gaining eyes to see. That we need eyes to see the beauty in the world around us and the fingerprints of the creator on things in something as simple as the maple leaf is something we can work at, pray for and practice. As we enter Lent we will consider ways in which we can practice these things. Doing this requires that we are able to pay careful attention to the subtleties all around us. Doing this requires that, though we may be distracted, though we may be weighed down with sleep, we do the work it takes to become fully awake, fully present with eyes wide open.
When was a time when you felt fully awake, when your eyes were open and all your senses took in your surroundings? When was a time when your imagination was firing on all pistons, when you felt at peace with God, when you felt at peace with other people?
I had a conversation yesterday that reminded me of something I hadn’t written about. Going through grad school I was pretty sure that I would end up planting a church or just teaching Quaker theology or a little of both. The thought of working in an established congregation wasn’t on my list of possibilities, I’d written that off a long time ago. My reasoning went: it would be much better to start my own thing from the bottom up as surely the would Spirit led me to do. (One part of the problem is that so many 31 year men from seminary want to do this and noticing that I started question my motives.) Then I had a class with Mark Lau Branson who (in that very pacifist way) beat into us the importance and treasure of an established congregation.
Ryan, my doctoral adviser, sent this to me this morning, and I confess I had a good chuckle over the fact that all three of my PhD committee members are considered false teachers:
“Its common to see the promotion of false teachers from the Emerging Church Movement such as N.T. Wright, John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, Ryan Bolger, Wilbert Shenk, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Erwin McManus, Dan Kimball, Scot McKnight, Elizabeth OConnor, Nancey Murphy, Leonard Sweet, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Donald Miller and Phyllis Tickle. And we wonder why the church is so messed up!” (quoted here http://bit.ly/d1ETAw)
Note, most of these people are Anabaptists, Mennonites and/or Quakers, and a few others are at least sympathetic to the peace churches. The obvious question for me now besides where do I go from here, is what Ryan wrote in the email: How can a tree planted in bad soil produce anything good? I have no idea, but I guess it will take some consideration.
This is my sermon from this past Sunday on making peace with the earth.
First A Confession: This is not a topic I have not always cared about. I am no scientist. I am a total hack when it comes to gardening at this point. I still have quite a big carbon footprint and Im no die-hard vegetarian or vegan (Michael Pollan‘s “flexitarian” works just fine for me). In other words, many of you would be better equipped to stand up here and share with us on this topic. And not just that but I completely recognize that this is a process, a journey of discovery and I do not stand here in judgment or with a measuring stick weighing who is the greenest among us. I have no interest in that nor do I think that’s God’s desire for dealing with any topic such as this.