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Thursday, 17 December 2015

More about liturgy and other questions

(Originally journalled February 2-3, 2014)

I wonder . . . how did my mom and dad feel about those three "Anglican" years in the small community where there was no choice? About about what "evangelicals" said about "those liberals"? Did they just "grit their teeth" and put up with it until they could get to larger towns where "real Christian" churches were? I remember Mom said she always felt the lay reader there was a "real Christian." That's something, I guess . . . I just can't imagine my mom--or grandpa--feeling that way. . . judgmental, it sounds like to me now . . . and yet . . .

Well, I am going to meet with a dear friend who is Catholic (and was Protestant at one time). I'm not looking to "convert" I don't think . . . I just want to hear from someone else who was maybe also looking for something "deeper" and found at least something of what they were looking for.

I've talked to some of the ladies in the "Writing Group of 7" who looked outside the church (into "new age" and "metaphysics" ) . . . and I know that is not the Way nor the answer (or depth) I seek.

I asked my husband about "believing" and he says the thing is to be "discerning." He says when people believe something, it is real to them. And that there are good realities and bad realities . . . and that if you watch people for a while, you will see (in their behaviors and attitudes) what side they are following and believing in . . . and if you are discerning, you will be able to sense which side it is, too, just talking to them or whatever, I guess.

A friend was looking at my "Common Prayer-Pocket Edition" last night. I commented briefly on it . . . and his response was, "I don't like liturgies." I said, "Oh." And then, "Because you were brought up Catholic?" "Yes." "And it was stuffed down your throat?" I added, but he didn't hear me or just didn't answer.

I've been wanting to be able to "believe" like this one or that one, or be "accepting and comfortable" like this one or that one . . .

But I am wondering, right now, if that isn't right . . . because You have made every one of us uniquely; You have placed every one of us in different circumstances. And even though You want us to be family and community, at the same time You want us to know You individually, child and Father, as well as communally, children/family and Father.

So that is not going to look the same for each of us.

It just hit me, right now (Your voice?) that even in the Old Testament, although there were many communal commandments and rituals, when we look at all the different individuals, their personal "relationships" with You were really quite different. They really weren't "cookie cutter." And the same was true in the NT--and through history.

I'm thinking it is possible--even desirable--to have individuality within unity and community and family. Even in human family relationships, though we have general behaviors and attitudes and values we share, and that provide unity and cohesion, at the same time we never have exactly the same relationships. I have 5 children, and though I did my utmost best to "treat them equally," the fact of the matter is that each mother-child relationship has been very different. BUT all are founded in love . . . and though sometimes there have been very rocky moments, individually and in the family as a group, we are family, and we do have an amazing amount of unity and community.

So I don't know, Father, how far that stretches in relation to "believing in You," in "relationship with You," but I suspect pretty far. Yet at some point, there is a line . . . isn't there?

Is there evil? Yes.

Do You want holiness, goodness, love? Yes.

Do we live in a space right now where we tend to slip and slide between? Yes.

Can I even imagine pure goodness right now? No.

But at the same time, evil distresses me more and more, and I sense evil in myself more than ever before, so I'd say, Yes, You are guiding me over to Your side.

It would be easier to "be bold" if I could "be sure." And that's true whether I "believe in a set doctrine," or whether I "believe in and know You." I need to know You MORE, don't I? Deeper!

I think one of the things about liturgy and community is that we get a chance to know You more and better as we see You through the eyes and hearts and lives of others. We have a shared foundation of Your love and Your sacrifice and Your salvation. We have the chance to "know You" more through others--and at the same time to know You personally, individually, uniquely. We need all those ways, I think.

Some people just make it simple, and say You are not. That You don't exist. That even if You did at one time "exist" as part of our mind, our survival mechanism, You are not needed anymore.

But then the majority of such people still speak of love, hate, values, purpose . . . which, if all is simply mechanistic and a result of random chance, can not be real or exist either. At all. To really be an "athiest" one must also be a full anarchist . . . yet, by defining "anarchy," we are, even then, "believing" something beyond simple mechanistic principles of physical science. It seems to me that we cannot escape You. Therefore, the question is, Who are You? And how can we know You? I mean, really know You?

Perhaps it is more about You knowing us, than vice versa.

I feel like I need an anchor to ride out this storm that is life. I know, I know . . . You (Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit) are "the anchor." And Jesus in the flesh was also provided as an anchor, a touchable, physical one for those who saw You. But maybe Your church is also meant to be a kind of anchor--one that stretches across time and through all the places.

Okay, one last question, which I barely dare to even write down . . .

What about all the other people who don't "know You" in the "Christian way"? What about that?

And what ARE the "boundaries" of the "Christian way"?

And what happens to everyone outside those boundaries? And is that "fair"?

Or does "fairness" have anything to do with it? How can God "be love" and yet not be fair? And why, if we are made in Your image, do we have such a longing for "fairness"? And what is it, even? Not "equality," I don't think . . .

Why is everything so complex? Have I just been going through a "desert experience" to, paradoxically (there we go again), draw me close to Yourself?

Am I supposed to "just trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey"?  (And why does that sound so simplistic--and even desperate?)

Okay, I have a million other questions, but I have to stop for now. My tummy is hurting, like ulcers.

(I was shaking, driving to the Anglican church yesterday . . . like I do when I'm kind of terrified, but also excited and hopeful . . .)

Friday, 11 December 2015

Why I like liturgical services

(journalled Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014)

Woke up early this morning. I summoned up my courage--and went to the 8 am traditional "Common Prayer/Communion" service at St. Savior's Anglican Church. There were maybe 20 or so seniors, me, and one guy maybe in his thirties or forties.

They used the traditional book of Common Prayer, plus a hymn book, plus a bulletin with today's scripture readings and collect. I recognized many of the prayers, the Nicene Creed, the responses, and the Communion order of service, and was even able to repeat some parts quite accurately, even though it has been a long time since I attended Anglican services.

I enjoyed the hymns instead of just "worship choruses." I enjoyed the prayers.

But when it came time for communion, tears were trickling down my cheeks, though I didn't go up for communion. It was like a great dam in my heart was springing a leak. The tears were coming down before I even "felt" anything . . . except that in some very deep and profound way, I was "home."

I wonder . . . I remember loving the Anglican service in Keremeos ... and Old Massett . . . and Masset . . . and and in those places too, I felt at home. I wonder if it might have some relationship to my earliest memories when my parents went to the Anglican Church in Masset (and sometimes Old Massett) when I was very small. I remember Mom said they often had to get a baby-sitter because young children were frowned upon in the Masset church (too noisy). But still, I must have been there sometimes. Maybe it's "home" like the town of Masset was "home" when I went back as an adult after being gone for 22 years. Maybe those early years really do have a really profound imprint.

Yet I have, at the same time (and always have had) this slightly "guilty" feeling -- judged feeling -- for going to a "liberal" church, where, supposedly, it's all "social gospel" and "ritual" and way too much "liturgy" and "tradition."  That, too, was implanted in me from my earliest years, as letters between my parents and grandparents in those times show. It was such a big deal then, the differences between denominations. So sad . . .

Yet, in actually attending Anglican services over the years (at first because it was the only choice in a small town, but soon enough because I found I loved it), I have found only "home" and "family" and yes, tradition, deep roots that stretch through time and history and around the globe--a true sense of "the church universal" . . . and a lack of judgment . . .

I told my husband that I felt this morning that the people (and the service, and the atmosphere) were, well, gentle. I felt like a little child wrapped in a soft blanket and held close in my mother's or father's or grandfather's arms/lap.

Why did I not take communion? Scared. Afraid of getting drawn in, perhaps (I'd truly rather go there than to "evangelical churches" or even to the small house church Sunday gathering I've been attending. Though I wouldn't mind both the Sunday gathering and the Anglican service. I think I'd really feel like I'd been both fed, and had Sabbath rest! I don't expect they'd mind, either.

I also felt . . . yes, the load of my sin (we avoid that in "evangelicalism." We talk about the glory of the cross, about its victory, about its forgiveness, but when we don't  really speak what we have been rescued from, then where is the glory, I wonder?)

And I felt the sense of awe and wonder . . . of the majesty of God, I suppose . . . and the fullness of God. I feel like so many Christians ("evangelicals," the ones who feel so smugly superior to the "liberal social gospel types," who, yes, feel the "liberals" really aren't Christians at all), well I feel like their God, all loving and personal and Fatherly and "intimate" . . . that their view of Him is really awfully shallow. I miss the "deep, slow moving river" I find in the Anglican liturgy; even if it is not nearly as "exciting" as the "springs of living water" that some churches constantly celebrate.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

our heritage and our Center


(originally journalled Jan 31, 2014)

In its introduction, the Common Prayer Pocket Edition says (p 17) that we need to enter a "new time zone" -- I think this is what I have longed for, for so long: a place and time where I belong, a tradition, a history, a future that I share with many others. I have found it difficult to watch others revel in their heritage, when I have for so long felt I really have nothing like that "to be proud of" -- but even more -- to belong to! As the book says:

"We enter a new time zone, where it can feel like there is a 'cloud of witnesses' surrounding us, praying for us, cheering us on from eternity. It should feel like we are singing 'Holy, Holy, Holy' with all the people of God who have come before us. The past becomes bigger than our personal past. God's story becomes the lens through which we understand the present. And the future is no longer held hostage. We know how the story ends, and it is beautiful. This is the good news that transcends the nightly news. . . . The point is to keep God's story at the center of our lives."

This is what has been missing in so much of the "evangelical/protestant" liturgy and understanding. No wonder I've been feeling so lost--so without a center, so without You--because I've been without so much of Yours: Yourself and Your entire family.

It doesn't have to be about colour or race: We are a multi-hued tribe from all places and all times. With God, Jesus, Holy Spirit at our center!

Friday, 4 December 2015

Warm fuzzies or going deeper

(originally journaled Jan. 29, 2014)

For a long time I have had difficulty bringing myself to read the Bible. During that time I was seeking after the "joy and peace and relationship and love" that is being taught so much today.  Though it was warm and comforting at first, I feel a lot of it turned out to be little more than "warm fuzzies." Some people seem to be very happy in this new way (which they claim is really the original, Jesus way), but for some reason I have not been able to so easily fit in with it. In fact, it even seemed to me that a lot of non-Christian people seem as happy and content as Christians are supposed to be--and as I have not been.

Anyway, I started reading Psalms and Proverbs (and now Ecclesiastes) a month and a bit ago, and I think I was hoping for mostly comfort and a bit of joy. But I'd forgotten how human those books and their writers are. And the more I read, the more my heart pains me as I am reminded of the reality of my own sin and weakness which, yes, has been "taken care of" by Jesus--but which still exists so much in my life every day.

It seems I see more and more of my wretchedness. I can't escape the fact that sin is still so with us, still so within me. Even if I improve a bit in one area, I am sure to find within myself other actions and attitudes that have been there all the time, but which I just didn't recognize before.

I'm sure God is pointing these things out to me, and that it is part of the "refining process" and thus is good for me, and for our relationship with God. But what I am concerned about is that in our search for a "loving Daddy-child relationship" (which God wants, too) we may be forgetting that God also wants to go deeper into us and root out the evil in our lives. And we'd rather just simply ignore (and maybe even deny) that side of God's reality--and of ours.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The voice of the Lord breaks, hews, shakes, strips!


Psalm 20:
1. Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name. Worship the LORD in holy array. 4. The voice of the LORD is powerful ... majestic ... breaks the cedars ... hews out flames of fire ... shakes the wilderness ... strips the forests bare... 9. And in His temple everything says, "Glory!" 10. ... the LORD sits as King forever. 11. The LORD will give strength to His people; the LORD will bless his people at peace.

When I read this Psalm, I picture David out in the wilderness, maybe as a shepherd, or maybe when he was fleeing Saul, high up on a rocky barren mountainside, perhaps in the mouth of a cave, crouching before a little campfire for warmth during a long dark winter night.

He gazes out over the land as far as the eye can see, as a great storm sweeps across the land, great black clouds fleeing across the sky, pushed by roaring mighty winds, pierced by brilliant flashes of jagged lightning striking the earth right before him.

Great cedar trees crack in half as they are struck, as thunder rolls, rumbles, roars. Instantly, rain pours down, and the deluge fills dry mountain gulleys, rushes and roars into valley bottoms, sweeps soil and rock and vegetation before it.

And despite the rain, trees, like dry wicks, candle as lightning strikes and brilliant orange flames envelop the dry desert vegetation
.

Sometimes the voice of God may be small and still -- but sometimes his awesomeness cannot be held back! Creation does speak of Him - No excuses!

(Originally written Jan 14, 2014)

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

What are we to do about refugees from this ISIL war?

Serious, thoughtful questions I have about how we are to respond to potential refugees forced out from war-torn extremist Islamist areas, by those determined to create an "Islamist State/Caliphate." :

As followers of Jesus, with the teachings He clearly gave in the Sermon on the Mount and other places in the gospels, how are we supposed to treat people who have been pushed from their homes and countries by the Islamist terrorists? What about those who are Christians? What about those who have other beliefs or are from another tribal group? What about Muslims who have a different view of Islam than the terrorists, and are therefore considered by them to also deserve death?

What, I want to know, based on the teachings of Jesus himself, are we to do? Are we to hate? To send them back where they came from so that the terrorists can kill them anyway? According to New Testament teaching, are we actually supposed to war in return as they war? Are we supposed to save our skins by spewing hatred in return?

Or are we to be "blessed because of being persecuted for Jesus sake"? To love as God loves (John 3:16) with all that infers--including being willing to "carry our cross" even unto death? To love our enemies and pray for them, and "give a cup of cold water" in Jesus' name?

I'm not arguing. I'm asking totally serious questions. It's one thing for politicians and even everyday citizens who are not Christians to hate and kill in return, for that is the system of the "world"--but what should be the response of true followers of Jesus?

I don't mean the response of "Christendom's" institutional churches, like those that took part in the Crusades, and in black slavery, and in forced conversion (or annihalation) of aboriginal "pagans." I mean true followers of Jesus who want to do what he said, and follow his example of be willing to go to death.  This is what I am really trying to understand.  Do you have an answer?

It's very hard to know what to do, especially in a world full of fear and hate. It's very hard, even in easy times, to do what Jesus taught, and follow the example He Himself gave. But I'm feeling more and more that God may be calling our very non-Christian western civilization to "choose this day whom you will serve" even if it leads to martydom--and that He is also separating the sheep from the goats in judgment of how far we have strayed...

How, oh how, do we deal with all that is happening if we are TRUE Christians? Seriously?

****

And I also posted this on my Facebook "notes":

I am a migrant. And so are you.

We are all migrants: personally, as well as in our family history, our heritage. Whether we've moved from one country to another, or one town or another, or even from one neighborhood or house or job to another, we've migrated.  And we've migrated for many of the same reasons "those migrants" are migrating right now: financial (moving up or down the economic scale), current home no longer available, family or other troubles, looking for a place that better fits our beliefs and our desired lifestyle, escaping violence or persecution of one kind or another, wanting to share our belief systems with others (and convert them to our way of thinking and living), and so on and on.

Surely, when we think about "those migrants," we should stop for a moment and really think about our migrant experiences, our reasons, our feelings. About how our leaving affected not only ourselves, but those we left behind--and how we affected and changed the lives of those where we migrated to. Have we been good new neighbors? Did we take a job someone else already in the community had hoped to get? Have our religion, traditions, ways of thinking and living had an effect on our new community, whether we planned for that or not? Do we assume we've had a good effect on our new place--but we haven't gotten to truly know all the members of the community, and we haven't really listened to their feelings about us? Are we really aware of how our well-meant ideas and our "superior" lifestyle have affected those living in the community before we arrived?

What have we done that has changed things, that has had a negative affect on others, without our even realizing it? Have we inadvertently pushed others out by taking jobs they hoped for? By building "bigger and better" homes and thus raising the local housing values so they are no longer affordable to those who lived here before us? Or perhaps we are living lifestyles that go counter to those formerly accepted, and so, in their viewpoint, have brought down the value of the community? Have we joined with others who "see things our way"--whether in terms of politics, religion, economics, education--and become a select clique that has closed itself off from being neighborly and community-minded to all? Or through our combined power, forced changes that have transformed the community to the ways we think are best? Have we tried to convert others to our politics, religion, beliefs, lifestyle--and pushed those we are uncomfortable with or look down upon, to the "fringes" or even right out of the community that was theirs before we arrived?

Have we ourselves done what so many of us demand new migrants do: assimilate and become just like those of us already here? If not, if we continued to favor "our ways," even to small degrees, after we migrated, are not we ourselves guilty at some level of what we fear from new migrants?

We have all been migrants to some degree at various times in our lives. All of us. What kind of migrant have you and I been?  Can we ask of others to do what we ourselves were unwilling to do--whether that means "going back where you came from" or "assimilating completely to the ways of the new community"? Can we refuse to others the great freedoms we ourselves hoped for and acted upon when we migrated?

Let us remember, too, how we were received in our new country, or town, or neighborhood, or job, or school. Were we welcomed with open arms? Or not? How did we feel about that? What kind of welcome did we hope for? Are we willing to extend that same open-hearted welcome we dreamed of? How will these new migrants feel about our attitudes toward them, about the kind of welcome (or not) we are offering?

I am a migrant. And so are you. Let's think about that, carefully.

****
What are your thoughts? What do the teachings and actions of Jesus Himself tell us? How do we follow Him?

Friday, 20 November 2015

Is intellectual assent real belief?

(journaled January 5 2014)

Is "intellectual assent" (to doctrines/beliefs) even assent if it doesn't result in repentance (changed mind - penitence - turning around) that results in a changed heart and mind, led by You?

Can we "believe we believe" but be fooling ourselves? Are there levels of belief? If so, at what level do You "accept" us? Mustard-seed size? (which is apparently all it takes for great, miraculous answers to prayer, so maybe it is all it takes for the greatest miracle of all - being accepted as righteous in Your eyes through Jesus' sacrifice - right?)

It is true - your voice is much clearer when we focus on You ... it is good to "practice your presence" all the  time - but we need focused time with You, too -- it's true in human relationships, too. It is too easy to just live "parallel" - be physically present together, be aware of each others' presence and be polite and all -- but not really focus on each other, listen to each other, care deeply for each other, truly serve each other ...

And that's how I have been living with You (and the trouble is, as time goes by, just depending on "parallel living" isn't enough, it turns out. Without keeping up focused, face to face, interactive relational conversational times together -- and worship, praise, prayer -- it is inevitable that even the "parallel" living just pulls farther and farther apart ... and disintegrates.

I have been there for so long. I am sorry. I want to truly believe.

Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good: And what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?