Peculiar Church Words

Posted: December 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

The other day I answered a question with a question.  When this brought a curious look I offered that I was feeling rather Rabbinical.  This furthered the dilemma, “Rabbinical?”  Yes, relating to a Rabbi, just as Priestly is to Priest . . . then offering Rabbi’s are known for answering questions with a question.  It lead to more conversation about religious leadership, but was also a stark reminder of the church’s propensity to use words that are difficult to know or understand without being immersed in the church.

Incarnational, sacrament, ecumenical and more.  I spent half of seminary looking up words my classmates were using to ask far more intelligent questions.

I make an effort to use “church” word carefully.  I try to incorporate them into the sermon, or other places where they could be explained.  Yet, I know that I don’t always succeed in this.  The words themselves have value.  While they can sometimes be eliminated or replaced, language specific to our church does help us to convey specific meanings.  While I hope we can be purposeful with language, I don’t think removing church words entirely is helpful either.

I thought perhaps it would be helpful to be more proactive.  I could post words and explanations to Twitter and Facebook with #funnychurchwords or something similar.  Requests could be made in response, but the overall affect would be getting the information in bits and pieces, so that we’re not trying to remember it all at once.

Vast online resources allow everyone access to look these words up on their own too.  A lot could be said about any one of them, but I hope the tagged posts will build our collective understanding too.

Scripture #bgbg2

Posted: December 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

I grew up with scripture.  We read it some as a family, heard a lot in church and for much of my childhood my parents hosted a weekly Bible study in the dining room.  The stories became familiar over time and became more important to me as my faith was formed.

I still have the Bible I read most while growing up, although I don’t read from it much anymore, I can’t seem to part with it.  As I prepared for ordination, during which one states they believe all scripture to be inspired by God, I felt it important to make sure I’d read every word of it.  Much of it has been assigned during seminary, but I wanted to be sure.

As I read through I realize how much was familiar from the years of exposure.  I also grew fond of listening to scripture.  I’ve heard some suggest that God’s word is brought to life in each reading.  I managed to complete my full read-through prior to my ordination, but it left me wanting to continue to be immersed in scripture.

Shortly after my ordination I found the “Daily Audio Bible” through iTunes.  A podcast, during which “Brian” reads through the Bible over the course of the year.  Every year.  I’ve been faithful in this (sometimes having to “make-up” missed days) since October of 2005.  So, I’ve “listened” through the Bible about 8 times as well.

I realize that as I listen, I am sometimes distracted.  However, I know this is true as I read it as well.  Someone from St. Nick’s told me they were listening and reading at the same time as they worked through the Bible.  Fantastic.  The benefits of both, I suspect the benefit is multiplied, rather than simply added as we coordinate the use of our senses and drowned out more distractions.

There are more Bible resources available than ever before.  There are many great translations, audio versions, video versions and more.  I often read from my iPad so I can compare different translations as I read.  I hope that you are able to use some of these in your pursuit of God.  Bible Gateway has introduced some new resources recently.  I posted a link to some of their Advent and Christmas reading plans and devotionals.  They also have a variety of audio versions available on their website.

http://www.biblegateway.com/

Learning from repetition

Posted: December 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

Repetition is essential when learning new disciplines.  Whether it’s a physical act of typing, ballet or karate; or a brain activity like addition and multiplication, it’s repetition that helps us to understand and perfect the discipline.

With physical activities some use the phrase “muscle memory”.  We train our body (and mind) to repeat the process in the right order.  With matters of the mind I suppose it’s simply “memory”.  The more we use information the more readily it’s available to us.

The church uses these disciplines to help us connect with God.

Gathering weekly, we offer many of the same prayers each week.  Many can say the prayers without a book or screen.  It is easier in the presence of others saying the prayer – just as you can follow other dancers if you forget your routine . . .

The repetition of prayer helps form us.  We become the prayer of our ancestors, and carry their prayers forward with us.  It is as if we access their faithfulness as we learn our own.

The same is true when we observe sacred seasons.  We enter Advent as a time of preparation.  The various seasons unite us and deepen our connection with the church and those who worship with us.  It creates a solidarity among the faithful gathered, it also helps us to develop as individuals.  The repetition of the seasons, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost etc helps cultivate our own faith.

Hopefully we reflect on our relationships and faith over past Advents as we enter each new Advent.  This recall can help us to experience the benefits all over again, perhaps even leading to new insights or a deepening of faith.

The Wishlist

Posted: December 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

The sermon I preached on 1st Advent talked about preparation, and about making a wish list. I encouraged all to make a wish list, an extravagant one at that. My extravagant list usually includes things like a Ferrari or a Lamborghini (but not both . . . that would be excessive). Or a new motorcycle. My more typical wish list includes simpler things, like new bicycle tubes or whiskey . . . hint hint

I also encouraged a wish list for others, that was equally specific and extravagant. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the things I include and am working on this year.

Joy. Sharing joy seems like it would be simple enough, but sometimes we need a reminder. Intentional smiles and a helping hand offered to strangers, especially in busy preparation season.

God. Sometimes in small doses, but something for everyone here. I’m not suggesting that I (or we) need to provide it for everyone, but it’s certainly my hope that it’s offered to all. Church can be difficult for some, but in most cases it is one of the best ways to share God.

Water, food, medical care for the worlds poor. We recently sponsored a little girl in another country. I hope that my whole family will help stay in touch with her and learn from her. We are so blessed, even by the situation we are born into, I suspect we could all do a little more to create opportunities for others too.

The list goes on . . . I’ll share a few sites here that may be helpful.

One place to sponsor a child – http://www.compassion.com/

One of my mom’s favorites (and she rocks btw) http://www.unicef.org/ – UNICEF is working toward the day when ZERO children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood

Episcopal Relief and Development – our own church organization that helps in many ways, we often give through “ERD” when there is a disaster and we want to help – https://www.episcopalrelief.org/

One of my childhood favorites: http://www.heifer.org/
Heifer International is a charity organization working to end hunger and poverty around the world by providing livestock and training to struggling communities.

One year as a teen I gave everyone in my family animals (through heifer) for Christmas – it was super easy and that may have helped guide me toward that, but seriously, what else should I have bought them?

Advent

Posted: November 30, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

Advent is a season of preparation. It is easy to simply view it as a season for our Christmas preparation, certainly it is that as well. Advent is more than that.

The preparation of our soul is a reminder of God’s humbleness and willingness to walk among us and teach us gently and lovingly. The season is a reminder that, just as Christmas comes again and again, so to Christ comes to us again and again, over and over. The preparation of Advent is suppose to enable us to see this and receive Christ well, over and over.

The preparation of Advent involves remembering. Just as we recall our last camping trip in preparation of the next, so too recalling previous encounters with Christ will draw us closer as our lives move forward.

The preparation for Advent is deeper than that as well. The unknowns of how Christ will come in future times, whether the future is tomorrow or years from now remains unknown.

I’m looking forward to this Holy season. To the recollection of past sacred moments, to the creating of some new ones, and the preparations we might experience for the things that are yet to come.

sense of call

Posted: September 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

I feel blessed to have grown up in a household where church participation was a regular thing.  The traditions and ritual have helped to shape me and create a deep and abiding understanding of God.  Not in church only, but also in our home, where prayers at meals and bedtime were expected and conversations about God and more were normative.

Further, I feel blessed to have been raised in an age when church and faith are not mandatory, but something we must choose for ourselves.  While societal expectations of church participation are great for the “books” but not always for the Gospel.  I believe participation will come around in time.  Perhaps I’m just a radical optimist.  However, I believe that as those who never took faith very seriously drift away for a time, the difference that following God creates in our lives becomes more clear.

What’s more, I am glad to be in an age where one does not have to be ordained to be in ministry.

I remember throughout my childhood being asked if I would be a priest someday.  One occasion stands out in particular.  I was in the kitchen of my childhood church where two or three women were working (I could name at least 2 of them).  I denied it quickly and adamantly.  I continued denying it too.  Although this was perhaps the first moment that I realized those denials were probably not true.

As a teenager and into my college years my faith continued to grow, even as life and it’s many mysteries challenged me, I knew God well throughout it.  My sense of calling grew as well.  I did not yet know what I was called to do, but I knew very definitely that God had plans for me.  Near as I could tell I would be following in my father’s foot-steps.  Which at the time seemed to be a later-in-life bi-vocational calling to ordination (if at all).  I saw all the other ministry possibilities quite clearly, but couldn’t quite imagine myself a priest.

Interesting to reflect back now.  I don’t know why I share it today, I hope it’s helpful in hearing your own calling.  More than that, I hope it reminds me and helps to show how God works in and through us if we allow God to do so.

books

I recently read “The Celtic Way of Evangelism” and have mentioned or even retold parts in sermon and in talking story with many in the church.  It is a good book, a few parts really stuck out.  I flagged one section to post here (starting on page 95):

1. Celtic Christian leaders would counsel today’s church leaders to relinquish the full responsibility for making Christians into better Christians.  Church leaders cannot do it for people . . .
(it goes on to elaborate further, edited for brevity)

2.  They (Celtic Christians) would counsel us to relinquish the illusion that Gutenberg’s printing press produced a panacea. . . .
(scripture availability alone will not transform us, dusty Bibles aren’t much different than dusty dictionaries – applying the story is more important than memorizing it too)

3.  They would counsel us to relinquish the illusion that a brief daily devotional each morning, in which (say) people read a snippet of Scripture, a brief reflection, and a short prayer – all on one page . . . will shape great souls
(prayer needs to be embedded throughout our lives, scripture needs to be infused, small devotionals are helpful as a part of larger set of disciplines (perhaps) but it’s a little like trying to wash your whole care with “wet-ones”

4.  Not even three scheduled times for prayer each day make for powerful Christian spirituality.

5.  Feel free, often, to pray with your eyes wide open.
(how else can you pray without ceasing?)

6.  Harness your imagination in your life of devotion to God.  The saints imagined the Lord before them, behind them, above them, within them, or meeting them through a creature of the forest of a person in need.  Imagination focuses and catalyzes prayer.

7.  They would recommend that every Christian have an anam-cara — that is, a “soul friend”.  One’s soul friend, as I understand it, is not a superior . . . but a peer

8.  Meet weekly or biweekly in a small group in which you are in ministry with one another, rejoicing and weeping with one another, pulling for one another, interceding for one another, holding one another accountable, bringing out the best in one another, identifying one another’s gifts of the Spirit, and in which you learn to engage in ministry and to converse about the faith.

9.  In your spiritual life, do not engage in endless ongoing self-assessment and spiritual navel-gazing.

10.  The main purpose in the life of Christian devotion is not so much to get blessed, get our needs met, become happier, or accomplish any of the other early goals that people usually have in mind when they begin praying.  The main purpose is to become like Christ.

Perhaps this will inspire you to read the book (mine is available for borrowing), even just reflecting on these here together is a start.

Walking the Camino was an amazing experience. I can only begin to reflect on it here. Many have written books about their walk and certainly some of them are worth the read.

I walked with a group I already knew well. We are all even closer now than when we began. It was fascinating to each if us how this trip solidified and deepened our friendships. It was further interesting to observe how we supported one another. Each of us took various roles in leading our group and each brought supplies that would enhance the group experience.

We h ad planned for 1 day in Madrid for sightseeing and 5 days do walking. A missed train meant we had. A bit more time in Madrid, but would have to push harder on the trail. While extra time walking would have been nice, I believe we were each challenged physically the way we did it. The physical challenge and “suffering” were a part of the experience and probably enriched the whole thing in the end.

The views, the food, the walking itself were all good. My favorite thing about the Camino was the conversation. In some sense it’s one long conversation. Perhaps something we lack in the busyness? Conversation with old friends. Conversations with new friends. The time on the Camino has enriched my life in ways I am still discerning.

I am further blessed to continue my journey, now vacationing with my lovely bride in beautiful Spain. We are enjoying unfettered (kid-free) conversation, good food, the arts and more on our own too.

Off and running

Posted: May 22, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Aloha

It has been an amazing trip already. The first day, arriving at 8am, allowed us to find our way and begin the experience. An introduction to some Spanish foods, and a small museum exhibit. Yesterday, day 2, allowed for a fuller experience. We spent considerable time enjoying art at 2 different museums. The first included remarkable work depicting scripture and other religious themes, as well as a variety of other pieces. The second was a large exhibit of The work of Salvador Dali, a personal favorite.

Last night we arrived at the train station to board an overnight train to Sairria where we will begin our walk. We got our first bad news when we learned we were not at the right station, despite having specifically asked where we needed to arrive (1 member the group in a fluent Spanish speaker and several are conversant.)

We made a mad dash (literally off and running) to the metro to arrive at the proper station about fifteen minutes late. Customer service at 10:45 pm was better than the service we’d received at the other station previously. We were able to exchange for new tickets, however this will put us a day short on the trail. There was no viable way to arrive earlier, and the tickets were directly exchangeable.

We were further blessed to find reasonable accommodations next to this train station. After checking in we regathered at the bar w a bottle of wine to reform a plan. Our walking days have just gotten more challenging, but we believe we are up to it. The plan for today is to visit some of the parks and a church that we didn’t have time to see yesterday.

We are in this together. We will make the most of all of it and I will keep posting as I’m able.

Traveling man

Posted: May 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

As many of you know, I’m heading out on a trip.  I gather annual (or thereabouts) with a clergy group; this year we head to Spain to walk the last part of the Camino trail.  This is a well known pilgrimage to Santiago.  There are many paths starting in various places, mostly Spain and France, from which pilgrims walk to Santiago.  A great spiritual endeavor for many generations.

Our rough itinerary looks like this:

May 19 – Paul flys out of Honolulu after church
May 20 – Paul arrives in Atlanta and meets most of the group there to fly over together
May 21 — Arrive in Madrid in AM, depart via train @ 10:30PM
May 22 – arrive in Sarria @ 6:50 AM walk to Portomarin, 22km (14mi)
May 23 — to Palas del Rel, 24km (15mi)
May 24 — to Arzua, 28km (17mi)
May 25 — to Lavacolla, 29km(18mi)
May 26 — to Santiago, 11km and Finish the Camino (7mi)
May 27 — Santiago
May 28 — Travel to Madrid via rail (depart 4:05 pm) arrive Madrid 9:48 PM

On May 29 most of my group flies home, but I’ll remain in Spain.  Sarah will join me that morning and we’ll vacation there until June 6.

I plan to post pictures and stories along the Way.