Monday, April 30, 2012

A girl walks into a bar - a short journal entry

Let me tell you something about myself.  I am not someone who absolutely has to stick to a plan.  That is not to say I don’t like making plans, it just means that if something better comes along I am not adverse to the idea of changing my plans.  In fact, many times I am well pleased with evenings that do not go strictly as planned.  Soooooo, after exercising I got it into my head that I was going to study in 1823 this evening, which I did for a while anyway.  I am now done with 2 papers, and while they still need some editing I am left with only one paper and 2 exams left to prepare for, that is if you don’t include the 7 pages of field ed. reflection that I have to do, which I don’t, but I should.
ANYWAY, I did my best to help Grey find a ‘suitable’ song to play in church (I put quotes around the word suitable because it is more subjective than you could possibly imagine) which was fun though I don’t think I was of much help.  And then after I was as done as I was going to be with my papers, I watched some hockey ball on the television.  The Caps won, hurray (if the Rangers had won I would have said ‘The Rangers won, hurray) then I wondered why only the winning team did the big group hug after the game, when it was the losing team that really needed the hug.
I then told my friend to stop poking me with his banana (get your mind out of the gutter, it was a real banana and he was poking my arm, sheesh!).
I then had a great conversation about trains and how cool they are.  I do like trains a lot…anyway that was my evening, how was yours?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Star Wars, Post-modernism and various other tidbits from my life...

I had a bunch of different things I was going to write about today.  For instance, I was going to tell the story of the super strange dream I had last night, but I was going to tell it like some surreal story so that you didn't have to be annoyed that I was actually telling you a dream.  Or I was going to write a poem about myself as a child and how my viewpoints have changed, not necessarily for the better.  But I had a pretty decent evening and I think I will just do a brief journal entry about my evening.  Nothing special, probably a bit boring, but there it is.

Taking a step back I realize just how varied my day can be as a seminarian.  This morning started out with Ethics where we talked about the nature of Christianity in relation to Just War.  This was interesting not necessarily because of the subject matter (which was interesting, but kind of beside the point) but because I got to examine what happens when a realist and a post-modern thinker try to have a conversation.  The realist is just that, empiricism is everything, and there is no room for ambiguities or paradoxes.  While facts are important for the post-modernist, the way in which those facts are talked about is much looser, leaving room for hyperbole, absurdity, and humor.  Paradoxes and ambiguities are not only allowed but expected.  There is no need to go into detail about the conversation but let me just say that this was my major contribution to the argument:

After that Chapel,

After that Lunch,

After that reading on a bench.

For no particular reason, at least none that I care to go into, my day got a bit rocky, which contributed to a major moment of vulnerability where I told a classmate about some pretty deep insecurities that I have not ever really shared with anyone.  I am still processing how I feel about this.

Anyway, I went on from there to my next class which consists of me, two other students, and my professor. We are reading through Catherine Pickstock's book After Writing.  Not the easiest book in the world to read, by the way. I had this weird moment where I started commenting about something I actually know nothing about, and the professor responded by reading a passage of the book, which actually sounded like gobbledygook to me, she then turned to me and said "is that what you mean?"

To which I start babbling, and everyone is staring, so I keep talking hoping to God someone will interrupt me, but no they don't.  Eventually I stop, the class ends, and we leave.

I am told that I actually gave the impression of being knowledgeable.  I wonder if Dr. Sonderegger bought it.

Fast forward to the evening where I went to watch a one woman show about Eunice Kennedy Shriver that was written and performed by a high school parishioner from my field ed. site (the church I attend while in seminary).  She did a fantastic job, and I was impressed by how much these high school kids in Arlington, VA are overachievers.

I then spent the evening hanging out with other seminarians and having very deep, very theologically relevant conversations about which student/faculty member would be which Star Wars character.  I somehow ended up with Darth Maul.  Sure the guy gets cut in half in the middle of what is arguably the worst of the Star Wars movies, but he did have some Kung-fu badassness going on...

maybe I can trade up and be Grand Moff Tarkin instead.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Past and Future, but don't forget the present.

Time spins around and around inside my head.  It could be the beer, I suppose.  I did drink it pretty quickly.  I am really tired and I want to sleep, but I am writing instead because T.S. Eliot tells me I ought to.  I ought not dwell on what might be, but focus on the present.  I should “fare forward” and quit getting distracted by what was or what might be.  He says that if I don’t, not only will I die with my last act being utterly void of meaning, but I will live my life without noticing that God is there in every moment.  
Sure, he's probably right, but he’s a bit of an asshole for pointing it out.  Maybe that is a bit harsh, he really wasn’t talking to me or any other reader, it is pretty clear he was talking to himself.  Kind of like I am doing right now.  

While time is withdrawn, consider the future
And the past with an equal mind.
At the moment which is not of action or inaction
You can receive this: 'on whatever sphere of being
The mind of a man may be intent
At the time of death' - that is the one action
(And the time of death is every moment)
Which shall fructify in the lives of others:
And do not think of the fruit of action.
Fare forward.

- Dry Salvages, III

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A 'Low Sunday' sermon: John 20:19-31

Sermon Second Sunday in Easter                                                                                              4/15/2012
It has been seven days now , since we have had our Easter celebration,  and yet the gospel story this morning picks up just a few hours after Mary Magdalene tells the disciples what she experienced at Jesus’ tomb.  And while we have proclaimed Christ’s resurrection, said our Alleluias and eaten our Easter candy, the disciples have yet to join in the celebration.  In today’s Gospel we are pulled back, back to Easter Day, back into the story where we are reminded that the events at the tomb are by no means the end of the Easter story.  The disciples do not seem to believe what Mary has told them, if they had believed surely they would be out looking for Jesus, but instead they have locked themselves inside, afraid of the persecution that may be waiting for them out there.  I can only imagine how they must have felt. The disciples have had their lives turned upside down.  They had given up everything in order to follow Jesus and follow him they did, for three years.  And quite suddenly they find themselves without him, without his leadership, without his strength and wisdom to guide them, and without him they are lost.  Then all of a sudden, in the midst of their grief and despair, Jesus appears among them.  Only then, after they saw him, after they saw the wounds in his hands and his side did they finally rejoice. 

And Jesus wastes no time, in the Gospel according to John, it is on Easter day that Jesus gives the disciples his Great Commission, telling them “As the Father has sent me, even so I have sent you,” this Gospel story makes it quite clear that the mission of the church is inextricably linked to Christ’s resurrection.  The lives we live as Christians cannot be separated from Christ’s saving action on the cross.

 But what Jesus gives the disciples to do is no easy task, the disciples are sent into the world, just as Jesus had been sent, and they are given the unique responsibility of forgiving or retaining the sins of others.  At first glance this looks as if Christ has given the disciples the ability to be the judge and jury over all those that they meet, and certainly it has been interpreted that way, but it is not the privilege of judgment that Christ bestows on the disciples.  It is the responsibility of evangelism.  Jesus gives the disciples the responsibility of bearing witness to the work of God in the world. Earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus had given them the commandments to love God and to love their neighbor, and through his own life and death he has shown them what it means to live out those commandments.  Now it is the disciples turn, by living as Christ has taught them to live, they can demonstrate God’s Grace to the whole world, They are called to offer forgiveness to people by letting them know that through Christ they are freed from sin and death. 

 Jesus breathes on all the disciples, giving them the Holy Spirit and commissioning them to continue his work in the world.  All the disciples that is, except for Thomas.  Poor maligned Thomas.  His name forever marred by the “doubting” epithet.  Where had Thomas gone off to during this oh so crucial moment in the life of the church?  If the eleven of them were all so scared of being persecuted, then where was Thomas?  I like to think that Thomas was the only one brave enough to go out, and in the hour of Jesus’ appearance Thomas was out buying everyone dinner.  Of course we can never know for sure where Thomas was, all we know is that he was not there.  What must it have been like to be Thomas, to return to your friends only to discover that they had had this incredible experience in your absence, not only did Jesus appear amongst them, but he breathed the Holy Spirit onto them and gave them a new mission in life.  It is not an enviable place to be in, the odd man out.  No one wants to be the outsider, the one who doesn’t quite get the joke, or understand the reference, No one wants to be the only person who wasn’t there. So I don’t blame Thomas for not believing.   For Thomas to believe what the other disciples shared with him would make him the only disciple NOT given the Holy Spirit, the only disciple NOT made into an apostle, the only disciple NOT given the opportunity to see Jesus once again.  Who, thinking that their loved one is dead, wouldn’t immediately demand to see him upon hearing that he was, in fact, alive?  Who wouldn’t want to touch that person, to embrace him?

Poor Thomas, he would have to wait a whole other week before Easter would come for him.  But eventually Jesus does return to the closed up house, and he presents himself to Thomas who immediately upon seeing Jesus declares quite powerfully “My Lord and My God!” Not only does Thomas believe when sees Jesus, he sees Jesus for who he truly is, Thomas understands and declares it loudly “My Lord and My God!” 
And Christ’s response, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe” is not meant to shame Thomas, or to set him up as a foil against the other disciples.  None of the disciples believed before they saw, and that is okay.  Christ understands who we are, he knows that doubt is part of human nature.  Thomas’ encounter with the resurrected Christ is not meant to make us despair over our own doubt, rather it is a story of promise, and it is meant to give us hope.   Thomas was not physically present at the Great Commissioning, but he is still blessed by the Holy Spirit and counted among the apostles, and in his interaction with Thomas, Christ assures us that we too, are blessed and called to represent Christ’s love in the world.  

This calling starts for us at baptism where we are marked as Christ’s own forever.  At baptism we are made part of the body of Christ and as a part of that body we are supported by our fellow pilgrims, and together we are sent out as representatives of Christ to the world.

It is hard to believe that only a week ago we were celebrating Easter.  If it weren’t for the dwindling shelves of half-priced Easter candy, one would hardly know that the Easter holiday had ever happened.  I find it a little frustrating at times, while we are in the midst of the somber season of lent the world around us is  decorating with colorful eggs, bunnies, and pastel colored flowers.  And when we finally get to the Easter season and it is time to rejoice and celebrate the world has already moved on.  But you know I think that is right, the Easter we are celebrating is something entirely different, something far greater that cannot be contained to just one day of the year.  Christ has overthrown death, not just for himself, but for all of us. Christ is the light in the darkness and there is nothing left for us to fear, wherever we are, Christ will meet us there, there is no locked door, no amount of despair or resentment or doubt that can stand in his way.  The Easter story continues with all of us, like the disciples we are called out of our locked rooms and asked to take the joy we experienced on Easter Day, the joy of a life renewed by Christ and we are to share that joy with a suffering world in need of some good news.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Vigil

We stood in the dimly lit hallway whispering bits of conversation to each other.  It was early and there was an air of expectation all around us.  Finally the clock ticked into place.  It was time.  We filed out one by one into the darkness.  We walked into the church and as we moved along the wall single file I looked out into the nave.  It was not completely dark, the street lamps outside provided just enough light so that I could see the empty pews.  Where was everybody?  I looked forward again, we were about to exit out the back of the church.

For some reason I was reminded of Space Mountain, I felt like I was about to be shot out of a tube into the darkness and I wasn’t entirely wrong.  I walked through the door and found myself engulfed in black.  No light was coming into this room off the street; all the windows were completely covered.  But I also quickly became aware that the room was packed with people.  I knew I had to make my way through the crowd to the other side of the room, the room wasn’t really all that big, but  I started to feel a bit panicked that I would get lost and never find my way through the throng of people.  All I could do was keep my eyes fixed on the faint white outline of Andrew’s robe.  I had to fight back the urge to reach out and grab his hand.  Forgetting that I needed only to cross a single room I started to wonder why we were all expected to make our own way through.  Finally, after what seemed like forever I made through.  A group of us formed a barrier as the first light was lit, we then moved aside to let everyone else witness the lighting of the Paschal candle, and then slowly but surely the light began to spread as everyone began to light their candles.  I didn’t have a candle but I could see by the light of those around me.

 I was reminded of a dream I had, where I found myself looking into the darkness but when I turned around there were rows upon rows of people in white robes lit up by the candles in their hands.  They stood there, neither moving nor speaking, and I turned back to the darkness expectantly.  Something was about to happen, judgment perhaps.  I didn’t have a candle then either.