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Archive for September, 2011

Over the last month and a half or so, I have disciplined myself to a commuting regimen of sacred music. I ride the train into work, so I have the blessed luxury of taking time to think, pray, read and write during my commute. At least, I do when I don’t have to work on the commute. Anyhow, my regimen has consisted of the Taize Community Choir’s album Songs of Taize – O Lord hear my prayer, always starting with Bless the Lord, in the morning. I find that listening to Taize music before I get to the office puts me in a very faithful mindset, and focuses me to pray on any of the challenges I know I will face.

The commute home has generally consisted of a Mass in one form or another, or a few hymns and then a Mass. Lately, I have been quite fond of Quire of Voyces’s Latin Mass album, which begins with the Missa Pange Lingua. The Kyrie begins with the opening verses of this blog’s namesake hymn, and proceeds into a beautiful Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. I usually make it through a Mass and a half before I arrive at the train station. On the flip side, when I listen to Bach’s Mass in B Minor, I think I barely make it through all of the different parts of the Gloria! 🙂 However, not too long ago I loaded Bach’s Mass in B Minor and Vivaldi’s Gloria into my car’s CD player, so I am never without sacred music when I am on the road!

Would love to hear from my readers on what you listen to!

Peace

Chris

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Great post, awesome blogger, you should subscribe!

Growing up with God

Continuing in my research of the different religions (and denominations) I today heard Pastor Robert Rutherford (a Universalist) talking about what his belief in God meant to him, and what he thought of humanity.

Robert: This a $100 dollar bill. What’s it worth?
Crowd listening: $100.
Robert: (screws up the bill in his hand) Ok. Now what’s it worth?
Crowd listening: $100.
Robert: Really? (spits on the bill and some of the people listening laugh) Now what’s it worth?
Crowd listening: $100.
Robert: It’s still worth $100 dollars? (drops the bill on the ground and stomps it with his foot) Now what’s it worth?
Crowd listening: $100.
Robert: Excuse me just one moment while I go to the restroom so I can p*ss on it. (people laugh) I won’t. But if I did, and I brought it back dripping, what would it be worth?
Crowd listening: $100.
Robert: $100. Did…

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“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” -Philippians 2:1-4

This morning marked my first time serving as a Lay Eucharistic Minister (LEM), as well as my first time in nearly a year serving as a Lector at St Peters Church. I served as the LEM at our 8AM said service, guided by the wonderful Jinny Lavoie, who along with Jim Sweet are the LEMs at that service. I awoke this morning at the first beep of the alarm clock at 6:15, a rare occurrence for me, as I normally snooze the alarm more than a few times. I often find it funny that Sundays are the days that I normally wake up the earliest! I made it to church at 7:45, Jinny found an appropriate alb for me, and she walked me through the setup routine for which the LEM is responsible. Lighting the candles on the altar, opening the doors, placing the elements on the Baptismal altar down back.

The time came for the service to begin. I proceeded over to the lectern to get the cross for the processional. The weight of the cross carried a symbolic aspect to it, one I didn’t realize until just now. Fr Paul said the prayer, and I led the procession to the sanctuary. At the appropriate time, I bowed before the altar and proceeded to lectern to read the lessons and Psalm.

As I looked out upon the congregation, I was humbled. After leaving them for nine months, they had welcomed me back with such hospitality and grace. I was serving them by reading the lessons. I am inspired to read for these folks, to tell the stories, lead the Psalm and give a voice to the Epistle in a way that moves them, that resonates with them. Being back on that lectern in this church is a gift from God and God’s people. Thanks be to God for them!

The next significant moment this morning was reading the Prayers of the People. At our 8am said service we use the Rite I liturgy, and we use the Prayers of the People from that liturgy, regardless of what Prayers are used at our principal service. As I opened the first paragraph with “Almighty and everliving God, who in thy holy Word hast taught us to make prayers, and supplications, and to give thanks for all men:”, I found myself choked up. I have heard and prayed those prayers from the pews over a hundred times, but leading them was a whole new, holy and again humbling experience. It was as though I could hear Jim and Jinny’s voices in my mind, guiding my cadence, filling in the optional sections, and I did ok. There is a sort of memorization I have found with the liturgy, like when you can sing along to a song despite not necessarily being able to sing the song unaccompanied.

During Holy Communion, I assisted at the altar and took my cues from Jinny. My first time ringing the Sanctus bell was a bit meek, but by the last appointed ring of the bell I gave it an inspired tap with the mallet. Having received Communion in both kinds after Fr Paul and Fr Dan, I proceeded to follow Fr Paul across the Communion rail as the chalicer. I spoke the words “The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation”, administered the chalice, and remembered to wipe and turn. Again, I was humbled to serve the people of God.

My first experience serving the folks at this church in this capacity is not one I will soon forget. In fact, I have written on my heart and will cherish it forever.

Thanks be to God!

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I love the wind and string instruments! I love everything about this video! Thanks be to God!

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“It’s not about you; it’s all about Jesus. Don’t be satisfied with just knowing that … Let it seep into you until it merges with your DNA.” –Pastor Tom

“These moments come to us and are rare. They are unexpected.” –Fr Paul

“For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.” -Luke 1:37-38

My priest, Fr Paul, suggested that I delve deeper into the experience that was my epiphany. I sent him two free form writings, and I figured I would share. You can get context from the My Epiphany page if you haven’t read about it.

I remember it so well.

It is Saturday August 13th, and I think I was up early for me on a Saturday, but we had a pretty open chill day ahead. I was met with the realization that the next day was Sunday August 14th, the day that Grace Church’s doors were going to be open again. I had gone through the “excitement” if you will of seeing your time through at St Peters like I could simply come back and then move on when you did. Rightly so, you properly advised that this was not your wish.

I was at a crossroads of sorts, although I figured I would probably spend the rest of the day fretting.

I sat down at the table on our deck with my coffee and decided to catch up on my blog subscriptions. I came across the first post I mentioned, and as I mentioned, had an initial reaction and then was given cause to reconsider based on the comments on her post. Certainly, it gave me pause to think. I finished reading the other blogs I subscribe to and decided to browse the recent WordPress posts tagged with Christianity. Pastor Tom’s post. jumped off the second page at me. I read it. I read it again. I walked out to my driveway to the spot where I normally go to smoke, the sun beating down on me as though I was an ant under some cruel kid’s magnifying glass, and it happened. I may have half-muttered some expletives as I am known to do when I have worked on a problem for a long time without result and then it all becomes clear. And that is when my epiphany was given to me. I am sure more of those fun expletives followed. And I was
the happiest boy on Earth in that moment. I literally felt like running into the streets yelling and screaming that my eyes had finally been opened. It was like I had been emptied of my anxiety and filled with God’s peace.

Later, I remember basking in what I perceived as the irony that the epiphany came less than 24 hours from the opening of the doors at Grace.

I believe God called me back to St Peter’s in that moment. A concrete event, so subtle yet so complex in its fabric.

More to come

the second email

I remember fear, fear that this event, this realization, this feeling would be fleeting. That it would be gone within hours, or days. I remember the feeling of being resolute to not allow that to happen, to cast the experience into something almost tangible within my soul. To write it on my heart. To live each day with it on the forefront of my mind.

So far, so good.

Peace

Chris

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“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

“But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’” -Matthew 20:13-16

My previous post started out as this post, but went in a different direction so I went with it. I wanted to see this post through, so here it is, enjoy.

I was blessed to hear two wonderful sermons this past Sunday and they have inspired this post. The first sermon I heard was from the new rector at a church in a neighboring town. This church had spent some transitional time with a priest-in-charge, and had made the call to find a new rector. The second sermon I heard was from the Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts at my church. We are in a different point in our transition, as both of our priests are leaving and we are seeking a priest-in-charge to lead us through the next phase of our community. Both sermons were aimed at congregations in transition, albeit at different points in their transitions.

Rev. Elledge’s sermon at St Andrew’s Marblehead started with some humor, and progressed into how we stumble on the notion of those working one hour receiving the same compensation as those who worked an entire day in the hot sun. We have this fixed notion of the economy and how it should reward us for our individual contribution. However, the good Reverend then offered us this notion, that God’s economy was wholly different than ours. In God’s economy, it was the community that was the focus, not the individual. I would offer that the community is the whole body of Christ, as I think he would as well. The equity in God’s economy is that the whole community thrives, supported by its members supporting each other. I offer that those who have less in material abundance teach those who have more in material abundance, and the latter are required to support the former with that abundance.

And while it did not hit me fully until today, what I experienced at St Andrew’s Marblehead was the realization of hope for our future at St Peter’s Salem. A man cut from the same cloth that both of our departing priests share. His focus on social justice and collaboration stood out to his new congregation during the search process. Maybe God gave me a peek at what might be in store for us.

Bishop Shaw’s sermon focused more on the aspects of the parable as it related to the changing spectrum of our church community. He spoke of how we had done amazing things in the short time that our Hispanic ministry has been part of our church. He talked about how every time Jesus told a parable, what the Kingdom of Heaven was like was a surprise. How God’s abundance will always surprise us, and how, despite our anxieties, reservation, or trepidation, we should embrace what we have become and God will provide for us.

What I experienced at the service at St Peter’s was more than an inspired sermon though. I experienced a united community of two English and one Spanish language services in church at 5pm on a Sunday. Lay leaders from all services on the altar and on the lectern. One service, one church united as the Body of Christ.

I returned to St Peter’s Salem on faith alone, having experienced an epiphany so powerful that it rocked me to the core of my very being. I didn’t ask what the plan was for next year. I have disciplined myself to trust God on these matters, even if they make me anxious, terrified, or simply question the sanity of them. God has answered me at every turn. Not immediately mind you, but in due time, and I have found peace in being patient. Whether through a sudden realization or through the great spiritual wisdom of my priest, I continue to find that peace. You know, the peace that passes all understanding.

Peace

Chris

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“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

“But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’” -Matthew 20:13-16

As we consider and pray on this past Sunday’s Gospel, the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, I would imagine each one of us stumbles on the notion of those working one hour receiving the same compensation as those who worked an entire day in the hot sun. We may stumble on the notion of a new peer at work receiving more compensation than we do, simply due to the economics of opportunity. We may stumble on the notion of a new person at church having the same opportunities and recognition as a member of the body of Christ as we do.

We stumble on these notions because our thoughts are human. We stumble on this parable because our humanity causes us to focus on ourselves, on what is fair and unfair for us. We fixate ourselves on past events and think, “well, if I had known that would be the outcome, I would have asked for more, or refused the offer”. As Isaiah was so inspired to write on God’s behalf, our ways are simply not God’s ways.

God loves all of creation equally, and merely asks that we love Him in return. Loving God implies that we love all of creation equally, that others’ suffering is our burden, others’ happiness is our joy, that we are all part of the body of Christ. Loving God means that we follow Christ, that we love our neighbors as ourselves, that we forgive as we would ask to be forgiven.

Here then lies the rub, loving God is the easiest thing to do all, yet as my priest reminded me, the hard part is remembering to do it. We are broken, and it is hard sometimes to want to fix ourselves. It is hard to trust God, to have faith that God will provide, to find that spark of the divine within and to set our sinful beings aside and sacrifice that part of our selves that is utterly human and in no way even the slightest bit divine.

We have to start small, like children, and keep working on it bit by bit. We cannot stop, we cannot give up, we cannot allow ourselves to be discouraged from persevering in our journey to love God when we sin. The Deceiver enjoys nothing more than a human who gives up their journey entirely because they don’t see the finish line. There simply is no finish line in our journey towards loving God. We are not Christ, but we must continue to strive to be as much like Christ as we can.

God’s abundance is an unfathomable mystery, but if this parable teaches us one thing, it teaches us that God’s abundance is spread equally to all of God’s creation. We must treat our abundance in the same manner, regardless of what we regard the worthiness of our neighbors to be.

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