Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Summer of Epiphanies!’ Category

“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” -1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

Prior to this summer, all I knew of the Lutheran denomination was from the few interactions with my uncle, who is a rather, well, conservative Lutheran pastor (now retired). In July, I somehow stumbled upon the Church and Social Media chat on Twitter, and my view of Lutherans and the Lutheran church was changed forever.

Reverend David Hansen, a fourth generation Lutheran pastor in the ELCA, has been a tremendous help to all of us in the Church and Social Media arena, and has introduced me to many inspiring folks across multiple denominations.

Pastor Keith Anderson is the pastor at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Woburn, MA which is just 30 minutes down 128 from my city! He is co-authoring a book on the topic of church and social media and has also been the source of inspiration and information on many fronts.

Both of these fine men of the cloth not only have opened my eyes to a Lutheran church that is inclusive, but have connected me with so many great folks of faith in the Twitter-verse!  Follow them on Twitter @rev_david and @prkanderson or just click on the links to their Twitter profiles.  Join us on Tuesday at 9pm EST for the #chsocm Church and Social Media chat as well!

Thanks be to God!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

“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

Read Full Post »

“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

Read Full Post »

“Seek the Lord while he wills to be found; call upon him when he draws near.” -Isaiah 55:6

As I was settling into my seat on the train this morning, headphones on, Taize music playing, I saw the conductor walking up the aisle. I flashed my rail pass and looked down again at my laptop, thinking nothing of it. I then realized the conductor was talking to me. Confused, I removed my headphones and discovered the conductor was asking me if I had my September pass. “Oh, yeah, I will buy it when I get into North Station, promise”, I answered, still in shock that it was September.

This summer was pretty awesome on many fronts. What I thought to be a difficult and borderline depressing situation at the church I was attending ended up being a gift of a journey towards an epiphany about church in general. That journey included a Latin Mass, a further affirmation that I am no longer a Roman Catholic, and the final realization that all the angst and anger I felt at this time last year was a product of my own inability to just come out and do what I needed to do rather than implode. Going home to what I have referred to as my former parish and being welcomed with open arms was and is a blessing.

On the home front, we finally made good on our intention to visit Maine more often this summer. From our times swimming in the lake behind my wife’s grandmother’s house to visiting Pemaquid Point and Bar Harbor, eating oysters at a picnic table at the house of the folks who caught them, and mastering the ancient art of making it through Wiscasset at the right time (let alone the NH-Maine stretch of I-95), it was the best summer ever. We spent some great time just chilling with my wife’s grandmother and her uncle, and the chihuahuas developed quite the liking for her uncle and his free feeding of treats, cheese, and the random piece of ham. The video in this post is my older chihuahua barking at the echo of his bark on the aforementioned lake.

I will treasure this summer forever, and I thank God for bestowing the gifts of this summer upon us.

Peace

Chris

Read Full Post »

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.” -Philippians 2:5-8

I awoke this morning to find this post in my mailbox. My first reaction to the hypothetical dilemma of the family’s church having no toddler daycare was “yes, you should find another church”, despite the indicators of the family’s general ties to the church. The follow-on comments though were striking and really hit home for me. There was general agreement that one of the tougher situations to deal with was when a parishioner already made up their mind about leaving having never discussed their issues with the minister and other leadership of the church. Another comment eschewed the perpetuation of church-shopping. Overall, the post and comments really made me think about my own dilemmas regarding church over the past year or so and put some things into perspective.

As often happens it seems, God led me shortly thereafter to this post from Pastor Tom. The first quote “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.” and the last quote “It’s not about you. Learn. To. Forgive. Loving God and loving others (see above) means it’s very important.” resonated within my very being. They made me think deeper about some recent conversations with my friend Fr Paul and a brief exchange with my friend Joe concerning a matter relevant to this topic.

And then it all hit me like a holy ton of bricks. At some point in the last year or so, my view of church became very self-focused instead of community-focused. Early last year I made the decision to beg off of the vestry too late, despite legitimate reasons to do so earlier rather than hem and haw about it. That error in my judgement, combined with another error in my judgement to soldier on, rather than resign for legitimate personal reasons, led me down a bad path of silent resentment and anger. Imagine, if you will, a baseball-sized snowball, easily melted by the sun, rolled down a snowy mountain in the darkness. By the time it smashed into the rocks at the bottom, it was the size of a cathedral.

So where does this epiphany leave me? Well, I can say for certain it leaves me in a more contemplative, Christ-focused, community-focused frame of mind concerning church. It leaves me knowing that more prayer is required, but now with a clearer mind and an more open heart. Finally, it leaves me with a sense of calm in place of the self-focused anxiety that existed.

“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

Peace

Read Full Post »

“But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” -Matthew 14:27-33

Over the last few days, I have been reflecting on an early point in my journey where I had a breakthrough of sorts for a couple of weeks. Like Peter, I stepped out of the boat onto the water. And like Peter, when a strong wind came up, I started sinking. Ever since then, until the last few days, I have spent more effort chastising myself for sinking rather than actually preparing to walk on the water again. That recognition and the subsequent deeper reflection on my journey since that point have yielded some very fruitful results for the next steps. Not necessarily realizations that I didn’t at some level know already, but a different approach than I have had in quite some time. Don’t get me wrong, I am still sitting down in the boat, but I am approaching walking on the water to Jesus in a different manner. I also take comfort in the fact that even St Peter sank!

More to come, 3 years in and I have just begun…

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus, stay with us, for evening is at hand and the day is past; be our companion in the way, kindle our hearts, and awaken hope, that we may know you as you are revealed in Scripture and the breaking of bread. Grant this for the sake of your love.
Amen.

Read Full Post »

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” -Romans 7:15-25a

“When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’” -Luke 17:14-19

Earlier today I had what I can only describe as a directed epiphany. If you have been reading my blog you have noticed that I seem to be restless and maybe a bit confused when it comes to some of the aspects of my journey. I am missing something and so I have been seeking it out in different places, although all within the context of the liturgical Christian traditions. I have recognized that I have been stuck in this stage of my journey for a while, and now I understand what this stage of my journey is.

I sent my priest from my former parish an email the other day (we often email and talk) asking about helping out at the early service during the summer while my current parish is closed. I have attended that service a couple of times in the past month and I sort of feel like I should be reading or up on the altar or both. I proceeded to share some of my feelings on what was going on with my journey. He replied with a wonderful email on both matters, and I have to admit I have read and re-read it about 5-6 times. I replied telling him as much.

And then it happened. He asked me if I was familiar with Kierkegaard (I know the name) and his writings on the “Leap of Faith”. As St Paul’s conversion was described, it was like great scales fell off of my eyes! I finally have the very context for the sense of being “stuck” in my journey! A centering point for the next phase if you will. I pray regularly for the strength to overcome and abandon those behaviors that keep me from a deeper relationship with God, but to this point I haven’t been able to quantify how to actually do it. Not that I have all of a sudden figured out the answer, but at least I know context for the question and at least one resource for some guidance for the path to the answer.

Don’t get me wrong, my dilemma is not whether or not I believe that God exists or that Jesus is Way and the Light. All of my blog posts are sincere and my witness to the Gospel is sincere. While I have been writing I thought about my initial reaction to reading some of St Therese of Lisieux’s autobiography. Her faith was so deep, and I wondered about how she could possibly have had that level of faith and so young. But we have to enter into the Kingdom as children, because once we are convinced that we have the answers ourselves, we can stop relying on God for the answers and just do what we feel inclined to do.

Read Full Post »