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Posts Tagged ‘Scripture’

“No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.” -Matthew 22:46

I found myself this morning at a church where, just a mere 4 months ago, I never would have imagined myself worshipping. Having been raised Roman Catholic, my only experience with the Lutheran church came from my uncle, who was Lutheran pastor and a very conservative one to boot. Upon my return to the faith, I gravitated to the Episcopal church without much of a second thought. However, thanks to the brilliant work of Meredith Gould and the Church Social Media (#chsocm or @chsocm on Twitter) chats, I have met many people across denominations including Pastor Keith Anderson who have opened my eyes. After pouring over the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s website, I ordered a copy of the Evangelical Lutheran Worship prayer book & hymnal. Having read over it, the liturgies, the hymns, etc, I was determined to visit Pastor Keith and his flock this morning.

I arrived early this morning at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, so early in fact that I was one of the first in the parking lot. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I cannot stand being late for church, so much so that I have attended later services or services at a different church if I am late. After killing some time I went into the church about 20 minutes ahead of the service start time, and was warmly greeted by the ladies in the entry area. I had arrived ahead of the usher, but one of the ladies grabbed a bulletin for me (her niece was one of the scheduled ushers). I entered the church proper and was excited to see Pastor Keith at the pulpit (ok, not sure if it is deemed a pulpit, but you know what I mean). I had given him the heads up that he would know me first by my beard, and when he looked up, I knew he had made the connection! We chatted for about 10 minutes, which was wonderful! He walked me through the order of the service and we talked about my journey in general and our Church Social Media connections. I can’t wait to have coffee/lunch with him in the future! Before the service started, Deacon Diane approached me to ask if I would read/lead two of the prayers of intercession! She knew I was visiting and was present from my Facebook post and check-in! Talk about a testimony to the brilliance of church social media!

The service was very familiar and very different all at the same time, and a wonderful and holy experience. Pastor Keith and Deacon Diane entered the church without any fanfare or procession. Pastor Keith welcomed us and instructed us briefly concerning the order of service. We began then with the Confession and Forgiveness, devoutly kneeling. I really appreciated the instruction to kneel during the confession. After, I stood for the Gathering Song (Love Divine, All Loves Excelling!) and a fellow pew mate kindly let me know I should sit during the prelude and then stand. He really was kindly about it, and I really appreciated that help!

The Greeting followed, and then we sang the hymn Now the Feast and Celebration. We proceeded to the Prayer of the Day, which in the Episcopal tradition would be the Collect, and then to the readings. The Gospel acclamation followed, and then the Gospel. After the Gospel reading, something very awesome happened. Pastor Keith invited the kids to come up, and talked to them in their terms. It really was a delight to witness how he engaged them and associated our faith in terms and ideas that they could understand.

At this point in this post, I am probably running a bit long, so I will sum up the rest. Pastor Keith’s sermon was awesome. I now understand the Communion liturgy better after seeing it prayed in person. Finally, I look forward to returning at some point soon to this church and thank God for this landmark in my journey.

Peace

Chris

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“Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt
love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” 1979 BCP – Rite I

“When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’” -Matthew 22:34-40

Every Sunday, I hear this Scripture before the Kyrie, as it is part of the Rite I service in the Episcopal Church. Some who read this Scripture might not realize the utter brilliance of Jesus in his response to the lawyer. I wonder sometimes if people just gloss over this Scripture, but that is a different matter for a different day. Back to the point at hand: Jesus deftly plucked one-half of a verse from the book of Leviticus and installed it as the second commandment, or great command. In fact, not only did he install it, he recast the “great commands” into two, and made the second a requirement for the obedience of the first.

1 – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.

2 – You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. Period.

One cannot skirt these commandments and focus elsewhere. This is not a parable, it is Christ casting into His own stone the two tenants of the new Covenant. Don’t let anyone tell you different, or distract you. If we want to follow Christ, we will heed these two commandments and we will do well to recognize that our neighbor is all of God’s creation, all of it. We will feed, clothe, care for, befriend, and comfort everyone. We will look to Christ as the divine example of our humanity, a fully human and fully divine being who sacrificed Himself to show us how to live. To show us that he was not about power, wealth, or domination on Earth as Earthly kings were. No, He commanded love, charity, humility, and selflessness in us all. Through faith we must follow these commands. We must always consider these two commandments where reading Scripture.

All the Law and the Prophets hang on them from age to age.

“We love God precisely by loving our neighbor” -Martin Luther

Occupy Wall Street

Peace

Chris

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“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’” -Matthew 18:20

As my church nears the end of the year, the big transition period, I find myself dwelling on our 8am Rite I said service. We really do have three services in three languages, each with a different liturgy, Elizabethan English (our 8am Rite I), Contemporary English (our 10am Rite II), and our Spanish service (our noon service). That line-up of services is a tall order for any priest, and we currently have two plus an assistant!

Our 8am Rite I said service is, like most I would imagine, the one that carries the lowest, but most consistent, attendance. We are fiercely loyal in our attendance for the most part. It also occurs to me that we are the most likely service to be targeted for change. (more…)

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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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Another brilliant post from Fr Paul over at his blog Heaven and Earth!

A Celebration and Blessing of Civil Union
I met Andre and Kevin on Facebook. My son introduced them to me when he celebrated their engagement to his friends right there in front of God and everyone on Facebook. Being who I am, I rejoiced in the announcement. Both young men were children of the church, but their particular denominations were a bit hesitant to celebrate and bless their love. Not me! I was among the first to congratulate them.
Andre and Kevin then wondered aloud to Michael if I would travel from Boston to Chicago to perform their nuptials. They asked, and I gladly accepted. I would travel half way around the world to celebrate and bless the wedded bliss of those who wish to love one another, just as Jesus said we should. After all I am a priest of the church and this is what we do. We marry off folks, we baptize babies and adults, we bury the dead. We visit the sick. And as long as there is life in me I will do the deeds and travel far and wide for anybody asking the church’s blessing for any and all of the above sacraments.
I know that some churches are reluctant to bless folks who love one another if they happen to be of the same sex and propose to enter into covenantal relationships with one another. But I do not represent “some churches”. I represent one tiny corner of the Christian/Faith world that rejoices as I do when folks fall in love. When that love gets serious and is more than just infatuation but is of the sort that wishes to be faithful in a life long union, I’ll be the first in line to bless such a union.
There are no barriers to such a union in my church. There are no racial, ethnic, class, gender or orientation barriers in my church. We are tiny. Not all of our priests are gung-ho about such relationships, but I am. We are a scandal to much of the Communion. Our Archbishop has rattled our knuckles with his ecclesiastical ruler. But we all smiled and embraced the beloved of God and removed all barriers to Baptism, Marriage, and Burial and even ordination!
When I got home from Chicago, I put it up on Facebook that “The Deed is Done”. Scores of people expressed their joy and enthusiasm and were quite complimentary to me for being “cool”, one even called me a “dude”…a first for this cleric.
But then I was taken to task by one of my West Virginian friends. He questioned the blessing by saying that I was merely playing up to the culture and fudged on my responsibility to preach the truth of God. This he suggested was the more loving thing to do. I tried to reason with the man, alas to no avail.
I removed his posts from my Facebook page ultimately because I felt we all have a right to go to our marriage bed with delight and glee just as I did when I married my lovely bride 31 years ago. When we heterosexuals get married, we have the privilege of doing so without our loves being a matter of debate.
I have decided the same will hold true for my LGBTQ friends. My church is a “House of Prayer for All People”. PERIOD. We are not Jews and Greeks, we are not slave and free, we are not male and female in my church. We are one in Christ just as the blessed Apostle to the Gentiles said (Galatians 3:28). It follows we are not defined by race, ethnicity, class, gender or orientation. We are defined as being one in Christ. Thus I have argued before in this blog when I set forth a biblical base for the Rainbow Marriage.
Please don’t be offended when I use the name of Jesus and Christ. When I use the Name, I am not doing so to be exclusive, but to be centered. I am clearly Christ centered in the sense that I believe that Jesus is the clearest example I have seen yet of the love of God made flesh in human form. But I am not Christ exclusive. Neither was Jesus. When he fed the multitudes on the hillsides of Galilee he didn’t check church membership, or any other convenience of human classification.
The only requirement to be loved by God in the Person of Jesus, is to be human. That will suffice. Be human, that is all that Jesus requires.
And that’s all I require too. So if you want to get married, have a baby/child/adult to be baptized, have a loved one who is sick, or if there are the dead to be buried, just let me know. Or let any priest of the church know. And we will be there for you.
By the way, I am an Episcopalian, if that matters to anybody. So far that’s the only Catholic and Apostolic church around that comes right out and says such a thing.
And remember, God loves you and so do I,
Fr. Paul

 

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Another brilliant post from Fr Paul over at his blog Heaven and Earth.

God set a rainbow in the clouds for a sign to all humanity of a covenant between us and God. It is a thing of great beauty. All the colors of the spectrum are present in the rainbow. Many of us see it as a sign that God’s love is inclusive in ever widening circles of compassion.

Speaking of God’s love and human love, there is a teaching of Jesus about marriage that is certainly provocative. It is this:

“Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”?So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?’ He said to them, ‘It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but at the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.’

His disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’” ~Matthew 19

This is one of the most interesting passages in the Gospels. Jesus teaches his disciples about marriage and divorce, and suddenly he veers off into a totally unrelated subject about eunuchs. What in the world does that have to do with marriage? Or does it?

We can only imagine. Whatever Jesus is teaching, we do know this; not everyone can accept it. This passage cannot be easily dismissed. Eunuchs are common in the ancient Near Eastern world. The practice of castration for any number of reasons is widespread.

But what of the ones who are born “that way”? And what of the ones born that way who love others born “that way”. Explain that to me.

Here it is now in black and white. Explain to me why Jesus goes to these lengths to embrace those “born that way”? Why, when he is teaching about marriage does he say that this teaching is so difficult for humanity to accept?

The fact is Jesus reaches out to all the outcasts; and specifically those distanced from the Temple by the Levitical Law code; such as prostitutes, lame, blind, tax collectors, and other unclean sorts. Leviticus specifically distances maimed sorts like eunuchs. Jesus contradicts that law code by his very life and in this particular teaching, by indicating that eunuchs can make themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. How remarkable!

Dare we say that Jesus is teaching us something about eunuchs we don’t want to hear? Jesus didn’t shy away from confrontation and controversy. So when his finds himself besieged by biblical literalists who press him for his thoughts on marriage, he describes an ethic of uncompromisingly high standards.

Then the disciples are bewildered and wonder why anyone should marry at all if these impossible standards are set in a manner that is so uncompromising.

Then, in an instant we find Jesus teaching something else difficult to accept.

Marriage is a covenantal relationship. Many heterosexual folks establish such relationships; some don’t. Many gay folks have covenantal relationships that last a lifetime, some don’t. Here is a controversy for you; when Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, do you suppose he died for those who love one another in fulfillment of Jesus’ own command of whatever orientation?

[…read more]

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Enjoy, and consider starting a Taize service at your church!  I listen to Taize every morning on my commute!  I love the wind instruments in this video!

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