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Posts Tagged ‘Theology’

“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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“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!

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“He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.” -John 21:17

I wanted to share two stories that I came across yesterday about churches that, on the verge of closing, persevered, understanding their mission and commission was to do God’s work for God’s people.

St Alban’s was faced with a very public schism, as I am sure many Episcopal churches have been over the last decade. Their inspiring, and educational for all of us, experience can be found here, as can the first part of their story.

Christ Church in Biddeford Me experienced a radical transformation into the second Diocesan Jubilee Center. This story is nothing short of amazing, and embodies what I think of when I read the Gospel.

Both of these stories are inspirational in their own way. Do you have any inspirational stories about how your parish has transformed itself from parochialism to a central part of your community? Comment away!

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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“Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, ‘Is it not written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”? But you have made it a den of robbers.’ And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.” -Mark 11:15-18

Social justice. Equality. Caring for and healing the poor, the sick, the outcast. Everything Jesus did and ordered us to do more. Driving out the money changers from the temple was and is His hallmark of righteous anger. I am convinced, and galvanized, that Jesus is there at all the Occupy sites, and He stands with you all.

May your souls rest in God alone. You are the blessed and you will bring the Kingdom to Earth.

Peace

Chris

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“He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.’” -Mark 12:41-44

“Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.” -Mark 10:21-22

“‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’” -Matthew 22:11-14

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.’” -Matthew 20:16

Today, I have Good News! God has given us the free will to determine whether we are chosen, whether last or first, rich or poor. We simply need to decide to serve God, not wealth and greed, and put on our wedding robes of conversion. I have said it before here and I will say it again, we all have gifts that we must share for the spread of the kingdom. Indeed, it can be harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for us to change, but all things are possible with God’s help.

Look at the man who was shocked and went away grieving: As one priest pointed out during a sermon I remember quite well, that was not necessarily the end of the story. In fact, the man had to return to his home to sell all of his possessions, if in fact that was what he did! Of course he was shocked, wouldn’t you be? Remember, in the first part of that interaction he was overwhelmed with joy that he had kept all of the commandments! Yet faced with the greatest commandment, to love God and his neighbor, not his possessions, he was given a teaching he has not heard before perhaps. A teaching that we can see in the books of the prophets has been lost, that Christ was sent to restore. This man was called, and perhaps, just perhaps, he put on his wedding robe of conversion and was chosen. Not because God forced his hand, but because he asked God for help, and truly wanted His help.

Lastly, look no further than the story of St Ignatius for inspiration. He found that when he thought and read about serving God, he was overwhelmed with a inner joy. When he thought and read about his current path as it was, he felt empty pleasure. Perhaps empty pleasure is the outer darkness, the weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Something to consider and pray upon.

Peace

p.s. – the title for this post was lifted from Twin Peaks, totally random, but it works

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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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