Sunday, June 30, 2013

From 21,000 to 6

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone... (Matthew 14:23 ESV)

Last week at this time my family and I were gathered with some 21,000 other members of the Church of the Nazarene for the Sunday morning worship service of Holy Communion. Today we are alone as a family of six on Lake Champlain about as far north as you can get in Vermont without being in Canada and about a mile from the 45' latitude line - exactly halfway between the equator and the North Pole. 

There are some benefits of worshiping with twenty thousand people. While there are some large Nazarene churches of 200+, the vast majority of members of the Church of the Nazarene worship in congregations of 30-100 people. Like me. So to be able to be together on a Sunday for Holy Communion is a powerful reminder that we are not alone. This opportunity was a highlight for me last week.

(*A pleasant surprise during communion was when the orchestra played one of my favorite songs: Ennio Morricone's Theme from the movie, The Mission. It's been a favorite for a few years. I cried when they started playing it while we all received the Body & Blood of Christ. If you've seen the movie, you might understand. Communion "should" be narrated by such music.)

But today we are far, far away from the din of 20,000 people in downtown Indianapolis. Coming out of the excitement of being with so many Nazarenes, last night I excitedly looked for a Church of the Nazarene to worship with in Montreal. But the English-speaking ones are all almost two hours away. While there is a Nazarene church about 20 minutes from where we are on our own district, we decided to honor our original plan for today: to worship as a family of six. (I hesitate sharing this on the blog because I don't want North Street peeps to get any ideas! Gathering for corporate worship on Sundays is very important, even while away. But once every seven years might be okay. :-)

We miss our church family at North Street already. It's hard to believe it was only two weeks ago that we were together.

Monday, June 17, 2013

We Got Off Without a Hitch. Literally.

So we're in a hotel outside Albany, NY. Didn't make it to Syracuse the first night like we had planned. Albany really isn't far from home at all. But at least we did make it outside Mass. The day was...eventful.

We got off about 4:00 so Brayden got a full day of school. It was Llater than we wanted, but still enough time to make it to Syracuse before 10:00 PM. Or so we thought.

Upon leaving, I noticed immediately that the four kids' bikes on a bike rack off the rear trailer hitch were bouncing way more than I thought they should. I pulled over about a half mile after leaving to check them out. They were certainly wobblier than I liked, but we kept going as the hitch itself was rather stable. In Braintree, I thought I noticed that one of the handlebars had disappeared. I feared that one of the bikes had fallen off. Meghan got out and checked at a red light, but it was still there. I was confused because I knew that I could see it before. Soon enough I couldn't see any of them. I knew that the hitch had either bent downward or had fallen completely off.. I immediately slowed down and pulled off to a side street since there were several cars right behind me. 

The timing was very good as the whole bike rack and four bikes fell off and into the middle of the road about 20 feet down the side street. Ten seconds earlier and they could have taken out a car behind us. To keep this short: the hitch on the back of the trailer that was put on for a bike rack completely came off our popup trailer. And so we literally began the trip without a hitch.

A few thunderstorms later, a more-than-usually-irritable three-year-old, and taking it slowly with the popup behind us so as to avoid any other problems led us to decide to call it an early night by stopping in Albany instead of Syracuse. But at least we're on the road. 

Hopefully tomorrow will restore the cliche to its original meaning. 

I did start the day off at Glastonbury Abbey's 6:30 AM vigil (end of the evening prayer). It was good. Short, leaving me wanting more time in that setting, but good nonetheless. I had originally intended on the whole day at the abbey, but it looks like the decision to leave today instead of tomorrow was a good one.

Sabbatical Take-away for the day: 
Plan all you want. But plan first to be ready for changes to the plan.

Monday, June 03, 2013

An Unavoidable Question for Those Who "Believe" in Jesus

"Do you love me?" - Jesus

It might be said that age can soften one's heart.

Stanley Hauerwas has evoked various emotions and reactions out of me in the past. I know that he often angers people. Perhaps "anger" is a strong word here. I at least know that his ways - not the least of which includes his vernacular - often perturb people, and some people for whom I have great respect. I remember my first interaction with him while in seminary. He sure upset me. And from time-to-time, Uncle Stanley has continued to mess with my heart-strings, often seemingly choosing a knife over a guitar pick.

But I don't remember him making me cry before until today. He apparently preached this sermon at the Closing Convocation of 2013 at Duke Divinity School, where he has taught for many years. He's mostly retired from teaching and is obviously in his later years (he wrote a memoir, after all). It's not the first time that I've noticed an older dude softening with age. So this sermon is perhaps most appropriate for the setting of a seminary commencement, but anyone who is in ministry would benefit from it (if you follow Jesus, that's you).

I read it first, but I also found it on YouTube.

Some highlights:
As usual, I wouldn't have thought to use some of the images that Uncle Stanley does. I have run from "fall in love with Jesus" like the plague. But he again deals with it in such a succinct and appropriate way that it works:
"Falling in love has the frightening effect of one's losing control of oneself, with the result that you end up making one disastrous decision after another. So along the way, we develop self-protective strategies to avoid the costs if we are again tempted to fall in love."

Indeed. And falling in love with all other humans in history has most often provided the burden of proof that humans suck. Protective strategies have proven to be necessary. If nothing else, at least to protect me from me.

...which is what answering Jesus' question so difficult.
"I suspect I am more ready to believe in Jesus than I am to love him. I am, after all, a theologian." as much as I like to talk about having been freed from modernity, there is still an amateur mathematician making all sorts of counterarguments and "Yeah buts" to pretty much evertying. I still prefer things to work out nicely. And so love as the result of faith is difficult. Love is messy. It doesn't lend itself well to reason.

And surely someones out there will want to counter to Hauerwas with, "But to believe in Jesus is to love Jesus." Yes, but you're missing the point (again, see this post on faithing).
"...the ministry is a playground of manipulative games derived from distrust and envy that too often produces lives of destructive self-hate."
OUCH, Stanley. Stop being right.
"But be careful. Please note I am not recommending that you 'try' to love Jesus. 'Trying' can be an indication of our continuing attempt to love Jesus on our own terms..."
Yes. Hence, the notion of "falling" in love. Falls are generally things that you cannot control.

Anyway, I'm about to quote the whole sermon. I'll leave the rest to your own reading or viewing.

I've labelled this a sabbatical post because I hope to return to it a few times this summer.

More honestly than I've been in a while here on this blog:
I need a deeper love for Christ. I don't mean this in some kind of backwardly humble way along the lines of, "We all need a little more Jesus." Rather, I am longing for a restoration of a strong daily relationship with Jesus the Christ. There's never a reason to wait around for such a thing to come about. But I confess that I am greatly looking forward to this sabbatical this summer as a long and intensive opportunity to fall in love with Jesus.

So help me, God.