Monday, July 31, 2006
There is a great divide between the two.
I was given charge today over the baptismal preparation of an infant, and consequently, the parents and sponsors. I said I would need their phone number if I am to try and meet with them 4-6 times before the baptism. The boss man looked and me smirking, "More like, hopefully you can make it out to their house once between now and then."
Saturday, July 29, 2006
'Patriotism will not do?'
'My dear creature, I have done with all debate. But you know well as I, patriotism is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either my country, right or wrong, which is infamous, or my country is always right, which is imbecile.' "
~ Patrick O'Brian, "Master and Commander"
We talked of DaySpring. I know I've written of this place before, and many of you faithful readers know it as well if not better than I. But each of our experiences there are unique, so perhaps you will indulge me once again. I said to my friend that it was strange, all I had to do was to step onto the deck at DaySpring, that old wooden, weather-stained creation, and the memories came flooding back in a torrent. I don't even have to close my eyes to see beloved faces and hear voices raised up in prayer, song, and laughter. It was an innocent time, that's to be sure. I told her how I was now nominally in charge of the youth group at St. Mark's, and how there were none among their number who had yet been to Happening (this being the seminal event in my young life; a youth renewal weekend) at DaySpring. There are a couple of high school seniors for whom Happening can still have a powerful impact on their lives as they prepare to enter the jungles of college, but it is the younger ones, the sophomores and freshmen who are in abundance here at St. Mark's, who have not been, that I am most excited about. Some of them burn with a passion for God that puts me in mind of a place I used to be, a place to which I long to return, leaving far behind all the knowledge of theory taught at seminary. To return to experience of God and leave the professors to the talk of God. (This is not to say they don't also experience God, for they surely do.) I said to my dinner companion that they want to go to Happening, and I likely will be called upon to serve as Spiritual Advisor - imagine that! I said I was so excited for them. That my Rector said he thinks there is great potential to this group but he doesn't know how to tap into it. I paused in my excitement and said to her, "DO you see what I see?" She replied, "Light the fire."
We then talked ponderously about how this kind if thing seemed to us generational. That those who lit our fire, so to speak, were those self-same persons who in their youth had been touched by the fire of God at Happening, at DaySpring. We laughed as we remembered Chris Keith, God rest her soul, and Neil Keith, and Anna, and Jim, and Steve, and all of those leaders who showed us what they had experienced. And now the torch has been passed to us. SHe told me of how when she and another friend returned to their home parish not too long ago, the preacher paused in the middle of his sermon when he saw them, and said, "Hey! Look! It's THE youth group kids back!" Now, they were full blown adults, but still known as THE youth group kids. That's what we're talking about when we say generational. That for whatever reason, God saw fit to use our generation of people in a special way, and now it is time for us to give back. To light the fire again. Pray God, that what we were given, we may have the strength, the courage, the wisdom, and the love to give back in equal and greater amounts.
Monday, July 24, 2006
Such a moment happened to me this past weekend, around 10:20am, Saturday morning. I had just finished ascending a pulpit, which I've done a few times now, and was preparing to preach, which I've also done a few times now. But, I was in my home church, serving for the first time there in a clerical capacity. The occasion for my sermon was the celebration of a marriage of two friends of mine. The bride I've known since I was a tot; we grew up in that church together and have been friends for a long time. We even found our way to the same college, and then to Chicago, chuckling about it all the way. The groom I got to know well in college when he started dating the bride, and even better once he showed up in Chicago too. The maid-of-honor was a long time, dear friend of both the bride and I. The church was filled with familiar faces.
And the moment occurred as I got to the top step and looked down to find I felt as if I were dreaming. All of a sudden, my Deacon's stole, my alb, my collar - it all felt a bit like a costume. There was my friend, playing the role of bride. There was my other friend, playing the role of maid-of-honor. It was all make believe, or so it felt for a brief moment. I did not know it then but our parents, and many old time congregants, felt tears well up in their eyes as we went about playing at being grown up. And doing something very holy. It was a moment I'll never forget, and know I have been changed by it. A part of my new identity got more attached as the first words of my first wedding sermon proceeded forth from my lips. It became...more solid, I guess I'd say. As the bond between man and wife was sanctified, I felt a holy presence whisper in my ear as well, encouraging me, helping me to accept the strangely hard fact, "You're not playing dress up, and you're doing fine." I almost turned around to see who had patted me on the shoulder. But my attention was too focused on the bride and groom, and a smile broke out of my solemn Deacon's expression.
God bless you two.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
One of the biggest joys of working at St. Mark's so far has been some surprising reconnections. Several of the youth group members apparently remember me quite fondly from when I was a summer camp counselor at DaySpring, summer of 2003. I was embarrassed to admit that I did not remember them, to which one said that was fine and another cried out, "I was even in your small group!" What saved me, though, is that they are teenagers, and so what they look like now and what they looked like then are not necessarily the same thing. Later, I did recall a pastoral conversation I had with one of them who had just lost a loved one. She recalled it word for word.
So, this afternoon, after VBS, I was hanging out with the youth group members who are VBS volunteers. We were working our way through a praise and worship songbook, singing old favorites (and I became 15 again, it was wonderful!). Then one of them asked a question about the Bible. Then I answered it. Then more questions. The hymn sing came to an end and a 3 hour, impromtu bible study broke out. It was fascinating and wonderful and a blessing to me. At the end of this sudden biblical fervor, at no prompting from me, they had developed two lists. One was a one page list of topics they wish to discuss with me ranging from the Bible to theology, to the perennial teenage question: sex. Another was a two page list of "lapsed" youth group members who they, of their own volition mind you, are going to call to tell them to "come back to youth group - it's going to be fun again!" They all left excited and overjoyed, and I didn't do a thing but chat with them! They make it easy on me!
Not 15 minutes later did I receive a call from an ecstatic parent, thanking me from "the bottom of [her] heart", for inspiring her daughters so. She said, "It's been a long time since they've been so spiritually excited." All in a day's work, ma'dam, all in a day's work. And what fun and blessed work it is.
I'm excited for all that is to come.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Why do I feel so called to pray for this Lord? It is so far away? Why do I fear you may send me over there yet again? Why am I, as I sit here in the safety and comfort of my own home, afraid? Lord, lift up thy hand and stretch it out over the people of those places embroiled in bitter, bloody strife. Stretch out you hand with your chastening rod and bring them back to the way of peace, which is your will for your beloved creation. Help us all to know, deep in our souls, our hearts, our minds, that the path of violence is not the path you would have us to take. Comfort those who mourn this night, O Lord, and on the morrow. Be with those who are sorely wounded. Heal them, Lord. Bring reconciliation. Come, Lord, come. Your people need you desperately. Pray, Lord, come.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
My good friend Lauren is coming for a visit (albeit short) on her way to ole Fort Misery from Baltimore. She is having dinner with her grandmother just a short ways south of me, so will be able to stop by for a brief period of time in the afternoon.
The reason Lauren is coming down is because she is a bridesmaid in another good friend of our's wedding next weekend. I'll be serving as Deacon for it, so it will be a grand ole time! Congratulations to Katie and Adam, two fine people tying the knot!
Monday, July 10, 2006
Saturday, July 08, 2006
"The voice of wisdom and diplomacy must be the judge of resolving the detainee Israeli soldier in Gaza. The re-invasion of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli army has transformed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into an even more volatile situation. It also is in danger of derailing Palestinian peace negotiating platform among the different factions that was reaching fruition. This attack probably endangers the life of the Israeli soldier held in Gaza, whilst bringing misery to over one million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. It is hard to see one positive outcome from this action." The attacks on Palestinian electricity plants and water facilities constitute a war crime for which there is no excuse or justification in international law. It is a clear and grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Palestinians in Gaza were already living on the verge of a grave humanitarian crisis due to the sanctions imposed by the donor community and the siege imposed by the Israeli army. The lack of electricity is already having a massive impact on Gazan hospitals, medical centres and Palestinian lives generally. The damage to the water infrastructure has also made it difficult for Palestinian firefighters to handle the fires. The destruction of the bridges in Gaza imperils essential movement around the Gaza Strip cutting it off into three areas but making it impossible to provide proper humanitarian and medical services. A credible and honest intervention by international community should be taken immediately to resolve the crisis that the complete withdrawal of all Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and cessation of all attacks on Palestinian civilians. Israel must facilitate and pay for the immediate rebuilding of all the water, electrical and other infrastructure destroyed in this invasion. Israel must allow the opening of the borders into Gaza allowing the free flow of people and goods.