Sunday, November 23, 2008

Praying in the Episcopal Church

I think my eyes have really been opened to new ideas since I have been attending a local community worship service at an Episcopal Church. One thing Episcopalians do well is prayer. As Baptists, we like to make and write our own prayers. The only prayer we probably know by memory is the Lord’s Prayer. However, in the Baptist church we usually pray together, but in a passive way. In my church, we usually say the Lord’s Prayer together after the minister prays the invocation. The pastoral prayer is led by either me, or the youth pastor. The congregation listens and is supposed to pray with me, but it is a seemingly passive way of praying.

However, in the Episcopal Church, we’ve been praying in an active way. Different people help lead the prayer and the congregation has to respond. The congregation is required to take a more active role, whether or not they are paying attention to what is being said. I like this method because many different people are helping lead the prayer and that makes it seem more inclusive. I also like the idea of having prayers already written, especially because I worry that I pray the same thing over and over again. I try to keep my own personal agenda out of it and that is hard to do. If it were up to me I would pray for those who feel broken every week. That is just something that is always on my mind, but I also need to keep everything in balance. I sometimes think it would be nice if I didn’t have to write a prayer.

I really think the Episcopalians do prayer well, but I don’t want to say that Baptists should be just like them. I just think that Baptists ought to be more creative about how they pray. It would be cool to see my Baptist church pray a prayer that required them to respond. At least I would know that the congregation was awake. It would also be nice to say some prayers that were already written, to provide some variety from what I would pray. Writing a prayer is sometimes a needed thing, because there is something that the Spirit lays on me. However, it is also a struggle that I have to deal with. The beauty of being a moderate Baptist is the fact that we get to experiment with different things. Our church has been experimenting with doing communion by way of intinction and it has been a great thing. Letting the church try new things and decide what it likes to do is so healthy. That’s what the church is about; letting the Holy Spirit move.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Vacationing in the Episcopal Church

For the past few months I have been attending a community worship service at a local Episcopal Church. I had been sensing the need to have a place to worship where I am not responsible for anything. As a minister it is difficult to worship in a worship service where I am praying, reading scripture, teaching the children’s moment, or doing the announcements. To sit in a pew is a privilege and one that I take advantage of on Sunday nights.

My first visit at this service was an eye opening experience. I don’t mind getting out of my comfort zone and I knew that this service would be totally different than what I grew up with. I am Baptist through and through and I felt like a foreigner on the first visit. A good friend of mine wisely said that one should visit a church twice, just to be sure. On the second visit, I felt like I could take more of it in because I knew what to expect. The newness of it all had worn off somewhat and I could really immerse myself in the whole experience. Soon I found myself in a Baptist worship service on Sunday mornings and vacationing in an Episcopal Church on Sunday nights. Sometimes I would even attend this community worship service on Sunday nights and then race off to my Baptist church for a meeting. It has become that important to me.

I have really enjoyed this little worship service for many reasons. It is considered to be a community worship service and lots of different people attend it. Folks from many different denominations attend it and it is a beautiful thing to see everyone praying together, taking communion together, and singing together. The worship style is very Celtic and there are lots of moments for reflection. They purposely leave space in the worship service so we can reflect on the scripture and pray.

I love this little worship service for many reasons, but I think the biggest reason I love it is the fact that this hour on Sunday night is for me. It is my little way of breaking out of the little Baptist world that I have found here in Richmond and engaging another part of the community. In my world full of papers, tests, missions and church work it is nice to be able to worship with these folks. They have truly made me, a Baptist, feel at home in their sanctuary and I am truly grateful. It is so wonderful to see a church like this purposely opening their doors to everyone, even if the priest was floored to find out that they have a young, Baptist, minister/seminarian in their midst every Sunday night.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Holy Cow

It's been a long time since I've updated this thing. Part of it is because I'm not so sure what to do with this site. When I was in my undergrad I needed someplace to grind my theological ax. Now that is not so much the case.

If anything, my head is bloated with ideas and I don't feel brave enough to post anything. I've got a few things whirling around in my head, and I'll post them soon.

Life is good and I'll take it. My life hasn't been this good in a long while. Just trying not to blink and let this moment pass me by.

I'll post something thoughtful soon. Pinky swear.

Friday, December 07, 2007

To quote myself

I'm in the final week or so of my first semester of seminary. I am currently writing my final paper for my Christian Ethics class and I'm enjoying the topic. We have been asked to evaluate the implications of having an American flag in a church sanctuary. Here's the introduction. I don't know if I will keep it or not, but it's worth posting.

The American flag is the symbol of the United States and its presence in a church sanctuary becomes troublesome. It is the symbol of American freedom. It has been carried into battle, laid over coffins, flown in front of buildings, and entire books have been written about flag etiquette. As citizens we are not allowed to burn the flag or fly it at night without a light shining on it. It is something so valued and cherished, one would think that the American flag was an actual person. We treat the flag as if it has feelings and that it should sit down and have a conversation with us.

This has been an easy paper to write so far, but that's because it's one topic that has been brewing in my brain for a few years. It's nice to get it all on paper. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Preaching in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the Ends of the Earth

Lately I’ve been reading through Acts. I have just started my first ministry job in Richmond and I decided to get back to the roots of the church and read Acts. It’s been worth another read. It’s amazing to see the effect that the resurrection and Pentecost had on these early believers. At the end of some of the passages I would scratch my head and wonder, who are these people? What were they thinking?
The first verse that hit me in the first chapter of Acts was this one:

“But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere-in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

I know that I’ve skimmed over this verse and didn’t make much of it. It’s easy to pinpoint the geographic interpretation of this command from Jesus. Jerusalem is their home town, Judea is their homeland, Samaria is their neighbor, and the ends of the earth is the Roman Empire. Rome was the only known world at the time. Usually I’ve interpreted this geographically and just went to the next verse. But not this time.

This time I began to see the real implications and difficulty that this verse presents to these early believers. Where were the believers preaching in Jerusalem? The temple, of course. The same temple that ordered Jesus crucifixion. I can’t imagine trying to preach in such a hostile environment. The Jewish leaders thought they got rid of Jesus and his following, but now the followers are preaching in their temples. That takes some guts.
Judea is also not easy to preach in either, because of the Judaism. Many Jews were wrapped up in the laws of the Judaism and to hear a message of grace and forgiveness is totally foreign to them. The new believers and the young church had a lot of undoing to do. To tell the Jewish people that the Law of Moses really doesn’t mean a hill of beans in comparison to God’s grace is no easy task. But they did it.

Samaria is Judea’s neighbor. The Jews hated these people because essentially Samaritans took a little bit of Judaism, but not all of it. Jesus even used the illustration of the good Samaritan to drive home a point about prejudice and hatred. I can’t imagine that the Samaritans liked the Jews either. The Jews and Samaritans probably hated each other. And now Jesus tells these new believers to go preach to the people they hate. And to the people who hate them. Not an easy task either. But they did it.

That leaves the last part of the verse which refers to the ends of the earth. To these early Christians the end of the earth was the Roman Empire and the rest of the unknown. The Roman Empire was the known world to them and Rome looked down upon the Jewish people because they were usually troublesome to deal with. The Jewish people hated the Romans too and were even expecting Jesus to deliver them from Roman control. Jesus has now asked the believers to preach to people that oppress them. Go tell someone who despises you about God’s grace. And they do it. They actually do it.

Who are these people? They’re preaching to the very people who crucified Jesus, to the people they hate and hate them, and to the people who oppress them. There’s nothing simple or romantic about this. These people seem to be downright crazy. All of this just shows how much of a hold the Holy Spirit has on these people. Pentecost is the key ingredient here. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, the church would not have made it. All of this just blew my mind when I realized the implications of this command to preach in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. It’s inspiring and mind blowing all at the same time.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Jesus' Mother and the Impact of her Pregnancy

One of the things that really stands out to me about Jesus is how he treats women. After reevaluating the story of the woman caught in adultery, I’ve recently had another conclusion about it all. Look at his mother. Mary was pregnant before marriage and was most likely ridiculed and even hated. She probably faced harsh criticism and public scorn. Her calling to bear the Christ child was very difficult. She was probably isolated from some of her friends and stared down when she was in public. His father Joseph, didn’t reject Mary, instead he made her his wife. He obeyed God’s command and went against public opinion.

Don’t you think that Jesus saw a glimpse of his mother when he saw this woman caught in adultery? All the public scorn and rejection of her probably seemed very similar to some of the stories Jesus grew up with. I really think he had a soft spot for her because of his parents. Jesus probably faced some rejection himself just because Mary was unmarried when she was pregnant with him. After all, not all Jews believed he was the Christ child. Some may have thought he was just a polite, illegitimate child. Jesus grew up in a household in which his mother was probably rejected by society and he may have faced it too. No wonder He continually has a soft spot for women all throughout his ministry.

I suppose that I’ve overlooked this reality because I am only just beginning to see the human aspects of Christ. He really suffered emotionally. He didn’t spend his ministry gliding along from crisis to crisis without any of it bothering him. Sometimes I want to paint this eternal smile on his face and pretend that his life was easy. It certainly was not.

Lastly, I think it’s incredible that even while in the womb, Jesus was turning the world upside down. The way in which his mother conceived him through the Holy Spirit and how that was perceived in the community, was a huge event full of impact. It impacted his community and his earthly ministry.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Head scratching stuff

One of the biggest issues that has come up in my theology is that of Biblical inerrancy. What does it mean? Who says what? and How to come to a laymen's term answer are all questions that instantly pop into my mind. One of the most obvious things that I have noticed is that the arguments folks use to prove that the Bible is inerrant are very difficult to get my head around. I do know that there are key pieces of scripture that are used to prove the Bible's inerrancy.

One of the key passages in the Bible inerrancy question is this one:

For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:18

First of all, what is the law? That's a very basic question isn't it? Could it be the law of Moses? The entire Bible itself? Maybe?

I do believe that Jesus gave a purpose to the law of Moses and that purpose is such: That it showed humanity's weakness and inabililty to follow God on their own. We're completely incapable of being everything that he wants us to be without Christ. Since this is the purpose of the law of Moses, then I do not think that's the law that Jesus is referring to here. It's purpose has been accomplished. It was accomplished then and it is accomplished now. It told the Hebrews back then how incapable they were and it still shows us today how incapable we are. There's got to be a bigger picture here.

I don't think that Jesus is referring to the entire Bible in this passage because that doesn't fit the context. The entire Bible has not been canonized by this point in history. Obviously he can't be talking about the entire Bible here. (And this is something that others would argue against, I know)

However it is important to look at the context of this passage. Jesus is getting ready to reinterpret the Hebrew scriptures. The verses that follow contain the words, 'You have heard..., but I tell you....'. Jesus provides his interpretation of the law. I believe that this is the law he's referring to here. Not Mosaic law, not the entire Bible, but the law that he gives us as he reinterprets scripture.

Okay, so now what. All of Jesus' law has to be accomplished. Everything He gives us to do is impossible to accomplish. He takes the Mosaic law and makes it even harder to follow.


I think His law is accomplished when I am in a relationship with him. Grace is the new factor that wasn't present here. When all of humanity realizes how much we are in desperate need of grace, then the law will be accomplished. I think that this will happen at the final end, when God reveals Himself.

I just think this passage has more to it that just face value interpretation. I don't think it proves that the Bible is inerrant, I think it proves God's grace. Isn't that the purpose of scripture? To see God and his judgement and mercy? Isn't it?

Feel free to comment. Even if you think I'm a heretic. I'm interested to see what people think.