Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Love is of God


We heard a little addendum to the sermon at church yesterday about love and about how we shouldn't judge the way others love. I think that was the point of the addendum, but I can only speculate (and would probably be wrong) as to why it was offered on the Sunday of the Cross, when we are so clearly shown in the liturgy what love is and what it looks like.

But if one cannot deduce from the language of the liturgy for that particular day of the church year what love really is and how we are to love one another, it's also quite clearly outlined here in 1 Corinthians:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

This particular passage wasn't cited in the addendum, it (and anything that even sounded remotely like it) was noticeably absent, actually. But I believe that it's still a good gauge for us to use when we contemplate our own actions and relationships with others. And while the point of the addendum was (I think) about how we shouldn't judge the way others love, I think that when it concerns us - how we are to love and how we are loved by others - we need such a gauge if we are to determine whether the love we show others or the love that is shown to us is of God or not.





Sunday, January 6, 2013

Theophany

It's more about this:























... and less about this:


Saturday, January 5, 2013

Prayer for the Blessing of Water


Great art Thou, O Lord, and marvelous are Thy works, and speech sufficeth not to sing the praises of Thy wonders. For Thou, by Thy will, from nothingness hast brought all things into being; by Thy majesty Thou dost uphold all creation, and by Thy providence Thou dost direct the world. When Thou hadst framed the universe out of four elements, Thou didst crown the circle of the year with four seasons. All the reason-endowed powers tremble before Thee. The sun singeth Thy praises, and the moon glorifieth Thee; the stars, also, stand before Thy presence. The light obeyeth Thee. The deeps shudder with awe before Thee; the water-springs do Thy bidding. Thou hast spread out the heavens like a curtain. Thou hast established the earth upon the waters. With sand hast Thou walled in the sea. Thou hast shed abroad the air for breathing. The Angelic powers serve Thee. The Archangelic hosts adore Thee. The many-eyed Cherubim and the six-winged Seraphim, as they stand round about and do fly, veil their faces with awe before Thine unapproachable glory. For Thou, the God which cannot be circumscribed, who art from everlasting and ineffable, didst come down upon earth, taking on the form of a servant and being made in the likeness of men. For Thou couldst not endure, O Master, because of Thy tenderhearted mercy, to behold the children of men tormented by the devil; but Thou didst come, and didst save us. We confess Thy grace; we proclaim Thy mercy; we conceal not Thy gracious deeds. Thou hast set at liberty the generations of our race; by Thy birth Thou hast sanctified a Virgin's womb. All creation singeth praises unto Thee, who didst reveal Thyself; for Thou, our God, didst manifest Thyself upon earth, and didst dwell among men. Thou didst hallow, also, the streams of Jordan, in that Thou didst send down from heaven Thy Holy Spirit, and didst crush the heads of the serpents which lurked there. Wherefore do Thou, O King who lovest mankind, come down now also through the descent of Thy Holy Spirit, and sanctify this water.


Wherefore do Thou, O King Who lovest mankind, come down now also through the descent of Thy Holy Spirit, and sanctify this water.  Thrice.

          And impart unto it the grace of redemption, the blessing of Jordan. Make it a fountain of immortality, a gift of sanctification, the remission of sins, the healing of infirmities, the destruction of the demons, unapproachable by hostile powers, filled with angelic might. And may it be unto all those who shall draw it, and shall partake of it unto the purification of their souls and bodies, unto the healing of their passions, unto the sanctification of their homes, and unto every expedient service.  For Thou art our God, Who through water and the Spirit hast renewed our nature which had fallen into decay through sin.  For Thou art our God, Who with water didst drown sin in the days of Noah.  For Thou art our God, Who by the sea, through Moses, freed the Hebrew people from slavery to Pharaoh.  For Thou art our God, Who smote the rock in the wilderness, so that waters gushed forth, and torrents welled forth, and Who satisfied Thy thirsty people.  For Thou art our God, Who by water and fire, through Elijah, didst set Israel free from the errors of Baal.
         
          Do Thou Thyself, O Master, sanctify now also this water by Thy Holy Spirit.  Thrice.

          Grant also unto all who shall be sprinkled therewith, and shall partake thereof, and shall anoint themselves therewith, sanctification, blessing, purification and bodily health.
         
          O Lord, save our civil authorities; have mercy upon the Most Holy Synod, and keep them in peace beneath Thy shelter.  Subdue under them from every enemy and adversary; grant all their petitions which are unto salvation, and life eternal, that with the elements, and men, and Angels, and with all things visible and invisible, they may magnify Thy most holy Name, together with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. 

Choir: Amen.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Everywhere Present



In the wake of the horrible tragedy in CT last Friday, the above viral photo-post appeared numerous times in both my Facebook feed and also in my husband's. 

He offered the following response, and I thought it worthwhile for sharing.

"In the last days some of my Facebook friends have re-posted a “letter to God”, asking how He could have allowed the tragedy in Connecticut to happen, and the punch line is that God reminds the writer that He isn't allowed in (public) schools. My friends offer this story, I assume, as a commentary on the laws of our land and the sad state we find ourselves in when we witness children being murdered.

Respectfully, I disagree with the punch line. The God I believe in is everywhere, filling all things, dwelling within us, comforting, sanctifying and redeeming us all. There is no place from which God is absent. None.

God is there in the valley of the shadow of death for the Psalmist, He is there in the lion’s den for Daniel, in the furnace with the three youths, turning the flames of death into the dew of salvation. God is there with the martyrs who accept death rather than deny His goodness and presence. God is in the brothel, in the crack house, in the halls of every school or shopping mall where shooters kill innocent people. From the deepest sea to the highest mountain - God is there.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, remember that we celebrate the reality of the pre-eternal God humbling Himself and putting on our mortality - our broken flesh - like bait on a hook so that He could go into the deepest place of corruption and decay (the grave) and defeat death from the inside, completely shattering death’s hold on us. The sweet baby Jesus, asleep on the hay, submits to death so that there is now NO PLACE where He is “not”.

Would allowing prayer in our public schools prevent shooters killing kids in school? No. Look at the history of the Christian church - faithful believers have been struck down during the very act of worshiping - dragged from churches or killed on the spot. Believing in God and worshiping Him will not protect you from an unfair, violent death. BEING God didn't prevent Jesus from the same.

How would we even decide what kind of prayer to have in our schools? The prayer of contemporary non-denominational “religion” that is so generic it doesn't address any specific God? of the Protestant fundamentalist stripe? of the Christ embraced by the KKK? (they use crosses and quote scripture...) or of the group that claims God hates fags? What if one of those “religious” persons was your child’s teacher - would you want them leading your kids in prayer?

All of this is a scandal, a stumbling block. It’s the paradox that while we want to be like Jesus (WWJD?), we can’t be Christ Triumphant unless we’re also willing to be Christ Crucified. Turning the other cheek, forgiving, being humble to the point of death. Impossible - for us to do on our own; but what is not possible for us is possible for God.

I have faith that God is in our schools because God dwells in the temple of our hearts, in the flesh that He put on and took with Himself, first into the grave and then into heaven. Our flesh, our mortality, is blessed and made holy by God becoming one of us. Nothing can take that away.

So we grieve the loss of innocent children and adults - it sucks, it’s wrong, it’s sinful and broken and corrupt. But as we grieve, we do so knowing that the ultimate battle has been fought and won. God with us, Emmanuel. Always."

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Hymn for Advent







This hymn has been on my mind all week.

EACH WINTER AS THE YEAR GROWS OLDER
By William & Annabeth Gay

Each winter as the year grows older,
We each grow older too.
The chill sets in a little colder;
The verities we knew
Seem shaken and untrue.

When race and class cry out for treason,
When sirens call for war,
They overshout the voice of reason
And scream till we ignore
All we held dear before.

Yet I believe beyond believing,
That life can spring from death:
That growth can flower from our grieving;
That we can catch our breath
And turn transfixed by faith.

So even as the sun is turning
To journey to the north,
The living flame, in secret burning,
Can kindle on the earth
And bring God's love to birth.

O Child of ecstasy and sorrows,
O Prince of peace and pain,
Brighten today's world by tomorrow's,
Renew our lives again;
Lord Jesus, come and reign!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hallelujah?



Just that.

And it's those broken Hallelujahs which I find so overwhelming these days.

The broken Hallelujah of disappointing church leadership, the broken Hallelujah of mission creep in the church, the broken Hallelujah of misplaced focus on ourselves and our own good works and our pious practices and not on God as the source of all mercy, the broken Hallelujah of our disingenuous relationships with each other which are "nice" but not honest or genuine, the broken Hallelujah of unmet expectations and hopes, of confusion and mixed messages, and worst of all, the unbroken Hallelujahs that I break myself in the uttering of them.


Yet,

Here's what the composer of the song has to say on its meaning: 
"... Finally there's no conflict between things, finally everything is reconciled but not where we live. This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess and that's what I mean by 'Hallelujah'. That regardless of what the impossibility of the situation is, there is a moment when you open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say 'Hallelujah! Blessed is the name.' And you can't reconcile it in any other way except in that position of total surrender, total affirmation.

"That's what it's all about. It says that ... you're not going to be able to work this thing out ... there's no solution to this mess. The only moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment when you embrace it all and you say 'Look, I don't understand a f***ing thing at all – Hallelujah!' That's the only moment that we live here fully as human beings."  (Leonard Cohen)

Perhaps getting to that point is the goal of Christian maturity.

I'm afraid I have a long way to go.


Friday, March 23, 2012

They'll Know We are Christians


I note that several online Orthodox Christians are all up in arms about the UK's current proposal to "ban" the wearing of a cross in the workplace. (Actually, I think the proposal is not to ban it, but rather to allow employers the right to ban it if they wish. But I could be wrong, I haven't paid much attention to it).

Even some normally reasonable and level-headed Orthodox Christians here in the U.S. - and not the U.K. - have taken this as some sort of a personal affront and are all upset about it, calling for all of their Christian friends to wear a cross which is visible to the public on this day or that day in a move of solidarity with cross-wearing Christians in the UK.

I have at least a couple of thoughts about this.

First, since when does an employer not have the right to set guidelines on what their employees can or can't wear at work? (Several Orthodox Christians might be surprised to learn that many Orthodox churches have expectations about what's appropriate to wear for church, too! Click on the link to "Sunday dress.") It seems to me that employers have always had that right, and that employees have the right to either take a job or not take it if it doesn't suit them for whatever reason - or to leave a job if it stops suiting them for whatever reason. But to sue a company because you can't wear a cross at work seems ridiculous.

Second, it is not wearing a necklace with a cross on it which makes one a Christian. It is not even wearing a necklace with a cross on it that most clearly identifies us as Christians.

I know several cross-wearing Christians whose words and deeds are sometimes not at all recognizable as "Christian." Heck, often I am such a Christian myself! And that's why (as I've said before), though I do wear a cross, I wear it under my clothing where it is not visible to the rest of the world. I don't wear it like some sort of a hello-my-name-is sticker to tell the world that I am a Christian. I wear it where I can feel it to remind myself that I am a Christian, and pray that it affects what I say -or write- and what I do. (Conversely, I know lots of folks who aren't even Christian at all - and so don't wear a cross - but who are more Christlike than many Christians.)

It isn't a piece of jewelry that identifies us to others as Christians. It's what's in our hearts and the love we show to others (all others, including those most difficult to love) which is the best witness to our faith.

I was talking to a wise woman at church on Wednesday evening at the potluck after presanctified liturgy and she mentioned that with church, too often people focus so hard on inconsequential things that they completely miss the really important things. She's right - and I think that applies here, too.

So today, on one of those "solidarity" days, I'm leaving my cross inside my shirt, which, for me, is where it belongs.