Friday, July 28, 2006


Ordinary Time

Y'all will like this one. A friend likes to tell a story from high school gym class. The teacher asked him one day, "What religion are you?"

"Um, I'm a Christian," he replied.

She smiled. "Well, I'm a Baptist, and those are very similar."


Hey, thanks for your kind responses on my previous post. It's been a busy couple of days, and I'll respond in short order.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Minimum

Ordinary Time
James the Apostle

I was chatting over the lunch dishes with friends today, and something occurred to me that I've been thinking about off and on for awhile. Real Christian faith cannot place importance on peculiar doctrines to the exclusion of peculiar practices. Therefore, I think there is a bare minimum that one has to do in order to be a Christian. Not "believe," not "accept," but do.

Lots of critters want to say, "believe this" and "accept that" and tack some generic notions of "good behavior" onto the end. Some will even say that faithful belief and faithful practice (orthodoxy and orthopraxy) are inseperable. Even then, many of those folks don't want to actually say, there are specific things one must do in order to be considered a Christian (by God or anyone else).

So quite obviously, I have a list. Let me know what you think about it. What would you add? What would you take away? Is there one that really shocks you? I'm curious...

Regular celebration of the Eucharist. Well, it was pretty obvious to most of you, so I thought I would get it out of the way. And I do mean "regular." Preferably weekly. Daily is great. Monthly can be cool. Twice a year? Forget it. What do you think you're doing? The point is, this cultic [ritual] practice is at the center of the Christian proclamation: the Kingdom of God is a dinner party. Jesus turns all our betrayals around in the reality of his love and self-giving. This is a rite that knits us together as the Body of Christ in a mysterious and mystical fashion, and further infuses us and the life we share with his own essence. Even if one sees it as a "mere remembrance," it is one that makes present the reality of betrayal and redemption, and forms us in the story of God's redemptive love. It's just not optional.

Be with people with whom you pray. Have a life in which you have friends with whom you pray, work and play. That doesn't necessarily mean praying with them a certain number of times per week, but rather that your prayers are grounded in a real life that you share. Do pray with one another. But don't just pray with one another. Don't be ranking those things in importance to the exclusion of some aspects. Be part of a community, darn it!

Make space in your life for the community. If someone lives a lifetime being ones own boss and answering only to oneself without the possibility of being called to task or corrected by others - and this of one's own free will - one cannot be a Christian. More simply, Christian discipleship means committment to the community that embodies God's reign. Committment to that means obedience in the concrete rather than the abstract, and that requires submitting to one another in humility and honoring one another above ourselves. Sometimes it means jumping on opportunities to choose caring for someone else over against our own preferences. If there's not space in our lives for that to happen, we aren't Christians.

Have a "real" discipline. And by "real" I mean, "something you do regularly because it's good for you and it's an expression of your commitment to Jesus and his community, not merely because you feel like it." That means getting off our butts to worship with the community, reading the Bible, praying the Office together, serving the poor, et al. It means you can and do periodically ask the question, "What am I called to do for my own formation and to serve others that will be an expression of who I/we are called to be in Jesus' restoration of the world that's going to be right no matter what I feel like?" Sure, maybe you'll like most of the good stuff most of the time. You probably won't always feel like it, but it's important that you do it anyway. I remember a bit from King David 1 or 2 Kings in which he says, "God forbid I would offer Yahweh a sacrifice that cost me nothing."

Okay, so I think all of those practices and the attitudes that come with them are so key to being an apprentice of Jesus Christ and a player in his world-restoring drama, that if we don't have them, we are deeply deficient in our religion.


See also

Unity and Exclusion
Excommunication and Redemption

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The E-Word Again

Ordinary Time

So I was just thinking, we don't talking about evangelism enough on this here blog. No, that's a lie, I would never think something like that. I couldn't even finish my own half-written, amazingly brilliant series on the subject. If I'd finished it, however, I'd have asked Mike to write the introduction.

The Primate of Idaho tells a story:
I think that evangelism is odd. DO NOT get me wrong. If any of you know me in person, you know how I approach this whole subject. But, most of the time I want to punch the little aspiring-Finney in the teeth. Just yesterday I was asked by these two little charismatic evangelicals if I wanted to stick my finger on this "special spiritual card" that would change colors if I was a good person. It didn't change colors. I am obviosuly bound to hell. Until I master the fine practice of alchemy, it looks like I am damned with the rest of the cardholders whose color never did anything. It's ok, I guess. They asked me if I knew who Jesus was. I said yes, he is a guy and God. They smiled. I was then given 140 dollars in concert tickets to a bunch of CCM artisits who will play here in August. I sold them for a hundred. Everybody wins. Anywho, back to evagelism, I think we need to rethink it. Maybe even stop and try to do this whole "incarnational living" thing that the Gospels like to talk about. Taking on Christ and such... Maybe they weren't too far off with that issue... I mean, do you see St. Paul with a color-changy card?
Sometimes people have to ask the important questions and start ditching some (little t) traditions in the name of faithfulness to Christ and his Church. This is one of them. And I promise you, there are no babies in that bathwater. None. Not a baby to be found. There rarely is.


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Monday, July 17, 2006


Ordinary Time

I honestly don't mind women in the military, because the more people who stand between me and other people who might want to shoot me, the better. I'm very pragmatic that way. Anybody who wants to step up is more than welcome to do so, as far as I'm concerned.

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

On Being Important

Ordinary Time
6th Sunday after Pentecost

Dave Walker made me laugh the other day with his "My Emerging Church credentials," (go ahead, click it, there's a funny cartoon and I know you like pictures) so I got to thinking, how can I help other people to be as self-important as me in the "Conversation"?

This is how it's done, near as I can tell. Understand that it's much harder if you don't have cool hair.

Even so, I believe that I am quite possibly the most significantly self-important voice in the emerging church “conversation.” I don't know why more fundamentalists are writing me to tell me I'm not saved. Oh well.

Anyway, understand that it’s all about image control. I am important on the Internet if other people talk about me. Full stop. If people you don’t know talk about you as if you are an important and influential voice in the emerging church, you are. Well, Technorati ratings and Google searches help, too...

This is how you do it.

1. Talk about Brian McLaren. Lots. Get "worried" about the "state of the Church" when you do. I met him, I like him, I enjoyed the 2 books that I read, and think he made some good points. I don’t think of him when I wake and when I lie down. But if I talk as if I did, I will be an Important Voice.

2. Start slagging off the “Institution.” I don’t think that’s a bad word myself, but if I pretend, I become more important.

3. Use words like “gospel,” “postmodern,” and “relevant” a lot. Hormonal American seminarians with limited vocabularies will immediately think you to be "missionally" brilliant and/or real damn dangerous. They will get really upset with you while you cook dinner with your housemates and make jokes about pretending to be in love with Brian McLaren and starting your own Emergent Opus Dei.

4. Complain about how there aren't enough girl bloggers in the Emergent church. Even though you're a white male. Apparently all the men folk beat them with clubs when they blog. Okay, rant time: What? Don't you guilty liberals realize that the only thing it takes to be part of the "emerging church" (which I still insist doesn't exist) is to declare yourself a "missional leader" and say you have your own "cool" and/or "relevant" and/or "postmodern" and/or "house" church? My goodness, if I have people come over to my house to have coffee and pray on a regular basis, evangelicals try to tell me I have a house church! It gets even more interesting when I realize that some of them find it threatening and some of them think it's great, even though I don't think I'm "running" (what the heck is that, anyway?) a "house church" myself!

Uh oh, I'm all worked up now. I hope Alan censes the fireplace altar this evening...

But seriously (again), I'm trying to caricature a caricature. You can check out what I think about this "emergence" thing for real over on the right sidebar, and I was pleased with Catholic blogger Aimee Milburn's short and generous take on "emerging churches."

(You know you love this. Don't even pretend you don't.)

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Ordinary Time

Hey everybody!

Gee, it's been a few days, hasn't it? My housemate and I have spent most of our time this week looking for appliances, furniture, and various household items. As of today, we have a sofa, a loveseat, a fridge, a table, and four chairs. We've got an end table, and another on which we have planted the television. The sofas have khaki covers, and are quite nice. I'm very happy about it. We've been to Lowe's several times already to get various bits and pieces for the fridge and the washer and dryer.

I made tomato soup for lunch today, and quite enjoyed it. When the appropriate weather comes around, it'll be awesome! Not that I'm eager to lose the hot Kentucky summer just yet, of course. Conor's got a tournament game today, so I'm going to catch up with Alan to go watch. I think I remember what baseball is...

So I don't have cable, so I've not caught any mainstream media (MSM, I'm going to talk like a GetReligion correspondant, now) lately; is anybody really talking about this flag burning stuff? Does anybody really care? Do any of you have a strong opinion one way or another? Doonesbury has a great series on it, running these past couple of weeks.

Let me tell you what my problem with this is, as a Christian - never mind how it violates the very purpose of a constitution!

The language of these laws, and the would-be amendment, makes it illegal to "desecrate" the United States flag. As in, violate the sanctity of the object. Should it seem odd to Christians that the State is telling them what is and is not holy, and what they must reverence and respect? One can only "desecrate" something that is holy, and such laws assume that at some point, someone "consecrated" these flags.

I don't think I'm quite the type, should such an amendment ever pass, to burn a flag in protest. I could offer my disrespect by burning one, or by not burning one. I wonder if it could be a more blatant protest to completely agree with the Government, and go the extra mile?

I could say prayers before the flag - er, Flag. Perhaps build an altar to the American President, and burn incense before it? Perhaps in high masses, when we cense the altar, we could wave flags around it as well.

It's not that I mind the idolatry so much, as the dishonesty and inconsistency.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Angry Ranting

Ordinary Time

Ha, just kidding.

Yesterday I visited the folks of Saint Patrick's Church for mass before joining the VBCC critters. I'm curious (honestly) as to what the Anglican bit can add to the witness to Jesus' rule 'round these parts. The drive for catholicity? Sacramental theology? Does it work that way? I wanna know. I've also spoken briefly with Fr Peter about doing my experiential project in that context. I will tell you about it later on...

We roasted a chicken with vegetables for dinner last night; I used a garlic and dried herb rub, with some sage, rosemary, basil and thyme. It was pretty amazing.

I'm listening to Johnny Cash, "When the Man Comes Around." Pretty amazing.

On Saturday morning we got up at 8am in hope of furniture. There was no furniture, so we tried to make up our loss by poking around at the various yard/garage/moving sales for which people have put up signs all over suburbia.

Two lessons:

People try to sell utter crap. I don't know why they bought some of these things, or why they think anyone would want to buy it from them.

Old people love this stuff. They're like pigs in slop. They show up at 6 or 7 in the morning so they can be the first who will look at someone else's junk. Why do they do this? I know that we're doing this because we need furniture that both a) is cheap and b) doesn't smell of cat pee. We have a house to furnish. These old people show up in Lexuses (Lexi?) or SUVs or mini-vans to buy stuff they must already have two more of at home. I think it's an addiction: they don't need things, they just want to buy things. It's like a bloody African safari for them. Only they don't sell the ivory, they put it in their garages so that there can be little articles in the paper about how some old couple died, and left a garage full of antique lawn-mowers dating back to 1910. For some reason.

Seriously, I think I saw a TV show about it once.

We got a hammer for $3.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Mission 101 (and some links)

Ordinary Time

Mission 101

Given the tenor of some of my theological background, the word "syncretism" is still something that gets me a little excited. While I don't really believe that there is some "pure," non-incarnate form of the good news about Jesus (since it hinges on the fact of the Incarnation itself!), we could all do with a lot more suspicion regarding how we understand truth. The good news about Jesus had an original "host culture," and if we want to talk about "truth," we need to figure it out in some kind of dialogue with the other cultures that have received the message. So in kind of simplistic terms, say that some folks in Africa, Asia, and America recieve the Christian message. Each of these groups start working out what faithful apprenticeship to Jesus and witness to his saving work looks like in their particular setting. Each of these little groups will have some different emphases, concerns, and even diverse theories of knowledge as they talk about knowing God. If you want to get at what a "core" truth might be, those groups need to get together and see what kind of common language they can come up with.

There's a little saying about catholicity that tries to encapsulate what it ultimately means: "only the whole Church knows the whole Truth." "Always, everywhere, by all." The second bit is called the "Vincentian Canon," and you can read my limited reflection on it here.

What brought this on? Well, oddly enough, I think folks are far more sensitive to other peoples' "syncretism" than their own. Ryan reminded me of this after I asked him to reflect a little on that word and the transmission of the Christian faith into the Lakota culture. Check out his recent post on a wake, and resulting reflections on syncretism:

Lakota Funerals
Syncretism and [T](p?)EC(usa??)
Wakantanka and Christian Syncretism

Studying Theology

Meanwhile, Steven Harris has written a thoughtful reflection on his time at theological college. It's a particularly helpful read for those of you who might be studying theology, and who have also come from particularly... excitable... ecclesial settings. It's a little long, but certainly worthwhile!

Josh takes a very different tack:
"Don't let anybody fool you: Divinity School does not prepare you for a Post-Apocalyptic wasteland."
Well, crap.

Peter White is on an archeological dig at Tel Dan, Israel, and is posting some interesting reflections.

Bishops Behaving Badly Self-Importantly Responsibly

I've promoted Noakes again. With the LDS folks turning up the heat on their "Mormons are Christians too" campaign, I think it's important to pull out all the stops. Noakes shall be the Primate of All Idaho and Metropolitan of the entire Pacific Northwest, with a special Apostolate to the Other Religion headquartered in neighboring Utah.

He may now copy the haughty dfmsT(p)EC[usa] practice of signing his name with two (+) signs.

Oh, and check out David Brandt's blog. He writes a lot about things that evangelicals like (such as Mark Driscoll, blech!) and seems to be a Baptist. This might round out some of you critters. I recommend him because he seems moderate, intelligent, and well-spoken (written?). And he has the good taste to link to me. In addition, his blog design is very attractive, so it's worth it just to wander over and be impressed.

Grace is Edible: A Eucharistic Index

Ordinary Time

As you might suppose from the title, I've decided to index some of my writings regarding the Eucharist, as well as some other comments on the subject.

My sermon on on "Remaining in Christ" offers background on why I think this is so important.

These are some basic affirmations and denials I make regarding the rite of the Eucharist:
  • I believe in the mystical presence of Christ in and at the Eucharist, and that in our eating, we consume the life of God, and take the new life of Jesus into ourselves in a greater fullness.

  • I believe that we make present again the ongoing salvation action of God in Christ at the atonement, and in so doing offer ourselves as sacrifices to God for the good of the world. The celebration of the holy mysteries shapes our live into a cruciform pattern.

  • I believe that this meal is an eschatological action, which makes more real and more present the ultimate salvation and judgment of our God.

  • I deny that faithfulness to and consistency with the Holy Scriptures ties me to an impoverished and minimalist theology of the sacraments. Indeed, I believe the opposite to be true: rich, sacramental theology grows out of the Scripture-reading and worship life of the Church.

  • I deny the Enlightenment, modernist denial of the supernatural and mystical that has been taken up by so many faithful and well-meaning Protestant Christians.

  • I deny the notion that any development in the life of the Church, regardless of how early or how broad, should be uncritically accepted and unconditionally obeyed.

  • I deny the notion that any development in the life of the Church beyond the letter of the New Testament must be a deviation or a plunge down a slippery slope toward the abuses of medieval Roman Catholicism.
Here's the original context of these points, in reading Ignatius of Antioch's letters: "Regarding the Eucharist."

And more here: "One in Christ, One in the Eucharist."

From "Five Things I Believe and Trust:"
I believe that in consuming the bread and wine, I’m taking a little more of the reality of the risen Christ into myself. I believe that he offers himself, broken and poured out, so that his brokenness heals mine. I believe that this sign and sacrament both expresses and contributes to the life we have together as the Church and the life we share with God.
Alan offers teaching: "This is My Body."

Alan makes a case for frequent observance, and offers some words on the Eucharist and "simple church": "How Does it Work?"

Beginning with my cheeky comment, my readers offered some good discussion on what it means to continue our sanctification through the eating of the meal: "The Hard Truth."

And some words from me on how the Mass actualizes our salvation:
We are freed from our searches for wisdom, those fool-proof, fail-safe, forty day or ten step plans that promise to make life with Jesus finally “work” for us. No more measuring spiritual growth: “getting results” will not bring us home from exile. Rather, we must open our eyes and see that we have already been carried home. It is our inability to make discipleship work and our willingness to be with him in all of our self-recriminations that we can begin to understand ourselves as recipients of grace. We must understand this, as people who join Christ in making up the temple of God: our need and destitution do not drive God away, but necessitate God’s presence. It is safe for us to be fools. It is safe for us to be failures. We have just remembered a long story of promise, failure, apostasy and hope. The truth is that God’s faithfulness is always so much more than our strengths and weaknesses. Whatever we lack, our gracious Master has supplied. He has given us his own life to eat and drink, that by our participation in him, we die and are raised up anew.
From Augustine of Hippo's Sermon 272, a word on the unity that the Eucharist creates in us:
"Be then what you see and receive what you are." (more)
There's more of Augustine at To the Quiet.

And as a related notion, I offered a few paragraphs on "Excommunication and Redemption."

William T. Cavanaugh has written on the presence of Christ in judgment in the Eucharist, taking his cue from Paul:
"For those who are not in Christ, judgment likewise does not simply await the parousia; people are already getting sick and dying as a consequence of eating an drinking without discerning the body of Christ. Paul is not speaking metaphorically; the Eucharist can kill you. We must stress that it is not the church which disciplines, but the Lord who disciplines the church. Furthermore, this is not a matter for the 'soul' alone. Those who 'eat and drink judgment against themselves' feel the effects in their very flesh" (236).

- William T. Cavanaugh, Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics and the Body of Christ, 235-236, Blackwell Publishers: Oxford, 1998.
Mike Aquilina offers us a word on the celebration of the Eucharist in the ancient Church in "Mass Mobilization." He's also offered some of the earliest comments on the rite from Christian writings: "Bread of Life: The First Century Recipe."

And for the social justice implications of Christ's presence in the Sacrament:
"You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the Tabernacle, if you do not pity Jesus in the slums."
Flannery O'Connor: "If it's just a symbol, all I can say is, to hell with it."

And some truths require poetry.

Michael Lee at Addison Road: "On Grace Bearing Signs."

Joshua Hearne: "Remembrance."

On anamnesis, check out Selva Oscura: "The Restoration of Cain."

Selva Oscura: "Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament."

Aly Hawkins at Addison Road offers an essay that (I think) illustrates well Cavanaugh's "re-reversal" that the Church is the real Body of Christ and the Eucharist his Mystical Body: "I Believe in One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church."

What do you think?

Corpus Christi Link-stravaganza

Ordinary Time

We recently celebrated the feast of Corpus Christi. Links!

To the Quiet offers us Augustine's witness: "The Body and Blood of Christ."

Alan reminds us of the words of St. Thomas:

"Since it was the will of God's only begotten Son that men should share in his divinity, he assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make men gods. Moreover, when he took our flesh he dedicated the whole of its substance to our salvation. He offered his body to God the Father on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for our reconciliation. He shed his blood for our ransom and purification, so that we might be redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleansed from all sin. But to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us for ever, he left his body as food and his blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine."

I found an icon and offered a bit from Thomas' Tantum Ergo here.

Mike Aquilina offers a history of the festival.

From Andrew Blume's Corpus Christi sermon at the (Anglo-Catholic) Church of the Advent in Boston (HT: Amy Welborn and Jim Tucker):
In the Sacrament we are offered no less than the love of God who is, as St. John always reminds us, Love’s very self. It is no less than the love that looked down at us from the Cross, looked down at us at our worst moment and still said, “I love you and offer you my love.” It is the love that overcomes death and finds, in the midst of the greatest tragedy, hope and resurrection life. And we are free to accept or refuse. In fact, this truly radical freedom to respond to the love God offers us is one of the signs that we are created in God’s image, that we share with God in the capacity for real love, freely given.

Love is that fundamental quality of God that can not be forced upon us. We can not be coerced into loving and we know this from our own experiences of human love. So much more then, God can not force us to love him. God can not force us to love each other. God can persuade us. God can and does continually offer us opportunities to respond to the love we are offered and for us to act in love. But for the love of God to be real, for it to operate in us, it must be accepted freely. This is the love - freely and continually offered - that is pulsing in the very Body of Christ, in the bread and in the wine that, being brought forward and placed upon the altar, is transformed by the Eucharistic actions of thanking, remembering offering, and invoking the Holy Spirit into God’s self-giving love present with us, and then made available for us.

It is our decision whether or not to carry in ourselves, make a part of our physical being, and bring into the world the love and very presence of God. And in deciding to come forward, using the freedom God has given us in Creation, we know that the Eucharist is not merely something that we take, something to which we are entitled, but rather that it is a gift we are given. As we come forward and decide to accept this love, this new life, into our own bodies, we open ourselves to the possibility of being transformed by it and changed into that which we have received: the very Body of Christ alive in the world. In this way we pass along the gift God has given us in the Sacrament to the world through the actions of our transformed lives. This decision and the action of reception are our acts of faith. It is a faith that is not an intellectual ascent to a doctrine or idea, but the true, corporeal response to the love of God offers us. Our faith is something we Catholic Christians do.
Bye bye.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Patriotic Holidays

Ordinary Time

Today is the American Empire Independance Day. Some 230 years later, now who's the big bad world power?


Oh, apparently, Canada had a "Canada Day" this week, which is kind of cute. I'm surprised someone hadn't told me. Chris, as my token Canadian friend, this is like, your job.

In honor of the Canadians, I direct you to War Plan Red. Guys, don't think this couldn't happen tomorrow.

Okay, so here are some different Christian responses to American Patriotism in honor of Independance Day. You get the idea.

Jingoism (I would link if I read those people - any suggestions?)
Moderate, Reasoned response
A wee bit of cynicism
Raging anabaptist fury (see the whole series here)
"Sorry, what day is it?"

Have a ball.