Monday, April 24, 2006

Theology in One (or Two) Paragraphs

Over at Velveteen Rabbi, Rachel posted her theology in one paragraph, and invited others to do the same. Her paragraph was part of her final evaluation for CPE, so in the spirit of the meme she hoped for, I am posting my statement of ministry from my current chaplaincy residency.

The most important guiding principle to my work as a chaplain is service. I do have significant doctrinal commitments, which are not negotiable: Anglican priesthood is predicated on commitments to Nicene Orthodoxy, the Chalcedonian formula, the undisputed ecumenical councils, and the Bible as containing all things necessary to salvation. My role is not to convince anybody of this, but rather to serve. Many whom I serve may disagree with, be ignorant of, or simply have other religious commitments. These people will have spiritual needs, and my service will be comprised of meeting these needs as they arise, not despite of my doctrinal commitments, but because of them. These core beliefs make my service possible, as they are the teachings that have led me into the world, not away from it. One of the main themes of orthodox Christian belief is that God enters the world as a human person, takes on all of what the human person is (except sin), and re-presents the human person into full participation in the life of the Holy Trinity. God's ministry to us is that of service, the service of the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. Without these doctrines, my own service of entry into the suffering world of the hospital makes little sense. Only if the Holy Spirit is at work, making Christ present to and in myself and others, in the midst of the death, suffering, and life of the hospital, can I even begin to contemplate entering this campus at all.

In the incarnation we are presented with the reality that God can be present through a human person. Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Christ, is the primary mediator of God in the world. But by Christ's re-ordering of the relationship between God and the human person, the human person is also re-ordered through their freedom from sin. By repentance, conversion, and purification a person comes close to God, and can mediate the presence of God within human relationships. This presence is exercised through both word and action, but for our purposes here, presence is exercised primarily through the spoken word. Christ is the Logos, the word made flesh, and the spoken word is one of the primary modalities of the presence of God in our post-ascension/pre-parousia world. These words that bring human persons into the heavenly presence of God are shared, read, and prayed in many places, but for us, they are shared in the hospital room. Through conversation and prayer a person can be healed and made well, through the re-ordering of the relationship between God and person effected through the mediating presence of a person speaking of Godly and heavenly things.

Pray if You Must

A few weeks ago a report was on the efficacy of prayer in hospitals. The initial fervor has died down, but after reading a number of articles on the research I found that none of the responses were all that valuable.

The claim on the results varied. Some said the results showed that prayer is ineffective or of no benefit. Others said that the data shows that patients that were prayed for were worse off than the patients who were not prayed for.

The responses to the results varied as well, and are listed in the reports linked above. Some claim that the study shows that there is no God, or that such studies are futile, or that proof of the supernatural is impossible to quantify.

My response, for the moment, is not to make much of the relationship between the theological and the scientific. My response is poetic.

American poet Miller Williams writes the following:


A traveler spreads a paper, removes his shoes,
bows, kneels, and touches his forehead to the floor,
lifts his head and touches it down again.
Another catches it on his camcord.
Some do what they must, some what they can.

Some do what they must, some what they can. The person of faith will often pray in order to receive a particular result from prayer. But this is not the only valence of meaning to prayer, because when a person of faith prays, it is not only for a result.

So, in some sense, the question is not about whether prayer is efficacious. The question is, for the person of faith, what else are you going to do? We do as we must, because the other option is to not pray, to cultivate separation between us and the one we love, to invite a parting between us and the one who loves us.

But this is hardly a choice. To not pray is simply not an option for a person who has a relationship with God. Just as I share my deepest desires, hopes, concerns and thanksgivings with the people closest to me, I also share these things with a God I know personally, whether I can guarantee the response I desire or not.

People of faith, even when we want our prayer to bear the results we hope for, will not stop praying even if it seems that our prayers are unanswered. We pray because we must; the alternative of separation is no alternative at all.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

My Mum's Ordination Stole

So my mum was ordained a deacon not long ago, as I wrote about here.

Now guess what I just found - a link to some pictures of a stole that was gifted to her by Quiltpixie.

See the teaser and then the stole itself.

Nice work, eh?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Larry Hurtado on The Gospel of Judas

From Larry Hurtado's article on the Gospel of Judas:

"The Gospel of Judas has genuine historical value-as one of several bits of evidence showing the diversity of early Christianity, like the writings of such figures as Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons in about 180 A.D. The text's depiction of Judas as the disciple to whom Jesus gave unique mystical revelations is not itself really unique. It somewhat resembles the portrayal of Thomas in the Gospel of Thomas. Nor is there evidence that the Gospel of Judas ever enjoyed much popularity as an alternative to the canon of the New Testament or was considered for inclusion in that canon. This text reflects a profoundly elitist viewpoint, claiming a specially conveyed revelation of religious truths withheld from ordinary Christians and their leaders."

As always, Prof. Hurtado comes across balanced and quite sane. If only we could say that of all the hype surrounding the Gospel of Judas.

Read the rest at Slate.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Christos anesti!

Christos anesti! Alithos anesti!

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Via Crucis 2006: Stations 13 & 14

From combined Stations 13 (His Body Taken Down from the Cross) & 14 (His Body is Laid in the Tomb) at The Corner:

"For me, there is no more true statement of faith than 'the Gospel is bad news before it is good news'. The son of God was killed by those he lived with, those who awaited his glorious reign. The authorities looked for a way out, for a loophole that would allow them to let this prophet go free. But we villagers would have none of it. So we killed him. And now he is dead."

Read more posts at Via Crucis 2006.


Friday, April 14, 2006

Via Crucis 2006: Stations 11 & 12

From Station 11 (His Crucifixion) at sententiae et clamores:

"The man on the cross. The man nailed to the cross. Flesh pierced and tearing as the cross is raised. The battle of the lungs against the weight of his own body. The thirst. Gasping.The mockery continues. Who mocks a dying man, even if he is a criminal?Even a dying criminal taunts him.But another speaks with faith. Condemned justly to death for his crimes, he alone seems to see a man who has a kingdom to come into. He asks the broken, dying man to remember him. Another of the first Christians.

We are near the end."

From Station 12 (His Death on the Cross) at Cirque de moi:

"On this Good Friday, I remember why He died. I remember his agony in the garden. Why must we meditate upon his suffering? Why not just recall the Resurrection? For me that answer is simple. I need to recall my part in His death. I need to 'see' again my sins that cost Him his life. I need to 'feel' the pain that our Lord chose to endure to help me to amend my life and resolve to not commit that sin again, with God's grace. Thank you Lord for all that you have done for me. Help me to live my life completely for you and to embrace the crosses that you have blessed me with."

Read more posts at Via Crucis 2006.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Via Crucis 2006: Stations 9 & 10

From combined stations 9 (His Third Fall) & 10 (He is Stripped of His Garments) at The Corner:

"Jesus falls, his body more than likely bloodied, humiliation taken to an almost illogical extreme. Jesus is stripped, all things of value taken from him in a mugging by an angry mob that has dogged his every step. Even if we question Jesus's divinity, as a fellow human being, this degradation and abuse is visceral, it grabs us.

I long to step away from that bloody, humiliated man. I want nostalgia, or better yet the sort of cool distance that modernity brought. I am Johnny, telling Pony Boy, stay gold, stay as I have you in my memory, stay as you are on the crushed velvet painting.

Put some clothes on, for God's sake, and wipe up that blood.� You are embarrassing me. I gave my life to you."

Read more posts at Via Crucis 2006.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Via Crucis 2006: Stations 7 & 8

From Station 7 (His Second Fall) from Jason Clark:

"How many of us have grow weary and fallen down in the act of following Jesus, into his mission, through his body, the Church. From being overwhemed with the need to experience the %u2018life%u2019 the world sell us, with it%u2019s nevery ending stream of sales pitch images that fill our minds and souls, whilst we struggle for signifance."

From Station 8 (He Meets the Women of Jerusalem) at Dry Bones Dance:

"I guess if you are being led away to your own crucifixion, you tend to be in an apocalyptic mood. I don't know everything that Jesus meant by all of that, but I imagine it had something to do with the way that evil doesn't stay contained in one place very well. They thought they could just kill one man, and that would be the end of it, but then people started talking resurrection and they had to keep going with the killing.

Jesus knew that his death would lead to resurrection, but there's a whole lot of death that just leads to a higher body count. Maybe He was saying, 'You think this is bad? Darlins, this ain't the half of it, and if you want to mourn it all, you'll be wailing until your throats are raw and all you can do is whisper out your grief. And you still won't be done, because all this death isn't going to stop for a long long time.'"

Read more posts at Via Crucis 2006.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Via Crucis 2006: Station 6

From Station 6 (Christ's Face is Wiped by Veronica) at Crossroads Dispatches:

"No one knows for sure whom this woman was, but the veil she used to wipe His face, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, was said to bear the likeness of the image of Christ's face, and the revered relic 'was called vera icon (true image), which ordinary language soon made veronica.' The Basilica of St. Peter's in Rome and a Capuchin monastery in the village of Manoppello, Italy both claim possession of the authentic veil.

The woman now known as Veronica knew a true image, vera icon, of God in human form when she saw Him: a human and a Being. His Presence was so radiant that it was not totally obliterated in her eyes by the current situation."

Read more posts at Via Crucis 2006.


Station 5: Simon of Cyrene is Made to Bear the Cross

Jesus never asked Simon to carry the cross.

Roman soldiers did.

Nor was Simon asked all that politely.

He was compelled, a verb Matthew uses at 5:41: and if anyone compels you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

This was the law. A roman soldier could make you carry something if he wanted, and you didn't really have a choice.

Discipleship, shall we say, is not always a walk in the park.

But it might be a walk to Golgotha.

The call to serve our Lord may not seem to come from him, or the kindly rector, or your best friend. The call might seem so distorted as to apparently come from an armed oppressor, in an unfamiliar accent, in the form of an order rather than a request.

You will know the call to be true not because of whom the call comes from, or the manner in which the call is solicited.

You will know the call to be true because you will see the striped, bleeding body of our Lord just behind the one standing in your face, demanding your service.

And you will be compelled to relieve his burden, if only for a while.

Click ahead to station 6, Christ's face is wiped by Veronica: Renee, Mike, Argent, Best & Worst, Shawn, Joseph, Kat, Rick, Stephanie, Trepanatus, Karen, Crossroad Dispatches.

Or, click back to station 4, He meets His Blessed Mother: Renee, Mike, Argent, Best & Worst, Shawn, Joseph, Kat, Rick, Stephanie, Trepanatus, Karen, Jean, U2Sermons, Maggie, Elena, Jennifer.

Via Crucis 2006.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Via Crucis 2006: Stations 3 & 4

Stations 3 & 4 are up at Via Crucis 2006.

From station 3 (Jesus falls for the 1st time) at ianua:

"Imagine the holiest, most perfect of beings, the one bigger than the stars, the planets, and all of space, encapsulated in human form, stumbling under the weight of the cross, gasping, and falling to the ground with a thud.

Imagine the silence that follows."

From Station 4 (Jesus meets his blessed mother) at sententiae et clamores:

"We have spent some time thinking about the suffering of Jesus on the way to Calvary. Human life, however, is never about the suffering of one person, and the cruel death of Jesus did not require only his resolve and capacity for faith in suffering. Mary, the handmaiden of the Lord, would too be pierced, forced to suffer the brutal murder of her son. The extraordinary faith of Mary made her not only an essential participant in the Incarnation, but made her a necessary participant in the Crucifixion as well. After Christ himself, the human being who most suffered in this drama of redemption was Mary, a mother given to all of us by Christ as he hung on the cross."

I'll be reflecting on "Station 5: Simon of Cyrene is Made to Bear the Cross" tomorrow, in a different vein from my sermon this Sunday, so check back if you can.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Stuart Laidlaw - Faith and the left

From the Toronto Star:

"Duncanson-Hales, president of the Carlton-Mississippi Mills New Democratic Party riding association in Ottawa, is a leader in a movement to bring faith more into the party's mainstream.

He knows there are others like him — in his riding association, across the party and sitting in Parliament. To accommodate them, Duncanson-Hales' riding association is sponsoring a resolution to the New Democrats' policy meeting next month to set up a faith and social justice caucus.

The move has sparked a heated debate within the NDP and highlighted some strong divisions between those who come to activism through their faith and those who count religions among the problems they are trying to address.

Long-time party activist Tarek Fatah has gone so far as to say he might quit if the NDP goes too far in formalizing ties to religion, particularly groups with conservative views on homosexuality or the role of women.

"There are a number of religious groups that would like to use this to penetrate the NDP," he says. "They will use that to dilute NDP ideals."

The right wing has been the most prominent claimant to the politics of theology in recent years, and religious traditions within Canada's socialist party are often overlooked. In fact, there are strong connections, inside and outside the party, between social activism and Canadian churches."

Read the rest here. Thanks to Albert L. for the article.

I'm glad to see that the CCF roots of the NDP are still alive. I personally hope that Canada can maintain, and revive, a religious and socially conscious political presence without capitulating to the entire social agenda of either the left or the right. I also do not want Canadian religious politics to go the same way they have gone here in the US.

Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, 2006

Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, 2006
Mark 1:1-11, Psalm 118:1-2;
Psalm 31:9-16, Isaiah 50:4-9a, Philippians 2:5-11, Mark 15:1-39
St. Martin's, Davis

This morning I'd like for us to meditate briefly on a person we hardly know, Simon of Cyrene. We hardly know Simon because the gospels tell us almost nothing about him. All we know are the names of his sons, and that he came into Jerusalem from the country for Passover.

We also know that he was waiting along the road to Golgotha,where he was compelled, by Roman soldiers, to carry Jesus' cross.

We know it was Passover in Jerusalem, a time of celebration, worship, sacrifice, a time when grand political claims were made, and when political movements were crushed.

On this particular year, a man named Jesus had entered Jerusalem on a colt, and he was claiming by his prophetic actions to be the Messiah. This same Jesus was hailed as the one that was to usher in a new Davidic kingdom, and who was to throw off the yoke of the Roman oppressor.

On this particular Passover celebration, later in this same week, this same Jesus was bound by the high priests, the elders, and the scribes, and handed over to the Roman authorities. The crowds demanded his crucifixion, he was tortured and mocked, and sentenced to death.

We take a grim lesson from the events of that Passover.

It's a grim lesson, to learn that the same crowds that can praise a man at the gates, can bitterly hate him in front of Pilate.

It's a grim lesson, to learn that it's well within the sphere of human possibility that in the same week we both praise Jesus with Hosannas, and cry for his crucifixion.

It is a testament to the frailty of the human will and to the weakness of our desires, that in a single act of religious celebration we can both praise and mock, both honor and hate.

All this makes me wonder a little about Simon of Cyrene.

If the crowds around him were so volatile and so conflicted, I wonder what it was like inside his heart, how volatile his emotions might have been, how conflicted he might have felt in the moment that Roman soldier looked in his eye and Simon realized that he was about to be compelled into carrying that cross.

I wonder, when Simon was pressed into service, and asked to carry Jesus' cross, did Simon gladly take up that cross?

Was Simon all "Hosanna!" and "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" when that Roman soldier demanded his time, his strength, and his pride?

Or was Simon in more of a "Crucify him!" mood?

Perhaps Simon said to the centurion, "who me? No, you got the wrong man. I actually carried the cross for that other guy last week."

Maybe he just stood there, hoping that the soldier found someone else, trying his best to avoid eye-contact when the centurion began looking around for help.

Perhaps he took up that cross happily, secretly thankful that so many people could see him being such a good disciple, thinking to himself "Look at me! I'm helping Jesus!"

"Aren't I great?"

I wonder about Simon's reaction because St. Mark gives us the space to reflect upon it. Through St. Mark's silence we can reflect on our own response to the demand to carry a cross.

I guess I wonder about Simon's response because I wonder about my own tendency to praise, and hate, and avoid, and proudly display my so-called holiness when the demands of Christian discipleship become clear.

I hope it gives you the space to reflect on your own response to the very real demands of discipleship, of living a life of justice, of breaking bread and saying the prayers, of loving God, your neighbor, and your enemy.

Most of us are screwy, conflicted people. Our motives are rarely pure, even when we do the right thing.

We demand love in return for love, we serve in the hope of praise, we hate for our acts of mercy to remain hidden.

Perhaps not knowing Simon's reaction is a blessing, and St. Mark's lack of detail a message in itself.

Sometimes our mixed motives do matter, and are worthy of transformation, and of deep and lengthy self-reflection.

But there are also other times, when the demand is real and present, that our conflicted hearts don’t matter, any more than it mattered to Simon of Cyrene that day.

All we know about Simon is that whether he was reluctant, overjoyed and proud, or pure and holy, Simon simply picked up that cross.

All we know about Simon is that in the presence of Jesus, when our Lord's body was breaking, and his blood spilling, Simon simply did something: he simply lifted the cross.

He lifted the easy burden of love and discipleship, and offers an example to us. Simon shows us that we too are called to discipleship. Conflicted or not, reluctant or not, we too, are called to lift high the cross.

Via Crucis 2006: Stations 1 & 2

Stations 1 &2 are up at Via Crucis 2006.

From station 1 (Christ is condemned to death) at World of Your Making:

"Jesus, our brother, we stand in silence and observe your confrontation with the powers of those who ruled your world. We stand in silence as you are condemned. Standing in silence is not something new to us. We have stood silent in the face of overwhelming poverty. We have stood silent in the face of countless victims of terrorism, disaster, and war. We have stood silent in the face of those who are powerless and who seek refuge in our own communities. Like Pilate, we often stand in silence, bowed, broken, and afraid. Break the chains of our silence! Give us a holy courage, a stirring passion for the way of justice and peace, and grace to walk in the truth of who we really are."

From station 2 (the cross is laid upon him) at argent by the tiber:

"Ah, my Lord, You who are Heaven's Darling, now take on the sting of whip's cord, the prick of thorny crown, and the humiliation of mortal man's mockery. This bitter cup of suffering which was mine by right you willingly drink. Now the rhythmic descent of cruel whip lacerates the human frame with which you cloaked yourself for love of creatures. Little did we know of Father's pierced heart and angels' tears as pain wracked your sacred body. Then upon your battered shoulders the wood was laid. Yet sweet and blessed it is for Eden's wood defiled is now to be redeemed by Calvary's tree."


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Via Crucis 2006

Check back here, next week, for links to posts from around the world on the stations of the cross.

And, if you are so compelled - join in.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Muppet Matrix

Jim Henson, the illegitimate Wachowski brother.

Thanks Bob!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Jack Bauer Spared Your Life

Fans of 24: check it out. This is laugh-out-loud funny.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Two Jumbos with Mustard and Onions

Karen and I had hoped to go to Arizona for spring training this year, enjoy some sun, see a few baseball games, and get the autographs of some of our favourite Oakland A's. Our plan was foiled, however, by a bad transmission that chewed up our credit and ate away a little too much of our bank account. We thought that we were left with only the hope of seeing some pre-season baseball next year.

Imagine how excited we were to discover that we had one last chance to see some pre-season baseball without travelling too far or (further) breaking the bank. Once we heard that the Oakland A's were going to play their AAA affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats, right here in Sacramento at Raley Field, we couldn't pass up the chance. We bought tickets behind home-plate.

We got to our first baseball game of the season last Thursday, a little later than we wanted to. We are happy to report, though, that the inaugural hot-dogs have now been eaten.

Go A's!

Labels: ,