Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Reformation Stuff

Here's some of what I'd emphasize:

First, we Protestants also affirm tradition, and a person or a people without history and tradition is a no-one. Did you ever see the play, Conversations with my Father? If not, check it out!

I'll begin with the UCC Free Pulpit Statement:

"Freedom of the pulpit in matters of faith and morals, according to the dictates of the Word of God, the work of the Holy Spirit, the traditions of the UCC, and the realities of the world."

You can point out the UCC's "traditions" go back as far as those of the Church at Rome, and until the Continental European Reformation included the same ones. And, of course, the traditions of the UCC probably are the broadest, most varied and most diverse of any denomination anywhere. :)

Our Protestant (I currently like a capital "P") traditions include those of worship – especially the TWO sacraments – scriptural interpretation, biblical and systematic theology, social activism, political activism: just as the Roman branch of the Church also affirms and celebrates traditions in all of those areas.

Agreed there are differences between the late medieval Roman Catholic Church that so appalled Luther and the other Reformers and today's RCC – and agreed there've been times we church bodies that evolved from the Reformation haven't always kept faith with the promise and intent to continue re-forming!

In losing the Word, the late medieval church had lost the essence and the sense of the sacraments, just as today there are some churches that have "lost" the sacraments, thereby losing the Word's essence. Part of the Reformers' – esp Calvin and Luther – spirit and genius was their insistence on always holding Word and Sacrament together in tandem and in tension.

Mike, I keep returning to Scripture...

From "In the beginning, God..." to "...'I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" the biblical witness reveals God's passion for creation, for creation's needs, healing, redemption, completion and wholeness = holiness.

The Bible – and supremely Jesus – are about the outrage of a Holy, Transcendent Other who actively reveals himself in the nitty-gritty (remember "nitty-gritty?") of everyday, earthbound human history. Clarence Hilliard says we gotta become like "the funky Black nigger Jesus," (remember "funky?") who even took part in human death and dying, just like us, so our first death of baptism into Jesus' death would not only cancel our second death but also transform it, since that baptism's also into Jesus' resurrection.

One of my primary points is that the sacraments not only point toward the saving Christ Event and in a sense replicate it; the sacraments also model or image and are microcosms for us of the way God continues acting and working and being in our world, in our human history, within the medium/milieu we know best, the everyday life in which we live and breathe, suffer and rejoice – just plain interact with each other :)

Because of this, I often quote the Methodist Book of Discipline: the very idea of transubstantiation "overthroweth the nature of a sacrament!" (This is most certainly true :)!)

Getting back to the scandal of a Holy God who risked living and dying as one of us, this God, our God, is Sovereign and Free and so could choose any course of action whatsoever, but not only did our God in passion for relationship and response make creation and then redeem that "fallen" creation, but God chose to continue re-minding us of his favorite manner of acting – because, just like Israel, we kept forgetting. And we still keep on forgetting!

So we remember, actualize and anticipate water, bread and wine made Transcendent at the same time the Transcendent again becomes immanent in creation's earthbound "stuff." Re-minding us and re-showing us the Risen Christ present and apparent, though always elusive and hidden, in the sacraments and now, at Pentecost, also in the Body of the Risen Christ, the Church.

Gosh, I kinda went off on a theology tangent, had I known that's where I'd go I'd have emphasized FAR MORE the Risen Christ's presence in all redeemed creation (which of course is all creation) (yeah, Luther) as well as in the community of faith (Zwingli's emphasis though of course all the Reformers "went there" and "were there" as well).

...just as God raised Jesus the Christ not into some remote, other-worldly far-away "religious" glory but God raised Jesus to earthly, earthbound "glory," among the people he had loved to the end, despite being betrayed into death...

Monday, October 07, 2002

Wedding Prayer

O Holy One of Being, Source of our lives and of our living; O Great Spirit beyond the limits and confines of earth, of the heavens, of space and eternity; O Timeless Spirit Who indwells all of creation and each of Your creatures, today we remember and celebrate Your life in us and our lives with each other. Today we especially praise and thank You for the special gifts to us of Doña and Scruffy; we glorify Your name for gathering us together in honor of their love and commitment. We give thanks to You for the many friendships and furriendships all of us have found on the Best Friends Forum.

And today, O Living One, we implore Your love, mercy and protection for all the animals and critters of land, sea and sky, for all creatures of plains, rivers, prairies, oceans, mountains and lakes and streams. We ask You to particularly bless the animals and staff at Best Friends, and all of us especially plead Your most bountiful blessings and abundant mercies upon farm animals and laboratory animals, the often forgotten ones whose cries of aloneness and pain go unheard.

We send these our words in praise and prayer to You, the One who is our Word of Life, Amen!

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Sacred Space again

This is such a thought-provoking topic!

In my first reflection on Sacred Space, I wrote wherever God and the People of God meet is Sacred Space and a Sacred Place; whenever they meet each other is Sacred Time. More about some Sacred Space ideas: I often recall and remember the countless times I’ve dreamed, imagined, meditated, prayed, reflected and just been there in a church or cathedral sanctuary both in this country and in Europe. Over and over again I recapture the sense of the sacred I’ve experienced in those rooms. “Holy” because the sacraments are celebrated in those places and spaces, “sanctified” because there God and people have encountered each other and covenanted with each other; in those sanctuaries people have entered covenant and reaffirmed covenanted relationship with each other and with their God.

And I’ve long been moved by the church building’s being central – literally “in the center,” – at the heart – when the town first was built. In much of Europe the church was the cultural, economic, political, religious and social core…in a plethora of towns in many countries the farmer’s and craft markets still happen in the gathering place around the church.

Throughout the biblical witness are many images of the people of God, but for me the most potent and telling one is that of the Church as the Body of the Risen Christ, proclaiming the death of the old order and the birth of the new. God calls [Martin Luther’s Small Catechism: “…calls, gathers and enlightens the church…”] the Church to Presence and Proclamation. Because we know the Church as the Body of the Risen Christ, in those city squares the church is a real, physical – a tangible, visible – proclamation of the church’s presence in the center of the people, public evidence and public declaration of the resurrection. What’s more, the sound of church bells and carillons makes that proclamation audible! The church in the square conveys an inspiring image of Sacred Space to all the people.

The church building’s authority, the tower, bells, the carillon – and the cross – all are an unyielding presence filling the whole community. In sight and in sound they’re a consolation to the community, a reminder that the presence of the church is the presence and proclamation of the at once Crucified and Risen One.