Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Belonging and Remembering

Don't let me come home a stranger! This blog from August 29, 2004 was Part 3 of a series of short "God, Strangers and Saints" blogs. Eight days earlier, August 21, 2004, proportional to this current belonging and remembering topic, I wrote Culture Bound, with the subtitle, Culture, identity, home, belonging, etc...

The "ing" gerund form of the verb indicates ongoing action. Reading some of what I've written in the past frequently amazes and impresses (!) me—I need to remember and heed my own counsel. I also realize that for the most part I've been reasonably wise but often not quite intelligent! One aspect of re-membering means putting together again the biblical texts in a plain and simple manner, making the words and their meanings literally members - belonging, in the same sense as church or club or family membership - of my daily ministry and life: re-membering my walk with the Lord of Life by binding the texts between my eyes (brain stuff) and wearing them on my body (trust stuff). You accurately can claim the Reformation began in a burst of emotional despondence, but at least as accurately you can assert it started in a burst of exegesis. Truth is, God says I do belong, you belong and we belong; each of us is a part despite often feeling apart; God's Word can be trusted. It's that precarious state of both belonging and not belonging at the same time--and of course, it's yet another paradox, and you know how I love paradox. Though I'm not going to wade through his sermons to find the exact location, Paul Tillich had elegant words about it, as essentially he said we are "separated and yet bound." By creation, by baptism and by the Holy Spirit's pervasive, persuasive power in the world and in my life, I cannot unbelong myself from the church or from the family of creation.

Several times I've posted [here's another one I found with a quick search], "I, the Lord of font and cup, covenant to lift you up; splash the water, break the bread, pour out your life..." In baptism, God gives us and we take upon us Jesus Christ's name and identity (even unto suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead and buried! One of Graham Kendrick's songs includes, "To be found, my Lord, in a death like yours, so to live with you and never die"), but we also retain and get to explore, celebrate and share our unique gifts within the community and out there in the world. One of the outrageous scandals of biblical faith and sacramental theology is that we find the Divine Presence apparent (uncovered!) yet hidden (concealed!) in the commonest things—we're not talkin' hallucinogens, entheogens, fantastically elaborately esotericisms. Therefore? We need to gather around Word and Sacrament as often as possible? This is most certainly certainly true.

I began the God, Strangers and Saints 3 piece with,
But how does this gospel requirement of strange living align with our need for belonging, our need for being at home, and particularly with the gospel assertion that in Christ we no longer are strangers, in Christ we've come home to a circumstance and even to a place where we truly belong?!
Extensively I've blogged about the call to gracious hospitality God always has given the people of God; Romans 16:7, "Welcome on another as God in Christ has welcomed you." The friendship, collegiality and respect I've been feeling and getting at design school is resurrection! Maybe my readers are noticing I'm writing on my theology site the kind of thing I typically reserve for this far by faith? In ages past, for me the church not only was the exhibition of the kingdom of heaven: it literally was the kingdom of heaven incarnate--exactly what the Church is supposed to be! How some ever - as sometimes we'd say back in Boston - in the Interactive Media Certificate Program I'm experiencing what I knew I'd find in church.

Last August 14 on this far by faith, I talked more about my story and quoted a blog I'd done on this site a month earlier. Citing myself again for a necessary reminder:
I was a Daughter of the Church, daughter of the churches. Drowned, then raised to new life in the waters of baptism, sustained by the Word of Life and the Bread of Life.

Here's a passage from one of my July blogs on Desert Spirit's Fire—and here's the entire post:

However, Israel became Israel, receiving the identifying name, not in the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey but in the desert of the trek toward that promised-landed freedom. In the desert's sparse economy, with surprising gifts like water from the rock and manna from the sky, Israel and Yahweh encountered each other into the kind of relationship that later would enable God's people to recognize God's paradoxical self-revelation in the preached Word and proffered sacraments...

Now and here, like Christ Jesus, face-to-face with the world, the church is the incarnation of the fullness of the time of salvation, the era of the Reign of Life; as persons of the ekklesia, of the church, our sacramental liturgies and lifestyles replay God's paradoxical self-revelation in the exodus desert, recognizing and celebrating God's sustaining presence in, with and under creation's commonest stuff, the utmost essentials for life produced from the heart of the earth.
The theological truth remains we are baptized into the vertical and horizontal life of the Church at the same time we are baptized into Jesus Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Book of Daniel

Now that I'm getting around to posting, the subject may be obsolete: the last couple Friday evenings at 10 I turned on the TV and Daniel was nowhere in sight. Last night someone told me the show's been cancelled, although the NBC link still works...our more conservative brethren and sistern have raised a vociferous hue and cry about Daniel! Too bad, so sad! Nevertheless, here's my blog.

On Friday, January 6, NBC aired the first episode of The Book of Daniel. I've checked out a few reviews and won't attempt to place the show into any category, except to say the first week's episode (January 6, Epiphany) was tremendously overdrawn, even beyond caricature, though January 13's was less mannered, more tempered.

Before I say more about Daniel and Other Reflections, an intriguing note: when one attempts to access the home page of the Episcopal Church USA and one therefore types "," one can expect to receive a notice reading:
The Episcopal Church in the United States of America is often called ECUSA. Perhaps it is more properly called PECUSA (The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America). If you think that being Episcopalian is about being proper, then you should probably call it the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.
And a couple of observations, which may feel arrogant on the computer screen, but in person I'd be careful to convey them with calmness and compassion (I hope!):
  • liturgical reminder: the Eucharistic portion of the liturgy follows the Service of the Word or ante-communion... the chasuble is the wedding garment of the messianic feast and most properly worn by the celebrant only for eucharist—so in an ideal world you probably wouldn't preach in a chasuble.
  • theological observation: the New Testament uses priest in two senses only—for the unique priesthood of Jesus Christ and for the royal, prophetic, priesthood of all the baptized, our essential ordination. So depending on how you view it, technically no one of us is a priest and technically every one of us is a priest!
The Book of Daniel

The Episcopal Diocese of Washington (D.C., which includes four Maryland counties), used to have a blog about the show. When I checked for living and dead links, I discovered it's gone.

Andrew T. Gerns, rector of Trinity Church in the Episcopal Diocese of Easton, PA has this blog, including a post about the TV show. Father Andrew's comments on the Washington's Diocese's blog especially moved me; an excerpt:
The Book of Daniel is not about us. It is a lens into how our culture struggles with issues of faith, morals, ethics and spirituality in an age where we share no common language about how to "be" in the world we are in. If we think of this as a commentary on Christians in general and on the Episcopal Church in particular then we can be nothing but offended or, at least, put off. We would have nothing to do but defend ourselves or ignore it.

There is a third choice. We can listen to what the show is telling us. If we look at this series as what it is, the musings of these writers and producers-who seem to be mainly outside the church-about issues of meaning, spiritual life, and belief at the intersection of ideals and reality, then perhaps we can gain a better understanding of the needs, the pain, the hopes, the dreams and disappointments of our culture today. We Christians should listen to what The Book of Daniel is telling us about the world wishes belief in God and spirituality could do for them. Through the show, the culture is also telling us about where the Church is perceived as having failed them.

Relationship is key. This is a generation that does not find meaning in community but in relationship. Both rugged individualism and group therapy has failed but hope is found in our network of relationships. We are being shown that real strength lies in a kind of networked individualism. All the relationships in The Book of Daniel are broken and people exist in isolation. They are trying to find ways to meet and connect with one another. So the show is telling us that what people are seeking is meaningful connection with one another.

Related to this is the need for real intimacy, which requires trust, honesty and the ability to balance accountability with cutting slack. The most intimate relationship so far in the show is between Webster and Jesus-all the others are demonstrably broken. There are hints that healing can happen, but whether real intimacy happens remains to be seen.
From my own perspective, Friday, January 20 - the show's third episode - had at least a pair of intensely risky and potentially brittle moments (was I getting used to Daniel, or did my opinion align with a lot of others when I said the premier episode was close to farce?): the moment Daniel discerns that the Italian contractor who is so concerned about appearing gay in his self-presentation actually is gay and that's why he's so uneasy; and then later, Daniel telling his rebellious(?) son possibly he should be sent away, but Daniel wants to see his face every morning both were stunningly cinematic and will go down in my own viewer history.

This being one of the sites where I write, though I wanted to say something about the TV show, I'm now going to blog some about my own life, about my relationship with the Episcopal Church and about my sometimes abject attitude toward Anglicanism in general.

First, long ago and a couple thousand miles away from here, I was baptized in an Episcopal Church. As I've mentioned in my formal faith journey, because of that cosmic event in my life God holds and embraces me—God has done a lot for me; God requires a lot from me. Does not God constantly hug all creation close to His heart? Yes, of course, but my baptism made me a daughter of the church, connecting me vertically and horizontally to the Church in all the ages. Because of my baptism, God makes unique demands on my life and my gifts and entrusts stewardship of my well-being no longer solely to any secular community or association and not only to a pastor or pastors, but to the entire community of my local church and beyond that, the worldwide Church ecumenical.

Why do I sometimes exclaim in near-horror my distress over being baptized in an Episcopal Church? I'll try these on for this evening: stereotypes about the style; the Episcopal Church in this USA sometimes feels as if it's more about England than about Jesus; probably also my lack of experience in the Anglican tradition until recently and my own love and passion for the churches of the Reformation tradition with their vast quantity of biblically-grounded theology. Fact, is, Anglicanism is not a Sola Scriptura tradition, meaning people in those churches have theological fancies unrooted anywhere I can discern. In addition, a couple of left-wing fundamentalist theologians, Marcus Borg and John Shelby Spong, neither of whom (remember Bultmann, though?) seem tolerant of one iota of mystery, paradox or ambiguity, all of which are uncomfortably essential if you're walking by faith rather than sight and for me anyway, all of which are essential to the exciting enterprise of being a theologian! Despite all that disquiet and in spite of my wide low church streak, since I hold a high theology of the sacraments, there's no way whatsoever I could justify rebaptism. God's Word given in my - and in your - baptismal event stands forever true and cannot be questioned or second-guessed.

From my adult-life long intense interest in ecumenism, here's the text of Called to Common Mission.

During my last year or so in Massachusetts (the last time around, that is) I began attending Sunday worship plus Wednesday morning Eucharist (Rite 2), breakfast and discussion at The Episcopal Church in a section of the town where I was living; although I'd gone there to dispel myriad stereotypes - both my own and others' - in retrospect, I feel I trespassed upon the most expensive real estate on the East Coast.

I keep reminding myself that both the UCC and the PCUSA claim an Anglican heritage, in times past actually treading the Canterbury Trail, while sometimes in devotion, liturgy and theology people from both denoms give a backwards bow in that direction. Besides, the 39 Articles of Anglicanism are very Calvin—would you believe I decided to list 39 blogs on this site's front page because everything I do is theological, and I got the number 39 right from there! John Wesley remained a lifelong Anglican priest; from the Wesleyan movement streamed Christian traditions such as Nazarene and countless pentecostal, charismatic and other whatevers. The Salvation Army sprung from Methodism, meaning Anglicanism is part of that church body's heritage, too.

Father Gerns wrote:
perhaps we can gain a better understanding of the needs, the pain, the hopes, the dreams and disappointments of our culture today. We Christians should listen to what The Book of Daniel is telling us about the world wishes belief in God and spirituality could do for them. Through the show, the culture is also telling us about where the Church is perceived as having failed them.
...needs, pain, hopes, dreams, disappointments...

My observation: ...the culture is also telling us about where the Church [and churches?] is perceived as having failed them. A slick, "we all fail each other and one another all the time" simply does not work to explicate my own and likely others' sense of betrayal. So well I'm aware I am far from alone in that! For many, church is about spirituality and sometimes about that oft-spoken-about hypocrisy and not atypically about unrealistically high expectations without taking into account the human, institutional aspects of ecclesial life. To remind myself, almost as much as the Church is a Divinely birthed and sustained living organism dedicated to creation, it's also a human institution dedicated to God. I need say no more about institutional life and death.

Father Gerns' saying...
We are being shown that real strength lies in a kind of networked individualism. All the relationships in The Book of Daniel are broken and people exist in isolation. They are trying to find ways to meet and connect with one another. So the show is telling us that what people are seeking is meaningful connection with one another.
... moves me so, because that has been my story for these past dozen years.