Something Negative From My First Year as an Episcopalian? December 8, 2011Posted by Matt in church.
Tags: The Episcopal Church, weight loss
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There are those of you out there who, after reading my overabundant enthusiasm for church, might wonder if there have been any negatives involved in our change to the Episcopal Church. Is there any aspect involved with our conversion experience that is perhaps not so good.
As I thought about this, I came up with one area in particular that has suffered in our change in churches.
It’s not theological or philosophical. It has nothing to do with worship or doctrine. No, this issue is one that is always present in every day of my life.
The Episcopal Church is bad for my waistline.
It’s true. I’ve put on about 15+ lbs in the past year since we began at St. Tim’s. Granted some of that may be due to an occasional lack of self-control around the desert table or it may be related to my rather sporadic exercise routines, but the relationship between the two sure seems to be real. Our priest is a firm believer in enjoying life and perhaps my recent weight gain is due to my having adopted that philosophy as well.
Regardless, I have resolved to do better….after Christmas, of course.
In the meantime, I’ve been engaged in a running routine for the past few months and have gotten myself into fairly good shape, but due to other indulgences, this has yet to show on the scale. So, at the New Year, I’m going to buckle down and really try to get myself back to a better weight.
Just wait, you’ll see. Last year the sometimes cantankerous and argumentative Matt was replaced with a kinder and gentler version. This year we’ll replace the current version with a more svelte one,
Parable Pivot October 9, 2011Posted by Matt in church.
Tags: church, interpretation, Jesus, parable, Wedding Feast
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It’s interesting how you can read something numerous times in your life and then suddenly see a new and different aspect that completely changes the meaning.
Today in Sunday School we talked about one of our Lectionary Readings for the week, namely Matthew 22, the parable of the Wedding Feast.
The discussion started off fairly normal, with people talking about the characters in the story and who each of them symbolized, beginning with the classic view that the King is God, who sends his Son, Jesus, to the Jewish people. It’s the version I had long heard and the moral was nearly always the same: do what God says and always be ready or else you’ll go to hell.
Like I said, the conversation started off in an expected direction when it suddenly took a sharp turn. All of a sudden, people were naming off other possibilities (What if the King were Rome?) and we began to really get into some interesting discussion.
Then, seeming from out of nowhere, my friend Barbara drops a theological bomb on the room. What if the wrongly dressed partygoer at the end of the parable (you know, the one who is thrown out to the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth) is actually Jesus.
Suddenly, a stunned silence filled the room as the profundity of that short sentence set in. Wow.
There are an uncountable number of stories in this world, each of them with a multitude of interpretations, and that is what is really amazing.
P.S. For any of my fellow EfM’ers checking out my site, here are a few posts out of the 1,600 or so that may interest you.
I wrote a long series on my spiritual journey a couple of years ago where I really laid out a lot of things that I merely touched on in the spiritual autobiography I gave tonight.
In addition to that, you’ll find numerous pieces detailing my sometimes conflicted thoughts on religion, my love for music of nearly all types, the books I read, and of course, my crazy family life.
On the Importance of Incarnation October 6, 2011Posted by Matt in church.
Tags: empathy, god, incarnation, Jesus
Paraphrase of my priest and good friend, Patrick:
In God’s infinite experience and knowledge there was one thing that God lacked: the experience of being human. So, desiring that experience, God came down as a man and learned what it was like to be tired and hungry, thirsty and horny, and it gave him some sense of empathy for humankind. And, in turn, we learned something about being God.
Reevaluating Inspiration September 26, 2011Posted by Matt in Christian Beliefs, church.
Tags: Biblical inspiration, church of christ, EFM, Episcopal Church, old testament, plenary inspiration
As I’ve mentioned recently, I’ve recently begun a program called EfM (Education for Ministry) through our church. It’s a four year commitment, based on seminary materials, that takes participants on a thought provoking trip through scriptures, tradition, and theology. I’m in year one, which is Old Testament, and our first week’s lesson mainly gave an overview of the Hebrew Bible and of the textual criticism dealing with it. Among these summaries was a short section on inspiration and the formation of the biblical canon that I found to be quite refreshing.
Having grown up in a more Fundamentalist sort of church, it was often assumed, either implicitly or explicitly, that biblical inspiration and, by extension, biblical inerrancy were a core belief. I heard that the Bible was, basically, written under the influence of verbal, plenary inspiration, that God told the writers what to write, word-for-word, and that every word came directly from that heavenly plane above. Please note that this idea, like most, is not universal in the Church of Christ, but that I remember hearing it talked of in this manner. For my own part, I started to have a problem with this doctrine years ago when I first really read my Bible from beginning to end and started to ask questions, most of which I brought about little but dismissive non-answers. I began to investigate further and soon found myself engrossed in the works of writers like Marcus Borg, John Shelby Spong, and others who helped me understand that the Fundamentalist view was untenable and that perhaps there was another, more logical, view.
I say this because there was a section in our EfM readings from last week regarding the inspiration of the Hebrew Bible that I found to be interesting:
What seems clear is that the original writers did not think they were writing “Holy Scripture.” The community of faith looked back and came to believe that the Spirit of God was uniquely present in these particular texts which we now term canonical.
I think I’m going to really like EfM.
Learning the Cross September 8, 2011Posted by Matt in church.
Tags: church of christ, Episcopal Church, Feast of the Cross, liturgy, sign of the cross
Coming from a more fundamentalist, Evangelical background in the Church of Christ, there have been a myriad of adjustments and learning experiences in our family as we have become further ingrained in the Episcopal Church. One of these religious aspects comes in the form of a liturgical calendar, an alien concept to those still toiling along in the Restoration movement, so it has been with a great deal of interest that I have read about the seasons and special days as they approach. Today my fellow Episcopalian and friend, Barbara, posted a link to an article regarding the Feast of The Cross, a day approaching in the next week.
I read the article and learned about how the origin of the day rests on the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 335 during the reign of Constantine. The day itself is one on which the Cross is recognized, but done so in a more festive manner in which it is seen as a “symbol of triumph, as a sign of Christ’s victory over death and a reminder of His promise.”
That was intriguing, but one of the first pieces of our faith that crossed my mind was the action of crossing oneself. When we began attending at St. Tim’s last Fall, I do not believe I had ever seen anyone cross themselves outside of movies or television, and I’m sure that stared, open-mouthed like an idiot as I watched these people conduct themselves in an alien world. Over time, though, the idea began to grow on me and following our Lenten series on personal piety in the Church, it became an important part of my worship.
As Patrick, my priest and good friend, described it, the act of crossing oneself is a participatory show of reverence, one in which a person takes an active role in worship. The method of crossing oneself is as follows:
The thumb, index and middle fingers of the right hand are held together, symbolizing the Holy Trinity.
The remaining two fingers press against the palm, symbolizing the human and divine natures of Christ.
The person then touches their forehead, chest, right shoulder, and left shoulder.
To help us remember the order, Patrick encouraged us to think of it in this way: Lord I give you my mind (head), Lord I give you my heart (chest), thank you for our blessings (right shoulder), forgive us when we fall short (left shoulder).
It’s a matter of personal piety that can and is done at a variety of times during services, but the sign of the cross is usually done when blessings are pronounced. This generally happens at the opening and closing of services, as well as the Sanctus (blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord) which is sung or chanted during Holy Communion.
Though the concept was completely foreign to me just one year ago, it has become an integral part of worship, one that acts as a deep connection to the Divine.
A Bit Unorthodox August 9, 2011Posted by Matt in church.
Tags: funny quote, Sunday School
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An actual quote from our Sunday School class:
“Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.”
I love being Episcopalian.
Profound Words of a Priest July 14, 2011Posted by Matt in church.
Tags: profound words, relativity of experience
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My good friend and priest, Patrick, said something that I thought was quite interesting and profound Wednesday night:
The root of every human conflict is the relativity of experience.
Thankfulness July 13, 2011Posted by Matt in church.
Tags: EFM, gender issues, happiness, St. Timothy's Episcopal Church
Have I mentioned how happy we are with our new church home, St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, and how much it has changed our lives?
Yeah, I know I have over and over again, but please indulge me at least one more time.
It’s amazing to me that we, as complete outsiders, have been embraced so warmly and so fully by the community of St. Tim’s. In our time there, we’ve quickly made good friends and have thrown ourselves into the workings of the church.
I’ve watched with great joy as Diana has really blossomed into her role, one which may become more official and be greatly expanded in the future (our priest has plans for her, but I’m not going to spill the beans to the general public just yet).
The kids, particularly our oldest, have latched onto the new church as well. As the father of two young daughters, it pained me in the past to think of them condemned to life as a second class citizen, with ironclad limitations keeping them imprisoned because their genetic die roll happened to land on female. In our new environment, the sky is the limit for their future in the church. They can look at our new curate (priest in training) or even as high as the presiding bishop herself and know that they will not be held back because of their gender. It’s a wonderful thing to witness.
As for me, well I’ve been fingered as someone to start the EFM (Educational Foundations for Ministry) program in the fall. For those of you not familiar with it, EFM is basically the four year seminary curriculum for laypeople, and it will certainly serve to scratch the intellectual and theological itch that I’ve long felt but have rarely found others to join in alongside me.
So, yeah, things are going well and the future is bright.
It’s Good to be Back June 23, 2011Posted by Matt in church.
Tags: kids, midweek Eucharist, St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, vacation
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We returned home from our California vacation late Tuesday night (a full report with pictures will be posted sometime in the next few days) and, fortunately, I had also taken off Wednesday from work in order to have a day to unwind after the previous week’s activities.
Wednesday night we took part in the midweek Eucharist meeting at our church, St. Timothy’s, and it felt really good to get back into the swing of things, but as usual, nothing can go perfectly smooth without some sort of humorous hitch when you have three children. The normally present childcare was not available that evening, so we trooped our kids into the nave for the evening service. Our older two, 8 year old Rachel and 6 year old Rebekah, are accustomed to the Eucharist because they take it alongside Diana and I every week, but our youngest, 2 year old JD, usually spends his time in the aforementioned childcare.
When the time arrived, we knelt at the altar to receive the sacraments as we always do, but it was obvious that our excited son was out of his element. First came the sacrament of the bread, a tasteless wafer rather than the delicious home-baked loaf that Diana usually bakes for service, and I could tell that little JD was less than enthusiastic about consuming the Styrofoam-like substance, but he did it with the minimum level of weeping and gnashing of teeth.
But then came the wine. As may be expected, our two year old son is not exactly a wine connoisseur, so I was a bit reluctant to have him partake at first, but as the cup came around, we consented. JD greedily took his sip of wine and then, just as I began to take mine, I heard him spit out, “Yucky. Mommy that yucky.”
And I almost spit the blood of Christ all over the floor.