Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Morning Prayer - Augustine

Give Thyself unto me, O my God, restore Thyself unto me: behold I love, and if it be too little, I would love more strongly...

In Thy Gift we rest; there we enjoy Thee. Our rest is our place. Love lifts us up thither, and Thy good Spirit lifts up our lowliness from the gates of death. In Thy good pleasure is our peace.

The body by its own weight strives towards its own place. Weight makes not downward only, but to his own place. Fire tends upward, a stone downward. They are urged by their own weight, they seek their own places. Oil poured below water, is raised above the water; water poured upon oil, sinks below the oil. They are urged by their own weights to seek their own places. When out of their order, they are restless; restored to order, they are at rest.

My weight, is my love; thereby am I borne, whithersoever I am borne. We are inflamed, by Thy Gift we are kindled; and are carried upwards; we glow inwardly, and go forwards. We ascend Thy ways that be in our heart, and sing a song of degrees; we glow inwardly with Thy fire, with Thy good fire, and we go; because we go upwards to the peace of Jerusalem: for gladdened was I in those who said unto me, We will go up to the house of the Lord. There hath Thy good pleasure placed us, that we may desire nothing else, but to abide there for ever.

-- Augustine, from the "Confessions" (Chapter 8 to 11, excerpts)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I'm here for an argument

Man: Ah. I'd like to have an argument, please.
Receptionist: Certainly sir. Have you been here before?
Man: No, I haven't, this is my first time.
Receptionist: I see. Well, do you want to have just one argument, or were you thinking of taking a course?
(Monty Python's Argument Sketch)

I've been thinking quite a bit about all that happened in Tampa during General Conference 2012.  I don't really think anything new happened.  We just had a nice course of 10 arguments for 8 pounds.  The same course of 10 that we had 4 years ago and 4 years before that and 4 years before that and so on. It gets to be rather predictable. And of course, some of the arguments are just plain contradiction by contrary people.

I get tired of the same arguments over and over again.  It gets to the point where I feel we can just play a tape and not truly engage with one another.  They are going to say *this* and then I will say *that* and that will cause them to say *this other thing* and I will counter with *another that*.

I could list the arguments I get tired of, as I am sure you could as well. I even get tired of the "2 space after a period" argument or the "em dash" argument.  Arguing, of course, is a hallmark for Methodists - and well, maybe even Americans.  "Everyone is entitled to their opinion" is tossed away before people are hit with the discount button.

I've been reading the text for the week and preparing my sermon (John 17:6-19.)  It's Jesus' prayer for the people of this world.  (Of course now comes the argument if it's Jesus' or Jesus's.) I have entitled it "In the World, Not Of It" (how many times has *that* sermon title been used?) I was getting along swimmingly (really) until I get to that phrase "so that they may be one, as we are one" and I have to take a step back.  What would it mean if all of us Christians in the world (much less us Methodists) were ONE as Christ and the Father are ONE?

And it's not harmony I'm talking about - that we all be the same texture and consistency (that would be bland, IMHO.)  I'm talking about how Jesus prays that we are ONE as the Trinity is ONE.  And that kind of blows my mind.  To be of one substance, of one accord.  Real and honest unity.  I don't think we would ever give up the arguing, except maybe it would be transformed into discourse.  But I think it would mean that we would have to really and truly engage with one another and lend to one another dignity and respect.  I think we might have to listen more than we talk.

Of course, I'm an idealist.  But if Jesus prayed it for this world, maybe I can. May we all be ONE as Jesus and the Creator are ONE.  So be it. Amen.

Morning Prayer - A Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas

Grant me, O Lord my God,
a mind to know you,
a heart to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
conduct pleasing to you,
faithful perseverance in waiting for you,
and a hope of finally embracing you. Amen.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Morning Prayer - Have a little patience - Soren Kierkegaard

Father in Heaven!
Show us a little patience
for we often intend in all sincerity to commune with You
and yet we speak in such a foolish fashion.

when we judge that what has come to us is good,
we do not have enough words to thank You;
just as a mistaken child is thankful for having gotten his own way.

things go so badly that we call upon You;
just as an unreasoning child fears what would do him good.

Oh, but if we are so childish,
how far from being Your true children
You who are our true Father, ah, as if an animal
would pretend to have a man as a father.

How childish we are
and how little our proposals and our language resemble
the language which should not be this way and that we should be otherwise. Have then a little patience with us.

-- Soren Kierkegaard

Friday, May 11, 2012

Morning Prayer - Kierkegaard - You Have Loved Us First

Father in Heaven! 
You have loved us first, 
     help us never to forget that 
     You are love so that this sure conviction 
          might triumph in our hearts 
          over the seduction of the world, 
          over the inquietude of the soul, 
          over the anxiety for the future, 
          over the fright of the past, 
          over the distress of the moment. 

But grant also that this conviction 
     might discipline our soul so that our heart 
     might remain faithful and sincere 
            in the love which we bear 
            to all those whom You have commanded 
            us to love as we love ourselves.

You have loved us first, O God, alas! 
     We speak of it in terms of history 
     as if You have only loved us first but a single time, 
     rather than that without ceasing.

You have loved us first 
      many things and 
      every day and 
      our whole life through. 

When we wake up in the morning 
      and turn our soul toward You - 
          You are the first - 
          You have loved us first; 
if I rise at dawn and at the same second turn my soul toward
      You in prayer, 
      You are there ahead of me, 
      You have loved me first. 

When I withdraw from the distractions of the day 
      and turn my soul toward You, 
      You are the first and thus forever. 
      And yet we always speak ungratefully 
as if You have loved us first only once.

--Soren Kierkegaard

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Morning Prayer - Soren Kierkegaard - You Who Are Unchangable

You who are unchangeable, 
        whom nothing changes! 
You who are unchangeable in love, 
        precisely for our welfare, 
        not submitting to any change: 

May we too will our welfare, 
        submitting ourselves to the discipline 
        of Your unchangeableness, 
So that we may in unconditional obedience 
        find our rest and remain at rest in Your unchangeableness. 

You are not like us;
       if we are to preserve only some degree of constancy, 
       we must not permit ourselves too much to be moved, 
       nor by too many things. 

You on the contrary are moved, 
       and moved in infinite love, 
       by all things. 
Even that which we humans beings 
       call an insignificant trifle, 
       and pass by unmoved, 
       the need of a sparrow, even this moved You; 
And what we so often scarcely notice, 
        a human sigh, this moves You, 
       You who are unchangeable! 

You who in infinite love do submit to be moved, 
       may this our prayer also move You to add Your blessing, 
       in order that there may be brought about such a change
       in us who pray as to bring us into conformity 
       with Your unchangeable will,

You who are unchangeable! 

-- Soren Kierkegaard

Monday, May 07, 2012

A prayer of St Anselm

Lord Jesus Christ; Let me seek you by desiring you,
and let me desire you by seeking you;
let me find you by loving you,
and love you in finding you.

I confess, Lord, with thanksgiving,
that you have made me in your image,
so that I can remember you, think of you, and love you.

But that image is so worn and blotted out by faults,
and darkened by the smoke of sin,
that it cannot do that for which it was made,
unless you renew and refashion it.

Lord, I am not trying to make my way to your height,
for my understanding is in no way equal to that,
but I do desire to understand a little of your truth
which my heart already believes and loves.

I do not seek to understand so that I can believe,
but I believe so that I may understand;
and what is more,
I believe that unless I do believe, I shall not understand.

from: The Oxford Book of Prayer, George Appleton ed., 2002.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Give my regards to Tampa.

Yesterday we the UMC General Conference voted to not divest themselves of companies doing business with Israel.  We've also voted in a "Plan UMC" that has now gone to Judicial Council to judge its constitutionality.  Today is a big day in that they will be discussion issues of human sexuality.  Westboro Baptist may be there, just to add some spice into the mix.

I haven't been following like I would want because I have to attend to all the other details of life: hospital visits, nursing home visits, bulletins, phone calls, writing liturgy among others - and then the details of life like laundry and dinner.

In some ways, what is happening in Tampa seems so far removed from "real life" yet I know that what is decided will be a factor in the way that ministry will be done in the future.  What's happening in Tampa is exciting and interesting and seems so urgent, until real life pulls me back in and its urgency and importance fades away.

We've had General Conferences before - we will have them in the future.  But babies will continue to be born and people will continue to die.  And somewhere in the middle they will live their lives.  The Methodist church will continue on regardless, somehow in the midst.  It may morph and change a bit over time.  We may or may not get new hymnals - eventually.  We may or may not be associated with certain churches in Sweden.  We may or may not affirm certain type of ministry by certain types of people (I do believe it will happen sooner than later.)  We will continue on.  We will change.

But one think I do know will not change: God's love for us will continue.  Of that I have complete faith.  God's will WILL be done, even if we manage to get in God's way.  This is something I know. God is already here regardless if we asked for God's presence or not.  And God will continue to show up.

So give my regards to Tampa today.  I'm praying for the delegates, the pages, the monitors, the Bishops, the observers - for them all.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

The Sky Is Falling!

Everyone had been abuzz with the things going down at General Conference 2012.  I feel like Chicken Little - people are declaring that the sky is falling! Well, at least in my neck of the woods.  They were tweeting and twittering about Episcopal term limits – which did not pass.  They were a twittering and tweeting about Guaranteed Appointments – which went away.   They have been aghast with the debates about God’s love being extended to all people - yes, even non-Christians.

And I just think about Ecclesiastes – there is nothing really new under the sun.  I think that the debates about God’s Love have been around for a very long time (maybe 2000 years) and the discussions about Guaranteed Appointments for at least a century.

I understand that the language about every pastor getting a church goes back to the 1912 Discipline.  I would love to get my hands on a copy and read the language for myself, but I know that idea of the covenantal promise of every preacher getting an appointment is from the 1956 Discipline.  I’m going to say something here: the world is different now that it was in 1912 and 1956.  In 1912, women didn’t have the vote.  In 1956, people of color and women couldn’t dream of making the same salary as a man.  I remember my mother telling me of her struggles of making 2/3rds of the men she was working with in the 1960’s. 

But we live in a different world.  Society has changed.  So – we change as well.  The sky is not going to fall down and the world is not going to end.  Life as an ordained elder might change, but the optimist in me tells me that it could possibly be for the better - if we have faith in God being in control.

Every generation has encountered change and the one constant is that – everything changes.  Each generation has hit speed bumps and the church has reacted.  Some times we weathered the speed bump well and sometimes we got a flat tire.  It happens.  It’s the nature of life. 

Am I concerned with the future of my denomination?  Of course I am!  However something in me tells me that I need to be more concerned with the Gospel of Christ and telling everyone of the love that God has for them.  That I need to be more concerned with my own spiritual life and my own sanctification and movement to God’s perfection than with “is my job going to be here in a few years.” 

The end of Guaranteed Appointments is going to be an adjustment for us.   People might lose their jobs; some might lose them unfairly.  I hope not.  I hope that our church is one of integrity and fairness.  I pray that our cabinets, Bishops and boards are where I am – concerned with the transmission of the Gospel to a hurting world.  And I actually have faith that they do.