Tag Archives: Liturgy

drawn to the ancient

So I attended a few different church settings these last few weeks and I noticed a few things about myself.

When I was able to pick, my choice would surprise most.

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Yes, this is a picture of the church I attended. What comes to mind?

Likely traditional, rote, archaic, boring, ancient…maybe even Catholic?

Though it was not a Catholic church, it was an Episcopal Church which is the closest you can get. (I have come to admire many Catholics, esp those of the contemplative or mystical tradition – funny thing is I grew up believing they were not Christians)

For some time I have been torn…conflicted I think because I am drawn to both ancient and yet modern at the same time. I enjoy reading or watching Rob Bell or Fr. Richard Rohr both equally as much.

I could say much more about this, but I think the most intriguing aspect is that I have come to believe that our future lies in our past. I am slowly discovering the power of the liturgy, Eucharist, liturgical calender, past saints, and ancient practices that lure.

No, it’s not an instant gratification or Damascus experience, but more closely resemble water flowing over a rock – slowly carving away all the rough edges. (and if I’m honest sometimes it is uncomfortable or awkward, I think because I am so unfamiliar with it?)

What I find interesting is that many of the past Mystics seem to have been far more open, progressive, and ecumenical than many religious people today. They tapped into something (or better Someone) that was truly beyond comprehension – true Mystery.

My conclusion?

The current and future religious and cultural landscape is shaky – like a small boat amidst a massive storm.

We are moving from modernity to post-modernity. The rational ways of interpreting everything seem to be coming up short. The Enlightenment has taught most religious people to have predetermined answers to all the questions and to have all beliefs and doctrines organized and filed away neatly so they can be brought out at a moments notice.

The problem is we are moving (or have moved?) to a post-Enlightenment world.

Now, I do not think that means that we throw out our intellect, but rather it suggests that we must stretch our thinking further and deeper while at the same time realize that our rational mind cannot comprehend everything – there is more going on here.

As I  journey, I am wonder if some of the things needed to navigate these tumultuous waves lie in a pre-modern world.  I suspect that there are treasures that have been found by people who have journeyed before us (maybe even a long time before us?) that are important, even necessary, for us as we step into the future.

Most of this is not my own original thoughts, but a compilation from others as a part of my journey. Recently I have been reading one of the best books  you have never read by an Author named Ian Morgan Cron. Here are two mall excerpts as the author compares the times of St Francis of Assisi to our current times:

“Francis (St Francis of Assisi) lived in the gab between two historical periods – the middle ages and the pre-Renaissance – the opening days of modernity. We are living in the synapse between two moments in history as well – modernity and post modernity. People in Francis’ time felt the same anxiety that comes from living in a rapidly changing society that we do today.”

“Another similarity between the Middle Ages and today has to do with the state of Christendom. In Francis’ day the church was hemorrhaging credibility, it was seen as hypocritical, untrustworthy and irrelevant. Some people even wondered if it would survive. Clergy were at the center of all kinds of sexual scandals. It had commercialized Jesus, selling pardons, ecclesiastical offices and relics. Sermons were either so academic that either people couldn’t understand them, or they were canned. Popular songs ridiculing the church and clergy could be heard all over Europe, the laity felt used by the professional clergy, as if they were there to serve the institution, not the other way around. The church had also become dangerously entangled in the world of power politics, and war. Some fringe groups were beginning to say that you couldn’t be a Catholic and a Christian at the same time. Disillusionment with the church inspired many people to turn to astrologers and other alternative spirituality’s…To top it all off Christians were at war with Muslims.”

The future will no doubt involve a humble, open, compassion spirit that see’s opportunities and not dead ends.

The future will demand people to enter into ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue like never before, while being open to those who are not religious at all. (how can we work for peace together? end hunger and poverty together? etc)

The future will involve new ways of seeing and being…it will involve large amounts of creativity.

But most of all the future will involve an anchor that keeps one grounded and I think we will find this from the past.

I don’t think most churches or religious institutions need better coffee, a slicker website, a bigger band or a more hip/trendy pastor.

I think we need authentic spiritual guides who have done the hard work of uncovering the past and yet are creative enough to bring it into the future in a fresh way.

Well..at least that seems to be my take on it.

 

Reflections after Thanksgiving.

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Reflections after Thanksgiving.

So I attending small Thanksgiving liturgy yesterday for the first time in my life. When I say small there was about 18 of us gathered in a circle as we reflected on Thanksgiving, read Scripture, prayed, confessed, heard a short but powerful sermon, and partook of the Eucharist.

I learned that the Greek word for thanksgiving is eucharsteo (yoo-khar-is-teh’-o) which has deep meaning within the Christian tradition – most clearly this is what we do on a weekly basis in the tradition I am currently a part of.

There is something powerful about the Eucharist, which I have come to know. First, the Eucharist (communion, Lord’s Supper) is a meal that is prepared by God and we bring nothing but are simply invited to partake. This is a simple, yet profound reminder that everything we have, including life itself is a gift.

Now I’m taking a short online course that has been very powerful as it teaches how to find the sacred in the everyday – something I am learning to do as a stay-at-home father. At the root of this class is the understanding and constant reminder that all of life is a gift which is powerfully transformational because when we begin to lose sight of this it is easy to feel entitled and entitlement robs us of joy. When I begin to think I deserve something, it is no longer a joy when I receive it and if I do not receive it…well then I’m offended and angry.

Now back to the Eucharist.

One of the most powerful aspects of the Eucharist for me is that it reminds me that all are invited and it is more about our response than getting all our beliefs right (as if any of us has all our beliefs right!).  I prefer a centered set understanding compared to a bounded set.

What I mean by this is that there is a clear center, but no clear boundaries.

Many religious people do not like this understanding because it becomes quite difficult to tell who is “in” and who is “out”, but in my experience this is true and so much more helpful. It also seems like this is what Jesus taught. How many times did Jesus talk to those (religious gatekeepers?) who thought they had a clear bounded set of who was “in” and who was “out” only to flip the entire thing! Brilliant!

As I experienced this Thanksgiving liturgy it was a reminder that I am invited to simply receive this Thanksgiving meal.

If nothing else, may this be a reminder that –

If you’re here, the universe has given you the gift of life and all you can do is receive.