No longer Anglican

Over the last few weeks, I think I have come to point where I can say that I am no longer Anglican.  I am no longer a part of Anglicanism.  The organization and the politics and the infighting have left me behind.

And no, I’m haven’t laid down my Orders or asked to be defrocked from where I serve.

I am still a part of the Church.  I am still worshiping with a Prayer Book and Liturgy found in the Book of Common Prayer.  My patrimony or heritage comes from the British Isles throughout their whole history, but I am not going to be defined by an -ism.

A good friend and priest said,

‘Why can’t we just see the Anglican patrimony/prayer book as part of the Church?’

I agree.  Why can’t we just begin to see ourselves as part of something greater than our own man-made walls of exclusion from each other.

Let me preface this with saying that I am no canon lawyer, or Bishop, or anybody with any authority.  I know there are tremendous obstacles that are in place that would prevent unification of the Church but we are making in roads in several ways including the acceptance of our primary Sacrament, baptism, among various groups and fellowships and denominations and communions.

I long for the day that I can kneel to receive Christ’s Body and Blood with members of Christ’s Church who are separated on each side of me, to become fully one with the One who creates and sustains and loves with my self-exiled brethren on each side.  For isn’t that what excommunication in these large situations really is– a self-imposed exile from your brother.

For me, if you have been placed into Christ’s Church, then come and feast and lets work out our problems as prodigals and older brothers around the table of our Father celebrate for what was lost is now found.

Wholly Moments

As to the past, let us entrust it to God’s mercy, the future to divine Providence. Our task is to live holy the present moment.
St. Gianna Molla

The ancient Celts had a way of describing places that seemed holy or mystical: thin spaces. These spaces were places where it seemed that heaven and earth were just a hair breadth from each other.  For many years, people made pilgrimages to these places- cathedrals, monasteries, shrines, islands, and mountains- where it seemed so easy to imagine GOD living there or at least being present especially in that place.

A challenge for myself is being wholly present in the sacrament of the present moment that I see Christ in it no matter the circumstances.  Over the last couple of months, I have found that I tend to spend more time regretting the past and planning the future without living in the sacred breathe of each and every moment, fully being open to Christ’s mercy and grace that is poured out in the good and bad (at least in those simplistic categories in how I perceive them).

As Paulo Coelho writes in Warriors of Light:

“God uses silence to teach us to use words responsibly. He uses tiredness so that we can understand the value of waking up. He uses illness to underline the blessing of good health. God uses fire to teach us about water. He uses earth to explain the value of air. He uses death to show us the importance of life.”

The present moment, even if filled with suffering and pain, is a way for God to speak to us His Grace.  As CS Lewis famously wrote in The Problem of Pain, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains.”  What Lewis is telling us is that Christ, having suffered terribly a death undeserved, is with us in our moments of suffering, pain, and depression.  He is there and asks us like Thomas- to stick our hand in his wounds to feel Life Himself.

Right now, right here, as we breathe in a new breath that we have never experienced before, let us remember Christ is here with us, in this sacrament of grace found in the present.

The Prayer of Sweat

This past weekend I tried a Hot Yoga class for the first time with a my friend and brother Wesley.  First all, if you know me, you know that heat and me are not friends…AT ALL.  I would rather live in the Northwestern Territory than be above 90 degrees at any time in my life.  However, when a good friend tells you that it will be good for you and keeps bugging you to go, you go for that friend (and yourself).

So I walk into a room of 20-30 people, the temperature slowing rising to HEAT OF THE RISING SUN or 105-115 if you don’t want to be dramatic.  The air is heavy with heat and humidity, it feels like a struggle to breathe, to take that breath in and out burns down to my lungs.  I am dripping sweat everywhere after about 5 minutes.  I can feel the heat seeping down into my gut and my heart.  I think my interior organs are frying, or at least, steaming within my body.

But I keep going…

After awhile, I begin to view this sweat as a prayer. Each drop, a song to my creator, thanking Him for forming me.  The heat began to feel like the love of God, the refining and purifying Love of God found through Christ.  Each movement, each position, was an act of surrender to Him, to Him placing me in the furnace to be renewed again.

I met God on Saturday in my practice on my mat as an individual and with a group of people who were of mixed ages, races, genders, political affiliations, and religious backgrounds.  Most of them probably didn’t recognize the grace that comes from the heat, but I felt it, and I came out of it different.

I have found yoga to be the manliest activity I can do, not because yoga is in and of itself “manly,” but because I am being taken down to my base parts to be made new by Christ.  I am learning that I do have my own strength, but that I am made more of a man through Christ’s strength working in me.  It has taught me to be a more peaceful father and husband, to see all things  as working together for God’s good will and purpose.

So as I leave this evening to go and be tortured by the heat, may I continue to see Christ’s love coming to me through my practice so that I can become more fully in line with His Grace & Love.

 

Balance

I awaken each morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world.  This makes it hard to plan the day.

-E.B. White

 

A theme running in my life has been finding balance– balance between activity and rest, movement and contemplation, yin and yang– in order to become a complete and whole person.

I noticed it first in my prayer– I never stopped to listen, to sense, to revel in the Word Made Flesh– for in that time I was focused on the action, the movement from prayer to prayer to reading to prayer without taking time to sit and be still.  I then found it in my mind and my breath, where my mind was constantly in motion from one item to the next without stopping.  My breath was shallow– unfocused and unnoticed– as a secondary function of my body.  My battle with anxiety made it even worse as the shallower my breath got, the faster my heart raced, the more my mind worried, and the more I couldn’t stop the cycle from spiraling downward into panic and fear and depression.

When I first started practicing yoga with Yin Yoga six months ago, I found myself noticing my breath and the shallowness.  There was a hesitation on my part, a block there, that prevented me from breathing deeply.  Sitting on my mat, the active part of myself would overpower my mind and I would lose focus.  Even now, I’ll have a train of thought that will take my practice completely off track.  The beauty of yoga is that it’s a reminder that we are all still practicing, there are no perfect practitioners, but all are perfectly imperfect students.  Christ has met me in yoga in that it’s only through His Grace that my strength is made whole.

Back to the quote, we all have this balance to keep within our lives between action and contemplation, and that’s the important thing– the balance.  Always trying to save the world will leave you tired and dead.  Always trying to savor the world will leave you disconnected and lazy.  Our aim is to find the balance in our lives that we live from our rest to be active, that we want to save the world entirely because it’s worth is what we savor.  We love entirely because He first loved us– that He gives us grace for us to give grace.

It is the paradox of the Warrior Monk and the Soldier of Love.  We are strong in order to bring shalom, or peaceful wholeness.  We are both/and not either/or.

Live from the Shalom of Christ in order to show the world His Eucharistic love.

Finding God in the Furnace of Doubt

descent_into_hell_by_dionisius_and_workshop_ferapontov_monastery

This was a sermon delivered on April 23rd at St. Andrew’s Church in Rome, GA.  The Scripture was Easter 2A from the Gospel of St. John. 

 

Dostoevsky once wrote, ‘It is not as a child that I believe and confess Jesus Christ. My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.

Our Gospel today tells the story of Thomas.  Poor, poor Thomas.  Doubting Thomas as we always have heard him.  Not Denying Peter or Power-Seeking Sons of Zebedee?  No, Thomas is forever known as the one with little faith, the one that just had to see.  And I think Thomas gets a bad rap. Thomas is really the patron saint of us all.  For doubt is not the opposite of faith, but the catalyst used to find Christ’s fiery love within the questioning.

I think it’s interesting that our lectionary places this story right after the glorious celebration of Easter.  I think we take for granted the pain and turmoil that the disciples were going through at this time.  They had just witnessed the death of the man they thought was going to free Palestine from the Roman occupation.  They thought he was going to restore the Jewish people as rightful rulers of their land and that the apostasy that had occurred in the Temple would be avenged. Jesus was just another failed revolutionary whose plot was foiled.

We enter the story on the Sunday evening, all the Disciples (well, except for one) were gathered in a house with the doors locked, for fear.  Fear of those who had crucified their leader.  Fear of death also.  He then showed him his hands & side and pronounced Peace to them.

So here they are, scared, frightened, no idea what to do, forgetting all that Jesus had taught them over the last 3 years, and the doors are locked.  They were huddled.  They didn’t want to risk anything.  Right before this in the day, Mary Magdalene had announced to them that Jesus was alive.  But it appears, even for them, that they couldn’t accept the word that was brought to them.  They, too, had to see to believe.  And so, out of nowhere it seems, Jesus appears in their midst, telling them, ‘Peace be with you.’  Peace, not worry, not fear, peace.  And then he does something amazing.  He breathes on them.

Why is this breathing important?  It’s both a sign that he was truly alive.  The dead don’t breathe. Ghosts or spirits don’t breathe.  He really is alive.  He really has something coming into his lungs.  And then he tells them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit (or in Hebrew, The Ruach Ha-Kodesh/ The breathe of God)…’

He is creating something new in this moment.  Remember what John calls Jesus in the first chapter– The Word (the Word that created the Universe, the creative Word of God) has become flesh and dwelled among us.  John, perhaps the most mystical of the Gospel writers, is showing us that Jesus was creating something new in this moment.  He was giving the disciples or apostles a new mission.  

In the ordination prayers for Priests in the Anglican Church, these sames words are given to each priest. Jesus was giving his mission, which is the putting together of the world back to rights or the Tikkun Olam (repair of the world), to the Disciples which is the stand-in for the Church.  Jesus was giving grace or power to the Disciples not to lord over others but to help in that repair or renewing.  No longer do you have to go to the Temple to be forgiven, take my forgiveness out of this central location and into the world.  God’s love and grace was being extended to the entire world.

Where was Thomas when Jesus first appeared? John doesn’t tell us. My own guess was that he was out and about getting on with his life. Why do I think that? Because Thomas was a realist. Let’s not forget: in chapter 11, it’s Thomas who recognizes that for Jesus to return to Judea is to face the threat of death, and it’s Thomas who urges the other disciples to go with Jesus. So while we don’t know where Thomas was when Jesus first appeared, we do know where he wasn’t — locked in the upper room for fear of the religious authorities.

The other disciples tell Thomas they have seen Jesus and what does he do?  Does the say, OK!  That’s cool!  No, Thomas, like many of us, says he needs physical proof– to actually touch the wounds of Jesus.  See, we give Thomas a bad rap here, but let’s not forget that the other disciples actually got to see Jesus.  Maybe our expectations of Thomas are expectations we put on ourselves– why can’t you just believe more?  Why do you need to see the wounds?  Or to quote Darth Vader, ‘Your lack of faith is disturbing.’

I grew up in a tradition where you didn’t doubt.  If you doubted, you didn’t have faith and that meant that you weren’t living right with God.  Thomas was used as a negative example.  Don’t be a Thomas.  Doubting Thomas was a curse, a way of saying that your faith was ‘not mature’ enough.  The problem for me, however, was that I couldn’t just take what was told me for face value.  I was, and still am, a questioner.  My kids are the same way, which is in and of itself, both endearing and, well, tiring.  But still, doubt & questioning is better than indifference, for at least in doubt, we are curious enough to try to find the answer.

Thomas wasn’t indifferent to if Jesus was risen or not.  He cared, he cared so much, he needed to touch the wounds, the places of pain within Christ, to know that He was who he said He was.  So a week later, again on a Sunday, Jesus appear among them again, and Thomas is with them this time around.  And what’s the first thing he does to Thomas?  Scold him for his lack of faith?  No, he offers his wounds to Thomas to touch.  That’s love.  

Love isn’t just a feeling, Love is an action.  Love is Christ letting Thomas touch his wounds, his scars, to feel what Love really feels like.  Thomas had probably spent that week before within a furnace of doubt and pain.  Why couldn’t he just believe?  Why couldn’t he make himself not feel the way he does?  And Jesus, letting that go, offers Himself to Thomas, offers his pain to Thomas.  And out of that moment, Thomas proclaims– MY LORD AND MY GOD!  Thomas’ confession of Christ’s divinity is found in touching the wounds and scars.

There is a story of St. Martin of Tours. The fourth-century monastic bishop received an apparition. It seemed as if Christ, arrayed in regal attire, was appearing to him. Martin heard, “Acknowledge, Martin, who it is that you behold. I am Christ; and being just about to descend to earth, I wished first to manifest myself to thee.” But Martin kept silence. Then he heard again, “Martin, why do you hesitate to believe, when you see? I am Christ.” Finally, Martin knew what was really happening, and he replied, “The Lord Jesus did not predict that he would come clothed in purple, and with a glittering crown upon his head. I will not believe that Christ has come, unless he appears with that appearance and form in which he suffered, and openly displaying the marks of his wounds upon the cross.” At that, the devil was exposed and vanished like smoke, leaving a terrible stench. As the more famous story earlier from his life reports, Martin, while still a catechumen, had clothed the naked Christ. Martin came to know Christ through a bodily way marked by humility. What we find in this lesser known later story is Martin’s firm conviction that Christ always has wounds. If he doesn’t, that’s not Christ. It’s the devil.

Now, if the cross of Christ has this effect upon his glorified body, what does this say about our humanity? Most certainly, we affirm that Christ’s humanity is our humanity. The reason for the Word to be made flesh, suffer, die, and rise was to have our humanity experience the transformation into the glory that he had with the Father before the world began. You could say that Christ’s glorious wounds are our wounds. He took our humanity to himself in the Incarnation. It is our humanity that suffered, died, rose, and ascended to the right hand of the Father. Christ’s humanity is completely ours.

For us today, what does that mean in our witness to the Gospel and to the world?  When we are baptized, we are placed into the body of Christ.  Through his incarnation, as St. Athanasius says, ‘God became man so that man might become god.’  This is a participation, not a change in nature, within God.  We are not destined to become ‘gods’ and rule our own planets, as some other religions state.  No, we are to find ourselves so filled with grace and mercy and love and holiness and peace that we are moving closer into the fullness of God and showing that to the world.  And when we identify with God, we are going to have wounds and scars also.  Jesus was ‘wounded for our transgressions…and by his wounds we are healed.’  Becoming like Jesus, participating with God, working towards sanctification, means that we are going to have scars to show to the world.  For we are the body of Christ, and like Christ showed Thomas, we have scars and wounds.

So we are to open our wounds to those around us, allowing them to probe them, in order to show them Jesus. And we, therefore, in meditating upon our own participation in the fullness of Christ’s paschal mystery, we can catch a glimpse at how our struggles in grace are not in vain. Our conformity to Christ’s cross now will allow us to share the victory of the risen Lord, marked forever by the scars of the redemption he won for us. By thinking this way, heaven becomes even more real for us who know, all too painfully, the reality of the battle we are fighting upon this earth.

As we are invited with the apostle, Thomas, to probe in faith Christ’s wounds, we can come to believe that the glorious wounds are not only Christ’s, but ours as well.  Let us not forget that in spite of his initial doubt, Thomas, by legend, went to India and preached the Gospel in the East.  He was martyred in 72 AD some 39 years after crucifixion and resurrection all for the cause and love of Christ.   And like Thomas, while our alleluia may come from the furnace of doubt, we can proclaim, ‘My lord and My God’ till our dying breath.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Daily Practices – Week 1 – Day 3

Week 1, Day 3

THEME: The resurrection is more than an event, it’s a way of life.

GRACE: Lord, help me experience Your power in my daily life.


Settling in:

  • In a journal, note the day, time, and place you’re sitting.
  • Open with a few moments of silence. Rest, and breathe deeply.
  • Complete the following sentence in your journal: *Today, I feel ________________.
  • Read these words slowly (aloud or silently):

So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. (Colossians 3:1-2, MSG)

  • Pause for a few moments of silence.

Practice:

  • Choose one of the following practices.

Option 1: Solitude* [5-10 minutes]

Spend at least five…

View original post 401 more words

Bright Wednesday | ‘Being’ v ‘Doing’

cropped-pilgrimage1.jpg

Be still &  know that I am God.

This simple phrase has been a mantra for me recently.

Stillness is not something in my vocabulary.  Blame it on being ADD or multi-tasking all day or smart phone addiction, but even when sitting still, my mind is going full speed and my leg is constantly moving (much to the annoyance of my wonderful bride).

Over the last 6 months, I have taken up the practice of yoga.  I have spent most Wednesday from 7:15 to 8:30 at my local gym in a Yin Yoga class.  In Yin, the point is not moving through 120 positions but spending 5-10 minutes in 6-7 positions, in stillness and contemplation, and focusing on breathing.  It’s in those moments that I have learned to ‘be.’

My whole identity has been wrapped up in ‘doing’ and being the best ‘doer’ in whatever I chose to do.  So as a father, I was always trying to push for my vision of ‘doing’ for my kids.  As a husband, I have unfairly viewed marriage as an activity rather than a state of grace & being, putting undue pressure on my wonderful wife.  As a deacon  & pastor, I have given myself fully to ministry while losing God (& the awareness of who I am with Him) in the midst of it all.

And yet, I am still in the midst of it all I keep hearing- be still & know that I am God.

Be.  Just be. 

Giving up the Performance mentality has been the hardest thing I think I’ve done in my life.  I was trying so hard to be the best at everything and ended up somehow not doing well at one thing.  So I am starting over and even in my furnace of doubt, trying to be.