Let that shit go

Sorry for the poor and inconsistent writing in this post. I took it from my Facebook page, where I wrote it for speed, not for prettiness.
….

I have an acquaintance who lives on the street, on and off. I won’t call her a friend, because I’ve found that she’s not like a lot of the people I meet, with whom I can have good (if disagreeing) conversations about this or that. It’s not that I dislike her, but she’s not really a friend.

Anyway, she had disappeared for a while. About 2 months ago, she called me from Kansas, wanting me to drive up there and bail her out of jail. (Uh, no.) Then I stopped hearing from her again. Until yesterday. She was at the church, where I was swinging in to pick something up, then head out to go visit my friend in hospice care. I saw her under the steps, sleeping or reclining, but being felt up by some dude that I had caught the week before pissing on the church building. They both got up when I arrived, and they left pretty quickly.

Today, 15 minutes before online church started, just after our musician came into the building, I see this acquaintance, who had slipped in through the door when the musician didn’t fully close it behind her. So I had just finished talking to my niece about my mom’s health issues, was trying to get with the musician to get our sound levels sorted, and then we had just begun, when C showed up in the front pew. We made eye contact, then she darted out of the building.

I heard the door open and shut, and in comes C again. Musician is doing first and second reading, so I dash out to say, “Hey! I’m sorry, but I can’t help with anything today. I’ve got a parishioner friend on hospice care, then I have to deal with my family who believes my mom might be dying.” She goes, “Well, do you at least have a book?” “What? A particular book?” “No, just any book.” “Uh, well, here’s a Bible, but you have to go. I’m in the middle of stuff.” “Can’t I stay for worship?” “Well, no. The building is closed because of Covid.” On and on this goes until I have to go back in to read the Gospel.

We go through the rest of the service, but I keep noticing that C is walking back and forth, in and out of the door. Turns out, she let in two friends. AFTER I had told her we were closed. “Well, I have to use the restroom and there’s nothing you can do about it. Deal with it.” Now I’m pissed. “Pee, then go. We are done.”

I go to talk to the friends, who seem fine. C has told me her male friend, who was there in a wheelchair, was actively dying. According to him, though, he had walked through some broken glass and needed to go to the hospital. I said, “Well, I have to go, but can’t these two lady friends of yours wheel you over to Hillcrest?” “No, I can’t go there. I need to go to the hospital in Bixby and I have no way to get there.” “Call an ambulance, maybe?” “I don’t have a phone.” “We’ll call FOR you, but you have to go outside.” (There is Zero evidence this guy has walked through broken glass. As I said, he’s sitting in a wheelchair with no footrests, so now he’s using in their stead an extra-wide skateboard on a string. Don’t ask me. This is all dream material. Bizarre.)

C comes out, tells me again about how this guy is dying, and in the meantime, C’s friends have gotten the message, so they’re packing their stuff up. But C keeps telling me how she’s tired of all this shit from God, and really starting to get into her delusional mindframe, for which I have less than no time right now.

Musician and friend Carie (who also slipped in through a door that was supposed to be shut, but she was there as support and not as an antagonist, plus she was wearing a mask) back me up, telling them that they;ve been asked to go. We finally shuffle them out the door where they’re supposed to wait for the ambulance we’ve called. Instead the cops showed up (after I left), and C decided to chug a bottle of M/D 2020 (fitting) right in front of them.

The scripture reading for today was the story of Jesus walking on water, literally treading upon chaos. And he (via Matthew) was teaching us also to trust – not to grasp onto faith like a piece of flotsam, but to let go in trust. Guess I was preaching as much to myself as to anyone else this morning. But it’s easier said than done. Like anyone else, I default to assumptions based on the rational mind, even when it’s clear that rationality isn’t the tool I need for this task at hand, but rather a non-grasping trust that a hand will reach out and grab me when I sink.

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Embracing The Suck

Yeshua says, “If you are searching, you must not stop until you find. When you find, however, you will become troubled. Your confusion will give way to wonder. In wonder you will reign over all things. [*Your sovereignty will be your rest.]” (Gospel of Thomas, Logion 2, translated by Lynn Bauman.)


Jesus said, “Let him who seeks not cease seeking until he finds. And when he finds, he will be troubled. And when he has been troubled, he will marvel and he will reign over the All.” (TG, Logion 2, 1959 “raw” translation from the Coptic.)

*The bracketed portion does not properly belong to the Nag Hammadi scrolls found at the end of WWII, but does belong to scrolls known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri found earlier elsewhere in Egypt. Bauman’s translation is a bit of a mash-up or a “composite text” that may help the reader see more broadly.

Oxyrhynchus fragment

These two Jesus sayings from the “Gospel” of Thomas sound a lot like similar sayings found in Matthew 7 and Luke 11, where the gist is “Seek and you shall find.” “Knock and it shall be opened to you.”

Thomas offers it to us a little differently, with a little more conditionality. “IF you seek ….” It both requires the effort to go seeking, and an urgency to do so with persistence. “You must not cease” if you go seeking. And then it also throws this disconcerting thing in here about becoming troubled. I mean, yes, there is also the promise that, if you go through this seeking and finding and becoming troubled bit, you will wind up in wonder or amazement at what you find. And not only that, that this wonder will be the source of your “sovereignty.”

I’m not here to unpack all of that. That’s your task … IF you seek to do it. 🙂 But what I am saying here bears on what we’re going through right now in the midst of our pandemic.

Before I jump right to that, though, allow me a bit of a sideline.

Back around 1969, Thomas S. Kuhn wrote a book called The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The book itself was a revolution because it called into question the “incremental” model of scientific discovery that held: scientific discovery happens with a small breakthrough, and then little by little, that theory is built upon until a newer, bigger theory is fleshed out. Kuhn argues that this isn’t what really happens.

He says that there are scientific paradigms – ways in which people believe for a certain amount of time … until scientists have to start making more and more “exceptions.” “This theory works this way, period. Well, except for X and in Situation Y, and then maybe not at all in Case Z.” The more exceptions that need to be made, the greater the realization that the paradigm which had been the reigning idea for quite a while, doesn’t exactly hold water. And so somebody has to come up with a NEW paradigm that seems to work better.

Inevitably, adherents to the old way are going to dig in their heels and insist that the old paradigm was correct and that those following the new one are a bunch of idiots or heretics or something. But in any case, there comes about a “malaise” as the old falls apart but the new isn’t yet emerged. Liminal space. That’s what my earlier post talked about.

Making that leap from the realm of science to the realm of lived experience, we find ourselves frequently in this odd position of realizing that the old way of things, for whatever reason, just doesn’t work anymore. It’s broken and there’s no going back. Deep down we know there’s no going back, so we’re left with the choice of denying the brokenness, or finding ourselves in free fall as we seek the emergence of the new paradigm.

What’s interesting here is that the crumbled old paradigm of “church attendance” is something that just fell apart overnight. Nobody chose this. Some tried to cling to the old pattern, saying “God will put a hedge of protection around his faithful.” And lots of them died. Because what they had wasn’t “faith:” it was misplaced certainty in a deus ex machina – a god that pops out of the box at the end of the play and moves everything toward a happy, Hollywood ending. That idea of God died on the cross outside Jerusalem 2000 years ago, sprang back up, and died in the death camps in Poland and Germany during the Second World War, springs up again from time to time in various places and dies over and over and over again. That paradigm is broken. The paradigm that BEGINS to emerge time and again is the one that Paul knew about (I decided to know among you nothing but Christ and him crucified) and Luther taught about in the 16th century in his “Theology of the Cross.” This is a co-suffering, self-emptying, all-loving God who reaches out to us time and again. But we keep forgetting.

In any case, knowing that God is the way Luther and Paul and the Gospel writers described him, not like Zeus or any of those other boxed up gods, we have a ground upon which to build a new paradigm in preparation for the new arising of what God’s Church is going to look like.

We’ve been saying for years that the gathered church isn’t the ONLY form of the church. We are church when we’re gathered, yes; but we’re still church when we’re gathered in different ways (online, for example) or even when we’re scattered through physical distancing. THAT isn’t the problem.

The problem is: now that we’re searching, now that we’re finding the brokenness of the old paradigm, we’re becoming troubled. I said last time that this is an opportunity. And, even though it has taken me a zillion words to get here, I have some practical things that we can all do as we seek to Embrace the Suck of the broken paradigm and the absence of the new one.

As one of my spiritual mentors suggests: “Build a stomach for free fall.” Get used to it. Come to see it as the opportunity it is instead of viewing it only as something to be mourned. Yes, it will feel as though we’re throwing away something that has taken us lifetimes to build and cement into place. But we’re reminded not to build up storehouses for this world because things of this world simply don’t last. Instead build up storehouses for “higher” treasures. “Wonder” is a higher treasure. In Awe is where you will reign. Here your CAPACITY will be deepened, your ability to find what’s truly important, not just for you but for the whole world. Stand in amazement at where God has brought you.

Rob, you said this will be practical. Were you yanking our chain?
No. I wasn’t. But my answer may be a little “troubling.” You can take it or leave it, but what I’m going to suggest here is the adoption of a rhythm for life with some spiritual practices. At some point, we can unpack this stuff if we decide to take these things on communally, but for now, here’s what we’re looking at:

* A daily practice of sitting meditation (Centering Prayer). This is where it starts.
* Lectio divina (“Divine reading“) – a prayerful, meditative reading of Scripture.
* Chanting Psalms – not just saying them, but the intentional breathing and intonation of words
* Balancing each day with prayer and work (not over-balancing one or the other)
* Balancing solitude and togetherness
* Practicing “kenosis – pouring out, letting go, making space for something else to happen, such as the movement of the Holy Spirit – not asserting your entitlement

These things won’t “solve” our problem, but – even if you just choose one and stick with it – they will expand your perception, transform you so that you can deal with the problem in a way that won’t cause you anguish and suffering.

I’ll bust these things open over the next weeks, one or two at a time. Of course, nobody is obligated to do any of this. I wouldn’t do that to you even if I had the authority or power to do so. I’ll just remind you that, “if you seek, you must not cease seeking until you find.” While you may “become troubled, your trouble will give way to wonder,” and what a glorious place to be!

Please feel free to share feedback.

Liminal Space

Although I did study Material Culture, which included a little bit of architecture — just enough to be dangerous — architecture isn’t my “thing.” Nevertheless, there is a term from that discipline that comes in handy these days: “Liminal.”

The word is rooted in Latin and it simply means “threshold.” It’s a space that isn’t quite This and yet not quite That. Think of transitions in rooms. Where does my dining room begin and where does my living room end? If I had walls, there would be a clear definition of spaces, but our house has an “open floor plan,” so there are various “threshold” or “liminal” spaces.

The idea extends beyond architecture into our lived experience of time. Right now, for example, we are living in a liminal space because of COVID-19. The former way of doing things no longer works, but at the same time, the new way of doing things is yet to emerge.

Liminal spaces are difficult spaces, especially for people like us who are addicted to certainty. Certainty means predictability and predictability means safety, security. Without those things, we may go into a kind of psychological and/or spiritual free fall, and that’s really uncomfortable.

The good news is that free fall is also an opportunity for incredible personal growth.

Here’s a quick example from my own life. If you know me, you’ve heard the story. I began working in museums on October 10, 1989, shortly after I had gotten out of the Army. I went into the Army in the first place because I had no post-high school plans. It was clear to me that I didn’t want to go to college, and my grades in high school sort of stood there as a back-up plan to make sure I didn’t even try to make that choice. But after my time and experience with the military, it was even clearer that I didn’t belong in THAT lifestyle AT ALL. Not even a little. When I discovered on day 3 of bootcamp that the thought of killing people wasn’t in line with my morality, I went into free fall. For 2 long years.

I didn’t come out of free fall until I emerged from the Army. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do, but at least I had clarity about what options weren’t on the table. I got back into school, and that was great. It turned out that I loved learning … when it was MY choice what to learn. Huh. Pig-headedness might be a good way to phrase that.

Anyway, school is not a career, but I needed to earn money. My fiancee and I, back before those Army free fall days, used to love to go to the Henry Ford Museum. We held an annual pass there, and would often go to the outdoor part (Greenfield Village) just to smell the smells, enjoy the weather, catch a bit of history. In the August after my release from active duty, I received a postcard sent to all Annual Pass holders that there would be a job fair on a certain date. Donning my tie, I went to the job fair and was hired to become an “Interpreter.” (That’s just the old museum-y term that kind of means “guide,” but there’s more to it than just memorizing and reciting scripts. Another post for another day, perhaps.)

I had taken that job as a place filler while I figured out what to do with my life. I kept working there through college … or at least volunteering on special events, because I loved the work so much.

Things happened. I moved to Germany for a girl. Well, for a girl and to get my Master’s degree. But there was no solid plan behind it. I just knew I wanted to live in Germany, and I wanted to be with this woman. After 6 months in Berlin with no job and with none of the classes I had signed up for (their system is quite different than ours), I came home to the States, defeated. Free fall. Did some odd jobs in the German Department at the University. That was OK, but not fulfilling.

Eventually there was an opportunity to go back to the museum. I did. After a short time, a better job opened up there, so I applied for that and was selected. In the meantime, I had been dumped by a still different woman after a long-term relationship. Free fall again.

But this time, I free fell into a decision: I LOVE museum work. I’m kind of good at it. People in that field recognize my dedication. I’ll get my MA in this field. I did that MA program (while dating Christy, who crazily married me shortly after graduation). Went to work for another museum with a fantastic reputation. Loved it. A lot. In a little over a year’s time, I went from Intern to Program Supervisor in a new section of the museum to Manager of a whole different section of the museum. It was great. Until it wasn’t.

The details aren’t important here (and I’ve recounted them elsewhere), but suddenly what HAD been the perfect job became a prison and a nightmare. I needed out, but by this time, I had been working on an off in museums for almost 20 years and my identity had become sewn up in it. MAJOR free fall.

But that was also the time I started going back to church. Not just going to church, but also attending a lay ministry school. A friend from church and I drove once a month for two years from Indianapolis up to Appleton, Wisconsin on a Friday in order to attend classes on Prayer, Old and New Testament, Liturgy, and a host of other topics, only to turn around and drive back to Indy on Saturday afternoon. In that time I heard the call to ordained ministry, and here I am today.

I’m skipping over a lot of important details, but the story is already way too long. The point: Major liminal times in my life – serious periods of complete free fall – all wound up leading to incredible personal growth. Was it painful to watch the old paradigms fall apart well before new ones began to emerge? God, yes! Painful and terrifying! But something within me knew to persevere and to have trust. I didn’t always know what or who I was trusting in, only that I needed to trust.

Since then, there have been about a bajillion other times of free fall, other liminal times of one degree or another. Sometimes several were happening at the same time. That’s what I’m experiencing right now, alongside the process we are going through as a congregation while we wait for the new paradigm to be born.

I guess what I’m saying in all of this is: 1) Yes, I know it’s hard. Can we say, “This royally sucks?” I think that’s fair. But 2) this is also a time of opportunity to – as we used to say in boot camp – “embrace The Suck,” because we know that there’s something potentially awesome on the other side of it.

In my next post, I’m going to offer some practical wisdom for “embracing The Suck.” Stay tuned.

STILL More on Opening Church

Yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting in on a Zoom meeting (my gawd, I’m almost tired of this technology!) with our Bishop and the Assistant to the Bishop along with some colleagues, and we were kind of bantering back and forth about where everyone’s hearts and heads are right now. We were also passing around ideas about staging various re-openings, knowing that we’re likely to have a ebbs and flows – now relaxing our restrictions, now tightening them again. Someone had the idea to use a color-coded system to make it easier for folks to know which restrictions are currently in place and which have been scaled back for the moment. I like this idea and will bring it to our planning group, currently known as “The Clean Team.” Maybe we can put the thing together in order to simplify what I spelled out in my earlier letter.

Another thing that came up: Pr. Liz shared a resource that seems like it might be worthy of our consideration. It’s called RSVPify, and it’s a seating chart maker that we could use to pre-arrange seating in the sanctuary. Click on the link and see what you think. Be sure to let us know in the comments or by calling the church office.

As you can see, we’re not goofing around all day, but instead are trying to find the level of risk that WE are willing to accept. What YOU decide to accept beyond that is another question, but we’re trying to take all of this into account.

Thanks again for your patience. The grumbling has been minimal, which is not something that I’m hearing from all of my colleagues across the denominations and various parts of the country. I will say, as an aside, that one of my colleagues mentioned a church leader in Uganda that he spoke to recently being aghast that anyone is even considering opening churches to in-person worship yet. I found that interesting.

Still Thinking about In-Person Worship

A couple of you saw and commented on my last post about worship, and at least one person (which means I know more are thinking it) said, “Wow. That means you might not see my spouse and me until as late as the end of 2021.”

That’s true. We might not. On the other hand, we might. We’re still trying to come up with creative ways we could gather, which is desired, while still keeping people safe, which is necessary.

One thing I mentioned is that we’ll continue to be an online presence. That’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and we all understand that. Some people, we though, might enjoy that option but can’t exercise it for one reason or another. If you know someone who would join us online, either live or after the fact, but can’t because of technological problems, please let us know, and maybe we can work out a way to make that happen.

Something I didn’t mention previously, but has been running around in my head, is doing more worship out of doors. This is also a problem in some ways, because as we enter the summer, the heat can be just as problematic for some folks healthwise as the virus is. But it might allow us some limited singing during worship, depending on who is interested in participating. An added bonus of doing outdoor worship is, as I’ve always contended, it’s great when people have a chance to actually see us. Not that we’re doing it for our own self-aggrandizement, but rather so that folks know that we are open and actively working. It’s evangelism by practicing in public.

Another possibility that I haven’t spoken about yet is adding worship services for smaller groups with the chance to clean and sanitize things in between. I kind of like this option, because it opens a door for building greater numbers of the gathered when the crisis is past its peak. Especially if we did something on, say, a Saturday evening or later on a Sunday, or even some other day of the week entirely. Would it be a lot more work for me? Of course. And something would have to give somewhere else. But it’s an option, and I think it’s a good one.

What other ideas do you have? Use those big brains of yours!

More on “When Can We Come Back to Church?”

Probably a day doesn’t pass without at least one person asking, “When are we going to have church again?” I get it. In this time of sheltering in place, people are anxious – and I use that word advisedly, since it means something more like “in a state of anxiety” and less like “in a state of anticipation and readiness.” In our case, I think it’s likely both: we are anxious because of uncertainty, and we are wanting to return to something closer to what we know as “normal.”

I can’t give you a date yet for when we will open the building. If we were a regular business, I might be tempted to blow smoke and give you an answer you want to hear, but because we are a church of Jesus Christ sitting at the foot of his cross, I must tell you plainly: We are in for a long haul. The re-opening of the church building is going to move in stages or phases. I’ll say more about that in a minute, but rest assured that there is a team of people keeping the CORE Council advised on ongoing discussion about making this work.

Let me give you the extreme answer first, and then I’ll scale things back into more manageable pieces.
So, we will not meet in the “normal” way until there is a vaccine that is widely available and/or there are medical interventions/therapies for people suffering from COVID-19 that are significantly effective. So that’s the longest-term answer I can give, and based on current projections, it may be as late as 2021 before those things are in place. A harsh truth, but we are about truth, not about pleasing answers.

But don’t lose heart! Between now and then, we will work in phases. Phase 1 is where we currently stand: strict physical distancing. For us that looks like entry to the church building only by appointment with appropriate masking and social distancing kept. It also looks like online-only worship.

Phase 2 is going to be a staged re-opening. This will still include limited access to the building for most people. It will probably be a long stage, since we will be anticipating during this time:
* A “flattening of the curve” (declining numbers of new cases for 2 weeks in a row)
* Increased accessibility to testing and diagnoses at the least for people who are experiencing symptoms, plus those people’s close contacts
* More availability of PPE for first responders and healthcare workers
* Better contact tracing for all new cases

During this phase, we are all going to need to show a lot of grace and love and patience toward one another, because we will likely have to do a lot of back-and-forth, now-we’re-open-now-we’re-not maneuvering. And during this phase, access to the building will be limited to people 65 and under and without underlying health conditions that could make them vulnerable. Even so, people with access will be required to sign a waiver of liability stating that the congregation (a legal entity) will not be held responsible yadda yadda. You’ll get a copy of this at some point.

When we do open the building during phase 2, when waivers are signed, numbers of people allowed in will still be limited; masks will be required at all times; there will be no physical contact including passing of the peace; communal objects including the baptismal font, the offering plate for passing, the elements of Holy Communion will not be available; we will have no fellowship time, no in-person meetings or Bible studies, no in-person choir rehearsals; no choir performances (and very limited musical performances); no communal coffee available, and restroom access will be limited to emergency use only.

An advanced/adaptive version of Phase 2 might include outdoor worship gatherings with masking and proper distances kept, and this might allow us to have some singing. Oklahoma weather will need to cooperate with us for a change in order for this to be feasible, though. In terms of Communion, we will recommend that you BYOE (Bring Your Own Elements). This is similar to what we’re doing online right now. It’s not sacramentally and theologically ideal, since the symbolism of a single bread and a single cup are very important, and yet we must adapt for the sake of health and safety. (Incidentally, intinction, which is less sanitary even than drinking from a common cup, will probably go away permanently, even as we enter Phase 3 and beyond.)

In order to move into Phase 3 (or “new normal” phase)  we will need to increase sanitation and hygiene measures in the building. We will continue to offer online worship and other online meetings for members and friends who are unable for any reason to be physically present with us. In phase 3 itself, we will be able to relax requirements on physical distancing and use of masks in most or all places.

So, there is the plan. We do have one, and we will work the plan. The timeline, as I said, isn’t ours to set. The virus is sort of “in charge” here, as is the behavior of the public insofar as it affects the way the virus spreads or doesn’t. Please know that our entire approach is based first on our love for all of you and our desire to keep you as safe as possible while we seek to return to the precious gathering of the saints in something like the way to which we have grown accustomed. It is a privilege and a joy to meet face-to-face, and if there is a silver lining in all of this (I believe there are several), it is that we are gaining clarity on how important public worship and Christian fellowship truly are in our lives.

Finally, I want to thank all of you for caring and continuing to care about what happens to this community. You really are a special People, First Lutheran. Your patience and care for one another are an example for the world of Christ’s love for one another, even as he has loved us. Keep fighting the good fight and running the race. Feed your spirits with THE Spirit through prayer, devotion, work for the sake of your neighbor. Please continue to support the work of the congregation with your offerings. It has been inspirational how faithful you all have been in that regard during this time. Be filled with blessing.

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever he may send you.
May he guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm.
May he bring you home rejoicing at the wonders he has shown you.
May he bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
(And may he do it sooner rather than later!)

Amen.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Rob Martin

Morning Mediation & Movement 30 April 2020

Falun Gong Exercise 4

This morning we heard a bit from Fr. Richard Rohr concerning “original goodness” from his book The Universal Christ. Original goodness, aka “original blessing,” “original innocence,” original “unwoundedness” has to do with the entirety of creation bearing the thumbprint of the Maker. Everything is created in the Divine Image. We just forget about it, and pretty soon, we stop believing it. I think this is why there is so much self-medication in the world: We’ve forgotten that WE are bearers of that imago Dei, and we self-medicate in order to hide the pain of the thing we’ve lost. Maybe we use drugs or alcohol or food or that great, American form of Mammon — “busyness” or “productivity” — to do our hiding. But we do it, and it takes an un-blocking to reclaim that.

Today we learned the Falun Gong exercise #4. This one is called “Cosmic Orbit” and what it relates to in some ways, is the recognition that we are in the cosmos and the cosmos is in us. We are inseparable from the creation. But that’s another thing we forget. We isolate ourselves from the creation, and we isolate ourselves from the Creator. It’s sad and painful. But the good news is that this separation is illusory, and we can reclaim it. That’s part of the reason we do the exercises. We need to get back into our bodies, to know (as I borrowed it from Cynthia Bourgeault in some other post somewhere) “where our feet are.” Because we are embodied, created beings, made to belong in the context in which the Creator placed us. We belong! We are children of God! We need to feel our bodies, as well as our emotions, as well as our thoughts. To be human is to exist in that trinitarian mode: body, mind, spirit.

So we practice. If you don’t practice Falun Gong or Qigong or T’ai chi, it doesn’t matter. This is just something that I like and am happy to share with you. Find your own way, if this doesn’t float your boat. But remember, we all belong, and all of us — each part — belongs. It’s wholeness, integration, Shalom.

Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed this as much as I have. Feel free to share your experiences with what we’ve done here as well as the things YOU do that remind you of original blessing and the presence and image of God in all things. Looking forward to your thoughts!

Worship w/ Eucharist 29 April

Couple of sermon notes:

A smattering of anti-sacrificial texts
1 Sam 15:22
Ps 40:6
Ps 51:16
Hos 6:6 (also referenced in Matt 9:13 and 12:7)
Jer 7:22
There are LOTS more, as this is a whole field of study in and of itself. If you ever want resources, I’ll point you in the direction of some great ones.

“charcoal fire” mentioned in John 18:18 (belongs to the scene involving Peters three-fold denial of Jesus) and again in John 21:9 (belongs to the scene of Jesus’ three-fold forgiveness of Peter and his commissioning).

Jesus does not demand Peter to splatter blood on an altar. He demands no sacrifice to God for forgiveness of sins. Instead, he sacrificed himself to human betrayal and brutality, and in doing so, exposed it for its futility. God never demanded that, but humans did and attributed it to God. What God desires is not sacrifice, but mercy. Here Jesus enacts that mercy for Peter. Peter’s “sacrifice” will be to feed Jesus’ sheep and to tend his flock — not to kill them and offer them to God.

When Can We Meet Again?!

Greetings, friends! Lots of people have been calling and getting hold of us asking: “When will we have church again?!” I get it. “Where two or three are gathered…” and “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” seem to almost smack us across the face when we can’t meet in person.

Now, let me step back a minute first and say that we are church when we are gathered physically, and we are church when we are scattered. We are church when we meet in person, and we are church when we meet online or watch videos after the fact. “Church” is nothing more than recognizing our unity, not in ideology, not in preferred worship style or denominational affiliation, or any external thing like that, but rather “church” is the assembly of God, called by the Holy Spirit, being of the same mind as Christ.

Nevertheless, apart from the COVID-19 thing and the dangers that lie therein, there will SOME DAY be nothing precluding us from meeting face-to-face. So, the original question is valid. When ARE we gonna be able to “have church” again?!

Tough question, but here’s a stab at answering it as best I can for now. There are plans taking shape. I know the Governor has given us the official “okie doke,” but leadership here still feels that it would be better to take our cues from scientists than from politicians, no particular offense intended to Gov. Stitt. And in any case, things will certainly look different once the immediate crisis is over.

Some of the things we have to consider include, but are by no means limited to:
* Will we have to wear masks, at least initially?
* How close will we be able to sit next to one another?
* How will we keep common surfaces sufficiently cleaned/sanitized?
* What about the restrooms?
* What about the baptismal font?
* What about Communion?
* What about choir, Bible study, rehearsals, etc., etc., ad infinitum?
* What about altar flowers?
* What about Assisting Ministers?

The list keeps growing. But the good news? We’re thinking about these things.

I was speaking to Catherine after worship last Sunday, and we had considered a “soft opening,” which would be “by invitation only” – just to intentionally limit the number of people here and thereby limit the risk of exposure. This may happen, and it may happen as soon as Pentecost. We are considering having me to preside and lead over worship, Catherine to lead the liturgy, a couple of willing voices from the choir (properly distanced from one another), and some sort of alternative version of Holy Communion, though what that will look like, we can’t yet say. All of this would be filmed and streamed live via Facebook then posted here on this page, as we’ve been doing. In fact, even when we open more broadly, chances are we’ll be seriously considering continuing to broadcast live – though that raises the question of who will run the camera and work sound, and whether we even have the proper equipment for making sure the sound and picture are properly clear and synched and all that jazz. It’s complicated.

So, the short answer to the original question is: We don’t know. But we’re thinking about it, and trying to plan it. I wish I could give you a better answer right now, but I can’t. In the meantime, thank you for continuing to meet with us. Thank you for continuing to support us financially. Thank you for your comments and likes and loves and laughter emojis, and for all the many ways that you continue to make this a worthwhile thing to do. The best way to love our neighbors right now is still to be separate physically, but we ARE all of the same mind as Christ, and we persevere in our love of God and one another.

Keep watching for updates, and remain open to the presence of God, even now, even here on the interwebs.

Peace,

Pr. Rob