Saturday, March 11, 2017

Protestantism "Lite"?

The question came up in class the other day, as we reviewed the reformation of the Church in England in the 16th century. Was the Anglican church of Elizabeth’ day “Protestantism Lite”? Is this a fair or accurate characterization of what the English Reformers achieved?


No. The 16th century reformation of the church in England was a battle for souls. Nobody took it lightly.

Mixed as their motives, goals, and values may have been, the English Reformers sought to get Christianity right - in thought and action.


To use a metaphor, the Reformers of the Church in England in the 16th Century sought not to water down an imported product, like a German lager made “lite” by Miller or Coors, but to make an English ale even better. The church in England had existed and endured since Roman times (witness 3rd Century Saint Alban, “the protomartyr of Britain”). [The Book of Common Prayer served as a kind of Reinheitsbegot - brewmaster's standards and practices - for public worship.]   


Granted some of the brewmasters had learned methods and ingredients in their Continental sojourns - and there was some violent disagreement over methods and ingredients - but the reformers all had the sincere desire to get it right - “it” being Christian worship in England.


People do not die for a joke, but they will give their lives for something greater than their own self-interest or even self-preservation. Tyndale, Jewel, Latimer, Ridley, Cranmer, and others, even the victims of the Smithfield Fires, are among these witnesses.


The testimony of John Jewel to a sincere and well-thought out theology and way of prayer, the diligent efforts of William Tyndale and others to offer a Bible to the people in a language they could understand, the prayers of Thomas Cranmer and the Creeds, the impassioned preaching of Hugh Latimer and the articulate explication by Nicholas Ridley of the real presence of Christ in the sacrament of bread and wine, all give evidence that these people sought not some compromise version of Christian belief, or a halfway house between Rome and Geneva, but a way, sometimes broad and sometimes difficult to traverse, that had its own integrity and enduring witness.


Perhaps the greatest gift of the Protestant Reformation, Moorman observed, was the sense of personal responsibility and integrity. Certainly these men, and even some of the political leaders, felt a responsibility beyond their own interests to look after the people under their care.


And they gave us something beyond the boundaries of their land: an enduring way forward, not in compromise but in good faith, to pursue the truth of the Gospel in the company of friends.

First Draft Saturday March 11, 2017 JRL+

Re: UA Humanities Seminar, "The Protestant Reformation", Spring semester 2017.


Cf. English Reformers, Library of Christian Classics, T.H.L. Parker, ed., Westminster Press.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Aunt Carol's Bible

Everyone has a story to tell, that says who they are. In seminary we learned that the story of the people of Abraham can begin this way: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor…” (Dt 26.5)


Recently I began to wonder how that reads in the King James. So yesterday I got out Aunt Carol’s Bible and read Deuteronomy 26.5:  “A Syrian ready to perish was my father...


As people of faith we are all children of Abraham, children of that Syrian in distress. That is our story.


And again I looked in Aunt Carol’s Bible, for the lesson for this Sunday, from the prophet Isaiah, and found it marked for me:


Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?


Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward. [rear guard]


(Isaiah 58:6, 8)


May we be your hands and your voice in this effort at common humanity. For we were strangers once…


You have brought us out of exile or danger or self-satisfaction. You have carried us through the wilderness of our own desires. You have been faithful where we have not. And yet you love us. Help us to share that love now with others. And bring them justice. Amen.

(Closing prayer for the Press Conference, Resettlement Agencies, Actual Refugees, and Faith Leaders Call Out The Truth About Refugees, 9.30am, Friday, February 3, 2017,  hosted by Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, Tucson. Convened by Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest.)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

What Binds Us Together

When you go into a Christian church oftentimes you will see at the front an image of a human being. A man, hanging on an execution device, hanging in pain. A human being. A person.


What binds us together, what we have in common, begins with this: we are human beings. Each of us is a human person. And we are all created, equal, in the eyes of creation, creator, the universe.


What we have in common is also, often, pain. What redeems this pain is what binds us together.


We do not always know what it is. Empathy, sympathy, compassion. Horror. And also love.


We have before us in these uncertain days, in a time of anxiety and anticipation, a sense of ourselves as human beings who are under threat.


Some of us are undocumented, some of us are unwise, some of us are unemployed, some of us are about to lose our health insurance, our jobs, our livelihoods, our homes, our nation. Our identity as citizens - as something less than the fullness of who we are. (Granted, we are more than these. But still it hurts.)


That fullness of human identity is something nobody can take away from us. It is indelible.


Certain inalienable rights - life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness (and material well-being) - are among them. We won’t lose these.


But what we have in common, today, in this place, includes a feeling of being under threat. Or of standing with those who more materially, dramatically, are.


We have always been there. We have always been among those who are under threat. Because we are human. And that is part of our story. And that is what binds us together. Today. Always. Eternally.

May we remember who we are, and under whom we are one. Amen.

Friday, January 6, 2017

On Growing Older

ON GROWING OLDER ...
Aug. 20, 2011
SSL

     Aging is a gradual process it seems to me, not a series of "stages".
     There are physical changes as we get older -- Our glasses become "tri-focals", we need more dental work, our hearing is less sharp, it's more of an effort to get up out of an easy chair (or recliner).
     We notice these changes, from time to time, but they are not sudden. They sneak up on us. Our spine may begin to curve so that is it hard to "stand up straight" -- even when we are reminded.
     We look different on the outside, but we are the same people inside -- just more experienced!
     Think how full our "memory banks" are. It's no wonder we can't always come up with the exact word to express our meaning.
     Certainly our attitudes have matured -- at least, we hope so. We've learned to be more sensitive to other peoples feeling -- We try to understand their different viewpoints. We have lots of time to think. And to look back and enjoy our memories.

     It seems to me that people who want to plunk the "human life style" into stages -- like separate boxes -- might be a little young and inexperienced and rely too much on "studies"--
     A person my age can look back over a life-time of changes we only became aware of gradually-- (Especially when you are ninety years old!)

ON GROWING OLDER, ETC.

Interviews:
     John, keep in mind that the people you interview may not think of themselves as "aging" at 60. They may think of themselves as aging, but as middle-aged. In fact, I once plotted it this way:

1. Childhood and youth.
30's: Adulthood and 40's
50's: Maturity
60's: Middle-aged
70's: Mature middle-age
80's: Elderly
90's: Old!

But then, I remember a women I knew who called herself "an old lady" -- she was 58. (And I remember the funny look on the faces of Emma 'n' Charlotte when I told them. (They probably were in their 60's -- and still working -- as school nurses.)

     (Notice that I have called it growing older...)

     I do like your idea of going back and interviewing them on "what they have reflected on in the meantime" -- You certainly got me interested in "reflecting!"
     (Re: "Touch of Grey" -- Do you know about the "Grey Ladies" in hospitals?)
     About the multi-generational relationships; grand-parents and children -- Have you noticed that people (my age) smile at the children they meet, related or not?
     I certainly felt at-ease with my grand-children this summer and enjoyed their company. I wonder how they felt... (This is a whole different subject than aging...)

ON "AGING," AND OTHER COMMENTS.

     Remember that ladies in their 60's may have noticed a few wrinkles, but they may not think of themselves as aging. They may even fool you by "coloring" (Aunt Carol's word) their hair. Phyllis S. certainly fooled me -- I thought she was in her 70's -- and then she turned 90 before I did.
     I like the idea of calling your retreat "Joy on the Journey"
     I often think of Carol, in her 90's, saying "Ah, the memories" -- It is certainly true -- and makes me appreciate having them...

     Now, about "multi-cultural" (a digression here): I've been reading of the different expectations of Mexican and Chinese families....



(Sara Scofield Leech, b. June 13, 1921, Palo Alto, Cal.)

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Feast of the Holy Name

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (Luke 2:21)


Before he was conceived: that is early. Perhaps not so early for some eager parents, but paired with the giver of the name, a lot to anticipate for a little baby.


Expectation. That is part of what comes with a baptism. The name we give a child, the name with which we greet them, says something of our hope for them, for our relationship with them, and for their relationship with the world.


We want Barack to be Blessed, as their name implies, and we want them to be a blessing.


John, meaning God is gracious, as in John the Baptist or John the Evangelist, we expect to send us that message: God is gracious.


Perhaps we name a child after a living relative whom we wish to honor. Or perhaps we name a child after an ancestor, someone whose name we wish to live on in memory.


We put something of ourselves into a name, then. A hope. A connection. A relationship.


And then we come to this day, the first of January, and remember the greatest name - and naming - of all.


His name will be called Jesus (Y'shua, "God saves"). For he will be the deliverer of his people. And so he was. And so he is.


That is what we remember today. That is what we recollect and bring into our own present. The knowledge that the greatest of all names is given not to the loudest or the largest or the tallest. It is given to the one to whom it is given by God.


And it is given to us, to gather us together, a banner above us, and a flag to follow.


For it is the one name, the true name, that we are to follow. And to follow it means to live in love. To bear hope into the world. And more than that to bear his name and carry his message, in word and in action.


And so we make these promises, the gift of the baptismal covenant of our people, that we will carry that burden of love, bear that message of hope, and come forward when we are called to follow. For we are his people, and he is our God.


(The Baptismal Covenant is found on pages 304-305 of the Book of Common Prayer.)


Living into the Holy Name


So what do we do about it? How do we go about bearing his name, carrying his burden, carrying out his mission in the world - today?


Those vows we recite in the Baptismal Rite give us a push.


5. Every person is made in the image of God and deserves the respect, the forbearance, and the fair treatment that status implies.


4. For in each person is God’s image, somehow present in their making, however hidden or obvious to us, however different or the same as us, and so to love ourselves and our neighbor is to welcome and embrace the presence of Christ - in each other.


3. What we do and what we say tell the story: we are the ones with Jesus, we are his people, and we have a story to tell like no other: a story of power and freedom, of liberation.


2. We will fall down sometimes, instead of standing up for ourselves or others, and we will need to seek repair for those rifts in God’s fabric. We are called to do so and we are assured of his love.


1. For we gather together in prayer. We seek God alone in prayer. We listen and take in the teaching of the church that is our Christian tradition, for there is a lot to learn from those who have gone before us on The Way.


0. We will break bread together as we have from the beginning, that Christ’s table may be present to us and we with all the disciples share his supper.


Identity and Vocation


For Jews, Christians, and Muslims, identity is a gift and a calling. We are creatures before we are anything else, fragile and corruptible yet made for a reason, with a unique part to play in the working out of the divine plan. Vocation - such a beautiful word - runs deeper than the usual identity markers. Vocation is fixed from the moment of conception (“before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”), and it is here, if anywhere, that our personality finds its stable center. Yet vocation is also fluid, telic, oriented toward change (“no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”).  
(Carol Zaleski, The Christian Century, November 23, 2016, 35.)


Identity and vocation are both specific and generic, both ontic and telic, both being and becoming.


We both are, and are becoming, who we are called to be.


“Before you were knit in the womb, I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5).


Our goal is to become fully human, fully Christian; to become who we are called to be.


We cannot become again the people that we thought we were but we can become the people we know we are called to be.

And we can work for our world to become what it is longing to be.


You are named both because of who you uniquely are and because you are called to become in Christ a fully human person.

We cannot make the world paradise again, but we can work for the coming kingdom of heaven.


O Lord our governor, •
  how glorious is your name in all the world! (Psalm 8:1)


Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)


The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you,
and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)







who we are called to be

Identity and Vocation

For Jews, Christians, and Muslims, identity is a gift and a calling. We are creatures before we are anything else, fragile and corruptible yet made for a reason, with a unique part to play in the working out of the divine plan. Vocation - such a beautiful word - runs deeper than the usual identity markers. Vocation is fixed from the moment of conception (“before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”), and it is here, if anywhere, that our personality finds its stable center. Yet vocation is also fluid, telic, oriented toward change (“no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”).  (Carol Zaleski, The Christian Century, November 23, 2016, 35.)

Identity and vocation are both specific and generic, both ontic and telic, both being and becoming.

We both are, and are becoming, who we are called to be.

“Before you were knit in the womb, I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5).

Goal: to become fully human, fully Christian; to become who we are called to be.

We cannot become again the people that we thought we were but we can become the people we know we are called to be.

You are named both because of who you uniquely are and because you are called to become in Christ a fully human person.

(Max Depree — 'We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.')

Friday, December 30, 2016

Living into the Holy Name

So what do we do about it? How do we go about bearing his name, carrying his burden, carrying out his mission in the world - today?

Those vows we recite in the Baptismal Rite give us a push.

5. Every person is made in the image of God and deserves the respect, the forbearance, and the fair treatment that status implies.

4. For in each person is God’s image, somehow present in their making, however hidden or obvious to us, however different or the same as us, and so to love ourselves and our neighbor is to welcome and embrace the presence of Christ - in each other.

3. What we do and what we say tell the story: we are the ones with Jesus, we are his people, and we have a story to tell like no other: a story of power and freedom, of liberation.

2. We will fall down sometimes, instead of standing up for ourselves or others, and we will need to seek repair for those rifts in God’s fabrice. We are called to do so and we are assured of his love.

1. For we gather together in prayer. We seek God alone in prayer. We listen and take in the teaching of the church that is our Christian tradition, for there is a lot to learn from those who have gone before us on The Way.

0. We will break bread together as we have from the beginning, that Christ’s table may be present to us and we with all the disciples share his supper.