On Being a ‘Church of Reason’

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The heat of the summer was continuing to up the ante yesterday as members of The Episcopal Church in Parker County began arriving for the launch team meeting.  The invitation to sit indoors with each other was welcomed as the temperature outside approached 100 F. In Texas, the heat of the summer is always a valid excuse for not doing something outside, and yesterday, it made for a perfect reason for us to be gathered together as we continue to build community one stitch at a time.

During our time together, we sat to consider some rather deep questions.  As we divided into two small groups, we considered questions like, “When you hear the phrase ‘Love your neighbor,’ what does it mean to you?” and “What does it mean to you to be made in God’s image?” and “What do you love most about your life?”  Each question was a question that invited us to think about our experience, our walk on this earth.  Each question also invited us to consider the action of God in our lives.

In the Anglican tradition, reason plays a rather large role in defining who we are as faithful disciples worshiping Father, Son, and Spirit.  To be a church of reason does not simply mean that we use our reason to make decisions in our lives.  We acknowledge that almost all people do that almost all the time.  The author and theologian Padraig O’Tuama wrote something similar to this in his book In the Shelter. (An incredible journey of narrative, theology, and poetry.) To have the ability to reason is to be human. We, as a species, tend to do what we believe is reasonable at the time. It does not always mean that our actions are just or that they are blessed by God’s presence; it does mean that we are using our God-given giftedness as a species to make decisions – good, bad, and ugly – in the business of getting on with our daily lives.

We can go about defining reason in any number of ways, but it seems that best way to understand reason is through experience. As creatures, we create ways of thinking that are specific to our experiences, shared and personal. The experience of our lives informs how we come to different conclusions and guides us in taking the next step. The experience of each person’s life informs us, guides us, and invites us. The experience that I have in life may not be exactly like any other person’s, but I can share my experience with others. I can look back over the arch of my life to take note of how God has been active in my life, and I can take the incredibly risky step of sharing my life experiences with others.  In opening up to others by sharing my life experience, by sharing when and where I have felt God’s presence, I enter into a state of vulnerability with others.

When I take the time to name the moments in my own life when I have experienced God’s active presence in my life, I am placing myself in a vulnerable place, and I am learning how to look for God’s presence.  In the act of naming these moments in my own life, I am sharing my experience of God, and I am learning how to listen for the moments when God has been active in another’s life. I begin to learn how to listen for those moments in the stories that others share with me, and I begin to be influenced not only by my own experience but also by the experiences of those that are in community with me. I begin to take on a posture of receptivity that is honed through the continued practice of listening for the movement of the Spirit in my life and in the life of my neighbors.

To be a church of reason is to be a church that looks for these moments in our shared lives of faith. It is to be a church that is willing to listen to the stories of those outside the church as we discern where God is moving in the context around us. It is to be a church that is learning how to help others name for themselves the moments that God has been present in their own lives. To be a church of reason is to be a church of experience, of openness, and of receptivity. Welcome to the Church as an institution of reason.

On Being a ‘Bible Church’

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A few nights ago, our new little church in Parker County, Texas met to begin gathering a launch team for our new church. It is part of the life of any new church that you form a team of people that will work together, going in a single direction, to begin a new worshipping community, to invite new people into relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and to launch the worship of the church at some as yet undefined point in the future. In the course of our meeting, I asked the gathered community to think back about what they love about the Anglican tradition and why is it that we need a new Episcopal mission in this part of the country at this point in time. In the interim day that passed, I considered my own question and have been mulling over my own response to what it is that I love about my church and the traditions that I have inherited as an Episcopalian. One of the things that I love about my church and about the Anglican tradition as a whole is that we are a Bible church. Continue reading

A Healing, Holy Whisper

The story from today’s Gospel, at first glance, feels like a healing story.  It has all the elements of a healing story – a character that is sick or dying, a crowd of people following Jesus, Jesus moving from one place to another, a miraculous achievement at the story’s end.  It feels like, sounds like, moves like a healing story.  And perhaps the absolute best way to understand this particular story from the Gospel according to Luke is as a healing story, but it is not the healing of the centurion’s slave that deserves our greatest attention.  The fact that Jesus heals the centurion’s slave because the centurion (not the slave!) deserves it is evident from our first reading of the text.  We know that the slave is healed before we get to the end of the story.  The real question for us to consider is how does the story that we read in Luke’s account also work to heal us?  How does it challenge us to move forward in our lives with a re-membered reality – a reality that is taken apart and put back together again?  How does the story challenge our own assumptions about the realities of human life, of human tragedy, of human triumph, of human calling?

At a deeper level of is a story of the ways that boundaries are broken, ignored, transgressed, shattered.  It is a story about the courage of two characters doing the unacceptable in order to convey some new truth about the creation in which we live.  It is a story about two characters that enter into a faithfulness that will always batter the walls of the accepted in order to achieve the impossible.  It is a story that pushes us to grapple with what we understand our call to be as disciples of Jesus Christ, which is also a grappling with who we understand Jesus to be.  Today, we are confronted with a story that is begging us to begin tinkering with everything that we know in order that we might begin to hear the whispers of God as they travel across the water of the soul.

whisperListen – closely, carefully, intentionally.  You don’t want to miss those whispers.  They carry a profound and life changing meaning.  They carry the force required to breech the walls of the impossible; they effortlessly invite a harmony unheard on earth.  The susurrations of God echo across the chasm of time and reverberates within the walls of space.  They are holy murmurs gently calling, lapping at the edge of the soul, to sing to a new melody, a new dance.

But of course, it is difficult to hear these murmurs of God’s being in the reality of today.  The booming bass line of the world beats on booming out a message of true reality.  “I’ve have all the answers!”, booms one voice.  “Believe me!” it continues.  And then, quite as loudly, “I am really what you need! I bring experience to this table!” chimes in another.  And yet still there is the loudest voice of them all that says, “Blame that group there, for your tragic downfall!”  Add to the cacophony those voices that exclaim, “Protect what you have, lest it be taken!  Strengthen the walls, let us never be shaken!” and the voices that extol the virtues of the human economy, the human solutions to everything.  Suddenly, it becomes very difficult indeed to hear the whispers of God.   Continue reading