On Being a ‘Bible Church’
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.
Listen – 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
The Action of Words
“Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
In this short quote from the end of John’s gospel text, Jesus is asking us to become like Christ in the way that we move in this life, and Jesus gives to us the gift of understanding that words are meaningful only when those words are embodied in our lives. Words, in this sense, have a physicality to them that break the boundaries of the spoken word or of the written word, both of which seem to be locked into a medium of their own – advancing only so far. The wall, this boundary of physicality, seems to keep the thoughts, the words, the imaginings of humanity bound into a limited sphere in which the word is one thing while action is another. And then, we encounter Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, the Word made flesh.
In the person of Jesus we encounter not just word or just action but the combination of the two into a single entity that is completely divine. Christ enters into our reality in the Word incarnate and brings with him everything that is God. Jesus’ entire being is the Divine being that exists outside of our sphere of understanding, yet God is made known within our sphere through the person of Jesus – the divine Word that comes among us and walks along side us. In Christ, we discover that God’s word is God’s action, and God’s action is God’s Word. The two things that seem separated by this boundary – word and action – are made a single reality in the person of Jesus. The second person of the Trinity, then, invites us into that same reality to the extent that we are able to participate in the divine being – to the extent that we are able to match our words to our actions, our faith to our embodiment of it. Continue reading