summer solstice!


Monday, December 06, 2004

All Who Love and Serve Your City

1. All who love and serve your city,
all who bear its daily stress,
all who cry for peace and justice,
all who curse and all who bless,

2. In your day of loss and sorrow,
in your day of helpless strife,
honor, peace, and love retreating,
seek the Lord, who is your life.

3. In your day of wrath and plenty,
wasted work and wasted play,
call to mind the word of Jesus,
“I must work while it is day.”

4. For all days are days of judgment,
and the Lord is waiting still,
drawing near a world that spurns him,
offering peace from Calvary’s hill.

5. Risen Lord! shall yet the city
be the city of despair?
Come today, our Judge, our Glory;
be its name, “The Lord is there!”

* Words: Erik Routley
* © 1969 by Stainer & Bell Ltd. (admin. by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188).
* All rights reserved.

* Music: Birabus by Peter Cutts
* © 1969 by Stainer & Bell Ltd. (admin. by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188).
* All rights reserved.

* Other tunes: Charlestown, Dominion-Chalmers, Marching, Omni die
* Meter: 87 87

Sunday, December 05, 2004

morning watch

Patterned after ancient practice but now in remembrance and anticipation of Easter dawn, there's a Christian tradition of Morning Watch. The fourth and last segment of the night watch, the morning watch of antiquity and of the New Testament epoch (that's us!) is from 3-6 AM; during this final watch of the night, darkness gently eases into the quiet early light of Easter dawn and God's Glory softly splashes over all creation. Recently I've started compiling a series of Morning Watch devotionals; here's the first one.

O God, Thou art my God, and I will seek Thee all day long
O God, Thou are my God, and I will praise Thee with all my heart
I will seek Thee in the morning, at noon and in the dark of night
And walk with Thee in safety
Throughout the rage of time


Jeremiah 29

11 'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. 12 'Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
13 'You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
14 'I will be found by you,' declares the LORD, 'and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,' declares the LORD, 'and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.' NASB

11 "I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out--plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
12 "When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen.
13 "When you come looking for me, you'll find me.
"Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, 14 "I'll make sure you won't be disappointed." GOD's Decree.
"I'll turn things around for you. I'll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you"--GOD's Decree--"bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it. MSG


John 20:1

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. NASB

Realized Hope: Resurrection!

John 20:1

Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance. MSG

A Mandate:

Jeremiah 29

5 'Build houses and dwell in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce.
6 'Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease.
7 'Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.' NASB


Psalm 73:25, MSG

You're all I want in heaven!
You're all I want on earth!


Psalm 23, MSG

A David psalm

1 GOD, my shepherd! I don't need a thing.
2 You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
3 True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

4 Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I'm not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd's crook
makes me feel secure.

5 You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.

6 Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I'm back home in the house of GOD
for the rest of my life.

The Message, © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

times of the traditional watches:

Ancient Night Watch

First watch | until midnight
Middle watch | until 3 a.m.
Morning watch | until 6 a.m.

Ancient Day Watch

Morning | until about 10 a.m.
Heat of day | until about 2 p.m.
Cool of day | until about 6 p.m.

New Testament Night Watch

First watch, evening | 6-9 p.m.
Second watch, midnight | 9-12 p.m.
Third watch, cock-crow | 12-3 a.m.
Fourth watch, morning | 3-6 a.m.

New Testament Day Watch

Third hour | 6-9 a.m.
Sixth hour | 9-12 midday
Ninth hour | 12-3 p.m.
Twelfth hour | 3-6 p.m.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Reformation Day 2004

this afternoon at the Ecumenical Council's Reformation Day celebration the choir sang this song:

Make Our Church One Joyful Choir

Make our church one joyful choir on this glad and festive day
and by song invoke the fire that invites our hearts to pray:
Shape us, Christ, to live and claim all it means to bear your name.

Bend us low by song and prayer, low enough to lift the cross
and to take the weight and bear love's uncounted final cost:
Shape us, Christ, to live and claim all it means to bear your name.

and our acts and words of care trace the pattern of your cross:
Shape us, Christ, to bear your name.

Bend us, lift us, make us strong, send us out with wind and fire,
so the world may hear the song that we offer as your choir:
Shape us, Christ, to live and claim all it means to bear your name.
Amen, amen, amen!

Thomas H. Troeger
© 1994 Oxford University Press, Inc.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Culture Bound

Culture, identity, home, belonging, etc.

As those cultural anthropologists insist, each of us inhabits a range of cultures; more than a single culture encumbers each of us. We see, hear and feel; we remember, dream and hope through the senses our cultures have given to us and we've inadvertently received; and to some extent, our cultural identities constrain and limit us.

Wednesday evening, August 18, 2004, I watched The Reunion, on our local ABC affiliate, KGTV Channel 10. The subject struck me extremely: present-day interviews and retrospective reminiscences of the experience of some Shaker Heights, Ohio residents who'd been part of an intentional racial integration project beginning with their kindergarten class and continuing through high school in the Shaker Heights public schools. Those were the identical years I spent experiencing blockbusting, white flight and redlining in Boston; those same years some of the neighborhoods around me blazed with anger and rage at the same time Watts, Detroit, Atlanta and too, too many U.S. inner cities became furious conflagrations and locales of supercharged and globally publicized citizen/police interactions.

But that's almost a digression, since lately I've been thinking I need to go home, and although there's no way I can return (or would return) to Big Tree Place or any of those other physical dwellings, no way could I return to First Mariner's Church (especially since it disbanded a while ago), I can return to my *home* culture, the culture that's my Muttersprach, my cultura franca - to invent an idiom - and I need occasionally to do so! Besides, in the same way you never step into the same river more than once, because both of you and the river have changed, the home you return to cannot be the home you left, so even if I had a physical option to go back there, I still wouldn't be able to relive something that's no longer there, a location that even in terms of my heart's identity I've rationalized, streamlined and simplified.

Monday, August 09, 2004

from Psalm 119

from Psalm 119:

10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.
11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.
16 I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.
17 Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word.
19 I am a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me.
44 So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever.
45 And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.
57 Thou art my portion, O LORD: I have said that I would keep thy words.
72 The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.
89 For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.
103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
127 Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.
159 Consider how I love thy precepts: quicken me, O LORD, according to thy lovingkindness.
164 Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments.

from Psalm 73

from Psalm 73:

25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Wonderful Song!

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing!

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Words: Ro­bert Ro­bin­son, 1758; in his A Collection of Hymns Used by the Church of Christ in Angel Alley, Bishopgate, 1759.

Music: "Nettleton," in Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second, by John Wy­eth, 1813

Sunday, July 04, 2004

4 July 2004

Sunday, July 04, 2004...Independence Day!!!!!

"Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language." –Henry James to Edith Wharton

commonplacebook notes

Sunday, July 04, 2004

from The Other Side, May 1988, page 15:

"A spiritual revival means a revival of confidence, of hope, of the ability to affect one's own future.

"That, of course, is a synonym for power..."
–John Heinemeier

Psalm 16:7

God gives me does my heart!

Joseph Brodsky on freedom:

"When you forget the spelling of the tyrant's name."

A Promise:

God will not send you
beyond where you Heart can defend you
God will not lead you
beyond where the Spirit can feed you

and a reality:

Our survival depends on the health of our environment.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Early Light

♫ Yes, I can see by the early light ♪
♪ The peril of the night is gone ♫
♫ And far across the distance range ♪
♪ I see the road to freedom ♫
♫ There are many paths you can follow ♪
♪ And many fields to roam ♫
♫ So I walk free beneath the stars ♪
♪ Yet shining over our land and home ♫

by Jonathan Elias; I heard this in a PBS commercial 2 December 1993

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Street Evangelism

Street evangelism!

During the years I served in very inner-city Boston I did a whole lot of street evangelism (called it that, too!) and it wasn't Bible-brandishing, sin-convicting and hellfire-threatening in style or substance; I was about getting people at least to talk about something, about anything, and then to get them into some church-related activities, eventually to Worship, Word and Sacraments.

Here's a story related to that time:

When I was on staff there, we had a new church musician who was a recent graduate of the evangelical Wheaton College in Illinois (as opposed to the secular Wheaton College that's in Norton, Massachusetts). One day this particular young woman approached me and said, "I need to talk to you! This isn't very evangelical!!!!!" But by my standards our proclamation and service to the congregants and to the community was extremely evangelical; her expectations seemed to be tent meeting/circuit rider!


• William Stringfellow, An Ethic for Christians and other Aliens in a Strange Land

• Walter Wink, Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in the New Testament, Powers, Volume 1

• Walter Wink, Unmasking the Powers, Powers, Volume 2

• Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination, Powers, Volume 3

• Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millennium

• Martin Buber, I and Thou

• Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations

• Paul Tillich, The Eternal Now

• Paul Tillich, The New Being

• Anthony T. Padovano, Dawn without Darkness

• H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture – Christ Against Culture; Christ of Culture; Christ Above Culture; Christ and Culture in Paradox; Christ the Transformer of Culture

my amazon wish list

my amazon book and other reviews

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Step by Step

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You

I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You

I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days
Scriptural basis:
  • Genesis 15:5-6
  • Psalm 34
  • Psalm 63
  • Hebrews 12:13
from Rich Mullins,
The World As Best As I Remember It,
Volume One

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Exclusion and Embrace

Though I'm not gay or bi or exactly a racial or ethnic non-majority, I've also had agonizingly painful experiences of exclusion from the church, and above all at a time I needed refuge, sanctuary, community and inclusion above everything else! I won't revisit the details, but during those for me it was exactly as a friend suggested:

"Sometimes evangelism comes from outside the church and speaks to the church."

During those years I found welcoming places, people, and welcome tables!, where prior to that time I probably wouldn't have imagined looking: in other words, not inside the more physical, more *visibly* institutional walls of the church at all. Since then and finding myself again being welcomed and my gifts more appreciated in the local church, I've become constantly aware of how those of us who are the church aren't the only ones advancing "God's mission," and although I'm speaking of myself as a lone individual (truly was both "lone" and "individual" at that time), since then I've tried to be even more aware and responsive to people and their situations...I find myself still needing to make some sense of what otherwise I'd write off as several almost entirely lost years.

I, the Lord of font and cup,
covenant to lift you up.
Splash the water, break the bread; pour out your lives.
Faithfully my love you'll show,
so their hearts will always know,
They are mine eternally...

"Resident Aliens" describes our dual citizenship very well...

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Some Freedom and Deliverance Notes!

For the past several weeks I've been in another online book discussion, 12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee, by John Fischer, who, besides being a writer, is a singer and songwriter. Unlike other books we've read, this one's more specifically about the dynamics involving God, the discussion participants and all the folks we daily interact with than some of our others have been: it heavily emphasizes both vertical and horizontal relationships.

Here are some of my notes about Step 10, "We embrace the state of astonishment as a permanent and glorious reality."

Right away John Fischer grabbed me with the words of this step! "Astonishing" is exactly what God's self-revelation in Christ Jesus is; "astonishment" is the only imaginable response to our God of glory, majesty and sovereignty choosing to live and die as one of us. And that's the God Who has the incredible power of raising the dead! I like Kierkegaard's idea that opens this chapter: try to perfect just one of Jesus' commandments. Though I haven't ever tried it, the idea attracts me. Even though I’ll never *win,* I will make progress, which will better our life and the lives of those we touch, as in the concentric circles made by the stone thrown into the pond.

John Fischer suggests everything I've been trying to do to better myself "is completely and utterly ineffectual?" I don't think so! It may not exactly be salvific, but it sure does help in my spiritual growth and in the lives of others around me. Part of me likes the Sermon on the Mount's image of revisiting the Mosaic covenant, but another part of me prefers the solidarity with the "little people" of the Sermon on the Plain and its extravagant promise of complete justice and total equality. The author asks if the local church reflects Jesus' opening statement in the Sermon on the Mount. My answer is, "Too many people in too many local churches have too much tendency to spiritualize (or to "over"-spiritualize) the whole entire Christian Jesus trip. I've also not been thrilled with all the smiling liberals who imagine they're saying and doing all the right things but in real life, are saying and doing one obscenity after another."

"Failure is the doorway to freedom." I need to ponder that. Page 131: "Law has no grace?" Possibly not in and of itself, but law leads to the realization of inadequacy and the subsequent grasp (embrace) of grace! All of you know Paul of Tarsus and his theology of depravity and grace. I don't like the way JF spiritualizes the Sermon on the Mount, (preferring Luke's version, which is about the reality of material and economic poverty), but OK, each of us is spiritually impoverished at times, and if we're not right now, we have been and will be later and/or must become so! We're supposed to lose? As Robert Farrar Capon insists, only the last, the least, the little and the lost will be saved or can be saved! Because we gotta become like God (You shall be like God, as the tempter promised back in the primal Garden of Earthly Delights), we need to empty ourselves and take the attitude and the actual position of a slave . . . remember Maundy Thursday's foot-washing? Oh wow, I was reading and typing through this chapter and then JF quotes Fr. Capon! Absolutely true we never would've thought of the gospel of being forgiven, freed and sent forth to serve because it is outrageously against our human ideas of greatness.

Page 135: "Just as law has no grace, grace has no law." Imagining we deserve the status of being saved, of being whole? but in a sense we do, since we're God’s creation. Page 137: earthen vessels, clay jars drawing attention to their contents rather than to their appearances. Yes! That’s essential information for those of us (ahem) who tend to be into appearances.

One of John Fischer’s study questions about this chapter asks, "If our salvation, or our being chosen by God, doesn't amaze us, what are we missing? To whom is salvation truly the greatest gift?"” To that I'd reply, I'd hope and expect all creation would be elect! It's not only God's gift to each of one us and to the entire redeemed, restored and recreated creation; it's also God’s gift to Godself, as in the Christ event God buys back, "redeems" creation for His glory: "The people I formed for myself that they might declare my praise!"

A couple of other questions the author asked were: "Are confession and repentance a natural part of your church experience?" On this one I replied I really like it when worship includes confession of sin and absolution offered and conveyed by the Word and in the Name of God. However, when I participate in a liturgy that doesn't include confession and absolution, I'm fine with that, since so many of them do. This past Good Friday evening I was at a worship and concert event where we had the opportunity physically to nail sins, attitudes, concerns or whatevers to a big wooden cross using a big hammer. Powerful!

And finally, one for almost everyone: "Have you ever seen a Pharisee dance? Can you picture it?" Well, no, not quite but claiming my own sometimes pharisaical and legalistic attitudes (both about myself and about all those "others" out there and even in here, in the visible church), I often come close to it when I end up laughing at myself. BTW, I love to dance anywhere and at anytime, but I think this is more about Dancing Before the Lord than it's about going to some secular dance club venue!

Sabbath and Weekend

John Paul II, speaking to Australia's Roman Catholic bishops, on Friday, 26 March 2004 said:

When Sunday loses its fundamental meaning and becomes subordinate to a secular concept of "weekend", dominated by such things as entertainment and sport, people stay locked within a horizon so narrow that they can no longer see the heavens.

I love the quote from the Bishop of Rome, and this is a great discussion question about "The whole concept of 'weekend' and the Church." During Lent 2004 I participated in a *real* rather than a *virtual* discussion of Lauren Winner's mudhouse sabbath (Paraclete Press, November 2003). And a couple years ago I read Marva Dawn's Keeping the Sabbath Wholly, (Eerdmans, September 1989) which mightily impressed me, but at that time I didn't begin making any more changes in my Sabbath-keeping than I'd made when I lived in Salt Lake City and found myself totally spurred on my the example of many of my Latter-Day Saint neighbors.

For both authors, Sabbath-keeping means claiming our in-God-created images and honoring our human need for receptive, refreshing, refilling and redemptive rest. In my mudhouse sabbath discussion group, we covenanted as a group to become more aware and intentional about everything we did, whether traditionally religious or more broadly secular, and sometimes slower about everything, as well. Besides the Sabbath, the book includes chapter on "fitting" food, fasting, body, aging, doorposts, candles and weddings. Hospitality, too, mourning and prayer. As Lauren Winner points out, homes where people are always hurrying and moving fast don't light candles!

Though I started writing this about Sabbath and Weekend, the related chapter on prayer impressed me lots, so here I'll say something about that chapter, as well. Lauren points out Jewish prayer is liturgical prayer, prayer-book prayer. She said the times she'd tried to pray only free prayer and nothing else, after a few days her prayer life degenerated into an unhealthy "me, my, I and mine." Back to the quote from Rome's current bishop: "people stay locked within a horizon so narrow that they can no longer see the heavens." He was talking about what happens when people do the sports and entertainment thing rather than the God and the godly ones, but that's exactly what happens when all of our prayer is free prayer. For a couple of years I've been beginning my morning prayer-time with matins (or sometimes vespers, since I don't do well in the evening with centering or much of any purposeful prayer) from A Prayer Book for Remembering the Women, (Liturgy Training Publications, November 2001); only after I've read from a daily devotional book, often Brennan Manning's Reflections for Ragamuffins, (Harper SanFrancisco, November 1998) prayed one of the offices, and prayed a chapter of scripture - I particularly love the cosmic Christ of Colossians - do I move into intercessions, etc. After that I pray the wordless Centering Prayer. Recently I remembered how I fell in love with The Book of Common Prayer when I first discovered it at First Mariners American Baptist Church, and I plan to return to some of the BCP's liturgical prayers.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Longing for Home

Sara recently emailed me:
I have been feeling homesick for San Diego and was so glad to hear from you! We are happy to be "home" with family, but are finding that we don't totally have a place here yet (emotionally). I feel kind of like I did when I came back from Russia. I was thrilled to be back, and sad that I left behind such a magical place and it really took some adjusting. I think that all change is painful but very healthy. For now we are living with Derek's Parents for a few more weeks until my parents' apartment opens up. We then plan to move into a forever house in a few more months.
Sara's words got me thinking about home, belonging, homelessness and unbelonging. Aside from not having a forever house and as a result almost living in the future when she will have a very physical and settled "place," I think part of what's happening with Sara is having lived a bunch of locales and been settled and at home in them, it's the same as I've experienced: I love being everywhere, feel everywhere is home for me, yet I always have a sense of longing not only for where I've just been but for every place I've ever lived. So I usually have a feeling of not belonging "here" because of my intense longing for "there!" At Open Door Books I noticed the title, Home is Always the Place You Just Left: A Memoir of Restless Longing and Persistent Grace - Very, very apt. (book by Betty Smartt Carter; Paraclete Press; ISBN: 1557253234; May 2003)

Ultimately, feeling rootless gets back to the nature and reality of living the gospel - just like the Israelites of the Exodus, in Jesus Christ we live in the precariousness of nomadic, unsettled existence, daily undergoing baptism's liminality: each day recalling and actually reliving the perilous and risk-filled underwater moment in that watery font of death that at the same time is sustaining womb of new life, the fragile instant in which we need totally to trust the baptizer - who, after, all represents God, the One Who really baptizes.

The early church baptized in the flowing water of a river: just as every life moment is different, you can't step into the same river more than once! Living baptized means although every moment is perched and balanced on the limin - the threshold - between our old lives of bondage to sin and self and our new lives of Eastered freedom for others, living baptized means during some of those moments we also know fleetingly the fullness of gospeled community. Many times I've pointed out for Israel the River Jordan had been the barrier separating them from the Promised Land and then became the boundary and border of their Promise Landed lives. Likewise, for us baptism keeps defining us as different from those outside the community of the church yet is an event that counts us into the people of God of all generations: the Covenanted People!

A few months ago I quoted from an author who said grounded-ness was one of our principal needs; to me her conviction feels so correct! But more about feeling homeless and unanchored; here's a pair of celebrated directives from the Pentateuch:
  • Exodus 23:9
    "Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt." NKJV
  • From Leviticus 25, the Jubilee chapter: v. 23
    "The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me." NKJV
In these verses, in another foretaste of His incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth, God commands Israel to show hospitality to the stranger because of their stranger-ness in Egypt and God assures Israel of His stranger-ness alongside them, so this text delineates both horizontal and vertical relationships. I love how the UCC Statement of Faith says in Christ Jesus God "shared our common lot," and that's what God has done since the Exodus from slavery - that commonness and common lot of being a stranger, the one not-like-us, the one who doesn't belong with us or among us because they're not the same as we are. But our baptism into the Christ Event obliterates the non-essential differences between us so we can walk together as a community of crucified and risen people. In Christ Jesus God became the alien and the other for us; we live baptized into the God Who in Christ still accompanies us every step of our journey!

Friday, March 12, 2004

Main Street

Main Street experiences?! I love this topic and the Main Street/Church Street sign on the UCC homepage is wonderful! First, I’ll confess I’ve never read Lewis’ Main Street, so I’ll run with some images and impressions. BTW, many years ago I spent an interesting citified summer on West Main Street.

That particular urban locale aside, for me the name “Main Street” kindles a generic picture and a general metaphor. My picture is from New England or somewhere in the American Midwest; it’s a single central street lined with shops: hardware store, drugstore with soda fountain, flower shop, curio shop, bookstore, coffee/sandwich shop and maybe a down-home-cookin’ restaurant. Ages ago a poem I wrote included the phrase, “The Colonial’s a restaurant on Main Street” [Hudson, Ohio]. This Main Street sports one or two branch banks, the town offices and – at one end of the commercial strip – the absolutely requisite iconic white-steepled church building, most likely Congregational, possibly Presbyterian or Lutheran, but you’d better believe it’s big “P” Protestant!

My Main Street picture has featureless people, but my Main Street metaphor is primarily a lifestyle that includes a describable type of person. Here’s a start: this Main Street Person [MSP] wants to belong - to be homogenous yet stereotypically distinctive and noticeable; trendy and up-to-date about ideas, politics and general styles of everything like attire and apparel, vehicles, home furnishings, recreation pursuits and vacation venues without being on the cutting edge of much of anything; spiritual, but without real commitment to institutional religion or to the radical way of Jesus...this MSP is anything but counter-cultural and not remotely willing to disengage from whatever society’s mainstream conventions have become for the moment, the particular moment that’s (very) close at hand. Do you remember Charles Schulz’s Lucy as psychiatrist with her, “The Doctor is in...The Doctor is Real in?” Well this MSP is real, real “in!”

How does my life and style as a Christian correspond to this MSP? And, should it - or not? The “Main Street” subject relates to our discussion over in Evangelism and to the “12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee (like me)” book thread. Last summer we talked about “evangelism in the vernacular,” in a twist on Luther’s insisting on “worship in the vernacular” as a mark of the true church. Peculiar people as we’re supposed to be, we also need to be appear enough like everyone else that they can identify with us and therefore with the reasons we’re in Christ (aside from God’s calling and election of us, but that’s a different subject for another day).

Recently I’ve been reading again Walter Brueggemann’s Biblical Perspectives in Evangelism (I originally read it a couple years before the UCC E-Forum became so active, and I wanted to see how my perspective had been changing). In that book he talks a lot about living “gospeled” lives, which include keeping covenant, keeping the Sabbath and keeping the tithe. During this Lent I’ll be participating in a live(!) discussion of Lauren Winner’s new book, mudhouse sabbath. nd, some time ago I read Marva Dawn’s book, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting (Eerdmans, September 1989). So I’ll conclude by saying one of the distinctions and contrasts between the MSP and what my lifestyle as a Christian needs to be involved the way I keep Sabbath! And I’m planning to continue this topic some other time.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

this far by faith


We've come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord;
trusting in God's holy Word, God's never failed us yet.
Oh, we can't turn back, we've come this far by faith.
We've come this far by faith.

1. Just remember the good things God has done,
things that seemed impossible;
oh, praise God for the victories won.


2. Don't be discouraged with trouble in your life;
God'll bear your burdens,
and move all the discord and strife.


text and music: Albert A. Goodson, alt.