The Weight of Gratitude: A Sermon of Mine


job-silohetteI’m going on three decades of attending church services. I’ve heard a lot of sermons on gratitude and almost all of them are the same.

They spend much of their time trying to convince us Americans that we actually are far more wealthy than we ever thought. We have more stuff than most any other people in human history, and so we need to stop being so consumeristic and unsatisfied and just learn to be grateful and give thanks for what we have—because we have a lot. And us Christians have even more reason to be thankful, as we have the greatest gift of all: Jesus!

But all this does is lead us towards some brief, unsustainable, inch-deep emotion of happiness which we then call “gratefulness” and then walk out the door thinking we’ve gotten our annual “gratitude shot”—all while being able to ignore the violence raging in the world and in our souls.

So where is gratitude when we face violence and doubt, or when we hit the muck and mire of life, the pits and poverties of existence, the pain and injustice? Does gratitude have nothing to say?

Well that’s what my most recent sermon discusses (I’ve also written about this before). The sermon text is Psalm 40,  Let me know what you think. Here’s the audio:

You can also download it here, or subscribe to our podcast. If reading is more your style, here is my manuscript for your perusal. Continue reading

What is a Sacrament? (Happy Corpus Christi!)


eucharist-bw-wafer

Today is the Church Holy Day called Corpus Christi (Wiki), Latin for “the Body of Christ”, in which the Church takes a few moments to reflect and meditate upon the gift that is the Lord’s Supper (or Eucharist, or Communion). In honor of this, I thought I’d share a recent essay I wrote articulating what I believe is happening in the Sacraments. Let me know what you think!

A sacrament is any material thing that God uses to communicate himself within Creation. Yes, this is quite the broad definition for “sacrament” (little “s”). Every single way that God has ever revealed himself in this world has always been in a mediated sense. God has never been revealed in his full “Godness”. It is always through a material means, and mostly clearly in Jesus Christ.

In this sense, I can accept things like marriage and confirmation as sacraments; but I can also see a good beer, TV show, conversation, or even suffering (like the Cross) as a sacrament. Any material means by which God communicates any part of who he is a sacrament.  It has also been quite freeing for me to see all of life as inherently sacramental.

In this sense, sacramentalism becomes a primary filter through which to understand and describe reality as it is and the nature of the Creator/Creation distinction. This collapses the old unhelpfully-gnostic “transcendence/imminence” dichotomies.
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Ascension: Our glory & the Bible’s hinge


jesus-christ-ascension-iconToday in the Christian church calendar is Ascension Day, the day we celebrate Christ ascending into heaven 40 days after his resurrection and now sits at “the right hand of God the Father.” (You can read a prayer and poem I posted earlier for this Holy Day)

The Useless Ascension

The idea of “Ascension” doesn’t seem to get a lot of play nowadays in the Church. This, in spite of the fact that it is an essential part of all the Church’s earliest doctrinal formulations, and the subject of the most-quoted Old Testament verse in the New Testament:

The Lord says to my lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Compared to other, non-creedal things like Hell, homosexuality, and “attacks on biblical authority”, the Ascension isn’t really talked about. Maybe this is because the Ascension isn’t really a “doctrine”–it’s an “event” and a “declaration”.

And we western Christians love our systematic “doctrines” that we can pick apart as nauseam and/or figure out how we can “apply it to our lives” in such a way that we can feel like we’re “good Christians.” But honestly, the Ascension doesn’t have many direct applications for today.
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Male Feminist Theology: a Vision; a Proposal


Adolph Gottlieb-rolling

Starting next week, I will be doing a blog series that walks through a framework for what I’m calling “Male Feminist Theology”. This series is based on a paper I wrote a few months ago. The paper itself is more technical than these blog posts will be and cites sources without giving any introduction or explanation. The blog posts will break it up into bite-sized chunks, and I will heavily edit them to (hopefully) make them more accessible to the casual reader.

But, if you don’t care about all the context and fuller explanation, and just want to jump to the end, I wanted to give you all a chance to read it in full if you wish. I’ve embedded it below, but you can also find it on Scribd and Academia.edu. Let me know what you think! Continue reading

Orthodox Holy Week, Continued.


Today is suspended on a tree He Who suspended the earth over the waters.

A photo posted by Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick (@asdamick) on

I wish everyone I know and love could come to Holy Week. The service of the Twelve Gospel Readings is so rich. It is long and it is rigorous (3 hours) but that is the purpose of liturgy — to re-form us in the spirit of Christ, away from the World, and that takes work. A lot of it. After the reading of the 5th Gospel, the lights go nearly out. The Priest enters carrying the icon of Christ on the Cross (video can be seen here). It is a slow procession and he hymns: Continue reading

Orthodox Holy Week, the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts, Resurrection.


Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts

Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts

**Disclaimer: the views here may not reflect those of the owner of this blog; Mr Paul Burkhart**

Orthodox Holy Week falls on a different schedule. To the best of my understanding, it is mostly because we never updated our lunar calendar circa the 16th century. Orthodox Pascha can fall as late as early May, I believe. Last year, I was a Catechumen. This year, I’m a full participant. It is vastly different. Lent is a long and arduous spiritual journey of fasting, forgiveness and repentance. Including the Triodion, the march to Pascha lasts 70 days. Lent begins with Forgiveness Vespers. It is one my favorite services of the whole year. At the end of the service, the priests come out and ask each parishoners forgiveness with a prostration and a hug and kiss. Each parishioner does the same to each other. It takes time, but it is worth every second. It is magnificently beautiful and helps show us the absolute need for forgiveness and reconciliation. The Church cannot exist without it. One cannot be saved without it.
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{Good Friday} | prayer & readings for Holy Week (2015)


prayers & readings from Liberti Church’s 2015 Lent & Easter Prayerbook
{click for more Lent Posts}

Worship

call to prayer

Be pleased, O God, to deliver us;
O LORD, make haste to help us!
– from Psalm 70:1

the Gloria Patri

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, so it is now,
and so it shall ever be, world without end.
Amen!
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{Maundy thursday} | prayer & readings for Holy Week (2015)


prayers & readings from Liberti Church’s 2015 Lent & Easter Prayerbook
{click for more Lent Posts}

Worship

call to prayer

Be pleased, O God, to deliver us;
O LORD, make haste to help us!
– from Psalm 70:1

the Gloria Patri

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, so it is now,
and so it shall ever be, world without end.
Amen!
Continue reading

{wednesday} | prayer & readings for Holy Week (2015)


prayers & readings from Liberti Church’s 2015 Lent & Easter Prayerbook
{click for more Lent Posts}

Worship

call to prayer

Be pleased, O God, to deliver us;
O LORD, make haste to help us!
– from Psalm 70:1

the Gloria Patri

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, so it is now,
and so it shall ever be, world without end.
Amen!
Continue reading

{tuesday} | prayer & readings for Holy Week (2015)


prayers & readings from Liberti Church’s 2015 Lent & Easter Prayerbook
{click for more Lent Posts}

Worship

call to prayer

Be pleased, O God, to deliver us;
O LORD, make haste to help us!
– from Psalm 70:1

the Gloria Patri

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, so it is now,
and so it shall ever be, world without end.
Amen!
Continue reading

{monday} | prayer & readings for Holy Week (2015)


prayers & readings from Liberti Church’s 2015 Lent & Easter Prayerbook
{click for more Lent Posts}

Worship

call to prayer

Be pleased, O God, to deliver us;
O LORD, make haste to help us!
– from Psalm 70:1

the Gloria

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, so it is now,
and so it shall ever be, world without end.
Amen!
Continue reading

My Sermon on Judgment, Poverty, Sheep, & Goats


Christ-Shepherd-Judgment-Icon

Yesterday, I got to preach the hardest sermon I’ve gotten to preach (so far).

The text is Matthew 25:31-46, what is commonly called “The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats”. It’s also the one where Jesus shows up as a naked and hungry beggar and prisoner. It’s one of the most difficult, confusing, and doubt-inducing texts in the Gospels. Let me know what you think. Sermon cameos include Albert Camus, Samuel Beckett, Martin Luther, and homeless Jesus. Here’s the audio:

You can also download it here, or subscribe to our podcast. If reading is more your style, here is my manuscript for your perusal. Continue reading

National Geographic (& a poem) on International Women’s Day


Sandorfi-KalfonariumToday is International Women’s Day, and to honor it, National Geographic has a powerful photo spread of women from around the world, called “Portraits of Strength”. While looking through some of the comments, I saw this beautiful poem posted by the poet herself. Read the poem, see the pictures, and listen to the stories of a woman today.

I am a tree
Helen Bar-Lev

Did you think I was a woman?
Oh no, I am a tree
rooted and immovable
impossible to conceive
the scenes
that I have seen

Now gnarled and warped
weathered and aged
wrinkled and withered
bent to the ends of recognition
too rigid to give in
to the whim of man
I stand true to the tune
of the wind echoing
my own inner rhythm
persistent, consistent, constant

Perhaps every tree
was once a woman –
only a woman could stand so strong
fall so proud
when the axe of age claims her
and earth sets a bed for her

© 10.2006 Helen Bar-Lev


[image credit: “Kalfonarium” by Istvan Sandorfi]

Lent: Poems, Mixtapes, Prayerbooks – Oh My!


chagall-exodusI’ll be honest, one of the reasons why I love Lent and the Church Calendar is because it is a helpful corrective for my own personal lack of personal discipline. I’m not especially skilled at putting together my own structure, and so I really flourish when structure and pattern is placed on me from the outside.

This is especially true with spiritual practices. To engage with a Church season like Lent, I often need to give myself a blog series to keep me thinking on a theme for the season (see above, under “Lent Posts“, and also check out this year’s series). I really do well with reading plans, prayerbooks, music albums, etc. If you find yourself in the same boat, here are some resources for this year’s Lent that some of you may find helpful.
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Lent & Male Feminism: Reflections & Repentance


ash-wednesday-faces-of-the-faithful-photos

Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the beginning of the Lent season of the Christian Church Calendar. It is the time of year in which we turn up the volume on those darker whispers in our hearts to hear what they say. We turn our ears to the cries of the world bear the wounds of a weeping earth in our hearts and hands. And oh, the wounds are deep.

We come to this Lent with the weight of so much on our collective shoulders: so much brokenness, so much injustice, so much pain, heartache, death, and violence in the world. I honestly thought that 2015 would bring relief from 2014. So far, it has not.

But in the midst of the chaos that reigns both within and without, I am determined to turn my thoughts and this blog towards one area in which the Church as a whole needs to repent; an area in which I feel we can make some real progress in this day and age: Women in the Church.

I do have an on-going series on this topic that I’ve been adding to for the past couple of years, but I think it’s important and helpful to turn towards it particularly now. Lent has always had a deep connection to this topic for me.
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