Monday, November 24, 2014

Sabbath Disconnect

One could argue that the Christian weekly observance of the resurrection of our Lord primarily occurring on Sunday mornings between the hours of 8am and noon is an inadequate Sabbath practice. Yes I said it. Going to church every week on Sunday morning may not be “sabbathy” enough.

I’m thinking this way for a set of reasons not just one. First, remember the circumstances that led to the creation of Advent-ures. Sunday morning was not a good time for many of our young families to muster for a 9:30 start AND to do so in “love and charity” with each other. Even worse was how damaging to the intent of a Sabbath for the parents all that effort often was. One of the benefits of our current Advent-ures setup is the “parents night out” it provides.

Second, I know I’m taking a risk with this next insight but I’m interested how the women of our church are more consistent in their attendance on Sunday morning. The trend is not extreme but it is noticeable.

Third, I’ve noticed how every time I run by Ingle’s Sunday after church or in the afternoon I meet a parishioner who has to start the conversation apologizing or excusing their absence earlier that day. It is not hard for me to understand and I do everything I can to put them at ease. We are both in the store because it is when we have time to go. Plus, I’d rather have a good visit than instill guilt.

Fourth, it occurs to me that our Jewish kin have a better Sabbath practice, especially those who live close enough to their synagogues and temples to walk to worship along with those who dim the lights and turn off the TVs.

There are other reasons but these few make it pretty clear that there is a disconnect between what we do and what we say about what we do. Our Christian observance is meant to be a celebration and maybe that is the best reason there is little encouragement for the time we take to be “off” and thus the disconnect. Maybe we try too hard on Sunday morning for some people. They need the breathing space and not more to do or “get up for.”

Another way the disconnect shows up for me is in how hard it is to be quiet or sit in Sabbath-like silence during Rite I or Rite II eucharistic worship. I have no solution to this puzzle. I do know that Sabbaths are made not just taken and I do know that what we do on Sunday mornings is a break from the world’s lament, anxiety and busy-ness.

Celebration should be a refreshment. But I’m worried for those in our community and the society beyond who can’t connect with our current Sunday morning practices for whatever reason. Even more I’m worried that we are losing our sacred Sabbaths.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More to Stewardship Than We Can Imagine

We’ve done just about all we can in preparation for our voyage, the journey into the future God is calling us to explore.  Many of you who pledged in previous years have said your prayers and made your commitment to supporting God’s mission in and from the Church of the Advent.  Just as prayerfully several commitments have come from families who have not pledged in the past.  
All of this is good news to which we respond “Thanks be to God!”  Yet, one of the risks we take in putting so much focus on this part of the process is that we forget to support each other in continuing in the larger part of stewardship.
Here’s what I’m thinking: Imagine what it would take for you to go without your cell phone for 24 hours. Call it a “cell phone Sabbath.” 
Take a breath. I’m not saying anything bad about those of us who seem to be on our phones all the time.  I am saying that in order for us to consider “continuing in the larger part of stewardship” it may require as much planning and advance work as a pledge campaign. 
The difference is that the intent of this effort is not just a relatively brief, once-a-year campaign closed by our signatures but the establishment of a habit or pattern of behavior shared by a community.
  • First you would have to find the time -- 24 hours -- to be away from your electronic “friend(s).”  
  • Then you’d have to choose between those friends and family who could join you and those you’d warn, in some cases multiple times beginning several weeks in advance.  
  • Then you’d have to get someone to protect you from intrusion or interruption during your Sabbath.  
  • It would probably help to have some ceremony to begin your retreat 
  • and certainly you’d want some ritual during your time as a way to sustain yourself and get through the hours.  
  • All of this would be done so that you can be open to a set of possibilities larger than those bound up in the web of emails, calls, and messages.  All this for one day. 

Now, breathe again. Imagine what it would take for that one cell phone Sabbath to become a pattern or habit. See what I mean about all the work required in “continuing the larger part of stewardship?”
So thanks be to God that we have come this far and done this much. Let’s pray that we continue with God into a future that will likely require even more work to sustain for the sake of our imagination.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Collaborating in God’s Neighborhood

Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.  (BCP, p. 832)
This prayer has been on my heart and my mind a bunch lately.  Not only is it the one we’ve used to help in our reimagining Advent’s voyage with God in the year to come, it was also used as the postcommunion (yes, that’s how you spell it) prayer at the Service of Repentance and Reconciliation hosted by Bishop Wright on October 22 at the Cathedral of St. Philip. 
I’ll admit to the collect’s comprehensiveness and thus it’s capacity for use in multiple applications.  I’m also OK with saying that what Bishop Wright was about that night was different from our use, although not entirely.  Suffice it to say the prayer works for both of us.
In the case of Bishop Wright’s use, the prayer encouraged those gathered that night to move into a time and place we are still learning to describe.  His sermon -- as I’ve already said, “one of his best” – was a very good beginning toward reinterpreting racism as it has evolved through these last 50+ years.  
In our case we’ve articulated an understanding of Advent’s movement into doing what God is asking of us that includes more collaboration with our neighbors.  But instead of jumping into “collaboration” maybe we should first talk with our neighbors about neighborhoods and neighborliness. It might be exactly what we can do best at this point: host a gathering for sharing, for telling stories, and most of all for listening. 

A time may come for us to extend our Bishop’s call for repentance and reconciliation specifically through Advent’s collaborations but for now let’s ask God to so draw our hearts, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills and see what kind of neighbors we can become.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Holy Light Bulbs and Pie Charts!

Thanks to all who helped to make Sunday the multifaceted success it was: one of our largest attendances at 8:00am since I’ve been serving in Madison, above average attendance at the 10:30 service! and what a “cloud” of witnesses our All Saints' Prayers produced! Then we enjoyed a roomful of questions and information and commenters and listeners as our Stewardship Team leaders -- Mary McCauley, Rick Crown, Tim Pridgen and Kathie Lehman -- explained more about our roles and options in commitment and support than we had ever been told before.
I sat in my office afterwards and sighed in relief as if we were done. Over a hump perhaps but we still have a ways to go. Another way to say it is that we will set sail soon enough.
Between now and November 12th we want you to say your prayers and ask God to guide your giving so that it is the best representation of who you are in membership and stewardship on this great voyage of discovery and purpose in our lives together with God.
Take the extra minutes to read through all the material in your envelope. Talk to your family members: husbands, wives, partners, children, parents, pets. Heck, talk to your neighbors if it helps you to clarify and focus on how your giving joins you to what God has already begun for us.
Thank you for all you have already given to this campaign of renewal and imagination, for ministry and mission, in outreach and inreach. Let us pray,
Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. (BCP, p. 832)