Friday, January 9, 2009

Praying, taking a deep breath, trying to stand in the place God wants

I almost want to apologize for the slew of "political" posts that popped off my keyboard here yesterday. I got in a weirdly opinionated and, for this blog, rather secular place. But when I start apologizing I tend to give away the farm, so just deal with the posts.

I find myself bouncing around between the sacred and the profane these days. I resonate with Kazantzakis' idea from The Last Temptation of Christ. Wouldn't it be great to dump all this religious stuff and just lead a workaday life. I majored in Political Science - maybe I need to get back to that and be involved more in the stuff of this world. Maybe that's where God wants me. I have no doubt that God is real, that He cares for me and has a purpose for my life. Just not sure I'm fulfilling the purpose.

My prayer life is raging and rampaging (positively). I look forward to my daily times of Bible reading and prayer. So I'm not adrift (if one can actually be adrift on the Plains). But I am looking for guidance - like our Epiphany Wise Men who followed the star and laid out their gifts just where God wanted. (New masthead is a Star Quilt, btw. A number of Native American tribes create these and they are a special gift among the Lakota. I have one at home, presented to me by the groom's mother at a wedding I celebrated).

I'm provoked by the upcoming Sunday lessons (the Baptism of Christ). All of a sudden, I am hung up on the problem of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, with its assertion that water baptism is "full initiation" into the Christian life. The lessons this week include Acts 19:1-7, in which Paul follows water baptism with "laying on of hands" to activate the Holy Spirit's work in the people. John the Baptist, in Mark 1:4-11, says that the Messiah will go beyond water baptism with baptism in the Holy Spirit.

I'm not flirting with Charismatic/Pentecostal thoughts. Rather, I am looking at the way the church has dumped Confirmation. In my opinion, we've lost something true and precious in our practice of Christian initiation. We've kept one part - baptism - which does in fact tell us that God's love is a pure gift, not of our earning or effort. But we have discarded the other part - our response to that love. We've left off the powerful action of invoking the Holy Spirit to equip and direct us in our God-given life's work.

Yeah, you can hear the sermon wheels turnin'.

God bless you today. I mean that. May He give you both the awareness of His unearned, even undeserved love for you, and also the guidance of the Holy Spirit to find and fulfill the sacred purpose of your life.


Andrew said...

A couple of comments:

Don't apologize for the political posts. I happen to disagree with you on one of them (the “War on Poverty”), but I enjoy your thoughtful forays into politics. It is where we all live, and we have to engage in political issues in order to be faithful disciples.

And I agree with you about the “full initiation” into said faithful discipleship, which ought to involve Confirmation as well as Baptism. In practical terms, I miss Confirmation as something meaningful in the church, and in individual people's lives. Our priest periodically invites interested persons to “join the parish” by coming forward, introducing themselves to the congregation with a “few words about yourself,” being prayed over, and signing the parish register. No mention of Confirmation, or reception from another communion. If the question arises (which it rarely does), the priest will reply that “this ceremony simply means you have joined this parish. If you want to also join the wider Episcopal Church, you will need to go through Confirmation or Reception when the Bishop visits.”

The question arose in a big way recently. A woman in the parish entered the discernment process for the Diaconate. After getting a ways into it, it came up that she had “joined” the church in the above way, coming from a free-church background, and had never been confirmed. Whoops. She was hauled off to the nearest parish where the Bishop was visiting and given a quickie confirmation.

It goes further even than the loss of Confirmation. In our parish (and, I gather, many others in TEC), all are welcome at communion, including un-baptized persons. It is part of being an “open and welcoming” parish. While I do not think that the Roman Catholics have it quite right in limiting it as they do, neither is it appropriate to eat at the Table until you have come through the Door.

Today I figured out that I can actually comment on your blog. I have enjoyed it for quite some while, and look forward to it. Blessings be on you.

Andrew (from a neighboring not-quite-so northern plains diocese)

Scott said...

I can identify with you on this one. My own mother was what I would call an "institutionalist enabler", but I guarantee that she is rolling in her grave at what has become of the church now.

On the main topic...It is hard NOT to get political in the current environment....

TLF+ said...

Thanks, Andrew and Scott!

Andrew, I hope to post more on initiation and discipleship. Deacon Phil Snyder at The Deacon's Slant has some good thoughts, too.

Glad you took the time to post and your illustrations are painfully on target about the state of the church. There is much remedial work to do, even in ostensibly "orthodox" settings.

Georgia said...

I for one am very grateful for your electronic 'cyberspace' and 'phone' ministries...for the witness that you hone in times such as these...wrestling with God in sincerity and shows because as you (and Melissa, in her devotions, ministry, personal struggles too) grow, seek and make more and more space for Him, you are filled with Him, His beauty, power, light...and we get to partake of it...

Thanks for really loving and living Jesus.

May the Lord be with you and cover you and uphold you with His wings...fill you with all goodness and truth.