Friday, March 30, 2012

What's Essential?

The New Oxford American dictionary defines "ecumenical" this way:

  • representing a number of different Christian churches
  • promoting or relating to unity among the world's Christian churches 

OK, seems simple and straightforward. But what does it mean to be ecumenical? To find common ground amog denominations and stay to Christ at the same time, we really need to define what it means to be a Christian. What's essential?

I work for a group called CYC (check it out here) We are ecumenical and had cause a few years ago to look hard at who we are and how we define ourselves. We decided that we are a missional group focused on introducing teenagers to Jesus Christ and helping them to become leaders in their churches. We developed this statement of faith:

We believe in God the Father, who created all things. We believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord and Savior. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was fully human and fully God. Jesus lived a sinless life, speaking God’s word to all who would hear; we affirm the eternal truth and relevance of his teachings. He suffered for the sins of humanity, was crucified, died, and was buried. On the third day, he rose again, and he later ascended into Heaven, where he is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. We believe in the Holy Spirit, which Jesus sent for our comfort and edification. This same Spirit assists our program in its highest purpose, which is to enable and assist others to develop a relationship with God in Christ. We believe in the holy and universal Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and eternal life

This statement is heavily influenced by the Apostle's Creed, but we do not considered it a creed out of deference to those among us who are non-creedal. It forms the nucleus of our worship, teaching and programming. 

Actually, we don't stray to far from it in our classes and services. Focusing on these central beliefs, and on building a Christ-like community, keeps us from getting into conflicts over matters on which the wider church does not speak with one voice. The Bible speaks of "disputable matters." We agree to peacably disagree on such things. We strive for humility, gentleness and respect in all things.

I wish we were a perfect ecumenical conference, but of course we aren't. Tensions do surface as we learn to work, live and worship together. We look forward to Heaven and the perfection we will find there. In the meantime, we keep trying.

What's your ecumenical experience?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Experimental Recipe

Sometimes I look around, see what I have for ingredients and experiment. Now and then, something is successful.

The other day, I had an extra pie shell, some black beans I had soaked and cooked, some peas and small container of broth leftover from cooking corned beef. All frozen. And a few potatoes and some bread crumbs. So I got to defrosting. I turned the potatoes and broth into mashed potatoes. Then I took the beans added some barbecue sauce and black pepper and heated them on the stove. I put those in the bottom of the pie shell, added a layer of peas, piled on the mashed potatoes, topped it with bread crumbs and baked it at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

My family enjoyed it. My son had trouble explaining to Dad what we were having for dinner, so I called it a variant of Shepherd's Pie. It's now in our meal rotation.

What's been your favorite food experiment?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Breastplate

Every now and then I post a prayer that "speaks" to me -- or maybe it would be better to say that they speak for me to God. This one, in honor of the day, is an ancient Irish prayer. My mother's grandmother was Irish so my own family history draws me to this, but this prayer also resonates with my faith. It contains beautiful wording which can aid us in struggles against temptation and evil and remind us of Christ's omnipresence.

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ's incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spic├Ęd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
I bind unto myself today.
I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet 'well done' in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors' faith, Apostles' word,
The Patriarchs' prayers, the Prophets' scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.
I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun's life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.
I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.
Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.
Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart's idolatry,
Against the wizard's evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

This prayer is attributed to St. Patrick and is believed to have been written in preparation for his struggle against Druids at Easter in 433 AD. For more information on its history, look here.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pure Worship

I promised a blog post on purity in the church. Here it is:

I have been reading the book of Jeremiah. He warns that Isreal is about to get exiled because of their adultery. They don't turn and repent, so they end up in Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar for 70 years.

Of course the picture of cheating on a spouse is metaphorical. God is referred to as "the husband". Isreal is his bride. Isreal cheats -- over and over again -- by worshipping other gods.

In the New Testament, the Church is referred to as the "bride of Christ."  She is called to be faithful to her heavenly husband. Hence our worship should be pure -- we worship God alone. The one, true and living God. Individually and corporately, we follow only Jesus. We cannot tolerate, within the Church, the worship of any other gods.***(See below)

To worship is to give something worth. When we worship, we recognize the worth of what or whom we are worshipping. Over and over again, Jeremiah points out that gods created by people's hands, that cannot move on there own or speak for themselves are worthless. These gods do not create or sustain. They do not bring rain in its season or comfort the afflicted. They aren't real.

God has given us so much!! He deserves our faithfulness and more. Cheating on him is not good. That is why the church must be pure.

As for me, I make this song my prayer:


This blog post goes with my previous post on diversity, the opposite of purity, The Same Race  and Long time, no post.

***Within the Church. I am an American and a  big believer in the First Amendment and am quite willing to defend it. No country is the Bride of Christ.That title belongs to the church universal, which includes people of all nations. As far as I am concerned all people should have religious freedom and there should not be government - established churches. At any rate, forced faith is not likely to be real faith.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Long time, no post...

It has been  a while since I added a post to this blog.

I've been busy I suppose, but there is nothing new about that.

Lacking in motivation and inspiration, perhaps. I suppose I need to learn to work through "writer's block." Or just to be more disciplined in my approach to the blog. I'm kind of on again, of again when it comes to that.

Well, I had a really fun evening. Running an event for my favorite community -- CYC -- I worked with people who were diverse in style. And the participants were diverse in age, race, ethnicity and theological perspective. Which goes along with my previous post -- two weeks ago. It was heartening to sense the excitement in the room as we met, ate, played, learned and celebrated our common connection to Christ.

 We had a great time, the event seemed to be a real success. I hope I get to be part of more of them.

But, in that last post, I said that I would soon write about purity in the church -- something sometimes viewed as the opposite of diversity. And I will, soon. Not this evening though.