January 20, 2014

Today’s Morning Prayer commemoration was on the Bishop of Rome (known today as the Pope) being a martyr in 250 AD.  Martyrs are an interesting topic.  And while most Christian martyrs end up being referred to as saints, I am most familiar with Baha’i martyrs.

There’s a play that I saw once called “When the Moment Comes”.  It’s one of those plays designed to make you think, because you really don’t have any idea what you’re going to decide “when the moment comes” – will you live or die for your Faith?  In making a temporary renouncement of your beliefs, you can eventually be released and go on to make a difference in the world on behalf of your Faith.  That is a choice that Olya Roohizadegan made when she wrote Olya’s Story.  She was imprisoned along with many Baha’i women, the youngest of whom was 16, simply for being Baha’is in Iran.  Because of the changes when the Shah was deposed, Baha’is were considered to have committed apostasy, meaning they went against the Muslim Faith.  While Jews and Christians were somewhat more protected at the time, having constitutional protections of being “people of the Book” (The Book being the Bible), Baha’is were of a religion that came *after* Islam.  Their businesses were seized, children were no longer allowed educations and often they were detained for indeterminate amounts of time.  Olya was a young mother, and had parents who needed her.  When her moment came, she recanted her beliefs, and then escaped through the mountains with her family.  They eventually settled in England, where she was actually a hairdresser, but as she promised the women she left behind, she told their story in her book, and toured the world to get the word out about the plight of the Baha’is in Iran.  She is truly an impressive and courageous woman.  She lived for her Faith.

Ten of the women with her in prison that she wrote about were put to death by hanging in 1983.  This included a 16-year-old girl named Mona Mahmudnizhad – who was arrested because she was teaching Baha’i children to read and write in secret.  When I went to Olya’s presentation, she had pictures of each of the 20 men and women who were hanged that day, many of which she showed first alive and smiling, and then with the rope mark across their necks.  Although she only showed a picture of Mona alive, I had nightmares for years about that child with a rope mark around her neck.  When Mona’s moment came, she chose to become a martyr.

Mona actually reminds me much of Malala Yousafzai, the young Muslim woman who scared the Taliban so much because she wants an education, and was shot for it.  When Malala became well, she began speaking in the broader world about the need for education and peace.

Interestingly, there are pros and cons to each choice.  And it basically comes down to what you can live, or die, with.  You will make your choice – and how will you defend it when you are judged by God?

Is it more important to live, or to die, for your Faith?  When the moment comes, what will you choose?

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January 19, 2014

Sunday! My day of rest, and I’m actually going to *not* go to the All Church Worship this evening, as I am just simply very tired. I can probably finish up a shawl and veg with my cats for a bit.

So first, the question regarding “begotten, not made” from the Nicene Creed. I apparently didn’t obsess far enough. 🙂 A later line – “was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man.”  So, to my way of thinking, Christ was begotten by God, being that God can only begot (?) God; while Jesus was made man through Mary.  So, Jesus Christ was both begotten and made – rather a fascinating concept.  Given that Christ (Anointed) is a title (in Greek) or Messiah (expected deliverer) (in Hebrew), like Baha’u’llah (Glory of God) is a title (in Persian), Muhammad (Praise) is a title (in Arabic), etc.   Moses or Moshe could be either an Egyptian word meaning “Son” or a Hebrew word meaning “Deliver” – each of these were titles, but each of them had their own names.  Interesting that only Christ was begotten – and eternally begotten at that.  John talks about “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  I’ve always sort of figured that “the Word” was the pre-incarnate Christ when they talked about the Word in the Old Testament.  I could, of course, simply be making connections where there aren’t any to be found.  In  any case, back to the point, because I really do have one – God made man.  He made Jesus.  He made each of the other Manifestations.  He begat Christ.  There has to be a significance here. 🙂

So, today’s Episcopal service had our guest priest, Rev. Karen King. 🙂  She talked about how we are each called to different service, and whether we have paid attention when we are called.  It reminded me of a blog I did a while ago about your calling, and how to find what it might be, if you don’t know.

January 18, 2014

Well, this morning actually begins with prayers last night, and the thoughts that struck me – could have just been tiredness, so I figured I’d write it out this morning. First, as I was saying the Hail Mary (Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.), it struck me to wonder if Mary, in contemplating her life, would have thought that the thing people remembered her for was only for being the Mother of God – granted, quite an important position, but one that was accomplished by the time she was a teenager – and never had a thought for what the rest of her life might have contributed to the world. Birthing the Holy Child was, in fact, a great miracle, but can you imagine being the Mother of God?? I mean, it’s your responsibility to raise the child, to ensure that He grows up to be a good and Godly man. Then there’s Joseph, for whom I have such admiration. He took on the responsibility of raising a child not his own, and there’s got to be part of him that is thinking, what can I teach a child of God – and yet, as Jesus was to experience being human, he had to do all the things children do – learning to crawl, walk, talk, interact, etc.  It’s not like God gave them a blueprint of what his life was to be – so Joseph also needed to ensure that “his” child learned a trade, contributed to society and learned the holy writings.  And even though it’s part of the apocrypha, the “Infancy Gospel” of Thomas does make for interesting stories of the childhood of Jesus.

Okay – 2 minutes to get out the door for MP.   Back.  I am reminded that in order to listen, one’s mind needs to be quiet!  Today’s walking meditation was a reminder that if I’m going to play “Hermione” and ask question after question after question, and never listen for the answers because my mind is flitting from one topic to the next, to the next ad infinitum, I’m never going to learn anything new.  Meditation needs to happen again, focusing on only one simple thing (pick one, any one, but just one!).  I feel like that joke about the mind of a man having one or two tabs open on an internet screen, and the mind of a woman having 3,984 open at one time.

Listening is *not* an easy task!

So, to finish the thoughts on prayers last night.  In the Nicene Creed (but not the Apostle’s), it has the portion:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.

It’s an interesting point to make, that Jesus was begotten, not made, and not only was he begotten, but eternally begotten.  C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity puts it this way:

We don’t use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make. And the difference is this. When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set—or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a statue. If he is a clever enough carver he may make a statue which is very like a man indeed. But, of course, it is not a real man; it only looks like one. It cannot breathe or think. It is not alive.

Now that is the first thing to get clear. What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God, just as what man creates is not man.

This brings to mind two things:  mankind was made.  Now, we were “made in God’s image”, but still, made.  We are adopted as children of God, made part of the family through Christ’s sacrifice, but we were not begotten by God.   So when we were “made in God’s image” – the concept that it is our soul that is in the image of God, and not the human body which is rather ephemeral by nature – is a question.  That which is made can be unmade, whereas, I’ve sort of looked at the soul as being eternal.  Probably one of those meditation topics after a while, when my listening skills improve.

The second thing that it brought to mind is that Baha’is look at the Manifestations of God (Moses, Zoroaster, Christ, Mohammad, the Bab, Baha’u’llah, Krishna, Buddha, etc.) as being God made manifest here on Earth to teach mankind, the same spiritual lessons, but different social teachings, fit for the place and time in which the Manifestation appears.  But Christ is the only begotten Manifestation.  All others would fall into the category of made.  That would speak to the inherent superiority of Christianity, if one believes that being begotten is inherently better than being made.  It does speak more to the divinity of Christ, as being begotten of the Father makes one of the same being and substance as the Father.  Does it, however, discount or limit through human eyes what God can do?  Is that which God makes inherently less or inherently different from what He begats?  (These verb forms are beginning to drive me crazy, so I’ll end with a song to remind me…)

Our God is Greater

January 17, 2014

I am reminded today by my friend to listen, for God speaks to us in whispers, in grand gestures, in dreams, and in providing opportunities to show that it with pure belief and faith in God, all things are possible.  That, of course, reminds me of one of my favourite videos:

It also reminds me of another video with this same actor playing Christ, where he is sitting in a coffee shop, waiting for the arrival of another man.  The man comes in, as Christ stands up to greet him and shake his hand, but he’s busy removing his coat, sitting down with his coffee, and then proceeds to talk for the next hour, not taking a break.  Christ appears slightly taken aback at first, but sits back to listen, often beginning to offer some comment, but the man continues in his monologue, leaving no room for a possible dialogue.  The man eventually glances at his watch, quickly gets up, grabs his coat and leaves, never once thinking that Christ might have something to say to him.

Do we fill up all our silences with noise?  With cell phones and computers, iPads, texts and television?  Have we forgotten to listen?

Morning prayer actually talked about Antony, the Abbot in Egypt who began the first Christian monastery, after ensuring his sister’s comfort, and then giving away all his possessions, he became one of the first Christian Fathers who were hermits in the desert.  After about 20 years of that, he formed the monastery and assisted the brothers in forming communal worship and work, assigning them labor by which they were able to provide alms for the poor.

I remember speaking with Judith Schenck, an Episcopal hermit here in Montana, who seemed surprised at some of my reading choices (Evelyn Underhill, most particularly).  Poor woman – once again, I managed to overwhelm a priest with questions (I had been referred to her by the priest at our church because she couldn’t answer the questions I had).  I need to remember not everyone has the interest in the minutiae of the details. 🙂  Oddly (and I would assume having nothing to do with me, but the timing was odd), Rev. Schenck soon thereafter renounced her hermitage and converted to Judaism.  I’m the first to admit that Judaism is a completely fascinating, utterly unending area of study and meditation.  I’m just not sure how an Episcopal minister gives up a belief in the divinity of Christ.  Hopefully, it was as a result of her own listening to God’s guidance, to put her on a path in which she will find fulfillment and a home for her heart.  She remains in prayers.

January 16, 2014

It is late in the day to be posting, but better late than never. 🙂

Today’s morning prayer contained two commemorations, one about a man who started a monastic order, which unlike many, had its proponents live in the world, and practice awareness of God as possible. Sound familiar? *grin*

The other was about Charles Gore, a 19th century Anglican priest and theologian. On the one hand, it is largely his influence that helped the Anglican Church to reconcile differences in science and religion, determining which stories in the Bible might be allegorical and which factual, and giving reasons as to why. He had an interesting viewpoint of the incarnation of Christ, involving the Kenotic Theory (first created by Paul) – meaning that he could not be fully human, if he retained the knowledge, spirit and omniscience of God as man, and thus “emptied” himself of all of that so that he could experience the fullness of humanity, sublimating his Divine nature to the human one, until it was time for his mission on Earth. He was a prolific author, and thus, the commemorations this morning were quite long, and I am unused to speaking at such length. It apparently affected my ability to type this morning.

In any case, the concept is new to me, having accepted the divinity and humanity of Christ long ago as a dichotomy which could only be explained through faith, and is one of those things outside of human understanding. It is certainly another of those things to save for asking about in the next plane of existence. 🙂

January 15, 2014

I had an interesting discussion with my mother yesterday, who is attempting to find exercise that she actually enjoys. I explained my new attitude – that I wasn’t so much looking at “losing weight” as a goal, but rather, taking care of the vessel that God gave me, so that it is healthy and able to do His work and serve His people better. Losing weight may be a nice by-product, but it’s not my focus. It’s an attitude adjustment, and just like yesterday, not being able to justify driving the truck to church when it was clear outside and not slippery, as the justification is to God – you can’t really lie to Him. 🙂 But trying to give her ideas – not being able to justify taking the car to the store (and granted, her store is about a mile away, so she’s looking at a 2 mile walk) for just a few things. She thought dad might think her crazy, and I challenged her that dad might just join her in the walk. But she looked at it as lying to herself, rather than simply adjusting how she thinks of things. Well, whatever works. 🙂

Apparently Episcopals don’t have as many saints’ days as Catholics, so on those days there isn’t a “Commemoration” for morning prayer, I’ve been using the “Forward, Day by Day” books – a short something on which to meditate. Today’s was an expansion on the 2nd reading from Hebrews, where it talks about Christ literally giving up the power, majesty, dominion that He had for the time He was human, in order to experience life on earth *as* a human experiences it. It allowed Him to experience the temptations humans experienced, so that He is better able to help those who now suffer temptation. He gets it – this human experience. It actually makes me wonder then, why Catholic priests don’t marry – ’cause they don’t experience marriage, and yet are the people to whom their parishioners are to turn when they are having marital problems. If priests are to be walking the path of Christ, would they not *want* to experience those things that their parishioners go through so that they would be able to better advise?

Hmm, I think I’m in a bit of a contrary mood today. I’ll go exercise (since I took the truck, running terribly late this morning).

I am reminded today by one of my favourite singers (Darrell Rodgers) that this is the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth.  He and his wife, Bride, are a beautiful example of how far this country has come – as he pointed out today, their marriage would have been illegal in many places when King made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  Several years ago, I wrote a blog about the holiday it has been made into.  Still stands. 🙂

Pause

January 14, 2014

I’m beginning to think that perhaps the warm weather in Montana may be my fault. As my exercise has been sporadic at best, God has warmed things up to the point where I cannot justify driving my truck to church, so today’s exercise was as a result of warm weather. Thank you God for encouraging me to have a fit vessel to do your will.

I had what I think will likely be my normal Tuesday morning company for morning prayer. 🙂 It’s nice to have someone else there – we actually got to have a discussion on the first reading, which came from Genesis 3, specifically, Verse 22: “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:”. Who’s God talking to? Is this the Trinity, speaking with the Word, not yet made flesh, and the Holy Spirit? As we know from the Gloria Patri, “as it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever.” Is this, as the commandments say, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me,” but does not say you cannot have any after Him. He is referred to as the “King above all gods” in Psalm 95. If there were no others of divine nature, why does the Bible refer to them so often?

Obviously, I’m in a challenging sort of mood this morning. 🙂 We’ll see where the day takes us. In the meantime, I have a new thing that will allow me to have regular tangelo juice, rather than what I made in the blender, which is rather like an orange Julius.

Ah, the joys of chopping wood. 🙂 It’s actually good exercise, and I’ve got some fresh kindling for the fire (it’s a little chilly, finally).

So today, rather than working on garden planning or herbal medicine, I’m working on catching up some of the prayer shawls – we’re running a bit low on just plain old shawls, so I spent an hour crocheting – which is really rather nice, and fun. Prayer shawls are slightly different, in that you want to use a stitch you can count to 3 doing – as it’s easiest to keep the Trinity, or Allah-u-abha (God is all glorious), or Blessings Upon You. Any sort of prayer – you can, of course get longer things, but for when you get into a groove, it’s easiest to keep those running in your head as you crochet. I’m not sure what knitters do. 🙂

January 13, 2014

Well, yesterday wasn’t quite as expected. Exhaustion set in and I pretty much stayed away from the computer all day. Went to the two services (and have to find my notes on what I wanted to write about in the linking of the two) and went to Prayer Shawls for an hour – although I was the only one there, which was why I left after an hour. After a good night’s sleep sans all the cats, I’m ready to tackle Monday now. 🙂

Sunday’s Sermons

The sermon at HT had to do with reaffirmation of baptism, given that Episcopals tend to have this done as babies, with their parents initiating them into not only the rite of baptism and its forgiveness of original sin, but also promising the following, to which they answer on behalf of their child “I will, with God’s help”:

  • Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
  • Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
  • Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
  • Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
  • Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

How many of you were taught about these vows made on your behalf?  Well, if you went through the rite of Confirmation (a rite that is only part of the liturgical churches, and not the Biblical churches), you learned about your responsibilities then.  If, like me, you were a teenager at the time, you may have forgotten what you confirmed were now your responsibility, and no longer your parents’.    That’s a pretty tall order of responsibilities.

Interestingly – although not put exactly in those words – these were things that both my parents taught me as I grew up, so I can honestly answer “I will, with God’s help, and have, with God’s help” over time.  I am immensely grateful to God for the parents he gave me.  And for the fact that my mother figured out early on that while I might be willing to endure my parents’ disappointment in actions I took (although not often!), I could never endure disappointing God, and she turned responsibility for my character over to him by the time I was 9.   And while I know that some of my actions likely have disappointed God, I am also aware of Him as a loving, if stern, parent. 🙂

So, with the knowledge that the baptismal initiation imbues the baptized with such power, two men were highlighted in the sermon at the DoH.  The first was one of the most famous anti-religionist Deists,  Thomas Paine, who wrote The Age of Reason.  There is some controversy over his last words (which of course, I only discovered upon research), as to whether he recanted and became Christian upon his deathbed.  The majority of the evidence shows that he maintained his Deist views without the addition of any “revealed religion”.  In any case, his influence upon others in leading away from religion, through his writing is well-known.  Another writer, although this one of music and hymns was Isaac Watts – the most famous of which is undoubtedly Joy to the World, leading others to the faith of Christianity.

The powers granted to us as baptized Christians certainly gives us a great deal of influence, should we choose to wield it.   What have you done with the power granted you?  And if the answer is nothing or little, what do you intend to do to change that, now that you are aware of your responsibilities?

Monday

Today’s MP contained a commemoration of Hilary of Poitiers, a bishop in the 4th century who argued (and was jailed) for the belief that the separate entities in the Trinity were all equal.  Likely more remembered would be Arius, who believed that “God the Son” was subordinate to “God the Father”, a belief held by the Christian emperor at the time, Constantius II.  While that emperor was in power, those who were outspoken about the belief of the three-in-one, equal Trinity were exiled or jailed.  Eventually, of course, Constantius died, and those with the Arian beliefs were excommunicated as heretics with the Council of Nicea in 325.  What interested me was that Hilary began life as the child of pagan parents, and studied neo-Platinism.  As an adult, he then converted to Christianity, and later became the patron saint of lawyers.

I have on the tip of my brain (as it has not yet made it to the tip of my tongue, where I might be able to remember it out loud) a quote about God loving all things done decently and in order.  It was what came to mind today as I was washing dishes, and the feeling that I actually *do* enjoy having things in order and the short chores as they now exist are much easier than the chaos which is still in other parts of the house. 🙂  Working on them, slowly but surely.

January 11, 2014

Well, since today’s place on the Episcopal calendar does not have a commemoration, we’ll borrow tomorrow’s since tomorrow will have two sermons to think/talk about.  Aelred of Rievaulx was one fo the Cistercian Fathers, and wrote his first book, “The Mirror of Charity” at a fairly young age.  The concept of the book is seeking to follow the example of Christ in all things.

Like so many statements made by Christ in the Bible, apparently the concept of love in the sense of universal brotherhood was considered by some to be the only acceptable type of love for Christians, but most particularly those who were in monastic orders.

When Jesus was told that his family was waiting to see him, he replied, “All who do the will of my Father are my family.”

Interestingly, Baha’is have a rather similar belief referred to as “detachment”.

“Thou hast inquired about detachment. It is well-known to thee that by detachment is intended the detachment of the soul from all else but God. That is, it consisteth in soaring up to an eternal station, wherein nothing that can be seen between heaven and earth deterreth the seeker from the Absolute Truth. In other words, he is not veiled from divine love or from busying himself with the mention of God by the love of any other thing or by his immersion therein.”

The second definition is in the Words of Wisdom: “The essence of detachment is for man to turn his face towards the courts of the Lord, to enter His Presence, behold His Countenance, and stand as witness before Him.” (Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p155)

Against this view, Aelred wrote that it is compatible with the highest degree of
Christian perfection to take special pleasure in the company of particular
friends. He point out that we are told that Jesus loved John, and Mary, and
Martha, and Lazarus, and that this probably means that he found their company
congenial.

So this gets me to the age-old question:  why are we here?  Yes, we are a soul, but we also have a body.  If we are not to experience the pleasures and pains of the body, then why are we here?  There are so many – myself included, obviously – who want to become closer to God, to be more aware of God in every action – but if we are not to become attached in any way, shape or form to other humans on this planet, and are only to focus our actions and attentions on God, then why are we here?  Is it a test of some sort – to see if we can completely ignore the physical experience and remain only in the spiritual realm?  And if we can’t, did we fail the test?  What would the purpose of such a test be?

I can go on asking questions on logic from now until doomsday, but I am aware that we don’t have the answers as yet.  I am hopeful that the next plane of existence will be more forthcoming with the purpose for our existence, and in the meantime, I still attempt to juggle or balance the physical and the spiritual.  I can appreciate the symbolism of the water in a shower washing away the cares of the day, getting rid of any negativity that clings to me – and at the same time, I just enjoy the feel of hot water, particularly on cold days. 🙂

January 10, 2014

Form over substance. That’s what the Commemoration in today’s MP was about; it’s what many non-liturgical churches think of liturgy. I’m curious why this particular Archbishop of Canterbury was chosen for today’s MP, as he was at the height of the surplice riots. One wouldn’t think that a mere piece of clothing could cause such passion in people, but in the 18th century, it did. The Puritans of the time were known as “Biblical Christians”, and again, they were looking for form over substance, for daily life with God, rather than a once a week praising by rote focus on buildings rather than people. The inheritors of their philosophy is considered to be the Christian right in the US. So this is not a new fight – the players have changed a bit, but still, people look for the difference between habit and true passion for Christ.

The thing is, what if your passion for Christ is through the liturgy? What if you don’t say it by rote, but believe every word in your heart and live that every day? What if you walk your talk, no matter that someone judges you lacking simply because you find God through a liturgy that is traditional, known and a comfort to your soul?

For me, I think that’s why I don’t have any quarrel with any particular church, as what I’m looking to see in someone is if they walk their talk.  Do that, and I will support your path to God as being right for you.  My path may be different, but still parallel, as we make our journeys to God.