The Rector's Blog
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May 7, 2015, 12:00 AM

Change and Transformation


Wow, just one week after temps in the 20s we are seeing temps in the 70s and 80s and perhaps in the 90s.  The pace of change as spring takes over is impressive.  Soon the long hot season of summer will come and we will give thanks for things like Crystal Beach, ice cream, and air conditioning (using the lovely new system just installed in the church.)

Spring is a bit of a metaphor for other changes in our lives, and how swiftly they can make themselves felt.  Change, it has been said, is the one constant in our lives.

Did you see the cartoon of a speaker asking his audience, “Who wants change?”  They all raised their hands.  Then he asked them, “Who wants to change?” and they were all suddenly looking at their feet and out the window…. None wanted to change.

Yet isn’t that exactly what we are called to do when God reaches out?  In every exchange between Jesus and other people reported in the Bible, it seems, was meant to change something about their lives. 

- “Go, sell all you have, and give to the poor.”
- “Go, and make disciples.”
- “Your faith has made you well.” 

Zacchaeus responded to Jesus foisting himself upon his hospitality saying, “Look, half of my possessions I will give to the poor and I will pay back four times whatever I have defrauded.”

Time after time, people changed their point of view, their actions, and their lives from meeting Jesus!

We all know the world is changing around us, and it always seems to change faster and faster. 

But the changes that God requires of us?  It would seem many folks don’t wish to comply – or may not even want to know what God wants from us if it means we have to change!

I think this is normal.

I also think this is risky – not so much for our immortal souls, although one could argue that, but for the world that is changing around us.  Will our reluctance (fear?) keep us in the old ways until we become completely irrelevant?

Or can we change how we “do church” and “live Christian lives” so that even in the swift changes of the world around us, we still have a message of love, hope, and transformation to offer God’s children in these times?

What changes will we allow to transform us?

 




April 23, 2015, 12:00 AM

The Great 50 Days


Alleluia, Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!

We mentioned that the Vestry is reading a new book on The Agile Church.  We do this because “studies … suggest a paradox: lingering widespread Christian affiliation that often lacks depth, coherence, participation, and practice; rapid erosion of religious identity…; general openness to God and spirituality; and significant resistance to organized forms of religious community,” as author Dwight Zscheile writes.

To the extent we also find ourselves in this paradox, if we want our community to thrive and grow, we need to find the path that will build up the community of God, respond to the needs of those who are seeking deeper relationship with God and a richer spirituality (which may not simply be a place to be on Sunday mornings), and provide opportunities for Christian formation for all ages.

I would like to wave my magic wand to make all this happen, but I don’t have a magic wand!

It will take work and dedication to ensure Christ Church’s future, by all those who value this place, our history, and our potential.  The old ways, the old expectations, the ones that brought many of us here and keep us here, may no longer be working the way they used to!

Churches that are growing now are very intentional about what their strengths are, and what they have to offer to the world outside their doors.  Like you, I also struggle with finding the right combination of factors that will make eyes open and hearts open and minds open.  I think the Bible study will help.  But I also think that we need to do more than just tell people we are here and they are welcome to join us anytime; no, we need to join them, too, where they are, with the questions they have, even with the doubts and trepidations they bring with them from their prior experience with other churches or with news coverage or whatever it is.

No one should fear to seek God; but many do fear being condemned and rejected, so they don’t seek God in church.  We need to bring church to them – not the panoply, not the hymns, not the sermons, but our lives lived in the image of the Living Word, Jesus Christ.

Right there where they can see us living it!




April 12, 2015, 11:48 AM

Low Sunday and The Great Fifty Days


"Low” Sunday really doesn’t mean “low-attendance Sunday,” although we seem to have plenty of those these days anyway.  Now the weather is warming up, I hope you will be able to come join us! 

That’s because Easter is not just one day – it is FIFTY; in which every single day is a chance to explore what the resurrection means to our community and to each of us as part of that community.

In fact, it’s not just 50 days – it’s “THE GREAT FIFTY DAYS.”  Leonel Mitchell, author of Lent, Holy Week, Easter and the Great Fifty Days: A Ceremonial Guide, wrote, that these are “the season of mystagogy.”   That means “the study of mysteries.”

He says that by the 4th century, leading Christian teachers, such as Ambrose of Milan and Cyril of Alexandria, used this time after Easter specifically to teach the newly baptized about the sacraments and their new life in Christ.

I’ll be following their lead.  We’ll use the 1st Letter of John (which we read on Sundays all season long) as our door to enter the domain of mystery and wonder, exploring how Jesus Christ secures for us salvation, forgiveness of sins, and reason for hope despite a very unbalanced and too often unkind world.

In addition to this textual exploration, we will make two liturgical moves:

First, we will be using a new (ancient) canticle in place of the Gloria at the beginning of the liturgy – we’ll be singing the Pascha nostrum, the “Christ our Passover.” This canticle rehearses what Christ has done for us through his Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension.  

Second, we will not be using a form of corporate confession, except as included in the Prayers of the People. 

As part of your own personal observance of Easter’s Fifty Days, I invite you to make use pf the daily meditations, “Fifty Fabulous Days,” which are posted on the website http://50days.org.  (An excerpt is printed on page 4 of this newsletter.)  


Alleluia, Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!




April 1, 2015, 5:00 PM

What Happens in Holy Week?


Today begins our special observances for Holy Week.

Tonight we hold a service of prayers and readings called "Tenebrae," which is a Latin word meaning shadow.  The whole service should take about an hour, give or take.  The service contains readings, psalms, canticles (ancient hymns based on Biblical texts), and prayers.  I don't know if previous rectors offered this service but we have held it for the three years I've been here.

The mood of the service is sombre -- in its full form (we use an abbreviated version), it encapsulates all the events of Holy Week, bringing out themes of penitence and the hope for reconciliation between humanity and God.  During the course of the service, lights are slowly extinguished, heightening the shift from day into night.  The final tone is one of sorrow, but with a surprise ending.
 
Tomorrow we begin what is called the Triduum - the "three days" of Christ's passion, death, and resurrection.  This is the point where everything turns around for us as followers of Jesus -- the point at which our sorrow and penitence and pain are taken up by God's wide embrace and we are renewed by this sacrificial, sacramental self-giving by God's Son and our Lord.

On Thursday, we commemorate the Last Supper, and, modeling on the report of the Gospel of John, we recall as well Jesus' act of service in washing his disciples' feet.  At the conclusion of the service, the altar and all the colorful furnishings are removed or covered, including the large wooden cross that was brought into the church on Palm Sunday.  There is no final hymn or postlude; we exit in silence.  Thus our liturgy indicates that the events of each day are connected and continuous, not stand-alone and independent of each other.  There is no line between the death and the resurrection.  This is why we are taught that there is "no Easter without Good Friday" -- if Jesus had not died, Christ would not have arisen, we would not be saved, and the world would have no hope.
 
This year, we have been invited to join Trinity United Methodist Church (on Broadway) for a Seder at 5:30, so we can experience the kind of meal Jesus and his disciples would have eaten at the Passover.
 
Our Maundy Thursday service begins at 7:30 p.m., and will last a little over an hour.  I will offer to wash your feet.
 
Our Good Friday worship includes two elements:  The Good Friday service of readings, prayers, anthems, and the Veneration of the Cross is the first part.  This should last a little less than an hour, after which there will be a pause during which those who have to get back to work may leave. The second element is a Celtic-style Stations of the Cross, interspersed with hymns and musical offerings.  This should last about 40 minutes.  Again, the mood is sombre; again, we exit in silence.
 
On Saturday, there are two liturgies:  The Holy Saturday prayers (about 30 minutes' long) at noon, as we mark the long and fearful wait between death and new life.
The mood lifts considerably with the Great Vigil of Easter (10:00 PM), when we light the "new fire" to commemorate the resurrection of Christ Jesus, renew our baptismal vows, and celebrate the first joyful Eucharist of Easter.  There will be a brass quartet, flute, and choir to heighten our observance.
 
These three services -- Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil comprise the Triduum.

On Sunday, Easter Day, we will hold the 8:00 and 10:00 services.  There will be a flute to adorn our music at the later service.




April 1, 2015, 2:51 PM

A Pastoral Letter to the Parish


A Pastoral Letter to members and friends of Christ Episcopal Church:

The following is posted in response to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act recently passed by the legislature of Indiana and signed by the Governor.

>> Christ Episcopal Church in Madison welcomes all in line with the principles and directives of this Diocese and of the national Church. (The canons of the Episcopal Church and of the Diocese of Indianapolis state there is to be no discrimination on the basis "of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age").

We decry this law because it may be (and apparently by some is being) interpreted to permit discrimination against GLBT or other persons because the exercise of someone's religion is "substantially burdened".  We do not agree with a Biblical interpretation that apparently leads some to conclude that GLBT persons, or any other group or person whose choices, identity, or faith are different from their own, may be refused the respect due them as human beings who are beloved of God.  We affirm that no one is outside the reach of God’s love and grace.

We believe St. Paul said it best in Romans 8: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

As Christians, we are called to share that love with our neighbors.  We are bound by our baptismal vows to seek and serve Christ in all persons, and to respect the dignity of every human person. 

May God richly bless you!

Evelyn+

The Rev. Evelyn Wheeler, Rector


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