Thursday, June 22, 2006

Picture on the front of the whaling museum.

Which way to go?

Our bed and breakfast, a delightful little place.

Another foggy Nantucket morning.

Blogging from Nantucket

For the past few days, Jill and I have been enjoying the island of Nantucket. It is a wonderful place with a rich history. Its a bit posh, but we have been enjoying ourselves and keeping plenty busy. Today we checked out the whaling museum, the lighthouse basket museum (almost as exciting as it sounds!) and an old Greek-revival mansion. I'll post some pictures later. The weather has been wonderful. We come back home tomorrow. Back to reality...sigh...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Jewish Wedding...

sunday i had the opportunity to attend a jewish wedding. it was really a fascinating event. the richness of the tradition - the hoopah, symbolizing the open home of the new couple, the blessing of the wine, the cup of sweetness and blessing, etc.

as i sat there watching this beautiful ceremony, i was struck by the richness of the symbolism and the connnection with such a rich tradition. these sacred acts connect this couple with thousands of years of those who have gone before them.

it made me want to be jewish. i longed to be connected to something bigger than myself. i longed to be a part of a community united by its identity in faith. suddenly my faith seemed so shallow in the presence of such a ceremony. the christian or pseudo-christian wedding ceremony which i am used to seemed like an act, an empty symbol in light of such strong symbolism.

for instance, 'christian' weddings typically have several well-groomed men and women that process in up front like a call line. then the bride and groom stand in front of a robed figure who says words that they then repeat. (and promptly forget before the reception.) anybody can do this. it seems not to have any 'gravitas'. it's too familiar.

so, what is the difference between these two ceremonies. for one, this experience of a jewish wedding was entirely new to me. so possibly the difference between the two was my familiarity of with 'christian' ceremonies and the newness and mysterious nature of the jewish ceremony.

a second difference, related to the first, is that one must be jewish to have a jewish wedding. whereas, one doesn't really have to be christian to have a 'christian' wedding. very rarely does someone who has no affiliation with a synagogue or the jewish faith seek out a rabbi and say, 'i have always dreamed of a jewish wedding. your building is so beautiful, i would love to get married here. can i join your congregation to avoid paying the fees?' in our culture, christian wedding ceremonies have become the default, the cultural norm, which because of their familiarity, seem devoid of any deeper meaning.

finally, the jewish wedding ceremony was connected to something deeper - a rich tradition (tradition defined as the living faith of the dead.) the rituals practiced have been a part of that culture for so long, yet as newcomer, they seemed so rich. (like a seven-layer chocolate cake!) whereas in the 'christian' ceremony the only rich act is communion but most of the time people choose not to do this for fear of offending someone. (yet, it seems no one really fears offending God when they are planning their ‘christian’ weddings.)

in reflecting on this, i must ask, how can we recapture the power and meaning of two people making a covenant with each other and God to love, live and share life together until the end of their days? what do you think?

(it is not lost on me that there may be some in the jewish community who experience frustration because of those who are jewish by tradition and not practice having a jewish ceremony. yet even still, it seems that the ceremony in some ways can redeem that.)

Annual Conference...

Posting may be a little spotty this week since I am at Annual Conference (the annual business meeting for the church in Virginia.) This year conference is in Hampton, VA. Next year we'll be in Roanoke (I knew you couldn't wait to find out where it would be!) I will post later on some of the more "controversial" topics.

Friday, June 09, 2006


As you may or may not know, my wife and I are moving to serve a church in a village in northwestern Virginia called Rectortown. Our house will be four miles south, in a town called Marshall. As part of this moving process, we had to sell our house. Well, I am happy to report that as of 12:00 today, we will have a signed contract on our home! This is a huge relief since we move in 17 days. I have to admit that everything with this move to serve Rectortown UMC has been very easy or as some would say, providential. I will post the full story at a later date, but for now I will say that I'm certain beyond a reasonable doubt (98% certain) that God wants us to be at Rectortown. I am anxious to see what he has in store for us there. (I'm sure you'll get to read all about it if you keep reading this blog over the next few months!)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Orthodoxy and Bart Simpson...

Today I was reading more about Orthodoxy, when I came across a discussion about the role of the human body in prayer. One side of the discussion was that prayer was a matter of the head (or mind), totally divorced from the body. (Kind of a Greek understanding of the human being as two parts: body and soul.) Whereas the other side of the discussion was that prayer was a matter of the whole person - body and soul. (Kind of the Hebraic understanding of the human being as a wholistic person which they refer to as the "heart.") Which got me thinking about the Simpsons...

There is an episode where Bart sells his sole to his friend Millhouse for $5, because he doesn't believe in such a thing as a soul. Later on in the episode, he starts to feel as though he is changing: things that used to make him laugh are no longer funny, the cat and dog both bristle at him, and as she is hugging him before bedtime, Marge says: "What's wrong, honey? You don't feel like my special little guy?" All this puts the fear of God (literally) into Bart. He goes to search for his soul which Millhouse has sold to the comicbook store guy, who has sold it again to someone else. Finally, he prays for to God to help him get his soul back...I won't spoil the ending for you.

This all got me thinking about what is our understanding of what it means to be a human being and what are the theological implications of that for prayer? resurrection? death of the body? soul?...?

What are your thoughts? What does it mean to be a human being? How are our bodies, souls, spirits, hearts connected? How does that influence your understanding of God and our response to God?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

A Withdrawal in Order to Return...

Last night we went to the Greek festival sponsored by the local Greek Orthodox church. Great food, lots of people, beautiful evening! While there I took the opportunity to check out the "agaora". Among the other vendors, there was a gentleman selling books about Orthodoxy. So being the bibliophile that I am, I bought a book about Orthodoxy, The Orthodox Church.

A particular statement in the book garnered my attention. It was in a section discussing monasticism and its importance in the history of Orthodoxy. The statement talks about how a particular pattern can be seen among figures in Orthodox monasticism - a withdrawal in order to return.

"A monk must first withdraw, and in silence learn the truth about himself and God. Then, after this long and rigorous preparation in solitude, having gained the gifts of discernment which are required of an elder, he can open the door of his cell and admit the world from which he formerly fled." ( p. 40)

It seems to me that this pattern of withdrawal in order to return seen in our Orthodox monastic brethren of yesteryear should also be a pattern of behavior found in Christians in this day and age. Now, we may not withdraw to quite the same extent, but hopefully we withdraw in times of prayer, Scripture reading, worship, etc. In these times of solitude with God, we seek to gain gifts of discernment and spiritual wisdom, not to mention a deepening relationship with Jesus. All this so that when we "return" to the hustle and bustle of life we bear evidence of having withdrawn into the solitude of the Creator. Your thoughts?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Almost got snookered...

Here is an interesting article I saw on Locusts & Honey: Presb. Church USA launches ambitious plan to lose only 5% of members . I almost started ranting and raving about the decline of the mainline church...then I saw the source of the article. What makes it so funny is that it wouldn't surprise me (or most people for that matter) if it were true! So you will have to wait another day for me to get on my soapbox about the decline of the mainline church. Lucky you!

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Today I read something from a book called This Day that made me stop and think a moment (that usually doesn't happen - stopping and thinking):

The cross is not some burden or challenge in life that we cannot escape and simply must endure. Rather the cross is something that we can evade, but we nevertheless take it up willingly, even amid misgivings."

I had never really thought about it in those terms before. It seems, I would rather the cross be something that I can't evade because then I couldn't shake it, I wouldn't have to be intentional, and I could complain about it! However, if its something I must willingly choose, that takes on a whole other level of commitment and trust. It means I have to be an intentional follower of Jesus. It means I give up my right to gripe and complain because I freely chose to take up my cross. It means that God is transforming us into the kind of people who can bear crosses, who can willingly pick them up in spite of our misgivings. That's pretty cool!