Thursday, June 22, 2006
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
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.)
Friday, June 09, 2006
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
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 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
Thursday, June 01, 2006
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!