Reading

Someone asked the other day, what I have been reading. At that point, the answer was not much. I was part way through a Booker prize winner from a few years ago, which was not really grabbing my interest, as well as a book called Lamb, by Christopher Moore, a comical, but thought provoking, fictional epistle recording the childhood of Jesus, through the eyes of his childhood friend, Biff. I haven’t finished either of them and they continue to languish, one on my ipad, the other on the bathroom floor.

Three more books have come into my life since the question was asked. One from the questioner herself, the rest through a web page suggestion from Nettie at This Dusty House. None are fiction, all have to do with the Christian church, and they just seemed to compliment each other, as I read them together, over this past week.

imagesThe first was Mark Buchanan’s Your Church is too Safe (Zondervan). Following on the theme of his earlier book Your God is Too Safe, Buchanan pulls out well known, well loved, Biblical passages and presents them in a new light. He portrays God as a God who expects us to take “some hell-bent-for-leather risks” if we are to truly be faithful. He encourages churches not to try to choose between fellowship and mission, but to see them as partners together. He suggests that we get back to the basics of being church, devoting ourselves to “teaching, fellowship, sacraments, worship,and stewardship” and to stop spending energy on vision casting. He points to the “religious spirit” which works its way into many churches as being the most difficult to remove, the most harmful to the growth of the church, and often the most counter to God’s word and the Holy Spirit’s working. Buchanan is Canadian and writes with a Canadian accent, which I appreciate,

cover30351-smallThe second book this week is a brand new one, due to be published this week. Aliens in the Promised Land (P&R Publishing), by Anthony B. Bradley, provides a hard hitting, frank, overview of the place of minorities in American churches. As a Canadian, I’m sure some of the criticism Bradley aims at the white dominated denominations in America can be brought across the border as well. As part of a bi-national denomination his words come with a sting. His language and writing style are colourful and provocative, setting the tone already in the introduction by labeling some of his detractors as “John Calvin-loving racists” and going from there to point an unwavering finger at all of the mainline churches as he enumerates their misdeeds and missteps. Bradley has gathered other voices as well as his own African American one. Chapters by Asian, Hispanic, Latino, and other African Americans all tied together by the work of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and their report: Racism and the Church. The book is not all negative. Each chapter provides corrective words and encouragement to the church. Its final chapter is a what’s next, step by step plan for the future. Bradley himself states, in the closing words, his hope that this book will start a conversation, to get folks to listen to someone outside their tribe, to move toward embracing our common human dignity.

cover27745-smallFrom moving to unsafe, uncharted territories, to the issues of racism  it just seems right that the final book of this trio be one on we one thing we as churches, in one way, or another, share, worship. R.C Sproul’s How Then Shall We Worship (David C. Cook) is coming out in it’s second edition. First published in 2006, this book takes us through the Old and the New Testament in an effort to reground our worship practices in scripture, to reclaim the symbolism of the sacraments, and to have us rethink the meaning of worship. I was particularly taken by his study of the Church as a house of prayer recognizing that the practice of worship in ancient Israel included praise, prayer, and sacrifice, he wonders why  Protestant churches in North America are not houses of prayer, why prayer is pushed to the side by other elements we apparently find more exciting. Sproul does a wonderful job of connecting the elements we find in worship to scriptural anchors, in a very readable way,  resonating with my own Calvinist background.

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Camino for the Soul

To walk the Camino is supposed to be good for the soul. It is also hard on the feet.  Today we traveled 20.6 km from Burgos to Hornillos del Camino, from city into empty country, through some little villages and finally to a small village dominated by a church with it’s population likely doubled by pilgrims.

We began our day standing in the street outside our hotel, holding hands and sharing a prayer. The prayer was in French, led by our guide.  Here is that prayer:

God, You called your servant Abraham from Ur in Chaldea, watching over him in all his wanderings, and guided the Hebrew people as they crossed the desert.  Guard these your children who, for the lover of your Name, make a pilgrimage to Compostela.  Be their companion on the way, their guide at the crossroads, their strength in weariness, their defense in dangers, their shelter on the path, their shade in the heat, their light in the darkness, their comfort in discouragement, and the firmness of their intentions; that through your guidance, they may arrive safely at the end of their journey and, enriched with grace and virtue, may return to their homes filled with salutary and lasting joy. 
    -Codex Calixtinus- 12th Century
Sharing those words together as we set out on our journeys, each with their own goals, hopes, dreams for the trip, was a special moment.  It was a moment that drew us together again as a group, but also as children of a God who loves and cares for us.

Much of today's walk was through "big" country

We ended the day in the church in Hornilos del Camino, a church that could likely hold the entire population of the own a number of times over.  We had asked for a place to have a Eucharist Service for our group and were offered the church. Our service was attended by only twelve people, our group and two other pilgrims, but it was very meaningful as we shared the bread and the wine together, each one of us coming from a different religious tradition, yet bound together by this sacrament. I have never sung in such a space before. It was wonderful.

I Pray

I pray, 0 God, to know you, to love you, that I may rejoice in you.

And if I cannot attain to full joy in this life may I at least advance from day to day, until that joy shall come to the full.

Let the knowledge of you advance in me here, and there be made full. Let the love of you increase, and there let it be full, that here my joy may be great in hope, and there full in truth.

Lord, through your Son you do command, nay, you do counsel us to ask; and you do promise that we shall receive, that our joy may be full.

I ask, O Lord, as you do counsel through our wonderful Counsellor.

I will receive what you do promise by virtue of your truth, that my joy may be full. Faithful God, I ask.

I will receive, that my joy may be full.

Meanwhile, let my mind meditate upon it; let my tongue speak of it.

Let my heart love it; let my mouth talk of it.

Let my soul hunger for it; let my flesh thirst for it; let my whole being desire it, until I enter into your joy, O Lord, who are the Three and the One God, blessed for ever and ever.

Amen.

Anselm Proslogion (1077-1078)

Prayer

Come to my assistance my Lord and my God, that I may do for You all that you ask.  Strengthen me in adversity and do not let me succumb to my feelings of worthlessness.  Help me to feel in my heart all that You speak to me, and help me to understand.   May I be to others what they need: a body to work when others cannot; a heart to love those who are forgotten; a shoulder to console those who’s soul is in need; a smile to brighten the most somber of Your children; a mouth to proclaim Your love.  Let me be to You, as a brush is to a painter, worthless without You, but capable of transforming the human heart by the power of Your mercy.

Send me, my Lord if You need me, to touch others as You would touch them, to hold them as You would, to love them as only You can.  Make my heart like Yours, that I may forgive everything and love beyond my own human frailty.  Come live within me, that I may die to myself so You may fill my very being.  Let me serve others as You would serve them, that in doing so I may serve You.  Do not let me fail, oh Lord, or lead Your people astray.  Allow me to live in Your presence today, that tomorrow I may die in Your hands, and may You raise me one day that I may touch Your face and live in Your glory.

Amen.

Deacon Lazaro J. Ulloa

First Winter Storm

I live in a place that is prone to winter storms.  Right now, we are in the second day of the first one.  This morning we woke up to closed roads, closed schools, high winds, and white out conditions.  J could not get into work and had to cancel her client appointments. 

Except for a doctor’s appointment, I had intended to spend most of the day in my office.  I did make it to the doctor, but for part of the trip, I was glad that some of the pavement was not covered, because all I could see was that black road for about 20 feet ahead of me.

I actually like these sorts of days.  They give me an opportunity to catch up.  I can’t get out so no one expects to see me.  I get a chance to wade through paperwork and eventually even clean up my desk and office (that does need to get done before the Googler comes home for Christmas)  To many in a row can get boring.

Tomorrow sounds like more of the same.  I look forward to enjoying it in my warm house next to the wood stove.

Prayer on Contemplating Nature

You, O God, Majestic Creator, are the origin of all life.

Nothing can exclude itself from your creative influence.

You are wonderful in your words and in your sovereignty.

Amazed, I contemplate the perfection of the world you created for human beings.

You are unmatched in your power and in your goodness.

O Lord, you direct like a conductor the orchestration of a storm, and you shape like a sculptor the petals of a flower.

You are prodigious in your majesty and in your wisdom.

Lord, you have fashioned human beings to accept the challenges of nature and to be your voice in creation.

O Lord and King, Majestic Creator, you have made your mystery transparent in the world you have created.

I worship you in your creation and in your providence.

Amen.

From Prayers of Blessing and Praise for All  Occasions

Prayer

O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things.

(By St. Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556)

Prayer

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything apart  from that desire.

And I know that, if I do this , You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton
Thoughts in Solitude, pg. 83