Kirkepiscatoid

Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

Well, over on MadPriest's blog, he gave his loyal readers a chance to "write your own creed," the emphasis being to write a creed that you can believe 100% without any questions or reservations. Personally, I have always struggled with the Apostle's Creed and the Nicene Creed, because they were written by committee, so to speak. Nothing ever comes out of a committee that is one size fits all, which puts us in a position of having to say things like "I believe in the creeds but I don't believe every single word to the creeds." It also forces us to venerate only three faces of an entity that may wll have more faces.

So, without further ado, here's mine!

I believe in God the Source of All Being, omnipresent and all-encompassing, the eternal "I AM."

I believe in Jesus Christ, in whom God the Source of All Being was manifested in a way designed to teach us to draw closer to God. He reconciled us to God by his death on the cross, and in his resurrection is our resurrection.

I believe in Shekinah, the female face of God that resides within holy objects, and that she, with Christ, resides within the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

I believe in God as YHWH, the personal name ascribed to God. Just as we know God's name, the names ascribed to us are known by God.

I believe in Ruach, the Holy Spirit, the Divine Wind, that blows through the lives of each of us and grants us pardon and solace.

I believe these are all faces of God that live in the faces of humankind to bind us together, both through each other, and through the holy catholic church. I acknowledge that there may be other faces of God that I may not yet know. I believe in their power to change the world and each of us, and that they give us a window to all that is holy, both in the kingdom of God and to ourselves. Amen.

Ok, some while back on Padre Mickey's blog, he had the two minute Passover Haggadah. A challenge was made in the comments section for a two minute Eucharistic Prayer...so here it is!

Congregation complaining about the length of church? Try…

The Two Minute Eucharistic Prayer (with apologies to Eucharistic Prayer A in the Book of Common Prayer)

Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.

Priest: Lift up your hearts.
People: Ok.

Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: Sure thing!

Priest: It’s a good idea to do this, so with the angels and archangels and all, we say:

Everyone: Holy Holy Holy Lord,
You rock.
Heaven Rocks.
Jesus Rocks.

Priest: God, we’re a mess, but you sent us Jesus anyway, to reconcile ourselves to you. He got crucified, and it was a bum deal for him, but we’re grateful for it.

(grab bread)

Priest: On the night he was to be betrayed, he took bread and said, “Try it. You’ll like it. It’s my body. Really!”

(grab cup)

Priest: Then he took the cup and said, “Try this, too. It sounds really gross that this is my blood, but you’ll like that too, and it’ll forgive your sins and put hair on your chest.”

Priest: So, God, to that, we say:

Everyone: Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

Priest: We celebrate our redemption, God, and we’re glad to offer you these gifts as a token of our appreciation. Sanctify them, sanctify us, make this stuff work inside of us, and at the last day, we’ll figure it all out then. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

And now, we boldly say:

Everyone: Ourfatherwhoartinheavenhallowedbethyname. Thykingdomcomethywillbedoneonearthasitisinheaven.
Giveusthisdayourdailybreadandforgiveusourtrespasses,
Asweforgivethosewhotrespassagainstus.
Andleadusnotintotemptationbutdeliverusfromevil.
Forthineisthekingdomandthepowerandthegloryforeverandever.
Amen.

(break priest wafer)

Priest: Woo Hoo! Christ our Passover has been sacrificed. Let’s eat!
(omit Woo Hoo during Lent.)

Everyone: Lamb of God, you rock.

Priest: Come and get it!

(congregation comes up and gets bread and wine.)

John 14:1-14

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.

4And you know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.

12Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

This week's text was on part of what is commonly known as the "Farewell Discourse." In rural Missouri, this text is used as a farewell in more ways than one, as it is one of the more common funeral texts you hear in these parts. But in short, Jesus is trying to get his disciples to understand that although He knows His death is imminent, He will never leave them totally.

I got to thinking about how the Farewell Discourse is really not much different in many ways than how any of us would be if we knew we only had a short time to live. We would want our friends and loved ones to know we will find each other again...to borrow from the last song in West Side Story, “There's a place for us, A time and place for us. Hold my hand and we're halfway there, hold my hand and I'll take you there...Somehow...someday...somewhere!”

I think death loses just a little bit of its sting when we think that someone who loves us will clear us an easier path to that shadow walk to the place where light perpetual shines upon us. It makes the scarier parts of that easier knowing a loved one has led us to it.

When my grandmother was about two weeks from dying, I remember one of the nurses at Loch Haven in Macon asking me, “Who’s J.R.?” I said, “Whaddya mean?” She continued, “Well, your grandmother was telling me that even though she’s kind of afraid of ‘that dying thing’ as she put it, she said she was looking forward to seeing Bobby and Richard and J.R.”

I started laughing. “Well,” I said, “Bobby is my grandpa and Richard was their son...but J.R. is the DOG I had that died about 7 years ago. I’m glad J.R. is held in such high esteem!”

But that thought, oddly enough, became a great comfort to me in the 36 or so hours that it took her to finally slip away and die. I thought of my grandmother heading down this shadowy tunnel into a place of light, with the tunnel echoing with J.R.’s happy bark echoing in the tunnel, urging her to come on and see what he found for her! (There are lots of things in the Bible that have me dead convinced that my dogs will be with me in Heaven, and although we’ll all be transformed somehow, I will know who they are...but that is a blurb in itself!)

Verses 6-14 are very convoluted to me, and I think this is where the fundies and I part company. But I think Jesus is trying to explain a very hard topic in light of the times. Prior to Christ, all good Jews knew the law trumps everything. To be deserving of Paradise, you had to observe and keep the law. But I don’t think Jesus is saying, “You have to believe in me to go to heaven,” I think he’s saying, “This is more than just obeying the law. This is about the trust we have in each other. Hey, you think God’s within me, right? Then believe that, and act in a way that honors that belief. And even when you’re sure that’s not what this all means, believe in the truth of the good things and the miracles that happen in my name. When you can’t wrap your mind around this supernatural stuff, believe in the reality of the good you see that happens in my name. If you can do that, and live like that, even greater miracles can happen through you.”

So in this sense, it’s not so much a “Farewell discourse” as it is a trail of breadcrumbs. If we just follow the trail of breadcrumbs Jesus left us in his life, we will become closer to God, even in this world—then maybe the next one is not quite so scary!



All small towns have "local characters." Kirksville is a little blander now that Sterling has passed.

Every small town has a few of these. They are characters who hang around town, and, as my late grandmother used to say, "ain't quite right." They usually are suffering from some form of mental illness but are not "bad off enough" to be institutionalized. They have the odd mix of "troublesome but sort of interesting" in their character, and become local fixtures.

Sterling was one of those guys. Basically, he was a schizophrenic. He stood around town, often either at the courthouse, the post office, or at Truman, handing out his "missives"--single spaced all capital letters ramblings, complete with hand rendered drawings and Bible references. He ran for local office all the time and never won, but always got a few votes, which tells you what some people in town thought of the rest of the candidates.

He attended every kind of council or board meeting in town that allowed public comments--and did so--frequently. Despite his illness, there was something inside of him that wanted fairness for all. Sometimes he could speak lucidly, sometimes he was too far in the depths of his own demons for anything to make sense. He had his delusions about the people who had "done him wrong" and if he got over onto them in his speechmaking, he would slip from the normal world into his world of delusions. He hung around the Truman campus a lot, and despite the fact that many people made fun of him and made sport of him, he always had a small following of college students who liked him, in an odd sort of way.

For whatever reason, the guy liked me, and never gave me much hassle. He would see me, greet me, and would often hug me. It was a stark contrast to the time he threatened to blow up the Lutheran church. The pastor at the time became persona non grata in Sterling's world (mostly b/c he called the cops on him for his bomb threat and he got 96 hours at a local mental health facility, and was frequently an object in his "single spaced all capital letters missives.")

The hell of it was, in the middle of this troubled man was the flicker of light from a good soul. It was just trapped in a schizophrenic body.

He was a ward of the county upon his passing. There were no plans for a service or any sort of memorial. He had been estranged from his family for many years. The more I thought about it, the more I realized he deserved a sendoff as good as anyone would have. So I talked to Carrol, our priest associate, about doing a service, and I wrote an obituary for the local paper, using bits and pieces of personal historical info I gleaned from about five different sources.

Then, something interesting happened. Once the obit was published, "Sterling stories" were being told all over town. The editor of the local paper dedicated his editorial to him on Election Day. The local radio station's "party line" program dedicated the show in his honor. (That was an ironic twist, as they never would let Sterling be on "party line" for fear he'd jepoardize their FCC license!)

Only about ten people attended his memorial service (he had donated his body to the local osteopathic medical school), but it was ten people who cared. Four of them were college students. (Over three decades, it was always a little cadre of students that ran errands for him and gave him rides.) One sobbed uncontrollably throughout the service. When Carrol talked to her a little afterwards, she cried even harder and said, "Sterling was cool." Oh, that any of us could be mourned like that.

I am still asking myself, "Why did I go to all this trouble for someone I just knew peripherally?" I'm still not sure. But I'm glad I did.

Some of you all know I love playing with words. One of the things I like to do is read a text in the Bible and backtrack to the original Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic and try to figure out the context.

One of the Hebrew words I've gotten fixated on this week is the word "Yadah".

The root of this word is the word “Yud”--literally "hand". Yadah literally means “praise” but more specifically, it means “praise by putting your hands out to God.” The yud is also the little pointer used in a synagogue service for reading the Torah. Generally, the Torah is not touched by human hands so the yud is used to keep one's place when reading it. There are Hebrew words for the right hand of God and the left hand of God, but occasionally the word "yud" is used in the context of "the hand of God."

It is also the root word in the word "Yehuda." Leah's 4th son was named Yehuda, and the name has a sense of thanksgiving in it--to be thankful. it is also the root for the word "Jew" so the root of this word also connotes a sense of thanksgiving and praise.

Now, I think the fundies have co-opted it with all their outstretched hands and speaking in tongues...but there is a part of it I want to take back from them. Receiving communion is a form of “yadah”. My holding the processional cross is a form of “yadah.” There’s “yadah” in all sorts of things we do in church every Sunday, and we don’t necessarily have to make a spectacle of ourselves to do it.

In the most simple sense, you know how I see “yadah”? It’s basically a two year old holding out his/her hands in that “pick me up” pose. I mean, think about it. If you are standing next to a two year old who is saying nothing but is holding up his or her hands to you, what do you do? You pick the kid up, DUH! You just pick the kid up and hold him/her and squeeze and give them a quiet “grrr” and a big pat on the back, maybe even swing the kid around a little with their feet tailing out behind him/her.

I like to think that is what God does with us. Thinking about this expands my view of what a “blessing” is. It means that all the things the various people handle at the altar, and what all you handle at the rail when getting Communion are blessings beyond their obvious meaning. They are moments where God holds us like two year olds wanting a hug, and being told, “You are blessed. You are loved.” Wow.

It also carries over into the affection we get in our everyday lives. When I’ve had a tough day, I’ll take all the “Sorry you had a tough day” hugs from anyone who will pass them out. I think I am understanding better WHY those are important to me. It’s because for every one you get, from every person who hands one out, they say, “I (the person giving the hug) am blessed that you (the person needing the hug) are in my life.” So all those pats on the back, those hugs, those moments where we just sort of “shoulder bump” people and wink at them or simply smile at them are all moments where we are doing God’s will and emulating God’s ability to make us feel blessed and “special”...and giving them out is also a blessing in that you are the instrument of God’s love in that instance. Wow, wow, and wow!

I had something very odd happen to me today.

I was coming out of Hy-Vee (the local grocery store) and while I was sitting at the stoplight at Illinois and Baltimore, I was looking down at the the seat at something in the grocery sack, and I thought I saw a “flutter” out of the corner of my eye.

When I looked back up in front of me, there was a little brown dove perched on my driver’s side rear view mirror. He cocked his head at me this way and that, and just looked at me for a full 10 seconds or so. Then he flew off, not startled or anything, just flew off.

I am thinking, “WHOA! I have no idea what THAT is about!!!!!”

Believe me, I am the last person in the world who thinks things are "signs." I regularly poke good natured fun at all the "apparitions" that make the news (most recently, the Methodist minister who claimed to have found a Cheeto shaped like a praying Jesus--I personally thought the Cheeto in the news story looked like a fetus with neurofibromatosis). But there was just something incredibly weird about that dove, the way he looked at me. His gaze was pretty intent, and I've never seen a dove perch on a parked vehicle with the motor running.

I'm thinking that dove would have eaten the Cheeto shaped like Jesus...

Aggggh.

This evening, I'm sorta "glumming." In a month and a half, I've had to terminate two employees. This has been more difficult than I realized, having never had to terminate any employees in my life up to now. In both instances, I had ample justification, and probably really let things "go" longer than I should have before finally doing the deed, but I don't think I was prepared for the mental twisting as I remember my own failures in these situations.

I also became hyper-aware of the fact that many people have stepped to the plate to give me a break over the years, and I am grateful. I tried to give both these people a break and it never worked out. Yet I find myself berating myself rather than getting back to the basics that they never lived up to the expectations of the job. I find myself feeling like some sort of Pez Dispenser of Old Testament wrath. I find myself with the odd feeling of not wishing either of these people ill, but realizing that in this situation, I leave it extremely hard for there to be any sort of reconciliation to it for now.

I am not in the habit of closing doors on purpose. Sometimes my anger gets the best of me, and doors get closed because of it, or other people close doors on me, but to deliberately close a door is something I tend to avoid. It's just an odd feeling, being the one who does the door-shutting on purpose.

This week's Gospel, for the 3rd Sunday of Easter, was "The Road to Emmaus" and the big thing I was thinking today in the middle of Wallace's sermon was, “Hmmmm....we all have our own ‘Road to Emmaus.’ Multiple times.”

How many times are we so far “in the middle of something” that is difficult, that we can’t see the forest for the trees? Cleopas and his buddy are still so stuck in the middle of the crucifixion they can’t see the Resurrection when it’s right in front of their noses.

How many times is Christ right in front of us but we don’t recognize it? It doesn’t necessarily have to be from pain or loss, either—you can just be so hyper-fixated on something you have blinders on about everything else. I was thinking about that in terms of my little Eddie dog. One time, Eddie had dug a bone out of the garbage that was not a “safe” bone for dogs—it was a pork chop bone with a point, and was one that normally I don’t give to the dogs b/c they can choke on it or get it halfway down and puncture their esophagus with it.

Well, for a 22 lb. dog, he’s pretty vicious if you try to take his food. He’ll snarl and snap and would bite you in a heartbeat if you made a grab for it. So I was trying to lure him with a piece of real meat to get him to drop the bone so I could snatch it away. At first he was not about to drop that bone, and I was getting pretty aggravated with him. I could not believe he would not drop a bone from the garbage in exchange for a little piece of real meat. But he just growled and growled and would not let go, and I didn’t dare reach for the bone unless he was going to go for the meat instead. But it took forever for him to finally decide the meat looked better. (Took a bigger piece of meat, too...)

Well, and how many times do we continue to cling to our own bare little pork chop bones with half rotten meat on them, and a dangerous point on the bone that could poke a hole in our gullet, when God is dangling a hunk of steak in front of us? How many times do we refuse an opportunity from God for real nourishment, because we can’t bear to drop a bone we picked out of the trash?

To drop the bone takes an awareness that there is something out there that is better for you than the thing to which you cling. (I might add, dropping the rotten bone is really really hard sometimes, even when you become aware that there is something better, because you KNOW what you have in your mouth and you feel familiar with it, even if it isn’t particularly good for you.)

Now, think about what happened in the story. When they got the bread from Christ, they could see what’s what. I’m not even sure if they even had to EAT the bread to see—the story only says he gave it to them—but as soon as they can see, he vanishes, and they are just left holding the bread. That part of the story is pretty significant to me. The implication is that they knew what to do with the bread, so there was no need for Jesus to hang around at that point. God’s not into hand feeding us—he’ll provide, but he expects us to feed ourselves and each other.

I thought about my thought earlier in the week about bread—all that work and care that goes into a simple loaf of bread—and how this simple food says “home.” Not just the happy things one remembers about home, but also perhaps a level of care that you may not have felt in your home growing up, or are not feeling at the moment because you’re stuck in the middle of a tough spell of events...a home better than your earthly home. A simple piece of bread showed Cleopas and his buddy a glimpse of their heavenly home, their eyes were opened, and then, although the resurrected Jesus vanishes, they are left holding the gift of “home”, and they are expected to feed themselves with it. Wow. That’s pretty deep!

What this all tells me is that God will find a way to stick a hunk of his grace in my hand when I need it, even if I’m so hyper-fixated on whatever’s troubling me that I can’t even see him standing right in front of me. That’s a good thing to think about in those dark moments I tend to have. It’s a promise beyond what I’m used to—no doubt I won’t adjust to that promise right away—but there it is.

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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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