Wednesday, 16 July 2014

OF Things Liturgical

The following is part of a discussion on with a friend on Facebook concerning the Book of Common Prayer and the Book of Alternative Services in the Anglican Church of Canada
Desmond — thank you for your thoughtful and extensive comments.  There is some in what you write that I agree and some with which I disagree.  I believe language and symbols such as passing the peace are important.  They are integral to the Anglican worship and symbolic of much more.  There is a great deal more to what the two services — if we take just the Communion or the Eucharist in both prayer books.  The things that are emphasized in each service are quite different but there are similarities.
The BAS does differ from the traditional Anglican service in both form and content.   However, in part it is a matter of emphasis rather than stark differences.  The BAS does emphasize the communal nature of worship opening with the gathering of the community — when two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name he is there — and the emphasis on community continues.  The BAS does have an emphasis on US but there is that element in the BCP.  The confession is communal, ‘We acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness’.  The creed in the BCP is ‘I believe’ however, the BAS uses most frequently the Apostles creed with ’I believe’.  There is also the Nicene Creed in the BAS which is communal.  However, you can hardly call that a modernization as the Council of Nicea was rather a long time ago.

 Certainly agree with you that there is a downplaying of repentance in the BAS which is unfortunate in my mind and theology.  We all have the need for repentance and come to the communion rail as sinners and in need of God’s grace.   Perhaps this is another case of emphasis as we are all created in God’s image and God declared it very good.  We have been expelled from the Garden which I take as a myth in the best sense.  However, that is not because of original sin in the Augustine sense.  We needed to rebel against God if we were develop as fully human beings but this did, of necessity, leads to a separation from God.  What would humanity be like if it has remained in the Garden?   This is non-traditional theology which I readily admit.  We do need to repent our separation from God which is inevitable because of our human nature and mostly because our egos see us as the center of our being rather than God.

This brings us to the crucial issue of scripture and how you understand it and what you/we believe.  I believe that contrary to what you declare we must look at the direction of scripture and of Jesus’ message rather than the specifics of different passages.  What you say is logical but I don’t believe that logic has priority for Jesus or for God’s interaction with people.  To perhaps be illogical and take one passage to support this I turn to Paul.  As Paul says to the Church in Corinth, ‘And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (KJV).  If we are to live in true charity with our neighbours and ourselves we will be following Jesus commandment to love one another.   I turn to Jesus and the woman caught in sin about to be stoned.  None of us is without sin.  However, he does say go and sin no more which is often held up as the last word against same-sex-blessing.  We are to turn back and repent.  However, there is another approach of Jesus which is presented in the parable of the Prodigal Son.  The father does not wait for the son to give his well-rehearsed speech of repentance.   The father accepts the son as he celebrates the reunion.  He does not say you may come back home but sin no more.  He accepts him unconditionally.  The question for me is how are we to live in love and charity with our neighbours? 
The BAS does present things in what could be called a logical fashion.  There is little mystery in what has been presented which is part of the problem with the liturgy.  As my wife Lorna noted it tries to pin down God as good and gracious and loving and only that.  But there is little of the mystery of God which is essential as we try to understand God.  This is beyond our abilities as finite human creatures.  I want to conclude with a quote from Richard Rohr:

For me, it really comes down to this: the individuals I know who are most genuinely happy and also fruitful for the world invariably relate to God in a way that is deeply personal, intimate, and almost conversational. Yet these same persons would be the first to admit and recognize that their personal God is also transpersonal and sometimes impersonal, and “the one in whom we all live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28), and, finally, beyond all names for God. God is humbly recognized as beyond any of our attempts to domesticate, understand, or control the Mystery. All names for God are “in vain.”
That is I believe not logical and it cannot be as God is beyond our logic.  For me that is the mystery of God. 


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Of Motes and Beams

Sermon July 13, 2014:  Fourth After Trinity

Luke 6: 36

Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.

We might call today’s lesson — rather than ‘of mice and men’ — ‘of motes and beams’.  I’m sure we know what a beam is — it is a very large piece of wood.  But what is a mote?  Well one definition of mote which I looked up is: ‘a very small piece of dust, dirt’.  So we get the comparison.  It is easy to understand that you might have a speck of dust in your eye.  Probably everyone here has had the experience — not a pleasant one but not something that is going to do you serious damage — perhaps unless you are driving along a mountainous road with no guard rails.  But having a beam in your eye — if you can imagine that — is certainly going to give you lots of trouble — if not permanent blindness.

Jesus then is setting up a comparison that it is impossible to misunderstand.  People are paying attention to the small things that they don’t approve of in others and they are blind to the big things that they should be paying attention to in themselves.  These are the hypocrites that Jesus is identifying when he declares, ‘Thou hypocrite’ or in modern English, ‘You hypocrite’. 

Let’s put this passage in context.  A lot has happened just before this passage.  Jesus has just passed through a grain field on the Sabbath and his disciples have sinned by doing work — they have picked some heads of grain to eat — being his disciples they probably didn’t always get regular meals.  The Pharisees criticize them for doing work on the Sabbath — I guess they hadn’t heard Jesus proclamation that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.   After this, Jesus is criticized again by the Pharisees for healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath.  Elsewhere in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus doesn’t pull any punches regarding how he feels about the Pharisees, “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”

So Jesus does not think much of people who are hypocritical.  The biggest culprits in this sin are the Pharisees.  The Pharisees were religious laymen — there don’t seem to have been any women Pharisees — which might have been part of their problem.  They were a sect or social movement which was primarily interested in the law — which of course in that time and place was the Mosaic Code — and ensuring that the law was fulfilled and obeyed. 

They were condemned by Jesus many different times first because they seemed to be making a god of the law rather than the law being a way which would bring people closer to God.  Secondly — and specifically in today’s context — they were more concerned with the mote — the speck of dust — in other’s eyes than in the beam or log in their own eye.  They ‘shut up the kingdom of heaven against men’ — I believe that is the greatest sin in Jesus’ eyes.  They not only block their own way to the Kingdom of God but they block others from reaching the Kingdom. 

Well, where does that leave us today? None of us like to think of ourselves as hypocrites.  But of course Jesus is speaking to us as well as to the people around him.  I believe this is where we need to consider the motes and the beams.  Do we ever fall into the trap that Jesus identifies in the Pharisees?  Of course hypocrisy is probably as common today as it was in Jesus’ time.  It just may have different subject.  Today people are rarely criticized for working on the Sabbath.  However, I believe that we are all subject to the beam and mote problem. 

We all will fall into the problem — or sin to put it in religious language — of seeing faults in others before we see them in ourselves.  It is human nature to do this.  In fact we often see in others the things about ourselves that we don’t want to acknowledge. 

In the psychology of Carl Jung he calls this the shadow.  We identify and react to those things in others that we do not find acceptable in ourselves.  In effect we see the beam that is in our eye as being the beam even if it is only a mote in another person’s eye.  One way of telling when this happens is the strength of the reaction that you have to the actions of behaviour or even appearance of the other person.  If the strength of your reaction or the depth of the emotions that are stirred up are out of proportion to the event then you are probably dealing with an aspect of your shadow — an aspect of you self that is not acceptable to you.  In effect the beam that you see in the other person may in effect be closer to a mote and in truth is your own beam. 

I believe that this is important for us as Christians because we need to be able to do all we can to follow Jesus’ lessons.  If we realize that the fault — dear Horatio — is in ourselves and not all in the other — we are more able to do as Jesus commands.  The Gospel lessons begins, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.  37Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven”.  These are the attributes that Jesus believes are the important ones — not the minutia of following the law.  We are to love one another as he loves us.  As Paul says to the Church in Corinth, ‘And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity”.

If we are to live in true charity with our neighbours and ourselves we will be following Jesus commandment to love one another.  Amen

BCP and BAS and Other Things Liturgical

I was presiding and preaching at the church in Montague —St. George’s yesterday.  They use the Book of Common Prayer rather than the ‘modern liturgy of the Book of Alternate Services so we were celebrating the fourth Sunday after Trinity.  It is interesting — and a bit of a challenge —to preside at a BCP service as I did not grow up in the Anglican church. When I came over to England (to coin a phrase), the B.A.S. was in general use — a least in my experience.  I did have some experience with the BCP liturgy mostly in the nursing home services and home visit where the people wanted the service they grew up with and were most familiar with — just as the old hymns they grew up with resonate with them on a deep level.  However, even that experience didn’t really prepare me for presiding at a ‘high’ BCP service which is the custom at St. Georges as well as St. Albans in Souris here on Prince Edward Island, where we are spending the summer, and where we also worship.
I became serious about Anglican worship around 1990 and the debate about the new liturgy of the BAS versus the traditional liturgy of the BCP had been going on for a while in parts of the church.  It was not evident in the congregation which I worshipping at that time with Lorna.  I believe I missed most of the discussion around the change by that time.  The objectives of the new liturgy and the objections to it were far ranging and still exist in some parts of the Anglican Church.  There was and is a resistance to change among Anglicans is a long standing value and habit summed up by the (now) old joke, “How many Anglicans does it take to change a light bulb?  Change, we don’t change, we’re Anglicans!  And anyway that light bulb is a memorial for my parents so we can’t change it”! 
Some of the arguments around the two forms of worship revolve around language — the beauty and poetry of the BCP prayer book which was written by Thomas Cramner, the Archbishop of Canterbury following the reforms initiated by Henry VIII who had less than pure motives in breaking with the Roman Catholic Church.  The language is archaic and rather hard to get used to, for one raised in modern English.  However, it is beautiful.   The use of BCP goes lockstep with the use of the King James Version of the bible which does give me more difficulty when proclaiming the Gospel in the worship service.   There is of course more behind the changes than language.  The theology of the two different books is quite different which I won’t go into detail here. 
 However, one of the objections to the service change was the passing of the peace which in the BCP was done by the priest reciting, “The Lord be with you”.  The congregation responded, “And with thy spirit.”  The BAS follows this formula with minor changes to update the language.  However, here comes the kicker — in the BAS people actually exchange a symbol of peace by shaking hands.  This did not go well with many Anglicans who saw it as an unnecessary intrusion into their solemn worship. 
This is a small but telling example of the resistance to the change.  However, there are much more significant differences which are associated with the two prayer books.  The BCP is usually, but not necessarily, associated with traditional, orthodox theology and a resistance to the ordination of women which was introduced in the Canadian church in the 1970’s.  More recently the debate has centered on the blessing of same-sex-unions (and now marriages).  As someone who definitely leans towards the liberal end of the theological continuum it is a cause of a bit of dissonance in my worship.  However, I am able to appreciate the beauty of the BCP liturgy without getting involved in the debate around these far reaching theological issues — as important as they are.  However, we all must choose our battles or as we used to say in seminary ‘choose which ditch we will die in’. 

Friday, 11 July 2014

Watching Pit Pony is the Pits

Watching 'Pit Pony' was the pits. It was almost worth the $1 price for the used VCR to have the pleasure of taking in a movie that tried so hard and achieved so little. It had all the elements and ensured they were there with a vengeance. They had the widower father with the adorable children and responsible older daughter and the younger son who was going to get out of the mines through staying in school. There was the tragedy of the father being injured and the older brother killed in a mine disaster so the younger boy had to go to work in the mines. There was the love interest with the older daughter and the love triangle between the romantic stranger from Scotland and the not so nice boy next door. There was the evil mine owner and corrupt miners' association boss. And of course there was the kindly farmer (player by Canadian Denny Doherty of the Mamas and the Papas) who took the younger boy under his wing. There was the ultimate mine disaster where the boy saves the day and is the hero and is able to escape the mine. And let's not forget the adorable 'pit pony' who surprisingly didn't have a huge part in the story. You must see the ending - it must be seen to be believed but have your shot of insulin ready. The joys of rotten tomatoes.

Monday, 7 July 2014

The Enneagram Part 6

This edition is going to be my last exploration of the Enneagram — at least for a while.  I want to explore what seems to me to be the great strength of the Enneagram — the goal and focus of maturity or spiritual development.  Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert use both psychological terminology of maturity and the religious terminology of redemption in describing the process.  Rohr/Ebert identify what they term the Triple Continuum of Immature - Normal – Mature in process.  Within each of the nine types a person is somewhere along the continuum between Immature and Mature.  This is similar — in general terms — to the Integration process developed by Carl Jung.  It is a process or journey which all people can potentially travel and is to become the people that God intends us to become. 

There are attitudes/ways of being that are identified for each stage along the continuum for each type which I outline below.

The Immature Attitudes

Type 1   Know-it-all/Pharisaical/Corrosive  
  Type 6   Dependent/Aggressive/Cowardly
Type 2   Manipulative/Domineering/Symbiotic
  Type 7   Excessive/Dilettantism/Opinionated
Type 3   Opportunistic/Deceptive/Career addicted
  Type 8   Power-obsessed/Tyrannical/Violent
Type 4   Self-pitying/Decadent/Infatuated with death
  Type 9   Fatalistic/Dosorirntrd/Stubborn 
Type 5   Isolated/Nihilistic/Eccentric


The Normal Attitudes

Type 1   Perfectionist/Wavering/Scrupulous  
  Type 6   Duty-conscious/Careful/(Anti)-authoritarian  
Type 2   Motherly/|Giving/Active
  Type 7   Hyperactive/Hedonistic/Superficial
Type 3   Pragmatic/Status conscious/Role-oriented
  Type 8   Controlling/Competing/Direct
Type 4   Aesthetic/Romantic/Stylish
  Type 9   Conformist/’Requires little care’/Indecisive   
Type 5   Analytical/Distanced/Abstract


The Mature Attitudes

Type 1   Critically aware/Composed/Ethically advanced  
  Type 6   Loyal/Courageous/Confident
Type 2   Caring/Friendly/Original
  Type 7   Happy/Versatile/Sober
Type 3   Competent/Truthful/Reliable
  Type 8   Generous/Strong leader/Protective
Type 4   Creative/Natural/Disciplined
  Type 9   Accepting/Peaceable/Goal Oriented 
Type 5   Inventive/Wise/Energetic


Rohr/Ebert note that ideally we go through the process of integration.  However, the journey even if consciously taken is not a direct steady path, “there are also phases in life of stagnation or relapse into the immature stage (regression and disintegration)”. We are of course going to have a mixture of mature, normal and immature attitudes at any time in our lives.  A good analogy is walking the labyrinth.  Sometimes we approach the goal but then there are turns and twists in life that seem to take us away from the centre.  However, if we stay faithful to the journey we will reach the centre — possibly not in this life but ultimately.  That is where faith and trust in God’s presence and guidance throughout our lives is our hope and assurance.  I hope this week’s journey is a fruitful — if not necessarily smooth one for you. 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Enneagram: Part 5

“Get thee behind me Satan!”  This is Jesus cry when tempted by the disciple Peter — his rock but also his impetuous one who always acted before he thought — or perhaps he just didn’t think at this point in his life in any case.   Peter wanted Jesus to deny what he must do — go to Jerusalem and all that that entailed; ending with his crucifixion, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’

The temptation to avoid change — to want things to stay the same even if we know in our hearts that they need to change — is one of the challenges we face.  The Ego is all about not changing.  The Ego wants to maintain the status quo above all else and will do all it can to put up barriers to doing things differently even if we know that we need to change if we are to do God’s will or even do what is obviously good for us.  As Rohr and Ebert note, “all of us create in the course of our development certain ideals, whose realization we pursue.  Our self-image is determined largely by these ideals.”

It not surprizing that each of the nine Enneagram types has its own temptation just as it has its own root sin as I discussed last time.  The temptation is categorized by Richard Rohr and Andreas along with two other ways of avoiding change — avoidance and resistance.  These three mechanisms works in different ways but with the same goal — to avoid change.      

The Temptation which is identified for each type is:

Type 1   Perfection
  Type 6   Security
Type 2   Helping others
  Type 7   Idealism
Type 3   Efficiency
  Type 8   Justice
Type 4   Authenticity
  Type 9   Self-deprecation 
Type 5   Knowledge


The Resistance (Defense) Mechanism which is identified with each type is:

Type 1   Vexation
  Type 6   Inappropriate behaviour
Type 2   Supressed neediness
  Type 7   Pain
Type 3   Failure
  Type 8   Weakness
Type 4   Ordinariness
  Type 9   Conflict 
Type 5   Emptiness

                         The Avoidance Mechanism which is identified with each type is:

Type 1   Control of reactions
  Type 6   Projection  
Type 2   Repression
  Type 7   Rationalization
Type 3   Identification  
  Type 8   Denial
Type 4   Artistic sublimation
  Type 9   Numbing
Type 5   Withdrawal (segmentation)

 It is perhaps not surprizing that there are so many ways humankind has come up with to avoid change.  We seem to be exceedingly creative in finding ways to maintain the position which we have. 

In closing I would like to pose the question for all of us to consider, “what is one of the ways in which you hold on to you self-image — Richard Rohr names this your ‘False Self’ — which you would need to change to come closer to the image of you that God intends you to have?”  This is, in the words of Richard Rohr, is your ‘True Self’