Delight and the Will of God

I don’t know where all this blogging is coming from, but I have more to say. (This post is a follow-up of the previous one; if you haven’t read it, do so.)

I think American Christianity is too concerned with emotions, but emotions are a personality thing, not a God thing. I’m an extremely emotive person; in fact, I lack self-control when it comes to my emotions. So in my previous post, where I talk about “anguish,” and “delight,” and “peace,” these are not necessarily the traits of the super-spiritual. In fact, anyone who knows me well would not use those words to describe me. Delighting in my faith is easy for me because I’m hyper-emotional, not super-spiritual. I think God wants us to delight Him, but I don’t think delight has to be natural. I think people often question their faith if they don’t have the emotions to go along with it. But I’ve met many who delight in spiritual things, but do not love God. They love their emotions. They love their delight. And that is a true temptation for those of us who are hyper-emotional.

As I am writing this, a song based on Amos 5 just came on, and I think the lyrics apply to what I am talking about:

I hate all your show and pretense.
The hypocrisy of your praise.
The hypocrisy of your festivals.
I hate all your show.

Away with your noisy worship
Away with your noisy hymns.

I stop up my ears when you’re singing them.

Instead, let there be a flood of justice.
An endless procession of righteous living.
Instead, let there be a flood of justice.
Instead of a show.”

Your eyes are closed when you’re praying.
You sing right along with the band.
You shine your shoes for services.
There’s blood on your hands.

You turned your back on the homeless.
And the ones that don’t fit in your plan.
Quit playing religion games.
There’s blood on your hands.

Instead, let there be a flood of justice.
An endless procession of righteous living.
Instead, let there be a flood of justice.
Instead of a show.
I hate all your show.

If you’re one of those people for whom delight is difficult, that doesn’t mean you love God any less. Love is not a feeling. I hope you know that, and that I’m preaching to the choir here. The Christian life is not about how we feel. It’s really about showing up every day and persevering to the end.

Finally, I think the liturgical tradition guards against emotions. This passage happened to be in my daily reading plan, and I think it speaks much wisdom. I leave you with it. It’s from Eugene Peterson’s book, The Contemplative Pastor.

What things do we learn in common prayer?

One thing we learn is to be led in prayer. I’m apt to think of prayer as my initiative. I realize I have a need or I am happy, and I pray. The emphasis is on me, and I have the sense when I pray that I started something.

But what happens if I go to church? I sit there and somebody stands before me and says, “Let us pray.” I didn’t start it; I’m responding. Which means that I am humbled. My ego is no longer prominent. Now that’s a very basic element in prayer, because prayer is answering speech.

Prayer has to be a response to what God has said. The worshiping congregation—hearing the Word read and preached, and celebrating it in the sacraments—is the place where I learn how to pray and where I practice prayer. It is a center from which I pray. From it I go to my closet or to the mountains and continue to pray.

A second thing about praying in community is that, when I pray in a congregation, my feelings are not taken into account. Nobody asks me when I enter the congregation, “How do you feel today? What do you feel like praying about?”

So the congregation is a place where I’m gradually learning that prayer is not conditioned or authenticated by my feelings. Nothing is more devastating to prayer than when I begin to evaluate prayer by my feelings, and think that in order to pray I have to have a certain sense, a certain spiritual attentiveness or peace or, on the other side, anguish.

That’s virtually impossible to learn by yourself. But if I’m in a congregation, I learn over and over again that prayer will go on whether I feel like it or not, or even if I sleep through the whole thing.

We’re Back

We’ve been away for a while due to blog problems but we’re hoping to wake up things a little around here. Life has been crazy for the past several months. There’s been good crazy and bad crazy. I don’t even know where to begin and I know that at least for now, I can’t get into all of it. But God is always there, and I’m always trying my best to listen.

In September, I went through some trials that left me feeling very down and very self-absorbed with my problems. As the months have passed, I’ve found that in moments, I am able to rise above the pain, and in others, I’ve succumbed to my own weakness. God continues to be gracious and I continue to wrestle with my own sin and pray for the healing of relationships.

My family has been, as always, amazing. Rick is a constant source of comfort and encouragement, and Kyrie and Antonio fill my life with joy and moments of being as carefree as I remember being as a child. Sometimes there is no better description for my children than little angels. And goodness knows they’re not really angels—their behaviour can be exhausting and infuriating—but the love and the innocence that they display from their sweet spirits really help to lift mine. It’s such a joy to be a mom, even though I have those moments when I wonder if I really am called to be a mom. Sometimes I’m just really truly not good at it. At all.

God has been kind enough to open my eyes to friendships that have always been there, waiting for me—and introduce new friends into my life. He has never abandoned me, even when I think that He has.

It’s been difficult for me to enter into the season of Lent this year. Antonio was sick on Ash Wednesday, so I wasn’t able to attend a service. Being able to hear the words “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” while the cross is drawn in ashes on my forehead by the thumb of the priest is something that is so profound to me that I can hardly articulate my feelings about it. It helps to set the tone for the entire season. I have not chosen to give up anything specifically, nor have I conscientiously added any particular disciplines. However, I do find myself returning to the Lord, and drawing closer to Him, and seeing the sickness of my own soul and the desperation with which my whole body aches for salvation.

An issue not talked about

“Personally it still horrifies me when people want women to be soldiers just like men, when they, who have always been the keepers of the peace and in whom we have always seen a counter-impulse working against the male impulse to stand up and fight, now likewise run around with submachine guns, showing that they can be just as warlike as the men. Or that women now have the ‘right’ to work as garbage collectors or miners, to do all those things that, out of respect for their status, for their different nature, their own dignity, we ought not to inflict on them and that are now imposed on them in the name of equality. That, in my opinion, is a Manichaean ideology that is opposed to the body.”

Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict), God and the World, 82

“‘Women are already serving in combat and the current policy should be updated to reflect realities on the ground,’ said Wendy Morigi, Sen. Obama’s national security spokeswoman. ‘Barack Obama would consult with military commanders to review the constraints that remain’.” Obama highlighted: “There was a time when African-Americans weren’t allowed to serve in combat…And yet, when they did, not only did they perform brilliantly, but what also happened is they helped to change America, and they helped to underscore that we’re equal.”

Pittsburgh Gazette, October 13, 2008

What it’s like to live in Spokane…

This page has the best, in-depth (and hilarious-because-its-so-true) description of Spokane that I think I’ve ever seen. I agree with 99.9% of it.
Read the fourth post down, by chiaroscuro.

Who is the King?

Rachel was going around the house singing the Sons of Korah version of Psalm 24. At the end of the song, the question, “Who is the King?” is repeated over and over.

Kyrie’s eyes lit up as she answered the question: “Mufasa is!”

Why Contemporary Music Makes Congregational Singing Difficult

Tom Schwegler offers insight into why contemporary music makes congregational singing difficult over on the Internet Monk’s blog.

I think Schwegler is right on. I’ve always had a problem with finding a way to incorporate contemporary music in such a way that it’s good for the congregation. I think Schwegler put some of my own thoughts into the words I couldn’t find. His points sum up my own thoughts:

Complexity: Many contemporary songs are made for soloists, not congregations. Nothing is worse to me than a passionate band singing for the congregation. That just irks me. It makes true the charge of entertainment worship.

Less information: As someone who doesn’t read music, but can generally follow notes (most of the time), I find it quite annoying to go into a church and hear a song I’ve never heard before and expect to sing it. Sometimes I can; sometimes I can’t. I want to see the music.

More oral tradition:It also vexes me to hear a worship leader sing a song contrary to the way you might hear it on CCM. I want to know what I am singing before I start singing or at least have a road map.

Chords vs. tunes: I’ve always been fond of a piano or organ (mostly piano) leading worship (Forrest is trying to convince me a guitar and drums are better, but now I’ve obtained newly read ammunition!). I’ve never understood why I felt that guitar didn’t work as well for leading congregational music, but I think Schwegler’s right in asserting it’s because guitars play chords, not tunes. It may also be that I am partial to piano over guitars; I hardly ever see anyone play an acoustic guitar in a way that doesn’t sound cheap when it comes to worship. My wife assures me that it’s just because I’ve never been in a church that plays acoustic guitars well, but I think it’s because my Catholic-Lutheran upbringing has given me a particular standard of what music should sound like.

More on GAFCON

Fr. Jerry Cimijotti gave me a book earlier this week called The Way, the Truth, and the Life written by the “Theological Resource Team of GAFCON” in the time preceding the conference.

After reading the 89 page book, I have a fuller understanding of GAFCON. The opening chapter gives a brief, but very full history of the relationship between Canterbury and GAFCON leaders, particularly in the Global South. This history clearly shows how Canterbury has consistently gone against the will of the Primates. (Perhaps one of the most interesting assertions was the belief that, in unwittingly adopting an Orthodox view of discipline, we have left ourselves defenseless.) The expense of these battles along with the distraction they have caused for spreading the gospel have caused leaders to desire a quicker measure to restore authentic Anglicanism.

The second section seeks to define authentic Anglicanism. It gives a robust and broad view of the Scriptures, the nature of Christ, and the purpose of worship.* While I found the work on sacraments lacking, it was broad enough to encompass a wide range of views. I also received the worship guide for the services that took place during the week of GAFCON. The worship definitely looked more evangelical in tone, with the use of more alternative services—which is personally not a negative, but makes me wary of the introduction of poor liturgical forms.

My major concern after reading the booklet was the interpretation and nature of the Articles of Religion (though I have been directed to further discussion on the issue). While I still have questions about whether GAFCON will be proposing a long-term solution, the description of the future re-alignment has given me a renewed hope that this is a long-term solution. While I have heard some of these plans through a couple of GAFCON attendees, I see very little written on these future plans, which I think lends itself to the understanding that GAFCON isn’t offering an alternative to what we already have in place. It is.

Moreover, my reading of the short book has also given me confidence in the competence of GAFCON leaders to create something that works.

GAFCON, Wright, and bearing false witness

Matt Kennedy wrote this article on Stand Firm: Responding to Bishop NT Wright part 1: Mystifying Vitriol. In the article, Kennedy quotes Wright:

‘AS FAR AS ENGLAND IS CONCERNED, it is damaging, arrogant and irrelevant for GAFCON leaders to say, as they are now doing, ‘choose you this day whom you will serve’, with the implication that there are now only two parties in the church, the orthodox and the liberals, and that to refuse to sign up to GAFCON is to decide for the liberals. Things are just not like that. Certainly not here in England.”

After citing this, he writes, “Bishop Wright comes very close to bearing false witness here” because GAFCON leaders have not said this. While I disagree with Wright about things not being as bad in England as GAFCON says, Wright’s “vitriol” has to do with the issue of polity. The GAFCON “recruitment” was done at an Orthodox parish in a conservative diocese. Why does GAFCON choose a parish under a conservative who has yet to sign on to GAFCON? Kennedy writes,

I do not know why he takes offense. The Jerusalem Declaration was clear in expressing support for interventions only in those places where bishops with jurisdiction presume to depart from orthodox Christianity. Once a bishop, or any ordained leader, presumes to contradict or overturn apostolic teaching, he is anathema, his authority is null and void.

So long as bishops in the Church of England remain faithful to apostolic doctrine and so long as those bishops who do not come under discipline and those parishes under the authority of heretic bishops are given refuge and succor by the wider church, then there need be no fear of intervention.

Really? You can’t understand why he’s upset? If GAFCON is “recruiting” signatures in an Orthodox diocese, I can very much understand Wright’s perspective. If this was in my diocese, I would think that GAFCON was trying to turn my parishioners against me. Bishop Wright may be off in his analysis of England’s orthodoxy (as he may be in his analysis of his own orthodoxy), but I think Wright’s reaction is understandable. If I was in Durham or London, I think I would fear that GAFCON was trying to turn my diocese into Australia.