just an apprentice

the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...

Friday, September 30, 2005

Celtic Cross

My help is in the Name of the Lord who made heaven and earth and all that is in them. Thanks be to God.

"...in the stillness, you are there."

"Where can I run from your presence..."

"Be still and know that I am God"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Christian subversion

Why am I discouraged?
Why so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again--
my Savior and my God!
Psalm 43:5

In my reading, I am binging on two authors these days--Parker Palmer and Eugune Peterson. Here is a morsal from The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, by Peterson:

The subversive is someone who takes on the coloration of the culture, as far as everyone else can see. If he loses thte coloration he loses his effectiveness. The subversive works quietly and hiddenly, patiently. He has committed himself to Christ's victory over culture and is willing to do those small things. No subversive ever does anything big. He is always carrying secret messages, planting suspicion that there is something beyond what the culture says is final.

What are some specific acts of Christian subversion?
They're common Christian acts. The acts of sacrificial love, justice, and hope.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A Shining Moment in the Now

I heard this poem by David Budbill on Writer's Almanac (Garrison Keillor) yesterday. What a great poem!

I feel a need for more of this kind of living--"all day all body and no mind, when I am physically, wholly and completely, in this world..."

Connected to this world with the simple, physical tasks of milking a cow, cutting firewood, doing the last of the fall mowing, changing the oil in a mower, stacking wood..."when I am all body and no mind..."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Traditional, Contemporary, Emerging

From the tallskinnykiwi blog, these are the comments of Andrew Jones on the above visual put out by a church. I got a chuckle.

What i want to know is this:
- What is in that third cup under Emerging? I bet it is Chai. Fair-trade chai made from cruelty-free tea leaves and NOT purchased from Starbucks. Can I get a witness???
- How can they expect emerging people to get up so early on a Sunday morning?
- What happens when the emerging people want hymns around the organ?
- What happens when the traditional people want to take their shoes off, paint Bible verses on the wall and drink some chai?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Ephrata Fair

Heading to the Ephrata Fair tonight with the family. Maybe some good greasy fair food will be good salve for that tough Cowboys loss on Monday night. Giving up two touchdowns in the last 3 minutes of the game! Ouch! The Akron Lions toasted cheeseburgers are a must every year.

Don't think I'll be able to run the half-marathon October 1. Just wasn't able to keep up with my training. Justin and Sally will have to carry the baton for the SMC running club.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Lord's Supper (Part 2)

In his most recent book, Christ Plays In Ten Thousand Places, Eugene Peterson talks about ritual:

Jesus' most honored command produced a ritual--an ordered arrangement of actions and words that Christians reproduce wherever and whenever they want to "remember" and "proclaim" salvation. A ritual is a way of preserving continuity of action and integrity of language across time and among peoples of various habits and understandings, predispositions and inclinations.

The usefulness of a ritual is that it takes a human action that is understood as essential to our ordinary lives and removes it from our immediate "say-so," protects it from our tinkering and revisions and editing, sets it apart from our moods and dispositions. There is more going on than I am aware of or can be responsible for. Reality is larger than me. A ritual puts me into the larger reality without requiring that I understand it or even "feel" it at the moment.

But there is another useful dimension to a ritual. It keeps us in touch with and preserves mystery. For reality is not only larger than me and my immediate circumstances, it is also beyond my understanding. Rituals preserve mystery, protect certain essential aspects of reality from being reduced to the dimensions of my interest or intelligence or awareness.

A ritual protects common but essential elements of human life from reduction, degradation, exploitation. I cannot take charge of a ritual, I can only enter in--or not. Neither can I engage in a ritual by myself; others are involved. So a ritual, simply as ritual, prevents me from retaining any illusions that I am self-sufficient at the same time that it thrusts me into life with others.

These reflections give texture to our understanding of the Eucharist as the focal practice for living out our salvation. When salvation is received eucharistically with the others who "do this" at the Lord's Table it cannot easily be pursued as a self-project; when salvation is received by eating the bread/flesh and drinking the wine/blood of Jesus, it cannot easily be reduced to a formula or abstraction. "Do this" (poieite, plural) is of necessity and by intention a corporate action.

This ritual, the Lord's Supper, has become an increasingly central part of our worship at Sunnyside Mennonite Church over the last number of years. As we have sought to understand worship in the context of Scripture and the Church, we have been thinking about how our worship is shaped by secular influences--individualism, modernity and it's rational, linear orientation. We are trying to move away from worship as an aggregate of individuals engaging in worship privately (Jesus and me). The central question we should act in worship is not what was my experience, but rather, did I worship God with all my heart, mind and strength.

We are also reorienting ourselves around the Gospel that is proclaimed at the Table, so the preached word, while still important, is not necessarily the "climax" of the worship service. Many congregations in the Mennonite tradition practiced communion two times a year. This was the custom at Sunnyside. Some responded to the shift to more frequent communion with the question--does communion lose some of it's specialness, when we celebrate it more often. I have found that I have grown to appreciate the frecuency of Communion more and more as time has passed. Understanding did not come first. Humility, submission, and obedience did.

As Mennonites, we tend to be very clear about the call to discipleship and our commitment to follow Christ in all of life. As Steve Dintaman has observed, we tend to be less clear on the spiritual roots (resources, practices) that nourish and sustain us and are means of grace. That Jesus can actually come into my life and transform my wandering heart is a miracle of grace, not a consequence of my mind, my will. Not to diminish my part in making room for God, but more and more I see that salvation, transformation, and anything good in my life is a gift of grace, not a product of my own doing.

I am hungry for more and more of the bread of life--Jesus himself.

Blessed are You, Lord God of the universe, our Father for ever and ever; for through Your goodness we have these gifts of bread and wine which earth has given and human hands have made. May they become for us the food and drink of eternal life.

If you are thirsty, drink the Fount of Life. If you are hungry, eat the Bread of Life. Blessed are all who hunger for this Bread and thirst for this Fount.

-Communion liturgy from Celtic Daily Prayer

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Lord's Supper

"...evangelicals have gone too far in the act of de-supernaturalizing the presence of Christ at bread and wine. While the early Church proclaimed an unexplained mysterious real presence, we evangelicals have practiced and explained, non-mysterious real absence."
-Robert Webber

"The eucharist is not an abstraction to debate, but a bond between Christ and the Church to be experienced."
-perhaps from Olive Wyon, The Altar Fire, SCM Press, London, 1954

Anabaptist leader, Pilgram Marpeck, held that the Eucharist "is to establish a meeting point within the world of the senses between the divine and the human." (Rempel, The Lord's Supper in Anabaptism, Waterloo, Ont; Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1993). He claimed that "there is only one Supper in which outer and inner are together." (Rempel: 135) It was his belief that "we use the realm of nature to participate in the supernatural...." (Rempel 136)

In contrast to Marpeck, Zwingli (who was not an Anabaptist) saw "the sacraments as primarily human acts of obedience...[but this] seemed to Marpeck to be an answer from those who had not taken the question seriously. The question, which the incarnation itself posed, was how matter mediates spirit." (Rempel 154-155)

"...Mennonite piety has regularly focused much on decision and responsibility and less on grace and mystery." (Rempel: 163) But what we need to come to understand is "...the relationship of grace and faith, of the inner world of spirit and the outer world of matter." (Rempel: 163) Marpeck said that "through the unity of external and internal, we are given a communion with the body and blood of Christ, that is, a gracious encounter with God as he took flesh in Christ." (Rempel: 219)

"...the current emphasis is on the Supper as an act of remembrance and as a sign of community. In both cases, the focus has been on human actions." (Rempel: 224-5)

Dirk Philips "holds fast to the real presence of Christ in the breaking of the bread while distinguishing that claim from any association with the repetition of his sacrifice." (Rempel: 181)

"'Merely a symbol,' an earthbound gesture, say radical Protestants of the bread and the cup." (Rempel: back cover)

"Rempel issues a call for Anabaptist eucharistic theology to help correct later developments in the non-Lutheran Reformation which tend to downgrade the Lord's Supper to be merely a human act of remembrance. In the Eucharist, the church embodies the presence of Christ and is sustained by that meeting with God." (Rempel: back cover)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Home Groups

I like the language for practicing community I came across at Apostles Church. In our journey at Sunnyside Mennonite Church we have made an attempt to develop intentional practices of relationship and hospitality in Christian community. One thing I like about the Apostles Church is coming at this same goal is the allowing for diverse expressions of this ("each home group has it's own vibe")-- cognitive path, expressive path, communitarian path, contemplative path, and active path.

For those of you Life Group leaders who read this page...How would you characterize the vibe and focus of your group?

home churches gather in actual houses, but also in other kinds of spaces. some groups meet in coffeehouses, others in pubs and some in parks or at the beach. the spaces vary, but the purpose is the same: small cells of people (followers and seekers) gathering weekly or every other week to share life, tell stories, eat meals, pray, serve and grow together in jesus christ.
each home group has it's own vibe, way of gathering and basic path. some groups are on a cognitive path (studying the bible & deepening knowledge), some are on an expressive path (making music, creating art or writing poetry) some are on a communitarian path around a lifestyle or common interest (young moms, hikers, aa recovery...). some are on a contemplative path (gathering for evening prayers or spiritual exercises) while others are on an active path (working soup kitchens, tutoring kids, building houses...).

Friday, September 16, 2005

Generous Orthodoxy

This conference looks really good. I would love to be able to go with some friends. Unfortunately I will not be able to go this time because of other commitments.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Blog humor

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Birthday party and stitches

Life is a blur, is it not?! As Eugene Peterson describes it:

We look around, and we are struck by the sheer profusion of life--a rose in blossom, a red-tailed hawk in flight, a cat on the prowl. White oak and blue whale, amoeba and giraffe give fresh and eloquent witness to a mystery that ever eludes us but never, if we take the time for it, fails to put us on our knees in adoration. This is especially the case with human life. Every time a baby is born the gospel is preached. The virgin birth of Jesus provides the kerygmatic center to all this world of experience in which we receive the revelation of God as Christ plays in creation.

I am awestruck by the mystery revealed in a daughter who turned 8 on Saturday. The birthday party was Strawberry Shortcake blessed. What an amazing journey of being Daddy to Mackenzie Grace. May she be blessed at school today.

I am awestruck by the mystery revealed in five year old Jansen who found himself in the emergency room for stitches for the second time in less than a year. He fell at the playground yesterday and busted his chin. What is this mystery of trust, love, and bonding that pulls us together as we sit in the E.R. room and he asks me bravely, how many shots, how many stitches, will it hurt. We bond as the tears well up in his eyes, we hug, and then he bravely lays down and lets the doctor talk him through the shot, the weaving of thread through skin.

I pin my hopes to quiet processes and small circles, in which vital and transforming events take place.
---Rufus Jones

P.S. Check out some pictures from our Church Retreat at Black Rock. Under The Commons (right column)--my pictures.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


I just heard back from blogger support. They helped me find my way back to my "just an apprentice" so all is not lost.

Ira and I traveled to Harrisonburg, Virginia today to spend some time at Eastern Mennonite Seminary. Orientation for site supervisors--this has to do with Jean's field experience at Sunnyside.

We did not find gas for under $3.00 on the way back.

Nothing else. Just wanted to celebrate being able to access my blog by posting something.