Priorities, or the lack thereof

What? You mean those palaces for the sports teams aren’t laying golden eggs like their boosters said they would? Shocking, I say! And of course, you can raise my taxes so Mr. Lucas can continue to advertise on a publicly financed building. Also, feel free to raise ticket prices, concession prices, parking fees, anything so that Mr. Lucas and Mr. Irsay stay happy.

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“Seven Stanzas at Easter”

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

John Updike, 1932-2009
Grant him eternal rest, O Lord.

Thoughts on the Inaguration

1. Of first importance, the Williams’ piece – It was good, not great. Some have panned Johnny for using the Shaker tune “Simple Gifts” which Aaron Copland has already masterfully ingrained in the American symphonic conscience. But, reading Williams’ comments about this tune, I think it was a wonderful move. Apparently, back in the day, Copland’s Portrait of Lincoln was to be performed at an Inaugural event for Eisenhower however, some conservatives in Congress objected because Copland was too liberal, maybe even a Communist. (This was, like most of HUACs activities, utter nonsense.) Anyway, the Copland piece was replaced. Williams, upon learning that President Obama enjoys Copland, chose to use “Simple Gifts”, both as a nod to the President and to Copland’s unjust snub many decades ago.

2. I’m pretty sure that John Roberts will have the text of the Oath of Office in front of him the next time he does this. I really feel sorry for the guy; the Chief Justice is not a very visible public official. His one moment to shine happens every four years when he administers the Oath. And he blew it. Still, he can make it up when he does it again in four year for Barack Obama, right? :)

3. Former President George W. Bush – has a nice ring to it, no?

4. Finally, Zach brings to my attention the prayer offered by Gene Robinson, bishop of New Hampshire, before the Sunday festivities. The bishop brings home a point that cannot be overstated – though we all wish the best for our new President, he is human. “We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking far too much of this one.”

Baptism

As I promised my friend, Dan, here are my thoughts on baptism, including comparisons with the theology of baptism of many Churches of Christ. This is, by no means, a complete explanation – I just tried to hit the major points.

I think the biggest point of departure from what I used to believe regarding baptism and what now believe, is a matter of outlook. In the Churches of Christ, baptism was the culmination of the “plan of salvation” and the precise moment that one became “saved.”  This view tended, as Reece noted in the comments of the previous post, to limit the event and give the impression that our baptism didn’t need to be revisited.

However, since discovering a more sacramental (and historical) theology, I’ve come to see baptism as the beginning of a process, a new birth. The resulting life is now God’s for it is he who acts in baptism, not man. Baptism is a gift, a physical manifestation of what God is doing in one’s life.

I think, too, some of the change  has come in a different understanding of salvation. What does it mean to be saved? For most evangelicals, including the Churches of Christ, salvation was clear cut – if you’re saved, you go to heaven. If you’re not, you go to hell. Heaven and Hell, by the way, were always defined as spiritual realms, completely removed from this earth. However, I’ve come to understand salvation as a matter of resurrection, the redeeming or new-creating of the Earth. I would highly recommend N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope for a better (and fuller) explanation of this.

Additionally, in case you’re wondering, my baptism (which happened when I was a member of the Churches of Christ) is held by the Anglican Church to be valid because it was done “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  We are not baptized as Episcopalians or Church-of-Christers or Baptists or anything other than Christians. Again, the action is God’s. This is also why, in Episcopal Churches, all the baptized are invited to the Table.

I hope this answers your questions. It probably created more, which is good. Feel free to ask for clarifications or follow-ups.

The Feasts of Ss Wulfstan and MLK

Alternate title: I think these two feasts represent the modern Episcopal Church quite well.

David at In the Agora notes the religious significance of Martin Luther King Day. I would like to note that the Episcopal Church celebrates Rev. King with a feast on April 4, the day of his assassination martyrdom.  The collect for the feast is appropriate today:

Almighty God, by the hand of Moses your servent you led your people out of slavery, and made them free at last: Grant that your Church, following the example of your prophet Martin Luther King, may resist oppression in the name of your love, and may secure for all your children the blessed liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Additionally, Janurary 19 is the feast of Wulfstan, bishop of Worcester 1066-1095. The collect: Almight God, your only-begotten Son led captivity captive and gave gifts to your people: Multiply among us faithful pastors, who, like your holy bishop Wulfstan, will give courage to those who are oppressed and held in bondange; and bring us all, we pray, into the true freedom of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Church

Show me dear Christ, thy spouse, so bright and clear.
What! is it she, which on the other shore
Goes richly painted? or which robbed and tore
Laments and mourns in Germany and here?
Sleeps she a thousand, then peeps up one year?
Is she self truth and errs? now new, now outwore?
Doth she, and did she, and shall she evermore
On one, on seven, or on no hill appear?
Dwells she with us, or like adventuring knights
First travail we to seek and then make Love?
Betray, kind husband, thy spouse to our sight
And let mine amorous soul court thy mild Dove,
Who is most true, and pleasing to thee, then
When she’s embraced and open to most men.

-John Donne
‘Divine Poems’ XVIII