Horrified and Amused. But Mainly Horrified.

On yesterday’s Parks and Recreation, Ron Swanson – in a fit of rage and disgust –  tossed his computer in a dumpster after discovering his house on Google Earth. If only it were so simple.

I’m sure it’s old news to you all, but the Way Back Machine from the Internet Archive is truly terrifying. It is an archive of Internet sites and a great way to waste a couple hours. Through it, I can re-read all the blog posts I lost from matthewstevenson.com when my host – jatol.com – mysteriously disappeared in 2007. Having done so, let me again (at least, I hope I’ve done this at least once before) apologize for my former self.

I’m sorry. What an arrogant prick I was. I understand why so many writers burn their correspondence before dying.

But not everything I was writing 3-7 years ago at MatthewStevenson.com makes me want to crawl under a rock in shame and embarrassment. No, I was marginally pleased with my former self a couple of times. While perusing those old thoughts, for instance,  I happen to re-read some of the posts that so thoroughly scandalized the leaders of my childhood church and for which I was eventually asked to leave. (See especially: “Sticking my head in the lion’s mouth” from March 2005, in which I was called to task for commending Mike Cope‘s defense of a visible role – not even leadership role, just a visible role – for women in the public worship of churches of Christ as “logical”. Also, I was scolded for referring to Mike Cope as my “brother.” Fun times.  Of course, now I’m an Episcopalian in the Diocese of Indianapolis, under the leadership of the Rt. Rev. Catherine Waynick.  God has a great sense of humor.

I also wanted to re-post my Advent reflection from 2006 (the year I began keeping the Church Year for reals). Here it is:

Today the season of Advent begins and with it the new Christian year. This year, I’ve decided to observe the Liturgical Year, a decision I came to slowly and carefully, having grown up in a very un-liturgical tradition. Here are the basics that guided me in this decision. Please ask me to clarify if you don’t understand something; I’ve never been good when writing long, serious posts. [2011 Matthew: I’m still not!]

The Liturgical Year helps the Church conform to the life of Christ by making the events of his life the central focus and guiding theme of each year. The Year brings out different theological themes at different times (the Advent season for example, is about anticipating the coming of Christ) yet always keeps the focus on Christ, his life and mission. In my studies during the last several years, I’ve been impressed with how observing the Christian Year can help in conforming my life to the life of Christ. Far from being a purely mental exercise, observing the Christian Year requires that disciples re-live the events of Christ’s life. Furthermore, observing the seasons helps me to keep in perspective the historical nature of my faith. N.T. Wright wrote that Christianity is fundamentally a historical religion in that it’s followers believe that certain events really did happen in history – that Christ truly was born of a virgin, that he suffered, died and was buried, and that he rose from the dead. It is these events in history that define my faith, not simply, say, the nice teachings of Jesus like being loving, merciful, or forgiving. Those moral teachings, I believe, are only put into true focus when coupled with the divine power manifested in Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection.

My faith is also historical in that I seek to carry on the teachings of the Apostles and those who followed after them. I realized last April, when I attended the Great Vigil of Easter at Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis, that in doing so, I was doing what followers of Christ have been doing for centuries and centuries every Saturday night before Easter morning. Being present to witness the new baptisms or celebrate holy Communion was about more than those people gathered in that place at that time – the bonds of Christ transcend those physical limitations. The Christian Year is an ancient tradition, one that helps me understand my place in the larger community.

For my brethren in Churches of Christ who object, I would remind you of Paul’s advice to the Romans: “He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.” I’m observing these days to the Lord, and I respect your right not to. It is unfortunate that some in our fellowship have made issues like this tests of fidelity to Christ. [2011 Matthew: If you non-CoCers don’t believe me, just drop by your neighborhood church of Christ (and it really only counts if the congregation is self-conscious enough to not capitalize the ‘c’ in ‘church’) this Christmas, and hear the annual “Celebrating Christmas=Going to Hell” sermon we were treated to every December.]

And so to all the Faithful, I leave you with the refrain from the carol I’m using for devotional purposes the next four weeks – “Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!”

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