Saturday, July 29, 2006

July 29: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus

Today we remember the family Jesus liked to visit when travelling. The Lutheran Calendar has added the name of Lazarus to that of Mary and Martha as one early Christian whose life we might do well to reflect upon. Here are some comments by Jaems Kiefer:

Mary and Martha lived with their brother Lazarus at Bethany, a village not far from Jerusalem. They are mentioned in several episodes in the Gospels. On one occasion, when Jesus and His disciples were their guests (Luke 10:38-42), Mary sat at Jesus' feet and listened to Him while her sister Martha busied herself with preparing food and waiting on the guests, and when Martha complained, Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better part. When Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, had died, Jesus came to Bethany. Martha, upon being told that He was approaching, went out to meet Him, while Mary sat still in the house until He sent for her. It was to Martha that Jesus said: "I am the Resurrection and the Life." (John 11:1-44) Again, about a week before the crucifixion, as Jesus reclined at table, Mary poured a flask of expensive perfume over Jesus' feet. Mary was criticized for wasting what might have been sold to raise money for the poor, and again Jesus spoke on her behalf. (John 12:1-8)

On the basis of these incidents, many Christian writers have seen Mary as representing Contemplation (prayer and devotion), and Martha as representing Action (good works, helping others); or love of God and love of neighbor respectively.

They see the same symbolism also in Leah and Rachel, the daughters of Laban (Genesis 29 and 35). Leah was dim of sight, but had many children. Rachel had few children, but one of them saved the whole family from destruction. Leah represents Action, which is near-sighted and cannot penetrate very far into the mysteries of God, but it produces many worth-while results. Contemplation has fewer results, but one of those results is Faith, without which it is impossible to please God." (Hebrews 11:6) Yet, there is a sense in which Action comes first -- "If a man love not his brother, whom he hath seen, how shall he love God, whom he hath not seen?" (1 John 4:20) So it is that Leah must be wed before Rachel.

On some Calendars, Lazarus is remembered on 17 December.

A possible prayer:

O God, heavenly Father, whose Son Jesus Christ enjoyed rest and Refreshment in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany: Give us the will to love you, open our hearts to hear you, and strengthen our hands to serve you in others for his sake; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever.

Smith and "PowerPointless" Modernity in the Church

Mason, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Smith is indeed recommending that we unload “the whole modern mind-set with its roots in the 18th century Enlightenment” and that we return in large measure to “traditional ways of knowing.” Yesterday I came across Debra Dean Murphy’s “PowerPointless” in Christian Century (July 25, 2006: 10-11). Here’s the gist of it with some comments here and there:

1. PowerPoint presentations now seem to dominate the experience of worship in many churches. “In churches smitten with the Microsoft wonder, its power to affect the sensibilities of worshippers and thus to shape congregational identity is most never discussed.”

2. “A tacit assumption is that PowerPoint computer presentations are merely a means to an end, a value-neutral tool used for innocent, perhaps even noble purposes: enlarging text for the hard of seeing, reducing the demand for and thus the production of printed materials; and bringing younger people, who spend much of their lives in front of screens—into worship.” This assumption is modernist in orientation; it affirms that technology provides us with obvious progress.

3. But the use of PowerPoint in the sanctuary is not value-neutral for the following reasons:

a. It elevates format over content (“chaotic, smary and incoherent chartjunk”). It's sort of like watching commercials and trivia questions at the movies.

b. It stacks information sequentially so that presentations become lecture-like. In other words, going to worship in a modern church is much like going to university classrom. It's just different "stuff" at church.

c. It divorces words from their contexts. For example, PowerPoint doesn’t deliver hymns “whole.” The narrative arc of a great hymn cannot be communicated when only a few lines of text can be accommodated on each of the 30-some frames it takes to display the entire hymn.” (It’s for this reason that we get to sing the same mind-numbing lyrics over and over and over and over and over.) And, o yes, with ubiquitous PointPoint we learn how not to use hymnals.

d. PowerPoint encourages visceral reactions so that our responses are often “downright Pavlovian” to what’s up on the screen. The screen, not the altar, table, or the cross become the center of attention. When the thing malfunctions, we all get lost, mumbling along.

e. PowerPoint makes us less aware of people around us. All eyes are forward; the sense of a community in circle disappears. (I've watched people staring up at the screen while I have been in the choir; it's an experience more people should have; everyone looks as though they're gawking at the roof!)

f. PowerPoint presentations unwittingly set up competition between what’s projected on the screen and the human voice doing the preaching, praying, or singing. When the brain is asked to listen and watch at the same time, it always quits listening. (To ameliorate this tendency, some preachers provide "lecture notes" in the bulletins in which blanks can be filled out with pencil-scribing worshippers--just like note-taking in the classroom--only there are no quizzes or examinations.)

g. Techies with their impressive skills --not pastors or people who know how liturgy works--tell us how liturgy is to work. Techies tell us what works and what doesn’t work in worship. By the way, techies also often like the flashy stuff.

Murphy asks: If Christians believe that the church and the worship it offers to God ought in some ways to counter the norms and practices of the surrounding culture, then what does it mean that after spending so much money each week in front of computer monitors, cell phones, and sports bar TVs, we come to church on Sunday and happily position ourselves in front of the biggest screen of all?

I think that is one of the implied questions Smith is asking too. On page 26, he tells that in Chapter 5 he hopes to show us how the “best way to be post-modern is to be ancient.” I suspect that has to do with “de-teching” much of “modern worship” and getting ourselves back to something more like what Christians experienced before the Enlightenment. After all, it just might well be the case the the so-called Enlightenment is really and Endarkenment--and post-modernism can help us resee Real Light. What a notion! Yep, it’s about epistemology (I too hate to use that word; it sounds like I’m so “enlightened”!)



Thursday, July 27, 2006

July 28: Johann Sebastian Bach, 1750; Heinrich Schultz, 1672; George Frederick Handel, 1759--Musicians

Today we remember the musical witness of Bach, Schutz, and Handel.

Almighty God, beautiful in majesty and majestic in holiness, Who have taught us in Holy Scripture to sing your praises, and who have given to your servants Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frederick Handel, and Heinrich Schütz grace to show forth your glory in their music: Be with all your servants who write and make music for your people, that with joy we on earth may glimpse your beauty, and at length may know the inexhaustible richness of your new creation in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Go through your collection of CDs and play some of their music today. And on Sunday, go through your hymnal and sing quietly some hymns they have left as gifts to God and to the Church. Join them as they, with you, now sing before our heavenly Father with "Angels, Archangels, and the Whole Company of Heaven."

July 27: William Reed Huntington, Priest, 1909

Today the Episcopal and Lutheran churches remember the ecumenical work of William Reed Huntinton. Our prayer:

O Lord our God, we thank you for instilling in the heart of Your servant William Reed Huntington a fervent love for your Church and its mission in the world; and we pray that, with unflagging faith in your promises, we may make known to all peoples your blessed gift of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Comments on Chapter 1 of "Who's Afraid of Post Modernism?"

My copy of James K.A. Smith's Who's Afraid of Postmodernism: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church arrived today, and I've read Chapter 1. I agree with Andy's comment (below) that this is an excellent book--well worth reading and discussing here. If other Anthrakians have any interest, my Amazon order came in about three days.

Specifically, I am interested in his comments that "One of the reasons postmodernism has been the bogeyman for the Christian church is that we have become so thoroughly modern. But while postmodernism may be the enemy of our modernity, it can be an ally of our ancient heritage" (23).

In other words, Smith seems to be arguing that modernism--with its materialistic, rational, Enlightnement-era logic and its demand for verifiable evidence--is the real enemy of the Church. Postmodernism looks not to the Enlightenment but to medieval and ancient sources for its models (Smith 25).

To follow up on this point, Smith says a little later, "I will argue that the postmodern church could do nothing better than be ancient, that the most powerful way to reach a post-modern world is by recovering tradition, and that the most effective means of discipleship is found in liturgy" (25).

I am very interested in the possiblity, suggested here by Smith, that a strong commitment to tradition and liturgy is the best tool for the postmodern church.

Some of us have had discussed this issue on Anthrakia in other avenues. And there is strong evidence of a thirst for tradition among church-goers. To cite but one personal example, in my home church (United Methodist) the service showing the most growth is the 8:30 a.m. traditional service, not the 10:45 a.m. blended (contemporary) service.

I'm looking forward to Chapter 2 and the ones that follow. Comments?

Best wishes,
Mason Smith

July 25: St. James the Apostle

Today we remember the life and witness of Saint James the Apostle. He was the first of apostles to be be martyred, and you can read the story in Acts 11.27-12.3, the second lesson to be read in churches and privately. The Greek New Testament text says that he was "executed with a sword," and most commentators infer that he was beheaded. As the brother of John (and one of the sons of Zebedee), this James is one of five mentioned in the Scriptures. In Matthew's Gospel, we read that his mother once asked Jesus to give her sons, James and John, privileged places in Jesus' kingdom. Jesus tells her that she doesn't know what she's asking for. And shortly after when he asks them point blank if they can "drink the cup that [he is] going to drink," they both respond with a big yes. I suspect they too had no idea at the time what that yes meant. James, we see today, does indeed drink the cup of Jesus. He has his throat slit by the governmental authorities (Herod) because he's a member of the church, a growing group of people who dare to embrace the counter-cultural politics of Jesus. The point of the story is something like this: life in the kingdom of Jesus can be dangerous.

With Christians around the world, you may wish to remember Saint James today with this prayer:

O gracioius God, we remember before you your servant and apostle James, first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ; and we pray that you wil pour out upon the leaders of your Church that spirit of self-denying service by which along they may have true authority among your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who live and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Who's Afraid of Post-Modernism? Web Resources

I've finished reading Who's Afraid of PM? and am delighted that several of us will discuss it when everyone gets his or her copy. As an introduction to the developing theology of Radical Orthodoxy and the what some call the "Emerging Church," I'm convinced that whoever among us that reads it will be challenged and perhaps persuaded by Smith's convictions. At the back of the book, Smith provides a list of online resources that you may be interested in exploring. I list them here and will insert them in the template in a day or so.

The Ooze is "the site" for thinking about the emerging church. It includes articles that are regularly updated and organized under the categories of culture, faith, and ministry. It also provides information on new books and upcoming events, along with opportunities to connect with others via online forums. The site's design is excellent.

Emergent contains very helpful resources, including articles, online forums, and information about Emerging Gatherings, conferences, and other events, including online conferences and lectures. You can sign up for an Emergent Villege e-newletter.

Ancient-Future Worship, hosted by Robert Webber's Institute for Worshop Studies, proves some resources for churches trying to integrate the insights of Ancient-Future Faith into their worship.

The Ekklesia Project is an ecumenical, cross-demonimational movement seekng to think about a more radical understanding of being disciples of Jesus, emphasizing the church's counter-cultural calling. Lots of resources, including articles and an e-zine.

The Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory provides access to some of the best work at the intersection of Continental philosophy, theology, and religious studies. Excellent design and rich archives.

When you get your copy of Who's Afraid of PM?, we'll talk it over, most likely chapter-by-chapter. Let us know when you want to start.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Who's Afraid of Post-Modernism?

I started reading James Smith’s Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church last evening and got through the first two chapters. It’s an excellent book, and I’ve already profited from it immensely. Cheap too ($11.69 from

In the first chapter--“Is the Devil from Paris?”—Smith rightly reminds us that postmodernism tends to be something of chameleon, portrayed as either monster or savior, either the new form of the Church’s enemy or the next best thing to come. This chapter introduces the questions that the phenomenon of postmodernism poses for the Church and suggests a strategy for engagement that avoids simply dichotomies of either demonizing or baptizing postmodernism. Well, written, I found the argument and presentation, sentence-by-sentence, comprehensible, insightful.

Chapter Two--“Nothing outside the Text?” Derrida, Deconstruction, and Scripture—takes one to the French bad boy Derrida who recently died. Derridean thinking, as you may know, is largely responsible for what many conservatives and evangelicals think is the poor state of cultural affairs. This and each chapter discusses a movie (e.g., Chapter One works with The Matrix) that aptly demonstrates how our current cultural enterprises reflect a dominant philosophical position. I got to know Derrida in an NEH fellowship program twenty years ago at The John Hopkins University. Derrida turned my world upside-down. It was thus with considerable interest that I read what Smith says. The pervasive influence of Derrida’s deconstruction, as Smith notes, is often dismissed by evangelicals. However, Smith “incarnationally” unpacks Derrida so you can understand his thinking and nicely demonstrates that the Church can really use his stuff to considerable advantage. Rather than being afraid of Derrida, he encourages us to take advantage of the deconstructive move so the Church might genuinely and honestly get about its proclamation. In other words, use Derrrida for the sake the Gospel. Smith’s provides wonderful thought experiments you’ll enjoy thinking through for yourself. If you know a bit about deconstruction, you’ll like this turn of events.

Today I’ll read Chapter Three, “Where Have All the Metanarratives Gone? Lyotard, Postmodernism, and the Christian Story.” I have a hunch it will show us how Lyotard may promote our Christian story-telling to considerable advantage. More tomorrow.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

July 20: Four American Pioneers of Black Rights and Women's Rights

The Kalendar of the Episcopal Church asks us to remember the witness of four American pioneers of Black Rights and Women's Rights: Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer. James Keifer provides these notes and reflections about these women:
  • Sojourner Truth (26 November 1883)

Sojourner Truth, originally known as Isabella, was born a slave in New York in about 1798. In 1826 she escaped with the aid of Quaker Abolitionists, and became a street-corner evangelist and the founder of a shelter for homeless women. When she was travelling, and someone asked her name, she said "Sojourner," meaning that she was a citizen of heaven, and a wanderer on earth. She then gave her surname as "Truth," on the grounds that God was her Father, and His name was Truth. She spoke at numerous church gatherings, both black and white, quoting the Bible extensively from memory, and speaking against slavery and for an improved legal status for women. The speech for which she is best known is called, "Ain't I a Woman?" It was delivered in response to a male speaker who had been arguing that the refusal of votes for women was grounded in a wish to shelter women from the harsh realities of political life. She replied, with great effect, that she was a woman, and that society had not sheltered her. She became known as "the Miriam of the Latter Exodus."

  • Harriet Ross Tubman (10 March 1913),

Harriet Ross was born in 1820 in Maryland. She was deeply impressed by the Bible narrative of God's deliverance of the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, and it became the basis of her belief that it was God's will to deliver slaves in America out of their bondage, and that it was her duty to help accomplish this. In 1844, she escaped to Canada, but returned to help others escape. Working with other Abolitionists, chiefly white Quakers, she made at least nineteen excursions into Maryland in the 1850's, leading more than 300 slaves to freedom. During the War of 1861-5, she joined the Northern Army as a cook and a nurse and a spy, and on one occasion led a raid that freed over 750 slaves. After the war, she worked to shelter orphans and elderly poor persons, and to advance the status of women and blacks. She became known as "the Moses of her People."

  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton (26 October 1902)

Harriet Ross was born in 1815 and reared in the Presbyterian Church. She found the Calvinist doctrine of predestination dismaying, and rebelled against it. She denounced the clergy of her day for not upholding women's rights, but as she travelled giving speeches on the subject, she found no lack of pulpits available to her. She undertook to write what she called a Women's Bible. It never got beyond a series of notes on selected Biblical passages. For example, she quotes the passage in Genesis where we are told that Noah's Ark had only one window, and remarks that if a woman had been consulted, the Ark would have been better designed.

Reading Mrs. Stanton's life and works, I have an uncomfortable feeling that she was interested in "religion" only as a potential ally or opponent in her campaign for women's political equality. I once spent some time in a congregation where the preacher never mentioned God or Christ except when they could be quoted in support of the preacher's political agenda. It was not a good experience. For me, reading about Mrs Stanton moves me, not to say, "Lord, give me the grace to follow you, as you did to Mrs. Stanton," but rather, "Lord do I do that? Do I think of you as there to carry out my agenda? If so, then help me to recognize it and to stop it." Meanwhile, if we think that the abolition of slavery and the recognition of women's right to own property are in accordance with justice, and are accordingly good things, then we can thank God for accomplishing good through Mrs Stanton and others. "It is enough to be sure of the deed. Our courteous Lord will deign to redeem the motive." (Julian of Norwich)

  • Amelia Jenks Bloomer (30 December 1894)

Amelia Jenks was born in New York in 1818, reared as a Presbyterian, and as a young woman became an activist for the anti-slavery, anti-alcohol, and women's votes movements. One of her concerns has made her name a part of the language. In her day, women's fashions encouraged tightly laced waists, involving severe health problems. (The fashions were denounced in 1728 by William Law (9 April).) The fashion also called for skirts trailing the ground, an arrangement that made it difficult to keep the skirts reasonably clean, especially since the streets were full of horses. Mrs. Bloomer designed a women's costume featuring what are known as Turkish pants, or harem pants (remember the television show I Dream of Jeannie), loose baggy trousers gathered into tight bands at the ankles and waist. Over these she wore a mid-calf-length skirt. It seems a thoroughly modest garb, but it excited indignation and ridicule. (At least well into the 1940's, women's underpants, and women's baggy outer pants worn for athletics, were known as "bloomers.")

Mrs. Bloomer and her husband eventually settled in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where she worked to promote churches, schools, libraries, and progressive and reform movements. On one occasion she said:

"The same Power that brought the slave out of bondage will, in His own good time and way, bring about the emancipation of women, and make her the equal in power and dominion that she was in the beginning."

You may wish to use this prayer to God as part of your remembrance for these women:

O God, whose Spirit guides us into all truth and makes us free: Strengthen and sustain us as you did your servants Elizabeth, Amelia, Sojourner, and Harriet. Give us vision and courage to stand against oppression and injustice and all that works against the glorious liberty to which you call all your children; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

An interesting conversion story

I'm reading Frederica Mathewes-Green's 1997 book, Facing East: A Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy. This is an interesting book for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is its humor. Mathewes-Green tells the following story about her initial conversion to the Christian faith after spending her college years as an aggressive agnostic who made fun of friends who were Christians. She said her new husband, Gary, was the first to convert to a life of faith:

Gary's shell began to crack when a professor required his philosophy class to read a Gospel. As he read the words of Jesus, he became convinced that here was one who "speaks with authority." Since Jesus said there was a God, Gary began to doubt his doubting.

This reasoning left me unconvinced. By the time of our wedding I was going through my Hindu phase, but I didn't object to visiting cathedrals on our honeymoon hitchhiking through Europe. One day in Dublin I looked at a statue of Jesus and was struck to my knees, hearing an interiour voice say, "I am your life." I knew it was the One I had rejected and ridiculed, come at last to seize me forever. It was a shattering experience from which I emerged blinking like a newborn, and decades later I still feel overwhelming awe and gratitude for that rescue, that vast and undeserved gift. It's like the story of the farmer who had to whap his donkey with a two-by-four to get its attention. I imagine that when God needs a two-by-four this big, he much be dealing with a pretty big donkey" (xii).

I love the one-sentence quote, "I am your life." It seems to me that a lot of theology is packed into those four words. The rest of the book tells the story of a year in the life of her small, mission church as she comes to love the ancient traditions of Orthodoxy.

Best wishes,
Mason Smith

Monday, July 10, 2006

Scott McKnight and John Howard Yoder on Christian Pacificism

As I was writing out some thoughts on praying for peace, I came across an interesting conversation.

On November 22, 2005, Scott McKnight published a "slightly-adapted set of questions [he] used for a discussion [on Christian pacificism] with two others at Willow Creek Community Church’s TruthQuest event last spring. [His] responsibility was to take the pacifist side. [He]took the tack of asking questions, and he include[s] here the outline [he] used that night. Some of the questions are more penetrating than others, but together they ask (for [him]) the right questions." As McKnight notes, " This is an outline, not a full discussion. In light of my last post on the Sermon on the Mount, I thought it might be time to put this issue on the table. "

After I get my thoughts together--at least a little bit--I'll post them as some comments to Mason's thoughtful posting which I read this morning. By the way, John Howard Yoder, who died several years ago, wrote The Politics of Jesus, a most interesting book that I started to read but forgot to bring to Georgia. Here's what one reader said about it:

If I had only one work of twentieth-century theology to read, this would be it (with apologies to everyone from Barth to Brueggemann to Bonhoeffer). In the aftermath of September 11, pacifism has been reviled in the public secular discourse like never before. Most Christian leaders from across the theological spectrum have endorsed one form or another of the "Just War Theory" of Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin.

No one makes the case for the radical, total non-violence of the Christian message better than John Howard Yoder. Though he wrote many books after this one, this is by far the best place to start. Yoder's familiarity with Scripture is magisterial, and the gentle yet firm way he responds to his Catholic and Reformed critics is convincing and exciting. Most timely of all, he devotes an entire chapter to deconstructing traditional Christian interpretations of Romans 13:1-7, the passages most often cited by just war theorists to defend the use of violence by the state. Anyone who believes it is possible for a Christian to bear arms and follow Christ must respond to Yoder's analysis.

Though Yoder was a Mennonite (and though I am an Episcopalian by affiliation, I am an anabaptist in my heart), his work is catholic, orthodox, and accessible to all Christians. Yoder's death in 1997 marked the passing of the man whom I believe may well be regarded as the most important theologian of our time. As even good Christians "rally round the flag" and join in the cries for "just war" and "retributive justice", Yoder's work has never been more important as a vital theological corrective.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

More thoughts on praying for our enemies

The current threads about "praying for our enemies," and "wrapping Jesus in an American flag" has made me stop and think.

Specifically, I've been worried about how to pray for enemies. This issue is hard for me. The human temptation is to pray for victory, which is not unreasonable because victory would bring peace of a sort. But a straight victory prayer violates the commands of Our Lord (as Andy pointed out, in the post just below) to pray for our enemies. To pray for victory is really a prayer for self.

So, with the understanding that I'm not a deep thinker and that I don't have the final answer, here are some of my thoughts:

(1) As we've noted here earlier, a prayer for peace is--in one sense--a prayer for our enemies, as well as for our troops "in harm's way."

(2) The peace prayer needs to be for a lasting peace, not just a cease fire. Like Abraham Lincoln noted in the Gettysburg Address, we don't want "these honored dead" to have "died in vain." If we can't build a lasting peace, the following conflict could be worse than the present one, i.e. World War II following the cease fire of World War I.

(3) We need to pray to recognize our opponents as fellow humans. We need to keep a clear-eyed view of our acts of war for what they are--acts against other humans. The prayer would protect us from propaganda that would objectify opponents.

(4) We need to pray that if the conflict must continue, that civilians be spared as much as possible. I'm old enough to remember the photograph from Vietnam of the burned little girl running down a smoky road after an air strike. She's naked and screaming, and none of the troops passing her are even looking up. Similar images come out of Iraq, followed by similar nightmares.

(5) Perhaps we should pray that the leaders of both sides will--if I may use a sports metaphor here--step out of the batter's box. As Barbara Tuchman noted in The Guns of August, both sides has to work for years to bring on World War I. They had no idea how bad it would be when the shooting started in 1914. So the last thing we need is for leaders to take things to "the next level."

(6) We need to pray for forgiveness. I don't feel like going into the labyrinth of "just war" theory. In summary, it seems to be that organized violence is sinful and against the will of God. Forgiveness is needed all around.

(7) We need to pray for forgetfulness. In cultures that teach hatred in the crib, violence can linger for centuries. We need the wounds to heal as quickly as possible so that new wounds will not be inflicted.

Those are my thoughts on praying for enemies. Reactions?

On the subject of wrapping Jesus in the American flag, I remember reading once that British historian Arnold Toynbee said the "Church of England" was in the business of worshipping England. The participants assumed that Jesus (and his Father) were Englishman.

Best wishes,
Mason Smith

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Wrapping Christian worship in the American flag

I wish to thank Mason for starting our conversation about praying for enemies and extend a handshake to Richie for expressing himself concerning Sunday's service, and Gene for extending the conversation. Like Richie and most Christian I too "pray for our U.S. soldiers and our Allies' forces as well." In fact, June and I do so daily, especially in the evening when we pray the Litany and offer to God this petition:

For our public servants [here we say the name of President Bush], for the government and those who protect us [here we pause to pray for police officers, fire-fighters, emergency medical people, and our troops at home and abroad] they may be upheld and strengthened in every good deed."

This intercession from The Daily Prayer of the Church, a Lutheran publication (382)) is much like that in The Book of Common Prayer (150).

And like Gene, I too am greatly disturbed that we seldom (if ever) hear a prayer for our enemies--especially when the Lord Jesus specifically asked us to love, pray for, bless our enemies (Luke 6.27-28).

Like Barabar Brown Taylor, I find it disturbing that "there is no better place to forget that United States is at war than in the church." We not only never mention the war in church, we only prayer that God will "support our troops who are in harm's way." Something is wrong with our Christian witness.

Prayer is one way we continually transform the way we think about and act out our Christian witness. To eliminate public prayers for our enemies surely unfortunately suggests that before God we ought seldom concern ourselves with our enemies' needs, hopes, aspirations, frustrations, hatred, and anxietes. Such forgetfulness (it is not deliberate, I hope) does not reflect the "mind of Christ" which St. Paul (Philippians 2) encourages us to cultivate. Surely our orthodoxy must be more generous, and I urge all of us to speak to our pastors and those who lead us prayer to express the will of God as articulated, not necessarily by our government, but by the life and witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let all of us who commit ourselves--privately and publically--to the Lordship of Jesus in our lives, pray for our enemies. In particuular, let us pray for insurgents and their families, for Iraqi Muslims who hate us, and for those who belong to al-Quaida. For starters, we might use a prayer like this prayer written by Sid Lovett, Sr., a 1916 Union Theological Seminary graduate, who wrote a series of prayers during World War II and the Korean War:

O God, Who art kind unto the unthankful and to the evil, and sendest Thy rain on the just and the unjust: send forth into our minds, we beseech Thee, the spirit of Thy Son, whereby we may acknowledge Thee to be the Father of all men, and may from our hearts pray for our enemies, not that their will, but Thine, be accomplished in them, even as we pray that Thy will and not ours be done in us. So shall we all be children of the Highest, abounding in hope through the power of the same Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The correct diagnosis

Here are my results from an interesting survey about religious/spiritual orientations. The survey presents you with 63 statements and a five-point "agree-disagree" scale. If you have time I hope you'll take the survey yourself!

I am happy with my diagnosis, especially the two at the top and the one at the very bottom. If you don't know much about the "emergent" movement, see

You scored as Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavly by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan




Roman Catholic


Neo orthodox




Reformed Evangelical


Modern Liberal


Classical Liberal




What's your theological worldview?
created with

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Independence Day Service At FUMC, and July 4th

Hello Everyone

I hope everyone will have a great time at the special service at FUMC. By the time everyone reads this, the service will be over, however, I want that everyone has a great time at the service(s) and a happy safe and sane 4th itself.

My mom is coming in for the late service and will be spending the day with me. I would like everyone's prayers for her because she has had a rough week. It hasn't been bad just hectic. Pray for a restful and enjoyable day today for her and also for her week coming up.

I plan to go probably to a potluck and party on the 4th itself with a group of fellow believers from a church called "The River On Main" (pretty close to where we serve and/or worship together at FUMC. After helping to lead worship with the choir for the second service, I have been going over there to see what it is like . I have made some new friends there. Some of them have even come to my house to watch the cartoon discipleship lessons that God has given me to write. A couple of them even perhaps want to use them for youth ministry over there. Pray for this as well, so that these lessons receive yet more audience.

On a more global note, let's pray for our U.S. soldiers and our Allies' forces as well. This is very important!!!

God Bless You. Be Safe.

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