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Monday, April 29, 2013

Formation Reflections on Praying the Text

The following posts are here by permission of the two students who wrote them. What is your own experience with prayer and Bible study?


Reflection 1
As I read Psalm 139, I found it difficult to place myself in the passage.  Yet, that was the problem.  I read, looking for personal application, unaware of how to read in the first place.  The author did not write the scripture for me or with any knowledge of me.  I should not read it with that assumption.  Therefore, I started over and read it again.  I began to imagine it as a story, attempting to form some objective images in my mind.  Then, the meditation began.    

I imagine a man standing in open space.  It is a place set apart for honesty and security.  A place to confess love without bounds.  A place to reveal all things.  This is no ordinary relationship.  This relationship exceeds familial bonds and human love.  It is an ideal form of vulnerability and love.  What every parent wants from their child and child from parent.  What every couple aspires to achieve.  It is an ever-surpassing and inescapable unity and dependency.  Oneness.  All of our fleshly attempts fall short or only mimic the union this man has with God Almighty.  The desire to love and be loved at the core his essence is fulfilled.  

But wait…who is this man to cast judgment on others when all is provided for him?  He speaks as if he is entitled to God’s love alone, righteously indignant.  Who is he to “hate them with perfect hatred”?  What justifies hatred from any one to another?  But wait, could he be speaking of himself?  Surely, he is.  He asks to for God to search him?  Why not search the doers of evil?  Unless, it is he who is wicked and malicious.  This man is known and still wants to be known, insecure about his love for the Lord.  Insecure about his own reliability.  He longs for assurance and justification, fulfilling the very purpose he was created.  The very purpose of God.

God, is this truly what humanity was created for?  To be lost in the chaos of our own wickedness while trying to find order in your plan?  We do try so hard to do your will, or what we perceive it to be.  Is acknowledging our finitude against your glory where we begin?  





Reflection 2 - Ashamed: Please Read Me
 
I am ashamed that I cannot read the scripture faithfully. I want to, but something stops me. It could be me - just the way my mind works.  It is difficult for me to slow my mind down to read the simplest text and the scripture is complex.  So I feel myself racing and racing and racing; then not understanding what I have read and even know what I am reading. I feel absolutely no comfort through the scripture. 

It could be because I love God and Jesus and the people of God so much that what could this book possible tell me to increase that love.  I feel the power of the Holy Spirit with me at all times.

All I can get from the Hebrew bible is history. The Psalms take some note: 1, 15, 23, 24, 27, 139 and 150.  I just feel like I am missing a piece of the puzzle that will tie this scripture to my life.  Maybe I am distressed because we all profess to read but we see nothing different in our lives.  I know I want my life to be different.

Shame overcomes me because I cannot quote scripture. It is not the quoting but the foundation of the scripture that one needs in order to preach. I don’t have it. I have considered going somewhere for a year or two to study on the scripture. Now I don’t know where you go, but I would love to find a place where scripture is intently and intentionally studied as Torah is studied by the Jewish people. If anyone knows of such a place let me know. I feel very much like the Ethiopian Eunuch, “how shall I learn without a teacher.”

I feel some happiness that I can fumble my way around the Gospels. I live for the twenty-third psalm and for the 4th chapter of Luke verses 16-30. I am attached greatly to Ephesians 2:8-10. I love the priestly pray in John 17:1-25.  I love John 14, the True Vine.

Wait a minute I see something here maybe I do know comfort through the scriptures I was trying to eat the whole book. If  I continue to work with parts of the book then maybe one day, one day all of it may come to form and shape for my spiritual being.

The reading of scripture is not a functional task it must form and shape our lives. What little I know does that for me and gives me comfort. Oh I forgot to add I love Acts. Acts speaks to me. Judges, Nehemiah and Ezra and Job all speak to me.  Maybe my assessment is wrong. I may know more than I thought.  After all I have been somewhere to study the bible. I think shame has turned to joy. I know more than I thought and all of it is a comfort to me.

I allow the word to read me at times. I know that there is more to explore and to take in but I am on my way.  Ashamed?   Maybe not - after all.
 
Wednesday, March 6, 2013

One Student's Reflection on Calling

In one of the Formation for Ministry classes this week, the readings and scripture centered on Callings. Members of the class were asked to write a brief paper on the sense of calling at this time and the risks involved in following that calling. With permission from the student, we are sharing one of those papers here:

FFM 3, Week 6 Paper

I don’t understand this “call” business at all; I really don’t. When people talk about their grand call stories where they speak of hearing God’s voice I throw up my hands in disgust, not at the people but either at me for my pitiful spiritual ears or at God for not getting around to turning his mic on yet. And yeah I said “his” because I just know I’ll hear James Earl Jones in my head when God decides it’s finally time to speak up. That’s the way it’s supposed to happen, right?

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Burning_bush_Hajdudorog.jpg
It’s funny all the different thoughts I have when people talk about hearing God’s voice. I feel some mild jealousy with a bit of bewildered thrown in. Once you add a pinch of indignant and finish it off with a dash of skepticism it becomes a healthy stew of, “COME ON GOD, WHERE ARE YA? DON’T YOU THINK IT’S ABOUT TIME?”  It sure would help if God would speak up like with Abraham or Isaac or Jacob or even Bob or Betty.

I’m amazed then that I still feel called. Even without the Burning Bush moment, I ache with an insane and masochistic draw to ministry. There is a pull and a desire and an I-have-to-do-this notion like I’ve never experienced before. I feel like I’m sucked into ministry and I can’t avoid it, all the while really enjoying the ride. Maybe God knows what works on me though.  I tend to be attracted to things that I only get a hint of and God belting out a “HEY PREACHER, I HAVE A PLAN FOR YOU” wouldn’t exactly be the mystery that I keep trying to figure out. And that’s what this draw feels like. Every time I get pulled in a little closer, every time I get another little whiff of God’s will, the attraction grows greater until now I am much like Alice down the rabbit hole. I’m tumbling down God’s Will, totally out of control. Who knew how deep it would be? Who knew it would change what my whole world looks like?

When I come to think of it like that, God best be with me in this because this kind of surreal life changing experience is terrifying. Jesus wasn’t joking when he said people would make fun of you. I mean my own Elders giggle sometimes. They keep wondering which hair-brained idea I’ll bring back from seminary next and then figure out how they’re going to get out of it after they vote for it. My fear though is it’s only going to get worse.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alicio_en_Mirlando_01.png
See, seminary changed me. This fall down the rabbit hole is doing something to me so that I’ve gained intensity like I’ve not had before. I never had this desire to do something wholly, with all that I am and that’s how I feel all the sudden. I am convinced by this seminary that the idea of all of God’s creatures living in God ordained community is central to the Christian faith. That is discipleship. Call it liberation theology or progressive theology or don’t call it anything at all but the result is, I’ve bought in to this way of thinking about God and Christ and Creation and that’s what I am going to preach as best I can. I’m scared because a lot of people don’t like that sermon. That Bible Study doesn’t always go so well. I’ve faced it in my church so much that I’ve had my call questioned, you know that one that I’ve never heard out loud.

But don’t you know that drew me in even more. This rabbit hole seems bottomless now. God best be down here.  
Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fr. Greg Boyle on a Podcast

Because I have the privilege of working alongside Rev. Billy Vaughan, in addition to serving as Chaplain, I am steeped in our Formation for Ministry program. I took the position of Coordinator for Formation for Ministry in addition to the chaplaincy because I believe so strongly in the program. Soon there will be a website devoted specifically to Formation for Ministry and I look forward to having the opportunity to share more in that format.

I love listening to Krista Tippet and her podcast of On Being and was thrilled this week when her guest was Father Greg Boyle who wrote Tattoos on the Heart. There are several Formation classes that have used that text in class and even if you haven't read the book, this podcast is worth a listen. I'm especially fascinated by his distinction between kinship and service. Give it a listen and feel free to engage in conversation here about it!

Here is the link to the podcast:

The Calling of Delight

Monday, February 25, 2013

Some thoughts on this week's lectionary texts

Here is the thing that stands out to me in this week's readings: We are gonna have to put up with a lot of crap. In the gospel lesson, Jesus shares that weird little parable about the fig tree. The owner is fed up with it and wants it gone, but the gardener says, "Let's try one more year. Let's surround it with as much crap as we can and see if it will grow under those circumstances. If it doesn't, then we will cut it down."

Mom, if you are reading this, I am sorry for using the word crap so much. It seems better than the obvious alternative!

The question in my mind becomes about where the crap comes from. It is this question that keeps me from using the word fertilizer. To fertilize something sounds so lovely. It sounds so incredibly helpful and I do understand that when the NRSV uses the phrase "until I dig around it and put manure on it" that the manure is the fertilizer, but someone in a prayer group this morning mentioned "all the crap we must go through in order to grow" and it just sticks with me like a fly on, well, you know. The outcome may be growth. It may even mean extended life on this earth, but being dug around and piled under manure doesn't sound like a walk in the park to me.

So, is it a test? The writer of 1 Corinthians seems to think so. This is that passage often repeated to people when they are in the most dire of situations - "God will not test you beyond your strength." I generally can't stand it when folks say that to me. How is it helpful to think about a terrible situation in my life being orchestrated by God to show me how strong I am? I'm more likely to believe that bumper sticker phrase that I can't write here because then I'll really be in trouble with my mother! You know the one I mean. A word that means the same as crap or manure followed by the word "happens."

But that leads my mind down another rabbit hole - why does "it" happen? And, then I'm led back to the gospel where Jesus tells the people around him that they must repent or they will perish. I can't help but wonder from what this particular group of folks needed to repent. If we look at the context of the words, they seem to have been trying to play the blame game. "Well, those people were clearly the worst because that tower fell on them. They must have been really horrible!" Or maybe it wasn't the blame game at all. Maybe they were just trying to make some sense out of things they witnessed that didn't seem to make any sense at all. Like a fig tree that produces nothing or a prophet that tells us "Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price."

This post is wandering around like I'm lost in the wilderness! Seems appropriate on this third Sunday of Lent to do so. Crap happens. Sometimes it happens to us. Sometimes it happens around us. Sometimes it happens in spite of us. Bottom line is that turning toward the Christ is the only way to survive the crap being piled on year after year after year. And, as we wander through these 40 days of Lent, we are called to repent, to grow, and to believe that we can do things that don't seem to make much sense at all in the eyes of the world. Thanks be to God for that!
Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Get Away to Pray

The Fall 2012 semester is well underway and the Chapel is open to students, faculty, staff, and visitors for prayer. A schedule of classes meeting in the chapel can be found on the south-side door. If there isn't a class using the space, come on in! Use the prayer stations provided or just sit and be present with God for a few minutes. You will be amazed at what just five minutes will do for the rest of your week!
Friday, August 17, 2012

Semester Starting Soon! Convocation is September 5th

It is almost time for our Fall 2012 semester to begin. My prayer is that this year will be one in which worship continues to grow as a priority on campus. We kick our community worship services off with Opening Convocation. It will be a great way to start the school year off right.

Opening Convocation
Dr. Jay Earheart-Brown, preacher
Wednesday, September 5th at 11:10am
Lindenwood Christian Church 
(across the street) in the Chapel


Community Meal will follow in The Great Hall of Founders' Hall
Meals are available for $6.00/person

We know that some of you can't pay this.
We know that some of you can pay more.
Please pay what you can to help this ministry of community-building continue.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012

George "Duke" Williams Farewell

This is the video of the last sermon that our friend, colleague, and fellow student, George "Duke" Williams, preached. Duke lost his battle with cancer on Sunday morning, May 13th. He served as a powerful witness to us all and taught us what "dying well" really looks like.