Friday, April 18, 2014

A Good Friday Question

Someone asked me this week, "Why do we not celebrate the Holy Eucharist on Good Friday?" It is an astute question. In my experience, many are unaware that Good Friday is one of two days of the year on which our tradition bids us not to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. The other is Holy Saturday (from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown).

Prayer Book Episcopalians do not perform the sacrament of the Eucharist on these two days because we understand ourselves to be engaged in proclaiming the gospel in a particularly intense and dramatic pageant which begins with our remembering the Last Supper and ends with our proclaiming the resurrection at the Great Vigil of Easter. On Maundy Thursday we wash each other's feet in response to Jesus' commandment that we love one another. On Good Friday we proclaim the cross, remembering the moment he died for us. On these two days of the pageant, we remember that Jesus the Messiah is not yet risen and exalted, but humiliated.

Of course, Jesus engages us always as the enfleshed Word, but in the Good Friday portion of our three-day pageant, we shine the light on the fact that the enfleshed Word is eternally and simultaneously the exalted One and the humiliated One. That's why we always turn to John's Gospel as we read the passion narrative on Good Friday, for, in John portrait, the Cross is not the triumph of human evil, but God's gracious action. "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life" (John 3:16). And that is why we don't celebrate the Eucharist on Good Friday or Holy Saturday. We don't "lift up our hearts" to the risen Lord on these days, because, in our pageantry, the spotlight is on his humiliation on our behalf.

Nonetheless, unlike the first disciples, we know the rest of the story. The Jesus we meet on the Cross is also the exalted One, our risen Lord, and so, after proclaiming the Cross and responding to our Lord with thanksgiving and adoration, many of us commune in the his name, using the sacrament reserved during our recollection of the Last Supper.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Friday, November 22, 2013

My "Adapting for Age" Experiment

Thought I'd give a progress report on this experiment I'm conducting of adapting my training for aging.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Staying fit when you discover you're not Peter Pan

I’ve just completed my annual planning for next year’s athletic goals and have at last accepted that I am not Peter Pan. It’s hard to admit, but I am not 35-years-old anymore, even though my head tells me differently. The signs are too strong that my body  - chronologically I am moving into my mid-fifties - has changed permanently in ways I can no longer ignore.

Of course I’ve read all those studies on aging of athletes and know how aging is supposed to affect other people, but now it seems those studies are no longer about other people. They describe exactly my experience. I’ve decided to adapt to two major effects of aging on endurance athletes.

The first is the fact that it now takes me far longer to recover from a quality workout. After a long run, I hobble up and down the stairs not just for hours but days. The accumulated fatigue from the weekly training cycles I’ve followed for two decades now lead me consistently to overtraining symptoms. I can no longer do three quality workouts per week for a full season without burnout or injury.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

If God loves the rich man, why is he in Hell?

I received this week an email from a parishioner with questions of universal significance. Below I share his questions and my responses.

In today's gospel (Luke 16:19-31) Jesus tells us about a rich man who dies and is sent to Hades to be tormented while Lazarus is carried away by angels to be with Abraham.  This passage is threatening and raises some questions for me including: 1.  Why is the rich man in hell?; 2.  Is there a hell?; 3.  If humans are saved by God's grace why is anyone in hell?; 4.  Does God love this rich man? and 5.  If God loves him why is he in hell?

These are complex questions that don't lend themselves to the sound-bite answers that are increasingly preferred in our culture. That said, some summary answers can be given, recognizing that lots of unpacking of these is needed in an appropriate forum.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

On being 'spiritual, not religious'

Rupert the Rat
One of the odd things people often say these days is that they are spiritual but not religious. In fairness, what they are communicating is an awareness of a depth to which they are called, and perhaps also a skepticism or worry about the vagaries of organized religion. 

But the expression reveals a theological puzzlement. Anthropologically, all communicable mammals - which I assume includes all of us - are spiritual beings. Spirit is what animates us. So to say breathlessly that I am spiritual but not religious is like saying breathlessly that, unlike some unnamed others, you have a nose or a mouth - or that you have discovered yourself to be one of those who can breathe. All humans are spiritual - and so are all dogs and cats and even my friend’s pet rat, Rupert, for that matter. Saying 'I am spiritual' is really not saying anything interesting. 

What is interesting is what we are doing about that spirituality. You have legs. Are you walking with them in a productive way? You have spirit. Are you on the trail to spiritual growth, or are you stagnating?

Monday, September 2, 2013

A milestone passed

The books that have surrounded my leather chair in the living room are gone. They've been there continuously - except when certain guests came over - but now they are banished from that space, all cleaned up, put back in place. Order is restored. A huge weight is gone, and my free time is once again free. At last the dissertation is done and gone - in the hands of others. There is more work to come, assuredly, but the most difficult part of the journey is done. My friends, Graham and Jo, who were the first to encourage me to do this theology PhD, told me it would be one of the loneliest things I would ever do. And they were right. Now at last, I'm free, free at last, able to say yes to all the things my bride has wanted me to do in all that extra time between parish duties and the demands of scholarly discipline. Can't wait to get back to living a normal family life - insofar as my wiring makes that possible. Can't wait to hit the trail again! Think I will celebrate the passing of this milestone  just a bit before continuing my journey. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My weekend as a detective

It's always bad form to steal, and particularly bad form to steal from a priest while he's preaching the resurrection at a funeral.

Karma caught up last night with at least one of the poor souls involved in the caper. It made for quite an adventure and yet another commercial for the superb designs of Apple products.

After commending to our Lord the soul of one of the saints of our parish, I did as I always do, almost: took off the vestments, walked back to the study to retrieve the iPhone (which serves as my watch), and joined the fellowship in the Great Hall. Only this time I never made it to the reception. When I reached my study, I noticed my phone was not where I remembered putting it. Silly me. Checked my car. Not there. Wondering if I might have left it in the sacristy, my eyes absent-mindedly moved to floor-level. My Bose home theater system wasn't there - the system I set up regularly in the church or fellowship hall for presentations involving video. Hmmm. Heart in mouth. Turned in trepidation to the chair in which I had deposited my backpack when I arrived for the funeral.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Adam Hamilton: A reflection on the emerging place of gays and lesbians within church and society

Adam Hamilton, the pastor of the largest United Methodist parish in the U.S. (and a top author of Christian educational materials sold on the Cokesbury site), wrote a thoughtful reflection for his congregation on the recent events in American society pertaining to the role of gays and lesbians. As an Episcopal priest, I found it interesting to overhear this conversation outside of my own ecclesial circles - particularly within the Methodist circle that is so closely related to American Episcopalianism historically:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Brain Training for Runners: An adaptation

Last fall, I posted a review of the Hanson's Marathon Method. Several folks have written to ask me for an update on my experience of that training approach. I have not posted an update already because I never tested the Hanson's approach with an actual marathon. I was unable to run my fall marathon or finish the Hanson's schedule as I planned. I did not get injured. My father died a month before my planned marathon, and I could not bring myself to run for quite awhile after his death. I did not regain my drive in a sustainable way until April, but now I am back on course, doing now about 55 miles per week in preparation for a fall marathon. 

What I can report is that once I found the will to hit the road again, I elected not to pursue the Hanson Method again. Sort of.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dare we light the pink candle? proclaiming joy in the midst of tragedy

The Third Sunday of Advent is a day historically called Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin for joy. It is a day for rejoicing. Why? Because Paul tells us in his letter to the Phillippians (Phil 4:4-7) to rejoice always - that the habit of rejoicing is fundamental to those for whom the Lord is near. The pink candle on our Advent wreath reminds us that we are called to be a people of joy, especially as our celebration of the Incarnation of Jesus draws near.

I know that, today especially, many of us don’t feel like rejoicing. We feel anxious, upset, heart-broken for many reasons, not least of which is the vision of the slaughter of innocents at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday. But that’s not all. It is not just Friday but every day that we hear the word of the world and it is disquieting. The word of the world is a word of violence, of economic and personal instability, of sorrow and rage, of fear and regret. The days have grown dark and we feel the chill of it all. Because the word of the world, both locally and abroad, is so often cold and cruel and uncertain.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Hansons Marathon Method: a review

I am using the Hansons Marathon Method (see Hansons Marathon Method: A Renegade Path to Your Fastest Marathon) to prepare for the 2013 marathon season. Now that I've spent several weeks with it since the October publication of Luke Humprey's book about it, I thought it might be helpful to record some initial impressions. In particular, it seems possible now to describe the Hanson method by way of comparison with methods espoused by Matt Fitzgerald (see Brain Training For Runners: A Revolutionary New Training System to Improve Endurance, Speed, Health, and Results ) and Brad Hudson (see Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon: How to Be Your Own Best Coach).

I have used the Fitzgerald and Hudson methods in the past eighteen months. They are similar. Though they use different nomenclatures, both break the season into base, build, peak, and taper stages. Both specify lots of hill sprints to build early season strength, and both rely on speed work typical of a 10K program to build general aerobic fitness and fatigue resistance. The build and peak phases introduce marathon specificity by designating three weekly key workouts. Speed sessions shift toward longer intervals of 1Km, 1 mile, and 2Km, usually at 10K pace. Fitzgerald and Hudson diverge in their preferences for developing fatigue resistance, with Fitzgerald prescribing long tempo runs at half marathon pace  increasing weekly up to 8.5 miles, and Hudson prescribing cruise intervals at half marathon or 10K pace up to 4 miles. Both build endurance with a weekly long run building up to 22 miles, though both specify a steady diet of progression runs in lieu of long slow distance. Both prescribe a taper which reduces volume but maintains a fairly high level of intensity.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mourdock, rape, and the Christian hope

A friend, responding on Facebook to recent reactions to comments by Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock about a hypothetical pregnancy arising from rape, introduced an opinion slide with the following assertion: "As I understand it, this is the christian doctrine. That all things good and bad happen at the behest of God." But is that right?

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Spotter's Guide to Biblical Genres: Gospels

My friend and colleague, the Rev'd Claire Wimbush, has produced a wonderful guide to help Christians engage Scripture fruitfully through recognition of the particular literary genre of the text we are reading. The format is like that of a bird-watcher's guide. She's given me permission to publish it on my blog for broader dissemination. I've been publishing it serially on Fridays over the next several weeks.

This week's installment has to do with the genre of gospel:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

On marriage and divorce

In the Revised Common Lectionary's readings for the nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost we encounter an odd juxtaposition of texts. With the psalmist, we express wonder at God’s providence: “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” (Ps 8:5) In the letter to Hebrews, we’re reminded that Jesus, our great high priest, has spoken God’s providential word to us (Heb 1:2), and advocates before the Father on our behalf (Heb 2:12). But then, when we turn to that Word, when we turn to receive with gladness this good news, we find there a teaching about divorce (Mark 10:11). It’s a difficult, perhaps painful teaching from Jesus because many of us are divorced, are children of divorce, or worry that our marriages may be heading for divorce. And some of us aren’t married at all. We are tempted to set Jesus’ Word aside, to declare it irrelevant in our time, or to find clever ways to say it does not pertain to us. But faith proclaims that this is God’s Word to us. Our task then, is to ask “how are we to see Jesus’ rejection of divorce for the purpose of remarrying as good news?” 

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Spotter’s Guide to Biblical Genres: Torah/Law

My friend and colleague, the Rev'd Claire Wimbush, has produced a wonderful guide to help Christians engage Scripture fruitfully through recognition of the particular literary genre of the text we are reading. The format is like that of a bird-watcher's guide. She's given me permission to publish it on my blog for broader dissemination. I'll be publishing it serially on Fridays over the next several weeks.

This week's installment has to do with the genre of teaching, or, better, Torah, which we translate rather sterilely into the English word, law: