9/11 the Tenth Anniversary sermon

I was in the office.  I’d only been at St. Barts for a few months.   I’d gotten to work early because I needed to finish some paperwork before driving to Rochester.  Doreen, a parishioner, was volunteering, taking calls and organizing the mail.   I was listening to the radio when it seemed to turn off suddenly.  At least I think it did.   It came back on with the announcement that the towers were struck.
I made some phone calls to my friends who were working there.  One person watched from his office not too far from the towers.  I called a parishioner in White Plains who had once worked there himself.   But my memory remains foggy, and only the emotional impression remains.

The Creed: Four Hypotheses

The Creed’s importance first lies not merely in the content or referent, but in its grammar.  Put another way, the more interesting parts of the creed are its pronouns, conjunctions and prepositions. “We”… “in one…”  “Who…”   The creed as a Mad Lib with the content words open reveals who we are.

The creed itself, as the description of the trinity, is the alphabet of the Christian language.  It does not exhaust the existence of other languages, but contains the social imagination of the first political church.

The creed is more like a dream of the first church, on in which we are invited to participate.  It does not exhaust the other dreams we may have, nor does it finish the dreams we will have, but it is the touchstone, the first one.

The creed is the geography of the imagination.  The words are the names of the hallways, the rooms, the towers of the mansion which we share with the saints and priests of the believers.   Upon the steps into the entrance are the words “We Believe” and then we enter.

Happiness

Happiness

Jane Kenyon

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.

It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

Source: Dancing With Joy edited by Roger Housden

On “cherry-picking” the faith

Recently, the Atheist Greta Christina in the progressive magazine Alternet,  offered another complaint about us theologically minded progressives.   Her argument:  we “cherry-pick,” and we’re not allowed to.  Her reason:  because there is no God.

Now I admit, I’ve heard this  before.  Traditionalist Catholics call some of us “cafeteria catholics.”  They call Episcopalians, “catholic-lite.”  It’s meant to be insulting, but it merely exposes a broad misunderstanding of the tradition and how it was actually lived. Continue reading

Consciousness

A recent link to Eric Schwitzgebel at Metafilter caused me to reflect on a conversation I had with a friend.  The philosopher in question critiques classical notions of self-knowledge and consciousness, that we are generally unaware of how we experience the world.

There were a few reasons I became a theist.  It wasn’t because I believed in Platonic Cosmology, or subscribed to the medieval imagination.  I never quite bought into the structure of classical theology either, with it’s emphasis on omnipotence, omniscience and omnibenevolence, although I’ve read some interesting interpretations from the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

But I did get stuck on consciousness, free will and order.  Once I decided that we could not quite solve the problem of consciousness, God became a possibility.   My atheism could not be certain, nor could it be judged as beneficial.  It simply concealed other Gods within, a different puppeteer.   Perhaps it was internal, but it need not be.  What I wanted was a God that allowed some kind of consciousness to be true, and Christianity provided a convincing narrative for me to understand my own experiences.

Free will provided a different problem.  Is our agency our own?  How do we actually choose?  Is our perception correct?  Theology has often linked conscience, choice and free will as moments, as events of the spirit.

And last, is the world ordered or not?  It may not be, but once we declare it is ordered, it seems that God takes on that place where order and disorder meet, but the even deeper ground of order between the two.

Granted, philosophers provide some precise and elegant ways of talking about the mind; scientists have some understanding of the brain.  But our experience of freedom remains a mystery, and the wonder, awe and reverence we have toward our capacities and the infinit universe we find ourselves, the most accurate words to describe that state most properly remain religious.