November 27th, 2005

moon house

"There's oceans in between us, but that's not very far."

I think today was the first day I'd stepped out of the house since Wednesday.  Youch.  I went to the library to pick some books up.

Shelby was working Children's, so I went over to say hi because she's lovely.  We chatted about the usual stuff and she asked how United was doing.  "That's an interesting question," I said.  She was asking about the "spirit" of the church rather than the finances (which was how I first answered the question) and mentioned the Taegers -- who are one of the many who left United ~6 years ago, and who now go to the Baptist and I didn't realize knew the Warners.  I said most of the people who were upset by what happened had left, so it was pretty much happily chugging along as its own new entity now, but it's really not my church, in so many ways, a number of which I talked about.

We also talked about jobness and of course there was the question of what I would ideally wanna be doing, and she asked if I write, and I talked about how I'm good at discussing things with people and how I would love to get to do things on my own terms, to talk about fairytales and tv and movies and connections and just be trusted to be smart and not have to prove myself to an admissions or hiring committee, and how I'm not good at having an idea of my own which I can sustain throughout the course of a paper.  I hadn't ever quite articulated that portion of it (the fact that it's hard to sell a board on my flavor of cultural studies has of course become old hat) and now that I'm typing it up I think, "Being a college professor, if you're a humanities prof at a liberal arts college, leading discussion is what you do, though there still is that hateful requirement that you publish regularly."

She said she was glad I come in and check in, that it's nice to hear from me, and she sounded sincere.  I have come to not trust my readings of such, but it was a positive conversation regardless.

I also chatted with Michele for a while, about gifting among other things.  I feel like I'm treated more like an adult than like a kid, which is nice.

Me: So, I'm debating whether or not I should watch tonight's CSI rerun, 'cause I know I've seen this episode before.
Mom: Why would you be watching the episode again if you know you've already seen it?  For the order?  In case there was subtle character development you missed the first time around?  The CSI characters are too adorable not to watch?
Me (shamefacedly): Okay, I wouldn't call the CSI characters "adorable," but up until then, you were exactly right.

Cat called shortly after the show started, so I watched about 20 minutes with the mute on, which was enough to remind me more fully what the episode was about and also to remind me that it's a rather depressing episode I really don't need to watch again.

My mother says she doesn't consider information from me really official until it's been "enshrined" in (my) LJ.  " 'I'm converting to Buddhism and moving to Tibet.'  I'll send a condolence letter to the Dalai Lama.  'I know you're probably the most grounded person on the planet, but this girl's gonna be a test.' "

P.S. Neil Gaiman is love.

And this is not about Neil Gaiman, but confession time before Advent (time to prepare one's heart for the coming of God Incarnate).  I think I understand that "Thou shalt not covet" commandment better now.  It's about being content with what you have, but it's also about not begrudging others what they have.  I find myself sort of seething negative energy when I read really amazing fic sometimes.  I also totally rock the inferiority/superiority complex thing, and I begin to think the two are related -- that it's not just jealousy in the sense of "I wish I had that ability" but also "You do not deserve to have that ability."  Which is somewhat troubling.  I would be a happier person if I didn't hate people so frequently.
Isaiah 9:6, blasphemy, family love

Ecumenical Advent Sunday 1: Trinity Community & Emmanuel Lutheran

[Um, wow, this is really long.]

I will always feel a great attachment to being a Low Church Protestant, even if I end up deciding that I cannot identify as a Christian.  Advent is the time of year I would most be able to deal with High Church, but I figured I'd build up to it as there are plenty of churches in Norwood.

So I started with 9:30am service at Trinity Community.

Scripture: I Timothy 4:1-5
"Christmas Gifts for the Heart: Thankfulness."

That was on the cover of the bulletin, and the interior had assorted announcements.  The back had people contact info on the bottom and "Sermon Notes" above a large space at the top.

That was it.

I have a sudden understanding of the discomfort High Church raised people feel in Low Church atmospheres and also of their attachment to liturgy, tradition, "ceremony."

There's a pulpit in the center of the frontspace, up a few stairs, with a "Remebrance of Me" table off to the side on ground level.  Behind the pulpit was a dome-ish open space that felt particularly like a performance space due to the guitarist at the front center.  Note the lack of anything resembling an Advent Wreath in that description.

We opened with praise music -- lyrics displayed on two walls via some projector -- and I was reminded of United (one of the major markers of the great schism was the introduction of a pre-servce contemporary praise music segment).  Five songs, most of which were new to me, though one was "Great Is Thy Faithfulness."  One song had the line "Every blessing You pour out I'll turn back to praise" which I liked.

There was a lot of repeating of refrains, so combined with the fact that it didn't start promptly at 9:30, it was nearly 10am before it was over.  The offering was taken and then the reading of the Scripture and the sermon.  The pastor mentioned something about having chosen the Scripture reading, and that sort of hit me.  I'm unused to the tradition of a rotating Scripture selection standardized by some higher power, but Advent I expect to be the same.  Okay, I couldn't actually tell you what Scripture I was expecting for the First Sunday in Advent, but 1 Timothy 4:1-5 was certainly not it.  Probably something about hope ("We light the candle of hope today; the giver of hope is come" -- why can't I find this on Google? United always did this song at the lighting of the Advent candle, and I love it).

[He did at some point talk about this Sunday as a bridge between Thanksgiving and the Advent season.  And I realized later that of course the First Sunday in Advent must occur shortly after American Thanksgiving.  Maybe I just haven't paid much attention in past years.  Or maybe most pastors give their Thanksgiving message the Sunday before Thanksgiving and this Sunday preach about hope.]

He talked about how Paul was preaching against the Gnostic heresy that said physical things were bad and if you had to partake of them you shouldn't enjoy them.  He talked about a God-centered life and, you knew it was coming, mentioned that while in Paul's day people were forbidding others to marry, nowadays some people say they should be able to define marriage any way they want, and how both are contrary to God.  Yeah, this morning I was recalling how my introduction to Trinity was YoungLife and was worried about the potential for conservative theology in the service, but I figured it was Advent so I should be okay.  But as soon as I saw the marriage bit in the Timothy I knew I was in trouble.  It was only one line out of the sermon, but it was enough to reaffirm that that is not my church home.

He told the story of the little old lady in a mall parking lot who saw strangers in her car, pulled out a gun and told them to get out, and then when her key wouldn't work realized it wasn't her car.  He talked about how she thought it was her car but it wasn't and similarly, so often we think it's our life [in the sense that we are in control of it] but it isn't.

He also talked about how so often we are thankful, but are our thanks directed at a personal God?

He cited Romans 1(:21) pointing out that sin begins with lack of thankfulness.  Other gratitude citations included Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:20.

He talked about God's plan being like a river -- with our trying to go outside God's plan as being like a river overflowing its banks [bad, destructive, etc.], and I really liked that analogy, with its implication that there is a lot of space and flexibility within God's plan.  (Though of course the analogy is flawed, as rivers flooding is actually a good thing -- leaving yummy sediment and all.)

He mentioned the line "ten thousand beside" and how some Christians have their, oh, six, that they list and we should be more like the child who at bedtime prayers has one eye open and is listing "I am thankful for my stuffed animals, and the window, and the bed...."

He said that thanksgiving sets items apart from common use for God-use, which I thought was interesting.

He said in the verse "For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer" it literally is "is being consecrated."

Philippians 4:6-7 -- present your requests with thanksgiving and the peace of God will guard you hearts.  [Ari, I have shame that it wasn't until last night that I realized the top of your ordinary time glee!posts is the Scripture from United last week.  Clearly I skim over that part.]

He said don't make a Christmas list until you make a thanksgiving list -- and the thanksgiving list should be much longer.  And lo there was silent cheering from me.  He said the cultural approach to Christmas is antithetical to God -- and thanksgiving is the antidote.

Then there was silent prayer and then "you are dismissed."  Yes, he literally said that.  It's bad enough that at First Churches I keep wanting "and may the grace, mercy, and peace, of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, be and abide with us all, now and always" even though intellectually I so prefer Peter's way (and even PB mixed it up a little last week -- what is wrong?) but...yeah.

I chatted with Cassie for a while after the service and then made my way to the food.  I saw Joanne from the library (and her sister Diane, whom I'd seen/met before) and was surprised 'cause I assume everyone's Catholic.  Joanne said, "This is a fun church."  Uh, fun, yeah.  Not exactly the way to sell me on a church.

I decided I needed something more Adventy, so recalling that Emmanuel Lutheran had 11:15am Contemporary Service, I walked around the block to there.

They had the multi-page bulletin that First Churches does.  And the top includes a Emmanuel God with us logo.
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jess,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
Isaiah 11:1-2
THEME FOR WORSHIP - The days of Advent point the people of God toward the three comings of the Lord Jesus. He came among us at Bethlehem.  He comes among us now in the scriptures, the waters of Baptism, the Eucharistic meal, and the community of faith.  He will come in glory to judge the living and the dead.  Keep awake, for his coming is certain and his day draws near.

I thought that three was really interesting.

The first hymn was "Shine, Jesus, Shine," and there so was not enough energy in the choir/congregational singing.  I mean, come on, *I* was excited to be singing this.

Their Advent wreath was hanging from the ceiling at front of sanctuary.  4 blue candles (around the center white candle).

Discussing my accidental momentary conflation of Advent with Lent last night with Ari, she mentioned how both have purple as a sanctuary color.  I actually never paid particular attention to sanctuary colors either at United or at First Churches.  I know United's Advent wreath always had purple tapers, though.

Googling this afternoon to get the order of Advent I found:
The colors of the candles vary with different traditions, but there are usually three purple or blue candles, corresponding to the sanctuary colors of Advent, and one pink or rose candle. One of the purple candles is lighted the first Sunday of Advent, a Scripture is read, a short devotional or reading is given, and a prayer offered. On subsequent Sundays, previous candles are relighted with an additional one lighted. The pink candle is lighted on the third Sunday of Advent.
-http://www.cresourcei.org/cyadvent.html


Scripture readings were 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 (from the letters of Paul) and Mark 13:24-37 (the words of Jesus from the Gospels).  [And um, I've gotta say, "Truly I tell you, this generaton will not pass away until all these things have taken place" -- Mark 13:30 -- gives me serious pause, because Jesus was so wrong.]

"Here ends the reading.  This is the Gospel of the Lord."  Oh, the holding up of the Bible.  I recall that from the High Anglican Mass I went to in Oxford.

Then the message.  Something about keeping awake.  With much reference to a Superman movie scene in which Superman turns the earth backwards to turn back time and bring Lois Lane back to life.  I was awake through the whole sermon I promise, but I really recall little though I liked the pastor muchly.

We sang "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning" -- an African-American spiritual.  I was reminded of First Churches.

"Please join me in this ancient tradition of faith reminding each other of what we believe" and then they recited the Apostle's Creed.  I hadn't realized Lutherans were so close to Catholics.

Then prayers and the sharing of the peace.  The pastor said welcomes to me before saying the usual "Peace be with you."  heart.

[The Coffee Hour is at 10am -- between the two services -- but the pastor chatted with me briefly after the service.  He is lovely.  He knows I live in the area 'cause he's seen me walking to the train in the morning :)  He asked me about why I was here and encouraged me to try out the formal service and said he hoped they'd see me again, but if somewhere else was a better fit for me than so be it and he wished me well in my church-seeking and my Advent.
A bulletin from the morning's Formal Liturgy had been left in my pew, and it looks like it has more hymns plus a Hebrew Scripture reading.  I also like their Confessional recitation better -- "Our indifference toward your coming, Our desire to control time and seasons, Our failure to be alert to signs of your presence in our midst, Our lack of concern for those who come after us, Our injustices toward people you came to save -- we confess to you, Lord."]

The taking of the offering was called "gathering of gifts" -- and the music "I Love You, Lord" (the "let it be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear" song, which I like).

"Traditonal Lord's Prayer" followed by Invitation to Communion.
P] The door to God's banquet hall is open.
C] Let us enter into the joy of the feast.

They do Communion by intinction -- "Receive the wafer of bread and dip it into the wine (red) or grape juice (white)"

Our Communion Hospitality: All who believe Jesus is present in the giving and receiving of these gifts of grace are welcome to share in the meal.  Those who have not yet received first Holy Communion may come forward for a blessing.

I think that covers me well enough, and I was going to take it anyhow, for the experience -- much like at the Anglican services in Oxford.  The wafer was brown and I feel made out of some sort of bread product, which made me happy, as the white plasticky wafer I had in Oxford was weird.  The wine was almost spicy.

They did 3 hymns during Communion, and the second one had a line "Jesus said: I am the bread kneaded long to give you life" which I thought was interesting.

The "Sending Hymn" was called "Messiah" and was new to me.  I liked it a lot.
Someone's shouting from the desert. Someone's shouting from the sea.
Someone's shouting from the mountain. Someone's shouting from the Valley. [this random capitalization made me think of the Pioneer Valley]
Mes - si - ah, come and be our King.
Mes - si - ah, come and be our King.

Someone's shouting from the city. I am young. I am cold. [I actually got teary at this bit and thought of "Watchfire" by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts in Flights.]
Someone's shouting from the country. I am lonely. I am old.
Mes - si - ah, come and be our King.
Mes - si - ah, come and be our King.

Someone's shouting I am broken. Someone's shouting make me whole.
Someone's shouting come and change me. Someone's shouting save my soul.
Mes - si - ah, come and be our King.
Mes - si - ah, come and be our King.
The "Sending":
P] Go in peace.  Prepare the way.
C] Thanks be to God.

The bulletin insert includes:

CHILDREN ARE WELCOME IN WORSHIP at Emmanuel.  There is no better place for them than with parents hearing the music, watching the actions of worship.  To assist with fidgety times there are soft cloth toy bags on the back of the last pews for your use while in church.  For the little ones -- ages newborn through 5 years -- in your family who find it hard to sit through the entire worship service, we provide nursery care during each worship service.  Please check with an usher about this service.

Their Prayer Concerns List includes "In the Armed Forces: Jeff Rapp -- enlisted in the Marines" and I wonder if that's Maggie's Jeff Rapp.

They also have a Thursday evening prayer service, 6:45-7:15.
     As you enter the Founder's Room you will be warmed by candlelight reflecting the blue of Advent and the gold of the Christmas season.  Soft and reflective music will lift your heart.  Seasonal readings and reflections will inspire you. Join us and discover a place apart from the rush of work, the fast-paced family life, and seasonal stress.  Enjoy an oasis of peace, of tranquility and refreshment.
I also really enoy the note at the bottom: All are welcome!  Guests and friends are expected.

On the final interior page of the bulletin:
Stewardship thought for November:
We come to church not to get but to give.  If anybody asks me the one supreme justification for church-going, I reply, "An opportunity to give -- the giving of money, yes, as a symbol of a dedication of the whole life, but equally important the giving of talents and one's whole self to a cause and to the teachings of Jesus."
-William Marston in Christian Clippings 2005
Below that:
STOP! BREATHE IN! BREATHE OUT!
Forget the rushing and running for a little while.  Lose yourself in the refreshing and renewing atmosphere of Advent worship.
Here at Emmanuel Church we offer you a real change of pace and a wonderful way to prepare for the season of Christmas by attending worship with friends and gathering around a table that you do not have to prepare.
Don't forget our Advent Evening Prayer services each Thursday during the Advent Season.  Yet another calming and centering opportunity for you!
May God bless your Advent days!
I have much love for a church that so emphasizes this sort of peace and breathing and stepping back.  While there was a lot in Bruce's sermon [Trinity] that was thoughtful and that I liked and I barely got anything from Ed's sermon [Emmanuel Lutheran] I would be so much more at home at Emmanuel Lutheran, despite the fact that some of the High Church stuff is discomfiting to me.  A while back, Lindsey wrote, "I used to think that that should be the focus of a church service: a challenging, stimulating, inspiring sermon," and I agreed.  And the fact that I got (almost) nothing out of the sermon definitely gives me pause, but I also feel like it's a place I would like to spend more time.

I was telling Ari last night that I didn't have anything really good for Advent in a daily preparation sort of way, but at Emmanuel Lutheran they had this "Twenty-Eight Short Readings for the Advent Season" handout.  Win!

Today's is Isaiah 2:1-5
1 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:

2 In the last days
      the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established
      as chief among the mountains;
      it will be raised above the hills,
      and all nations will stream to it.

3 Many peoples will come and say,
      "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
      to the house of the God of Jacob.
      He will teach us his ways,
      so that we may walk in his paths."
      The law will go out from Zion,
      the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

4 He will judge between the nations
      and will settle disputes for many peoples.
      They will beat their swords into plowshares
      and their spears into pruning hooks.
      Nation will not take up sword against nation,
      nor will they train for war anymore.

5 Come, O house of Jacob,
      let us walk in the light of the LORD.