Sunday, April 17, 2005

Some reflections on the past few days

I had intended to post something on Jane's ordination to the diaconate on Saturday but my sermon for Reconciler, was being re-writen yesterday. As I read over the text I have this afternoon, I am thinking I might be preaching something slightly different than what is writen. This is not uncommon in my experience of regular preaching. Writing the sermon is preparation for the text that will actually be preached in the moment I am in the pulpit. The actual message doesn't come to me until I am in the pulpit. This sometimes works very well at other times it doesn't. I think it doesn't work either when I attempt to ignore that this is how my preaching has developed and try to have a complete manuscript or a detailed outline, or if I think "oh the message will come" and I do not put the time into writing and re-writing. It works the best when I study , I write and re-write and come to the worship service and pulpit open to what God will lead me to say in that moment based on the preparation I have done. I will take what I have writen into the pulpit with me and the lectionary texts for the day, since I will use some of the materials, but it will not be exactly what I had prepared to say. At this point in time preaching for me is an interaction between myself, the word of God, and the gathered community of faith in worship. When one is working in Preparing one's study one only has two third of that interactive relationship available. I find the Scriptures sound differently read in worship then when read in the study. Therefore for my sermon to preach from the texts as read in worship I must to wait and sit and listen for the Word of God with the congregation.
Well, I perhaps should write a little more at another time on my experience in preaching.
However, I wanted to say a little about Jane's ordination. Tripp and I travled down to South Bend together in his little car, since Jane is canonicaly resident in the Diocese of Northern Inidana. Jane was clearly elated and overwhelmed by her ordination. Bishop Edward Little's sermon did not blow me away, but ihad the quality of a conversation as if we were sitting in his living room reflecting on the texts. He has a very personal and humble style to his leadership (or so I sensed from that sermon and speaking to him briefly after the ordination) that was very refreshing and encouraging. I pray that God grant Jane the grace to live into the words of exhortation given to her and the other two new deacons, Rebecca and Jeff, by Bishop Little.
It is always a little odd for me as a Covenanter to enter into these Episcopal services, even Covenant high church folks seem cavelier by comparison. I feel very aware that my denomination is young and small by comparison, and our claims to apostolicity seem a little weak. But both the dean and bishop were very welcoming, and as it turns out know different Covenant pastors and churchs in California with whom they had good relationships. One never knows as a Covenanter when or where you will run into someone who is familiar with the Covenant Church, and then one also doesn't know if the persons experience will have been a good one or a bad one. I am always prepared to give some breif summary of the Covenant, and/or explain that not all Covenanter's are fundamentalists. It is always a pleasant surprise (and a relief) when I meet someone who is both familiar with the Covenant and their impressions are positive. So, in the end I felt quite at home.
A question for me was how to dress. I do at times wear a Rusian style cassock, and I did debate whether or not to wear it. I didn't feel comfortable for some reason wearing to Jane's ordination. To do so seemed pretentious somehow. Then I realized once at the Cathedral that I had dressed the part of a Covenant pastor, nice suit jacket, dress shirt (no tie I do not wear ties, though the tie is the Covenant clerical collar) and a cross. (admitedly a more urban Goth version of the Covenant pastor look, but Covenant pastor none the less.) I fell more comfortable in the cassock actually, but it doesn't really represent my tradition very well. I came as a Covenant Pastor to Jane's ordination, which is exactly how I should have come. This does however raise the questin of how to present myself when Jane is ordained a priest.
Tripp btw wore a clerical colar, which I think suits him. I don't think he looks teribly episcopal in it either. To me, he looks like a baptist in a clerical collar, which to my mind is a good thing.
If you are reading this and think, what does dress have to do with anything of faith and pastoring and the church, I will say everything. Christian faith is supposed to have form. There is very little in fact that is abstract, "purely spiritual" and disimbodied about Christian faith. The foci of our religious faith are intensly bodily and about form. Our central act of worship is centered on eating and drinking, we enter the faith by either being emersed in water, having watter poured over us or sprinkled with water in Baptism. We anoint people with oil for healing, we ordain people through the laying on of hands. These forms are not accidental for the Christians but are primary (except if you are Quaker, but I kindly and respectfully submit to the Quakers that they are the exception and the deviation from how the faith has been understood for most of the history of Christianity). So, what I wear as a pastor has not only meaning but cannot be laid asside as without consequence.
Plus even if the above was not so dress is a symbolic activity. How we dress speaks to those we meet, it also forms our sense of ourselves. While many people may think that I ignore this aspect of dress, I am actualy very careful in how I dress and what I communicate with that dress. One may not like what I say, or you may misinterpret what I am communicating with my dress, but it is deliberate. Such deliberation even when it is shocking to some is, I think, what it means to be fully human embodied and valueing the body as the temple of the holy spirit.