Monday, June 30, 2008
My 'Christian Century' just arrived!
Okay, I confess: I absolutely DEVOUR every issue of "Christian Century" ten minutes after I discover it in my mailbox at the Church. I want to share with you two brilliant insights - the first about the 4th of July and the other about a prayer for the upcoming Lambeth Conference.
First - a quote from Steven Waldman, cofounder of Beliefnet.com, and author of the fascinating book (it's in my pile to bring on August vacation): "Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America". Ready? Here goes:
"The Founding Faith" Waldman says, "was not Christianity, and it was not secularism. It was religious liberty - a revolutionary formula for promoting faith by leaving it alone."
Marvelous. Simply marvelous! (Special note to the neo-Puritan and uber-orthodox: Please pay close attention. )
The second is from one of my favorite Anglican priests - Sarah Coakley - who writes an article entitled, "The Vicar at Prayer" - an article adapted from "Praying for England: Priestly Presence in Contemporary Culture", edited by Samuel Wells and Sarah Coakley and just published by Continuum.
Sarah laments the seeming loss of the discipline of prayer among clergy and quotes Evelyn Underhill to Archbishop Lang on the eve of the 1930 Lambeth Conference:
"May it please your Grace: I desire very humbly to suggest with the bishops assembled at Lambeth that the greatest and most necessary work they could do at the present time for the spiritual renewal of the Anglican Church would be to call the clergy as a whole, solemnly and insistently, to a greater interiority and cultivation of the personal life of prayer . . .God is the interesting thing about religion, and people are hungry for God. But only a priest whose life is soaked in prayer, sacrifice and love, can, by his own spirit of adoring worship, help us to apprehend Him."
Sarah further laments, "The apparent clericalism in Underhill's words may strike some as offensive. Surely the clergy cannot bear this responsibility to prayer alone, and does not everyone know by now that the laity is often more soaked in prayer than its harassed and over worked (albeit 'efficient') leaders?"
Sarah continues, "Yet surely Underhill is right about something basic: without the daily public witness of a clergy engaged, manifestly and accountably, alongside their people, in the disciplined long-haul life of prayer, of ongoing personal and often painful transformation, the church at large runs the danger of losing its fundamental direction and meaning. It has lost the public, and therefore densely symbolic, manifestation of the quest for holiness to which all are called. And," she adds, "it should never be underestimated with what longing the laity look to the clergy for an example in this matter."
Sobering words, these, as we shake off the dust of the clerical arrogance of GAFCON and move toward Lambeth.
Oh, and BTW, PS: You won't want to miss "Living The Word" by Bradley Schmeling, pastor at St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta and his reflections on the RCL for Sunday, July 6 and 13.
Money quote from July 6 Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30; Romans 7:15-25a): "'Preach better, faster, livelier, with more images and more results,' the market counsels, 'and please - get yourself a phone that can download email'! We dare not stop and breathe, for if we take off the yoke for even an instant, we'll lose momentum, stride and success. . . It's hard to put on Jesus' yoke, to set new standards for what it means to be human."
Money quote from July 13 (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23): "The parable of the seed and the field is not about our power, but about the power of God to grow a harvest."
If you haven't figured it out yet, I LOVE this magazine!