Saturday, February 25, 2012
But I depart from the traditions of the Anglo-Catholics in this one...
I like real bread at the altar.
Yes, I play "crumb police" becaue I really do believe that every consecrated drop or crumb must be handled with devotion. Its not ours, its God's. I'm cool with consubstantiation. But I believe bread is bread. The early saints didn't use what Marion Hatchett called "fish food." They had bread.
Okay, wafers store better if you reserve the elements. There's a place for them.
But Sunday to Sunday, I'm into bread.
Good bread, Jesus deserves good bread.
How can we take cheap pita, crunchy hard tack, or dusty wafers to the Lord who called himself "the Bread of Life" and whose birthplace is literally called "House of Bread" and say "here you go, its the best we have to give you."
So I'm into bread. And so its fallen to me, sort of by default to make the "StEAM Bread."
For the uninitiated StEAM is "St. Elizabeth's Anglican Mission"... the yet nonexistent but still sacramentally functioning congregation I serve these days.
What's cool about making the bread at home is that my kids get involved. There are several tasks involved in StEAMBread making. And thanks to the technology of the modern deep freezer, its really only a job for every other month of so. No big deal.
But as little guy and I were making the StEAMBread today, and he was full of questions, I started thinking.... there are a lot of neat Biblical touchpoints in making bread. Okay, they're cheesy, but its fun to pray and talk through what goes into the bread that goes on the altar. So here it is, complete with little guy (hereafter referred to as "LG") comments and questions.
The recipe is called "Lebanese-Syrian Mass Bread" and I originally gained it as a handout from a classmate's project the summer I was at Sewannee. The class clearly preferred this bread on every count, taste and texture and whether or not it threw crumbs all over the altar. So this is the recipe I use, though I have several from the same classmate.
Add: 1 Package of active dry yeast... or about a half dollar sized round from the jar. LG and I talked about how Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast making the whole loaf rise and be good for using.
Add: 1.5 c. flour... Talk about bread as the foundational food, offerings in the temple of wheat and grain. This stuff has been essential deliciousness for just about forever.
LG asks if he can pour the flour. Yeah fine. LG asks what happens if we turned the beaters up to "10". "It makes a mess."
Add 1 1/4 c. warm water. "He leads me beside still waters." Jesus walks on water. Whatever. There's a lot of water in the Bible.
LG asks if we can turn it up to ten now. Um, no.
Add 2 Tbs. olive oil. There's a lot of olive oil in the Bible too, anointing for healing and welcome. How about I pour that, kid, its messy.
LG notes the bottle has a cork in it. Yeah. It does. Thanks for noticing.
Add 1/4 c. sugar. "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" I've thought about trying to make this recipe with honey, but I'm reluctant to mess with it.
1 tsp salt. "You are the salt of the earth." Thinking about how salt is a preservative and a flavoring. Salt is cool stuff if you don't have heart issues.
LG: "What happens if I put my finger in here?" "The mixer will pinch it and you'll squalk."
Add 2 cups more flour, slowly.
LG: "Can we turn it up to ten now?" No it would throw flour everywhere. "Cool!"
Kneed. You can talk about Jesus being beaten before the crucifixion if you like.
LG: "Can I poke the dough." yes.
"Can I smack it?" yes.
Cover and let rise in a warm dark place (I put mine in the oven... blah blah about the tomb and resurrection... and how rising bread takes forever like the eschaton if you're hungry!!!)
Get pestered every five minutes. Is it time yet?
Make the loaves, rounds according to what size your congregation needs. Makes about 12 5" circles. Cut a cross with a knife.
Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, until light brown on the bottom.
And because we only offer Jesus the best, there has to be a family committee to "eat the ugly ones." The oven does all sorts of wonky things to the loaves! Ugly ones are good warm with butter. (hangs head in shame)
They freeze well wrapped in foil and put in a big ziploc.
Anyway, I'm putting this up in case any of you clergy types want to farm off the making of church bread to the Sunday School or a rotation of families. Holler if you want a clean copy of the recipe. I'm sure I can scan it for you. :)
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Many people see it as a fearful thing, to go to church on Ash Wednesday and hear proclaimed “Remember O man that thou art dust, and to dust you shall return.” We don’t want to deal with our own mortality. An interesting fear, since everyone who is older than preschool knows that everyone dies eventually. Somehow we want to convince ourselves that we are the exception to the rules of Genesis 3.
For me, it is a more fearful thing to pronounce those words over others, especially when these others are colleagues, friends, neighbors. It is like a small and repeated dose of what physicians must experience when they tell a patient their disease is terminal. I’m sorry, you are going to die. There is nothing I can do for you.
Its a conflicting message, when the doctor you’ve trusted and who has genuinely struggled and worked to save your life, has failed. Its a conflicting message in the Church, too, but with different outcome.
How great a blessing, every Sunday, it is to look into the eyes of a loved one, a neighbor, even a stranger and say the words “the body/blood of Christ which was given for you preserve you body and soul into everlasting life.” Say it just once to someone, and you can’t help but look at them as Jesus does. You can’t help but love them.
And then, once a year, you look them in they eye and say “remember you are dust.” Remember you are going back to dust.
If dust were the end of the story, the other 364 days of the year, clergy would be liars. But what is remarkable is that even at Ash Wednesday, we don’t leave them at dust. Only a few minutes later, we look again on those ashen faces and lift the faithful up to God with those words, “the body and blood preserve you body and soul into everlasting life.”
Remember you are dust. You are formed by God’s hands. But you’re returning to the dust.
And God doesn’t leave you there. You are formed again, this time for life everlasting.
Its not a circle of life thing, not a reincarnation without end, but a singular recreation, this time without the corruption, without the ashes. There is no Ash Wednesday in the kingdom.
Sunday, February 19, 2012
This isn't a big deal in my life most of the time. I have friends who are called to the priesthood say that the inability to consecrate the Eucharist really haunted them in the time when they were deacons, but not so among vocational deacons.
Except when it proves a point of major inconvenience. Like this weekend; Father is sick.
Thankfully, I have a friend who has a Saturday night service and is always willing to bail me out of a tight spot. The church isn't far off, so its an extra couple hours out of my schedule that get replaced with an opportunity to worship in the pews instead of being in the chancel all the time. Rather relaxing. And its a nice time to visit with a friend who I don't see as often as I'd like. Not a problem.
But the beauty in it lies in the fact that this is a visible witness of how Christians, with our various gifts and callings, need one another. God doesn't gift any of us with everything; instead he calls us into community. And a visible token of that is my need to rely on a priest for Eucharist. Even when I'm the one being relied upon, it doesn't happen in a vacuum. There's a team at the ready, willing and able to stand together to make God's work a reality for his people.
That's pretty darned cool.
(And thanks to the priest, deacon, and congregation at Christ Church, New Brighton, for once again welcoming me and my squirmy little kids. Last night was great fun!)
Saturday, February 18, 2012
There have been a few new projects, lately, though. And refreshing the landscape does creep along at a pace of sorts. The most recent addition was a small but essential grocery store, near the seminary, where most residents could walk to shop if they were so inclined. I think it will be an important addition to the town. But for now its new and interesting and everyone is coming out to see it. Its bright and clean (let's hope it stays that way) and seems to be well run. Employees are all new hires and the day to day ennui of work has not set in. And the town is enthralled.
The place was crowded, but I still got through quickly, its that small. But on the way, people stopped to chat. A lady with three kids, a grandmother... there was also the guy that looked like he ought to be a neighborhood hoodlum, who was cheerful giving me directions to the right entrance. And there was the local man who informed me that he just came by to chat with people because he didn't have anything else going on.
There was a time, I told him, that people did do that. And perhaps the world is a little poorer because they don't anymore.
In the end, I got a glimps of what the town must have been like in their grandparents', maybe even parents' time. Less jaded and more small town, ready to chat, and maybe needing a bit of an ear. And maybe, if the folks doing the renewal projects there are successful, they'll have that back someday.
Then today, I went on up the road to the next town to hear a friend preach. A friend with whom I'd gone to seminary, who asked me to read a lesson, just because I was there, and who commented on my pronounciation of a Hebrew name, just because she was in my Hebrew classes. As she preached, I could hear our common phrases, learned in class, and could complete her sentences in my head. I settled into the familiar story, the theological rhythms, and thoroughly enjoyed her sermon. There wasn't much new for me in it, but quite to the contrary, it was the familiar, even old, that I enjoyed.
And I realized on my way out that it was the shared vocabulary of our community, seminary in this case, that gave us a casual friendship and a common comfort with the Scripture.
I guess, that's the foundation of community, a shared story, a history together, a common vocabulary and rhythm of life. That's why those little steel towns struggled so when their way of life was taken from them. And that's why, if they'll reconnect with one another when they have such slight opportunities as a new grocery store they have hope of redeveloping the community. I guess that's why the guy who just came to the store to talk to people was such a blessing.
A worthy amusement/reflection for St. Valentine's Day.
Saturday, February 11, 2012
Prayer is cool. Anybody can do it. That's probably why we talk about it so much in the church that everyone's eyes roll and people say things like "can't I do more than just pray." But if prayer is foundational, and foudations are to mission what they are to buildings, it is pretty super cool that everyone can build foundations, is responsible for doing it, and equipped to make it work.
I get the disciples, saying "teach us to pray." We all think we're doing it wrong. But if the Holy Spirit is indeed interceding for us and with us, then there's grace to cover whatever we're doing wrong and to lift up whatever we're doing right.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
And so I started thinking about other stuff... like how loudly I was repeating back the letters to the instructor, about how I surely smelled like the back end of a horse, about how my workout clothes were really more sweat stained than ought to be wearable (but I'm trying to get just three more months out of them).
Now if this were a perfect world, no doubt my hips would not have hurt. But if this were a perfect world I wouldn't have to do silly things to work off the extra chocolate chip cookie (that in a perfect world I wouldn't have eaten in the sin of gluttony anyway) and to keep my body from slowly breaking down with age. If this were a perfect world, I wouldn't smell like horse's rear (okay, I've showered since, then, so I smell like daisies now, of course). If this were a perfect world, there would be no struggle with alphabets, slow kicks (that's what came next) and eventual exhaustion.
There's no denying our humanness, our Genesis 3 problem, when one smells like the back end of a horse.
Which, I realized in my alphabetic haze, is important. Just as working with our bodies helps us to have a positive theology of the body, a sense of our material side as having value and being worth preservation and building, the sheer effort of doing so is living evidence of our imperfection. Nobody in that room was glamorous. Nobody looked like they's just walked off the cover of Cosmo or GQ. And our own horse-smell is probably why we don't notice anyone else's. We're all in this together.
It's the lazy man who notices another man's sweat. The busy man has his own to notice.
Maybe that's why the physical is so tied to the spiritual, and exercise is part of the healthy spiritual life.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
I wrote that day because I had stumbled across a congregation in Baltimore called the Korean Anglican Church of Maryland. And though they're Anglicans in America, they don't have an English speaking service. Since then, I've noted in our own diocesan directory (Pittsburgh) that we have two Spanish-speaking congregations in our extended (Chicago) diocese. I've heard rumors of a Korean Anglican congregation out in the Western US and possibly even two.
Anglicanism likes the fact that it is a global communion, but it is not until the modern era that Global Anglicans have been able to truly be in relationship (thanks to modern technology in travel and communications) and approach each other as equals (out of our opposing and complimentary sets of gifts and poverties) and in that way offer balance and completion to our global community. Mission has started to go both ways. Partnership is no longer patronage. Africa, South America, Asia are at our doorstep. The ancient question of "who is my neighbor" bears greater weight than ever before.
And it fascinates me that recognition is more than just seeing, and communication is more than just speaking. We have talked for generations and never heard one another, and now when both sides have contrasting needs and gifts to bring to the table are recognized by all parties, we don't even have to speak the same language to form a bond and communicate.
A few months ago, my mother-in-law, struggling to communicate after her stroke, suddenly seemed to be speaking as clearly as if she had never had a problem. A few words slipped but they didn't matter, I heard her. And when I noticed that, she said, "its easier for me to speak clearly when I know the person I am talking to is listening." I think this is how we are now in Global Anglicanism, when we trust the other is listening, it is much easier to speak softly and still make ourselves heard.
Anyway, short story is that I'm intrigued that the old blogpost seems to keep cropping up on that list of page hits. I wonder if that means other people are thinking the same thoughts, or maybe hearing the same words.