Monthly Archives: October 2011

Male and Female: Sex, Flesh, and Rib-Bones

 Here is a guest post from our youth pastor Rev. Brad Acton: 

If you’ve spent any time in the church you’ve read the Creation story. It’s dangerously over-familiar so that when we re-read it, we gloss over it or skim. We know how it goes. We know the idea. I’m guilty when it comes to the speedy read through, but tonight at our church small group we found deep truths hidden behind the common words.

Our group is currently working through a curriculum about marriage, and this week focused on the story in Genesis 2:18-24, the creation of Ishah (Heb. – Woman) from Ish (Man). This story is the first account of God naming Creation as being “not good.” God creates all the firmament of heaven, the earth has exploded with life, and the Man has just been sculpted from dust and taken on the very Breath or Spirit of God. But not long after we read: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone.'”The following scene tells of Adam naming every creature upon the earth before falling into a deep sleep in his loneliness, unable to find a creature that corresponds to his nature. Yet as he sleeps, God fashions a woman from his rib, taking her from his flesh. And when he wakes, the Hebrew literally reads, “This time, she-is-it! Bone from my bones, flesh from my flesh!”

To understand Creation is to probe the mystery of God’s nature. To know the Creation is to know the Creator in some ways. What then can be said that God makes us in need of community? To be alone is not good, so God fashions us within us the desire for the other, the one taken from our flesh or the one from whom we have been taken. The Woman is the only being not fashioned from the earth in the Creation story; instead she is taken from the nature of man. And in that occurrence the nature of humankind develops more fully than before.

When we asked why God would make us with these intense desires for relationship and the need to love and be loved, one of the women in our group said that is the nature of the Trinity. To discover love is to know love with another and the other’s love for ourselves. That is why it was “not good” for Adam to be alone; not just because he was lonely. That simply follows from what was already lacking. No, the fact that Creation did not adequately express the mind of God was “not good.” Marriage then functions as the sign or sacrament of this grace in the world by joining the two natures to one another as a step towards seeing deeper into the mind of God.

In my own marriage, what I thought was love and the pursuit of mutual felicity changed incredibly when my marriage began to change ME. Our culture only speaks of marriage as one person’s individual, independent self being joined to another independent self, and only as long as neither impedes the freedom of the other the marriage is successful. What a horrible view of this gift.

Marriage does not say, ‘come as you are and stay that way forever.’ Marriage bids you come and love. It is not simply getting your needs met by another, it is the pouring out of our lives to one another while receiving the gift the spouse offers us. And it is worth it because God has fashioned us to ‘hold fast’ to one another.

The pain and joy and turbulence of this life has required me and my wife to hold fast to one another at times. And I think it may be the mystery of such unconditional love, a love not meant for just happy times but a love meant for the deepest horrors of this life that lets us know Christ’s love for his Church. I don’t know where I’d be without my wife. It’s not always easy, but in the wonder of marriage I have found peace in her gifts to me. And when life and (sometimes) death make it almost impossible to keep going, I know she is my bride, the flesh from my flesh, and that gives me great joy.

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An Update on Patrick Kelley

Round Three

Time flies when chemo is behind the wheel! Patrick finished his third chemo round on Tuesday of this week. We now have two weeks of potential ups and downs [read: fatigue, neutropenia (where his immune system is compromised, and he can easily catch all sorts of bugs), fatigue, digestion issues, some nausea, daily injections, have I mentioned fatigue??] before he begins again on November 11th. For anyone out there who may imagine that chemo is a walk in the park, show me the soft, freshly cut grass of Park Chemo. Seriously. Our two weeks “off” after our one week “on” (with chemo treatments) are filled with daily visits to NIH for blood-work, scans, or appointments at other physicians’ offices. He’s unable to drive for at least 6 months (due to the seizures he had following his brain biopsy), so we are “enjoying” quality, 24/7-togetherness time, as Ceci and I shuttle him around town.  After spending most of my days in the car circling the beltway, fanagling Ceci through NIH security, and handling her oh-so-pleasant 2 year old moments, I’m exhausted by 4pm, and still have to stare down bath time, bedtime and our own dinner time. (Let’s just say 4pm has now been dubbed “Julie’s Vodka Tonic Break”).Overall, Patrick continues to handle the treatment remarkably well. He’s much better at self-care than I am, so he embraces the frequent urge to nap or drink green tea whenever his body beckons. We continue to rejoice (with you!) over the good news of his recent scans. His doctors have decided to proceed with the remaining chemo cycles, in order to ensure that they get every last lingering cancer cell. So, he should have 3 more 3-week rounds following our current cycle. I believe we are slated to be through with this sometime in early January. (Happy New Year to us!) NIH will run scans throughout to check on the tumor’s progress, but his doctors remain cautiously hopeful that the little bugger is gone. We feel very relieved that his tumor responded so quickly to the protocol, and thankful that radiation is mostly likely off the table.His primary oncologist, Dr. Wilson, is adding some additional drugs to the protocol, in order to specifically cater the treatment to Patrick’s unusual CNS Lymphoma. Besides adding a few new chemo meds to the ongoing “cocktails” (a cheeky name for something so toxic, eh?), he’s added (rather ground-breaking) modulators, which are supposed to further breakdown the cancer cells so that they will better respond to the chemo. One of these drugs was used in the 40s or 50s to help pregnant women deal with their morning sickness, I believe. Apparently, it produced scores of disfigured children, and was then quickly taken off of the market. It is only just now being reintroduced alongside chemo treatments. The potential of severe birth defects remains, so Patrick has to sign a pile of papers each week, acknowledging that we understand the dangerous side-effects, and commit to actively using birth control. Before we were visited by the friendly Cancer Committee, we were hoping to get pregnant, and grow our little family. Baby #2 has now been put on the backburner, (as have many of our former dreams and plans) so that we can focus solely on Patrick’s health. This is (understandably) hard for me/us, and yet I continue to trust that God has a good plan for us through and after all of this.

Just as the leaves change outside of our windows, I am reminded that life is made up of changing seasons, where the death of something leads to the new life of something else. We die to dreams and expectations of success, and await the rebirth of new, good (hopefully better) things.  In the midst of our challenges, Ceci is growing up and blossoming before our eyes. She’s (SO!) tall now, and full of words, expressions, new realizations and emotions. Some of these are annoying/exhausting. Most of them are delightful. As a newly-minted two year old, she’s able to tell you that “we take Dada to the ho(s)pital to get some hair”. I know, it’s not the greatest teaching moment of my life, but it’s too funny to correct at this point. (If she’s afraid of receiving medical care in the future, for fear of losing her hair, you know who to blame….) If she believes that dinner isn’t made, but rather appears magically on one’s front doorstep, we have many of you to blame! I haven’t cooked a meal in two months, and somehow our fridge remains stocked full of meals ready to be enjoyed. I owe hundreds of thank-you notes, but want to (for now) say THANK YOU here to all of you who’ve driven 30 minutes out of DC to feed us. THANK YOU to those who have generously donated to Take-Out Taxi so that our cravings for Indian and Thai deliciousness can be fulfilled at the last minute. THANK YOU to those who have mailed us restaurant or grocery store gift cards. THANK YOU to those who have offered/provided us play-dates, “mansits” and rides to NIH.  I really hope that someday I can give back to each of you with at least a measure of the kindness you have shown us. We are daily amazed at and grateful for your prayers, love and generosity for us in this time. We are blessed beyond measure to have you in our life, and thank God for your abiding friendship and love.

Well, Patrick and Ceci just stepped outside to go on a “bear hunt” of sorts. (They’re guaranteed to find some deer in the gorgeous woods of Great Falls, but hopefully we’ll be spared a trip to the ER, due to nasty bear claw encounters.) I suppose it’s time for me to make dinner. Oh wait, it’s already made. (Thanks to one of you.)

Well, then, bonsoir, for now.

To follow Julie and Patrick’s blog click here.

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The story of how God planted three churches in nine years

Ripple Effect

By: Katie Boone

This is the story of how God planted three churches in nine years.
In 2001, Church of the Apostles in Raleigh, North Carolina had its first services. People came from throughout the Triangle; David and Martha Hyman were among the first.

A year later David and his family moved to Vancouver, BC so he could attend seminary at Regent College. In 2005, Church of the Apostles planted All Saints Anglican Church in neighboring Durham and Chapel Hill. About this time David and his family returned to North Carolina and he joined All Saints as Associate Rector.

They settled in Chatham County, forty minutes west of Durham. In search of community, they began a small group with a couple they had first met at Church of the Apostles. The small group was for people who attended All Saints, but lived in the area. They had four families.

“The most amazing thing about our story and even the most encouraging thing that people should be aware of is that this started not out of a strategy to plant a church, but out of a small group,” Hyman says.

The Story We’ve Found Ourselves In

Chatham County is not the ideal place to plant a church. Hyman describes it, lovingly, as odd. It is off the beaten path. Few people pass through. It is an important agricultural resource for North Carolina and populated with family farms. There is a remnant of artists and writers. The best grocery store is a co-op located in a renovated mill. It is weathered, quiet, and exceedingly local.

Hyman says, “If I saw this on paper this is not something I would jump on. This is a smaller place with older character, but this is the story we’ve found ourselves in.”

In 2009, Hyman’s small group began to ask questions about what God was doing right there in their place. With All Saints rector, Rev. Steve Breedlove, they spent three months in prayerful discernment. Each member prayed when he or she was out in the community, but they did not discuss it. After three months everyone finally shared what God had shown him or her and the consensus was to plant.

Three Fold Blessing

“It is a tremendous honor and privilege to see God extending the call to plant churches through this second generation,” Rev. Patrick Dominguez, rector of Church of the Apostles, says, “We are thrilled to see His Kingdom growing and to have a very small hand in it.”

When Hyman approached the Vestry at All Saints in the fall of 2010 the church was only four years old. They had just secured a permanent worship space, launched a second service, and in four years grown from 50 to 250 weekly attendance. There was excitement, but they were still a plant themselves. There were no plans to plant until 2018.

“The vestry had to be really discerning and have wisdom, but you have to set measurable goals out there rather than just saying yes because you want to,” Hyman explains.

Criteria for a church plant were established. If the benchmarks were met then it would be obvious God was doing something in Chatham County and All Saints would have to follow that lead. By January, 2010, Holy Trinity Chatham held its first service and in the summer met monthly over a bar. By this September, they began weekly services and what was a small group of four families a year prior tripled within months.

But the blessing is not just for Holy Trinity Chatham.

“As the sending church, this has inspired and motivated us to think outside of ourselves,” Rev. Steve Breedlove says, “we have given away people, money, and possessions to spread the Gospel further than our reach, and this process has enabled us to really do what we say that we’re about. Since the Sunday we fully released the Holy Trinity people to stop coming to All Saints, our church has added three times as many people as we sent. Every key ministry position that was vacated has been filled twice over with new people who desire to serve.”

Local Expression of Something Larger

Place is central to the vision for Holy Trinity.

“Our vision for this has always been a parish church,” Hyman says, “This is a clear distinction from a lot of church plants. In our context it makes sense here. We’re not a regional church where people will drive from all over to go to church here. In a certain sense we are limiting ourselves. But that is okay. We’re putting roots down and committing to this one place.”

Holy Trinity’s commitment to place manifests itself in different ways. They share space with a United Methodist congregation who were about to lose their building. Hyman describes the relationship as collaborative; they are pooling resources to open a food pantry. He says they are not competitive, but are pulling for each other to succeed for the sake of the kingdom.

They also seek to participate in the things that make Chatham County distinct. The church reserved a booth for an upcoming local street fair. There will be information about the church, Hyman says, but the main intention is to participate in the beauty and display the work of artists in the church.

And they have been intentional about what God is doing in the community. As a church they are asking God for the one issue, if addressed well, would make a real difference for the marginalized and oppressed in Chatham County. Hyman sees the work they do as a local expression of something much bigger because they are a church planted by a church.

“It was huge for All Saints to recognize and bless what God was doing here in Chatham County. They held us accountable and acted as the voice of authority on behalf of the larger church,” Hyman says, “This isn’t about a church planter going off and doing his own thing. This is the ripple effect.”

All pictures were taken by Martha Manning and used with permission. 

This article appears on the Anglican 1000 website.

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Facebook Makes Us Miserable by Tim Challies

Facebook Makes Us Miserable

  • Tim Challies
  • 03/14/11

Facebook

Just about everyone has joined Facebook. And just about everyone has since considered giving it up. There are all kinds of studies today telling us how much time Facebook is sucking—700 billion minutesbetween the lot of us every month. That’s a lot of time. But when you divide it 500 million ways it doesn’t seem quite so bad. That’s not why most of us have considered giving it up. There are studies telling us how Facebook is invading our privacy and selling our personal details to advertisers. That’s annoying, but not reason enough to quit.

The reason so many of us have considered giving up on Facebook is that it makes us miserable. A recent paper in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin looks at a series of studies involving how people evaluate moods—their own and those of others. The study itself is not as interesting as the implications. What the study found is that people tend to underestimate how dejected other people feel and that this in turn increases a person’s own sense of unhappiness. Put otherwise, we all believe that others have better lives than we do and this makes us feel bad about ourselves. That’s strangely significant.

Where do we find this phenomenon in clearest form? On Facebook, of course. We log on to Facebook, look through the photographs and status messages our friends post, and believe that everyone is happier and more successful than we are. And when I have spoken to friends and family members who have considered giving up Facebook, this is exactly the reasoning they have given. They look at other people and feel miserable in comparison.

What an interesting phenomenon. It seems clear that Facebook is exposing something, some ugly little corner of the human heart. Facebook is all about making life seem joyful—we “like” one another’s happy status updates, not the sad ones; we post photos of our parties, not our funerals; we use it to celebrate births and marriages and new relationships, not to mourn deaths or remember break-ups. Facebook is meant to be a happy place for happy people. But it doesn’t seem to work out so well. We all think everyone else is happy, but we don’t feel the joy.

And it strikes both ways—when we portray ourselves through social media we do so on our own terms. And of course this means that we present ourselves in the way we want to be perceived, whether or not this is an accurate portrayal. So even while we put only our best foot forward, we look at others and assume that their portrayal is more accurate than our own; we believe that we are the only pretenders, the only ones stretching and exaggerating, trying to keep up. We resent another person for being happy—“She has an amazing life and I don’t!” Or we resent her for being falsely happy—“I know her and I know that her life isn’t all that!”

Either way, we all end up miserable. We all end up trying to be something we are not and believing that everyone else has a better life. Libby Copeland spoketo the author of this paper and he quoted Montesquieu saying: “If we only wanted to be happy it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are.” We do not want to be happy—we want to be happier. It becomes a competition, a point of comparison. But we can never be happier because we constantly drag ourselves down by believing that we are the only ones who are miserable.

What a ridiculous lot we are. What a sad, jealous, envious, idolatrous lot.

Facebook makes me believe, even stronger, in the value of the local church, in the value of true, deep fellowship, or genuine community. This is just one more reason that we need to live in community—in real community with real people. When I mediate my life by Facebook, I am the one who controls it all. I curate it by tagging the photos I like, by offering up the statuses I like, by making myself who I want to be rather than who I am. But when I live before others, when I live a real life in the real world, well, that is where people see who I really am. And they love me on that basis. In fact, they love me more on that basis.

The fact is, we want to love real people and we want to be loved by real people. Facebook is fiction. Local church is fact—the most real community we can experience this side of eternity.

Read more by Tim Challies on his blog: www.challies.com

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What is the Relationship Between Social Justice and Kingdom Work?

Social justice apart from the church not ‘kingdom work,’ author says 
By Terry Goodrich
Thursday, October 20, 2011 
WACO, Texas (ABP) — A rising generation of Christians intent on working for social justice must not confuse that effort with “kingdom work,” award-winning Christian author Scot McKnight said during the Parchman Endowed Lectures series at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary.”In our country, the younger generation is becoming obsessed with social justice,” including through government opportunities, politics and voting, said McKnight, author of The Jesus Creed:Loving God, Loving Others.“What it’s doing is leading young Christians out of the church and into the public sector to do what they call ‘kingdom work.’

“I want to raise a red flag here: There is no such thing as kingdom work outside the church — and I don’t mean the building. The kingdom is about King Jesus and King Jesus’ people and King Jesus’ ethics for King Jesus’ people.

“Social justice outside the church is not biblical justice or kingdom work. It is social work. Fine, that’s a good thing. But let’s not call this kingdom work.”

Instead, he called on listeners to make the church “a beachhead of justice and peace and love” for those in need in the church. Then, “let that kind of church and kingdom and justice work spill over into the walls of your community.”

Churches have lost sight in other ways of their mission of spreading the gospel of God’s atoning work through Jesus, said McKnight, the Karl A. Olsson professor in religious studies at Chicago’s North Park University.

“We like our music and our drama groups. We’re now more and more driven to act justly in social ways by engagement with the poor and despised, and we’re hoping that in doing this, our little lights will shine,” McKnight said, referring to the lyrics of a children’s gospel song.

Churches have shaped themselves using entertainment and business models — even down to satisfaction surveys, he said.

But “when will we ever learn as churches and as pastor/teachers that all we have to offer, all we have to tell people about, and all we have to show people is Jesus?” he asked.

Among the primary instruments for doing that are preaching and teaching the gospel, baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Spirit-shaped fellowship, he said.

Through baptism — with its embodiment of the death and resurrection — and the partaking of the Lord’s Supper, “the gospel is shown in a way that words cannot interpret,” he said.

McKnight recalled that in his youth, Communion often was observed quickly at sermon’s end — before roasts simmering at home for Sunday lunch would dry out. He remembered one church even set up a stand where Communion elements could be picked up by departing members.

He recalled thinking: “Yikes almighty. Drive-away Eucharist.”

“There’s no reason to rush the Lord’s Supper, because it’s the gospel,” McKnight said. “There’s no reason to tack it on to a sermon. There are good reasons to let the Eucharist be a sermon.”

Terry Goodrich writes for Baylor University.

Commentary from Scot McKnight written on his blog: I’m all for “social” justice. I’m fighting the trend I see today of equating “kingdom work” with public sector social justice work. As if “kingdom” is something done outside the church. As I read the Gospels, Jesus’ uses “kingdom” for himself/God as King, for his followers who enter into his kingdom vision, and for the ecclesial/social conditions created by those who follow Jesus and his kingdom vision. So, there is no such thing as “kingdom” outside those who follow Jesus. Yes, by all means, kingdom people extend kingdom into other areas but only so far as they are embodying Jesus’ kingdom vision.

Those on the right side of the theological spectrum may think I’m an ally of theirs on this point; not so. I want the church to be a kingdom embodiment and I’m not criticizing social work at all; I’m pushing back against the left-wing mistaken notion that kingdom is what happens outside the church, that kingdom is something bigger (and therefore other) than church, etc.. My view is traditionally anabaptist on this one. The local church is called to be am embodiment of kingdom realities. But kingdom realities only applies those ecclesial actions.

To listen, watch or download Scot McKights lectures at Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary click HERE

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Samaritan Health Center is hiring!

Local Mission Partner Employment Opportunity: Samaritan Health Center is hiring!  We are a faith-based free clinic opening an exciting second location near the All Saints and the Oak Creek Village Apartments.  We seek to fill three new part-time positions: physician or nurse practitioner, nurse and front desk staff member. Come grow with us. Spanish proficiency strongly preferred.  Please email jobs@samaritanhealthcenter.org for detailed job descriptions.
 The Samaritan Heath Clinic is opening up a free health clinic on Garrett Road and they are seeking to expand their team. To learn more about this local mission partner visit their website.

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An invitation to Get Connected with All Saints Women’s Ministry

All Saints Church Women’s Retreat – Feb 3-5

Published author and popular retreat speaker (and the wife of our Rector), Sally Breedlove, will be leading the retreat at St. Francis Springs Prayer Center located in Stoneville, NC. The theme of the weekend will be: “Find your Story, Find your Way.”  Please contact MaryLois Partridge (mlpartridge@nc.rr.com) for more information and Lynn Hand (fourhands@mindspring.com) to register.

Women’s Evening Bible Studywomensbiblestudy

Women’s Evening Bible Study meets every other Monday at the church from 7-8:30 p.m. Final meeting of the season is December 12. Contact Sarah Council at secouncil@gmail.com for more information.

Women’s Morning Bible Study

Women’s Morning Bible Study meets every Tuesday morning from 9:30-11 a.m. Childcare is provided. Final meeting of the season is December 13. Contact jeline.hinkson@yahoo.com for more information.

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Great News from Patrick and Julie Kelly!

This past Sunday, October 16th, All Saints got the opportunity to pray for Patrick, Julie and Cecilia Kelly in person during the Prayers of the People at the second service. It was a joy to have the Kelly’s worshipping with us and a powerful experience of bearing their burdens as Patrick is being treated for brian cancer. The very next day the Kelly’s got some pretty miraculous news. Below is Julie’s blog post regarding their great news! Praise God!

Good News!

We just heard from Patrick’s oncologist, who was able to read his MRI scans from last Thursday, that, according to the scans, the “area of enhancement” (ie: the cancer) no longer shows up on his scans! We’re kind of in shock, not wanting to get our hopes up too quickly, but according to the scan, the cancer is gone. Yay! (Okay, let’s be honest, it’s a BIG YAY!)He is going to go through one more round of chemo, beginning this Friday, and then there will be another round of tests (a Petscan and MRI) on Thursday, November 10th. At that point, his medical team will assess what to do next. They may say he’s “good to go” and that no more treatment is necessary, or they’ll have him do a couple more rounds of chemo to make sure the cancer cells are all gone. We don’t think radiation is still on the table, but we’ll know for sure on the 10th.

Thank you for your continual prayers and support! The large multitude of prayers from around the world on Patrick’s behalf are (obviously) being heard and answered!

Please continue to pray that this 3-week chemo cycle will annihilate any remaining cancer cells and that the scans on 11/10 will clearly indicate that he is cancer free!

Feeling (a bit more) hopeful,
Julie

To follow the Kelly’s journey you can read their blog by clicking HERE.

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A review of Mark Galli’s book BEYOND SMELLS AND BELLS

(Mark Galli is the senior editor at Christianity Today and will be leading our discipleship weekend at All Saints on November 11-12. The following is a review of Galli’s book Beyond Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy). 

Today is the first Sunday of Advent and I’m missing my Anglican church (St. James in Newport Beach, CA). Had I been there this morning, I might have played a role in lighting the Candle of Hope. I’ve been worshiping with the Baptists since I returned home. It’s an incredibly loving congregation right now, which is how it began 30+ years ago. Then there was a church split and then another and another. Anyway, these Baptists love my family and our roots with them are as deep as human roots go. And yet. And yet, I deeply miss the Anglican liturgy.

My “low” church friends sometimes ask me what it is about the “high” church liturgy that I love and miss. I find it difficult to explain, which is where Mark Galli’s latest book, Beyond Smells & Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy comes in. Galli, whose writing I’ve always appreciated for its provocative honesty, gives shape to my thoughts. In describing the mystery that I long for, he writes:

“Worship that doesn’t in some way leave a large space for transcendence and mystery is not fully worship of the God of the Bible, who when asked to name himself—to explain his essence—said rather truculently, ‘I am who I am.’ The liturgy shines in the shadowy place called mystery. But to leave matters here, at the threshold of incomprehensibility, would also be leaving out something. For mystery is both more complicated and understandable than we imagine.”

He then compares the Eucharist to the handshake of a couple major league baseball players that occurred after a game stopping brawl. He says the handshake “conveyed a story—with characters, conflict and resolution.” Every time those two players shake hands, it will always be more than a ritual; it will be a remembrance. Likewise, “The liturgy contains a similar ‘handshake’ at its climax, an outward action that conveys a deeper drama. To some this moment looks like routine ritual, like that handshake might have looked to those who had not heard what had happened a few days earlier. But those with eyes of faith see a mystery opening before them in the liturgy. We call this moment in the liturgy a sacrament, an outward sign of an invisible reality. But it has also been traditionally called a mystery, though not because it is something that baffles us or eludes our understanding. Benedictine writer Jerry Driscoll puts it this way: ‘’The word mystery preserves the tension between the concrete and the divine. Something is definitely present, but what is present exceeds and overflows the limits of the concrete, even if it is present only by means of it. This is mysterious in a way unique to Christian understanding.’ ”

Galli concludes:

“The liturgical handshake—that is, the sharing of bread and wine at the climax of the service—not only recalls something that happened, but re-presents it in a way that makes it a present reality. A minister says words and performs actions, but at a deeper level, it is Christ who is presiding. We share in bread and wine, but the reality is that we are taking Christ into us. It looks like this is all occurring in time and space, when in fact the boundaries of time and space are being shattered, when for a few moments ‘heaven and earth are full of God’s glory.’ When all is said and done, though it may look like we’ve done nothing more than re-enact a routine religious meal, in fact, as the concluding prayer notes, something terribly significant has occurred: ‘You have graciously accepted us as living members of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ, and you have fed us with spiritual food in the sacrament of his body and blood.’ ”

Beyond Smells & Bells is a short book that breezes along combining Galli’s meditations and metaphors with pieces of the liturgy itself and with the work of theologians. It is not a book for experts, but instead is one for people like me who have returned to the liturgy of their youth and can’t quite explain why. Or, perhaps, for those seeking to understand a family member’s decision to do the same. It could also benefit the spiritually dry, confused or curious.

The Anglican liturgy healed me after years of broken church life, even though my Anglican church and the larger Anglican body was itself broken. For this reason, I especially appreciate and miss the corporate confession of sin that precedes the Eucharist. Even when one has always done their best to act rightly, there is guilt in living through so much failure and more guilt from failure’s inevitable consequences.

Pulitzer prize winning journalist Chris Hedges talks about this type of moral ambiguity in a recent interview with The Sun. Discussing topics as diverse (or connected) as war, Fundamentalism and the New Atheists, this son of a Presbyterian minister says, “The world rarely offers us a choice between the moral and the immoral. It’s usually a choice between the immoral and the more immoral. That’s why moral decision making is so tough. Who was more moral in the Warsaw ghetto uprising during World War ii: those people who didn’t join the uprising, because they had children and feared for their safety, or those who led the suicidal fight against the Nazis? You can’t say one was more moral than the other. It depended on who you were. … Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr said, ‘You make a moral choice, you act, and then you ask for forgiveness.’ That’s a wise statement. You make the choice, because you can’t sit around hemming and hawing forever. You ask forgiveness, because, to quote Paul, ‘We look through a glass darkly.’ What appears moral and good in our eyes may not appear good and moral in the eyes of others, even our friends. No act is absolutely moral or good, because we don’t live in a utopia where we have those absolutes.”

Hedges found healing from his battlefield memories in being a dad. I found it in the liturgy. Affirming the Creed, praying with the Saints and the saints, confessing both sins and ambiguities, passing the peace and being cleansed by the blood of the lamb each week was a powerful, worshipful remedy for me.

Another aspect of the liturgy that I am drawn to and that Galli touches on is its timelessness. He writes, “We have to pay attention to cultural context, no question. The history of the liturgy has been in part about finding words and ritual that help people in a given culture to express their thoughts and feelings to God in ways that makes sense. The liturgy has always had freedom and variety within its basic structure. But it has steadfastly refused to let the culture determine its shape or meaning. Liturgical churches know that as profound a reality as is the surrounding culture, there is an even more profound reality waiting to be discovered. Like Mrs. Haller [an elementary school teacher] did for me, the liturgy gently and calmly gets us to open our eyes to the new reality, showing us the value of the ‘necessary separation’ from the old. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, we find our gaze directed away from ourselves and toward God and his kingdom. When we return to our homes, we are never the same.”

When there is little difference between going to church and going to the mall or the movies, God’s holiness and majesty can be diminished in our minds. Familiarity can lull us into complacency. Galli writes that this can happen too with the liturgy, if we’re not careful.

In regard to church buildings, both ordinary and extraordinary, he reminds us: “To be sure, we can worship God anywhere, and the church is not the building but the people. Yet this does not take into account how God normally works in our lives—that is, by revealing himself to us in places, places that become sacred and holy. This is precisely why parishioners become feisty when someone wants to remodel the sanctuary in the least little way. … And why they will fight to the death (or, more precisely, to the debt) to keep their property out of the hands of their wayward denomination. This behavior, which is sometimes described as ‘worldly,’ is ultimately grounded in a biblical understanding of the world—that this planet contains spaces where God meets people. Liturgical churches understand this reality. Thus their healthy addiction to magnificent worship spaces, whose very architecture evokes the reality of God’s presence.”

This very reality is why we eschewed funeral parlors when planning services for our son. They are devoid of meaning, divorced as they are from ordinary life. Our last Christmas worshiping together as a family was at St. James Church. The first service took place there. Trinity Bible Church holds more memories and meaning for our family than most other places on this earth. A service was held there as well. The fact that people have fought over and in these spaces speaks less to me about our corporate failures than it does about the love that transcends failure.

Which brings me to my final point about the liturgy. I’ve met God in churches both “high” and “low.” I’ve met him in nature and elsewhere. The services in “low” churches that I’ve attended generally build up to the preaching of the Word. A man stands at the center of the hour. I’ve benefited from this style … and witnessed the attendant destruction when the man falters or begins “inhaling his own fragrance,” as a friend so aptly put it. Preaching is an integral part of the “high” church liturgy. It is not the climax. When the man fails, the liturgy goes on. There’s humility to this style. So much of preaching is designed to perfect us. It will never be, in this life. Traditional liturgy engages our frail humanity. That’s probably what I love about it most. It is not a spectator sport; it’s a contact sport for sinners.

Galli examines all these issues and more. I commend his book to you as a primer. In the acknowledgements, he thanks those contributors to his blog who helped shape his thought. He’s a sporadic blogger. Just when I think he’s going to begin posting regularly, he goes silent for months on end. Demanding day job, I guess, what with being senior managing editor of Christianity Today and all. Check out this recent post on The Blessings of Everyday Hate. Nobody dared respond. I liked it for the reasons I like this book. It’s provocative, thoughtful and down to earth.

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