“Sunday:” Why do we go to Church?

Interesting that I am attending two significantly different churches at the moment: Emmanuel Episcopal, a low church Epsicopalian congregation, and Discovery Church, a contemporary worship, non-denominational church.  Both have a significantly different approach to liturgy, but this week, at Discovery’s Young Professionals Group (a focus group for Christians in their 30s), and during Father Malcolm’s homily at Emmanuel, the two converged on the subject of the relevancy of church in our lives as Christians.  Is church something you just “do” once a week, out of habit or expectation?  How do we live and love Christ with our whole heart when it just boils down to empty ritual after a while?

Father Malcolm emphasized our liturgy in the Episcopal Church as a “means, not an end.”  They are there to ground us in the ineffable mystery of God, to bring us closer to the Divine in a physcial, methodical way.  Unless we carry within us that desire to be closer to God, it is empty, and bereft of meaning.  In a similar way, if we do not carry that desire with us beyond the walls of the church, if we do not try to see Christ in all things and in every person, then our live as Christians become empty as well.

At Discovery, we had the opportunity to watch and discuss Rob Bell‘s Nooma video “Sunday.”  Below I’ve nicked part one and two of the episode from Youtube:

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Lessons, Carols, and Lewis

I made it through the Mendelssohn!  We merged choirs this week for the Festival of Lessons and Carols:  Emmanuel Episcopal went to St. Gabriel’s in Titusville this week and next week they will join us in Orlando.  The service went beautifully- well, as beautifully as can be expected when you are unfamiliar with your surroundings or quirky acoustics.  My monster du jour was Mendelssohn’s “A Star of Jacob,” which hangs a tenor, after a few nice middle B’s, up on a high F, and then- well, just leaves him there.  The churches pooled together for a wonderful string quartet which offered some lovely orchestral undercurrents.

On the way, I enjoyed listening to Patrick Stewart’s reading of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. The need to settle back and just enjoy listening to a good story has scratched at the door of my mind over the past few weeks.  Christmas, of all the holidays, seems the best time to let that need in, as it reminds me once again of who we are as humans- storytelling creatures, a trait we inherited from our father, the Storyteller.

As a further indicator of this mindset, C.S. Lewis has once again made it onto my bedside table and in my briefcase.  This time I am rereading Surprised by Joy as well as Voyage of the Dawn Treader (this after exhausting the special features on the Prince Caspian DVD- )

Here’s a great mini-documentary from the C.S. Lewis Foundation on Lewis’s conversion and the Foundation’s work at the Kilns:

Feast of St. Francis

I am sitting at Stardust Cafe in Orlando reflecting on this saint, happy to have met his acquaintance though it seems like too long a time had passed before I stumbled upon him in my search.  I got up early this morning to journey down to my church, Emmanuel Episcopal, for the Blessing of the Animals.  In the courtyard of Emmanuel about a dozen cats, dogs, and birds meowed, barked, or twittered as Father Malcolm took us through a short service, which included singing “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” a prayer for all of creation and especially our “animal companions,” and the Prayer of St. Francis.  He doused us all with Holy Water, wishing goodwill and peace to pets and people alike.

It was a pleasant reminder of our need to care and protect, honor and worship God and His creation.

I can think of no better sum up of St. Francis and what he was about than quote G.K. Chesterton:

“Now for St. Francis nothing was ever in the background,” he wrote. “We might say that his mind had no background, except perhaps that divine darkness out of which the divine love had called up every coloured creature one by one. He saw everything as dramatic, distinct from its setting, not all of a piece like a picture but in action like a play. A bird went by him like an arrow; something with a story and a purpose, though it was a purpose of life and not a purpose of death. A bush could stop him like a brigand; and indeed he was as ready to welcome the brigand as the bush.

“In a word, we talk about a man who cannot see the wood for the trees. St. Francis was a man who did not want to see the wood for the trees. He wanted to see each tree as a separate and almost a sacred thing, being a child of God and therefore a brother or sister of man.”

Though Francis lived and died around the 13th Century, his life still resonates to us in the 21st.  I think he would have stopped to ask us “Why do you frantically build, instead of build up?”  Our current environmental issues need the guidance and inspiration of a saint like Francis.

But rather than point fingers and prop Francis up as an example contrary to our culture’s shortcomings, let us rather take his example and time today to look into the eyes of a fellow creature here on earth, human or otherwise, and see light of God in all.

Please click on the link to donate to:  the SPCA of Central Florida